Unfortunate Misunderstanding

Please allow me to respond to two letters that appeared in your May 31 issue concerning the liturgical use of the capa magna at the solemn pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Slattery in Washington, D.C.

Bishop Slattery has received close to 2,000 letters and e-mail messages from 13 countries around the world commenting on the prayerfulness of that Mass and the depth of comfort the faithful found in his homily.


The capa magna does indeed represent the finery of the world, its power and prestige. That is why after his entrance wearing it, the prelate is publicly stripped of this finery and humbled before the congregation. Then, vestment by vestment, the bishop is clothed in the new man of which St. Paul speaks, including the baptismal alb, the dalmatic of charity, the stole of pardon and the chasuble of mercy. When finally clothed in Christ, the prelate makes a second entrance into the church to begin the eucharistic celebration in persona Christi, the visible head of the body, the church.

It was a clear statement that the power and prestige of the world have no place at the altar, but it is expressed in a liturgical ritual or symbol, which, unfortunately, are often lacking in the contemporary rites and thus hard to grasp.

(Msgr.) Patrick Brankin

Director of Communications

Diocese of Tulsa, Okla.

Forty Years in the Desert

Thank you for “What Good Soldiers Bear,” by Nancy Sherman (5/31). The differences between those who came back from Iraq and Afghanistan and Vietnam veterans is the former’s willingness to talk about their experiences in war. That is because the country welcomed them back.

Not so Vietnam veterans, who had to keep it all inside because the country condemned both the war and those who fought in it. I know. It took me 40 years after nightmares, weeping, loneliness and inability to speak to anyone about my experiences. And only then because a local policeman found me walking in my sleep and brought me to a veterans’ group of former Vietnam soldiers, who spoke about their experiences.

Would that I had met Nancy Sherman 40 years ago!

Peter J. Riga

Houston, Tex.

Wounded Warriors

Thanks for this thoughtful and thought-provoking review (“To Hell and Back,” 6/7). Knowing several vets and their families, I find the reviewer’s observations right on the mark. Pastoral outreach to military personnel and their loved ones ought to be high on the church’s agenda. We can be for peace (popes and the U.S. bishops have opposed the war in Iraq) and also for those who are sent, often by misguided leaders, into harm’s way. Many carry the lasting scars, often invisible, of conflict and combat. The work of those involved in the Wounded Warriors campaign (www.woundedwarriorproject.org) and the Wounded Warriors Academy, founded by Rick Curry, S.J., deserve our support and prayers. So too the efforts of those like John Dear, S.J., who has dedicated his life and work (now some 20 books and thousands of talks across the globe) to fostering peace and ending war. Someday we’ll realize “where all the flowers have gone” and heed the words of Pope Paul VI: “War no more. War never again.”

Rick Malloy, S.J.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

Welcoming the New

I hope that Catholics will welcome this new development in the field of bioscience (“Vatican Greets First Synthetic Cell With Caution,” Signs of the Times, 6/7). Though obviously only a first stumbling endeavor in this direction, most likely it will be followed by more and better results. Let us rejoice in this new human enterprise. Should we fear it because it can be used for wrong purposes? No! Every human enterprise, alas, can and most likely will be used for evil purposes. Still, God saw all he had made and indeed it was very good.

Theo Verbeek

Wagga Wagga, N.S.W., Australia

Outdated Maps

Regarding “True North,” by Thomas A. Shannon (5/31): He gives references to Bernard Häring, C.Ss.R., and Joseph Fuchs, S.J., but does not even mention Pope John Paul II’s encyclical “Veritatis Splendor.” That is like using a modern G.P.S. system that has outdated maps for the crucial intersections one has to navigate.

(Rev.) Marcel L. Taillon

Narragansett, R.I.

Open With Caution

Opening a new issue of America can by scary. Just about every article is a challenge, an attempt to get us out of our comfortable niche or our comfortable pew in the church. We live in a country where we can do much, far beyond just giving money to the needy. We can agitate, form groups, write letters, support those who are already doing much. But it is easy to get discouraged.

Thank you, America, for not permitting us to acquiesce and go away quietly.

Lucy Fuchs

Brandon, Fla.

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