Tuesday, January 31, 2017
For those people, I pass on a detailed account of the experiences of one choir director at a small church in rural Georgia, Our Lady of the Mountains. He describes how he and the pastor had worked together to win over the parish. This is not intended as a formula that will be right for every parish, but I hope some will see how the principles he is using might be applied in their own situation.
As an aside, it is interesting to me that the development of a Catholic ethos in their worship is connected to the process of improving the music in the liturgy; and strongly connected to that is the commissioning of many works of art that were related to the liturgy. The question as to how a small parish can commission so many works of art is one that will be dealt with in future article,
The title of this post comes from a phrase in a section at the end of this choir director’s piece. It is perhaps a little melodramatic in choice of language, but the point is well made. He makes it plain that however sensitively and diplomatically the director handles the changes he makes, he is never going to convince everyone. Liturgical music is an emotional subject for many, and some people are likely to object; some of those will do so forcefully, and do all they can to undermine the changes. So while we ought to do all we can to win people over, he says, we must accept that some won’t be, and not be deterred by that fact. Nonetheless, I should point out that the tone of the article is generally optimistic!
I suspect that there is no single formula for this task of changing management, and finding the right approach will depend on many variables. What is done will depend on how great the divide between the current situation and the ideal; on whether you have the support of your priest, and that of your bishop when complaints are made, and so on. Also, the approach will be different depending on whether or not we are talking about the EF or the OF, the additional flexibility of which can be helpful. Therefore, I encourage people to post their own experiences of doing this successfully in the comments below, for others to read.
I present one additional point of my own based upon my own experience. I suggested to one choir director who told me that his priest was not interested in seeing any changes in the Mass, that he might find a group that would commit to singing Lauds or Vespers in the church every week on Sunday. Although one would hope that the priest would want to be involved, he doesn’t have to be, and if one doesn’t demand his presence, he is less likely to object.
Another example of a slightly different situation, but also relevant: I was looking for a place to hold a series of weekly workshops explaining spiritual exercises directed toward discernment of personal vocation, each of which would close with the chanting of Vespers. I approached the pastor of a local Catholic Church and explained what we planned to do, including the fact that we would chant Vespers. I didn’t know his views on traditional chant, one would guess from his Sunday Masses that it was not a big interest of his. However, this wasn’t an issue in our discussion, because our group wasn’t looking to interfere at all in anything he did. On that basis, he very happily allowed us to meet in the church hall and we are delighted to be there. (For any who are close to the East Bay in California and would like to come, here are the details of The Vision for You Group.)
The point I am making here is that if you find that you have to change things gradually (which will be unavoidable in some situations), see if you can establish also some aspect of the liturgy in which you have full control, and the ideal is presented in its fullest form. Then it is there for people to see right at the start, and this will inspire them to be involved in the main project. Again, I would welcome readers’ thoughts on this.
So here is the article; it can also be found online at the church’s website.
When the pastor of Our Lady of the Mountains, Fr. Charles Byrd, first called me, he had a vision, and he needed my experience and training to help make that vision a reality. He didn’t have much to offer in the way of compensation, but what he did offer was his complete support and trust. I in turn was motivated by his love for the Church and Her Divine Worship. He sought to be obedient in word and deed, and he knew that sacred music was a part of that obedience. His attention to the details of our worship was enough to make me want to be part of the village, but I trusted him to be the chief.
Step One: A spirit of trust and cooperation between pastor and music director. It’s got to flow both ways.
The resources that Fr. Byrd had inherited when he came to Our Lady of the Mountains were dismal. The Third Edition of the Roman Missal gave us the opportunity we needed to cast aside some of the less-than-adequate books that were in the pews and look at some of the new hymnals and missals that were being published. A committee was formed to evaluate several hymnals based on a set of standards drawn up from a compilation of the various church documents pertaining to sacred music. Did the hymnal contain at least some of the Latin chant settings for Mass? Did it contain a chant-like or polyphonic English Mass setting? Were the hymns noble in form and in conformity with Catholic doctrine in text? Were the chants from Jubilate Deo included in the hymnal?
Since we couldn’t afford to replace the hymnals and the missalette at the same time, we chose a hymnal first. The St. Michael Hymnal offered us a bit of a carrot in that Richard Rice’s simple Entrance Antiphons were included, and we saw this as a first step in moving away from the hymn-dominated liturgies to which the congregation was accustomed. For the choir, we purchased The Choral Gradual, also by Richard Rice. These SATB settings of the Psalms are a perfect introduction to singing the propers, and since the choir members were accustomed to singing hymns in four parts, this was a good way of transitioning from melody-driven music to more chant-like antiphon and verse music. The Chabanel Psalms by Jeff Ostrowski made it possible for us to have a dignified Responsorial Psalm in place each week.
We simply stopped using the rhythmic and syncopated psalms that were in the paperback missal in the pews and starting singing the Chabanel settings. The congregation leaned to listen and sing back what they had heard. Fr. Byrd always joined in with their singing as a means of instructing by example
Step 2: Choose a permanent (non-disposable) hymnal and other resources that uphold the Church’s vision for renewal of the sacred liturgy as prescribed in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and that draw abundantly upon the Church’s treasury of chant.
With our new hymnal in place, we could begin introducing the concept of an Entrance Antiphon. Like most parishes in the United States, the congregation knew little to nothing about such things as propers. We had to start small, so the first few weeks all we did was sing the antiphon through twice — choir or cantor first and then the congregation, following then with a hymn.
Over time, we added verses along with the antiphon, with the people singing after each verse. Eventually, the “opening hymn” was replaced with the proper texts of the Mass and the congregation was singing the antiphon heartily. Concurrent to this, we were using the hymnal to learn a new English Mass setting for Ordinary Time and a Latin Mass setting for Advent and Lent.
Eventually, we learned yet another Latin setting, Missa de Angelis, for Eastertide and Christmastide. Fr. Byrd was instrumental in teaching the Latin Mass settings because he would sing them not only for Sunday Masses, but at the Masses he offered daily. Those daily Mass attendees learn the chants quickly and are very helpful when it comes to singing in the larger Sunday congregations. Chanting the dialogue prayers was also seen as an essential element and crucial to the overall vision. The pastor placed great emphasis on learning these chants as the General Instruction directs that these should take primacy in singing the Mass.
Step 3: Start small. We didn’t have all the resources that we needed at once, but we worked with what we had. Stay simple, but keep it noble. Introduce new things gradually.
Step 4: This is crucial: Start growing a children’s choir! Children take naturally to chant. They have no hang-ups about Latin. They do everything with enthusiasm and pure joy, and it is contagious. Purchase enough of the Liber Cantualis for each singer to have one. They are small and fit small hands perfectly. Children love singing from them! Teach solfege. Teach neumes. Teach easy polyphony. Teach proper vocal technique. Identify gifted young singers early and begin training them. The children in turn will become advocates for your sacred music program (part of the village), not to mention your future adult choir members.
With forward-looking folks on the Parish Finance Council (it helps to make a member of the choir the Finance Chairperson!), it took about a year to have the money in place to order permanent pew missals. We didn’t form a committee for selecting our pew missals, but Fr. Byrd and I did have a standard by which we would evaluate our options. At the time we were looking, the only viable option based on our standards was Adam Bartlett’s Lumen Christi Missal. Other fine missals were in the works, it seems, but the Lumen Christi Missal was already available and it had everything that we were looking for: the Lectionary Readings and Antiphons for Sundays and major Feasts and music for chanting the Proper of the Mass in the vernacular.
Remember, we were starting from scratch, so our choir members were also learning about sacred music along with the rest of the congregation. Most of the choir at the time consisted of untrained singers who gave generously of their time, but were nowhere near ready to sing the chants from the Graduale Romanum. We needed exactly what the Lumen Christi Missal offered: simple but dignified modal chant settings of the antiphons in English with organ accompaniment if needed. We knew that our choir and cantors would eventually progress to the point of singing from the G.R., so it was good that the Lumen Christi Missal provided the Latin text of the proper alongside its English translation for the congregation. No one will be able to complain that they don’t know what the choir is singing because they can’t understand Latin.
Step 5: Make the Finance Council part of your village. It doesn’t hurt to have a member of the choir (or two) on the Finance Council, the Pastoral Council, the Knights of Columbus…you get the point.
Step 6: Purchase a permanent pew missal that comes complete with music resources for your cantors, choirs, and organist.
And speaking of organists, Step 7 is, Get an organ and hire an organist (or make one, as we did – more about that in a minute). The only instrument in the church when Fr. Byrd arrived was an electronic piano. There was no money in the budget to purchase an organ, but about a year into our work of singing the Mass, an anonymous donor came forward with the money. They had been moved by the efforts of our village and convinced by the effect that sacred music was having on our parish. Read that again: convinced by the effect of sacred music. A transformation was occurring among the choir members and the congregation. A deeper spirituality was blossoming in the hearts and minds of those called to worship. The gift of the organ was a result of this new reality, but where does one find an organist willing to drive to this out-of-the-way place to work with a nascent sacred music program? As it would happen, the pianist we had hired to play the little Kawai was about to become an organist. Again, the Finance Council was instrumental in providing the funds we needed to pay for organ lessons, and the Cathedral organist agreed to work with our young and gifted pianist.
Step 8: Invest in your people. Pay good cantors. Hire section leaders. Pay for workshops and education like the CMAA Colloquium and/or lessons for a singer or an organist. The money saved from not being vested in the Big Three church music conglomerates can go a long way when spread about the village. Since we are on the topic of education, I’ll mention here that it was and continues to be a big component of our sacred music program. Whether through the bulletin, a homily, classes, handouts, or our website, olmjasper.com, we sought first to prepare good fertile soil into which we would be sowing seed.
All of this takes time and careful planning. Read that again: Time and Planning. When we would introduce the Missa de Angelis was as important as how and why. Why we sing an Entrance Antiphon instead of a “Gathering Song” was as important as how we did it. We prepared for months in advance of the new missal. At times, our bulletin was so packed with inserts that it more resembled a magazine than a pamphlet. Fr. Byrd developed a website with formation and education as its primary goals. Yes, the Mass time and directions to the parish are there, but so are articles expounding upon various saints or hymns or any number of topics that make for a better formed Catholic. Music training sound files are placed on the website so that folks can listen and learn the various chants at home. This takes time and a great deal of coordination and cooperation in the village, but the payoff is a firm foundation. And by the way, we copyright nothing, so feel free to copy and adapt anything on our website for use in your parishes.
Step 9: Education and formation are critical. Predispose and prepare people for changes. This takes time.
Step 10: Create a Catholic ethos. This may seem simplistic or perhaps vague, but I can’t express the importance of creating an environment where the truth and beauty of our Faith is evident in every nook and cranny of parish life. I began this article by describing the simple exterior of a small village church, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the nobility one encounters upon entering. Everywhere one can see signs of great devotion to Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and to his mother, Our Lady of the Mountains. Worshippers here are surrounded by saints and angels represented by works of art in paint, glass, wood, and stone. In the chancel where the choir sings are newly commissioned icons of St. Gregory, St. Ambrose, St. Cecelia, and St. Hildegard — their watchful gaze will bless various ensembles who have taken these saints as their patrons. In the not-too-distant future, magnificent stained glass windows honoring King David, the psalmist, and King Josiah, the great reformer, will look kindly onto the musicians who sing and play beneath their stoic visages.
The Liturgical rites are carried out with great dignity and solemnity, and those that have the responsibility of singing the rites are aware that their work is holy insofar as it is connected intimately to the liturgy. Sacred Music does not exist in a vacuum. It has no life of its own apart from the lex orandi and lex credendi of Holy Mother Church.
And finally: THERE WILL BE BLOOD. This is not a step towards creating a sacred music program in your parish. This is a reality. Not everyone will want to be part of the village. In fact, there will be those who would rather see the village burn than go along with any changes that aren’t in conformity with their way of doing things. There will be angry emails and copies of On Eagles’ Wings anonymously left under your office door. There will be outright rebellion by some, and when sensing that they aren’t going to get their way, there will be those who will leave the parish. You will explain over and over that Latin was not banned by Vatican II, and that learning a Latin Mass setting isn’t as bad as all that.
There will be letters written to the Chancery with any number of grievances spelled out in vivid detail: The chant! The incense! The Latin! The horror! But you will find, as we did, that the Diocese will back you up. (Thank you, Archdiocese of Atlanta!) It could get ugly, so begin praying for your parishioners and don’t stop! Slowly, slowly, the naysayers will either be gone or be quiet, and you will find your parish filling up with people in search of something that is missing in that parish in the big city or the town next door. And there will be peace…mostly.
In closing I would add that when we are obedient to God in the moral and spiritual life, things can become clearer. Our world may remain confused, but at the same time, we are less confused about right and wrong, and understand why things are the way they are. This does not mean that we are always perfect, but at least we can recognize our own mistakes. The same may be said of the liturgy. When we endeavor to live out the liturgical vision of the Church, we learn things. We learn that one doesn’t need banks of speakers and bongo drums to worship like Catholics. Neither must we have a choir full of Julliard graduates who may or may not believe in God. Bigger is not always better. Trust us when we say that authentic Catholic worship (as it is envisioned by the official liturgical documents of the Church) really is ideal for any sized choir or congregation, and when you get people singing antiphons and hearing and singing more and more sacred scripture throughout the Mass, it is a good thing! By living out the Church’s vision of the liturgy, our vision becomes clearer.
Simply put, we are not entertainers. Instead, we are called to fulfill a time-honored role within the liturgical life of the Church, by intoning and chanting specific texts given to us by the saints of old. That is the vocation of the chorister: to allow the Spirit to teach us to pray, so that the Body of Christ can offer up fitting and worthy praise to the Father. We’re not making this up. It really is that clear. And we’re trying to be obedient to that vision. Thus, we believe our choirs can grow in holiness, and likewise, others around us. And if what we have learned here in our little parish can help others, then praise God.
Monday, January 30, 2017
The Council fathers didn’t get into all the specifics of the reform of the liturgy. They left most of that to a future commission under the pope. The fathers approved a major paradigm shift — from liturgy as Carolingian clerical drama to liturgy as act of all the people — and then left open what the implications of that shift would be. No doubt some or many of the fathers didn’t yet have in mind all the possible implications of the paradigm shift. Nor did they need to.One wonders how many of the fathers of the Council would have said that the traditional liturgy as they knew it was “Carolingian clerical drama” and that they wanted to shift liturgy to an “act of all the people” in such a way that they expected no limitations on how the liturgy would be modified in order to achieve this nebulous vision. This would not match the historical records as we have them, but rewriting or ignoring history has been a speciality of the progressives for a long time now. Fr. Ruff again:
It’s time to say it: the so-called “hermeneutic of continuity” proposed by Benedict XVI in 2005 has outlived its usefulness as a tool for understanding the Second Vatican Council. Its proponents, who frequently carry the proposal further than Benedict ever did, have shown in abundance that the proposal obscures rather than clarifies the paradigm shifts clearly called for by the Council. For liturgy, the paradigm shift is from Carolingian clericalized sacred drama to an act of the entire community. Just let the full weight of that shift sink in, including all the possible implications for liturgical practice. There is a reason why the Fathers of Vatican II decided that the 1962 missal would not remain in use in its unreformed state.This “hermeneutic of continuity” was and is, in fact, one of Pope Benedict XVI’s great contributions to the Church, and to the healing of so many rifts. Indeed, we might note that the hermeneutic of continuity is already present as a matter of principle in John XXIII’s opening speech, when he states that the Council is based on a serene acceptance of all that has come before, in all the Councils (mentioning Trent and Vatican I by name), and aims to share the riches of the Catholic Faith with the modern world. If this Johannine-Benedictine claim is true, it undermines the progressive modus operandi, which introduces a deep rift between preconciliar and postconciliar Catholicism. Were it false, however, it would undermine the Council itself, because there cannot be a valid Council that seeks to separate itself from the inheritance of nineteen centuries of Catholicism, including all of its ecumenical councils and its liturgical tradition.
But leaving aside the abrasive nuisance of truth for a moment, let us look at Fr. Ruff’s mention of the Carolingians. The Carolingians are so useful as a conceptual reference point that even if they had not existed we would have had to invent them. The simple fact is that we know so little about the liturgy of the pre-Carolingian period that liturgists can attribute almost anything they want, i.e., anything they personally dislike, to the Carolingians, as an excuse to say that it is not “primitive,” and must therefore be expunged. References to the Carolingians and the supposed “purer” worship of their predecessors is to be taken with a Malta-sized grain of salt.
Moreover, if “clericalism” is supposed to be the problem, the Novus Ordo is a thousand times more clericalist than the old Mass could ever be. “Participation” in the new liturgy is effectively defined by lay usurpation of historically clerical roles, such as reading the Scriptures, and giving out Communion. The clerical nature of these roles is underlined by the fact that is still illicit for a layman to read the Gospel and for the celebrant to not distribute Communion. Lay participation in good music, in meditation and prayer, have been effectively obliterated by a noisy showmanship which is encouraged and well-nigh universal.
It is often said that the old liturgy is characterized by courtliness or court etiquette, that it is mixed up with (and corrupted by) expressions of Baroque secular politics. For partisans of this view, the traditional Mass — think especially the Pontifical Mass — is an elaborate show of deference towards a prince or king, indebted more to secular high culture than to sacred precedent, and detracts from the humility, simplicity, authenticity, and immediacy of the presence of Christ in the community, the brotherhood gathered around the table. Sounds plausible, does it not? But there are some nagging counterindications that deserve the attention of honest inquirers.
The very fabric of the church suggests the presence of God, and the adornment of the altar carries out the same idea. In principle it is very like the splendour and ceremonial of the king’s court. It is impossible for men to have royalty amongst them, and yet not have some external sign by which the king is pointed out and honoured. The ceremonial has, of course, differed widely at different times, but from the earliest king that ever ruled amongst men down to our own time, there has always been a royal display of some kind. It is impossible, in the same way, for men to believe that our Lord is amongst them and not to lavish on Him their most precious treasures, just as it was impossible for St. Mary Magdalen not to pour out her precious ointment on His feet (Jn 12:3).
The church is His palace, and the altar is His throne. We take that glorious court of Heaven described to us in Holy Scripture, and try feebly to imitate it on earth. The candles, and the incense, and the flowers — the vestments and the ceremonial of priests — what are they, but an earthly image of that “great multitude which no man could number … clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands,” and of “all the angels who stood about the throne, and the ancients and the four living creatures, and they fell down before the throne upon their faces and adored God”? (Rev 7:9–11)We cannot dismiss this language or imagery, pervasive in Scripture and the Patristic period, as a mere epiphenomenon of ancient near Eastern courts and kings, a superficial mood-setting backdrop quickly or easily left behind by “emancipated” minds. For the same reality, and therefore the same conceptual world, extends throughout the Byzantine emperors who reigned for over a thousand years after Constantine the Great; it embraces medieval courts, Renaissance courts, Baroque courts, and the professedly Catholic governments that existed well into the twentieth century.
Monarchy or princedom, the oldest and arguably the most natural form of political organization, has been a far more consistent part of the human experience and of the formation of Christian culture than the democratic/egalitarian ideology of “self-evident truths” of which we have persuaded ourselves in modernity. Regardless of whether we think democracy can be made to work or not, in the realm of supernatural mysteries, Christianity is purely and entirely monarchical. Against the backdrop of the Old Testament revelation of God as the (one and only) great King over all the earth, and of the people of Israel as a kingly, priestly people ruled by prophets, judges, and ultimately the Davidic dynasty, we profess that Christ is our King, the Lord of heaven and earth, of all times, past, present, and to come, of this world and of the next; that His angels and saints are His royal court; that He deigns to call us His friends and brethren, yes, but such that we know that we never cease to be His servants. We long for His courts and tabernacles. The thick “politicism” of the imagery points to the real, sovereign polity of the Mystical Body, subsisting in the Roman Catholic Church as a societas perfecta and altogether perfected in the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the great King. Our ecclesial sacrifice, the Most Holy Eucharist, is a kingly and high-priestly oblation.
In short, to conduct the liturgy so that it appears to be less courtly, less regal, less splendid, less hieratic, is to make it appear to be that which it is not — to make it less truthful, less heavenly, less real. In this way it deceives the People of God, who are led further away from an encounter with the God whom no hands have fashioned, no mind fathomed. It is one of many ironies of our time that, in the new regime inaugurated by the “spirit of Vatican II,” the only “courtiers” are those who prance about in their vernacular theater in the round, turning a sublime sacrifice into a sorry spectacle from which the angels avert their gaze.
If the way the liturgy is conducted allows people to think that the Mass is about them; that they are its primary protagonists; that the priests are somewhat like hired public servants who administer, in the name of the community, the business which actually belongs to it, such a liturgy is inculcating a pernicious lie. The liturgy is not “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is the saving act of Christ, done by Him first and always, and by the ordained ministers who act in His name and by His authority; it is done for the glorification of God and only for that reason does it sanctify the people. One can say the liturgy is for us in the same way that one can say we ought to love ourselves, namely, by loving God first and foremost, with the sacrificial offering of ourselves in mind and body, which is how we truly love ourselves.
One of the greatest blessings of the traditional Latin liturgy, therefore, is its pure, open, unembarrassed representation of the court of the great King of all the earth, in all of its prayers, rubrics, and ceremonies, and in the magnificent art forms that emerged from its “courtliness” and reinforce the “drama” of the holy mysteries of our redemption. We find in it an uncompromised and unapologetic expression of the divine monarchy as it radiates through the panoply of sacred symbols and the ecclesiastical hierarchy endowed with fatherly potency. We are wrapped in an atmosphere of spiritual aristocracy, namely, the world of the saints, who reign with Christ as his vicegerents. After all, this liturgy was not produced by a committee of experts, as laws and bills are manufactured in contemporary parliaments or congresses, but emerged slowly over time from innumerable currents of doctrine and devotion espoused by an elite of pious souls and assimilated by God-fearing laity. The traditional liturgy, in short, challenges everything modern man has come to take for granted, everything he has persuaded himself to believe “self-evident.” It throws down the gauntlet to our modern assumptions, routines, and expectations. It is an enormous challenge to our collective social hubris and cultural pride. This is why it is hated and feared by those who embrace modernity as a primary value, giving value to all else; this is why it is passionately loved by those who recognize in it a call to a higher, deeper, and better way of thinking, loving, and living.
 Ratzinger saw all this very clearly. In his seminal essay “The Ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium,” he noted that the phrase “the People of God” quickly gave rise to a fundamental and dangerous misconception of the nature of the Church. He saw, too, the liturgical implications of this politicized (Marxist or democratic) ecclesiology; see especially “The Image of the World and of Human Beings in the Liturgy and Its Expression in Church Music,” in A New Song for the Lord, trans. Martha M. Matesich (New York: Crossroad, 1997), 111–27; also in Collected Works, vol. XI, Theology of the Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2014), 443–60.
Candlemas last year at Holy Innocents in New York City: a candle decorated for the blessing by a parishioner, a custom of her native Poland, and the distribution of candles.
Friday, January 27, 2017
This article is a follow-up on an article published last Saturday about the Deuterocanonical books and their use in the liturgy.
The Latin-speaking West has essentially three “apocryphal” books, which is to say, books which were often included in manuscripts of the Bible, and in early printed editions, but are not recognized by the Church as canonical. Each of these is also represented in the Roman liturgy, but just barely. There is a fourth such text which is only very rarely included in Latin Bibles, but is well-known to the Greek Church, and also found its way into the Roman Office.
|From a Bible printed at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1516, the beginning of the Fourth Book of Esdras in the right column, “which is reckoned among the apocryphal books.”|
Third Esdras is a Greek version of the last two chapters of 2 Chronicles, and the entire first book of Ezra, written sometime between 100 BC and 100 AD. (It must be noted that there is a great deal of uncertainty about the origin and date of most apocryphal books.) There is added to it a long interpellation (chapters 3, 1 – 5, 6) which tells how the three bodyguards of King Darius debate as to what thing is the strongest; one of them is Zorobabel, who leads the children of Israel back to the Holy Land from exile.
This book is cited once in the Missal, in the Offertory of the votive Mass for the election of a Pope. “Non participentur sancta, donec exsurgat póntifex in ostensiónem et veritátem. – Let them not take part in the holy things, until there arise a priest unto showing and truth.” (3 Esdras 5, 40)
Fourth Esdras is an apocalypse of uncertain date, but generally held to be Jewish in origin, comprising several lengthy visions granted to the “Prophet Ezra.” The Latin version has had two other apocalypses added to it, which comprise the first two and last two of its sixteen chapters; these are entirely absent from the versions in other languages such as Syrian and Ethiopic.
The Introit of the Requiem Mass, the text of which is repeated in the Gradual and Communion, is cited in the Missal as 4 Esdras 2, 34 and 35. This citation, however, is very broad; the full text of these verses reads as follows: “Ideoque vobis dico, gentes quae auditis et intellegitis: expectate pastorem vestrum, requiem aeternitatis dabit vobis, quoniam in proximo est ille, qui in finem saeculi adveniet. Parati estote ad praemia regni, quia lux perpetua lucebit vobis per aeternitatem temporis. – And therefore I say to you, ye nations that hear and understand: await your shepherd, he will give you the rest of eternity, for he is nigh that shall come at the end of the age. Be ye ready unto the reward of the kingdom, for perpetual light shall shine upon you through the eternity of time.”
The same chapter of 4 Esdras, verses 36 and 37, is cited in the Introit of Pentecost Tuesday. “Accipite jucunditatem gloriae vestrae, alleluia: gratias agentes Deo, alleluia: qui vos ad caelestia regna vocavit, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. 77 Attendite, popule meus, legem meam: inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei. Gloria Patri. Accipite. – Receive the delight of your glory, alleluia, giving thanks to God, alleluia, Who hath called ye to the heavenly kingdoms, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Psalm Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Glory be. Receive.” (In the video, a version by the Italian composer Giuseppe Tricarico, 1623-97.)
In this case, the citation is exact, but not the complete text of these verses, which read in full: “Fugite umbram saeculi hujus, accipite jucunditatem gloriae vestrae. Ego testor palam salvatorem meum. Commendatum Domini accipite, et jucundamini, gratias agentes ei qui vos ad caelestia regna vocavit. – Flee ye the shadow of this age, receive the delight of your glory. I bear witness openly to my savior; receive him as one commended to ye by the Lord, and delight, giving thanks to him who has called ye to the heavenly kingdoms.”
The Prayer of Manasseh purports to be the prayer of repentance offered by King Manasseh when he was deported to Babylon, as stated in 2 Chronicles, 33, 19: “His prayer also, and his being heard, and all his sins, and contempt, … are written in the words of Hozai.” It is found in most medieval manuscripts and early printed version of the Vulgate immediately after 2 Chronicles, before the canonical book of Ezra. Although there is no Hebrew version of it, the standard criterion among the early Protestants for denoting a book as apocryphal, it was included in several of their early Bibles, including that of Luther himself, and the Geneva Bible, the most widely used English version before the King James.
In the corpus of responsories sung with the readings from the books of Kings between Trinity Sunday and August, the seventh cites the Prayer of Manasseh, together with verses of Psalm 50, the penitential Psalm par excellence.
R. Peccavi super numerum arenae maris, et multiplicata sunt peccata mea, et non sum dignus videre altitudinem caeli prae multitudine iniquitatis meae: quoniam irritavi iram tuam, * Et malum coram te feci. V. Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et delictum meum contra me est semper, quia tibi soli peccavi. Et malum coram te feci.
R. My sins are more in number of the sands of the sea, and my sins are multiplied, and I am not worthy to look up the height of heaven, because of the multitude of my iniquity; for I have provoked thee to anger, * and done evil before Thee. V. For I know my iniquity, and my sin is always before me, for the Thee only have I sinned, and done evil before Thee.
The Prayer of Manasseh is also said in its entirety at Great Compline in the Byzantine Rite, a more solemn version of Compline said on weekdays in the major penitential seasons. It is read together with Psalms 50 and 101, which are also among the traditional penitential psalms of the Roman Rite.
Psalm 151; folio 418v of the Paris Psalter, a Greek manuscript dated 940-960. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Grec 139) The rest of the Psalms are written in this manuscript as seen here, filling only a part of the page; they are surrounded by a commentary excerpted from the works of several different Church Fathers, called a Catena, written in a much smaller hand, which can be seen though the page. The Catena does not include anything on the apocryphal Psalm, hence the blank space on this page.
R. Deus omnium exauditor est: ipse misit Angelum suum, et tulit me de ovibus patris mei; * Et unxit me unctione misericordiae suae. V. Dominus, qui eripuit me de ore leonis, et de manu bestiae liberavit me. Et unxit …
R. God is the hearer of all; He sent His Angel, and took me from (the keeping of) my father’s sheep, * and anointed me with the oil of His mercy. (Psalm 151 3, 4) V. The Lord, who rescued me from the mouth of the lion, and delivered me from the paw of the bear. R. And anointed me…
The early Protestant English Bibles changed a great many proper names, including those of some Biblical books, away from the traditional Latin versions found in the Vulgate, which is partly filtered though the Septuagint, to a more direct transcription of the Hebrew. Hence the prophet “Sophonias” became “Zephaniah” and “Nabuchodonosor” became “Nebuchadnezzar”; likewise, “Esdras” was changed to “Ezra.” The book of Nehemiah was no longer designated as “also called Second of Ezra.”
The editors of the King James Bible then made the extremely silly and confusing decision to use “Esdras”, the Greek version of “Ezra”, as the name of the two apocryphal books which had hitherto been known as Third and Fourth Esdras, while also renumbering them. Thus, the books known in the Vulgate as First to Fourth Esdras became “Ezra, Nehemiah, First Esdras and Second Esdras.” The matter is rendered more complex still by the fact that the Greek and Old Church Slavonic Bibles each have yet another different system for naming and numbering these books.
The façade dates by Matteo da Campione, from the later part of the 14th century. The bell-tower was added between 1592 and 1620, and is just shy of 260 feet tall.
|The altar frontal, by Borgina del Pozzo, dates to 1350-57, and represents episodes of the life of the cathedral’s titular Saint, John the Baptist.|
|The altar of the Cross for Requiem Masses|
|Matteo da Campione also sculpted this Gospel pulpit, which was converted into an organ loft in the18th century.|
Thursday, January 26, 2017
“I remember the events of those days more clearly than those which happened recently, for what we learn as children grows up with the soul and is united to it, so that I can speak even of the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and disputed, how he came in and went out, the character of his life, the appearance of his body, the discourses which he made to people, how he reported his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their words, and what were the things concerning the Lord which he had heard from them, and about their miracles, and about their teaching, and how Polycarp had received them from the eyewitnesses of the word of life, and reported all things in agreement with the Scriptures.”
|Ss Polycarp, Vincent of Saragossa, Pancratius and Chrysogonus; from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, 6th century. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)|
In addition to these stories preserved in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Caesarea (5, 20 & 24; 4, 14), there also exist a letter of St Ignatius of Antioch written to Polycarp, whom he also mentions in two of his other letters, and Polycarp’s own letter to the church of Philippi, which St Jerome records was still read in the churches of Asia in his own time. This letter begins with a commendation of the Philippians for their devotion to the martyrs.
“I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord.”
Of Polycarp himself, it is also recorded that he met St Ignatius as the latter passed though Smyrna on his way to martyrdom in Rome, and kissed his chains.
The martyrdom of Polycarp is recorded in a letter sent by the church of Smyrna to that of Philomelium and “to all the congregations of the Holy and Catholic Church in every place.” This letter is the first authentic account of an early Christian martyrdom after that of St Stephen’s in the Acts of the Apostles. The Saint was very elderly at the time of his arrest and condemnation, for he himself says when ordered to
When he was sentenced to be burned alive, the soldiers were going to nail him to the pyre, at which he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that gives me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.” He was therefore only bound with ropes, “like a distinguished ram [taken] out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God.” The letter also records his prayer spoken before the pyre was lit.
“O Lord God Almighty, the Father of your beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of You, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before you, I give You thanks that You have counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Your martyrs, in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before You as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as You, the ever-truthful God, have foreordained, have revealed beforehand to me, and now have fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise You for all things, I bless You, I glorify You, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Your beloved Son, with whom, to You, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”
However, once the fire was set, it billowed out around Polycarp “in form of a sail” and although he seemed “like gold or silver glowing in a furnace,” would not consume him. This is one of many famous examples of the refusal by Nature itself to cooperate with the persecutors of God’s Saints, forcing them to take the matter into their own hands, and accept responsibility for the evil which they do. At this, his side was pierced with a dagger, and the flow of blood that came forth was so great that the flames were extinguished.
The official in charge refused to allow the Christians to take the body for burial, but rather had it cremated, the standard pagan practice; this was certainly done in despite of the doctrine of the bodily resurrection. Nevertheless, the Christians of Smyrna “took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” (Fr Hunwicke rightly noted in an article this past November that “the current post-conciliar Roman regulations do not permit the use within altars of such relics as the tiny fragments gathered up by those who loved S Polycarp,” as described in this beautiful passage, a particularly grotesque example of the betrayal of ‘ressourcement.’)
It is an oddity of hagiography that although St Polycarp and his martyrdom are so early and so well-documented, his feast is not an ancient one in the West. It is attested at Rome in the mid-13th century, but missing from printed editions of the Roman Missal and Breviary as late as the 1520s. His place on the calendar was only solidified in the Tridentine liturgical books, which were very much concerned to assert the continuity of Catholic tradition (such as the veneration of relics) with the most ancient days of the Christian faith.
In the post-Conciliar reform, his feast was moved to the day of his death, February 23rd, on which it is also kept in the Eastern Rites. The notes of the Consilium ad exsequendam on the reform of the calendar say that his feast was originally assigned to January 26 in the West by confusion with another saint of the same name, Polycarp of Nicea. I assume that this is stated in good faith and for a good reason, but I can find no evidence for this; no such person is mentioned in the Roman Martyrology or its Byzantine equivalent, the Synaxarion, on any day. (The Bollandists state more cautiously that the reason for the discrepancy is not clear.)
Our thanks to Dr Ines Murzaku, Professor of Church History at Seton Hall Univerity, for sharing this article with us.
Moreover, the Divine Liturgy has a double unitive function: vertically with God, and horizontally with each other. Further, the Divine Liturgy is also a public service involving the whole community in an act of prayer, worship, teaching, and communion of the one Body of Christ. In the East, celebrating the Divine Liturgy was saving. In fact, what enabled the Eastern Churches to survive the Communist persecution was the worship and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy in the local Church. In the East, a Eucharistic community “One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism” (Ephesians 4:5) proved to be a surviving community. The understanding of Divine Liturgy in the East and the West are very similar, as my students observed after the abbot’s lecture, with some differences, the most visible and important being the normative use of ad orientem in worship in the East.
|Divine Liturgy in the Greco-Albanian church of the Most Holy Savior in Cosenza, Italy. (Photo by Alex Talarico)|
The Church of the first millennium in the East and in the West worshipped facing ad orientem. The first Christians, beginning in the second century, directed their prayers facing East, in the direction of the rising sun. While there is no explicit reference to ad orientem in the New Testament, the significance of the East in Matthew 24: 27 is remarkable: “For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” The Eastward liturgical orientation seems important to East and West. For St Cyril of Jerusalem, a fourth century saint venerated by the Eastern and Western Churches, the West was the region of sensible darkness. Instead, he advised “turning from West to East, the place of light.” His contemporary St Basil the Great wrote in De Spiritu Sancto that the unwritten tradition of the Church “has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer.” Christ is Sun of Righteousness and Dayspring, so “the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship,” wrote St. John of Damascus in De fide Orthodoxa.
Blessed Jacopo de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa in the 13th century, specified that seeking and looking towards our ancient homeland and towards God, we worship facing East. Bishop Guillaume Durand (13th century), who wrote an indispensable guide for understanding the significance of medieval ecclesiastical art and worship, advised that the priest at the altar and in the Offices should pray towards the East. Consequently, churches were built with altars facing East, a direction which was standard and incredibly useful to the medieval pilgrim who wanted to avoid getting lost in the cities. Churches were natural landmarks to keep track of directions. Theologically, worship facing East was important: it united the local churches, East and West, to the universal Church. Worshiping ad orientem was standard for the united Church in the first millennium and until after Vatican II, praying facing East was the standard in the West, as well.
In the current ecumenical environment, Catholics and Orthodox are considering the practices of the first millennium, including papal primacy, for ways to find commonalities which will help East and West moving forward towards visible unity. If today, at the beginning of the third millennium, we are seeking to restore full communion, it is to the unity of the Church in the first millennium that we must look. The Catholic Church desires full communion to be established between East and West, and the first-millennium experience including facing ad orientem in the Divine Liturgy is inspiring. As a Byzantine Catholic and Church historian, I think that the progressive estrangement between East and West has contributed to abandoning ad orientem in the West.
|The ninth-century Cattolica di Stilo in Calabria.|
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
This article was originally published in Homiletic and Pastoral Review (http://www.hprweb.com/2017/01/index-lectionum-scripture-usage-in-roman-catholic-masses-before-and-after-vatican-ii) on January 20, 2017. This version is slightly revised and reprinted by permission.
Matthew P Hazell & Dr. Peter A Kwasniewski (Foreword), Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, Volume I (Lectionary Study Press, 2016. See this article on NLM for ordering information.)
One unexpected and disquieting thing that becomes obvious when you take a close look at the tables in Index Lectionum, which compare the two sets of Mass readings, is how much Scripture was removed from the new Mass, even though the stated goal was to include more Scripture.
Let’s start with some of the history and stated motives behind the revisions to the Scriptures read in Masses during the liturgical year. Later on, this article gives an example of the consequences of one notable omission of verses that are doctrinally important: verses 27-32 of 1 Corinthians 11 no longer appear in the New Mass lectionary at any time during the year, even though these verses are essential for understanding why the Church prohibits Catholics in an illicit marriage from receiving Communion and why the doctrine should not be changed.
Before the council ended, and within a few months after Pope Paul VI’s election, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), was released as the council’s first document. The readings used at Masses were changed based four sections of SC: 24, 35, 51, 92. The most frequently quoted section in support of this change is number 35. § 35: In the sacred rites, a more abundant, more varied, and more appropriate selection of readings from Sacred Scripture is to be restored.
In 1964, Pope Paul VI established the Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia, the council for implementing the constitution on the liturgy. Part of the consilium’s assigned task was to create a new lectionary. 
The consilium expanded the lectionary from a single-year cycle to a three-year cycle for Sundays and a two-year cycle for weekdays. The Latin edition of the lectionary was published in 1969, the English edition for the USA in 1970; use of the revised lectionary and the revised Roman Missal began on the First Sunday of Advent: November 30, 1970.
For Sundays and major feast days, each yearly cycle begins on the first Sunday of Advent (the last Sunday of November or first Sunday of December). In the new lectionary, the readings for each of the three years of the A, B, C cycle for Sundays are mostly taken from the Synoptic Gospels. Matthew’s Gospel was assigned to year A, Mark’s to year B, and Luke’s to year C.
• Year A: Gospel of Matthew (November 2013 through 2014)
• Year B: Gospel of Mark (December 2014 through 2015)
• Year C: Gospel of Luke (December 2015 through 2016)
Readings from the Gospel of John are assigned during Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide during every year. (For more about the changes to which Johanine verses are used when, see an interesting discussion in Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s Foreword to the Index Lectionum.)
For Sundays and feast days, a third reading was added before the Epistle and Gospel, which is taken from the Old Testament except during Eastertide, when the third readings is taken from the Acts of the Apostles. On ordinary weekdays, readings are taken from the remaining parts of the Bible.
For weekdays, odd-numbered years use the readings for Cycle I; even-numbered years are Cycle II.
A Responsorial Psalm  was also added between the Epistle and Gospel.
• The same readings are read each year on the Sundays and feast days.
• Most Masses had only two readings: the Epistle and the Gospel.
• Parts of the Old Testament were read only on a few feasts, vigils, ember days, and within some liturgical octaves.
• Most weekday Masses did not have their own assigned readings (Propers). On feast days, the readings were from the feast. Otherwise, the readings were usually from the prior Sunday.
• The biblical texts used for Sundays, vigils, and major feasts include about 22% of the NT Gospels, 11% of the NT Epistles, and only 0.8% of the OT (not counting the Psalms).
• A greater variety of readings is included in a three-year cycle for Sundays (A/B/C) and a two-year cycle (I/II) for weekdays.
• Three main readings are now prescribed for Sundays and major feasts: Reading 1, usually from OT books; Reading 2, from NT Epistles; Reading 3, from NT Gospels.
• The biblical texts used for Sundays, vigils, and major feasts now include about 58% of the NT Gospels, 25% of the NT Epistles, but still only 3.7% of the OT (not counting the Psalms).
• Including all the Masses for Sundays, weekdays, rituals, votives, the propers and commons of saints, and special needs and occasions, the Lectionary for Mass now covers much of the NT (about 90% of the Gospels, 55% of the rest: Acts, Epistles, Revelation), but still very little of the OT (slightly over 13%).
One commentator noted, “It is interesting to know that only 13.5% of the OT and 71.5% of the NT is read in the Ordinary Form. The ‘read the Bible in 3 years’ idea is a myth.”
Matthew Hazell is a convert to Catholicism from evangelical Protestantism who lives in Sheffield England. He is a scholar whose particular interest is in the Roman Catholic liturgical reform of the twentieth century. He maintains a blog about his projects and studies at “Lectionary Study Aids”,  which is a good resource for anyone interested in liturgical studies, and he is a contributor to the New Liturgical Movement website at http://newliturgicalmovement.org.
Hazell is preparing a second volume dealing with the Psalms. The planned second volume will include the entrance (introit), offertory, and postcommunion chants and antiphons, as well as the graduals, tracts, alleluias, and responsorial psalms in both forms of the Roman Rite.
Hazell mentioned in his Introduction that he hopes also to create another Index to compare the use of Scriptural and other readings in the Divine Office and Liturgy of the Hours.
The conference sessions of Sacra Liturgia Milan, will be held in both Italian and English, with simultaneous translation of all presentations, at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore) centrally located in Milan next to the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, where many of the conference’s liturgical celebrations will take place.
The full program, to be released at Easter, will include Vespers and Mass according to the Ambrosian Rite (in both its ancient and modern uses) in the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, the Metropolitan Cathedral (Duomo) and in other locations to be announced. One afternoon will be kept free for cultural visits, including a special visit to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and the Duomo.
Full time registrations are open now. Part time registration will be possible after Easter when the full conference program is published. Delegates are responsible for their own accommodation arrangements; the Sacra Liturgia Secretrariat is happy to give recommendations for local accommodation upon request.
|His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, at last year’s Sacra Liturgia Conference in London.|
Opening address: Robert Cardinal Sarah – The Sacred Liturgy: Our Encounter With God: A Christological and Ecclesiological Perspective
Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke – Summorum Pontificum after Ten Years: Assessment and Prospects
Fr Michael Lang – Liturgical Reform in the Carolingian Age
Professor Jennifer Donelson – Sacred Music Renewal Fifty Years after Musicam Sacram
Dom Alcuin Reid – The Reform of the Roman Rite: The work of the Postconciliar Consilium ad exsequendam Constitutionem de Sacra Liturgia
Professor Cesare Alzati – The Ambrosian and Oriental Rites: Historical events and their ecclesiological signficance
Msgr Ennio Apeciti – Blessed Ildefonso Schuster: Liturgist
Msgr Inos Biffi – The Reform of the Ambrosian Missal
Dott. Andrea Gramegna – Lay Participation in the Liturgy
Msgr Claudio Magnoli – The Reform of the Ambrosian Lectionary
Msgr Marco Navoni – The History of the Ambrosian Liturgy
Fr Vincenzo Nuara OP – The Liturgy and Young People
Professor Angelo Rusconi – The music of the Ambrosian rite
Msgr Timothy Verdon – Sacred Liturgy and Art
Abbot Christopher Zielinski OSB Oliv. – The Liturgical Formation of the Human Person: Awakening the soul of contemporary man.
The Fourth International Sacra Liturgia Summer School will be held from August 5-17 in La Garde-Freinet (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), France, an English-language liturgical summer school following on from the international Sacra Liturgia conferences in Rome, New York and London and the summer schools from 2014-2016 organised by the Monastère Saint-Benoît of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon.
Designed for families, individuals and groups of clergy and laity who wish to holiday in Provence in the South of France whilst having the opportunity to participate in liturgical celebrations according to the usus antiquior of the Roman rite, this year, the summer school will have the privilege of welcoming His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke for the celebration of Pontifical First Vespers and Solemn Mass at the Throne for the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon will welcome His Eminence and be present at Vespers; Cardinal Burke will also give a conference on the Sacred Liturgy for participants.
The summer school includes pilgrimages to and the celebration of solemn Mass in the Royal Basilica housing the relics of St Mary Magdalen at St Maximin-La-Sainte-Baume, and the chapel housing the relics of St Roseline of Villeneuve (†1329). A visit to the ancient Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet is also possible.
|Solemn Mass at the Basilica of St Mary Magdalene during the 2016 summer school.|
The mountain village of La Garde-Freinet, situated in a wine growing region some 20 km from Saint-Tropez and approximately 15 km from the Mediterranean sea, is an ideal holiday location with mountain walks, a Provencal market, shops and restaurants. English is widely spoken in the village. Participants will arrange their own accommodation, meals and transport.
For full information, including the daily schedule, the program of training sessions, and practical information about arrangements, see the following page on the Sacra Liturgia blog: http://www.sacraliturgia.org/2017/01/sacra-liturgia-summer-school-france-5.html
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
As a fervent Catholic, Theodolinda contributed much to the restoration of the Nicene faith among the many Arian peoples of northern Italy. On the occasion of her son Adaloald’s baptism, Pope St Gregory the Great sent her a precious Gospel book which is still preserved at Monza.
|The original covers of the Gospel Book of St Theodelinda.|
At the death of Agilulf, she ruled for a time as her son’s regent, and in this period, received a second gift from Pope Gregory, the Iron Crown of Monza. This was said to have been made from a helmet of Constantine, and to include within itself one of the Nails of the Crucifixion, given to the latter by his mother St Helena three centuries earlier. This crown would become the symbol of the title “King of Italy.”
However, at the very end of her life, her son was deposed by the dukes of Lombard dukes in favor of her son-in-law. She died a few months later, in the year 628, and was originally buried in her oratory in Monza, where she has long been popularly venerated as a Saint. The Iron Crown is preserved in a special chapel of the Cathedral of Monza, dedicated to St Theodelinda, and frescoed with the episodes of her life in the 1440s by the brothers Zavattari. (These pictures, and the text above, are by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi.)
In the upper right, next to the stem of the Visconti family (rulers of Milan from 1277 to 1447), Agilulf abjures Arianism and converts to Catholicism; below, first Theodelinda, and then Adaloald, offer various gifts to the cathedral of Monza. (Some of the items represented in these frescoes still exist, and are preserved in the cathedral treasury, of which we will show some photos later this week.)
On my first visit, I spent an afternoon with Fr Joe, who was made famous after his death in 1998 by the book written about him by Tony Hendra.
Hendra is a British comedy producer and actor known on both sides of the Atlantic for his work on, for example, the British program Spitting Image, the American program Saturday Night Live, and for the part that I knew him for, playing rock-band manager Ian Faith in one of my favorite movies of all time, This is Spinal Tap. With Quarr on my mind, I thought I would relate my own experience of meeting Fr Joe there; he made an such an impact on me that I would often tell the story of meeting “a monk at Quarr” even before Tony Hendra wrote about him.
When I lived in London in the 1990s, a priest at the Brompton Oratory encouraged me to go on a retreat at Quarr Abbey. I think he suggested it as a way to develop the contemplative side of my spiritual life, and because he thought that perhaps I might have vocation to the religious life. So I duly went down to the Isle of Wight to experience a Benedictine monastery for the first time. Fr Ronald, the Oratorian asked me to “Say hello to Fr Joe” for him when I was there.
So I was shown up to his room and handed a large cup of coffee, as the monk who showed me the way ushered me into Fr Joe’s cell. Fr Joe himself was sitting up in bed next to a window with a view of the grounds and the sea. I thought I had been told that he was recovering from a stroke. I didn’t think about it at the time, but he had a large padded white patch taped over one eye, which wouldn’t have indicated a stroke. I found out from the book many years later that he had cancer of the sinuses, and it was extremely painful because the tumor was pushing one of his eyeballs out of its socket from behind.
Despite the pain he must have been going through, he called me over, and I was struck by how cheerful he was. With a broad smile he asked me to sit close to him. I did so and then he looked at me, his one visible eye twinkling, waiting to hear what I had to say. I passed on the message. Then he started to ask me all sorts of questions about how I knew Fr Ronald, and told me a bit about himself. I am sketchy on the precise details, but as I remember it, he told me that he had lived in the monastery since he was 17 years old, and was then 90, so he had lived there seventy-three years. In those days, I couldn’t imagine remaining sane by leading a life where I had nothing to do for seventy years apart from singing, eating and tending the vegetable patch. If anything, I felt sorry for him. The only reason that he could be so cheerful, I thought, was that he had never had any experience of the sort of things that really make like worth living, most of which hadn’t even been invented when he left the world.
Then he asked me if I had any problems.
I was going through girlfriend difficulties at the time and rather vaguely indicated this, expecting him to take the conversation no further, as his lack of personal experience would mean that he was unable to make any comment. To my surprise, he not only had some comments to make, but asked me some very pointed questions about my personal conduct. I remember thinking, how do you know about that sort of thing? Because of his warm manner and deep and genuine interest in me, I found myself revealing very personal thoughts and conduct. It struck me later how quickly he had put me at ease and gained my confidence.
After the questions, he then gave me some advice about what to do. I wish I could remember the details, but I can’t. What I can remember is that what he suggested was so simple and on-the-money that it was obvious, to me at any rate, that it was right. I know that I did resolve to follow his advice. At a certain point, perhaps after about 20 minutes or so with him, he apologized and said that he had to let me go because he was about to receive some treatment. But he as he did so he encouraged me to visit and come and see him again.