Friday, July 30, 2010

The New Translation of the Roman Missal

The Roman Missal is not an intercontinental ballistic missile from Rome (although some treat it as if it were!), it is the red book that a priest gets the prayers for Mass out of – and it is about to be changing. In 2002 Rome released a new Missal, but, as always, it was only released in Latin. The English translation has been worked on, argued over, and just recently approved by the Vatican for publication, and it looks like it will be implemented around Advent of next year.

As with anything in the Church, some people are mad about it. There was a decision to make the English closer to the Latin (a literal translation), as opposed to the translation principle of trying to interpret the Latin and find better English words than the literally translated words.

An example might help.

In Latin, at the beginning of Mass, the priest is to say
“Dominus Vobiscum” and the people respond “et cum spiritu tuo”

Dominus Vobiscum was translated literally as “The Lord be with you.”
“et cum spiritu tuo” was translated as “and also with you”, but the literal translation is “and with your spirit.” The committee working on the translation shucked the “and also with you” and will soon be going with “and with your spirit” – a more literal translation.

People are upset with what they believe to be a turning back of the clock to the pre-Vatican II days.

Frankly, this baffles me. I can’t imagine a) who really sees this as a threat, and b) who has time to care. I just can’t see why someone would be threatened by some new translations at Mass, and who would see that as a turning back of the clock. I’ve never heard anyone say – “we need to get back to the good old days when we said “and with your spirit!” (not to mention that “and with your spirit” has NEVER been said before, so how can it be a turning back of the clock?)

Also, it strikes me as such a weird thing to get upset about – it is a couple of words – and if the Church and the Bishops decide to go in a certain direction with the translations – great – let’s get behind it. My question to people a lot is this “does Christ speak to us through His Church, or does He not?” If He does, and I think He does, worrying and getting angry about whether or not it is “and with your spirit” or “and also with you” seems petty to me. Please note – I’m not saying that the words at Mass are insignificant, I’m saying worrying about why they aren’t what you want them to be is usually a sign of a deeper mistrust of the Church and Her Magisterium.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Unforgivable Sins

Even though I am a priest there are sins that I do not have the authority to absolve a person of in the confessional. Canon Law has defined those sins as, until recently,

1) desecrating the Eucharist (basically anything other than consuming the Host immediately after receiving it
2) I can not absolve a fellow priest who says that he absolved someone that he had sex with
3) Someone who has planned or carried out an attack on the life of the Holy Father
4) Anyone who has participated in any way in an abortion
5) A priest who has broken the seal of confession

All of these sins carry with them an immediate removal from the Church (excommunication), and in order to get their sins absolved and in order to become a Catholic once again, the person who has sinned must go to a designated Vatican confessor. In the case of number 4, abortion is one of the sins that the Bishop can choose to allow the priests in his diocese to absolve, if he so chooses, and most in the U.S. have given that power to their priests. The other 4 sins above are non-negotiably referred to a Vatican confessor.

Recently, the Vatican released an updated list. Two of the notable additions to the list are these:

6) A regular priest can not absolve another priest of child sexual misconduct and
7) A regular priest can not absolve someone who has attempted to ordain a woman.

The New York Times and others are of course appalled as the media has generally been saying that the Church sees ordaining a woman as being on par with child sexual abuse.

This is dumb for two reasons: a) making a list of grave offenses doesn’t mean they are all equal in every way. Some crimes are always more heinous to us than others, but nobody complains about the variance in things that our society considers to be felonies. b) It is also important to realize that on a theological level the ordaining of women, or desecrating the Eucharist or breaking the seal of confession are HUGE HUGE HUGE issues! Certainly to our mind the abuse of a child by a priest is horrible, and no one would argue otherwise, but it is very important to realize that if a person really believes the Church is what it says it is and that the Eucharist is what the Church says it is, then all of the offenses need to be punished in a way that conveys the true damage that is done to the Church through any of these actions.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last week, after my angel homily, one of the Malachy parishioners came up to me and said, fairly disgusted "Are you ever going to preach on the Gospel? Gosh, I came here excited because of the Martha and Mary Gospel, and then I had to listen to you talk about angels?" I calmly explained to her that the priest has options when preaching, and can use any reading, but she wasn't really listening at that point. Ironically, yesterday a different parishioner, one who knew nothing about the previous lady's gripe, came up to me and said, "I want to thank you for not preaching on Martha and Mary. We hear about them all the time, and it was so refreshing to hear about angels because we don't hear about them very much." I could barely contain my smile.

I say this not to get people to feel sorry for me, but to raise a couple of important things with regard to homilies that I think it is good for people to keep in mind.

1) The 2nd Vatican Council says that priests should preach on A) one of the readings or B) some other phrase or text used at Mass. When I was growing up, I never heard anything from the Old Testament preached, and a lot of times wondered what was going on in the Old Testament. I had a professor in the seminary who encouraged us to preach on the psalm response from Mass on occasion because he said that was often ignored. I had another professor who encouraged us to preach on the Old Testament from time to time. The point to all of this is that, while the Gospel is the "high point" in terms of the reading, the priest can and should preach on other things besides the Gospel at times.

2) Along those lines, as the new translation of the Mass comes out, expect more homilies to be utilizing option B above as priests will be helping to introduce the changes in wording, and why those changes matter.

3) In the seminary, someone once told us, "Quit listening to the homily thinking about what you would be saying differently." That was excellent advice, because for Catholics it is easy during the homily to think "If I were preaching I would say..." and then when our little fantasy is over, we find we've missed the actual homily. The Church believes that, even if the message is horrible or unorthodox, that the message is still Christ speaking to the hearts of all the listeners a message they need to hear. If the message is bad or unorthodox, then perhaps that message is meant to inspire us to point that out the problem with a homily to the pastor and encourage him to become more faithful to the Church. Regardless, I think we do well to listen to the homily in the moment as opposed to running with it in our minds.

By the way, keep the feedback coming, and certainly constructive criticism is most appreciated.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Most Thankful Time to be a Catholic

As mentioned in previous posts, Two weeks ago I was able to preside at a Mass to bury my Grandfather (in other family news, we're still waiting on baby news - she's two weeks past due and spends most of her time on a trampoline). I'm also preparing to marry my brother Danny in Washington D.C. in two weeks. This reminded me of one of my favorite claims - the two best times to be a Catholic, from a purely human perspective, are funerals and weddings.

People often deride Catholicism for its formality and for its lack of entertainment. The Mass is boring in the eyes of the world, and even other Christians can not believe the lack of creativity in a Catholic Mass. When compared to other religious services, the Catholic Mass ranks lowest on a human "engagement of the senses" scale.

However, at funerals and weddings this "boring lack of creativity" is often revealed for what it truly is and it begins to shine out in all of its glory. I've been to non-Catholic weddings and funerals, and I can only describe them as utterly lacking. My parents recently went to a funeral of a neighbor who belonged to an "internet Church" and the funeral lasted about 10 minutes as the minister read from the Bible, offered a reflection, and then said something to the effect of "well, that's it." Most of the non-Catholic weddings I've been to have been a total train wreck as well. No one seems to have any idea what is going to happen next, most of the time is filled with a pastor's sermon, and depending on the length of it, the whole service is over in a matter of minutes. I always feel so bad for everyone involved in those weddings.

When you contrast those experiences with Catholic weddings and funerals, the difference is nearly infinite. Suddenly, what on Sundays is perceived as "lack of creativity on the part of Cahtolicism", namely the fact that the Mass is not spontaneous, is transformed into a comforting reassurance to the families involved which says "look, we've been here before, and we know what to do." What a comfort to the family.

With regard to Catholic weddings, one gets the sense that one is attending something that has not completely been manufactured by the bride herself. Again, this is of a great comfort to the bride, groom, families etc. I know for my own ordination I had many things to worry and obsses over about the reception, friends and family's arrivals, tickets, etc. The most relaxing part of my ordination was the ordination Mass itself, and that was so for one reason - IT DIDN'T REQUIRE ME TO PLAN ANYTHING OR BE CREATIVE, we followed an ancient ritual layered with meaning and significance, and a powerful mixture of prayer and reflection, and when it was over, I was a priest.

While many mock the Mass and its unspontaneity, I say thank God for the gift of tradition, and thank God for the comfort it brings during those key points in one's life.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Angel Homily Links

I promised a few links in my angel homily. First, the story of the angel apparition from USA Today. I'd skip over the theological discussion afterwards which is pretty theologically deprived.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Also, here is one of my favorite short stories ever. It is a fantastic read! (Click Here to access)

New Stuff From Tom Petty

I've always been a big fan of Tom Petty. His new album looks stellar! It doesn't hurt that the album is named MOJO, which was what everyone called my grandfather. Anyway, I'm sure in the second video that when he says there is "something good coming" he's referring to the Beatific Vision - here is to hoping!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What's Wrong With Normal Catholic Words?

One of the things Fr. Meyer and myself did on the way down to the Shrine in Alabama (see post below) was to stop in to the Cathedrals along the way. We first went to Louisville's and prayed Daytime Prayer while there. We also grabbed a bulletin on the way out because Fr. Meyer is still obsessing that his bulletin doesn't look quite right.

Anyways, I came across this little announcement in the bulletin -

"Michael Morwood, a well-known presenter on theological issues with more than 30 years experience in retreat, education, parish and youth ministries, will lead a retreat Aug. 8-14 at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods(northwest of Terre Haute, Indiana). The retreat is hosted by White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of
Providence. The theme is “God, Jesus, Prayer and Liturgy in a new story of the universe

Now I have the deepest love for Providence Sisters - Sr. Marie Grace and Sr. Theresa Clare both gave me a first class education and taught me to love Christ's Church. I've preached on my love for them on numerous occasions. However, I must ask here, what in the world is a Center for Eco-justice? Also, I must say that I wouldn't let a loved one go within two hundred miles of a retreat titled "God, Jesus, Prayer and Liturgy in a new story of the universe." The two titles baffle me so much, I'm not sure where to start.

It got me thinking - what is wrong with traditional Catholic words? I list some of my favorite - Virtue, Sin, Heaven, Hell, The Trinity, God The Father, God the Son, the Holy Spirit, Papacy, Redemption, Our Blessed Mother, the Eucharist - this could go on for days. The reason I mention all this is that heresies usually spring up over disagreements over words and end up being, well, heresies. If you want to know if something is authentically Cahtolic, you can usually tell right away. Let's pray for people who invent a new lexicon that they come to realize that the words we've been using for some 2,000 years have been working just fine.

Shrine of the MBS - Not a Bad Vacation Plan B

Knowing that my Grandfather was at death's door, my friend Fr. Meyer and I canceled our flights to go hiking in California, and instead decided to take an overnight trip to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama. The Shrine was built by Mother Angelica of EWTN fame (well she didn't build it but she organized it and did the fund raising), and her sisters who live there in cloister (no access to the outside world).

Walking into the Church I had one word - WOW!!! It quickly rose to the top of my "favorite Catholic churches in the U.S." list, along with St. John's in Indy and the Basilica in D.C.

What you see in the photo above is the altar and the dividing wall of the Church. Behind the dividing wall is where the sisters pray throughout the day and night, since they have perpetual adoration. The back wall, to give you an idea of how nice the Church is, is plated completely in gold!!! The floors and columns are beautiful marble, the wood working is beautifully done, the chalices are gold, the vestments are nice, the craftsmanship is fantastic - it really is quite amazing to behold.

Certainly not every Church can look like that, but when a lot of our Churches today look more like convention halls, it does provide a nice reminder of what Churches can look like with some effort.

If you ever are looking for a great overnighter for the fam, swing down to Hanceville (6.5 hours from Indy) - It will be worth your time!

The French Revolution???

Over the past few years, my reading has taken me in for a closer look at the French Revolution. All I really knew about it was "the storming of the Bastille" and it had always been presented to me as this glorious triumph of liberty and freedom over the old regime.

The book that originally "reopened the file" for me was France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart by Raymond Jonas. It is a fantastic read for sure and is a great piece of historical writing.

The book that I just finished recently, that blew me out of the water is a book by William Bush titled To Quell the Terror which says in its subtitle - The True Story of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiegne.

The story of these Carmelite Sisters was made famous in Francis Poulenc's opera, Dialogues of the Carmelites with its libretto by Georges Bernanos. However, the author wanted to write a piece of historical research, and all I can say is WOW! It is one of my top 10 books of all time now.

You know how the story is going to end from the outset, but I garauntee that you will be riveted until the last word. Most importantly this story dispells a lot of the misconceptions about the Catholic Church and the French Revolution that most liberal arts undergrads graduate college with. I dare you to read it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Letter from a Novice Priest to His Elders

As mentioned below, Fr. Peter Daly penned a note to the newly ordained priests of the U.S. in last week's Criterion. Since dialogue is a two way street, I thought that it might be good for a younger priest to also offer suggestions to Fr. Daly's generation.

Dear Fathers,

First of all, thank you for your service to the Church. You have given your entire life to ministering to the People of God selflessly and you have inspired and inflamed the hearts of millions and millions of people. Thank you for staying when so many of your brethren quit and were married or whatever else they did - you stayed and if you all had quit, the Church in the United States would have perished.

I have two suggestions for things to improve on. Every generation has its blind spots and it takes humility to hear someone point them out, but I offer some advice none the less.

First of all, please preach the hard teachings. Pornography and masturbation cause many of the men in our country to live a black hole which they feel they can not escape. Don't tell them is okay or normal or healthy, help them. 1/3 of my generation has been wiped out by abortion, and were it not for immigration from Mexico, our country wouldn't be replacing itself. Contraception seems to be accepted by Catholics everywhere, nonetheless, it is a grave mortal sin and is wrecking their lives unbeknownst to them. The people in the pews need to hear it from you. The people of God know these things are wrong in their hearts, and yes, these are "hard sayings" but Christ preached hard things Himself, as you well know. "Be not afraid." When it is all said and done, your people will thank you for it!

Secondly, the actions and words of the liturgy matter. For some reason the idea has developed in a lot of your parishes that the Mass is just a meal among friends. That is not what the Second Vatican Council said, however. It is BOTH meal and sacrifice, and so the ritual, the words, the vestments, the chalice, the aura of the Church and the quality of the music matter!

In 2002, the Vatican issued a General Instruction on the Roman Missal. It is neither lengthy nor complex, and it reminds priests how the Mass should be celebrated. The things in here are not guidelines or suggestions - it is the Church, which you promised obedience to, telling you how to perform your craft. I note some key points in the document:

1) Quoting Vatican II: "The priest must remember that he is the servant of the sacred Liturgy and that he himself is not permitted, on his own initiative, to add, to remove, or to change anything in the celebration of the Mass." This is very important, and also often abused. How does a priest read this but still say whatever he wants at Mass? The worst violation of this is when a priest INTENTIONALLY changes the words of consecration - yet I see it all the time. The Church asks you to get about 40 words out in a row without alteration to make the Mass valid, but some priests change even those words.

2) "Sacred vessels are to be made from precious metal. If they are made from metal that rusts or from a metal less precious than gold, then ordinarily they should be guilded on the inside." How does someone, then, use a wood chalice or a glass chalice? Also, metal cups from Bed, Bath and Beyond don't cut it either. Mother Theresa, when she built a new convent, would always buy beautiful vestments and make sure the chalice and paten were of precious metal - everything else in the building was dirt poor. Perhaps we should remember that as well.

3) As mentioned in a previous post, "It is fitting that the beauty and nobility of each vestment derive not from abundance of overly lavish ornamentation, but rather from the material that is used. That would seem to exclude burlap, bedsheets, quilts, sequence, etc.

This need for a renewed respect for the liturgy is not pharisaical on the part of my generation - it is a desire to operate from the heart of the Church. I know when you were growing up that perhaps you had an overly authoritarian pastor and you think that my generation wants to return to that. My generation doesn't want to return to that, but we also recognize that perhaps some of the ways you operate are more in line with a child acting out against its parent in the matters mentioned above, as opposed to healthy and authentic reform. Perhaps past generations of priests didn't love the people enough. Perhaps your generation doesn't love the Church enough. I think Christ asks us to love them both.

I will read over your suggestions to me and keep them in mind as I go forth in my ministry. I ask you to do the same with my words, and let us keep working together to bring Christ to the world.

Fr. John Hollowell

FOLLOW UP: Last night I was reading "Priest and the Eucharist: No Higher Calling" by Cardinal Avery Dulles and he said it best - "These and other liturgical norms should not be dismissed as meticulous rubrics dictated by a legalistic mentality. They are intended to protect the sacredness of the Eucharist and the integrity of the ministerial priesthood, which is intrinsically related to the Eucharist."

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Average Parish's Vestments Today

I must admit up front that I've never been a fan of the Fr. Peter Daly column in the Criterion. It isn't so much what he does say; my beef is with the issues that are never talked about. Anyways, his most recent article was a letter to newly ordained priests. Most of it was fine (the sort of stuff a priest his age would say to new guys), but one of his pieces of advice was just plain wrong. Fr. Daly encouraged new priests to not worry about vestments and just wear what the parish has.

I couldn't disagree more. Anyone who knows me knows that fashion ranks VERY low on my priority list. I wear all black all the time, even when running or working out. My concern with what is worn at Mass is not from a "diva mentality" but rather from attempting to follow the guidance of the Church, which looks to ensure that there is a proper dignity surrounding the things of the Mass.

The Church Herself speaks to the issue of vestments when She says, in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) p. 344 "It is fitting that the beauty and nobility of each vestment derive not from abundance of overly lavish ornamentation, but rather from the material that is used from the design."

Now, Fr. Peter Daly, I would be happy to wear the vestments of a parish, but literally 99.9% of the vestments that I see in a parish don't come ANYWHERE close to being suitable for the Liturgy per the GIRM above. It seems, for the last 30 years or so, that the mindset in the vestment world has been the tackier and uglier the better. There are websites that have a competition for worst vestment in the world which are quite entertaining and worth a look. It would be funny if not also sad at the same time because the problem is so widespread. I usually look in vestment closets when I visit parishes and it is almost always a true disaster. I've seen sequence, plaid, rainbows, polyester, and tons of vestments that are essentially bed sheets with a hole cut out of the center. Trying to decipher which liturgical color an average parish vestment is supposed to be is a true chore these days as well.

As with most things in my generation of priests, those who don't like us too much seem to think that in attempting to restore beauty to the liturgy we have as our true motivation a desire to be carried around on thrones and be viewed as once again important people. Again, if you see me wearing something nice at Mass, please know it is for the glory of God, in keeping with the request of the Church, and not something I'm doing because I have an overly developed sense of self-importance.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Summer vacation until July 13th. Heading to the EWTN birthplace for a few days. I've never been; it should be interesting. Already looking forward to blogging again when I get back!

Waiting for Death, Waiting for Life

I don't normally sleep with my cell phone on - I need my beauty rest! - but the past week or so I have. I'm waiting on two calls. The first is the call in which I will learn that my Grandfather, James "Mojo" Hollowell, has passed away after his 10 year bout with Alzheimers. The other call that I'm waiting on is from my brother Matt letting me know that their first child has been born. Matt's wife Kari is due tomorrow.

The other day I was reflecting on the fact that I'm waiting, at the same time, for death and life, the passing away of one Hollowell and the arrival of the newest Hollowell. Isn't this the story of all of us in our lives - a waiting for death and a simultaneous waiting for new life, the fullness of life, life with Christ in Heaven. We mourn the passing of loved ones while at the same time waiting anxiously for and praying that God may bring us to the day when we will meet our loved ones and Christ.

As the circle of life continues here on earth, may we live so that our death is a birth into a new life in God.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Catholic Prophet

“What puzzles the world and its wise philosophers and fanciful pagan poets about the priests and people of the Catholic Church is that they still behave as if they were messengers. A messenger does not dream about what his message might be, or argue about what it probably would be; he delivers it as it is.” G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man.

On Thursday, the daily readings again hinted at a call to prophesy. Jesus grabs a young woman by the hand and tells her to rise and walk. The word "walk" can mean to "go out" to be a prophet, to spread the Good News. But again, the question - what is a prophet today?

The prophet Amos, in the first reading, has an AWESOME statement. He essentially tells the king - "I am no [formal] prophet [this was no career path I chose for myself] but rather I am delivering a message not my own. I was a vine dresser and cared for trees, but God called me from that life to this." A true prophet does not deliver a message that he or she has thought up - a true prophet delivers the message God has entrusted to them. So what makes sure that message is sound - it is sound if it comes from the heart of the Church and also leads people back to Christ's bride the Church. If people claim to be prophets but are not pointing people to the same thing that Christ points people towards - namely Himself and His Church - then you can be sure they are wolves in sheep's clothing.