Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM

I was recently informed that a long time pastor of two parishes near my home town passed on to his eternal reward Tuesday evening.

Fr. Elgar Bockenfeld, OFM was 93 years old, was the pastor of two parishes at the time of his death. This fact alone should be enough to tell you what kind of man he was. I imagine (though I could be wrong) that he was possibly the oldest active pastor in the Roman Rite, and if not, in the top 10 or so.

He has always been old. When I was born, he was a stone's throw from 80 years old. I've always known him to have a hacking cough, brought on by years of cigars I'm told, and a slow, shuffling gait.

One of his appeals as a pastor was his liturgical style. His liturgies were fast, but correct. He always had a homily, even if somewhat short, but always relevant to either the readings of the day or some pressing issue in the world. He didn't skip any non-optional parts of the Mass, though he did skip the optional parts, for instance the sign of peace. The altar was always just as it should have been, ready with chalice and pall and burse and veil, colored accordingly with the day. He was one of the few priests who made it a point to "care about the crumbs" in an obvious manner. He insisted on communion with altar servers holding pattens, and was always sure to clean them before stowing them.

He was also devoted to the sacrament of confession. For a while, he was the only priest in the area who had a regular, at least weekly, confession schedule. In addition, as Easter and Christmas approached every year, he always preached on the importance of making a good confession, at this time if at no other, and to reinforce that, he scheduled confessions daily, so nobody had an excuse.

Being a pastor in one place for nearly 40 years is quite unique. I bet he baptized, married, and buried at least someone. He most certainly has baptized grandchildren of couples he married.

Although the Church Militant lost a great pastor yesterday, the Church Triumphant will surely be gaining a great saint.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christian Unity Week

Somehow, I forgot to post on this earlier. In addition, I really thought I had made this post before, but, for the life of me, cannot find it.

This is the week dedicated for prayer for Christian Unity. This is quite important in this day, considering the overtures offered to the Anglicans, and the rumblings regarding the Orthodox Churches.

And so, I present the prayer for Christian unity offered in the Handbook of Indulgences, grant 44.
Almighty and eternal God,
you gather the scattered sheep
and watch over those you have gathered,

Look kindly on all who follow Jesus, your Son.

You have marked them with the seal of one baptism;
now make them one in the fullness of faith
and unite them in the bond of love.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
A partial indulgence.
Remember, you can pray this any time, not just in the week for Christian Unity.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr

Today (January 20) is the feast of St. Fabian, Pope and Martyr. He's usually forgotten in the history books and even on the calendar, because people like St. Sebastian more. Pope Fabian was the 20th Pope, and probably my favorite ancient Pope (after Peter, of course). The Martyrologium Romanum states
At Rome, the birthday of St. Fabian, pope, who suffered martyrdom in the time of Decius, and was buried in the cemetery of Callistus.
Not much said, but there is much more to this interesting Saint. He was a layman when he was elevated to the Chair of Peter. In fact, he was a simple farmer. From the Catholic Encyclopedia
After the death of Anterus he had come to Rome, with some others, from his farm and was in the city when the new election began. While the names of several illustrious and noble persons were being considered, a dove suddenly descended upon the head of Fabian, of whom no one had even thought. To the assembled brethren the sight recalled the Gospel scene of the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Saviour of mankind, and so, divinely inspired, as it were, they chose Fabian with joyous unanimity and placed him in the Chair of Peter.
The Catholic Encyclopedia goes on to tell us that there is a certain tradition that he instituted the minor orders. It could be St. Fabian we have to thank for the subdeaconate. He sent missionaries to Gaul. Overall, he was a well-liked Pope, I think. He condemned some heresies and did other such Popery.

He is an example for us all. He was not the only Pope to be elevated to the Papacy while still a layman, but he may have been the first (ignoring arguments about when Peter was selected first Pope and made a priest/bishop). Though he isn't especially "popular" among the Saints, evidenced by the fact that usually Sebastian's mass texts get said today, and that he has no official patronage. I, however, propose that he should be considered a patron of being open to the call of God, After all, he just came into Rome to catch some of the excitement of a Papal election (there had had been less than 20 ever). By being open to the grace of God, he came up to Rome a farmer, and ended up Bishop and Pope.
God our Father, glory of your priests,
may the prayers of your Martyr Fabian
help us to share his faith
and offer you loving service.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Old Mass/New Mass

Fr. Z at WDTPRS made a post here asking for readers, especially those of the younger generation, to email him with brief thoughts on the old mass/new mass question. The responses are there, and in part 2 and part 3. My response was made and posted. All of the responses taken together make an interesting reflection on the question, and as I have continued thinking about it, I'd like to make a more substantial discussion of the topic than was afforded there.

First, I must lay out what I mean by the "old mass/new mass question." Overall, I'd like to discuss my preferences, how I arrived at them, and also the role the Extraordinary Form (EF) has played in my spiritual life at different points.

As I have said before, I didn't much care about the Faith, nor attendance at Church through my freshman year of college. When I returned to the Church as a sophomore, I had only moderate religious formation, and very little understanding of liturgical history. Luckily, though, I had friends who were also willing to learn, and as a group, we grew in the Faith. A close friend of mine had heard that there was a place in the Archdiocese (of Chicago) that had a special indult to celebrate the "Latin Mass" (as we called it). We decided to take in the Mass, and see what it was all about. I looked at some online missal and saw a general structure I recognized, and I figured that since I had been going to Mass all my life, a little Latin wouldn't deter me from knowing what was going on.

We were late, got a little lost on the way, and walked in during the Kyrie. I recognized that; it was one of the last things I recognized. Because we were late, I didn't notice the mass guides in the back of the Church when we came in. The experience was something wholly other. I was lost the whole time, and just did my best to pay attention to the bells. Come communion time, they used a communion rail. I had never received my Lord and Savior directly on my tongue in my life, let alone while kneeling. I think I knew not to say "Amen," but that was about all I knew. Moved by the sacredness of this mode of receiving, from that point on I only received on the tongue.

Reflecting on that Mass later, and attending the EF mass a number of times again, I was moved by the realization that this Mass was one and the same mass that my parents grew up with, and my grandparents had for much of their lives, and my great-grandparents, and back and back and back. I was also struck by the sanctity that the priests and servers showed toward the celebration of the Mass, something I had not seen anywhere else I had been. I also attended Mass at the same parish in the Ordinary Form (OF) in Latin.

Now, with my initial experiences of Mass in Latin laid out, I'd like to go on to discuss my preferences. In short, for the most part, and all things being equal, I'd prefer to go to an OF mass over an EF mass. Part of this is definitely familiarity; I think if I had only known the EF mass and then had limited exposure to the OF mass, I'd at least be leery of it. But, there is more than that. I like hearing what the priest is saying, and having responses given by the congregation rather than by the servers.

I don't attend the EF mass very often, despite having two nearby places to attend every Sunday. I used to go more often when I was in Chicago. I would go when I felt like I needed "an infusion of sanctity" or tradition, or just wanted to attend a liturgy which was done carefully. Today, the parish I attend does not do things "perfectly" (to my liking, at least), but things aren't off the wall either. I would probably more regularly attend if the EF mass was offered as one of the regular liturgies by my parish.

I haven't yet touched on the language issue. On this point I am still torn. I would like to see much greater use of the Latin language, but to what extent I am not sure. Of course, I think that things like the readings of the Mass ought be in the vernacular, but I'm not sure which parts of the ordinary ought be in the vernacular languages, and which others in Latin. I don't accept the premise that people won't be able to relate to or understand prayers in Latin, or whatever the usual complaint is. How many people even pay attention to the words of the Confiteor or the Credo when they hear it in English? Would it be any worse if the prayers were in Latin? The thing I like about keeping large parts of the ordinary in Latin is the uniformity and universality of worship among the Roman (Latin) Rite Catholics.

Finally, I will take a quick detour to discuss the reform I wish had taken place after the council. The mass I would like to see is essentially the EF mass, but with the points I've mentioned above, that is audible prayers by the priest (at least some of those prayers ought be audible), and responses given by the people. Throw in the additionally extended lectionary, and we've got a renewed liturgy which is clearly in continuity with Tradition. This, I think, having read things like Sacrocanctum Concilium, is what the council foresaw.