Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Liturgical Notes on the Ember Days of September

The origin of the English term “Ember Days” seems to be disputed. Some scholars claim it is merely a corruption of the Latin name “Quattuor Temporum – of the four times (or ‘seasons’)”, through the German “Quatember”, while others derive it from the Anglo-Saxon words “ymb-ryne”, meaning “regularly occurring.” English-speakers used also to refer to them as “Quarter tense”, another corruption of the Latin name. In German liturgical books of the Middle Ages, they are often called with an entirely different word, “angaria”; for example, the index of the 1498 Missal of Salzburg calls the Ember Days of Advent the “angaria hiemalis”, (i.e. of winter), those of Lent the “angaria vernalis” etc.

This word derives from the verb “angariare – to press someone into service”, which occurs three times in the Latin New Testament. The first occurrence is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 41), “And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two.” The other two are when Simon of Cyrene is forced to help the Lord carry His Cross, Matthew 27, 32 and its parallel in Mark 15, 21. The noun “angaria” therefore means “a pressing into service” or “exaction”; according to DuCange’s Medieval Latin Glossary, it was used in Germany to refer to a quarterly tax that was collected at the Ember Days. Missals and breviaries printed for use in Germany do however also regularly use the Latin “Quattuor Tempora”.
The index of the Missal of Salzburg, printed at Nuremburg in 1498. At the bottom of the left column are read “angaria hiemalis” etc. From the website of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.
One of the most beautiful features of the Masses of Ember Saturday is the canticle Benedictus es which follows the fifth prophecy from the Book of Daniel in Advent, Lent and September. (During the octave of Pentecost, the reading is the same, but the canticle is substituted by an Alleluia with one versicle.) Medieval liturgical commentators offer a clever explanation as to why the prayers which precede the first four prophecies are introduced by “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.”, but the fifth one is introduced by “Dominus vobiscum.” In his Summa de Ecclesiasticis Officiis, Johannes Beleth writes in the mid-12th century that “Among these (prophecies) there is one which as it is being sung, no one ought to sit. This is the song of the three children, who contend for the faith of the Trinity, and so were cast into the furnace. Therefore at this song it is not good to genuflect, because the children would not genuflect before the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, although many princes did.”

As I have noted previously, the Missal of Sarum has a different arrangement for this reading and its canticle on each of the four Ember Days. On Pentecost, the reading found in the Roman Missal, Daniel 3, 47-51, is lengthened by the addition of the Biblical canticle, chapter 3, 52-88; the addition is sung by the reader as part of the lesson, and not with the proper melody of the Benedictus es. As is often the case with the lessons in medieval missals, the text does not correspond exactly to the wording of the Vulgate; there are a number of variants which derive from the Old Latin version of the Bible. Furthermore, several of the repetitions of “praise and exalt him above all forever” are omitted. The reading is then followed by the Alleluia and its verse as in the Roman Missal.

In September, Sarum has the same reading as at Pentecost. It is followed, however by a canticle composed by the German monk, poet and scholar Walafrid Strabo, a student of Rabanus Maurus at the famous abbey of Fulda in the first half of the 9th century. This canticle is a poetic paraphrase of the Benedicite, each verse of which is followed by a refrain, “Let them ever adore the Almighty, and bless him through every age.” At Sarum, the refrain was sung with the verbs in the indicative, “They ever adore the Almighty, and bless him in every age.”; it is split into two parts, which are sung after alternate verses. There are a few other minor variants from Walafrid’s original version.

Omnipotentem semper adorant,              They ever adore the Almighty,
Et benedicunt omne per aevum.               and bless Him through every age.

Astra polorum, cuncta hominum gens,      The stars of heaven, every sort of men,
Solque sororque, lumina caeli.               and the sun and his sister, the lights of heaven.
Omnipotentem semper adorant.          They ever adore the Almighty.

Sic quoque lymphae quaeque supernae,   So also all the waters in heaven above,
Ros pluviaeque, spiritus omnis.                the dew and the rains, and every wind.
Et benedicunt omne per aevum.               And bless Him through every age.

Ignis et aestus, cauma geluque,                Fire and heat, warmth and cold,
Frigus et ardor atque pruina.                    chill and burning and the frost.
Omnipotentem etc.                                  They adore etc.

Nix glaciesque, noxque diesque              Snow and ice, night and day,
Lux tenebraeque, fulgura, nubes.             light and darkness, lightnings and clouds.

Arida, montes, germina, colles,               Deserts, mountains, plants, hills,
Flumina, fontes, pontus et undae.            rivers, springs, the seas and the waves.

Omnia viva, quae vehit aequor,            All things that live and are born on the waters,
vegetat aer, terraque nutrit.               that the air quickens, and the earth nourishes.

Cuncta hominum gens, Israel ipse           Every sort of men, Israel itself,
Christicolaeque, servuli quique.      and the worshipers of Christ, and all His servants.

Sancti humilesque, corde benigno           The holy, the humble, the gentle of heart,
Tresque pusilli exsuperantes                   and the three little ones in their triumph.

Rite camini ignei flammas,                      Justly ready to disdain the flames
jussa tyranni temnere prompti.               of the fiery furnace, and the tyrant’s orders.

Sit Genitori laus, Genitoque                   Praise to the Father, and to the Son,
lausque beato Flamini sacro.                  and praise to the blessed Holy Spirit.

The Three Children in the Furnace, as depicted in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome ca. 275 A.D.
The Ember Days are often said to be connected with the agricultural seasons, especially in reference to the harvest seasons of the Italian peninsula, since they originated in Rome. In point of fact, there are only a few references to harvests and harvest-offerings at Pentecost, only one in Lent (the first prophecy) and none at all in Advent. In September, on the other hand, the references to the harvest are very clear, especially in the Epistles of the Masses. On Wednesday, Amos 9, 13-15, on Friday, the end of the book of Hosea (14, 2-10) and the second reading from Leviticus on Saturday (23, 39-43) all speak of harvests and the fruits of the earth. The last of these prescribes that they be kept “starting on the fifteenth of the seventh month”; according to the Roman tradition, September was originally the seventh month of the calendar, and indeed, September 15th is the earliest day on which the first Ember Day can occur.

To the medieval liturgist William Durandus, however, as probably to most of his contemporaries in the clergy, the most prominent feature of the Ember Days was not thanksgiving for the bounty of God in the harvest, but rather the traditional celebration of these days as the proper time for ordinations. He therefore offers the following allegorical reflections on the three Masses, explaining them in reference to season of the ordinands.  (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, Liber VI, capp. 132-134)
On Wednesday is read the Gospel (Mark 9, 16-28) … about the deaf and mute (boy) whom the Apostles could not heal, since “that kind of demons is not cast out except in fasting and prayer”; which is fitting to this day. For today is the fast of the four times, and therefore two readings are read, so that the ordinands may be taught in the two precepts of charity, or in the two laws.
The Mass of Friday expresses the penitence of the ordinands, whence in the Gospel… they are instructed unto conversion, and in the introit they are invited to seek the Lord. (“Let the heart of them that seek the Lord rejoice. Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened, seek ye ever His face.”)
The Mass of Saturday is all said for the teaching of the ordinands, lest they be sterile, like the fruitless fig tree, of which the Gospel is read (Luke 13, 6-17), and lest their lives be caught up in earthly matters, like the bent over woman. In the Epistle (Hebrews 9, 2-12), which treats of the first and second tabernacles, they are admonished to serve in the tabernacle of the Church Militant in such wise that they may be presented to the Lord in the tabernacle of the Church Triumphant. … Rightly in this month are the ordinations of clerics done, since in this month took place (in the Old Testament) the celebration of (the feast of) Tabernacles. Now the ordained are the ministers of the Church, established in the seven orders on the day of tabernacles through seven-fold grace.

Art as Catechesis in a Baroque Confessional: Guest Article by Zachary Thomas

Andrea Fantoni (1659–1734) was the most illustrious member of a family of artists active mostly in the province of Bergamo from 1680 to the end of the following century. Between 1704 and 1705, at the request of the Canon Penitentiary Giovan Pietro Mazza, he produced an extraordinary confessional for the city’s cathedral of San Alessandro.
(Image from Wikimedia Commons by © Steffen Schmitz; click to enlarge.)
From the summit, God the Father descends in billowing clouds, craning forward with arms outstretched as if to gather the whole world into the confessional, as the cloak flapping upward suggests an immense downward energy. Fixed behind him a large globe burns with a seven-part flame, perhaps representing the seven Sacraments.

The Father’s form melds into a wreathed oval relief of the Traditio Clavium, a reminder of the Lord’s words “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” This frontispiece set directly overhead of the confessor announces the source of his Sacramental power.

On the same level, ranged around the corners, are four figures representing the Virtues of the Confessor: on the left at back is Mercy with her open arms, in front Wisdom, looking studiously on a book, perhaps the Bible. On the right in back is Discretion, a robed man with finger held to his lips, indicating silence, the Seal of Confession. At front, a woman tenderly fondling a lamb is Meekness.

The priest’s box is decorated with great honor and vested with layers of symbolism. The door bears a large bas-relief panel depicting Christ raising the son of the widow of Naim, a Scriptural type for the Sacrament.
Inside the box are three carvings: the larger, above, is Moses bringing water from the rock, a story which the Church has always read as a type of Christ and His mercy, in accord with St Paul’s words that “they all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Cor 10, 4)

Two panels covers the confessor’s face as he inclines to one side or the other, so that, most appropriately, his person becomes anonymous, disappearing behind the symbols of his ministry. On one side is a personification of justice, an angel holding scales; on the other, mercy, one woman pardoning another who kneels just like a penitent. The presence of a type of Christ over them makes it clear it is truly He who dispenses the penitent, and that His mercy wipes out all sin. Finally, barely visible in the ceiling, the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove.

Two larger symbolic figures stand on either side of the priest’s box, covering the penitent’s alcove with the unfolded halves of a veil fixed above the priest’s box: on the left, a woman bearing a cross, symbolizing penitence, and on the right, a man stepping on a globe, symbolizing contempt for the world.

On the left side penitent box, above the grille is a Pietà, and to the side a scene depicting the penance of Mary Magdalene. The right side has an image of the Scourging and the Penance of St. Margaret of Cortona (1247–97), a Third Order Franciscan whose cult had just been approved by Rome in 1653.

The true purpose of sacred art, as of good theology, is not to say something about God, but to be a medium through which the believer can participate in the realities signified by the work; ultimately, to insert us into the ongoing action of the Mystery of Christ. Faced with the mysterious symbolic world of the Sacraments, the Christian is called to penetrate into their inner meaning with the help of grace and spiritual teachers, attentive and receptive to the ongoing divine intrusion into our world. Christ has not left us, but is present under the veils of the liturgy. Our job is to discover Him there, where he invites generous, attentive souls to understand his plan of salvation.

This confessional presents the Mystery of Penance attractively. The overwhelming approach of the Divine Mercy is a gesture of love offered to raise and ennoble human nature, to satisfy man’s perennial thirst for reconciliation. The moving scenes of penance, the raising from the dead, the Father’s earnest descent, all speak with the voice of a loving father to the human heart that craves forgiveness. This is not a dry treatise on mortal sin, on the conditions of contrition, etc. It presents the Mystery in its grandest outlines, through the two noblest media of Scripture, exquisitely brought to life by the artist’s hand, and the human body, whose dramatic poses cut straight to the heart. A man cannot help but want to “jump into” this stream, the Mystery of Penance flooding into the world.

The master artist, in true Baroque style, had brought his material to life in several complimentary, dynamic motions, each expressing the grand arcs of the sacramental action. The downward might of the Father’s merciful love—accentuated by his flying tunic—incarnate in the sacrament of binding and losing, is complimented by the upward movement of the rest of the confessional: the arch above the priest’s box, the Virtues which seem ready to float off to heaven, the two steps up to each alcove. The confessional isn’t just a static object, but a surge of energies performing the Sacrament of Confession.

Observe how simply and effectively the Confessional invites the penitent to consider the dispositions proper to him; and even more, generously offers models to help him achieve them.

We see the image of the widow of Naim. The guilty heart starts as it recognizes itself in the dead man whom Christ would raise. This moves us to compunction, hatred for sin, love of Christ, confidence of forgiveness all at once. The priest’s box reminds us of the grave judgment God must make; but the Virtues comfort us that the priest too is held to a celestial standard, that we should have confidence to expect Christ himself speaking to us. When we kneel at the grill, recalling our sins, the engravings help us identify them with Christ’s terrible sufferings, and move us once more to repentance.

Outside, the mood is welcoming, gentle: even the warnings are muted, inviting the sinner earnestly but gently to reconciliation. Inside the box is a space of austerity and simplicity; the penitent is not distracted by superfluous decoration, but given solemn examples of penance, and reminded of Christ’s expiatory death on his behalf. The departing faithful is confronted with the large figures of penance, reminding him of the Mystery he must now live. From beginning to end, the confessional shepherds the souls safely through this awesome sacrament.

This embodied, affective, mystagogical experience of the sacramental mysteries is made possible by a truly sacred art. So many committees and initiatives, so many silly slogans and useless pamphleteering could be avoided if more serious attention was given to the transformative power of sacred art that speaks more profoundly than words.

There is no part crafted with more care, guarded with more layers of symbolism than the priest’s box. He literally disappears behind the symbols of justice and mercy; the Scriptural types God revealed as the definitive lenses through which to understand this sacrament shroud him like a cope. The minister is the individual priest, a fallen man like us, but through him we are compelled to see Christ effecting our recreation by grace. The great honor paid to the decoration of the priest’s box helps us see the majesty of the priesthood.

The seriousness with which the confessional treats the reality of sin and justice is a strong antidote to a worldly spirit that treats sin with indifference, and so makes man’s life little different from a beast’s. The priestly medium is the only way to avoid this life-in-death of indifference, and allow God raise is to the glories of supernatural life.

Compare this image of the priest, the dispenser of the life-giving waters, to that conveyed by one of the new reconciliation rooms that look like a psychologist’s office. Does such a place insert our minds and hearts into the divine Mystery?

This Confessional draws us into the Mystery of Penance. Too often we look at confession as merely the chance to remit a number of sins, to restore us to a state of grace, or even a legal reunion with the Church. This is all true and good. But in its deepest reality as a Sacrament, it inserts us into the Mystery of Christ, into a Mystery of repentance. Penance doesn’t stop with the three Hail Marys: it is an entrance into the Mystery of the Father’s boundless mercy, a mystery that involves our whole lives, that embodies a whole way of life.

The confessional itself is an impressive embodiment, recapitulation of this invitation. It helps us see the full proportions of the Mystery we enter when we enter the confessional: it is Christ’s cross, in all its cosmic grandeur.

We don’t have many expressions of repentance in our cultural imagination. The raw force of the word “contrition”—ground to dust!—was understood by the Ninevites, who put on sack-cloth and piled ashes on their heads. That is repentance! The figures of the repentant saints helped us to see how the depth of our sorrow should even wrack our bodies; why are we ashamed to beat our breasts or prostrate ourselves on the floor? The dramatic figures here teach us the meaning of penance meant, beyond mere notional regret.

The dense symbol-scape of the Confessional of Bergamo furnishes an excellent material on which educators could base a course of mystagogical catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance. By leading students carefully, prayerfully, through personal exegesis of sacred art, the Christian initiate could learn to be attentive to the ongoing Revelation of Christ in the world through the liturgy. He must be built up into the mysteries of Christ presented in Scripture and liturgy, and act them out for himself. They must become the form of his life. That is the essence of the Christian life, and that is precisely what sacred art tries to do: to incite us to conform ourselves to the Form through forms, and become fitting vessels of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

First EF Mass of a New Priest in Des Moines

On Sunday, Fr Trevor Chicoine, who was ordained in June, celebrated his first Missa cantata for the regularly scheduled Extraordinary Form Mass at St Anthony’s Catholic Church in Des Moines, Iowa. The Latin Mass community there has been going strong for a long time, since the days of the indult, with the support of the pastor, Mons. Frank Chiodo. We also recently noted that the local Una Voce chapter will be welcoming Fr Cassian Folsom, the founder of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia, for a Day of Recollection at the end of this month; his conferences will focus on presenting the structure and spirituality of the Extraordinary Form, with a Missa cantata in the Basilica of St. John. Our thanks to Mr Andy Milam, who served as the Master of Ceremonies for this Mass, for sending in these photos, and congratulations to Fr Chicoine - ad multos annos!

The Psalms in Words, Pictures and Prayer

A new online course in Scripture is now available for the first time, offered as part of Pontifex University’s Masters in Sacred Arts. It is called the Psalms in Words, Pictures, and Prayer; we also see this three-credit Masters level course as one that might be audited as a stand-alone, as part of a mystagogical catechesis.

It examines the sung texts of the Divine Office, both the Psalms, which, according to St Thomas Aquinas, contains “all of theology,” and the various canticles of the Old and New Testaments traditionally sung as part of the Office. Each psalm and canticle is examined exegetically, with a focus on the historical context of authorship and composition, and then considered in light of its use in the traditional liturgical setting, including visual imagery related to the text in the illuminated manuscripts.

The Scriptural part of the course is taught by Fr Sebastian Carnazzo, Ph.D. and I will assist on those parts relating to the imagery.

I am especially excited to see this course offered. I hope that it will play a part in encouraging lay people to pray the Office in conjunction with imagery, so as to engage the whole person in prayer. As such, it is a complement to the book The Little Oratory, published by Sophia Institute Press. As well as being a Scripture class that is illuminated by pictures, it is an art class in which students will learn how both content and style of imagery can harmonize with the text in the context of worship.

The first class went live last Thursday at 12 noon, EST and it is offered weekly thereafter. Each class is recorded and uploaded, so you can come in at any time and take the class in your own time and your own pace. Alternatively, enroll and register at Pontifex University and then catch up and join us live in future classes.

As part of the class, we consider what part visual imagery has to play today. Do we need calligraphers and illuminators who can reproduce the breviaries of the past, or do we think as well about new ways of engaging people? I think that the developing pattern of people praying from smartphones represents a new opportunity for engagement with visual imagery that we haven’t seen before. It has never been easier to include high-quality images along with the text being prayed, as well as information about why the particular images are appropriate.

In addition to the enrichment of our students’ prayer lives, our goal is to see them contribute to the adoption of existing images in a way that it brings out the truths contained within the text for people today; this may even lead to the creation of new art, perhaps in a style that is designed to be smartphone friendly!

This man might not be checking his email - he might be praying!

In conjunction with this, I have created a short course, also available through Pontifex University, teaching people to Sing the Divine Office in English. This is not for credit but is intended for personal enrichment and for teachers, parish leaders, community leaders, and households. (Normally costing $99, this is offered free to any who sign up for the Masters in Sacred Arts “bundle”, by committing to pay for the whole program in 30 scheduled monthly payments of $300.)

No prior experience necessary. If you sing in the shower, then you can do this!

The course on singing the psalms is based upon the materials I developed to enable the students of Thomas More College of Liberal Arts to sing the Office daily; most of the materials for the course are available for free on the psalm-tones page of my blog, If you need help in learning how to use them, then this www.Pontifex.University course will help you. It is designed so that you can learn to sing the Office and then pass it on to your household, school, parish, community or just sing in your personal icon corner! All the melodies are taken from traditional plainchant in the traditional modes.

Here we are singing the Magnificat:

Just to give an example of what might come out of this - I have a monthly potluck and Vespers for friends, and it is a wonderful social occasion enjoyed by all that builds community in a city setting. It helps us to reach for that Christian ideal where we are in the world but not of it! We use all the psalm tones and settings, and new people learn this in no time as they go along. We also started a men’s group in a local church offering fellowship and prayer, and it is beginning to gain attention; for example, the Catholic San Franciso newspaper wrote about it, here. Our group is now open to men and women!

To read more about this course, follow the link here; to sign up follow the link here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Looking for New Insights into Scripture?

In his famous treatise De Doctrina Christiana, destined to be one of the most widely read works in the later Western tradition, St. Augustine recommends that Christians who are serious about studying the Word of God should work to know a number of languages and, at very least, have multiple translations at their disposal. Speaking about the large number and variety of Latin translations in his day, the bishop of Hippo observes:
In fact, this state of affairs has been more of a help than a hindrance to the understanding of the Scriptures, provided only that readers are not casual and careless. The examination of several versions has often been able to throw light on obscurer passages, as with that text of the prophet Isaiah (58:7), where one translation has, And do not despise the household of your seed, and another has, And do not despise your own flesh. Each corroborates the other; that is, each can be explained by the other ... [P]utting the minds of the translators together, we hit upon the more probable meaning that we are being commanded, according to the literal sense, not to despise our blood relations.[1]
The Bible has been translated now hundreds of times into English, over a period of more than half a millennium. Most of these translations have come and gone, for reasons both intrinsic (having to do with the translation) and extrinsic (cultural or political). But among Catholics who are in earnest about the long use of Scripture in public worship, the Douay-Rheims has surely come to occupy a position of permanent honor, for the simple reason that it gives us a close rendering of the Vulgate.

Now, I am all in favor of the Douay-Rheims translation. It is my go-to Bible when working with liturgical, patristic, or medieval texts, or when studying the psalms of the Divine Office. I can't imagine life without it. Still, all the same, I have often been surprised at the extent to which some Catholics insist on using no other Bible than the Douay-Rheims. This is truly unnecessary and even unhelpful when studying Scripture. As we saw the Doctor of Grace point out, we can often come to a much deeper understanding by reading a passage in multiple versions. I have found in my own life that lectio divina benefits tremendously from taking up a familiar book in an unfamiliar translation. Obviously, whatever translation we use ought to be accurate and possessed of some literary merit, unlike (for example) the New American Bible, which is written in Nabbish.

Enter the Knox Bible.

I first came across this sui generis translation by Msgr. Ronald Knox in college, long before I was capable of appreciating its peculiar virtues. Years later, when I was reading a spiritual writer who prefers to quote from the Knox Bible, I was reminded of what a marvelous and intriguing version it is. The great strength of Msgr. Knox's rendition is its sonority and creativity of diction, its poetic breadth, its surprising twists and turns, and its clever solutions to many intractable verses. Some have observed, and I would tend to agree with them, that Knox makes more sense out of St. Paul than most translations do, because he seems to have a connatural feel for the inside of the apostle's argumentation, what he is "driving at," and finds a way to convey that in our language. Knox also shines brightly in the Wisdom literature: Psalms, Proverbs, Sirach, the Song of Songs, and so forth. He is the only one who seriously attempts to convey the literary form of Psalm 118. Yes, Knox can be idiosyncratic; yes, he can get carried away with rhetoric; but the text is usually so brilliant, illuminating, and moving that you find yourself reading with greater pleasure than you would have thought possible.

In any case, this post is not really meant as a full-scale review of Msgr. Knox's version; such would require a far more detailed examination with plenty of quotations. It is meant, rather, as an encouragement to NLM readers to get to know the Knox Bible if you are not already familiar with it. I had forgotten its unique appeal until I received my copy of the Baronius Press edition, which, like all Baronius books, is magnificent in every way, from the hardcover with ribbed spine and gold lettering, to the gilt edges, to the marbled endpapers, to the red and gold ribbons.[2] My favorite aspect of this Bible is the manner in which the text is laid out: instead of the standard two-column approach sprinkled with verse numbers everywhere, which can make the act of reading feel like stepping through a mess of wires, we have the appearance of a regular book, in a single column, with all the verse numbers relegated to the margin.[3]

Here are some observations jotted down while reading different parts of the Knox Bible, to give you an idea of how it can open up Scripture. A site called CatholicBible.Online gives one access to the Vulgate, Douay-Rheims, and Knox, either alone or side-by-side: enormously helpful! The titles below (e.g., Ecclesiastes) are hyperlinks that will take you to the pertinent spot at this site.


I have never felt so close to the mind and heart of the author as I did upon reading this translation of one of the Bible's most puzzling books. Rather than providing a list of vanities, the author seems to be searching through a collection of memories for something worth living for. It didn’t seem that I was being preached at, but that I was witnessing a man’s internal conflict. Chapter 3:1-9 came off very differently. In the RSV, it says “for everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die,” a time for this, and a time for the opposite, etc. But Knox translates this in a way that stresses the tension between the contrary acts more than the constant similarity: “Men are born only to die, plant trees only to displant them. Now we take life, now we save it; now we are destroying, now building.” Knox's linking of the author’s chain of thoughts causes one to rethink one's own struggle with conflicting emotions or events, and to yield to divine Providence.


It would be difficult to imagine a more sublime translation of this prophet: so smooth, fluid, luminous. One strongly senses in the very sound of the words and tone of the language whether Isaias is praising, comforting, mourning, or chastising.

2 Maccabees 7

The story of the martyrdom of the seven sons and their mother is presented in a way that makes it seem both epic and tragic, and also somewhat like a Grimm fairy tale. I’ve never felt so much catharsis upon reading this story before.

Matthew 5-7

The Sermon on the Mount is beautiful, timeless, and challenging. Knox conveys its altitude and grittiness through his translation. Other translators often want to break it up into sections on different issues, which makes it come across like a catechism outline. But there is something lost in the separation into parts that Knox retains by leaving it as a whole and imparting it with poetic language. It’s easier to imagine listening to Jesus saying these words when reading this translation, whereas other translations have felt like a series of little canned speeches.

John 1:1-18

The prologue to John’s Gospel is dense with mysterious truths. Some English translations make it more confusing and ambiguous; here, particularly, we benefit from multiple versions. Admittedly Knox here is anything but modest in drawing out the meaning he finds in the tight phrases of the Greek, but I find, on the whole, that is resonates with freshness: "And the Word was made flesh, and came to dwell among us; and we had sight of his glory, glory such as belongs to the Father's only-begotten Son, full of grace and truth. ... No man has ever seen God; but now his only-begotten Son, who abides in the bosom of the Father, has himself become our interpreter."

Hebrews 11

Knox’s translation begins with a question, "What is faith?," whereas others begin with the answer. It is more effective to teach a definition of something if the student first asks for it. By beginning with the question, the reader experiences the asking and is thus more receptive to the answer. The Douay-Rheims translation, although accurate, is often totally uninteresting in poetic technique. In this passage, it repeats “By faith” at the start of 18 lines. The rhetorical device called ‘anaphora’ can be effective, but it loses its effect when overdone; more than three lines in a row is probably too much. Realizing this, Knox repeats the same idea in different ways by anaphoras of three. He uses “by faith” three times, but also “in faith” three times, and “Faith . . .” three times, etc. This re-emphasizes the same idea without repeating the same exact phrase too often. It is part of the reason why Knox's version generally makes for excellent reading aloud.

Consider giving this translation a chance in your lectio divina, Bible study, or academic work, adding it to the arsenal of tools you may already have for breaking open the Word of God and feasting upon it.


[1] Teaching Christianity, trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996), II.17, p. 136.
[2] For more photos, see this review from a while ago.
[3] In this respect it is akin to what are called nowadays "reader's Bibles," the best of which is the high-end 5-volume Bibliotheca, about which I hope to write a separate article someday.

Msgr. Ronald Knox

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Day of Recollection with Fr. Cassian Folsom in Des Moines, September 30th

Our friends at Una Voce Des Moines have asked us to let readers know about an upcoming Day of Recollection with Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, founder of the Monastery of Norcia. His conferences will focus on presenting the structure and spirituality of the Extraordinary Form. The day will be centered on a Missa Cantata in the Basilica of St. John.

UV Des Moines asked that participants RSVP so that they can have a number for preparing food and beverages, as well as photocopies of handouts.

For more information, visit

A Review of Peter Kwasniewski’s Book on NRO

National Review Online has just today published a review which I wrote of Peter Kwasniewski’s book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness, which you can read at the following link:

I have to say that I am pretty thrilled at the idea of having a piece of my writing on NRO, in part because from 1964-68, my mother worked as the secretary of James P. McFadden, the associate publisher of National Review (well before there was such a thing as “online.”) While she was employed there, one of the many projects she worked on was a supplement to the magazine, a collection of essays titled “What in the Name of God is Going in the Catholic Church?”, published in 1966, I believe. Shortly after I came on board with NLM as a regular writer, I wrote a bit about the experiences which my parents had of those crazy years, when the really crazy was yet to come. (I don’t know if there was ever a sequel to the supplement, but if there was, it should have been called “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet!”)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Video of Bishop Perry's Mass in Philadelphia

Yesterday, His Excellency Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary of Chicago, celebrated a solemn Pontifical Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and in thanksgiving for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum on the tenth anniversary of its coming into effect. Here is a good quality video of the complete ceremony; the original link is given below.

On this most auspicious occasion, New Liturgical Movement thanks Bishop Perry for his pastoral solicitude on behalf of the faithful who love the traditional liturgy, especially the many younger people who through these ancient rites are drawn closer to the Lord. We also offer our congratulations to all those who were involved in putting together this beautiful ceremony, something truly done for the greater glory of God!

10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum from Kearns Media Consulting LLC on Vimeo.

EF Workshops at Prince of Peace in Taylors, South Carolina

Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Taylors, South Carolina, will hold a five-week speaker series on the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, organized to help the faithful to a better understanding of why this form of Mass is celebrated. The parishioner who organized the event, Paul Pizzuti, describes it as “an every man’s approach to the Latin Mass. By offering an opportunity to find comfort and education within the Extraordinary Form, my hope is that parishioners of all ages will draw even closer to Jesus Christ.” The series will run from September 24 to October 22.
The feast of the Assumption at Prince of Peace.
This speakers discuss different aspects of the Extraordinary Form based on their own studies in literature, architectural design, philosophy, knowledge of historical Catholic figures, dogmatic and biblical theology, among them tow of Prince of Peace’s own, the pastor, Fr Christopher Smith, and Fr Richard Tomlinson. “Prince of Peace Catholic Church is one of the largest Latin Mass communities in the Southeast. I was thrilled that like so many young adults, the Extraordinary Form of Mass has been such a vital part of Paul’s Catholic faith that he wanted to created a program sharing his passion with others across various stages of understanding of this form. I look forward to speaking on the topic of Sacred Music and am grateful for the willingness of our other speakers to devote their time and generosity to this effort.” said Fr Smith.

Here are the descriptions and dates of each of the workshops:
Why Latin?, Sept. 24 with Father Jason Barone of the Diocese of Charlotte
• The history of Latin and why this language is known to unveil the mystery of God.

The Mass & the Missal, Oct. 1 with Father Richard Tomlinson
• Learn about the fundamentals that make up the Extraordinary Form of Mass

Sacred Music, Oct. 8 with Father Christopher Smith
• The historical significance behind the music of the Extraordinary Form of Mass

The Beauty of the Extraordinary Form of Mass, Oct. 15 with Joseph Pearce
• Appreciation of participating in the Extraordinary Form of Mass

Sacred Art & Architecture (What Changed with Vatican II), Oct. 22 with Jacob Wolfe
• How the meaning of art and architecture in the Catholic church has changed over the past 50 years

Each workshop will be held at 10 a.m. in the Parish Activity Center (PAC) on the Prince of Peace Catholic Church and School campus, located at 1209 Brushy Creek Rd., Taylors, South Carolina. For more information, please contact Paul Pizzuti at (843) 616-1766. As a reminder, Prince of Peace Catholic Church invites you to attend the Extraordinary Form of Mass every Sunday at noon.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

“Silence and the Primacy of God in the Sacred Liturgy”: Address by His Eminence Card. Sarah

We are extremely grateful to His Eminence Robert Cardinal Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, for sharing with New Liturgical Movement the text of the address which he delivered today to the Fifth Roman Colloquium on Summorum Pontificum, held at the Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum). The talk is entitled “Silence and the Primacy of God in the Sacred Liturgy”; His Eminence wishes it to be understood that this is a provisional text, which will be revised for publication later.

I would urge our readers to take note of several points of this excellent talk. Card. Sarah speaks eloquently against the idea of an anthropocentric liturgy, and the necessity of giving back to God His rightful place at the center of our worship, and against liturgy as “theatre” and “worldly entertainment”, and the noise that “kills” the liturgy, as he also wrote in his fine book, “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise.” In the final section, under the heading “Some Reflections on the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum” he states unequivocally that “(t)he usus antiquior should be seen as a normal part of the life of the Church of the twenty-first century.” He also speaks with praise of those communities which celebrate the traditional Mass, and reassures us No one will rob you of the usus antiquior of the Roman rite.” (This is a particularly important in light of some highly tendentious and pastorally uncharitable declarations about liturgical reform made in recent days.) We are indebted to His Eminence for these words of encouragement, and his exhortation to share with the whole Church “the profound formation in the faith that the ancient rites and the associated spiritual and doctrinal ambience has given you.”

Cardinal Sarah introduced by Fr Vincenzo Nuara, O.P., at today’s conference in Rome.
The first sentiment that I would like to express, ten years after the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, is that of gratitude to Almighty God. In fact, with this text Benedict XVI wanted to establish a sign of reconciliation in the Church, one that has brought much fruit and which has been continued in the same manner by Pope Francis. God wants the unity of His Church, for which we pray in every Eucharistic celebration: we are called to continue to pursue this path of reconciliation and unity, as an ever-living witness of Christ in today's world.

This initiative of Pope Benedict XVI finds it full explication in an important work of Cardinal Ratzinger. Writing less than a year before his election to the Chair of St Peter, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger took issue with “the suggestion by some Catholic liturgists that we should finally adapt the liturgical reform to the ‘anthropological turn’ of modern times and construct it in an anthropocentric style.” He argued:
If the Liturgy appears first of all as the workshop for our activity, then what is essential is being forgotten: God. For the Liturgy is not about us, but about God. Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age. As against this, the Liturgy should be setting up a sign of God’s presence. Yet what happens if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the Liturgy itself and if in the Liturgy we are thinking only of ourselves? In any and every liturgical reform, and every liturgical celebration, the primacy of God should be kept in view first and foremost.”
“Forgetting about God is the most imminent danger of our age.” My brothers and sisters these words, utterly true when they were written in July 2004, have become more and more poignant with each passing year. Our world is marked by the blight of Godless terrorism, of an increasingly aggressive secularism, of a spirit of individualistic consumerism in respect of creation, material goods and even human relationships, and of an advancing culture of death which endangers the right to life of the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the unborn, the unhealthy and the elderly.

In the face of this increasing godlessness we, Christ’s holy Church, are called by virtue of our baptism and of our own particular vocation to announce and proclaim that “Christ is the Light of nations” (Lumen Gentium, 1), and “to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 1). For the way of Christ and His Church is the path of Truth, Beauty and Goodness, the ultimate consummation of which is unending life in communion with God and all the saints in heaven. Whereas those who choose to walk according to the route laid down by the Prince of Lies risk hell: that ultimate fruit of the free, knowing and willing choice of sin and evil—eternal separation from God and the saints.

My brothers and sisters, we must never forget these eternal verities! Our world has most probably forgotten them. Indeed, particularly in the affluent West, our society seeks to hide these truths from us and to anaesthetise us with the apparent goods it offers to us in its unending cacophony of consumerism, lest we find the time and space to call into question its godless assumptions and practices. We must not succumb to this. We must be untiring in announcing the good news of the Gospel: that sin and death have been conquered by our Lord Jesus Christ whose sacrifice on the Cross has enabled us to gain the forgiveness that our sins demand and to live joyfully in this world and in the sure hope of life without end in the next.

The Church is called to announce this good news in every possible way, to every human person in every land and in every age. These essential missionary and apostolic endeavours, which are nothing less than an imperative given to the Church by the Lord himself (cf. Mt 28:19-20), are themselves predicated on a greater reality: our ecclesial encounter with Jesus Christ in the Sacred Liturgy. For as the Second Vatican Council so rightly taught: “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10).

We might ask: if the Church’s missionary vitality has diminished in our time, if the witness of Christians in an increasingly godless world has become weaker, if our world has forgotten about God, is this perhaps because we who are supposed to be “the light of the world” (Mt 5:14) are not approaching the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed as we should, or not drawing sufficiently deeply from the font from which all her power flows so as to bring all to enjoy that “spring of water welling up to eternal life”? (Jn 4:14)

For Pope John Paul II, these were not questions but tragic results of the crisis of faith and of our betrayal of the Second Vatican Council. He said, in fact:
In this “new springtime” of Christianity there is an undeniable negative tendency, and the present document is meant to help overcome it. Missionary activity specifically directed “to the nations” (ad gentes) appears to be waning, and this tendency is certainly not in line with the directives of the Council and of subsequent statements of the Magisterium. Difficulties both internal and external have weakened the Church's missionary thrust toward non-Christians, a fact which must arouse concern among all who believe in Christ. For in the Church’s history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith.
If this is indeed so, if the Church of our day is less zealous and efficacious in bringing people to Christ, one cause may be our own failure to participate in the Sacred Liturgy truly and efficaciously, which is perhaps itself due to a lack of proper liturgical formation—something that is a concern of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, who said:
A liturgy detached from spiritual worship would risk becoming empty, declining from its Christian originality to a generic sacred sense, almost magical, and a hollow aestheticism. As an action of Christ, liturgy has an inner impulse to be transformed in the sentiments of Christ, and in this dynamism all reality is transfigured. “our daily life in our body, in the small things, must be inspired, profuse, immersed in the divine reality, it must become action together with God. This does not mean that we must always be thinking of God, but that we must really be penetrated by the reality of God so that our whole life...may be a liturgy, may be adoration.” (Benedict XVI, Lectio divina, Seminary of the Diocese of Rome, 15 February 2012)
It is necessary to unite a renewed willingness to go forward along the path indicated by the Council Fathers, as there remains much to be done for a correct and complete assimilation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on the part of the baptized and ecclesial communities. I refer, in particular, to the commitment to a solid and organic liturgical initiation and formation, both of lay faithful as well as clergy and consecrated persons.

It may also be because too often the liturgy as it is celebrated is not celebrated faithfully and fully as the Church intends, effectively ‘short-changing’ or robbing us of the optimal ecclesial encounter with Christ that is the right of every baptised person.

Many liturgies are really nothing but a theatre, a worldly entertainment, with so many speeches and strange cries during the mystery that is celebrated, so much noise, so many dances and bodily movements that resemble our popular folk events. Instead the liturgy should be a time of personal encounter and intimacy with God. Africa, above all, and probably also Asia and Latin America, should reflect, with the help of the Holy Spirit, and with prudence and with the will to bring the Christian faithful to holiness, about their human ambition to inculturate the liturgy, in order to avoid superficiality, folklore and the auto-celebration of their culture. Each liturgical celebration must have God as its centre, and God alone, and our sanctification.

Today, the 10th anniversary of the coming into force of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI, also raises the question of the implementation of the liturgical reform called for by the Second Vatican Council and of what one might call the liturgical and pastoral ‘fallout’ of those years. They are not peripheral questions of importance only for liturgical specialists or of interest solely for so-called “traditionalists,” for, as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1997, “the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatever.”


In the citation from Cardinal Ratzinger with which I opened this address, the Cardinal asks: “What happens if the habit of forgetting about God makes itself at home in the Liturgy itself and if in the Liturgy we are thinking only of ourselves?” This may seem to be a strange question, but it arises out of a real tendency in recent decades to plan and hold liturgical celebrations where the focus is mostly on the celebrating community, almost at times to the apparent exclusion of God. I say “apparent” because I do not wish to judge the intentions of those who promote or celebrate such anthropocentric liturgies: they themselves may be the victims of a poor or even deficient theological and liturgical formation.

A Primer for a Tradition-Minded Celebration of the OF Mass

Our thanks to Fr Richard Cipolla of St Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, for sharing this article with our readers.

For Priests who wish to use Mutual Enrichment to inject Tradition into the Novus Ordo Rite
If you are a priest of the Roman Rite, as of ten years ago today, you are officially “bi-formal”; you have almost completely free access to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, as we now call it, in addition to the Ordinary Form.

Despite his shy and retiring character, Pope Benedict XVI braved a great deal of criticism, much of it very nasty, all of it completely unnecessary, to give you this gift, after devoting so much of his work to consideration of the Catholic Church’s liturgy problem. This was not only done so that you could respond more generously to the pastoral needs of the faithful, and especially the younger faithful, who are so eager to rediscover beauty and the sense of the sacred in public worship, although that it is certainly very important. It is no small matter, this liberty to fulfill what St John Paul II defined as the “rightful aspirations” of the faithful who love the traditional liturgy. However, it was also done to provide an important, indeed, a necessary point of reference for the future correction of the post-Conciliar liturgical form, since the need for such a correction is evident to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
From last year’s All Saints and All Souls photopost, the OF Mass as it should be, at the Church of St Agnes in St Paul, Minnesota.
Since it seems likely that it will be a while before the “reform of the reform” can begin, what now needs to be done is to celebrate the Novus Ordo in a way that includes as much of the traditional Roman Rite as possible without disobeying its rubrics. The object of this Primer is to inject Tradition into the veins of the Novus Ordo as a preparation for its future reform in the next generation. We hope that these suggestions will fruitfully contribute to the “mutual enrichment” which Pope Benedict spoke of in the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum.

1. Say the vesting prayers every day. Always wear the maniple, the sign of the work of the priest. When using Roman vestments, cross the stole. Wear the biretta.

2. Always use the veil and burse for the chalice; a bare chalice is embarrassing and irreverent. Either have the veiled chalice on the altar before Mass or carry it in in the traditional way. On the way to the altar, recite Psalm 42 quietly.

3. The Mass must be celebrated ad orientem. This is the most important injection of the Tradition into the OF. To change the orientation is to eliminate the terrible novelty of saying Mass facing the people and the misunderstanding of the Mass that ensues from such a posture. Those who are pastors must, after proper catechesis in the parish, re-introduce the ancient and constant tradition of orientation of the celebrant facing liturgical East. Remember that the rubrics of the OF still assume that the priest is facing East, as, for example, to turn to the people at the Orate fratres. (For more details, see “The Normativity of Ad Orientem Worship According to the Ordinary Form’s Rubrics”.

4. When incense is used, the customary prayers of blessing should be said silently, thereby not breaking the rubric to say “nothing” at the blessing.

5. The Ordinary of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) should be in their traditional languages and preferably sung to a simple chant. This injection of Greek and Latin into the Mass, even daily Mass, helps the people become comfortable with the uniform objectivity and universality that the use of Latin affords. The final blessing is another good place to introduce the use of Latin in the Mass.

6. Make the customary bows in the Gloria at adoramus te, gratias agimus, Jesu Christe, suscipe deprecationem, and make the sign of the Cross at the end.

7. The position of the hands at the Collect, at the Prayer over the Gifts and Post-Communion prayer, should be in the traditional form, never the outstretched arms that came into vogue in the 60s and 70s. Beware of making the traditional form too rigid.

8. The Responsorial Psalm is one of the least happy novelties of the reformed rite. Wherever possible, sing the psalm, or better yet, have a cantor sing the Gradual, which is an option listed in the General Instruction.

9. Memorize both prayers before the Gospel from the traditional rite and say those quietly.

10. At the Creed, make the customary bow at Jesum Christum, a deep bow at et incarnatus est, a bow at simul adoratur, and the Sign of the Cross at end.

11. At the Preparation of the Gifts, the berakah prayers that thank God for bread and wine must be said according to the rubrics. They should be said quietly before saying the traditional Offertory prayers silently, Suscipe sancte Pater for the bread and Offerimus tibi for the wine. It would seem that the water is not blessed according to the OF rubrics. Bow deeply at In spiritu humilitatis.

12. When censing the gifts, use the traditional three crosses and three circles. Memorize the prayers Dirigatur and Ascendat at the censing of the altar.

13. Memorize the Lavabo prayer at the washing of hands.

14. At the Orate Fratres use the “half-circle” movement. Turn to the right to face the people and then continue turning to face the book.

15. Make a profound bow at the Sanctus and bless yourself at the Benedictus.

16. THE CANON should be said audibly but quietly. God does not have to be shouted at, especially during this most sacred prayer of the Mass. At the beginning of the Roman Canon, use the traditional circular motion with your hands and bow profoundly at “Jesus Christ” so that this is as close to the traditional kissing of the altar as possible. Ignore the brackets after Andrew in the list of Apostles and always include all of the saints in the list beginning with John the Baptist. Before the consecration, wipe your thumbs and forefingers three times on the corporal. Genuflect both before and after you elevate the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood. Keep “digits” (thumb and forefinger joined) from after the consecration until the ablutions.

17. At the Our Father use same hand position as for the Collects.

18. Turn to the people for the Peace, and then turn back to the altar and begin the Agnus Dei.

19. When receiving the Host and Chalice, make the sign of the Cross with each before receiving. Memorize the prayers Panem caelestem and Quid retribuam and use them before consuming the Sacred Species.

20. Have the altar server ring the bell immediately after you have consumed the Sacred Species. This is important to let the people know that the Sacrifice is complete. The reformers deliberately moved the Ecce Agnus Dei to before the priest’s Communion to make it seem that the priest is just receiving Communion first before the people. The priest is not “receiving Communion”; he is completing the Sacrifice.

21. Always do the double ablutions, first only wine, holding the paten under your chin, and then wine and water, holding your joined thumb and forefinger over the chalice as the server pours the wine and water over them. When consuming the second ablution hold the purificator under your chin. Dry your fingers with the purificator, cleanse the chalice thoroughly, cover the chalice with the veil and place the corporal in the burse.

22. After the post-Communion prayer go to the foot of the altar and say the prayer to St Michael, followed by Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us, three times. Or, consider using the full suite of Leonine prayers: three Hail Marys; Hail, Holy Queen; the prayer for the Church; the St. Michael Prayer; and the threefold Sacred Heart invocation.

23. If possible say the Prologue to John en route to or in the sacristy after Mass.

For further reading, see also “Imbuing the Ordinary Form with Extraordinary Form Spirituality.”

Reminder: Pontifical Mass in Philadelphia Today, Live on EWTN

A reminder that EWTN will broadcast live the Pontifical Latin Mass which His Excellency Bishop Joseph Perry will celebrate at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, for the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum. You can also watch on EWTN’s website:; the Mass begins at 7pm EDT. Sacred music for the Mass will include Mozart’s Missa Brevis in C-major, (the “Sparrow” Mass), Elgar’s Ecce Sacerdos Magnus, Monteverdi’s Adoramus te, Christe, and John Blow’s Salvator Mundi, in addition to the Gregorian chants.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Council Fathers in Support of Latin: Correcting a Narrative Bias [UPDATED]

The manipulation or distortion of truth should be opposed wherever it crops up, no matter what the source. For, as it says in a verse of Psalm 62 traditionally recited at Sunday Lauds: “The king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall glory; for the mouths of liars will be stopped” — a verse that was, incidentally, expunged from Paul VI’s Liturgy of the Hours.

Anyone who has taken any trouble at all to study the history of the Second Vatican Council knows that it was an exceedingly complex event, with many currents of thoughts, extremely sharp disagreements among individuals and factions, and crafty manipulators behind the scenes, as one learns from eyewitnesses (e.g., Wiltgen, Lefebvre, Congar, de Lubac) and historians (e.g., De Mattei). It was no simple triumphal march of progressivism over the graves of obscurantists, as much as the victors wish they could rewrite the narrative by conveniently glossing over or dismissing the actual debates in the aula and the final texts of the documents, in which a conservative or traditional viewpoint is often reflected.

This is not to say that the documents are unproblematic; fifty years of hermeneutical battles have sufficiently demonstrated the contrary. It is merely to say that the popular narrative of the Council as a “new Pentecost” driven forward by a nearly unanimous groundswell of support for innovation and modernization is far indeed from the variegated and uneasy truth of things. The documents were compromises, no doubt about it; the liberals did plan to leave them behind as soon as possible, like lower stages of a Saturn V aiming for the moon; the traditional elements in the documents are, by now, almost completely buried and forgotten; the Church is plentifully reaping the destructive results of rupture and discontinuity. All this is true. But it still gives us no carte blanche for rewriting the Council itself, unless we wish to be among those whose mouths will be stopped.

Therefore, it is surprising, to say the least, to find a recent document making such claims as the following:
The great principle, established by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, according to which liturgical prayer be accommodated to the comprehension of the people so that it might be understood, required the weighty task of introducing the vernacular language into the liturgy and of preparing and approving the versions of the liturgical books, a charge that was entrusted to the Bishops.
          The Latin Church was aware of the attendant sacrifice involved in the partial loss of liturgical Latin, which had been in use throughout the world over the course of centuries. However it willingly opened the door so that these versions, as part of the rites themselves, might become the voice of the Church celebrating the divine mysteries along with the Latin language.
          At the same time, especially given the various clearly expressed views of the Council Fathers with regard to the use of the vernacular language in the liturgy, the Church was aware of the difficulties that might present themselves in this regard.
          The goal of the translation of liturgical texts and of biblical texts for the Liturgy of the Word is to announce the word of salvation to the faithful in obedience to the faith and to express the prayer of the Church to the Lord.  For this purpose it is necessary to communicate to a given people using its own language all that the Church intended to communicate to other people through the Latin language.
How curiously unlike what one discovers poring through the great big volumes that contain the speeches of the Council Fathers — all those religious superiors, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals who spoke day after day in the opening session in 1962!

When reading their speeches on the liturgy schema, one is struck by how often they return to the subject of Latin. Even after repeated requests by the moderators to stop talking about it, the subject kept popping up. Almost every speaker had an opinion and wanted to share it (each making his remarks, of course, in Latin—for the Council was the last great event at which one could sense vividly the glorious unity of a global, multi-racial Church communicating in a common mother tongue that belonged to no imperial power; this we lost as a punishment for the new tower of Babel we attempted to construct in the 1960s). Yes, it is true that a number of Council Fathers spoke out strongly in favor of greatly increasing the role of the vernacular; but they were a minority. There were many more who admitted that its use should be expanded in certain situations, while not displacing the customary Latin; and there were many besides who adamantly reaffirmed the primacy of Latin due to qualities frequently acknowledged by the Magisterium of the Church, such as its antiquity, longevity, stability, and universality.

One of the experts sitting at the Council, soaking it all in, plotting his way through the maze of opinions and endless evening gatherings, was the Jesuit theologian Henri de Lubac. He was later to acquire a reputation for conservatism, but that was only against the backdrop of the insanity that would follow. When the Council opened, he was widely seen as a progressive, even a modernist, for his laudatory book on the pseudo-mystic Teilhard de Chardin. De Lubac has left us a precious historical document, the Vatican Council Notebooks, in which he wrote down detailed notes about his experiences each day at and around the Council. The very fact that de Lubac’s progressivism inclined him to pay less attention to the boring conservatives and more attention to the exciting young Turks makes it all the more striking that he records so many (but not all of the) conciliar speeches in favor of Latin. In other words, since we know he is not attempting to push a pro-Latin agenda—if anything, the contrary is true—his testimony reliably indicates the depth of thought and sentiment on behalf of Latin among the Council Fathers. As we shall see, too, many of the Council Fathers vividly anticipated the curse of too much liturgical variety and diversity of adaptation, and pleaded in favor of liturgical unity against decentralization and the fragmentation of decisions. Their warnings went unheeded.

With this brief background to the Notebooks, let us bring before our eyes some of what de Lubac heard and recorded. (Numbers in parentheses refer to pages in the first volume of the Ignatius Press edition of Vatican Council Notebooks. I do not give the dates of the speeches here, which may be found by consulting the book; the first excerpt is from the gathering of October 23, 1962, and the last from that of November 13. De Lubac does not italicize the Latin phrases that he sprinkles throughout.)

Archbishop Armando Farès of Catanzaro and Squillace observed that this text is intended to be the “magna charta”; so it is necessary to explain the connection “inter fidem et liturgiam” [between faith and liturgy] and to pay careful attention to liturgical unity for the sake of the unity of the faith. “Sit una lingua, sc. latina” [Let there be one language, namely, Latin]. (176–77)

Cardinal Ruffini made 12 criticisms. … “Cautissime procedendum est” [it is necessary to proceed with the greatest caution {in regard to the question of Latin}]; there is great danger here, and it is not in conformity with the teachings of Pius XII. (178)

Card. Feltin: Latin remains the language of the Church. … We must extend the concessions that have already been made by the popes for the use of the vernacular languages. He suggested that we keep the missa solemnis in Latin as well as the essential formulas of the sacraments. (178)

Cardinal James L. McIntyre (Los Angeles): words of praise for Latin. It is a thing “plus quam humanum” [more than human]. He appealed to history. To attack the Latin language is in some way to impugn the immutability of dogmas. Latin is not only necessary from the ecclesiastical point of view, it is so from the scientific and civil points of view. It is the Catholic language: Protestants do not use it. “Missa debet remanere ut est” [the Mass must remain as it is]. (178–79)

Cardinal John D’Alton (Armagh, Ireland). … “Placet omnino quod dicitur de lingua latina” [I entirely approve of what has been said of the Latin language], the language of the Church; but we must resist those who would like to eliminate Latin altogether. That would cause confusion. (179)

Card. Juan Landázuri Ricketts (Lima, Peru): “in genere placet” [the schema pleases me in general]. Let us take care, however, not to favor variety too much. (179)

Card. Bacci. … The people will not understand any more in the vernacular than in Latin, because we are dealing here with mysterious things … Besides, it is enough that catechesis is in the vernacular. … Danger of disputes, of nationalism, especially in bilingual (Canada, Belgium) or trilingual (Switzerland) countries, to the great detriment of the Church. For the sacraments, one could permit some parts in the vernacular language, “probante tamen Sancta Sede” [with the Holy See’s approval, however]. Matters this serious should not be left to the bishops’ conferences. Otherwise, “magna diversitas et confusio” [great diversity and confusion], as already exists today. (184)

Alex. Gonçalves do Amara (Uberaba, Brazil): … The Mass and sacraments should be kept in Latin; the Epistle and the Gospel in the vernacular. (186)

Pietro Parente, assessor of the Holy Office. … Her acts prove that the Church is not immobile, as she is accused of being. But it is necessary to proceed “cum maxime cautela” [with the greatest caution] … Be careful of the “pericula versionum” [dangers of translation]. (186–87)

Dino Staffa, archbishop of Caesarea (Palestine), secretary of the Congregation for Studies. … To admit in principle the use of the vernacular languages is a serious matter, for it will not be possible to stop at half-measures. There is a great risk for the faith and for discipline.—At a time when the world is moving toward unity, will the Church move in the direction of diversity? … “Lingua latina integre servetur in missa” [Let Latin be preserved in full in the Mass]. (187)

Cardinal Siri. … It is necessary to soften art. 20, on adaptations; we must stave off the danger of a multiplicity of forms and deviations. … No. 24, on Latin: caute procedendum [let us proceed with caution]: let us abide by “Veterum sapientia.” (191)

Bishop M.J. Flores of Barbastro (Spain). … No. 24 [on introducing vernacular]: we should mistrust those who dare everything; beware, here as everywhere, of the “intolerantia auctoritatis” [intolerance of authority]; beware of troublemakers. Flores applied the prayer of Saint Isidore recited at the beginning of every session: that we not let ourselves be diverted from truth and justice by love for our national languages. The Ecclesia must be “una in fide, una in liturgia, una in caritate” [one in faith, one in liturgy, one in charity]. (192)

The auxiliary of Burgos (Spain) [Demetrio Mansilla Reoyo]: … No. 24: without Latin, the Mass will be even less understood. The Fathers at Trent had to react against variety; “fructus ex historia capiamus” [Let us gather the fruits of history]. (194)

[Vittorio Maria] Costantini, a Franciscan bishop: vernacular languages are constantly changing. Comments in the vernacular are sufficient. And the liturgy in the vernacular languages will not suffice to bring back our separated brethren. (194)

[Benedikt] Reetz, Benedictine abbot of Beuron. He is for an “usus moderatus linguae vulgaris” [a moderate usage of the vernacular], but he would not wish Gregorian chant to be condemned to death; he does not believe it is necessary for everyone to understand everything; the other day, I only understood one word of the Greek Mass: Amen; and yet it was of spiritual benefit. (195)

K.J. Calewaert, bishop of Gand … Latin is the best sign of unity; in conferences, pilgrimages, international meetings, it is necessary that everyone be able to chant together the Gloria, the Credo, the Salve Regina … The vernacular can be allowed for the sacraments. (195)

Dom Jean Prou, Abbot of Solesmes. … As for no. 24, it is dangerous: there is a risk of no longer being able to go back. It would be necessary to place strict limits on this [extension of the vernacular]. (195–96)

Bishop [Luigi Carlo] Borromeo (Italy): let Latin be kept, even for the sacraments. (197)

Anicet Fernández, O.P., master general: Major concordia esset si duae quaestiones distinguerentur: (a) major libertas in usu linguarum vernacularum: resp.: affirmative; (b) utrum omnes sacerdotes debeant cognoscere linguam latinam: affirmative, nam: lingua latina possidet (jus a longo tempore)—est lingua officialis—in lingua latina continentur immensi thesauri sapientiae christianae. [There would be greater agreement if two questions had been distinguished: (a) a greater freedom in the use of the vernacular languages. Response: yes. (b) Must all priests know Latin? Yes, because Latin is in place (and has been so for a long time already), it is the official language, immense treasures of Christian wisdom are contained in the Latin language.] (199)

Zacharias Rolim de Moura, bishop of Cajazeiras (Brazil). … We must avoid the multiplication of local rites. A speech in defense of Latin. Let there be no excessive innovations or exaggerations against the venerabiles traditiones [venerable traditions]. (200–1)

Joseph Melas, bishop of Nuoro (Italy): Let Latin be preserved and recommended, ut ex omni lingua et natione … latine loquantur [so that people of every language and every nation may speak Latin]. Do not scandalize the faithful by innovations. (202)

A Franciscan missionary bishop (India) [Albert Conrad De Vito]. Against the use of vernacular languages. … The divine mysteries are diminished by the use of vernacular languages. (202–3)

Another Brazilian [Carlos Eduardo de Sabóia Bandeira Melo]. Experience shows that great confusion has arisen in the last few years. Hodie lingua, cras aliud… [Today language {is changing}, tomorrow {it will be} another thing]. And the laity claim to know better than the clergy. There is no one who is incapable of understanding the Latin Mass, after some explanation. … Let us not grant anything to the bishops’ conferences: the bishop is master in his diocese; nullum moderamen, nulla jurisdictio inter episcopum et Romanum Pontificem [No intermediate body, no jurisdiction between the bishop and the Roman Pontiff]. (203)

Bishop Antonio Santin of Tireste … There is no piety or dignity in a liturgy in the vernacular language. … “Non amore novi procedamus!” [Let us not proceed from a love of novelty!] (209)

Joseph Battaglia, bishop of Faenza (Italy). … At no. 24, lingua latina “diligenter et cum amore servetur. S. Pontifex luculenter demonstravit nexum inter Ecclesiam et linguam latinam.” [Let Latin be preserved zealously and with love. The Supreme Pontiff has amply demonstrated the link between the Church and Latin.] All the children of the Church must hear the voice of their Mother, the same voice. Latin, sign of unity. Adjuro vos… [I implore you.] (209)

Archbishop Enrico Nicodemo of Bari (Italy). … Now he recommended Latin to us. (210)

A Brazilian bishop [Salomão Ferraz]. It is necessary to introduce the vernacular a little more; let this be permitted, sed nulli implacabiliter impositum [but not imposed in an implacable manner]. In the solemn offices, lingua latina adhibenda, ut officialis [Latin must be employed, as the official language]. … Do not abandon the exterior traditions, even in the vestments. (211)

An Italian bishop [Biagio D’Agostino]. … Without doubt Latin non est de essentia fidei [is not of the essence of the faith], sed: una fides, unum baptisma, una liturgia [but: {let us have} one faith, one baptism, one liturgy]. To say “catholicus sum” [I am Catholic] is to say “civis romanus sum” [I am a Roman citizen]. Let the West preserve Latin. (212)

J. B. Peruzzo, archbishop of Agrigente. Multa audivi contra sacram traditionem. Haec verba cause mihi fuerunt anxietatis et timoris. [I have heard many things against sacred tradition. Those words were for me a cause of anguish and fear.] … All those who want to diminish Latin always invoke the same reason: so that the people will understand and participate better. That is what the Augsburg Confession demanded. Now, quid evenit [What was the outcome]? Actus separationis a Sancta Matre Ecclesia [An act of separation from Holy Mother Church]. Separatio a lingua latina, per quandam inexplicabilem rationem, fere semper, etiam cum permissu Summi Pontificis [The abandonment of Latin, for some inexplicable reason, almost always, even with the permission of the Supreme Pontiff], ends up in absolute separation. (212–13)

Archbishop Peruzzo mentions the Augsburg Confession, a profession of faith written by Philip Melancthon in 1530 to present the fundamental articles of Lutheranism. In its article 24, we read: “All the ceremonies [of the Mass] must serve principally for the instruction of the people in what is necessary for them to know concerning Christ.”

Continuing with the Council Fathers:

Cardinal Spellman. Maxima prudentia et circumspectio est necessaria. De liturgismo exaggerato vitando. No. 27: cur ordinem missae recognoscere? Attendamus, ne minuatur reverentia erga SS. Sacramentum. [Very great prudence and circumspection are necessary. We must avoid an exaggerated ‘liturgism’. Why revise the ritual of the Mass? Let us be careful not to diminish reverence toward the Most Holy Sacrament.] Beware of magna confusio [great confusion]! (213)

Cardinal Godfrey, archbishop of London … No. 42: not too much of the vernacular language; risk of error in matters of faith; and if the choice is left to the bishops, erit maxima confusio [there will be great confusion]. (217)

Card. Ottaviani—no. 37: Si oportet sic recognoscere Ordinem Missae, quid manebit? Haec res sanctissima non debet mutari [If we must revise the ritual of the Mass in this way, what will remain of it? This most holy thing must not be changed] at every generation. … There is an appeal [in the schema] to the authority of Pius XII; but there is no mention of his speech to the international liturgy congress, where he said: “The Church has the grave duty to maintain firmly the unconditional usage of Latin, sine ulla remissione [without any relaxation].” (218)

Bishop Dwyer of Leeds (England): no. 37 is not clear. If every nation can change things, “non erit recognitio, sed potius destructio” [There will not be a revision, but rather, a destruction]. (220)

A Spanish bishop [Ramón Iglesias Navarri]. No change should be made to the Mass without very grave reasons. (225)

A Chinese bishop (Formosa?) [Petrus Pao-Zin Tou]. Several people are trying to introduce some beautiful novelties. Canon missae idem debet ramenere ubique terrarum, etiam quoad linguam, exceptis Pater noster et Agnus Dei [The canon of the Mass must remain the same everywhere on earth, even in what concerns the language, with the exception of the Our Father and the Lamb of God]. Ante et post canonem [before and after the Canon], preserve the ceremonies, but in various languages. (229)

Armand Farès, archbishop of Catanzaro and Squillace (Italy). Be mindful of the Council of Trent. At no. 37, do not exaggerate active participation. Ne tangatur canon missae; cf. Trent: canon est ab omni errore purum [Let the canon of the Mass not be touched; cf. Trent: the canon is free from all error]. No. 42 {on communion under both species}: no; we must not arouse the miratio populi [astonishment of the people], etc. (235–36)

Sabóia Bandeira, bishop of Palmas (Brazil). p. 177: Omnino debet remanere sicuti est. [{The Roman rite} must remain altogether as it is.] … If we touch that, everyone will propose his own change, etc. (236)

Archbishop Modrego y Casaus of Barcelona. … If the homily is well done, no need for the vernacular language at Mass. (239)

Similar points were raised when the Council Fathers discussed the Divine Office. Again, there were some in favor of dropping Latin altogether, a larger number who wanted a blend of or a choice between Latin and the vernacular (e.g., Frings, Léger, Döpfner); and a number of “hard-liners” who basically said: The Office has been in Latin and should remain in Latin, and the clergy just have to put their minds to learning it and doing it. A sampling:

Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, patriarch of Lisbon: … In general law, lingua latina a clericis servari debet, quia in officio sacerdo est tanquam vox Ecclesiae. [Latin must be retained by the clerics, for in the Office the priest is, so to speak, the voice of the Church.] (258)

Cardinal Étienne Wyszyński (Warsaw). Let the emendatio not go too far: Servanda sunt monumenta antiquissimae traditionis [We must preserve these monuments of the most ancient tradition]. … Lingua latina conservanda videtur in breviario [It seems that Latin must be retained in the breviary]. A number of beautiful texts cannot be well translated. If we yield on this point, priests will lose the habit of Latin to an ever greater degree. In the name of the 64 Polish bishops: let us refrain from shortening the breviary too much (some applause) and let us keep the Latin. (258)

Cardinal William Godfrey, archbishop of Westminster. … If, in some regions, Latin is no longer much used or esteemed, that is not a reason for abandoning its use in the office: on the contrary, we must make an effort to restore it. Do not give a signum debilitatis [sign of weakness]. (259)

Card. Ant. Bacci. … Liturgical Latin is easy; the bishops have a serious obligation to take the necessary measures {in its favor}. (261)

Bishop Franić (Split, Yugoslavia). Let us not shorten the office any more. … Keep the Latin. (262)

Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni. Do not shorten the breviary: it should rather be augmented. … Therefore followed a full-scale assault on the use of the vernacular. (268–69)

Bishop Victor Costantini of Sessa Aurunca (Italy), against the vernacular. (269)

Archbishop Pierre Ngo-dinh-Thuc of Hué (Vietnam). In the name of the bishops of Vietnam. This schema proposes so many innovations that nothing of the Roman ritual will remain; this could be very harmful. De aspectu sociali, multi Patres exagerant [On the social aspect, a number of the Fathers are exaggerating]: among us, for a long time, this social aspect has been very intensive; but we still value individual piety. So much freedom requested for adaptations! In this, too, there is danger. Latin has always been the language of a minority: so the situation is not new: it has brought about unity; it must do so still. (278)

A Polish titular bishop [Franciszek Jop]. … Lingua latina magni pretii est [the Latin language is of great value]; it must remain; it is linked to the birth of our nation; the first history of Poland is in Latin, etc. … Against the growth of the powers of the episcopal conferences. (284)

What we see in de Lubac’s summaries of these interventions is just how lively was the desire of many Council Fathers to see Latin remain unimpaired in its majestic role as a source and symbol of Catholic unity and as the traditional vesture in which the sacred rites were clothed, so that they could remain the common possession of Holy Mother Church instead of the sport and prey of various national episcopacies and their linguistic and cultural agendas.

As hackneyed as the saying may be, perhaps we may be excused for invoking it: The more things change, the more they stay the same. The hopes and fears of the Council Fathers speak with exactitude to our current situation. Their repeated protests against the supposed magnum principium and its corollary of decentralization remain a matter of historical record that no one can alter.


It occurs to me that, given the trend of the above quotations, it would be helpful to include in this article the sections of the definitive text of Sacrosanctum Concilium that correspond to the points discussed by the Council Fathers above. It will be immediately obvious that the perspective of the pro-Latin Fathers was enshrined in the text (as even Bugnini admitted), while not, of course, excluding some introduction of the vernacular, a point on which almost no one disagreed. We might say, in retrospect, that some of the following language was meant to placate the conservatives while paving the way for a revolutionary agenda, but whatever the case may be, the pro-Latin Fathers did vote in favor of the final version of the text, evidently believing their concerns to have been adequately reflected therein.

     36. §1. Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
     §2. But since the use of the mother tongue, whether in the Mass, the administration of the sacraments, or other parts of the liturgy, frequently may be of great advantage to the people, the limits of its employment may be extended. This will apply in the first place to the readings and directives, and to some of the prayers and chants, according to the regulations on this matter to be laid down separately in subsequent chapters.
     §3. These norms being observed, it is for the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, §2, to decide whether, and to what extent, the vernacular language is to be used; their decrees are to be approved, that is, confirmed, by the Apostolic See. And, whenever it seems to be called for, this authority is to consult with bishops of neighboring regions which have the same language.
     §4. Translations from the Latin text into the mother tongue intended for use in the liturgy must be approved by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned above. 
     54. In Masses which are celebrated with the people, a suitable place may be allotted to their mother tongue. This is to apply in the first place to the readings and “the common prayer,” but also, as local conditions may warrant, to those parts which pertain to the people, according to the norm laid down in Art. 36 of this Constitution.
Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them. And wherever a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass appears desirable, the regulation laid down in Art. 40 of this Constitution is to be observed.
     63. Because of the use of the mother tongue in the administration of the sacraments and sacramentals can often be of considerable help to the people, this use is to be extended according to the following norms:
     a) The vernacular language may be used in administering the sacraments and sacramentals, according to the norm of Art. 36.
     b) In harmony with the new edition of the Roman Ritual, particular rituals shall be prepared without delay by the competent territorial ecclesiastical authority mentioned in Art. 22, §2, of this Constitution. These rituals, which are to be adapted, also as regards the language employed, to the needs of the different regions, are to be reviewed by the Apostolic See and then introduced into the regions for which they have been prepared. But in drawing up these rituals or particular collections of rites, the instructions prefixed to the individual rites the Roman Ritual, whether they be pastoral and rubrical or whether they have special social import, shall not be omitted. 
      101. §1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.
     §2. The competent superior has the power to grant the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the divine office, even in choir, to nuns and to members of institutes dedicated to acquiring perfection, both men who are not clerics and women. The version, however, must be one that is approved.
     §3. Any cleric bound to the divine office fulfills his obligation if he prays the office in the vernacular together with a group of the faithful or with those mentioned in 52 above provided that the text of the translation is approved.
     113. Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when the divine offices are celebrated solemnly in song, with the assistance of sacred ministers and the active participation of the people.
     As regards the language to be used, the provisions of Art. 36 are to be observed; for the Mass, Art. 54; for the sacraments, Art. 63; for the divine office, Art. 101.
     114. The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care. Choirs must be diligently promoted, especially in cathedral churches; but bishops and other pastors of souls must be at pains to ensure that, whenever the sacred action is to be celebrated with song, the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs, as laid down in Art. 28 and 30.
     116. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given chief place in liturgical services.
     But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations [by chant’s chief place], so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30.
I take it as a given that Gregorian chant here means what everyone understood it to mean in 1963, namely, Latin plainchant. Moreover, if the treasury of sacred music is to be preserved, this must be referring to the great body of Latin music already in existence prior to 1963; the fostering would include new compositions in Latin and the vernacular.

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