Monday, July 28, 2014

Conforming Our Secular Selves to Sacred Signs

In the movie Into Great Silence there is a great moment when a group of monks are talking and one of them mentions that another monastery has dropped a bunch of its practices in order to adapt to the times. An elderly monk says:
Our entire life, the whole liturgy, and everything ceremonial are symbols. If you abolish the symbols, then you tear down the walls of your own house. When we abolish the signs, we lose our orientation. Instead, we should search for their meaning … one should unfold the core of the symbols. … The signs are not to be questioned, we are.
That is monastic wisdom, pure and simple.

It furnishes us a lesson that may, in fact, be the most important lesson of all in our age of constant change, planned obsolescence, the myth of progress, the seductions of postmodern pluralism. The liturgy, like the divine revelation out of which it emerges and to which it ministers, is our lifeline to God, giving nourishment to our faith, oil to the fire of our charity. If we lose our hold on the sacred symbols that come to us from the cosmos and from revelation, we will indeed lose our orientation to God; we will tear down the walls that surround us, and will lose our faith, our charity, even ourselves. We must not adapt the signs to ourselves, for that will bring about nothing more than an echo chamber, a hall of mirrors that reflects only us. We must rather conform ourselves to the sacred signs, and be molded by them, for they are tools used by the potter’s hands.

For this reason, it is a sovereign, non-negotiable, utterly fixed principle that if a certain long-standing practice has (as people will say) “lost its meaning,” we do not get rid of it—we rediscover its meaning, and perhaps, as our ancestors often did, we even invest it with a new meaning. Under no circumstances do we abolish it. As Fr. Guido Rodheudt says, apropos the "gigantic purge of traditional treasures" in the 1960s:
Astonishingly, it never occurred to anyone to attempt to encounter what had been forgotten by remembering or to regain the lost understanding, or with the devotion of a child for his grandparents to have the past recounted anew so as to understand it or to learn to love it, because in the tales told by the elderly we have a guarantee that what once was must never sink into oblivion, because it is vitally necessary for today. Especially when—as with liturgical treasures—it is a question of forms that developed in this way and only in this way, so that they might timelessly unite man with the eternal, regardless of where and how he lives. (The Sacred Liturgy, ed. A. Reid, p. 279)
In reality, nothing “automatically means” this or that: human beings still have to learn the language of symbols, just as an infant has to learn how to breastfeed, then crawl, walk, speak words—even if all of this is natural to us and will usually happen in due course. Because we are aesthetic-linguistic creatures, the use and recognition of symbols together with a certain delight in them is certainly natural to us, but the sheer variety, subtlety, and density of symbols, together with supervenient meanings established by convention, requires a lengthy education, or better, initiation. It is for this reason, among others, that so much great literature of the past is becoming increasingly inaccessible to modern young people: they do not have the intellectual equipment, or sometimes the first-hand experiences, required for relating to the elements and connecting them into a coherent whole. They don’t “get it”; it doesn’t “speak to them.”

By the modern logic of cutting out symbols that no longer speak to our contemporaries, one might very well end up with nothing left. “Candles? Oh yes, those were important to people before electricity. But since we now have other sources of light, candles don’t really speak to us anymore.”

“An altar? Oh yes, that was fine when people still had primitive ideas about sacrificing to angry gods and that kind of thing, but now we know that Jesus just wants a family meal, we should really have a table in the center that people can gather around.”

“Incense? Oh yes, people used to imagine prayer rising up like smoke to God in the heavens, but that’s a naïve idea that modern astronomy has proved false. God is everywhere and he knows our hearts, so we don’t need to burn perfume to him.”

Listen to what William Durand, the great 13th-century commentator on the liturgy, says at the start of his magnum opus, the Rationale Divinorum:
Whatever belongs to the liturgical offices, objects, and furnishings of the Church is full of signs of the divine and the sacred mysteries, and each of them overflows with a celestial sweetness when it is encountered by a diligent observer who can extract honey from rock and oil from the stoniest ground (Deut 32:13). . . . I, William, bishop of the holy church of Mende, by the indulgence of God alone, knocking at the door, will continue to knock, until the key of David deigns to open it for me (Rev 3:20), so that the king might bring me into his cellar where he stores his wine (Song 2:4).
What Bishop William is saying (and goes on to say at some length) is that he knows the liturgy is a treasure trove of mystical meaning, a means of purification, illumination, and communion, and so he will knock continually at the door of the Lord, with all diligence and zeal, until he understands everything he can, turning it to his own advantage and that of the flock he shepherds. Now this is an attitude of true humility, of trust in the ways of Providence, of heartfelt surrender to the sacred liturgy so that it may shape us through and through, unto the image of the New Adam.

And this, too, is the reason why a full parish life is required to sustain the liturgy and to initiate generation after generation into this sacred inheritance. The formation of the New Adam is a formation of the whole person—the imagination as well as the intellect, the child as well as the man, the family as well as the individual, from cradle to tomb, before and beyond. As a gem shines more beautifully when set in gold or silver, the traditional Mass is but a part—the most important part—of a whole that surrounds it and endows it with maximal power to form the Christian.

The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter produced a lovely booklet for their silver jubilee, which contained several statements of just this point:
All the activity of the parish life are a preparation for the Holy Sacrifice, or a flowering of it. Because of the sacred nature of the Mass and Holy Eucharist, Catholics require a strong doctrinal and spiritual formation. … Within these [sodalities and confraternities], the faithful have a greater sense of the parish as the locus of their participation in the Mystical Body of Christ. … The parish life in a Fraternity apostolate may be characterized as imbuing Catholic families with a true Catholic identity. … The parish today must also be a bright beacon of light, a sign of contradiction, and a haven for hungry souls in an ever-secularizing world. This mission is carried out first and foremost by the outward expression of its worship of God.
Dom Alcuin Reid has often made a related point: the most curiously neglected passages of Sacrosanctum Concilium are those in which the Council Fathers indicate that the only way liturgical reform will be fruitful is if the clergy and the faithful are profoundly immersed in the spirit of the liturgy. Only by a true formation in and by the sacred liturgy in all its objectivity and splendor can there be authentic Christian renewal and, with it, prudent liturgical reform, as Guardini before the Council and Ratzinger after the Council recognized.

This is what the Liturgical Movement was all about; this is what the New Liturgical Movement is also about. We should never forget either our central aim or our primary means—the aim of glorifying the Triune God and saving souls, through the fullest, deepest participation of the faithful in the sacred liturgy. It seems only fitting to give St. Pius X the last word:
Filled as We are with a most ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit flourish in every respect and be preserved by all the faithful, We deem it necessary to provide before anything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church. And it is vain to hope that the blessing of heaven will descend abundantly upon us, when our homage to the Most High, instead of ascending in the odor of sweetness, puts into the hand of the Lord the scourges wherewith of old the Divine Redeemer drove the unworthy profaners from the Temple. (Motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Ordinariate: A Gift to be Shared from Benedict XVI - An Upcoming Talk in Portland, Oregon

On August 5th, at 7:30 PM, Holy Rosary Church in Portland, Oregon, 375 NE Clackamas St., (known to many for its use of the Dominican Rite for important feasts), will be hosting a Dominican Forum talk by the Reverend Carl Reid, titled, “The Ordinariate: A Gift to be Shared from Benedict XVI.”

On January 1, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI established the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter for those groups of Anglicans in the United States who seek to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. This is the second Ordinariate created in light of the apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, the first having been created for England and Wales on January 15, 2011. Pope Benedict’s gracious response represents an important and exciting new step along the difficult path toward Christian unity.

This will be followed the next evening at 7:30 PM by a Solemn High Mass according to the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite. This Mass will feature the group Cantores in Ecclesia singing the “Mass for Four Voices” by Thomas Tallis.

All are welcome who wish to understand and experience this great gift of our Pope Emeritus to our universal Church.

Advance notice for Solemn Mass (EF), Feast of the Assumption

Readers in Rhode Island and the surrounding area may want to mark their calendars now. Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form will begin at 7:00 pm on Friday, August 15th, at Holy Ghost Church in Tiverton, R.I. Under the leadership of its pastor and my friend Father Jay Finelli (the “iPadre”), Holy Ghost has become a showpiece of the new liturgical movement: ad orientem for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms, generous use of Latin and Gregorian chant, quality music, Communion at the altar rail, sacred vessels and vestments worthy of the divine Sacrifice, doctrinally meaty preaching and catechesis, etc. (see HERE and HERE).

St John XXIII Asks the Faithful Not to Applaud in Church


translation of the Italian:

The fourth Sunday of Lent, John XXIII was once again among the crowd, at Ostia. (about 15 miles to the south-west of Rome.) Thousands of people were waiting for him along the street, in the piazza, in the church. They wanted to see him, to applaud him. They did not know that afterwards, he would rebuke them, in a good-natured way, in his simple , spontaneous, familiar way of speaking.

“I am very glad to have come here. But if I must express a wish, it is that in church you not shout out, that you not clap your hands, and that you not greet even the Pope, because ‘templum Dei, templum Dei.’ (‘The temple of God is the temple of God.’)

Now, if you are pleased to be in this beautiful church, you must know that the Pope is also pleased to see his children. But as soon as he sees his good children, he certainly does not clap his hands in their faces. And the one who stands before you is the Successor of St. Peter.”

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Oratorians of Port Antonio in the Diocese of Kingston, Jamaica

Here is a small piece of news for any who were following the story of the Oratory in Formation in St Anthony's Parish in Port Antonio in Jamaica. Mgr Michael Palud has just informed me that their website is now up, here. If anyone wishes to contact them or support their work and community please contact them through this website. This is a nice little excuse to remind NLM readers of its establishment and to ask for prayers and support for them.

The Church and World War I - “Echoes of the Great War” by Catholic News Service


As I watched this excellent documentary from Catholic News Service, I was reminded particularly by the second half (from 9:00, discussing the aftermath of “The War to End All Wars”, and its impact on culture and society) of a very interesting paper given by Dr Alcuin Reid at the CIEL Conference in Rome several years ago. Dom Reid’s topic was the change that took place in the Liturgical Movement in the period between the World Wars. Before World War I, the major figures in the Liturgical Movement believed that instilling true devotion to the liturgy, and curing the neglect thereof, was principally a matter of education. The liturgy was seen as an inexhaustible treasure-trove for the spiritual life, and the goal of men such as Dom Guéranger and Fr Romano Guardini was to raise both the clergy and the laity up to a greater appreciation of it. In the period between the wars, the attitude shifted towards the idea that if the run of the clergy and faithful were disinterested in the liturgy, the problem lay not with them, but with the liturgy. The cure for this neglect would then become, not to educate the faithful up to the level of the liturgy, but to alter the liturgy to suit the needs of “modern” man. (This paper has not been published, so I am citing it from notes and memory, trusting to Dom Alcuin’s indulgence if I have misstated anything.)

It is a question for Church historians and social historians whether this shift in attitude was actually created by what the persons here interviewed describe as the aftermath of World War I, “a sense of brooding nihilism, (the belief that) nothing was effective”, (Dr. David Berlinski), a “shak(ing of) the faith that many Europeans had in their own elites ... (including) religious elites.” (Dr. Margaret MacMillan) The emergence of Modernism in the Church well before World War I suggests perhaps that it was already present, but strongly reinforced by the great catastrophe which Pope Benedict XV called “the suicide of Europe.” The shift itself, however, is unmistakable. It may best be seen, I think, in the difference between the writings of Dom Guéranger in the 19th century, and those of the Bl. Cardinal Schuster in the 20th. Every page of the former’s The Liturgical Year breathes a profound reverence for the texts and rites of the liturgy, be they those of great feast day, or an obscure sequence not used since the 14th century. Describing the liturgy of Palm Sunday, Dom Guéranger writes this of the Epistle which is sung before the blessing of palms in the Missal of St Pius V, Exodus 15, 27 - 16, 7.
After this prayer, the subdeacon chants a passage from the Book of Exodus, which relates how the people of God, after they had gone forth from Egypt, pitched their tents at Elim, beneath the shade of seventy palm-trees, where also were twelve fountains. While here, they were told by Moses that God was about to send them manna from heaven, and that, on the very next morning, their hunger would be appeased. These were figures of what is now given to the Christian people. The faithful, by a sincere conversion, have separated themselves from the Egypt of a sinful world. They are offering the palms of their loyalty and love to Jesus, their King. The fountains typify the Baptism, which, a few days hence, is to be administered to our catechumens. These fountains are twelve in number; the twelve articles of the symbol of our faith were preached to the world by the twelve apostles. And finally, on the morning of Easter day, Jesus, the Bread of life, the heavenly Manna, will arise from the tomb, and manifest His glory to us. (The Liturgical Year, vol. 6)
Writing of the same Epistle in 1919 in “The Sacramentary”, Cardinal Schuster says:
The lesson from Exodus… does not appear to be in keeping with today’s mystery. It was introduced by the Gallican liturgists of the Middle Ages, on account of the reference to the fountains of water and the seventy palm-trees… The two alternative Graduals which follow have no bearing whatever on the ceremony of the blessing of the palms, and have been inserted here merely to fill in the gaps and to separate the two Scriptural lessons. It is easy to see that the whole arrangement of today’s function, in spite of its apparent antiquity, is somewhat artificial; consisting, as it does, of various parts differing great both in inspiration and in origin, which have been joined together anyhow, without any real unity of design. (The Sacramentary, vol. 2) 
I write this not as an attack on Schuster, whose devotion to the liturgy was noted even by communist newspapers, and whose holiness has been officially recognized by the Church Herself. Nevertheless, there is a notable difference in his approach from that of Dom Guéranger; an air of judgment and skepticism has crept into what he himself describes in his preface as “whatever sentiments of faith and reverence Our Lord may have deigned to grant me, his unworthy servant, in the course of my daily meditation on the Roman Missal.” Does this perhaps result from a real sense permeating his era that the ancient ways of life, ancient customs and traditions, are losing or have indeed permanently lost their value, as Dr de Mattei notes in the CNS piece? And since all of the architects of the post-Conciliar reforms were formed as churchmen in the aftermath of the two World Wars, the question should also be asked: how much of their era’s way of looking at the world, how many of their attitudes and ideas, are as perennially valuable as those of, say, Ss Augustine, Benedict, and Gregory the Great? If they could ask the question “how much longer must we live according to the ideas of the preceding centuries?”, and answer “no longer, starting from today”; can we not also ask “how much longer must we live according to the ideas of the preceding century?” (These questions are pertinent not only to the liturgy, of course, but to all of the aspects in which the Church struggles through the aftermath of the post-Conciliar reforms.)

I would highly recommend to those who find the CNS piece of interest that they also watch this interview with Dr David Berlinski. Personally, I find everything that he says fascinating; after watching an earlier interview on the same program, I read his previous book, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions, and enjoyed it immensely. Starting at 26:14, he discusses with Peter Robinson the 19th-century’s highly optimistic notions of the inevitable improvement and perfection of society, and the dashing of that optimism in the 20th.


Monday, July 28th, marks the 100th anniversary of Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia, the official beginning of the First World War. Let us all take some time on that day to pray for peace in the world, and to remember the wisdom of the ancient Collect of the Mass for Peace, that “holy desires, right counsels and just works” come from God, and from Him alone, and that the true peace is one “which the world cannot give.”

Deus, a quo sancta desideria, recta consilia, et justa sunt opera: da servis tuis illam, quam mundus dare non potest, pacem; ut et corda nostra mandatis tuis dedita, et, hostium sublata formidine, tempora sint tua protectione tranquilla.

God, from whom are holy desires, right counsels and just works, give to thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be given over to Thy commandments, and, the fear of our enemies being taken away, our times be peaceful under Thy protection.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Lumen Christi Simple Gradual as a Component of a Parish Music Program

Today there is a veritable flood of outstanding sacred music publications. And they are coming not a moment too soon, as we see the desire for authentic Catholic liturgy growing, opportunities for learning multiplying, and a generational shift under way. Even if this shift is sometimes leading to a certain polarization among the faithful, nevertheless the need for reconnecting with our past heritage is widely recognized by many, including mainstream publishers.

As I discussed last week at Views from the Choir Loft, one of the most crucial things that must be done everywhere is the recovery of the Propers of the Mass. In this noble and necessary task, the Simple English Propers were a step in the right direction, but its author Adam Bartlett freely admits that it was an interim solution until something more complete could be put in its place. (That's not to say that the SEP can't continue to function well in places that are accustomed to using it, but only that musicians should be sure to check out the Lumen Christi Gradual and Fr. Weber's Proper of the Mass when these volumes appear, as each of them will contain all that the SEP has—and a great deal more.)

Most NLM readers are familiar with Bartlett’s company Illuminare Publications, which is bringing out the Lumen Christi line of books. By offering a panoply of English chant that accounts for all the inherent needs of the liturgy, the Lumen Christi series faciliates, for the first time—or at least, for the first time with any ease of execution—a fully chanted English Ordinary Form liturgy.

Not long ago I received review copies of both the LC Simple Gradual and the LC Simple Gradual Choir Edition, and I was quite impressed with the quality of their musical content, internal organization, crisp typesetting, and sturdy production. These should be no surprise to those who have already held in their hands the comprehensive and elegant Lumen Christi Missal.

The LC Simple Gradual is nothing but an excerpted version of the LC Missal—that is, it contains all the chants of the Missal but not the Lectionary readings and devotions. (The LC Simple Gradual Choir Edition adds pointed Psalm verses.) Some parishes don’t want Lectionary readings and are just looking for a sleek, inexpensive volume for the pew in order to begin singing the Mass as the Church desires. This is the niche that the LC Simple Gradual fills, and fills more economically due to its slender size. The LC Missal and LC Simple Gradual are therefore alternatives, based upon community needs and financial ability. The forthcoming LC Hymnal can function as a companion to either. The LC Gradual will complete the series by furnishing a more extensive selection of chants, including more elaborate melodies, for the choir’s use on Sundays and Holydays.

The series may seem a bit complex, but it’s actually quite simple:
  • Do you want the lectionary readings as well as congregational chant? Your book is the LC Missal.
  • Do you want just the congregational chant? Your book is the LC Simple Gradual, with a few copies of the Choir Edition for the cantors/choir.
  • Do you want to add a substantial collection of classic hymns? Add the LC Hymnal (once it’s available, which I hear is relatively soon).
  • Do you wish to have fuller or more complex chants for the cantors/choir? Add the LC Gradual (once it’s available).
The LC Simple Gradual Choir Edition comes with a masterful introduction that describes in detail what the guiding ideals are and how the books are intended to be used. Readers should keep in mind that this is indeed a Simple Gradual, with a full Gradual to follow it. The Simple Gradual provides a repertoire that is aimed at congregational singing through seasonal introduction of antiphons. The full Gradual will have every proper text set in a few different ways (including the Simple Gradual settings). Think of it this way: the Simple Gradual is a base repertoire for congregational singing, hence the seasonal options and sometimes abbreviated texts, whereas the Gradual is the book for the choir, which sets the full proper in its full integrity.

For now, the role of the LC Simple Gradual is clear, so long as it is understood for what it is: a selection of liturgical chant for parishes to help them begin “singing the Mass” rather than “singing at Mass.” One can imagine the book sitting alongside various hymnals, with parishes introducing a few new antiphons each season, leading the faithful beyond a total reliance upon hymnody. In time, a base repertoire is built up, the parish gets used to chant, and hymns begin to take a backseat. This is a very non-radical approach to the problem, but one that is more palatable for most parishes today.

As they watch the rise of newly composed vernacular chant, some traditionally-minded Catholics fear that the ancient and magnificent Gregorian repertoire will be forgotten in the midst of this mini-renaissance. The beautiful thing about the LC Simple Gradual, as with its parent publication the LC Missal, is that it doesn’t necessarily require the sacrificing of the authentic Gregorian repertoire; it can work in tandem with it. As Adam Bartlett explained to me, at the Cathedral in Phoenix there are three different Sunday Masses, all of which feature traditional sacred music—but in different proportions of Latin and English, chant and polyphony and hymns:

1. Saturday evening: LC Simple Gradual antiphons, with a few hymns.

2. Sunday at 9:00 am: Entrance hymn followed by LC Simple Gradual antiphon; English antiphon at Offertory or something more substantial on occasion; Gregorian Proper antiphon at Communion, at the beginning and end of the LC Simple Gradual antiphon, sung with English verses, and with congregation singing the English antiphon.

3. Sunday at 11:00 am: Gregorian Introit and Communion, Lumen Christi chants everywhere else, along with much polyphony.

All of this is done in the context of a fully sung Order of Mass and chanted Ordinaries in Latin and English, as a norm. Bartlett tells me that it has worked out beautifully.

Some parishes, relying more heavily on hymnody, may inch more slowly into the Lumen Christi material. Still, it has the great merit of being accessible to them, and has the potential to open the door to so much more when the time is ripe. Here, a policy of incrementalism in the Ordinary Form context would seem to be more prudent, more realistic about the habits that need to be inculcated, and ultimately more assured of success, as people grow to appreciate the musical and textual prayerfulness that chanted Propers and Ordinary bring to the celebration of the Mass.




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Forgotten Art of Gerhard Lamers

We have encountered Gerhard Lamers' (1871-1964) work here before in relation to William Heyer's restoration and rehabilitation of the chapel at the Pontifical College Josephinum, but I was recently sent a photograph of a beautiful painting he undertook for a convent in Cincinnati sometime in the 1930s, and which now is in the possession of St. Mary's Church in Franklin, Kentucky (above). Lamers is one of those ubiquitous if sadly forgotten figures of early twentieth century Catholic art; like his contemporary Hildreth Meière, you may already be familiar with his work without even realizing it. Of German extraction, he traveled first to the United States in 1925 to paint the stunning neo-Byzantine murals that grace the interior of St. Joseph's Cathedral in Wheeling, West Virginia (a work by that other forgotten master, Edward J. Weber) and later returned in 1928, where he remained associated with Cincinnati's large German Catholic community. One of his best-known work is the large mural (now lost) behind the high altar at the Josephinum, but he also produced stunning work at the Monte Cassino shrine at St. Meinrad in Indiana and numerous other locations. Several other examples of his work follow below. Barring his work in Wheeling, his marvelous murals are depressingly under-documented; any further information or photographs would certainly be certainly appreciated.






(source)



There are also a host of images of the interior of St. Joseph's in Wheeling at this site.

Urgent Appeal -- August 1st Day of Prayer, Adoration, and Solidarity for Persecuted Christians

Friday, August 1, 2014 is the day chosen by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP) for a worldwide day of Public Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament in supplication for our persecuted brethren in Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East:
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter asks all of its apostolates around the world to dedicate Friday, August 1 to a day of prayer and penance for the Christians who are suffering terrible persecution in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
          August 1 is the First Friday of the month and the Feast of St. Peter in Chains, which is celebrated as a Third Class Feast in FSSP houses and apostolates. It is the feast in which we read of the great power of the persevering prayer of members of the Church: “Peter therefore was kept in Prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the Church unto God for him.” (Acts 12:5)
          This feast of our Patron should be an invitation to the faithful to join us in Holy Hours and other fitting prayers to beg the Most Holy Trinity that these members of the Mystical Body may persevere in the faith, and that, like St. Peter, they may be delivered from this terrible persecution. May such a day serve as a reminder to us of the stark contrast that stands between our days of vacation and ease, and their daily struggle for survival as they are killed or exiled from their homes. 
It is a day, we believe, chosen wisely by that Institute: we urge all our Catholic brethren, East and West, attached to the Ordinary Form (Mass of Paul VI) or to the Extraordinary Form (Ancient Mass), whatever their theological bent, to join this worldwide prayer day. Whether you consider yourself a more liberal, conservative, traditional, or just plain Catholic, let us join together in this worldwide Adoration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, together with all the Angels and Saints.

It is also appropriately chosen because Pastors and Chaplains will have 10 days to prepare properly, to contact projects that help Christians in need and collect all kinds of contributions for the Christians of the Middle East (from Aid to the Church in Need to CNEWA, the Syrian and Chaldean Catholic Churches, and other organizations) and, in particular, to add to their bulletins and convey to their congregations how to participate next Sunday, July 27.

Please, spread this initiative around. Copy, paste, and just let this idea spread around throughout the world, through the web, through social networks, to your family and friends.

Bishops, Pastors, priests, join us. First Fridays are a special day of the month, and nothing better next First Friday, August 1, than for all Catholics around the world to join in Adoration before Our Lord to implore his mercy and kindness for our most neglected brethren in Iraq, Syria, and throughout the Middle East.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

“Apostle of the Apostles” - Liturgical Notes on the Feast of St Mary Magdalene

In the Missal of St Pius V, the Creed is said on every Sunday, and several categories of feasts: all those of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, Angels, Apostles, Doctors, etc. To this list is added one other woman, St Mary Magdalene, in commemoration of the fact that it was she who announced the Resurrection of Christ, the foundation of the Faith, to the Apostles; for this reason she has often been called “the Apostles of the Apostles.” This custom was widely observed in the Middle Ages, but originally not accepted at Rome itself; the Ordinal of the papal liturgy in the reign of Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) specifies that the Creed is not to be said on the feast, indicating that it was known to be done elsewhere. It was still omitted according to the rubrics of printed editions of the Roman Missal in the first half of the 16th century; its addition in the rubrics of 1570 is one of the rare cases where a new custom was added to the Roman Rite from elsewhere in the highly conservative Tridentine reform. (It was removed from her feast in 1955, and from the Doctors in 1961.)
Two pages of a Roman Missal printed at Lyon, France, in 1500 (folio 95 recto and verso). The rubric about the Creed begins in the middle of the right column of the first page. Note that at the break between the two pages, St Bonaventure is listed as a Saint on whose feast the Creed is said; this edition was printed for the Franciscans, who counted him informally as a Doctor before the title was officially given in 1588. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Réserve des livres rares.)
The Gregorian propers of her Mass (Introit, Gradual etc.) are taken from the various common Masses of holy women; in the Middle Ages, the Epistle was that of Holy Matrons, Proverbs 31, 10-31, “Who shall find a valiant woman? etc.” In the Tridentine Missal, a new Epistle was created, the Song of Songs, 3, 2-5 and 8, 6-7, which begins as follows.
I will rise, and will go about the city: in the streets and the broad ways I will seek him whom my soul loveth: I sought him, and I found him not. (quaesivi illum et non inveni.) The watchmen who keep the city, found me: Have you seen him, whom my soul loveth? When I had a little passed by them, I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him: and I will not let him go ...
St Gregory the Great refers the words “I will seek him whom my soul loveth” to John 20, 11-18, when Mary meets Christ at the tomb and mistakes him for the gardener, in the Breviary homily for Easter Thursday.
We must consider how great was the force of love that had enkindled this woman’s heart, who left not the tomb of the Lord, though even the disciples were gone away. She sought Him Whom she had not found there, (exquirebat, quem non invenerat) and as she sought Him, she wept, … Whence it came to pass that she alone, who had stayed behind to seek Him, was the only one who then saw Him.
“When I had a little passed by them” (i.e. the watchmen of the city) then refers to tomb of the Lord being just outside the city, and the words “I held him: and I will not let him go” to her embracing the Lord, until He says to her, “Cling to me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
‘Noli me tangere’ by Jacob van Oostsanen, 1507. The words of John 20, 15, that Mary Magdalene at first thought the Risen Christ was the gardener gave rise to a delightful tradition of portraying Him with various gardening implements, such as the shovel seen here, or the kind of broad-brimmed hat often worn by gardeners.
From the time of St Gregory, the Western Church accepted that Mary Magdalene was also the sinful woman who anoints Christ’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, as recounted in Luke 7, 36-50, and this is traditionally the Gospel for her feast. This connection was probably made from the words that immediately follow this passage, or at least reinforced by them, Luke 8, 1-3. “And it came to pass afterwards, that he travelled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God; and the twelve with him: And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, And Joanna the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him of their substance.” (Mark 16, 9 also refers to the seven devils.)

She is also traditionally held in the West to be Martha and Lazarus’ sister, of whom Christ says in the same Gospel “Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10, 38-42) This passage is read on the feast of St. Martha on July 29th, the octave of Mary Magdalene; from it, Martha has traditionally been seen as the symbol of the active life, and Mary of the contemplative. The same passage was then read also on the feast of the Assumption, a custom inherited, like the feast of itself, from the Byzantine Rite; this was understood allegorically in the Middle Ages to signify that in the person and life of the Virgin Mary are perfected both the active and the contemplative life.
Christ in the House of Mary and Martha, by Henryk Semiradzki, 1886
The Byzantine Rite (in which the Creed is said at every Eucharistic liturgy) keeps July 22 as the feast of the “Fair Virgin, Equal to the Apostles, Mary Magdalene,” and on June 4 commemorates “Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus the Just.” Neither of the two Marys thus distinguished is associated with the sinful woman of Luke 7, but the Gospel of Mary Magdalene’s feast day is the passage from Luke 8 noted above. The two sisters are traditionally numbered among the “Myrrh-bearers” who went to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ on the morning of the Resurrection, although they are not named as such by the Gospel; with them are included also Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleophas, Joanna and Susanna named in Luke 8, and Salome, the mother of the sons of Zebedee. They are commemorated as a group on the second Sunday after Easter, along with Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. At Vespers of the preceding Saturday, the following idiomel is sung, paraphrasing Matthew 28 and Luke 24.
Mary Magdalen and the other Mary came to the grave seeking the Lord, and they saw an Angel like lightning sitting on the stone, who said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He has risen as he said; in Galilee you will find him’. To him let us cry aloud, ‘Lord, risen from the dead, glory to you!’
In the traditional Roman Rite, Matthew 28, 1-7 is the Gospel of the Easter vigil, which concludes with a very much shortened Vespers; the antiphon for the Magnificat is the beginning of the Gospel, “And in the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulcher, alleluia.” Even though the term “Apostle of the Apostles” does not occur in the Roman liturgical books, the liturgy itself proclaims this role for her as the first person named in the accounts of the Resurrection.

The church of Rome was traditionally very conservative about the addition of new texts to the Office; one often finds that the proper Office of a saint hugely popular in the Middle Ages, such as St Nicholas, is found in virtually every medieval Breviary except that of the Roman Curia, the basis of the Breviary of St Pius V. Such is the case with Mary Magdalene, whose Roman Office is mostly that of the common of Holy Women. She has proper antiphons for the Benedictus and the two Magnificats, but none for the psalms; there are also three proper hymns, although that of Matins is a single stanza and a doxology. Three responsories at Matins referring to her are borrowed from Easter, but the rest are from the common of Holy Women.

Other medieval breviaries, however, adopted one of various proper Offices for the feast, of which the most interesting is that found in the Dominican Breviary. At First Vespers, the antiphon of the Magnificat reads as follows:
Celsi mériti María, quae solem verum resurgentem vidére meruisti mortalium prima: óbtine ut nos visu gloriae suae tecum laetíficet in caelis.
Mary of high merit, that first among mortals did merit to see the true Sun rising; obtain that He may grant us joy by the vision of His glory in heaven.
And at the Benedictus:
O mundi lampas, et margaríta praefúlgida, quae resurrectiónem Christi nuntiando, Apostolórum Apóstola fíeri meruisti! María Magdaléna, semper pia exoratrix pro nobis adsis ad Deum, qui te elégit.
O lamp of the world, and bright-shining pearl, who by announcing the Resurrection of Christ, didst merit to become the Apostle of the Apostles! Mary Magdalene, of thy kindness stand thou ever before God, who chose thee, to entreat him for us.
Outstanding among the responsories of Matins is the eighth, (necessarily not as beautiful in my poor English).
R. O felix felícis mériti María, quæ resurgentem a mórtuis Dei Filium vidére meruisti mortalium prima! Pro cujus amore, sæculi contempsisti blandimenta: * sédula nos apud ipsum, quæsumus, prece commenda. V. Ut tecum mereámur, o Dómina, pérfrui felicíssima ipsíus præsentia. Sédula.
R. O happy Mary of happy merit, that first among mortals did merit to see the Son of God rising from the dead; for whose love thou disdained the blandishments of the world: * by thy prayer, we ask thee, commend us to Him with diligence. V. That with thee, o Lady, we may merit to enjoy his most happy presence. By thy prayer.
The Office used by the Premonstatensians shares a number of texts with that of the Dominicans; it contains this very interesting and uncommonly long (and hence rather rarely used) antiphon:
Fidelis sermo et omni acceptione dignus, quia Christus Jesus venit in hunc mundum peccatores salvos facere; et qui nasci dignatus est de Maria Virgine, tangi non dedignatus est a Maria peccatrice. Haec est illa Maria, cui dimissa sunt peccata multa, quia dilexit multum. Haec est enim illa Maria, quae resurgentem a mortuis prima omnium videre meruit Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum, quem pro nostris reatibus oret, quaesumus, in aeternum.
A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners; and He that deigned to be born of the Virgin Mary, did not disdain to be touched by Mary the sinner. This is that Mary, to whom many sins were forgiven, because she loved much. This is indeed that Mary, who before all others merited to see our Lord Jesus Christ rising from the dead; and we ask that she pray Him forever for our sins.
Lastly, we may note the Preface of her feast in the Ambrosian liturgy, another text that can only suffer in translation. 
Vere dignum et justum est, aequum et salutare, nos te, Pater omnipotens, omni tempore glorificare, et in die festivitatis hodiernae Beatae Mariae Magdalenae exultantibus animis praedicare. Quam sic tui amoris igne accendere dignatus es; ut ad Christi Filii tui vestigia devota corrueret, et eadem pretioso unguento perfunderet. Osculari quoque, ac lacrimis rigare, et capillis non cessat extergere, donec audire promeruit, ‘Dimissa sunt tibi peccata, vade in pace.’ O beata fides, divinae misericordiae munita praesidio! O digna conversio, quae tantum munus accepit, ut quae antea draconis antiqui faucibus merito tenebatur astricta, plena jam gaudens libertate, sanctis Apostolis dominincae Resurrectionis mereretur esse praenuncia. Et ideo…
Truly it is fitting and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we glorify Thee, Father almighty, in every moment, and on this feast day of blessed Mary Magdalene proclaim Thee with spirits rejoicing. Whom Thou didst so deign to kindle with the fire of Thy love, that in devotion she fell at the feet of Christ, Thy Son, and anointed them with precious ointment; and ceased not to kiss them, to wash them with her tears, and wipe them with her hair, until she merits to hear, ‘Thy sins are forgiven go, in peace.’ O blessed faith, strengthened with the help of divine mercy. O worthy conversion, that merited to receive so great a gift, that she who was formerly deservedly held fast in the jaws of the ancient dragon, now rejoicing in complete freedom, should merit to be the first to announce the Lord’s Resurrection to the Holt Apostles. And therefore with the Angels and Archangels…
The Penitent Magdalene, by Caravaggio, ca. 1594-95.

New Large Scale Commission Completed by Henry Wingate

Artist Henry Wingate has just completed a large-scale commission for St Mary's in Piscataway in southern Maryland.

Based in rural Virginia, Wingate studied with Paul Ingbretson in New England and with Charles Cecil, in Florence, Italy. Both Ingbretson and Cecil studied under R H Ives Gammell, the teacher, writer, and painter who perhaps more than anyone else kept the traditional atelier method of painting instruction alive. His website is henrywingate.com.

The academic method, which Wingate uses, was first developed in Renaissance Italy and was the standard for art education and nearly every great Western artist for the next 300 years. It almost died out altogether in the first part of the 20th century but is gaining ground again now.

For this commision, Wingate writes: 'The subject was the baptism of the Tayac, or chief, of the Piscataway Indians by the Jesuit, Father Andrew White.  This took place on July 5th, 1640.  It is well documented because the Jesuits were required to send a yearly report on their efforts here in the New World to their superiors in Rome, and those documents are available to read.

The church that asked me to do the painting is Saint Mary's of Piscataway.  The baptism took place in the Piscataway Indian village which was someplace near where this church stands today, possibly even on the land owned by the church.  The painting is in the entrance way to the church, and above the new baptismal font.  I finished the painting after about seven months of work, in time for an Easter unveiling. At the Easter Mass their were three baptisms using the new font.  Two of those baptized were descendants of Piscataway Native Americans.  One of the most interesting things I learned while doing this project is that most of the Piscataways, to this day, are practicing Catholics.  Father Andrew White's efforts, and those of his fellow Maryland Jesuits, were very effective.

The painting is 16 feet across and nearly 13 feet high.  It is on canvas that is glued to panels. I had to cut a slot in my studio wall just to get the painting out and into a truck to get it to Maryland.

I used models from around Madison mostly.  The Native Americans were a little more difficult to find.  I did have two real Piscataways pose for me, the older man in the background and the young wife of the chief.  The Piscataways were very helpful in lending me articles of clothing, headresses and so on.'

The photographs show the completed painting and preliminary studies.

Wingate2

Wingate 3

Wingate 4

Wingate2

Monday, July 21, 2014

Prayer Vigil for the Church in Iraq, Monday 28 July, St Thomas, Apostle, Washington DC

On Monday 28 July at St Thomas, Apostle, Washington DC, there will be a Prayer Vigil to pray for our beloved brothers and sisters who are being persecuted in Iraq. Holy Mass will be celebrated at 7pm following which there will be Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament until Midnight. Priests are invited to concelebrate the Mass, and there will be an opportunity for confession.

The Art of the Book in the Third Millennium: Heiligenkreuz Choir Books

Last May while visiting a dear friend, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., a monk of the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Lower Austria and maintainer of the ever-thoughtful blog Sancrucensis, I had the opportunity to see certain parts of the monastery that I had never seen (or seen up close) before. Among the stages of our tour were the immensely beautiful wooden choir stalls where the monks chant the daily Divine Office, to which they are very devoted.

But it was not so much the woodwork that caught my attention as it was certain over-sized wood-covered leatherbound volumes set up between every other stall.

As a cantor and schola director, these naturally engaged my curiosity and I asked Pater Edmund to tell me about them. Seeing my great interest, he not only obliged me at the moment, but sent notes and photos to be shared with the readers of NLM who might be interested in this fine example of contemporary book-making on a scale rarely seen. What follows is Pater Edmund’s account of the genesis of this project.

Heiligenkreuz Choir Books
Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.
In the 1970s Heiligenkreuz put together an edition of the Divine Office that was meant to adopt some of the reforms of the new Roman Office, while preserving many traditional monastic elements. It was decided to adopt a two-week Psalter developed by Fr. Guido Gilbert-Tarruel, O.Cist., which sought to preserve many features of the division of the Psalms given by St. Benedict in the Rule. (Fr. Gilbert-Tarruel’s division, included in the latest edition of the Cistercian Ritual as one among many options for Cistercian monasteries, is reproduced below.) At the time, it was hoped that other Cistercian monasteries would adopt our breviary, but today Heiligenkreuz is the only monastery that uses it, as well as the only monastery that uses this particular Psalm-division. It could be said, therefore, to constitute a sort of local usage, the “Heiligenkreuz Office.”

In the 1970s, hand-size editions of the breviary, hymnarium, antiphonarium, and psalter were printed. Inevitably, the wear and tear on the books, together with the desire for something more permanent and more worthy of the splendor of the liturgy, motivated the monastery to take a decisive step. In the early years of the millennium, work began on the large choir edition of the Psalter. For the new edition, everything was newly typeset by one of the monks, including all the music (this took him several years).

The choir Psalter is printed on thick Italian paper, usually used for reproducing art prints (size: DIN A3). It was bound by the monks in our own book-binding shop. The covers are made of wood harvested from the abbey’s own forests in the vicinity. The tabs are made of goat leather, and were cut and printed by one of the monks. The pictures are reproductions of pencil drawings by Michael Fuchs, drawn especially for this Psalter.

The monks have been using these magnificent books for close to ten years. The books are durable, easy to read, and beautiful. One may hope someday for a widespread revival of the art of the book, which, despite or perhaps because of its extremely ancient techniques, has much to recommend it in our high-tech world. As a Navajo Indian says to the elderly Bishop Latour in Death Comes for the Archbishop: “Men travel faster now, but I do not know if they go to better things.”





The Feast of Saint Praxedes

Saint Praxedes, by Johannes Vermeer, ca. 1655 (The attribution to Vermeer has often been disputed.)
Praxedes according to her legend was a Roman maiden, the sister of St. Pudentiana, who, when the Emperor Marcus Antoninus was hunting down Christians, sought them out to relieve them with money, care, comfort and every charitable aid. Some she hid in her house, others she encouraged to keep firm in the faith, and of yet others she buried the bodies; and she allowed those who were in prison or toiling in slavery to lack nothing. At last, being unable any longer to bear the cruelties inflicted on Christians, she prayed to God that, if it were expedient for her to die, she might be released from beholding such sufferings. And so on July 21 she was called to the reward of her goodness in Heaven. Her body was laid by the priest Pastor in the tomb of her father, Pudens, and her sister Pudentiana, which was in the cemetery of Priscilla on the Salarian Way. (From Butler’s Lives of the Saints, revised by Herbert Thurston S.J. and Donald Attwater; 1956)

Saint Praxedes is depicted in art squeezing the blood of the martyrs which she has collected from a sponge into a vessel. In her basilica in Rome, a part of the floor in the central nave is marked as the place where their relics were laid to rest within the building that was once her house.


Especially on this day, let us remember and pray for all persecuted Christians in every part of the world.

“Today (the Christians of Mosul, Iraq) are persecuted, they are driven away, they have to leave their homes without the possibility of taking anything with them. To these families, to these people, I want to express my closeness and assure them of my constant prayer. Beloved brothers and sisters who are so persecuted, I know how much you are suffering, I know that you have been stripped of everything. I am with you in the faith of Him who has conquered evil! And to those of you, here in the piazza and those who are following us by means of television, I address the invitation to remember these Christian communities in prayer.” - His Holiness Pope Francis at yesterday’s Angelus