Wednesday, August 23, 2017

“In Heaven, There Is Only Singing” : An Interview with Fr George Rutler

The following interview with Fr George Rutler was published on the website of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review on August 18th; we thank them and the author, Roseanne T. Sullivan, for their gracious permission to republished it on NLM. (The original version included a preamble which we omit here for considerations of space.) I would especially call our reader’s attention to the last paragraph, and Fr Rutler’s choice words that “The Church must convert the barbarians and not be converted by them.”

Whether hymns should be sung, or not sung, at Mass, and which hymns are acceptable, is a fraught topic. The issues are described in more detail in an interview I did with Professor Peter Kwasniewski, called “The Propers of the Mass Versus the Four-Hymn Sandwich.” (which was published at Homiletic and Pastoral Review and republished on NLM).

The phrase “We should not be singing at Mass, we should be singing the Mass” is used often among Church musicians and liturgical experts who believe it is important it is that the actual texts of the Mass be sung. San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone wrote this in his “Foreword” to The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities, by chant composer Father Samuel Weber, O.S.B., who founded with Archbishop Cordileone the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Liturgy at the archdiocesan seminary.

“It is often said, and rightly so, that we should aim at singing the Mass not singing at the Mass, but old habits die hard, and in many places the ‘four-hymn sandwich’ is still being served, a relic from the days before the Second Vatican Council when provision was made to allow vernacular hymns to be sung at Mass.” The archbishop went on to write that the best hymns can enhance our liturgical celebrations, but that hymn singing is a recent innovation in terms of Church history.

Experts claim that singing of any old hymns at Mass became entrenched after Vatican II because vernacular versions of the Proper texts were not available, and hymns filled the void. Many feel that choirs and congregations should be singing the texts of the Mass, which are the Ordinary and the Proper texts of the Mass. Venerable Pope Paul VI wanted congregations to be able to sing the Ordinary in Latin set to simple chants, as published in his booklet Jubilate Deo. And eighteen more-complex settings of the Ordinary are available in the Kyriale. Many musicians, including Father Weber, are composing English versions of the Propers.

Because of the controversy about where hymns belong in Ordinary Form Masses, my questions to Father Rutler focused mainly on the paragraph at the end of his “Preface” to his Stories of Hymns, in which he wrote about how the hymns he wrote about may be included in Catholic liturgy. But that does mean that I didn’t read and enjoy the rest of the book, and I hope you will read and enjoy it too.

Where Can Catholics Sing These Wonderful Hymns?

RTS: At the end of your preface to Stories of Hymns, you wrote:
The hymns that follow complement the Liturgy but are not part of it. The whole Mass itself is its own gigantic hymn, and it is only by indult that it is said at all instead of being sung. It is liturgically eccentric to “say” a Mass and intersperse it with extraliturgical hymns. Hymns may precede or follow the Mass, but they should never replace the model of the sung Eucharist itself with its hymnodic propers. In the Latin Rite, that model gives primacy of place to the Latin language and Gregorian chant, according to numerous decrees, most historically those of Pope Pius X in Tra le Sollecitudini and Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Church has normally reserved other hymns for other forms of public prayer, especially the Daily Office. And, of course, all hymns can be part of private prayer, following the Augustinian principle that he who sings prays twice.
What do you mean by: “The hymns that follow complement the liturgy but are not part of it”?
Father Rutler: Those hymns would qualify as “tropes,” or embellishments of the proper liturgical texts, but not substitutes for them. The guidelines for the Ordinary Form would accord a certain validity to hymns, other than the traditional Propers, as part of the Liturgy provided the texts are approved by the legitimate ecclesiastical authority, but this is by way of exception.

RTS: Do you agree that we should not be singing at Mass, we should be singing the Mass?
Father Rutler: Since the Mass is the highest act of praise, and singing is the highest form of praise, the Mass is a song, and is not therefore interrupted by song.

RTS: Can you explain what you mean where you wrote, “The whole Mass itself is its own gigantic hymn, and it is only by indult that it is said at all, instead of being sung.” How is the Mass a hymn? What indult do you mean?
Father Rutler: The Second Vatican Council described the Holy Eucharist as the song of the Heavenly Jerusalem brought to earthly altars. For expediency in the Latin Rite, recitation is permitted instead of chant, but this should be only by exception. Expediency is not a concern of the Oriental Rites, or of Jewish prayer, for that matter. In Heaven, there is only singing, no mere talking.

RTS: You wrote, “Hymns may precede or follow the Mass, but they should never replace the model of the sung Eucharist itself with its hymnodic propers.” In layman’s terms, what are the “hymnodic propers?”
Father Rutler: The Propers are the Scriptural texts and other sacred texts. The Psalter is the Church’s main hymnal. To recite Psalms, rather than chanting them, is an oddity. It would be better to sing brief texts (antiphons) rather than rather drearily recite a Psalm between the readings. Indeed, as I understand it, the provision of lengthy Psalm verses between the Readings was granted at the last moment in the revision of the Mass, to satisfy a minority opinion.

RTS: If hymns should not be sung during Mass, when might hymns from this rich collection you wrote about in Stories of Hymns be sung by Catholics?
Father Rutler: I did not say that hymns should not be sung at Mass. In the Ordinary Form they are permitted, but should not replace the Propers (for example, the Introit and Gradual). A hymn after Communion would not be inappropriate but the “Hymn Sandwich” of an Entrance Hymn, Offertory Hymn and Closing Hymn accompanied by a static “said” Liturgy should be avoided.

RTS: You also wrote in your “Preface” that outside of the Mass, these hymns might be used in the Divine Office and private prayer. The stories for some of the hymns also often mention how stirring some hymns can be when sung in procession, for example, the Easter hymn “Hail Thee Festival Day,” with its alternative verses that can make it also appropriate for processions on Ascension Day, Pentecost, Corpus Christi, and at dedications of churches. You also wrote about “Daily, Daily Sing to Mary” as “a marvelously raucous hymn, which is especially suited for processions.” And you wrote about a favorite hymn, “Jerusalem the Golden,” which you fondly recalled singing as a choirboy. Do any others still appeal to you particularly?
Father Rutler: “Jerusalem the Golden” was my favorite boyhood hymn–I had good taste in youth–and it remains such. There are others I especially like, such as “Brightest and Best” and “Hark, Hark My Soul”–but it is difficult to choose. Obviously some are more appropriate for particular seasons. One hymn that I wish I had included in my book was the Wesleyan one: “And Can it Be That I Should Gain.”

RTS: I remember enthusiastically singing, “And Can it Be That I Should Gain,” “The Church’s One Foundation,” and “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”–and other hymns that I recognized in the Stories of Hymns–when I worshipped at an Evangelical Free Church, which is one of the Protestant denominations I sampled on my way back to the Catholic Church after I lapsed as a college student. I missed that enthusiastic hymn singing when I came back to the Church, until I started singing with a Gregorian Chant choir, and all the treasures of the chant repertoire opened to me. More important than hymn singing is the Eucharist, and the Eucharist and the teaching authority of the Church are a large part of what brought me back. Now it seems to me that Protestant denominations filled up their worship services with long sermons, and lots of hymns, because they removed the Sacrifice out of the Mass.

How do you use music in Masses in your current parish, St. Michael’s in New York City? Do you, the choir, and/or the congregation sing the Propers?
Father Rutler: We have a small choir that sings the Introit and Gradual and, often a special setting of the Gloria. Otherwise the people sing the chants. (Plainchant, or Gregorian chant, should have pride of place, even as Vatican II prescribed.)

It is highly preferable that the choir be in a loft, or at least positioned to support the people’s voices. Choirs should never face the people. And “song leaders” are entirely counter-productive. No ritualistic: “Please join us in singing…” and so forth, and no arm waving. Highly recommended on the topic are two books: Why Catholics Can’t Sing by Thomas Day, and Real Music: A Guide to Timeless Hymns by Anthony Esolen.

We sing the liturgical texts and, as provided in the rubrics for the Ordinary Form, we usually have an additional hymn at the Offertory. I think that if there is a hymn, it may best be at the end of the Mass. Hymns should not displace the liturgical texts, and normally one hymn is adequate.

RTS: By saying that your congregation sings the chants, do you mean the Ordinary chants? If the Ordinary is chanted by the congregation, what settings do you sing? Do you cycle during the year through the some of the eighteen Gregorian chant Masses available from the Kyriale, such as Mass I: Lux et origo (for Paschaltide), Mass XI: Orbis factor (for Sundays per annum)? Or do you follow a simpler scheme?
Father Rutler: To encourage participation, the Missa de Angelis is a Plainchant setting that everyone can sing easily–then on special feasts other Gregorian settings can be sung from the choir.

RTS: What might you add to help Catholics who are attached to singing their favorite hymns at Mass, and who might object to the idea of any change?
Father Rutler: In a time of cultural decay, such as ours, the Church has an obligation to preserve and promote the best human achievements, including music, and the visual arts. The Church must convert the barbarians and not be converted by them. Many of the aging “baby-boomers” who resist change, imposed it wantonly on others right after Vatican II. That period of aesthetic destruction may take a long time to repair, but bad music should not be allowed to drive out the good, just as bad money should not be allowed to drive out good money. To deny that there are superior forms of aesthetics is simply to enlist oneself in the ranks of the relativists for who quality is nothing more than opinion. That is not aestheticism; it is narcissism. The astonishing collapse of church attendance in recent decades, cannot be blamed on St. Gregory, Palestrina, and Mozart, and there are many reasons for it other than a defective psychology of worship, but the cloyingly grotesque, pseudo-Christian elevator music in many parishes is not guiltless of the damage done in those post-Conciliar years.

Roseanne T. Sullivan is a writer from the Boston area who currently lives in San Jose, CA. Sullivan studied graphic design, painting, journalism, fiction and poetry writing while completing a BA in Studio Arts and English, and an MA with writing emphasis at the University of Minnesota. She has a deep and abiding interest in sacred music, sacred art, liturgy, and Latin, and she teaches Latin to homeschoolers. Many of her writings and photographs have appeared in the National Catholic Register, the New Liturgical Movement, Regina Magazine, Latin Mass Magazine, and other publications. Her own intermittently updated blog, Catholic Pundit Wannabe, is at

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pope Pius XII Celebrates the Queenship of Mary

From the archives of the Istituto Luce comes this wonderful newsreel report on an event of the Marian year proclaimed by Pope Pius XII, which ran from the feast of the Immaculate Conception of 1953 to the same date of the following year.
“The Marian year (1954) is at its most moving display. From St Mary Major, the miraculous image of the Madonna has reached St Peter’s. On the sedes gestatoria, Pius XII comes down among the faithful, to proclaim the liturgical feast of the Queenship of Mary, fixed by a recent encyclical to the 31st of May each year. At the end of his affectionate pilgrimage, inside the basilica of the Prince of the Apostles, the Pope crowns the sacred image of the Madonna Salus Populi Romani, to whose materal protection Rome owed its preservation from the war. (The voice of the Pope): ‘The regality of Mary is a reality beyond this earth, but one which at the same time, penetrates to the very depth of the heart.’ In the piazza, the faithful greet and celebrate their bishop, the Pope who crowned as Queen the Madonna of Rome, and the Pope, smiling, paternally blesses his children, invoking the divine mercy upon the earth, and asking from heaven the love of Mary to protect Rome and the world.”

(The full discourse of the Pope, pronounced on November 1st of 1954, can be read on the Vatican website, but only in Italian.)

The crowning of images of the Virgin Mary was a tradition important enough to be included in the Pontificale, and one especially dear to the Italian people. However, many of these crowns have subsequently been removed by restorers, including the one given here by Pope Pius, the idea being to bring the images back to their “original” appearance. This has been done with two others among the many famous Marian images in Rome, the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, and Michelangelo’s Pietà; in the case of the latter, the crown was not, of course, fixed to the statue itself, but held over the Virgin’s head by two angels affixed to the wall over it.
The Pietà, photographed in 1949, before the angels and crown were removed. The altar has been disused since the statue was attacked by a lunatic in May of 1972, and the cross, candlesticks and altar cards have also been removed, along with the frontal seen in the photo below.
A wider view of the chapel of the Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica, photographed in 1949. The column seen behind a cage on the right is one of twelve which in the ancient basilica of St Peter were arranged around the Apostle’s tomb, supporting an architrave; statues of the twelve Apostles stood on top of the architrave over each column. These are known as “Solomonic columns from the popular legend that the Emperor Constantine recovered them from the ruins of the Jerusalem temple, and brought them to Rome to decorate the original church. From there it was but a short step to the belief that the Lord Himself leaned upon one of these columns when He spoke “in the portico of Solomon”, as recounted in John 10, 22. Long after the old basilica was destroyed, it was moved into this chapel, and subsequently to the treasury museum, where the visitor can see it today, and note that a great many pieces were hacked off by overzealous pilgrims. The baseless tradition regarding the columns’ origin was accepted by Jews in the later Middle Ages as well as Christians, and Solomonic columns also figure prominently in Italian Jewish art.

Marie Reine du Canada Pilgrimage, Sept. 2-4

The Marie Reine du Canada pilgrimage will take place this year from September 2nd to the 4th; this a great opportunity to participate in the North American version of the annual Chartres pilgrimage, and see some of sites and historic churches of Catholic New France.

Marie Reine du Canada, a lay-led apostolate of St Clement Parish in Ottawa, organizes the annual three-day 100 km pilgrimage on foot from Saint-Joseph-de-Lanoraie to Notre-Dame-du-Cap shrine at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, Quebec. Priests of the Fraternity of St. Peter celebrate Mass each day of the pilgrimage in parish churches along the route: in Berthierville, Yamachiche, and in the historic Small Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape at Cap de la Madeleine, with the blessing of the Bishops of Joliette and of Trois-Rivieres, and the local parish priests. Two priests are normally available to hear confessions in French and English throughout the pilgrimage, whether en route, in camp or before Mass. Click the poster to enlarge, and feel free to share it.

Benedict XVI and Plato on Music in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Here is a fascinating paper by Dr Tom Larson of St Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, entitled Man, Music and Catholic Culture; he presented it at the Institute of St Anselm Studies, an annual symposium which takes place the college campus each summer. It has just been published in the proceedings and is now online.

Dr Larson examines first the place of music in Greek philosophical tradition and compares this with accounts of two modern commentators. The first is a non-Christian philosopher, Allan Bloom, whose thoughts he presents as a foil to a modern Christian view, that of Pope Benedict XVI.

Larson’s discussion clearly applies to sacred music and reinforces all that has been said by many others on the importance of music in the liturgy. But he extends this also to the profane and considers the place of music in the wider culture and in general education.

Here is the abstract for the paper:
The topic of this paper is the place of music within the Catholic intellectual tradition. The paper discusses the dignity of music, its relationship to man, and its place in education. The paper begins with the pagan classical treatment of music. The classical account of music is bound up with certain claims about human psychology, education, and culture, as well as certain claims about the universe. Allan Bloom’s discussion of music in the Greek philosophic tradition is examined as a foil to the Catholic vision discussed in the second part of the paper. The second part presents Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI’s understanding of music’s place in Catholic culture. Music, along with laws of beauty and order, has its source in God; it contributes to the re-integration of Man and directs him toward union with God in prayer; it has an intimate relationship with the human longing for transcendence; as a universal language, it has a role in evangelization and facilitating inter-cultural dialogue; in its beauty we are enabled to experience the presence of Ultimate Beauty; and in its own and very powerful way, the beauty of the music that has grown out of Christian culture serves as a kind of verification of the Christian faith.
Read the rest of the paper here.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Visit to Innsbruck (6): The Castle of Ambras and the First Museum in Europe

Today is the final installment of my series on Innsbruck. I have saved the most exotic for the end.

On the last day of my visit, my host took me to the city's Hapsburg castle, Schloss Ambras, for a special exhibit on the erudite collector-prince Ferdinand II of Tirol (1529-1595). Ferdinand, who lived at Ambras once he was installed as ruler of Tirol, embarked on a building and collecting campaign that would lead to the opening of Europe’s first museum, dedicated primarily to his extensive armor gallery and his remarkable gallery of “curiosities and wonders.” While some of these pieces remain at the Schloss, many have been dispersed to other museums; hence, the special exhibit attempted to pull them back together more or less the way Ferdinand intended. The museum was so extensive that I could not hope to do it justice here. I paid special attention to religious items that would be of interest to NLM readers. (The descriptions of many of the objects are adapted from the museum’s placards.)

First, the castle itself that houses the collection:

On the many suits of armor the detail that captured my attention was this little crucifixion scene etched on the breastplate, in which the knight kneels before his Lord.
One room was devoted to victors of famous battles, including that of Lepanto. Here are Don Juan of Austria, Marc Antonio Colonna, and Sebastiano Venier, and then matching portraits of Andrea Doria and Chaireddin Barbarossa.

One of the more remarkable types of object in the archduke’s collection are things (often Passion scenes) made from carved and polished coral and shell, obtained from Genoa and processed in Bavaria or Tirol.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Assumption 2017 Photopost (Part 2)

This second part of our Assumption photopost has just as much interesting variety as the first; we have plenty of Marian blue, another Pontifical Vespers, this time at the Cistercian abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria, the traditional blessing of flowers, the Byzantine Rite, the Ordinariate Rite, and a beautiful Offertory chant. We start, however, with something absolutely unique, a Low Mass celebrated according to the Use of Lyon at the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in that city. Evangelize through beauty!

Collegiate Church of St Just - Lyon, France, (FSSP)

As in most medieval Uses, the priest stretches his hands out in the form of a Cross at the Unde et memores.
After the Consecration of the chalice, the corporal, which is very much longer than a modern Roman one, is used to cover the consecrated elements.

Heiligenkreuz Abbey - Lower Austria
Pontifical First Vespers celebrated by the Abbot. (Photos courtesy of Fr Edmund Waldstein O. Cist., from his blog Sancrucensis.)

The Feast of St Louis of Toulouse

Since the early 14th century, the Franciscans have kept August 19th as the feast of St Louis, bishop of Toulouse and son of Charles II of the royal house of Anjou. In the year 1285, when he was eleven, his father received the crown of Naples from the Pope, but at that time, was being held as a hostage by the King of Aragon. To obtain his freedom, Charles’ three sons, of whom Louis was the second, took his place, and were kept for seven years in the Franciscan house at Barcelona. Louis was deeply impressed by the Friars, so much so that he adopted their life as far as was possible for a man of rank being then held in honorable captivity. Two members of the community lived with him in his apartments, and he not only kept to their prayer regimen, but also undertook the study of philosophy and theology, preparatory to joining the order in fulfillment of a vow he had made during a serious illness.
St Louis of Toulouse, by Antonio Vivarini, 1450. St Louis is represented in art as a young man in the robes of a bishop, but with the habit of a Franciscan underneath.
In 1295, he was set free, but in that same year, his elder brother passed away, leaving him heir to the throne. Like another famous nobleman before him, St Thomas Aquinas, Louis had to overcome significant opposition from his family in order to enter the religious life, and for a time, the Friars Minor dared not admit him. While living in a castle near Naples, he became a friend and benefactor to a scholar from France, one Jacques D’Euse, who later on, at the recommendation of his father, was appointed bishop of Fréjus in 1300.

Before very long, Louis was able to abdicate his title in favor of his younger brother Roger, and follow the Poor Man of Assisi. For a variety of complicated political reasons, he was made not only a priest, but also bishop of the see of Toulouse in France, with a special dispensation granted by Pope Boniface VIII to receive these orders at the age of only twenty-three. A man of his position might very easily have followed the common bad practice of the era, and appointed a vicar to perform most of his episcopal duties; Louis chose not only to take personal possession of his see, but also to continue living the life of a poor friar, even wearing a old and patched up Franciscan habit, celebrating Mass daily, and preaching frequently.

Like many holy men thrust into such positions of power, St Louis found the burdens of the episcopal office quite overwhelming, and expressed his desire to resign. His “resignation”, as it were, was accepted by God Himself, since St Louis died on August 19th, 1297, less than eight months after his episcopal consecration.

In 1316, Jacques D’Euse, by then a Cardinal, was elected Pope, taking the name John XXII, and the following year, canonized his old friend and benefactor as a Saint. (He would also canonize St Thomas six years later, and towards the end of his reign, bring the Papal name “John” into bad odor with his heretical teachings on the Beatific Vision.) That same year, Louis’ brother King Robert, now known to history as “the Wise”, commissioned the altarpiece seen below from one of the best painters in Italy, Simone Martini; it is now in the Capodimonte Museum in Naples. In the main panel, St Louis himself is represented being crowed as a Saint by two angels, as he passes his earthly crown down to his brother. The predella shows a series of events from his life: Louis accepts nomination to the See of Toulouse; Louis takes his vows and is consecrated bishop; as bishop, he feeds the poor with his own hand at table; his funeral; Louis miraculous raises a dead child to life.

Public domain image from Wikipedia.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Assumption 2017 Photopost (Part 1)

My favorite photoposts are the ones which show not only the beauty, but also the great variety and richness of the Catholic liturgical tradition, and the submissions which we received for the Assumption this year are a great example of this. We have Masses of the feast in the EF and OF, as well as the OF vigil Mass, the blessing of a statue of the Virgin Mary, Benediction, and Pontifical Vespers. The photos have come in from all over the world, and we have enough to make two posts out of them; the second will appear tomorrow, with a few other things. Our thanks and best wishes to all those who sent them in - Evangelize through Beauty!

Monastère Saint-Benoît - La-Garde Freinet, France
Pontifical First Vespers of the Assumption, celebrated by His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke, in the presence of the local ordinary, His Excellency Dominique Rey, bishop of Fréjus-Toulon, assisted by Dom Alcuin Reid, and members of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian. (This event was part of the Fourth Intl Sacra Liturgia Summer School.)

Prince of Peace - Taylor, South Carolina

Culmen et Fons Conference, Sept. 18-22, Peabody, Mass.

Saint Adelaide Parish in Peabody, Massachusetts (Archdiocese of Boston) will host a conference on liturgical formation and sacred music, with Dom Alcuin Reid as the featured speaker. For schedule and registration information, click HERE. Those interested in sponsoring the conference or underwriting the cost of priests or religious to attend should e-mail HERE.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Council of Trent on the Silence of the Canon

As a follow-up to Matthew Hazell’s post earlier today on the GIRM and the silent Canon, this is what the Council of Trent has to say on the matter, in session 22, celebrated on September 17, 1562, in the reign of Pope Pius IV.

Chapter 5. On the solemn ceremonies of the Sacrifice of the Mass

And whereas such is the nature of man, that, without external helps, he cannot easily be raised to the meditation of divine things; therefore has Holy Mother Church instituted certain rites, to wit that certain things be pronounced in the Mass in a low, and others in a louder, tone. She has likewise employed ceremonies, such as mystic benedictions, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind, derived from an apostolical discipline and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be recommended, and the minds of the faithful be excited, by those visible signs of religion and piety, to the contemplation of those most sublime things which are hidden in this sacrifice.

Among the disciplinary canons which follow, canon 9 states, “If any one say, that the rite of the Roman Church, according to which a part of the Canon and the words of consecration are pronounced in a low voice, is to be condemned; or, that the Mass ought to be celebrated only in the vulgar tongue; or, that water ought not to be mixed with the wine that is to be offered in the chalice, for that it is contrary to the institution of Christ; let him be anathema.”
The Canon cited above, from an edition of the Decrees of the Council of Trent printed in Bavaria in 1565; the last session of Trent was held in early December of 1563.

GIRM 32 and the Roman Canon: The Power of Silence?

Robert Cardinal Sarah, in his recent book The Power of Silence, raises once again the question of a silent Canon in the Ordinary Form:
I am familiar with the regrets expressed by many young priests who would like the Canon of the Mass to be recited in complete silence. The unity of the whole assembly, communing with the words pronounced in a sacred murmur, was a splendid sign of a contemplative Church gathered around the sacrifice of her Savior. [...]
Nevertheless, the intention of the liturgical reform was commendable: the Council Fathers wanted to rediscover the original function of the Eucharistic Prayer as a great public prayer in the presence of God. But we notice also a strong temptation to look for variety by introducing improvisations into the Canon. The liturgy now runs the risk of trivializing the words of the Eucharistic Prayer... [Cardinal Ratzinger] had proposed practical solutions and forcefully declared that the audible recitation of the Eucharistic Prayer in its entirety was not the only means of getting everyone to participate in this act. We must work for a more balanced solution and offer the possibility of intervals of silence in this area. [1]
However, one of the obvious obstacles to the Cardinal’s “more balanced solution” is paragraph 32 of the current General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which reads as follows (my emphasis):
32. The nature of the “presidential” parts requires that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone listen to them attentively. Therefore, while the Priest is pronouncing them, there should be no other prayers or singing, and the organ or other musical instruments should be silent. [2]
What precisely is it about the “nature” of the presidential parts that requires them to be spoken out loud? This is a question that has puzzled me for some time, and that I was reminded of upon reading Cardinal Sarah’s book. So, as the GIRM has a footnote in this paragraph, I thought I would take a look at the reference to see if that provides any answer to this question.

Footnote no. 44 directs us to paragraph 14 of Musicam sacram (EnglishLatin), the Instruction on sacred music issued by the Sacred Congregation of Rites on 5 March 1967, which reads as follows (my emphasis):
14. The priest, acting in the person of Christ, presides over the gathered assembly. Since the prayers which are said or sung by him aloud are proclaimed in the name of the entire holy people and of all present, they should be devoutly listened to by all.
Sadly, this says nothing about the “nature” of the presidential parts; it only says that those prayers proclaimed aloud by the priest should be devoutly listened to by the assembly - and, at this point, this stipulation would not have included the Canon. Two months later, Tres abhinc annos (4 May 1967) would give permission for the Canon to be said aloud, but this remained optional (pro opportunitate) until the promulgation of the new Ordo Missae. [3] 

Musicam sacram does, however, reference Sacrosanctum Concilium 33 in a footnote in this paragraph - so, does the Constitution on the Liturgy shed any light on the question? Unfortunately, the answer is no. In fact, we move even further away from GIRM 32 (my emphasis):
33. Although the sacred liturgy is above all things the worship of the divine Majesty, it likewise contains much instruction for the faithful. For in the liturgy God speaks to His people and Christ is still proclaiming His gospel. And the people reply to God both by song and prayer.
Moreover, the prayers addressed to God by the priest who presides over the assembly in the person of Christ are said in the name of the entire holy people and of all present. And the visible signs used by the liturgy to signify invisible divine things have been chosen by Christ or the Church. Thus not only when things are read “which were written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), but also when the Church prays or sings or acts, the faith of those taking part is nourished and their minds are raised to God, so that they may offer Him their rational service and more abundantly receive His grace. 
The underlined section of SC 33 is used in GIRM 30 to define the “presidential prayers” of the Mass. But there is no indication in SC itself that it pertains somehow to the “nature” of these presidential prayers that they be proclaimed aloud. This is a later, rationalistic assumption which has been superimposed onto the text of both SC and Musicam sacram, and is seemingly just asserted to be true. It is also inconsistently applied in the OF Missal itself: the Benedictus es, Domine prayers at the Preparation of the Gifts are normally prayed submissa voce, but if the Offertory Chant is not sung, they may be prayed elata voce. Are they, then, defined as public prayers or private prayers?

GIRM 32 also raises serious questions about continuity and rupture. If, as a presidential prayer, the very nature of the Canon demands (exigit) that it be spoken aloud, then what does that say about the organically-developed, centuries-long tradition of the Western Church?

In proposing this particular instance of mutual enrichment of the two forms, Cardinal Sarah is channeling Cardinal Ratzinger’s well-known thoughts on the reintroduction of the silent Canon into the Pauline Missal. [4] However, it would seem that GIRM 32, and the assumptions underlying it, [5] urgently need revision in any future “liturgical reconciliation.”


[1] Robert Cardinal Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise (Ignatius Press, 2017), pp. 129-130.

[2] Note that, with the exception of the numbering and the footnote (added for the editio typica in 1969), this paragraph of the GIRM has not been changed in any of its versions (draft or otherwise) from 1968 through to 2002. See the Synopsis of the various versions of the Latin IGMR in Maurizio Barba, Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani. Textus - Synopsis - Variationes (MSIL 45; Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2006), pp. 389-667 (specifically pp. 422-423).

[3] Cf. Tres abhinc annos, 10 (EnglishLatin). For a very interesting examination of how a trace of this paragraph of Tres abhinc annos persisted in the rubrics of the U.S.A. vernacular OF Missal until 2011, see Matthew S. C. Olver, “A Note on the Silent Canon in the Missal of Paul VI and Cardinal Ratzinger”, Antiphon 20.1 (2016), pp. 40-51.

[4] For example: “it is not essential for the entire canon of the Mass to be recited aloud on every occasion. The idea that it must rests on a misunderstanding of its nature as proclamation.” (The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy [Ignatius Press, 1986], p. 72).

[5] Notwithstanding this attempt by Fr Ryan Erlenbush to read the GIRM as excluding the Canon from the “presidential parts”, which I ultimately find unconvincing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lay Readers at Funerals and Weddings: Feedback Sought

fter the Second Vatican Council, permission was given for lay men and women to proclaim the readings from Sacred Scripture (except the Gospel) at liturgical celebrations.1 Lay readers are found in nearly all parishes. While some perform this task better than others, all should have received careful training.2 No conscientious pastor would knowingly depute a reader who attends Sunday Mass only when he or she is scheduled to read, or who notoriously flouts the Christian faith, or who is obviously incapable of suitably proclaiming the word of God.

So, why is it that when it comes to weddings and funerals, the family members and friends of the bridal couple or, as the case may be, of the deceased, are routinely invited to serve as readers, with no questions asked about their competence or even, for that matter, their standing with the Church?3 I expect the answer has everything to do with a well-meaning but wrongheaded application of the principle of “active participation” — a subject of great concern to the old Liturgical Movement as well as the New. Experience has taught me that people should not be invited to proclaim the readings at weddings and funerals, with the possible exception of those who already regularly carry out the ministry of lector (whether formally instituted or not).4 At the very least, the lay reader should be a practicing Catholic5 who believes what he or she is reading and can bring people’s attention to it.6 I am curious to know, by means of the combox, what policies my priestly confreres implement with respect to non-instituted readers at funerals and weddings. (Please refrain from stating the obvious by pointing out that we need not concern ourselves with lay readers in the usus antiquior. I know, I know.)
1 Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Letter Ministeria Quaedam (15 August 1972) reserves the formal installation of lectors to men.
2 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, third typical edition (2002), no. 101; Introduction to the Lectionary for Mass, second typical edition (1981), nos. 52, 55.
3 Most funeral directors I know have their own copy of the Order of Christian Funerals. As a matter of course, they provide their clients with the biblical readings that may be used in the funeral liturgy and invite them not only to choose the readings but also to appoint readers, after which they inform the priest (!) as to who will be reading what. I have asked my local funeral directors not to mention readings or readers, but rather let the family itself, on its own initiative, bring up the topic, in which case I will involve myself accordingly. I do not mind letting family members select appropriate readings should they care to do so, but when someone presumes to tell me that so-and-so is “doing the readings,” my reply is (in these or similar words): “I’ll be the judge of that, thank you.”
4 I say “possible exception” because, at funerals especially, the reader’s emotional state often makes it difficult to carry out this liturgical function.
5 “The reading of Scripture during a Eucharistic celebration in the Catholic Church is to be done by members of that Church. On exceptional occasions and for a just cause, the Bishop of the diocese may permit a member of another Church or ecclesial Community to take on the task of reader” (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism [25 March 1993], no. 133). Leaving aside the question of how often bishops are asked to grant such permission, I would wager that weddings involving parties of mixed religion are the most common “just cause.” (Which raises the question of whether such ceremonies should take place within Mass.) As one would expect of this ecumenical (not interfaith) Directory, there is no mention of allowing the absurdity of an unbaptized person to exercise this or any other liturgical (and thus inherently ecclesial) ministry.

The Feast of St Roch

Among the Saints listed in the Roman Martyrology on August 16th is St Roch, one of the most popular Saints to invoke in times of plague. According to the supplement to the Golden Legend, he was born in 1295, the son of the governor of the French city of Montpellier. (Modern scholarship tends to place his birth in the middle of the 14th century.) On the death of his parents, he distributed the considerable patrimony which they left him to the poor, and became a full-time pilgrim.
St Roch Among the Victims of the Plague, and the Virgin Mary in Glory, by Jacopo Bassano, ca. 1575. The inclusion of the Virgin Mary above refers to the fact that Roch’s feast is celebrated the day after the Assumption.
The hospices which built near many major pilgrimage centers to receive the pilgrims also served as hospitals for the poor (hence the two versions of the same word, deriving from the Latin word for guest); in Roch’s time, plague was running rampant, and he encountered many sufferers in these places, as he traveled to Rome and through various cities of northern Italy. Many of these he healed simply by making the sign of the Cross over them, until he himself became infected. Not wishing to impose any further burden on the local hospital, he went out into the woods to die, but was miraculously brought food by a dog, until its master found him and took care of him. On recovering, he continued to cure many people of the plague.

When he returned to Montpellier, however, he was not recognized, and therefore arrested as a spy and imprisoned, remaining in captivity until his death five years later. When they came to take care of his body, he was recognized as the son of the city’s former governor from a cross-shaped birth-mark on his chest. A plaque was found next to the body with these words written on it: “I indicate that those who suffer from the plague, if they flee to Roch’s protection, will escape from that most cruel contagion.” A magnificent church was built, and his body laid to rest therein, where many miracles continued to happen at his intercession.
A statue of St Roch made in Normandy in the early 16th century. The richness of his clothing indicates his status as the son of a nobleman; his pilgrim’s hat is adorned with the keys of St Peter, indicating Rome as his destination; the dog which brought him food is traditionally shown at his side. Roch is also typically shown lifting up his garment to reveal a sore or injury on his leg from which he was miraculously healed. (Public domain image from the website of the Cloisters Museum in New York City, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
Devotion to St Roch spread very rapidly over the course of the later 14th and early 15th century. Although his feast is rarely found on liturgical calendars, votive Masses in his honor are very commonly included among those dedicated to healer Saints. In the Missals of Sarum, Utrecht and elsewhere, his votive Mass is found in the illustrious company of those of Saints Sebastian, Genevieve, Erasmus, Christopher, Anthony the Abbot, and the Archangel Raphael. One common version even includes a proper Preface, something almost unheard of in the pre-Tridentine period; it refers, however, to God’s mercy in sparing the Ninivites, and asks for His merciful deliverance from the plague, but makes no mention of Roch. The somewhat clumsy collect reads as follows: “O God, who are glorious in the glory of the Saints, and to all those that flee unto their protection, grantest the salutary effect of their petition; by the intercession of Thy blessed Confessor Roch, grant to Thy people, who hold forth their devotion in his festivity, that they may be delivered from the sickness of that plague which he suffered in his body for the glory of Thy name, to which may they ever be devoted.”

The supplement to the Golden Legend also mentions that his body was stolen by the Venetians in 1475, and enshrined in a “most renowned” church they built dedicated to him, which still exists. The seat of a pious confraternity named for him is located close by, and is justifiably known as the “Sistine Chapel of Venice”, filled with paintings by the great Venetian master Tintoretto. As one of the busiest ports in Europe, in regular contact with the East, Venice was a city to which new plagues (or new strains of old ones) were continually arriving; over twenty outbreaks are recorded there between the mid-14th and mid-16th centuries. It may be that the Venetians acted from sheer desperation in stealing St Roch; on the other hand, pious thefts of this sort were a specialty of theirs, and over the years, they also managed to nick St Mark the Evangelist and St Athanasius from the Copts of Alexandria, St Lucy from the city of Syracuse, and one of St Peter’s chairs from Antioch.
The altar of the church of San Rocco in Venice; the relics are in the urn with plaque on it in the middle. (Public domain image from Wikipedia by Didier Descouens.)

EF Votive Mass of St Francis de Sales in Brooklyn, August 21

The Visitation Monastery in Brooklyn will have its first traditional Latin Mass since the post-Conciliar liturgical reform on Monday, August 21, starting at 7:30 p.m. The monastery is located at 8902 Ridge Blvd. It will be a Sung Votive Mass of St Francis de Sales, co-founder of the Visitandine Order, on the 450th anniversary of his birth, with the commemoration of the other founder, St Jane-Frances de Chantal, on her traditional feast day.

Temporary Profession for the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

On the feast of St Alphonsus Liguori, August 2nd (EF), Fr Celestine Maria made his temporary profession of the vows of religion, poverty, chastity and obedience, as a member of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer, the traditional Redemptorist community based on the Scottish island of Pap Stronsay. Our thanks to them for permission to reproduce these photos from their blog and Facebook page.

The novice is questioned by the superior regarding his desire to give his life entirely to God in Holy Religion, and his firm resolve to persevere therein.
Prostrate on the ground and covered with the funeral pall, while the Veni Creator Spiritus is chanted by the community, the novice prepares to die to the world.
Fr Celestine Maria, F.SS.R. pronounces his vows, kneeling before the exposed Blessed Sacrament.
He receives the pallium (cloak) of the professed.
All kneel while the newly-professed recites a prayer of thanksgiving.
Our congratulations to Fr Celestine Maria and his whole community, and prayers for the prosperity of all their good work. Ad multos annos!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

November 1, 1950: The Dogmatic Definition of the Assumption

From the archives of British Pathé, a report on the dogmatic definition of the Assumption made by the Ven. Pope Pius XII on November 1 of the Jubilee year 1950.
And here is a wonderful photo taken during the Mass of that day from inside the dome of St Peter’s Basilica.

Reports of the Death of the Virgin Mary...Are True!

Did Our Lady die? Until recently, I would have said no; She was assumed into heaven because of Her purity. I must admit I had not investigated the idea thoroughly, but for a long time, I was under the impression that this meant that she underwent a transition from earth to heaven that was like a sort of Marian Ascension.

This impression was reinforced by paintings such as the one below in which She is elevated by angels, while, it appears, very much alive. And, furthermore, this special transition through a stage of between earth and heaven has a special name in the Eastern churches, which refers to her “Dormition - falling asleep.” Or so I thought.

To my knowledge there is nothing wrong theologically with the painting above, which is by the great Italian baroque artist Guido Reni. (1575-1642) However, it doesn’t tell the full story. Have a look at this painting of the Assumption by the Italian painter, Annibale Carracci (1560-1609).
At the top, we have the familiar scene of Our Lady being drawn up to heaven by angels, but at the bottom, we see in addition a group of onlookers who surround a tomb. This scene begs the question, if Our Lady didn’t die, why have a tomb? We see the same in the painting below by another Italian, Giovanni Battista Piazetta (1682-1754). Here, not only do we see the tomb, but also there is great shock, revealed by a dramatic gesture, at the fact that the tomb is empty.
Clearly, the reason for this is that Our Lady did die at the end of Her earthly life, or at least these artists believed so. In fact, this always been the tradition of the Church, East and West. It can be traced back as far as the fourth century, the period to which is attributed a document called The Account of St John the Theologian of the Dormition of the Mother of God. The word “dormition” means literally “falling asleep,” but is used to mean a peaceful death. The tradition says that three days after her death, She was not in Her sarcophagus, which instead was full of fragrant flowers, as we see here in this painting by Francesco Granacci, made in 1515.

Below we see two iconographic representations in which the death is more apparent. There is a separation of body and soul, which is received by Christ himself, even before the Assumption. It is represented by the white clad figure he is holding. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

A Visit to Innsbruck (5): A Marian Miracle Shrine with an Unusual Image of Our Lady

One of the most charming places we visited in Innsbruck is the little parish church of Amras, dedicated to “unserer Lieben Frau Mariä Himmelfahrt,” that is, “the Assumption of our dear Lady Mary.” Evidence exists that this part of Innsbruck began as a village at least 3,000 years ago. It acquired political significance in the 12th century A.D. A romanesque church was built here in 1221 in honor of the Saints Pancras and Zeno. The first description of the church as dedicated to Our Lady comes in 1408. Around 1480 the church was rebuilt in late gothic style, with three altars being consecrated in 1482. The church was baroquified in 1733-1756, with stucco by the local artist Joseph Gratl and frescoes by Joseph Adam Mölk.

The venerated statue of Our Lady over the high altar is from around 1490. This image has been cherished for centuries as a wonder-working image (wundertätiges Gnadenbild). One also sees the same statue depicted colorfully outdoors on the facade of the church, with pilgrims approaching to it.

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