Sunday, February 23, 2014

Why Does Fr. Hardesty Do That?! Part III: Whispers

Question: What is Fr. Hardesty whispering at various times of the Mass?

Answer: Most of the prayers of the Mass are said in a loud voice and in dialogue with the congregation. Some though are said privately, between the priest and God. The rubric in the missal used to indicate that these prayers are said “silently,” so most priests pray them interiorly. But if prayers that makeup the content of the Mass are simply said interiorly, how could we verify that they were said at all? When the translation of the Missal was recently revised, this rubric was corrected to indicate that the private prayers are said “quietly” (not “silently”) or in a “low voice". This better conveys that they should at least be whispered.

For your edification, here are the private prayers of the Ordinary Form of the Mass:
Before the Deacon proclaims the Gospel, the priest blesses him saying:
“May the Lord be in your heart and on your lips, that you may proclaim his Gospel worthily and well, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”
If the priest proclaims the Gospel himself, he bows before the altar and says:
“Cleanse my heart and my lips, almighty God, that I may worthily proclaim your holy Gospel”
After proclaiming the Gospel, the priest or the deacon says the following:
“Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away”
After offering the paten the priest or deacon pours a little water into the chalice and says:
“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”
After offering the chalice the priest bows profoundly and says:
“With humble spirit and contrite heart may we be accepted by you, O Lord, and my our sacrifice in your sight this day be pleasing to you, Lord God”
Then while washing his hands the priest says:
“Wash me, O Lord, from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”
The priest beaks off a small piece from the Host and drops it into the chalice saying:
“May this mingling of the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ bring eternal life to us who receive it”
The priest prepares himself for Communion saying one of two options:
“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your Death gave life to the world, free me by this, your most holy Body and Blood, from all my sins and from every evil; keep me always faithful to your commandments, and never let me be parted from you.” OR
“May the receiving of your Body and Blood, Lord Jesus Christ, not bring me to judgment and condemnation, but through your loving mercy be for me protection in mind and body and a healing remedy.”
Before consuming the Host the priest says:
“May the Body of Christ keep me safe for eternal life”
And before consuming the Precious Blood he says:
“May the Blood of Christ keep me safe for eternal life”
Finally, during the purification of the chalice and paten, the priest or deacon says:
“What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity.”

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Hardesty

7th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A: We Must Heal the Anger and Division in Our Hearts and in Our Families.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Confession is For the Courageous


Vatican City, 19 February 2014 (VIS) – The Holy Father dedicated his catechesis at this Wednesday's general audience to the Sacrament of penance. After touring St. Peter's Square in an open car, greeting the thousands of faithful who applauded as he passed, the Pope explained that “the forgiveness of our sins is not something we can offer to ourselves; it is not the result of our efforts, but rather a gift from the Holy Spirit, which fills us from the wellspring of mercy and grace that surges endlessly from the open heart of Christ, crucified and risen again. … It reminds us that it is only by allowing ourselves to be reconciled through the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers that we may truly be at peace”.

Pope Francis explained that the celebration of this Sacrament has transformed from its previously public nature to the private and reserved form of Confession. However, “this should not lead to the loss of the ecclesiastical matrix, which constitutes its living context. Indeed, the Christian community is the place in which the presence of the Spirit is felt, which renews hearts in God's love and brings all brothers together as one, in Jesus Christ”. He continued, “For this reason, it is not enough to ask for the Lord's forgiveness in our own minds and hearts, but rather it is also necessary to humbly and trustfully confess our sins to a minister of the Church”.

The Bishop of Rome emphasised that the priest does not only represent God, but rather the community as a whole, and that anyone who seeks to confess only to God should remember that our sins are also committed against our brothers and against the Church, which is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness from them too, and to be ashamed for what we have done. “Shame can be good”, he affirmed; “It is good for us to have a certain amount of shame, because to be ashamed can be healthy. When someone has no shame, in my country we describe them as “sin verguenza”, shameless. Shame can be good as it can make us humble, and the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness, and forgives in the name of God. Also from a human point of view, to unburden oneself, it is good to speak with a brother and to tell the priest those things which lie so heavily upon our hearts. And one feels unburdened before God, with the Church, and with a brother. Do not be afraid of Confession!”

The Pontiff went on to ask those present when they last confessed, and strongly urged them not to overlook Confession. “If a long time has passed, do not waste another day, go, the priest will be good. It is Jesus who is there, and Jesus is better than a priest, Jesus will receive you, he will receive you with love. Be courageous and go to Confession! … Every time we confess, God embraces us, God celebrates! Let us go ahead on this path. May God bless you!”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why Does Fr. Hardesty Do That?! Part II: Purifying the Vessels

Question: "Why does Fr. Hardesty take so long to do the dishes after Communion?"

Answer: Well if it was just a matter of doing dishes, they would probably stack up on the credence table (that table beside the servers) until Martha Spalding (my saintly Housekeeper/Cook) came over and washed them! But it’s about more than “doing the dishes,” it’s about purifying sacred vessels. The chalices and ciboria are sacred vessels in that they have been blessed and are intended only for a sacred use. Saying that they are “purified” is not meant to imply that they have been sullied but that they are prepared again for sacred use, for the next Mass. After Mass the Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC’s) wash them gently with soap and water in the sacristy to ensure they are sanitary. The EMHC’s cannot purify them at the same time that they wash them because only a Priest, Deacon, or Instituted Acolyte (a seminarian) is allowed to purify the vessels.

Purification also has ritualistic and devotional connotations. So then it’s not about being slow and mechanical but being reverent and careful. St. Thomas Aquinas taught us that, after the consecration, without being scrupulous, what looks like a bread crumb to the naked eye is still the Body of Christ and what looks like a drop of wine is still the Blood of Christ. Therefore I try to be very reverent with how I collect, consume, and/or repose any remaining particles of Hosts or drops of Precious Blood that remain after the distribution of Communion, lest any are lost. I try to go as fast as I can and to be as careful as I can at the same time. Please pray for the Ordination of Rick Fagan to the Permanent Diaconate and pray for him to be assigned to Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary so that he can help expedite the process! It really only takes about 3 minutes to go from the last communicant to the Post-Communion prayer.

I purify the vessels at the altar because our credence table is a little too small to fit everything and because, in the Missal, there is a private prayer between the priest and God that is said during this: "What has passed our lips as food, O Lord, may we possess in purity of heart, that what has been given to us in time may be our healing for eternity."

Finally, the time after Communion is a beautiful time to speak intimately with the Lord who loves us and is living in us through the Eucharist we have just received. It is a time for praying to the Lord as a friend, thanking him, telling him about our day, asking for his help, etc. If you are praying during this time, then I won’t even be noticed. Enjoy those precious moments of silence that are so hard to find once we step outside of the Church!

In Jesus and Mary,

Fr. Hardesty

Sunday, February 16, 2014

6th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A: Blessed Are They Who Follow the Law of the Lord


A more succinct version, outside of YouTube, here:


My Canon Law professor at the seminary, Msgr. Fulton, had a way of teaching Church law that made us actually enjoy learning it; he made it a joy to know the law and to help others to know it too. In his great sense of humor he helped us realize that the law of the Church, which is a reflection of the law of the Lord, should be taught and learned and followed with joy and from the heart. The law is not intended to be something that embitters us. The law is not meant to be followed with white-knuckled anxiety or with demands that are impossible to meet. Laws, when they are just, do not bind up… they set free.

Now, we all bristle under the law every now and then – whether it’s that speeding ticket for going 5 miles over the speed limit or that sudden realization that it’s a Friday in Lent right before you bite into a steak. This is nothing though compared to what the Israelites felt in Biblical times under scrutiny of the scribes and Pharisees. The 10 commandments, as awesome as they are, were ultimately national laws for public observance. Breaking one of the 10 commandments brought grave punishments. And on top of these were the hundreds of other laws that governed almost every aspect of their way of life. But, these laws were ultimately good because they separated the Israelites from the influences of their pagan neighbors, they set the standard for exhibiting a right relationship with God, and they defined them as God’s chosen people. Through their many laws, God prepared them for a New Covenant in Jesus Christ that would inscribe the law of God on their hearts and give them deeper meaning.

But, the scribes and Pharisees missed the point. Rather than accept Jesus who fulfilled, completed, perfected, and transformed the law into the means of their salvation, they held on to the old laws and based their salvation on strictly observing their “smallest letter.” Thank God we don’t have the same burdens placed on us. With Jesus and his grace, the law can be light and heartfelt. “My yoke is easy,” He said, “my burden light” (Mt 11:30).

The law is easy and light if we love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, not just with our external observances. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever” (Jn 14:15). We are given grace and the Holy Spirit to help us even to love the law. Through what else but the spirit of God was the psalmist able to pray, “Open my eyes, that I may consider the wonders of your law. Instruct me, O Lord, in the way of your statutes, that I may exactly observe them. Give me discernment, that I may observe your law and keep it with all my heart” (Ps 119). We have to believe that this is possible for us too.

Let’s take for a couple of examples, the 5th and 6th commandments, “You shall not kill” and “You shall not commit adultery”. None of us personally needs the law “You shall not kill.” We can say we are free of the demands of that law. But Jesus wants us to go deeper. What about the anger in our hearts that kills our relationship with our parents, or our siblings, or our coworkers? What about the lack of patience with ourselves that we cannot let go of or the revenge that we secretly desire every time we are offended?

“You shall not commit adultery” – now that one is particularly challenging. “Whoever looks at a woman with lust,” Jesus says today, “has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And “whoever divorces his wife,” he continues, “causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Mt 5:27, 32). Still, most of you who are married do not need that law either – when you exchanged your consent on your wedding day you intended fully to be exclusively faithful to each other for the rest of your lives and to be open to children. You should be very proud of the covenant you have kept in your marriage.

But, let’s go deeper. Perhaps for some, this hasn’t been so easy. Perhaps through a build-up of small and bad choices along the way, what was a good and valid marriage has become broken and torn asunder. Perhaps there are some that have chosen divorce or that have followed that with remarriage outside of the Church. Perhaps there are some that have had divorce inflicted on them, through no fault of their own. It is in these situations that the law can be hard, that the yoke is not easy, and the burden is not light. But, even in these situations, as unbelievable as it may seem, God is offering the help needed to do the right thing or to receive healing. Come to me and let me help you sort through the many layers of the problem. I can also help you to receive the advice of the Archdiocese’s tribunal to help you understand exactly where you stand. There are a lot of myths about annulments that I can help you to expel. Or I can refer you to a marriage healing retreat or a good Catholic marriage counselor.

Before I conclude, allow me to address a common misconception: divorce in and of itself doesn’t bar one from Communion. Divorce and remarriage outside of the Church does make one unable to receive Communion because of the persistent sinfulness of that second union. But, it is important to remember that neither of these makes one excommunicated from the Church. Furthermore, the Sunday obligation is to the Mass, not necessarily to Holy Communion. There are all sorts of reasons why someone may not be able to receive Communion, either from having committed a mortal sin between the time of his last confession and this Mass or from simply having broken the one hour fast before Communion.

The point is, divorced and remarried Catholics can still benefit greatly from the prayers of the Mass, from the readings and the homily, and from having companions in prayer. These along with fellowship in the myriad of activities in the life of the parish can be the help they need toward advancing to a more perfect obedience of the Lord’s commands, to a more perfect love and to healing. This is something, frankly, that we should all work toward together, reaching out and helping each other along the way. Even the most difficult laws of the Church can be followed with ease if we take the risk of giving our hearts to each other and to God and allowing Him to place in us His Sacred Heart, a heart that beats with love, mercy, forgiveness, purity, and strength. Today, let us all take courage from the wisdom of Sirach: “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water [life and death, good and evil]; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand” (Sir 15:15-16).

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Why Does Fr. Hardesty Do That?! Part I: Formality

I ran this series when I was at St. James, St. Ambrose, and St. Ignatius and have decided to use them here at Holy Trinity and Holy Rosary also, with some revised answers.

Part 1: “Why is Fr. Hardesty so formal? There’s no personality!”

Answer: The G.I.R.M. advises the priest that when he celebrates the Eucharist, “he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ” (93). Earlier it says, “The gestures and bodily posture of both the Priest, the Deacon, and the ministers, and also of the people, must be conducive to making the entire celebration resplendent with beauty and noble simplicity… Attention must therefore be paid to what is determined by this General Instruction and by the traditional practice of the Roman Rite…” (42). The general principle is “not merely that the priest should act efficiently, decorously, and reverently, but also that when he stands at the altar as the representative of Christ he should lay aside, as far as possible, all individual peculiarities, and even the smallest idiosyncrasy, exaggeration, or affectation which might attract attention to himself, and withdraw it from the great Act in which he is engaged” (O’Connell, The Celebration of Mass, 182).

It is true that in no other sphere in which you have a person addressing a group – like the teacher’s classroom or the chairman’s board meeting – is that person expected to minimize himself. He would be considered a very poor presenter indeed! So, one of the difficulties of the priest celebrating Mass facing the people instead of the earlier practice of facing the same direction they did – forward and up toward God – is the overwhelming temptation to act like any other presenter and for the crowd to expect that from him. But, for him to be applauded, to be funny, to put himself forward, to be a fan favorite throughout the Mass means to take the attention away from Jesus Christ (the True Celebrant of the Mass) and put it on himself. This is a closed circle that doesn’t move forward and up to God.

That said, I know that I can express myself better and be more engaging when it is proper to do so, namely, at the Greeting in the beginning of Mass, the Homily, and the “Thank You’s” and announcements before the final blessing. After all, we are in a relationship! But, to flesh this out, we’ll have to spend more time with each other outside of Mass too. And we can work together to expand a welcoming environment, like having greeters at the doors, periodic coffee and donuts in the Church basement or the school cafeteria, or even periodic blessings of new parishioners.

As I challenge myself to grow and expand according to your feedback, I in turn challenge you to be open to being inspired by the Mass in a way you aren’t used to or may not expect. Don’t look for ME in the Mass, look for Jesus! Pray the Mass! Let go of the Missalette and listen to the Lord speaking to you in the readings and silences and us to Him in the prayers. Then from the depth of your heart, respond.