Friday, December 02, 2016

A First Mass in Ireland

Thanks to our friend Mr John Briody for sending in these photos of the First Mass of Canon John O’Connor of the Institute of Christ the King, celebrated this past Sunday at St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street, Dublin, Ireland which is home to the Latin Mass Chaplaincy for the Dublin Archdiocese. Our congratulations to Canon O’Connor, who is currently posted to the Institute’s Apostolate located at Sacred Heart Church, The Crescent, in Limerick. (A reminder that Mr Briody has a large number of photos, of liturgies and other stuff, on his two flickr accounts.)






Book Notice: St. Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on Job

Back in November 2013, I offered NLM readers an update on the progress of the Aquinas Institute's massive project of producing a first-ever complete bilingual (Latin/English) hardcover edition of the OPERA OMNIA of St. Thomas Aquinas. At that time, I noted that we had published 17 volumes out of a projected 57 volumes (see here for a complete listing of the contents of each volume), and all of these, of course, are still in print: Summa theologiae (8 volumes), Commentaries on the Letters of Paul (5 volumes), the Commentaries on Matthew and John (4 volumes; also available separately).

The good news, and the main reason for this post, is to announce the publication of another volume in the series, namely, St. Thomas's majestic Commentary on the Book of Job. The Aquinas Institute's policy with respect to scriptural commentaries is always to include a critical edition of the biblical text in Greek (either Septuagint or NT), the Latin Vulgate, and the English Douay-Rheims. The translator, Fr. Brian Thomas Becket Mullady, OP, has also contributed a fine introduction.

My colleague at Wyoming Catholic College and co-worker for the Aquinas Institute, Dr. Jeremy Holmes (who has also contributed guest posts to NLM), wrote up an informative piece about the theological originality and importance of this commentary. Here is an excerpt:
It is commonly said that Thomas Aquinas wrote commentaries on Scripture. But the claim is liable to misunderstanding: in our day, biblical scholars write commentaries on Scripture while theologians write monographs about theology. St. Thomas would have found this division of labor interesting in theory but odd in practice, because his job as a medieval university master was to teach theology to the most advanced students by lecturing on a book of the Bible. He lectured on Scripture in class, wrote theological treatises at home, and did theology all the time.
       When St. Thomas was named lector for the priory at Orvieto, he was expected to expound a book of Scripture for the brethren. He had already begun work on Book III of the Summa contra gentiles, on divine providence, so to keep his work focused he looked for a book of Scripture that would allow him to lecture on divine providence.  Where to turn?
       His clue came from Maimonides, who devoted two chapters of his Guide of the Perplexed to the book of Job.  According to this venerable Jewish teacher, Job was written to explain the various opinions people hold about divine providence. Literal exposition of the book of Job was rare in the Christian tradition, but St. Thomas saw this as an opportunity to fill a gap. And so he set out to teach his fellow Dominicans about divine providence via the book of Job, declaring that “The whole intention of this book is directed to this: to show that human affairs are ruled by divine providence using probable arguments.”
       For today’s students of St. Thomas, this was a stroke of luck. Everyone knows that the artist flourishes under constraint: the poet’s creativity is unlocked, not diminished, by a rigid sonnet structure; the architect’s brilliance emerges especially under the demands of an unusual terrain; the painter’s genius rises to the challenge of a fresco where ceiling and walls dictate the contours. The same is true of a theologian. It is one thing to compose a treatise on divine providence in the open spaces of unshackled speculative reason; it is quite another thing to teach about divine providence through respectful engagement with the complicated, pungent, and often obscure poetry of Job.
       The result is one of St. Thomas’s most lyrical works, a book Jean-Pierre Torrell describes as “beautiful.” The dramatic situation and the nooks and crannies of the poetry elicit insights from St. Thomas that might never have come up any other way. 
The Commentary on Job is available from Amazon.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

“Fisher of Men” - A Paulist Vocation Video from the 1960s

Here’s an interesting thing which a friend pointed out to me, a vocation video from the Paulist Fathers. Their Youtube account describes it as from the early 1960s, but I think it must just a bit later, since the Mass is being said (sigh...) versus populum, and on something (deep sigh...) that doesn’t look much like an altar. The vestments (like the entire video) suggest that all-too-brief period during and immediately after Vatican II, when “engagement with the modern world” actually meant “engagement with the modern world”, rather than “accommodation to the modern world.” Particularly striking is the how the life of this fictional priest is so focused on mission, on bringing the true joy of the Gospel to non-Catholics, and leading them to Christ in His Church. (Those of us who are old enough to remember 1970’s television will recognize the actor Brian Keith, who played Uncle Bill on Family Affair, as the husband who does not want his wife to be Catholic, and it is interesting to note how the order is promoting vocations by showing that Fr Bergin does not shy away from a little righteous indignation at him for this.)


Solemn High Mass with Monks of Norcia at Wyoming Catholic College for the Feast of St. Andrew

On November 30, the students, faculty, and staff of Wyoming Catholic College enjoyed the privilege of hosting a visit from two of the monks of the monastery of Norcia, Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, the Prior, and Fr. Martin Bernhard. The monks, together with college chaplain Fr. Robert Frederick, celebrated a Solemn High Mass for the Feast of St. Andrew. The student Schola chanted the Propers and the student Choir sang Hassler's Missa Dixit Maria, Verdelot's "Sit Nomen Domini," Byrd's "Ave verum Corpus," and Tye's "Laudate Nomen Domini."

Fr. Martin preached a rousing homily on how the words of Our Lord calling St. Andrew to drop everything and follow Him were not just spoken 2,000 years ago, but are spoken to us every time this Gospel is proclaimed in the liturgical action. Our Lord is calling young men and women in this very church to follow Him in a life of radical dedication, even a life of poverty, chastity, and obedience for the Kingdom of heaven.

Later in the afternoon, the monks led second Vespers for the feast, and met with men at the College who are discerning religious life.

We were delighted to have Fr. Benedict and Fr. Martin on campus (it was the third time monks of Norcia have come!) and we hope to welcome them or any of their confreres back again whenever they are next traveling anywhere near the Cowboy State.











Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Relics of St Andrew

In the traditional Roman Breviary, the life of St Andrew the Apostle ends with the statement that “When Pius II was Pope, his head was brought to Rome, and placed in the basilica of St Peter.” This statement gives no idea of what an extraordinary event the translation of this relic was in the life of the Church at the time.

St Andrew is traditionally said to have died in the city of Patras on the northwestern coast of the Peloponnese, which was usually called “the Morea” in the Middle Ages. In 357, under the Emperor Constantius, his relics were brought to Constantinople, and remained there until the city was sacked during the Fourth Crusade, when they were brought to the Italian city of Amalphi; his head, however, had remained at Patras.

(Each year, for the feast of St Andrew, the reliquary kept in the crypt of the Duomo of Amalphi is taken out for a long procession though the city, and then returned to the church in a rather remarkable fashion, as seen in this video.)


In the later years of the Byzantine Empire, the Peloponnese was made into its own principality within the Empire, ruled by relatives of the Emperor, and called the “Despotate of the Morea.” (“Despotes” in Greek simply means “prince.”) The last two princes, Demetrius and Thomas, were the brothers of Constantine XII, under whom the Great City fell to the Turks in 1453. The Morea, however, was not immediately invaded, and the despotate continued to exist for seven years afterwards. Partly as a gesture to gain the Latin Church’s support for a new Crusade to drive the Turks out of Greece and the Balkans, partly to prevent the relic of the Apostle’s head from being destroyed in the by-then inevitable invasion, the despot Thomas decided to consign it to Pope Pius II.

Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was known as one of the great men of letters of the Italian Renaissance, although much of his writing as a layman, and most of his personal life, would hardly suggest a man fit for the clerical state, much less the Papacy. However, after years of involvement with important matters of both Church and State, he underwent a profound moral conversion; after receiving the subdeaconate in 1446, he was made a bishop about a year later, a cardinal by 1456, and elected Pope in 1458. His papal name “Pius” was chosen as partly in reference to his secular name “Aeneas”, since Virgil constantly calls the hero of his Aeneid “pius Aeneas.”

Pope Pius II Canonizes St Catherine of Siena, from the famous Piccolomini library in the cathedral of Siena, by Pinturicchio, 1502-8. Pius was born in a small town within the territory controlled by Siena, where his family became especially important upon his election to the Papacy, and he was particularly proud of the fact that he was able to canonize a great “home-town hero” among the Saints. The proper Office of St Catherine still used to this day in the traditional Dominican Breviary was composed by him.
We may be tempted to dismiss this as no more than a clever literary reference from an age very much enamored with clever literary references, but this would be unjust. The Latin word “pius” means “one who fulfils his duty”, duty to God, to one’s country, and to one’s family, and therefore, among its many meanings are “pious, devout, conscientious, affectionate, tender, kind, good, grateful, respectful, loyal, patriotic.” Under the heading of the last of these, Pope Pius died while attempting to rally the Christian princes to the defense of Europe, as the Turks prepared to press further into the Balkans, and cross the Adriatic into Italy.

Under the heading of the first two meanings, “pious and devout”, Pope Pius devoted several pages of his autobiography to the events surrounding the reception of St Andrews’ head. After the despot Thomas had rescued the head from Patras, he brought it to Ancona, a major Italian port on the Adriatic, protected by its presence from severe storms during the crossing. Pius’ legate was sent to examine it, and declared it authentic, after which it was brought to the city of Narni, and left there for a time on account of political and military disturbances then flaring up in Italy. When these had died down, preparation was made for it come to Rome; the Pope had thought to go meet it by bringing with him the heads of Ss Peter and Paul which were kept in the Lateran, but gave up on this idea because the reliquary in which they were enclosed was too heavy to conveniently move.

The high altar of St John in the Lateran; in the enclosed area above may be seen the reliquary containing the skulls of Ss Peter and Paul. (These are not the reliquaries which Pope Pius II found too heavy to move, which were likely destroyed during the sack of Rome in 1527, but later replacements. Image from Wikipedia.)
On Holy Monday, the Pope and his court, along with an enormous crowd of Romans, went forth from the Flaminian gate to meet the three cardinals charged with bringing the relic from Narni, close to the Milvian bridge, the site of Constantine’s famous victory so many centuries before. A large platform was erected in the middle of a field, so that all could witness the event, with two staircases on either side, and an altar in the middle. As Pius II describes the event, “as the Pope ascended the one side, weeping with joy and devotion, followed by the college (of cardinals) and the clergy, (Card.) Bessarion with the two others ascended from the other side, bearing the small arc in which the sacred head was contained, and set it on the altar… the arc was then opened, and Bessarion, taking the sacred head of the Apostle, weeping, handed it to the weeping Pope.” Pius then gives his address before the crowd.

“Thou hast finally come, most sacred and adored head of the Apostle! The furor of the Turks has driven thee from thy place; thou hast fled as an exile to thy brother. … This is kindly Rome, which thou seest nearby, dedicated by thy brother’s precious blood; the blessed Apostle Peter, thy most holy brother, and with him the vessel of election, St Paul, begot unto Christ the Lord this people which stands here. Thy nephews, all the Romans, venerate, honor and respect thee as their uncle and father, and doubt not of thy patronage in the sight of God. O most blessed Apostle Andrew, preacher of the truth, and outstanding asserter of the Trinity! With what joy dost thou fill us today, as we see before us thy sacred and venerable head, that was worthy to have the Holy Paraclete descend upon it visibly under the appearance of fire on the day of Pentecost! … These were the eyes that often saw the Lord in the flesh, this the mouth that often spoke to Christ! …

We are glad, we rejoice, we exult at thy coming, o most divine Apostle Andrew! … Enter the holy city, and be merciful to the Roman people! May thy coming bring salvation to all Christians, may thy entrance be peaceable, thy stay among us happy and favorable! Be thou our advocate in heaven, and together with the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, preserve this city, and in thy devotion take care for all the Christian people, that by thy prayers, the mercy of God may come upon us.”

The Pope then lifted up the head for all to see, and the entire crowd knelt, most of them already moved to tears by the Pope’s oration. The relic was brought to the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, just inside the gates of Rome; from there, it was carried on Holy Wednesday under a golden processional canopy through the streets of the Eternal City to St Peter’s Basilica, accompanied by thousands of Romans and pilgrims.

Less than 50 years later, Pope Julius II would begin the process of tearing down the ancient basilica of the Vatican, which was then close to twelve centuries old, and in several places on the point of collapsing under the weight of its own ceiling. The new basilica, not the work of Pope Julius’ original architect, but of the genius of Michangelo, is centered upon a massive elevated dome, directly over St Peter’s tomb. The base is pierced with enormous windows to show us that St Peter is God’s privileged instrument, who opens for us the doors of Heaven with the keys which Christ gave him, and that it is through Peter that God brings us up to Himself. The four enormous pillars which support the dome are each dedicated to one of the church’s major relics, among them the head of St Andrew, which was kept in a room behind the balcony seen here above François Duquesnoy’s statue of the Apostle. (In 1966, this relic was returned to the custody of the Orthodox Church in the city of Patras.)

The pillar of St Andrew in St Peter’s Basilica. (Image from Wikipedia)

Melkite Liturgy on Campus of UC Berkeley, This Saturday 5pm

Fr Sebastian Carnazzo of St Elias Melkite Catholic Church, Los Gatos, California (http://www.steliasmelkite.org/), has instituted an Outreach Divine Liturgy on the campus of University of California, Berkeley, which will be held this Saturday, Dec 3rd, at 5pm, in the Gesu Chapel of the Jesuit School of Theology, 1735 Leroy Ave., in Berkeley.

An Outreach Divine Liturgy is the first stage towards the establishment of a weekly mission. Please pray for this endeavor, and if you are able to, make plans to attend. Dinner will be provided afterwards.

I shall be attending myself, and we would love to see you there, especially any UC Berkeley students and professors!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fostering Young Vocations (Part 4)


And I will go unto the altar of God, to God who giveth joy to my youth.

EF Sung Mass for Immaculate Conception in British Columbia

Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, will have a Sung Latin Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Thursday December 8, at 7 p.m. The church is located at 3141 Shaughnessy Street.


The Scandal of the Missing Haloes! A Case of Chronic Halo-tosis?

Observant readers will have noticed that in a recent post, I showed an icon of the Transfiguration in which the three Apostles do not have haloes, both as they are led up to and down from the mountain.


This puzzled me. Just when you think you might have a consistent picture of what went on you always find an anomaly. I was under the impression that Saints are always shown with a halo, even in scenes which portray a moment in history before they are fully united with God in heaven. This is the heavenly reality, which touches all of time, bursting through on the historical reality.

But there is something else to be taken into consideration. We become saints - sons and daughters of God who partake of the divine nature - in baptism. It is the action of the Holy Spirit that effects this, and for the Apostles this did not occur until Pentecost. So it makes sense for images of them in the time before Pentecost to be without haloes.

The icon above is Russian, painted in the 15th century; the one below is a 12th century icon from Mount Sinai.

So I started to look at more icons of the Transfiguration, and found that this was not unusual. Although sometimes they are portrayed with halos, more often they were not. Then I noticed that the same was true for icons of the last supper. Although some have them, many do not, many do not.



The same is true for the Apostles’ Communion.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Forthcoming Issue of Sacred Music

Sacred Music vol. 143 no. 3 will soon be arriving in mailboxes. The articles contained therein are:


Editorial
Melisma by William Mahrt

Articles
Shunning the Hermeneutic of Discontinuity and Rupture: Richard Joseph Schuler as Liturgist by Duane L.C.M. Galles
Music for the Ordinariates’ Divine Worship: The Missal by Helen Harrison

Repertory
A Commentary on the Traditional Proper Chants of Holy Thursday by Ted Krasnicki

Review
Sacred Choral Works by Peter Kwasniewski by SusanTreacy 

News 
Southeast Summer Sacred Music Workshop by Maria Rist

To become a member of the Church Music Association of America and begin receiving Sacred Music, among other benefits of membership, click here

Book Notice: In Sinu Jesu. When Heart Speaks to Heart: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer

Angelico Press is one of the few Catholic presses today for whose new releases one could envisage having a standing subscription and not be disappointed with each title as it comes in the mail. Even so, Angelico occasionally outdoes itself by publishing a book that soars above and beyond the normal expectations of readers, a book that (in a sense) redefines and enlarges those expectations. Such a book has just appeared: In Sinu Jesu. When Heart Speaks to Heart: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer.

It will be difficult to describe this work of mysticism in any way that remotely does justice to the contents. Someday I hope to do a full and proper review, but for now let it suffice to say that it is a book of words received from the Lord, His Mother, and other saints during Eucharistic adoration, words which are largely about adoration (in its narrow and broader senses) but which, in keeping with this sacramental focus, also extend to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Divine Office, the ministerial priesthood, the prayer of the clergy, the religious, and the laity, and the interior and exterior dispositions necessary for seeking and attaining intimate union with God. To describe it to someone who has not yet had the privilege of reading it, I would say something like this: imagine a fusion of St. Gertrude the Great, St. Therese of Lisieux, and Bd. Columba Marmion.

I don't often say this kind of thing because I prefer not to over-recommend, but given what a special message this book holds for priests in particular, I urge the clergy who read this announcement to get a copy of In Sinu Jesu and bring it for spiritual reading to Eucharistic adoration, or simply before the Blessed Sacrament reserved. Judging from the reactions of many other priests who have had the chance to read parts of the manuscript over the past several years, it is a book that can work wonders. I highly recommend it for religious and laity, too, because the message of In Sinu Jesu applies to Christians in every state of life. People should also consider giving this book as an Advent or Christmas gift to their local priest(s).

Below is the announcement from the publisher's site.

*          *          *
In 2007, Our Lord and Our Lady began to speak to the heart of a monk in the silence of adoration. He was prompted to write down what he received, and thus was born In Sinu Jesu, whose pages shine with an intense luminosity and heart-warming fervor that speak directly to the inner and outer needs of our time with a unique power to console and challenge.

The pages of this remarkable record of spiritual communication range across, and plunge into, many fundamental aspects of the spiritual life: loving and being loved by God; the practice of prayer in all its dimensions; the unique power of Eucharistic adoration; trustful surrender to divine providence; the homage of silence; the dignity of liturgical prayer and the sacraments; the mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; priestly identity and apostolic fruitfulness; the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in our lives; sin, woundedness, mercy, healing, and purification; the longing for heaven and the longed-for renewal of the Catholic Church on earth.

Given the harmony of its content with the teaching of Sacred Scripture, Catholic Tradition, and well-known works of the mystics, it is eminently fitting that In Sinu Jesu be published in full at this time (it has been granted the imprimatur). Passages from this journal have already influenced the spiritual lives of priests, religious, and laymen. May it now give light and warmth, consolation and renewed conviction, to readers throughout the world.

328 pages, 6 × 9 in
Paper: ISBN 978-1-62138-219-5 (at Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk)
Cloth: ISBN 978-1-62138-220-1 (at Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk)
E-book for Kindle

Praise for In Sinu Jesu
"In Sinu Jesu recounts the graces experienced in the life of one priest through the healing and strengthening power of Eucharistic adoration. At the same time, it issues an urgent call to all priests — and, indeed, to all Christians — to be renewed in holiness through adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament and consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix of All Graces. It is my fervent hope that In Sinu Jesu will inspire many priests to be ever more ardent adorers of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, and thus find the strength and courage to show forth the Face of Christ in the midst of our profoundly secularized society." HIS EMINENCE RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta

"Reading In Sinu Jesu has opened my heart to a deeper awareness of what occurs when I spend time before the Savior hidden and revealed in the Holy Sacrament. This can be summed up in one word: Friendship. Deep consolation and a renewed gratitude for Him as He draws His friends to Himself — these are the fruits of following the meditations of this book. It will fill hearts with encouragement and joy." FR. HUGH BARBOUR, O.Praem., Prior, St. Michael's Abbey of the Norbertine Fathers

"Upon my first reading the words of the Journal of a Priest at Prayer, a seed was planted deep within me. The words spoken to him in the intimacy of the chapel bring such comfort, courage, and light  a longing to be with the Lord, gazing upon and adoring His Eucharistic Face and offering ourselves and our lives in reparation for sins against Love. I rejoice that the Lord has chosen this moment in time to share His desire for Eucharistic adoration through the publication in its entirety of In Sinu Jesu." FR. DAVID ABERNETHY C.O., Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri, Pittsburgh

"In Sinu Jesu has the power to inflame the desire for Eucharistic adoration. It is a powerful expression of Our Lord's thirst to draw us deeper into His friendship, to heal wounds, and thus to renew the Church. For several years now its inspired words have accompanied me in my priestly ministry: attracting, comforting,strengthening, and touching my heart whenever I am in danger of forgetting my 'first love.' May this book cause a revolution of Love and conquer many hearts!" FR. JOACHIM SCHWARZMÜLLER, Krefeld, Germany

"In Sinu Jesu is a beautiful and powerful work saturated with the kind of contagious love and holiness that can only come from reclining — like His beloved disciple — upon Christ's breast, hearing Him whisper words of consolation and encouragement for us all. Its pages breathe a Johannine spirituality that welcomes also the Blessed Mother into our homes and hearts, drawing us toward more intimate, joyous union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." KEVIN VOST, Psy.D., author of The Porch and the Cross

"We sometimes dismiss the interior voice, thinking that because it is within, it must be our own. But does God not dwell deep within us? Can he not speak, then, to the heart? This listener has heard Christ invite priests and all the faithful, back to the Sacrament of Love. He has heard a call to draw near to the place where Christ tabernacles in the midst of his people, there to adore the Eucharistic Face of Christ. Here the power bestowed in the sacrament of orders is strengthened for a more selfless ministry." DAVID W. FAGERBERG, University of Notre Dame, author of Consecrating the World

Sunday, November 27, 2016

2017 Dominican Rite Calendar (Corrected)

I have made some corrections in the Dominican Rite Calendar for 2017 and this revised version is now available on the left sidebar at Dominican Liturgy.  You can download it at the link called "Dominican Rite Calendar 2017."  Or download it directly here.  The major change is the addition of memory of the American blessed Francis Xavier Seelos on October 5.  I have also added information to make it easier to find the ferials in the missal.

Advent and Christmas Meditation on Art and Scripture

Pontifex University is now offering a free short course, An Advent and Christmas Seasonal Meditation as a promotion for its new Masters in Sacred Arts. It is a meditation in art and scripture for these seasons through to Epiphany, taught by Fr Sebastian Carnazzo and myself, using a method that we have developed for the scripture classes in the MSA program.

Each day, Fr Carnazzo, an experienced scripture scholar who, for example, spent several years teaching FSSP seminarians in their seminary in Nebraska, gives a short meditation on the Gospel account of the Nativity.

Fr Carnazzo is also pastor at the Melkite Church of St Elias, in Los Gatos, California, and has a deep knowledge of the icons of the Church, which he connects to the Scripture. I offer additional “artistic sidebars” on certain feast days during this season, and on major feast days we discuss the art together. As a result, this is simultaneously a Scripture class that uses beautiful art to communicate truths beyond words, and so increase our grasp of the Word, and an art class that explains the Scriptural roots of the icons of the Church.

Most importantly, we connect all of this to the worship of God in the sacred liturgy where, one hopes, it will deepen our encounter with Him during this wonderful time in the Church year. It includes an encouragement to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in your domestic church, and even offers suggestions on how families can sing the psalms as they do so.


Question: why would we be considering the Baptism of the Lord during this seasonal meditation? And who are these figures on fish in the Jordan? And the significance of the rock that Christ is standing on? Answers can be found for free...if you sign up for the course! To go to the MSA catalog page and sign up for the free course: An Advent and Christmas Seasonal Meditation

Gerrit van Honthorst, 17th century, Dutch. The Adoration of the Shepherds.

The First Sunday of Advent 2016

The Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary, a Virgin espoused to Joseph, proclaiming to Her the Word, and seeing the light She was afraid. Fear not, Mary; thou hast found grace before the Lord. * Behold, Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son, and He shall be called the Son of the Most High. V. The Lord God shall give Him the throne of David, His father, and He shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. Behold, thou shalt conceive, ... Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. Behold, thou shalt conceive ... (Third responsory at Matins of the First Sunday of Advent.)

The Annunciation, by Pietro Cavallni; part of the apsidal mosiac in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, 1296-1300
R. Missus est Gabriel Angelus ad Mariam Virginem desponsatam Joseph, nuntians ei verbum; et expavescit Virgo de lumine: ne timeas, Maria, invenisti gratiam apud Dominum: * Ecce concipies et paries, et vocabitur Altissimi Filius. V. Dabit ei Dominus Deus sedem David, patris ejus, et regnabit in domo Jacob in aeternum. Ecce concipies... Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spirítui Sancto. Ecce concipies...

Friday, November 25, 2016

St Catherine of Alexandria in the Counter-Reformation

The acts of St Catherine of Alexandria tell us that she was a noblewoman of immense learning in all the sciences, who at the age of eighteen went to the emperor Maximin Daia (305-312) to reprove him for his persecution of the Church, denouncing the worship of the false gods of the pagans. Unable to respond to her himself, Maximin had her imprisoned, and then brought a group of fifty philosophers to explain to her the folly of Christianity; all of these she converted to the Faith, for which they were put to death. Catherine was returned to prison, where she was visited by the empress and a captain of the emperor’s troops named Porphyry, both of whom were also converted, and soon after martyred. Catherine was then condemned to die by the famous spiked wheel which has long been known as her emblem, but which broke apart on touching her; like so many Saints whom Nature itself and the persecutors’ devices refused to harm, she was then beheaded. As the traditional Collect of her feast states, her body was carried by Angels to Mount Sinai, where first a church, and later the famous monastery were built in her honor.

An icon of the Presentation of Mary, with St Catherine on the far left. (Greek, 18th century). In the Byzantine Rite, the Entrance of the Virgin in the Temple is one of the twelve Great Feasts, most of which are kept with both a Forefeast and Afterfeast, broadly the equivalent of a vigil and octave in the traditional Roman Rite. Afterfeasts vary in length, and those of the Virgin’s Presentation and Nativity are the shortest, only four days, the final day being known as the Leave-taking; the Leavetaking of the Presentation therefore coincides with St Catherine’s feast day. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by shakko.) 
She became one of the most popular Saints of the High Middle Ages beginning in the 11th century, when some of her relics were brought to the French city of Rouen. Innumerable churches and chapels were dedicated to her, she appears in an extraordinary number of paintings and statues, and her feast day was kept in many places as a holy day of obligation. She has long been honored as a Patron Saint of philosophers and theologians, orators and preachers, (and hence especially by the Dominicans, who kept her feast with an octave until the early 20th century,) but also of women in religious life, students of every sort, millers and wheelwrights. In France, her prestige was very much enhanced by the fact that she was one of the Saints who spoke to St Joan of Arc. She is honored in the Byzantine Rite with the title “Great Martyr”, and named in the preparation rite of the Divine Liturgy; in the Ambrosian Rite, her name was even added to the Canon of the Mass in the later 15th century.

It is painful to relate that no aspect of the life of St Catherine as given in her acts can be considered trustworthy. Just to give one of many possible examples, she is named as the “daughter of a king named Costus”, even though Egypt in the early fourth century was a province of the Roman Empire, and had had no king for over three-hundred years. There is no mention of her in the wealth of Egyptian Christian literature for several centuries after her death, or in the various accounts of pilgrims to the monastery on Mt Sinai, which was not originally named for her.

By the time the Roman Breviary was revised after the Council of Trent, scholars had long known that many of the well-known and loved stories of the Saints were not historically reliable. Thus we find several of the Virgin Martyrs who were very popular in the Middle Ages, such as Ss Barbara, Margaret of Antioch and Ss Ursula and Companions, reduced from full offices of nine readings in the Breviary of 1529 to a mere commemoration in the Breviary of St Pius V. Even Ss Cecilia and Agatha, who are named in the Canon of the Mass, were originally kept at the second of three grades; only Ss Agnes, the Roman martyr par excellence among women, Lucy (a rather random choice), and Catherine of Alexandria were kept at the highest grades.

Virgo inter Virgines (The Virgin Mary among the other holy virgins) by the anonymous Netherlandish painter known as the Master of the St Lucy Legend, ca. 1490. The holy Virgins are Ss Apollonia, Ursula, Lucy, Dorothy, Catherine (receiving a ring from the baby Jesus; her red cloak is covered with her symbol, the wheel,) Mary Magdalene, Barbara, Agnes, Margaret, Agatha and Cunera, patron of the Rhenen area near Utrecht, said be one of the 11,000 companions of St Ursula. (Click image to enlarge; click here for a complete explanation of the icongraphy.)
The Breviary of St Pius V, first published in 1568, was revised in the last decade of the century, and a new edition published in 1602. Pope Clement VIII had entrusted the task of correcting the Saints’ lives to the great Cardinal Cesare Baronius, also the principle editor of the first Tridentine edition of the Martyrology. Among Baronius’ collaborators was St Robert Bellarmine, one of the most learned men of his age, who is supposed to have said in regard to St Catherine, “I wish I could believe that she existed.” In his History of the Roman Breviary, Mons. Pierre Batiffol notes (p. 216) that Baronius often refused, against St Robert’s advice, to alter some of the popular legends, despite the historical problems associated with them; and that he noted of St Catherine specifically, “Her history contains many things which are repugnant to the truth.” Nevertheless, her Office was left unaltered, and remained in the same form until the Breviary revision of 1960.

It was certainly a goal of the Tridentine reform of the Breviary to remove from the Church’s public prayer anything that might offer the Protestants a pretext for attack or ridicule. (Baronius was well aware of this problem, and also produced a massive history of the Church, covering the first 12 centuries, in response to Protestant controversialists.) The question therefore arises as to why a Saint whose life was subject to serious doubts, even on the part of the very revisers of the Breviary, was not merely included in it, but celebrated in one of its most prominent feasts.

In part, we may simply say that scholars must at times take their lesson from the devotion of the people, and accept what they may perhaps not understand. (It is interesting to note in this regard that St Catherine was abolished in the Novus Ordo, but restored to the general calendar by Pope St John II.) But there are three aspects of the story of St Catherine that are particularly significant to the Counter-Reformation, which certainly contributed to the preservation of devotion to her.

The first is her role as the Patron Saint of philosophers, which comes, of course, from the story told above of her converting the fifty men sent to dissuade her of her Christian faith.

The second is her role as patron of women in religious life. This arises from the story that Maximin offered to take her on as a second wife or mistress, and even honor her as a goddess, if she would renounce the Faith. To this Catherine replied “It is a crime even to think of such things. Christ has taken me to Himself as a bride; I have joined myself to Him as a bride in an indissoluble bond.” Other virgin martyrs like Ss Agnes and Agatha also speak of themselves in similar terms, but for whatever reason, it was seen as especially important in Catherine’s case. Therefore, she is very often represented, both before and after the Counter-Reformation, receiving a wedding ring from the infant Christ as He is held by His Mother, joined to him in a mystical marriage, although this is not specifically said in the text of her acts commonly read in medieval breviaries, nor in the Golden Legend.

The Mystical Marriage of St Catherine, by Guercino, 1620
The third reason has to do with her place among the Fourteen Holy Helpers. In the 1499 Missal of Bamberg, the Collect of a Votive Mass in their honor reads as follows:
Almighty and merciful God, who didst adorn Thy Saints George, Blase, Erasmus, Pantaleon, Vitus, Christopher, Denis, Cyriacus, Acacius, Eustace, Giles, Margaret, Barbara and Catherine with special privileges above all others, so that all who in their necessities implore their help, according to the grace of Thy promise, may attain the salutary effect of their pleading: grant us, we beseech Thee, forgiveness of our sins, and with their merits interceding, deliver us from all adversities, and kindly hear our prayers.
The words “according to the grace of Thy promise” refer to the tradition that during their passion, each of these Saints received a promise from God that their intercession would be exceptionally effective on behalf of those who honored them. Thus, the third antiphon of Lauds in the proper office of St Catherine reads “I await the sword for Thee, o Jesus, good king; set Thou my spirit in Paradise, and show mercy to those who keep my memory.” To this Christ answers in the fourth antiphon: “A voice sounded from heaven: ‘Come, my chosen one, come, enter the chamber of Thy spouse; thou hast obtained what thou asked; those that praise thee shall be saved.” And the fifth concludes, “Because we keep the memory of thee, o virgin, with devout praises, pray for us, we ask, o blessed Catherine.”

In these three roles, as Patron Saint of philosophers, as a bride of Christ, and as a Holy Helper, St Catherine stands out as a perfect response to the novelties of the Protestant reformers.

After serving for many centuries as the “handmaid of theology,” from the Fathers to Boethius to St Thomas, and particularly after the great scholastic conquest of Aristotle, philosophy, and indeed reason itself, were cast out by Martin Luther as “the Devil’s greatest whore… who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom…” And likewise, “Aristotle is the godless bulwark of the papists. He is to theology what darkness is to light. His ethics is the worst enemy of grace. He is a rank philosopher, … the most artful corrupter of minds. If he had not lived in flesh and bones, I should not scruple to take him for a devil.” As for St. Thomas, “he never understood a chapter of the Gospel or Aristotle … In short, it is impossible to reform the Church if Scholastic theology and philosophy are not torn out by the roots with Canon Law.” St Catherine therefore serves as an example of the Church’s true tradition, one who successfully used philosophy in the preaching and teaching of the Faith.

St Catherine and the Philosophers, from the Castiglione chapel in the Basilica of St Clement in Rome, by Masolino da Panicale, 1425-31. Note how she calmly counts off her reasons for believing the Christian faith, as the philosophers look in confusion in different directions. “We firmly confess this to thee, o emperor, that unless thou shall show us a more likely sect than these which we have followed hitherto; behold, we all convert to Christ, because we confess Him to be true God and the son of God.” (from the Sarum Breviary). At this the emperor orders them to be burnt alive, as seen on the right.
The Protestants also completely rejected any kind of monastic or canonical religious life, leaving no formal place at all for women in the institutional life of the Church. (Luther himself, like so many disaffected religious, married a former nun, whose name, ironically, was Catherine.) The tradition of Christ accepting her in a mystical marriage would therefore validate the institution of consecrated life in general, but particularly for women.

Finally, as a Saint renowned for her powerful intercession on behalf of many classes of people, St Catherine stands with countless others in the “cloud of witnesses” against the early Protestant rejection of devotion to the Saints, and their power to intercede for us in this world.

Even within Luther’s lifetime, it was hardly possible to get two Protestant reformers together to agree on any point; hence, the famous dispute at which he carved “EST – it is” into the table, in reply to Zwingli, who was quite certain that the Lord was only kidding when He said “This IS my body.” Broadly speaking, however, they generally accepted that things had really gone wrong in the Church with the coming of the mendicants, (especially the Franciscans), and the flourishing of their teachings in the universities. Although the life of St Catherine may no longer be regarded as historical, it still bears witness to the Church’s historical belief, before the emergence of the mendicants, in the goodness of reason and philosophy, in the value of consecrated life, and the intercession of the Saints on our behalf.

First Ever Greek-Catholic Liturgy in Bangkok, Thailand

We received the following report from Mr Ryan Kullavanijaya, a Romanian Greek-Catholic born and raised in the U.S., but currently living in his paternal homeland of Thailand, concerning the recent celebration of the first ever Greek-Catholic Divine Liturgy in that country. Photos below courtesy of the Greek-Catholic Society of Thailand, reproduced with permission from their Facebook page. We congratulate them on their efforts to spread the Gospel though the beauty of the Byzantine liturgical tradition, and pray for their continued success.

Through the prayers of the faithful in Thailand and of many supporters abroad, I worked with several others to launch the Greek Catholic Society of Thailand here in Bangkok in 2014. Slowly but surely, we have been able to reach out to many Thais and foreigners alike here, teaching them about our Catholic Faith and inviting them to pray with us. Nevertheless, this was purely a lay apostolate with little oversight or support by the clergy.

Yet, in a miraculous turn of events, we were informed (via an Indonesian friend in Australia) that at least four Greek Catholic priests of the Redemptorist Order were attending international meetings this year in Pattaya, Thailand. After playing phone tag with the priests to learn their liturgy schedule, a small contingent of our Society made the journey to Pattaya to meet these priests and to attend their liturgies.
Preparation Rite for the Liturgy in Bangkok
While in Pattaya, we invited the priests to Bangkok to celebrate the Divine Liturgy and to meet our small but growing community. After making some changes to their schedule and securing the permission of their superiors, three of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Redemptorists agreed to come and scheduled their liturgy for November 20th.

Our Society launched a large media campaign via Facebook, our blog, and word-of-mouth. In less than a week, hundreds of people around the world had heard about our upcoming liturgy and passed the word on to others as well. Even so, only about 10-15 individuals confirmed their attendance directly to us or via the official Facebook event.

We baked prosphora, translated the liturgy propers, printed bulletins, and made other preparations for about 50 attendees, just in case the number more than doubled. When November 20th came, we were shocked to discover that roughly 70 souls turned up to attend the liturgy and to worship the Trinity with us. Ukrainians, Americans, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Thais, and others attended the liturgy and were overjoyed to have the opportunity to participate in a Byzantine Rite service. As this was the first known Greek Catholic liturgy in Bangkok (and the first ever public Divine Liturgy anywhere in Thailand), it was new and mysterious to many, but everyone took to it quite well!

To add success to success, we also had several Orthodox Christians visit the liturgy. One has been undergoing catechesis with us for almost one year now, and he was formally received into the Catholic Church during the liturgy through sacramental confession and profession of Faith (public recitation of the Nicene Creed). Glory to God for all things!

A new set of Eucharistic vessels bought for the occasion.
The Little Entrance
The Epistle read in Thai

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