Tuesday, September 18, 2018

First Ordinariate Mass to be Celebrated in Connecticut on Sept. 29

Our thanks to Sarah Rodeo, music director at St Francis Catholic in New Britain, Connecticut, and a member of the Ordinariate Fellowship of Connecticut, for sharing with us this information about the upcoming first Ordinariate Mass in her state.

For the first time, the Divine Worship (Ordinariate) Form of the Roman Rite will be celebrated in the state of Connecticut, on Saturday, September 29th at 6:30 pm, at St Joseph’s Church in New Haven. This Mass is the culmination of the efforts of the Ordinariate Fellowship of Connecticut, a group looking to form a mission of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter in the state of Connecticut.

A professional SATB quartet and organist will sing and play William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus), and his Ave Verum Corpus as a communion motet; four traditional English hymns (processional, offertory, communion and recessional - all verses will be sung, of course!); the psalm rendered in four-part Anglican chant; David Burtt’s English plainsong propers (psalm-tone based settings of the introit, gradual, offertory and communion antiphons), and an English translation of Credo III.

The Mass will be fully sung, including the responses, lessons, collects, etc., be celebrated ad orientem, with Communion received kneeling and on the tongue, the Sprinkling Rite at the beginning and the Last Gospel at the end. Of course, there will be no lay Eucharistic ministers, and the altar servers, crucifer and thurifer will all be men. We love these and other Tridentine inflections, especially the Ordinariate’s requirement of the use of the Roman Canon at all High Masses.

The liturgy must be good, true and beautiful, because the God we worship is good, true and beautiful; our Fellowship greatly appreciates the Elizabethan style of the Divine Worship Missal, in which the beauty of the English language is on full display. The King James Bible is one of the great English masterpieces, and together with the Book of Common Prayer, contributed enormously to the development of our literary tradition. We believe that this “heightened” form of English, which is different from our everyday vernacular, provides us with a sacral language (Latin still being our official sacred language) that is appropriate and fitting for the worship of God.

Before the Council of Trent and the promulgation of the Roman Missal of 1570, the Mass took numerous forms; one of these was the English Use of Sarum, which, along with other pre-Reformation English liturgical elements, informs much of the Divine Worship Missal. In our post-Summorum Pontificum age, the Roman Rite takes on various forms, through the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, and now through the Divine Worship Form. Thus, we see the Divine Worship Mass as yet another local “use” of the same standardized Roman Rite of the universal One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In Anglicanorum Coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI called the “liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion... a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” with the rest of the Church. We plan to do exactly this.

We can be reached at OrdinariateCT@gmail.com, and our Facebook group can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1782111635137581/. Please keep us in your prayers, and may God bless you.

Faith and Freedom: the Antidotes to the Plastic Culture and Brutalist Despair

People care about culture, and many feel that there is something wrong with that of our contemporary society. In my assessment, the reasons can vary. We live in a culture that is mixed, and people who are critical of it may be responding to different aspects of it. The cultural Marxists, who dominate the media, our educational institutions, and Hollywood, seem driven to eliminate all aspects of what remains of traditional Western culture, which is Judeo-Christian; while many Christians dislike what is replacing the traditional Western culture. And yet, both of these groups who seem to hate so much of what they see around them will label what they dislike a capitalist culture. I suggest that what is good in the world come from the influence of a traditionally Catholic culture, and is consistent with it. I too see a lot about the evolving culture around us that seems to me to be bad and ugly...

...but I don’t blame capitalism, industrialization or mass production for any of it. I see them as forces that amplify and propagate powerfully the underlying forms of the existing culture, for good or ill. In my view, the ugliness of culture - which shuts out the beauty of the Faith and the beauty of God - arises from any force that restricts faith and freedom. First amongst these are our own failures to be faithful, and to be examples that encourage others to be faithful too, followed by any ideologies that stand against these principles, of which cultural Marxism is one of the most strident today.

What is culture?

A culture is the emergent pattern of activity associated with a society of people that manifests and in turn sustains and nurtures the core beliefs, values and priorities of that society.

We can apply it to a society or nation, or to subgroups within in a society: cafe culture, drug culture, youth culture, Christian culture, Western culture, secular culture.

Here are two cafes with very different cultures, the one you would rather have a cup of coffee at says something about you and the culture it represents.

Why do people care about culture?
People care about the culture because they see instinctively that it reflects and influences a worldview. We naturally desire a culture that reflects our own views, and when we see one, we see it as something pleasing, it reassures us, for we feel at home in the world. When, on the other hand, we see a culture that speaks of a worldview that is different from ours, we feel alienated. For the believer, when a culture reflects a pattern of activity that is consistent, generally, with a faith in God, we see it as beautiful.

Culture both reflects and influences a worldview
Culture not only reflects attitudes, it tends to influence people at a deep level too. The more we see it, the more we like it. So when the culture reflects my values, I am reassured not only because it affirms my own beliefs by telling me that others believe it too, it also reassures me that it will be like this in the future, for it reinforces those values in society as a whole.

This is why culture is a battleground - or it ought to be. I say that because although the cultural Marxists are fighting for it, and seem to have successfully occupied the powerful institutions of our country - education, the news media, and especially entertainment - those interested in Faith and Freedom seem to abstain from the fight and have handed the open field over to them.

Culture comes before the law
Political and legal battles are won long before issues get to elections or the courts. Beauty is our secret weapon. It has the potential to sidestep prejudice that would exist if we used reason alone; its tendency, which can be resisted, is to draw people to the Good, those values that we associate with a free and fair society, and ultimately to God. If we want to win the battle against the culture of death, we must fight as well as the battle for the culture of beauty.

More about culture - it is a pattern that emerges as we see the whole, and which might not be apparent in the parts.
Emergence is the principle by which we see a pattern only, or at least most clearly, by looking at the whole, at the wider horizon, which is not apparent when we look at its details or parts. It a paradox that the pattern of the behavior of individuals is not a microcosm of the pattern of the whole society.

To illustrate the point, take a look at the Mona Lisa. Regarding the whole, we discern an image of a lady. However, each microscopic element of pigment in the paint that makes it what it is, is not in and of itself a mini-Mona Lisa. In fact, Leonardo could not begin to tell you anything about the mathematical function that describes the relationships between one particle of pigment and another. Rather, he looks at the whole and manipulates his impression of the whole, and as long as the whole has the desired result, he doesn’t care what’s going on at the level of the particular. In fact, we would probably find that nobody could describe the structure of the Mona Lisa that way.

And when we look at the individual particles and the relationships with the other particles around them, we simply cannot say what sort of picture it is part of. The relationship between the two is not apparent.

Look at this arrangement of Lego bricks, can you tell what it is? Notice how every piece is distinct and if you consider the relationships each one has with the surrounding pieces, each one is unique.

Yet when we step back and take a look at the whole, we see the following:

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Stigmata of Saint Francis, Appearing and Disappearing in the Liturgy

Saints following in the wake of the Cross...
In the traditional calendar of the Roman Rite, we find a marvelous “octave” of feasts beginning with the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on September 14 (commemorating the dedication of Constantine’s basilica of Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre on September 14, 335 A.D.) and ending on September 21 with the Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew, the tax collector whose sudden summoning by Christ (Matt. 9, 9) so perfectly illustrates the central rule of Christian conversion: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16, 24).

As is always the case with the slowly matured calendar of the Church, over the centuries feasts came to occupy the days in between, with a fittingness guided by Divine Providence.
  • In the 17th century, the Servites introduced as the patronal feast of their order the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, originally kept on the Third Sunday of September, and extended by Pius VII to the whole Church in 1817. It was raised in rank by St Pius X in 1908, and fixed to September 15 in 1911. The same day sees the commemoration of the martyr St. Nicomedes, who said to his persecutors: “I sacrifice only to the all-powerful God who reigns in heaven.” 
  • September 16 is the feast of SS. Cornelius and Cyprian. The former opposed the first anti-pope in Church history over, in essence, whether the power of the Cross is strong enough to erase even apostasy, and who translated the relics of SS. Peter and Paul to their places of martyrdom; the latter was an eminent bishop of whose writings St. Jerome says: “It is superfluous to speak of his greatness, for his works are more luminous than the sun.” Both were martyred on September 14. Joining these two (as a commemoration) are SS. Euphemia, Lucy, and Geminianus, for a total of five martyrs, in honor of the five wounds of Christ.
  • September 17 is the Impression of the Stigmata upon St. Francis, which occurred on September 14, 1224. Of this I shall speak more anon.
  • September 18 celebrates St. Joseph of Cupertino (d. 1663), a Franciscan who emulated his master in being attached to the Cross; indeed, he was given to participate in its exaltation through the gift of levitation (a connection explicitly made in the Collect). The Offertory antiphon of the Mass alludes to his having been misunderstood and calumniated, as well as to his response, which was to embrace further penances.
  • September 19 is the feast of St. Januarius and his six companion martyrs. The name Januarius is derived from janus, “gateway,” which reminds us that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross opened the gates of heaven to sinful mankind, and, moreover, that the Eucharist, which makes really present this same sacrifice, is in a way the font and apex of the other six sacraments.
  • September 20 is the feast of SS. Eustace and his three companion martyrs (wife and two children). St. Eustace, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, bears a double connection with the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. First, when St. Eustace was hunting a huge stag, it turned towards him and a crucifix was seen between its antlers; this precipitated his conversion and that of his family. Second, when returning from a military triumph under Trajan, he refused to thank the pagan gods for his victory, and for this, he and his family were arrested, thrown to the lions, and finally sealed in a red-hot brazen bull. On this day, too, in the unexpurgated old calendar, we find the Vigil of St. Matthew, which has for its Gospel St. Luke’s relation of the calling of Levi the publican.
  • Finally, September 21 is the Feast of St. Matthew, with his own narration of his conversion as the Gospel.
One may note, in passing, that the pattern of liturgical colors for these feasts as they settled into this week — red, white, red, white, white, red, red, red — gives us red five times (the number of the holy and bloody wounds of Our Lord) and white three times (in honor of the Most Holy Trinity whose grace is poured out to us through these wounds). Moreover, in this octave, a total of 21 saints are commemorated in a period that ends on the 21st of the month, which is 3 x 7, the numerological significance of which need hardly be dwelt upon.

In this way, as Michael Foley explains so well in his Sacra Liturgia paper “The Reform of the Calendar and the Reduction of Liturgical Recapitulation” [1],  the Church lingers over and deeply enters into the mystery of the Cross throughout this “octave,” allowing its light to play over us and pierce our flesh with its fear through a sequence of great witnesses of the power of this same Cross to convert, cleanse and burn, lift up and save. As is frequently the case with the old calendar, there is a sort of repeating echo of the main feast, as well as a crescendo to the next. One may grant a theoretical appropriateness to such a rhyming and reinforcing order, but when one experiences it by attending daily Mass throughout any of the numerous “octaves” of this kind found in the old calendar, one’s appreciation swells at how powerful a spiritual formation the old liturgy provides to the faithful.

I wish now, in honor of today’s feast, to turn my attention to one of the greatest miracles of the Middle Ages: the stigmatization of St. Francis of Assisi. Here is how the Fioretti or Little Flowers narrates the event:
The day before the Feast of the Most Holy Cross, as St. Francis was praying secretly in his cell, an angel of God appeared to him, and spake to him thus from God: “I am come to admonish and encourage thee, that thou prepare thyself to receive in all patience and humility that which God will give and do to thee.”
       St. Francis replied: “I am ready to bear patiently whatsoever my Lord shall be pleased to do to me”;  and so the angel departed.
       On the following day—being the Feast of the Holy Cross—St. Francis was praying before daybreak at the entrance of his cell, and turning his face towards the east, he prayed in these words: “O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask of Thee before I die; the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which Thou, sweet Lord, didst endure in the hour of Thy most bitter Passion; the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which Thou, O Son of God, wast inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.” And continuing a long time in that prayer, he understood that God had heard him, and that, so far as is possible for a mere creature, he should be permitted to feel these things.
       Having then received this promise, St. Francis began to contemplate most devoutly the Passion of Jesus Christ and His infinite charity; and so greatly did the fervor of devotion increase within him, that he was all transformed into Jesus by love and compassion. And being thus inflamed in that contemplation, on that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings; and this seraph with rapid flight drew nigh unto St. Francis, so that he could plainly discern Him, and perceive that He bore the image of one crucified; and the wings were so disposed, that two were spread over the head, two were outstretched in flight, and the other two covered the whole body.
       And when St. Francis beheld it, he was much afraid, and filled at once with joy and grief and wonder. He felt great joy at the gracious presence of Christ, who appeared to him thus familiarly, and looked upon him thus lovingly, but, on the other hand, beholding Him thus crucified, he felt exceeding grief and compassion. He marveled much at so stupendous and unwonted a vision, knowing well that the infirmity of the Passion accorded ill with the immortality of the seraphic spirit. And in that perplexity of mind it was revealed to him by Him who thus appeared, that by divine providence this vision had been thus shown to him that he might understand that, not by martyrdom of the body, but by a consuming fire of the soul, he was to be transformed into the express image of Christ crucified in that wonderful apparition.
       Then did all of Mount Alvernia appear wrapped in intense fire, which illumined all the mountains and valleys around, as it were the sun shining in his strength upon the earth, for which cause the shepherds who were watching their flocks in that country were filled with fear, as they themselves afterwards told the brethren, affirming that this light had been visible on Mount Alvernia for upwards of an hour. And because of the brightness of that light, which shone through the windows of the inn where they were tarrying, some muleteers who were travelling in Romagna arose in haste, supposing that the sun had risen, and saddled and loaded their beasts; but as they journeyed on, they saw that light disappear, and the visible sun arise.
       In this seraphical apparition, Christ, who appeared under that form to St. Francis, spoke to him certain high and secret things, which in his lifetime he would never reveal to any person, but after his death he made them known to one of the brethren, and the words were these: “Knowest thou,” said Christ, “what I have done to thee? I have given thee the stigmata which are the insignia of My Passion, that thou mayest be My standard-bearer; and as on the day of My death I descended into limbo, and by virtue of these My stigmata delivered thence all the souls whom I found there, so do I grant to thee that every year on the anniversary of thy death thou mayst go to purgatory, and take with thee to the glory of paradise all the souls of thy three Orders, the Friars Minor, the Sisters, and the Penitents, and likewise all others whom thou shalt find there, who have been especially devout to thee; that so thou mayst be conformed to Me in death, as thou hast been like to Me in life.”
       Then, after long and secret conference together, that marvelous vision disappeared, leaving in the heart of St. Francis an excessive fire and ardor of divine love, and on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ. For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails, as he had seen them on the Body of Christ crucified, who had appeared to him in the likeness of a seraph. And thus the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by the nails, the heads whereof were seen outside the flesh in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and the points of the nails stood out at the back of the hands and the feet in such wise that they appeared to be twisted and bent back upon themselves, and the portion thereof that was bent back or twisted stood out free from the flesh, so that one could put a finger through the same as through a ring; and the heads of the nails were round and black. In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unhealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St. Francis, staining his tunic and his drawers.
       And because of this his companions, before they knew the truth from himself, perceiving that he would not uncover his hands and his feet, and that he could not set the soles of his feet upon the ground, and finding traces of blood upon his tunic when they washed it, understood of a certainty that he bore in his hands and feet and side the image and similitude of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified. 
       And although he labored hard to conceal these sacred stigmata holy and glorious, thus clearly impressed upon his flesh, yet finding that he could with difficulty hide them from his familiar companions, and fearing at the same time to reveal the secrets of God, he was in great doubt and trouble of mind whether or not he should make known the seraphical vision and the impression of the sacred, holy stigmata. At last, being pricked in conscience, he called together certain of the brethren, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, and proposing to them his doubt in general terms, asked their counsel on the matter.
       Now among these friars there was one of great sanctity, called Brother Illuminato; and he, being truly illuminated by God, understood that St. Francis must have seen something miraculous, and said thus to him: “Know, Brother Francis, that not for thyself alone, but for others, doth God reveal to thee His secrets, and therefore thou hast cause for fear lest thou be worthy of censure if thou conceal that which, for the good of others, has been made known to thee.”[2]
Holy Mother Church took this advice of Brother Illuminato very much to heart, and decided to make known to all of her children the glory of the stigmata of St. Francis by impressing it upon the liturgical calendar, so that whosoever attended Mass on September 17, within the “octave” of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, would be reminded of this singular grace, this revelation of the secret hidden in God, that makes visible the invisible reality of Christian baptism, self-sacrifice, and configuration to Christ: “With Christ I am nailed to the Cross, and I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19–20).

Here is how my trusty old Saint Andrew Daily Missal of 1945 introduces the feast to the laity. This may safely be taken as typical of the simultaneously liturgical and hagiographical piety that the Liturgical Movement in its healthier phase sought to inculcate in the people:
Two years before his death, St. Francis retired to mount Alverno where he began a fast of 40 days in honour of St. Michael the archangel. And lo! in the midst of his meditation he saw a figure like a seraphim with six wings dazzling and burning, whose feet and hands were nailed to a cross. Aware that suffering is incompatible with the immortality of a seraphic spirit, he understood this to mean that he would become more like Jesus and bear his cross after Him, not by physical martyrdom, but by a mystical kindling of divine love. And in order that this crucified love might become an example to us all, five wounds resembling those of Jesus on the cross appeared on his feet, hands, and side. From the latter blood flowed abundantly. The facts were so fully authenticated later, that Benedict XI [re. 1303–1304] ordered them to be commemorated every year, and Paul V [r. 1605–1621] to kindle in the faithful the love of Jesus crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church.  (p. 1457)
Why was this feast removed from the general calendar during the Liturgical Reform in the late 1960s?

We know the official answers always given by professional reformers: it is an unnecessary duplication, since there is already a feast of St. Francis on October 4; it should be celebrated only by Franciscans as part of their internal calendar, and not by everyone; there are other stigmatists, so why should we privilege this one?; the calendar is too crowded already and needs breathing space; et cetera.

But as a friend of mine likes to say, “the explanation isn’t the explanation.” There is something more fundamental going on here. I can describe it in three related phrases: contempt for ecclesiastical tradition (in this case, a feast present in the annual liturgical calendar for about 350 years); contempt for devotion (in this case, the popular devotion to the Passion, the Five Wounds, and St. Francis himself); contempt for the supernatural and the miraculous (this is obvious throughout the reform).

Yes, of course there was a time when the calendar did not have this feast. But once the unheard-of miracle had taken place — the miracle that, in a sense, defines the Middle Ages, a miracle that is almost a second Incarnation, or a reduplication of Calvary in our midst — the Church could not react to it with calm indifference or bemused curiosity. This thing had to be recognized, accepted, celebrated, commemorated, permanently etched into her liturgical calendar as the very wounds of Christ had been burned into the flesh of Francis. And while there have been other stigmatists since the time of St. Francis, he was the first stigmatist of “later ages,” that is, long after the Apostle who had mysteriously said: “I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body” (Gal. 6, 17).

There is a tremendous difference between simply lacking a feast and getting rid of a feast that already exists. The kind of skeptical, rationalistic “reformers” who could strike the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis from the universal calendar once it had found an honorable place therein are enemies of the Catholic Faith, whose machinations must be fought with all our strength. It is hard to escape the conclusion that such reformers do not really believe in the power and mystery and holiness of the liturgy of the Church; for them it has become a sandbox in which to play around, not a Mount Calvary or a Mount Alverno we climb in humility and awe, bearing our cross, and uniting ourselves to His.

This is the sort of change that shows the infinite abyss separating the sensibility of the traditional liturgy from the “reformed” liturgy — a liturgy that with better reason should be called deformed, because it has been denuded of its richness, purged as much as possible of the scandal of the particular. The saints are still there, but they are reduced by the hundreds and pushed into the background by the artificial lectionary that marches on deafly, mechanically, heedless of the bright glory of the saints whose holy death and immortal life is worth more than all the paper of all the lectionaries in the world. It would be no exaggeration to apply to the difference between old and new the words that Abraham speaks to Dives: “between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16, 26).


[1] Liturgy in the Twenty-First Centuryed. Alcuin Reid (New York/London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 321–41.

[2] Quoted from Selections from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, ed. Peter Kwasniewski (Os Justi Press, 2016). This edition, available in paperback here and in hardcover here, contains reproductions of rare color and monochrome German illustrations from 1921, of which the images displayed above in this article are examples.

Friday, September 14, 2018

From the Archives - “Summorum Pontificum: An Act of Extraordinary Humility”, by Jeffrey Tucker

On September 14, 2007, the day that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum became legally active, Jeffrey Tucker, a long-time contributor to NLM and my predecessor as editor, published this brief essay. I make bold to suggest that it is worth a second read, and holds up quite well after the period of more than a decade that has subsequently passed.

At the beginning of the new millennium, Pope John Paul II prayed a prayer that sought forgiveness for many errors of the past, times when leaders and members of the Church have not lived up to Christian ideals. “We humbly ask for forgiveness for the part that each of us with his or her behaviors has played in such evils, thus contributing to disrupting the face of the Church. At the same time, as we confess our sins, let us forgive the faults committed by others towards us.”

In some ways, Summorum Pontificum extends this model of humility to address what will surely go down in history as one of the most imprudent and ill-conceived actions to follow any Church Council: the suppression of the traditional Roman Missal and the imposition of a new Missal that, in many respects, had not developed from the old, but rather, in crucial ways, represented a new creation entirely. This was most striking in its externals: Latin to the vernacular, strict rubrics to only vague guidelines, required prayers to more options than most people can keep up with. It was imposed without the proper preparations concerning music, rubrics, and other matters.

It came at a time of incredible cultural upheaval, so the dramatic change flung open the doors of sacred space to admit a blizzard of profane actions, words, and music. It was not entirely the fault of the new form, but the conditions under which it came about led millions of Catholics the world over to believe that the Faith had somehow undergone a kind of extreme makeover, and so every old doctrine and moral teaching came into question, unleashing a kind of chaos that persisted for decades. Orders of priests and nuns collapsed. Publishers went bankrupt. Mass attendance plummeted. Confessions fell. Traditional and beautiful churches were gutted to make way for the new. Treasures were thrown out. New forms of architectural outrages were given free reign.

And what of those who long for the Mass of old? In the new sociological environment following the Council, they were made to believe that they were inferior members of the Church, not with the times, rebellious to authority, and hopelessly outdated. They were ridiculed and caricatured, psychologically tormented merely for believing what they had been taught to believe. They were told that there was only one choice: conform to the new or leave. Many left, demoralized and confused. Those who persisted in saying and attending the old Mass occupied a confusing status within the law of the Church, most famously the order of St Pius X. There developed an atmosphere resembling a witch hunt for “traditionalists,” who were told that they must learn to loathe the old and praise the new. Pastors and bishops treated regular Catholics who ask for the old usage as unworthy of serious consideration.

This environment, so clearly untenable and unsustainable in retrospect, lasted nearly forty years, if you date its beginning to the promulgation of the new Mass. Finally this year, Pope Benedict XVI intervened with the only real answer to the problem: not half measures, or vague permissions, but the complete liberalization of the old usage. He gave all priests in the Roman Rite permission to use the old Missal in public and private, with very few qualifiers, and went a step further to clarify that that the ordinary form of the Mass should not be regarded as something wholly new, but part of the same Roman Rite of the ages. The decision concerning the form resides at the parish level, consistent with the idea of subsidiarity. This action ended, in one fell swoop, the wholly misconceived error of the suppression of old forms. It was an act of extraordinary humility for a Pope, an admission of error in judgment. In many ways, then, this Pope has picked up on a theme from the last Pope; for this he deserves our deepest gratitude. It is a model we should all follow in our lives.

The Exaltation of the Cross 2018

Prótege, Dómine, plebem tuam per signum sanctae Crucis ab ómnibus insidiis inimicórum omnium: ut tibi gratam exhibeámus servitútem, et acceptábile fiat sacrifícium nostrum, allelúja. (The Offertory of the Mass of the Holy Cross.)

Protect Thy people, o Lord, by the sign of the Holy Cross from all the snares of all enemies, that we may offer Thee a pleasing service, and our sacrifice be acceptable, alleluja.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Fearlessness of St John Chrysostom

On the calendar of the Ordinary Form, (and, as I have noted previously, nowhere else) today is the feast of St John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople [1] from 397 until 404, when he was unlawfully deposed from his see. He was one of the first four Eastern Fathers to be officially recognized in the West as a Doctor of the Church, along with Ss Athanasius, Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzen. The epithet “Chrysostom” means “golden-mouthed”, since he has always been honored as one of the greatest preachers in the Church’s history. In 1908, Pope St Pius X declared him the Patron Saint of orators and public speakers, a role in which he is needed now as perhaps only very rarely before in the Church’s life; I attended a Mass on this day many years ago, the celebrant of which repeatedly called him, both while reading the prayers and in the sermon, “St John Christendom.”
Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s great cathedra in St Peter’s Basilica, in which the throne of Peter is supported by two Latin Doctors, Ambrose and Augustine (with miters), and two Greek Doctors, Athanasius and John Chrysostom.
There is a popular notion that with the coming of Constantine and the end of persecution, the Church somehow sold its soul in part or whole to the Roman Empire. The falsity of this was demonstrated long ago by GK Chesterton, who was a convert from Anglicanism, and knew a state-owned church when he saw one. In the chapter of The Everlasting Man called “The Five Deaths of the Faith”, he rightly pointed out that the Creed of most of the early Christian Emperors was not Christianity, but a version of it far more in keeping with the spirit of the age, that which we now call Arianism. Caesar did not usually appreciate the Church’s resistance to his dogmatic meddling, and persecuted the orthodox Fathers such as St Athanasius. St Eusebius of Vercelli, one of the great Western opponents of Arianism, is even honored as martyr, although he did not die a violent death, because he was hounded into exile by an Arian Emperor.

The same might well have been applied to John, who unlike Eusebius, died in his exile, both from the rigors of the journey and the terrible ill-treatment meted out to him; the date of his death was September 14, 407. In his case, Caesar’s wrath was provoked against him not by dogmatic issues, but by moral ones. The Empress Eudoxia was the wife of the famously useless Emperor Arcadius, a man wholly under the control of his ministers and court sycophants. Taking personal offense at John’s words against the immorality and extravagances of the nobility, she had already arranged once before for John to be exiled. He was swiftly recalled, partly because of the popular uprising in his favor, partly because a small earthquake in the city was seen as a sign of divine displeasure, especially by the highly superstitious Empress. However, when a silver statue of her was erected on a pillar in front of Hagia Sophia [2], the dedication of it was celebrated with a series of “games”, as the Romans called them, an immoral spectacle which also disturbed the liturgy. St John had often preached against public license of this very sort, even when a simple priest in Antioch, and did not hesitate to do so on this occasion well.

A mosaic of St John Chrysostom in Hagia Sophia, ca. 1000. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
His sermon began with the words “Herodias is again become furious; again she is troubled, again she dances; and again desires to receive John’s head on a plate.” [3] A synod full of bishops hostile to him and in the Empress’ control was convoked, and deposed him on a canonically invalid pretext, but he refused to relinquish his see. A particularly ugly episode followed in which soldiers were sent to drive the people out of the churches on Holy Saturday, resulting in no little bloodshed in the sacred places themselves. The order for the Saint’s banishment was finally and definitively issued during Pentecost week.

The Facebook page of the Bollandist Society, who have been publishing the Acts of the Saints since the early 17th century (with a notable interruption), today highlighted two paintings of St John preaching before the Empress Eudoxia. Both were done by French artists of the later 19th century, Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921) and Joseph Wencker (1848-1919). The commentary referred them both specifically to one of the most important events of the era, the conquest of the Papal State, and the subsequent “exile” of Pope Pius IX, who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Italy by setting foot on land which it illegally occupied. This is surely true, but broadly speaking, they may also be referred to the general situation of the Church in that period. Italy’s was not the only government hostile to the Church and seeking to reduce or destroy its influence by diminishing or destroying its institutions; this was also era of the German Kulturkampf, and the infamous French law of Separation of Church and State was soon to follow in 1905.

Laurens’ painting is the smaller of the two, but the more forceful. (See a higher resolution version here.) The Empress looks down with an expressionless face at the Saint, confident in her eventual triumph over him, but at the same time, she is almost lost in the trappings of her position, less distinct than St John in his white robes. (John also appears to be rather older than he should; historically, he was only about 55 at the time.) Both artists seem to accept the idea, common in their time, that churches in this period were “still” very austere; note that all of the decoration in both paintings is centered around the Empress, while the pulpits and the walls are very plain.
Jean Paul Laurens, 1872
Wencker’s version, on the other hand, is much larger (almost 14½ feet by 20), and he fills the space by showing the crowd in the church, the clergy, the nobility and the poor, and their varied reaction to his words. John is on eye level with the Empress, so that she has to look up in order to pretend not to notice him as he points directly at her.
Joseph Wencker, ca. 1880
[1] It was not until well after St John’s death that the title “Patriarch” was given to the archbishops of Constantinople, at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Even to this day, in the blessing at the end of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy which bears his name, he is referred to as “John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople”, as also in the liturgical calendar, whereas his Sainted successors after 451 are called “Patriarch.”

[2] Not the church which is seen in Constantinople today, a construction of the 6th century, but the original built by Constantine in the 4th century. At the news of John’s second exile, the city was wracked with riots, during which the first Hagia Sophia was burnt down; nothing now remains of it. Its replacement, dedicated in 415, was also destroyed by riots, a very popular pastime in Constantinople, in 532; the present structure was built very shortly thereafter, by the Emperor Justinian.

[3] In the original edition of his Lives of the Saints, Alban Butler wrote that “Montfaucon refutes this slander, trumped up by his enemies. The sermon extant under that title is a manifest forgery.” Modern writers, including Butler’s revisers, all seem to accept its authenticity.

Solemn Votive Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins in Patton, PA, Sept. 24

Queen of Peace Church in Patton, Pennsylvania, will have a solemn Mass in the traditional Rite on Monday, September 24th, a Votive Mass for the Forgiveness of Sins, preceded by a penitential procession, and followed by Benediction. The church is located at 607 Sixth Avenue; the first part, the procession, will begin at 7pm.

New Database Monitors Episcopal Fidelity, Including Support for Right Liturgy

LifeSiteNews, for which I am a daily columnist, has just launched an initiative called Faithful Shepherds. It is an idea that I have heard people speculate about for years and wish would come true, without having the organizational resources to make it happen. Needless to say, it is welcome at this critical moment in the life of the Church. From the official announcement:
Faithful Shepherds helps hold American bishops accountable by providing years, sometimes decades, of past tweets, public speeches, sermons, actions, pastoral letters, and diocesan guidelines. Faithful Shepherds currently gives evidence of where U.S. bishops stand on ten issues: Archbishop Vigano’s testimony, Amoris Laetitia, pro-life leadership, homosexuality, abortion politics, contraception, “LGBT” ideology, liturgy, marriage and family life, and education. More will be added as new evidence is gathered.
Like many other initiatives in our days, it depends on user-submitted documentation, as there would be no other way for a small organization like LifeSite to collect the data necessary to make this database really useful and comprehensive.

Readers of NLM will be interested in particular in the category of Liturgy:
A return to reverence in the liturgy has been called for by Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The harm of liturgical abuse has destroyed much of the Church. Since liturgy is the primary means of prayer it of primary importance to get it right. A return to Gregorian chant, communion on the tongue while kneeling, and ad orientem Masses are needed. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a document titled Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for a much wider use of the Traditional Latin Liturgy.
In these sentences, we see some of the most important issues on the basis of which any Catholic bishop's fidelity and reverence for the Real Presence of Our Lord must be assessed: true sacred music, proper reception of holy communion, eastward orientation, and generous provision of and for the traditional Latin liturgy.

I would urge NLM readers to submit evidence, particularly in the area of Liturgy [1], to help categorize the American bishops, as there are still very many who, in this new database, are marked “unknown,” yet are very well known, for good or for ill, by their flocks. If there is any lesson we are learning or should be learning, it is this: the lay faithful have two and only two recourses, earnest prayer and pushing very very hard for reform and accountability. Both are necessary; neither is superfluous. Even if the Lord relents and gives us a good pope someday, the active, continual, relentless contribution of the lay faithful will still be necessary for decades to come, due to the deep institutional corruption we are facing.

So, please, check out this website and submit such evidence as you can, in the form of tweets, speeches, sermons, actions, pastoral letters, or diocesan guidelines.

[1] To give an example: Blaise Cupich, when bishop in Rapid City, locked traditional Catholics out of their church so that they would be unable to celebrate Triduum services, which they ended up celebrating outdoors.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

New FSSP Apostolate Begins in Philadelphia

Our thanks to Mrs Alison Girone for providing us with these photos, and to Mr John Boyden for the write-up.

A new apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, at St Mary’s Parish in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, a few miles northwest of Philadelphia, began with Solemn Mass on Sunday, September 9. The church was founded in 1905 to serve the Polish community, with its current building constructed in 1950, but was merged with a neighboring parish in 2014. On April 8 of this year, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput approved the establishment of a quasi-parish at the site for those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, and invited the priests of the FSSP to minister there. Daily Mass is now being offered at St Mary’s at 7:15 am Monday through Thursday and Saturday mornings. On Friday evenings, Mass is at 6:30. Sunday Masses are Low Mass at 8:30 am and High Mass at 11 am. The church is located at the corner of West Elm and Oak Streets.

An impressive crowd of more than 500 showed up on the rainy morning to attend the inaugural Mass, which was celebrated by the new pastor, Fr Carl Gismondi, FSSP, assisted by his confreres Frs Gregory Eichman and Scott Allen. The ordinary of the Mass was Missa IX by Giovanni Battista Casali (1715-92), sung by a choir of 12 voices, while a Gregorian chant schola of ten assisted with the proper chants of the day.

New Collection of English Motets Adapted from Renaissance Masters

Heath Morber, Director of Music at St. John’s Catholic Chapel in Champaign, IL, has released his third collection (his previous two collections, Bread from Heaven and English Motets for the Church Year, have been reviewed here and here) in his English Motets series: Everlasting Joy in You: Two- and Three-voice motets of Orlando di Lasso adapted into English. All of the pieces, set originally in Latin, have been fitted with singable English translations for use in vernacular Masses.

Few Renaissance composers wrote extensively for smaller voice ensembles, but Lassus was a master of the duet. These bicinia have been studied in counterpoint classes for generations. His three-voice collection, however, is much lesser-known, but these trios are written skillfully and remain accessible to the average chorister.

All of the bicinia come in two transpositions, for SA-TB and for AT voicings. For the trios, Lassus mostly uses the unique voicing of STB, though there are a few settings that call for three equal voices.

The variety of texts ranges from complete psalm settings (Laetatus Sum) to New Testament excerpts (Qui Vult Venire) to the traditional post-meal blessing (Agimus Tibi Gratias).

This collection would be a wonderful addition to any music library in parishes where the vernacular is used but the beauty of polyphony is desired.

The book can be purchased here (samples can be found there, also).

Two selections from the book can be heard and seen below:

And some photos:

Photopost Request: Exaltation of the Cross 2018

Last year and the year before, the Exaltation of the Cross fell mid-week, and we didn’t receive enough submissions in either year to do a photopost. This year it falls on Friday, and it seems that in response to the appalling revelations of the last few months, a lot of churches have planned special events for September 14 and 15. (We have given notice here of several such events in the last few days.) We will therefore do one for the Exaltation if we get enough to justify doing one: please send your photos to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org for inclusion. As always, we are happy to include celebrations in either Form of the Roman Rite, any of the Eastern rites, and the Ordinariate rite, as well as Vespers and other parts of the Divine Office, veneration of relics, processions, etc. We will also include photos from the feasts of the Nativity and Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. 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 2015 photopost for the Exaltation of the Cross, veneration of a relic of the True Cross at the parish of El Sagrario in Lima, Perú.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

“The Imperative of the Imperium” - An Article on First Things by Shawn Tribe

I am sure that many of our readers saw an article recently published on First Things by Fr Jay Scott Newman of the diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, entitled “The End of the Imperial Episcopate”; it attracted a good deal of comment on the original site, and was linked by several of the major catholic aggregators. The jist of it was to argue that in response to the present crisis, (more accurately, the revelation of the depth and breadth of a crisis that has been going on for a very long time), the Church needs to divest itself of the vestiges of what it supposedly inherited from the Roman Empire, “(e)xalted titles and elaborate uniforms ... colored sashes, buttons, piping, and capes...”

His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kiev-Halych, wearing a black mantiya before entering a church for the celebration of the Divine LiturgyThe mantiya is similar to the Western cappa magna, but the use of it is not as restricted, since it may be worn by all members of the monastic clergy.
Yesterday, our founding editor Shawn Tribe published a response to Fr Newman, also on First Things, entitled “The Imperative of the Imperium”, in which he argues, correctly, in my estimation, that “the problems Newman describes in his piece are not caused by titles, dress, or the ‘imperium’—they aren’t even problems limited to bishops. These are personality probles founded in particular individuals and their particular psychological makeup—problems that will emerge whether they are wearing black, purple, red, white, or blue jeans for that matter. If we wish to eliminate these issues in the Church—as we all surely do—we don’t need to start searching for a new tailor, we need to start searching for a better screening process. ... If we want to successfully renew the episcopacy, the priesthood, and religious life, we need to do everything we can to accentuate and reclaim (their) identity and purpose—not enact reforms that minimize it even further. ” Click over to First Things to read the whole article.

All Night Vigil in Cincinnati, Sept. 14-15

The Cincinnati Oratory will keep a vigil on the night of Friday, September 14, in reparation for the sins of the clergy and hierarchy, for the victims of abuse worldwide, and for healing within the Church. It will begin with a solemn traditional Mass for the Exaltation of the Cross at 7:00 p.m., followed by an outdoor procession with a relic of the True Cross and a statue of the recumbent Christ. Following the Procession, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament will go on until 6:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, with a Low Mass in the traditional rite for the feast of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary at 6:45. Those who are interested in signing up for an hour of Adoration can do so by following this link: https://goo.gl/forms/QQWkERjYUHckRpmA3. The church is located at 118 East 12th Street.

The Rothko “Chapel” In Texas - It’s Not Christian, But Most of Ours Are No Better

And I Mean Most Traditional Churches Too! 

It is often claimed that the work of the abstract expressionist artist Mark Rothko can induce religious experiences in those who see them. Rothko said that this was what he was aiming for, and so many people have claimed to have had religious experiences as a result of contemplating his paintings, that some of those who love his art have designed a special gallery - the Rothko Chapel, in Houston, Texas - designed especially to enhance the experience of encountering these large-scale canvasses of floating clouds of color.

Is it possible that these paintings really do cultivate the virtue of religion? I am about to fulfill one of my teaching roles, as Visiting Fellow at Thomas More College in New Hampshire, by teaching an intensive week of the course The Way of Beauty, and as part of this we consider just this point, along with the validity of the styles of modern art as the basis of Christian art.

So we consider, for example, the work of Matisse - who was commissioned by Dominicans in France to do some paintings for a Catholic chapel, as well as Rothko’ Abstract Expressionist artist work.

Rothko particularly provokes interest. In the class, we look at the comments of the artists, of people who admire his work, of the critics and of those who attend the chapel (taken from the chapel website). The conclusion that we usually draw is that these works might have a psychological impact through color and shape, in much the same way that interior decorations influence mood, but that influencing emotion is not the same as a religious experience or even spirituality, as a Christian understands it. Therefore, we conclude, it is not a holy icon and cannot replace the images of our Lord, the Saints and so on necessary for worship. But, on the other hand, some say, we might consider painting the walls of parts of the church in some of the colors he uses if we thought it beneficial.

Here are some more pictures of Rothko’s work and of the Rothko Chapel, so you can see what we are talking about.

Rothko and modern art aficionados might be offended by our classifying him as a glorified painter and decorator, but it is not altogether negative! The use of color and decoration to influence mood in a particular way is important. I can’t believe, for example, that in the English College in Rome, such considerations did not influence the choice of fine works of marble, tiles and painted plaster in gold, Indian red, cobalt blue, and lime green.

But important as it is, the role of color and decoration is supplemental to that of the holy images placed into that setting. 
Or it ought to be. 
If we do not engage with those artistic images in the way intended, then they become just another part of the mood inducing decoration. This is, I fear, what happens in practice. 
Very rarely, the art in churches contributes no more to the liturgical engagement than the tiled floor or paintwork on the walls, and this is as true in my observation as many of congregations at the traditional Mass as it is of those at the Novus Ordo. Whether it is beautiful art which is ignored, while worshippers bury their noses in Missals, or ugly art that worshippers to their best to disengage from by keeping their eyes shut in prayer or directing their gaze downwards, the effect is the same. It contributes solely to the general impression of color and tone via peripheral vision, for good or ill.
No wonder the modern era of iconoclasm flourished! Why bother to have art in the church if it isn’t really part of what is going on. And how can we know what art is the best to choose if the people making the choice do not know how to engage with even the best art during the course of worship? To the degree that this describes the situation, we might as well be sitting in the Rothko Chapel after all. His canvasses might well contribute to mood as much as the tiled floor of the English Chapel in Rome, or the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
This has ramifications on our faith and on the culture. It is through the visual, tangible, audible and the smellable that our faith is made concrete. And the forms that encounter and engage with directly constitute the most powerful influence on Christian culture, sacred and profane. When our connection with the material in our worship is lost, on the other hand, we lose our sense of what a Christian culture is, and secular influences are sucked into the vacuum. 
My argument for the importance of re-establishing the practice of worshipping with visual imagery was made in more depth in an earlier article, here.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Scholarship on the Origins of the Stabat Mater

Eight years ago, I published at Dominican Liturgy three posts on the then-new discoveries about the origins of the Stabat Mater. As the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrow is coming up this week, I thought it would be useful to gather these earlier posts together.

I thank Fr. Innocent Smith O.P. for calling my attention to the original article, which  announced the discovery of the famous Stabat Mater being used as a sequence in the Gradual produced by a convent of Dominican nuns in Bologna in the later thirteenth century. This is by far the earliest known manuscript example of this hymn used as a sequence rather than as a devotional hymn. It has been commonly believed that the hymn only became used as a sequence in the late middle ages. It is also interesting that the melody provided matches neither the received Roman one nor that found in the printed Dominican books. This text is found in Bologna: Museo Civico Medievale MS 518, fo. 200v-04r.

The news was published in Cesarino Ruini, “Un antica versione dello Stabat Mater in un graduale delle Domenicane bolognesi,” Deo è lo scrivano ch’el canto à ensegnato: Segni e simboli nella musica al tempo di Iacopone, Atti del Convegno internazionale, Collazzone, 7-8 luglio 2006, ed. Ernesto Sergio Mainoldi and Stefania Vitale, Philomusica On-line, 9, no. 3 (2010). Those who would like the full text of the chant may find it at the end of this article.

For those who do not wish to read the article in Italian, here is the English summary:

The discovery of a Stabat Mater version set to music as a sequence in a late 13th-century Gradual from a Bolognese Dominican nunnery, makes it possible to advance new hypotheses about the origins and history of this renowned text. Untilnow there was no evidence that it was used as a sequence before the mid 15th century. The analysis of the piece highlights previously unidentified peculiarities regarding the historical and the liturgico-musical context in which it was used, whilst the comparison with the wealth of textual variants offered by its complex tradition points to concordances with later sources, mainly originating in Veneto and Emilia. As one of the earliest witnesses of this popular composition (there is only one other contemporary version, also from Bologna, but it is unnotated) there can be no doubt about its importance for textual criticism, and, inter alia, it does not favour the disputable paternity of Iacopone da Todi.

Here is the image of the manuscript with the beginning of the chant.

Careful readers will not that there are textual variants in this version as well. The Dominican Rite used by the friars added the Stabat Mater as a sequence on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows only in the 15th Century, thereby conforming the rite to the Roman, which had already added it. But the melody is not that of the thirteenth-century version. Here it is for comparison:

And here for additional comparison is the first verse with the melody as found in the 1961 Roman Gradual:

I would hope that some attempt will be made to use this chant.

The discovery of this manuscript, as explained in the article (in Italian) linked above, shows by the manuscript date that the traditional ascription of authorship to Jacopone of Todi can no longer be maintained. The date, however, leaves open the possibility, often mentioned, that it is the work of Pope Innocent III.

This new version is interesting for a number of reasons. First, this is the earliest use of the text as a sequence. Until the discovery of this version, it was only known as a hymn until the late middle ages. This manuscript shows that the earliest known use of the text as a sequence was among Italian Dominican nuns in the late 1200s.

Next, the text includes not only a number of verbal variants, but also includes two verses absent from the commonly received version. Those who wish to examine these can download my transcription and compare the text to the received version here.

Even more interesting is the music. As pointed out to me by the nuns of Summit NJ, this ancient sequence borrows, with the exception of one stanza, the melody (cf. verses 19 and 20) of the Sequence of St. Dominic in the Dominican Rite. There are a number of minor musical variants as well. Those interested might want to compare the music to that found in the Dominican Gradual for the Mass of St. Dominic.

Through the kindness of one of our readers who converted the PDFs of this music into JPGs, I am posting below the newly discovered 13th-Century Sequence version of the Stabat Mater for viewing by readers. The PDFs may still be downloaded here.

I am aware that these images are a bit blurry; if you click on them or download them, you will get a clearer image. Perhaps some Dominicans (and non-Dominicans) may want to make use of the ancient version on the up-coming celebration of Our Lady of Sorrows.

For Whom and For What Are We Praying at the Beginning of the Roman Canon?

The great Canon of the Mass — the one and only Anaphora traditionally found in the Roman Rite from before the time of Pope St. Gregory the Great (d. 604) down to the revolutionary year of 1968 — has long fascinated Catholic authors, who have written many commentaries on it. There is much to take note of, much to wonder about and ponder.

I have often been struck by the opening of the Canon:
Te ígitur, clementíssime Pater, per Iesum Christum, Fílium tuum, Dóminum nostrum, súpplices rogámus ac pétimus: uti accépta hábeas, et benedícas hæc + dona, hæc + múnera, hæc sancta + sacrifícia illibáta: in primis quæ tibi offérimus pro Ecclésia tua sancta cathólica; quam pacificáre, custodíre, adunáre, et régere dignéris toto orbe terrárum… 
We humbly pray and beseech Thee, most merciful Father, through Jesus Christ Thy Son, Our Lord, to receive and to bless these gifts, these presents, these holy unspotted sacrifices, which we offer up to Thee, in the first place, for Thy holy Catholic Church, that it may please Thee to grant her peace, to guard, unite, and guide her, throughout the world…
In these first lines, we find a combination of profound humility and earnest pleading that the Father would receive this most solemn offering of the Church and would make it, by His almighty paternal command, the unspotted sacrifices of Christ. (One notes the plural “sacrifices,” a sign of this prayer’s great antiquity, for the early Christians when referring to the Mass spoke of “the mysteries,” “the sacrifices,” and “the sacraments,” whereas later authors tend to speak of the mystery, the sacrifice, and the sacrament.)

The Canon thus gives a certain priority to the fact that this offering of the Mystical Body is being offered for the Mystical Body, and not in a vague way, but with respect to its hierarchical structure — something lacking in the newly-fashioned anaphoras that hold off on the ecclesial purpose of the offering until after the consecration. Indeed, the pseudoscholarly critics of the Roman Canon in the middle of the twentieth century complained that it began with the Church and her structure, rather than starting with something “more theological” like the Trinity, or “grander” like the plan of salvation, or “historically germane,” like the Last Supper. These criticisms show scant regard for the centrality of the Church as the very Body that is offering and is offered, in union with her Head and Lord, Jesus Christ, who became man in order to pour forth the Church from His wounded side; scant regard for the Church as the locus in which the mystery of the Trinity is revealed and glorified; scant regard for the Church as the underlying principle of continuity in salvation history, as St. Augustine demonstrated in The City of God. 

The scholarly balderdash from the late phase of the Liturgical Movement found its custom-made expression in the Cartesian clarity and distinctness of Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV. But I’d like to get back to the really interesting anaphora, which is intricate, difficult, mysterious, beautiful, and powerful, as archaic works of art tend to be.

The Roman Canon calls the Church “Thy holy Catholic Church.” She is the one and only Bride of the Lord — and yet the priest pleads with the Father to unite her, to guard and guide her, and to grant her peace. One would have thought that such petitions would not be necessary. Is she not already indestructibly one? Is she not perpetually guarded from harm and guided safely by Divine Providence? Could He ever abandon her? These are serious questions to ask at a time like this, when the unity of the Church on earth appears more shattered than ever, when harm to the People of God is widespread and obvious, and when the captaining of Peter’s barque seems scarcely better than that of the Exxon Valdez, with similar catastrophic results impending.

The Canon transmits a sobering doctrine here. It is not to be “taken for granted” that the Church will be well-governed on earth; that she will follow peacefully in the right path; that she will remain safe from the evils of ignorance, error, and sin; even that she will remain in visible unity — as if saying that “the Church is indefectible” means that your soul, your local church, or your regional anything is indefectible. Your soul and mine can be lost forever; your local church and mine can be swallowed up by Moslems, militant atheists, homosexual activists, or crippling civil action; your episcopal conference can fall off the cliff into open heresy. All this is well within the realm of possibility, just as branches can be lopped off of trees without the tree itself dying. The Canon says to us that peace, protection, unity, and wise governance are goods to be impetrated, petitioned and obtained from the Lord in His mercy, and by means of the Cross — not only by the Sacrifice of the Cross objectively represented in the Mass, but also by taking this Cross upon ourselves in our prayer, penance, conversion, and fidelity.

All of these goods are gifts from God, who may, in His wisdom and justice, deprive the Church on earth of the enjoyment of these goods if the faithful or their rulers should be so unfortunate as to be lukewarm in performing the opus Dei, or worldly in their attitudes, or cowardly in their preaching. The Church will always have real existence in this world until the end of time, but she may disappear from my life or yours, in my country or yours, in my national hierarchy or yours. Think of the bishops under Henry VIII who fell like bowling pins before his threats. In a matter of years, the hierarchy had essentially vanished.

As with ancient Christianity in general, so here in this Anaphora, there is an utter absence of presumption. The members of the Church on earth do not presume that they are already the perfect, spotless Bride of Christ; rather, they beg to have those qualities. (The same sort of prayer recurs in the “Domine, Jesu Christe” after the Agnus Dei: “Look not upon my sins, but upon the faith of Thy Church, and vouchsafe to grant her peace and unity according to Thy will.”)

The next thing we learn from the Canon is that the Sacrifice is offered for Catholics who hold the true faith, and that they are its beneficiaries:
…una cum fámulo tuo Papa nostro N., et Antístite nostro N., et ómnibus orthodóxis, atque cathólicæ et apostólicæ fídei cultóribus.
…in union with Thy servant N., our Pope, and N., our Bishop, and with all orthodox men: indeed, with those who cultivate [foster, promote, support] the Catholic and apostolic faith. [1]
Continuing the same petition, the priest states that he is offering up the sacrifice for the hierarchs of the Church, and, indeed, for all orthodox Catholics — an implicit prayer that we may always be and remain such.

Noteworthy here is the emphasis on doctrinal orthodoxy, which, for the ancient Christians who first prayed this prayer, was incomparably the first and most important thing you had to know about someone: Does he adhere to the true faith? Not: Is he a nice person, does he pay his bills and volunteer to coach football teams and recycle his garbage, but: Does he profess the universal faith that comes to us from the Apostles? Even the question of charity is secondary to this one, since true charity, the infused theological virtue, requires the infused virtue of faith as a foundation. Otherwise it is mere philanthropy, do-goodism, niceness, or pagan virtue, none of which inherits the kingdom of heaven. You cannot love what you do not know; you cannot love the only God that exists—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — if you do not believe in the Most Holy Trinity.

Hence the Roman Canon refreshingly places emphasis on orthodoxy as the basic condition of Church membership, instead of the diffuse semi-moral quasi-virtues that are substituted for it today. This part of the Canon teaches that the Holy Sacrifice is offered not vaguely for a universal brotherhood of mankind or an ecumenical smorgasbord, but for right-believing Catholics who profess the faith handed down to us. It challenges us to take dogmatic truth as seriously as all the saints have taken it, being willing to lay down our very lives rather than dissent from one jot or tittle of the depositum fidei. No sacrifice can be offered for our salvation, and we will not in fact be saved, if we are dissenters, heretics, schismatics, apostates, or infidels.

An archdeacon reading the diptych at Divine Liturgy
There is a further implication, one especially pertinent to our times. The Canon is not saying that the pope and the local bishop are orthodox, as if pronouncing these words of the Canon magically meant they could never fall away. Rather, it is praying for them as long as they are orthodox. That is, we offer the sacrifice “for all who are orthodox in belief and who profess the Catholic and apostolic faith.” If there were a bishop or even a pope who was not orthodox in belief and did not profess the Catholic and apostolic faith, this sacrifice would not be offered for him.

This is why, as we know, in the ancient Church it was common practice for bishops to strike off the names of other bishops who, in their judgment, had fallen away from the Faith into heresy. A bishop who had excommunicated another bishop would drop his name off of the diptychs, as if to say: We are not praying for you, and we will not pray for you until you repent and return to orthodoxy. This is the “tough love” practiced by the early Church, the heroic age of the martyrs, the greatest theologians, and the monks of the desert.

I am not sure exactly how bishops today could put into practice this supernatural common sense that regarded public prayer as offered only for the orthodox and not for heretics or schismatics, but it is certainly getting to be the case, more and more, that we can no longer assume that when we pray the Roman Canon, we are actually praying for the man who is occupying the chair of Peter or the man who is occupying the local see. We may dare to hope, but we may not assume.

Of course, until there is an ecclesiastical decision of some sort, such as the judgment of an ecumenical or even an imperfect council, God alone would know whether the Mass is able to be offered for the named figures, or whether they are outside of the Church that prays and is benefited by the prayers. The benefit of the doubt is always to be given to the recognized incumbent, until and unless he has been deposed or replaced.

The reader may be asking himself: What is the spiritual benefit of thinking about these things? The benefit is simply this. We must recognize, with full seriousness and sobriety, that the Church in her public prayer does not presume that she will be at peace, united, under good leadership, and heading in the right direction. She begs for it. And we must imitate her, we must internalize the same attitude. We are repeatedly and earnestly seeking these goods from the Lord in His mercy, and His answer partly depends on the faith and fervor with which we ask Him for them. We are warned by the Canon that without holding fast to the Catholic and orthodox faith, entire and inviolate, we cannot be saved, nor can our shepherds.


This morning during the chanting of the (traditional) Litany of Saints at the blessing of Mother Cecilia as the first abbess of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, I noticed these petitions, which confirm the interpretation offered above of the Roman Canon:

That thou wouldst deign to rule and preserve Thy holy Church, we beseech thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst deign to preserve the Pope and all the ecclesiastical orders in holy religion...
That thou wouldst deign to grant peace and unity to all Christian people..

The second of these petitions is especially interesting: we are asking God to preserve the Pope in the virtue of religion, or in keeping the Catholic faith. There would be no point in asking for this, if it were not the kind of thing that could be absent or lost due to men’s sins and God’s just judgment.


[1] As John Pepino pointed out to me, the atque is a strong conjunction that adds something (often a greater specificity) to what came before; it isn’t just a synonym for et. It’s as though the text says that we are in communion with all who hold the correct faith, and moreover, with those who actively promote the correct faith. This could well be an echo of the Arian crisis.

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