NCR Today

Spirituality doesn't require you to be serious, Jesuit says


This week on Interfaith Voices, I interviewed Jesuit Fr. James Martin, author of a terrific new book called Between Heaven and Mirth.

This guy has to be the best-known Jesuit in the country since Dan Berrigan protested the Vietnam War in the 1960s. He's been on Stephen Colbert's show, and his book has been featured in the Washington Post, on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and on The Huffington Post and now on Interfaith Voices.

His message is simple: Spirituality does not require being dour, grim or serious. In fact, humor, joy and laughter are central to the spiritual life. Not peripheral. Central.

When I interviewed Jim, I used some of the soundtrack from The Sound of Music, where Maria's frolicking behavior is dubbed a problem -- of course -- by her abbess. Jim agreed that this is a great example of the culture of gloom that has surrounded traditional religion. And it need not be so.

Morning Briefing


Is the new missal good prayer?


The anecdotal reactions to the new English-language prayers officially implemented Sunday break down into predictable categories. Those who dislike the changes describe them as simply bad and unreadable English, inhibitors to authentic prayer. Those in favor of the changes commonly use the term "poetic" in praising the new prayers. The quiet middle seems philosophical about accepting the new missal. Most appreciated the efforts by local parishes to prepare the congregations for the change-over.

Here are some reactions I collected Sunday.

At the Mass I attended, one octogenarian woman kept leaning over to the 40-something woman next to her and saying, "This is stupid. This is stupid. I'm never going to learn these changes," she said. After Mass, the older woman kept bemoaning the changes as she left the building.

New Mass rites greeted with disappointment, shrugs in Virginia


"Why is this important?" asked Robert, a seminarian in the 1960s and a longtime parish music minister, when he was asked for his reaction to the changes in the liturgy introduced Nov. 25-26 in parishes across the United States.

"We'll get used to it," he added, although he found some of the language changes in the Mass prayers -- such as the creedal change from "one in being with the Father" to "consubstantial with the Father" -- "awkward."

Kathleen, a member of St. Thomas à Becket Parish in Reston, Va., objected strongly to the new formula at the end of the consecration of the wine, which has Christ saying the cup of wine is his blood given up "for you and for many" instead of "for you and for all."

In his homily on the changes, she said, the current parish administrator tried to explain that change as a reflection that all are called to salvation but not all respond to the call -- but in a way that suggested to her that it meant "many are called but few are chosen."

That, she said, seemed to her to "initiate a fear tactic [about who can be saved]. … I found that disconcerting."

Maryland priest tells parish new missal is 'only words'


The early evening sky was streaked with pink clouds as I hustled in to attend the vigil Mass at the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Takoma Park, Md. The church sits tucked between a bewildering array of shopping plazas, gas stations and auto repair stores that line New Hampshire Ave.

It was clearly an immigrant crowd, who had gathered in the brightly lit sanctuary to mark the start of the Church's new year. Aside from the pastor Fr. Raymond Wadas and my family, the 50 or so people attending were various shades of brown. The dress and demeanor of some suggested they had come from distant lands where English, let alone Latin, was not the mother tongue. There were tired-looking Latino men sitting alone in their pews, small clusters of Africans, and sweet-faced, elderly African-American women.

At the front of the church were laminated cards with the newly scripted prayers. The wording of the Mass had changed, the lector said, and he reminded us to use the guide. Even with this cue, some of us occasionally lapsed into the old utterances.

Despite new missal, we are still people of the cup


Before Mass, the priest apologized for the fans in the church on Thanksgiving morning. The roof was leaking, water had damaged the organ and the space needed to be dried. In this parish in southern Illinois, parishioners were stretching their wallets to pay for a new roof and the Boy Scouts were collecting food for those who would go without a meal in this depressed economy.

For the Vatican, though, these circumstances seem of little concern and retranslating the former Latin Mass is a top priority. New prayer books must be ordered, poor economy or not, because a few bishops want to believe that Jesus used a "chalice" rather than a simple cup, as the new translation says. These bishops believe that a better Latin translation will bring people closer to God.

When life is hard, when the rain pours, it is tempting to seek shelter in elevated stories of Lords, castles and chalices. It is tempting to believe that ours is a God of spirit and not also a God who came to earth with only a loaf of bread and a simple cup for his drink.

Ohio parishioner on new missal: 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'


My group, Simply Catholic, a Columbus, Ohio, house church of 25 members that meets twice a month, will definitely not be using the new translation. Until now, we have relied on the USCCB readings as well as "Breath of the Spirit" commentaries from Dignity USA. Since the USCCB will now be supplying Catholics with the Roman Missal revisions, we will instead be accessing our own Bibles and retaining "Breath of the Spirit."

Marie Sweeney, SC's founder, is a former pastoral staff member at St. Thomas More Newman Center operated by the Paulists at Ohio State University. She launched Simply Catholic six years ago to provide women and married priests with opportunities to serve as presiders.

Since Sweeney frequently refers to the Holy One as Ama Imma (Mother God) and the Holy Spirit as Sophia, "Consubstantial with the Father," is not one of those terms we will be using.

Here are her comments concerning the Roman Missal, which she shared in a letter to the Columbus Dispatch this past October:

No health insurance for Florida diocese under federal law


Bishop Robert Lynch said the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., will no longer provide health insurance to its employees unless changes are made to the federal health care law, according to

This would mean that the diocese's 2,300 employees would be given a cash allowance to buy their own insurance.

The bishop made the statement Wednesday at an annual mass for the legal community in Tampa, according to the St. Petersburg Times, which quoted him as saying that the church must take a stand for "religious liberty and individual moral conscience."

'Game of Your Life' focuses on more than just video games


This is the second in a trilogy of blog posts by Sr. Rose Pacatte looking at some of this year's new holiday television movies. The first post, focusing on "Have a Little Faith," can be found here.

Game of Your Life
Friday, Dec. 2
NBC, 8 p.m./7 p.m. CST

NBC's latest Family Movie Night film, "Game of Your Life," is about a serious high school video gamer, Zach (Titus Makin Jr.), who receives a scholarship to an institute of digital design. There, teens form groups of writers, designers and producers and must promise to follow certain rules that involve choices, just like the games they are creating.

At its core, the movie is about character: doing the right thing even when no one is looking.

I think this film may be of interest to grown-ups who would like to know more about this digital universe and its ethical demands and challenges, as well as story-telling techniques.

Let the trees of the forest exult


"Let the trees of the forest exult before the Lord, for he comes." (Ps 96:12)

I love this Advent antiphon. It expresses the joy of creation and the confidence that God is with us. I can hear God's footsteps coming through the brush.

A mimosa tree behind my office has gone to seed. All summer, its prodigious pink flowers drew hummingbirds. Now its seed pods rattle in the wind like a heavy rain. We've picked up at least a dozen buckets of the pods from the ground -- better than conducting mimosa deforestation in the spring. It must be more than 10,000 seed pods, each containing a half-dozen seeds. I marvel at the profusion of nature, the generosity of God, even as I pluck the pods from garden beds.

Chairman Mao Zedong said, "To plant a tree is to believe in the future." I've planted a lot of trees, mostly fruit trees -- apples, plums, cherries and my favorite, apricot. Fruit trees count the freezing nights and don't begin to run their sap until their own number is up, from 40 to 100 nights. For the really cold-weather fruits like cherries and plums, global warming is a problem. Some varieties will have to move further north, not an easy feat for a tree.


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In This Issue

July 14-27, 2017