LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines – In an unprecedented move, Lucena Bishop Emilio Marquez used the pulpit to enjoin Catholics here not to vote for candidates seeking endorsement from or being backed by the Iglesia ni Cristo.
“Don’t sell your votes. Vote according to the dictate of your conscience. And lastly, huwag ninyong iboto ang mga kandidatong humingi ng endorsement sa Iglesia ni Cristo (don’t vote for candidates asking for endorsement from Iglesia ni Cristo),” said Marquez during the 8 a.m. Sunday Mass he officiated at the Saint Ferdinand Cathedral here.
The prelate made this statement as the Mass was about to end and before he gave his final blessing to parishioners who attended the Mass.
The bishop, interviewed later by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said the appeal not to vote for INC’s endorsed candidates has been the position adopted by the late Bishop Alfredo Ma. Obviar, the first administrator of the Diocese of Lucena.
“And that’s also my position… huwag iboto ang mga endorsed candidates ng INC,” Marquez told the Inquirer over the phone after the Mass.
The Inquirer tried to get the reaction of the local INC ministers but was told by a sect member that such an issue was being addressed by the sect’s leaders based in Manila.
However, another local INC member, Joey Lipa, said he respected Marquez’s appeal to the Catholic faithful.
“But the question is – will they (Catholic faithful) obey him (Bishop Marquez)?” Lipa said.
He defended the block-voting practice of the INC as obedience to the “pasya” (decision) to their religion’s doctrine.
Quezon has a voting population of around 1.1 million. Around 35,000 to 45,000 belong to the INC, according to estimates by different political parties.
Lipa claimed that the Lucena INC voters are around 5,000 to 7,000. Lucena has a voting population of around 100,000.
The INC, through its Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, recently issued a circular advising its members not to get involved in any partisan activity or ask any favor from any candidates to avoid confusion in the flock’s electoral moves. The circular, however, reiterated that the “unity vote” would be strictly observed.
Before the start of the Catholic mass at the Saint Ferdinand Cathedral here on Sunday, Bishop Marquez acknowledged the presence of Liberal Party local candidates led by Rep. Irvin Alcala, a candidate for governor against re-electionist Gov. David Suarez (NUP).
Irvin was seated near the altar and accompanied by his cousin, reelectionist Lucena Mayor Rhoderick Alcala and his whole councilor slate.
Marquez even teased Irvin and two candidates for councilor for not having seen them for quite a long time.
According to local INC members here, Irvin, Rhoderick and four candidates for councilor in Alcala’s slate were actually among the local candidates endorsed by the local INC.
During his homily, Marquez repeatedly emphasized that he was not endorsing any candidates.
Marquez said he was not inclined to follow other Catholic bishops who issued their “sample ballots” in their respective dioceses.
“Just vote according to the dictate of your conscience,” he said.
Marquez reminded the faithful and candidates that selling and buying vote would be against the teaching of the church.
“Respect your vote as you respect yourself,” the bishop said.
He also maintained that candidates who asked voters not to cast their vote in exchange for cash would be a form of vote buying.
After the mass, the candidates made themselves busy taking advantage of the last campaigning day by shaking hands of exiting church-goers.
Catholic Church leaders have become actively involved in this year’s election, which was never seen in past political exercises.
Several bishops across the country have been issuing politically loaded statements and church circulars in its campaign against candidates who voted for the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health Law.
Early on the campaign period, Marquez initiated the posting of “Team Buhay” and “Team Patay” tarpaulins on the wall of the cathedral and 36 other churches in central parts of the province under the supervision of the Diocese of Lucena.
But he explained that the tarpaulin message was not meant to be a form of campaigning against any candidate but was just enlightening the faithful that the RH law, being an “insult” to God and to the Catholic doctrine, must be repealed.
“The Lord be with you.”
“And with your spirit.”
We hear this exchange between the celebrant and the congregation at every Mass now. It happens as a matter of course. Hardly anyone thinks a thing about it. It’s just what Catholics do. Fading into the memory of only those who were intensely interested at the time is the odd fact that these words in Catholic Mass have only been spoken by people in the pews for about 18 months.
Before that time, there were grave warnings that these changes would never stick. They would drive people away. Years of debate and discussion preceded the change. There were warnings that this change would end badly. And yet, the change happened, and, today, hardly anyone thinks a thing about it. I would venture a guess that there is no one in my parish who sits and seethes, thinking “we should bring back the old words ‘and also with you’.”
Why is this? Why were the changes that followed the Second Vatican Council accompanied by grave upheaval, factions, drops in Mass attendance, and widespread frenzy wheres the changes adopted just last year have been generally met with widespread acceptance? The experience of the 1960s and 1970s made Catholics generally fearful of changing anything at all. It drove the Catholic world into a paradoxical state of rigid conservatism. But the recent experience of the new Missal illustrates something very important: change can be wonderful provided it is change in the right direction.
It is true that the new Mass was a much more dramatic change. The liturgical traditions of many centuries were thrown out for something radically unfamiliar. Even so, the changes enacted by the new Missal were not trivial. They changed the whole tenor and linguistic/cultural framework of the liturgical language, taking us away from the “dressed down” feel of 1969 to a much more formal and poetic mode of expression, one that departs from the cultural sensibility of our time.
My own theory is this: if the change is directed toward making the liturgy more true to itself, it will be accepted and even embraced. If it goes the opposite direction of making the liturgy less authentic and more decidedly “with the times” it will be met with opposition and rancor.
This principle has governed the changes we’ve made in our own liturgical experience with music at my parish — and our experience parallels that of hundreds of other parishes.
Just like week, our choir sang the entrance antiphon from the Simple English Propers plus one verse. We repeated the antiphon, and, by that time, the procession was over and Mass began. We sang Vidi Aquam for the sprinkling rite. We sang the Gloria in Latin (from Mass XV). The Psalm came from the Parish Book of Psalms. The Offertory antiphon came from a chanted English version from Fr. Samuel Weber. The Sanctus and Agnus were in Latin. The Communion antiphon was the authentic Gregorian, and we sang 4 verses of Psalms with it. We also sang a Latin motet by Victoria and an English motet by Tallis. The recessional hymn was in English and the only hymn that day.
We do some version of this lineup every week in my parish. The resources we are using are mostly newly available. There were no readily accessible and comprehensive book of antiphons and Psalms even available five years ago. Ten years ago, hardly any ordinary form parish sang the authentic communion chant from the Gregorian books. Now this is common all over the English-speaking world and the world generally.
What we did last week and what we will do this week seems completely normal and even predictable. It is something people expect as part of their Mass experience. No one is “against” what we are doing. Neither are people jumping up and down with celebration. It is just something natural and normal, the way the liturgy expresses itself in song. The sheer normalcy of it all is something that completely thrills me.
You see, if we had dropped this program on people ten years ago, it would have been a radical undertaking. In fact, we would have been reluctant to do it. Actually, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. The resources were available. The awareness of Mass propers was in its infancy, or maybe it didn’t exist at all outside a small circle. English versions were nowhere in sight. They certainly weren’t accessible. Instead, we spent all our time digging around second-rate hymnbook trying to find material that seemed vaguely acceptable.
A vast experiential chasm separate 10 years ago from what is common today. In fact, there is no comparing the two. What we did 10 years ago was fine and inoffensive but we were not singing the actual liturgy, and that made us uncomfortable, and created the nagging feeling that something just wasn’t right. We worked and worked endless hours to make it right but we ultimately lacked in that crucial thing: a vision for what could and should be.
Once the ideal clicked, we had a plan which we implemented slowly, piece by piece. The final result is really something spectacular. The way we do the propers changes each week. Sometimes we sing them in a choral style. Sometimes we do pure Gregorian. Sometimes we do English, variously choosing to add Psalms or not depending on what other motets we have prepared. There is a glorious stability about the whole thing. Mostly, we can feel like we are making a contribution to the liturgy because our role as singers is beautiful integrated into the liturgy itself.
When you back away and look at it, the swift from ten years ago today is absolutely revolutionary. It amounts to a radical change. But no one feels it. It just seems like the liturgy is doing what it is supposed to do: invite the whole community in a meeting with eternity.
Why did it succeed? The reason it worked is the same reason that the new translation has worked out really well. The liturgy is now permitted to be truer to what it wants to be. This is the kind of change we need — not change for its own sake but change toward truth and beauty. That’s what the the “sense of the faith” emerges from the experience of the people at Mass. It goes with the grain rather than against it. Everyone is happier for it.
Nearly every day, I hear of new projects from major Catholic music publishers for chanted propers or new settings of the actual text of the Mass. This is a great thing. It is happening after nearly 50 years of wandering in the desert but it is still a much-welcome thing. I would expect that as these new editions hit the market, they will proliferate more and more, because choirs and priests will discover what we discovered. If we just stop trying to substitute our own judgement for the judgement of the Church, and instead let the words of the Mass become our liturgical song, wonderful things start happening.
If you asked Catholics in the United States in the 1950s if it was possible to be fully Catholic and fully American, most would have answered with an enthusiastic YES! In the first decade after World War II where Catholics and non-Catholics had fought side-by-side against common enemies, simultaneously overcoming some deep-seated prejudices among themselves, the great majority of Catholics had few if any worries about the compatibility of the Catholic faith with American culture. Do we still feel that way today?
Can we still be Catholic and American?
Sixty years ago when Catholics were pursuing higher education as never before, when vocations to the priesthood and religious life were at an all time high level, when Catholic hospitals and schools were expanding and flourishing at unprecedented rates, most Catholics in the United States were proud to be here; and very few anticipated the tensions that would erupt within American culture in the 1960s and the crises that would fray the fabric of the Catholic community after the Second Vatican Council.
Now, over half a century later, many Catholics have at best ambivalent feelings about the relationship between Catholicism and America. So much has changed since the good old days of the ’50s. Consider, for example, the following: 45 years of legalized abortion has killed more than 50 million unborn children, the HHS mandates of the federal government seriously threaten religious liberty, and the powerful political and other societal forces gravely weaken the institution of marriage and with it serious threats to the well-being of children. Should Catholic still be excited about being American citizens?
Do we even have a problem?
Last year, the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, spoke of the obstacles to the New Evangelization found in Canada and the United States today. He said: “Public opinion polls indicate a disturbing phenomenon… While we are trying to evangelize, the rulers of this age, who shape popular culture, are effectively de-evangelizing many Christians. Often the misguided ideas against which we speak are increasingly attractive, and the principles we affirm are unattractive, to Catholics as much as any others, who are unconsciously absorbing the false wisdom of the age.”
What is it in American society today that makes “misguided ideas” attractive? And what makes solid principles of Catholic faith and morals unattractive? It is not hard to see how this cultural phenomenon greatly hinders efforts of the Church in North America to bear witness to the saving message of Jesus Christ. But how many even see and acknowledge that we have a problem?
The depth of the present crisis is evidenced in the fact that large numbers of Catholics, being more embedded in our secularist culture than in the life of the Church, feel quite at home in this world. Not only do they not feel motivated to work for cultural change, writes Russell Shaw in his new book “American Church,” they do not even see a problem, not even feel a need to take a good, hard look at what is happening to the basic foundations of American society and at its corrosive effect on the Church and other faith-based institutions, and upon human dignity and the foundational institutions of society, especially marriage. As Russell writes (p. 13), “On the evidence, many appear neither ready nor willing to provide a Christian critique of things like legalized abortion… the contraceptionist consumerist mentality that dominates the American dream of material success, the idol of American exceptionalism abroad, and much else in the world view of contemporary secular America in serious tension with their religious tradition.”
Keep your eye on the Chair
A recent headline caught my eye, NOT because it conjures up memories of a former basketball coach but because it expresses the opposite of apathy. The headline read: “Sometimes, Throw a Chair.” The greatest challenge that we Catholics face in America is indifferentism, not Americanism; it is not a problem of being too patriotic but a problem of being morally lazy, intellectually sloppy and spiritually asleep.
Many things can freeze us in our tracks and keep us from responding to crises that threaten us individually or as a community: from doubts and fears on the one hand to failure even to notice that there is a crisis. We can fail even to notice “a progressive secularization of society and a kind of eclipse of the sense of God” (as Pope Benedict XVI described the crisis); or even worse we can fail even to care about this dramatic drift away from faith in God that has poisoned the culture of so-called “first world” countries like America.
In striking contrast to this sickly slide into sloth that has weakened our American culture, we have the startling words of Jesus (Lk 12:49), “I have come to set a fire on the earth, how I wish it were already blazing!” We also have the refreshing spontaneity and compelling witness of Pope Francis who continually challenges mediocrity even as he inspires love. His personal witness to Christ has been formed in the crucible of suffering, in his relentless advocacy for the forgotten and poor, and in his courageous defense of human dignity and religious freedom before hostile governments in his native land.
Pope Francis, perhaps more by his own person and deeds than his words, is awakening Catholics to our mission from Christ at this pivotal point in history. We don’t have to worry about Pope Francis throwing a chair but we can be sure that his witness to Christ from the Chair of Peter will continue to make the indifferent uncomfortable and ignite the fire of love among followers of Christ today. May we welcome that fire with grateful hearts.
In the next issue of The Catholic Sun, I will look more closely at the relationship between the Church and American culture, at the challenges we Catholics have faced and continue face today, and what we must do in order to be faithful to our mission. The vast field of evangelization in America has both disturbing trends and grace-filled marvels. It is precisely in face of both that we have the duty and privilege of knowing, loving and serving Jesus Christ.
CMU student mocks pope, Catholic faith
by: Pittsburgh Catholic Staff Report
The Diocese of Pittsburgh responded April 29 to reports of a female student at Carnegie Mellon University who appeared on campus naked from the waist down and depicting the pope while passing out condoms. Her pubic hair was shaved in the shape of a cross.
The annual “Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby,” where the student appeared April 18, is sponsored by the School of Art.
A diocesan statement criticized the student’s display for mocking the Holy Father and the Catholic faith and, “in so doing she also betrays the high standards of Carnegie Mellon.”
Here is the full statement from the diocese:
“We appreciate the fact that Carnegie Mellon University has taken the complaints about this demonstration seriously and will investigate what took place. Part of the sign of maturity and a good education is to present a position civilly with respect for others. The young lady at the ‘Anti-Gravity Derby’ mocking the Holy Father and the Catholic faith has truly offended Catholics and the faith we hold sacred. In so doing she also betrays the high standards of Carnegie Mellon.
“There is the need in the world in which we are, and certainly in southwestern Pennsylvania where we live, for greater respect of each other. This respect is needed regardless of the color of our skin, the nationality of our families or the sacredness of our religious beliefs. It is never right to make any statement that insults. More civility and respect are always in order. Her crude public display does nothing other than to belittle herself and whatever position she was espousing.”
IS THERE a “Catholic vote”? It is said there are Catholic votes, but there are of two kinds: one based on Vatican I and the other on Vatican II. Vatican I is viewed as emphasizing the conscience of the institutional Church over the conscience of the individual. Vatican II is viewed as emphasizing the conscience of the individual over the conscience of the institutional Church. Further emphasis is made on the division of the Catholics into two groups: those on the side of conservative Vatican I and those on the side of liberal Vatican II.
But then what really is a Catholic vote? Is a vote cast for those who cry for the approval of RH bill a Catholic vote, and a vote cast for those who cry for the rejection of RH bill also a Catholic vote? What is the difference? On what grounds, then, should a Catholic vote be based? Should it be based on the spirit of Vatican I or that of Vatican II?
It must be made clear that the topic on Catholic vote arises from the issue on RH bill, which has been controversial because it is deemed as anti-life. Now the Catholic Church, as an institution, is a promoter of life. Consequently, it is against RH bill for its being anti-life. Catholics, therefore, are enjoined–if and if they are truly believers of the Catholic faith–to uphold the doctrinal teachings of the Church to which they “claim” they belong. Therefore, the true Catholic vote is the one cast for the reason of faithfully upholding the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church.
It is a fact that some Catholics–those who easily compromise, or even reject, their faith–cry for the approval of RH bill, and some other Catholics–those who do not and cannot compromise their faith–also cry for the rejection of the same bill. Those who cry for the approval of the bill use “freedom of conscience” of the individual as their battle-cry. Those who cry for the rejection of the bill try their best to faithfully abide by the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church to which they belong.
It must be made clear that when and when it is a question of the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church, all Catholics are enjoined to uphold them, in and with their strong faith. For God, the Holy Trinity, wills to save mankind, and it is through the teachings preserved and perpetuated by the Church that the continuing salvation of souls–brought about by Jesus Christ through the Cross–be achieved. This is, and must be, the “Conscience” of the non-compromising Catholics.
Within Catholicism itself, there are indeed two kinds of believers: the compromisers and the non-compromisers. Compromisers are those who can easily wave or reject the doctrinal teachings in exchange for the values of the world proliferated by modern philosophies. Non-compromisers are those who, prodded by their strong faith in God, try to uphold the doctrinal teachings. Who then can be said as true Catholics? The compromisers or the non-compromisers? It is not difficult to distinguish a compromising from a non-compromising Catholic.
The true Catholic vote, then, is the one cast, not according to his/her own personal, self-determined “freedom of conscience” but according to the “conscience” of the Catholic Church, which he/she is enjoined to uphold–that if he/she is truly faithful to his/her belief. It should be made clear to Catholics that one’s “conscience” can either be in line or against the “conscience” of the Catholic Church. On this basis, it is a fact that a Catholic can either keep his/her faith, specifically in the area of Catholic morality, or sell it in exchange for the values, or morality, of the present modernistic world.
Therefore, it is a fallacy to say that a vote cast according to one’s “freedom of conscience” which is against the teachings of the Church is just as Catholic as the vote cast according to the “conscience” of the Catholic Church. –Jose D. Clepidio, Minglanilla, Cebu
Posted in Local Catholic News, on May 3rd, 2013
Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese will have an opportunity to pray together for Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, who died May 2.
A memorial Mass will be celebrated on what would have been his 66th birthday, May 22, at 7 p.m. in the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Philadelphia.
All are welcome to participate.
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JoAnne Klimovich Harrop 412-320-7889
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By JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013, 7:48 p.m.
Updated 41 minutes ago
Maybe it’s the smile. Or the way she twirls around in circles. It might be how she looks at herself in the mirror. And, also the fact she doesn’t want to take it off.
That little girl is saying â€œyesâ€� to the dress.
It’s the time of year when girls are seen donning crisp white dresses â€” a symbol of purity and innocence â€” to receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, a rite of passage for many Catholics.
â€œYou just know when they are saying â€˜yes’ to a particular dress,â€� says Kimberly Mentecki, co-owner with her mother, Karen Fassinger, of Babe’s Broadway Bridal in New Kensington.
When customers walk through the door, Mentecki and Fassinger assess the situation to see which family members or friends have come with the little girl, just like bridal consultants do in the TLC reality show â€œSay Yes to the Dress.â€�
â€œWe talk to them and show them various options,â€� Mentecki says. â€œA lot of times, the girls want to pick the dress, and they say, â€˜This is what I want.’ â€�
That’s a fine scenario if everyone agrees. But if not, hello, drama!
Mentecki will often close the dressing-room door to give customers privacy for the discussion.
â€œMost of the time, when they come in, they have an idea of what they want,â€� says Paula Fisher, co-owner with her mother, Rose Mary Lodovico, of Cosy Creations in Forest Hills. Usually, it is a joint decision, Fisher says. There are times someone might not like a dress and will voice an opinion.
â€œThen we get a compromise,â€� Fisher says. â€œMaybe we suggest a dress that doesn’t have as much beading or one with a different sleeve style or a different length. Most of the time, the decision is up to the child. We can spot when they are wearing something they don’t like or feel comfortable in. And, we can also spot when Mom or Grandmother or Aunt doesn’t like something, either.â€�
â€œWe have this three-way mirror, and when they step in front of it, you can tell if it is the dress for them,â€� Fisher says. â€œTheir faces light up. When the little girls smile, we know that the search has been successful.â€�
It didn’t take long for Jennifer Munda-Finkbeiner, a Greenfield native who lives in Penn Hills, to see her daughter, Ilana Finkbeiner, 8, had found the right dress at Cosy Creations.
â€œShe had in her mind the dress she wanted, and the minute she walked in, she spotted a dress hanging on the wall and said, â€˜That’s the one I want, Mom,’ â€� says Munda-Finkbeiner, who got a little teary-eyed seeing her daughter. â€œAnd when I saw her in the dress, I knew it was the one because she looked absolutely beautiful.â€�
Munda-Finkbeiner suggested Ilana try a different style just to be sure, but she still chose the first one â€” a full-skirt, tea-length dress with a rhinestone flower at the shoulder and beading on the bodice.
Ilana, who will receive her first Communion on May 5 at St. Bartholomew, says trying on dresses was fun. Ilana’s grandparents, Joe and Jerri Munda, bought the dress and told their granddaughter to get what she wanted.
â€œI just loved this dress. I love the beading and the flower and the fullness of it. It is perfect to wear to receive God for the first time,â€� Ilana says.
Paige Kendall, who will turn 8 on May 4, celebrated her first Communion on April 27 at Immaculate Conception in Irwin. Her mother, Heather, says the process at Cosy Creations went smoothly. They knew they wanted a dress by designer Christie Helene.
â€œPaige is pretty easy-going,â€� says Heather Kendall of Irwin. â€œWe knew the designer we wanted, so it was deciding which one. She tried on several, and we knew the minute she tried on the right one.â€�
Narrowing the dress choices helps, says Renee Lingle, owner of The Frog N’ Princess in Peters. Some mothers come in ahead to look at the selection.
She and her sales associates can pick up on cues when the dress is wrong. Children will tell you when they don’t like a dress by saying it’s itchy or by taking it off immediately. Helping them find the right dress is part of the challenge, Lingle says. When you are dealing with many generations, it isn’t easy.
â€œThe girls know about the reality show and so do their moms and aunts, and sometimes, even Grandma has seen it,â€� Lingle says. â€œWe definitely ask if they are saying â€˜yes’ to the dress. And when they smile, we know they are.â€�
Knowing the show has reached a diverse age group is wonderful, says Monte Durham, fashion director for â€œSay Yes to the Dress Atlanta,â€� which airs Fridays.
â€œTo me, there is a lot of emotion with Communion dresses, and it’s most likely the first fancy dress in a girl’s life and one in a long line of dresses she will wear in her life,â€� Durham says.
He can tell when it’s â€œyesâ€� to the bridal gown by the way a woman walks and her stance. That can also be applied to the Communion dress, he says.
â€œThey smile ear to ear and almost prance like they are giddy, and they are moving back and forth and shuffling their feet,â€� Durham says. â€œYou want to make sure they love it and that they feel great wearing it, because that will show in the photos.â€�
Gaye Bugel, owner of Bugel Kids in Ross, says in 29 years she has had to deal with mothers not wanting daughters to try on plus-size dresses, a mom who had her child try on 60 dresses, and a girl who refused to try on anything, because she liked a dress from another store.
â€œI have had experiences you wouldn’t believe,â€œ says Bugel, who plans to close the store later this year and sell only online. â€œThere are times the child comes in and doesn’t understand about the sacrament, and it is just about the party. … But then, there are some customers who are fun and pleasant to work with.â€�
Jennifer Mason, manager at MB Bride in Greensburg, says when family members disagree and the girl is caught in the middle, she tries to help them find common ground.
â€œI haven’t seen many pouty girls,â€� she says. â€œI think at this age, girls are more prone to listening to their moms and aunts and grandmothers. They are respectful when they come in for a Communion dress and realize the significance of the day.
â€œWhen you see the little girl smile, you know,â€� Mason says. â€œShe looks at herself in the mirror and her face lights up, and Mom gets a little teary-eyed. That is rewarding to see, because it is in that moment that they are all saying â€˜yes’ to the dress without speaking a word.â€�
JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7889.
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I was motivated to write the book A Catholic Guide to Depression because I believe that our Catholic tradition – including the writings of the Church Fathers and saints – has something important to say to those suffering from this terrible affliction. Depression is often misunderstood; most people mistakenly believe it’s nothing more than intense or prolonged sadness, when in fact it’s a complex illness that can profoundly impair a person’s mental and physical functioning. Because of mistaken assumptions, those who are afflicted with clinical depression often suffer in silence, unrecognised by others. I wrote the book first to speak to those who suffer from depression. I hope it will also be helpful for family, friends, clergy, and spiritual directors to gain a better understanding of depression, so that they can more effectively support their loved ones.
If someone is afflicted with cancer, this person is flooded with sympathy from family and friends, and support from the local parish, perhaps with special mention in the general intercessions at Mass, and so on. If someone suffers from depression, this person probably receives, at best, a few well-meaning but ineffective attempts at sympathy from family or close friends, but often without true understanding. There is rarely public mention of the problem due to the stigma of mental illness.
I recall one patient, a married Catholic woman with several children and grandchildren, who had suffered from both life-threatening breast cancer and severe depression. She once told me she would choose the cancer over the depression, as the latter caused far more intense suffering. She tragically committed suicide a few years after she stopped seeing me for treatment.
In a 2003 address on the theme of depression (included in an appendix of the book), Blessed John Paul II said that depression is always a spiritual trial: “This disease is often accompanied by an existential and spiritual crisis that leads to an inability to perceive the meaning of life.” He went on to stress how non-professionals, motivated by Christian charity and compassion, can help those with depression: “The role of those who care for depressed persons and who do not have a specifically therapeutic task consists above all in helping them to rediscover their self-esteem, confidence in their own abilities, interest in the future, the desire to live. It is therefore important to stretch out a hand to the sick, to make them perceive the tenderness of God, to integrate them into a community of faith and life in which they can feel accepted, understood, supported, respected; in a word, in which they can love and be loved.”
Depression is a complex condition that affects more than just a person’s emotions; it impairs one’s cognition, perceptions of the world, physical health and bodily functioning. The causes of depression are likewise complex. The medical model that characterises depression as simply a “chemical imbalance in the brain” is true but also incomplete. Neurobiological and genetic factors do play a causative role; but so do psychological, interpersonal, behavioural, cultural, social, moral, and indeed, spiritual factors. Depression should be understood and treated from all of these complementary perspectives. Medications and other biological treatments have an important therapeutic role in many cases, as does psychotherapy provided by competent, sensitive, and skilled professionals. These should be integrated with spiritual support and spiritual direction, a life of prayer and the sacraments.
All truth is symphonic: there is a harmony between faith and reason, theology and science, if only we discover it. Our understanding of depression can be more complete if we draw upon insights from medicine and psychology on the one hand, and from our Catholic tradition on the other. There is a need for a constructive dialogue here, as John Paul II pointed out to a group of psychiatrists in 1993: “By its very nature your work often brings you to the threshold of human mystery. It involves sensitivity to the tangled workings of the human mind and heart, and openness to the ultimate concerns that give meaning to people’s lives. These areas are of the utmost importance to the Church, and they call to mind the urgent need for a constructive dialogue between science and religion for the sake of shedding greater light on the mystery of man in his fullness.”
According to its original Greek root, the word “psychiatrist” literally means “doctor of the soul”. But in modern psychiatry, this original meaning has largely been abandoned: psychiatrists today tend to focus on the body, especially the brain, to the exclusion of the soul. Other critics have levelled the opposite complaint against psychiatry and psychology, claiming that we overstep our limitations and often tread on territory that was once occupied by religion. For example, Archbishop Fulton Sheen wondered whether the psychoanalyst’s couch has replaced the priest’s confessional in the modern world.
Despite the legitimate concerns raised by these critics, John Paul II reaffirmed that a genuine dialogue presupposes that both parties involved have something worthwhile to say to the other. The confessional was never meant to cure neurosis or other mental disturbances, and the couch was never meant to absolve sin. John Paul II continues in the same address: “The confessional is not, and cannot be, an alternative to the psychoanalyst or psychotherapist’s office, nor can one expect the Sacrament of Penance to heal truly pathological conditions. The confessor is not a physician or a healer in the technical sense of the term; in fact, if the condition of the penitent seems to require medical care, the confessor should not deal with the matter himself, but should send the penitent to competent and honest professionals.”
While the sacraments alone were never meant to cure mental afflictions like depression, they can and do play a healing role in a plan of recovery. The principle of “sacramentality” in Catholic theology, based on the central Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, affirms that the material world can mediate spiritual realities. As creatures of both body and soul, we relate to God through our senses. If I’m burdened by guilt or by sins of the past (often the case in depressed persons), when I go to Confession I’m able, in a very tangible way, to hear words of absolution from the priest who is acting in the name of Christ and the Church.
Many people who have gone to Confession describe this powerful experience of psychological healing. They are able to walk out knowing with total conviction that they have indeed been forgiven, that the burden they’ve been carrying has been lifted. The Catholic sacramental system is indeed consistent with our psychological make-up: we need to hear these words of absolution in order to more tangibly experience God’s mercy. We also know that sin not only harms our relationship with God but with others as well. In Confession there is the experience a sense of reintegration with a community: the priest represents the Church, the community of Christians, with whom the penitent is reconciled. All this is powerfully healing, and lifts a burden spiritually and psychologically.
Likewise, in participating at Mass, one’s own psychological suffering is united to the suffering of Christ – who suffered for me psychologically and physically. In Holy Communion, I receive his flesh offered for me and his blood poured out for my redemption and my healing. While this does not magically cure all physical or mental afflictions, the grace of the sacrament does strengthen me to bear these burdens in union with Christ. Our Lord says now to those who suffer what he said to his Apostles at the Last Supper: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (Jn 16:20), and he assures us: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage, for I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).
Dr Aaron Kheriaty is the director of residency training and medical education in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine. A Catholic Guide to Depression is published by Sophia Institute Press (Sophiainstitute.com)
and available on Kindle from Amazon.co.uk
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Catholic Herald dated 3/5/13
Last year Good Shepherd Parish in Oak Bluffs was faced with a problem. Father Messias Albuquerque was leaving, and due to a priest shortage in Brazil finding a replacement who could say mass in Portuguese would be difficult.
Recruiting someone to say the Saturday mass was a familiar issue. Over the years a series of clergymen have filled this role. Father Michael Nagle, pastor of Good Shepherd, decided it was time for a more permanent fix. Recently he and Karl Buder, a deacon, traveled to the city of SÃ£o Francisco in Espirito Santo, Brazil to study Portuguese and get a sense of how Brazilian Catholics practice their faith.
“By necessity, small-town Brazilian parishes are more of a church of the people,” Father Nagle said. “They have a great enthusiasm.”
Anyone who has attended the Saturday night Portuguese mass can be forgiven for being a little, well, surprised. First of all there is a band. Worshipers sing and clap to the music and are brought to the front to be serenaded.
The story of how a Portuguese mass came to be established at Good Shepherd Parish is one of a resourceful flock yearning to celebrate their faith, a deacon who developed an impressive command of a foreign language and a series of journeyman priests willing to ride the ferry and happily play the guitar.
Elias and Dalva Modesto, parishioners of Good Shepherd, met in school 31 years ago in Governador Valadares, a city in Minas Gerais. The couple moved to the Vineyard in the mid-1980s. They remember when understanding mass meant borrowing a car and driving up to Boston.
“We used to go to Fall River to do bible study,” Mrs. Modesto added.
Father Nagle said Rose Anthony, a Vineyard teacher who passed away in 2007, first brought to his attention that the language gap of the Brazilian parishioners wasn’t being adequately addressed. What could Father Nagle do? He couldn’t speak Portuguese very well. What he needed was a deacon.
Enter Karl Buder, who runs the Thorncroft Inn with his wife, Lynn. Mr. Bruder had picked up some Portuguese from Brazilians he employed in the mid-1990s. For five years he went off-Island each week to study Catholic dogma. He said it was more intense than graduate school. In 2007 Mr. Buder was ordained as a deacon.
At first, just getting to the stage of conversational competency was difficult. Mr. Bruder looked to his fellow parishioners for help.
“In the initial stages people would look at me with horror,” he said. “I knew I was making headway when people started to correct me.”
These days Mr. Buder writes his own homilies, the sermons that come after the New Testament reading in a Catholic service, and performs them in Portuguese. Father Nagle performs the rest of the Portuguese mass.
The Brazilians of Good Shepherd have two prayer groups that meet Monday and Wednesdays — Semeadores do Reino, coordinated by Wesley de Oliveira, and Nossa Senhora Aparecida, led by Regina Amarins. Mr. Buder works with one of the groups, instructing them in Catholic doctrine.
The Saturday night liturgy and weekly prayer groups draw from the charismatic movement in Latin American Christianity. In an effort to appeal to young people and respond to a decline in the faithful, many churches in Latin America have adopted the stage presence of pop music performers. The most famous example is Father Marcelo Rossi, a Brazilian priest who sings and, like Jay-Z or Madonna, can fill entire stadiums.
In the case of Good Shepherd, the grassroots efforts of the everyday faithful of SÃ£o Francisco made an impression on the Oak Bluff parish’s leaders. Both Father Nagle and Mr. Buder said they took note of the pronounced role the Brazilian laity played in the services they attended while in SÃ£o Francisco.
Mr. Buder said his real language proficiency test came between connecting flights at an airport in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil. He and Father Nagle suffered a luggage nightmare coming into the country. It took two weeks to get their bags back, one of which wound up in the capital of BrasÃlia, Mr. Buder said. On their return, they had to negotiate with airline employees who spoke no English at all. Mr. Buder did the talking and they were able to check their bags ahead to Rio de Janeiro.
“You just earned your keep, Jack,” Father Nagle said to Mr. Bruder.
In 2007 when the U.S. economy was booming, nearly 200 Brazilians belonged to Good Shepherd. When the economy tanked many parishioners chose to return to Brazil. More than 10 were deported. These days Saturday mass usually draws about 60 people.
Valerio Destefani attends Portuguese mass on Saturday nights and serves as a lector in English-language mass on Sunday mornings. In June of 2009, Mr. Destefani persuaded the parish to celebrate the traditional Brazilian feast of Corpus Christi. More than 25 people worked until 2 a.m. to create colorful designs from flowers, sand, coffee grounds and chalk in the parish parking lot. Father Messias was there to lead the procession.
The Brazilians of Good Shepherd pride themselves on helping people in need. They have fundraisers where they serve feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew, and parishioners say the hearty meals are a big draw among people of all faiths.
The prayer group Grupo de ReflexÃ£o de Nossa Senhora Aparecida is made up of 10 Brazilian families. Meeting on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at the Parish Center Chapel in Oak Bluffs, this group also looks for ways to lend a hand. On the third Wednesday in April, Regina Amarins, who coordinates prayer meetings, asked those present if anybody owned an iPad.
“Let’s see a show of hands,” she said. “Anyone? Nope. Well, it would be nice to have one, right?”
Mrs. Amarins and other Good Shepherd parishioners then set to work collecting funds to raffle an iPad. The money will benefit a former parishioner, recently deported and now fighting cancer.
It’s not to be confused with the KKNG that became the current KJKE radio, 93.3. KJKE is the station with the big stick (industry jargon for a powerful signal); KKNG is so low-power, in fact, it has trouble covering the entire metro.
Sousa, who spent 38 years with General Motors before retiring, has embarked on a second career at Oklahoma Catholic Broadcasting Network. Along the way, he was instrumental in converting KKNG — the metro’s onetime top-rated radio station that featured country music — to one of 24-hour Catholic broadcasting.
“It was a stunner. We are as stunned as anybody else,” said Sousa.
Genesis of a network
He’s been especially surprised by how Catholics around the state contributed money to get the operation off the ground six years ago. And they are still giving, as Oklahoma Catholic Broadcasting pays $16,000 a month to lease the station.
The development came last summer when KKNG’s then-owner, Tyler Media, bought Renda Broadcasting’s property in OKC. In order to stay under the Federal Communications Commission’s limit of locally owned stations in a market, Tyler sold KKNG and KTLR-AM 89 to WPA Radio. Catholic radio had been broadcast on KTLR, but for only a few hours a week beginning in 2006.
Sousa and Jeff Finnell, a former petroleum company worker, started the Catholic radio network without any financial support from the Oklahoma City Archdiocese.
“It was a really crazy idea,” Sousa said, recalling that whenever airtime became available on KTLR, he and his supporters would buy it.
The subsequent sale of KKNG opened a wider door for Sousa and Finnell.
“I cannot believe we’ve come this far,” Sousa said. “The support was overwhelming. People just opened their pocketbooks.”
A growing network
KKNG is only one of several stations operated by the pair. In 2011, Oklahoma Catholic Broadcasting Network took out a lease on KOEG 88.3 FM; the call letters stand for King of Eternal Glory. That was followed by 88.3 FM in Prague and 105.7 FM in Bristow. Another station is under development in Antlers.
Then there’s Tulsa, where Sousa said Bishop Edward J. Slattery is interested in supporting a radio station for the network. And from there: Western Oklahoma with the literal creation of a statewide Catholic radio network.
“God has sent us people with the expertise we never had, and every door we open, it leads to something new,” Sousa said. “It’s like a traffic light: If God gives us a green light, it’s a go. And we’ve had so many green lights, our jaws drop every time.”
Programming on KKNG and other stations is largely talk radio, but with a Catholic viewpoint.
“We’re totally nonprofit. Every dollar goes into the budget of the radio stations,” Sousa said. “It’s more of an evangelistic effort, but now we’re going to be hands-on.”
As for Sousa being that radio newsman, he is — of a sort. He is on KKNG with Good News Sunday, a 30-minute news program that airs live at 3:30 p.m. Thursdays and is rebroadcast at 3:30 p.m Fridays.
Catholic mass is also broadcast on Sundays. The Saturday evening mass at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in Norman is recorded and replayed on KKNG at 11 a.m. Sunday.
As for reaction from the radio community, Vance Harrison, president of the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, said it’s no different than any other block programming that runs on other stations.
“If they have enough of a niche out there, even with religious programming, it’s not surprising and, in fact, can be very common,” he said. “Radio’s always been a good megaphone for a special message.”
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