diabolical is not a nice word!

Cardinal Robert Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah, of Guinea is known for his traditionalist views of liturgy. His words often make headlines in church news circles. For example, he tried to re-install the rule that priests say Mass facing east, with their backs to the people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course,  but Cardinal Sarah is also the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. His liturgical leanings are often in stark contrast to those of his current boss.

The latest headline concerns a new book about reception of Holy Communion. Cardinal Sarah wrote the preface for the book.

“The most insidious diabolical attack consists in trying to extinguish faith in the Eucharist, sowing errors and favouring an unsuitable manner of receiving it,” the cardinal wrote.

“Truly the war between Michael and his Angels on one side, and Lucifer on the other, continues in the heart of the faithful: Satan’s target is the Sacrifice of the Mass and the Real Presence of Jesus in the consecrated host.

“Why do we insist on communicating standing in the hand? Why this attitude of lack of submission to the signs of God?

Let’s put aside, for the moment, the inane nature of the “kneeling and on the tongue” vs “standing and in the hand” debate. Both methods are approved by the Vatican. One is not holier than the other. Kneeling piously does not guarantee reverence in the heart, as standing does not connote irreverence.

Instead, let’s look at the Cardinal’s choice of language.


church lady

This choice of words scream of judgment. Calling the simple gesture of receiving Holy Communion on the hand as “diabolical” hearkens to the days of inquisitions, when the smallest acts or words were twisted, magnified, and used as evidence of heresy. Prosecutable accusations. Yes, accusations.  A simple accusation was often all that was needed for a tortured confession and inevitable punishment.

Thankfully the bonfires are no longer. Some bishops still swing the hammer of excommunication, but their threats fall mostly on sceptical minds and hearts. More and more, these episcopal bullies are being ignored by the faithful; as so they should be. Still, it saddens me to see the outliers in the hierarchy who continue to peddle an angry, judgmental God  rather than a loving God of mercy.

Cardinal Sarah’s choice of words simply feed the divisions in our church. Instead of building bridges between progressives and traditionalists, the Cardinal fires up his followers with language of diabolical attacks on what is, in reality, a liturgical custom or tradition that has evolved over the centuries and continues to do so. In my local parish, we have some folks who kneel and receive the Eucharist on the tongue. They have the freedom to do so, while the rest of us stand and receive in the hand. No biggie!

The ultimate irony, of course, is the use of  the sacrament of COMMUNION as a weapon of division.

For more reading…

Cardinal Sarah: Communion in the hand part of ‘diabolical attack’ on Eucharist (Catholic Herald, UK)

Cardinal Sarah: Receiving Communion in the hand part of a “diabolical attack” on the faith America: the Jesuit Review



new roman missal – one month later

It`s over a month since the new translation of the Roman Missal was introduced into all English-speaking dioceses around the world. Has it made any difference in our liturgical worship? Has it, as promised, sent our prayers mystically soaring on Latin-gilded wings? Have our devotions become more meaningful thanks to the theological richness of phrases from bygone days? These are still the early days, but here are some thoughts from my wee corner of the world…

First of all, I appreciated the low-key approach of my parish to the Missal. There was no hoopla, or long lectures rationalizing the translation. We just did it; with expected stumbles along the way. But then came Christmas, when pews are overflowing with visitors.

The new translation added to the unease felt by some of our sisters and brothers who join us for special feast days and celebrations of life`s passages.  Eager responses to familiar prayers were cut short as mistakes were realized. Folks fumbled through pamphlets. Some gave up and followed the prayers in silence. One young person summed it up this way, “I`m an intelligent person. Coming to Mass made me feel stupid. I don`t know what I`m supposed to say anymore!” This saddened me. We`re supposed to promote a spirit of welcome and hospitality within our worshipping community. Will this new language deepen separations and build walls between those who are “in” and those who are “out”?

And, it’s not only the occasional church goers that are feeling stupid. I attend Mass regularly and I`m still responding with a warm and friendly “And also with you”! The feeling of stupidity is quickly followed by either an embarrassed giggle, or anger and frustration. And then I have to struggle to regain a prayerful mind-set. So much for deepening my sense of devotion!

I use the Canadian Living with Christ missalette for praying the daily scripture readings. The difference in wording of the Collect,(previously known as the Opening Prayer), reflects the style of language in the new translation.  On the page, it stands in sharp contrast to the clean simplicity of our NRSV Lectionary. Here is a sentence from today’s Collect,

O God, who in the blessed child-bearing of the holy Virgin Mary kept the flesh of your Son free from the sentence incurred by the human race, grant, we pray, that we, who have been taken up into this new creation, may be freed from the ancient taint of sin.

Difficult words to read. Even more difficult to speak out loud in a smooth and flowing manner.

I’m trying my hardest to give this Missal a chance. Will I ever get used to hearing “chalice” rather than “cup”? Will I remember to invite Jesus “under my roof”? Can I eventually embrace the renewed focus on our abject sinfulness with the requisite beating of the breast? Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear of your experiences with the New Roman Missal one month later…

rejoice, it`s gaudate sunday!

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5) Entrance Antiphon for the Third Sunday of Advent.

Catholics love their liturgical symbols and colors. Green for ordinary time. White for solemnities like Christmas and Easter. Red to signify both the blood of martyrs and the Holy Spirit. Purple for the penitential time of Lent; with a subtle change in tone to violet for Advent. And, tucked in the back of many parish vestment closets is a joy-filled rose number. Okay, it’s pink!

The liturgical pink makes an appearance but twice a year, on Gaudate and Laetare Sundays; the Third Sunday in Advent and the Fourth Sunday in Lent. They both signify a time to focus on joy in the midst of penance and waiting. (Gaudate means rejoice.)

Many parishes no longer have rose-coloured vestments. Liturgical garments aren’t cheap, and you don’t get much mileage out of these. Some priests don’t feel comfortable wearing them, even if they are available. A dear friend of ours loved celebrating mass at our local Benedictine monastery. But, he dreaded being there for Gaudate Sunday, knowing the Sisters would insist he wore the rose! (I’m still not sure if the insistence came from liturgical correctness or from a desire to tease their beloved friend.)

All kidding aside, it is always good to take time to intentionally focus on joy. As we light the pink candle on the Advent wreath, we will be reminded that the coming of the Lord is near. We look with joy to celebrating the birth of Jesus, and to his second coming. The readings are filled with calls to rejoice, exult and be glad.

The anticipation of young ones at this time of year fills homes with excitement. Even not so young ones look forward to family and friends gathering during this holy season. Some of our children are in the midst of exams, and are yearning for that precious moment when the pen is put down and the last exam is completed. Celebrating Christmas with the first grand-baby and niece has increased the joy and anticipation for us all this year.

As the shopping days count-down, the burden of preparations rears its ugly head. And with it, the threat of the annual, panic-induced melt-down. (I’ve never been one of those organized souls who has everything bought and wrapped weeks before the holiday. We’re starting our shopping this weekend!)

My mantra this weekend will be joy, joy, joy!!! And not with teeth-clenched, sarcastic over-tones, but hopefully with a heart-filled with gratitude for the message of this season. Our God became one of us, with a promise that peace and justice will eventually reign over all.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed the Lord is near.