Thursday, April 16, 2015

Catholic bishops should learn from the Mormons

Thomas Reese  |  Apr. 17, 2015Faith and Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE. To be posted Friday AMhttp://ncronline.org/node/100406
The U.S. Catholic bishops could take a lesson from Mormon leaders on how to deal with religious liberty and gay rights.
The Mormons have been strong allies of the Catholic bishops in the fight against gay marriage and the protection of religious freedom. But when the Mormons saw they were on the losing side in this fight, they were willing to compromise to protect what they considered essential.

Like the Catholic church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints respects tradition and does not change teaching easily. But Mormons do have a pragmatic side. With the entire nation aligned against them in 1896, they gave up on polygamy as part of a deal to get statehood for Utah. When they see that they are losing, they are willing to make compromises.
In addition, Mormons, like Catholics, are in principle opposed to discrimination, so they wanted to find a way to do the right thing while at the same time protecting their institutions. They did not want to be identified in the public's mind as simply anti-gay.
The Mormon leadership began to rethink their political strategy (but not their theology) after California's Proposition 8 first succeeded in banning gay marriage in California in 2008 and then was overturned by a federal court in 2010. The Mormons had partnered with the Catholic bishops in spending millions of dollars in a bitter fight over the proposition, but they ultimately lost. They, like the U.S. bishops, had been pilloried nationwide for their opposition to gay marriage.

In 2013, the issue arrived in their backyard when a federal court overturned a Utah law banning gay marriage. The Mormon leadership concluded that fighting an interminable but losing battle against gay rights was not good for the church. Better to compromise now than lose everything in the future.

Even before the Utah law was overturned, secret meetings began between church leaders and the LGBT community, according. These meetings included Utah Sen. Jim Dabakis, a Democrat and the state's only openly gay legislator, and Michael Purdy, an LDS lobbyist.

The legislation, signed into law by Republican Gov. Gary Herbert in March, adds sexual orientation to the list of protected classes against whom employers and landlords cannot discriminate. Utah had never had a law outlawing discrimination against gays.
But the bill exempts faith-based schools, hospitals and organizations. It also protects individuals who express their views at work as long as they are not harassing anyone. Gay rights leaders were willing to accept these exemptions in order to get protection against discrimination in housing and employment.
Meanwhile, legislation to protect religious freedom ran into trouble in Indiana and Georgia. These proposals were more expansive than Religious Freedom Restoration Acts passed in other states and were seen by the gay community as last-ditch attempts to protect discrimination. The proposals could not withstand opposition not just from gays, but also from the business community.

The lesson, according to Jonathan Rauch, a supporter of gay marriage and a fellow at the Brookings Institution, is that "the days of the unilateral Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are over. The best way to move forward on religious liberty is in tandem with some form of gay rights, anti-discrimination laws and not in isolation from it or in opposition to it."
The country is presented with a choice of two models, Rauch said:
There is a Utah model, which can produce a win-win and a consensus outcome and can leave everybody feeling more protected and safer to live according to the lights of their conscience. And then you got the Indiana model, which heightens the contentiousness and to my mind hurts both sides, but especially hurts the religious side. It sets up religious liberty to look like an excuse to discriminate.
The Catholic bishops could learn from the Mormons, who saw which way the country was going and found a way to live with it.
Rauch said he thought it was too late for compromise between religious leaders and the gay community, but Utah proved him wrong. He said he feared that gay organizations would be unwilling to come to the table.
"Utah bought us an extra year or two by showing how it can be done," Rauch said. "If Utah hadn't happened and you had seen one, two or three more of these state mini-RFRA go through or go close to going through with the support of Catholics and Evangelicals, I think it might well have been too late."
Prior to Utah, the gay community saw the state movement for new religious liberty laws as a last-ditch effort to make sure it was legal to discriminate against them. In that case, "gay people would have thrown up their hands and said, 'Look, they have weaponized religious liberty,' " Rauch said.
On the other hand, "you can still get the gay rights side to the table into negotiations to do some stuff that involves a real stretch on the gay rights side," Rauch said, "if there is a brass ring to grab at, namely some more protection against discrimination."
The Mormons have shown that if protection of religious liberty is combined with an expansion of protection of gays from discrimination, then a deal is possible.
Will the Catholic bishops learn from the Mormons?
The Catholic diocese of Salt Lake City was not part of the negotiations over the legislation, but it had for the last two years supported nondiscrimination legislation in the state. According to Jean Hill, the diocese's lobbyist, the diocese supported the legislation at the conclusion of the process when it was being voted on by the legislature and going to the governor for his signature.
After the legislation was signed into law, the diocese issued a statement saying that the legislation ensures "that all people in Utah have equal access to at least two essential services -- housing and employment -- while also protecting religious freedom."
"The teachings of our church are clear -- God loves each of us, regardless of, or perhaps because of, our flaws, sins or failings," the statement continued. "If we believe we are all created and loved by our God, we can do nothing less than support a bill that protects individuals from discrimination when seeking a place to live or a means of supporting themselves. The bill strikes a fair and just balance between providing for these basic needs and protecting the rights of people of faith to exercise their beliefs."
Hill said she believes Utah is a good model for the rest of the country. "For us it was just a matter of it reflected our belief that we don't discriminate against people," she said. "It doesn't force us to do anything that we wouldn't be able to live with nor does is force any other person of faith to do what they wouldn't be able live with."
For her, the key to its success was that "it involved all of the stakeholders and it really did try to create a good balance." It does not work, she said, if "people are just staking out their positions and neither side is willing to really come to the table and talk about how to make this work."
Time is running out for the bishops. They need to take the initiative in supporting legislation banning discrimination against gays while protecting their religious liberty concerns. They have to stop being simply negative. Too much of their talk is legalistic when it should be pastoral. They need to speak like pastors. They need to sit down with gay rights leaders and try to work out a deal.

In addition, the bishops need to make clear that while a priest cannot officiate at a gay wedding, there is nothing morally wrong with a Catholic florist, photographer, or baker serving a gay marriage. It's a job, not a blessing. On the other hand, while there is no excuse for exempting nonreligious corporations from discrimination, gay activists should be willing to be generous in exempting individuals who would be wet blankets at their weddings anyway.
No matter what kind of exemptions are provided to church institutions, the bishops still need to rethink their attitude toward their gay employees. It is totally inconsistent to punish gays for violating the church's teaching on sex if the church does not also punish heterosexual employees for sexual sins.
The church employs Catholics and others who have been divorced and remarried, and it even gives benefits to their new spouses. Church institutions also do not normally fire unmarried employees who are having sex. No one thinks that these actions by the church imply its endorsement of its employees' lifestyles. Treating gay employees the same as heterosexual employees would not make people think the church has changed its teaching. 
It is time for bishops to stand up and say, "There is nothing Christ like about discriminating against gay people, firing them from their jobs, turning them down for housing, so let's work to protect them, and let's also get some of the protections we need." It is time for the bishops to follow the Mormons. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Vatican ends controversial three-year oversight of US sisters' leaders


  • Pope Francis meets with representatives of the U.S. Leadership Conference of Women Religious in his library in the Apostolic Palace on Thursday at the Vatican. (CNS/L'Osservatore Romano)
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VATICAN CITY
A controversial three-year program of Vatican oversight of the main leadership group of U.S. Catholic sisters has come to a curt and unexpected end, with the sisters and the church's doctrinal office announcing that the goal of the oversight "has been accomplished."
The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has accepted a final report of the doctrinal assessment of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, "marking the conclusion" of the oversight, the Vatican announced Thursday.
The lengthy process saw the Vatican issue what the sisters called unsubstantiated sharp critiques of their work and life while appointing Seattle Archbishop J. Peter Sartain to oversee a program of reform for LCWR. Thursday's news release says the Vatican and the sisters both noted the "spirit of cooperation" of the ordeal.
The end of the mandate, the Vatican release says, came in a meeting Thursday morning between LCWR officers, Sartain, and officials of the Vatican's doctrinal congregation. Sartain and the LCWR officers presented a joint report on the implementation of the mandate, which the doctrinal congregation approved.
LCWR leaders also had a 50-minute meeting with Pope Francis later Thursday during their annual visit to Rome to visit Vatican offices.
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LCWR president Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Sharon Holland said in a statement that the oversight process brought the sisters and the Vatican to "deeper understandings of one another's experiences, roles, responsibilities, and hopes for the Church and the people it serves."
"We learned that what we hold in common is much greater than any of our differences," Holland said.
Cardinal Gerhard Muller, the prefect of the Vatican doctrinal congregation, said in a statement that his congregation is "confident that LCWR has made clear its mission to support its member Institutes by fostering a vision of religious life that is centered on the Person of Jesus Christ and is rooted in the Tradition of the Church."
LCWR issued a statement about the papal meeting, saying the opportunity "allowed us to personally thank Pope Francis for providing leadership and a vision that has captivated our hearts and emboldened us as in our own mission and service to the church."
"We were also deeply heartened by Pope Francis' expression of appreciation for the witness given by Catholic sisters through our lives and ministry and will bring that message back to our members," the leaders said.
Thursday's news seems to bring to an end what had been an especially contentious period between the women religious and the Vatican.
The period began in April 2012, when the doctrinal congregation criticized the sisters' group and appointed Sartain to his role, releasing a statement that LCWR's work contained "a prevalence of certain radical themes incompatible with the Catholic faith."
The women religious criticized the Vatican's move, saying in June 2012 that it was "based on unsubstantiated accusations and the result of a flawed process that lacked transparency."
The Vatican move also spurred unprecedented nationwide protests of support for the women religious, who many, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, have experience with in their various ministries -- such as teachers, doctors or theologians.
The final report on the oversight issued Thursday by the women religious and the Vatican congregation says that the process has "borne much fruit, for which we give thanks to God."
"The very fact of such substantive dialogue between bishops and religious has been a blessing to be appreciated and further encouraged," the report states.
"The Commitment of LCWR leadership to its crucial role in service to the mission and membership of the Conference will continue to guide and strengthen LCWR's witness to the great vocation of Religious Life, to its sure foundation in Christ, and to ecclesial communion," it concludes.
The final report addresses two main issues: updating the organizational statutes of LCWR and the process for which the group chooses speakers and writers for its annual conferences and publications.
Regarding the statutes, the report notes that LCWR approved new statutes in 2014 that were given a "positive review" by the doctrinal congregation and approved by the Vatican's congregation for religious life.
On the issue of LCWR speakers and writers, the report goes more in depth, stressing the need for such people "to have due regard for the Church's faith."
Stating that LCWR publications "need a sound doctrinal foundation," the report states that "measures are being taken to promote a scholarly rigor that will ensure theological accuracy and help avoid statements that are ambiguous with regard to Church doctrine or could be read as contrary to it."
The report also states that LCWR manuscripts "will be reviewed by competent theologians, as a means of safeguarding the theological integrity of the Conference."
The report says that "a revised process" for choosing the winner of the group's annual Outstanding Leadership Award "has been articulated."
The report gives no details for what processes might be used to review LCWR speakers or writers. LCWR director of communications Immaculate Heart of Mary Sr. Annmarie Sanders said both their leaders and officials of the Vatican congregation have been asked not to speak on the conclusion of the mandate for 30 days.
"When a topic explicitly addresses matters of faith, speakers are expected to employ the ecclesial language of faith," the report states.
"When exploring contemporary issues, particularly those which, while not explicitly theological nevertheless touch upon faith and morals, LCWR expects speakers and presenters to have due regard for the Church's faith and to pose questions for further reflection in a manner that suggests how faith might shed light on such issues," it continues.
The doctrinal mandate and oversight of the women religious group was ordered by the doctrinal congregation's previous leader and former San Francisco archbishop Cardinal William Levada with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI.
Under the mandate, Sartain was a given a five-year mandate to oversee reforms of the sisters' group as its archbishop-delegate. Thursday's news concludes the oversight -- which was announced on April 18, 2012 -- after almost exactly three years.
Thursday's report also tacitly criticizes the women religious on several other issues, stating briefly that attention during the three-year process also focused on other matters, including "the importance of the celebration of the Eucharist" and "the place of the Liturgy of the Hours in religious communities."
LCWR represents about 80 percent of the some 57,000 Catholic sisters in the United States. Headquartered in Silver Spring, Md., it traces its beginnings to the papacy of Pope Pius XII and first formally organized as a conference in 1956. Its members are the leaders of the various orders of women religious around the country.
Launching of the Vatican mandate in 2012 had led to serious and probing questions among members in the group about whether they could comply with the Vatican order, which effectively gave Sartain complete authority to revise their statutes, review their programs and evaluate their partnerships with other groups.
The day of the announcement of the mandate, former LCWR leader Benedictine Sr. Joan Chittister said: "Within the canonical framework, there is only one way I can see to deal with this. They would have to disband canonically and regroup as an unofficial interest group."
Process of implementation of the Vatican mandate over the past three years was opaque, with little public news of how Sartain was treating his role or working with the group.
The only discussion known to have occurred between the archbishop and the group's members came in a closed-door session with some 800 sister leaders at LCWR's annual assembly in August 2013.
At that point, many of the sisters, who were told not to discuss the matter with the press, told NCR that they felt frustration over the slowness of the process and at the feeling that the Vatican had unfairly tarnished their reputation.
The final joint report on the mandate is signed by Sartain along with the two bishops who were appointed to help him in his oversight of LCWR: Hartford, Conn., Archbishop Leonard Blair and Springfield, Ill., Bishop Thomas Paprocki.
Signing on behalf of LCWR were Holland, past president St. Joseph Sr. Carol Zinn, president elect St. Joseph Sr. Marcia Allen, and executive director Holy Cross Sr. Joan Steadman.
Allen, Zinn and Steadman met with Francis on Thursday along with St. Joseph Sr. Janet Mock, who served as the group's executive director until the end of last year.
The Vatican mandate against LCWR was one of two concurrent and controversial investigations of U.S. sisters in recent years. The other was an apostolic visitation into individual orders of women religious, launched by the Vatican's religious congregation in 2008. A final report on that investigation was issued in December.
[Joshua J. McElwee is NCR Vatican correspondent. His email address is jmcelwee@ncronline.org. Follow him on Twitter: @joshjmac.]
This story is being updated.
The full Vatican press release on the end of the mandate for LCWR and the joint statement is embedded below.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter Day Services

The church was jam packed with parishioners today. I stepped out of the sacristy for a brief moment and so many people wanted me to bless medals, to give them holy water, or to schedule appointments. I scurried my way back to the sanctuary of the sacristy.

Still tired from the three hour service in a foreign language last night, it was now time to go forward. Before last night's mass, I received word we were sending my mother to the hospital to combat pneumonia, so I tried to be as prayerful as I could for last night's and this morning's masses. Very tiring.

Of course, we had the grand miracle of Easter where God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, but a second miracle occurred. Several weeks ago, one of the chorus member's accordion went missing before mass. He was despondent and depressed because the accordion cost over 1,000 and he has minimal funds. Well, to everyone's surprise, the man who "borrowed" the accordion returned it this morning. It was a miracle. The whole chorus and all the ministers were so very happy. We were jumping up and down in amazement. I even taught them a new accordion dance.

Well, mass went fine. I cannot believe I did these four lengthy masses day after day. I came through fine. The congregation gave a huge round of applause after the renewal of baptismal promises and the sprinkling rite. I use my hand because I want to wet everyone well. They loved it. They were all smiles and full of laughter. Getting drenched was meaningful for them. It didn't matter that it took some time because we had raucous songs to sing.

All went well and then I went off to see my family and my mother, who is doing fine. Day by day, but all is well. It was odd to drive to central Massachusetts where the temperature dropped fourteen degrees. My Easter dinner was accentuated by big flakes of snow.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Holy Saturday workout

I began my day by touching up a few oil paintings and I ended up finally putting my signature on each of them: JPsj. They now feel complete, but I was surprised that I accomplished something I really was not intending to do. The grace of the Triduum.

I tried to figure out a pattern for singing the Exsultet in Spanish today and I finally got a tune and rhythm in my head. To tell you the truth, it worked out fairly well. I was very surprised. It didn't sound remotely like the traditional exsultet, but it happened and people were pleased.

The service went three hours long and I spoke most of the time. Since we were in the lower church, we were in pure darkness that I could not even prepare for which prayer came next. I sat in darkness, like this entire week. The choir hardly sang so I intoned the litanies for the baptism. At the end of the day, my body felt like I had been playing a football game.

However, the great Vigil occurred and Christ has risen once again in our hearts, consciousness, and reality. People were so very happy. After a solid sleep tonight, I'll do the noon mass and then go to a family dinner. It has been quite a week.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spanish Good Friday Services

My Lenten humiliations continue. The Good Friday services came and went and I'm a little more humbled. I just have to take matters in stride and diminish the drama.

I spent forty minutes trying to find out what I needed to do in order to lead the Stations of the Cross. No information was forthcoming. I sat off to the side waiting for the energy to lessen and they kept saying, "Father, it is time to go." I replied, "No one goes until my questions are answered. I've been asking for 40 minutes." Speak to me.

Then I was told that I would do the welcome and lead the first and fourteenth stations. I asked, "Without a program? I need something to read. You have to give me information in advance so I can be prepared." They understood.

I think they take my language skills for granted. I rehearse and practice but I am not conversant and I cannot do anything impromptu. They expect I can pick it up quickly. A slight problem is what I read in the Missal Romano and what they say colloquially. They asked me to recite El Padre Nuestro by heart, but my text has different words. Then followed the Ave Maria, which begins, "Dios te Salve." My brain hurt as I tried to remember everything. At least, I tried. With just a little notice, I could have remembered it.

So, we set off through the streets of Roxbury. The overcast day was warm and the police escort helped us through the busy intersections. All the onlookers were respectful. All worked out well.

The Good Friday service went fine. It was fairly easy enough to do.

The big kicker came at the end when the coordinator asked, "Are you ready for your big day tomorrow? The chorus is not ready to sing the Exsultet so we expect you to do it.

Dios Mio. Hay carumba. My God, why have you forsaken me?

How to cope with Holy Week when you feel less than inspired

 |  Apr. 3, 2015Faith and Justice

I have been going to Holy Week services since I was a child in the mid-1950s. My family would go to Mission San Juan Capistrano, where we celebrated in the chapel of the soon-to-be-St. Junipero Serra. Even before the Second Vatican Council, the services were well done using the new rite promulgated by Pius XII in 1955.
I especially remember one time during Easter Vigil when the fire got so out of control it blackened the ceiling. You don't see that anymore.
The Good Friday service at the mission had something unique. They had a statue of the dead Jesus laid out on his back. We processed, singing, into the mission gardens, where he was placed in a cave-like alcove at the end of the service. Even as a child, I wondered who would sneak the statue out before Easter.
The Holy Week services put us on a spiritual roller coaster. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday warn us that bad things are coming. Then on Thursday, we are suddenly supposed to rejoice in the gift of the Eucharist. Then back downhill at the end of the service and on to Good Friday, until we are once again rejoicing on Saturday evening.
Perhaps the hardest service to get through is the Easter Vigil. The nine readings go on forever: two each from Genesis and Isaiah and one each from Exodus, Baruch, Ezekiel, Romans and the Gospel of Mark. I fear I sound like Emperor Joseph II when he told Mozart that his piece had too many notes, but the vigil has too many readings. I have heard them too many times before.
The truth is that I hate Holy Week because it makes me feel guilty. I know I should be getting more out of it, but I find myself daydreaming or dozing off during the services.
True, there are high points that wake you up. Watching the faces of the catechumens as water is poured over their heads makes the entire service worthwhile. In most churches, the music is much better than on an average Sunday. And there is something comforting about seeing the church filled with people who are not obliged to be there. Even when I am not getting anything out of it, I feel supported by a community that is.
So my resolution this Holy Week is to go with the flow. Forget the guilt. Don't worry if you miss half the words; hold on to a couple that touch you this year and treasure them like gems. Sometimes you simply have to sit patiently with the community and wait for the Spirit.
There is another reason I hate Holy Week, especially Good Friday. When I was a child, we were taught that Jesus had to die for our sins because sin is an infinite insult to God that requires an infinite sacrifice as reparation.
I am sorry, but I don't think I have ever done anything so bad that it requires me or anyone else to be crucified, let alone Jesus. While I might be grateful to Jesus for taking the blame for my sins, this theology turned God the Father into a legalistic ogre concerned about balancing the scales of justice, not mercy. The Father in this theology sounds nothing like the Father described by Jesus. Alas, some of the liturgical prayers still reflect this theology.
Today, I would rather see the death of Jesus a consequence of his commitment to the mission given to him by his Father, to preach the good news of God's love for us and our need to respond by loving one another, especially the poor. Jesus, like Oscar Romero, was killed because of what he preached, not because his Father had to be appeased. Jesus is in solidarity with all those who died for justice and human rights.
I did go to one Good Friday service in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City that truly moved me. The priest, I fear I did not get his name, told a parable about a Jewish father whose son was tortured and killed in a death camp during Hitler's attempt to exterminate the Jews.
The father was a pious Jew who had always observed the laws of the covenant. In the covenant, God had promised to be their God and the Jews had promised to be his people. They would observe the demands of the covenant, and God would protect them. The father felt he had observed his side of the covenant, but God had failed to keep up his part of the deal by not protecting his son.
The father decided to sue God for breach of contract. To make a long story short, God was found guilty. He had failed to protect the son. The judge decided that God should be punished under the terms of lex talionis -- an eye for an eye. Or in this case, a son for a son. God would have to have a son who would be tortured and killed.

This parable reverses the old theology. Rather than Jesus dying for our sins, he dies for God's failings. God created a universe in which suffering and evil are inevitable. There is no philosophical or theological explanation for evil and suffering, especially the suffering of the innocent. Rather than explaining it to us, God decided to join us in this suffering. If we have to bear it, so will he. Rather than just sitting at the sidelines and cheering us on, God joins us in the struggle against evil and suffers with us.
The crucifixion is the sign of God's love for us, but not by forgiving us our sins. The father does not need the death of Jesus to make him forgive. He already wants to forgive us. The crucifixion is the logical consequence of the incarnation. God decided to join us and take the consequences, be what they may. The crucifixion is God's way of getting our attention, God's way of saying, "Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I am with you. I love you."
But the crucifixion cannot be understood without the Resurrection, God's sign that evil and suffering cannot have the last word. He joined us in our suffering, and now he wants us to join him in everlasting life.
In the comment section below, share with us your experience of Holy Week, both positive and negative. 
[Jesuit Fr. Thomas Reese is a senior analyst for NCR and author of Inside the Vatican: The Politics and Organization of the Catholic Church. Follow him on Twitter: @ThomasReeseSJ.]

Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Tri- or Quad-Lingual Mass?

Of course, today is the beginning of the holiest days of the year when the priesthood and Eucharist are instituted and we are given the great mandate to care for one another. The Passion of Jesus begins at the Supper of Deliverance. When he changes the rituals, the events of the Passion begin in earnest.

This entire week I've cautioned people about feeding into the drama that affects their lives. We are best not to react to it because the chaotic spirits swirl around and raise our anxieties. If we respond with patience because we know the events of the week will pass, the drama will pass us over. Some have received this wisdom well. All in all, I've had a great week filled with many consolations as I remained steady for others.

Tonight, I had mild concern for the Tri-Lingual mass at St. Patrick's parish. I ask parishioners questions about the events as I'm new to the parish and I seldom get a response. I find out in the immediacy of the moment.

As I was getting ready for mass, I noticed just how beautiful St. Patrick's church is. It is set in the center of Dudley Square, Roxbury, which is known for being a residential area for minority communities. This status may change in a few years as new developments are encroaching upon the old-time way of life, but many are happy with the influx of beauty to the newly created parks. The church is old, but quite stunning. It was the first time I saw it at night with the lights dimly illuminating the building. Most of the time, i haven't noticed the surroundings because I'm worried about what to pronounce next.

Tonight was trilingual. The longtime pastor is approaching eighty and his priest-in-residence is a blind African-American. The Cape Verdean community has a well-supplied stuff. Several sisters were around and then there is the Spanish community. It is quite a composition.

I had concerns for my ability to speak Spanish correctly, but I pronounced the words with greater fluency. It felt like the Spirit was giving me the grace to preach rather than to read. However, I have no idea if the stuff I write makes any sense to them.

We begin the mass, my favorite of the year, in Latin. Latin. Many of the responses were in Latin because that is the great unifier of the languages. Then, we heard Cape Verdean Portuguese, followed by Spanish, then English, with occasional Latin hymns and responses. It worked! It turned out to be fairly prayerful and it was easy to sing all songs in the different languages. The service that I was most worried about is complete. My fear was that I would have to say something impromptu.

Tomorrow we gather in Roxbury at 1:00 p.m. and I will lead the Stations of the Cross through the town and the Veneration Service follows immediately afterward. Saturday night I baptize and confirm four. Easter Sunday ought to be a breeze. I'm being stretched. I hope it is all for God's Greater Glory.