In “A Death in the Family” (5/18), David O’Brien seems to absolve George W. Bush of responsibility for the invasion of Iraq by saying it is not his war. Yet we invaded only because the Bush administration lied to us about the reason for the invasion. The fighting in Afghanistan can be called our war because we were attacked by elements in that country. The death of our service men and women is a tragedy, and their sacrifice must be appreciated. But those responsible for their deaths and the deaths of so many Iraqi civilians cannot so easily be absolved.
(Rev.) Frank Eckart
Give Me Scripture
Thank you for your articles on liturgy and preaching (5/25). I can appreciate, as Edward Foley, O.F.M.Cap., points out (“Scripture Alone?”), that homilies do not always need to flow from the Scriptures. However, I personally long for a homily rooted in Scripture. Some of our younger clergy provide us, week after week, with homilies that would have us believe that church tradition began in the 19th century, that only the hierarchy receive the Holy Spirit and that there is but one social justice issue that merits attention.
Carolyn Capuano, H.M.
The Whole Story
I agree with the “fundamental Roman Catholic principle” of Edward Foley, O.F.M.Cap., that liturgy determines the readings and not vice-versa (“Scripture Alone?” 5/25). But I think a second principle, or at least a corollary, emerges in the Sundays of Ordinary Time, in which the liturgy pursues a semi-continuous reading of a single synoptic Gospel.
In this B cycle year, for instance, when we hear John’s sixth chapter proclaimed in order over five summer Sundays, wouldn’t the preacher take this invitation to develop the rich layers of meaning that grow and deepen each week as a key to the celebration? In line with Father Foley’s principle of using not just the single pericope but the whole liturgy of the Word, why not bring the larger Gospel units and theology of Mark into the Sunday preaching during Ordinary Time?
The homily must not become a Bible study session. The preacher is called on to bring the words and deeds of Jesus into clearer focus using all the literary and theological resources at his disposal.
(Rev.) James Eblen
Homily by Committee
It is a shame that it took a South African Jesuit to bring to the attention of the U.S. church the fact that their bishops in 1982 called for the establishment of homily preparation groups (“Preaching in a Vacuum,” 5/25). In Fulfilled in Your Hearing the bishops stated “that working with a homily preparation group will help to ensure two things: that the homilist hears the proclamation of the good news in the Sunday Scripture readings as it is heard by the people in the congregation; secondly, that the preacher is able to point in concrete and specific ways to the difference that the hearing of this good news can make in the lives of those who hear it.”
In 2004 the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Bishops’ Priestly Life and Ministry Committee, Bishop Timothy M. Dolan, was going to “update and bring Fulfilled in Your Hearing into conformity with the 2003 General Instruction of the Roman Missal.” I would recommend that the new chairman consult with a Jesuit who was on the drafting committee in 1982, John J. O’Callaghan, S.J., as well as Bishop Richard J. Sklba, who also was a member, to get the ball rolling again. Their input would at least assure that this urgent call will not go the way of the dodo bird.
Both homiletic professionalism and the preacher’s respect for the intelligence of the congregation demand that these homily preparation groups be established in every parish. After all, priests need all the help they can get in their overworked ministries. Let’s hope that they all have the humility to accept this opportunity.
Upper St. Clair, Pa.
So Chris Chatteris, S.J., wants feedback on the Sunday homily? How curious! I frequently find the Sunday sermons maddening. Occasionally I feel like jumping up off the pew and shouting, “But that’s not true!” or “How do you know that?” More often, however, I am lulled to inattention by vague generalities, and although I fight valiantly against them, I succumb to daydreams. Even when I happen to agree entirely with the church’s teaching on a certain issue, I am all too often chagrined by the weakness of the priest or deacon’s argument. “Because the church says so” doesn’t do it for me.
If a priest or deacon encounters a “block” when preparing a sermon, why not spare the congregation some suffering and simply read a piece of uplifting or socially redeeming literature—Chekhov’s “The Lament” perhaps—or a two-minute poem or song? Short and to the point can be powerful.
Christopher X. O’Connor
Thanks to Jim McDermott, S.J., for his commentary on the sign of peace (“Hand in Hand,” 5/25). Even in the old days, the kiss of peace was utilized in certain liturgies, though not in a typical parish. It occurred only in a solemn Mass with deacon and subdeacon (or as we said in our Boston neighborhood, “a Mass with three priests”). Yet since the only solemn Mass most Catholics ever attended was a funeral—where the “kiss” and the preceding prayer were omitted along with the final blessing—few people had ever seen it before it “suddenly” appeared in 1970.
R. P. Burke
On the Hook
Re your editorial, “Too Big to Bail” (6/8): Allowing A.I.G. and poorly managed banks to fail might have been, and might still be, in the nation’s best interests. In the case of A.I.G., the government could have chosen to underwrite more traditional operations, whereas high-risk, second-party bets on the success (or failure) of other institutions could have been allowed to take their natural course. So long as these institutions remain “too large to fail,” we will always be on the hook.
Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke may be men of integrity, but they have too many friends in the banking and finance sectors to look out for our interests objectively. In addition, they and President Obama appear to be overly concerned with preserving the image of the United States and in pacifying our foreign creditors.
Propping up the financial sector is only buying the United States time to re-establish a more self-sustaining economy that does not require constant deficit spending; it will not solve our fundamental economic problems.
Joseph A. D’Anna
Los Alamos, N.M.
Not Dead Yet
“Ave atque Vale” (6/8) was most enjoyable and persuasive, but Thomas G. Casey, S.J., is wasting his word processor. Neither English nor any other tongue is ever likely to supplant Latin as the official language of the Vatican for reasons that have nothing to do with culture, linguistics, history or even theology. Latin is pre-eminent because it is the hieratic language or argot of the Roman hierarchy, the language of power. It divides the elite from the hoi polloi. Apart from Vatican bureaucrats, classical scholars or people who have chosen to learn it, nobody speaks, reads or writes Latin for any reason.
There is no room here to review and counter the arguments for the dominance of Latin in the church, but it would not make any difference anyway. There is no salvation outside Latin. The wonder is that we got our vernacular liturgies. So count your blessings. And remember what the school boy used to say: “Latin is a language/ as dead as it can be; it killed all the Romans/ and now it’s killing me.”
Latin Sí, Inglés No
Thomas G. Casey’s suggestion that English be adopted as the official language of the church reflects an unfortunate lack of understanding and sympathy for those cultures that speak languages derived from Latin. Such a move would cause intense anger and resentment among that vast percentage of the world’s Catholics who speak the language of St. Teresa of ávila and St. John of the Cross and who would be astounded at seeing the language of Thomas Cramner and the English Reformation being adopted by the Catholic Church.
New York, N.Y.