Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fasting & Abstaining during Lent: Eastern or Western Style?

In the Roman-rite in the United States, the fasting and abstaining guidelines for believers are the following:

For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal. Two smaller meals may also be taken, but not to equal a full meal. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon members of the Latin Catholic Church from age 14 onwards.
If possible, the fast on Good Friday is continued until the Easter Vigil (on Holy Saturday night) as the "paschal fast" to honor the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, and to prepare ourselves to share more fully and to celebrate more readily his Resurrection." USCCB website

Fasting in the East, Byzantine or Orthodox, will differ according to the sui juris churches, but here is what is usually suggested:
"Week before Lent ("Cheesefare Week"): Meat and other animal products are prohibited, but eggs and dairy products are permitted, even on Wednesday and Friday.

First Week of Lent: Only two full meals are eaten during the first five days, on Wednesday and Friday after the Presanctified Liturgy. Nothing is eaten from Monday morning until Wednesday evening, the longest time without food in the Church year. (Few laymen keep these rules in their fullness). For the Wednesday and Friday meals, as for all weekdays in Lent, meat and animal products, fish, dairy products, wine and oil are avoided. On Saturday of the first week, the usual rule for Lenten Saturdays begins (see below).

Weekdays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: The strict fasting rule is kept every day: avoidance of meat, meat products, fish, eggs, dairy, wine and oil.

Saturdays and Sundays in the Second through Sixth Weeks: Wine and oil are permitted; otherwise the strict fasting rule is kept.

Holy Week: The Thursday evening meal is ideally the last meal taken until Pascha. At this meal, wine and oil are permitted. The Fast of Great and Holy Friday is the strictest fast day of the year: even those who have not kept a strict Lenten fast are strongly urged not to eat on this day. After St. Basil's Liturgy on Holy Saturday, a little wine and fruit may be taken for sustenance. The fast is sometimes broken on Saturday night after Resurrection Matins, or, at the latest, after the Divine Liturgy on Pascha.

Wine and oil are permitted on several feast days if they fall on a weekday during Lent. Consult your parish calendar. On Annunciation and Palm Sunday, fish is also permitted." Abba Moses website....graphic below found at St Sophia's website- explore their great fasting/abstaining reflections
Smugness abounds, even when both East and West try not to be. The East looks at the West and scoffs- they call that a fast? The West looks at the East and smirks- really, they are either eating ribeyes in secret, they force their children to be schema-monks, or they are going to make themselves sick with all that soy.
I find myself in the middle. For fasting times, we are meatless except Sundays and vegan on Wednesdays and Fridays. It is easier to be Roman-rite where fasting is concerned. Excepting health reasons, the fast is clear. It is not that difficult, but everybody (with some exceptions) does it. Even McDonald's has fish sandwiches on sale on Fridays!
If you take a look at the Orthodox/Byzantine fasting guidelines (they don't call them requirements....everyone does what they can....which drives me crazy because people pretend to be all flexible but then they are scandalized when you eat fish in a Sunday in Great Lent), we cannot eat a fish sandwich even on Sundays! There is cheese, mayonnaise, no vegan items- and to top it all off- fish is not allowed except for Annunciation and Palm Sunday!
Theologians- explain this to me. We Easterners do not 'bury the alleluia' during Great Lent and we continue to stand during the consecration because 'every Sunday is a little Easter Sunday.' So why is fish not permitted on a 'little Easter Sunday?' I am growing in my fasting prowess, but I am not convinced that it is even proper to fast and abstain on any Sunday. Convince me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

that awkward, silly, sweet moment: adventures in Church going

There really is never a dull moment...

  • 3 year old parishioner Maria, taking Father's hand and saying "God, let's go see the Christmas lights..."

  • Baby girl's catechism prize, a pink bouncey ball stating 'Jesus loves you' rolling to the feet of the acolytes at the end of the Divine Liturgy

  • Boy's first day at the altar, standing next to the liturgical book, blowing the pages and making Father lose his place

  • Girl singing at the cantor-free 6:30 Roman-rite Mass, forgetting the melody to "Gift of Finest Wheat" so she gave up after improvising the first verse and changed it up to some Beethoven.

  • Other Girl cantoring a Divine Liturgy in Romanian with just a smattering of English being one of the final parts "Let our mouths be filled with your praise, Oh Lord....' Girl draws a blank on a melody she has sung at least weekly for over ten years. She improvises. Many people ask her at the end of the Liturgy- we love that new tune; can you sing it again for us?' Um, no. 

  • at the hospital, doing sacramental minstry- someone says to him,  "Thank goodness you aren't that married bozo I heard they have here." Then, the person looks down at his ring finger. Oops.

  • at the clergy appreciation night for the Knights of Columbus council where Father is their chaplain or 'faithful friar,' everyone was invited to clap for the priests, the deacons, the brothers, the seminarians, the sisters, the deacons wives while the groups stood up to be acknowledged...I did not stand up. I'm stubborn that way. Father decided to mention me before his final prayer. The lady seated next to me, knowing that Father is married, was surprised that I was the wife. I thought it was clear; our wedding bands are the same and I gave him coffee the way he takes it without asking.

and then there was the time when some flowers were set on fire by misplaced candles....and that time that Boy sat on the bishop's throne....and that time when we had to cantor our own wedding...and do not even ask who babysat girl #1 while we were having girl #2 (51 weeks apart) wouldn't believe it if I could tell you...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

we are strangers, and they welcome us: thoughts on Final Judgment Sunday

This Sunday, we heard the Gospel of the Final Judgement, Jesus separating the sheep from the goats. I usually come away from this Gospel with a reviewed sense of needing to be more charitable, needing to give more time and resources to others, needing to be more loving and involved in the community. 
Not this year.
This year, I realized and was humbled that I am 'the least of my brothers.' 
This is the baptism of our first daughter. My husband is six months from his diaconal ordination. The church was in a restored garage. We were 'strangers' here, and the different Byzantine jurisdiction welcomed us.
We moved across the country when our first daughter was four months old and I was pregnant with our second. Now, my husband was ordained a deacon. We were hungry, and they fed us- hospitality being very important to Romanians and mid-Westerners.
Now, the hospital where my husband works allows him to use space in an old convent. This is the space for Bible study and evening prayer. 
Our 'big' mission has Sunday Divine Liturgy at a church built and used by a different jurisdiction within the Byzantine rite. We are reaping the rewards of their hard work through the years. Yes, we are those workers who showed up at the 11th hour and are given the same as those workers who toiled all day. These priests and believers will be rewarded eternally for their willingness to 'clothe the naked' among their fellow Byzantine Catholics. 
Our 'micro-mission' meets at a large Roman-rite chapel. This photo shows how much we have been given- the icons were written by a woman and gifted to us. The chalice set covered by the cloths at the far table was given to us by a priest in a different church. The altar boy vestment was sewn by a woman who does not attend our services. 'Our' deacon is really a Roman-rite deacon, busy with his ministries at the large parish but willing, with his wife, to help our small community. 
Most of all, the Roman-rite parish connected with this chapel didn't need to 'give drink' to us thirsty and poor Byzantine Catholics. But they did. It is true that many, many Roman-rite Catholics are confused by our practices. My last post still stands; celibacy and the 'normal' Roman-rite Mass are seen by most people I know to be the essential bricks of the Catholic faith. But here, right now, this community is trusting enough to allow us to celebrate here with our poverty. We were thirsty, and they gave us drink. The priests, bishops and people will be remembered eternally for their gift!

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

Friday, February 21, 2014

unbookmarking a great blog and other random, serious quick takes

1. Ukraine today
2.A Byzantine Catholic priest recently told us that being Byzantine is like being the child of divorced parents. In between mother and father, the child is a constant reminder of the cast-off spouse. The child is shuffled here and there, perhaps almost forgotten by the parent who has less custody. The Eastern Catholic Churches in communion with Rome are a reminder of the unity that once was there in the Church, but also a reminder of the hurt feelings and betrayal on both sides. 
3. I was excited to sign up for Fr Robert Barron's Lenten reflections. I also signed up my husband. I know that he writes from a very Latin Catholic standpoint; he did not cover the Eastern Churches in his sweeping video series and book Catholicism (which I pre-ordered and enjoyed even with this gaping hole). 
But now I am done. His blog, Word On Fire, published a scathing editorial on "Why I Don't Want Priests to Marry," using an image of a married Byzantine Catholic priest in the Ukraine trying to stop the bloodshed there. It took quite a few hours, but Word On Fire finally changed the image to one of the Cristeros before dying by firing squad. 
But it is not enough because Fr Robert Barron, through his publishing of the editorial with no explanation or disclaimer, agrees with the guest author that:
"I want a priest who acts In Persona Christi. Christ Himself was celibate and so I would expect those who are acting in His place and dispensing the sacraments to His flock to live accordingly.....Were a priest to give his body to another, in a way, he is dissolving that reality for those who see him as he is, a man branded in the name of Christ, dying daily for his Bride, and giving his body to the mission She reflects."
Is the writer stating that a married priest is not acting In Persona Christi
The writer says that a priest must "allow every waking moment to be devoted to the needs and wishes of the parish."
He closes by writing, "I want a priest who lives according to the traditional vow he has taken. Were that vow to change I believe he would be doing an injustice to both himself and the mission of the Church as well as those he intends to lead. I don’t want a priest whose flock is secondary. Maybe this is indeed selfish, but I’m ok with that."
So Jared Zimmerer and- through his publication and now refusal to clarify if he believes differently,-Fr Robert Barron are comfortable with disparaging the sacraments celebrated by married priests. Zimmerer is "okay with that." How flippant it is to reject the ministries of married priests- either in the Roman-rite or the Eastern rites where the married priesthood is the norm. It is as if Zimmerer and Barron are quite comfortable with throwing the tradition, and the priests and their families, in the rubbish heap. 
I don't know what Fr Robert Barron was thinking when he spoke face-to-face to my husband at a recent event. My husband said that Fr Barron (knowing that he was a married priest) was welcoming, pleasant, everything we would expect him to be. he acted just like he does in the videos on films and theology that we have enjoyed and learned from. But with his removal of the Eastern Churches from his video and book on Catholicism and now the publication of this anti-married clergy rant on his blog, I can only assume that Fr Barron's calm demeanor with my priest-husband was an act, concealing his true contempt for the married priesthood in the East.
This Byzantine Catholic will not be reading Fr Barron again. He won't see much of a difference in his blog stats even if every Byzantine Catholic stopped clicking; we are so small. He clearly does not feel the need to minister to the small percentage of Catholics who will not say "Yay! That's right! I need my parish priest all to myself!" 
I have no problem with a 'pro'-celibacy article. I have never called for the Roman-rite to change its tradition for priests. I believe that all of my writing on this blog will reflect that view. It is just so disappointing that we are no more advanced in our understanding of the UNIVERSAL (meaning- the Church is not only your parish's celebration of the Roman-rite at 9 AM Sundays) Church than Bishop John Ireland was over a hundred years ago. This led to the destruction of the Byzantine rite in the United States. But even before destruction, we have always been the minority in the United States.
One of the parables of Jesus I find the most beautiful- the parable of the lost sheep. Jesus did not hesitate to help 1% of his flock, even though it would have been easy to ignore 1 out of the 100. But then, Jesus was a radical, the true 'word on fire.'
EDIT: On February 22nd, the post in question was taken down from the site Word on Fire (or at least I cannot find it). I hope that the writer had a change of heart and decided to learn more about the possibility of married men being ordained deacon and priest (primarily in the Eastern rites). My husband is much wiser and holier than I. He suggested to me that the writer is coming from a defensive point of view because celibacy, the priesthood and the Catholic Church are under such attack. I can understand this well. I am leaving my words because I stand by them, but I want to remind readers that I greatly respect and admire the holy, celibate clergy that have had a positive influence on my life personally and on the entire world. I do feel as if we should 'pretend' that unity with all of the Churches has happened (at this point, the Eastern Churches that are in communion with Rome are very small in number and easy to ignore) and learn and respect the respective differences in discipline between churches. 
4. It's 'Black History Month." Did you know that abortions of black babies outweigh black births in New York and account for 46% of all abortions there? Margaret Sanger would be so proud.
5. Much has been swirling in the Catholic blogoshere about being a 'good priest.' Pope Francis stated that uneducated, clericalist priests can become "little monsters." St John Chrysostom said centuries ago that the "road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops." Wow- it seems that it is humanly impossible to be a holy priest. And that's true- it is humanly impossible. With humility, prayer, fasting, and 'fear and trembling,' a man might be able to be a holy priest. And there's the rub. A "little monster" won't bother to pray or fast. A bishop whose skull is perhaps destined for hell's highway thinks all is well. He gave his life to Christ, so it doesn't really matter if his priests and believers are withering away. Heaven help these clergy!
6. “The priest essentially exists to do what Jesus did. He helped the sick and all those who sought his assistance by showing the merciful side of God, healing souls, forgiving sins, proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven, without kicking anyone out but understanding their needs and helping them to grow. So I would say that a priest is someone who wants to obey Jesus every day, even if this involves sacrifice, someone who makes the Father’s wish his daily sustenance. As priests we must never forget to be “one with Jesus” in order to continue the mission among people. As such, our priority is to “be priests” not to “work as priests"- Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Beniamino Stella via The Deacon's Bench.
7. I found this on my facebook newsfeed, and it is perfect. It is written by an Orthodox abbot, but pertains exactly to all clergy:
 PETTY CLERGY- Pettiness is the Enemy of Clergy
"Pettiness is that sickness of the heart that can lead some clergy to constantly be on the lookout for anyone who might offend them. Ready at a moments notice, they are poised to confront the offender. Such clergy build up their low self esteem by finding someone they can look down upon, needing, as they do, to find others who are lower in status than them. Such a priest inevitably suffers from low self esteem, and his need to berate others makes him lash out at anyone he considers beneath him. Whether they be a waitress, gardener, store clerk, or a parishioner, they are fair game for these petty clergy, for they are unwilling to see anyone as their equal.

We priests need to be on guard, lest we become petty, and give fodder to those who would dismiss the Church as a medieval institution not worthy of the twenty-first century. The secular world will always ignore the good and exaggerate the bad in Christianity. When pettiness enters the life of the Church, and unimportant, non-essential things become the focus of we clergy, the damage done can be enormous. As Orthodox clergy, we must put aside all pettiness, and concentrate on the love of God, and the things of faith that are truly important. We must be open and accessible to all with whom we come in contact, that we may be vehicles for God's grace.

Within the life of the Church there is no room for pomposity or snobbery. Orthodox clergy must be open, warm, and engaging, so the love of Christ is not concealed. If we are to be true ambassadors of Christ, we must not be like the pharisees, and think of ourselves as above others, and worthy of special treatment. Rather, we must imitate our Lord Jesus Christ Who came as a humble servant and be willing to modestly serve others.

The priesthood is not a job, but a vocation, and it is one that the demons despise. Whatever insecurity a priest has is known by the demons, and they will do everything they can to exploit a vulnerable clergyman, attacking him at his weakest point. An attack upon a deacon, priest or bishop, is a direct attack on the Body of Christ, the Church. It is therefore essential that we clergy be on guard for the enemy's assault, that in knowing our weak points, we not be found vulnerable. The mission of the Church is far too important, and we must not be found standing in the way, blocking the narrow path that leads to Christ."  Love in Christ, Abbot Tryphon

Thursday, February 13, 2014

we preach the Gospel at our church...don't we?

It was last Sunday. My husband celebrated the 6:30 AM Mass as usual and had the 11:30 Divine Liturgy. That's the simple way to describe a typical Sunday, but there is always more to it. He also had an end-of-life seminar to teach for future nurses right after the six thirty. Then, he picked up a visiting deacon and his wife so they could give meetings for possible future deacon candidates for our eparchy and then he went on to the eleven thirty an hour away. This week, we left the church early (the three-hour council meeting was a week ago), so we were all home at 5:30 PM.
I was starting dinner when the hospital called. Someone needed sacramental ministry. I offered to chauffeur him to make up for all the driving he had done already that day. I waited in the van while he went into the hospital to give sacraments.
While I waited, I was listening to 'Air One.' They were taking a break from the music and had a teen suicide prevention program going. The radio personality was interviewing a woman who was now working with a suicide prevention hotline. She had attempted suicide when she was seventeen. 
The radio personality asked her, "Were you a Christian when you attempted suicide?" She answered, "No, I wasn't. I would have told you I was a Christian. I went to services every Sunday and youth group, but I wasn't Christian. In all my years at that church, I never heard the Gospel preached once." 
I felt sick to my stomach. What does this mean? Could someone say the same about our Liturgy? Do people leave our services feeling like 'they haven't been fed?' Sometimes he preaches a little fire and brimstone, but usually my husband is the 'pastoral' type. Is he not hard enough with the people because he doesn't constantly preach on difficult subjects? One Sunday, I challenged him not to use the word 'invite' (as in- 'God is inviting you today'....) in his homily. His preaching always focuses on the epistle, Gospel, and applying it to our lives with some Church Fathers' teaching in the mix- either in a pastoral or fiery style. 
One part of the Church that I love is that there are no secrets. I can find out exactly what the Church teaches by reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Pope's writings and other bishops are available to read. I can meditate on the life of Christ through the four decades of the Rosary. In the Byzantine rite, we have a rich tradition of vespers, akathists, changing troparions during the Divine Liturgy. 
If you keep your ears (and heart) open, there is so much to learn and grow from as a Christian. But faith is a gift. I pray that our micro-missions are 'successful' with bringing people to Christ, but all we can do is be faithful. 
a prayer for those who are struggling
O God, our help in time of need, Who are just and merciful, and Who inclines to the supplications of His people. Look down upon me and have mercy on me and deliver me from the trouble that now besets me. Deal with us not according to our iniquities, but according to Your manifold mercies, for we are the works of Your hands, and You know our weaknesses. I pray to you to grant me Your divine helping grace, and endow me with patience and strength to endure my hardships with complete submission to Your Will. Only You know our misery and sufferings, and to You, our only hope and refuge, I flee for relief and comfort, trusting in Your infinite love and compassion, that in due time, when You know best, You will deliver me from this trouble, and turn my distress into comfort. We then shall rejoice in Your mercy, and exalt and praise Your Holy Name, O Father, Son and Holy Spirit, both now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, February 10, 2014

love & do what you will: who am I to judge....

....if you feel called to officially change rites from Roman to Byzantine Catholic?

some additional thoughts after my last post "Just Visit- don't change your rite to Byzantine."....there's a thread on facebook that has some good points...I'm Anne Boyd on Facebook if you care to friend me. 

First off- I'm not really sure if our dear Pope Francis really said exactly "who am I to judge"- at least not in the way of saying, 'oh well, don't judge an evil behavior, there's no sin in 2014.' 

A question I get asked pretty frequently is about changing rites to be able to become married clergy. Just like my last post on 'general official changing of rites,' I usually say no- or at least 'live the rite for at least a year, become really involved, change rites whether or not you will be ordained clergy.' All is permitted with a clear, educated conscience.
So, as St Augustine said, "Love and do what you will." That sounds really easy, doesn't it? If one loves, one can do anything! 

The question remains, then, what is this 'love' that I need before I can do what I want? Well, God is love. I believe it follows that if we are like God (theosis) and radiate His perfect love, then we are free to do whatever we want. Of course, if we are reflective of God's love, then we will only want the good. We are perfectly free to choose the good and we will not sin.

So my feeble point here about officially changing rites is that if you "love" while choosing to change, then it will be for the right reasons and it will be done with a sincere heart. And then my last post will be of no use to you. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Just Visiting: don't change to the Byzantine rite, please...

...if you are a Roman-rite Catholic.
You are so welcome to visit! We love 'normal' Catholics to visit; we'll try not to stuff you with too much sarmale/perogies/kolache. Just make sure that the priest doesn't give your four-year old his First Communion a few years too early.
And you are really welcome to be a 'permanent visitor.' Maybe our Divine Liturgy is at a good time and place for your family to get to on Sunday. Maybe you enjoy the fact that Father encourages/forces the boys and men to serve at the altar. Maybe you appreciate the reverence of the Liturgy that we are trying to instill. Maybe you feel called to pray in this way at this time in your faith journey. Maybe your great-grandparents were born in the old country and you suspect that they might have been Eastern-rite. You want to learn. You want to prepare for the unity that will happen someday, so you want to experience the way other Christians worship. Despite this sour post, I love it when believers find a (usually temporary) home in our church.
but -as a Roman-rite Catholic- should you actually change rites to be Byzantine?
I say---no.
It would be tempting for us Byzantines to encourage Roman-rite Catholics to officially change rites (it helps us feel less small), but we shouldn't push it.
If you want to become Byzantine because we don't play guitars and sing 'Gather Us In,' you will be gone when a local (meaning an hour away or less) Roman-rite parish starts a Latin Mass. 
If you want to become Byzantine because sacraments of initiation are free and easy (no two-year, three-hours a week First Communion program for us), you'll go back to Roman-rite when you realize that Byzantine catechism programs are too free and easy. It's pleasant to not go to catechism every Wednesday evening for two hours, but thirty minutes every other Sunday just does not seem like enough.
If you want to become Byzantine Catholic because we are so 'hard-core' with our meatless Wednesdays, Fridays & longer fasting periods, our no-women-at-the-altar-ways, our tendency to stand a lot, and our lack of guitars, you'll leave when that isn't hard-core enough. You will journey on to the Orthodox because they all seem to be vegan (and not even olive oil!) for half the year and the women are more likely to veil. And they never sit down or kneel! Or you might go on to a SPPX chapel where all the women are sure to veil. 
So please stop by. We love visitors. At our missions, if you come celebrate with us once every three months, you are a treasured friend. A few believers 'supplement' their faith journeys with an occasional Divine Liturgy with us, but they do not miss their geographical Roman-rite parish. This is as it should be. 
I know too many people who have officially changed their rite to Byzantine who no longer attend a Byzantine rite parish. They didn't 'quit' because they moved away, or the Divine Liturgy is scheduled for a truly impossible time, or the priest is an abuser (either sexually or financially). They leave because the parish got big enough to need a meal and clean-up sign-up sheet (they and some other families left- now this parish is small enough again not to need a sign-up sheet). Others leave because their local Byzantine parish is not perfect in its expression (the chant isn't perfect, some of the people sit or- gasp!- kneel) of the Eastern Church; so they save a half-hour drive on Sundays to attend the closest Roman-rite parish where 'Gather Us in' is on a regular rotation and their daughters might get to be altar servers. 
But I think the true reason why these families (anecdotal, I know) who officially changed their rite from Roman to Byzantine but now attend a Roman-rite parish 'quit' the Byzantine rite is that the Eastern Church did not become part of their soul. They are still Roman at heart. In most cases, it is best to stay as one is. Have your parish be the touch-stone of your and your children's lives. Stability is such a good way to live. Visit different parishes of your own rite and those of other rites to learn and live the universal way of the Catholic Church. But don't use us by officially changing rites and then tossing us aside. It hurts.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Martyred Bishops- the best argument against married clergy

Romanian Catholics are proud of their saintly martyred bishops. 
"Romanian Communist authorities organized an illegitimate synod of this church, which no Romanian Catholic bishop, even under torture and other pressures, agreed to attend. The synod was forced to declare that it was the will of the faithful to become Orthodox, though Romanian Orthodoxy had been available as an option for anyone who wanted to convert for centuries. In October of 1948, the Greek Catholic Church was liquidated, her thousands of churches confiscated and converted to Orthodox use. The date was intended to rub in a point: it was the 250th anniversary of the Church’s 1698 declaration of unity with the Vatican. The justification for this act was typical propaganda: the Greek Catholic bishops had “distanced themselves from the people to serve imperialist interests, obeying the Pope of Rome.” There were six authentic Greek Catholic bishops in Romania at that point. All were arrested at the close of 1948. Five died in prison (Ion Suciu, Valerie Traian Frentiu, Alexander Rusu, Vasile Aftenie, and Ion B├ílan). The lone survivor, Bishop Juliu Hossu of Cluj-Gerla, spent the next 22 years in prison and under house arrest before he died, still under detention."
Pope Pius even acknowledged his brother bishops.
"At the beginning, all the bishops were held in Dragoslavele, the summer residence of the Orthodox Patriarch. Patriarch Justinian visited them often and urged them to become Orthodox. The government put out propaganda that the bishops had gone on a “spiritual retreat.” The regime needed at least one bishop to apostatize in order to claim that their unification of the Catholic Church with the Orthodox was licit. No bishop obliged them. When gentle persuasion failed, the bishops were separated and sent to different locations. By May 10, 1950 Vasile Aftenie, after suffering terrible tortures in the Vacaresti prison, went mad and died, even though he was a relatively young man and had been in good health. The fates of the other bishops were soon sealed in similar fashion. Of the clergy, 600 were imprisoned, about a third of them in the Soviet Union; only half survived. Pope Pius XII reacted to this slaughter with a moving statement in his March 27, 1952 Apostolic Letter Veritatem Facientes: “We desire to kiss the chains of those who, unjustly imprisoned, weep and are afflicted because of the attacks against religion, the ruin of sacred institutions, for the eternal salvation of their people, now in peril, more than for their own suffering and lost liberty.”
All of our bishops died as Byzantine Catholics, but the story isn't so pretty with the simple priests. A quarter of the Byzantine Catholic priests in Romania 'relented' and became Orthodox. One can safely assume that the majority of these were married men with children. 
"One priest was thrown into a sewer full of rats for two days. He relented. Another was cast into a quagmire, with similar results. In the town of Oradea, a Father Tamian was subjected to torture by fire and electricity until he surrendered. In Sibiu, a Father Onofreiu miraculously survived being hanged when the rope broke. He still refused to accept Orthodoxy but was declared insane and released — temporarily. It is easy to understand why a quarter of the clergy, subjected to such treatment in so many different places, were not hardy enough to withstand it."
Most likely, they lacked the 'heartiness' to withstand torture because they knew that their families were at risk for torture as well. 
My priest-husband is willing to work in mission territory for a stipend (in one mission- no stipend in the other), working for pay at a hospital so that he can minister to people in one of the most expensive areas in the world. He is willing to work this mission with Latin-rite Catholics, Byzantine Catholics, Orthodox, people from our old-country, from Mexico, from other places- all people with different needs and expectations and some people who do not have a 'default' setting of respecting the priest. This means that he has not had a day-off in 11 1/2 years unless he travels for a short time to my parents' home 900 miles away or very occasionally his parents' home 10,000 miles away. He is willing to drive an hour (after 9 hours in the hospital ministering to dying patients) to do marriage preparation, knowing that he will not receive appreciation, a stipend or gas money. He doesn't receive the two month summer vacations that a local celibate parish priest gets every year. People will scoff and assume that a married priest 'costs' the people much more. All I know is our specifics and compare them to the celibate priests we know. 
could my priest-husband withstand physical torture to defend his Catholic faith? I believe he withstands 'torture' every day- ministering in a world that really has no use for God and the Church. But could he withstand actual physical torture by electricity and fire? Perhaps- if it were only he going through it. But he has a family. 
All the benefits of a married clergy- a man with an emotional base, a man with normal responsibilities so he is down-to-earth and mature, a man who has a life-long partner to help him- are also the reasons why it is harder for him to die for the faith. But I know of married priests who have done it. Their families paid the price as well. As Flannery O'Connor said, "She could never be a saint, but she thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quick.”