Octave of Light

Christ PantocratorKnown as the Octave of Easter or Easter Week in the Latin tradition (or Bright Week in the Byzantine), throughout this whole week the Church extends the solemnity of Easter, marking each weekday with the highest of ceremonial during the Liturgy of the Eucharist (Mass) as well as in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office, Lauds and Vespers, Morning Prayer and Evensong) effectively declaring that this week is but one drawn-out day, the eighth day of creation, fulfilling creation as God is raised from rest by the breaking of the prison-bars of death in the Holy Night and opens the way for all. We ring out as a single note “Resurrection” during this new week, recreating every day as the mark of God’s fulfillment of his eternal promises in time.

During this week, this Octave of Easter, the Church has also provided for us the privileged space for mystagogy, the incorporation into the fullness of the Paschal Mystery of those initiated at the Easter Vigil by means of participation in the sacramental life and post-baptismal catechesis. For several years when I was ministering at St Thomas More I gathered with the neophytes and others of the faithful each evening of the Octave of Easter, beginning with Easter Sunday Vespers, in order to celebrate solemn Evening Prayer incorporating longer readings from the Office of Readings of each day. For those familiar with these patristic homiletic resources of St Ambrose, St Augustine, the Jerusalem Catechesis, and others, you will know that these are among the richest mystagogical resources readily available. Following this worship we would spend about 35 minutes gathered around the baptismal font in order for the newly baptized to share their experience with the faithful who gathered with us drawn out by typological reflection on one of the primary symbols of the celebration of the Paschal Triduum. Their witness and their testimony, based on their nearness of the experience of the sacraments of Christian initiation, served as a fruitful occasion to accomplish those goals set forth for this period (RCIA 244ff.).

There are also many devotions and customs associated with these days including the Dyngus Day celebrations of Polish and other Slavic influenced areas and the dousing of kith and kin as a reminder of baptism on Easter Monday. One of the particular Eastertide devotions called for by the Church, modeled on the popular Lenten devotion the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross), is the Via Lucis (Way of Light or Stations of the Resurrection, see DPPL 153). The reflections of Father Sabino Palumbieri, the Roman Salesian priest who was inspired by the images in the catacombs of St. Callistus to formulate the Stations of the Resurrection in the 1990s, were published in English translation in 2002 as Via Lucis: Stations of the Resurrection by the UK based Catholic Truth Society. These remain the only published source of the Via Lucis of which I am aware and enumerate the Stations of the Resurrection as follows:

  1. Jesus rises from the dead (Matthew 28:5-6).
  2. Women find the empty tomb (Matthew 28:1-6).
  3. The risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalene (John 20:16).
  4. Mary Magdalene proclaims the Resurrection to the apostles (John 20:18).
  5. The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-27).
  6. The risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of the bread (Luke 24:28-32).
  7. The risen Lord appears to the disciples in Jerusalem (Luke 24:36-39).
  8. The risen Lord gives the disciples the power to forgive (John 20:22-23).
  9. The risen Lord strengthens the faith of Thomas (John 20:24-29).
  10. The risen Lord says to Peter, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
  11. The risen Lord sends the disciples into the whole world (Matthew 28:16-20).
  12. The risen Lord ascends into heaven (Acts 1:9-11).
  13. Waiting with Mary in the Upper Room (Acts 1:12-14).
  14. The risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:2-4).

God willing, I will be able during the remainder of this Week of Light to write some reflections and liturgical guidelines for celebrating these Via Lucis, Stations of the Resurrection, which I will share. He is risen, alleluia alleuia!

Pallium and the Passion

During Holy Week, that week that begins with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem celebrated on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord and culminates one week later on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection, each diocesan church celebrates, in addition to the rites of the Sacred Paschal Triduum celebrated in every parish, the Chrism Mass. At that Chrism Mass the local bishop gathers with all the priests of his diocese who not only renew their priestly promises and concelebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist with their bishop but also join him in blessing the Oil of Catechumens and Oil of the Sick together with the consecration of the Sacred Chrism by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This year, as we prepared for the celebration of this Chrism Mass, which is the largest single celebration for which I am responsible as Director of our Archdiocesan Liturgy Office, I was asked by Archbishop Sartain to prepare his Pallium. You can see at left an image (courtesy of Salt+Light) of our Archbishop Sartain when he was presented with the Pallium, that white woolen garment with five black Maltese Crosses worn like a yoke around his neck. Into three of these five crosses are inserted three nails. In the insertion of the pins into the pallium we see a mimesis or inconographic representation of the crucifixion of Christ whose body was pierced five times by the three nails and Longinus’ lance. The pallium (or omophor in the Byzantine tradition) is the outer garment used since the ninth century by metropolitan archbishops, conferred, twelve per year, once a year on the Solemnity of Ss. Peter and Paul (June 29) directly by the Pope on archbishops. The pallium is made from the wool of lambs raised by the Trappist monks of Tre Fontane who present the wool on St Agnes Day (January 21) to be woven by the Benedictine nuns of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere into the pallium, echoing the agnus Dei, the Lamb who was pierced and slain only to be raised up, and those lost sheep to whom the apostles were sent and who are now placed like a yoke on the shoulders of the metropolitan archbishops as successors to the apostles. As we prepared to enter into the Paschal celebrations of Holy Week, placing the nails in the crosses on that Pallium was a simple yet profound experience for me of entering into the pastoral ministry entrusted to our local shepherd, the chief liturgist of our Archdiocese of Seattle. This imagery is of course recapitulated in every parish as the five pins are inserted into the Paschal Candle at the beginning of the Easter Vigil, as the candle is also scarified with the symbols of eternity, as the wax is consumed to give light to the scriptures, to the world, and to guide us on the way to salvation.

Song of the Sea

Yesterday afternoon Michelle and I took our son to his first cinematic experience as the four of us went to see Song of the Sea at the Guild. I have been excited to see this film since Irish director Tomm Moore’s first film, The Secret of Kells, captivated me and I learned of his concept for a second feature length animation. The animation was once again spellbinding and, together with the music by Bruno Coulais and Kíla, leads the viewer on a visually stunning trek through the Irish world of desolate coasts, bountiful pastures and woods, the confining city, and deep into the enchanted world beneath the sídhe. Without giving away too much of the plot, Song of the Sea once again breathes new life into an ancient Irish tale, this time telling the story of a young lad, Ben, who discovers his younger sister, Saoirse, is a selkie, a seal woman who sheds her seal skin as she emerges onto land. Together Ben and Saoirse must not only unlock the mission entrusted to the latter to sing the Song of the Sea which will liberate those who have been turned to stone but also deal with their own emotional trauma by rooting their sibling relationship in the shared mission. “Song of the Sea challenges us to face our fears, embrace death and human frailty, walk in wonder, and return home as transformed beings” (from Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat).

Like the Song of the Sea in scripture (alternatively known as the Song of Moses or the Song of Miriam from Exodus 15) which is sung each year at the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night as a remembrance of the past works of salvation as well as a prefiguring of the baptism into which the elect are to be plunged, the film Song of the Sea reminds us that liberation from suffering comes not by removing suffering but rather by passing through the suffering with hope in the resurrection. Moreover, Exodus 15 and Song of the Sea both hearken to the importance of the ancient lore, the oldest stories learned as song at the feet of the wise seanchaí or the prophet(ess). One thinks readily also of Tolkien’s Music of the Ainur. While I would not describe the film as explicitly Christian in character and am sure others will write off Song of the Sea as a neo-pagan world inhabited with faeries and the like, I found the paschal dimension of the story very prominent. For example, when [spoiler alert] Ben chooses to risk his own life in order to save his sister who then rises from (near) death to liberate creation that is groaning for redemption we see both Ben and Saoirse as Christ-like figures. And, as one who bridges the hitherto divided worlds of humanity and faeries, Saoirse is a mediator who, in her turn, chooses to remain to dwell among humankind and in her weakness becomes a force for reconciliation. While the main backdrop of the film is the luminous and enchanted world of Irish folklore the small presence of recognizable artifacts of Ireland’s Catholic heritage, such as the iconography in Ben and Saoirse’s grandmother’s home, a holy well, and a gated church are likewise reminders that this world which we see with our eyes is not all there is. Even when those institutions which once brought our ancestors face to face with the mysterium tremendum et fascinans have been shuttered and our vision has dimmed as our stony hearts have been sealed shut against the numinous, such a beautiful and good story as Song of the Sea can give us new eyes and train our voices to sing anew the memory of hope. Song of the Sea reminds us that there is so much more than the visible and when we open ourselves to that infinite horizon, mediated to us sacramentally through the beauty of creation, we are enabled to more fully be grasped by that beauty, even ancient, ever new.

Here’s the trailer for Song of the Sea:


On the Precipice of Lent

Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observances of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.
Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

As we enter once more into the season of Lent, the Quadragesima or forty days, we prepare ourselves to ascend the holy mountain toward Easter. Our singing of the “Gloria” and “Alleluia” this past Sunday were the last we will hear until we emerge from the ark at the sacred Paschal Triduum. I have hung up my green dress shirt and moved it with my green ties to the back of the closet from whence they shall not emerge until June. Tomorrow we will be marked once more, smudged by ashes imposed on us. This year I once again find myself on this Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, known to most as Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday, one step removed from the visceral work of incinerating the palm branches blessed during last year’s triumphant entry on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion.

But as I look down at my hands, prickled and scratched from the labor of the long weekend just past, I am no less prickled with the bodily nature of this Lenten season than ever my nose was with the acrid aroma of the cinders that remind us of our mortality. The sign at Kathy’s Corner, a local garden center, states that now is the right time to be pruning, now is the time to repair our lawns. Like Joel calling the assembly to return to the Lord or the Apostle Paul declaring that “now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (ii Corinthians 6:2), Kathy’s Corner is evangelizing, pointing out that all of creation is at this season calling us back to the garden, back to the ordered world in which God has placed us to thrive as his beloved. A couple of weeks ago I began beating back the blackberry brambles that encircle the perimeter of the property we’re renting on Vashon Island. Owing to the ever increasing hours of sunlight, the presently splendid weather for which I’m most grateful, and the gift of a three-day weekend, I took to clearing back some of the tallest and thorniest thicket that has been encroaching on the lower level of the house evidently for some years. I also found myself clearing out intertwined Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) which was scaffolding the blackberry and, like a pair of vices, preventing anything else from growing—or so it seemed. During the course of the clearing, tossing the deadwood over the edge of the steep back slope, and extracting the matted mess from trees, I came across apple trees—at least four of them. There are other apple trees on the property and we enjoyed harvesting them last summer and fall. But here were orphaned apple trees, sending out shoots, desperately seeking any light from amid the suffocating overgrowth of Himalayan Blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) and Scotch broom, both invasive species. In what is doubtless the deposit of some recent minor mudslide these plants and other small trees have taken root and grown unsightly, marring our view of Puget Sound. So with ax, loppers, chain and hand saws, rake, and garden fork, I have claimed back much of the embankment. I’m of course scratched and a little sore. The view, while still needing additional work, is indeed more beautiful on the whole though it has now laid bare what was previously hidden just beyond the shrubby wall.

In the midst of all this, as I tossed the chopped, dried, and broken berry stalks into the pit below and raked out overgrown broom from the strangled apple trees overhead, it all seemed just right for a Lenten meditation. Here in this season we too prune back what has been allowed to get overgrown in our hearts. With the labor of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving I accept those disciplines with which Christians have opened themselves to growth in Christ for millennia. By cutting out the thorny, brittle branches which still cause others to bristle rather see Christ when they encounter me, I am opened to real growth; by pulling out the dense, wooden stalks which choke and crowd out the fruit, I make room for new life, for pliable, new, fecund shoots; by removing the chaos which years of neglect has fostered, I open myself to new order to be gardened within and so bear fruit that will remain. Thus I experienced something more than mere happiness at discovering apple trees among the thickets this weekend. It was something of a return to Eden, akin to recognizing that the garden into which we have been placed and from which we’ve become alienated is a metaphor for the soul placed in the center of each of us. It needs tending, it needs to be pruned, allowed to fruit, replanted. We need to admit that it’s subject to decay but that it’s nature is enduring, eternal, longing for purity and order. So even as we look out at the flattened mass of beige detritus where once stood a somewhat green wall of entanglements, I have to have to hope that when the rains come again and it all grows that more than the view will be beautiful once more. Looking at the challenge of embracing the Lenten disciplines we must likewise be confident that the space we till will be a rich field for Christ if only we beat back the overgrowth. And ever there is the apple tree, no longer saying, “Do not eat,” but beckoning us toward Calvary, the Cross whereon Christ offers himself, saying with great hope in new life, “Unless you eat…”

Here’s to a Lent full of pruning away the deadwood for each of us as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of an Easter full of new life blossoming in the clearings.

All Souls

This year the Commemoration of All the Faithful departed, also known as All Souls’ Day or Día de los Muertos, was on a Sunday. (For those curious souls, this coincidence last happened in 2008 but will not occur again until 2025). Everyone likes this arrangement whereby our “Triduum of Death” spans the weekend—the same weekend appropriately on which we turn back time.

When Halloween, or All Halloweds’ Eve, falls on a Friday evening we who are parents of small children are thrilled since they’re out trick-or-treating on a Friday evening without school the following morning. While there is never a shortage of hand-wringing about the appropriateness of Christian children participating in Halloween festivities, whether children in Catholic schools should dress in costumes, and the like, I find that this is a perfect entry to dialogue about the Gospel in the world, an opportunity for evangelization and catechesis. While there is legitimate concern with Halloween as glorification of the occult, the carnivalesque inversion of the world order serves, when inscribed in the full ritual context, to in fact reinforce the order it purports to call into question or invert (Gluckman 1954, Handelman 1998). Thus marking Halloween with costumes, trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving, and so forth calls attention to the more profound aspects of this three-day commemoration, this “Triduum of Death,” when maintained with the observance of All Saints and All Souls. This year I found myself dressed by my children as Shrek. I joined my daughter, arrayed as a cheetah, for her Kindergarten class’ art projects and their procession around the school with shakers, tambourines, bells and chanting of Halloween songs. In the evening, Shrek and the Cheetah were joined by Dr. Michelle who donned a shirt revealing the bones and muscles of the body together with a lab coat echoing her anatomy and physiology teaching and the littlest big cat, as my son skin-changed to a roaring Lion cub. Trick-or-Treating along the main road uptown on Vashon was a blast as we saw many friends and classmates, visited the shops and stores handing out sugary treats, and saw our fellow islanders arrayed in their creative costumes.

As the revelries and darkness of Halloween give way to the bright new day of All Saints’ Day (an image I still find beautifully captured in Disney’s Fantasia: A Night on Bald Mountain) we come not to be frightened of the end, the eschaton, death and decay, but to see disorder itself reordered in the light of the resurrection, to hope in new life sprung up from the fallow, leaf-strewn earth. Even though the obligation to attend Mass on All Saints was abrogated since November 1 fell on a Saturday this year, the Solemnity of All Saints was still a blessed occasion. I spent my morning at a parish leading a workshop on liturgical theology for liturgical ministers that followed the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. I used as part of reflection the life and ministry of Blessed Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, an early leader in the lay liturgical apostolate whose famous phrase, ‘Vivimos para esa Noche‘ (‘We live for this night’) about the Paschal Vigil has been made into a documentary of the same name. His life is a reminder of how many saints there are, the “great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue” who give glory to God by the way they live their ordinary lives imbued with Christ. Back at home we read stories together of saints, some well known such as Hildegard of Bingen, and others more obscure, from Holy Crocodile! Stories of Saints and the Animals Who Helped.

Part of the beauty of the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed being on a Sunday was that the whole assembly of the faithful is called forth to remember the dead, to pray for them, to honor them in an explicit manner which does not always happen on other days. My most profound memory of All Souls’ Day was in 2010 when, two weeks after consecrating the new columbarium at St Thomas More, we commemorated the faithful departing by interring in the niches the remains of those who had been awaiting this site for their final interment. This year we began our observance of All Souls by reading the beautifully illustrated A Gift for Abuelita | Un Regalo para Abuelita about the experience of a young girl reconnecting with her deceased grandmother through preparing and giving her an ofrenda. After Mass we made good use of one of the other benefits of All Souls’ Day being commmorated on a Sunday since, having leisure to do the work of the Lord, we stopped by the Vashon Cemetery with some roses, incense sticks, a candle, and our Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers. Although we do not yet know anyone interred here and were hampered a bit by the rain, we introduced our children to the practice of visiting a grave, a practice which neither Michelle nor I were particularly brought up. Regrafting oneself back onto such traditions is challenging but hopefully will grow. I also pray that, just as we prayed for and left flowers for someone’s grandfather whose relatives weren’t able to come and visit, that perhaps someone did likewise for my ancestors interred in Escondido. The experience of All Souls’ Day as Día de los Muertos made for further catechetical fodder for our family since my daughter’s Spanish kindergarten at the public school was going to be celebrating Día de los Muertos as a cultural event the following day. Instructions came home on how this was not a religious observance but rather a cultural one from which children were free to abstain. But we happily sent our daughter along with a photograph of the only one with whom she has been familiar who had died, namely, as she asked for, our beagle, Linus. We also had her decorate a small Book of the Dead in which we wrote the names of our beloved dead. These were placed on two different altars, one for people one for all others of God’s creation, and remembered in Spanish kindergarten. Again, this is a wonderful opportunity for dialogue between the world and the Gospel to which the world was sent, a chance to show forth the profound truth of salvation in Christ through our deepest human longings.

Extending the “Triduum of Death,” like an octave even, I stopped into the Seattle Art Museum on my way home this late this week to catch the final day of the Día de los Muertos exhibit. Clearly there is an interest in the commemoration of the dead and we as Christians have a particular view and duty to help bring hope and life-giving ritual expressions to those who are seeking to move from death to life. Thus we came to a conclusion of our annual “Triduum of Death,” lead along the passage from frightening images of the undead and a carnivalesque inversion through a celebration of the life of those holy ones raised to the fullness of new life in Christ and, finally, to commune with those whom we have known and for whom we pray to also share the beatific vision toward which our lives are oriented.

Requiem Aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis. Requiescant in pace. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace. Amen.
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Studying Christian Initiation

Earlier this month I had the great blessing of attending and participating in the annual meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions at which we joined the US Bishops Committee on Divine Worship in consultation on the National Statutes of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. If you’re scratching your head about what this potential acronym soup means, read on. If these terms are familiar you, you probably want to skip to the discussion of the meeting itself.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the title of an official ritual book of the Catholic Church which came into existence in response to the Second Vatican Council’s call that “The catechumenate for adults, comprising several distinct steps…be restored and to be taken into use at the discretion of the local ordinary” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 64). The catechumenate is not only the form of Christian initiation used in the ancient church but also that process which has, in the RCIA, been established once more as the normative means of initiating adults (and older children) into the practice of the Christian faith. “The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship…during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher.” Those in formation, whom we call catechumens, are “instructed in the mystery of salvation and in the practice of Gospel morality and [lead along this spiritual journey] by sacred rites which are to be held at successive intervals, [and thus are] introduced into the life of faith, of liturgy, and of love” (Ad Gentes 14). The RCIA as we know it was promulgated in its Latin typical (or base) edition in 1974 and an official English translation in 1983 (though earlier interim translations were already in use) which the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops made mandatory for adult initiation in all parishes in 1988. Accompanying this 1988 publication of the RCIA are 37 National Statutes particular to the United States as well as a number of additional rites not found in the Latin edition which parishes in the United States may use in order to meet the varied pastoral needs of individuals seeking initiation into the Christian way of life. With twenty-five years of pastoral experience and in anticipation of a revised translation of the RCIA into English (analogous to that process whereby the revised translations of the texts of Mass were promulgated in 2010), the US Bishops Committee on Divine Worship sought out a consultation with the membership of the Federation of the Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) as to how the National Statutes could be revised in light of pastoral experience. The FDLC comprises principally directors of liturgy or worship offices of dioceses of the United States.

The annual meeting of the FDLC began with a report by Mary Gautier of CARA on the study commissioned about the implementation of the RCIA in parishes throughout the United States. The results of the survey are the first major quantitative study since the publication of Journey to the Fullness of Life (USCCB 2000). (I should also note the qualitative study by David Yamane, et al., Real Stories of Christian Initiation, Liturgical Press 2006). The report on the CARA study contained few surprises (though there were some) and largely substantiated with quantitative data the anecdotal observations of those of us with some level of responsibility for the implementation of the RCIA. Though we await the publication of the final report from CARA, chief among the observations which raised concerns for me included i) the manner in which the majority of parishes treat the RCIA not as a Rite of the Church but rather as a program of instruction for converts with a veneer of ritual action, ii) the degree to which the majority of parishes do so in a way which does not distinguish significantly between the baptized and unbaptized, iii) the shocking number of parishes which reported making recourse to conditional baptisms, iv) the near ubiquitous abbreviation of catechumenal formation of the unbaptized to fewer than six months and a total predetermined structure not much greater in length, and v) not infrequent disregard of the RCIA for use with children of catechetical age.

In response to the report on the survey both Fr. Ron Lewinski and Fr. Paul Turner gave prepared remarks. Fr. Paul Turner has made his presentation, myRCIA, available on his website. In light of the data and these pastoral theological reflections, the membership of the FDLC together with other consultors was then lead through a process of reading and commenting on each of the 37 National Statutes which govern such matters as timing and duration of formation, adaptations which may be made by the bishop or minister of the sacraments, and so forth. Recommendations included principally the simplification of the statutes, their insertion into the main body of the praenotanda or ritual text (or at least inline cross referencing), and clarification of vocabulary. More substantive revision was called for regarding the use of the Combined Rites, those US adaptations that are often used apart from the original pastoral situations for which they were developed and thus have lead to widespread conflation of those seeking initiation into the Christian way of life (catechumens) with fellow Christians seeking either the completion of their initiation (uncatechized) or admission/reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church (admittandi). Among the additional consultors were nearly forty former team members of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate many of whom I had learned from and served with during my brief time as a Forum team member before the organization’s closure. It was a wonderful blessing to have included in this consultation the pastoral insights of those who have labored tirelessly for the full implementation of the RCIA in every parish in the United States and Canada. A touching tribute video prepared by LTP honored the work of Forum, its founder and priest of the Archdiocese of Seattle, James Dunning, and was a paschal/cathartic experience for many of us.

In addition to important work done on the National Statutes of the RCIA at this meeting, the annual FDLC meeting is also an important occasion to pray together the Liturgy of the Hours and the Liturgy of the Eucharist which included a pilgrimage to the neoclassical Cathedral of Saint Raymond Nonnatus where my Archbishop, J. Peter Sartain, served as Bishop of Joliet from 2006 until his appointment as Archbishop of Seattle in 2010. I also took advantage of being in Lombard to visit and stay two nights at the nearby Saint Procopius Abbey, a community of Benedictine monks founded in 1885 to serve the Czech and Slovak immigrant communities, in Lisle. Saint Procopius Abbey is also the community of which the Servant of God Dorothy Day was an oblate, an experience which grounded her labora for the common good in the discipline of ora. It was wonderful to share the hospitality and prayer of the community in their modernist abbey designed by Edward Dart.

As if standing in a key turning point, before heading off to Chicago for the FDLC meeting, I was invited to present on the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to a large group of catechumenal ministers in Sacramento as part of their Ministry Days; and on my return home I worked with a small group just getting started with RICA in Spanish at a parish in my own archdiocese, lead members of our archdiocesan Christian Initiation Committee through a review of the National Statutes, and have found myself called to be part of the Christian initiation team as a dismissal leader at my home parish. Finally, one month from now I am excited to welcome more than 120 ministers of Christian initiation from around the archdiocese and beyond to a TeamRCIA training my office is hosting on conjunction with Seattle University Campus Ministry. The work, it seems, has just begun as we take up Pope Francis’ invitation to go out of ourselves and invite others to encounter Christ so that they may likewise share in the joy of Gospel and become missionary disciples themselves.

La Boucherie

Michelle and I had the most delightful anniversary dinner on Friday evening at La Boucherie, a fantastic foretaste of what must await us in farmie foodie heaven. Even though each dish we had could by itself be a contender for best meal it was really the coupling together and arrangement of the dishes in a what felt like a food symphony of ever increasing crescendos that made the overall experience what is hands down the best meal we have ever had. For those familiar with The Omnivore’s Dilemma, think of that meal Michael Pollan described with the prophet of farming and food Joel Salatin (who, it should be noted, is presently in the UK with fellow Vashon parishioner Brandon Sheard, the Farmstead Meatsmith). Similar to that now famous Polyface Farm meal, everything which was crafted into the more than six courses we were served for our anniversary dinner at La Boucherie was grown or raised on the owner’s Sea Breeze Farm also located on Vashon Island. Such locally sourced food was then artfully prepared by La Boucherie which specializes in and has begun offering courses in charcuterie.

Our guided pilgrimage into French farmhouse cuisine began with amuse-bouches and, like each course, was perfectly paired with a French wine. The pâté and salad courses revealed not only excellent food—some of which was formerly part of the ambience growing around us—but also the passion for authentic food our server shared; Rose moved to Vashon in order to cultivate such food at Sea Breeze Farm where she has been butcher, cheesemaker, and candler. Michelle just about stopped at the ecstasy brought on by the pork broth which bathed the grilled mortadella steak, chard, and carrots while the subsequent course of ravioli bolognese was for me just about good enough to die for—a fate with which I had already chosen to flirt despite my α-gal mammal meat allergy. As the evening continued on and as the al fresco dining porch was getting filled we were brought by the chef two different varieties of beef, one dry aged in Sea Breeze’s own cave, along with braised vegetables. Finally, two different desserts including a clafoutis topped with roasted hazelnut ice cream and paired with sauternes, locally roasted coffee, and herbal tea capped off our evening before we made our leisurely Passeggiata around town.

At some point, ever the liturgist, I pointed out to Michelle that our server gave us a perfect example of what diakonia looked like in a classical context, the same term being taken over into Christian usage and, therefore, was an illustration or analogue of what a diaconal liturgical role ought to be. Rose heightened the experience of the meal, explaining the food and drink she set before us, where it came from, and prepared us to enjoy it, though without intruding on Michelle and my encounter through the meal. Our server shared her involvement in the opus, the work, of Sea Breeze, being one of the butchers, cheesemakers, and having moved to Vashon to grow such food and, therefore, was interested in sharing her investment in and passion for the food. In the same way a deacon in the liturgy should be personally invested in and through ministry in the corporal works of the parish and bring this to bear into the sacred liturgy making palpable the link between those (our opus, our work) and the opus Dei (the saving work God does in making us participators in the divine liturgy). By thus connecting the terroir and meal as did our server, serving as a visible, the deacon serves as an incarnate link between the corporal and spiritual, both holding together the the earthy and haute cuisine we’re too wont to separate in our all too often insipid imagination.

We returned home reminiscing about some of our favorite films about food, films that focus on the splurge, the eucharistic self gift of the culinary artist who brings people together in conviviality, such as Babette’s Feast, Big Night, and even Ratatouille. Indeed, with the eyes of faith we can see that “To eat good food is to be close to God” and, with palettes and imaginations awakened to the delight of creation cultivated, rise to say to all people, “In Paradise you will be the great artist that God meant you to be. Ah, how you will delight the angels!”