June 25, 2017
There are severe, grave divisions in the Catholic Church these days. Am I telling you anything you don’t already know? I doubt it.
- The Catholic bishops of Poland disagree with the Catholic Bishops of Germany on the question of whether civilly remarried Catholics may worthily receive Holy Communion. Their opposed positions are based on Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Amoris Letitia.
- The two Catholic Bishops of Malta interpret the Pope’s Amoris Letitia encyclical one way, and the Catholic Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, interprets the same encyclical in a contrary direction! Can both sides be right if they are opposed?
- In view of these conflicting opinions nine months ago four Cardinals wrote to the Pope asking for an authoritative clarification, resolving the ambiguities of his encyclical. 275 days later, the Pope still has not responded to the Cardinals. The division continues.
If you don’t know about these conflicts circulating around the Pope’s Amoris Letitia, I hesitate to discuss them, especially in a parish bulletin. Besides, I’m no professional theologian. I am a “grunt priest” happily on the front lines at St. Elizabeth Church. Consequently, I had better stick to parish issues which correspond to my pay grade.
“So what do you think, Father Garcia, about people slipping into the communion line and asking for a blessing because they are not receiving the sacred Host?”
Friends, what I think is not important. Rather let us consult the Church’s own “Driver Manual” which covers everything that happens at Mass. This is called The General Instruction on the Roman Missal (GIRM). Reading through GIRM it’s clear to me that this practice is NOWHERE suggested and should NOT be encouraged! Why? Here’s the principle: the time for blessing people is just before they are dismissed from the assembly. The blessing has a logical connection to the dismissal. The people are blessed, that is, fortified with God’s Holy Name in view of their responsibility to carry the Gospel back home to their normal circumstances in society. The disciple is blessed because he/she formally carries the Good News back into the world. It is clear in GIRM that the blessing is paired with the dismissal. The Blessing goes with Being Sent.
Bottom line: Seeking a blessing at the time of communion is out of place, out of sequence. It is no substitute for Holy Communion. Anybody who encourages such a practice does not understand the structure of the Holy Mass.
Have a good Sunday!
June 18, 2017
On Wednesday, June 7th, I had two “Aha!” moments of insight and recognition about marriage.
The fiscal year at St. Elizabeth’s ends on June 30, so I was helping Joellyn and Sandy “cull” the parish files. To retrieve some space I relocated the parish marriage records to a new file cabinet. That’s when the first “Aha!” hit me. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! There was the undeniable evidence of marriage decline. I counted the individual records of marriages performed in the parish. Look for yourself at the statistics and see what’s trending.
In 1960 – 39 marriages were performed at St. Elizabeth. In 1970 – 27 marriages. In 1980 - 37. In 1990 – 38. In 2000 – 9. In 2010 – 3. In 2016 -- 3. Can you believe it…the institution of marriage is on the rocks…even in our Portola neighborhood! (And last Saturday, just to corroborate the above, I presided a Catholic marriage in another parish of the archdiocese. The sacristan commented to me, “This is our second marriage since January!” Friends, no parish is exempt from this phenomenon...our kids, raised in the church, don’t want to marry…by the church.)
A second “Aha” moment hit me on the same day at the afternoon Mass. We read chapter 3 of the Book of Tobit. Here’s the story. A beautiful girl, Sarah, wanted to marry; she had no trouble at all finding suitors. Unfortunately she was also being “stalked” by the horrible devil named Asmodeus. This particular devil is Satan’s expert in the vice of Lust. The specialty of Asmodeus is destroying the holiness of the marriage bed. The strategy of Asmodeus was to tempt each of Sarah’s boyfriends with lustful desire. All seven fell into his trap. As each successive husband, fired with carnal desire, approached Sarah on their marriage, Asmodeus would slay the husband and dispatch the soul to hell. Grisly story! The only remedy was for God to send Archangel Rafael. He freed poor Sarah of this diabolical beast and introduced her to the virtuous Tobias. And the two lived happily ever after.
Let’s put the statistics and the sacred scriptures together. In 1848 Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto called for the abolition of marriage and the family as the first step in establishing what he considered “a just society.” The “takedown” of the natural, traditional biblical family life has been in the works for 200 hundred years. We’ve seen it all in California. No fault divorce, gay “marriage”, polyamorous relationships, and “plural marriage” are sign-posts along the road redefining marriage. But understand, Friends, that the one pulling the strings is not Marx, Margaret Sanger, or our local politicians. The real puppet master is the devil and after him, his specially appointed marriage-destroyer, Asmodeus.
Pray that God sends us his Archangel Rafael to protect marriage.
Reverend James Garcia
June 11, 2017
I am thinking of the headlines. “13 Catholics and local priest were taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf in Marawi City, on the Philippine island of Mindanao.” And then two days later: “6 people died, 30 were wounded, and 3 ISIS extremists were shot by police in a terror attack which happened on London bridge.” Unbelieveable!
So how does a Catholic – on Trinity Sunday – react to these headlines? I’m no expert in these matters, but I offer you my opinion as a Catholic priest for 47 years.
For some perspective on Catholic-Muslim relations, go back to the mid-60s. In public speeches, the popes were speaking positively about Islam, especially to the Catholic bishops of Africa, where millions of Catholics lived side by side with millions of Moslems. The popes promoted accommodation to Islam. In their optimism, the popes emphasized beliefs which were common to both: that God is One; that He is Creator; and that absolute obedience is owed to Him. (I am not aware that Islamic leaders ever responded in the same positive way toward Christianity. It was strictly a one-way street.)
In the 1990s, the focus shifted to Muslims in the Middle East. Think of the Gulf Wars of Kuwait and Iraq, destruction of the World Trade Center (September 11, 2001) in which 3,000 died and 6,000 were wounded, and the US pursuit of Al-Qaeda into Afghanistan. Benedict XVI signaled a different papal approach to Islam with his Regensburg address in (September 12, 2006). He never meant to be provocative. He simply cited the observation of a 14th century Byzantine emperor that linked Islam and the Prophet Muhammad with violence.
For me, in 2017, it is both truthful and prudent to recognize this link between Islam and violence in certain circumstances. Why? First, remember that Islam was founded 600 years after Christ; it is, in part, a negative reaction to Christian belief. Second, the Koran knows absolutely knowing of God as a Community of Interpersonal Love. Third, Islam considers Christian belief in the Holy Trinity blasphemous. Fourth, Islam offers only three alternatives for non-believers: conversion, added taxes, or death. Fifth, Islam considers the faith of Christians is an insult to God and deserving of death.
On this Trinity Sunday, I embrace wholeheartedly the confession of my Catholic faith. I believe in One God in Three Persons. I believe that God is one and that His divine nature is a communion of interpersonal love: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I also uphold the right of others to maintain beliefs different from mine. I respect their conscience, even if it is improperly, erroneously formed. I wish them well. History and common sense, however, suggest to me that it is better that I live at a distance from them, that I discourage intermarriage with them, and that I always be alert to the possibility of violence.
Reverend James Garcia