Posts Tagged ‘Easter Vigil’

I had forgotten to post the appropriate pages from our favorite vintage 7th grade Catholic textbook, part of the Christ-Life Series in Religion …so here they are. The first about the season in general, the second about this past Sunday (before it became Divine Mercy Sunday, of course).

What I like about these – and why I share them with you – is that they challenge the assumption that before Vatican II, Catholicism offered nothing but legalistic rules-based externals to its adherents, particularly the young. Obviously not so

I also appreciate the assumption of maturity and spiritual responsibility. Remember, this is a 7th grade textbook, which means it was for twelve and thirteen-year olds at most. A child reading this was encouraged to think of him or herself, not as a customer to be placated or attracted, but as a member of the Body of Christ – a full member who can experience deep joy, peace and has a mission.

"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"

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Perhaps"amy welborn" you remember at the beginning of Lent, when I was on a Vintage Catholic tear, I posted a section from a late 19th-century book called The Correct Thing for Catholics.  Somewhat dated, of course, but still, if you think about it, useful.

Well, here’s the author’s advice for these days in particular. Other sites are offering you deep thoughts. I simply offer the correct thing. 

The focus is on Holy Thursday, and in particular the tradition of visiting the altars of repose in various churches – “throngs” of people did this….


"amy welborn"


"amy welborn"

There won’t be any Seven Quick Takes this week, so here’s an offering for you to read that is take, although not a quick one. I think it’s an essential article to read – Patricia Snow in First Things on screen time. 

Sixty-four years ago, in her novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor saw all of this coming. Describing the beautiful movements of a night sky over an artificially lit street in a small town, she commented dryly, “No one was paying any attention to the sky.” The cinema on the lit street was O’Connor’s metaphor of choice for the alienation of modern man, mesmerized by huge, internally generated images as if he were walled up behind his own eye; today everyone has a tiny cinema of his own, on the seat back in front of him or in his pocket, that he can carry everywhere.

Snow offers more than the now routine concerns about the impact of all of this on us. She takes it to a spiritual level, appropriate reading for this week, and this day, in particular, in which we ponder the Real Presence:

For centuries, the Catholic Church has been a place of prayer and recollection, deep reading and peaceful communion. It has been a place of limited social interaction, where the mind can wander and the nerves relax; a quiet place, far from the noise and incessant demands of the world. It has been a place where the poor have had access to certain luxury goods of the rich: great art and music, spaciousness and silence. If the rich have always taken expensive, unplugged vacations in remote, unspoiled places, in our churches the poor, too, have had a place of retreat from the world. The church’s thick walls and subdued lighting, her “precisely-paced” liturgies and the narrowing sight lines of her nave, drawing the eye to the altar and the tabernacle behind it—everything in the church is designed to ward off distractions and render man “still and listening.” Everything is there to draw him into the Church’s maternal embrace, so she can fill him with God.

Besides this way of prayer and contemplation that has been described as a mutual gaze (“I look at him; he looks at me”), there is a second path to God, equally enjoined by the Church, and that is the way of charity to the neighbor, but not the neighbor in the abstract. Catholicism, Christianity generally, and other religions as well have always inveighed against telescopic philanthropy. “Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asks Jesus in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus’s answer is, the one you encounter on the way.

This encounter cannot be elided or put on hold, pushed to the periphery or dissolved into an abstraction. Man cannot vault over the particular to reach the universal, or bypass the present to seize the future. Virtue is either concrete or it is nothing. Man’s path to God, like Jesus’s path on the earth, always passes through what the Jesuit Jean Pierre de Caussade called “the sacrament of the present moment,” which we could equally call “the sacrament of the present person,” the way of the Incarnation, the way of humility, or the Way of the Cross. In C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, a book that teaches by inversion, the fiend Screwtape urges his nephew to envision his human prey as a series of concentric circles, and then “shove all [his] virtues outward till they are finally located in the circle of fantasy.” The tradition of Zen Buddhism expresses the same idea in positive terms: Be here now.

Both of these privileged paths to God, equally dependent on a quality of undivided attention and real presence, are vulnerable to the distracting eye-candy of our technologies. In an essay in these pages, “Reckoning with Modernity” (December 2015), Bruce Marshall wrote of the Church’s need to discern modernity on her own terms, “by searching her own mystery.” In the past, the Church has censured the content of certain media: the violence in video games, for example, or the pornography available online. But preoccupied with content, and excepting a few recent remarks by Pope Francis, she has overlooked the greater danger of the delivery system itself, or the form of the screen, which for many people turns out to be as irresistible as pornography and as addictive as any narcotic, with the result that it is on its way to becoming as formidable a distracter in the life of the Church as it is everywhere else….

….The Church’s definitive mystery is a mystery of real presence: the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, above all, but also her own uninterrupted presence in the world and in history. There is nothing “virtual” or disembodied about the Catholic Church. Her Gospel—her whole life—is a communication of real presence: God made man; God with us; God still with us, in the sacraments and in the baptized. For centuries, the Church has spread this Gospel by face-to-face encounters, live preaching, tangible sacraments and real texts, media ontologically well suited to a message of Incarnation.

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A quick rundown of last week, which was all over the place, liturgy-wise.

Palm Sunday and the Good Friday service were at St. Barnabas, a small parish that is not too far from us – a little farther than the Cathedral, but still, maybe just three miles. I admit  – freely– that we attended those liturgies at that parish for reasons related to time.  No shame. The Sunday Mass time (10) is quite convenient (the *best* Mass time, IMHO) and on Friday, for various reasons, we couldn’t get to the 3pm service at the Cathedral, so that left us with evening services, wherever we could find one.  It’s a small church, so things like the procession with Palms and the Veneration of the Cross would not be as long as they would be in other, larger parishes, and at this point, we’ll take it. I don’t get protests – at all – but given the boys’ serving responsibilities and the heaviness of the Triduum, a small parish doing it simply and doing it right is a very good thing to experience.

Holy Thursday at the Cathedral with the fitting, amazing music we are spoiled with there.

Good Friday, in addition to the nighttime service, we got to the Stations of the Cross at the Cathedral at noon. A permanent deacon led the stations, while three priests heard confessions during the service.  Penitents lined against the walls.

Visiting family responsibilities precluded the Vigil this year, but the boys served at Casa Maria Convent and Retreat House.

Excellent, well-prepared homilies all-round – I mean, homilies that were obviously  the fruit of close  study, preparation and a keen pastoral sensitivity. And all preached from a prepared text. It’s fine.   

"amy welborn"

Related to Catholic Things in Birmingham, Alabama, of course you know that after many, many years of stroke-related disability, most of which she has been in the cloister in care of her sisters, Mother Angelica died on Easter Sunday.

By far the best commentary so far is Bishop Robert Barron’s:

I can attest that, in “fashionable” Catholic circles during the eighties and nineties of the last century, it was almost de rigueur to make fun of Mother Angelica. She was a crude popularizer, an opponent of Vatican II, an arch-conservative, a culture-warrior, etc., etc. And yet while her critics have largely faded away, her impact and influence are uncontestable. Against all odds and expectations, she created an evangelical vehicle without equal in the history of the Catholic Church. Starting from, quite literally, a garage in Alabama, EWTN now reaches 230 million homes in over 140 countries around the world. With the possible exception of John Paul II himself, she was the most watched and most effective Catholic evangelizer of the last fifty years.

"mother angelica"

I reached the point on the Current Project in which, within the space of a day, I transitioned from despair to complete confidence – in meeting the deadline, that is.  well, the second deadline, that is – after spring break made it clear that the first deadline was impossible.  It’s a good feeling – not as good as finishing the thing and getting it out of my brain forever, but almost.

What messed me up as, not only spring break, but the structure of this year’s spring break, which must be divided between San Diego and Charleston.

So, yes, I’m typing this on a plane, presently descending into Houston, and from there on to San Diego, here I’ll be speaking at the Catholic Library Association and signing books for both OSV and Loyola at NCEA– so if you know anyone who will be at either convention, tell them to stop by and say hi!


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A quick reminder:

"amy welborn"




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We are in the final weeks before Easter, which means that we are in the final weeks of candidate and catechumen preparing for full initiation at the the Easter Vigil.

(Of course, RCIA is really, properly only for the unbaptized and already baptized Christians can and should be catechized and brought into the Church year-round if it’s appropriate for that person. But, nonetheless…)

The Scrutinies are the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent and so perhaps this is a good time to share some good instructional material with friends or family members who are revving up for meeting Christ in the Eucharist for the first time in a few weeks.

The How To Book of the Mass has recently undergone a makeover – I had no role in it and was as surprised as anyone. Mike fought hard for the original cover – he didn’t want the normal Catholic-looking cover and wanted something that would really stand out on a bookstore shelf, so for years the left-hand image had been the cover.

The new cover looks much like any other intro-to-the-Mass book, but rest assured the content is the same. I’m glad it’s still in print, still selling welling, and helping people. And the content does reflect the most recent translation. Here is an excerpt. 

I have a few copies with the original  cover – you can order here. Or get through your local Catholic bookstore or online. 

"amy welborn"

In addition, I’d recommend my Words We Pray  – which is a collection of essays I wrote on traditional Catholic prayers from the Sign of the Cross to the Lord’s Prayer to the Memorare to the Liturgy of the Hours to Amen.  Each essay ties in some historical material with spiritual reflection, the goal being to help the pray-er link the prayers of his or her own heart with the prayer of the Church.  St. Paul says, In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.(Romans 8:26).

One way the Spirit helps us pray as we ought and give voice to our the depths of our hearts is via the Spirit-formed traditional prayer of the Church. It leads us away from solipsism and situates our prayer properly, putting praise and gratitude to God first, and placing our needs in the context of his will, above all.

I have a few copies of that here too, as well as all the picture books.  But you can get The Words We Pray online anywhere as well.  

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(The post that they’re being directed to…)

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Update for searchers:  How long is the Easter Vigil?  Usually about 2.5 hours. Depends on how many Scripture readings are used and how many catechumens and candidates are coming into the Church.

It’s a beautiful ceremony! You should go!

For more from me – Amy Welborn  – and to learn about my books, go here!)

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A good discussion at Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog

My brief (hah) answer: No.

Done correctly, with appropriate settings, even with a lot of baptisms, the Vigil really shouldn’t last over three hours. If it does (as was the case w/what Fr. Martin reports) – the problems are probably not with the structure of the liturgy or even with the number of initiations, but with other elements.

There’s a lot of extra “stuff” in the Vigil – all of it rich and evocative. There are nine Scripture readings, and I’m a firm believer in doing all of them, every time.

But there are two factors that have the power to unnecessarily extend the length of the Vigil:

1) The settings of the Responsorial Psalms

2) The homily

Think about #1. If there are 7 Responsorial Psalms and each takes five minutes, that’s 35 minutes right there, and one commentor at one of the blogs noted above mentioned hearing a Responsorial Psalm of 10 minutes in length.  I am not sure about the rubrics related to the Psalms – if you must have them, if silence can ever be substituted. What you don’t have to have are elaborate, performance-driven Psalms after each reading.

And #2 – On a night like this, the priest or deacon needs to understand that a lengthy homily distracts from, rather than emphasizes the power of the evening. What he says should be powerful, focused and point to the richness of the rest of the ritual. In about five minutes. He should understand that at the Easter Vigil, the most powerful homilists are the catechumens and candidates. There’s really not much a homilist can add to what they are “saying.”

But in the end, I think the question of length, so bluntly put, is the wrong question and actually sort of …embarrassing, maybe? Especially when you consider, say, the normal length of many Orthodox or Eastern Rite liturgies – every Sunday. And also because of course, historically, the Easter Vigil has always been long – as in all night long, if you go back far enough. In some monasteries, it is still all night long. Michael went to the Vigil in the Extraordinary Form, and it was three hours long (from 11pm-2am) and that was with no baptisms or initiations.

No, the better question is, as Fr. Martin elaborates in his post, is what elements of the Vigil, as lived out in our parishes, are reflective of artistic and homiletic excesses rather than truly at the service of God through the liturgy?

Which is, of course, always a good question to ask.

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