Tag Archives: sacraments

The Catholic Wedding Liturgy: A Sprint Through the Sacrament?

Gang Like A Wedding

**While we’re talking a bit about annulments, it might be fun to talk a bit, as well, about weddings.**

I read an interesting graphic several years ago which noted the steady growth in “inter” marriages across young couples in the US. Differences of creed, race, and ethnicity no longer present the same obstacle to love and life-long commitment they once did. The only outlier in this category, unsurprisingly, was a deep decrease in inter-political marriages. Red and blue, it would seem, mix as well as water and oil. Continue reading The Catholic Wedding Liturgy: A Sprint Through the Sacrament?


“I Miss Bringing Communion”


By Matt Janeczko, OFM Cap.

My list of communion calls ebbs and flows: I have a sad ritual, whereby when I bury one of those who I visited I go to my computer and remove them from my “sick call list” and say a final prayer for them. I take their memorial card and put it in my desk draw on a stack that has grown from a dozen, to two dozen, to somewhere near the number forty. The life of a parish priest.

Just this weekend, I went on a call to an elderly lady who I have been seeing for over a year now. She looks exactly the same: very old, hands gnarled by arthritis, clutching a rosary. Our conversation is always the same: frustration at her situation, gratefulness for her care, mixed with a worry that she is being a burden.

I hear largely the same outline of her life, but something stuck out in this last visit. She has always told me she was a Eucharistic Minister, bringing Communion to the sick in her parish where she once lived, somewhere out west. But Saturday, her eyes went wide, and, in telling the story, she added a piece: “I really miss bringing Communion.”

I heard this and took a breath. An examination of conscience, if there ever was one. For all the talk (and there will be even more today and until the conclusion of the Synod and Francis’ visit to the Meeting on the Families), it reminded me of what my canon law professor said once in class: “My favorite part of being a priest is giving others communion.”

There is an important play on the word that can and should be noted: to bring others communion. Indeed, the act of placing the Eucharist in the hands or on the tongue of another is, at its basic movement, an act of communion, an act of me joining with you, joining you and me with the divine. And it’s about you, me, and God – it’s never just God and you, or God and me, or me and you. To give Communion is to literally offer a communion with both God and the Church, living amid the world.

I’d miss offering this communion too. That’s a blessing indeed.

First Observations on Reformed Annulment Process


By Ellen Romer Niemiec

Pope Francis issued two motu proprios concerning reforms to the annulment process. While it is currently only available in Italian and Latin and we aren’t particular scholars of those particular languages here at Catholic How, I have read as many reports and translations as I can before a second cup of coffee (though I did like the bullet points in Crux’s coverage).  As with most reports and news about the Church, I would recommend you inform yourself as best you can. From everything I have managed to read, here are my initial observations:

  1. Greater empowerment of the local church and attention to our smaller community. Echoing the tone of Pope Francis’ extension of discretion to forgive women who’ve had abortions, the local church is brought into greater focus as bishops are given a stronger role in the lives of their people. It is a reminder that while much attention is paid to Rome and the leadership that resides there, the church is far more widespread and the life of the Church is lived everywhere.
  2.  Process reforms with real pastoral effect. Reading about ‘reform’ and ‘processes’ can absolutely feel a little bit cold, especially when the reforms include things like fewer judges. If you’ve known someone who has tried to navigate the annulment process, you know it’s never actually simple. Taking money out of the equation removes a barrier and takes away the feeling of the Church as a business. Allowing appeals to be judged locally means that someone doesn’t have to feel that a major decision affecting their life isn’t being made by some person far away. A simplified process still respects and values the sacramentality of marriage but also respects the real lives of those experiencing the breakdown of a relationship and the challenges of civil divorce that all have to come even before the annulment process begins..
  3. Annulments are simplified – now what? These reforms will (hopefully) have a real impact on the lives of people trying to navigate what life looks like after marriage. Concrete adjustments such as these will have a pastoral effect, but what other pastoral care is offered to couples and families throughout this process? If focus is turned toward the local church, how can our local communities better support their members, not only through annulments, but through marriage prep, marriage counseling, divorce, etc? If the family is its own local domestic church, how are we tending to them when they experience difficult and sometimes traumatic change?

These Hands: 74 Baptisms, 12 Weddings, 5 Funerals


By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.

The day has finally come for me to leave the best thing (after my own reception of the sacraments) that has ever happened to me: the Catholic Parishes of Saint Brigid, Gate of Heaven, and Saint Monica-Saint Augustine in South Boston.

The picture above, at least to some extent, tells the story of my time here.  This afternoon, I spent a period of time copying the names of each person I baptized, each couple whose marriage vows I witnessed, and each person I buried into this book.  It’s a practice that I’ve endeavored to undertake: to write, from now until the Lord calls me home, the names of each person I baptize, each couple whose vows I witness, each Christian I bury, each newly ordained priest upon whose head I lay my hands, and each person I confirm in the Spirit.

I hope and pray that, please God, I fill many books with these names, for when I die, more than anything else, it will be these books that I leave my brother friars, allowing a series of scribbled names to tell the story of my life as a priest: a man who though possessing simple and sinful hands, attempted to devote his life, in all of its imperfection and impetuousness, to the service of his sisters and brothers in Christ.

In a sense, then, my hope in writing down these names is that those whose names I have written and proceed me into life in the Lord will, upon being summoned by Saint Peter, testify to the fact that though I wasn’t a perfect priest, I was faithful in using the gift of ordination given to me by the Lord for their benefit.

In Defense of Facing the People

The Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Catholic University of America
The Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Catholic University of America

By Katie Morroni

I’m not a liturgical scholar, and I won’t pretend to be. I don’t have the advanced background or degrees in theology, church history, and ministry that many of my fellow contributors here at CatholicHow have. I still can’t believe I was invited to write alongside this crew of smart, holy people! Don’t tell my editor, but as such, I sometimes feel much of the great work written here at CatholicHow is a bit inside baseball. I’m just trying to love God, live out my vocation, and do the best I can. At the end of the day, maybe that’s all any of us are doing. Fr. Matt asked me to write on this site and, as a friend, did so in full knowledge of my personal flaws and lack of an advanced degree. So I see myself in this crew of bloggers as someone to speak for regular people. And it’s with this in mind that I speak up today.

My fellow CatholicHow contributor Patrick’s post about the direction the priest faces at Mass — and his case for the priest to face away from the people — took me aback, pun intended.

In many ways, it’s an inside baseball post, fit for a scholar. No doubt, it’s not the first time a smart person in recent history has reconsidered this shift in the American Church, and it certainly won’t be the last. Nor should it be! We need smart people to talk about these things, to weigh the merits of doing something one way or another. It gives life to our Church and keeps the beautiful Body of Christ alive and thriving. The historical, scholarly elements of Patrick’s post were new to me, and I found this window into our liturgy’s history quite beautiful. I love symbolism and I think it makes our Church stronger. But I also think it’s worth looking at this issue, and how we talk about it, from another perspective.

Before you read the rest of my post, you should go read Patrick’s post in full, as this is intended as a reply and I use some vocabulary here that he introduced.

Without further adieu, I’ll come right out and say: I don’t quite follow how the direction the priest faces can change their ability to lead their congregation, or our ability to follow. Patrick writes:

The priest, as the one mediating the sacrifice of Christ, as the conduit between the layman and the eternal Godhead, leads the people of God in their marshalling before the Lord. This symbolism is lost on a congregation gathered before a priest celebrating versus populum.

Perhaps this is the case for some, but the symbolism of a priest leading a congregation to God is absolutely not lost on me. I attend Mass at the parish I do because of the priests there, because they are some of the most incredible shepherds I have ever known. I am closer to God because of their good work.

Continue reading In Defense of Facing the People

Sacred Signs and Symbols: Ad Orientem

By Patrick Angiolillo

I had the opportunity to attend a Novus Ordo Latin Mass celebrated ad orientem for the first time two years ago. It was my first experience of both Latin in the Mass and of the priest facing East, and in this case facing the altar, for the duration of the liturgy.

This experience has in part fueled my academic investigations of ancient Jewish and Christian liturgical texts. Although my intention in my research has been to draw an ever-clearer picture of ancient worship-in-practice, my studies connect to the modern religious experience, and can shed light on why it is we do what we do when we perform certain ritual practices in our religious ceremonies. This includes the ad orientem Mass.

Let me begin in Jerusalem, a place where many great stories begin. The Temple in Jerusalem lies not only at the heart of the ancient city, but at the heart of the ancient Jewish faith as well. Historically, Jews have regarded the Temple as the place where God chose to reside: “the place (המקום) that YHWH your God will choose from all your tribes as a dwelling place to put his name there” (Deut 12:5; cf. ||’s). God’s shekinah, or divine presence, is physically manifest in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of the temple, where the Ark of the Covenant was reserved.

Continue reading Sacred Signs and Symbols: Ad Orientem

They Said It: Leo the Great


From this morning’s office of readings:

And so our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Our faith is nobler and stronger because sight has been replaced by a doctrine whose authority is accepted by believing hearts, enlightened from on high. This faith was increased by the Lord’s ascension and strengthened by the gift of the Spirit; it would remain unshaken by fetters and imprisonment, exile and hunger, fire and ravening beasts, and the most refined tortures ever devised by brutal persecutors.

There’s Something About Marriage

Amy and Martice, My Most Favorite Recent Models for Marriage
Amy and Martice, My Most Favorite Recent Models for Marriage

I was paging semi-frantically through sheet music, scanning for the unity candle song, jostling my guitar, cursing my inability to be organized while playing at the wedding of my good friends—and was suddenly stopped short by the Gospel being proclaimed.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,” began those famous words from the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed the mourning and the meek, the seekers of righteousness and clean of heart. Strange reading choice for a wedding, I thought. Where’s the lovey-dovey stuff?

And then, following the exchange of vows, came the intercessions—a full dozen, their length commanding my attention. Some were traditional wedding petitions: for the new bride and groom, their family and friends, and their dearly departed. But there were also prayers for those suffering from mental illness, for the poor and sick and lonely, for those who have been trafficked and abused.

Continue reading There’s Something About Marriage

Why Does Nicene Orthodoxy Matter?

“And [Jesus] continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’” (Mark 8:29)

These words—“Who do you say that I am?”—stand at the center of Mark’s Gospel, but also at the heart of Christianity. While Jesus’ question is directed to his immediate disciples, it is also a challenge and invitation to anyone who reads the Gospel: a challenge to respond correctly (as Peter does), but also an invitation to articulate a deeper understanding of what we mean when we utter those words.

Continue reading Why Does Nicene Orthodoxy Matter?

Breaking the Routine

“Let the holy ones of the divine beings declare great the King of glory who declares holy in His holiness all His holy ones!” (4Q403 1 i 30–47)

This reconstructed phrase from the seventh song of the fragmentary composition, the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, a liturgical text from the Dead Sea Scrolls, calls on the highest angels to praise God in the high heavens, to declare Him (the heavenly King) great as He declares holy (in His abundant holiness) all His angels (the holy ones). While some of the verbs are corrections of misspelled words (the Hebrew necessitates these emendations to give the line sense), the meaning of the text which we arrive at is a very good approximation of the actual line.

Continue reading Breaking the Routine