A dirty cup of water

I saw something last night that really disturbed me. It didn’t all really click and set in at the time, but as the scene has continued to replay itself in my head over the last day, it pulls at my heart-strings.

At the moment, I’m in Little Rock, Arkansas with two of my sons. We’re spending a few nights here while they compete in the 50th anniversary World Championships of the ATA (American Taekwondo Association.)

Here’s the scene: Last night, we were having a quick bite to eat at a simple, local counter-service establishment. As we were sitting and eating, from across the room, I could see a man come into the restaurant, look at the counter and look around to survey whether anyone was noticing him, and then head to a trash can near the beverage counter. He didn’t look overly suspicious other than the way he came into the restaurant.  He looked tired and sweaty, but his clothes weren’t as rough or dirty as one might expect from a homeless person. But he proceeded to fish around in the trash can, find a plastic cup that wasn’t too dirty, and fill it with water from the soda machine.  He sat for a few minutes, savored the water, refilled the cup a bit more, took another big drink, and then threw the cup away, looked around again, and left the restaurant.

It was a hot day. I’m sure the man, if he was out walking on the streets, was in danger of heat exhaustion or worse. At the very least, he certainly needed a basic essential like water to even continue to survive.

I suppose that I was partially in amazement and partially in awe, but mainly just struck with wondering about him and his situation, that I didn’t jump into action to see if there was anything else I could do for him. (Ironic, at the World Expo of an organization whose motto is, “Always take action.”) I suppose that I also didn’t want to embarrass him or call attention to him because of how he had entered the restaurant and the way the whole scene had played out.

Like I said, though, that scene has continued to replay in my mind over the last day.

In this Sunday’s reading from the Gospel of Luke, we will hear Jesus tell the parable of the Good Samaritan to the scholar of the law who asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

In the parable, both a priest and a Levite come upon a man along the road who had been robbed, beaten, and left half-dead. Both saw him but passed by on the opposite side of the road, avoiding him and avoiding stepping in to help.

It took a Samaritan man, an outsider – an alien, to come along and take action.

The Samaritan man not only stepped in to provide immediate help, cleaning and bandaging his wounds and giving immediate aid, but then also took him to an inn, cared for him further, and arranged for the innkeeper to continue to care for him. He went so far as to say that he’d come back by to check and ensure that the stranger had been cared for.

This parable begs me to question how I had treated this “neighbor” with the dirty cup of water. Certainly not in the way that I hope and pray that I would. I can try to excuse it because of the way that it played out, and because I was focused on my sons, or other things. But I can also pray that I might find a better way to help in the situation next time.

Today, on our walk from the hotel to the tournament at the convention center, along the same little stretch of street – on the same block or the next block down from where we were last night, I saw an entirely different scene.  Another restaurant had put out a 5-gallon cooler of water and some cups for those passing by. There, I realized, was a modern-day “Samaritan” in the form of a business owner doing a good deed in the neighborhood.  It would be just as easy to ignore those on the street, to avoid the liability, or the cost, or whatever else. But here was a business owner who was choosing to take a simple step to make a difference for those who might need a simple drink of water.

“Who is my neighbor?”

What a great question to ponder. And what a great challenge to see and serve our neighbor in need… perhaps even more so in our modern society when it’s so easy for someone to slip through the door, steal some essential water in a dirty cup, and go otherwise unseen or ignored.

God, please grant me the grace to see my neighbor in need, to pass on his side of the road, and to help in the ways I’m able.

For Pentecost: Living our Baptism (in Lumen Gentium)

Some solid and challenging reflection on living our sacramental initiation into the Church in Baptism & Confirmation, all from Lumen Gentium (“Light of the Nations”), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, one of the four constitutions of the Second Vatical Council – emphasis mine:

“The baptized… are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian… they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light… Everywhere on earth they must bear witness to Christ.” (Lumen Gentium, 10)

“Incorporated in the Church through baptism, the faithful are destined by the baptismal character for the worship of the Christian religion; reborn as sons of God they must confess before men the faith which they have received from God through the Church.” (LG, 11)

“The Holy Spirit endows [those Confirmed] with special strength so that they are more strictly obligated to spread and defend the faith, both by word and by deed, as true witnesses of Christ.” (LG, 11)

“The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state.” (LG, 17)

How am I doing at living out these aspects of my Baptism and Confirmation?

Reflection: March 2019

Originally written for and delivered as a reflection at Holy Hour at our March 2019 diaconate formation weekend – March 8, 2019:

A reading from the first book of Kings, Chapter 19 verses :3-8:

Elijah was afraid and fled for his life, going to Beer-sheba of Judah. He left his servant there and went a day’s journey into the wilderness, until he came to a solitary broom tree and sat beneath it. He prayed for death: “Enough, LORD! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.”  He lay down and fell asleep under the solitary broom tree, but suddenly a messenger* touched him and said, “Get up and eat!”  He looked and there at his head was a hearth cake and a jug of water. After he ate and drank, he lay down again, but the angel of the LORD came back a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat or the journey will be too much for you!”  He got up, ate, and drank; then strengthened by that food, he walked forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.

As we begin our Lenten journey, at the end of a week that had a day of fasting and abstinence, and another day of abstinence, this reading might make us think only of physical food like the angel pointed out to Elijah… food like a Filet-of-Fish, or a salad, or Saturday morning bacon.

And yes, refraining from physical food as a means of self-denial, sacrifice, and penance, is an important part of the spiritual life and of our penitential season of Lent.

But tonight, as we spend time with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ here in Holy Hour, I’d suggest that we turn our thoughts inward on this moment and the way we pray and approach this moment.  I’ll admit that, despite hours upon hours in adoration and prayer with Jesus in Holy Hours like this one, I still find it uncomfortable at times.  I wonder whether I’m praying “the right way.”  My mind gets distracted, and I feel bad that I’ve left Jesus sitting there looking at me, waiting for me, while my thoughts are elsewhere.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, despite my best efforts, I feel like I fail at spending time here with my best friend.

Sometimes, in those moments, I’m like Elijah, turning back and saying, “Enough, Lord! Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors!”

But that’s when I realize that Jesus is still sitting here, the most patient and loving of friends, still waiting for me.  He understands, and he’s ready when I’m ready.

Last month in the Holy Hour reflection, David talked about suffering and silence.  He went into vivid detail about his son’s suffering after his attack in the streets New York City.  It was an amazingly touching story, but my heart and mind quickly flipped beyond suffering and honed in on the word “silence.”

Silence.

Let me tell a little story….

The night before our last formation weekend, I had made the decision to take a HUGE leap for someone who makes his living working in the daily grind of the tech industry, for a software company that makes much of its money from the time and attention of consumers inside of advertisers’ experiences.

I had come to the realization that enough was enough when it came to the distraction of quick little glances at my phone for Facebook updates, Tweets, Instagram posts, even emails and text messages.  That Thursday, I had made the decision to remove all of the social media apps from both my work and personal phones, and to turn off all of the notifications on emails and other messages, except for work emails during working hours and texts from Suzanne at any time.

Immediately after taking that step, I noticed that I had entered a vast ocean of wonderful silence.  I actually hadn’t even realized how much I had longed for that silence… that peace.

By the end of our last deacon weekend, I was truly savoring the fact that I wasn’t constantly pulling out my phone as a distraction in those “down moments” between conversations to check what was going on out there in the broader world beyond my immediate experience and influence.

Yes, there have been times when I’ve really been tempted to reinstall those apps.  Yes, there are moments when I really want the distraction. But no, I haven’t given in, and yes, I truly am appreciative of the “new life” I’ve had in my new, more real, more focused, interactions with other people in real life over the last month.

I saw its impact on my time in our Salt Lake City office this week, when my phone stayed in my bag most of each day and I found myself more focused on my teammates and team members.  I’ve certainly seen its impact in the time that I spend with Suzanne, and my time with the boys and with our other family members and friends.

Silence.

In this morning’s office of readings, St. John Chrysostom reflected upon prayer and conversation with God as “a supreme good.” He spoke of how our spirit should be quick to reach out toward God, constantly and in every moment and action.  Our prayer should be just an ongoing awareness of God and conversation with Him through each day.  He says, “The spirit, raised up to heaven by prayer, clings to God with the utmost tenderness; like a child crying tearfully for its mother.”  He says, “When the Lord gives this kind of prayer to a man, he gives him riches that cannot be taken away, heavenly food that satisfies the spirit. One who tastes this food is set on fire with an eternal longing for the Lord; his spirit burns as in a fire of the utmost intensity.”

I can’t say that I’m there yet.  I don’t know that I’ll ever be there in this life.  But I can say with sincerity that the “technology Lent” that I started last month is yielding fruits in helping me be more attentive to and present for others in my life.

Not that I ever pulled out my phone during Holy Hour, but my mind still had the muscle memory of quick distractions, and that’s starting to fade away a bit.  I hope and pray that this little change helps me be able to be more present here in Holy Hour with my Lord and my friend.  I hope and pray that we each find those little changes we need to make in our lives in order to deepen our time in prayer and increase the frequency in which prayer finds root in the moments of our day.

Then, like the child clinging tenderly as to its mother, we’ll be able to eat and drink deeply of God’s presence and grace, and like Elijah, we’ll find ourselves strengthened for the journey, ready to get up and face our forty day and forty night journey to the mountain of God.

My we all find our ways toward deeper prayer, deeper presence, and being more deeply filled by God as we journey through this Lent together.  Maybe it can begin in a special way here tonight, as we each spend time face to face with our Lord.  May God give us this grace.

A dream, a perspective

I had a wonderful, vivid dream last night. I was in the middle of the most beautiful, never-ending liturgy, with people of every race and time and place. I was dressed in a simple alb and deacon’s stole, and my only concern for eternity was keeping the charcoal burning in a thurible. I was so content and happy, and even felt a little sad this morning as I recalled it and desired to be back there.

I was also supposed to fly to Dallas for an all-day meeting with my manager today, but my 7:30 flight was delayed to 9:30, then 11:30, then 1:30. Even with an earlier rebooking opportunity, we decided I’d just stay home and we’d meet virtually instead. It’ll be as productive but just not the same experience.

Much in this world is imperfect. We long for the perfect of the world to come.

Christ’s Body: Change From the Outside

The Bread of Life & the Church's present scandal

I woke this morning to the sounds of the crickets finishing their evening chorus to the rising sun, and I laid in bed for a few minutes starting my conversation with God for the day. As I did so, the words of the Act of Contrition started to flow through my mind.

“And I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment.”

I couldn’t help but continue to think about all of my own sins of my life and how I was truly sorry for them and wanted God’s grace to continue to get better, but also how tied to those sins was a just punishment. I prayed that someday, someone would have the sense to continue to pray for my soul after death as, hopefully, I underwent my own purification in Purgatory before going to be with God for eternity in Heaven.

Then, of course, my mind couldn’t help but turn to the current scandal facing the Church because of so many men in power who also sinned, and who also didn’t do the right thing when the situation called for it. The ongoing, renewed, and even bigger than imagined scandal of abuse of minors, covering it up, fostering and allowing an environment of sexual immorality – all of it is so terrible and heinous and unimaginable.  I detest all these sins by members of our own body, members of Christ’s body.

The Homeless Man & The Body of Christ

Homeless girl sleeping on a bench in the night mysterious atmosphere

The other morning, I took our dog on our usual walk down the street and around the park. While in the park, we came across an older lady from our church who I’ve seen around town from time to time, collecting and bagging up aluminum cans and plastic bottles. She was at it again that morning in the park, pulling a couple of bottles out of one of the trash cans and putting them into the bag she was carrying.

From time to time in the past, when I had seen her doing this, I had briefly wondered why she did it – it never seemed like she needed to try to recycle them for the money, but I didn’t know, and I didn’t ask. The other morning when I saw her doing it again, though, it made me wonder…

We do not pray in vain

I found great beauty and comfort in this quote this morning:

“Take note of this, for it is a certain truth: we do not pray in vain for those who are lost, even if they are our enemies. Yes, we do not pray in vain – even though everything seems to be hopeless. If we are truly concerned for their salvation and bring them before the Savior, he will bring them under his special care, so that – perhaps before we are even aware of it – miracles can happen, even among those whom we had already given up for lost.”

– Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Vom Glauben bis ans Ende

Personal Reflection on Chapter 1 of ‘Ministries: A Relational Approach’

Reflection Paper: Church History II

I found Edward Hahnenberg’s analysis of the contrast and balance between clergy and laity in Chapter 1 of his Ministries: A Relational Approach to be fascinating and intriguing in the context of the re-introduction of the permanent diaconate in the wake of Vatican II.  Hahnenberg outlines the tension between clergy and laity and the start of a “theology of the laity” coming out of Vatican II, and explored new models that evolved out of the council, like Yves Congar’s concept of “ministries of service / community.”  As a deacon aspirant, it was interesting to consider yet again how the deacon sits “between” the clergy and the laity, or in a spot that others have referred to as a “seam” or a “bridge.”  I find myself reflecting again on the opportunity for the deacon, formally part of the clergy and sacramentally ordained but also living a life within and among the laity, to truly bridge this perceived gap.

Perhaps this is part of the wisdom of the Second Vatican Council that is yet to be fully understood – precisely into the empowerment of the laity and calling them to fully live out their life as Baptized Christians, “priests, prophets, and kings”, in a very real sense is planted the diaconate.  The order of the diaconate bridges the life of the lay person with the life and sacramental orders of the clergy.  For someone aspiring to orders as a deacon, what might this mean?  I believe that this means fully taking part in the proper clerical role of a deacon, while at the same time maintaining a life that otherwise is that of a faithful Catholic lay person. While being present in the ministries of sacrament and word in a liturgical sense, a deacon also sends the laity forth at the end of Mass, and then truly leads them forth, first among them, back to his home, his workplace, and the streets, parks, and secular places that need the light of Christ. Without “taking over” opportunities for the laity to serve in new and creative ways, the deacon in fact both sets an example and becomes a facilitator of the participation of the laity in their calling.  In this way, he “represents” them and their daily sacrifices at the altar, and he also leads by example in how to take the Word and make it present in the everyday culture and life in the secular world. In this sense, I don’t see the tension outlined by Hahnenberg being as present in a Church in which the diaconate has come back into its full nature and become the “bridge” closing the gap between clergy and laity.  In my own reflection, I see the deacon as playing a critical role in a truly “new theology of ministry.”

Submitted December 9, 2017, for assignment 3 of the course “Church History”, Instructor: Deacon Patrick J. Donahue, D. Min..

Getting the Rite Right: The Intent and Results of the Vatican II Liturgical Reforms

Essay: Church History II

Church interior at the time of sunday mass with people and priest in Montreal Canada wide angle

Of the four Constitutions resulting from the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, was the first discussed and approved, and it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 4, 1963, a year after the council opened.1  This Constitution had significant effects and led to a stark reform of the liturgy in the years just after the council, and it continues to impact the Church’s liturgy today. However, some of the ideas found in the document are still being addressed or contradicted in practice in many places today.  Liturgy remains one of the most controversial areas of reform in the years following the council.  On one side are those who advocate “the spirit of the council,” seeking to interpret the intent of the council fathers and enact liturgical changes in line with that interpretation. On the other hand, others favor a stricter interpretation of the council documents and more rigid adherence to tradition while still enacting the reforms for which the council called.

The debate over the liturgy seems to be at fever pitch today on blogs and in parish meeting rooms.  In an article relaying events of a Jesuit liturgical conference in Rome in June 2002, Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium was quoted summarizing the issue, “If Catholic worship before the council suffered from exaggerated ‘discipline and obedience,’… today in the rush to develop ever more creative liturgies, the ‘sense of mystery’ may get lost.”2  However, this debate is not a new area of discussion and divide. Five short years after the council, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship’s Liturgicae Instaurationes detailed the challenge of the day, and it sounds like something right out of today’s discussion:

 “there have been here and there both resistance and impatience. In the cause of holding on to the old tradition, some have received the changes grudgingly. Alleging pastoral needs, others became convinced that they could not wait for promulgation of the definitive reforms. In consequence, they have resorted to personal innovations, to hasty, often ill-advised measures, to new creations and additions or to the simplification of rites. All of this has frequently conflicted with the most basic liturgical norms and upset the consciences of the faithful”3

From the days just after Pope Paul VI promulgated Sacrosanctum concilium, its effects have been broad and far-reaching, but still haven’t been completely on target.

One might ask what the council fathers intended as a result of Sacrosanctum concilium.  A strict reading of the outline of the document provides a handful of intended principles. First, the council pointed out “the nature of the sacred liturgy and its importance in the Church’s life.”4  Then it called for the “fully conscious, and active participation… by the Christian people, as… their right and duty by reason of their baptism,” the proper training of the clergy in liturgy, and “the liturgical instruction of the faithful.”5  Next it called for “a general restoration of the liturgy itself, [in which]… both texts and rites should be drawn up so that they express more clearly the holy things which they signify,” which reiterates the Church’s authority to regulate the liturgy, and permits “no other person, even if he be a priest… add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” and stressed the role each person plays based upon their rank or office. It also called for more reading of scripture within the liturgy, the proper placement of preaching, and for adapting the liturgy to the language, cultures, and traditions of peoples.6

In addition, Chapter II of the Constitution covered more intended changes specific to the Mass, including parts of the Mass to receive new emphasis (the homily, the Prayers of the Faithful), and expanded permission for concelebration.7 Chapter III-V covered changes to other Sacraments and sacramentals and renewing the structure of the liturgical year.  Finally, Chapters VI and VII covered music and art, calling for liturgy “celebrated solemnly in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people,” giving Gregorian chant pride of place.  But it also permitted other types of liturgical music, allowing for adaptation to local musical traditions and customs.  The pipe organ was given “high esteem,” but the admission of other instruments was permitted, “on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use.”  They called for composers and other artisans to bring their skill and talent to the renewal of the liturgy, contributing “art which is truly sacred… [striving] after noble beauty rather than mere sumptuous display.”8

Which of these changes have happened?  The “ordinary form” of the Mass, the Novus Ordo Missal first promulgated in 1969 and its subsequent revisions, have accomplished the renewal of the liturgy itself, restructured the liturgical year, and made room for more reading of scripture within the liturgy. In addition, it has given elements like the homily and Prayers of the Faithful their proper place, and allowed for concelebration. There seems to be a better sense of the nature of the sacred liturgy and its importance in the Church’s life.  The faithful now take a more conscious, active participatory role in the liturgy in many places.  National Directories for formation of priests and deacons call for the proper training of the clergy in liturgy (a structure begun with the Council of Trent).  Moreover, in many places, the liturgy is celebrated well and with good music and art that are truly sacred and strive for noble beauty.

On the other hand, the liturgical instruction of the faithful could be improved, and perhaps deeper liturgical instruction is what some of the “missing faithful” might need to better appreciate the liturgy.  Furthermore, the liberty that some clergy take in adding to the rite could be tempered in the spirit of the council’s desire that “no other person, even if he be a priest… add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”  In the Church in America, music has been an area of diversity and strength, but re-balancing the use of Gregorian chant to give it its “pride of place” would be one way to further align with the desires of the council.

Another area of consideration as it relates to the intent of the council fathers is that of adaptation in other (particularly non-Western) parts of the world.  To understand the gravity of the need for adapting the liturgy in other cultures, one might reflect on the reaction of Cardinal Joseph Malula of Kinshasa in the Congo, to the liturgy when Pope John Paul II became Pope.  He stated, “All that imperial paraphernalia…  All that medieval remoteness and inheritance that makes Europeans think that the Church is only Western.  All that tightness that makes them fail to understand that young countries like mine want something different, they want simplicity.  They want Jesus Christ.  All that, all that must change.”9  The spirit of Cardinal Mulala’s reaction can be seen within paragraphs 37 and 38 of Sacrosanctum concilium:

“Even in the liturgy, the Church has no wish to impose a rigid uniformity in matters which do not implicate the faith or the good of the whole community; rather does she respect and foster the genius and talents of the various races and peoples. Anything in these peoples’ way of life which is not indissolubly bound up with superstition and error she studies with sympathy and, if possible, preserves intact. Sometimes in fact she admits such things into the liturgy itself, so long as they harmonize with its true and authentic spirit. Provisions shall also be made, when revising the liturgical books, for legitimate variations and adaptations to different groups, regions, and peoples, especially in mission lands, provided that the substantial unity of the Roman rite is preserved; and this should be borne in mind when drawing up the rites and devising rubrics.”10

In Liturgy and Inculturation since Vatican II, Where Are We? What Have We Learned?, Mark R. Francis, CSV points out how the Roman Missal for the Dioceses of Zaire, one of the first attempts at inculturation of the Roman liturgy in Africa, has elements that flow directly from African culture while still being patterned on the structure of the Roman Rite. Among these are the invocation of saints and ancestors at the start of the liturgy, the placement of the penitential rite just before the sign of peace and preparation of gifts, the use of dance, an “announcer” calling the assembly to worship paralleling a servant announcing the arrival of a chief.11

Turning to India, Francis writes of a proposed outline endorsed by the Indian bishops and approved by Rome that is “…known as the ‘Twelve Points of Liturgical Adaptation’ and opened the door to particularly Indian liturgical gestures and other symbols. Among the Indian cultural practices permitted in the Eucharist were semi-prostration instead of genuflection, an Indian style of incensing, offerings of flowers and fruits, and the use of Indian musical instruments.”12

A tidal wave of change hit the Church after the Second Vatican Council.  Some of the biggest waves hit upon the liturgy, the first area touched by the council.  The liturgy is “the outstanding means whereby the faithful may express in their lives, and manifest to others, the mystery of Christ and the real nature of the true Church.”13  It is precisely the liturgy that needed to undergo change to bring the faith into the modern world.  The council fathers, however, seemed to indicate a desire for change balanced with tradition.  Some of the liturgical wishes of the council fathers remain outstanding and some have been addressed differently than imagined.  Still, the Church seeks to bring the true “spirit of the council,” a true encounter between the Church and modernity, into reality in a balanced way, to get the Rite right, as the council fathers intended.

Submitted December 2, 2017, for assignment 2 of the course “Church History”, Instructor: Deacon Patrick J. Donahue, D. Min..

Q&A: Reception of Baptised Christians into Full Communion

At one of the Masses last weekend in my home parish (the parish in which I’m also currently assigned), it was a pleasure to be assisting as an altar server as we received a new member – an already-baptized Christian – into full Communion of the Catholic Church. It was a special moment for me, because the woman who came into Communion of the Church is a fellow parent at our kids’ school, and is the wife of one of my old grade school classmates.

One of our friends from the parish asked a question on Facebook earlier, and I thought it would be helpful to answer it here for posterity. He asks, “At the 4 PM Mass there was an adult Baptism. Father did not pour water on the head of the person being baptized. My question is why.”

I’ll refer to the woman who was received into the Church here as “Catherine,” since that was the name that she took as her patron.

First, I’ll clarify that what happened at Mass was not a baptism. Because Catherine had already been baptized into a Christian church whose baptism we acknowledge as valid, she can’t be (and doesn’t need to be) baptized again. As the Church came to understand through the Second Vatican Council, she was already a member of the Church, the Body of Christ, by virtue of her Baptism, even if she wasn’t in communion with the Church from a “juridical” standpoint. After all, as we profess in the Nicene Creed, we “confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” (See: Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1246, and Code of Canon Law Canon 864) Since we recognize her Baptism as valid, nothing new would be gained by receiving the sacrament a second time, and it would be inappropriate to “baptize” her a second time.

What happened at Mass on Saturday is from the instruction on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Reception of Baptised Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church (see section 5, starting on page 41 of the linked PDF): “This is the liturgical rite by which a person born and baptized in a separated ecclesial Community is received, according to the Latin rite, into the full communion of the Catholic Church. The rite is so arranged that no greater burden than necessary (see Acts 15:28) is required for the establishment of communion and unity.”

Since she was already a baptized Christian, and had been catechized and active in her Christian faith through her life, she simply underwent a catechetical program customized to her needs in order to be ready to be received into the Church, made a confession of sins privately beforehand, and then made a profession of faith within the context of the rite within the Mass. In this case, she was then Confirmed and joined the community in reception of the Holy Eucharist.

The ritual moment is described quite simply by Joseph Marrotta in his 2008 paper, “The Reception of the Previously Baptized into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church“:

“The actual ritual used to receive someone previously baptized into the Full Communion of the Church is simple. The preferred form takes place within the Eucharistic liturgy. After the entire group of faithful (not just those to be received) make a profession of faith (either the Nicene Creed or a renewal of baptismal promises), the celebrant asks the candidate or candidates to affirm that they “believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims to be revealed by God.” (RCIA, 491) The priest or bishop then proclaims that the person has been received into the full communion of the Church. Many are surprised at the simplicity of the ritual.”

Marrotta continues:

“Viewed from the perspective of article 14 of Lumen Gentium, however, this rite makes perfect sense. A community of believers gathers. The presumption is that all are in a state of grace, each having celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation if necessary. They profess their faith; calling to mind the baptism that each has already received. To this point, the rite is a celebration of the full theological communion that already exists. Then, the candidates are asked to assent to the teaching authority of the Magisterium. By doing so, they are received into the juridical communion necessary for full communion to exist. Later in the celebration, all receive the sacrament that recognizes and nourishes the full communion of the Church – Holy Eucharist.”

It was a joy – a simple joy, at that – to receive Catherine, already baptized, into full Communion of the Church at Mass on Saturday evening. We join in prayer with and for her and all Christians.