Wednesday, May 31, 2006

A Ban on Kneeling...

Los Angeles Times
By David Haldane, Times Staff Writer
May 28, 2006

A Ban on Kneeling? Some Catholics Won't Stand for It.

At a small Catholic church in Huntington Beach, the pressing moral question comes to this: Does kneeling at the wrong time during worship make you a sinner?

Kneeling "is clearly rebellion, grave disobedience and mortal sin," Father Martin Tran, pastor at St. Mary's by the Sea, told his flock in a recent church bulletin. The Diocese of Orange backs Tran's anti-kneeling edict.

Though told by the pastor and the archdiocese to stand during certain parts of the liturgy, a third of the congregation still gets on its knees every Sunday.

"Kneeling is an act of adoration," said Judith M. Clark, 68, one of at least 55 parishioners who have received letters from church leaders urging them to get off their knees or quit St. Mary's and the Diocese of Orange. "You almost automatically kneel because you're so used to it. Now the priest says we should stand, but we all just ignore him.

"The debate is being played out in at least a dozen parishes nationwide.

Since at least the 7th century, Catholics have been kneeling after the Agnus Dei, the point during Mass when the priest holds up the chalice and consecrated bread and says, "Behold the lamb of God." But four years ago, the Vatican revised its instructions, allowing bishops to decide at some points in the Mass whether their flocks should get on their knees. "The faithful kneel … unless the Diocesan Bishop determines otherwise," says Rome's book of instructions. Since then, some churches have been built without kneelers.

The debate is part of the argument among Catholics between tradition and change. Traditionalists see it as the ultimate posture of submission to and adoration of God; modernists view kneeling as the vestige of a feudal past they would like to leave behind.

At the center of the controversy is the church's concept of Christ, said Jesuit Father Lawrence J. Madden, director of the Georgetown Center for Liturgy at Georgetown University in Washington. It's a question raised in the bestselling book "The Da Vinci Code.

"Because the earliest Christians viewed Jesus as God and man, Madden said, they generally stood during worship services to show reverence and equality. About the 7th century, however, Catholic theologians put more emphasis on Christ's divinity and introduced kneeling as the only appropriate posture at points in the Mass when God was believed to be present.

Things started to change in the 1960s, Madden said, when Vatican II began moving the church back to its earliest roots. What has ensued, he said, is the predictable struggle of an institution revising centuries of religious practices.

The argument over kneeling, Madden said, is "a signal of the division in the church between two camps: those who have caught the spirit of Vatican II, and those who are a bit suspicious. Because it's so visible, what happens at the Sunday worship event is a lightning rod for lots of issues.

"One flashpoint involves the Agnus Dei. Traditionalists say the faithful must then fall to their knees in awe for several minutes, believing that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ.

Lesa Truxaw, the Orange Diocese director of worship, said Bishop Tod D. Brown banned kneeling because standing "reflects our human dignity. It's not that we think we're equal to God, but we recognize that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

"Orange County parishioners are still allowed to kneel at other points in the Mass, including the Eucharistic prayers. Kneeling is optional as worshippers receive communion.

No less an authority than the pope is on record as favoring kneeling. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI last year, wrote in "The Spirit of the Liturgy," published in 2000, that the gesture, "comes from the Bible and the knowledge of God." He has not addressed the issue as pope.

American Catholic bishops have taken the opposite position. "Standing can be just as much an expression of respect for the coming of Christ," said Msgr. Anthony F. Sherman, a spokesman for the liturgy secretariat of the U.S. Bishops Committee on the Liturgy based in Washington.

That hasn't quieted critics.

"It's hard to understand why any bishop would prohibit his people from expressing reverence in the way they have done for centuries," said Helen Hull Hitchcock, a founder of the conservative Adoremus Society for the Renewal of Sacred Liturgy in St. Louis.

The controversy at St. Mary's by the Sea began to intensify late last year after Brown appointed Tran to lead the 1,500-family parish.

Tran took over following the retirement of the church's longtime pastor, who had offered a popular traditional Latin Mass.

Tran's Mass reverted to the more modern English form practiced in most American churches, and hundreds of parishioners signed a petition in protest. Then, to pull the church into the modern era, the priest told members, they were not to kneel after the Agnus Dei.

Many refused to comply. "Not kneeling would be sinful," said Manuel Ruiz, 45, "because that is what I believe I should do.

"Mary Tripoli, 54, a former member of the parish council, was dismissed for her insistence on kneeling: "Standing may be reverence, but kneeling is adoration. It's the one thing that means Catholicism throughout the world. It's what sets us apart.

"At least two altar boys, the parish altar servers coordinator and three members of the parish council have been dismissed from their duties for kneeling at the wrong time, according to parishioners.

Angered by the anti-kneeling edict, a group calling itself Save Saint Mary's began distributing leaflets calling for its return outside church each Sunday.

Tran responded in the church bulletin with a series of strident weekly statements condemning what he called "despising the authority of the local bishop" by refusing his orders to stand, and calling the disobedience a mortal sin, considered the worst kind of offense, usually reserved for acts such as murder.

Tran sent letters to 55 kneeling parishioners "inviting" them to leave the parish and the diocese for, among other things, "creating misleading confusion, division and chaos in the parish by intentional disobedience and opposition to the current liturgical norms.

"Father Joe Fenton, spokesman for the Diocese of Orange, said the diocese supports Tran's view that disobeying the anti-kneeling edict is a mortal sin. "That's Father Tran's interpretation, and he's the pastor," he said. "We stand behind Father Tran.

"Recipients of Tran's banishment letter said they have declined his "invitation" to depart.

Kneeling, said Teri Carpentier, 50, is praying "with our bodies, not just our minds.

"During a recent Saturday afternoon Mass, dozens of worshippers defiantly knelt after the Agnus Dei.

One who didn't was Winifred Mentzer, 84. "I've been standing lately," she later said, "because I'm all the way up front, and I know that the priest is watching. But I'm kneeling in my heart."

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Bishop is coming

The Bishop is coming!

Sunday, June 4, is the feast of Pentecost and is also part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of Holy Spirit Parish.

His Excellency, Bishop Raymundo J. Peña, the Shepherd of our Dioceses, will honor us with his presence on June 4th, 2006, by celebrating 8:30 Mass at Holy Spirit.

Please join us in welcoming His Excellency to our 25th Anniversary Parish celebration. It is also suggested that we all wear RED, the liturgical color of the feast of Pentecost, for this celebration.

You may also wish to take advantage of this opportunity to visit with Bishop Peña to express your concern over the many changes that have transpired since he assigned Monsignor Louis Brum to our parish, such as:

  • The FIRING of our highly qualified Choir Director.

  • Negative attitude towards Employee Union Representation.

  • Elimination of our “Children’s Liturgy of the Word” program.

  • Elimination of our “Peace & Justice Commission”.

  • Elimination of our “Real Bread” for Mass celebration.

  • Changing of our “Monthly Family Religious Program”.

  • The “Unjust Removal” of Parishioners from Ministries.

  • Elimination of the “Setting of the Altar Table” during Mass.

  • Elimination of our parish “Prison Ministry”.

  • Elimination of parish affiliation with “Bread for the World”.

  • Elimination of our “Downtown McAllen Stations of the Cross”.

  • Elimination of our parish sponsored “Affirmation Night”.

  • Elimination of a “Parishioner Elected” Parish Council.

  • Elimination of “Open” Parish Council meetings.

  • Elimination of “Open” Finance Committee Meetings.

  • Elimination of access to our Pastor by phone or in person.

  • Elimination of a timely “Sacrament of Reconciliation”.

  • New policy allowing “Merchant Sales” after every Mass.

  • Etc.

Bishop Peña is the appointed leader of our Catholic Diocese and, as we all know, nothing happens in our Diocese without his explicit approval.

If you are dissatisfied with what he has done to our Parish over the last three years, this may be an excellent time to express your dissatisfaction, especially since June 18th will also be the 3rd Anniversary of the attempted FIRING of our Parish Staff by His Excellency!


As our Lord said to St. Paul in Acts, Chapter 18:
"Do not be afraid. Go on speaking, and do not be silent,
for I am with you."

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Parishioners' Newsletter of 05/28/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—May 28, 2006

Everything Up To Date in Kansas City, Part II
The controversy that Bishop Robert Finn, the new bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has stirred up by his radical remaking of that diocese [see the last newsletter and the National Catholic Reporter of May 12th] highlights an extremely important aspect of the current state of the Church (at least here in the United States). Here is an illustrative quote from Bishop Finn:

“Forty years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, we are in a time of a more mature self-understanding in the Church, than the period immediately following the Council. More than ever, the Council documents deserve careful reading and study. They have been used at times to justify experimentation that was interpolated on what has been sometimes called the ‘spirit of the Council.’ Now we must allow ourselves to see how they are an incentive for renewal in continuity with the Church's tradition.”

This is “hierarchy-speak” for the thesis that Vatican II, as implemented by the bishops who were there and who wrote and approved the documents, was a mistake. This thesis purports that the plain words of the Council and the enthusiastic embracing of its spirit (no quotes necessary!) by the overwhelming majority of the bishops and faithful at the time are not to be accepted. Instead we are to engage in picayune parsing of isolated texts while ignoring the obvious overall vision that permeates the writings of the Council Fathers and, more importantly, characterized the efforts they took when they got back home to implement that vision. What nonsense! Such a position denies the well-established teaching of the Church that the most authentic voice of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church is heard in the gathering of an Ecumenical Council. This talk of “mature self-understanding” and “post Vatican II Church” is nothing but an attempt to deny what the Council taught and to return us to a vision of the Church in which the narrow holders of power can continue to exercise that power unfettered by this burdensome business about the Church being the “people of God.”

Spiritual Authority
“Mostly we think of people with great authority as higher up, far away, hard to reach. But spiritual authority comes from compassion and emerges from deep inner solidarity with those who are ‘subject’ to authority.

..“The one who is fully like us, who deeply understands our joys and pains or hopes and desires, and who is willing and able to walk with us, that is the one to whom we gladly give authority and whose ‘subjects’ we are willing to be.

..“It is the compassionate authority that empowers, encourages, calls forth hidden gifts, and enables great things to happen. True spiritual authorities are located in the point of an upside-down triangle, supporting and holding into the light everyone they offer their leadership to.” thanks to Anne Southwood, VOTF Boston, for this Henri Nouwen find on “The Authority of Compassion”

$$$$$ Update
The Sunday Bulletin of April 9th did not have a report of the collections for the weekend of April 1st and 2nd. Using the average of the collections from 10/16/05 for that weekend and the reported amounts for the other weekends, we can estimate that since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $39,405.87 less than the $464,000 the parish budget called for during that period. If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $101,558.19 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 5/21/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $165,032.05.

Hope is an Action
I have been reading a book called Hope’s Edge, The Next Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. Even if you are not a “foodie”, the book is interesting because of its focus on people and communities from all over the world dealing with the reality that in a world of plenty, there is no reason for so many to have so little. The book tells the stories of hope and what can happen when we refuse to accept that what is, is not what has to be. Most are stories of small acts—pebbles thrown into the pond that have generated ripples that continue to grow and grow bigger. All of the people profiled are humble and draw their energy from the knowing that in order to really live, we have to give. When asked why they started, or what keeps them going, the answer is usually a simple “How could I not?”

After a visit to Bangladesh, the authors reflected on hope. Here is their reflection:

“When I left home, I thought I could use Bangladesh to prove somehow that hope is justified even in one of the world’s poorest societies. But instead, Bangladesh used me to teach a deeper truth. It taught me that no one can ‘justify’ hope by proving something good and positive. Hope is more verb than noun—an action, not a stance. It is movement. It is jumping into the messiness of it all. It is listening, learning, trying, stumbling; it is false starts and contradictory evidence. Bangladesh taught me a kind of disturbing hope—hope I can’t let go of but that leaves me restless. A hope that doesn’t satisfy but gnaws at me to keep pushing.”
From fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

True Colors
So don’t be afraid to let them show—Your true colors - Cyndi Lauper
It is not surprising that the newspaper clipping montage in the gathering space last Sunday that purported to be a history of the parish did not contain the headlines from the summer of 2003. In fact, based on the montage, you would think the significant moments in the history of Holy Spirit were “brick and mortar” moments.

Where is the record of a community that took to heart the challenge to become a “model Vatican II parish”? Where is the record of a community that not only survived but strengthened itself in the years without a resident pastor? Where is the record of the community that developed traditions of liturgical celebration, religious education, and community outreach that remain the envy of many in the diocese? Where is the record of the community that spoke and acted strongly for the Gospel message of peace and justice, not only in our Valley but in our nation and the world?

All of these are recorded in the hearts and minds of those people who created and lived in that community and will not be forgotten, even if not recognized in the upcoming anniversary celebration.

Don’t wear red on June 4th as a protest; wear red as the color of the Spirit, our Holy Spirit—it is our color.

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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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Again, More Thoughts...

Prophetic words from a 14th Century Saint:

~ Consecrated ~
All has been consecrated.
The creatures in the forest know this,
the earth does, the seas do, the clouds know,
as does the heart full of love.
Strange a priest would rob us of
this knowledge
and then empower himself
with the ability
to make holy
what already was.

Saint Catherine of Siena
as quoted in Love Poems from God
by Daniel Ladinsky

Money Changers in My Fathers House!
I attended the 12:30 Mass today. Very enjoyable… No screaming or dramatics… Nice homely by Fr. Genaro. However, after Mass I could hardly make my way out of the church. It seems the Money Changers have taken over the temple!

Who has allowed these merchants to sell their wares in our church? There was also about six or eight different organizations trying to sell raffle tickets, food plates, etc. They even had a “sidewalk sale” tent outside!

What gives with all of this? Are we turning Mass at Holy Spirit into a commercial enterprise? I felt like the vultures were sweeping down on me to get what little money I had left from the 2 collection basket offerings. Guess that was how Jesus felt when he ran the money changers from the temple.
A Parishioner

25th anniversary.
While attending the 12:30 mass today (May 21st), I listened to the announcements of the Gala Banquet and Raffle. The person speaking on the Gala explained that it was a fundraiser with the profit to be used on facility repairs. I did notice that there are many overhead lights out and that one projection screen was dim (even with overhead lights in that area out). I have also heard that the air conditioners are out in rooms 104/105. I am sure that there is more that needs repair in our parish than I have seen or heard of. The second collection was announced to be for the Building fund, once again for building maintenance (since the church building has been paid off for some time). The gentleman speaking on the raffle mentioned that 1200 tickets had been turned in so far. I have heard complaints about how the Jamaica was not too successful and that our yearbook had to be canceled for poor participation. Every week the collection amount for the previous week is usually a lot less than budget. All of this makes me wonder just how bad our finances really are? Are all of these activities really being set up to celebrate our 25th Anniversary or, are they just being done to help replace the lost collections that have occurred because of the loss in parish membership?
~Wondering and Concerned

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Friday, May 19, 2006

The Gospel Truth about Jesus Christ

In the spirit of reconciliation.

The following appeared in The Monitor Newspaper.
Just in case you missed it…

The Gospel truth about Jesus Christ

Dan Brown, in his novel, The Da Vinci Code, claims that many gospels were written in the early centuries after Christ, and that from among these, the Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were chosen for inclusion in the New Testament by the Roman Emperor Constantine at the Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D. We are told that the first claims of Jesus’ divinity emerged at this time, and that the sinister purpose was to solidify a male power structure in the Church. Before this, no one supposedly thought Jesus was divine, but only a great human teacher.

Brown wants us to see the four New Testament Gospels as presenting only one version of Jesus and Christianity, among many. He would have us believe we really can’t be certain which of the many gospel texts from early centuries we consider as being most authoritative. He suggests that we should each choose the version of Jesus and Christianity that seems most appealing to us.

This is nonsense! The past is not completely inaccessible. The crucial issue is the reliability of the four New Testament Gospels as accurate accounts of Jesus’ words and deeds. Either there are well-founded reasons to trust them, or there are not. In such important matters, the truth should be diligently pursued. We should not assume that we are doomed to inescapable doubt.

The other gospels to which Brown refers are not found in the New Testament; they can be generally lumped together as “Gnostic gospels.” “Gnostic” comes from the Greek word “gnosis”, meaning “knowledge”. The Gnostic gospels are purported to contain secret information about Jesus not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They also portrayed Jesus as basically a cryptic teacher who just talked, and so gave little or no attention to his passion, death, and resurrection. For Gnostics, it was not Jesus’ death and resurrection that saved us, but the secret knowledge he imparted. Brown never gives us reasons why we should put more faith in the Gnostic gospels than in the four New Testament Gospels. He seems to imply that since no one pays any attention to the Gnostic gospels today, it must be because they’ve been suppressed. This is “conspiracy theory” thinking in spades! The fact is, there are good reasons why we should not put more trust in the Gnostic gospels. While the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were written in the first century and indicate eyewitnesses either as authors or as primary sources, the Gnostic gospels were not written for at least another hundred years, long after the original eyewitnesses were dead and could no longer verify or disprove the claims made about Jesus.

When it comes to the reliability of the New Testament, consider, in comparison, that there are eight copies of Herodotus, written 488-428 B. C. The earliest copies date from 900 A.D., 1,300 years after their composition. There are eight copies of Thucydides, written about 460-400 B.C. The earliest copies date from about 900 A.D., 1,300 years later. There are 20 copies of Tacitus, written about 100 A. D. The earliest copies are from 1100 A.D., 1,000 years later. There are 9 or 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic War, written 58-50 B.C.. The earliest copies date from 900 A.D., 950 years later. There are 20 copies of Livy’s Roman History, written from 59 B.C. to 17 A.D. The earliest copies date from 900 A.D., 900 years later.

Classical scholars don’t question the authenticity or reliability of these manuscripts, in spite of the fact that they are so few in number, and in spite of the fact that such a large time gap exists between the date of the original composition and the date of the earliest surviving copies.

When it comes to the New Testament texts, in sharp contrast, there are 5,000 Greek copies, 10,000 Latin copies, and 9,300 other copies, written between 40 and 100 A.D. Regarding the four Gospels, St. Irenaeus wrote around 180 A.D. that “It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are,” for Christ “has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit.” Thus, the claim that the four Gospels of the New Testament were chosen in the early fourth century is definitively refuted. In regard to the reliability of New Testament texts to give us an accurate picture of Jesus, and of the faith and preaching of the early Church, the number of available copies gives us certainty beyond doubt that what we read in the New Testament has not been altered over time.

Frederick Kenyon, a leading scholar on the authenticity of ancient manuscripts, said in The Bible and Archaeology, “The interval between the dates of original composition and the earliest extant evidence becomes so small as to be in fact negligible, and the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.”

The Christ we meet in the Gospels is the historical Jesus, not a fiction. Who could possibly have concocted such a story as the Gospels tell, if they do not tell the truth? No one. The Gospels are reliable witnesses of Jesus’ words and deeds, and the claim that his divinity is a fiction of his followers of the fourth century onward is indefensible.

In contrast, again, the Gnostic writings date back only as far as the late second century. The time span of almost two hundred years between the original events and their composition is alone sufficient to eliminate them from the realm of serious consideration as reliable sources. We must also ask why, unlike the New Testament texts, many copies of them were not made and faithfully transmitted. The simple answer is that they were never taken seriously by significant numbers of people, nor deemed to be of lasting value. When one examines the Jesus presented in them, it is no wonder. He is a barely human figure who just talks, whereas the Jesus portrayed in the four New Testament Gospels is indeed human. He does not just speak. He eats, weeps, works, groans, celebrates, becomes weary , thirsts, prays, heals, shows compassion, struggles against fear, impatience and anger, suffers, bleeds and finally, he dies on the cross. The Jesus of the four Gospels is just like us in every way except in sin. He is really human!

Because he is also divine, he rises from the tomb. In my next column I will take up the issue of Jesus’ divinity, for the claim of The Da Vinci Code that he wasn’t divine is its most serious error.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

OK, More Thoughts from Parishioners.

On Reconciliation at Holy Spirit Parish
Holy Spirit Parish continues to be broken. It saddens me to see the dismantling of our beloved parish, its ministries and all of those now excluded members who once were in “good standing” as Catholics, before Fr. Louis came. And one should not forget the firing of our four church workers and the lack of a working relationship between our current pastor and these four workers. The modus operandi is now one of secrecy, abuse of power and the unwillingness to be open to a community that is diverse, yet inclusive.

During Lent we were honored by Bishop Pena’s visit to Holy Spirit Parish. This was followed by subsequent visits by Fr. Mark from Corpus Christi. From the tone and content of Bishop Pena’s talk, it appears that he was implying that those parishioners who were unhappy with the status quo should just forgive and apologize for any possible hurt and move on with our parish life. I wish it were that simple.

He also made some implicit, and maybe not so implicit threats to those that continue to pursue upsetting the status quo. This truly did not appear to be a visit to invite dialogue and reconciliation. However, this appears to be Bishop Pena’s approach to reconciliation? It’s difficult to imagine he truly believes that just saying, “Forgive me, I am sorry” will suffice as a means to be reconciled.

There is much written about the process of reconciliation, and I emphasize process. As an example, Hizkias Assefa, professor of Conflict Studies at Eastern Mennonite University, outlines the process containing the following core elements:

Honest acknowledgement of harm/injury each party has inflicted on the other;
Sincere regrets and remorse for the injury done;
Readiness to apologize for one’s role in inflicting injury;
Readiness of the conflicting parties to ‘let go’ of the anger and bitterness caused by the conflict and injury;
Commitment by the offender not to repeat the injury;
Sincere efforts to redress past grievances that caused the conflict and compensate the damage caused to the extent possible;
Entering into a new mutually enriching relationship.

In summary, the process calls for both parties to reflect and take responsibility for the conflict or hurt caused to the other. Each party seeks new ways of redressing the injury that has been inflicted. The final step, and this may be the most important, is that both parties agree to refrain from causing further damage to the other and to work towards constructing a new, more positive relationship.

To date, there has been no true dialogue. There has been no true process. Therefore, the question remains: Have we experienced any true reconciliation at Holy Spirit?
David Saavedra

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Newsletter of 5/14/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—May 14, 2006

Bold and Blind Arrogance
I believe arrogance lies at the heart of many of the problems in our Church today. It seems almost unbelievable that any priest would dare say that exercising of liturgical ministries by laity is a privilege and not a right, and the discretion to decide who will and will not serve as a minister lies with the pastor himself.

Yet, this bold and blind arrogance is happening in our midst. To suggest that a priest grants his parishioners the privilege to be a minister in our Church is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Yes, exercising liturgical ministries is a privilege, however the privilege is not granted by a priest or any other man, rather it is granted to each of us by God. Jesus invited each of us to follow him, not just priests and not just those selected by priests. Yes, I think most would agree that a pastor has discretion to responsibly administer a parish and maintain our Catholic faith. However, no priest has the authority to hide behind this discretion and attempt to silence those who have dared to speak-out and raise serious and legitimate questions regarding this same administration of authority.

Unfortunately, this same arrogance has blinded much of the faithful to many of the real problems that continue to plague our Church. Wake-up fellow Christians! This is our Catholic faith and we each have a right and responsibility granted to us by God to live-out our faith and bring light to where there is darkness.
From fellow parishioner, Mark Peña

Report on Some Correspondence
…during that time [Lent], we addressed many of the concerns of the parishioners, both those who agree and those who disagree with Msgr. Louis Brum.

Most of your concerns have already been addressed and the parish has moved beyond them; others are still in process. I will, nonetheless, present your letter of concern together with a few others and many expressions of appreciation for their pastor that we have received form parishioners to the parish priest consulters (they advise me regarding clergy appointments), for their consideration ….
Part of a letter from Bishop Peña to two parishioners.

In their letter to the Bishop, these parishioners raised (among others) concerns about the removal of people from ministries, the antagonistic attitude of the Monsignor towards many parishioners, etc. They included the following comment: “We are not sure what you have been told about healing and unity at Holy Spirit, but we have not seen any healing at all.”

If there are others in the community who feel that real concerns have not been addressed and that the Bishop is either misinformed or is choosing to misrepresent the Lenten activities as a “healing process,” they should write the Bishop and his consulters directly (see

Come Together
Via the internet, we receive The Peace Pulpit Homilies, from Bishop Thomas Gumbleton. The following is from his homily from April 30, 2006, the Third Sunday of Easter, and is a beautiful explanation of how each part of our Sunday celebration is important – how each part celebrates and experiences the presence of Jesus. Bishop Gumbleton reminds us that while the Eucharist may be the center, the rest of the mass is not just fluff.

“The two disciples on the way to Emmaus, Jesus began to tell them about the word, the scriptures. He was present in that word. When he’s with the disciples in that upper room on Easter Sunday night he reviewed the word of God with them. Again he was present in that word. When we take the time to listen to the word of God, Jesus becomes present to us. Also in the ceremony that we gather for every Sunday, the breaking of the bread, Jesus is present. And not just in the Eucharist that we consecrate at the altar, but the breaking of the bread is the whole experience and Jesus is present, first of all, just in our coming together. ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them.’

That’s why it’s so important to come together to really share with one another as we do during this liturgy, share with our voices, share with our greetings to one another, share in the very friendly way that we can, to become a community of God’s people and Jesus is present there in our midst. Then present in the word. Then present in the Eucharist.

If we come together and try to experience this every week, we will come to know Jesus deeply and Jesus will invite us to repent of our sins, show us the way to do that, give us the strength and the courage to do it, and then he will tell us, ‘Go and be witnesses. Spread this message. Carry my life and my vision wherever you go, so that we can rid our world of sin and evil and transform it into the reign of God.’”
From fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

$$$$$ Update
The Sunday Bulletin of April 9th did not have a report of the collections for the weekend of April 1st and 2nd.

Using the average of the collections from 10/16/05 for that weekend and the reported amounts for the other weekends, we can estimate that since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $33,756.72 less than the $435,000 the parish budget called for during that period.

If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $92,024.52 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 5/7/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $159,509.16.

Vital Signs
The parish carnival (jamaica) was poorly attended. Now we hear that the proposed parish photo directory has had to be cancelled because of the poor level of participation. These are absolute signs that the vitality of the Parish is waning significantly—the depth of commitment that characterized this community three years ago is being replaced by the thin veneer so common in parishes peopled primarily by “Sunday Catholics.”

Everything Up To Date in Kansas City?
On May 24, 2005 Bishop Robert Finn was named bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph MO. Within a week of his appointment he:
Dismissed the chancellor, a layman with 21 years of experience in the diocese, and the vice chancellor, a religious woman stationed in the diocese for nearly 40 years and the chief of pastoral planning for the diocese since 1990, and replaced them with a priest chancellor.

Cancelled the diocese’s nationally renowned lay formation programs and a master’s degree program in pastoral ministry.

Cut in half the budget of the Center for Pastoral Life and Ministry, effectively forcing the almost immediate resignation of half the seven-member team. Within 10 months all seven would be gone and the center shuttered.

Ordered a “zero-based study” of adult catechesis in the diocese and appointed as vice chancellor to oversee adult catechesis, lay formation and the catechesis study a layman with no formal training in theology or religious studies.
As reported by Dennis Coday in the National Catholic Reporter, 5/12/06.

“We have learned through difficult experience in this country that bishops are, indeed, monarchs. What regard they have for the culture and tradition of the local church they are appointed by secret process to lead is finally a function of individual personality and interest.

“We have learned that while the power to cause the kind of wide upheaval that has occurred in Kansas City is easily available to bishops, the legitimate exercise of leadership and authority are quite other matters.

“Such things cannot be exercised by fiat; people can’t be made to become a faithful community by controlling them. The qualities of true leadership and authority accrue to those who have a deep empathy for the people they serve; who understand in profoundly human ways their hopes and aspirations as a people of God; who place compassion above the need to dominate; and who understand that relationships, not rules or rubrics or even revered devotions, are the essential thread of the fabric of a community living out the Gospel.”
From an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter, 5/12/06

You can see that we are not alone—there are others suffering from the arbitrary destruction of a vibrant Catholic community.

The Beat Goes On
Apparently, the Monsignor has announced that the family religious education program will be discontinued and will be replaced by a weekly classroom centered program, beginning in September. Those who feel that this is a bad decision need to make their opinion known—loudly and clearly and persistently. This cannot stand.

If this model program, the envy of the entire diocese, can be shut down, what is next on the hit list?

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

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend simply by clicking on the little envelope below.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

More From Parishioners

The Good Sheep
I spent several years of my growing up in sheep country in northern Nevada. There was a very large flock of sheep that would spend the summers grazing in the mountain meadows and the winters in the valleys below. This flock seemed to me to number in the thousands. Oddly enough the sheep were lead by a mule with a bell around its neck. After years working with the shepherds the mule learned the routine of guiding the sheep back and forth to pasture. The sheep followed the sound of the bell. The mule was essentially the shepherd, and it seemed to be a good enough shepherd.

One fall day as the mule was bringing the sheep down from the mountains it led them onto a railroad track and a speeding freight train mowed down hundreds. I guess the mule knew when it was safely across the tracks but it lacked the ability to understand that the sheep would need a lot more time to cross and reach safety. And the blindly trusting sheep did not know when to stop following the mulish shepherd.

Today’s gospel was about the Good Shepherd. It also mentioned the Bad Shepherd, the hired hand who runs at the first sign of trouble. What is not mentioned is the Incompetent Shepherd, like the mule, who may think that he has the best interests of the sheep in mind but whose actions cause the sheep to suffer greatly; often the result is no better than being lead by the Bad Shepherd.

Significantly, today’s gospel also talks about the Good Sheep. Jesus says, “My sheep know me in the same way that my Father knows me and I know the Father.” Therefore, the key to being Good Sheep is good knowledge. Good Sheep know enough to follow Good Shepherds and to not follow bad and incompetent shepherds. They know because they read the Bible, honestly pray, and study their faith. They actively take part in their spiritual growth. They know that simply because someone is given a position of authority does not necessarily make that person a good shepherd.

What makes a shepherd good, are his fruits. Jesus was near to finishing a long and inspiring sermon, one that left the crowds “astonished", the one that encapsulates his teaching and what he expects of his followers when he said, “By their fruits you will know them.” It was toward the end of the Sermon on the Mount. Read the 3 chapters in Matthew that the sermon spans (5-7), and see if you can recognize the fruits of Good, Bad, and Incompetent Shepherds. You know the Beatitudes, all fruits of Good Shepherds. But the Good Shepherd also reconciles before going to the altar (5:24), is honest (5:37), is not vindictive (5:38-42), loves his enemies (5:44), gives in secret (6:4), prays in secret (6:6), fasts in secret (6:17), is not concerned about clothes and appearances (6:28), does not judge (7:1), follows the “Golden Rule” (7:12), and recognizes true prophets and Good Shepherds by their fruits (7:16).

Look around you; who do you follow, and what are their fruits?
Guy Hallman, parishioner

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend simply by clicking on the little envelope below.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

More Thoughts from Parishioners

National Day of Prayer: May 4, 2006

I found the “Prayer for the Nation” included in our bulletin and in the Monitor article by our Bishop disturbing. Here is the prayer for anyone who missed it:

Prayer for the Nation
Oh Heavenly Father, You have made Yourself known to us as a nation by Your mighty works throughout our history. From the beginning, You have been with us through many wars and conflicts; Your right arm has saved us. We have been amazingly and graciously blessed.

Today, we confess our sin of not responding to Your right to rule in our lives and our nation. Too often we have despised and rejected Your will while imposing our own, and we are now facing the consequences of disobedience. Draw us back to Yourself, that we may return to Your ways once again. Without You we can do nothing. You have promised that if we honor You, You will once again honor this great nation. That is our fervent prayer. For Your honor and glory we pray,

It especially bothered me that this prayer came after the following sentences in our bulletin:

As our nation looks to the future, the need for prayer is great. Turmoil in the Middle East, conflict over domestic issues and continued fear over national security point the nation to the need for prayer – for our President, our leaders and Armed Forces.

What bothers me is the underlying tone that God ordains our nation and our conflicts. That God is on our side. True the prayer does confess that we do not always follow God’s will, but the real focus of the prayer seems to be to call down God’s mighty right arm to once again bring honor and glory to our nation. The source for the prayer was not given. The language of the prayer and bulletin note just seems out of tune with our Easter season and Our Lord’s nonviolent sacrifice on Golgotha and His commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”. I think having a national day of prayer is a great thing, but just what are we praying for?

So, this Thursday I will pray for my nation but these are the prayers that seem to me to be more in tune with the Easter season and gospel message. I would welcome any other suggestions or prayer contributions.

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis
by an anonymous Norman c. 1915 A.D.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life

The United Farm Workers Prayer
By Cesar Chavez

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others;
For You are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us,
So we can change the world.
From Fellow parishioner, Michelle PeñaComment on National Day Of Prayer

Re: National Day of Prayer
The thoughts of Michelle Pena on the National Day of Prayer and the bravery of Felipe Salinas in speaking out in his letter to Father Brum keeping true to his moral and religious convictions is what keeps me coming back to this website.

In all conflicts, both sides always proclaim God to be on their side. Can God ever be on either side when both sides kill God's greatest creation, especially children and the elderly. Man will always proclaim God to be on their side, but how many will pray for our leaders and domestic and foreign policies to be on God's side.
Arturo R. Cantu, Parishioner

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Newsletter of 04/30/06

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—April 30, 2006

Remain Anchored in Your Community
“It is important to remain as much in touch as possible with those who know you, love you and protect your vocation. If you visit people with great need and deep struggles that you can recognize in your own heart, remained anchored in your home community. Think about your community as holding a long line that girds your waist. Wherever you are, it holds that line. Thus you can be very close to people in need of your healing without losing touch with those who protect your vocation. Your community can pull you back when its members see that you are forgetting why you were sent out.

“When you feel a burgeoning need for sympathy, support, affection, and care from those to whom you are being sent, remember that there is a place where you can receive those gifts in a safe and responsible way. Do not let yourself be seduced by the dark powers that imprison those you want to set free. Keep returning to those to whom you belong and who keep you in the light. It is that light that you desire to bring into the darkness. You do not have to fear anyone as long as you remain safely anchored in your community. Then you can carry the light far and wide.”
From The Inner Voice of Love by Henry J.M. Nouwen

Examine the Clergy Culture
“The Catholic priest sex abuse scandal, much as it involved the individual acts of errant priests, was also a product of a culture, the hierarchical clergy culture, heavily shrouded in secrecy and wrapped in layers of protection from accountability of any sort.

“From the first news of this crisis in 1983, through the years of grudging admission by bishops that something was amiss, through the explosion of news in 2002 when the courts forced the release of secret documents in the Boston archdiocese, through the anguish of the meeting in Dallas in June of that same year, the formation of a National Review Board and ongoing court cases, the tenacity of the clergy culture’s grip on Catholic leadership has been the most evident characteristic of that group’s response.

“That’s why this week’s story on the sex abuse cover-up in the Philadelphia archdiocese is significant. It provides a glimpse, brief as it is, into the world of that hierarchical culture and the way it approached the sex abuse crisis. It is a significant piece of history because we have maintained, in more than 20 years of reporting on this crisis in all of its phases, that the church would not get beyond the scandal until its leaders deal with the culture that allowed abusers to float among the community, preying on its youngest and most vulnerable.”
From an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter, 4/28/06.

This past weekend a friend spoke about her faith in terms that most of us neglect to use. She spoke of her right to fully participate in the life of her community, her responsibilities to answer her own call, and her right to freely give her gifts to the Church. I was struck by how she spoke of her faith in very active terms, as something to be claimed and as participatory.

She reminded me very clearly that Easter is rebirth and that rebirth assumes then that we have a new life and that we need to get out there and live it. Easter is a gift that we have been given not to store away on a shelf as a collectible. It is a gift we are meant to do something with. This Easter season, we hear the stories of the disciples and their growing understanding that they are called to go out and bring the good news. We celebrate baptisms and remember that our own baptisms are an initiation into a living faith – a living faith full of gifts, rights and responsibilities.
From fellow parishioner Michelle Peña

Private Revelations
“When the Church approves private revelations, she declares only that there is nothing in them contrary to faith or good morals, and that they may be read without danger or even with profit; no obligation is thereby imposed on the faithful to believe them.”
From the Catholic Encyclopedia at:

The revelations recounted by Bernadette, the children of Fatima, Margaret Mary Alacoque, and yes, Faustina, are examples of such private revelations. Even though many people’s spiritual lives have been enriched by absorbing the ideas in the accounts of these revelations and by following devotional practices based on these accounts, no Catholic is obliged to accept the validity of the accounts or is required to participate in the devotional practices inspired by them.

Some view the heavy emphasis given to the Divine Mercy devotion (the product of a private revelation) as inappropriate, particularly when we have so much to draw upon in the rich liturgical symbols and celebrations of the Easter season. Blessing bulletins? Please!

$$$$$ Update
The Sunday Bulletin of April 9th did not have a report of the collections for the weekend of April 1st and 2nd. Using the average of the collections from 10/16/05 for that weekend and the reported amounts for the other weekends, we can estimate that since 10/16/05 parishioners have donated $32,077.32 less than the $406,000 the parish budget called for during that period. If the spending patterns of the last fiscal year have continued (13.4% over budget), then this gives a total of $86.460.60 of red ink (versus budget) for the period 10/16/05 to 4/23/06. Stretching that pattern for an entire year, the Parish would fall short by $160,569.68.

A family member is moving to metropolitan Seattle, so Google was called on to aid in searching out information about parishes in the area. So, from the website of Holy Family Parish, Kirkland, WA:

Lector Requirements:
A love for the scriptures and an ability to speak well in front of others; registered member of the parish, baptized and confirmed.

Eucharist Minister:
Requirements: A love for the Body of Christ, registered member of the parish, baptized and confirmed.

Choirs at Holy Family are first and foremost liturgical ministers… There is a place for EVERYONE…

Simple stuff, isn’t it? I wonder how Holy Family in Kirkland can continue to function properly with such openness to participation in the liturgical ministries of the parish.

Vitality in the American Church
“The new Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, has recently said he ‘is impressed by the vitality of U.S. Catholicism.’

“He should know that the vitality he is witnessing is in no small part due to an ecclesiology that has increasingly included strong and well-educated lay people in leadership positions. Developing that kind of leadership did not occur quickly or without great effort, and it needs to be protected from some who would like to turn back the clock to a time of a priest-rich church when clericalism was the order of the day.”
From an editorial in the National Catholic Reporter, 4/14/06.

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

Note: If you would like to contribute a posting or a comment to this site, please send it to:, with "Holy Spirit" in your title line. You may also e-mail this article to a friend simply by clicking on the little envelope below.