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Location: near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Friday, January 06, 2006

Oh, what to wear?

In his most recent "Herald of Hope" column, in the ostensibly Catholic, archdiocesan newspaper, The Catholic Herald, Archbishop Timothy Dolan speaks of presiding at the funeral of an elderly priest.

I was struck by how impressed His Excellency was that the priest had meticulously preserved, for more than 66 years, the vestments that he wore when he celebrated his first mass. Left unstated is whether or not the present pastor who had the responsibility for preparing the body in those vestments could even recognie a fiddlebacked chasuble. I daresay, he might of thought it an early version of a burlap banner to be hung from the altar along te hand prints of the first communicants.

While there is great value in what the Archbishop has to say in his column regarding the Blessed Mother (admittedly, the actual focus of that commentary), the anecdote raises a good question about the preservation of various liturgical elements (vestments, vessels, statuary, etc.).

Again, there is cause to be afraid that His Excellency consistantly misses the opportunity to set a proper example for things. For example, I have come to understand that when visiting parishes His Excellency generally just wears whatever vestments are there. Why? With so many putrid designs, cheap materials, and Sir, ill-fitting vesture out there, why not simply set a good example for your priests. You have a baggage-carrier...let him carry one more vestment. (As a side note, remember then never to give His Excellency nice vestments as a gift...after the first use, they likely will never see the light of day in the Cathedral or in any parish visit.)

People should look upon their archbishop and be inspired to at least two thoughts: 1) This man is attentive to the best details of liturgy, right down to the best examples of noble vestments for the Eucharist; 2) When he comes to my parish, it is unique, special, and out of the ordinary.

I have spoken before that the Archbishop is afraid to use the moral influence of his "bully" pulpit by affirming the good priests with visitations, and challenging to the lax ones with a statement "I'll come to you parish when you...." Even if he is unwilling to do that, Archbishop Dolan could at least realize that an episcopal visitation should not be a situation when the archbishop comes to a parish and is pulled down to whatever banal liturgical, reductionism the pastor has wrought on his people. No, it should a lifting up to the best standards of liturgy and prayer. (A higher mass, if you will.)

I realize that the Eucharist is the Eucharist. I can even look past ugly vestments (most of the time). But sadly, this anecdote merely reflects how His Excellency, in a naive attempt to be liked by those who are most critical of him behind his back, constantly misses out on both big and little opportunities to set a more inspring example. He might not be as well-liked, but he would be stronger leader. There in lay the crux of his difficulties.

Mike

8 Comments:

Anonymous Patte said...

Boy, does THAT deserve a thunderous AMEN! Those last few paragraphs said it all. There is no excuse for the bishops not to exercise their authoritative right. The very LEAST they could do would be to educate and inspire their priests by their example. If only the truly Catholic parishes had the honor of these visits, a subtle message would be received by both priest and parishioner.

NOWHERE have I witnessed the rampant rewarding of poor behavior as within our beloved Church. From Cardinal Law celebrating a papal funeral Mass to high level appointments of the most dissident bishops! I find no logic in it whatsoever.

HOWEVER...I have to combat the anger and confusion that these things produce inside ME. I have a duty to protect my soul and so I the example of Our Lady ever before me as she walked the Via Dolorosa. I think we walk that same road today.

Friday, January 06, 2006 7:38:00 AM  
Blogger Dad29 said...

Yes, Patte--you can think of the last 30 years in Milwaukee as an advance-payment of Purgatorial dues.

It really helps!!!

Friday, January 06, 2006 3:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Patte said...

From Pope Benedict XVI's first homily as Successor of St. Peter:

"Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves."

I don't think he was speaking of wolves outside of the wall, do you? Those have been battled since Eden.

Saturday, January 07, 2006 7:16:00 AM  
Blogger WICatholic said...

VERY Good!

Saturday, January 07, 2006 3:52:00 PM  
Blogger Terrence Berres said...

While the Catholic Herald now provides a permanent link for current news stories, it doesn't for the Herald of Hope column. The column you cite is now has its "archive" link http://www.chnonline.org/2006-01-05/heraldofhope.html

Sunday, January 15, 2006 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger Mike, the Faithful Catholic said...

Thanks Terrance. I have repaired the link.

Mike

Sunday, January 15, 2006 1:36:00 PM  
Blogger Karen Marie said...

If the vestments at your parish are not to your liking, you can always donate some.

Be that as may, most vestments traditionally belong to the parish, not to an individual (with a few exceptions such as a fitted alb, stole for Reconciliation and sick calls, tokens of episcopal office, maybe the ordination set....) I'd be very wary of a cleric with a closetfull of personal chasubles, etc., it's just not befitting.

Saturday, January 28, 2006 11:37:00 PM  
Blogger Mike, the Faithful Catholic said...

Karen Marie:

The point has more to do with a conflict in the conveyance of priorities. The vestments are but a symbol, or a symptom...

An Archbishop should not feel that he has to concede to the whims of the local pastor each time he goes on the road. At the very least, respect would indicate that the local pastor should anticipate the expectations of his shepherd.

As to donating vestments...I would be glad to. But, I would be foolish to do so without a sense that they would be disposed of by the present, or next, priest on a whim.

We all know stories of beautiful vestments being thrown away, cut up for parish quilts, or used as canvases for the first communicants to place colorful hand prints. While these things might seem cute, none reflects the dignity that should be present.

Vestments, vessels, music, etc., clearly are not ends in themselves, but as they are the building blocks of our liturgy, the dignity we show therein either increases, or undermines, our respect for the Eucharist.

Mike

Sunday, January 29, 2006 5:49:00 AM  

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