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Ascension Solemn Blessing

For years I have been attempting to bring to you, surfers, an alternate point of view regarding changing events in Christianity and especially the life of the Catholic Church. Too often the only point of view on some of these topics is fundamentalist or Vatican spin. In this post I will share with you my biggest fears. Seems self-endulgent, and in that statement there lies fact. Truth be told, I have been writing this one post for 5 months. It is not easy, but perhaps you may share my fears and thus I might validate your feelings. With that in mind we begin.

I have been struggling with my faith. Whoa! Shocking revelation? I trust not because we all struggle. This struggle of mine has intensified since 2008. I have been trying to wrap my head around just where the Catholic Church Leadership is heading. You may wonder why I even try, and I sometimes wonder that too. “Come and worship the Lord. For we are His people, the flock that He shepherds. Allelulah!” These words put to song are from Psalm 95 and are meant to bring all people together because we are all part of God’s flock.

The Holy Spirit guides me and the messages cannot be ignored. As a result I struggle with profound sadness. These days I find myself weeping as I read the divine office, say the chaplet of divine mercy, and sing along with John Michael Talbot. These pietistic traditional practices used to still my soul, but now I can no longer even worship on Sundays with my community.

I still receive the blessings revealed to me through the Holy Spirit, but gone are the days when I used to be able to discuss them openly within my community. These days when I reveal the message of the Spirit openly I am rebuffed. Slowly, over the years as I continued to grow in faith the Church has seemingly stopped growing with me. I realized that the faithful (both lay and religious) are merely parroting the message from Catholic leaders in Rome or Menzingen. The approved definition of God becomes more narrow with each passing day. There is no place I can question this shrinking definition. I am in exile.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
– Philippians 2: 3-5

I urge you, dear surfers, to model yourselves after the example of Paul’s Jesus. I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do make a safe place to ask questions. Let me provide an example of questions that need to be asked from my own life.

In preparation for posting info on the new Roman Missal I reviewed some resources related to the 3rd Edition Roman Missal implementation. A bit of catechesis, if you will. I came across a presentation by Msgr. Bruce Harbert on historical catholicity. Msgr. Harbert was the Executive Director of ICEL where he oversaw the committees working on the 3rd Edition translation. In the presentation Harbert reviews the “theological clarity” of the new translation.

Solemn Blessing
May almighty God bless you,
for his Only-Begotten Son
pierced the heights of heaven on this day
and unlocked for you the way
to ascend where he has gone.
3rd Edition Roman Missal

See the theological clarity in that blessing? Okay, sarcasm is not fair. The promised questions are coming, so please be patient.

Msgr. Harbert had access to every text related to the new Missal. He clearly chose to use this blessing as a prime example of the great changes in the new Missal. Of all the changes in the Missal he chose this one: Why? Who was the audience that he was trying to reach? What sort of Catholic would search out and educate themselves using his resources? It should be clear from my reaction that I was not the target audience. When I heard the words of Msgr. Harbert I was distressed. This decision is an example that reminds me that our Catholic leadership is rearward facing. As I watched the video I desperately wanted to find an topic that I could use to get excited about the new translation. What happened instead was a revelation that the good Monsignor was parroting the message of the leadership in Rome. Repackaging a bunch of old words that no longer provide meaning. We deserve better.

I hear you saying, “what is he grousing about?” I will provide another example that rubs my hair in the wrong direction.

Ascension Day is an interesting event to celebrate, and I will admit that this is a feast which carries some complications for a scientific minded, late twentieth-early twenty-first century North American like myself… This knowledge of the universe, and this perspective of the universe, makes it difficult for many of us to think of Jesus as floating up to heaven… So instead of celebrating Jesus floating up to heaven, let us prepare for the celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit.
– Padre Mickey (a priest blogging from the Global Center)

What was that message about? Ignore the floating Jesus? We will speak the words of the blessing, but we all know that the words have no meaning, so let’s all agree to ignore them. Where I come from we call that a cop-out (A failure to fulfill a commitment or responsibility or to face a difficulty squarely). On one hand we have the rear facing nature of the text offered by Msgr. Harbert that revolves around the three-tier universe description of the world. On the other hand we have Padre Mickey who has the knowledge and skill to realize that changes are needed but is not willing to advocate for future of the people he serves.

Here is a question for Msgr. Harbert: Why does the blessing emphasize God as separate from us? God “out there” is not a credible concept for the future of Catholicism. Here is a question for Padre Mickey: Why are you looking to your own interests at the expense of the interests of the others? Ignoring a problem is not a way to secure the future of Catholicism.

I hear what you are saying; it is too easy to chuck stones at people and have indignant feelings from your ivory tower. This is true, but I am prepared to offer a solution to both Msgr. Harbert and Padre Mickey. It is the same solution I offer to you, surfers.

A study of the New Testament will reveal that Paul saw the resurrection of Jesus as Jesus having been raised into the meaning and life of God, out of which he appeared in some visionary way to certain chosen witnesses. To say it differently, resurrection for Paul was not physical resurrection back into the life of this world, but was much more like the ascension, even though the ascension itself came to be literalized by the 10th decade and began to be thought of as a physical rising into the sky by Jesus… Affirming the reality of the resurrection experience is quite different from affirming a late first century explanation and interpretation of the resurrection.
~John Shelby Spong

This I believe is is where we can begin to prepare for the future. From this reality of the resurrection experience I can see myself going back to Sunday worship and having meaningful discourse on building the kingdom of heaven on earth. A little education in the Bible and a little courage to listen to the Holy Spirit is all that is needed.


About neodecaussade

I am a Roman Catholic quester. You will find that I have scripture based academic interests. You will discover that I am a conservative Catholic but I am also prone to heterodox tendencies. I am versed in highly pietistic traditionalist practices but I am not a traditionalist. I am interested in entering a discussion on the future of the Roman Catholic Church. I would like to have a role in discussing how the future Church will be shaped.

6 responses »

  1. Dear Neo,

    I can relate to many aspects of your experience as a struggling Catholic, although thanks be to God, I am in a less painful place of late.

    I found very helpful some of the posts over at Daily Theology in their “Theological Shark Week 2”, on Why I Am (Still) Catholic. In particular, one of the authors invoked the image of an anchorite in a way that I found very consoling.

    Back when we still celebrated the feast of the Ascension on Ascension Thursday, I always found the liturgy of the 7th Sunday of Easter to be particularly poignant. I could so easily imagine the series of emotional states: first, Jesus has died — all is lost! Then, he is risen!! All is NOT lost, we have him back! And now… wait… he’s *gone* again? That week between Ascension and Pentecost was always about the experience of abandonment for me, a sort of negative version of the already-but-not-yet that our inaugurated eschatology celebrates: Jesus is already gone, but the Spirit has not yet been sent.

    So this is an apt season for these reflections, I mean to say; and I hope you can find both consolation and hope in this experience of the church, in the communion of saints, as we continue to pray for our church.

    Peace be with you,

  2. lamehousewife

    I will keep you in my prayers as you travel through the darkness of faith, which at times can be soul-painful…God bless…

  3. Fantastic Post. I think the Church as a whole benefits greatly from people like yourself who take a systematic approach to the teachings. Looking at the issues from different sides, different angles and forging ahead until a new conclusion is reached. God Bless you for what you do and keep up the great work.


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