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Catholic Voice

 January 11, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 1   •   Oakland, CA
Letters from Readers

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Correcting an error

The Dec. 14 issue of The Catholic Voice, in an article by Marianist Brother John Samaha, said the following:

“Our feast of Christmas came from a pagan observance which was Christianized. The first mention of the celebration of the Lord’s nativity in a liturgical calendar appears in the fourth century. This was the baptism of the pagan festival of the invincible sun (sol invictus), an observance introduced in 274 by the Emperor Aurelius (270-275), and celebrated in Rome on December 25, the winter solstice.”

Having studied the Fathers for many years, I hold a completely different opinion.

There is little evidence that any Christian celebrations, especially of the Liturgy, had anything to do with pagan festivals or were derived from them. The choice of December 25 results from early Christian figuring out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

I would recommend reading volume one of Mark Shea’s new trilogy,” Mary Mother of the Son.” One particular chapter of that book explains the question very well.

Father Jeffrey Keyes, CPPS
Pastor, St. Edward Parish
Newark


Improve cathedral music


As a parishioner, docent, visitor volunteer, and catechist at the cathedral, I am privileged to spend a lot of time there and to participate in liturgy often. The liturgical experience in the cathedral has a powerful sense of ritual; strong symbolism in the procession from baptism to the altar mount with its “Christ in majesty” backdrop; and excellent homilies.

The music is another story. Other parts of the liturgy have matured and adapted to the cathedral environment. The homilists and lectors in particular have learned to speak within the cathedral’s acoustic reverberation to great effect.

The community music, however, has regressed from a low starting point. The music selections are hard to sing. The songs are archaic — usually from the 18th century, sometimes making it into the 19th. The lyrics are often reflective of the time of the song’s origin and neither relate to the time of Christ nor today.

And the organ accompaniment makes them even harder to sing. The loudest refrains heard from the pews are the groans when yet another poorly chosen song is started and afterwards when the music is a discussion topic.

In speaking to Rudy deVos, the music director, he acknowledged that catechesis is needed. I’m all for adult catechesis about the liturgy. And I’m sure it will be based on the Church’s “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy” document which speaks of the presence of the Lord in the singing and the need for the community’s full participation in the entire service.

In 40-some years of catechetical work we have always framed our work on the liturgy. Now, as RCIA catechists, we advise our neophytes on Pentecost, the last day of the mystagogia period, to spend the next year falling in love with the liturgy and then decide how they are gifted and called to serve in the Church.

Like Dorothy Day admonished her workers who didn’t attend Mass: “You can’t do this work for long if you don’t take communion.” Our communion requires our full participation in the liturgy. And effective music is part of that participation.

Ray Galka
Oakland


End handshaking at Mass


I agree wholeheartedly with Barbara McLaughlin (Forum, Nov. 9) regarding the Sign of Peace. My objection isn’t based on sanitary aspects but rather the impersonal, perfunctory gesture it is.

When Paulist Father Al Moser of Holy Spirit/Newman Hall in Berkeley walks up the aisle shaking hands, that’s a different matter; his greeting is warm and sincere. Otherwise, I find it annoying to have to shake hands with people beside me, in front of me, and behind me.

There’s no spontaneity in this mandatory hand shaking. I’d much rather smile and nod my head at people as a friendly greeting, and I believe they would prefer this.

Dorothy Snodgrass
Berkeley


Understanding homosexuality


The sanctity of human life and the understanding of the homosexual condition have long been under attack. Much has been spoken about the evil of abortion. We must take this teaching to heart.

And now, my brothers and sisters in Christ, we must begin to proclaim the truth about the homosexual condition. So many, even in the Church, have fallen prey to false compassion.

For those who experience same-sex attraction, it’s natural not to want to think of it as a disorder. But as the Church informs us, it leads to an intrinsic evil. It is a sickness in the true sense of the word — a lack of wholeness — having many grave consequences. It is a lack of gender-identity development.

Let us then begin to study and understand, so we can help others, our society and the Church. See www.couragerc.org.

David Zarri
Concord


(Oakland Bishop Salvatore Cordileone has appointed two diocesan priests, Father John Direen, pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Berkeley, and Father Francisco Figueroa, parochial administrators of St. Jarlath Parish in Oakland, as chaplains to Courage, an apostolate of the Church ministering to those with same-sex attractions and their loved ones.)


The opinions expressed in letters to Reader's Forum are the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Catholic Voice or the Oakland Diocese.

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