Fuzzy Focus

Regarding My Second First Mass (12/3): While Father Kerpers insights about priestly service are to be applauded, there is a troubling impression that readers can be left with from comparison of presiding at the extraordinary form versus the ordinary form of Mass. He writes, I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. One wonders where he received this impression (not from his seminary liturgical formation, it is hoped). There is nothing about presiding at the Novus Ordo that indicates that the priest is supposed to perform or be friendly in a superficial sense. Many liturgy documents, including the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal, are clear that the priest is at the service of the liturgy. If there is a lack of reverence in the Mass, or if it seems too priest-centered, the problem is not with the rite; the problem is with the way we are doing the rite.

Father Kerpers statement that the focal point when he celebrated the Tridentine Mass was not the priest but the gathering of the people is therefore somewhat confusing. The priest should not be the focus for either form of Mass. In addition, how can the focal point be the gathering of the people in the form of the rite where the people are clearly following along with what the priest does? The liturgical actions in the Tridentine Mass are centered on the actions of the priest instead of on the actions of the body of Christ, the gathered assembly as a whole, priest included. We should never forget that the two forms of the Mass represent starkly different ecclesiologies.

(Rev.) Joseph DeGrocco

Director of Liturgical Formation

Seminary of the Immaculate Conception

Huntington, N.Y.

Patriot Games

In the editorial Thanking Our Soldiers (11/12), you did the expected and politically correct thing to do in celebration of Veterans Day. We have come to a place in American political culture where everyone must support the troops or be labeled unpatriotic. It is a major psychological force, along with perpetual fear, that is used by the national propaganda machine to keep us all in line.

Veterans Day, of course, had its origin in authentic and sincere gratitude for the sacrifices made by our soldiers in wars of necessity that were actually fought to preserve our sovereignty and freedoms. But the current war is different. It is actually destroying our freedoms to preserve the militaristic ambitions of those now in power. It is an illegal war of aggression based on trumped-up evidence, lies and political corruption.

Real patriotism defends the truths and principles on which our nation was founded and which, for the most part, have guided us for 200 years. Real patriotism renounces the twisted agenda that has hypnotized and mesmerized our country, trashed our constitution and repudiated international law.

Hugh B. Skees

Miamisburg, Ohio

Lets Call the Whole Thing Off

What Divides Orthodox and Catholics? by Maximos Davies, (12/3) was enlightening on the conflict the title describes.

Since both our Catholic Church and the Orthodox are churches of apostolic succession, we should be able to achieve reconciliation. This divide has, in my opinion, been created and fostered through human actions and jealousies.

The way both sides of this divide consider the various issues reminds me of the old song with the line, You say po-tay-to and I say potah-to. I personally do not care for a lot of high formality and ceremony, but I would have no problem being associated with those who do.

Let us hope and pray that this argument will be settled amicably.

John L. Coakley Jr.

Kansas City, Mo.

Union Yes

I found What Divides Orthodox and Catholics? (12/3) very enlightening in explaining why such ecumenical dialogue has only gotten close for so many years. Yes, the facts are usually more complex than meets the eye for those of us not directly involved. It is discouraging if such union will take place only if the faithful Christians must do the rest, as the article concluded. These faithful Christians are looking for and need leadership from the clergy. Do we (on both sides) not have this leadership? Practically, lay Christians, taught to be followers, will not act without such.

Don Jones

San Jose, Calif.

Contemplation in Action

What a blessing to hear again from William Johnston, S.J., (In Mystic Silence, 11/19). For years Father Johnston has enriched anyone interested in Christian mysticism and especially its potential for dialogue with Eastern religions. I hesitate to take exception to anything he writes. However, his reference to pure Carmelite contemplation may lead some to think that Carmelite contemplation as described by Teresa of ávila and John of the Cross is not for those engaged in active ministry. Cloistered Carmelite nuns practice the ministry of prayer on behalf of others. Some offer spiritual guidance to those not members of their cloister, and still others engage in an apostolate of print.

More to the point, John of the Cross was a very busy friar, whose ministries of spiritual guidance and administration kept him constantly on the road. Carmelite contemplation, like all contemplation, nourishes one for whatever God calls one to be or to do.

Keith J. Egan

President, Carmelite Institute

South Bend, Ind.

Scientific Facts

As John F. Kavanaugh, S.J., recently pointed out in In Defense of Human Life (11/26), there is a lot of confusion regarding the issues of abortion and stem cells.

What is often not brought up regarding abortion is a fact that all reputable biologists agree on: no animal changes species during the course of its life cycle. There can be metamorphosis (e.g., from caterpillar to butterfly), but no change of species. That means that from the time of conception on, biologically the human pre-born is human. This is a scientific issue, not just a religious one.

Robert Sargent

Carrollton, Tex.

Photo Finish

The two primary candidates for the U.S. presidency, one a Democrat (Hillary Clinton), the other a Republican (John McCain), pictured on your cover of 12/17 are precisely the two persons whom I most fondly hope will not be nominated by their parties.

In the case of the Democratic candidate, you reinforce the claim of inevitability that is being advanced in her campaign. Rather, for the single Democrat you should have pictured the intellectually brilliant Senator Barack Obama, a candidate who would certainly be a most welcome replacement for the incumbent resident of the White House.

James F. Bresnahan, S.J.

Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Sharing or Solutions?

In I Need Your Help, by George B. Wilson, S.J., (12/17) the imagined bishop the author creates dismisses the big options (to address the priest shortage) as blind alleys. Unfortunately but truly, such unproductive resignation has become standard operating procedure. About the possible strategies, he suggests we share ideas. But thats as far as it ever goes.

Almost half a century ago, Balti-mores Cardinal Lawrence Shehan engaged the esteemed sociologist Dean Hoge to address this same subject. Just as today, we were discussing the big options and possible strategies. Way back then, Hoge asserted that the worst thing we can do is nothing. Sadly, that is exactly what weve done!

Would so little have been ventured, were we more concerned for the folks in the pews?

(Rev.) Brian M. Rafferty

Lake Shore, Md.

Recently in Letters