HOME THOUGHTS FROM “HOME” 1

          As some have seen from a few Facebook pictures I’ve posted, I’m now in the Chicago area, in the northern township of Mundelein, at St Mary of the Lake Seminary.  Here are some random observations and comments from my first few days here…

          I’m also “sharing space” with the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV).  This is a group that meets every two years in a different location, and this year about 100 have gathered here.  I’ve had meals and discussions now with people from Japan, Ireland, Iceland, and Canada—these are ordained and lay, male and female, and as an extra added surprise:  there are rabbis and imams and a Buddhist monk here, as well!  It is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and inter-faith.  How can this happen?  The key is the “V” in the acronym… 

          The grounds are extensive and lovely—the loop around the lake is about a 3 mile distance.  If there is one word to describe that atmosphere right now, the word “serene” would spring to mind.

          I wanted to write something about the relationship between Jesus in the desert after the baptism, and the scapegoat of Leviticus.  Unfortunately for me, the Greek words for how they get into the desert are different, but I think there is still something worth reflecting on, and that’s my project for the time being.  My thoughts are bouncing all over the place for this; that’s my problem!  I need to rein them in and organize them and develop them.  That’s my project for the time being!

          I concelebrated Mass yesterday (Tuesday, 2 August) in the lovely chapel here in the dorm building.  The young presiding priest was from Texas, here to do an advanced degree in liturgy.  He insisted on celebrating “ad oriens.” It was awkward for me to see him re-arrange the cross and candles for this—but the real irony is that the phrase (which these days means “with the priest’s back to the people”) actually means “to the East”—but in this chapel, east is toward the congregation!  I hope he doesn’t have a compass—he’ll be very upset, if he learns this.  FYI:  if Pope Francis wants to celebrate “ad oriens” in St Peter’s, he simply does what he always does and faces toward the congregation.  That’s the way that church was designed from the beginning. 

I need to do a bit more research on this, but I think I’m right in saying that the only reason there ever developed the practice of celebrating Mass with one’s back to any congregation was the proliferation of “private Masses” in churches and monasteries with side chapels—there might be a dozen Masses per chapel every day because of endowments made by rich people for the salvation of their souls:  they wanted Mass offered for them daily for the rest of eternity, in exchange for money or lands or whatever.  The altars were fixed into the back walls of the side chapels, and typically there would be a “congregation” of 1 server.  Come to Europe with me and see these kinds of churches.  But to paraphrase Jesus (Matthew 19:8, in a completely different context)—in the beginning it was not so…

And that’s life.  Tomorrow (Thursday, 4 August, Memorial of St John Vianney, patron saint of parish priests) I will celebrate by being on the golf course (8:03 am tee-time, Ken, in case you’re interested).  This is late for my Mobile golfing buddies, but it’s just fine for me.  Again, FYI:  the course is about 6-1/2 minutes’ drive from here!