Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
January 13, 2003
WCR Letters to the Editor
Advent welcomes Christmas
Father Don Stein’s recent endorsement of Christmas concerts in Advent (WCR Letters, Dec. 23) raises concerns. Each liturgical season has its identity and integrity and should be respected. This holds especially for Advent, which sits like a tiny island eroded by a sea of Christmas commercialism. The omnipresent promotion of immediate gratification poisons Advent’s spirit of patient waiting.
School Christmas concerts can be yet another erosion of this vulnerable season. No wonder some have prescribed doing away with Christmas concerts. However, things are not that simple, and one risks throwing the Christ babe out with the bath water.
First, Christmas concerts actually do Advent work. That work is to imbibe the spirit of the prophets, especially Isaiah, and to enter the heart of John the Baptist and Mary — all presented for our nourishment in the Advent Scriptures. In Advent we learn to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our saviour Jesus Christ. It is often forgotten that a powerful occasion of this learning is precisely the lengthy discipline and effort it takes to rehearse a Christmas concert at a Catholic school.
Secondly, the mere appearance of elements of Christmas in Advent is not always against its spirit. For example, during Advent’s fourth week, students may liturgically enact the angel Gabriel’s annunciation to Mary and portray the Nativity scene foretold there. They indeed present the Christmas scene, but do so within an Advent context.
Thirdly, though most participants in a Christmas concert are not regular churchgoers, the concert often re-evangelizes and reconnects them to Church. One should not undervalue this moment of grace nor prematurely shuffle it off into the liturgical garbage bin of “cuteness.”
Here, the profound sacramentality of children shines through. They charm and even enchant the rarely assembled school community of parents and friends. For a moment, in the framework of a performance made sacred by innocence, humour, assembly and Christmas, a community catches a glimpse of the divine worth of their children. These gatherings can connect the participants most intimately with the Nativity icon of Joseph, Mary, the infant Christ, shepherds, star and angels and this is authentic Advent work.
We need to support the yeoman work of liturgists in keeping Advent off the endangered species list. However, fighting Christmas concerts is probably the wrong hill on which to die. Our cultural setting makes it difficult to replace the opportunity represented by Christmas concerts. The Catholic pastoral genius has been to fan into flame rather than extinguish the smoldering wick of grace in a culture. Working with the grace of Christmas concerts is probably another occasion to apply that genius. Father Stein appears to have a point.
As one door closes, another opens
I am writing in response to Helen Burgart’s letter (Church Closing Hurts Everyone) in the Dec. 23 issue. The pain and loss expressed are familiar for we who celebrated at St. Anthony’s in Coronation also experienced the closing of our church building in June of 1999. I offer three years worth of reflection, with whatever healing and comfort that brings.
First, our church is not closed, only some of the buildings we grew to know and love as church. We are still valuable and cherished members of the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church” established by Jesus Christ, against which the gates of hell will not prevail. Buildings come and go, but the Church remains, imperfect as its members, holy as its Founder.
Ms. Burgardt states, “The families like seeds have been scattered throughout the city.” Any reading of Church history will reveal that the Church of Christ is a Church on the move.
We are the seeds he has scattered and sown in the world. Kept in the bin, we bear no fruit. We are missionaries, sent forth to preach the Good News to all nations, called to imitate Christ who had “nowhere to rest his head.”
I do not wish to imply that the going has been or can be easy, or even that it should be. In our own newly-formed Region of the Most Holy Trinity, these last three years of re-imagining parish have been very challenging. Mistakes have been made and feelings have been hurt. But what is emerging is a beautiful new creation.
God has not abandoned us, he has called us deeper, shaken us up and transformed us. Our vision of Church has grown, our parish family extended. There are more of us to share the work of the Church, which is now beginning to be accomplished in startling new ways. Having been scattered, we are bearing more fruit.
The church of Christ transcends buildings. It lives in the faith of the members of his body, the Church. So, yes, feel your pain at the closing of your church building, but resist the temptation to dwell there.
Lay persons lend a hand to missions
At the Saturday evening Mass, Dec. 28 in Sacred Heart Parish, Red Deer, the parishioners extended their hand in prayer to bless Roger and Therese Dion who were leaving on Jan. 2, for four months of missionary work with the Pallottine Sisters in the district of Toledo, Belize, Central America. They are being joined by Loretta Kohlman from St. Mary’s Parish in Red Deer.
Since Vatican II, there has been an increased awareness of lay collaboration in the mission of the Church. With early retirement, many lay persons are volunteering to share their talents to help in the mission field.
I just received a card and note from Newfoundland at Christmas telling me Justine Hann of St. John’s is thrilled to be going to Peru to assist the Sisters of Mercy in their work there. David and Barb Borle and their six children of Red Deer are still on a high from their experiences of 10 months with the Pallottine Sisters in Belize.
Congratulations on an excellent presentation in the Western Catholic Reporter on the missionary experience of Dr. Brian Inglis and his wife a teacher, Kathy Inglis of Sylvan Lake, who served the missions in Kenya, Africa for the past two years, with the Catholic Medical Mission Board of New York.
Another Sylvan Lake couple Hans and Helene Coppens are leaving shortly to help another Canadian missionary, Father Dave Anderson in Peru, South America.
Both the Spiritan community and Scarboro Mission Society have lay persons working with them in the missions. Patrick and Maura Maguire, formerly of Sherwood Park, recently returned from three months assisting Bishop Justin Bianchini in the Diocese of Geraldton, West Australia. They did a computer program to help those in the outback parishes to communicate by e-mail.
We are truly blessed in the Archdiocese of Edmonton to have lay persons share in the missions not only in foreign missions of Africa, South America, Papua New Guinea, but also in our own northern missions of Canada.
Our young people are really eager to head for the missions but need the direction of agencies to facilitate these goals. We are rather slow, while the evangelical churches are rushing into these areas of apostolate.
Fr. Donald Stein
Sacred Heart Parish
With regards to my plea for humility and awe for the Eucharist, Laurent Gallant ofm, wrote (Letters, WCR Dec. 23) “Private devotion certainly has its place in Christian living, but not during the liturgy, which of its very nature is a community activity.”
This statement is the untenable extrapolation of a kernel of bad theology. First of all, contemplation and meditation form important parts of the liturgy, standing or kneeling.
Further to this, Friar Gallant cannot be blind to the fact that attending Mass, for most Catholics, represents the sum and total of devotion for the week. Because of this fact, I suggest we attend the liturgy in a serious manner to counter/contrast the secular activities of the week, and yes, this means kneeling.
I would appreciate a liturgy where the focus is the Eucharist. Our friar wants the liturgy to be a social event, capping off a week of socializing, where the focus is the community, with which I have spent the whole week commuting, where we stand, together, after standing all week.
The reality Friar Gallant must humbly accept is that the liturgy is not “by its nature a community activity.” How could it be (by its very nature no less), “a community activity” when it can stand alone, irrespective of the presence of any “community” whatsoever.
Fellowship activists suggest that the whole reason we celebrate the Eucharist is . . . fellowship. This is sentimental hogwash more befitting a square dance than a remembrance of Christ. Canon 904, (Code of Canon Law) states : “even if it should not be possible to have the faithful present, it (the Eucharist) is an action of Christ and of the Church in which priests fulfill their principal role.”
Think about it
For they know not what they have done. Our once-beautiful churches and cathedrals have been turned into community halls, with altar removed, replaced by a table as in any non-Catholic church.
Tabernacles removed to an obscure place, with presider at the table facing the assembly.
So I agree, why kneel?
Isn’t it ironic the collection basket has never come up for discussion, truly amazing?
Now that everything has become commonplace, isn’t it amazing how peaceful the daily news, and around the world has become?
Hank Zyp celebrated
Re: WCR Letters, Dec. 16.
Allow me to thank Keith Johnson for reading my Nov. 18 letter and responding. I need all the help I can get.
I also must thank and commend Magdalen Stang for expressing her “deepest appreciation” for Hank Zyp’s legacy. It leads me to wonder if there are enough appreciative readers out there to justify the publication of an anthology of Hank’s best writings.
It is not likely that Hank will write again the way he used to, but many of his columns and essays are classics with universal significance.
I must congratulate the WCR for an outstanding job of balanced reporting. Your contributors cover the full range from “right” to “left” and from “inside the box” to “out of the box.” Your editorials are thoughtful and thought provoking.
That means I always read them, and that sometimes they support my faith and sometimes they make me furious.
Keep up your good work!
May the Holy Spirit enlighten your mind and fan the flames of love in your heart.
Your integrity is your journalistic treasure.