Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Ignatian Retreat in Allentown, NJ, Feb. 7-9

On the weekend of Septuagesima Sunday, Fr Hernan Ducci of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian will preach a retreat for men based on the Ignatian Exercises, at the Church of Saint John the Baptist, located at 1282 Yardville-Allentown Road, in Allentown, New Jersey. The Spiritual Exercises comprise an ordered series of meditations and contemplations born from the profound spiritual experience St Ignatius, gained from his conversion and his time as the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. The purpose of these exercises is to help the retreatant discern God’s will for his own life.

The retreat will begin on the early afternoon of Friday, February 7, and finish with lunch on the afternoon of Sunday, February 9. In order to cover the expenses (Fr. Hernan’s travel from France, food, donation to the parish, etc.) we suggest a donation of $60. Also, please bring a sleeping bag. In addition to the meditations, the traditional Mass will be sung each day, as well as parts of the Divine Office; there will also be plenty of opportunities for spiritual direction and Confession. To confirm your attendance please read the following Google doc and fill in the registration form. If you have any questions, please contact hernan.ducci@gmail.com. Feel free to forward this invitation to anyone else you think would be interested.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Ss Fructuosus and Companions, Spanish Martyrs of the Third Century

The feast of St Agnes is one of the oldest and most universal among those of the ancient martyrs; it is kept on this day in the Roman, Byzantine and Ambrosian Rites, and several of the Fathers preached or wrote about her, including Ss Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine. The importance of her cultus is also demonstrated by the presence of her name in the canon of the Roman Mass, and the fact that her church in Rome on the via Nomentana was one of the first six built by the Emperor Constantine in the earliest years of the peace of the Church.
As she does every year, our Roman pilgrim friend Agnese went to the church of her name Saint for the traditional blessing of the lambs this morning, whose wool is shorn to the make the pallia worn by archbishops are part of their liturgical regalia. Tanti auguri!
One of the works in which St Augustine mentions her is a sermon preached on her feast day in the year 396; however, it is titled “On the feast of Ss Fructuosus the bishop, and the deacons Augurius and Eulogius,” which whom it is principally concerned, who were martyred on the same day as Agnes, but roughly forty-five years earlier, at Tarragona in Spain, in the persecution of Valerian and Gallienus. Historically, Spanish liturgical books of the Roman Rite traditionally kept St Agnes on this day, and either transferred or commemorated the martyrs, but in the Mozarabic Rite, the native rite of Spain, they take precedence over Agnes, as a feast which is both older and more proper to the rite. ~ The original account of their martyrdom survives, and is one of a fairly small number of such documents which are universally recognized to be authentic, even by the most skeptical among scholars of hagiography. These acts contain a record of the trial, such as it was, of Fructuosus and his companions before the Roman governor Emilian, who begins the interrogation.

“You have heard what the emperors have commanded?”
“I do not know what they have commanded, but I am a Christian.”
“They have commanded that the gods be worshipped.”
“I worship one God, who made heaven and earth, the sea and all the things therein.”
“Do you know that there are (other) gods?”
“I do not.”
“You shall know hereafter.”

This last statement was effectively a threat of torture, at which Fructuosus “looked to the Lord and began to pray.” Emilian declared, “Who will be heard, who will be feared, who will be adored, if the gods are not worshipped, and the images of the emperors are not adored?” He then turned to Augurius and said, “Do not listen to the words of Fructuosus”, at which the latter replied, “I worship the almighty God.” Emilian then asked Eulogius, “Do you also worship Fructuosus”, five words which fully betray a mystified incomprehension of Christianity very typical of the Romans. The answer was, “I do not worship Fructuosus, but the same (God) whom he worships.”

Turning back to Fructuosus, Emilian asked him “Are you a bishop?”, and to the answer “I am”, replied with a single word in Latin, “Fuisti – you were”, a very curt way of saying “You shall soon be dead.” He then gave the order that they be burnt alive.

The chapel dedicated to Ss Fructuosus, Augurius and Eulogius in the cathedral of Tarragona. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Turol Jones, CC BY-SA 2.0)
As the Saints were taken to the local amphitheater, the ruins of which still stand to this day, not only the Christians, but also the pagans expressed their grief, for they also loved Fructuosus. These acts contain an interesting witness to the antiquity of the Church’s discipline of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays, which is also mentioned in one of the very oldest Christian documents outside the New Testament, the Didache. On his way to the amphitheater, Fructuosus was offered a cup of wine, but he would not drink it, saying that “it was not yet the hour to break the fast”, being only mid-morning. And thus, having kept the “statio” [1] of Wednesday in prison, “he hastened to complete that of Friday with the martyrs and prophets in the paradise which the Lord hath prepared for them that love Him.”

Another episode right before the execution, one of several such known to us, bears witness to the great veneration in which the martyrs were held. A man named Felix came forward, took the bishop’s right hand, and asked him to remember him, the clear implication being that the martyr would certainly stand be in God’s presence very shortly, and this able to plead for him. To this Fructuosus replied, “I must keep in remembrance the Catholic Church, spread (through the world) from East to West.” He then addressed his flock as follows: “You will not now lack a shepherd, nor will the Lord’s charity and promise fail, either now or in the future; for what you see now (i.e. their execution) is but the weakness of an hour.”

The remains of the Roman amphitheater at Tarragona, constructed at the end of the 2nd century. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Burning at the stake usually killed more by smoke inhalation than actual burning, and this seems to be the case with these martyrs, since the acts say that the fire loosened the bonds which held them, in such a way that they were able to kneel in prayer before they died, “certain of the resurrection.” The author then reports that “the customary miracles” took place, a standing rebuke to those skeptics who are wont excessive reports of miracles as a sign that the written life of a Saint is not authentic. Two of Emilian’s servants, Babylas and Mygdonius, who were also Christians, as well as his own daughter, saw the heavens open and the Saints ascending with crowns on their heads. Many of the persecutors focused their energies entirely on the clergy, but ignored the laity, and Emilian seems to have been such a one, since the two Christian servants were able to invite him to “come and see those whom you have condemned today, how they are restored to heaven and their hope”, but Emilian “was not worthy to see them.” The faithful then collected the relics, in accordance with the custom also attested in many other ancient accounts of martyrdoms.

In St Augustine’s time, the acts of the Martyrs were often read at Mass on Saints’ days, if they were available, and the sermon mentioned above is one of several that refers to this custom. “When we hear how the martyrs suffered, we rejoice, and glorify God in them. … You heard the persecutors’ interrogation, you heard the answers of those who confessed (Christ), while the passion of the Saints was being read.” Further along, he introduces St Agnes by saying, “Blessed are they whose passion was read. Blessed is Saint Agnes, the day of whose passion is today.” This custom never obtained in the Roman Rite, which had only two readings at the Mass, the Epistle and Gospel; hence the passions of the Saints found their place in the Divine Office instead. In the Ambrosian Rite, on the other hand, which has three readings on Sundays and feasts, the custom is still preserved to this day, even in the post-Conciliar form, by which the life of a Saint (in a fairly succinct version, to be sure) may be read in place of the Old Testament reading on certain feast days.

The following video was taken in 2014 in the basilica of St Ambrose in Milan, on the feast of the Martyrs Ss Protasius and Gervasius; after the Gloria and Prayer, the passion of the two martyrs is read.

The cause and manner of these martyrs’ death naturally suggested to the author of their acts a similarity with the three children in the fiery furnace in the book of Daniel; this was a Biblical story near to the heart of every Christian in antiquity, since the Romans’ principal reason for persecuting them was their refusal to worship the statue of the Emperor, just as the three children would not worship the statue of the Babylonian Emperor. He therefore wrote that “they were like Ananiah, Azariah and Misael, in such wise that the divine Trinity was also seen in them, once they were set in the fire of the world, so that the Father was not far from them, and the Son came to help them, and the Holy Spirit walked in the midst of the fire.”

The Mozarabic liturgy makes many references to this idea in its liturgical texts for their feast day, as in this prayer at Matins. (The great veneration in which these Saints were held is also indicated by the fact that Mozarabic Matins normally has three prayers, but on their feast day, twenty-one, of which this is the sixth.) “Ananiah, Azariah, Misael, the three children tested by the fire of Babylon, were a great sign, o Lord, to Thy holy martyrs, to whom their august victory offered an example. In the case of the former, the fire fled, lest they die; in the case of the latter, it was let in, that they might be crowned. With the former, since also the time of the passion was not yet ripe, the fire of punishment could not touch their holy bodies; with the latter, in the acceptable time, when the way to paradise was opened by the death of Christ, it destroyed the bodies that were touched to the fire, once the door of paradise was now opened to the blessed. Therefore, we bless Thee, o God, who delivered the former from the flames, and crowned the latter after the flames; Who also, to deliver the former, didst sprinkle (dew) upon the fires, but allow them to take the latter up (to heaven). Grant us therefore, by the examples and prayers of them all, that we may so be delivered from the fire of carnal vices, that enkindled by the fiery sweetness of Thy words, we may merit to come to Thee in peace.”

In a similar vein, the preface of their Mass (which like many Mozarabic prefaces, is exceedingly long) ends with the words “Full worthy was it, that a divine voice should mark them, like unto that which marked the Hebrew children, Azariah and his companions, who walked in the furnace of the king of Babylon safe and sound, singing Thy praises with a new song, and in the heavenly office of the Angels cried out and said: Holy, holy, holy…”

Each year since 1990, a cultural association based in Tarragon and named for St Fructuosus has performed a passion play by Andreu Muñoz Melgar in honor of the three martyrs, in conjunction with the schola cantorum of the city cathedral. The story sticks very closely to that of the ancient passion, and in 2018, it was staged in the very amphitheater where the actual martyrdom took place, and at the same time of day. Here are two videos of the performance of it, the first from 2014 in Catalan, and the second from 2015 in Castilian.

[1] “Statio” meant the keeping of a fast until the mid-afternoon, which would later become the time for the canonical hour of None. This reference from 259AD shows us as an early form of the custom, later developed more fully, by which the Mass on penitential days was celebrated after None, and followed by Vespers, and the breaking of the fast.

Notes from the Underground - Icon Graffiti in the Subways of Moscow

Is graffiti legitimate if it is beautiful? These Russians are spray painting icons onto the otherwise drab concrete walls and fascias of Moscow. I don’t know what the government or the people of Moscow make of them, but it is a novel way to bear witness to the Faith.
I wonder what the response would be if such a project took place in the New York subway or in LA? I can imagine the secular elites hating them, while the people who actually live around them enjoying them, regardless of whether or not they are Christian. If the paintings are beautiful - and I would say these are - then people will like them. If that were the case, then it would undermine the value of the dreadful installations and public art that our town governments typically commission.
I personally would love to see such work brightening up the streets around me. What do you think?

Monday, January 20, 2020

New NLM Series: Interviews with Catholic Composers (1) — Nicholas Lemme

No one needs to be told that the Catholic Church on earth is experiencing a paradoxical simultaneous crucifixion and resurrection that would be impossible for anything other than a mystical body. Bad governance, bad theology, bad preaching, bad liturgy all continue apace and statistically dominate. On the other hand, we see the slow and steady spread of the traditional Latin liturgy on all continents, especially in the Anglosphere; we see the new youth movement, viz., traditionalism, establishing itself in many places; we see genuinely beautiful churches being built, magnificent renovations, new vestments, new sacred paintings and icons, new pipe organs, new children’s choirs, and a host of other signs of a vibrant renewal at the “grass roots” level. It does not dominate the news cycle, and it is certainly not tilting the scale in a worldly sense, but it is nonetheless real, and possesses the kind of dynamism that intensifies under opposition.

In recent years I have noticed, in my travels and correspondence, in reading articles online, in listening to recordings, that there is a notable uptick in the number of Catholic composers of “classical” music, especially sacred music. For a long time it seemed as if Kevin Allen was the only one people talked about, and his music is, indeed, a splendid treasure and a great gift to choirs. Frank La Rocca has also gained notoriety, especially with his ambitious Mass of the Americas (reviewed, e.g., here at NLM, in Dappled Things, and at OnePeterFive).

The idea grew in me of doing interviews with other serious Catholic composers whose work, though not (yet) as well known as that of Allen or La Rocca, deserves more attention and more performances. I decided to start with four composers — two Americans, Nicholas Lemme and Mark Nowakowski; a Canadian, Tate Pumfrey; and an Australian, Ronan Reilly. Each has been asked the same set of questions, but their answers really bear out the differences in their personalities, training, experiences, and aspirations, while testifying to their unanimous Catholic commitment. I will also insert, between questions, links to audio or video examples of their work.

We will start today with Nicholas Lemme (website).

Interview with Composer Nicholas Lemme

Tell us about your musical background: when and how you began singing or playing instruments, your most influential teacher...

I’m a late bloomer in this regard. I didn’t have any formal training until I was eighteen years old. As a kid I tinkered around on an old upright piano at our house. In my teenage years I began to write poetry and that eventually blossomed into writing songs on the guitar. Aside from various musicals, such as The Fiddler on the Roof, my earliest influences were from songwriters like The Beatles, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Radiohead. My only exposure to Western classical music before college was a bit of Mozart we’d sung in our high school choir, and a CD of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos (which I still love to listen to) that we had at our house. “Sacred music” in my early years was the “One Bread, One Body” Breaking Bread classic variety at our local diocesan church.

My journey to the Western classical tradition, hence sacred music, actually started when I’d fallen away from any serious practice of the faith. My first year of college I’d discovered Debussy’s Nuages from his Trois Nocturnes for orchestra. I’d never heard music like that before and was very moved by it.

My college years and thereafter were filled with exploring new music. My professors and the musicians I played with from then on were very integral to my musical discoveries and education. My voice teachers taught me a true love of art song, and our concert choir sang many of the classics from each period’s composers: Palestrina, J.S. Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Poulenc, Britten, etc… My tastes have changed quite a bit since then, but I must say that without those experimental years of learning about other types of music from Perotin to Steve Reich and even music outside the Classical tradition like Miles Davis, Ravi Shankar, and Balinese Gamelan, my tastes would somehow be deficient today.

After college in Wyoming I moved to Minneapolis, MN. There, I continued to write songs, but it was at that time that I started to put music to paper more often. I started playing mandolin and writing for and performing with an instrumental group of cello, clarinet, banjo, and mandolin. I composed for theater, film, and dance. I also sang with professional choirs during this time, most notably The Dale Warland Singers, as well as The Singers. I learned more about choral music in those professional settings than my previous college years combined. Dale Warland and the musicians in those ensembles taught me a great deal about the choral arts. Another advantage of singing in those choirs was the amount of new music we’d premier. I learned a lot by being a part of the process of making new music. New music has no precedent, so it takes a patient, generously thoughtful, and artful group of musicians to make it work for the first time.

Magnificat Fauxbourdon | 2018 | 3 voices | 3’

How was your interest in composing sacred music enkindled?

Those choirs sang plenty of sacred texts (e.g. Allegri’s Miserere) and in some very sacred spaces, but never for a liturgy. It wasn’t until I discovered the Latin Mass and the CMAA that I found that Palestrina could still be sung for a Mass, just as I had read in my history books! Unfortunately, the music being sung at some of the Latin Masses I was attending at that time was very substandard. I remember asking a choir member once if he’d like to start a small schola to sing the Gregorian chant Introits for the coming weeks. His response, “I don’t like that kind of music.”

Eventually, I found myself singing good repertoire (Gregorian chant and the classical sacred polyphony that was birthed from it) for the Latin Mass with competent musicians. It was here that I realized that I could write music for the liturgy. It was here that I realized I could contribute.

It took some time to start writing sacred music. In fact, I wrote very little for about six years. Since much of my background was in writing songs and instrumental music in a more secular realm, I had to drink deeply from the well of Gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony before I could conceive of composing it. The total immersion into chant seemed to give me a fresh approach to melody, and especially rhythm, in a drastically different way. I began to respect the unison melodic line with its linear harmony with fresh regard.

Is there a sacred music composer — or are there several composers — whose work you find most captivating, either as a source of delight (however different in style from your own compositions), or as direct inspirations and models for your own work?

If we’re considering sacred music to be the music that is “set apart” for a specific liturgical function, I would have to say that the anonymous composers of the chant melodies are the most impressive to me. I’m also in awe of the composers that followed them like Josquin, Dufay, Dunstable, Byrd, Palestrina, etc… They used so little and created so profoundly!

Interpreting sacred music composers more loosely, I would have to say J.S. Bach is a composer I hold in the highest regard. I also admire a lot of 20th-century composers. I’ve always found Benjamin Britten’s compositions for choir and voice so masterful and unique. There are so many fresh compositional voices out there today; it seems I discover a composer to esteem every month.

A living composer that never ceases to move me, however, is Arvo Pärt.  His music captures the mystery that is lacking from so many artistic pursuits of artists today. His music seems to purge the pain of life by allowing the listener to experience it so that true joy can be felt in its aftermath. It causes weeping to flow deep from within, only to leave a smile on the tear-stained cheeks of the listener. If I could write but one piece in life that does this for someone, I would consider my compositional work successful.  

A Solis Ortus Cárdine | 2017 | SATB a cappella | 3’
The language of sacred music, as of Catholic worship in general, remains a controversial subject. What are your thoughts about the place of Latin in vernacular liturgy and the place of the vernacular in Latin liturgy?

While I’m thankful for the many great English translations we have for the texts of our liturgy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great beauty, reverence, and mystery that comes when sacred music is set to Latin.

Again, if we are to take the word “sacred” literally, we are then referring to a musical language that is set apart for a certain liturgical action, and whose first purpose is for the “glorification of God and the sanctification and edification of his people.” I’ve come to realize that the use of Latin enhances in a special way the aura of mystery in liturgical music. It is like a veil, and veils cover sacred things.  As listeners we ask, “What is behind that veil?”

This mystery is most apparently lacking when the Gregorian melodies are set to the vernacular English. Something in their artistry, piety, and mystery is lost. I have heard the melodies set to Spanish with a less jarring affect, however. But, to this point, think of the absurdity of a music conservatory that would have their students singing Franz Schubert Lieder in English. Preposterous! Why should one treat the ars celebrandi of the Church with any less respect?

Additionally, I would say that Latin is a language that is no longer used colloquially, and therefore it has an “otherness” to it. It is intrinsically sacred to those in the Latin Church. When we hear it, we know we are in a sacred space. Latin is sometimes criticized for not allowing a full and “active participation,” but we must remember that the Church has taught in these past two centuries that participation must first be interior, and then exterior, and sacramental (see Pius X, Pius XII, JP II). Without interiority, the rest is just a show. Because Latin creates a sense of the sacred by being mysterious, it lends itself to recollection and piety, which are vital to a proper interior participation.

Of course, I do think that English sacred music can possess many of these positive qualities such as beauty and mystery — e.g. Tallis’ “If Ye Love Me,” Howell’s Requiem, but for me it seems a more difficult language to use for sacred music, and it seems to be a slippery slope into making music that smacks of the banal.

“Da Virtutibus” for organ and men’s voices (audio only)

Can you say more specifically what you see as the qualities of Latin that make it apt for sacred music?

This is difficult to explain briefly, but I’ve noticed several characteristics that are inherent in the Latin text that make Gregorian chant so suitable for prayer. Its flowing legato unison lines are easily executed with the five pure vowels of Latin, contrasted with the complex vowel pronunciation of English. The accent in Latin is something that is light and lifted, and it is one of a lengthening of time. This comes out in the Gregorian melodies; the heights of these melodies are never sung with the greatest emphasis in volume, but are rather lightened and lengthened. The English accent is more Germanic in nature and therefore does not call for this type of setting. One last point is that all of these Gregorian melodies end on the tonic note of the mode in a state of repose. This rise and fall (repose) is observed in the spondees (Dé-us) and dactyls (Dóminus), the smallest rhythms in Latin, that make up the greater phraseological lines. Thus, the words, when they are well set, are to rise like incense to God and return to the recollected heart of the singer. Perhaps these reasons are not convincing to everyone, but they have been revelations to me in how I set text to music.

I would say that Latin’s unifying power is also observed in the pre-Gregorian centuries of the Church when many styles of chant existed. Contrast this with the entrance of the vernacular into the liturgy and one can see the effects and the importance of the language of musical worship.

Auróra Solis Núntia | 2016 | TB or SA a cappella | 3’

In recent years many have been pointing out the strong generational dynamics in the Catholic Church: older people seem to want the popular or secular styles of art, while at least some younger people are intrigued by traditional forms that have an archaic feel to them. Have you encountered such dynamics in your own life and work?

In my short life I’ve witnessed that people are attracted to what is authentic and done well. Even when I was playing rock music or composing in more secular styles, I noticed that if the music was “artful” or done to the highest standard it was respected and enjoyed. Most connoisseurs of rock simply laugh at the genre of Christian rock for this reason. They see it as a cheap imitation of the real thing.

With sacred music, I think the younger generations are looking for something authentic, something that really speaks of the mystery of God, His “otherness.” Our culture seems to be hyper-sensualized and its music, art, and movies represent this. I’m not saying that sensual music does not have its place, but I am saying that I think the younger generations are intuitively recognizing that the older styles have an immanent mystery and speak to something deeper, both intellectually, and even more importantly, spiritually. They are saying, “Mom, can we have something else for dinner besides candy bars and Fruit Loops?”

If you have experience with the “traditionalist” movement, what are some strengths and weaknesses you see in it, particularly from a musical point of view?

I suppose all movements have their strengths and weaknesses, but one strength I see the traditional movement having is that it provides a platform of continuity for the Church and her composers to use to grow organically from what has been slowly developing throughout the previous millennia by preserving the liturgical tradition. Just as chant was born from the Jewish temple and then birthed Renaissance polyphony and the rest of the Western musical tradition, so does it now continue to influence composers to breathe fresh air into the Western tradition. To me, the more ancient forms of Western music, and the the newer forms that are like it, seem to find a happy home in the traditional Latin Mass. I’ve also noticed that the traditional liturgy and its accompanying art forms, such as Gregorian chant, have a great influence on modern composers who are seeking to express the mystery of God.

If there were a weakness to point out, it would be that of the “low Mass” culture. This is the culture that seems to prefer that the public liturgy be a private and meditative devotion. I understand our need for silence in this noisy world, but I do think that this attitude permeates into the greater celebrations of the Church, causing great harm to the beauty that is integral to the celebration of the Mass. In many places it seems that music has become just another volunteer side job at the parish, like mowing the lawn or buying and setting out donuts after Mass. (By the by, I’m very grateful for the hospitality crews after Mass.) As a result, few places seek out real artists to run their music programs. I realize that many factors are at play with budgets, and that most places are just trying to do the best with what they have, and I don’t mean to downplay those efforts, but until we start to devote our resources to the arts we cannot expect any type of change in the way of beauty in our liturgies or in our culture. By this, I do not mean orchestral masses with choirs of 50. A well-trained schola singing Gregorian chant all by itself adds a noble beauty to the liturgy.

Non Veni Vocáre Justos | 2016 | SATB a cappella | 2’ 15’’

What are you doing now in the field of sacred music?

Sacred music has been my full-time job for the last eight years, working as the music director and professor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton, NE, and directing a parish choir in Lincoln. I’m very grateful for this work and have learned a great deal from it. Many of my compositions recently have been written with my students or choirs in mind. I’ve been very blessed to have talented and dedicated individuals to collaborate with in these settings.

What are some of your future plans as a composer?

My goal as a composer is to keep writing and learning each day. I have so much to learn from the greats in our tradition and from those who are composing in our midst today! I’m currently working on a few sacred choral commissions up through March and then I’ll see what comes next. This past spring I wrote some instrumental miniatures for cello and violin, which was a great challenge for me, but a lot of fun. It would be fun to take on a one-act opera, if there are any librettists reading this...

How can people get in touch with you?

My website www.nicholaslemme.com features more information and additional recordings, including of my secular works. My email is info@nicholaslemme.com.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Treasures of the Diocesan Museum of Treviso

Here are some pictures from the diocesan museum of the city of Treviso in the Veneto region of Italy, which contains many very beautiful objects. These were taken by Nicola during a recent visit; normally, he also photographs all the didactic panels as well, but in this case, a lot of items don’t have one displayed, so we don’t have ant detailed information.

The cover of a Gospel book made of embossed silver on wood, from the end of the 13th century, or beginning of the 14th.
The matching Epistolary
Two really nice croziers.
A gilded silver pyx made to hold the ashes used on Ash Wednesday, 1474.
A monstrance in the commonly used pre-Tridentine form, made of gilded silver and enamel at the end of the 15th century.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Life of St Anthony the Abbot in a Sienese Altarpiece

One of the most beautiful depictions of episodes from the life of St Anthony the Abbot, whose feast is kept today, is a series of eight panels from an altarpiece painted in Siena sometime between 1425-50. The anonymous artist, to whom many other paintings are attributed, is referred to as the Master of the Osservanza, the name of a church on the outskirts of the city where he worked. (“Osservanza” was the common term for a group of Franciscans who sought to return to the observance of the most primitive and austere form of the Rule of St Francis.) Various theories have been proposed as to the altarpiece’s commission and destination; the depiction of St Anthony in a black habit may suggest that it was originally made for an Augustinian church, an hypothesis supported by the fact that the reading of St Athanasius’ Life of Anthony was a decisive moment in St Augustine’s conversion. The altarpiece was later broken up, and the different panels are now scattered through various museums, which will be noted in the individual explanations of each one. (All images are in the public domain in the United States; taken from this Wikimedia Commons page unless otherwise noted.)

The first panel is set inside the cathedral of Siena. On the right side, St Anthony is shown very young, kneeling in prayer at the high altar. (The artist gives us a glimpse of one of the crown jewels of Sienese art, the famous Maestà of Duccio di Buoninsegna.) On the left side, an older Anthony, richly dressed like a wealthy man of the 15th century, is attending Mass; as recounted by St Athanasius, his decision to become a monk was inspired by hearing at Mass the words of the Gospel (Matt. 19, 21), as if they were being spoken to himself, “If thou would be perfect, go and sell all that thou hast, and give it to the poor, and come, follow me.” (We cannot assume that every depiction of the liturgy in the art of this period is attempting to be strictly accurate, but note the blue chasuble and the single candle on the altar. – This panel is now in the Berlin Gemälde-Gallerie.)
St Anthony sells his possessions and distributes the money to the poor. The building which dominates the composition is typical of Sienese Gothic architecture; many similar structures can still be seen there to this day. Over the Saint’s head, in the tympanum of the building’s door, is the crest of a prominent family, the Martinozzi; a member of this family, a Franciscan named Giovanni, was martyred for the Faith in 1345 in Egypt, St Anthony’s native country. This would seem to suggest that it was commissioned by them, but there are strong arguments to the contrary. (See Painting in Renaissance Siena, by Christiansen, Kanter and Strehlke, the catalog of a show held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1988, p. 105. – This panel and the following one are now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.)
After living in a monastery for several years, and overcoming many temptations, St Anthony decides to depart to a more isolated place in the desert, and live as a hermit; here, he is seen receiving the blessing of one of the monks. One of the responsories of his proper Office describes this first phase of his monastic life as follows: R. The most blessed man went to the cells of the monks, paying close attention of the lives of the fathers, and the virtues of each one, * and he bore great fruit, like the bees who bring forth honey after tasting (many) flowers) V. Eagerly did he follow the temperance of this fellow, the humility of that one, the patience of another. And he bore...
St Anthony is tempted by a devil, who appears to him in the guise of a woman. Note that the Saint is now considerably older than he was in the previous panel; the devil is identified as such by the bat wings on its back. (This panel and the following one are now in the Yale Univ. Art Gallery; the first image of these two was downloaded from their website.)
St Athanasius tells of the many times when St Anthony struggled against devils, not only by resisting temptations, but also suffering bodily harm that they were permitted to inflict upon him. On one such occasion, “a multitude of demons … so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain.” He was discovered unconscious by the local villagers, who thought him dead, and brought him to their church, here depicted in the background. (Life of Anthony 8 and 9) 
On another occasion, St Anthony was tempted by a heap of gold which the devil left by the side of the road where he was passing. This was originally painted in real gold leaf that was later scraped off, leaving the Saint to confront a completely harmless-looking rabbit. (This panel is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.)
The seventh panel shows St Anthony’s dealings with St Paul the First Hermit, which I described two days ago in an article for the feast day of the latter. At the upper left, St Anthony sets out to find St Paul; on the right, slightly lower, he is guided on his way by a centaur; and at the bottom, the two Saints embrace. At the very top in the middle is depicted the same rose-colored church seen in the previous panel, to indicate that Anthony has journeyed far into the desert to find Paul. (This panel and the following are now in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from which this image was downloaded.)
The final panel depicts St Anthony’s funeral, specifically, the Absolution at the catafalque, which is being done exactly as in the traditional Roman Rite. The catalog cited above notes that the arrangement of the scene, with one person kneeling on one side of the bier, and the rest gathered around in a semi-circle, is reminiscent of several Renaissance depictions of the funeral of St Francis. The pink and black stripes on the church’s walls are very typically Sienese.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

First Solemn Mass in Zagreb, Croatia Since 1969

Our thanks to Mr Igor Jurić for sharing with us some very good news from his home town of Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, and to Mr Hrvoje Miličević for these photographs - nice use of the filters! A video of the ceremony is included below. Let us remember in this New Year to prayer for the continued growth of burgeoning traditional Mass apostolates throughout the world.

On the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a traditional Solemn High Mass was celebrated in one of the churches of Zagreb, Croatia for the first time since the introduction of the post-Conciliar reform in 1969. The Mass was celebrated in the church of St Catherine of Alexandria, filled mostly with young people and families with children; the average age of the members of the schola was around 20. Since the origin of this feast is connected to the Franciscan Order, it was quite fitting to have a Franciscan friar as the celebrant. (In God’s providence, this was a last minute substitute due to the illness of the regular diocesan priest who celebrates Mass there). The Mass was celebrated according to the Missale Romano-Seraphicum, which includes a Sequence for this feast (see picture below).

Most of the beautiful vestments used for the occasion were from the church treasury; fortunately, they hae been preserved in very good condition. A few weeks earlier, the Society for the Promotion of Traditional Mass “Benedictus” (the Una Voce chapter in Croatia) successfully completed a fundraiser for the purchase of a new Solemn High Mass vestment set, which will be tailored in Rome, so we can hope that this will enable more such Masses in the future.

Hale and Hearty - Health and Beauty in the Human Person, Part 2

Does it help a doctor to treat the patient if he appreciates the beauty of the person and relates to him as a Christian? I think so.

In this article, I argue that the best doctors will be aware of what human health is to be able to treat them. Furthermore, to know what health is requires them to understand what a human person is, which means the study and acceptance of Christian anthropology. I argue that the very best doctor - or health practitioner of any description - will do more than grasp this intellectually, but will relate to the patient as a human person. To relate with a patient fully involves more than simply the adoption of Christian morality. It is a Christian formation, with the liturgy and mystagogical catechesis at its heart that will most powerfully form a good doctor.

In the first part of this article, I tried to establish a good working definition of health. In this part, I discuss why the best doctor, one who can help a patient to achieve this ideal, will be one who relates to others as a Christian. I explain why, in my view, such a doctor will be one who deeply appreciates also the beauty of the human person and is formed supernaturally as a Christian through a mystagogical catechesis with the worship of God at its heart. I begin from the definition of health that established at the end of part one.

Plastic surgery is the response of the modern medical profession to the question of human beauty. The best doctors, I suggest, appreciate the beauty of the human person in a way that is not limited to physical attractiveness.
A proposed definition of health
Reflecting on all of this so far, here is a proposed definition of health: health is the harmony of all aspects of the human person - body, soul, and spirit - in accordance with our freedom to choose happiness both now and in eternity. Healthcare, regardless of what particular aspect of the human person it is focussed on is always concerned, therefore, with the treatment of the whole person and the optimization of that freedom to choose happiness.

Happiness. What is it and how do we get it?
What we all seek is happiness, and as Aristotle points out, every choice we make is done with a view to increasing our happiness. The doctor cannot prescribe happiness, but he can contribute to the freedom of the person to choose it if he knows what happiness is and what is necessary to obtain it. The source of the difficulty in defining precisely well-being and health relate with all its ramifications, I suggest, is at root a reluctance to acknowledge a fundamental truth, that happiness is what we seek in this life and the next, and that God made us that way so that we might seek Him.

Happiness is one of those words that is almost impossible to define without descending into circular definitions of the sort that we have already encountered. An inability to define the word doesn’t mean that we don’t know what it is, however. Most people who could not define it would nevertheless say that we know it when we get it, and we know when we don’t have it. Also, most people can naturally distinguish between various degrees of superficial or temporary happiness. All forms of happiness are desirable and good, but not all fulfill the desire for a deep and permanent happiness that is in our hearts.

I would make the case that happiness is in fact, indefinable - ineffable - that is, beyond words. This is a mystery that need not worry us however, for what we desire is available to all of us. I quote here from the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann (d.1983):
‘The ultimate mystery of the Church consists in knowing the Holy Spirit, in receiving Him, in being in Communion with Him. It is He (and not ‘grace’) that we invoke in prayer and acquire through spiritual effort..‘For in the words of St Seraphim [of Sarov] “when the Spirit of God descends upon man and overshadows him with the fullness of His outpouring, then the human soul overflows with unspeakable joy because the Spirit of God turns to joy all that he may touch.”

‘All this means that we know the Holy Spirit only by His presence in us, the presence manifested above all in ineffable joy, peace, and fullness. Even in ordinary human language these words - joy, peace, fullness - refer to something which is precisely ineffable, which by its very nature is beyond words, definitions, and descriptions. They refer to those moments in life when life is full of life when there is no lack of and therefore no desire for anything, and this no anxiety, no fear, no frustration. Man always speaks of happiness, and indeed life is a pursuit of happiness a longing of life’s self-fulfillment. Thus one can say that the presence of the Holy Spirit in us is the fulfillment of true happiness. And since this happiness does not come from an identifiable and external cause as does our poor and worldly happiness, which disappears with the disappearance of the cause that produced it, and since it does not come from anything in this world, yet results in a joy about everything, that happiness must be the fruit in us of the coming, the presence, the abiding of someone who Himself is Life, Joy, Peace, Beauty, Fullness, Bliss. This Someone is the Holy Spirit.’
The miraculous event at Pentecost is a sign of what is available to us as Christians. The gift of divine wisdom, a gift of the Holy Spirit, is the end of all Christian education, and so ought to be incorporated into the formation of health workers too!
Treating the whole person
Given the profound unity of the human person, a single entity that is body, soul, and spirit and in which each aspect bound up with the other. There is no treating part of the person without treating the whole person, and a doctor’s treatment of the person is incomplete if it is not in accord with our desire for God.

This is about more than medical ethics. It is governed by the first assumptions of what the person is. A doctor may know all the practices of medicine, but he cannot know how to apply them properly if he doesn’t understand what makes a person free to choose happiness.

Getting the heart of the matter: the human heart used to be organ that symbolized the place where we are, as a person, the vector sum of all our thoughts, feelings and actions. Modern medicine treats it as a machine and represents it mathematically as a series of functions. This approach is good for treating heart disease, but it could be better if all this data was understood in relation to the well-being of the whole person. 
The ancient Greeks, it appears, had a greater grasp of this idea of the need for the harmony of the parts than the specialists of modern secular medicine. Their general mathematical theory of harmony and proportion began with the consideration of the beauty of things, and the realization that when we recognize that the relationship of the parts to each other is ordered to the whole and to its purpose we see it as both beautiful and good. So the consideration of what things are begins with the recognition of their beauty as a sign of their goodness. This applies to both mankind and creation. Greek medicine considered health to be the balance of the parts and ill-health, it was assumed, could be linked to an imbalance. An example would be their approach to the four ‘humors’ - yellow bile, black bile, phlegm, blood. They understood also the profound unity of the physical and spiritual, so they tried to consider how an imbalance of these humors might lead to an emotional imbalance. It is from this that we still have words in the English language related to mood or character such as bilious, phlegmatic, or sanguine (the last from “sanguis”, the Latin word for blood).

In regard to the moral life, Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics (a book still studied in Catholic liberal arts colleges today), directly links virtuous behavior to a proportional relationship between extremes, citing arithmetic and geometric proportions. Many people read this and think that he is speaking loosely or figuratively, but he uses these terms with precise meanings in mind. (If you want to understand how, you can read of the mathematics of proportion and harmony in Boethius’s De Institione Arithemetica and De Institutione Musica, or my summarization of those principles in The Way of Beauty. These are also taught in my class offered by Pontifex University, called The Mathematics of Beauty.)

In considering the value of what the ancients did in the field of medicine, I am not suggesting that we adopt their scientific understanding of the human person which was inferior to that of the present day. Rather we should think about how this holistic approach to medicine can restore the humane to healthcare. Nor is this an argument for abandoning specialization in medicine. It does seem appropriate for a physician to primarily consider bodily health, but at the same, it seems reasonable to say that he cannot be a good physician without some awareness, at least, of how his specialization relates to the whole.

The modern doctor, for example, very often considers a chemical imbalance and its connection to unhappiness, and prescribes antidepressants. To do this without considering the possibility that a chemical imbalance might be the result of spiritual ills (which is different even from considering it to be a mental problem) could lead to a wrong diagnosis and treatment. Unhappiness, like physical pain, reveals a difficulty and on these occasions treating it with antidepressants might be akin to treating a broken bone with painkillers.

The Sacred Heart, by David Clayton, 20th century. Devotion to the Sacred Heart gives us an appreciation for Christ's humanity. Perhaps also, ironically, by meditation upon the symbol of the heart as the seat of the whole person, it can give us (including those of us who are in the medical professions) an appreciation for the spiritual aspects of man also.
Beauty and Health
Defining health in this way creates a direct connection to our perception of the beauty of the human person. In the traditional Western approach, beauty is the proper ordering of the parts of something in relation to each other, so that the whole is ordered to its purpose. We apprehend that beauty we are discerning this right pattern of the parts to each other and of the whole to its purpose.

Human beauty, therefore, could be defined as the radiance of health.

This definition speaks a deeper recognition of the human person than the superficial recognition of sexual attractiveness, which is a true but incomplete assessment of human beauty. To recognize a person as beautiful in this way - radiantly healthy - is to do more even than to grasp vital information about his health. It must be apprehended by one who appreciates that he is in relation to the person regarded, and is sympathy what those goals are. This is one who loves and who takes delight in the freedom of the other.

There is real value in doctors being formed to see us in this way. For all the blood-pressure readings or vital signs, it is their judgment, formed by experience will tell them in combination with this, just by looking, how healthy a person is. Such a doctor will not only have a heightened sense of when something is wrong, he will naturally look for the restoration of balance and have a sense of how to put the parts together again, so to speak. This requires each doctor and nurse to be, as well as practitioners of medical science, to be mystics and lovers who take an interest in, and ideally even know well the patient as a person.

An education that incorporates a formation in faith and a formation in the apprehension of beauty will increase the chances of the doctor being that person. The best health practitioners will be men and women who strive to be partakers of the divine nature and who can see with the eyes of purity, and so they are kings, priests, and prophets living the life of the Spirit (in common with all Christians). This is why medical training ought not to be separated from a spiritual formation in the Christian life. The good doctor will be a man of love attuned to the beauty of the human person in the way that a mother sees the beauty of her newborn baby.

The Lucca Madonna by Jan Van Eyck, Flemish, 15th century. It is the love of a parent for the child that allows her to see the beauty of a baby in a way that others don't. All people, by virtue of our humanity, are as beautiful as a baby, and it is our lack of love for others that restricts our ability to see it. Nevertheless, the recognition of the beauty of the whole person is an ideal that we can strive for, difficult though it is to achieve.
Clearly, this is asking a lot of our doctors and nurses and something that no training can ever guarantee for them. Medical exams can test knowledge of the information that might aid such a transformation, but they can’t measure the transformation itself. Nevertheless making medical students aware of the principles outlined, and offering them mystagogical catechesis and spiritual guidance directed to these ends should be a matter of policy and I would make it a priority over any other general education, even the traditional Great Books and Liberal Arts programs that American Catholic colleges and universities offer. This is, I suggest, the authentic role of our Newman centers on the university campuses and it is not beyond any of them. I believe that if they were offering this, the uptake would be from a pool far wider than simply medical students!

But let all those that seek thee be joyful and glad in thee, and let all such as delight in thee say always The Lord be praised. (Psalm 70 (69), 4)


Hippocrates (460-370 BC)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

St Paul the First Hermit

On the calendars of the Extraordinary Form and of the Byzantine Rite, today is the feast of St Paul the First Hermit, an Egyptian anchorite whose life was written by St Jerome around the year 375AD, only 15-20 years after Paul’s death at the age of 113. As recounted by Jerome, Paul was from the city of Thebes (in the Byzantine tradition, he is called “Paul the Theban”), and at the age of 16, on the death of his parents, received a large inheritance. The persecution of Christians under the Emperors Decius (249-51) and Valerian (253-60) was then raging, (Jerome gives particularly awful examples of its ferocity in the deaths of two unnamed martyrs); Paul’s sister had recently married, and her husband thought to get ahold of the inheritance by betraying his young brother-in-law to the authorities.

St Paul the First Hermit, by Jusepe de Ribera (1591-1652), 1640, now in the Prado Museum in Madrid. This representation of the Saint is very similar to that of St Jerome in the Counter-Reformation period, but he is distinguished from the latter by his garment of palm branches, where Jerome traditionally wears the red robes of a cardinal. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Paul therefore fled into the desert, where he happened upon a cave at the foot of a rocky mountain; to this day, there is a Coptic monastery named for him in the eastern desert of Egypt on the site of this cave, roughly 100 miles south-east of Cairo, and 8 miles from the Red Sea. St Jerome says that the cave was “like a large hall, open to the sky, but shaded by the wide-spread branches of an ancient palm”, and contained within itself a stream of water. Paul immediately “fell in love with the dwelling place, as if it were a gift offered to him by God”, and thus remained there for the rest of his life in prayer and solitude, the palm tree being the only source of both his food and clothing. Jerome spent a great deal of time among monks and anchorites in different parts of the Mediterranean world, and for the sake of those who find it incredible that a man might live so, calls “Jesus and his holy angels to witness” that he had personally known monks in Syria who lived in similarly austere conditions.

The Monastery of St Paul (Image by LorisRomito from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)
The largest part of the book (chapters 6-16) is taken up with the meeting between Paul and St Anthony the Abbot, whom the East traditionally calls “St Anthony the Great.” This took place when the former was very close to the end of his life, and the latter 90 years old. In the West, St Paul’s feast was formerly kept on January 10, exactly one week before Anthony’s, to symbolize that he preceded Anthony in the monastic life; at the Tridentine reform, it was moved out of the octave of the Epiphany to its Byzantine date.

The thought once came to Anthony that there was no monk in the desert more perfect than himself, but it was revealed to him in a dream that there was indeed such a one, and that he must go to visit him. Although neither the man’s name or dwelling place was revealed along with this information, Anthony at once set out to find him, guided on his way first by a centaur, which pointed the way to the man of God, and then by a satyr. Jerome states that the first of these may have been one of the wild creatures that dwell in the desert, or a devil in disguise sent to terrify Anthony (who had many similar visions in his long career), brought to heel, as it were, by the sign of the Cross which the Saint made over himself. The satyr, however, actually spoke to Anthony, and confessed that the gentiles in their error worshipped creatures like himself, but that he was a mortal, and, speaking on behalf of his people, said “We pray you on our behalf to entreat the favor of your Lord and ours, who, we have learned, came to save the world.”

At last, he was led to the cave by a she-wolf, and upon finally meeting Paul, they greeted each other by name, though they had never met before. As they conversed, there arrived a crow which for many decades had been wont to bring Paul half a loaf of bread each day, this time carrying a full loaf, at which Paul exclaimed, “See, the Lord, truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For the last sixty years I have always received half a loaf: but at your coming Christ has doubled his soldier’s rations.” This episode is referred to in the Byzantine Canon for his feast day: “Nourished by heavenly bread, as once was Elias, though the ministry of a crow, o Father, you fled the Jezabel of the senses under the protection of Christ.”

The Isenheim Altarpiece, by Matthias Grünewald (ca. 1470-1528), ca. 1515. Left panel, the Visit of St Anthony to St Paul; right panel, the Temptation of St Anthony, based on chapters 8 and 9 of St Athanasius’ Life of St Anthony, which give vivid descriptions of the demonic attacks which St Anthony suffered, and have inspired many rather wild artistic depictions. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Paul then revealed to Anthony that he knew that his time to die was very near, and sent him back to his own place to fetch a cloak which he had received from St Athanasius, which he was to bring back and use to bury Paul’s body. Weeping, Anthony kissed him goodbye, and returned to his monastery to fetch the cloak; when the two disciples who regularly attended him asked him where he had been for the previous several days, Anthony replied, “Woe to me a sinner, who falsely bear the name of monk. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, and truly, I have seen Paul in Paradise.” This last refers to the words of Paul’s namesake the Apostle, who was “caught up into paradise, and heard secret words, which it is not granted to man to utter”, (2 Cor. 12, 4), but also to Anthony, who, when pressed to explain his meaning, simply replied, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” (Ecc. 3, 7)

While returning with the cloak, however, Anthony beheld at a distance Paul’s soul ascending to heaven, at which he prostrated himself and lamented his friend’s departure. On reaching the cave, he found Paul kneeling upright in an attitude of prayer, and at first thinking him to be somehow alive, knelt down next to him to join him, only to realize that “even the Saint’s dead body, in the office of its posture, was praying to God unto whom all things live.” [1] He therefore brought the body out for burial, “singing hymns and psalms in accordance with Christian tradition” [2], but had no shovel with which to dig a grave. This service was provided by two lions who came out of the desert, dug the grave with their claws, and then would not depart until they had received Anthony’s blessing. When he departed from the place, Anthony took with him the cloak which Paul had woven for himself of palm leaves, and wore it each year on Easter and Pentecost.

A capital of the abbey of St Mary Magdalene in Vézelay, France, showing the burial of St Paul, a modern (i.e. 19th-century) restoration by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, based on an original fragment now in the museum of Vézelay. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
In the official commentary on the post-Conciliar reform of the calendar of Saints, published in 1969 by the Vatican Polyglot Press, the entry for St Paul states that his feast “is left to particular calendars, for many difficulties are found in regard to the historical character of (his) life written by St Jerome.” I am certain that this refers not just to the more fantastic elements of the story such the centaur and the satyr, but to the miraculous element in general, which the modern reform downplays or eliminates from the cult of the Saints at almost every turn. [3] This strikes me as a very jejune and drearily modern way of thinking. There is nothing about the miracles reported by Jerome, such as those of the crow and the lions, or the mutual recognition between the two Saints at their first meeting, that particularly stretches the credulity of anyone who believes in the reality of miracles and the providence of a loving God.

As to the centaur and the satyr, even if we discount his supposition that the former may have been some kind of supernatural apparition, St Jerome was certainly not the only educated man in antiquity who believed in such things. Pliny the Elder, for example, writes in his Natural History (6.3), “Claudius Caesar writes that a hippo-centaur was born in Thessaly and died the same day; and in his reign we actually saw one that was brought here for him from Egypt preserved in honey.” He also names the “satyrs” (5.8) as one of the many tribes to be found in Africa; his description of them is far from the strangest given in that chapter. Is it really so difficult to suppose that Jerome’s account of the satyr as a “little man with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goats’ feet” is merely a pre-scientific exaggeration, received second-hand, of a man of very small stature and unusual appearance? And more to the point, why should the “failures” of a man of that era in the field of natural science, which were the failures of the era, and not of the man, cause us to discount his ability and trustworthiness as a biographer of his fellow men?

Writing about some rather radical proposals made in the 19th century for reforming the Saints’ lives in the breviary, Fr. Pierre Batiffol offers the following quotation from his esteemed contemporary, the liturgist Dom Alexandre Grospellier: “It is, in my opinion, to form an erroneous idea of the breviary to require in it the scientific strictness of a collection of critical hagiography. Certain legends have become the inheritance of Christian tradition, not by virtue of their historical certitude, but because of their expression of lively and fervent piety in regard to the saints: they have influenced the way of thinking, feeling and praying, on the part of our forefathers, and they come to us charged with a spiritual life which is indeed sometimes characterized by simplicity, but often full of power, and almost always able to touch the heart. These legends, therefore, belong to the history of the Church just in the same way as legendary lays and ballads belong to the history of nations. It would be something like vandalism to banish them altogether from the book of public prayer, even as it would be vandalism to break the painted windows of cathedrals or tear the canvases of early masters, on the ground that the representations in those windows or pictures are not accurate historical documents like a charter or a monumental inscription.” (History of the Roman Breviary, p. 314 of the English edition published by Longman, Green and Co., 1912; footnote 3, citing Dom Alexandre Grospellier, De l’état actuel des livres liturgiques et de leur revision (Rome, 1911), p. 34.)

[1] The Latin words here translated as “even the Saint’s dead body, in the office of its posture, was praying to God unto whom all things live”, are “etiam cadaver sancti Deum, cui omnia vivunt, officio gestus precaretur.” It is tempting to think this passage, the first occurrence in Latin Christian literature of the phrase “cui omnia vivunt”, may have inspired the composition of the invitatory for the Office of the Dead, “Regem, cui omnia vivunt, venite, adoremus.”

[2] This passage is an important witness to the fact that by the mid-4th century, when Jerome was very young, and Paul and Anthony very old, there was already some kind of funeral service distinct from the rest of the Church’s prayers.

[3] To give only one of countless possible examples, the original collect of St Francis Xavier used to begin “O God, who didst will by the preaching and miracles of blessed Francis, to add the nations of the Indies to thy Church...”; as a Saint canonized after Trent, this was the only collect of him that ever existed. In the Novus Ordo, it now begins “O God, who by the preaching of the blessed Francis, did acquire many peoples to Thyself...”

Dominican Mass of St Thomas Aquinas in Australia, March 7

On Saturday, March 7, the traditional date of the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, St Dominic’s Catholic Church in Camberwell, Victoria in Australia, will hold a Solemn Mass in the Dominican Rite. The Mass will begin at 3pm; the church is located at 816 Riversdale Road. For more information, see the event Facebook page.

A Dominican Rite Mass celebrated last August in Melbourne.

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