Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu and Mexico City: No Baptisms, No Confirmations, No Mass - But Plenty of Faith

It looks to me like people in Mexico city are taking the swine flu outbreak seriously: soccer stadiums, and the cathedral, are almost empty.

But Catholics there are praying: and took out the Lord of Health icon for the first time in about three centuries.

"Mexico City locks itself in amid swine flu fears"
The Associated Press (April 27, 2009)

"MEXICO CITY (AP) — The cardinal said Mass in a shuttered cathedral. Soccer teams played to empty stadiums. A televised variety show filled its seats with cardboard cutouts...."

"...Mexico City residents - chilangos, they're called - are accustomed to living in public view...."

"...But on Sunday even the enormous Zocalo plaza,...was all but empty. A handful of women wearing surgical masks knelt on the plaza's stones and prayed, their arms reaching upward in a lonely vigil.

"Soldiers in surgical masks shooed away the faithful at the cathedral, pointing to a board with pieces of paper.

" 'There are no baptisms,' one read.

" 'No confirmations,' read another.

" 'No Masses,' said a third.

" 'Inside, Cardinal Norberto Rivera delivered a sermon to nearly empty pews, his pleas for divine intervention relayed over television and radio.

" ' 'Grant us the prudence and serenity to act with responsibility and to avoid being infected or to infect others,' he appealed to the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron saint. 'Give help to health workers, keep vigil for the recovery of the sick and console those in mourning.'

" 'For the first time in 300 years, the cathedral also removed from storage an icon of the Lord of Health, which was placed on the principal altar by a procession of worshippers [!], Mexico's government news agency Notimex reported...."

Those Superstitious, Idolatrous, Ignorant Catholics!

I learned quite a bit about about Catholics and the Catholic Church, growing up in a virulently anti-Catholic area. Nearly all of it's wrong: and the rest is inaccurate.

About icons and other images. Unlike some Protestant churches, the Catholic Church doesn't design its sanctuaries along the lines of sensory deprivation chambers. We've got color, pictures, words: anything that will remind people of whose house they're in, and why they're there.

"Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:

"We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1160)

That second paragraph is a quote from the second Council of Nicaea: in translation, of course. English wouldn't exist for about a thousand years, when those ideas were recorded.

Given the Church's track record for reaching out to everybody - not just those are good readers and have eidetic memory - I don't think Catholicism is going to stop using icons any time soon. There's more in the Catechism: 972, 1161, 1162, and 2705.

Veneration and icons are covered to, including: 1159, 1192 and 2131.

God hasn't been shy about using visual aids: there's that business with the bronze serpent (Numbers 21, 5-9), and that rather detailed description of how vestments (Exodus 28) and the ark for the covenant (Exodus 25) were supposed to look.

The way I see it, God made us with eyes. He's used visual aids Himself, to get points across. I don't see a problem with following His lead.

Thanks to CatholicSpirit on Twitter, for giving the heads-up on American Mass adjustments.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.