Dear Blog Visitors:
I always look forward to the Triduum, for it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the mystery of our faith. This year's Triduum will be a new experience for me, for I will be attending liturgies at Spiritus Christi Church (Catholic but independent of Rome). Spiritus Christi is a wonderful parish community, where Christ is truly present amongst each person who walks through the door. Most appealing to me is that artificial barriers to a sacramental life do not exist at Spiritus Christi. So, this may indeed become my new spiritual home, especially since I am not allowed to receive Communion in a diocesan parish, for the simple reason that I was recently ordained a married Catholic priest. Would Christ bar me from the Communion Table because I am a married priest? I think not!
Although I have chosen an alternative for my Holy Week celebrations this year, I hope the Vatican won't mind my offering a critique on Good Friday Intercessions. (This critique is meant in good faith, based on solid theological, liturgical and historical reflection.)
In the Roman Catholic tradition, we celebrate highly meaningful liturgies on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. I have discovered there are two distractions during the Good Friday liturgy that perhaps dictate the need for change: 1.) I believe we should consider the use of the Passion according to Luke, as opposed to John, considering the harsh language John uses in reference to the Jewish people. 2.) I cringe whenever I hear the Good Friday intentions proclaimed, for four of them are discriminatory in scope. Allow me to elaborate.
What follows are the four Good Friday intentions in question. The intentions will be articulated in large letters, after which I will offer critiques:
LET US PRAY FOR OUR HOLY FATHER, POPE BENEDICT XVI, THAT GOD WHO CHOSE HIM TO BE BISHOP MAY GIVE HIM HEALTH AND STRENGTH TO GUIDE AND GOVERN GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE.
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, YOU GUIDE ALL THINGS BY YOUR WORD, YOU GOVERN ALL CHRISTIAN PEOPLE. IN YOUR LOVE, PROTECT THE POPE YOU HAVE CHOSEN FOR US. UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP, DEEPEN OUR FAITH AND MAKE US BETTER CHRISTIANS. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.
What I find offensive in this intention is the statement concerning the pope being chosen by God. Does God choose our pontiffs, or are they chosen according to a highly-charged political process behind Vatican walls? Sadly, I believe it is more a case of politics than God’s will. We must never forget that although we have experienced some good popes throughout the history of the church, there have also been some scoundrals. So, I think we need to be very careful about assumptions over God’s choice of popes.
LET US PRAY FOR OUR BISHOP, FOR ALL BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND DEACONS, FOR ALL WHO HAVE A SPECIAL MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH AND FOR ALL GOD’S PEOPLE.
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, YOUR SPRIT GUIDES THE CHURCH AND MAKES IT HOLY. LISTEN TO OUR PRAYERS AND HELP EACH OF US IN HIS OWN VOCATION TO DO YOUR WORK MORE FAITHFULLY. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.
What I find offensive in this particular intention is that it emphasizes our hierarchical structure: priests, deacons, laity who minister in the church, etc. In short, this is the top-down model we have come to detest. In place of this intention, we need one that is more inclusive (one that does not emphasize the hierarchical structure) and one that is more sensitive to gender. (Notice the phrase: in HIS own vocation.)
Being a priest myself (married), I see my role as primarily sacramental in scope. However, I don't see my role as a rung on the ladder that gives me automatic authority over the laity. I prefer to subscribe to the Scriptural connotation of 'the priesthood of all believers.' Or, as St. Paul reminds us, "we have different functions, but are of the same spirit." Therefore, we need to be careful about the way we utilize and catergorize hierarchical structures.
LET US PRAY FOR THE JEWISH PEOPLE, THE FIRST TO HEAR THE WORD OF GOD, THAT THEY MAY CONTINUE TO GROW IN THE LOVE OF HIS NAME AND IN FAITHFULNESS TO HIS COVENANT.
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, LONG AGO YOU GAVE YOUR PROMISE TO ABRAHAM AND HIS POSTERITY. LISTEN TO YOUR CHURCH AS WE PRAY THAT THE PEOPLE YOU FIRST MADE YOUR OWN MAY ARRIVE AT THE FULLNESS OF REDEMPTION. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.
The language of this intention is certainly an improvement over a previous one, in which Catholics prayed for the ‘conversion’ of the Jewish people. However, considering that Christians believe they are redeemed by Christ, the above intention by implication states that Jews may only find redemption through Christ as well. Considering the efforts being made toward better relations between Christians and Jews, a further modification of this intention is in order, whereby the redemption clause needs to be removed.
LET US PRAY FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT BELIEVE IN CHRIST, THAT THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT MAY SHOW THEM THE WAY TO SALVATION.
ALMIGHTY AND ETERNAL GOD, ENABLE THOSE WHO DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE CHRIST TO FIND THE TRUTH AS THEY WALK BEFORE YOU IN SINCERITY OF HEART. HELP US TO GROW IN LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER, TO GRASP MORE FULLY THE MYSTERY OF YOUR GOD-HEAD AND TO BECOME MORE PERFECT WITNESSES OF YOUR LOVE IN THE SIGHT OF MEN. WE ASK THIS THROUGH CHRIST OUR LORD. AMEN.
We must ask ourselves how the above intention would sound to Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and other non-Christians. Certainly, women are offended by the phrase: "more perfect witnesses of your love in the sight of MEN.
I implore the Vatican to make changes in the above four cited Good Friday intercessions. At a time when our world is experiencing multiple divisions, Catholic liturgies need to be more inclusive and more inviting. I continue to be embarrassed by the wording of the Good Friday intentions, when instead we should be persons of inclusivity and compassion.
Let us pray for each other during this Holy Week.