Friday, July 10, 2020

Reflections on Liturgical Language

Lost in Translation #7

Cicero Denounces Catiline, by Caesare Maccari, 1889

The other day I stumbled upon an old article by a priest critiquing the 2011 English edition of the Roman Missal. He used three criteria: exclusion, catechesis, and poor theology. (In case you were wondering, the orations of the Roman Rite “border on the heretical” because with their talk of merit they regularly contradict “our fully signed up [1999] agreement with the World Lutheran Federation on justification by faith and grace”!)

But it was the author’s argument about “exclusion” that caught my eye:
Only people of a certain background and a relatively high level of education can make any sense of [the new translation]. In your ordinary congregation, many are excluded: the young, people whose first language is not English, people whose education stopped after primary school or early in secondary school. Also excluded, as far as the responses go, are people who attend church only for baptisms, weddings and funerals. It has pushed some people finally to stop attending Mass at all.
I would love to see the good father’s empirical evidence of his final claim, and I hardly think that the entire worship of the Catholic Church should be specifically tailored to those who “attend church only for baptisms, weddings and funerals.” But what struck me most of all by the argument is the implicit assumption that elevated language is exclusive. Is it so?

In her 1938 study Rhetoric in the Sunday Collects of the Roman Missal, Mary Haessley writes that the three purposes of classical rhetoric--teaching, delighting, and persuading--are on full display in the Church’s liturgical prayer:
…all these devices of the art of language are necessary for us, for they enable us: (1) to grasp clearly the lessons embodied in the Prayers (docere); (2) to make these lessons more acceptable to us through the charm of diction and structure, in a word, through their appeal to our aesthetic sense (delectare); (3) to persuade us (movere) to mold our conduct in accordance with the principles of faith set forth in the Prayers. This explains why rhetoric is, and must be, found in the liturgy: it is to dispose us to pray “ut oportet,” as we ought to pray. (5)
And it is often through making diction and structure somewhat complex that that “charm” is produced. The complexity may, of course, engender some initial frustration, but that is intentional, for a little frustration goads the reader or listener to push on and figure it out. And when it is figured out, there is an “Aha!” moment that brings a delight greater than that which comes from understanding something easy. If adults only used baby talk, it might be effective, but it would not be delightful. “What is sought with some difficulty,” St. Augustine writes in On Christian Doctrine, “is attained with more pleasure.” And what is attained with more pleasure, we might add, has a deeper impact on our souls. The rhetorical goal of delighting is intimately bound up with the goal of persuading, of “molding our conduct.” And since one of the purposes of sacred liturgy is the formation of souls, liturgical composers are wise not to neglect this connection.

Used properly, then, elevated language does not exclude but extends to all an invitation to understanding, just as the dense imagery of poetry is not meant to rebuff but to awaken in the reader a deeper meaning. And just as poetry is not for the few (even if few today, alas, pay it any attention), neither is liturgical prayer, which by its very nature is solemn, public, rhetorical. There is something condescending about thinking of either poetry or sonorous public discourse as the purview of the elite.

Of course, if the entire liturgy were nothing but fancy rhetoric, it could become overwhelming. But the beauty of the Roman Rite (and the other apostolic liturgies) is its linguistic diversity. The Scriptural passages that comprise the Propers tend to be simple in diction and structure--with the possible exception of the Epistles of the rhetorically-gift Saint Paul. The Offertory Prayers, composed in the Middle Ages, betray a medieval love of elegant precision. And the Canon and Orations (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) are examples of courtly rhetoric at its finest. The Church employs an array of linguistic tools in an effort to catch and form souls.

But to follow a “lowest common denominator” approach and flatten all language during the most important and solemn act that man can make is both mystagogical suicide and a sin against the great gift of the tongue with which God has endowed us. It is also to deny the so-called uneducated an experience of beauty on the grounds that they are “too dumb” to appreciate it. That, to me, is the ultimate exclusion.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

A Digital Reconstruction of the Shrine of St Thomas Becket

Two days ago was the 800th anniversary of the translation of the relics of St Thomas Becket from the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral to a splendid new shrine in the main body of the church. This was one of the major religious events of the era, celebrated in the presence of King Henry III and many leading churchmen; in the Use of Sarum, it was commemorated by its own feast on July 7th, with the feast of the Holy Relics assigned to the following Sunday. It was of course the presence of St Thomas’ relics that made Canterbury such an important place of pilgrimage in medieval England, famously noted in the prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales:“And specially from every shire’s ende / Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende (went), / The hooly blisful martir for to seke (seek), / That (t)hem hath holpen (helped) whan that they were seeke (sick).”

Because Thomas had given his life to defend the independence of the Church from undue interference by the civil power, King Henry VIII had the shrine destroyed in 1538, and forbade all devotion to him, even requiring that every church and chapel named for him had to be rededicated to the Apostle Thomas. The place within Canterbury Cathedral where the shrine formerly stood has been empty ever since. In the last couple of days, a number of articles have popped up noting this very nice digital recreation of the shrine, which was originally posted to YouTube in February. Like the nearly contemporary shrine of St Peter Martyr and several others, the casket with the relics rests on top of an open arched structure so that pilgrims can reach up and touch or kiss it from beneath, without damaging the metal reliquary itself.

The same source provides another video which shows sick persons praying at the original burial site in the crypt, which continued to attract pilgrims even after the relics themselves had been moved to the upper church. (The same is true of the church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro in Pavia, where the original sarcophagus which held the relics of St Augustine is kept, although the relics were long ago moved to the main sanctuary.)

Organum Arrangements of the Salve Regina by Mark Emerson Donnelly

About two months ago, we shared a Renaissance polyphonic version of the Regina caeli arranged by composer Mark Emerson Donnelly, director of music at Holy Family, the FSSP parish in Vancouver, British Columbia. Now that we are in the last and longest part of the liturgical year, the time after Pentecost, the daily Marian antiphon has switched to the Salve Regina, and we thank Mr Donnelly once again, this time for sharing with us his two arrangements of it.

(Tenor/Bass & full choir, sung by OFFERTORIUM; for a PDF of the score, click here. Performance notes in the description on YouTube.)

From his recent newsletter: “After the Ave Maria, the most famous and well-beloved prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Salve Regina. As with the Ave, the Salve is both recited by Catholics in their native tongues and also sung in Latin to medieval Gregorian melodies. Though beautifully set to some very ornate, solemn and monastic tunes, the Simple Tone of the Salve Regina is, by far, the most popular.

The Salve Regina is the last of the four seasonal Marian antiphons sung over the liturgical year, prescribed for the Time after Pentecost. In that respect, it is kind of the perennial Marian antiphon, as we live in a perpetual time after that first Pentecost.

Although the Simple Tones of the four Marian Antiphons tend to be syllabic (one note per syllable of text), the ‘O dulcis’ at the end of the Salve provides a rare opportunity to employ a bit of polyphony in my Organum Novi Mundi style.

Since the Salve is the longest of the four, I chose to alternate two-part organum with four-part sections. My original thought was to alternate tenor & bass with full choir. However, if some ensembles wish to sing SATB throughout, I have doubled the tenor & bass parts in the soprano & alto. It is also possible to sing alternating SA with SATB, as below.

(Soprano/Alto & full choir, sung by OFFERTORIUM; for a PDF of the score, click here. Performance notes in the description on YouTube.)

On a curious note, it wasn’t until I was writing this newsletter that I realized I wrote the Organum Novi Mundi for two of the Marian antiphons, Ave Regina Coelorum & Regina Caeli, in the same year, 2001, and the remaining two, Salve Regina & Alma Redemptoris Mater, also in the same year, fifteen years later in 2016.”

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

The Hymns of St Elizabeth of Portugal

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal, who died on July 4th, 1336. When she was canonized in 1625, her feast was assigned ad libitum to the general calendar on the day of her death. Pope Innocent XII then made it obligatory in 1694, and reassigned it to July 8th so as not to perpetually impede a day within the octave of Ss Peter and Paul. The octave having been suppressed in 1955, the post-Conciliar reform returned her to July 4th.

St Elizabeth of Portugal, by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664), ca. 1635. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
Elizabeth was born into the royal house of Aragon in 1271, and named for her great-aunt, St Elizabeth of Hungary. At the age of 10, she was married by proxy to Denis, the King of Portugal; the official ceremony was held in 1288, when she was 17 and her husband 26. Although Denis was a wise and capable ruler who achieved many good things for his country during his reign of nearly half a century (1279-1325), his personal life was dissolute, as witnessed by the six illegitimate children he fathered with five different mistresses. He was often neglectful of his wife, but did not interfere with either her devotional life, which was very strongly centered on the liturgy (she recited the Office and attended solemn Mass daily), or her many charities, which are celebrated in the proper invitatory of her feast, “Let us praise our God in the holy works of the blessed Elizabeth.” Elizabeth herself prayed constantly for his conversion, which was achieved on his deathbed through a long and painful illness; she also cared for his other children, and worked to bring peace between him and their son, the future king Afonso IV, since Denis’ favor lay rather with his bastard Afonso Sanches.

After her husband’s death, she was professed as a member of the Franciscan Third Order, and retired into a private home near a convent of Poor Clares that she herself had founded at Coimbra. However, in 1336, she was called upon to intervene in a war between her son and his son-in-law, King Alfonso XI of Castile. Although the matter was settled peaceably, the effort of traveling in the summer heat led to her death; her remains were transferred to the Poor Clares’ church in Coimbra, where they rest to this day. She was beatified in 1526, and canonized in 1625.

The Pope who canonized her, Urban VIII (1623-44), is well-known to scholars of the liturgy for promulgating the famous (or infamous) reform by which the hymns of the breviary were mostly recast according to the meters and diction of classical Latin. This reform has been subjected to endless, and for the most part well-deserved, criticism, most succinctly in the famous dictum “accessit Latinitas, recessit pietas – Latinity (meaning, “good”, classical Latinity) came in, and piety went out.”

As Pope, Urban personally composed the hymns of three Saints whose feasts he extended to the general calendar, those of the Visigothic prince and martyr Hermenegild, the early Roman martyr Martina, and Elizabeth of Portugal. The two for the latter are, in my estimation, by far his most successful efforts, and indeed, rather better than the revision of the traditional hymns would lead one to expect. Although their meters are unusual, and therefore require new melodies to be sung, their vocabulary is mostly within the established usage of Christian Latinity, and devoid of the precious citations of classical poems that make the hymns of St Martina especially difficult to pray.

The hymn of Vespers and Matins, with a rather free translation by Fr Edward Caswall.
Domáre cordis ímpetus
Fortis, inopsque Deo
Servíre, regno práetulit.
Pure, meek, with soul serene,
Sweeter to her it was to serve
Her God, than reign a queen.
En fúlgidis recepta caeli
Sidereáeque domus
Ditáta sanctis gaudiis.
Now far above our sight,
Enthroned upon the star-paved
   azure height,
She reigns in realms of light;
Nunc regnat inter cáelites
Et premit astra, docens
Quae vera sint regni bona.
So long as time shall flow,
Teaching to all who sit
   on thrones below,
The good that power can do.
Patri potestas, Filióque
Perpetuumque decus
Tibi sit, alme Spíritus.
To God, the Father and Son
And Paraclete, be glory,
   Three in One,
While endless ages run.
A very nice setting in alternating polyphony and chant by the composer Matías García Benayas (†1737), without the 3rd stanza.

The hymn for Lauds includes a reference to a miracle which is also atttributed to several other Saints, including, more famously, her great-aunt and namesake of Hungary. The story goes that Elizabeth was surprised by her husband while carrying food to the poor in her skirts. Challenged to show that she was not once again exhausting the royal treasury by excessive charities, she opened the folds of her skirt, at which the king saw in them not food, but roses, and this in the middle of the winter, and so allowed her to go on her way. This story is very much out of keeping with what we know of King Denis’ character, and in this case is generally regarded as apocryphal. (English translation also by Fr Caswall.)

Opus decusque regium relí-
Elísabeth, Dei dicáta númi-
Recepta nunc beáris inter
Libens ab hostium tuére nos
Riches and regal throne,
   for Christ’s dear sake,
True saint, thou didst despise;
Amid the angels seated
   now in bliss,
Oh, help us from the skies!
Praei, viamque, dux salútis
Sequémur: O sit una mens
Odor bonus sit omnis actio,
Id ínnuit rosis operta cáritas.
Guide us; and fill our days
   with perfume sweet
Of loving word and deed;
So teaches us thy beauteous
By fragrant roses hid.
Beáta cáritas, in arce síde-
Potens locáre nos per omne
Patríque, Filióque summa
Tibíque laus perennis, alme
   Spíritus. Amen.
O charity! what power is thine!
   by thee
Above the stars we soar;
In thee be purest praise
to Father, Son And Spirit,
   evermore. Amen.

The Miracle of the Roses, 1735, by the Portuguese painter André Gonçalves (1685-1754; public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Fr Caswall (1814-78), by he way, was an Anglican clergyman who converted to Catholicism in 1847. After the sudden death of his wife in 1849, he entered the Birmingham Oratory in 1850; he was ordained priest two years later, and died in 1878. He was a talented poet, and many of his English translations of Latin hymns were incorporated by John Crighton-Stuart, the Third Marquess of Bute, into his monumental English version of the Roman Breviary, including these two.

The Feast of St. Dominic as an External Solemnity in the Dominican Rite

I have received an inquiry as to whether the First Class Feast of St Dominic, which in the Dominican Rite falls on August 4, may be celebrated on the following Sunday as an External Solemnity. The Dominican Rite Missal (of 1933 or 1965) contains no provisions for “external solemnities” as it was intended for use by Dominicans in our own priories. What about use in parishes? Years ago, the then liturgist of the Order, Fr. Pierre-Marie Gy, O.P., explained to a friar of my province that the principle to be applied is that, when the Dominican Rite rubrics are vague or do not treat a matter, recourse is to be made to the Roman Rite (here that of 1962) as the “mother rite.”

Here are the pertinent provisions of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (1962) in English:

V - Votive Masses on the External Solemnity of Feasts 356.
The “external solemnity” of any feast means the celebration of the feast without an office, for the good of the faithful, either on the day on which the feast is impeded, or on a Sunday when the feast occurs during the week, or on some other established day.

357. An external solemnity either belongs to a feast by right or is granted by a special indult.

358. An external solemnity belongs by right only to:
a) the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, on the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost;
b) the feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the rosary, on the first Sunday of October;
c) feasts of the 1st or 2nd class which are connected with some special liturgical service, if that liturgical service is transferred to a Sunday with the approval of the Holy See, only for the Mass which is celebrated in connection with the aforesaid liturgical service;
d) the feast of a duly constituted principal patron;
e) the anniversary of the dedication of the church itself in which the Mass is said;
f) the titular feast of the church itself;
g) the titular feast of the order or congregation;
h) the feast of the holy founder of the order or congregation;
i) feast of the 1st and 2nd class which are celebrated with an especially large attendance by the faithful; of this matter the local ordinary is the judge.

So, it is permitted to celebrate the Dominican Rite Mass of St. Dominic on the following Sunday. As a first-class Mass, the Sunday would not be commemorated by a second collect as first class feasts only permit an extra collects for “privileged memories” (e.g. ferials in Advent and Lent) and Sundays after Pentecost are not privileged. In addition, one should remember that an External Solemnity is a Votive Mass, not a transferred feast. So, if you have a celebration of St Dominic on the following Sunday, the Mass and Office on August 4 is still that of St. Dominic.

It might also be useful treat another question here as well. Can the celebration of the the major feasts in the U.S. that are not holy days of obligation, which are moved to Sunday in the New Rite, also be celebrated in Dominican Rite on the Sunday? These feasts are Epiphany, Ascension, and Corpus Christi. Following the same principle, as there is permission granted to do so by the Holy See in the rubrics of the New Missal, and that would be equivalent to the permission of 358c above, it is my opinion that they may be so celebrated. As holy days of obligation are matters of canon law, not rubrics, the current discipline as to Mass obligation applies, not that in force in 1962.

One final matter for those using the 1962 Dominican Rite Breviary: the Office is not transferred under the rubrics for an external solemnity. Rather, the Office of the proper Sunday is used, which would be the 10th after Pentecost (1962 Missal) or the 8th after the Octave of Trinity (1933 Missal). And the Mass and Office of the proper day of the feast remain those of the feast. And remember in any case that one is never obligated to celebrate an External Solemnity Votive Mass; such Masses are merely an option.

May God grant all the brethren his choicest blessings on the feast of St. Dominic, whichever day they celebrate it on.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Where Do I Start? A Pastoral Plan for Changing a Parish Music Program - & More!

In light of the current situation, many parishes are looking at an opportunity to introduce the sung proper chants in their Masses, change out old hymnals for new resources, or implement the chants of the Roman Missal. Where does one start when thinking about the best way to improve a music program? How can you bring people along, deepening their faith as the music program becomes more robust? As we wrap up season 2 of Square Notes, episode 19 with Dr. Mary Jane Ballou addresses these questions.
Episode 18 takes you behind the scenes of the exciting new Neumz project, its app, its largest-in-history recording project, and the life of the sisters at Notre Dame de Fidelité in Jouques, France. 
Episode 20, our final episode for this season, presents a homily by Dom Mark Kirby, OSB, founding prior of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, about the chants for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost. In it, you'll find a robust model for Lectio Divina and biblical exegesis when meditating on a chant. 

Episode 18 – 7000+ Hours of Gregorian Chant: Behind the Scenes at the Neumz Project – with John Anderson & Alberto Díaz-Blanco


Episode 19 – Where Do I Start? A Pastoral Plan for Changing a Parish Music Program – with Dr. Mary Jane Ballou


Episode 20 – Lectio Divina and Biblical Exegesis of Gregorian Chants for the 5th Sunday after Pentecost – with Dom Mark Kirby, OSB


Four Stained-Glass Windows: Can You Identify Which Evangelist is Which?

A reader sent to me these photographs of four stained-glass windows from his church. He says they are of the four Evangelists, but can find no information as to which one is which. I had a look and couldn’t be sure either, so I thought I’d put the question out to you. Can you identify, giving reasons, which of these windows corresponds to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

North windows
South windows
Each window was made at the Munich Studios in Chicago and installed in 1915. There is a set of twelve windows and eight of them are clearly identifiable as Apostles. These have no name attached to them nor any other clear identifying symbols or attributes that I can recognize. 
The first point I would make is that this demonstrates why, going back to the 9th century, it was an accepted practice that all images worthy of veneration should have both a clearly identifiable name (written in a language that would be understood those who see it) and have all the accepted attributes of the person. It was an Eastern theologian called Theodore the Studite who articulated these necessary conditions, based upon the criterion that we need to know a person. Here we see a very practical fallout of the neglect of this principle.
So here is the request: can anyone out there send me photographs of images that were made around the turn of the last century and are in this style, and which might indicate, therefore, the intentions of this artist? The ideal proof would be a similar set of stained-glass windows from the same studio in which each figure is clearly named.
We can speculate based upon what we see, but this is difficult. For example, there is a suggestion that because John is often portrayed as a young, clean-shaven man in Gospel scenes, the figure on the right in the north window is St John the Evangelist. 
This seems reasonable at first sight, it is common in the Western tradition in the last 500 years at least. Here are paintings of the four Evangelists by the 17th century Italian artist Guido Reni. This doesn’t help us identify the others very much. Perhaps we might say that if we knew that the Chicago artist was following the Reni schema that the left, south window is St Luke.

Matthew, left, and Mark, by Guido Reni
Luke, left, and John, by Guido Reni
However, we should bear in mind that even the portrayal of John in these cases doesn’t fit with the general portrayal of him in pictures, such as these which show the individual and which are more suited to the purpose of the veneration of the saint. According to the traditional iconographic prototype, he would be portrayed at a time closer to the end of his long life, and so we see him as an old man who is bald, with a long beard grey beard. The others would be portrayed as follows; Matthew has a full head of grey hair and a long beard, Mark has short dark curly hair, and Luke has a trimmed beard and short hair. A typical set of icons of the Evangelists is shown below. We know the artist’s intentions here because he has clearly written the names on the paintings.

For comparison, I show a Carolingian (Western) image of the four Evangelists dating from the 9th century.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Did the Reformed Liturgical Rites Cause a Boom in Missionary Lands?

This recent letter exchange may be of interest to NLM readers, as a sort of follow-up to my article last month “How the Traditional Liturgy Contributes to Racial and Ethnic Integration.”

Dear Professor Kwasniewski,

In my many discussions with fellow Catholics about the subject of the 20th century liturgical reforms, the objection often comes up that they directly coincide with the incredible explosion of Catholic faith in many parts of Africa and Asia.

I generally respond by saying that just because the totality of reforms may have had such positive impacts doesn’t justify any particular one of them, and a dispensation could have been allowed to use some vernacular in the Mass in mission territories without the enormous overhaul that was taken. However, I’m not sure this is a massively convincing response and wondered if you had ever given the idea some thought yourself? It seems like a gap in pro-Traditonal Liturgy discourse to me. It seems that for the legitimate points to be made about reverence, attendance, understanding, and so on deteriorating after the promulgation of the 1969/1970 Missal, one also has to take into account the positive fruits of the post-Conciliar era.

In Christ Jesus,
*       *       *
Procession in China in the 1950s
Dear N.,

African missions were experiencing considerable growth throughout the 20th century, including (as I’m sure you know) the missions of the Holy Ghost Fathers under the guidance of Archbishop Lefebvre. There is every reason to believe that this upward trajectory would have continued, quite possibly even stronger, had tradition not been derailed. There was no proof that the traditional Roman rite was incapable of being introduced and cultivated among natives of many lands, together with a reserved and sensible approach to inculturation, and some use of the vernacular, especially for readings and music.

On a darker note, the loosening up of doctrine and worship after the Council has allowed abuses to flourish in missionary lands, since a patient and persistent will to curtail and correct them was no longer operative: the mingling of pagan and Christian rituals and beliefs, polygamy, clerical concubinage, and so forth.

+Lefebvre in the Congo
The growth witnessed in recent decades can be accounted for demographically without the need to invoke Vatican II or the reformed liturgy as a primary cause. This would seem to be a classic case where the fallacy post hoc ergo propter hoc might be operative — a fallacy that has often been thrown in the faces of traditionalists when they argue that Vatican II and/or the liturgical reform caused, or prompted, a massive decline in religious practice, at least in the Western nations. The latter claim, however, is at this point beyond dispute, whereas the claim that Vatican II and its reforms prompted the growth of churches in other parts of the world is by no means easy to argue. (Indeed, whether any good can be attributed to this Council has been the subject of intense conversation lately, prompted by writings of Archbishop Viganò and Bishop Schneider; links and discussion may be found here.)

Catholicism in Asia was generally experiencing steady growth in the 20th century with traditional modes of worship intact. Case in point: in China, the persecuted underground Church remained strong with the TLM until the late 1980s, when the Novus Ordo was first introduced with the collusion of the Communist Party. The situation in China today certainly cannot be said to be superior to what is was before. The Vietnamese were just as devout and single-minded in their Catholicism under tradition as under novelty, and today many who have rediscovered the TLM love it.

Chinese Trappists, 1947
As the book The Case for Liturgical Restoration argues (see especially chapters 25, 31, and 32), the Far Eastern mentality, broadly speaking, is well-suited to the contemplative ceremoniality and symbolism of the TLM (one need only think of the famous Japanese tea ceremony). Put differently, the novel aspects of the Novus Ordo that some modern people find appealing are the same aspects they will find — albeit usually more successfully — in Protestant Evangelicals and Pentecostals. It is therefore hardly surprising that Third World countries have experienced an explosion in conversions to (and, tragically, Catholic defections to) such Protestant sects. There are, needless to say, many other factors as well, such as a drift away from preaching the Word of God and fostering sound popular devotions, into alignment with socialist political programs. For those who are seeking God, for those who want to be saved by Christ, this will be a major turn-off.

It is true that a concession for some use of the vernacular was sought by some missionaries (although we may note that a large number of bishops at Vatican II spoke up against vernacularization), and there is no particular reason to think that this concession is necessarily a bad idea. However, there is much in the Catholic liturgy that remains constant from day to day; that content should certainly remain in Latin (for further argumentation, see, e.g., here, here, and here).

In my new book Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright, I say the following (p. 12, n. 3), which I think is relevant to the topic at hand:
That there have been a few saints after and under the Novus Ordo does not prove that it is equal in its sanctifying power to the traditional Latin Mass, just as the fact that some demons can be expelled by the new rite of exorcism does not contradict the general agreement of exorcists that the traditional Latin rite of exorcism is far more effective. At most, such things prove that God will not be thwarted by churchmen or their reforms. As theologians teach, God is not bound to His ordinances: He can sanctify souls outside of the use of sacraments, even though we are duty-bound to use the sacraments He has given us. Analogously, He can sanctify a loving soul through a liturgy deficient in tradition, reverence, beauty, and other qualities that ought to belong to it by natural and divine law, although in the normal course souls ought to avail themselves of these powerful aids to sanctity.
One might say something similar about “good fruits” after the liturgical reform. Are they precisely because of that reform, or are they rather in spite of it? God wills the salvation of mankind, so He will use whatever instrument the Church provides Him: a sharp knife or a blunt knife. The sharp knife will cut better, but the blunt knife will still serve in many cases. Yet it would be far better to have kept the sharp one, or to get it back as soon as possible.

Cordially in Christ,
Dr. Kwasniewski
A missionary bishop in China: traditional Catholicism inculturated
Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website, SoundCloud page, and YouTube channel.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

A Recent Solemn Mass in the Rite of Lyon

This past Sunday, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the traditional Rite of Lyon at the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in that city, the Collegiate Church of St Just, for the feast of the local Patron Saint, the 2nd-century bishop and martyr Irenaeus. We have featured the Mass of Lyon a few times in the past, but this is the first time, as far as I know, that it has been done solemnly within recent memory. I personally don’t know much about the rite, and so I will limit my comments on the pictures; if I make any mistakes, or omit anything of interest, I would be grateful to any readers who can correct or add to what I write here in the combox. Further down is a picture of an interesting and absolutely unique vestment. Congratulations to the clergy of St Just for their efforts to maintain and preserve this beautiful part of the Church’s liturgical patrimony, and our thanks for their permission to reproduce these photographs.

The two acolytes who carry the candles wear full albs with the cincture, as was generally done in the Middle Ages.
Note that the columns of the church are partly or wholly decorated with red coverings for the feast day; this is not a specifically Lyonese custom, but was widely observed throughout Europe, and is still kept in some places.
When not holding something in their hands, the acolytes keep them crossed over their chest as we see here.
When the priest is at the Missal, he is accompanied only by the deacon...

Worship That Takes God Seriously: A Convert from Islam on the TLM

Our readers have probably already seen some of the videos now circulating on social media about “Mass of the Ages”, a documentary on the Traditional Latin Mass currently in the works, which aims to show how the beauty of our timeless traditional liturgy will begin to restore and heal the Church. As we all know, over the last century, people have lost their faith at an alarming rate; the film-makers and designers involved in this project are putting their talents to the creation of a compelling piece of work that will, God willing, increase the general awareness of the reverence and beauty of the Mass. The filmmakers interview Catholics from all walks of life to investigate the power of the old Mass and the profound effect it has on our spiritual lives.You can check out what they are doing on their Facebook page ( and via their Youtube channel.

Yesterday, I watched a video from the latter in which the leader of the project, Mr Cameron O’Hearn, talks about the TLM with Dr Derya Little, a convert from Islam to Catholicism via atheism, who has written about her conversion in a book titled “From Islam to Christ.” She also recently wrote a “A Beginner’s Guide to the Traditional Latin Mass”, to help those who come to the traditional rite with no previous experience of it whatsoever. In this video, she explains very nicely that it was her experience of beauty and reverence in the liturgy that really showed her that Catholicism “takes God seriously.” The channel also has interviews with writer Eric Sammons and our own Dr Peter Kwasniewski, which I am sure you will find interesting.

Friday, July 03, 2020

A Prayer for Our Church and Our Nation

Lost in Translation, #6

For centuries, the fourth of the Great Intercessions on Good Friday was for the Holy Roman Emperor, but in 1955 this prayer for a man who no longer existed was replaced with a prayer “Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus – For Those Governing Commonwealths” -- or if you prefer, “For Those Governing Public Affairs.” In 1960, this prayer (along with a new Secret and Postcommunion) also replaced the prayers for the Emperor in the Orationes Diversae section of the Missal, as commemorations in another Mass. The 1955 prayer is:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, in cujus manu sunt omnium potestates et omnium jura populorum: respice benignus ad eos, qui nos in potestate regunt: ut ubique terrarum, dextera tua protegente, et religionis integritas, et patriae securitas indesinenter consistat. Per Dominum.
Which I translate as:
Almighty everlasting God, in whose hand are the powers of all and the rights of all peoples: look favorably on those who rule over us in power: that with Thy right hand protecting us, integrity of religion and security of country may unceasingly abide throughout the world. Through our Lord.
The prayer has a slightly modern ring to it. The mention of individual rights indicates that it was written in the wake of Hobbes and Locke and after Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, which (not uncontroversially) refers to individual property rights for the first time in Church history as “sacred and inviolable.”
I wonder why the author speaks of “the powers of all and the rights of all peoples”, and not simply of the “powers and rights of all peoples.” Perhaps he is contrasting the powers of all who govern (rulers, government officials, etc.) with the rights of the peoples. Rulers have been given different powers of varying degrees by God, but people qua people have the same equal rights. There may also be here an answer to the modern debate about how essential the consent of the governed is, but rather than reinforce a dichotomy between the Lockian claim that government derives its legitimacy from the people and the Biblical claim that all political power comes from God (Rom. 13:1), the prayer unites the two by locating both in the hand of God. In the words of Pope Benedict XV, “Whatever power, then, is exercised amongst men, whether that of the King or that of an inferior authority [such as democratically elected leaders, we presume], it has its origin from God.” (Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum 10)
The prayer pivots deftly between the universal and particular, avoiding both a soulless globalism or cosmopolitanism that dangerously deprecates patriotism as well as a weaponized nationalism that dangerously distorts it. On one hand, God is addressed as the one who gives rights to all people. On the other hand, the prayer asks for blessings on those who rule over us, which in most cases, I reckon, means the rulers of the nation we happen to be in. The two come together nicely in the final section of the prayer, which asks that God's blessing of the nation will be good not just for us but for the whole world. 
I also like that the petition that God look favorably on our leaders is immediately followed by a petition that God protect us, perhaps even protect us from our leaders. It reminds me of the rabbi’s prayer in Fiddler on the Roof: “May the Lord keep the far away from us as possible!”
But the final part is the best, where the Church prays for two things: integrity of religion and security for the country--our country, of course, but others as well, since a world of stable and secure nations is not a bad thing. 
Neither is “integrity of religion,” which is a well-established phrase in the traditional Missal. It appears in the Postcommunion Prayer of the feast day of a holy pope, when we pray that the Church, “guided by capable governance, may receive both an increase in freedom and continue steadfast in integrity of religion.” To my mind, “integrity of religion” means one thing: that the one true religion has its act together. “Integrity” denotes soundness and connotes moral probity, intellectual clarity, and spiritual courage, but fundamentally it simply means to be whole--not divided by schism or scandal, not weakened by heretical deceptions or vested interests, and not trying to be something it isn't. Integrity of religion is a great thing to pray for, both for the sake of the Church and for the sake of earthly political life, for a religion with integrity is a rising tide that lifts all boats.
P.S. One suggestion for priests, which is not my own: this July 4, you can celebrate a Votive Mass to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (the patroness of the U.S.A.) and include the prayers Pro Res Publicas Moderantibus.

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