Monday, August 19, 2019

The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Liturgical Wisdom

The son honoureth the father, and the servant his master.
If then I be a father, where is my honour?
And if I be a master, where is my fear? saith the Lord of hosts.
To you, O priests, that despise my name, and have said:
Wherein have we despised thy name?
You offer polluted bread upon my altar, and you say:
Wherein have we polluted thee?
In that you say: The table of the Lord is contemptible.
(Mal 1:6–7)
As St. John teaches, if our charity reaches perfection, we no longer stand in a slavish fear of God as our master and judge (1 Jn 4:18). Rather, we love Him as “all good and deserving of all our love.” In this way we do still fear Him, but with the fear of sons who reverence their Father and are afraid of offending Him or of doing less for Him than they ought. This is what the Catholic tradition refers to as “filial fear” or “reverential fear.” Perfect love does not cast out virtuous fear, but rather intensifies it.

The Introit for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost combines explicit joy and implicit fear in a striking juxtaposition: “Clap your hands, all ye nations: shout unto God with the voice of joy. Ps. For the Lord is most high, He is terrible; He is a great King over all the earth.” The Church is teaching us that our joy is rooted in the Lord’s sovereignty, our exaltation in His aweful might. The nations clap their hands because God is a great King over all the earth; otherwise they would cower in fear of their enemies, visible and invisible. The Psalmist never lets us forget this fundamental truth of creaturehood: Servite Domino in timore, et exsultate ei cum tremore. “Serve ye the Lord in fear, and exult in Him with trembling” (Ps 2:11). “In your fear I will worship toward your holy temple” (Ps 5:8).

It is therefore cause for spiritual concern that the note of holy fear is minimal in the reformed liturgical books, considering how enormous a role it plays in the Bible — in both Testaments! — and in the traditional Latin liturgy that transmits the pure spirit of Christian worship to us. Evidently it was decided that “modern man” had transcended the relationship of subordinate to superior, of son to father, and consequently had outgrown the need for that “fear of the Lord” so often emphasized in Scripture. (Just to have a rough sense of it, the phrase “fear of the Lord” appears 52 times in the Douay-Rheims translation.)

The most poignant symbol of the universal loss of reverential fear was the abandonment of the practice of kneeling before the Holy One of Israel, really present in the Blessed Sacrament, and of receiving Him on the tongue from an ordained minister. This old custom, which happily survives here and there, literally embodies man’s dependency on God, his lowliness and unworthiness, his desire to give to God who reigns in heaven the adoration due to Him alone, and his desire for healing and elevation. One must first be low in order to be raised up on high, as the Magnificat proclaims. In this practice is contained the humility of willing to be fed like a baby bird by its parent or a child still too small to feed itself. In the supernatural domain, we are all children who need to be fed by the Father, fed with the bread that is His Son.

The great Advent hymn Conditor alme siderum contains this marvelous stanza:
Cuius forti potentiae
genu curvantur omnia;
caelestia, terrestria
nutu fatentur subdita.

At whose dread Name, majestic now,
All knees must bend, all hearts must bow;
And things celestial Thee shall own,
And things terrestrial, Lord alone.
The modified Creator alme siderum conveys the same message in a more classical form:
Cuius potestas gloriae,
Nomenque cum primum sonat,
et caelites et inferi
tremente curvantur genu.

Thy glorious power, Thy saving Name
No sooner any voice can frame,
But heaven and earth and hell agree
To honor them with trembling knee.
“Heaven and earth and hell agree / To honor them with trembling knee.” But we of the modern West are too arrogant to do so anymore. “Live Free or Die,” proclaims the motto of New Hampshire; our knees will not tremble before tyrants. When we worship the god of liberty, we “sit down to eat and drink, and rise up to play” (cf. Ex 32:6), no bowing and scraping, no genuflecting. Our collective head must be big indeed, a microcosm without a God, like the world of the Pharisee in the Gospel of the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost. We’re not even good enough for hell, since, as Scripture says, “the demons believe — and tremble” (Jas 2:19), while we prance right up to the table of plenty and take the wafer like a chip at a snackbar. “Wherein have we polluted thee? In that you say: The table of the Lord is contemptible.”

As time goes on, we see ever more clearly that the reasons that were invoked to justify changing the liturgy for the supposed benefit of “modern man” are either the same as or analogous to the reasons that have been and will be invoked for redacting or suppressing Sacred Scripture as well. The message of the Bible must be carefully filtered so that the fear of the Lord, His wrath, His justice, His punishments, His uncompromising demands, will not invade and annoy the minds of modern sophisticates, long since graduated from the savage anthropomorphism of the patriarchs and matriarchs. In reality, we are more like mentally challenged Kindergarteners who have not even reached the threshold of the medieval mind that imagined and executed the transcendent judgment scenes carved across the tympana of Romanesque and Gothic churches.

The Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Arturo Sosa Abascal, made news a couple of years ago when he said we can’t know for sure what Jesus taught because we didn’t have a tape recorder to capture His exact words. According to this Jesuit, we have received Christ’s teaching through the lens of people who may not be entirely trustworthy, so today we must reinterpret Christ’s message through the lens of our own discernment and the voice of our conscience. In other words, we have to grow up, stand on our own two feet, stop depending on what we have been given already, and update Jesus for our times.

Don’t we see the same dynamic at play in the past half-century of liturgical reform? We can’t know for sure what the Eucharistic Sacrifice was supposed to be because we don’t have a tape recorder of the Last Supper or the post-resurrection discourses. We have received our liturgy from people who may not be entirely trustworthy, particularly if they lived in the allegory-addicted Middle Ages or the lavish courts of the Counter-Reformation. Today we have to reinterpret liturgy through the lens of our own “hopes” and “dreams.” Let’s stand on our own two feet as we queue up for the token of belonging.

Evidently, this is what the Eucharist has become to a great number of Catholics: the much-discussed recent Pew Research Center survey shows that huge numbers of Catholics, even those who regularly go to Mass, either do not know the teaching of the Church on transubstantiation or, knowing it, do not believe it. Catechesis is good, but it is not enough; what is needed is a form of liturgy that cries out Real Presence and humbles itself to the dust in adoration. What is needed, in short, is reverential fear.

Back in the 1960s, kneeling for communion and receiving it on the tongue was scoffed at as childish. In our own day, believing that marriage is really indissoluble for life, or that the death penalty is a legitimate response to some crimes, is considered naïve, immature, unrealistic, cruel. The basic move is the same: what the Bible says, what Catholic tradition says, what the liturgy says in words and signs, has to be reinterpreted and adapted for our contemporary situation. If this means outright contradiction, so be it. The thesis demands its antithesis, which will lead us to a new and better synthesis — right?

The line linking Hegel and Feuerbach to Jungmann and Teilhard to Kasper and Bergoglio may not always be obvious, but it is nonetheless intrinsic and profound. The traditional liturgy is absolutely incompatible with this line and is its only remedy.

When Our Lord was praying Psalm 22 upon the altar of the Cross, letting go of His lifeblood for us sinners, He would have prayed these verses:
You who fear the Lord, praise Him;
all you seed of Jacob, glorify Him;
and stand in awe of Him, all you the seed of Israel.
A triple imperative: praise Him, glorify Him, stand in awe of Him . . . you who fear the Lord. May this be the mind we put on (cf. Phil 2:5) when we assist at the same sacrifice.
Visit for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen).

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The St Gregory Institute’s Chant and Polyphony Workshop

From July 22 and 24, the newly founded St Gregory Institute of Sacred Music held its Chant and Polyphony Workshop for Parish Musicians at two different churches in suburban Pittsburgh. The workshop, attended by fifteen music directors, choristers, and students from various parts of western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, culminated in an Extraordinary Form Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost at Mary, Help of Christians Church in McKees Rocks. The Mass, offered by Fr. Alek Schrenk on the occasion of the founding of the Institute, was attended by over 100 people and featured Gregorian propers, Hassler’s Missa Secunda, and motets by Pitoni and Croce. (Our readers may remember Fr Schrenk from his contributions to our annual series on the Lenten stations in 2018.)

Here are some audio files from the concluding Mass, and below, Father’s homily.
Gradual Beata gens.

Offertory motet Cantate Domino by Giuseppe Pitoni

The Sanctus of Hassler’s Missa Secunda

The Benedictus

The Agnus Dei

The Communio Factus est repente

Today concludes the first three-day workshop offered by the newly founded St. Gregory Institute of Sacred Music. With this Votive Mass of the Holy Ghost offered in the ancient form of the Roman Rite, we implore God to send down abundant graces upon this noble project. Music is integral to our worship; it is, in fact, an act of worship itself.

Saint John Paul II, speaking on the topic of sacred music in 1988, affirmed that music in the sacred liturgy “performs a function which is noble, unique, and irreplaceable. When it is truly beautiful and inspired, it speaks to us more than all the other arts of goodness, virtue, peace; of matters holy and divine.”

If you will permit me to wax poetic for a moment, the sacred music of the Church — and especially the venerable treasury of Gregorian chant, which is the unique and organic expression of the Church’s voice at prayer — reveals to us something of the very Spirit of God. At the very beginning of time, Genesis tells us that “the earth was void and empty, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved over the waters.”

The word “spirit”, Latin “spiritus”, is also the word for “breath.” And so when Christ appears to his Apostles after the Resurrection there is an echo — or perhaps, a fulfillment — of that primal Spirit of Genesis. The Gospel of Saint John tells us that “he breathed on them; and he said to them: ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost.’ ” Risen from the dead, Christ comes to impart this new life into his Body, the Church; and through that breath, he is creating the world anew. Just as the Spirit of God moved upon the waters, that same Spirit moves within the Church, moving her to speak “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles.” When we speak in the Church’s language and sing in the voice of her own song, it is truly the Holy Ghost who speaks through us; it is truly the Holy Ghost in whose voice we sing.

“The Paraclete, the Holy Ghost whom the Father will send in my name; he will teach you all things.” The sacred music of the Church has much to teach us. In the psalms, we find expressions of joy, sorrow, hope, and trust; and in time, as we sing these words and meditate upon them, they became our own voice of prayer. Like a child learning how speak, there is a certain effort involved in this process. The sober restraint, flowing cadence, and occasional exuberant and melismatic expressions of the Church’s chant are not the native musical language of anyone living today; but then again, these songs sounded just as alien to the ears of Mozart as they do to us. Perhaps they have always been so.

And I so I would like to commend the effort of those who have participated in the Institute’s workshops for the past three days. Their efforts find a fitting culmination and fulfillment here in the sacred liturgy, where all the arts and all our human efforts are crowned by the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Upon this altar, we offer to God the best of what we have, grateful that these sincere efforts are accepted and perfected by God for his glory and for our salvation.

On my own account, I would like to thank Mr. Nicholas Will for the invitation to celebrate this Mass and to be present for the inauguration of this important initiative. May the experience of these past three days bear much fruit for all who have participated in them, and through the intercession of Saint Gregory the Great, may the future of this institute be richly blessed.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Abbey of St Augustine in Żagań, Poland

Our friend Dom Jakobus, a canon of Herzogenburg Abbey in Austria, administers a Facebook page about the various orders of canons regular, and recently posted pictures of the former church of the Augustinian Canons Regular in Żagań, Poland. I say “former” because the religious communites that founded the vast majority of such churches were turfed out of them during the various waves of revolutions that destroyed so much of Catholic Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the church is now a parish. However, it retains many beautiful signs and memories of its earlier history, including many images of the great Saints among the various families of Canons Regular. Thanks to Dom Jakobus for his permission to share these photos with our readers.

A statue of St Augustine, whose very simple Rule was taken as the basis of canonical life for many different kinds of  religious communities, while leaving ample room for individual congregations to develop their own particular traditions.
The main altar seen from the gallery.
Very nice choir stalls, each decorated with a painting of a different episode of the life of St Augustine.

Brian Holdsworth on Unbelief in the Real Presence

The Catholic internet has seen a good number of articles in the last several days about a recent Pew Research Center Poll, which shows that only a quarter of Catholics under the age of 40 believe in Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. As is his wont, Brian Holdsworth has come up with (for my money) the best commentary on the matter thus far. He very rightly points that this is not primarily a problem of catechesis, and this is not the kind of problem that one resolves intellectually, because the reality of Christ’s presence in the Mass is not something which we experience primarily in an intellectual way. The greatest obstacle to presenting what the Church teaches about the Mass and the Eucharist is our low standards for the celebration of the liturgy, in which we actually experience these realities. If you surround the Real Presence with ugly, banal and commonplace architecture, decorations and especially music, you are sending the message, whether you mean to or not, that this is not really God Himself present in our midst. Watch the whole thing, it is well worth your time, and if you have the opportunity, share it with your pastor, bishop, youth ministry coordinator etc. Kudos once again, Mr Holdsworth!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Blessing of Flowers and Herbs on the Assumption

According to a fairly ancient tradition, which St John Damascene (among others) attests in the 8th century, when it came time for the Virgin Mary’s earthly life to end, all of the Apostles, then scattered over the earth to preach the Gospel, were miraculously brought to Jerusalem in an instant to be present for Her death. St Thomas, however, was late in arriving, as he had been late to witness the Lord’s Resurrection. When the Virgin had died, they laid Her body to rest in a tomb in the garden of Gethsemani, outside the city; three days later, when Thomas arrived in Jerusalem, he wished to venerate it. The Apostles went as a group to the tomb, but on opening it, discovered that Her body was no longer there, and a sweet odor came forth, confirming that (as Damascene writes) “Whom once it pleased to take the flesh from the Virgin Mary, and become a man, and be born (of Her)… and who after birth preserved Her virginity incorrupt, it also pleased, after Her passing, to honor Her immaculate body … by translating (it to Heaven) before the common and universal resurrection.”

The Oddi Altarpiece, by Raphael Sanzio, painted in 1502-3, when the artist was only 19 years old; now in the Painting Gallery of the Vatican Museums. Above, the Virgin is crowned by Christ, and surrounded by angels, four of whom are playing musical instruments; below, the Apostles are gathered around Her tomb, with some of them looking upwards and listening to the music. St Thomas is in the middle of the group, with his head tilted back, and has received from the Virgin Her belt; this relic is now, according to tradition, preserved in the cathedral of Prato, Italy. Her tomb is filled with flowers growing out of the stone; Raphael himself appears on the far right as one of the Apostles, wearing black and looking straight out at the viewer.
According to one version of this legend, the other eleven Apostles believed in the Assumption because angelic music played in the air over the tomb on the day of the burial, and for three days after; St Thomas, arriving after the music had ceased, refused to believe them until the tomb was opened and the absence of the body confirmed. According to another version, Thomas already knew and believed in the Assumption before coming to Jerusalem, and brought the others to the tomb to show them that the Virgin’s body was gone, after which they heard all the music together. A further addition to the story says that flowers were growing out of the stone sarcophagus in which She had been laid, and were the source of the sweet odor coming out of the tomb, confirming the Apostles’ faith in Her Assumption.

A stained glass window from Siena Cathedral by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1288. The central panels represent the death of the Virgin (below), the Assumption (middle) and Coronation (above.) The corners show the Four Evangelists, the middle panels on the left and right the patron Saints of the city.
In honor of this last part of the story, the Church instituted the custom of blessing wild herbs and flowers on the feast of the Assumption. The blessing originated in Germany, and is first attested in the 10th century; one version of it or another is found in a great many of the liturgical books which contain blessings of this sort. In the 1614 Roman Ritual of Pope Paul V, it consists of a psalm, a series of versicles and responses, three prayers, and the blessing, after which the flowers are sprinkled with holy water; the blessing is supposed to be done before the principal Mass of the day.

I here give the blessing in English translation; the Latin text is found in the Rituale among the blessings not reserved to bishops, shortly after the Sunday blessing of holy water and the Asperges. Various versions of the Rituale can be downloaded from Google Books; it also available on SanctaMissa.org

V. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

Psalm 64 is said in full.

V. The Lord will give goodness.
R. And our earth shall yield her fruit. (Ps. 84)
V. Thou waterest the hills from Thy upper rooms.
R. The earth shall be filled with the fruit of Thy works.
V. Bringing forth grass for cattle.
R. And herbs for the service of men.
V. That Thou may bring bread out of the earth.
R. And that wine may cheer the heart of man.
V. That he may make the face cheerful with oil.
R. And that bread may strengthen man’s heart. (Ps. 103)
V. He sent his word, and healed them.
R. And delivered them from their destructions. (Ps. 106)

V. Lord, heed my prayer.
R. And let my cry be heard by you.
V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray. Almighty everlasting God, who by Thy word created from nothing the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things visible and invisible, and commanded the earth to bring forth plants and trees for the use of men and beasts, and each one to have fruit in itself according to its seed; and in Thy ineffable goodness granted not only that the plants might serve as the food of living creatures, but also that they might profit ailing bodies as medicine; with mind and word we humbly pray Thee that in Thy clemency Thou may bless + these herbs and fruits of various kinds, and pour upon them the grace of Thy renewed blessing, above the natural power which Thou gavest them; so that, when used by men and beasts in Thy name, they may become a defense against every disease and adversity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy son etc. R. Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who through Moses, Thy servant, commanded the children of Israel to bear sheaves of new fruits to the priests to be blessed, and to take the fruits of the finest trees, and rejoice before Thee, the Lord their God; in Thy mercy be present to our supplications, and pour forth the abundance of Thy bless+ing upon us and upon these bundles of new fruits, new herbs, and upon the gathering of fruits which we bring before Thee with thanksgiving, and on this solemn feast we bless in Thy name. And grant that they may give to men, cattle, flocks, and beasts of burden a remedy against sickness, pestilence, sores, curses, spells, against the poison of serpents and bites of other venomous animals. And may they bring protection against the devil’s illusions, and devisings and cunning, wherever they or any portion of them are kept and carried, or otherwise used; so that, with the sheaves of good works, by the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary, the feast of whose Assumption we keep, we may merit to be taken up to that place whither She was assumed. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy son etc. R. Amen.

Let us pray. O God, who on this day raised up to the heights of heaven the rod of Jesse, the Mother of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so that by Her prayers and patronage Thou might communicate to our mortal nature the fruit of Her womb, the same Thy Son; we humbly implore Thee, that by His power, and by the glorious patronage of His Mother, with the help of these fruits of the earth, we may be guided through temporal welfare unto everlasting salvation. Through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy son etc. R. Amen.

And may the blessing of almighty God, the Father, the Son, + and Holy Spirit, come upon these creatures and remain always. R. Amen.

Abp Chaput Visits FSSP Parish

This past Sunday, His Excellency Charles Chaput, the Archbishop of Philadelphia, visited the FSSP parish of St Mary in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, which he established last year as a quasi-parish for those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The Archbishop confirmed several members of the parish, and then attended the solemn Mass in choir. Our thanks once again to Mrs Allison Girone for sharing with us some of her photos of the event.

The famous Confirmation slap!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Music for First Vespers of the Assumption

In the Roman Rite, there are traditionally only three hymns generally used on feasts of the Virgin Mary. These are Ave, Maris Stella, which is sung at Vespers, Quem terra at Matins, and O gloriosa Domina at Lauds; the second and third of these were originally two parts of the same hymn, divided for liturgical use. Among the many other hymns composed in the Middle Ages in honor of the Virgin, a standout is O quam glorifica, an anonymous composition of the ninth century, possibly earlier, which was adopted by several churches for use on the Assumption. At Sarum, it was sung at First Vespers of the feast, while the Parisian Use placed it at Matins, and from these extended it to the Little Office of the Virgin. It was incorporated into the Latin version of the Liturgy of the Hours, although it was not assigned to the Assumption, but to Lauds of Our Lady’s Queenship on August 22, which is now the de facto octave of the Assumption. This is a piece whose complex Latin meter makes for a rather odd word order, and a prime example of a work to which translation perhaps does more than a little injustice. It is here sung by the Trappist monks of Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky, in a recording from 1958; the Cistercian tradition also places it at first Vespers of the feast.

quam glorifica luce coruscas,
Stirpis Davidicae regia proles!
Sublimis residens, Virgo Maria,
Supra caeligenas aetheris omnes.
O with how glorious light thou shinest,
royal offspring of David’s race!
dwelling on high, O Virgin Mary,
Above all the regions of heaven.
Tu cum virgineo mater honore,
Caelorum Domino pectoris aulam
Sacris visceribus casta parasti;
Natus hinc Deus est corpore Christus.
Thou, chaste mother with virginal honor,
prepared in thy holy womb
a dwelling place for the Lord of heaven;
hence God, Christ, was born in a body.
Quem cunctus venerans orbis adorat,
Cui nunc rite genuflectitur omne;
A quo te, petimus, subveniente,
Abjectis tenebris, gaudia lucis.
Whom all the word adores in veneration,
before whom every knee rightfully bends,
From whom we ask, as thou comest to help,
the joys of light, and the casting away
   of darkness.
Hoc largire Pater luminis omnis,
Natum per proprium, Flamine sacro,
Qui tecum nitida vivit in aethra
Regnans, ac moderans saecula cuncta.
Grant this, Father of all light,
Through thine own Son, by the Holy Spirit,
who with liveth in the bright heaven,
ruling and governing all the ages.

The Sarum and Dominican Uses also have a special Magnificat antiphon for First Vespers of the Assumption, much longer than those typically found in the Roman Use.

Aña Ascendit Christus super caelos, et praeparavit suae castissimae Matri immortalitatis locum: et haec est illa praeclara festivitas, omnium Sanctorum festivitatibus incomparabilis, in qua gloriosa et felix, mirantibus caelestis curiae ordinibus, ad aethereum pervenit thalamum: quo pia sui memorum immemor nequaquam exsistat. – Christ ascended above the heavens, and prepared for His most chaste Mother the place of immortality; and this is the splendid festivity, beyond comparison with the feasts of all the Saints, in which She in glory and rejoicing, as the orders of the heavely courts beheld in wonder, came to the heavenly bridal chamber; that She in her benevolence may ever be mindful of those that remember her.

TLM Altar Boy Camp in Slovakia

Our thanks to Fr Radovan Rajčák, a priest from Slovakia, for sharing with us this account of a camp held earlier this summer to teach altar boys about the traditional Mass. It seems like this is a kind of initiative that could easily be reproduced elsewhere, and be very useful for introducing the young to the beauty of our Catholic liturgical tradition.

From July 1-6, the first traditional camp for altar boys took place in the village of Motyčky, which is located near the Marian pilgrimage shrine of Staré Hory in Slovakia. The whole camp was accompanied by an intensive liturgical course on the traditional Latin Mass, meditations, prayer of the Holy Rosary, catechesis about the Mass, and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The camp was attended by 20 altar boys and 5 priests who coordinated the whole program, and also added some trips, sporting activities and games to the spiritual program, helping to build and strengthen friendships between the boys.

The main idea for the camp was based built on the Catholic altar boys organization Legio Angelica, which was founded before World War II in Bohemia (1929); because of its popularity, German and Slovak branches were also established. The main goals were to encourage the boys to grow in virtue, knowledge of Catholic doctrine and practice of the liturgy; a lot of “legionists” (as they called themselves) became priests. In Slovakia, the organization brought together about 1,500 boys, but in 1948, the whole project was shut down by the Communist authorities.

This new camp took over the basic idea of the Legio Angelica, so that altar boys could become acquainted with the grandeur and importance of their ministry, as many of their predecessors had done, during the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. Every single boy was deeply affected and, as they themselves attested, captivated by the beauty of tradition.

Photopost Request: Assumption 2019

Our next major photopost will be for tomorrow’s feast of the Assumption; please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form) to for inclusion. As always, we are very glad to include photographs of celebrations in the Eastern rites and the Ordinariate rite, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Divine Office, blessings, processions, the vigil Mass etc. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

From our first Assumption photopost of last year, the blessing of herbs and wildflowers at Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, South Carolina.
From the second post, Marian blue vestments at St John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Card. Burke Celebrates Traditional Priestly Ordination

This past Saturday, the feast of St Lawrence, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke ordained Brother Thomas Mary of Jesus, Er. Carm., in the Extraordinary Form at the cathedral of St Patrick in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The local ordinary, Bishop Ronald Gainer, and the Auxiliary Bishop of Pittsburgh, William Waltersheid, were both present for the ceremony, as well Fr Mario Esposito, the Prior Provincial of the North American province of the Carmelite Order. Fr Thomas Mary is a member of the Hermits of Our Lady of Mt Carmel, a religious community which observes the eremitical charism of the first hermits on Mount Carmel and the primitive Carmelite Rule of St Albert of Jerusalem. Here is the complete video of the ceremony; another was made of his First Mass, and should be available in a few days. Mr Patrick Torsell, music director at Mater Dei, the local FSSP church, conducted the schola, and was kind enough to provide us with some photos of the ceremony taken from the choir loft, which we include below the video. Our congratulations to the new priest, to his family and friends, and to his religious community – ad multos annos!

Churches Should Be Like Airports, But Not Like This!

I was greatly amused by a recent tweet from Fr Z.
It was attached to the following photograph:

In my opinion, Fr Z is dead on! Terminal 666, depicted here, is typical of the terrible church architecture that ignorant and callous bishops have inflicted upon the long-suffering faithful for decades. But in my opinion, it is even worse than that. This is not just an indictment of churches, it is also an indictment of the shocking state of municipal airport design.

One can imagine the general line of influence that produced this. The starting point is the whim of an architect who designs airports and other municipal and commercial buildings. This whim is removed from divine inspiration, having been cut loose from tradition during his formation at architecture school. Modern schools of architecture consciously reject all design principle that is rooted in a Christian understanding of the beauty of the cosmos and the beauty of God. This atheistic and materialistic secular culture then influences church architecture.

This is all the wrong way around. The way it should work is that the liturgy is the source of its own culture, inspired by an encounter with the person of Christ. The influence of this wellspring of worship works its way into all the liturgical forms: words, music, art, architecture and from there into secular culture. At each stage, it accommodates more and more the influences of the contemporary culture, but only in such a way that it magnifies and illumines what is Christ-like in what is beheld. In this template, all buildings, including municipal buildings, commercial buildings, homes and yes, even airport terminals and aircraft hangers, speak of Christ in a way that is appropriate to their purpose. This way, a beautiful and well-designed airport both maximizes its utility as an airport and its utility as a place where often disgruntled people sit and wait for hours in need of nourishment of the soul.

I can’t think of an airport to illustrate my point, but I can point to railway stations designed in the golden age of rail, in the 19th century. The train of influence, if you’ll forgive the pun, starts with AW Pugin, a British architect and Catholic convert who designed churches in what he called the “pointed” style of architecture in the early part of the century. He was referring to the Gothic cathedrals and churches of England and France. Many, including non-Catholics in England, were attracted to the beauty of his work, and it influenced not only church architecture of its day across the whole world, but also all other types of building.

So here we have the neo-gothic St Pancras station and hotel in London, inside and out, designed by George Gilbert Scott, who also designed many beautiful workhouses in Victorian England that are preserved buildings today. This is the properly ordained terminus of the 8th Day, if not a terminal!

And here is Mumbai Railway Station, completed in 1887 and now listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO:
I once showed this picture in a talk and someone in the audience suggested that this represented cultural imperialism. My response was that perhaps it does, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that its a bad thing. Certainly, India was part of the British Empire when it was built, and Indians probably didn’t have much say in the design at the time. However, India has been independent since 1947, and the Indians have certainly had the time and the means to replace it if they wanted to. They haven’t done so because it is a beautiful building that fulfills its purpose. Here is an interesting excerpt from the Wikipedia write-up on the station.
The terminus was designed by British architectural engineer Frederick William Stevens in the style of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture. Its construction began in 1878, in a location south of the old Bori Bunder railway station, and was completed in 1887, the year marking 50 years of Queen Victoria’s rule, the building being named, Victoria Terminus. The station’s name was changed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (station code CST) in March 1996 to honor Shivaji, the 17th-century founder of the Maratha Empire, whose name is often preceded by Chhatrapati, a royal title. In 2017, the station was again renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (code CSTM), where Maharaj is also a royal title. However, both the former initials “VT” and the current, “CST” and “CSMT”, are commonly used. 
So, far from pulling it down as a relic of hated and now displaced rulers, it seems they admire the grandeur and universal beauty of it, and, if the names changes are an indicator, have adopted it as their own. If anyone is at fault here, under the modern dictates of political correctness, it is the Indians, who are guilty of cultural appropriation!

When India becomes Christian at some point in the future, I would wager that this building will have played an important, if an unsung part in the nation’s conversion. It doesn’t draw people to Christ by imposing values on them, but rather, by revealing to them that He is what they wanted all the time. This is a building, therefore, that increases human freedom through its beauty, it is not a symbol of the oppression at all. 

Contrary to what is commonly supposed, modern municipal airports through their banal ugliness, are not derived from freedom, but speak of the bondage of self-centredness and are symbols of oppression. 

I look forward to the day when both airports and, heaven help us, churches once again become symbols of cosmic beauty and human freedom!

If you want to know more about the mathematics of beauty, then my book The Way of Beauty has a section devoted to the subject; and for the most detailed exploration, there is a course, entitled The Mathematics of Beauty, a two-credit course offered as part of the Master of Sacred Arts offered by Pontifex.University

Monday, August 12, 2019

Why Restoring the Roman Rite to Its Fullness is Not “Traddy Antiquarianism”

The broad stole (and not visible, the folded chasuble), both abolished by Pius XII

In a recent address, Archbishop Thomas Gullickson, Papal Nuncio to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, made a rousing case for “pressing the reset button” on the Roman liturgy by abandoning a failed experiment and taking up again the traditional rites of the Catholic Church. He is giving us a brisk version of what the newly-published book The Case for Liturgical Restoration provides in much detail.

Then, with admirable candor, Archbishop Gullickson broaches the million-dollar question:
I am avoiding the burning issue of setting a date for the reset. I used to think that going back to the 1962 Missal and to St. Pius X and his breviary reform was sufficient, but the marvels of the pre-Pius XII Triduum as we have begun to experience them leave me speechless on this point. Perhaps the teaching of Pope Benedict XVI on the mutual enrichment of the two forms will provide the paradigm for resolving the question of which Missal and which breviary. My call for a return to the presently approved texts for the Extraordinary Form, then, is inspired by a certain urgency to move forward, to further the process. I do not feel qualified to take a stance in this particular matter of where best to launch the restoration.
The position that has dominated the Tradisphere for a long time is that we should be content with 1962 as our point of departure for a healthy liturgical future. After all, 1962 is the last editio typica prior to the upheavals occasioned by the Council; it is still recognizably in continuity with the Tridentine rite; and it is enjoined upon us by Church authority in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

In a contrasting position, Dom Hugh Somerville-Knapman of Dominus Mihi Adjutor urges that we must still take seriously the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium and that, accordingly, the 1962 Missal will not pass muster:
I still see a validity in a mild reform in the liturgy along the modest lines actually mandated by the Council: vernacular readings, setting aside the duplication of the celebrant having to recite prayers, etc., that were being sung by other ministers, a less obtrusive priestly preparation at the beginning of Mass, etc. And the conciliar mandate for reform cannot be just forgotten as though it never happened: it must be faced and dealt with, either be reforming the reform made in its name, or by a specific magisterial act abrogating it.
       That is why the interim rites interest me – OM65 [The Ordo Missae of 1965] is clearly the Mass of Vatican II while also clearly being in organic continuity with liturgical tradition. It left the Canon alone as well as the integral reverence of the liturgical action. Even Lefebvre was approving of it. What distorts our perception of OM65 is that we have seen 50 years of development since, and cannot help but see OM65 as tainted by what came after it.
       Moreover MR62 is a rather arbitrary point at which to stop liturgical tradition. For some committed trads this is an imperfect Missal, even a tainted one. Is a pre-53 Missal better? Or a pre-Pius XII one? Or maybe pre-Pius X? Why not go the whole hog and argue for pre-Trent — after all, Geoffrey Hull sees the seed of liturgical decay there? We end up in a situation in which each chooses for himself on varying sets of idiosyncratic principles. It is ecclesiologically impossible. The Catholic Church has a magisterial authority which establishes unity in liturgy. That this has been sadly lacking for some decades is not an argument for ignoring magisterial authority altogether. Then we may as well be Protestants.
Dom Hugh is willing to admit that Bugnini and Co. were busy behind the scenes throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, plotting and eventually carrying out the rape and pillage of all that remained of the Western liturgical tradition. He nevertheless thinks that, in the world outside the Politburo, the 1965 Missal was generally seen — and can still be seen today — as the reform that lines up with the Council’s desiderata. This, then, should be where the reset button takes us. (To brush up on what the 1965 Missal was like, read this account by Msgr. Charles Pope.)

A missal from the mid-60s: trying to keep up with the changes

As far as I can tell, however, the purist 1962 and reformist 1965 positions are rapidly losing ground throughout the world, particularly as the internet continues to spread awareness of the ill-advised and sometimes catastrophic reforms that took place throughout the twentieth century to various aspects of the Roman liturgy, with Holy Week looming largest. Since I, too, disagree with the 1962 and 1965 positions, I would like to make the case for returning to the last editio typica prior to the revolutionary alterations of Pope Pius XII: the Missale Romanum of Benedict XV, issued in 1920. [1]

The principal argument used to defend adherence to 1962 is that we should all do “what the Church asks us to do.” But who, or what, is “the Church” here? In this period of chaos, it is no longer self-evident that “the Church” refers to an authority that is handing down laws for the common good of the people of God. From at least 1948 on, “the Church” in the liturgical sphere has meant radicals struggling to loose the bonds of tradition who have pushed their own agenda of simplification, abbreviation, modernization, and pastoral utilitarianism on the Church, with papal approval — that is, by the abuse of papal power. These things are not rightful commands to be obeyed but aberrations that deserve to be resisted — of course, patiently, intelligently, and in a principled manner, but nevertheless with a firm intention to restore the integrity and fullness of the Roman rite as it existed before the Liturgical Movement in its cancer phase took over at the top level and drove the Roman rite into the dead end of the Novus Ordo.

For a long time, I sincerely tried to understand, appreciate, and embrace Sacrosanctum Concilium. But it was not possible, after reading Michael Davies, and later Henry Sire’s Phoenix from the Ashes and Yves Chiron’s biography of Annibale Bugnini, to see in this document anything more than a carefully contrived blueprint for liturgical revolution. It contradicts itself on several points and takes refuge more often than not in massive ambiguities that were deliberately put there — and we know this based on documentary research, no conspiracy theories are needed.

For me, the evaporation of the validity of Sacrosanctum Concilium came from a deeper reflection, thanks to a lecture by Wolfram Schrems, on the meaning of its abolition of the Office of Prime. A Council that would dare to abolish an ancient liturgical office of uninterrupted universal reception vitiates itself from the get-go. Since none of the documents of Vatican II contains de fide statements or anathemas, the charism of infallibility is not expressly involved. Given their very nature, a bunch of practical pastoral recommendations can be mistaken, and there is ever-mounting evidence that the aims and means of the radical arm of the Liturgical Movement were grievously off-target. The assumptions of the Council about what “had to be done” to the liturgy misread the sociology and psychology of religion. Their proposals for reform bought into modern assumptions that have not stood the test of time and had, indeed, already been effectively criticized before and during the Council. So it seems to me somewhat immaterial that ‘65 better reflects the conflicting and at times problematic ideas of the Council.

Moreover, the idea that the 1965 Ordo Missae represents the implementation of SC is hard to sustain in the light of repeated statements by Paul VI that what he promulgated in 1969 is the ultimate fulfillment of the liturgy constitution (see here and here for examples culled by the selectively papolatrous PrayTell; I discuss the infamous addresses of 1965 and 1969 here). 1965 was presented publicly (though not always consistently) as an interim step on the evolutionary process away from medieval-Baroque liturgy to relevant modern liturgy.

The “moment of truth,” I think, is when students of liturgy realize that the 1962 is extremely similar to 1965 in this respect: it was an interim Missal in the preparation of which Bugnini and the other liturgists working at the Vatican had changed as much as they felt they could get away with. Even assuming all the good will in the world, these liturgists had experienced a triumph of renovationism with the Holy Week “reform” of Pius XII — a reform that was notable as a dramatic deformation of some of the most ancient and poignant rites of the Church — and they were rolling along with the momentum. The abolition under Pius XII of most octaves and vigils, multiple collects, and folded chasubles, inter alia, is part of this same sad tale of cutting away some of what was most distinctive and most precious in the Roman heritage. [2]

This is why it is not arbitrary for traditionalists to say that the Missal ca. 1948 — which means, in practice, the editio typica of 1920 — is the place to go. The reason is simple: except for some newly added feasts (the calendar being the part of the liturgy that changes the most), it is in all salient respects the Missal codified by Trent. It is the Tridentine rite tout court. For those of us who believe that the Tridentine rite represents, as a whole and in its parts, an organically developed apogee of the Roman rite that it behooves us to receive with gratitude as a timeless inheritance (in the manner Greek Catholics receive their liturgical rites, which also achieved mature form in the Middle Ages), a pre-Pacellian Missal gives us all that we are looking for, and nothing tainted.

People like to point to “improvements” that could be made to the old missal, but those who have lived long and intimately with its contents are usually the last to be convinced that the suggested improvements would actually be such. I have addressed some examples here, here, and here. [3]

A Maria Laach altar missal from 1931

Wait a minute, an interlocutor might say. Isn’t all this “traddy antiquarianism”? Aren’t we guilty of doing the same thing we blame our opponents for doing, namely, reaching back to earlier forms while holding later developments in contempt?

No, none of what I am proposing amounts to “traddy antiquarianism.” What is clear is that the Liturgical Movement after World War II went off the rails. Changes to the liturgical books from that point on were motivated by global theories about what is “best for the modern Church,” which led to the abundant contradictions and ambiguities of Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Montini-Bugnini reign of terror, and the crowning disgrace of the 1969 Ordo Missae and other rites of that period.

The point is not to go back indefinitely, but to take a missal that is essentially the one codified by Trent and Pius V, with the kind of small accretions or small emendations that characterize the slow progress of liturgy through the ages. As Fr. Hunwicke likes to point out, for many centuries since Pius V, it is possible to take up an old missal and put it on the altar and offer Mass. The changes are so minor that the missal is virtually the same from Quo Primum to the twentieth century. [4] Saints come on and saints come off, but even the calendar is remarkably stable. After Pius XII’s reign, however, it is much harder for an “old” missal and a “new” (i.e., 1955 Pacellian, 1962 Roncallian, 1965 Montinian) missal to share the same ecclesial space; they cannot be swapped one for the other, including at some very important moments in the Church year. This already shows, in a rough and ready way, that a rupture has occurred — and this, prior to the Novus Ordo.

Pius V’s condition that only rites older than 200 years could continue to be used after his promulgation of the Tridentine Missal is another way to see that our argument here is backed by common sense. A rite younger than 200 years old might seem like a local made-up thing, but a rite that’s clocked up two centuries of age or more has an “immemorial” weight to it — something not to be disturbed or replaced. This, indeed, is the basic reason for the illegitimacy of the Novus Ordo: that which it replaced was not merely something older than 200 years, but something with a 2,000-year history of continual use that shows no momentous ruptures but only a gradual assimilation and expansion. But the 200-year rule of Pius V also suggests that the revival of something less than 200 years old need not be an example of antiquarianism, but could be simply an intelligent recovery of something lost by chance, error in transmission, or bad policy. Thus, if certain octaves and vigils were abolished only a few decades ago, and if the rationale for this change deserves to be rejected, their recovery cannot be considered, by any stretch of the imagination, an example of antiquarianism. After all, as The Case for Liturgical Restoration points out (pp. 14, 16), the Old Testament gives us examples of liturgical restoration far more dramatic than the recovery of pre-Pacellian rites is for us.

Antiquarianism or archaeologism — often qualified with the adjective “false” — is the attempt to leap over medieval and Counter-Reformation developments to reach a putatively “original, authentic” early Christian liturgy. The term does not correctly apply to setting aside modernist, progressive, or utilitarian deformations. How ironic if a move against false antiquarianism were now to be targeted as being itself an example of the same! Let us put it this way: Catholics have always been intelligently antiquarian in that they care greatly for and wish to preserve their heritage and seek to restore it when it has been plundered or damaged. The Liturgical Movement, on the other hand, presented us with the spectacle of an arbitrary, violent, and agenda-driven antiquarianism. The two phenomena are as different as patriotism and nationalism.

Our situation in the Latin Church has achieved the clarity of a silverpoint drawing: (1) the modern papal rite, risibly dubbed the Roman Rite, has established itself as a pseudo-tradition of vernacularity, versus populism, informality, banality, and horizontality, as NLM contributor William Riccio described with gut-wrenching accuracy; (2) the “Reform of the Reform,” on which hopeful conservatives during the reign of Benedict XVI had gambled away their last pennies, is not only dead but buried six feet under; (3) the traditional Latin liturgy, though by no means readily available to all who wish for it, is firmly rooted in the younger generations on all continents and in nearly every country, and shows no sign of budging. Many traditionalist clergy would already prefer to use a missal from the first half of the twentieth century, and of those who remain, there are plenty who, in moments of honesty, and with trustworthy friends, will admit they have some problems with the ersatz Holy Week and the John XXIII missal. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis: if you have made a wrong turn, the only way to go forward is to go back. That is the fastest way to get on.

In this article, I explained why it is legitimate, praiseworthy, and indeed necessary to seek the restoration of the fullness of the Roman liturgy that was lost in the postwar period. I am not touching on the more delicate and controversial question of what kind of permission, and from whom, is or may be required for utilizing an earlier edition of the missal. It does not follow, simply because an earlier edition of the missal is better, that anyone is ipso facto entitled to give himself permission to use it. But regardless of permissions already in effect or still remaining to be ascertained, we should not see 1962 as a neighborhood where liturgical life may settle down. In comparison to the strife-ridden ghetto of the Novus Ordo, where opposing gangs of progressives and conservatives engage in a neverending turf war, the 1962 status quo comes across as far safer, lovelier, more commodious. It is, nevertheless, a trailer park, a way station along the road to a better place.


[1] Needless to say, particular feasts that subsequently entered the calendar, such as that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, should be included.

[2] Archbishop Gullickson says, in the same address: “While we are at it: When it comes to calendar… isn’t older better? From me you will get a resounding ‘yes’, especially if we are talking about vigils and octaves, and giving the proper denomination to times and seasons.”

[3] The question of the reform of the Divine Office under Pius X is a separate can of worms. It is easy to see that the Church should restore some elements of the traditional Roman office that were lost, such as the Laudate psalms in Lauds, but it is by no means easy to see exactly how that should happen. The situation with the Office is vastly more complex than the situation with the altar missal or the other sacramental rites. Fortunately, at least Benedictine monks have the option of using an Antiphonale Monasticum largely untouched by the rupture of Pius X.

[4] One does see more dramatic change in the explicitation of rubrics. Pope Clement VIII did a major “reboot” of the Missal of Pius V aimed at clarifying the rubrics. Any edition of the missal from Pius X onwards includes an enormous bloc of rubrics added at the front, which wasn’t there before. Nevertheless, the broad point that one could use any edition of the missal is indisputable; it would apply to the majority of feasts and the temporal cycle.

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