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Faith & Parish

Mapping a liturgical sentence

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FICTION

"Thank god at last we have a real pope," shouted Bill Barker, grand knight of the local chapter of the Knights of St. Sepulcher. "Oh don't get me wrong, Father. Pope John Paul was a good man, God rest his soul. But this new Holy Father really knows his business." He paused to take a breath. The force of his conviction caused the plume on his hat to shimmer and his sword to clang against the folding chair.

"Take this New Missal, for instance. We'll finally get to pray the way that Moses and the early Christians prayed. Why, these new prayers were translated straight from Latin, the language Jesus spoke when he talked down to the crowds and his disciples."

Fr. Dan Wiggins stared in silence at the paper tablecloth and idly rolled the peas around his Styrofoam plate. He silently thanked God that he could barely hear Barker over the roar of diners who had gathered in the parish gymnasium for the Knights' annual fundraising dinner to stop the trafficking in frozen embryos from China.

Barker nudged the priest to gain his attention and asked, "What do you think, Father Dan? Don't you like these new prayers the Holy Father has given us?"

Austrian bishops say no to lay-led Mass

Catholic bishops in Austria have rejected a call by dissident church members for lay people to preside at Mass when parishes have no priests, but the bishops also pledged to maintain a dialogue over possible changes in churchlife.

Austria's reformist We Are Church movement had asked for lay presiders on Nov. 5, following a "Call to Disobedience" signed last July by 250 of Austria's 4,200 Catholic priests that urged the ordination of women priests and making Communion available to non-Catholics and remarried divorcees.

The bishops said Austria's dioceses were "taking opportunities to innovate" in response to "real and serious problems," and were confident they would "find answers to the questions asked today."

However, the bishops added that the summons to disobedience had "triggered alarm and sadness," and "left many Catholics shaking their heads."

"Some demands allied with this call for disobedience are simply unsustainable -- the call for a Eucharist without the Blessed Sacrament openly breaches the central truth of our Catholic faith," the bishops' conference said in their Nov. 10 reply.

Mass changes have liturgists scurrying to craft new music

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For the average American Catholic in the pews, the upcoming changes to the text of the Mass might mean little more than memorizing a few new prayer responses.

But when the revised translation of the Mass sweeps into churches across America on the first Sunday of Advent (Nov. 27), it will bring with it a slew of new missals and hymnals -- and perhaps a whole new (or old) style of worship.

Bishops discuss religious liberty, marriage at annual meeting

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BALTIMORE -- At the start of their annual three-day fall assembly in Baltimore, the U.S. bishops were urged to restore the luster, credibility and beauty of the Catholic Church in the hearts of its members.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York called on his fellow bishops Nov. 14 to communicate to the world that the sinfulness of the church's members is not "a reason to dismiss the church or her eternal truths, but to embrace her all the more."

In his first presidential address since election as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last November, he opened and closed with the words: "Love for Jesus and his church must be the passion of our lives."

He noted that the church still has plenty to say to the modern world.

"She dares the world ... to foster and protect the inviolable dignity of the human person and human life; ... to protect marriage and family; to embrace those suffering and struggling; to prefer service to selfishness; and never, ever to stifle the liberty to quench the deep-down thirst for the divine."

Final Phoenix Communion norms allow wide use of wine

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Updated 9:30 a.m. CST, 11/15/11

The Phoenix diocese is not going to restrict the distribution of the Precious Blood at Mass, say the diocese's final instructions on the distribution of Communion, promulgated by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted Nov. 7.

An announcement in September that the diocese was reexamining norms for the distribution of Communion under both kinds with the aim of restricting the distribution of Communion wine, became a major news story, with many ordinary Catholics and liturgists saying the diocese misunderstood the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the set of rules that govern the Mass commonly called "the GIRM."

Study finds less depression among weekly churchgoers

WASHINGTON -- Past studies have shown that those who attend religious services at least weekly tend to live longer and healthier lives. Now, new research indicates that frequent churchgoers also face those additional years with more optimism and greater social support than other people.

A study involving more than 92,000 postmenopausal women showed that those who reported weekly attendance at religious services were 56 percent more likely to be above the median in terms of their optimism level. They also were significantly less likely to be depressed or to be characterized by cynical hostility.

Titled "Psychological and Social Characteristics Associated with Religiosity in Women's Health Initiative Participants," the study was published in Journal of Religion and Health Nov. 11. The research was conducted by a team led by Eliezer Schnall, clinical associate professor of psychology at Yeshiva University in New York.

California pastor bans protesters from parish ministries

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Parishioners opposed to administrative actions of their pastor in Berkeley, Calif., have escalated their protests after being banned by the pastor from all ministries as well as membership on parish committees.

In a bulletin announcement Oct. 30, Fr. John Direen, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, said the protesters will not be allowed to serve as ushers, lectors or Eucharistic ministers nor serve on any parish committees "until further notice."

The announcement shocked Salvemos/Save St. Joseph the Worker, a group that has held weekly vigils outside the church for the past six months to show their dismay for a range of decisions they say are destroying the parish.

Among the decisions are the eviction of a retired pastor from the rectory and parish ministry, dismissal of the pastoral council and establishment of a replacement council without parish input, suspension of the Consejo Latino, unwillingness to let the parish's long-standing social justice committee meet on parish grounds and failure to respond to parishioners' request for a financial audit.

Call to Action keynote speaker addresses grace on the margins

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Ten years ago, Jamie Manson was just a young attendee at her first national conference of Call To Action, a Catholic church reform group. This Nov. 4, she was a keynote speaker, kicking off the weekend to rousing applause.

Manson brought to light for young and old something some didn't know existed: the church among people, the church on the margins.

Oklahoma earthquake fells Catholic university turret

WASHINGTON -- A turret fell from the main building at St. Gregory's University in Shawnee, Okla., during a rare earthquake the night of Nov. 5.

The 5.6-magnitude quake also damaged the other three turrets that sat atop the 98-year-old building. All of the turrets will have to be taken down, said university president D. Gregory Main.

Classes were canceled Nov. 7, as most of the classrooms at the 500-student school are in that building, Main added. The building also houses the college's library, administrative offices, president's office, and admissions and registrar offices. Classes were to resume Nov. 8.

"We are scrambling to find other places on campus" to conduct classes, Main told Catholic News Service in a Nov. 7 phone interview.

Main was calling from outside the university's cafeteria because the building was closed to protect students and staff from getting injured. "Any of those (turrets) could fall down at any time," Main said.

He added the turrets stand 24 feet in height from the roofline. "And they are masonry construction. There's no reinforcement. That's why it fell," Main said.

Ministering to, ministering as 'the marginalized' theme of conference

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Updated with video

MILWAUKEE -- Words from keynote speaker Jamie Manson describing a church on the margins fired up attendees at the annual Call to Action national conference this past weekend in Milwaukee.

"The margins of the church are a place to be embraced," Manson said Friday night to an audience of some 2,000 people. "Why? Because very often this is where we often see most clearly the face of God."

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