Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Parishioners' Newsletter 08/19/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit
August 19, 2007

In one of the readings for this weekend we heard about the prophet Jeremiah who was cast into a deep cistern, sinking into the mud, because some people thought he was demoralizing the soldiers and all the people by the words he spoke.

Prophets are not men or women who foretell the future, but instead are people who tell the truth to those in the present, and tell what the future will hold for them if they ignore that truth. People don’t like to hear that they have to change how they live so as to bring their lives in line with the truth—tellers of those kinds of truths are always criticized, ostracized, demonized, and tossed into whatever cisterns are conveniently available.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells us something very similar—“do you think I came to establish peace…? No, rather division… I have come to set the earth on fire and how I wish it were already blazing.” Christ’s message is not a tranquil one and it will be divisive, in that the status quo is meant to be shaken by His message.

Who are the prophetic voices, right now, in our lifetime, that speak the uncomfortable truths? Look to see whom authority and society at large vilify and seek to silence, and you will probably have the answer.

The Future Leaders of Tomorrow
We are seeing, in the Church these days, the proliferation of events for youth, like World Youth Day, Youth 2000, etc. Here are some remarks about such activities from Father Andrew Greeley a prominent sociologist of American Catholicism (and sometime novelist):

The Catholic Church really doesn't believe in evaluation research; Perhaps it is just as well that it is does not because most evaluation research shows that interventions like World Youth Day really don’t work, There's a lot of activity and enthusiasm and that seems to be enough to make the Day a success without the need to ask whether anyone's life or behavior has changed. One needs before and after data. What were the young people doing and believing, say, a month before the Day and then a month after. The risk in such research is that it often finds no long-term impact at all, despite all the work and energy expended. One would want to know for example what the participants thought about "hooking up," pre-marital cohabitation, birth control, fertility experiments, as well as frequency of prayer, church attendance and volunteer service. I would imagine that the organizers of World Youth Day would be horrified at the suggestion that such matters need to be addressed.
from a contribution on dotCommonweal, 8/14/07.

“The utmost reverence in adoration to Our Lord is kneeling during the most sacred moments of our Eucharist Banquet—when the Mystery of the Eucharist takes place.” from our Parish Sunday Bulletin each week

This bulletin entry comes in a section headlined “Directive of our Catholic Faith from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops” and certainly leaves the impression that this quote comes from the General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM) and represents some statement about our Catholic faith from the American Bishops and maybe even the Vatican. This impression is false. The quote is nowhere in the GIRM and appears to be the opinion of whoever puts together the bulletin. People can have opinions and even express them, but to imply that those opinions are “directives of our Catholic Faith” is dishonest.

In the GIRM (paragraph 43) we have the directives for the universal Church on the postures during Mass:

"The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fraters (Pray, brethren), before the prayer over the offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below."

"They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed."

What follows in the text of the GIRM is an exception made for the United States, which requires kneeling during the Eucharistic Prayer. If the quote in our bulletin were really a “directive of our Catholic faith” then it would appear that only the Church in the United States knows and practices “the utmost reverence….” That is complete nonsense, of course. What is misleading and dishonest about the bulletin quote is that it implies that standing during the Eucharistic Prayer is inherently disrespectful, which it is not, since it is the standard posture the GIRM sets for the universal Church. The American bishops want us to kneel, but that is an arbitrary decision on their part and does not represent some fundamentally superior way to celebrate the Eucharist.

True to Our Word
Our Pope’s experience of teaching certainly has helped him provoke thought and discussion. Even our own Monitor has received letters sharing rather passionate views about “the one true church”. It is an interesting challenge for all of us who love our church, because an honest love can acknowledge failings and still love – isn’t that the unconditional love our God has for us? We must honestly admit that just because “I say so” doesn’t cut it. It is hard to defend your church and its teaching when the news for the day doesn’t just carry the Pope’s words, but also a report on the latest sex abuse scandal settlement clearly witnessing that the Church has done far too little too late. Our Pope’s words still hang in the air as we pass the anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the damning silence of our Church refusing to be a voice of nonviolence speaks volumes. Is it really possible for the one true Church to bless bombs and approve of the death and destruction they bring?

We know in our hearts that if we are to be a true church, the words have to be backed up by the lives of the members of the body – all of us from pews to the Pope. The reality is that saying so should be unnecessary. The world should be able to see and feel our faith and our love. The world needs to hear not the words of the Pope, but the words of Jesus brought to life by the church. Only then we can be true.
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

Vox Populi
“… [Pope Benedict’s directive on extended access to the old Tridentine Rite] assumes that requests from the laity will usually be handled at the parish level, and that any refusal to grant the old liturgy can be circumvented. If ‘some group of lay faithful...does not obtain what it requests from the pastor’ it may go over his head to the bishop, who is ‘earnestly requested to grant their desire.’ But ‘if he cannot provide for this kind of celebration,’ all is not lost. ‘Let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei,’ which evidently will make the arrangements. On what other issue does the laity have this much clout in a church that is not a democracy?” Peter Jeffrey in Commonweal, 8/17/07.

Indeed, Mr. Jeffrey, on what other issue can “some group of the lay faithful [who] does not obtain what it requests from the pastor” anticipate a different outcome when approaching the bishop or even the Vatican?

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $66,253.68 (last year same date: $68,168.92)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $151,713.12
Projected yearly shortfall: $179,297.32

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

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Financial Report

Financial Report

This Sunday marked the publishing of the 14th Annual Parish Financial Report.

The pastor declared during his homily:

"All of the money that we received was deposited into the bank account and all of our expenses were paid by check. This gives you, our parishioners, a perfect picture of exactly how your donations have been utilized."
Fr. Gus Pacheco.

So why is it so hard for OUR pastor to furnish the parishioners of Holy Spirit with an accounting of our finances? Seems like it has been YEARS…

Oh well, I guess "No News is Bad News."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

A Tribute To Another Old Friend.

A Tribute To Another Old Friend.
I grew up at Holy Spirit. For as long as I can remember, I attended mass on a weekly basis, participated in the annual fundraisers for Casa Amparo, the monthly Habitat for Humanity build dates, and many other ministries at the church. I attended religious education classes each month, Vacation Bible School for some 14 summers, walked in every walk-a-thon for our sister parish in Guajoyo, was a founding member of the Puppet Ministry, worked for the church as a sound tech for several years, and helped out at the annual Thanksgiving Dinner from when I was 5, till I was 19.

I’ve been attending school in Boston for the past 2 years, and so I only visit home a few times a year. Each time, my parents, who attend another parish now, ask me if I’d like to go back to Holy Spirit, knowing that the church and its community hold a special place in my heart. Every time, I’ve said yes, and every time, as we return home from church, I’ve been deep in thought as to what I was going to write next.

You see, every time I attend Holy Spirit, I become so disappointed that I return home and feel that I must write a letter to Fr. Louis, in hopes that I can help him see what I so miss in Holy Spirit. Time and time again, these letters receive no response. I doubt whether they are even read (though if you are interested in reading them, feel free to send an e-mail to me; my address is my first name DOT my last name at gmail DOT com).

This has been my typical experience at home… until today.

Just now, my father walked into my room and asked if I’d like to go to Holy Spirit tomorrow. Without thinking, I replied, “Not really.” Upon hearing my voice mutter this phrase, I stopped to think about why I said this and it occurred to me that when attending Holy Spirit today, I receive nothing. I am not challenged to make a difference. I am not moved by the spirituality of the parishioners. Nothing. Nothing at all.

I see a parish, devoid of all signs of life and community. Where I once saw people actively seeking ways to live their faith, I see people simply repeating prayers as if mass were a Disney Sing-a-Long. Where I once was challenged to make a difference, I hear sounds entering my ears, absent of any application to my life. Where I once saw a community that looked beyond socioeconomic lines, I now see a community which prides itself in showing the monetary wealth of its individual members instead of the moral wealth of the community as a whole.

For me, every day that goes by I feel as though another piece of my childhood is ripped away from me, as the dimming flame of Holy Spirit Parish fades into the deep, dark night. I just question whether the oil available for this lamp will be enough to outlast the darkness. I guess we can pray for a miracle.

On a related note: If what I have said deeply offends you, I ask that you take the common courtesy to talk with me directly (my e-mail address is listed above if you prefer that everyone does not see your name) instead of simply leaving anonymous comments. What I have written about is very important to me, and all I ask is for this simple favor.

-Ben Salinas

Monday, August 06, 2007

Holy Spirit Parishioners' Newsletter of 08/05/07

Somos el Cuerpo de Cristo
Thoughts from Some Fellow Parishioners of Holy Spirit—August 5, 2007

Orthopraxy and Orthodoxy
A few Sundays ago we had the Good Samaritan parable as the Gospel reading. The Samaritan, the outcast, not even an orthodox believer, was presented by Jesus as the one who loved his neighbor and so fulfilled the law. The others, a priest and a Levite, put their obligations to the orthodoxy of the time, the Temple cult, above helping the injured man.

Right practice (orthopraxy) or right belief (orthodoxy)—which takes precedence when there is a conflict in a real world situation (like that presented by Jesus)? The answer in the Gospel is clear: it is right practice. It is not enough to believe and profess the right things or even to engage in religiosity, the show of right belief—you have to walk the walk by fulfilling the law of loving your neighbor. The only presentation of judgment in the Gospels is in Matthew (25:31-46): “When I was hungry … when I was naked…” There is no mention of faithfulness to pious routines, no accounting of novenas said, etc. Many of these things can help us to live our lives better (right practice) and so have merit, but not merit in and of themselves.

There is a lot of controversy about the relationship between orthopraxy and orthodoxy (love that Greek, don’t you) in the writings of the liberation theologians (Jon Sobrino, Leonardo Boff, e.g.), particularly about whether right practice is enough to unite us to Christ. That’s a whole other train of thought for a whole other time.

Religious Education
From a classified ad in the 6/18/07 issue of America magazine:

Director of Religious Formation. Diocese of Buffalo, NY.
Very well-organized program currently serving about 1,100 young Christians.

The Director is a professional, salaried, full-time member of the parish staff who has knowledge and skills in administration, education, and theology. The Director is responsible for the general administration of the total religious formation program for grades K-10 and the sacraments of first reconciliation, first Communion, and confirmation. The parish very much wants to move in the direction of whole community catechesis….

This parish in Buffalo seems to have about the same number of youngsters in religious education as Holy Spirit and is going to a lot of effort and expense to try to bring a qualified person onto its staff to direct the religious education program.

As most people know, Holy Spirit has not had a professional, certified person in charge of religious education for quite some time now. Well meaning and hard working amateurs have been filling the void, but you would think that the time has come to put this extremely important ministry in the hands of a professional in the field.

It may be true that the Parish is in the process of conducting a search for just such a person, but a perusal of the diocesan website, local newspapers, etc. doesn’t show any evidence that that is true. We probably don’t have the resources to advertise nationally, like the parish in Buffalo, but how is our Parish going about trying to fill this position? Even Our Lady of Mercy in Mercedes, with all of its difficulties and a pastor who has stated that religious education isn’t very important, is advertising on the diocesan website for a Director of Religious Education. It’s August, after all.

Note that the Buffalo parish wants to “move in the direction of whole community catechesis”—what a daring concept!

Quotes from two e-mails from Bishop Peña:

“I suggested for him [Monsignor Brum] to re-evaluate his policies and re-define the requirements regarding lay participation in various ministries of the parish.” (June 6, 2006)

“I did receive copy of your correspondence to Msgr. Brum and I have discussed the matter with him and encouraged him to resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible. It is now up to him to respond to your needs.” (June 20, 2006)

Quote from a letter from the Monsignor to the Parish:

“…all who are to serve in these ministries [lector and Eucharistic minister] MUST participate in the two-year special formation provided by the San Juan Diego Ministry Institute. Those already serving MUST make a written commitment that they will participate in such a program…Besides making a profession of faith and an oath of fidelity, in writing, according to the norm of law, they must express in writing their firm belief in the real presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist.” (August 24, 2006)

It may very well be true that all the parishioners currently serving the parish community in these liturgical ministries (lector and Eucharistic minister) meet the criteria that the Monsignor laid out last August, i.e., they are enrolled or committed to enroll in classes, and have written professions, oaths, and statement of beliefs on file with the Parish. But, in a very real sense, you would hope that that is not the case, and that such inappropriate criteria have simply faded away. If they have faded away, then the Parish needs to be told about it, so folks can put themselves forward to serve without being burdened by the prospect of irrelevant and time-consuming formation classes and the giving of professions, oaths, and statements of belief that are not required in the “norm of law” for such service.

The language of the Monsignor’s letter to Parish does not admit any exceptions to the criteria (note the capital letters), but it still may be true that these criteria are selectively in force to put barriers to participation in these ministries by particular parishioners. This would seem to contradict the Bishop’s encouraging the Monsignor “to resolve the matter amicably, as soon as possible” and “to respond to your needs.”

It has been almost year—the expiration date on “as soon as possible” has come and gone.

Word and Wall
The Living Word—it isn’t just a pretty phrase, although at times the way the readings address our life situations is almost eerie. These last few Sundays we have heard stories about Abraham, his visitors and reminders that earthly treasures do not last. The poignant relevance of these stories to the Body of Christ that lives on the border is striking. In the story of Abraham, God comes to visit Abraham through the strangers. And how does Abraham react to the strangers traveling through his land and by his home? He respects the presence of God in a stranger, offers welcome and in a spirit of generous hospitality tends to their needs. How very different from the reality of our present border situation marked by suspicion and fear.

And then there is “the wall.” This past Sunday’s readings offer some strong words about building up walls to protect material goods—some food for thought and prayer. Is there a place for a wall between God’s children? As a people, do we want to be rich in what we can keep for ourselves behind a wall, or do we want to be rich in what matters to God?
from fellow parishioner, Michelle Peña

$$$$$ Update
Since 10/15/06:
Total below budget: $63,360.75 (last year same date: $63,753.76)
Total shortfall (including expenditures over budget): $144,935.67
Projected yearly shortfall: $179,444.16

Since January 1st (30 weekends) there have been four (4) weeks when the collection met or exceeded the budget of $14,500—that’s just 13% of the Sundays.

Part of our summer took us to Seattle—check out an interesting parish: St. Patrick’s; particularly the detailed financial report. St. Pat’s has about 300 families, one-tenth the size of Holy Spirit in 2003.
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 mailto:gbrazier@rgv.rr.com