Sacraments of Initiation
Part 3 Rite for Adults and Children

Chapter i38 Eucharist: Culmination of Initiation

Preliminary Questions

Bibliography

Eucharist as a Sacrament of Initiation

Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation

Eucharist as the Culmination of Initiation
Jesus and Meals

Eucharist before Baptism

To Think About

Preliminary Questions

Fresh from the waters and resplendent in these garments, God's holy people hasten to the altar of Christ, saying: I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. They have sloughed off the old skin of error, their youth renewed like an eagle's, and they make haste to approach that heavenly banquet." Saint Ambrose, from the treatise "On the Mysteries," Liturgy of the Hours, Reading for the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.)

Have we experienced "Infant Baptism, Second Grade First Communion, and Sophomore Confirmation" so frequently that we think of Confirmation as the culmination of Initiation?   What can be done to remedy this?

When did you first share the eucharistic with the Christian community? Was it the "completion" of you initiation rites?

At what age did you make your First Holy Communion? At what age should children today be fully initiated? In your experience, was "first confession" a part of your Christian Initiation? Did you first celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation before or after being admitted to table fellowship?

What are the life events that eucharist celebrates in the life of a child? In the life of an adolescent? What do the developmental theories of Piaget and Kohlberg say about the way Eucharist should be celebrated with children?

What is the catechetical thrust of contemporary First Communion programs.

What are the theological requirements for receiving Eucharist? Are the requirements different for Confirmation? Why or why not?

 

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Bibliography

Maxwell E. Johnson.  The Rites of Christian Initiation:  Their Evolution and Interpretation  (Revised and Expanded edition).   A Pueblo Book Published by the Liturgical Press, 2007. 

Nathan D. Mitchell. Forum Essays: Eucharist as Sacrament of Initiation, #2. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1994.

Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. Directory for Masses with Children, Pueros baptizatos, 1973. TLD pp 197-216.

Code of Canon Law. Canons 914, 988, and 989. See also the commentary on Canon 194 by John M. Huels OSM in CLSA Commentary, p 653. 1983

Children in the Assembly of the Church. From 20 annual conference of the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy. Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications.

Directory For Masses with Children. Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1974.

Lectionary: American Bible Society, Contemporary English Version

First Reception of Eucharist

Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. The Sacred Play of Children. New York: The Seabury Press., 1993.

Huck, Gabe. Leaders Manual. Chicago: GIA Publication Inc, 1989.

First Celebration of Reconciliation

Canon 194

John M. Huels. "First Penance," Disputed Questions in the Liturgy Today. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988, pp 67-74. ISBN 0-930467-95-7.

Masses with Children

Kenny-Sheputes, Christine. Take Me Home, notes on The Church Year for Children. Liturgy Training Publications, Chicago, 1991. [Reproducible pages about Church Year for Children - Seasons - Feast Days - Holidays, Introduction about the seasons and suggestions of things to do - art which could be colored.]

Code of Canon Law cc 912-914, 988-989. Commentary pp 651-653, 695-696.

Infant communion (See: Paul F. Bradshaw, A Bibliography of Recent Studies, The Alcuin Club, 1989, pp 22-23.)

Allison, C. Fitzsimmons. "Anglican Initiatory Rites: A contribution to the Current Debate", Anglican and Episcopal History 56 (1987) 27-43.

Buchanan, Colin O. (ed.). Nurturing Children in Communion. GLS 44, 1985.

Holeton, David R. "Communion of All the Baptized and Anglican Tradition," ATR 69 (1987) 13-23.

Holeton, David R. "The Communion of Infants and Hussitism," Communio Viatorum 27 (1984) 207-224.

Holenton, David R. "Baptized Children, Confirmation, and Holy Communion" SJT 33 (1980) 551-565.

Meyers, Ruth A. "Infant Communion: Reflections on the Case from Tradition," Anglican and Episcopal History 57 (1988) 159-175.

Muller-Fahrenlolz, Geiko (ed.). ...and do not hinder them: An ecumenical plea for the admission of children to the eucharist. Geneva 1982: World Council of Churches Faith and Order Paper 109.

Pfleiderer, David. "Children and the Lord's Supper", Reformed Liturgy and Music 15 (1981) 5-214.

Pritchard, Norman. "Profession of Faith and admission to communion in the light of 1 Cor. 11 and other passages", SJT 33 (1980) 55-70.

Searl, Mark. "Infant Baptism Reconsidered," Alternative Futures for Worship, Volume 2, Baptism and Confirmation. Liturgical Press: Collegeville, 1987, pp 15-54.

Stevenson, Kenneth W. "A Theological Reflection on the Experience of Inclusion/Exclusion at the Eucharist," ATR 68 (1986) 212-221.

Taft, Robert F. "On the Question of Infant Communion in the Byzantine Catholic Churches of the U.S.A.," Diakonia 17 (1982) 201-214.

Watkins, Keith. "Children in Worship: a problem for the Christian Church Disciples of Christ," Encounter 44 (1983) 263-276.

Weil, Louis. "Disputed Aspects of Infant Communion," SL 17 (1987) 256-263.

Celebration of the sacraments with persons with disabilities

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. "Guidelines for the Celebration of the Sacraments with Persons with Disabilities." Washington D.C.: United States Catholic Conference 1995. Publication no. 5-027. ISBN 1-57455-027-6.

 

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Eucharist as a Sacrament of Initiation

That "Eucharist is the culmination of the initiation process" has been the consistent teaching of all Church writers until the dissolution of the rite in the West.

"Fresh from the waters and resplendent in these garments, God's holy people hasten to the altar of Christ, saying: I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. They have sloughed off the old skin of error, their youth renewed like an eagle's, and they make haste to approach that heavenly banquet." (Saint Ambrose, from the treatise "On the Mysteries," Liturgy of the Hours, Reading for the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.)

Ritual concern: Any celebration (adults, infants, Easter, Mothers' Day, etc.) of the rites of initiation must make it clear that Eucharist is the culmination and completion of the initiation process.

 

 

While it is true that the official Roman Rituals, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and official Roman documents speak of Eucharist as a Sacrament of Initiation, it is seldom spoken of in that context in homilies and in most catechesis. I would be willing to bet that most Catholics do not ordinarily put Eucharist in the "initiation" category.

Father Aidan Kavanagh offered, I believe, a helpful way to speak of (and to think of) Eucharist in relation to initiation by speaking of Eucharist as the "repeatable part of Baptism". Each time we come to Eucharist, "we come through Baptism." For example as we enter the church for Sunday Eucharist, we dip our hand into the baptismal water and make that sign of the cross, the sign in which we were baptized. Baptism was our birth into the body of Christ, the Church. Our baptismal promises affirmed that we would live in such a way that everyone could see that now, "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me." And the Holy Spirit confirmed his transformation into Christ.

(I have found this explanation of "why we bless ourselves with holy water when we enter a church" to be appreciated by many of the faithful." It also helps them understand why the baptismal pool is the door at the door to the church physically just as baptism is the door to the church spiritually.)

Eucharist is the repeatable part of Baptism. The transformation of baptism is the same change and transformation that we pray for at every Eucharist. For example:

... partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic Prayer 2)

…grant that we, who are nourished by the Body and Blood of your Son and filled with his Holy Spirit, may become one body, one spirit in Christ. (Eucharistic Prayer 3)

... grant to all who partake of this one Bread and one Chalice that, [we be] gathered into one body by the Holy Spirit. (Eucharistic Prayer 4)

And thus the promise of our baptism–that as we become the body of Christ we will live as the body of Christ, recognizing one another as members of that one Body–is the same promise we make at Eucharist.

Some Protestant denominations have an "altar call" following the readings from Scripture and the sermon. "Let those come forward now who have heard God's holy Word and are moved by the Spirit to die to sin and to live according to the law of Christ..." (or similar words). We do not do that at Mass because that is what it means to get up out of the pew and come forward to receive Holy Communion. It is our promise to ourselves, to God, and to the community, that we will live as members of Christ's Body.

This is why it is such a contradiction to come forward to receive the Eucharist without intending to keep that promise. This "contradiction" was impressed on St. Paul from the day he was knocked to the ground on the way to Damascus: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" (Acts 9:4-5). Paul realized from that moment on that the risen Lord is so united with us that what we do to one another we do to Christ himself.

This is why Paul became so irritated when he observed how the Corinthians celebrated the Eucharist. He scolded them because when they came together for the Eucharist they didn't come to eat the Lord's Supper; they came to eat their own supper. They were concerned with their own needs and hungers, while the poor stayed hungry and the rich had so much to eat and drink they got drunk! (see 1 Corinthians 11:17-22.) We must recognize Christ not only in the Bread and Wine, but also in his Body, the Church – particularly the poor, the marginalized and those whom the world considers worthless. "For," as Paul writes, "anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body [the Church] eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Corinthians 11:29).

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Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation

Stage 1: Baptism, (Confirmation), Eucharist (with bread and wine) for everyone (adults, children, infants) in both East and West.

This sequence continues in the East. The next sequences occur only in the Western (Roman) Church.
Development of the Catechumenate and Initiation at Easter

Stage 2: Catechumenate. Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist at Easter Vigil.

Confirmation reserved to the bishop.
After all the adults are initiated, emphasis shifts to infants.
Confirmation becomes separated from Initiation in the West.
Confirmation becomes its own sacrament with its own theology
Babies refused Bread (they might spit it up). Adults refused cup.
Babies refused the cup.
Original Sin fades in / Catechumenate fades out.
Baptism of Infants "quam primum" [as soon as possible]
Lost the "Easter" connection
Confirmation all but disappears
Scholastic confession becomes a sacrament

Stage 3: Adults: Baptized with Emergency Rite. Receive Eucharist the next time they attend Mass. Confirmed (with the children) the next time the Bishop visits the parish.

Infants [and adults rarely] baptized with the adult Emergency Rite. Confirmation when Bishop visits the parish or when the parents visit the Cathedral. First Eucharist when "adults" (age 16-21) [= Origins of "Solemn Communion"] preceded by First Confession.

Jansenism becomes an issue in Europe.
Pope lowers age of First Communion
Priests as "extraordinary ministers" can confirm Adult "converts"

Stage 4: Infants baptized with the adult Emergency Rite. First Communion at "age of reason" (5 or 6?) preceded by First Confession. Confirmation when bishop visits the parish (second, third or fourth grade). NOTE: THIS IS THE FIRST TIME ANYONE RECEIVED EUCHARIST WITHOUT HAVING FIRST RECEIVED CONFIRMATION!!!!!

Psychological studies on the faith development of children and adolescents.

Confirmation takes the place of "Believer Baptism" and becomes "Adult Baptism" (age moved up gradually from grade school to middle school to high school, age 12-18).

Stage 5: Infants baptized with the adult Emergency Rite. First Communion at "age of reason" (5 or 6?). Confirmation when bishop visits the parish and child is in middle school or high school, (age 10-18).

Vatican II 1) RCIA

RCIA is normative for the theology and understanding of the Sacraments of Initiation
RCIA is the normative Rite for adults and children (everybody except infants)
Restores unity of the sequence Baptism / Confirmation / Eucharist
Restores "Easter" context.
"The Bishop is the ordinary minister of Confirmation" is changed to "the Bishop is the original minister of Confirmation."

2) [New / First] Rite for Infants (which acknowledges that they are infants)

Original sin fades out / importance of faith development fades in (e.g. 1983 Code of Canon Law; Do not baptize infants unless there is assurance they will be raised Catholic.)

Stage 6: Adults and children initiated with the RCIA. / Infants baptized with the new Rite for Infants. First Communion at "age of reason" (5 or 6?). First Confession also moved to "age of reason" before First Eucharist. Confirmation when bishop visits the parish and child is in middle school or high school, (age 10-18).

Fewer parents attend Sunday Eucharist. First Eucharist is moved from end of first grade to beginning of second grade so that they won't forget how over the summer.)
Psychological studies regarding the moral development of Children  (Sense of sin does not develop until about age 10 or 11)

Stage 7: Baptism (with 1969 Rite for Infants), Eucharist at beginning of second grade, First Reconciliation in fourth grade, Confirmation in tenth or eleventh grade.

Code of 1983 legislates that First Reconciliation comes before First Eucharist [provided the infant has committed a mortal sin???]

Return to Stage 6: Baptism (with 1969 Rite for Infants), First Reconciliation and First Eucharist (at beginning of) second grade. Confirmation in tenth or eleventh grade.

Growing awareness of the 1) history of the initiation process; 2) the normative nature of the RCIA; 3) the role of the Holy Spirit; and 4) Eucharist as the Culmination of the initiation sacraments -- leads to some bishops authorizing pastors to confirm children before First Eucharist thus restoring the order: Baptism Confirmation Eucharist.

Stage 8: Baptism (with 1969 Rite for Infants), First Reconciliation and Confirmation and First Eucharist at beginning of second grade. [Catechists begin to die of heart failure!!!]

Stage 9: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist in one liturgical ceremony for Adults, children, and infants (e.g. return to stage 1). 

Note:  Stage 8 is possible within the current legislation.  Stage 9 would require a change in the Code of Canon Law.   

 

History: Legislation and Guidelines

1905 Dec 22(Pius X) Sacred Congregation of the council. Decree "Sacra Tridentita Synodus" on the daily reception of the Most Holy Eucharist.

1910 Aug 08(Pius X) Sacred Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments. Decree "Quam singulari" on the age at which one is to be admitted to first Eucharistic Communion.

1963 Dec 04Sacrosanctum Concilium. "72. The rite and formularies for the sacrament of penance are to be revised so that they more clearly express both the nature and effect of the sacrament."

1966 Feb 17Paul VI. Poenitemini. Apostolic Constitution on Fast and Abstinence (i.e. on Penance and Conversion).

1971 Apr 11General Catechetical Directory. ". . . the Holy See judges it fitting that the practice now in force in the Church of putting Confession ahead of first Communion should be retained" (addendum, #5).

1973 May 24Congregation for the Discipline of the Sacraments and the Congregation for the Clergy issue a joint declaration concerning the first reception of the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist by children, bringing an end to the practice by which preparation for Penance was put off until after first Communion.

1973Division of Religious Education – CCD; United States Catholic Conference. A Study Paper for First Confession. 1973. Washington: Publications Office USCC.

1973 Nov 01Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship. Directory for Masses with Children, Pueros baptizatos.

1979Sharing the light of faith; National Catechetical Directory for Catholics of the United States. 1979. Washington: Publications Office USCC. Publication no. NCD-1. 182 pp.

1983Code of Canon Law. Canons 914, 988, and 989. See also the commentary on Canon 194 by John M. Huels OSM in CLSA Commentary, p 653.

1991NCCB. Lectionary for Masses with Children

 

The Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation

Apostolic Constitutions: Roman bathing = washing off and oiling up [one act]

Missionary expansion of the Church in the 4th century

Presbyters ordered to preside at Eucharist and the beginning of Initiation [the water rite]

Oiling becomes separated from bathing

Eventually -- Baptism, then penance, then confirmation, and finally eucharist

Confirmation moved to 8th grade. Penance is in 8th grade

Communion moved to first grade. Penance moved to first grade. Confirmation left behind for "as soon as the bishop can come."

The invention of adolescence [14 was adult]

Eucharist Pope St. Pius X (1835-1914) in 1905 encourages frequent Communion and in 1910 lowers the age for First Communion. The Liturgical Movement. Pius XII and Mediator Dei. See: LLT p xx

The Age of Confirmation

The theology of a rite should not be dependent upon the age at which it is celebrated. "The true test of our theology of Confirmation would seem to be whether it is applicable at any age. The great temptation is to let this theology be determined too narrowly by the priori issue of age." (Smits. Op cit. p 23.)

Catechetical development

Rome - not in favor of harmful (confusing) diversity

New Code of Canon Law

Movement in USA for Confirmation by pastor (delegated by Bishop) to confirm at Mass of First Eucharist

Keeps the order: Baptism Confirmation Eucharist

The Bishop's visit to the parish becomes just that (authentically)

Theological issues and Catechetical issues

How is catechesis to be given if the sacrament is already celebrated?

Is the sacrament to be used as motivation for the catechesis?

In 1984 the Bishop of Spokane, Washington gave permission to restore the sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation in his diocese. A report of this pastoral practice was given by Don McKenzie in "Restoring the Sequence of the Sacraments of Initiation with Children: Confirmation and First Eucharist as a Unified Celebration," in FDLC Newsletter, April-May 1996 (23:2) pp 9-12. Excerpts:

"Looking at all three Sacraments of Initiation together we began to realize that the natural culmination of the initiation process is the full, conscious and active participation in the Eucharist, where the mystery of the dialogue between God's invitation to us and our response is most clearly manifest. Since conversion is on-going and life-long, it became clear as the study progressed that Eucharist is the more appropriate sacramental celebration within which we are renewed in our commitment to Christian discipleship and it should appear that way."

[Regarding the important role of the bishop] "Developmentally, children between the ages of seven and ten relate very positively to adults and authority figures. Children at this age naturally seek the approval of adults and want to be around them. The Bishop's presence at the completion of the initiation process at this very impressionable age is significant. It takes an event which most Catholics remember for the rest of their lives and adds the additional dimension of universal church to that memory.

Fully initiating children means incorporating them into the fullness of the Christian identity at an early age so they grow up in that identity. Their Christian identity grows with them and ultimately becomes a very real part of who they are.

 

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Eucharist as the Culmination of Initiation

That "Eucharist is the culmination of the initiation process" was the consistent teaching of all Church writers until the dissolution of the rite in the West.

"Fresh from the waters and resplendent in these garments, God's holy people hasten to the altar of Christ, saying: I will go in to the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth. They have sloughed off the old skin of error, their youth renewed like an eagle's, and they make haste to approach that heavenly banquet." (Saint Ambrose, from the treatise "On the Mysteries," Liturgy of the Hours, Reading for the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Friday.)

Have we experienced "Infant Baptism, Second Grade First Communion, and Sophomore Confirmation" so frequently that we think of Confirmation as the Culmination of Initiation?

It is difficult to see Eucharist as the culmination of initiation in those situations where the apparent "culminating" sacrament is Confirmation when Confirmation is celebrated years after "First Communion" with all the pomp and circumstance that accompany an Episcopal liturgy. Confirmation certainly "looks bigger" -- the Bishop comes; parish celebration; two years of preparation; service projects; etc ...

Any celebration (adults / children / infants) of the rites of initiation must make it clear that Eucharist is the culmination and completion of the initiation process.

The theology is often contained in the Rite itself (Lex Orandi) and becomes most evident when one examines carefully the structure of the Eucharistic Prayer and its berakah shape which shifts emphasis of the prayer from the institution narrative (consecration) to the epiclesis.

The word "culmination" has several meanings. However, in the present context, "culmination" does not necessarily imply "last in sequence". At the present time, even in parishes and dioceses which have the sequence "Baptism, First Holy Communion, Confirmation," Eucharist is the culmination of initiation, and the catechetical instructions and formation should be done in that perspective.

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Jesus and Meals

1.  Jesus' culture was different from ours.  In our culture where McDonald's drive through serves anybody and everybody, it is hard to imagine anyone getting upset about "table companionship."  But remember the bishop in Uganda who began giving Holy Communion at Mass to everybody who came forward -- Catholic, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Witches, Pagans -- even parakeets and puppy dogs.   Divorced and remarried Catholics who could not get an annulment and who were longing to receive Holy Communion were overjoyed!  But the other bishops (especially the one in Rome) were quick to get rid of him. 

It is a good question to ask "how hospitable" should we be? Jesus sat at table not as the charming, congenial, ringleted centerpiece of a Rembrandt painting, but as a vulnerable vagrant willing to share potluck with a household of strangers...Normally, a meal is about social identification, status, and power... But the very randomness of Jesus' table habits challenged this system of social relations modeled on meals and manners... It was not simply that Jesus ate with objectionable persons - outcasts and sinners but that he ate with anyone, indiscriminately. The table companionship practiced by Jesus thus recreated the world, redrew all of society's maps and flow charts. Instead of symbolizing social rank and order, it blurred the distinctions between hosts and quests, need and plenty. Instead of reinforcing rules of etiquette, it subverted them, making the last first and the first last. (Nathan Mitchell [quoted by] Maxwell E. Johnson, The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation, Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1999, p 3.)

2.  Strict rules.   Reordering of society - those in power will loose power....  need to kill the messenger of this new kingdom.

3.  Jesus' disregard for these rules leads to his death.  This "being God" as the "original sin" is the  reason for death of Jesus.

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Eucharist before Baptism

There are serious thinkers and theologians and pastors who both advocate and practice open communion, even to the non-baptized. For example, one of the study groups of the North American Academy of Liturgy is devoted to this issue.

Eucharist is open to all so that all may profit from this experience of hospitality -- this experience of the presence of Jesus -- and grow in faith and love to the point where they wish to become Christian.  Then the people might request baptism.

[The official Roman Church might not adopt this practice in the near future, but it is important to know that there are serious theologians who are discussing the merits of this sequence.]

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To Think About

Have we experienced "Infant Baptism, Second Grade First Communion, and Sophomore Confirmation" so frequently that we think of Confirmation as the culmination of Initiation?   What can be done to remedy this?

Did you learn anything new about Eucharist as a sacrament of initiation from what you have read and heard? How has this chapter altered your attitude toward infant communion? What ministerial skills would you like to possess in order to direct a First Communion program?

Did you learn anything new about liturgical adaptation or general liturgical principles. How can you use this directory as a model for other situations?

Questions for Further Study and Evaluation

What does the GIRM say about Eucharist as a sacrament of initiation.

What does Eucharist as the completion of initiation imply for the celebration of Confirmation?

Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist are the sacraments of Initiation. Show how this is true by the principle "Lex Orandi."

Can you find common elements in the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist which you foresee will present all the sacraments? From what we have studied thus far, what is theologically common to all seven sacraments?

What is excommunication?

State five "freedoms" that you learned from reading the Directory for Masses with Children—that is, five instances where the directory shows how the norms or rubrics in GRIM are to be used with pastoral sensitivity so that their purpose can be achieved for children.

Give several examples of how the Directory for masses with Children uses "General Principles / Norms / Pastoral Sensitivity" to apply the norms of the GIRM to the pastoral situation of children.

Read The Directory for Masses with Children. Discover there the General Liturgical Principles. In your imagination apply them to typical parish situations. This directory is written for children, not adolescents. There is no Directory for Masses with Adolescents. But, if you were the CDWDS and were writing one, what would it look like? Compose three articles for this new directory for adolescents, and give them the same numbers the corresponding principle in the directory for children.

What is the proper age for First Reconciliation?

When should converts celebrate First Reconciliation?

 

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Copyright: Tom Richstatter, Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist, Cincinnati Ohio, Order of Friars Minor. All Rights Reserved.  This page was created by Fr. Thomas Richstatter, O.F.M.  Every effort has been, and is being made, to acknowledge sources when the ideas are not my own.  Any failure to comply with the United States Copyright Act (Title 17, United States Code) will be corrected immediately should I become aware of it.  This site was updated on 03/20/15 .  Your comments on this site are welcome at trichstatter@franciscan.org