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Holy Family Cathedral » Rector » Fr. Jovita: February is the Month of Purification

Fr. Jovita: February is the Month of Purification

BY V. REV. JOVITA C. OKONKWO

Welcome dear faithful people of Holy Family Cathedral Parish and School to the month of February. In this edition of our newsletter, it is my desire to continue our discussion on the pastoral initiative enunciated in the January newsletter with regard to intentional Catholicism. Let me however, first thank all of you who took part in the school auction and were present to honor Monsignor Gier who received an award of excellence for support of Catholic education. Thanks also to those who took part in the Mike Petzet fund-raising dinner and Holy Family Cathedral School open house.

The Month of Purification

February is par excellence the month of purification. In point of fact, the name Februarius came from the Latin februus, meaning purification; named in relation to the purification ritual februa that usually comes on the 15th of the month (full moon) in the old lunar Roman calendar. Something that should strike us about it is that the month of February usually marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the season of spiritual reform and purification. In this edition of the newsletter, I will take up one of the five initiatives that the five deacons of Holy Family and I discussed as means to attain intentionality. As a reminder, the five-pronged approach includes spiritual and liturgical renewal, ongoing communication, catechesis or religious education, effective administration, and stewardship.

SPIRITUAL AND LITURGICAL RENEWAL

Spirituality is the bedrock of every effort to reform lives and grow in intentionality. No one can become an intentional catholic without spiritual foundation. In fact, the reason that many Catholics are not intentional Catholics is because the pantry of their spiritual food is exceedingly bare. Spiritual renewal will lead to meaningful liturgical reform. I believe that the new translation of the Roman Missal failed to bring as much renewal in the liturgical life of the faithful as predicted because it was not preceded by a spiritual transformation of the people; so, the translation became merely a change in the words of our prayer and could not generate the change in our attitude of prayer which was its goal. After learning the new words, we grew used to them and continued to recite them without fervor as we did the old words. Spiritually, the words rolled off like water off a duck’s back.

Meaningful Spiritual Renewal

A meaningful spiritual renewal for us Catholics must begin with internalizing the good news (gospel) and conversion. Jesus knew that approach and hence began his ministry with the announcement of the good news and call to conversion (Mk 1:14f). Catholics must open their hearts to receive the good news. If you want to know whether Catholics are truly people of the gospel, try asking your Catholic neighbor what he or she understands by the term gospel or good news. You would notice utter stumbling in words. The good news is simple: it is the message that God loves us so intensely that he decided to be one of us. If you like, compare it to the way your teenage son loves Justin Bieber so much that he would want to wear his haircut. The difference is that God, unlike our teenage son, knows that Justin Bieber’s haircut was less than graceful. He knows that we have adjusted to things that bring us trouble, relationships that cause us headaches, foods that sicken us, and a way of life that would lead us to decay. He comes bringing us something better. Conversion means that we must accept that our ways are not right, and that God’s ways are right. We too have the capacity to be like God in our choices because we were divinized at the incarnation of Jesus and through regeneration in the waters of Baptism. A fancy way to look at it is that we were able to gain divine attributes just as our dog would be very pleased (if endowed with consciousness) to know geometry and our cat recite Chaucer or Shakespeare. While our animals cannot gain human attributes, God graced us so we can go beyond human and become spiritual. Conversion is a spiritual experience that we gain by letting the life of Jesus diminish our humanity and mortality. When we are truly converted, we learn to trust Jesus, we have the hunger to be with him in prayer, we are open to the change he brings into our lives, we become spiritual seekers, no longer passive church-goers, and we become intentional Catholics awash in the sea of divine grip.

Liturgical Renewal

Among all creatures, only humans consciously worship. This does not simply stem from the “capax entis, capax dei” flourish. We are not just capable of being; we are truly capable of God. Only when we are able to know or be something other than ourselves can we truly appreciate and even delight in our humanity. For example, only truly spiritual people know, like God, that death is not a loss but a gain. Liturgy is an opportunity given to us to participate in the life of God.

Liturgy is About God, Not Us

I have heard Catholics say, “Oh, I like this Mass because of XYZ. I like the quiet Mass without singing; I like the adult Mass without children crying; I like the Mass to be quick and sweet (30 minutes); I like Fr Mike’s Mass; I like the extraordinary form; I like the bells, etc.” I’ll spare myself the agony of stating what I have been told they do not like. Nor would I acquiesce to an ill-prepared and shabby celebration of the liturgy that wouldn’t give room for “full, conscious and active participation” urged by the norms of the Council (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 50). I would rather challenge Catholics to take a leap above themselves and truly enter into mystery whenever they are present at Mass. What you like is not as important as what truly gives God honor and praise. We cannot make the Mass about ourselves or what our cherry-pie society wants. Those belong to the TV-churches in town: a ride on golf carts to the Church from where you parked; being served coffee and cookies as you enter; cushioned seats for your magnanimous effort to come and worship your maker; and a pat on the back for the one hour you would have put into other beneficial uses.

Practical Areas for Urgent Spiritual and Liturgical Reform!

We must start with the following areas that require urgent effort to reform.

  • Singing and responding at Mass with greater intensity
  • Consciousness of how we dress for Mass (dress better than you do for work; avoid shabby and provocative dressing; be sure the children and grandchildren comply)
  • (All ministers) Read and serve at Mass with noble simplicity rather than show-off.
  • Receive the Eucharist reverently (remove your gum before entering the Church; the chewing-gum and the Eucharist do not mix well)
  • Respect the sacredness of the House of God (avoid turning our sacred space into a meeting forum for ongoing private conversations before and right after Mass while others are praying)

 

Spiritual and liturgical renewal demands a humility and conversion of heart. May our Mother Mary teach us the value of obedience, resignation, and openness to God’s will so we too may bear Jesus in our hearts, and find him in our prayers and liturgical gatherings! Welcome to the Holy Season of Lent!

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