Vatican II: The Decrees

Of the Vatican II documents the decrees are by and large forgotten about behind the Constitutions and Declarations but these Nine Decrees are pretty important. Some actually are pretty interesting as well but others are just dull.

Inter mirifica (Decree on the Media of Social Communication): This document is on the how the Church should interact with media. It states that the Church should use media to evangelize but the media itself should be moral as this is the only way the people can trust in the radio/tv/newspaper/cinema. Bottom line of this decree it is to help with the advancement of humankind’s being and their religious journey. This document has been criticized for not doing much. John Paul II would eventually set up the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in 1988, he also in 2005 sort of issued a better document on Communications with The Rapid Development which points out that the Church should be paying “attention to the culture created by communications media” notably the internet. Pope Benedict XVI also touch on this In 2010 when he issued a statement encouraging to all priest to become digital citizens.

Orientalium Ecclesiarum (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite): This one says that the Eastern Catholics should be unique rites and retain their own traditions while remaining in communion with the Holy See.

Unitatis redintegratio (Decree on Ecumenism): It calls for the reunion of all Christendom, offering something like what the Eastern Catholics have where the unique rites and traditions of the various rites would continue for the other Eastern and Oriental Churches. Of the Reformation Churches there are some other hurdles that would be faced (doctrinal). However, there is some talk of a first step in ecumenicism as we are all baptized.

Christus Dominus (Decree on the Pastoral Office of Bishops in the Church): Here the focus is on the Bishops across the world and that they are all brothers and should work together. This is where the National Episcopal Conference became a requirement for all nations, and some regions of the world also established regional conferences of Bishops as well.

Perfectae caritatis (Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life):  This one looks at religious life. It takes on the life and discipline of those institutes whose members make profession of chastity, poverty and obedience and to provide for their needs in our time. From here came a bunch of adaptations of Religious life, notably the habit being replaced with modern attire. This document is considered controversial as since many religious left religious life and the numbers of vocations hasn’t really recovered.

Optatam totius (Decree on Priestly Training): This one tackles the importance of priestly training and lays down principles which may be strengthened and by which those new elements can be added which correspond to the constitutions and decrees of this sacred council and to the changed conditions of our times. The one like the one on Religious life has been greeted with some controversy as there was a significant drop in priestly vocations in the Western World although some argue this has more to do with secularization, the sexual revolution and backlash against Humanae vitae.

Presbyterorum ordinis (Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests): This is just like the one on Bishops or Religious which outlines their role in the modern Church. This time around it for priests, “they do not seek to please men but rather must follow Christian doctrine, living a Christian life, always striving for holiness, and voluntary poverty.” Key aspect in priestly life in the celebration of the Eucharist and recitation of the Divine Office. The role of the priest is like the sower in the parable, casting out seed and hoping that some will land in the good soil so that something with grow for the harvest. This one like the one of Religious life and Priestly training is controversial, with a sharp decline in vocations after this decree came out.

Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity): Here the Bishops offered some advice to encourage and guide lay people in their Christian service. It brings the laity and names them as of a the central importance for the Church. Cardinal Arinze summarizes this up nicely in his book The Layperson’s Distinctive Role that “lay people are called by Baptism to witness to Christ in the secular sphere of life; that is in the family, in work and leisure, in science and cultural, in politics and government, in trade and mass media, and in national and international relations.” I might look deeper into this one at a later time.

Ad gentes (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church): To the Nations we are all sent out to evangelize, just like the apostles. With the Church’s current effort with the New Evangelization, it might be time for us all to look back here as a place to start the efforts.

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Once again we have the image of the shepherd used in the readings. This is something that most of us don’t have a connection to as many of us live in cities and haven’t seen a shepherd since watching the movie Babe, about the pig who becomes a sheepdog. However shepherds were a common sight in Biblical times shepherds have played a big role in the formation of the Abrahamic religions.

This week the readings begin with the Prophet Jeremiah, where we hear that the Lord says woe to the shepherd who mistreats and scatters the flock. Here the Lord is talking about the exile in Babylon. The Lord then promises to raise up a righteous shoot from David, who “will be called The Lord our Justice,” we know this individual as Jesus. In the second reading we hear from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it’s a pretty simple message it is through Christ that we have access to the Father in heaven and this access isn’t limited to just the Jews but is open for all people. This is something that we should reflect upon with all the various landmarks which the LGBTQ community has happened these past week are our church communities welcoming to these individuals or would an individual of another racial community feel welcomed at your church.

As we turn to Mark’s Gospel where we hear the Jesus and the apostles went off after they all came back and were reporting what they had done. Now there were many people around them so Jesus and the apostles went off by boat but the people went to where they were going to land and arrived before Jesus did, When Jesus saw this he was moved with pity as the people were like sheep without a shepherd. For many this is how they see their faith, as a sheep looking for a shepherd, sure I am guilty of this picking what mass I go to based on who is saying it, or preaching. Sure we are all hoping for a good shepherd, or more along the lines of a sheepdog that will help us to follow the message from the shepherd. The Pope and other bishops are the shepherds of the Church, with the Pope being the lead one, and the parish priests are like the sheepdogs and we are the sheep.

I hope that this week we can be welcoming to all visitors and newcomers this week and every week that come to your churches this weekend and even in our daily lives be welcoming to everyone you meet. As the Golden Rule says “Do unto other as you would want to be done to you” or the reverse “Do not do to others what you don’t want to happen to you”. Hillel the Elder said “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” This is the similar sentiment across religions, even Satanist have a similar rule. If we all could live following this rule for a week we might be living in a better world by this time next week.

Chrism Mass

The Chrism Mass is one of the most wonderful liturgies of the Church year and it is a shame that most people miss out on it. At the Chrism Mass the Bishop of the diocese prepares and blesses all the oils (Holy Chrism, Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick) which will be used throughout the year in the diocese. Traditionally this event is held on Holy Thursday but many diocese have moved it to earlier in Holy Week so more priests from parishes in the diocese can attend, although I am sure that some smaller diocese, like Rome still have it on Holy Thursday.  It is one of the Masses you should go to at least once in your lifetime.

It is just a regular mass that the Bishop presides, so off we go. The Chrism Mass doesn’t change year to year so it’s the same readings like most of the other Triduum events. There are a few changes from your typical mass during Lent the first among them is the Gloria is said and there are a couple of other additions to the liturgy. The first reading comes from the prophet Isaiah and in the reading we hear Isaiah say that the Spirit of the Lord is upon him because he has been anointed. Then he gets into his mission [the Lord] has sent me to bring glad tiding to the poor, heal the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners,  comfort all who morn and give them oil of gladness in place of mourning. These people will be priests of the Lord. Now this is a reminder to priests of their role in the world but this reading also has meaning for everyone who is baptized, we have all been anointed and therefore it it our  job to do the mission as outlines above. All to often we just leave it for the priests and other religious sisters and brothers to do but it is a universal calling to bring glad tidings to the world.

The Psalm even gets into the anointing vibe and also bring forth the bringing the joy “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.” Turning to the second reading we hear from the Book of Revelation, now we side step the whole anointing thing for a reading, but the role of priests is brought up again. We hear the greeting from John of Patmos to the seven churches in Asia minor, although the reading cuts off the first verse. Now the greeting is more of a list about Jesus and it goes on the say that Jesus has “made us into a kingdom, priests for his God and Father” this also seems to indicate the universal priesthood that the first reading touches on.

As we reach the Gospel we hear from Luke of a time Jesus preached in Nazareth, this is early in the public ministry of Jesus, he had just returned from his time in the desert after his baptism. The reading has been trimmed so it doesn’t tell the whole story but Jesus goes to synagogue and reads from the scroll, he reads from the prophet Isaiah “The spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me…” we should remember that reading. when Jesus finishes he rolls the scroll back and says that “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This is a reminder to priests my St.Joseph’s Sunday Missal says that preaching should come from scripture, not be something that the congregation wants to hear and that the congregation should care more about what is said than who says it. I’ve always been a fan of good preaching but sometime you get really bad preaching like the past Sunday, I heard 6 minutes in which the Gospel was basically summarized and how Jesus was just quoting scripture when he said “My God, My God why have you abandoned me” since he wasn’t abandoned or something.

Next comes the homily from the bishop and after that a renewal of commitment to Priestly Service by all the priests present, this is like how some religious need to renew their vows before they get to final vows or married couple renew their wedding vows, since priests are not it is pretty cool event.  At this point there could be the blessing of all the oils or they could take place before the end of the Eucharist prayer (oil of the sick) and after communion (the others).