Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter of 05/27/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
May 27, 2007


Very Own

Two Man





“If you want peace, work for justice” Pope Paul VI

The commentary on the Blog about the Texas Pax Christi Conference emphasizes again that there is a lot of misunderstanding floating out there in the Catholic pews (and pulpits) about what peace really is (you know, the true meaning) and about the important relationship between peace and justice that has been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition for many thousands of years.

Some people seem to believe that the “peace movement” is some fringe activity that began in the misguided and drug-addled 60’s—idealistic and naïve at best, destructive and subversive at worst—and that there is nothing authentically Catholic about all that “adolescent” stuff. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Thomas Aquinas taught all those years ago, peace is not simply the absence of conflict, it is not simply tranquility, docility, and passivity—it is “the fruit of a just society” (Isaiah 32:17). As Catholics, we cannot withdraw into an isolated cocoon of false tranquility, replete with incense and fake solemnity, ignoring the disordered and unjust society outside. Such a withdrawal is not the teaching of the ancient prophets, it is not the teaching of the Church through the ages, and it is not the teaching of Christ in the Gospel.

The liturgy this past Sunday, our very special Parish feast, was even more appalling than usual. Aside from the Prayers of the Faithful foolishness (see below), we were subjected to an inane homily that contained a presentation on the “gifts of the Holy Spirit” that had the form of something from the Baltimore Catechism (you know, dull and didactic) but even got the substance wrong. “Fear of the Lord” has nothing to do with being afraid; “Piety” has nothing to do with the everyday meaning of the word “pious”; “Wisdom,” “Understanding” and “Knowledge” are all different from each other and are related in subtle ways to the virtues that are classically considered the goals in living a moral life. Please, do a serious job when talking on this topic, or just don’t bother!

The Holy Spirit continues to descend on all of us, individually, not just on the official Church.–it is the way in which the Spirit works in the world and guides the Church in the right direction. Maybe those folks speaking in ways that are not easily understood (in tongues, maybe) are just speaking the truth in a different and important way and shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

The Duke
We prayed for John Wayne during the Prayers of the Faithful—I kid you not. Right along with praying for the soldiers, we were called to pray for a man who pretended to be a soldier in the movies but carefully avoided serving in WWII himself. Instead of praying for an end to the war in Iraq, praying for a just resolution of the immigration problem, praying for an end to the death penalty (issues supported by the American Bishops), we are praying for actors—is Bruce Willis next?

Faith, Hope, and Weapons
Late last night I read a commentary on the recent document released by the Vatican’s International Theological Commission about limbo that gave me great hope. Not so much because of what the ITC said about limbo, but because the ITC was willing to acknowledge that the magisterium can’t know everything—that there is Mystery and to try and have a black & white answer for every matter of our faith would in effect place limits on God, make God less. There are times when we have no solid answer and simply have faith and hope in God’s infinite love. It is refreshing to once again feel hope from something released by the Vatican.

However, there is nothing refreshing about one of the slides being shown before mass with the quote: “The rosary is the weapon.” According to Webster’s, a weapon is defined as “something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy.” We address Mary as Hand Maid of the Lord, Gentle Woman, Quiet Light, Peaceful Dove, Queen of Peace, and Mother. How can we possibly be continuing to characterize her prayer as something used to injure, defeat or destroy?
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $39,068.85 (last year same date: $39,501.16)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $62,152.32
Projected yearly shortfall: $164,484.40

Thoughts on the Current State of the Laity in the Church
“Young adult Catholics want to be connected, but it is a fragile bond, easily disrupted by some sudden Vatican or episcopal statement. They believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the sacraments, but Church structures affront them. They will ‘stay at a distance’ until these structures show greater inclusion of the laity and women. They will go to other churches in the meantime or they will more likely find a Catholic parish they like while ignoring the diocesan and global church in a form of ‘creeping congregationalism.’ For some, the recent scandals are ‘the last nail in the coffin.’ For most, they are simply another warning against investing time or effort in the institution. …

“One of the standard theological treatments of the laity’s place in the Church’s mission makes a sharp distinction between role and mission within the Church—the sphere, it is explained, of the ordained—and role and mission in the world—the world. I will only signal the many theological questions and problems created by drawing this distinction so sharply. My point, again, is simply descriptive: through years and years of many efforts to address the laity’s role in the Church’s mission in the world, inevitably and almost immediately the effort confronts the reality—the practical reality—stated by the 1967 Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World:

“‘While the Church is bound to give witness to justice, it recognizes that everyone who ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in their eyes [emphasis added]. Hence we must undertake an examination of the modes of acting and of the possessions and lifestyle found within the Church herself.’” Peter Steinfels, former editor of Commonweal and former religion editor of the New York Times

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:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pax Christi State Conference


Names of Persons in Photo L to R: Bridget Cook, Mark Peña, Michlle Peña, Frank Skeith-Coordinator of Pax Christi Texas, Ann Cass, Gerald Brazier, Pearl Brazier

Members of Holy Spirit Peace and Justice/Pax Christi USA local community attended the Pax Christi Texas State Conference held May 19, 2007, at St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church Parish in Austin.

The theme of this years conference was “Be Doers of the Word: Working for Peace With Justice.” The conference keynote speaker was the Most Reverend Thomas Gumbleton, Retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit. Bishop Gumbleton is the Founding President of Pax Christi, USA and was a member of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishop’s Committee that drafted the 1983 Pastoral Letter “The Challenge of Peace: Gods’ Promise and Our Response.”

Bishop Gumbleton’s conference address was based on Pope John Paul II’s World Peace Day Message of January 2002, made soon after the tragic events of 9/11, in which Pope John Paul II stated, “My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness.”

Pax Christi members from throughout the state attended the Pax Christi conference. The six member local delegation represented approximately 50 Pax Christi members throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

Pax Christi USA strives to create a world that reflects the Peace of Christ by exploring, articulating, and witnessing to the call of Christian nonviolence. The organization rejects war, preparations for war, and every form of violence and domination. It advocates primacy of conscience, economic and social justice, and respect for creation.

Pax Christi USA commits itself to peace education and, with the help of its bishop members, promotes the gospel imperative of peacemaking as a priority in the Catholic Church in the United States.

For more information about Pax Christi, please visit www.paxchrstiusa.org. If you are interested in joining Holy Spirit Peace and Justice/Pax Christi local community, please contact Mark or Michelle Peña at 380-3731 or email at mpena113@rgv.rr.com.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter of 05/13/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
May 13, 2007

Take a Stand
In its issue of May 7, 2007, America magazine published a collection of Advice for College Grads. Here is one:

“I have lived a pretty standard-brand existence, even in a monastery. As the country struggled with political corruption during Watergate, as the church struggled reform and resistance, as one society drowned in affluence and others sank further into poverty—I went blithely on, basically unaware, even uninterested. I said my prayers, did my work, went to church. It was all good work, all well-meaning and right-hearted. But it was also safe, secure, satisfying and totally self-centered. I fed the poor but didn’t ask why they didn’t do it for themselves. I visited the sick but never thought about universal medical insurance. I buried the dead who came back from Vietnam but never questioned the war. I never visited prisoners and never ever wondered why almost all of them were African-Americans—and poor.

“All of that was someone else’s responsibility". Then, one day, I read this story:

Once upon a time a warlord rampaged through the countryside, ravaging, and killing as he went. Word spread quickly from village to village and the peasants fled for their lives. As he strode into the last of the villages, the warlord said with a smirk, ‘The village is empty, I presume?’

‘Well, yes, my Lord,’ his lieutenant answered. ‘Except, that is, for one monk who refuses to leave.’

The warlord was furious. ‘Bring that monk to me immediately,’ he roared. So they dragged the old monastic to the square. ‘Do you know who I am?’ The warlord shrieked. ‘I am he who can run you through with a sword without even batting an eye!’

‘And do you know who I am?’ The old monastic said, looking him straight in the eye. ‘I am she who can let you run me through with a sword—without even batting an eye.’

“At that moment, I realized there was a power in powerlessness, too. I learned that that there are none of us too weak to resist injustice. I learned that there is a difference between ‘goodness’ and holiness. And so, in a world reeking with goodness but short on justice, for all our sakes, I wish you holiness.” Sister Joan Chittister, O.S.B.

Affirmation Night, the 23rd edition, was a great evening. The speaker, Dave Robinson of Pax Christi/USA and one of our country’s most prominent peace activists, was terrific, but an extremely powerful part of the evening was the chronicle of 25 years of Peace and Justice in our Valley that preceded Dave’s talk.

Valley Interfaith, the sanctuary movement, Cesar Chavez and the UFW, the Birthing Center, Comfort House, Hope Clinic—all work that the Diocese of Brownsville played an important part in starting and/or sustaining under Bishop Fitzpatrick. The role that parishioners of Holy Spirit have played in many of these and other activities has been quite significant—the Parish should be proud of this history.

Under the two most recent bishops there has been a retreat from the Diocese’s participation in Peace and Justice activities, aside from pious statements now and then in the newspaper and diocesan publications. More disappointing has been the overt prevention of Catholic’s participating in many Peace and Justice efforts within the context of their own parish and diocesan community. We are still called to be holy and resist injustice, though—just as Sister Joan has said—even if we might feel powerless at times.

The Bishop Clock
In the next two years, 29 American bishops will be at least 75 years old, the official retirement age. Our Bishop is one of these. Counting vacancies, there will be at least 36 new bishops named in the next two years—this will have a huge impact on the American Church.

By George (Not Quite)
A prominent member of the Parish’s K of C council circulated an e-mail not long ago that contained material that was purportedly from the comedian George Carlin. Here are some excerpts:

“I think owning a gun doesn’t make you a killer, it makes you a smart American.” “I believe if you don’t like the way things are here, go back to where you came from and change your own country!” “I think the cops have every right to shoot your sorry rear if you’re running from them.” “I dislike those people standing in the intersections trying to sell me stuff or trying to guilt me into making ‘donations’ to their cause.”

First of all, the material is not from George Carlin—there is a disclaimer on his website to that effect.

Secondly, the tone of these remarks would be offensive in almost any setting, even one of “good ol’ redneck boys.”

Thirdly, it is hard to imagine a collection of remarks more out of tune with the teachings of our Church than these. Our bishops have written repeatedly on immigration, poverty, gun violence, etc. It seems that a member of the K of C, such a prominent Catholic organization, would be better informed on Catholic teachings and not pass on such offensive drivel posing as humor.

Bring Us To Life
A great deal of my experience at church and what I read in the paper about my church leaves me with a wistful feeling—we just aren’t quite getting it. I hear emphasis on words like sacrifice, watch the Vatican circle the wagons, see spotlights and can’t help but feel that the focus is misplaced. We are in the Easter season, a season of life. And this season of life grows into Pentecost, a natural progression of a love and life so powerful that it becomes like a river overflowing its banks and bringing new life to everything it touches. There are so many dimensions to the Eucharist, dimensions the spotlight seems to miss. How powerful that our brother Jesus chose bread and wine, common items that sustain life. Common items that now become Jesus and sustain us, as we too become His living body. Certainly the sacrifice on the cross is key, but we cannot just stay fixed at the foot of the cross, fixed in our focus on His death. To do so would be to ignore what resurrection is all about—life. A new life that is to be lived. Lived in moments of quiet and in moments receiving sustenance, but also lived out there in the middle of it all. Pentecost is coming and with it the call to leave the upper room. Come Holy Spirit and renew us, bring us to life. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $34,102.14 (last year same date: $33,852.01)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $58,267.80
Projected yearly shortfall: $160,107.90

Days of Bells and Roses
Someone asked about the origin of the custom of ringing bells at the Consecration. From my understanding, the custom began in the Middle Ages when the Eucharistic Prayer was not only in a language virtually no one knew but was also spoken by the celebrant in a quiet voice, with his back to the people and frequently at an altar that was at a great distance from the people. The bells were rung for the same reason bells are almost always rung: to alert people, who would otherwise not know, that something was happening that they needed to pay attention to (think doorbells, funeral bells, and bicycle bells). Since the Eucharistic prayer is now in the vernacular and is loudly proclaimed so all can hear and understand, there is no longer any practical reason for ringing the bells.

There was also an inquiry about the almost omnipresent rose on the altar. Leaving aside the fact that arbitrary symbolism is no symbolism at all, the directives of the Church are clear: no flowers on the surface of the altar—no exceptions! You can look it up; it’s in the GIRM.

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 gbrazier@rgv.rr.com

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Don't Miss This!


The Annual
Holy Spirit Peace & Justice
Pax Christi
Affirmation Night

Saturday, May 12, 2007
7:00 pm, First Christian Church

Click HERE for more details.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter of 04/29/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
April 29, 2007

One Ringy Dingy
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells From the bells, bells, bells, bells, Bells, bells, bells
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells.
Edgar Allan Poe

“They’re baaack!” Those bells at the Consecration, long sent to the deepest closets of sacristies everywhere, have returned to Holy Spirit. They disappeared for a reason and have no business being used. If this is the path we are on, why stop now? Let’s have the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel and… .

Are they really just the bells that are tolling at our Parish interment?
Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. John Donne

Advice and Consent
The Pastoral Council has a lot to answer for in the role they played in denying a member of the Parish, a religious Sister, her request to be a Eucharistic Minister—a request, by the way, that the Bishop told her previously, in the presence of the pastor, would be granted by the Monsignor no later than Holy Thursday.

In the middle of all this mess, a member of the Council said that “I think you [the Sister] should be a Eucharistic Minister but haven’t told Father that, because if I opposed him, I would have to leave the parish.” This mindset is a very dangerous one for a member of the Council to have—it undermines that person’s ability to provide honest advice to the Monsignor and if honest advice cannot provided by a person, then he or she shouldn’t be serving at all, since honest advice is the very purpose of a person’s serving on the Council.

This Council was not chosen in an open manner, it does not represent a cross-section of the community, it operates in secrecy with no accountability to those it supposedly represents, and its members seem willing to abdicate any independent judgment they might possess so that the Monsignor remains pleased with each of them. This is a sad state of affairs—why not just disband this group and do away with this fiction that it is truly a council for us, the Parish?

Past, Present and Future
Part of our homily this weekend included “Jesus is in the present. He is not concerned with the past or the future.” I hope what my pastor was trying to express was that we were celebrating in our Lord’s presence, that our Lord was present with us. Part of the great wonder and celebration of Easter is the great connection of our Lord, and through Him, ourselves, to the past present and future. “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” Through our rituals and readings we connect to our past, we hear the stories and promises and walk with our ancestors. Through our rituals and readings we celebrate the Word living with us and in us, and as disciples break bread together. And through our rituals and readings, we join in the promise of everlasting communion with our God, and we touch eternity. The connection of past, present, and future in our Sunday liturgy is profound mystery—in spite of the human shortcomings and not quite right lighting and sound effect experiments. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

And a friendly request…
I have been rightly nicknamed a “church lady” in the past, and from personal experience can appreciate the time and energy used to prepare for liturgy. So, this request is respectfully made in the hope that someone reading this newsletter can make a difference. We have the great gift of being dedicated as a parish community to the Holy Spirit. Can we try to celebrate this great gift a little more and not hide the images that identify our special connection to the Holy Spirit? Seems like we could all benefit from at least seeing images of our namesake. It was disappointing to see the wonderful symbols of the flames and the oil for confirmation springing from the waters of baptism covered up this confirmation weekend – we missed a powerful expression of the sacrament we were celebrating, and an expression of the Holy Spirit. from fellow parishioner, Michelle Pena

Aside from the bells, this past Sunday at Holy Spirit also featured a very odd celebration of First Holy Communion. Two youngsters were unable to receive their First Communion on the ordinary day (April 22nd) and so celebrated with the 8:30 Mass community (which saw no first communicants on the 22nd, weird?).

They received only under one species, the Bread—the Cup was not offered to them. “And so He took the Cup, blessed it and gave it to His disciples…”—not applicable for those two, this week. It appears this was not an oversight by the Monsignor, but a deliberate choice on his part. What could possibly have motivated such a strange choice, so contrary to the way in which the Eucharist is ordinarily celebrated? Why deny these two young people the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist in its full form at their first celebration?

We all know that the sacrament is received, even if only under one species, but “let’s get real” here—reception of both species has been the norm for decades virtually everywhere. How can the Monsignor decide that his idiosyncrasies are now the norm? What about the youngsters, aren’t they “good enough” to share the Cup?

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $30,837.84 (last year same date: $29,639.70)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $85,221.12
Projected yearly shortfall: $158,267.79.

Blacksburg is a small town, almost quaint—it sits on a plateau between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains in Southwest Virginia and is the home, as most of us learned a few weeks ago, to Virginia Tech. My wife and I lived there with our children for several years and worked on the Tech campus. It’s a beautiful place with a real sense of community and seeing the town and the campus so horribly in the national news was very sad for us. All those young people gunned down—all that potential and promise snuffed out so violently and so swiftly! Prayers for the families, friends and colleagues of the survivors came very easily.

I was disappointed after Mass at Holy Spirit on April 22nd, the first Sunday after the tragedy at Tech, that the Prayers of the Faithful in our Parish did not contain any prayer related to that tragedy. Instead, the petitions were a repetition of the “old favorites,” which hardly ever vary: pray for the clergy (Lord knows they need it), pray for “true peace” (whatever that is), etc. What a strange view of the Parish community this sort of decision by the Monsignor is indicative of. Pious platitudes with no connection to real events involving real people with real concerns are just drivel. It seems to me that turning our intercessions into such platitudes (particularly in this instance) is indicative of a real “tin ear” as to what affects the community or maybe just of a conscious, self-centered callousness. from fellow parishioner, Jerry Brazier

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 gbrazier@rgv.rr.com.