Archive for December, 2010


Sunday, December 26th, 2010

Stain Glass Window of the Holy Family at Holy Family Church, St. Petersburg

Some weeks ago, in fact during the November meeting of bishops in Baltimore, you may recall that I wrote of a luncheon I had with two seniors at Loyola Baltimore. One was from our diocese, Brendan Stack who wrote so well in this space of his experience with Catholic Relief Services in India during the summer of 2009 and his roommate whom I had never met until then, Patrick Sullivan who attended Chaminade High School in Mineola, New York. I asked both men what the Church could do generally and what I might do specifically as bishop to staunch the flow of young people from leaving the Church of their baptism for other faiths or no faith. Patrick must have spent some time reflecting on the question because shortly after I returned home he wrote me quite a letter which I think is very appropriate to share with you today. I have his permission and what follows in strictly Sullivan and not Lynch:

“As I was thinking more about our conversation, particularly about our ‘losing’ of  practicing Catholics, I thought about our families being the foundation of our faith. I can not tell you the amount of times I have heard from my friends, even those strong in faith, that prayer in the home is few and far between. I can speak from personal experience; my mother is extremely involved with the Church, spending the majority of her day working with those who form men for the priesthood. My father is a recent convert to Catholicism whose fervor for the Church is paralleled by few. Even with their strong convictions, though, familial prayer is something that is hard to find in my home. Perhaps, if we stress the noticeable presence of Jesus within the Catholic home, the foundation that Brendan alluded to might be formed on more solid ground and so would be less likely to fade away in the relativist storm that is the university. The effect that our families have on our faith formation is paralleled by few others. If prayer and familial worship become a normalcy in Catholic life, imagine the type of young men and women entering the world. Built on a strong familial prayer life, imagine the influx of young men and women entering the ordained and consecrated life.”

As I think of this traditional feast, I often think of things in my own life as a child which might have been formative. We were not all that great on family prayer except before every meal and occasionally when we were “monitored” at night before going to bed but there was one annual experience which still looms large in my memory and life sixty-five years later. On our annual June family vacation trip to see my paternal grandparents and large family in the Boston, Massachusetts area, the evening meal had to be finished by 6:40 pm so that all of us, three generations could move from the Dining Room to the Living Room and kneel down on the floor while the radio (there was no TV) was properly tuned. At exactly 6:40pm a male voice sounding something like what I thought an archangel would sound like announced, “Live, from the Cardinal’s Residence on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, Richard Cardinal Cushing will now lead the faithful of the Archdiocese in reciting the Rosary.” If the announcer had an archangel’s voice, my brothers and I thought the Cardinal sounded like God – nasal, prolonged pronunciation of words, stentorian – it had to be God who spent twenty-minutes each night leading us in this prayer which we seemed only to say in Boston, where God lived. Beyond the sound of the radio, however, remains the image of my then eighty year old plus Grandfather, rosary in his hand, his wife of sixty years, my grandmother with a rosary in her hands, my grandmother’s spinster sister who kept an account of our sins and misbehavings with a rosary in her hands, my mom and dad with rosaries in their hands, and we three boys, skillfully provided the necessary beads by our Mom who feared reprisals if her kids did not have the proper equipment for prayer, all as one family joining God in Hail Marys and Our Fathers and Glory Be’s. As Patrick Sullivan said above, there is power in a family at prayer.

Perhaps on this great feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph those who still have a family about them could think about more time together in prayer. While I desperately want an increase in vocations, I want more young people to remain true to their baptism as Catholic Christians and enlighten the world.

The new shrine to the Holy Family at Holy Family Church in St. Petersburg using an original statue and placing in a spot for prayer and meditation.

Some words later in the week on the meaning of Epiphany and then more silence as I am on retreat. Back for the Baptism of the Lord.



Saturday, December 25th, 2010

As promised, I offer my thoughts this Christmas as well as those of Pope Benedict XVI which I think to be one of the shortest, clearest and most readily embraceable summary of the importance of this day I have either read or heard in a long time.

CHRISTMAS 2010 – Midnight Mass at the Cathedral of St. Jude the Apostle – Most Reverend Robert N. Lynch, Bishop of St. Petersburg

Earlier this week, Pope Benedict XVI taped a message to the people of the United Kingdom, which was broadcast today on the BBC. I can’t remember a time in my soon to-be fifteen years as a bishop ever quoting either Pope John Paul II or Pope Benedict at length in a homily I have delivered, but I am so taken by the Holy Father’s summary of the Christmas event, that I wish to begin with his own words and then will add a few more of my own.

Our thoughts turn back to a moment in history when God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, were living in intense expectation.

They were waiting for the Messiah that God had promised to send and they pictured him as a great leader who would rescue them from foreign domination and restore their freedom.

God is always faithful to his promises, but he often surprises us in the way he fulfills them.

The child that was born in Bethlehem did indeed bring liberation, not only for the people of that time and place – he was to be the Savior of all people throughout the world and throughout history.

And it was not a political liberation that he brought, achieved through military means; rather, Christ destroyed death forever and restored life by means of his shameful death on the Cross.

And while he was born in poverty and obscurity, far from the centres of earthly power, he was none other than the Son of God.

Out of love for us, he took upon himself the human condition, our fragility, our vulnerability and he opened up for us the path that leads to the fullness of life to a share in the life of God himself.

As we ponder this great mystery in our hearts this Christmas, let us give thanks to God for his goodness to us and let us joyfully proclaim to those around us the good news that God offers us freedom from whatever weighs us down; he gives us hope, he brings us to life.

Those are the words of the Holy Father to the people of Great Britain. I believe they so beautifully encapsulate the awesome mystery of the great feast we tonight recall that in the fullness of time, these words alone might rank with the Christmas sermons of Pope Leo the Great whose thoughts on the birth of Jesus have set the bar so high for preachers throughout the ages.

I am always amazed at the unpredictability of the Christmas event. Who were the first to learn of it? The Sadducees, the Sanhedrin, the Pharisees, the Rabbis of Israel – those men of faith, importance and position in the Jewish religion. No way, “now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. . . .” The first recipients of the news of Christ’s birth were not even believers but non-religious Bedouins. They were not on anyone’s “watch list” nor were they watching and waiting for a coming Messiah. They were, quite simply minding their own business. Go find this child, the angel said. To the most unlikely of that time and place the news was broken and they left everything they owned to do as the angel directed. They took a risk to see Jesus.

Others would soon take a risk to see Jesus. None of the others recorded in the Gospels were of the Jewish faith or tradition: the Magi or Wise Men, for example. And what drove them to come and see: In Him we see the God made visible and so are caught up in the love of God we cannot see.” [Preface of Christmas I]. They came to see God in the person of a totally innocent newborn child and to place all their hope and all their trust in Him.

On this Christmas night, 2010, there is admittedly a lot of darkness: economic uncertainty, homes “underwater” or repossessed, high levels of unemployment, fear of a destructive strike by enemies of our nation and way of life, challenging access to good health care. But we pause tonight, because there is a ray of light, a ray of hope, a light penetrating the darkness seen first by those who were not believers and then seen and embraced by those who had been watching and waiting. In the Christ child God indeed offers us freedom, God indeed gives us hope, God indeed brings us to life. The innocent child matures to become the face of God to the weary, downtrodden, ill, blind, lame, uncertain and too certain. And our task is to be the face of Christ to those in our time and our place who need God, who need hope, who need the promise of life. Only then can we truly mean what we just sang: Glory to God in the Highest, and peace to His people on earth.

Merry Christmas, dear friends, and peace to you all.



Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Christmas eve is now less than twenty four hours away and I have just finished the first draft of my homily for Christmas. Tomorrow my public day begins at 1230pm with the official Blessing and Opening of PINELLAS HOPE II, eighty new very low cost ($300 per month) transitional apartments for homeless who have found jobs but do not yet have the money for their own totally independent living arrangement. Built with money from a grant from the State of Florida and furnished mostly by the great people of Anona Methodist Church through donations of furniture, cookware, glass and table ware, sheets and towels, etc., the amazing one room efficiency apartments are just steps from the former resident’s tents on the property of PINELLAS HOPE. The certificate of occupancy has been given and the first several people who qualified are ready to move in. What a great day to open a new form of shelter ministry – on the day before the Holy Family was told thousands of years ago, “I’m sorry, Joseph, there is no room at the Inn.”

In a few hours, at four precisely, I will offer my first Mass of Christmas at St. Rita parish in Dade City. Usually and today likely also to be a Mass for Children and Families, the first Mass on Christmas Eve has become the most attended Mass of Christmas in almost all of our parishes. This is a big change since my childhood when Midnight was the earliest one could offer and/or attend Mass on Christmas Day. Now there is a tendency in many places, including St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, to move even the Mass at Midnight to earlier, 10:00 pm. After the Mass it is a quick drive back to Pinellas Hope to serve dinner with the Frank Murphy family to all the residents. This year after a two year absence (more about that in a moment), I will be back at St. Jude’s Cathedral for Midnight Mass which means home and in bed around two o’clock in the morning, depending on how long I preach.

Christmas morning finds me continuing a practice I began when I first came of offering Christmas Mass in one of the jails or prisons located in the five counties of the diocese. Saturday morning will find me offering Christmas Mass, hearing confessions, and also confirming one inmate, at the Hillsborough Correctional Women’s Prison which carries a Riverview address but is closer to Sun City. It is a privilege to offer Mass for these women and to join them in prayer for their children and families who will be unable to be present to them on this special day.

The only thing different about this year from my past practice is that I used to faithfully offer a third Mass on Christmas eve, starting in Citrus County with the first, and then coming down to Hernando or Pasco or Hillsborough for the second around 800pm and often in Spanish before winding up at the Cathedral a little before midnight. When he was working outside of the diocese, I was accompanied and driven on these rounds by Father David Toups but he now has his own parish so I am alone again – thus one less Mass. Next year I will return to Citrus County. It is my love and privilege to serve five counties and I have always thought that on Christmas the bishop should imitate Santa and be everywhere (well, permit me a slight hyperbole).

My final thought is that last year on Christmas eve I was in St. Anthony Hospital. I attended Christmas eve Mass literally wrapped in swaddling clothes (blankets) and while not lying in a manger, I was in a wheelchair at the back of the chapel. Just before Mass my nephrologist had visited my room and said that my kidneys were of great concern and that dialysis was looking more likely. He ordered two tests for right after Mass, neither of which was pleasant. I cried throughout Mass, missing being among my people, angry that I was not getting better, afraid of the immediate future, scared that I would have one of my uncontrollable bowel movements right in the chapel, feeling very alone though surrounded by loving people. By the end of Mass, a certain peace had settled in, resignation had taken the place of resentment, and when being wheeled by the front entrance of the hospital on the way to the elevators, I could see the homeless gathering against the cold night air, ready to bed down near St. Vincent de Paul’s Sampson Center and an inner voice said, “stop complaining”. The tests were negative and I was discharged the day after Christmas. Dear people of God, there is always hope; we abandon it, it never abandons us. Even a bishop can be humbled and learn a lesson from time to time.

Still to come, my Christmas homily posted tomorrow on Christmas Day and some reflections on what it takes today to be a “holy family” on Sunday. Enjoy these final hours of the run-up to the annual memory of when the Word Became Flesh and dwelt amongst us.


Ahem, Ahaz, Amen

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Three major players in salvation history showed up this week-end in the Liturgy of the Word and I would like to share with you some personal reflections on them and perhaps apply what is learned from them to the lives we try so hard to live. Isaiah, the great prophet of Advent is heard from again (as he will be at the Mass of Midnight when he foretells that “the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light.”) Continuing to spread his message of hope and realistic expectations, he introduces us this week-end to a leader of the tribe of Judah, Ahaz by name. The first reading from the Mass tells us of the Lord’s attempt to get Ahaz to ask for a sign, any sign from the Lord, His God. Ahaz declines the Lord’s generous offer and one might think this was done out of humility, fear, uncertainty, whatever. In fact, Ahaz, does indeed want something – military help in staving off an invasion of the tribes of Israel and Syria. His mind is far from reflecting on what he might ask of God short of more munitions, warriors, etc. So, the offer spurned by Ahaz, is given to him anyway – a baby! Can anyone think of anything or anyone less powerful than a baby? Innocence, yes, but how is one to stave off one’s enemies by the birth of a child, especially one whose name will be “God With Us” or Emmanuel. Judah remains vulnerable but, ahem, Ahaz is told that the sign he so desperately seeks and wants will be a child.

The Gospel introduces us to Joseph, foster-father of the Lord, husband to Mary, chosen by God for a special purpose since he was of the Davidic line. Ahaz is one up on Joseph because at least he says something in Scripture. Search hard as you will, you can not find one word uttered by Joseph. In fact, he appears as a silent player in only two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel and then recedes into the wings of salvation history. Joseph like Ahaz has a real and immediate problem. The woman to whom he is engaged has told him that she is pregnant and it is certainly not his child but she also tells him of how she came to be aware of the life she was carrying – an angel appeared to her. Wait one second, angels to the rescue part two – Joseph is told not to be afraid but to take Mary sooner rather than later as his wife and the angel denominates that the child’s name will be “Emmanuel” or “God With Us”, what the Lord said to Ahaz long ago. Ah, but Joseph too carries a serious vulnerability. His religion and religious faith allows him only two options, neither particularly attractive: divorce Mary, call off the engagement, shame her since she is with child and will soon be showing, or have her identified as an adulteress and stoned to death. That’s what Joseph’s law required of a just man of faith. But he loves her and even though very vulnerable to public opinion, he decides to do as the angel says and he takes her more quickly as his wife. All of this caused by an as yet unborn child.

All of us feel particularly vulnerable at times, worrying about things which are only known to us, worrying about keeping or getting a job, worrying about our homes which are underwater or too highly leveraged, worried about the influence of secular society on our life and that of our children and those we love. Angels don’t appear to us but the Lord does not abandon us, He speaks to us, encourages us, tell us to hope and wait, never to feel abandoned but forever faithful. And what brings all this reality together for us this week? A baby. Amen.

The creche at Pinellas Hope, complete except waiting for the baby

More to come.



Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Many things on my mind today and the week just ended has been one of the most physically taxing in a long time since the normal Advent and pre-Christmas schedule was interrupted by a trip to Baltimore for a meeting at Catholic Relief Services. So, here goes,

Bishop John Noonan was installed as fifth bishop of Orlando on Thursday at the Shrine Basilica of Mary, Queen of the Universe. A congregation in excess of 2,500 warmly welcomed their new shepherd and in his homily, the new shepherd demonstrated the warmth of his love and fondness for his new diocese. The ceremony was quite lovely and lasted less than 105 minutes which is a miracle in itself. Bishop Noonan did a wonderful thing at the end of Mass when in speaking of Advent as the season of hope, he invited all the seminarians present to come forward as witnesses to hope which the faithful should have for their Church. The bishop has spent almost seventeen of his twenty-seven years in the priesthood working in seminary formation at St. John Vianney College Seminary in Miami, as Dean of Men and then for a good number of years as President-Rector. About eighty seminarians came forth to a standing and prolonged ovation from the people at the Shrine and proudly I could identify about twenty-five as being from our diocese.

Last night saw the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families (about 190 persons), their pastors and priest friends, and myself. Following Mass in the St. James Chapel we proceeded to Archbishop Favalora Hall where we had dinner and bade farewell with great gratitude to Father Leonard Plazewski who has held the position of Vocation Director of this diocese for twelve and a half years. An earlier post here indicated the transition and who his replacements would be in that very important position within the diocese. The seminarians are fond of Father Len and so the leave-taking was not that easy for him or for many but the Church of St. Petersburg owes him a debt of thanks for his hard work over the years recruiting and assisting seminarians through to priesthood. It is always wonderful to see our men and their families in a relaxed atmosphere and to begin to acknowledge the coming of Christmas with their return to their homes.

Fr. Len Plazewski

Father Len Plazewski saying his good-by and thanks to those present for the annual Christmas dinner for our seminarians and their families. (Photo courtesy of A. Padilla, seminarian)

The Bethany Center is fast becoming my second home as I seem to be spending many nights there lately. Prior to last night, I held the third of my overnights with our priests, this time being the international priests (born and formed in other countries like Poland, India, African nations, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, and Central and South America). Our lengthy conversations about their experiences in coming to minister in the United States and in this diocese were both illuminating and helpful to me. They are a great and generous group of men who understand the challenges of language, culture, accent, etc. and who wish nothing more than to be accepted by me, by you, and by their brother priests as no longer a category (e.g. “international priests”) but just as priests of the diocese.

I have had only one angry over-the-top “comment” to a blog entry here which focused on the lack of a “corpus” (figure of Christ) on the large crucifix at Holy Family Catholic Church and made much of the stained glass window of the “Risen Christ” in the rear of the sanctuary. I regret ruining this readers day then and now as I failed to mention that the wood-carved body of Christ did not arrive on time to be installed on the cross and is due in a few weeks and as for the “stained-glass window”, it was in the church since its first dedication and was a sine qua non for the older parishioners in the renovation. When the figure of Jesus arrives and is placed, I will put a picture here in the profound hope that the reader will calm down but I would bet not. He was from Michigan, anyway, not the parish or the diocese.

This evening a number of the staff of our Pastoral Center gathered at Pinellas Hope to prepare, serve and feed the 262 residents on this cold Florida night. Working without a raise for the last two years, this group paid for the food, prepared it, and served it. I lent them my presence and not my culinary expertise of which I have none.

Pastoral Center staff serving one line at Pinellas Hope on December 19, 2010

Father Bob Morris and his mom also helped out

When the new year begins, forty bishops from the East Coast (the Wilmington diocese down to Miami) will gather for their annual retreat from the 3-7 of January at the Bethany Center. Several Cardinals, four archbishops and the rest bishops will spend their first visit to Bethany being led in our prayer and reflection by Bishop Jaime Soto who is the bishop of Sacramento, California. They are all looking forward to coming back to the Diocese of St. Petersburg after having spent a week here this past summer, hoping for warm weather (a coin toss in early January as we locals know), and ready to enjoy our hospitality and the beauty and comfort of Bethany. So I still have some blogs left in me right up to and including the Feast of the Holy Family a week from today but after that – SILENCE until the 7th of January.

That just about empties the file I have in my mind. Enjoy this final week of hope and expectation.



Thursday, December 16th, 2010

The photos from the rededication of Holy Family Church in St. Petersburg last Saturday have been added to the post about that night.  They show the beauty of the newly-renovated church and are worth a look.


Monday, December 13th, 2010
Shrine to the Holy Family

The New Shrine to the Holy Family in the renovated Holy Family Church.

Saturday night was a long-awaited moment in the life of Holy Family parish, St. Petersburg. After a little more than seven months worshipping in a woefully small parish hall with over-flow Masses in the school cafeteria, the great people of Holy Family returned to their Church and found it amazingly remodeled into a beautiful, new house of worship. Begun in 1956 as a parish, and after first worshipping at Northeast High School, then their temporary Church which is now the parish hall, a large fan-shape church was dedicated an altar consecrated on October 7, 1984. I am sure that the parish welcomed and were proud of that building which represented their dreams and sacrifices over twenty-seven years. The sanctuary was very, very small and the Church itself was very dark. Time was not kind to that building and in recent years termites, broken and dangerous pews, a near-defunct mechanical (heating and air-conditioning) system and a veritable laundry list of other material challenges presented themselves to the parish for prayerful reflection and decision.

Holy Family Church Altar

The new altar in Holy Family Church

Significant consultation preceded the formation of a Steering Committee to guide the development of a plan for remodeling the Church. A capital campaign was launched but approximately one million and indeed the first million was spent on bringing the school up to code, replacing windows whose frames left wide gaps with the structural walls, and new bathrooms for the children quite appropriately had to be responded to first. The Church could wait until the children were guaranteed a safe building in which to study. Over the last year and a half, the parish under the leadership of their pastor, began to flesh out the dream of a remodeled worship space.  What they saw on Saturday night and what I blessed and the new altar I consecrated were both astonishingly beautiful and amazingly simple in design. The Church was made brighter by a new lighting system, its internal walls were removed and replaced, the sanctuary was brought out so that the priest could be seen by everyone in the Church. New pews replaced the dangerously deteriorating, termite infested old pews. A new tile surface was placed on the floor under the congregation and a beautiful tile used in the sanctuary. A new ambo from which the Liturgy of the Word is proclaimed was installed resembling a “table of the word” and it can hydraulically be raised and lowered for a child who serves as lector or a wheel-chair bound person who can now gain access to the sanctuary by a much-needed ramp. There are shrines to the saints, icons to be placed, the artwork of the previous building was preserved and moved to places where it is much more accessible and prayerful, and the stations of the cross lowered and discreetly lit. A new organ and grand piano grace the space. But to me the most stunning new addition is exactly what it should be, the main altar. Made of natural stone, steel and wood, it can not be mistaken for anything but a table where the Eucharist is celebrated and from which we are fed the bread of life and the blood of Christ. Weighing exactly one ton, the new altar in almost any other space would seem to be out of proportion to the environment but in the remodeled Holy Family, it catches one’s eye and you know you are to be invited to and fed from the table of the Lord. There is no ornamentation, just granite, steel and wood triangulating to suggest what an altar should be – a table.

On the Wednesday night last week which was the Holy Day (Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) I celebrated the seven p.m. Mass in the parish hall with about two-hundred people. While we were praying some one was leafletting the cars in the parking lot warning against the coming abomination of Holy Family Church. Our diocese’s liturgical Thomas Paine (of course, they choose to remain anonymous) railed against the moving of the tabernacle at Holy Family and lots of other things he/she does not like about myself or the diocese or the Universal Church today. The tabernacle is exactly where it was in the former building prior to renovation, beautifully illuminated, and elevated for all to see. I doubt if Father Tapp, Father Mangiafico, and the people of Holy Family will see a “correction” or “Apology” on their windshield anytime soon.

Holy Family after Renovation

Holy Family after Renovation

It doesn’t matter. When the lights came on during the ceremony lighting up the darkness of an Advent Saturday Vigil Mass, there was an audible gasp as how beautiful their new worship space is and a strong sense of pride at what they had accomplished. From where I sit, I can say without fear of contradiction, that led by Father Tapp and his Steering Committee, the parish received a lot of “bang for the buck” using the same building as before but restoring it to a beauty that will last far longer than that which went before it. Congratulations Holy Family for a vision well executed and a dream for many come true.

If you want to watch the video series which Holy Family had on their website throughout the renovation, you can view them on YouTube.  If you are interested, here is a PDF copy of my homily.  Here are some more photos from that evening.

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Sunday, December 12th, 2010

Let there be no doubt that today belongs to our Mexican and Mexican-American brothers and sisters who celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe even though in most of our parishes and missions the Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent was used. This great 1531 apparition of Our Lady in the then very small village of Tepeyac which is near Mexico City sees Mexicans throughout the world and especially here in the US gather for days in anticipation and celebration of their patronal feast day and their genuine heroine in the story of salvation. In this diocese, they have been praying and celebrating for a number of days and there were early morning Masses in a number of parishes acknowledging Mary’s role not just in the life of Jesus but among the poor and destitute of our time who look to her for liberation and deliverance from oppression and see in her a sign of hope. Several days ago, we celebrated the Memorial of St. Juan Diego, the convert to whom Mary appeared and whom Pope John Paul II canonized in July of 2002. American Catholics identify with Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the solemnity of the same which occurs only four days before the patroness of the Americas whose day is today. Unfortunately, we as a culture do not have the same devotion, dedication and affection for the Mother of the Redeemer which our Mexican sisters and brothers have for her. They put us to shame in this regard. Normally I would have celebrated a Mass either in Waimauma, Plant City, Clearwater or Dade City but last night I rededicated the Church at Holy Family parish, St. Petersburg, and today celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation at Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Dunedin. So I was “nibbling around the edges” of this day which belongs to Mary but was unable to join my beloved Mexican community. Next year for sure. Viva, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, Viva.



Friday, December 3rd, 2010

As I promised in my blog entry “AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT” videos of Bishop Cupich’s presentation on the new translation of the Roman Missal are now available on our diocesan video site.  The videos are divided into the three parts of Bishop Cupich’s presentation: History of Language and Translation in the Mass, The People’s Parts, and The Priest’s Parts.  The videos are also included below so that you can watch them here.  You may also be interested to download a PDF handout of the presentation slides From Sacramentary to New Roman Missal.


Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Monday was a significant moment in the life of our local Church. Almost all (247 out of a possible 261) of the priests living, or working, or helping in the diocese gathered at the Bethany Center to begin the work of preparing ourselves and our people for the changes in translation of the Order of Mass which will begin next year at about this time (the First Sunday of Advent). I invited Bishop Blase Cupich, bishop of Spokane, to come and be present to us as we begin this journey from a translation which we have used for about forty years now to the new translation. The bishop holds a doctoral degree in Sacramental Theology from the Catholic University of America and was a member of the Committee on Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops during the time of discussion and debate on the new translation. God’s people in this diocese can approach any and all of your priests this week-end and ask how the presentation went and you will hear nothing but high praise, at least for the presenter and ever more likely for the changes which both the bishop, priests and people will have to become accustomed to in the months to come.

Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Bishop of Spokane, presents on the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Most Reverend Blase Cupich, Bishop of Spokane, presents on the new translation of the Roman Missal.

Bishop Cupich’s presentation was divided into three parts: the history of the Roman Missal in Latin and English from the Council to the present moment; changes effecting both priest presiders and people; and navigating the orations or prayers at Mass (opening, over the gifts, after communion) which tend to be long and also use some interesting phraseology and word choice. As challenging and different at times as this new translation is going to be, by the time we all left the Bethany Center on Monday, I think we shared a sense that the new translation is probably theologically richer than the translation we currently use and offers we priests new opportunities for preaching the faith at a deeper level by focusing on and integrating not only the readings but perhaps the prayers and orations as well. If you have the time, the Bishop allowed us to record the sessions (three of them each about forty-five minutes to one hour in length) and they will be accessible through our diocesan web-site and this blog once they are available.

The new translation is a work of many “chefs” and not just from the United States but from the English-speaking churches throughout the world as well as the competent offices of the Holy See (The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for example). Therefore, it reflects a universality of English usage which is not always the American-idiom and we need to be prepared for this in the new translation. It is also a negotiated document, long in preparation and debated at length and some would say ad nauseum by our own bishops’ conference. I must say that many of the parts of translation which I found particularly troublesome were addressed in the final redaction, mostly to my personal satisfaction though that should count for little. So what we will be praying will be slightly different, more faithful to the Latin tradition and texts, and, I think, after some getting used to has the possibility of enhancing our celebration of the source and summit of our faith, the Eucharist.

We priests will help you come to the same conclusions and understanding prior to the implementation date on the First Sunday of Advent in 2011. We will hold five diocesan-wide consultations in February for those who will be involved in either the catechesis or the implementation. In the Fall, in early October, I will travel throughout the diocese to personally make myself available to all who wish to come to hear the why and the how of the changes coming. I personally want this to go well and our diocese to stand out for its smooth and stellar transition from the present to the future in our Eucharistic worship.

Bishop Cupich got us started Monday in a fine manner and it was one of the first times when almost all the priests left saying such things as: “this was excellent,” or “I came opposed and angry and left thinking, OK this can be done and explained,” or “now I get it.” We have established a firm foundation among the priests now for the transitional work which lies ahead. Expect to read a lot more about these changes in this blog, on a radio series which I intend to launch on the topic, and using the electronic media, our web-site as well as printed materials. Only a stranger in Church on the First Sunday of Advent next year will come to Church unaware of what that day will bring and most of us will come saying, I embrace this change. From the bishop and priests of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, thanks to Bishop Cupich for a great start.