The June 17 issue has been a source of pure joy for me. The cover with its colors and, I hope, authentic maternity clothes and the singing and dancing of all parties is so true to Jewish life. Miriam looks like a Jewish girl. Elizabeth must have been able to give her cousin true words of comfort as they both waited for the Word made flesh. Every time I look at the cover, it brings me joy. Thanks to Sister Ansgar Holmberg for her inspiring art.
Theresa R. Goddard
Patricia Kossmann’s Of Many Things (7/29) is a truly beautiful, moving and memorable tribute to and love for a wonderful mother. It is an article that will help many with aging parents. I’ll keep it. Thanks and kindest wishes.
Return of the Rood Screen
I respectfully disagree with a phrase in your report in Signs of the Times about the revision of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (8/12). The words are numerous minor changes. I cannot agree that the changes are all minor; pastorally and symbolically some are huge. The prohibition that only a priest, deacon or instituted acolyte may cleanse the vessels is a retreat to a time when laypeople were excluded from the sanctuary and a reversion to the Middle Ages, when the objects that were sacred were not the people but the chalice and ciborium.
But the people are not only sacred; they are the very temple of God and the body of Christ. Why should they be excluded from the comparatively minor duty of making the vessels ready for the next Mass? Besides, these same people would ordinarily be special ministers of the Eucharist; after handling the body and blood of the Lord, the prohibition forbids their touching the vessels that held the Lord. The illogicality is unfortunate and unnecessary. Similarly, the regulation forbidding the priest to leave the sanctuary for the Sign of Peace for the sake of not disturbing the Eucharist is pastorally unsound, because it keeps the celebrant in his hallowed space and separates him from the rest of the congregation. But he is a part of the congregation; and the Sign of Peace is, at least in my experience, a marvelous chance to show his union with the people. There need be no delay in the Eucharist; ministers can be dividing the consecrated hosts into smaller ciboria for distribution, and perhaps a hymn can help to prepare everyone for Communion. Both these regulations indicate a desire to emphasize the mystique of the priest and his separateness and in so doing return to the division of the worshiping community into strata prevalent when rood screens and altar rails highlighted the holiness of the clergy and the unworthiness of the laity. I had hoped we were 50 years past all that.
(Rev.) Walter J. Paulits
Maybe Not Normative
As someone who was divorced, had an annulment and was remarried in the Catholic Church, I find it difficult to relate to the view of the annulment process as infamously grueling, as described by Thomas J. McCarthy in Communion Without Community? (7/29). Again and again one reads horror stories about annulment; yet my own experience and that of my second husband (who got his annulment in a different diocese) was that we both found the process to be healing, clarifying and therapeutic. During the time of my separation, divorce and annulment, I never experienced anything but compassion and support from Catholic clergy. My husband’s experience was the same. In fact, at our nuptial Mass he publicly thanked the six priests who had been so much help to him during this very difficult time. I am beginning to think that only the horror stories get written up and published, leading most people to think they are normative. It may be that they are not.
Marian E. Crowe
South Bend, Ind.
I intend to share the article by Myles Sheehan, S.J., M.D., entitled Dying Well (7/29) with friends and acquaintances. Doctor/Father Sheehan was my mother’s physician and was at least partially responsible for helping her (and me) along the road to her death last November. I was my mom’s only child and sole caregiver. But if I ever had the time to write a companion piece to Father Sheehan’s, mine would be entitled Living On After Dying Well. In addition to my own experience of Mom’s death, and my work as a policy analyst with the organization that accredits graduate medical education, it strikes me that no matter how much we learn about dying, and how much we improve our approach to death, living on with grief remains the same. Those who die, at least according to our faith, definitely have the better part!
We need to say more both to the medical profession and to pastoral ministers, as well as to families, about grief, giving ourselves and others permission to grieve, to be messy for quite a long time and to recognize it’s all O.K.
I read with interest the column by George M. Anderson, S.J. on his connection with Quakerism. In the fall of 1993 I spent three months living at Pendle Hill in Wallingford, Pa., as part of a sabbatical. My interest was specifically in the decision-making process that Friends used and how it might parallel that of a Benedictine monastic community. I was also interested in other similarities between Friends and Benedictines.
The time at Pendle Hill was an enriching and rewarding experience for me. I learned that I had lots to learn about Quakers and that they are not at all the monolithic group I had presumed they were.
They are at least as diverse as Benedictines! The Monday night lecture series exposed me to a wealth of that diversity, as did the daily contact with fellow sojourners and staff members during those autumn months. My memories of that time remain fond.
While there I also learned of the work of Michael Sheeran, S.J., Beyond Majority Rule, and found his writing about decision-making by Friends quite insightful, as was the story of the early cooperation between the Jesuits and Quakers in the person of Joseph Greaton, S.J., an 18th-century low-profile Jesuit in Philadelphia who lived among the Friends in that city. The site of his house became the present Old St. Joseph’s.
Thanks for running Father Anderson’s reflections. Perhaps they will further an ecumenical appreciation for the Quaker tradition.
Justin DuVall, O.S.B.
St. Meinrad, Ind.