The organization that oversees the Catholic Church’s English-language translations for the Mass and other liturgies of the Roman Rite has a new leader as of Nov. 1.
The bishops of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy have appointed Fr. Andrew Menke as ICEL’s executive director for a five-year term.
The decision, approved at the ICEL bishops’ July 17-21 meeting in Washington, was announced July 21.
Menke is succeeding Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, who has held the post since 2009. Wadsworth remains a consultant to ICEL as well as director of the St. Gregory Institute for the Study of Liturgical Latin, a collaborative project between ICEL and the department of Greek and Latin at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
A priest of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, Menke was the former executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, from 2017 until July 1. He holds both a licentiate and doctorate in sacred liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at Sant’Anselmo in Rome. From 2010-2015, he was an official for the Vatican’s Congregation (now Dicastery) for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
Fr. Dennis Gill, director of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Office for Divine Worship, told OSV News in an email he was « very happy » about Menke’s appointment, pointing to Menke’s « knowledge, experience and pastoral sense. »
ICEL ensures that each of the Latin liturgical books, along with individual liturgical texts, are translated into English according to the Holy See’s directives. The commission was formed in Rome in 1963 by bishops from English-speaking countries attending the Second Vatican Council.
In its constitution on the sacred liturgy, « Sacrosanctum Concilium, » the council allowed for the celebration of Mass in the vernacular, while specifying that translations from Latin for liturgical use must be authorized by « competent territorial bodies of bishops » that have been legitimately established.
ICEL is comprised of member representatives of 11 bishops’ conferences hailing from Australia, Canada, England and Wales, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Scotland, Southern Africa and the U.S. One bishop is elected by each of the respective conferences to serve on ICEL.
Archbishop Leonard T. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, serves as the USCCB’s ICEL representative.
In 2003, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments formally established ICEL as a mixed commission in accordance with « Liturgiam Authenticam, » the 2001 Vatican instruction on the use of the vernacular in the liturgy.
While it does not publish liturgical texts, ICEL translations are made available to member bishops’ conferences who authorize publication.
The issue of translations and their authorized use received renewed attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, when parishes shifted to livestreamed liturgies and the use of digital worship aids.
Except for the Scriptural readings, the texts of the Mass in English are copyrighted by ICEL, which also charges royalty fees to compensate scholars and develop liturgical materials.
While a parish’s purchase of lectionaries and missalettes typically covers permissions requirements, the shift to online and recorded liturgies raised previously unconsidered issues regarding permissions, copyright and reprints of worship aids.
In a May 2020 interview with CatholicPhilly.com, Wadsworth said ICEL would need to consider such issues in the coming years, as members « never thought of situations where people would need access (to worship aids) outside of church. »
As I digested these words from a well-meaning acquaintance, I wanted to spit them out immediately. I had just suffered a miscarriage, and in the midst of this deep, personal tragedy, I was being directed to consider the pregnancy, and the subsequent death of my child, as something good from God. At that moment, in the throes of grief, the thought made me shudder.
I certainly could not see my situation as a blessing or a gift in that moment. My child had died, my body was broken, and the future I’d imagined with my husband and my child had been erased. I desperately wanted the person in front of me to share in my overwhelming sadness, but instead I felt unseen — and like I had to put on a happy face.
At the time of my loss, I was working at a Jesuit retreat center, run by the order of priests founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, so I was familiar with Ignatius’ most famous work, The Spiritual Exercises, and the practical path of prayer and discernment he created known as Ignatian spirituality. St. Ignatius, whose feast day is celebrated July 31, experienced a powerful conversion after a cannonball hit him during battle. As he recovered, he learned to pay attention to God at work in his life. The very practical nature of noticing and responding to God within normal life and within the parts of life that weren’t expected — like being struck down by a cannonball or hearing that your baby has no heartbeat — had appealed to me.
I was also familiar with cura personalis, an Ignatian term that means « care for the whole person, » and it spoke to me deeply. I longed for all that I was to be held by God without me holding anything back. I longed for the people God put in my path to see my whole self — and for me to see their whole selves. Ignatian spirituality gave me the words and path to make that a reality.
The 500-year-old wisdom of the Spiritual Exercises starts with a prayer known as the « First Principle and Foundation. » In laying out God’s vision and purpose for our life, St. Ignatius begins with God’s love for us and our response to that love. In the modern translation by Jesuit Fr. David L. Fleming it begins
The goal of our life is to live with God forever. God, who loves us, gave us life. Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.
This sentiment is echoed in the opening sentence of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: In a « plan of sheer goodness » God created us to share in God’s blessings. Starting with God’s goodness and love resonated with me, but also felt more intellectual than personal — especially after losing my child.
Sensing that human tendency to ask « How does this affect me? » St Ignatius goes on to say:
In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts … We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one. For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God.
This is the part of the First Principle and Foundation where I heard a record scratching in my head. I certainly desired health instead of sickness, just as I deeply desired that my child had lived instead of died. Unfortunately, we cannot pretend that sickness, death, poverty or failure do not exist.
St. Ignatius is not asking us to ignore the reality of tragic events for the sake of focusing on only the good and happy things of this world, but rather his writing challenges us to bring both the joy and the tragedies to God. Ignatius invites us to trust that God is in all of it, caring about our entire reality and cura personalis, our whole selves.
I do not need to rejoice in every event of this life, but I can trust that I am not alone and God is with me in whatever I endure. During the intense grief of my miscarriage, God loved me fiercely and walked with me closely. And God walks with me still now as grief continues to rear its head. God is with each of us, walking with us no matter what we are facing in life. There will be tragedy, crisis and sin, but also goodness, beauty and abundance — and God will be in all of it. « Everything has potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God, » Ignatius promises us.
Though it took time and kindness with myself to see it, there was blessing in my miscarriage. Not in the tragedy itself, but in how God showed up in it, reminding me in small and big ways that I was loved and not alone. But I am glad God didn’t require me to instantly see my loss as a blessing and gift. God cared for my pain while gently inviting me to see blessings that were arising from this devastating loss.
The depth of my heartache was matched by the depth of God’s love and healing. Though my heart broke, it also broke open, increasing my capacity to be fully present with others in their pain. God’s care and compassion for me invites me to offer the same care and compassion to others in their pain.
In my time of trial, God gave me new eyes to see complications and complexity without turning away, pretending it’s less than it is, or trying to find a quick fix to solve it. God’s accompaniment of me in my own suffering invites me to accompany others in theirs. It is through my broken-open, compassionate heart that God called me to use these gifts in service to God and others.
In the decade since my loss, God has invited me to walk with dozens of others who have lost a child. I have been the person someone turns to when the world as they knew it has stopped. I have talked softly with them through what’s next and reminded them that God sees their pain and is with them in it. I would not be able to offer others this blessing had I not experienced God’s care for me in my own time of loss.
The path of Ignatian Spirituality invites me to live and share all my life with God, trusting that God cares for my whole being and all that I am and having the privilege of sharing that truth with others as well. Because, it turns out, St. Ignatius was right: « Everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. »
These are just about the last words I would have expected to hear in « Barbie, » the new movie about my favorite childhood toy. And yet director Greta Gerwig wrote a script that is not only funny, but also touches on important, universal themes. Her storytelling skills connect women through shared experiences, societal expectations and hard topics — like death. Barbie is an idea, the film tells us, and ideas never end — unlike humans, who all reach an end in death.
The movie starts in Barbie Land, a picturesque toy city by the beach, where almost all women are named Barbie. Their houses, outfits, bodies and careers are all extraordinary. Perfect. But before long, Margot Robbie’s character, our protagonist Barbie, starts to experience « errors. » While everyone is dancing at a party, she spontaneously asks « Do you guys ever think about dying? » No one at the party knows how to respond. In fact, they don’t even think she’s serious. Why would they? Barbie Land is a happy place full of happy things; death is not part of the equation.
Robbie’s character learns that the girl who is playing with her in the real world is sad, and her sadness is bleeding into Barbie, causing her imperfections and making her question the world she knows. To fix the glitch, Barbie must go to the real world, find the girl and help make her happy again.
Once Barbie gets to the real world, she, understandably, isn’t sure where to start, so she sits on a bench near an older woman to think. They look at each other, smile, and Barbie — who has never before witnessed aging — finds she is in awe of the beauty of the older woman’s face. For the first time, Barbie catches a glimpse of what a long life looks like. She sees it reflected in wrinkles and white hair; she sees the beauty, and the reality, of death.
In Catholicism we might say Barbie experienced a memento mori moment on that bench, a Latin phrase that means « remember you must die. » Most of us recoil at the phrase. How could being reminded of the inevitably of your own death ever be a good thing?
But memento mori is not morbid for morbidity’s sake. Remembering our death is meant to remind us to live. When we keep in mind that someday our lives will come to an end, we can find gratitude for the present, even in suffering; we can decide how we want to live.
Barbie lived her « before » life superficially, from one moment of happiness to the next. The glitch she experienced brought with it new and difficult emotions. Living out memento mori meant learning to exist within the both/and space. Not only did she discover newfound gratitude and self-awareness, but she also learned how to hold space for the heavier things, like grief.
The woman on the bench with Barbie made me think of my grandma, who battled cancer for a few years before she died. As anyone who has been there can tell you, terminal illness has a way of forcing memento mori. When my grandma was first diagnosed, we asked her what she wanted to do with the rest of her time, thinking she would want to take trips or cross things off her bucket list. She shocked us all by saying that she just wanted to keep living every day as normal. She was happy with the life she built, spending time with family and working at a job she loved. She found she could be more grateful for each day, knowing her death was imminent. She was living an active memento mori, and it was an example to us all.
Remembering our death brings depth to our lives. We lose some of our illusions, but the paradox of being human is that joy is sweeter when we also know suffering and grief. In the movie, Barbie wrestles with the duality of happiness and heartbreak. She learns to grieve the perfection — we might say the innocence — that she has lost, and is challenged to find fortitude within herself. Ultimately, Barbie learns that she can simultaneously hold opposing emotions, that this is what it is to be human.
At the end of the film, Barbie comes face-to-face with Ruth Handler, her creator, and is given the choice between immortality or mortality: Remain a doll or become human. She is asked to consider death when deciding how she wants to live, just as we all must do.
The U.S. bishops’ conference has released the names of headlining speakers for next year’s Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis. Wouldn’t it have been nice if they had found at least some speakers who were not from the Steubenville wing of the church?
OK, OK. That’s an exaggeration. America magazine’s Gloria Purvis, one of the U.S. church’s outstanding pro-life and anti-racism voices, is on the list. And the nuncio, Archbishop, soon-to-be-Cardinal, Christophe Pierre, is a churchman not an ideologue, and he has never thrown his boss under the bus. But at least some of the speakers talk about Pope Francis like he is a leper or they traffic in the kind of culture war ideology that this pope is so keen to keep at a distance.
Fr. Mike Schmitz is a popular podcaster and frequent speaker at more traditional Catholic events like men’s conferences and conservative audiences. He is affiliated with FOCUS, the conservative Catholic version of Campus Crusade for Christ. He has spoken at the Franciscan University of Steubenville’s youth assemblies, and almost everything he says has the ring of what we could call the Steubenville approach to religion: heavy on tautology and apologetics, not very intellectually or spiritually sophisticated, incapable of nuance and comfortable with pat answers that only ring true within the circle of the already redeemed. It aims at a muscular Catholicism, I suppose, but it is astonishingly akin to the tone and temper of fundamentalism.
In one recent podcast, Schmitz discusses the origins of the papacy. Now, as Catholics, we believe that our Lord Jesus chose the Twelve, and confirmed Peter as their leader, but to assert that the papacy « was invented by God Himself » is a little facile. The priest is a little high strung in this, and other videos, and perhaps his staccato delivery is effective with some people. I found myself wanting to scream, « No more espresso for you! »
Father Schmitz needs to chill.
Another speaker, Fr. Josh Johnson, who hosts a popular Ascension podcast, is a priest of the Baton Rouge Diocese. On one podcast episode, someone complained that Pope Francis had spoken about Hell being empty in a way that the listener found offensive and possibly heretical.
Fr. Josh’s response was more than a little tepid. He started by pointing out that disciples grumble amongst each other, and always have, but we are called to pray for each other. « Pray for the pope, he is an imperfect human being, » doesn’t sound like a resounding endorsement. He went on to point out that « Pope Francis is not infallible, » and that the pope’s off-the-cuff remarks are certainly not magisterial.
True enough, but in my experience, the pope’s comments that generate the most controversy are also those, like the one referenced on the podcast, in which the pope is most emphatically stating the central kerygma of the Gospel, mercy, which drives the neo-Pelagians nuts. The last time I checked, the Gospels do not lack for authority.
Finally, Fr. Josh noted that people get misquoted all the time, which is true, but isn’t really a ringing endorsement of this pope. He offered the pope would be surrounded by a community of believers who would correct him if he did say something that was wrong.
This response earned a meh.
No one was surprised to see Bishop Robert Barron on the list. The bishop of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, is known for his Word on Fire ministry, which is the platform he uses to engage issues beyond the borders of his diocese. It was on the Word on Fire website that he recently took aim at Cardinal-designate Américo Aguiar of Lisbon, Portugal, over remarks Aguiar made regarding the need to avoid proselytism and both recognize and embrace diversity.
Barron puts his own particular spin on what Aguiar said: « I will admit that the remark of his that disturbed me the most, however, was this one: ‘That we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty,’ implying that fundamental disagreement on matters of religion is good in itself, indeed what God actively desires. »
Did Aguiar imply that? Might not he be implying that God leads people to himself in his own way and on his own timetable? Or that the long history of conflicts over religion are a scandal to God and that we must find ways to affirm our beliefs while respecting differences?
Barron continues: « Behind so much of the language of tolerance, acceptance and non-judgmentalism in regard to religion is the profound conviction that religious truth is unavailable to us and that it finally doesn’t matter what one believes as long as one subscribes to certain ethical principles. »
Are those the sentiments behind Bishop Aguiar’s remarks? Or, more likely, is Barron forcing a Portuguese prelate into an American culture war frame because poor Bishop Barron has no other frame through which to view the world? He says he wants to evangelize, but he only preaches to the choir, an increasingly small, ideologically driven choir.
When I first encountered then-Fr. Robert Barron’s ministry, it was apparent he was angling to inherit the mantle of Cardinal Francis George, who was a genuine scholar and sometimes culture warrior. Now it seems Barron is more keen on inheriting the mantle of Archbishop Charles Chaput, a genuine and persistent culture warrior who routinely puts others’ comments in the worst possible light in order to make a point.
This shift from one prelate to another represents a decline.
This list of right-leaning culture warriors speaking at the Congress includes EWTN’s Montse Alvarado, who previously worked as executive director at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; EWTN’s Franciscan Friar of Renewal Fr. Agustino Torres; and Chris Stefanick, a Steubenville alumnus.
The list is ironic because the impetus for the Congress was the belief, based on one badly worded question in one poll, that many Catholics no longer believed in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But there are no theologians or liturgists scheduled so far, only podcasters. The one Scripture scholar on the list, Mary Healy, teaches at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, an institution that is known for its abundance of Pope Francis haters.
Instead of engaging the breadth of the American Catholic experience, the speakers’ list looks like the U.S. bishops’ conference outsourced the programming to Steubenville. Apart from Purvis and Pierre, there is no speaker I would cross the street, let alone the country, to hear.
It is probably too late to pull the plug on this event. I will close by noting I warned the bishops 17 months ago not to let this congress turn into « a very expensive, very nostalgic boondoggle. » It appears they did not listen.
A federal judge July 25 blocked the Biden administration’s rule permitting immigration authorities to deny asylum to migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking asylum protections in a different country.
U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California blocked the rule, which President Joe Biden’s administration implemented in May, following the expiration of a Trump-era policy restricting migration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
« The Rule — which has been in effect for two months — cannot remain in place, » Tigar wrote in his order. The order does not go into effect for two weeks, giving the Biden administration time to appeal.
Catholic immigration groups and the U.S. bishops have objected to the asylum ban, arguing it violates existing U.S. immigration law, and exposes those who may otherwise be eligible for asylum to additional danger.
Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, told OSV News July 26 that the court « has made the right decision here — there is no legal basis for the Biden administration’s asylum ban. »
« It needlessly puts asylum seekers in danger and it outsources the challenges of immigration to countries less equipped to address them, » Corbett said. « Effective management of the border doesn’t need to come at the cost of the rights and dignity of asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants. The administration should pivot now by taking strong action to fully restore asylum at the border and make the moral argument to the country and Congress that we need immigration reform. »
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a July 25 briefing that « nothing has changed. »
« There is a stay (on the judge’s order), which means that our border enforcement plan remains in full effect, » she said. « The Department of Justice will appeal the decision and seek to extend the stay. »
Jean-Pierre said « our border enforcement plan works » and consists of « deterrence, diplomacy, and enforcement. »
« We have seen that plan working, » she said. « Unlawful border crossings have come down to the lowest that we have seen in the past two years. »
But Anna Marie Gallagher, executive director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., said in a statement that CLINIC welcomes « the decision by Judge Tigar, who indicated the asylum ban is arbitrary and capricious, and was issued without adequate opportunity for public comment. »
« As we have said before, the right to seek asylum through a full and fair process, with dignity and respect, is a bedrock rule of international and domestic law, » Gallagher said. « Any barriers to asylum that undermine the principles of U.S. law and Catholic social teaching with respect to migration, and fail to uphold due process, are contrary to the values we hold dear as a compassionate and just society. »
(Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time-Year A; This homily was given on July 22 & 23 July, 2023 at Saint Augustine Church in Providence, Rhode Island; See Matthew 13:24-43)
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