Center of Our Lives

I am writing concerning Presiding at the Liturgy of the Eucharist, by Keith F. Pecklers, S.J. (3/15). I do not find an abundance of words in our reformed liturgy. I like to hear the work of human hands to recall my gift of life. I want to hear that the Spirit is changing these gifts into the body of Christ. We no longer have copies of the text in our hands, so we need to hear the words being said in our name.

I realize that it is not the intent of this article to speak about the role of the assembly. But I would love to see the Mass viewed from the perspective of the person in the pew, written for us the assembly. I believe it is different from that of the presider. Thank God, we are one in so many ways.


I appreciated Sacrifice: the Way to Enter the Paschal Mystery (5/12/03) and Running to Communion (10/27/03). We need more essays like them to bring the Mass to the center of our lives, where it truly belongs.

Jane Day, S.S.J.
Bethlehem, Pa.

Usually More Muscular

Thank you for your editorial Numbers Count (2/23) and the column by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., Election Year Economies (3/15). The disastrous Bush economic policies, if that is not too dignifying a word to apply to his self-serving practices, are damaging our country by their inability to provide health care to the poor and in their embrace of indebtedness beyond imagining, especially after the unprecedented surplus we were talking about just a few years ago. The skewing of the economy to benefit the rich and favored corporations is exacting a price too high for the rest of us ordinary people (not to mention our children and grandchildren) to pay. And the vaunted wisdom of Alan Greenspan seems to have been sucked up into the privileged network surrounding Bush.

I am less grateful for your editorial Fraternal Correction (3/15), which is so tepid and detached that I can’t imagine how you were willing to publish it on a page usually filled with language so much more muscular. Is there some myopia at work?

Miriam Curnin
Larchmont, N.Y.

Says It All

I read with interest the letter of Robert V. Levine regarding the film The Passion of the Christ (3/29). I also have not seen the film, nor do I have any immediate plans to do so.

Recently I watched an interview on EWTN with Mel Gibson. During a discussion of good and evil, Mr. Gibson was asked, What is evil? After a long pause, he answered, A beautiful woman. I did not want to watch the interview further, and I decided not to go to see the film.

Like Mr. Levine, I too have a print of Matthias Grünewald’s Crucifixion, a copy of which was also prominently displayed in the room of martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador. This representation of the crucifixion is simple and stark. It says it all for me.

Mary Anne Sonnenschein
Silver Spring, Md.

Loud Silence

I agree completely with Robert Super (Letters, 2/16), who said that for the American bishops to regain moral authority they have to do more than find a new voice. He correctly points out that a restoration of credibility requires that the bishops hold themselves accountable for those members who have colluded with child molesters, covered up crimes and sins against children and put more children in harm’s way by moving around abusing priests. Does anyone seriously believe the bishops are concerned about the welfare of children? I certainly don’t, and I don’t know many Catholics who do. The bishops prefer to rail against abortion and blame cultural influences for the same reason Republican politicians do: it’s safe and guaranteed to arouse emotion among a certain segment of their constituencies. They can look good without having to pay a price. Others have noted the absence of episcopal outrage over the death penalty. Some months ago Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia publicly stated that the pope is wrong about capital punishment and that he, Scalia, had no intentions of voting to overturn it. I looked in all the media for some episcopal response. There was none. That silence spoke louder than words.

Patricia Melesco
Rockingham, Vt.

Renewed Ministry

In the 25 years I have been a permanent deacon, no one has been entirely certain what a permanent deacon is. I’m not sure that the Rev. Joseph DeGrocco’s article (3/22) has advanced the understanding much.

Permanent deacons reject the description mini-priest, even if we are not quite sure what that means. One assumes that the phrase is pejorativewho would aspire to be a mini-anything? If it means having another level of cleric strutting about the parish alienating his lay and religious colleaguesmost of whom are womenthen we certainly do not want to be that. But if it means an official (ordained) minister of the church whose parish ministry can be described, however unfortunately, as a subset of that of the parish priest, then one needs to recognize that that is exactly what Pope Paul VI called for in the opening paragraphs of his apostolic letter Sacram Diaconatus Ordinem.

All the followers of Christ have the obligation to care for the marginalized in society. I am, however, uncomfortable with identifing this as the ministry of the permanent deacon. It is far too simplistic to equate the ministry to widows assigned to Stephen, Philip and others in the sixth chapter of Acts with the diaconate that had emerged at the time of Irenaeus as the third level of ordained ministry. (One also wonders why Stephen and Philip did not stick to their ministry to widows instead of going off and getting into trouble provoking and evangelizing senior government officials, but that is another topic.) The admonition to the permanent deacon to go off and develop your own unique ministry to the poor has always seemed to me to be followed by an unspoken, if often justified, ...and get out of our hair.

My own attempt to define the role of the permanent deacon has to be based on my reasons for seeking ordination. I was a married man who felt a call to parish ministry. I judged that public support byand responsibility tochurch authority was essential to living out this call. The renewed ministry of the permanent deacon seemed to fit the bill.

(Deacon) Brian Carroll
Beverly Hills, Mich.

Esteem for Ministry

Over 40 years of reading America have only deepened my esteem for your ministry to all of God’s people. Your articles continue to get better and better. Your series Good Liturgy (3/1) seems to cover every aspect of liturgical practice and easily speaks to all of us, no matter the liturgical role. I plan to share each topic with our parish liturgy committee over the next planning year. Thank you for enriching us with food for prayer, reflection, sharing and formation.

Mary Xavier McKenna, D.C.
Bladensburg, Md.

Befallen Our Church

I would add one more question to the three listed in your editorial Fraternal Correction (3/15): Did he exercise his responsibility as shepherd to find out? Finding out involves more than passive listening. It requires hard questions, first of oneself, to determine the extent of one’s knowledge and understanding, then of those involved, and finally of any expert on whose views one is relying. It may also require that questions be asked of others faced with similar problems. It is not clear that this kind of honest and painful inquiry was made by our bishops.

I would also add a thought to Bishop Emil A. Wcela’s excellent article, What Did I Miss? (3/15). It is refreshing to see one charged with priestly formation willing to examine his role in presenting candidates for ordination who were later found to be unsuitable. But in the spirit of the call for fraternal correction, and remembering that we are all frequently referred to as brothers and sisters in Christ, I suggest that each of us, from the throne of Peter to the back pew of the parish church, need to ask the same question: What did I miss? After all, it is the assembly that proposes one of its own for ordination. And it is the assembly with whom the priest comes in daily contact. Everyone who knew of abuse but kept silent shares responsibility for the tragedy that has befallen our church.

T. F. Stock
Arlington, Va.


I started reading the article The Triumph of the Cross, by Donald C. Maldari, S.J. (3/8), in preparation for a panel discussion I will have on The Passion of the Christ. Midway through I found the article with its insights good for me personally. Many thanks.

(Most Rev.) Francis T. Hurley
Archbishop Emeritus
Anchorage, Alaska

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