Friday, January 31, 2014

Setting The Record Straight.

This was put forth in Junglewatch (See weblink below):

There are two sides to every story, and it's only fair to hear both sides and not only one side.  Here is the side of the Neocatechumenal Way.  Let us take a look at these five differences: 

Difference No. 1
First, neos (and we'll use "neo" for short) do not call it the "Mass."  They call it "Eucharist".  Nothing wrong with that, but it's still a difference.  We go to Mass.  They go to Eucharist. 

There is no difference between the words "Mass" and "Eucharist".  The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses both terms.  Below are examples taken from the Catechism:  

CCC #1360    The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification.  Eucharist means first of all "thanksgiving."

CCC #1332   Holy Mass (Missa), because the liturgy in which the mystery of salvation is accomplished concludes with the sending forth (missio) of the faithful, so that they may fulfill God's will in their daily lives. 

As one can see, the Catechism of the Catholic Church uses both terms "Mass" and "Eucharist".  Thus, this is simply a "play on semantics" to divide fellow Catholics......especially when one states, "WE go to Mass. THEY go to Eucharist."      

Difference No. 2
Next, the neo-Eucharist is not normally held in a church.  Canon 932 requires that the eucharistic celebration "be carried out in a sacred place unless in a particular case necessity requires otherwise; in such a case the celebration must be done in a decent place."  

As one can see, even the canon law uses the word "Eucharist" which the author objected to in Difference No. 1.  At any rate, why does one choose to look at the word "necessity" and limit "sacred place" to mean only the church building?  See my blog on "Why not celebrate in the church" which gives the explaination.  Whether one is satisfied with that explanation or not does not matter to me.  As I previously stated, the main purpose of this blog is to present information and insight from the side of the Neocatechumenal Way so that those not walking in the Way can better understand their brothers and sisters who are walking in the Way.  

Difference No. 3
The Neocatechumenal Way has a separate weekday celebration of the Liturgy of the Word.  This is allowed in the approved Statute (Art. 11), but nevertheless it is a "difference", since for the other faithful, a separate celebration of the Word is not permitted.

Anyone walking in the Way knows that in the Eucharist, we do not separate the Liturgy of the word and Eucharist.  They are together.  

In the weekday "liturgy of the word", a list of words is given to the neocatechumenates.  Let's say, for example, that the word for this week is "Covenant."  The group in the Way are instructed to read the Catholic biblical dictionary on "Covenant".  In the Biblical dictionary are also biblical verses, which the group is to look up.  From these biblical verses, the group chooses two Old Testament readings, one New Testament reading, and one Gospel reading that has to do with the word "covenant."  A celebration is then held with the rest of the community members where they are to reflect on these biblical readings that were chosen by the group.  The list of words given are already set.  An example of those words would be "rock", "covenant", "faith", "Abraham", "spirit", "law," etc.  So, the weekday of the word has nothing to do with the Sunday Mass.

Difference No. 4
The next difference is what happens in the celebration of the Eucharist.  The statute (Art. 13) allows for three differences: 1) the transfer of the Rite of Peace to after the Prayer of the Faithful, 2) permission to always receive communion under both kinds, and 3) to STAND, not sit, as before the Statute was approved in 2008.  

Those walking in the Way already know that we no longer sit when receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. We now stand.  That was the change that was made.  However, it is true that after receiving the Body of Christ, we do not consume the host immediately.  Instead, we contemplate on the Lord's Body until everyone in the assembly has received the Body of Christ.  One of the reasons we do not consume the Lord's Body is because the Priest himself has not taken communion yet.  The priest takes communion together with everyone in the assembly.  If the Way is in violation of not consuming the Body of Christ immediately, they would still be in violation if they DID consumed the Body of Christ immediately because the priest who gave it to the assembly has not taken communion yet.  

Difference No. 5
The next difference is the music at the liturgy.  However, since almost all parishes ignore the musical norms for the liturgy as prescribed in the post-conciliar document, Musicam Sacram (which provides the norms for sacred music as per the desires of the Council), I suppose we cannot take the neo-music too much to task.  However, the next time you hear music during the consecration at a neo-litugy or otherwise, you may want to note the following instructions: 

          While the Priest proclaims the Eucharistic Prayer "there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instrument should be silent"....(Redemptoris Sacramentum, par. 53) 


      The nature of the "presidential" parts requires that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen to them attentively [CF. Sacred Congregation of Rites, Instruction, Musicam sacram, March 5, 1967, no.14: Acta Apostolicae Sedis 59 (1967), p. 304.] Therefore, while the Priest is prouncing them, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent (General Instruction to the Roman Missal, par. 32).  

During the Eucharistic prayer, no instrument is being played, and there are no songs being sung.  The only one you can hear is the priest proclaiming the prayer who sings it in a loud and clear voice.  There are also priests I know who do not sing it, but say the the prayer because they don't know how to sing.  So, during the Eucharistic prayer, only the priest can be heard.  After the Eucharistic prayer is sung (or said) by the Priest, the assembly breaks out in a song of thanksgiving.   

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Altar

As I explained in my last blog, the Way celebrates the Eucharist like a family gathered around a banquet meal.  The Way's altar is another complaint I hear from our Catholic brothers and sisters who are not walking in the Way. In fact, they don't even see it as an altar, but as a table.  This is how the altar of the Neocatechumenal Way looks like.  It is a bit different from what one would see in a Parish Mass.  The size of the table varies, and the table is located in the center with the assembly seated around it.  In this photo, the late Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on the Way's altar.  And yes, we do call it an altar.  We never called it a table.   

With the exception of Santa Barbara Church in Dededo, one would see the altar at the front of every Catholic Church on Guam. The altar in Santa Barbara Church, however, is situated in the middle with God's family around it, similar to what the Way has.....except that the Way is not in Santa Barbara Church. Nevertheless, one should always be focused on the body and blood of Christ at the altar during the Mass for that is the REAL body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  His presence on the altar is not a symbol, but REAL.    

During the penal days in Ireland, the Irish Catholics would use rocks as an altar.  They called this "rock Masses".  One can still see these rock masses in Ireland today.  Yet, the faithful still focused their attention on the body and blood of Christ on these rock altars. Is this altar considered any less?    


Why not celebrate in the Church.

First of all, the purpose of my blog is not to debate fellow Catholics about the Neocatechumenal Way, but to give some information from the perspective and experience of one walking in the Way.  

Some people have asked why isn't the Neocatechumenal Way celebrating their Eucharist in the Church like everyone else. And then there are those who already judge the members of the Way as separating themselves from the Parish Church simply because of the fact that their celebrations are not held in the church building. 

The answer to that question is because the Way celebrates the Eucharist as a family gathered at a banquet meal.  The Eucharist is a sacrifice, but it is also a meal. A clear example of this is seen in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 where St. Paul rebukes the Corinthians for behaving inappropriately at the Meal.  There is no doubt that the Catholic Church today still views the Eucharist as a sacrifice. The Eucharist as a sacrifice has been drummed into our heads so much that we now have forgotten that it's also a meal.  (I might add, tongue in cheek how Catholics know what a sacrifice it is to come to Sunday Mass when they could be at home sleeping in late.)  Just recalling the words used in the Liturgy of the Eucharist is enough to remind us all that the Eucharist is a sacrifice.  But what is often forgotten is that the Eucharist is also a meal, which is about the people. In fact, the whole liturgy is about the people of God coming together to worship God. Therefore, members of the Way celebrate the Eucharist in a way where the assembly gathers around a banquet meal.  

Catholic opponents against the Way often say that we are in violation because we don't celebrate inside the Church, and they cite Canon Law 932, which states that the Eucharistic celebration is to be held in a sacred place. While it is true that the Eucharist is to be held in a sacred place, it appears that the critics of the Way interprets and limits "sacred place" to mean only the "church building".  

Today, there are Christians being persecuted in the Middle East.  Their church buildings are being bomb, and people are being killed because of their religious beliefs.  Where do persecuted Catholics in China, Syria, and Egypt go to celebrate their Eucharist when they no longer have a church building?  Persecuted Catholics in China celebrate the Eucharist "underground." And we all know that the Early Christians of the first century hid in catacombs and celebrated the Eucharist there. Are the catacombs not considered "sacred places"?  

So, what makes the church building sacred?  Is it not the presence of God in which the people gather together to worship Him that makes it sacred? 

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. 

Wherever Catholics are gathered together for worship, there also is Christ.  The place where the Neocatechumenal Way celebrates their Mass is also "sacred" because the presence of God is also there among His people.  The mystical Body of Christ consist of the Pilgrim Church on earth, the Suffering Church in Purgatory, and the Triumph Church in Heaven.  Death cannot separated us from our brothers and sisters in Heaven for we believe in the communion of saints.  The walls of a church building also cannot separate us from our Parish brothers and sisters who are not walking in the Way.        

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Being Different vs. Being Better.

Members of the Neocatechumenal Way are often accused of arrogance because they say that they are different. The critics accuse them of saying that they are better than those not walking in the Way because they say that they are different.  The truth is..... "being different" does not mean the same thing as "being better."  However, the opponents of the Way interpret "being different" to mean the same thing as "being better".

A wolf is different from an elephant.  Does this mean that the wolf is better than the elephant?  Absolutely not!  Even the dictionary does not indicate that the words "different" and "better" are synonymous.  Are Catholics different from Buddhists?  Of course they are in that we don't practice the same beliefs.  Does this mean that Catholics are better than Buddhists?  Absolutely not.  Being different means just that.....different.  

In the Way, Catholics are taught that men and women are equal as human beings and have the same dignity as all human beings.  All mankind were created in God's image and likeness.  But men and women were created different.  In what way is a man different from a woman?  For one thing, a woman can carry life in her womb whereas a man cannot.  Does this mean that the woman is better than the man?  Absolutely not. 

Nevertheless, I'm not surprise that some brothers in the Way may be arrogant enough to come out and say that they are better simply because they are walking in the Way.  Pride and arrogance, however, is found in everyone regardless of whether one walks in the Way or not.  Pride and arrogance and all manner of sins are found in everyone.  There are probably even Catholics who believe that Catholics are better than Protestants, Buddhists, pagans, and all others.  However, as Catholics, this is not the attitude of a Christian.

Christianity is indeed different, but this certainly does not mean that Christians are better than everyone else.  We are different but certainly not better than non-Catholics or non-Christians.  All mankind are made in the image and likeness of our Creator, but Christians are different from others because through our baptism, we were given the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church.  

As St. Ignatius stated in the first century:  

See that you follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God.  Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it.  Wherever the bishop shall appear; there let the multitude of the people also be; even as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.  - Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Ch 8

When St. Ignatius wrote these words, he was not referring to any church building, but to a people.