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Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Remember It Well...Mabye

In the beloved musical, "Gigi", Gaston Lachaille's effervescent uncle, Honore, and Gigi's aunt, Madame Alvarez, reminisce about their love affair in the song "I Remember It Well."  Even though Honore's memory was fuzzy, Mamita lovingly corrected him, appreciating his feeble efforts at recalling their romance.

Two weeks ago, the Church marks the Solemnity of the Baptism, thus concluding the Christmas season.  During one of his Wednesday audiences, Pope Francis challenged his listeners to learn their baptismal dates and celebrate their entrances into the Church with nearly the same joy that they do when marking their birthdays.  This past week, I decided to take him up on the challenge.

My father and I were talking about my baptismal date.  He told me that my late mother was a stickler for Tradition.  The custom at the time (1960s) was that the baby should be baptized 40 days after birth.  Looking at my birth date, (October 15th), I tried to calculate, more or less, when the 40th day was.  I figured it would have been somewhere between November 24-26.  As my mother had a penchant for hiding things for safekeeping, hiding them so well that even she could not find them, I called the parish where I had been baptized.  The parish secretary kindly looked up the information based on the data that I had provided her and promptly gave me the date: November 26th.  

I remember having seen the pictures of my baptism.  The celebrant was clad in cassock and surplice.  I remember my mother telling me that the rite had been in Latin and that it was not celebrated during Mass.  

Obviously, as a 40-day old baby, I have no memory of what happened.  I base whatever I know of the event from my parents' recollections.  But, while I have no physical (for lack of a better word) conscious memory of this most important event, I believe that my soul does as this was the moment that I was washed clean of original sin and bathed in God's grace.  It was the moment when I became incorporated into the Body of Christ.

But, Baptism is not the end of our journey; it is the beginning.  It is not enough to have received Baptism because, lamentably, the flame of the light of Christ can be extinguished if we do not make the right choices.  Christ gives us the means to help us along the way through the Sacraments.  Baptism is the gateway to the Sacraments.  Our parents and Godparents made promises for us when we were baptized (those of us who went through infant Baptism) and, because our parents are our first teachers, they were charged with ensuring that we were brought up in the Faith. That includes ensuring that we receive the Sacraments of Penance, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation. They also need to ensure that we understand the importance of assisting at Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.  

In his book, Milestones, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes about the importance of Baptism.  His situation is somewhat unique in that he was born on April 16, 1927, and baptized that same day at the Easter Vigil.  His life is forever intertwined with the Paschal Mystery, as ours should be.

If you can, call up the parish where you were baptized and see if the staff can pull up your baptismal date.  Mark it on your calendar and celebrate it just as you would your own birthday.  After all, that is the day that you were claimed for Christ and baptized into his Body, the Church.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Original Guadalupe Celebration

I know that I am rather late with this, in fact, about a month removed from the original occurance.  Much has been going on both professionally and personally and this is the first brief respite I've had in a good while.

On December 12th, I, along with three co-workers, made a three-hour trek to the lower Rio Grande Valley for a training in McAllen, Texas.  After we checked in at the hotel, I drove out to San Juan, Texas, to assist at Mass for the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe.   The Mass took place at the National Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan.  

Those of you who regularly read this blog know that I have an aversion to Mariachi music.  This particular genre's primary secular association does not seem to be compatible with the sacred and solemn character of the Mass.  Having said that, I knew what I was getting into considering that the basilica employs this particular style of music, for better or for worse, and, at the time, this was the only option available to me, given the circumstances.

I got to the basilica and braced myself for what was to come.  I prepared myself for the Mariachi onslaught, but, not for the other matters, namely the celebrant's frequent ad-libbing of the immovable parts of the Mass and for his use of ceramic ware for Holy Communion (both practices expressly reprobated in Redemptionis Sacramentum), as well as his having extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion retrieve the Blessed Sacrament from the side chapel (even though there was a Deacon who could have and should have done that).  I tried my best to pray and go to every liturgical "happy place" that I could find; however, what had unfolded before me was not conducive to prayer.   After Mass, I went to the back where the statue of Our Lady of San Juan was and lit a couple of candles and prayed, asking for some sort of peace amidst the chaos that had just transpired within the Mass.

When I got into my car, I remembered that the Oratorians of St. Philip Nieri had a parish in Pharr, Texas, which was not too distant from the shrine.  They had a Holy Hour and confessions scheduled.  Liturgical Nirvana was near, or so it seemed. Unfortunately, Siri was failing me.  I drove a considerable distance and almost wound up going into Nuevo Progresso, Mexico.  Nonetheless, I remained undaunted and was able to get there the old fashioned way, having stopped at a convenience store to get directions.   I missed the church several times and was almost at the point of despair when I flagged down a motorist who helped me find the parish.  

When I got to St. Jude's Catholic Church, I thought that they had a rather excellent turnout for a Holy Hour.  When I walked in, I nearly cried.  Instead of Holy Hour, St. Jude's had Mass to mark the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe and it was in the Extraordinary Form (for those who are new readers, the Extraordinary Form is proper term for the Traditional Latin Mass under the 1962 Missal).  I had reached the liturgical promised land.  The faithful were united, praying the Mass and joining themselves to the action of the celebrant.  The familiar chants of the Mass brought me much comfort.  Even the small children present at the Mass were surprisingly quiet.  The last time I had experienced such joy was back in late January 2011 when I had gone to Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the Lady Chapel inside Our Lady of Walsingham Anglican-Use Parish in Houston.  And yes, the celebrant was my dear Oratorian friend.  

After Mass, I prayed before the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, thanking her for the opportunity to have gone to Mass at St. Jude's.  I then was able to speak to the parish priest and explained my long, strange evening.  His words were comforting and reassuring.  There was also a huge sense of peace that enveloped me when I pulled up to the parish.  It was a peace and joy that I could not find at the basilica.  

I left the parish and went on to find a place to eat.  When I got to the hotel room, I pondered my experiences for the evening.  Much has been made about the cultural significance of the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe; however, this is sometimes done at the expense of the deeper, religious meaning.  The Matachines who perform the centuries-old ritual dance associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe do so before the Mass.  Mariachi music, on the other hand, is only a 40-year-old innovation.  Now, if we really want to go return to the original manner in which the Church has marked the Solemnity of Our Lady of Guadalupe, we only have to look at the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.    For me, it was a true gift from Our Lady to have been able to celebrate her feast day in its purest form.