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Richard Chonak
Updated: 1 hour 45 min ago

FSSP Ordinations Tomorrow on LiveMass and iMass

2 hours 38 min ago
Tomorrow, May 26th, the feast of St Philip Neri, the Fraternity of St Peter’s North American seminary will celebrate the ordination of seven men to the priesthood, at the Parish of the North American Martyrs in Lincoln Nebraska. For those who are unable to attend in person, the ceremony will be broadcast over the FSSP’s LiveMass site, starting at 10 am Central time (11 am Eastern, 8 am Pacific.) It can also be watched via the iMass app on iTunes. The traditional ceremony for the rite of priestly ordination is an extraordinarily beautiful thing, well worth your time, even if you can only catch a part of it.

The Ascension of the Lord 2017

9 hours 47 min ago
Truly it is fitting… though Christ our Lord. Who after the Resurrection, which is glorious unto all ages, appeared openly to His disciples, visible to their sight and palpable to the touch, unto the fortieth day, and was raised up unto heaven as they watched; from which time they did so profit, that what they believed might become more certain, and that they might learn more fully what to teach. Through the same Christ our Lord. (The Ambrosian Preface of the Ascension)

The Ascension of Christ, from an antiphonary decorated by Lorenzo Monaco, ca 1410Vere quia dignum et justum est...per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Qui post resurrectionem sæculis omnibus gloriosam, discipulis suis visu conspicuus, tactuque palpabilis, usque in quadragesimum diem manifestus apparuit, ipsisque cernentibus, est elevatus in cælum: in id proficientibus intra has moras primitivas, ut et certius fìeret quod credidissent, et plenius dìscerent quod docérent. Per eundem Christum Dominum nostrum. Per quem majestatem tuam...

The Priestly Character of Ad Orientem Worship: Guest Article by Zachary Thomas (Part 2)

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 14:00
Click here to read the first part of this article.
The versus populum posture fashionable today suggests that the priest is there only to give, without first receiving something from God. And, since the laity must all “participate” in this activity-privileging event, we often have a whole sanctuary full of actors and givers who don’t seem to have received anything in the first place. It is no wonder, then, if the modern priesthood is in a crisis of identity and self-respect. The public ritual role he has been given, his highest responsibility, contradicts his essence at every point. Indeed, the usual ceremony provides precious little evidence of the awesome dignity and terrible responsibilities of his office, and often forces him to pawn off nearly all his functions on laymen in the democratic sanctuary, where he begins to look rather superfluous.

In sum, what the Novus Ordo needs is not only a renewed eschatological perspective, not only a more emphatic turning towards the Lord, but most basically a return to a priestly posture, through a more honest ritual actualization of the priest’s intercessory role, and a sacred choreography that better expresses the metaphysical reality of priesthood. Is the priest a true mediator like Christ and Moses, ascending and descending the mountain to stand in the breach before God, or is he a rebellious Aaron down below, cleaving to the people, fashioning for them a Golden Calf, the idol that always faces the people to give them what they want, because he dare not turn his face to God?

The comparison is not unjust; this foundational story is offered to warn us about the fundamental shape of all true worship of the Lord. The sacred authors all see Christ’s priestly ministry as a recapitulation of Old Testament models, and so should we. Just as Moses prays and toils on the mountain, entreating for his people in the cloud, so the Israelite priest ascended the Holy of Holies, and so also Christ does carry His cross to Golgotha to make His eternal sacrifice, and after death enter the true Holy of Holies. Scripture provides us these ancient models as the lens through which to understand Christ and Christian worship.

In contrast, there is idolatry. When we fear turning to the Lord, we make gods in our own image. The static, tame, and visible bull-idol is contrasted in Exodus with a fiery God shrouded in shadow, attended by a tireless Moses, who toils up and down the mountain, hidden in the cloud, descending without warning. This divine encounter at Sinai is the paradigm for all true worship of God: a matter of distance, holy fear, intercession, hopeful expectation. Salvation is never in our possession, but always a gift, radically dependent and contingent. The Israelites did not want to receive God’s frightful gift, and so they made their own gods, a laughable thought and a lie. Only God can reveal himself and the way He desires to be worshipped. (See Pope Benedict XVI’s The Spirit of the Liturgy, p.23)

In this respect, as in many others, the new Mass’s ritual forms as commonly practiced, statically versus populum, almost contra Deum, are a misrepresentation, a failure to recapitulate the divine economy of Christ the High Priest mediating and governing His Kingdom from the bosom of the Trinity. The harried priest relentlessly “engaging” his “assembly” is a ritual expression of the worried tyranny of the idolatrous soul, caught in a spiral of self-contemplation from which he cannot escape. This daily spectacle is harmful not only to the faithful, but to the priest’s own spiritual life and sense of self-worth.

This is not at all to say that when we worship with the new Mass, we necessarily fail to pray it with the proper spiritual dispositions, or must deny our dogmatic understanding of sacrificial action, or definitely receive less grace. Of course not! It is to say that the rite itself, as a structure of symbols and actions meant to guide our mind and heart toward the sacramental action at hand, simply fails to express its own interior nature and thus to weld us onto itself. Like a poorly acted drama that fails to engage our attention, it fails to dispose us properly to receive what it communicates: Christ himself. We may know what the action means notionally, and even be able to reproduce it, if we are well formed, in our own hearts; but we are not offered the awesome, stable, visual, physical expression of sacrifice that would be required for us to confess and enact it properly with our whole being, and thus cooperate most fully with the fountain of grace. The old Mass’s sacred choreography, combined with all the riches of its other forms of expression—music, text, artistic forms, etc.—is an awesome expression of the theology of sacrifice whose power for spiritual formation never ends.

I have suggested that the Old Testament, particularly the Sinai episode, offers models for understanding the proper shape of divine worship. The New Testament picks up on these references, and so did those who crafted the liturgical life of the various churches during their nursery period. It is the going-up to the altar of God, a holy place, on the part of a High Priest by Whose action we are saved. I propose therefore to explore the ways Scripture in which offers perennially valid orientations for Catholic worship, orientations expressed more richly in the ritual language of traditional rites than in those constructed by mid-20th century scholars.

“Noli me tangere”: Ad Orientem as Offense
Revelation and redemption both began with God’s offense to man. Placed in the garden of delights, Adam is given almost everything, “but of the tree in the middle of the garden you shall not eat.” Here is the smallest obstacle to Adam’s godlike dominion over the earth. When God prepared the way for his Son in the Church, he “called out” Abraham from the bosom of his family and made him a sojourner in a foreign land; later, he even asked him to kill his only son! From then on, one could read the whole fabric of Israelite religion as an attempt to preserve the nature of God as an offense to man: the presence of the Lord cannot be confined in idols, manipulated through ritual, detained within the nation-state (which thus becomes divine!), worshipped as we please. Under no circumstances is He to be touched. The God of Israel is a god of boundaries, which are meant to protect the Israelites from sacrilege, and teach them the true nature of the transcendent God in a world always guilty of bringing God down to its level.

Offense is inseparable from faith, because fallen man is incapable of true faith. He is too willing to believe the serpent’s whisper, that God is just a jealous man like us, or the grumblings of the people, who want nothing more from God in the end than the abundant flesh-pots of Egypt, even if that means a miserable slavery to passion. True freedom comes only when man renounces his graspings after God and adores Him in His transcendent majesty. Only after a long training in “offenses” can the people of Israel understand their God, and even then, it takes the rebukes of countless prophets to awaken them from their indifference.

This leads us to another Scriptural perspective on the priestly posture—and despite the expanded lectionary, our liturgical disorientation is at root a loss of Scriptural perspective—that is, its fearfulness. The Pharisee in the Gospel proudly faced the Lord in the Temple, sitting in the front row to be as close as possible to the holy forms; for what should stand between him who was so pure and the sacred? By contrast, the publican sat far to the rear, covered his head, and sighed over his own sinfulness. If a priest had descended from his place at the altar to come near to him, he might have fled away. In this parable, surely Our Lord was trying to teach us something about the proper attitude at Holy Mass? Surely He did not rebuke, because He was not displeased by, a sinner’s expression of fear at His approach: “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinner!”

In an age without comfort, in “the silent society [which] abandons [man] to himself: not one lesson, no advice, no support...”, it is good and right for the Church to emphasize Christ’s nearness, his mercy and all-embracing love. But we miss the mark, and fall into an even greater error, I think, if we do not also stress his remoteness as the Holy One of Israel, as the King of the Universe, as the High Priest in the Holy of Holies at the right hand of the Father. Without realizing God’s awesome distance from us—which is not incompatible with his tender closeness!—we risk collapsing Him into another piece of mental furniture in our comfortable existence, a therapeutic presence for the bad times, rather than a Lord, the majestic object of our religious devotion. Man’s initiative is first to fear and repent, God’s response is to heal and console; but the dramatic integrity of this exchange must be preserved. Christ never heals those who do not ask for it in faith and repentance, loathing their own spiritual leprosy and crying out “Save me, son of David!”

We could multiply examples of the “distant” Christ in the Gospels, who runs away from his parents, flees to the mountains, speaks in riddles and gets exasperated with his disciples, drives people out of the temple, and bitterly disappoints Messianic expectations by dying on the Cross. The whole Gospel of John is a sustained excursus in ironies and perpetual misunderstanding between one speaking “from above” to those “from below”! Just as much as the jealous God of the Old Testament, Christ resists being pigeon-holed or tied down to human conceptions, and his closest relationships are tinged with alienation.This is an important point of catechesis for our time. We are too willing to think that the religious worldview of the Old Testament has been largely abrogated and tossed out; but this is an error, and an ancient one at that. Rather, it was elevated and purified, as grace does to nature.

This dogmatic truth entails that all the basic attitudes and practices of the Old Testament are still valid and good, if understood in the light of Christ; further, they are an ineluctable part of the totus Christus. The fear of God apparent on every page of the Old Testament (and for that matter on the lips of all good ecclesiastical writers) is therefore still a Christian virtue. In Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI observed that the perennial fear of the Israelites, that seeing God would bring death, was not proved invalid in Christ’s coming, but is precisely fulfilled by Our Lord.

Easter at St Peter’s Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 06:00
In the Byzantine tradition, the day before the Ascension is known as the “Leave-taking” of Easter; this is the official end of the Paschal season, marked by dropping certain features from the liturgy. (E.g., the famous chant which begins every Divine Liturgy in the Easter season, “Christ is risen from the dead; by death He trampled death...”, is discontinued after today.) I thought it would be good to mark the day with one last bit of unfinished business from our most recent photopost series. These photos of the major ceremonies of Holy Week and Easter were taken at St Peter’s Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California, which labors mightily to make the richness and beauty of the Byzantine liturgical tradition accessible to all and sundry. The last few were taken on Bright Wednesday, when Fr David Anderson and his parish welcomed a visit from the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, they of the famous amice ties. Our thanks to Mr Philip Gilbert, a member of the parish who is now studying for the Greek-Catholic priesthood, for sending these in.

Good Friday Matins of the Passion Gospels
Royal Hours of Good Friday
Good Friday Vespers
Jerusalem Matins

Holy Saturday

Easter Sunday

Bright Wednesday

EF Mass for the Vigil of the Ascension in the Bronx

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 14:00
The church of the Holy Rosary in the Bronx, New York City, will have a sung Mass on the Vigil of Ascension, Wednesday, May 24, at 7:30 pm; the church is located at 1510 Adee Avenue. Music for this Mass includes plainchant and two original motets by Holy Rosary’s music director, Eva Sze. Attendance at this Mass fulfills the obligation for Ascension Thursday; a reception will be held afterwards, to which all are invited.

Ephraim the Syrian and the World of Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 06:00
I saw recently a scene in a TV sitcom in which a zombie movie was being made, and the pedantic and perfectionist director was permanently unhappy with his cast. In trying to get a more authentic performance out of his actors, he turned to one who had just completing a scene as a lowly extra, doing nothing but the characteristically stiff, stuttering zombie walk. “Richard,” he said, “Your’s good as far as it goes, but there’s still something missing. I’m getting lots of dead from you, plenty of dead, that’s great...But I'm not getting undead.”

This was a parody of a whole genre of movies that seems to be here to stay, and which seems to capitalize on the natural fascination of believers and unbelievers alike with our ultimate end and the desire for eternal life. Aside from the classic zombie movies, there are others on similar themes, vampire and werewolf films. Each has some twist on the themes of either spiritual death and immortality, or spiritual death and bodily resurrection

I admit that while I am not scandalized by such things, (perhaps I should be), I just find most of them pretty dull. I must be unusual in this respect, for they are popular, and many of them have earned a lot of money for the studios that produce them.

There are some that over the years I have enjoyed, such as An American Werewolf in London, which is in part a comedic spoof. There are others that have similar themes and which are not horror films at all; Highlander, for example, was somber, but not a horror film. Groundhog Day is another in which the protagonist cannot die; regardless of what happens to him, he rises again, spiritually dead but bodily resurrected, “undead”, in a manner of speaking. The optimism of Groundhog Day arises from the fact that it is made clear quite early on that a redemption is possible; the protagonist, played by Bill Murray, eventually breaks out the cycle of misery by becoming a virtuous, loving man. After countless failed attempts at getting the same day right, he finally succeeds by acting selflessly, and is permitted by the unidentified force that control this make-believe world to return to a familiar reality in which time moves forward.

Why are these films successful?

Prof Caleb Brown, whom I met recently, is a screen-playwright and teaches an online class in film appreciation called Christian Humanism in Modern Cinema. He told me that it is generally accepted that in the drama of film, the highest stake - what audiences fear most, generally speaking - is not death, but rather eternal damnation or eternal misery. This is, according to Hollywood, the audience’s greatest fear, regardless, it seems, of whether or not they acknowledge the existence of an afterlife.

This is part of a simple, deeper answer, which is true of any drama, which is to say, strange as it may seem, that these films speak in some way to our natural sense of the story of our own lives, which is as yet not fully realized. Any film will connect with an audience if it seems to strike a chord in response to the basic questions of life, even if only at a false or superficial level: where do I come from? Where am going? And Why?

The Christian film, in common with every aspect of the culture, evangelizes by illuminating the fact that the story of our own lives is a participation in the grand drama of salvation. This may be done explicitly or subtly, directly or indirectly, but this is what it must do. It stimulates the faculty in us to recognize our true story in the Faith and lead us to it. There is even a place for horror movies among them, provided that they portray a message of hope. Regardless of the terror that is portrayed, real or imaginary, if it is shown to be either redeemable or avoidable by some means analogous to God’s mercy, it can lead people in the right direction. Furthermore, because these are the fundamental questions that we all want answered, this can also be a film producers’ guide to greatest box office success.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says (CCC282) that the Bible tells us a story which relates to “the very foundations of human and Christian life.” This Biblical story is told most effectively in the context of the liturgy, as Fr Jean Danielou writes in his influential book The Bible and the Liturgy. I recently read Fr Robert Taft’s book, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West, in which he makes a similar point;  in order to profit from praying the liturgy as a whole, including the Hours, as a school of prayer, must be a person who prays and whose life is penetrated with the Scriptures. The Bible is a story of God’s ceaseless calling, drawing, gathering and of his people’s constant waywardness. And the Fathers and monks of the early Church, in their meditation on this ever-repeated story, know that they were Abraham, they were Moses. They were called forth out of Egypt. They were given a covenant. They knew the wandering across the desert to the Promised Land was the pilgrimage of their life too. The several levels of Israel, Christ, Church, us, are always there. And the themes of redemption, of exodus, of desert and faithful remnant and exile, of the Promised Land and the Holy City of Jerusalem, are all metaphors of the spiritual saga of our own lives. (p. 371)The first three chapters of Genesis are crucial to this story. They express in unique way
the truths of creation - its origin and its end in God, its order and its goodness, the vocation of man and finally the drama of sin and salvation.” (CCC 289)I recently heard of an interesting interpretation of the expulsion from Eden, as related in these early chapters of Genesis, by Ephraim the Syrian, a 4th century Doctor of the Church.

He suggests it took place not as a punishment, but as an act of mercy, to save mankind by preventing Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of life as fallen people. This would have condemned them, and us, permanently to an eternal life of misery without death.

Rather than allow that to happen, they were expelled from the Garden; then salvation was offered through Christ and His Church. Through the triple sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion, we die spiritually but then are raised up again spiritually, and partake of the fruit of the new tree of life, which is Christ. This tells us that the possibility of an eternal but miserable life without death is not even possible (so we don’t need to fear vampires!)

We can choose eternal misery after death, but through the mercy of God we never need to. This is the good news.

Just yesterday I read the following in the Office of Readings, from St Cyril of Alexandria’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, which relates to this:
When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature. Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it. Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption. I don’t mind a portrayal of flesh-eating zombies or blood-sucking vampires, provided that they direct us to the flesh and blood that will genuinely give us eternal life. This is a story that is worth telling, and it is one that everyone wants to hear. We just have to tell it, and maybe the horror genre is one way to do it.

Sacred Music, the Need for Beauty, and the Beatific Vision

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 06:00
A few years ago, I had the privilege of hearing Fr. Jonathan Robinson of the Oratory deliver a lecture on beauty and the ars celebrandi in liturgy, with special reference to sacred music. Not one to spare his audience a pessimistic opening, Fr. Robinson argued that today the whole question of beauty has become increasingly irrelevant for many people. To Our Lord, Pilate cynically replied: “What is truth?”; today’s Christians could as easily say to their Master: “What is beauty?” Instead of being revered as an ancient witness to the awesome mysteries of Christ as well as their perennial adorable presence in our midst, liturgy is treated as a vehicle for acting out and celebrating a particular priest’s or community’s version of Christianity, usually in the form of moralistic therapeutic deism. Sincerity has replaced “making according to a rule” (the classical view of an art or skill). The results are plain for all to see and hear: verbosity, superficiality, sentimentalism, boredom, and randomness.

Art is a skilled performance; ars celebrandi refers to a skilled action done according to a true rule. No amount of distress for the poor, or openness to the world, or sincerity of opinion, can substitute for the lack of a true ars celebrandi, any more than a poet's good will and winsome personality can substitute for the discipline of learning how to write verse in rhyme and meter. This is what makes a celebrant do his work and do it well, and without it, the liturgy, as a human exercise and experience, becomes something between an embarrassment and a mockery. Because the liturgy is an exercise of the virtue of religion through which we offer fitting worship to God, and because it gives expression to our faith, mere sacramental validity can never make up for defective liturgical rites or for the lack of art in performing them.

If we were looking to capture post-modernity in a single word, we might choose “pluralism.” In the universities, in the fine arts, in religious practice, in every aspect of culture, there is an ever-increasing multiplication of choices, ways of life, identities, now even “genders,” without any axis or center around which they revolve and to which they might be tethered. Pluralism in liturgy, too, is connected with the post-modern view that there is no greater reality outside ourselves to which we must submit, and to which an appropriate response must be made: the response of the creature to the Creator, of the sinner to the Savior, of the child to the Father, of the adorer to the Holy One.

In spite of this inhospitable environment, the beautiful retains certain special qualities of its own. Beauty points beyond itself to something which is not reducible to the “true” or the “good.” When we ask whether something is true, we want to know if it corresponds to reality; when we ask whether something is good, we want to know if it is an object of desire or love. But when we ask whether something is beautiful, we are looking to its immediate captivating quality, its radiance in our eyes, its resounding in our ears. Beauty is disinterested, existing for its own sake, and needs no further justification. We delight in it because it simply is delightful. That which is beautiful exists to be seen or heard, and we rejoice in it just because of its splendor. This is why beauty reflects God, who exists for His own sake, and whom to see is to be blessed. Without beauty, the good loses its very attractiveness. Beauty is like a mask that guards, veils, and presents the face of the true and the good. They cannot stand on their own feet. Whoever banishes beauty will end up no longer being able to pray, nor, finally, to love. The beautiful cannot be banished without drawing into exile, sooner or later, the true and the good.

Do men, generally speaking, fall in love with ugly women? No — unless they find an invisible beauty that calls to the heart in a different way. It is always the beautiful that appeals and attracts, that awakens desire, that causes one to stop thinking of oneself and to be preoccupied with the other. The same is true for “modern man” and the liturgy of the Church. If the liturgy is ugly, it will not attract us, awaken our desire, or cause us to go out of ourselves and be caught up in the divine, so that we may become a Christian who is ready to go out of himself for the sake of others. This is why bad liturgy is, sooner or later, always connected with bad ethics. Bad liturgy is the single greatest cause of the collapse of the Church’s missionary and charitable activities, in the same way that the sinking or rotting or shifting of a building’s foundations compromises the entire structure.

My experience with priests formed in the 1970s is that they consider music in a purely utilitarian way: it is just a means to some further end, usually “active participation” understood in a reductive sense. It has no intrinsic value; it is not a holy thing; it is not “a moving image of eternity.” It is just something you do in order to be doing something religious together. This is why the music does not have to be of a high artistic quality. In fact, music of such quality would tend rather to thwart the end of general involvement than to promote it.[1] The implicit lesson of utility music is that liturgy is a pragmatic service to oneself, rather than a losing of oneself in something higher, greater, stranger, more demanding, and ultimately more wonderful than anything we can invent out of our immediate resources.

On a final exam, a student of mine wrote these words: “Sacred music … does not convey life on earth, it takes us into the afterlife. It makes us focus on the things of God. We meditate on Christ’s Incarnation, his earthly life, and His Passion and Death. We are brought to the angels in heaven and have a brief glimpse of the idea of a beatific vision.” This student has captured a key truth with admirable directness and childlike candor. The beauty of sacred music is a foretaste of the beatific vision in which we will rest in the fullest possible activity of gazing on the unveiled face of God, in whom is all our delight, to whom we will rapturously submit ourselves in a freedom that knows no limits, and whom we will love with all the power of our being because He is all-lovable and all-beautiful. Good liturgy initiates us — step by step, symbol by symbol, veiled glimpse by veiled glimpse — into this fearful and fascinating, stirring and stilling vision.

[1] Sacro-pop music cannot truthfully be said to have achieved that “We Are the World” level of cooperative singing that was its sole justification. Meanwhile, we have had to suffer battery and siege on our eardrums, while the Muses scurried away for cover. We can be consoled at least by the inevitable operation of a divinely revealed law: the fashion of this world is passing away, and all that is conformed to this world will also pass away.

Pontifical Baptism in the Traditional Rite in Madison

Sun, 05/21/2017 - 01:00
Today, we bring you pictures from one of the rarest liturgies in practice, the pontifical baptism from the 1962 ritual books. The celebrant was His Excellency Bishop Robert Morlino; the ceremony occurred several weeks ago at St Patrick’s church, with a family from the Cathedral of Madison, Wisconsin, 

The Priestly Character of Ad Orientem Worship: Guest Article by Zachary Thomas (Part 1)

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 13:36
Our thanks to Mr Zachary Thomas for offering this excellent essay to NLM; it will be published in five parts over the next couple of weeks.
Debates over ad orientem or versus populum worship often focus on the eschatological significance of the Eastward orientation, which is all fine and good.

When the ecclesia orans faces East, the direction of the rising sun and the resurrection, we express the truth that the Church is not a community of this world, founded and maintained as an earthly structure with secular ends, but a pilgrim people “called out” by the Father, given life only in Christ, and directed towards His second coming, when our true nature will be reveal-ed at the end of time.

The eschatological nature of the Church, however, which is manifested by the general Eastern orientation of the priest and people, is only one truth conveyed by the wealth of the Roman Rite’s symbolism. It is, of course, worthy of defense; indeed, one of the most important dogmas to recover about the Church after the rise of modernity, against the sociological conception of the Church so carefully critiqued by Pope Benedict.

However, the conversation could be enriched by paying more attention to another aspect, the sacerdotal aspect of ad orientem worship.

First, we have to admit that the ad orientem / versus populum debate is hampered right out of the gate by a false dichotomy. We phrase the question in a binary way, as if the priest’s facing statically one way or the other might more aptly express his priestly role. But this is, strictly speaking, incorrect. The real object of consideration should be the entire sacred choreography of a liturgical rite, the ritual gestures, symbolic actions, modes of walking, handling sacred objects, and inhabiting space that the whole group of sacred ministers carry out in a given rite: how ministers move to and fro, gestures of reverence, expressions of hierarchy. The ritual dances of the Ethiopian Orthodox, the coming and going of ministers around the Byzantine iconostasis, the angular movements and altar-centeredness of the traditional Roman rite, the circular stage-setting and openness of the new rite as commonly celebrated, are all parts of complex liturgical languages that carry meanings far more significant than written liturgical texts alone; in liturgy, the medium is the message.

In this regard, debates over priestly postures need to widen their context. For example, listening to insistent calls for strictly ad orientem worship, we get the impression people want the priest always facing East. In reality, if the priest statically faced the altar and never turned toward the people, we might still have a problem: we may suspect he were some kind of proud spiritualist, a cold, posturing figure ascending to heaven and leaving the rest of us poor mortals behind. I think this is something like the mistaken impression of coldness some people get when they experience the old Mass for the first time, simply because the sight of the priest facing away from them at any time is shockingly foreign.

Entirely to the contrary, what we all ought to be looking for is motion, a dynamic role, a two-directionality that more clearly expresses and enacts the mediating role of the priest, as opposed to the one-directionality of a “presider” or “minister of the word” directing worship on the protestant model. How can we represent in its fullness the theology of the priesthood expressed by Epistle of Confessor Bishops, “Behold the great priest, who in his day pleased God, and was found just, and in the time of wrath he was made a reconciliation.”

Let’s take one example. In traditional liturgies, the priest repeatedly ascends and descends the altar of God, like the angels on Jacob’s ladder, returning to the people (after having climbed up from among them) to confer upon them God’s blessings, constantly and effectively implored at each holy sacrifice. In Eastern rites, the priest (or deacon) comes in and out of the iconostasis, vanishing from sight and reappearing to address and confer blessings on the ecclesia. Though modern churches built for the Roman rite lack iconostases, the rite has developed its own “sonic iconostasis” of silence, as Cardinal Sarah has pointed out. At various times the priest breaks out of this barrier, and turns around to bless (Dominus vobiscum) or to exhort (Orate Fratres) or to pardon (Misereatur vestri) or to proclaim (Ecce, Agnus Dei). Each time the priest turns around, it is (for one attuned to the rite) as if God has deigned to turn his face and look on us with favor and blessing. And each time he turns back to the altar, our hearts turn back to God with him as he leads us in prayer. In this way, the interior logic of sacrificial prayer is projected into the body language of the liturgical rite itself. The whole liturgical body—which is Christ—thus prays coherently with all of its senses; the body does what the mind thinks, and vice-versa.
It is my contention that these traditional ceremonials, if you will the whole sacred choreography of the traditional rite, offers a more complete ritual actualization of the priestly role and thus of the nature of the Mass, whereas newer ritual fashions tend to obscure both. If the action of the Mass is the re-enactment of the drama of the Living Word, his incarnation and sacrifice and ascension, and thus a living, priestly action of ascending and descending, blessing and returning, then we desire a ceremony that physically embodies and existentially invokes these things as much as possible. Indeed, the reason we do ritual at all, instead of merely reading our Bibles, is to obey Christ’s command “Do this.” “Doing this” means entering into the sacrificial action with our whole being. It means entering the priestly posture.

The “priestly posture” is most authentically understood in terms of Eucharistic and Trinitarian motion. The Trinitarian life is one of endless self-giving among the Divine Persons. Christ’s earthly life, itself a model of the eternal and ineffable life of the Trinity, is a constant self-emptying toward the Father in love. Becoming man so that man can become God, Christ invites us to enter through this sacrificial, Eucharistic economy into the life of the Trinity. Salvation means entering ever more deeply into that generous invitation through the person of Christ. It means molding our hearts and minds into a perpetual Eucharistic outpouring, through Christ, to the Blessed Trinity. We do this through a whole life of religion, but above all in the Sacred Mysteries, where everything works together to this end.

This grand mystery is richly symbolized in the old rite when, for example, the priest kisses the altar each time before turning to face the people, precisely to demonstrate that he brings blessing not from himself, but from the Holy Trinity, and through Christ’s sacrifice that gives us access to It. His constant orientation to the crucifix, the altar, and the East powerfully manifests the basic posture of receptivity and openness to a life that we must always humbly receive, never proudly grasp at or self-complacently enjoy.

By contrast, if we honestly appraise the ritual language of the new rite as commonly celebrated, it is difficult to discern the logic of its motion, or its logic is often at odds with the nature of sacrifice. For one, with the removal of the prayers at the foot of the altar, there is little weightiness assigned to the priest’s going up the altar, little sense of grand purpose. Once there, after kissing the altar, he immediately leaves it and orients himself toward the people, to whom he speaks from beginning to end, in a closed circle. Thus, after his perfunctory ascent of the altar in the entrance procession, he never turns in a ritual gesture toward the Lord in the East, tabernacle, or crucifix. He never kisses the altar again until the very end of Mass. Each one of his ritual gestures, the bulk of his words, and his gaze, seem addressed to the people alone, even if his words are addressed to Another.

When this ritual performance is combined with the lack of emphasis on sacrifice in the Ordinary and the new Proper prayers, one might get the impression from the ritual act alone that something has already vaguely happened, that salvation is something done and over with, now to be enjoyed and celebrated in the Christian assembly. After the opening procession, there is little motion or dynamism in the priest’s posture at all, except in verbal dialogue between priest and people. If the Mass is the “representation” of the sacrifice on Calvary—and thus of the Eucharistic/Trinitarian motion implied in it—then the new rites fail to convey the energy and orientation of this motion, they fail to surge forth with Christ from this world to the Father, aflame with the Holy Spirit. There simply is no convincing dramatic representation of Eucharistic, Trinitarian motion, even if it is not explicitly denied in the texts themselves. From a purely dramatic point of view, it is as if everything has already happened, is already in our possession, and must merely be “announced” or “proclaimed” or “remembered” again in the reduced modern sense of the word, rather than represented, reenacted, re-performed. There is little ritual urging to move past the present moment.

The altars were turned around in the first place so that the people could participate more fully in the action of the Mass, so that liturgy would not be only a clerical affair. Paradoxically, however, the understanding of the Mass’s action as it is conveyed in the new ritual prevents such participation in that action by eliminating consciousness of it. That is because the static versus populum posture implicitly denies the priest’s mediating role, and so obscures the Mass’s nature as an efficacious action. If the Mass is physically acted out as if it were only the “proclamation of the Word,” or “a communal meal” in which a past action is celebrated, and not the active, efficacious, dramatic re-performance of the act, its priestly character breaks down. The Mass is then reduced to a clerically imposed tyranny.

The cathedral of Bern, Switzerland, converted to Protestant worship in 1528. As noted in an NLM quiz in 2011, the pews between the pulpit and the table are reversible, so that they can be turned to face the pulpit for long sermons and those occasions on which no Eucharist was celebrated. (Photograph dated 1895, public domain image from Wikipedia.)Catherine Pickstock wrote something pertinent, when discussing the difference between the role of a priest and a protestant “minister” in Reformed rites:

“…although the new order in its Protestant variant seemed to correct this imbalance by denying the sacrificial role of the Protestant minister in favour of the communication of the word (and the assumption of the task of preaching and disciplining), nevertheless, Protestantism in abandoning the ‘middle voiced’ role of a mediating priesthood, abandoned also the mediating functions of a laity.... Since the new role of the minister was not to mediate but to announce an all-powerful sovereign word, the Reformation cast the laity as listeners to that word and recipients of the ministerial discipline. Here, the new modern active-passive framework without a true ‘middle’ was not a less but a more clericalized framework than before” (After Writing, Oxford: Blackwell 1998, pg. 145).

Fota X Speakers and Papers

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 06:00
From the St Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy, here is the current list of speakers scheduled for the upcoming Fota Liturgical Conference, which will be held in Cork, Ireland, from July 8-10. (Click to enlarge.)

Restoration of the Josephinum Chapel

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 14:49
Many thanks to Mr Mark Cousineau for providing us with this description of the recent restoration of the Chapel of St Turibius at the Pontifical College Josephinum. This post is reproduced from his company’s blog, Henninger’s Herald, with their permission and that of the various other firms involved in the project.
St Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio recently underwent a dramatic restoration project, the aim of which was to show the true beauty of the chapel’s architecture, with a special emphasis on artwork and craftsmanship, while focusing the congregation’s attention on the Eucharist.

The Pontifical College JosephinumThe Josephinum is one of only 15 Pontifical seminaries in the world, the only one outside of Italy. Since it has Pontifical status, this seminary has a special distinction. Completed in 1932 and designed by architect Frank A. Ludewig, the complex is an architectural marvel. Its tower is a recognizable landmark on the northern side of Columbus, visible from miles away.

Architect William Heyer of Columbus, Ohio, has been working with the Josephinum since 2004 on various restoration projects. He has provided architectural consulting for a new roof, structural masonry, student residences, other housing quarters, and the St Rose Chapel. The restoration of the St Turibius Chapel was the Josephinum’s largest, and most important undertaking.
Archive photo before the 1989 renovation, and after. A main feature of the chapel for many decades was its large mural, designed and painted by Gerhard Lamers circa 1936. Since it was painted on an exterior wall, the mural deteriorated after each of the chapel’s three renovations, in 1936, 1945, and 1953. It was covered over during a 1989 renovation, hidden from site and unable to be restored.

A studio with a high degree of artistic talent and a history of grand, religious projects was needed to create the mural to take its place. Evergreene Architectural Arts of Brooklyn, New York was selected by the Pontifical College Josephinum.

Design work at Evergreene Architectural Arts The new mural is a celebration of Lamers’ work, with his original design intent and colors. It was finalized with the assistance of William Heyer, and two consultants from the Josephinum staff, Fr. John Allen, the Vice President for Advancement and Director of Alumni Relations, ) and Fr. Douglas Martis, Associate Professor and Director of Sacred Liturgy.

mural installationcompleted mural
The altar of sacrifice and tabernacle stand were designed by William Heyer, who visited Henninger’s in Cleveland with Frs Martis and Allen to discuss the project with Henninger’s marble fabricator, Renato Campi of The Italian Marble Company.

altar of sacrifice design by William Heyer
At Henninger’s warehouse, the species of marble were selected for the two altars: Bottacino Classico body, with Rosso Levanto and Giallo Siena inset panels, and mensas in Calacatta Gold.

Color rendering of altar of sacrifice after selection of marble species.

The altars were fabricated by The Italian Marble Company in Carrara, Italy.Altars and marble flooring was shipped from Italy to Ohio for on site installation. Since St Turibius is on the 3rd floor of the seminary, lifting the crates up and inside of the building were a challenge. Henninger’s crew performed the installation of the altars in about two weeks. Overseeing the installation, and the entire restoration project was Ruscilli Construction Company.

Henninger’s foreman, Jerry Klimo and Architect, William Heyer planning the installation from the site of the altar.Tabernacle stand installationInstallationAltar of sacrifice installationMarble floor medallion installationAltar of sacrifice installationCompleted tabernacle standCompleted altar of sacrificeFront view of both altarsBack view of altar of sacrificeDetail view of altar of sacrifice
Other important improvements include a new floor plan which allows for more seating, a better liturgical placement of the altar, a new porcelain tile floor, with marble steps, risers, and medallions, enhanced handicap accessibility, and improvements to the sound system and energy efficient lighting.

A reliquary being carried into the church for installation in the altar during the dedication ceremony.The chapel and altar were dedicated on April 24 by His Excellency, the Most Rev. Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, and Chancellor of the Josephinum.

“The restored chapel will further the integration of a dynamic prayer life which is focused around the altar and the Paschal mystery,” said Msgr. Christopher J. Schreck, the college’s rector/president. It was an honor and thrill for Henninger’s to work on such an amazing project. The “before and after” pictures tell a part of the story. The rest of the story lies in the hundreds of smiling faces as they entered the restored Chapel for the first time after the project’s completion. Such a historic Chapel in such an important Seminary deserves world class attention. We were proud to offer such attention and very grateful at the opportunity.

Pope Benedict Writes in Praise of Card. Sarah

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 06:00
Yesterday, First Things posted a review of Cardinal Sarah’s new book “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise”, by His Holiness Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It is of course well worth your time to read the whole piece, which is quite brief; here is an excerpt.

“(Card. Sarah) can then see the dangers that continually threaten the spiritual life, of priests and bishops also, and thus endanger the Church herself, too, in which it is not uncommon for the Word to be replaced by a verbosity that dilutes the greatness of the Word. I would like to quote just one sentence that can become an examination of conscience for every bishop: ‘It can happen that a good, pious priest, once he is raised to the episcopal dignity, quickly falls into mediocrity and a concern for worldly success. Overwhelmed by the weight of the duties that are incumbent on him, worried about his power, his authority, and the material needs of his office, he gradually runs out of steam.’

Cardinal Sarah is a spiritual teacher, who speaks out of the depths of silence with the Lord, out of his interior union with him, and thus really has something to say to each one of us.

We should be grateful to Pope Francis for appointing such a spiritual teacher as head of the congregation that is responsible for the celebration of the liturgy in the Church. With the liturgy, too, as with the interpretation of Sacred Scripture, it is true that specialized knowledge is necessary. But it is also true of the liturgy that specialization ultimately can talk right past the essential thing unless it is grounded in a deep, interior union with the praying Church, which over and over again learns anew from the Lord himself what adoration is. With Cardinal Sarah, a master of silence and of interior prayer, the liturgy is in good hands.”

Carmelite Nuns in Michigan Need a Chaplain for Both Forms

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 14:00
We received the following request from the prioress of the Discalced Carmelite Monastery of the Infant of Prague, located in Traverse City, Michigan, which we gladly pass on to our readers.

“Our cloistered community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns is searching for a chaplain. Our current chaplain is going on sabbatical in July, and our so-far-unsuccessful search is becoming urgent. The type of priest we are looking for can perhaps be understood best by viewing this page on our website:
At present we must rely on visiting priests to occasionally celebrate the Extraordinary Form for us. We hope to increase the number of EF Masses...”

The sisters have also asked for prayers that they may be able to connect with the right priest to help them in this essential part of their daily prayer life. (Please feel free to share this post however you can to spread the word.) All the monastery’s contact information is available on this page:

From the sisters website linked above:

“Prayer is the heart of Carmelite life, and the chapel is the heart of a Carmelite monastery. The nuns adore Jesus present in the Holy Eucharist as the summit and source of our entire consecrated life during the two hours of mental prayer, the Divine Office, Rosary and other exercises of piety each day. In Carmel, the sacred liturgy is characterized by simplicity to allow more time for private prayer in accord with our hermit spirit. The Divine Office is usually recited on one tone, with Gregorian chant reserved for Sundays and feast days.

After our foundress Mother Teresa Margaret died, one of her cherished wishes began to be fulfilled: the restoration of Latin as our primary liturgical language. We discovered that after the vernacular languages had been approved for the liturgy, Blessed Pope Paul VI had written to all the monastic and mendicant communities begging them not to give up Latin in the Divine Office. We began praying that Our Lord would make His will clear to us and remove any obstacles, and very soon another monastery offered us their post-Vatican II Latin breviaries and chant texts, and a retired professor volunteered to teach us Latin at various proficiency levels! We began the gradual transition in Advent 2014, and as our knowledge of Latin increases, we find ‘our hearts burning within us’ as the depths of Scripture and liturgical texts open up to us.

By our fidelity to the mind of the Church during past years of liturgical upheaval, our monastery became known as an oasis of reverent liturgy, Gregorian chant, and other welcome devotions like Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and May processions, and has become a seedbed of priestly and religious vocations.

Our daily Mass is celebrated ad orientem, with our chaplain and the people together facing the Cross, and Holy Communion is received at the altar rail. On some Mondays, Mass is celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. We are steadily adding more Latin chant to the celebration of Mass, and we welcome new members who share our love for our Catholic liturgical heritage.”

Procession of Our Lady of Fatima in Chicago

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 11:59
Thousands came out to pray in a historic procession with Our Lady of Fatima Saturday for an end to violence in Chicago, following the Virgin Mary's request to pray for conversion of sinners and peace.

During the candlelight procession, which took place on the 100th anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima, Portugal, an estimated 2,000 people came to St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, to take part in the first of six processions to be held on the anniversary of each of the apparitions. The procession was one mile long and concluded with benediction at St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish, celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

The monthly events will culminate with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Joseph N. Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago on Friday. October 13, the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun.

More information here.

New Reprint of a Renowned Summary of Thomistic Theology

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 06:00
A Manual of Catholic Theology, Based on Scheeben's "Dogmatik." By Joseph Wilhelm, D.D., Ph.D., and Thomas B. Scannell, B.D., with a Preface by Henry Edward Cardinal Manning. Volume I: The Sources of Theological Knowledge; God; Creation and the Supernatural Order. liii + 508 pp. $24.95. (CreateSpace; Amazon) Volume II: The Fall; Redemption; Grace; The Church and the Sacraments; The Last Things. x + 566 pp. $24.95. (CreateSpace; Amazon)

One of the greatest theologians of modern times, Matthias Joseph Scheeben (1835-1888), brought out a Handbuch der katholischen Dogmatik in 7 parts from 1873 to 1887. This tour de force of a refined, lofty, intensely religious scholasticism was conveniently distilled by Dr. Joseph Wilhelm and Fr. Thomas Scannell into a 2-volume English handbook entitled A Manual of Catholic Theology. I am happy to announce a new reprinting of this handbook, which was prepared using freshly-scanned pages of an original copy of the work, printed on cream-colored paper with a simple red cover.

As a Thomist, theologian, and teacher, I find this manual invaluable: it is arguably the single most successful presentation of traditional scholastic theology available, if one is looking not for a mere historical overview of one set of opinions after another (the typical approach in scholarship nowadays) but an actual theological exposition, where the focus is on articulating and defending the rei veritas, the truth of things. Scheeben is thoroughly steeped in Aquinas's works as well as in the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Councils, and the wealth of scholasticism across the centuries, and writes his account in a measured, precise, and fervent manner, logical and yet poetic, satisfying to the intellect but always open to the ineffable divine mystery that lies behind and beyond the truths to which God, in His mercy, has granted us access.

I would not hesitate to say that a serious student of Catholic theology should begin his or her study of a given topic by finding the appropriate chapter in the Manual (see table of contents below) and reading it carefully before moving into other literature. In any case, the fact that a nearly unbroken line of popes for 700 years has sent us to the wisdom of Aquinas ought to be reason enough to consult a book like this mini-Scheeben when working on any major topic, since Scheeben performs for us the welcome task of drawing together in synoptic form the full range of Thomas's thinking, which would otherwise be a daunting project. (I speak from experience, since I wrote my doctoral dissertation on "The Ecstasy of Love in St. Thomas Aquinas," and had to pursue his doctrine of love across the full range of the opera omnia. It took me a few laborious years to get the job done!) Here is how Cardinal Manning praises the Manual in his Preface of 1899:
The Dogmatik of Scheeben is a profuse exposition of the deep things of faith in the light of intelligence guided by the illumination of the Church. ... The great value of Scheeben's work is in its scientific method, its terminology, definitions, procedure, and unity. It requires not only reading but study; and study with patient care and conscientious desire to understand. This Manual will assist and inspire a new generation of theologians, historians, liturgists, and pastors who are striving to rediscover and faithfully transmit the glories of traditional Catholic theology. Just a few examples, chosen almost at random, of the great relevance of this Manual for our own times: the chapter in vol. 1 on ecclesiastical tradition, or the chapters in vol. 2 on the Holy Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, furnish abundant material for reflection and preaching.


Book I. The Sources of Theological Knowledge

Part I. The Objective Principles of Theological Knowledge
Chap. 1: Divine Revelation
Chap. 2: The Transmission of Revelation
Chap. 3: The Apostolic Deposit of Revelation
Chap. 4: Ecclesiastical Tradition
Chap. 5: The Rule of Faith

Part II. Theological Knowledge Considered In Itself, or Subjectively
Chap. 1: Faith
Chap. 2: Faith and Understanding

Book II. God

Part I. God Considered as One in Substance
Chap. 1: Our Knowledge of God
Chap. 2: The Essence and Attributes of God, Considered Generally
Chap. 3: The Negative Attributes of God
Chap. 4: The Positive Attributes of God
Chap. 5: The Divine Life

Part II. The Divine Trinity
Chap. 1: The Dogma
Chap. 2: The Trinity in Scripture
Chap. 3: The Trinity in Tradition
Chap. 4: The Evolution of the Trinity from the Fecundity of the Divine Life

Book III. Creation and the Supernatural Order

Part I. Creation
Chap. 1: The Universe Created by God
Chap. 2: The Universe Created for God
Chap. 3: The Angels
Chap. 4: The Material Universe
Chap. 5: Man

Part II. The Supernatural Order
Chap. 1: General Theory of the Supernatural and of Grace
Chap. 2: Theory of the Absolutely Supernatural
Chap. 3: Theory of the Relatively Supernatural
Chap. 4: Concrete Realization of the Supernatural Order


Book IV. The Fall

Chap. 1: Sin
Chap. 2: The Fall of the Angels
Chap. 3: The Fall of Man

Book V. Redemption

Part I. Preliminary Conditions and Preparation for Redemption
Chap. 1: The Conditions of Redemption
Chap. 2: The Preparation for Redemption

Part II. The Redeemer
Chap. 1: The Dogma
Chap. 2: The Constitution of Christ; or, the Hypostatic Union in the Light of Theological Science
Chap. 3: The Attributes of Christ

Part III. Work and Functions of the Redeemer
Chap. 1: Work of the Redeemer
Chap. 2: Functions of the Redeemer

Part IV: The Mother of the Redeemer

Book VI. Grace

Chap. 1: Grace, the Principle of Regeneration
Chap. 2: Justification
Chap. 3: Order and Economy of Grace in God's Providence

Book VII. The Church and the Sacraments

Part I. The Church
Chap. 1: The Preparation for the Church
Chap. 2: The Institution and Constitution of the Church
Chap. 3: The Primacy of St. Peter
Chap. 4: The Primacy of the Roman Pontiff
Chap. 5: The Properties and Marks of the Church

Part II. The Sacraments
Chap. 1: The Sacraments Generally
Chap. 2: Baptism
Chap. 3: Confirmation
Chap. 4: The Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist
Chap. 5: The Mass
Chap. 6: Penance
Chap. 7: Extreme Unction
Chap. 8: Holy Order
Chap. 9: Matrimony

Book VIII. The Last Things

Upcoming Dominican Rite Solemn Masses in Portland OR

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 20:30
Dominican Low Mass at Holy RosaryI would like to call the attention of the our readers in the Portland OR area to three up-coming Solemn Masses according to the traditional Dominican Rite.  They will all be at Holy Rosary Church, 375 N.E. Clackamas Street, Portland, OR 97232.  Holy Rosary is also a Priory of the Western Dominican Province.  The Masses will be:

Solemn Mass of the Ascension of the Lord, Thursday, May 25, 7:00 p.m.

Solemn Requiem Mass for Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 7:00 p.m

Solemn Mass of Pentecost, Sunday, June 4, 11:00 a.m.

Holy Rosary also has a Dominican Rite Missa cantata every Sunday at 11 a.m.  Music for all the Masses will be provided by the well-known schola Cantores in Ecclesia.

Photos of the Canonization of St Joan of Arc

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 16:00
Earlier today, a Facebook page dedicated to St Joan of Arc posted these photographs taken during the ceremony of her canonization, which took place 97 years ago, May 16, 1920, the Sunday after Ascension of that year. In splendoribus Sanctorum...

Pope Benedict XV is carried down from the Sistine Chapel to St Peter’s Basilica on the sedes gestatoria.
Reading the act of canonization.Mass at the high altar of St Peter’s.A beautiful shot of the decorations set up in the basilica for major Papal events.According to the caption, this is an ‘audience’ of the Pope with the French pilgrims; I don’t know if this was done after the Mass or at some other point.
 Benediction at the altar of the cathedra.

No More Christian Bar Mitzvah!

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 06:00
The Proper Order of Baptism, Confirmation and Communion Restored in Manchester, New Hampshire
A friend recently alerted me to a diocesan newsletter sent out by His Excellency Peter Libasci, Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, in which he explains how he is initiating a three-year plan to reintroduce the historical order of the Rites of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Communion. While this isn’t the only step necessary to a revival of the Faith, it is a hugely important one, in my opinion, one that helps to create the foundation for long term and beneficial impact on the formation of the faithful in his diocese. It is consistent with the way that the Catechism describes them. 
These three sacraments form a natural unity and each makes sense in relation to the other two which is consistent with the goal of Christian life, eternal salvation; in the traditional order, this becomes clearer and more understandable. In simple terms, and as best as I can understand it, Baptism is the dying of the old self, united to Christ on the cross; Confirmation is the descent of the Holy Spirit on the person as experienced by the Apostles at Pentecost; and the Eucharist imparts the resurrection of the new person united to the resurrection of Christ and the partaking of the divine nature.

Regarding the improvement of ongoing formation that might result from this, Bishop Libasci gives the example of the potential for the revitalization of youth ministry. One other occurs to me; to my knowledge there is no commonly accepted articulation of the basis of a schema for the art in churches of the Roman Rite. It seems to me that the visible communication of the truths of this triple sacrament should be a guiding principle for the art that is permanently in our churches. The very architecture of the church should be ordered to reveal these mysteries week on week, day on day, whenever anyone goes into the church building. Even if this were present in a church, if the order in which the sacraments are given to people is wrong, then the message conveyed by the visible aspects of the interior is at odds with what is actually happening. Confusion results.

Furthermore, in the ideal, it seems to me that the whole congregation should be engaged with the celebration of each of the rites of initiation, so that the idea that someone is coming into their community within the Body of Christ may be clearer to all. The fundamental truths of the Faith are imparted for everyone present through the harmony of art, architecture and liturgical action - not just the select few present on a quiet Saturday morning.

The Old and New testaments types that point to the Sacrament can be portrayed in pictorial arrangements that enable the congregation to engage with them at the appropriate time. For example, in a baptistery, there may be images of the crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites, the crossing of the Jordan led by Joshua, scenes of the Flood and Noah’s ark, as well as the Baptism of Christ; there are many other possibilities, of course.

This is how a participation in the liturgy might more powerfully evangelize and catechize, both prior to the rites of intitiation, and as a mystagogical catechesis to all on an ongoing basis.

My education in this comes through the books The Bible and the Liturgy and Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity, in addition to the Catechism, and now Bishop Libasci).

Understanding of what is happening is not necessary in order for these Sacraments to be valid and effective. So, Confirmation is not a graduation ceremony that marks the completion of confirmation classes or a rite of passage for teenagers. In fact, this full three-fold initiation into the Church should be done as early as possible in life, as it opens up the person to grace and a spiritual maturity that is more likely to deepen and maintain his faith into adulthood, and keep people in churches after adolescence. The Catechism quotes St Thomas in this regard, explaining why people do not need to be aware of what they are going through in order to benefit from this triple sacrament. Salvation is as open to infants, the mentally handicapped and the uneducated as it is to the intelligent and educated:Age of body does not determine age of soul. Even in childhood, man can attain spiritual maturity: as the book of Wisdom says: “For old age is not honored for length of time, or measured by number of years.” Many children, through the strength of the Holy Spirit they have received, have bravely fought for Christ even to the shedding of their blood.Paradoxically, the ability to understand what they have been through and its importance in their lives at any subsequent point will be enhanced by this in those who receive it early and in the right order, as will the desire to do so.

Icon of the Baptism in the Jordan with the personifications of the Jordan and the Red Sea being driven back (cf Ps. 113)Below is an image of Noah’s ark from the 12th-century Winchester Psalter.

Solemn Votive Mass of Our Lady

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 05:00
Of possible interest to readers in southern New England.

“Optioned Out of Existence”: On the Loss of Legitimate Traditional Practices in the Ordinary Form

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 06:00
I was once talking with a priest about the strange phenomenon of options in the new rite of Mass and the other sacraments. He made the observation that whenever there are multiple options, one of which is traditional and the others more recent inventions, there seems to be a subtle pressure to choose the more recent inventions, with the consequence that, as he put it, the traditional practice is “optioned out of existence.”

Now we know that this happens a great deal when it comes to anything that’s longer or more complex, or requires a special effort. For example, if the lectionary provides optional readings for a particular saint or category of saint, chances are they’ll be skipped, just because it’s so much easier to march through the daily cycle page by page rather than being bothered to look up the optional reading. An example of length would be the Confiteor: it takes a little longer to pray the Confiteor and the Kyrie than to use the pseudo-troped Kyrie. And so the Confiteor often falls by the wayside.

A dangerous tendency is at work here. Although theoretically many options are put at the celebrant’s disposal, in reality there is a certain pressure against choosing the traditional option precisely because it is traditional and a certain pressure in favor of choosing the modern option because it’s modern, because it can be done, because perhaps it’s more politically correct, or it’s more feminist, or whatever it might be. One is reminded here of the arrogant vanity of modern applied science, which seems to function by the technobarbaric principle of “If we can do, we should do it.” No matter the larger questions of right or wrong, the nuclear bombs must be built, the organs must be harvested, the test tube babies produced, the embryos frozen, the animals cloned, or whatever it might be.

An excellent example would be how the missal says that the priest can say “Pray, brethren.” Nobody ever says “Pray, brethren”; they always say “Pray, brothers and sisters” (or sometimes “Pray, sisters and brothers,” although that’s not an option given in the missal).

The same problem crops up everywhere. Take, for example, the ritual of the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. For decades, clergy throughout the world were simply violating the rubrics that said if feet were to be washed, they had to be those of viri or men. Although a number was not specified, often twelve men were chosen to represent the twelve Apostles. This simultaneously symbolized two things: the universal commandment of charity, and — more specifically tied to Holy Thursday and the commemoration of the Last Supper — the institution of the priesthood in the first Apostles and the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist, which only priests can confect. So if you have twelve men, you successfully capture both sides of the symbolism. The twelve Apostles, as the foundation stones of the Church, represent all of us, so the universal commandment of charity is there. On the other hand, if you have a mixed group of men and women, it cancels out the symbolism of the institution of the priesthood and of the Eucharist, and emphasizes only the commandment of charity. Therefore, these two different approaches are not equivalent to each other. One of them is more comprehensive while the other is more narrow, and (arguably) politically motivated.

Even after Pope Francis’s change to the rubrics so that women are permitted, it is of course still allowable to wash the feet of twelve men, or some number of men; that’s perfectly allowable. The use of viri only has not been forbidden. But there’s an attitude among many clergy that this option is a theoretical option only. We have to include women, now that Pope Francis does it, now that so many places do it: “If we can have women, we should have women.” If we don’t include women, we’re being prejudiced towards them, discriminatory, chauvinistic. In this way, an option that really remains — having only men’s feet washed — is optioned out of existence.

The footwashing debacle illustrates a more general principle of action I’ve encountered in certain priests, namely, that traditional options are nowhere to be chosen: they are never appropriately chosen anywhere. This is the modern Church, we’re in the contemporary world, and we need to do what’s relevant, what’s up-to-date, what’s in fashion. Consequently, the traditional options, though they exist on paper, have to stay on paper.

We know, for example, that it’s possible to sing the entire Mass in Gregorian chant, and that this is the clearly-stated preference of the Second Vatican Council; but a chanted Mass was one of the first casualties of allowing options for music. Most places don’t use the Entrance, Offertory, or Communion antiphons. The music ministers simply substitute other, more or less appropriate (usually less appropriate) hymns for those Propers, which are actually part of the structure of the Mass in a way that hymns never have been and never will be. Miscellaneous vernacular hymns are not printed in the official liturgical books; they’re not printed in the missal; they’re not part of the liturgy; they’re just optional add-ons. But the optional add-ons have become the norm, almost as if they’re required, and the traditional options, which are a part of the structure of the liturgy and its history, are optioned out of existence.

Similarly, we all know that ad orientem is a valid option for the celebration of the Novus Ordo. But once again, the huge pressure of versus populum celebration — the psychological insecurity of the clergy who have to be, so to speak, validated by their relationship with the congregation, and also the egocentricity of the congregation expecting to be coddled and catered to — these forces make a return to ad orientem extremely difficult, even though we know that it’s a perfectly legitimate option on paper. Such examples could be multiplied.

What we see in the world of the reformed liturgy, in short, is a continual drift towards a more and more meaningless, vestigial, paper-thin permission for traditional practices — as if the traditional practices were a rare and dangerous species of delicate flower that’s being pressured out of its ecosystem by an aggressive, invasive species of noxious weeds or foreign frogs.

As a name for the phenomenon, I suggest “the imperialism of novelty,” a kind of unseeing, undiscerning, indiscriminate favoritism or advancement of all that is new and recent and shiny, the latest model rolling off the production line. Tradition has no voice with which to defend itself; it has no armies, no force. It compels solely by its inner rationale, its beauty, its value as something passed down to us. But because modern people don’t care about what has been passed down to us, tradition’s voice is muted; the moral force that it should have is tempered, if not suppressed altogether. Modernity, after all, is fundamentally anti-traditional: recall Thomas Jefferson talking about governments of his day will at last throw off medieval priestcraft and monkery and superstition as we embark on a new Age of Reason, Novus Ordo Seclorum. The only positions that have any clout are those that are espoused by people today — not surprisingly, because the people today who espouse them are alive, with muscles and vocal chords, and they will do what they want to do because they are in charge and they’re alive right now.

This having been the case and still being the case in so many places, I am struck by how often I encounter in younger generations a re-thinking of all of this. Not having the baggage of the Second Vatican Council, these generations can look at this phenomenon of the imperialism of novelty and see it for the empty do-it-yourself religion that it is. They can see that it’s a form of chronological snobbery, an egocentricity of the age. They can see that modern Christian people and leaders are, in essence, slapping each other on the back and saying: “Isn’t it great to be modern, isn’t it great to be up-to-date, isn’t it great to be politically correct and democratic and sensitive?,” and so on. It all rings hollow; as Ratzinger says, when the community celebrates itself, the liturgy becomes an exercise in boredom and futility.

Contemporary Catholics have painted themselves into a corner by insisting that everything be “new” or “renewed,” as if this adjective, all by itself, were the token and guarantee of the rightness of an enterprise. This places a subtle pressure on everyone to innovate, to change, to be different — to privilege motion over stability, acting over suffering, doing over being. But Christ dies once for all; He is the only priest who offers sacrifice; He gives us the true religion whose dogmas never change, however much the theological understanding of them grows through the ages. “Do not let yourselves be deceived: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The Christian religion is inherently new, permanently new, yet in essence unchanging and everlasting. That is why it is capable of never growing old.

Tradition, rightly understood, shares in this perpetual youthfulness; it is not something of the past, much less an object of nostalgia, but a vital energy in the Church that carries us forward, uniting us with the entire Church outside of our age. Indeed, Jews and Christians in the past viewed our “predecessors” as those who have run ahead of us to eternity, and therefore as the ones we are following behind. This, of course, is the very opposite of how we tend to think about time and history and culture: we think that we are ahead and our ancestors are behind; they are behind the times and we are on the cutting edge. But this makes no sense, because our ancestors (antecessores) went before us: they have already lived their lives, they know the mysteries of life and death, and we are dependent on them, we are their pupils, their followers.

Young people, if they still have faith and still wish to use their reason, are becoming more and more aware of the inherent value, one might say the silent but immensely powerful value, of tradition. They are becoming its spokesmen; they are taking up the cause, giving it voice and muscle. They are asking, in some cases demanding, that traditional options be exercised — that traditional practices be rescued from oblivion and be allowed a genuine foothold in the Catholic world, in the Catholic consciousness.

The very least we can ask is that the traditional options not be optioned out of existence. May all Catholics come to see, sooner or later, that the very best option is to return to a liturgy with no options, a liturgy not of modular components associable in countless inculturated permutations but a single sacred tunic woven from top to bottom by our Holy Mother, ready to give us warmth and beauty if we will but take it up and wear it again.