Wednesday, February 28, 2018

“Let My Prayer Rise as Incense” by Pavel Chesnokov - Byzantine Music for Lent

As we have noted a number of times (examples here and here), in the Byzantine Rite, the Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on the weekdays of Lent, but only on Saturdays and Sundays. (An exception is made for the feast of the Annunciation.) Therefore, at the Divine Liturgy on Sundays, extra loaves of bread are consecrated, and reserved for the rest of the week. On Wednesdays and Fridays, a service known as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts is held, in which Vespers is mixed with a Communion Rite. (It is also held on the first three days of Holy Week, and may be done on other occasions, but twice a week is the most common practice.)

The first part of this ceremony follows the regular order of Vespers, and the second part imitates the Great Entrance and the Communion rite of the Divine Liturgy. After the opening Psalm 103 and the Litany of Peace, as the Gradual Psalms are chanted in 3 separate blocks, a portion of the Presanctified Gifts is moved from the altar to the table of the preparation. There follow the general incensation of the church to the singing of 4 psalms (140, 141, 129 and 116) with the hymns known as “stichera” between the verses, then the entrance procession with the thurible and the hymn Phos Hilaron. Two readings are done from the Old Testament (Genesis and Proverbs in Lent, Exodus and Job in Holy Week), after which, the priest stands in front of the altar and incenses it continually, while the choir sings verses of Psalm 140, with the refrain “Let my prayer rise before Thee like incense, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.” (See note below.)
This setting, sung here by the choir of the Sretensky Monastery in Moscow, is by one of the great modern Russian composers, Pavel Chesnokov (1887-1944), a remarkably prolific author of sacred music, with over 400 pieces to his name. Very sadly, when the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow, where he had served as choirmaster, was destroyed in 1933, he became so distraught that he stopped composing altogether. (The church was demolished to make way for a gigantic public building that was never realized, and reconstructed on the same site from 1995 to 2000.)

Note: in some traditions, the verses of Psalm 140 are sung by the celebrant, and the choir sings the refrain. The priest may also move around the table, standing first in front of it, then to one side, than at the back etc., changing places as the choir sings the refrain. He will also incense the Presanctified Gifts at the table of preparation during this part of the rite.

Angelico Press Brings Out New Edition of Guéranger’s Explanation of the Prayers and Ceremonies of Holy Mass

Dom Prosper Guéranger holds a lofty place in the history of the revival of the vita liturgica, the Roman Rite, and monasticism after the ravages of the anticlerical Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution. Many have found insight and inspiration in the pages of his multi-volume The Liturgical Year, which has never been out of print. Another work by Guéranger beloved to many is his compact yet penetrating commentary on the Mass, which has seen a number of English editions in recent decades.

Angelico Press has now brought out a newly typeset edition of this gem of a work, under a title that is less stuffy and more appealing to readers in the post-Summorum world.

On the left, the hardcover edition; on the right, the paperback.
It was an honor and pleasure for me to contribute a Foreword to this book, as it gave me a welcome opportunity to discharge a small part of the debt of gratitude I owe to this great Benedictine of the nineteenth century who opened the riches of the liturgy to countless millions of souls, and who can still guide us capably today as we dig up the hidden treasure that the crypto-Protestant reformers of the 1960s did their best to bury forever. Guéranger saw more clearly than anyone in his day, and certainly far more clearly than anyone in the period from ca. 1950 to 1970, the danger of what he called "the anti-liturgical heresy."

This new edition from Angelico is very handsome and would make not only a nice addition to one's personal library but also a thoughtful little gift for someone for Easter, Christmas, a nameday, a birthday, etc.

Available at Amazon.com in paperback ($14.95), hardcover ($20), Kindle ($5.99), and international affiliates.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 3)

Back when the Pope himself kept the Stations on a regular basis, the Stational ceremony of each ferial day in Lent began at the “Collect,” a church not too far from the Station, where the faithful would gather over the course of the day. The Pope would come there in the later afternoon, vest for the Mass, and process with the clergy and faithful to the Station; the common Roman custom of singing the Litany of the Saints at the Lenten Stations is a remnant of this tradition. The Collects, however, dropped out of use fairly early; they are not listed in the Missal, and several of them were at churches which no longer exist. (See this article from 2010 for more details.) Nevertheless, some of the Stations are now kept in Rome in a similar fashion; the one for Ember Friday at the church of the Twelve Apostles is generally preceded by a procession from the nearby church of the Most Holy Name of Mary at the Forum of Trajan. (This is the cardinalitial title of H.E. Darío Castrillón-Hoyos, retired President of the Ecclesia Dei commission.) Likewise, on Ash Wednesday, the Popes have in recent decades traditionally processed from the abbey of St Anselmo to the nearby Station at Santa Sabina.

Ember Friday - Station at the Twelve Apostles  
The procession from Holy Name of Mary
Entering the church of the Twelve Apostles

The church was originally dedicated to the Apostles Ss Philip and James, whose relics are now kept in the crypt, along with those of a great many other martyrs. “The bodies of the Saints are buried in peace, and their names shall live forever.”
From Fr Alek: the coat of arms of the Conventual Franciscans, whose generalate has been located at this church since the 15th century.

Portuguese and Spanish Ceramic Religious Images, and Resources for Today

Further to my previous post, which discussed how we might bear witness publicly, yet discreetly and beautifully, through tiled images cemented into buildings, readers have been coming forward with interesting and useful points.

First the interesting: a number of people pointed out that Portugal has many blue and white ceramic tiled images. You can see these if you do an image search on “Portuguese religious tile murals.”

As I dug further, I found this photograph of an extraordinary mural on the wall in the town of Avente.
There are charming little decorative details as well. Remember that these patterns reflect a geometry that echoes the mathematical description of the beauty of the cosmos. When we get this right, it is decoration with purpose - subtly but powerfully raising peoples spirits to God through cosmic beauty so that they might be receptive to the Word.

I then decided to look further and explicitly search for Spanish architecture influenced by Islamic art, a style called Mujedar. I found these in the cathedral of Santa Maria de Teruel, in the town of Teruel.

Monday, February 26, 2018

“The Fingers that Hold God”: The Priestly Benefits of ‘Liturgical Digits’ (Part 3)

We continue our survey of priests on how they perceive this particular custom in their offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and how they have adopted or not adopted it in the context of the Novus Ordo Missae. (See here for part 1 of the survey; here for part 2.)

QUESTION 3. Lack of Rubrics and Mutual Enrichment
Has this traditional practice affected the way you view the corresponding lack of rubric in the usus recentior? Have you considered adopting, or do you adopt, the traditional practice in the modern rite? Why or why not?

Fr. A.P.
When I began celebrating the usus antiquior daily, and only occasionally the usus recentior, it became more and more apparent to me that the usus antiquior corresponded much better to the reality taking place in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It became increasingly painful for me to celebrate the usus recentior, even when celebrated ad orientem and reverently. For example, I recall feeling particularly poignantly at the moment of the consecration that those words should be uttered sotto voce rather than out loud. Because I felt an increasing need to celebrate exclusively the usus antiquior, which I eventually did, I did not give much thought to how to adapt customs from the usus antiquior for use in the usus recentior. I would occasionally, instinctively, keep the thumb and forefinger together in the usus recentior, as it certainly seemed the more fitting gesture for the Holy Sacrifice. But on the whole I was simply trying to move away from its celebration altogether. 
Fr. B.H.
Answered already in no. 1 above.
Fr. B.J.
I generally do not maintain custody of the digits in the usus recentior, for practical reasons: often, in most celebrations, there is a plethora of “stuff” to be handled, such as the array of “communion cups” to be handed out to Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. With the way these “cups” are shaped and the necessity to be careful in handing off the Precious Blood to another person, maintaining the digits is really not advisable. Therefore, I have gotten into the habit of thoroughly rubbing my fingers together over the chalice each time I have handled the Eucharist, and then visibly inspecting them afterward, before going on to handle some other item. It still does not feel right, but it is the only practical solution, until such time as we can do away with distribution under both kinds. That is the topic of another discourse, but suffice to say: many priests (myself included, at times) have judged that it is not worth “dying on that hill”—so hysterically do people react to the idea of “the wine” not being available; many Catholics are materially utraquists. Faith in the Eucharist is so weak and so uninformed. There is little to no episcopal leadership in this area (as in many others). Individual priests must fall on a sword and then watch all that they have done be destroyed a few years later when they are moved to a new parish and their successor restores everything they “took away”. In short, it’s a messy situation. While it persists, maintaining custody of the digits in common parish Novus Ordo celebrations is often difficult.
       (Aside: I was intrigued to notice that Cardinal Burke, while importing some things into the Novus Ordo such as the prayers at incensation, does not maintain “the digits”—something he clearly does do when celebrating the usus antiquior. It has never seemed appropriate for me to query him on this. I do wonder if it is a conscious decision on his part. It seems to me that the ethos of the Novus Ordo is so different and that one might not intuitively think to “import” this practice into it.) 
Fr. D.C.
I have adopted this, even before offering the Extraordinary Form. I believe, even though there is no rubric calling for it, that it is in total continuity with tradition. To me, when there is a lack of rubrics regarding something, the best practice is to adopt the posture, action, etc. from tradition. To me that is the Catholic position.
Fr. D.F.
It has been a struggle for many priests in the years since Summorum Pontificum to decide what steps toward “mutual enrichment” can be taken by the priest, himself, without direction from above. The rubrical silence of the Ordinary Form on many matters leaves leeway on the one hand, but the status quo of parish life and among presbyterates exerts pressure on the other. In my mind, holding the fingers closed would be an acceptable step to take in the Ordinary Form.
       Thus, on the occasions when I offer the Ordinary Form alone, I hold my fingers together. When I celebrate the Ordinary Form for a congregation, however, I do not. The reason for this is the (sadly very justified) concern of being written off by my diocese and/or brother priests as extreme or “too traditional.” In every Mass, however, I maintain the closed fingers in certain actions: turning the pages of the missal, the manner of holding the chalice, striking the breast at the Nobis quoque, turning the tabernacle key, removing ciborium lids, etc.
       Holding one’s fingers together becomes particularly difficult during the Pax as it is commonly observed in parish life. 
Fr. D.N.
See above answer [to question 2].
Fr. E.W.
I now usually adopt this practice in the new rite. Except when I am celebrating the conventual Mass in the monastery, for fear that it would annoy and distract certain of my confreres. However, even then I adopt a modified version of it: I join my fingers whenever I have to touch something—e.g., turn a page, or lift the pall, etc.
Fr. E.P.
I do indeed keep to this practice even when celebrating the “ordinary form” of the Mass.
Fr. J.F.
I adopted this position in the Novus Ordo within six months of celebrating the Traditional Roman Rite. It was difficult at first because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I use it at all times and wherever I celebrate Mass. The only times I felt uncomfortable has been in the presence of other priests. But, respect for the Blessed Sacrament is more important than human respect.
Fr. J.K.
When I celebrate Mass in the Ordinary Form, my preference is to use many elements that I have learned from the Extraordinary Form, especially because the rubrics are absent in the Ordinary Form. This includes the act of holding together thumb and forefinger from the consecration until the ablutions. This also includes the use of an amice with the alb, crossing the stole, wearing the maniple and using the biretta.
Fr. J.S.
I have adopted it, but then again, I like to joke I'm a liturgical liberal, not a rubricist. In my mind liturgical freedom ends where abuse begins. Abuse is not simply something done besides certain rubrics but something that is contrary to the liturgical end. Bearing in mind that the liturgy is the action of the Church not the act of an individual, I as an individual priest do not get to decide what befits the liturgical end. It is decided by the competent authority gaining the force of tradition at some point. But this competent authority not only exists in the present but has also existed in the past. So I think it is legitimate for the priest to select from those things that have been approved by the competent authority and that have gained the force of tradition at some point in time, AS LONG as those things were at no later point in time recognized or abolished as an abuse by the competent authority or were thus dropped as less fitting in the furthering of the liturgical end (e.g. due to excessive length, such as was the case of numerous personal priestly prayers that were interjected in the canon in the gothic era and later abolished by Trent).
       Following this rule, the priest would never get to invent anything according to private taste (barring therefore arbitrary innovation by someone lacking authority—which takes care of most modern liturgical abuse). Rather a priest who adopts a compatible element (one that is adaptable to current use) can be said to be reviving something from the past and "enriching" what is present. If his enrichment" catches on you get what is essentially liturgical development (sanctioned in virtue of previous authority/tradition and possibly re-approved by furture church authority).
       In my mind, on account of the nature of the liturgical reform in 1970 (in which much was changed but none of the old was forbidden as abuse) the priest can in principle adapt and enrich the NOM with virtually anything from the usus antiquior that lends itself to adaptation without contradiction (something would be contradictory if it has a "surplanting" character: for example changes in the liturgical calender or the actual missal texts and readings—which is the reason why for now in the German NOM we still have to say "for all" instead of "for many"—as confirmed by my bishop).
       This is basically my justification why I, as a liberal, celebrate the NOM—when I celebrate it (which I very rarely do anymore as a part time hermit)—as close to the old as is possible while keeping all the forms that are positively prescribed by the NOM.
       Possible objections to my reasoning: firstly, a greater "dis-unity" is the undesirably result if my liberal ways are followed. Respondeo, this objection is mute given the concrete and very mad reality in which we find ourselves. And a certain type of liturgical plurality was never a problem in the Church for the first 1500 years as long as it did not include abuse (i.e., that what is contrary to the liturgical end and that which has the force of competent authority/tradition). Pastoral concerns need to be weighted—and I believe pastoral concern may be in fact a very good reason to enrich the NOM with elements from the usus antiquior.       Secondly, if what was claimed above was true then priests could just go and try to recreate old liturgies from past centuries that were approved then. Respondeo, this objection does not hold, because I'm not advocating the (re)creation of a liturgy by the priest on account of its elements having existed at some point in time—which only the competent authority (however unwisely) could do (and in fact is somewhat what it tried to do in the last reform). Rather the priest may only incorporate fitting elements from the past to the current order of the Mass inasmuch as they are adaptable thereto. So he does not get to make up a new Eucharistic prayer based on ancient texts or replace this or that element with an ancient one. But he may hold his fingers together and sneak in a double genuflection, for example. Such latter changes would be sanctioned by tradition (previous authority) without destroying the integrity of the NOM, but rather enriching it.
       I don't know if this exposition is air tight. I never spent too much time rationalizing it. I virtually only celebrate vetus now and in the time before abided by the very traditional mode of celebration that was requested by my boss (parish priest) with toleration from my bigger boss (bishop). So as a simple vicar I more or less had to do things in a hybrid "new as the old" way (causing me little pain, as should be clear!).
Fr. J.M.
See above. The lack of this rubric leads to other lacunae in the NO, especially concerning De Defectibus. It all adds up to an undermining of what Aquinas would call a practical intellectual grasp of the truth of the Real Presence, even if the NO still has a valid theoretical intellectual adherence to the truth. But we are not pure intellect! We are also corporeal beings. And without a greater scope for prayer and worship to be expressed through gesture and for sacred objects such as the sacramental species to be recognised for what they are through how they are handled, then the modern liturgy will not be as fruitful in generating and sustaining faith as its traditional counterpart.
Fr. J.B.
As I can’t place myself into a situation where I don’t know the traditional rubric, I don’t know for sure, but probably if I didn’t know of the traditional rubric and practice, the lack of such a rubric in the usus recentior wouldn’t strike me particularly at all. I have considered following the traditional practice, and in some cases have, in celebrating according to the modern Missal, but do not generally in my current parishes. While there are various and to some extent complicated considerations for and against, one main reason why I do not is that in the countryside parishes where I am, the Mass tends to be seen as a mere tradition and ritual, and as merely “what the priest does,” and I believe more important developments need to be made in fostering interior and authentic participatio actuosa before my adopting this practice would be fruitful rather than counter-productive.
Fr. M.K.
I almost never celebrate the modern rite. Family funerals would be the rare exception. Then I do just as I do in the traditional rite because I cannot squeeze myself into another paradigm on command. It does violence to my soul.
Fr. M.C.
See response to #2.
Fr. M.B.
I have adopted the practice in the modern rite and I believe that there are three ways to read the rubrics of the ordinary form: (1) fill in the lacking rubrics from the extraordinary form on the assumption that the authors of the new rubrics had the old rubrics in mind; (2) the lack of information on things (like canonical digits, manipole, crossing the stole, etc.) is interpreted neutrally, meaning one is free to do or not do these things; (3) the lack of rubrics means one may not do things not mentioned. I follow options 1 and 2, believing that unless there is mention in rubrics of not doing something, the celebrant is free to do it if it was in the rubrics of the usus antiquior.
Fr. P.M.
I find myself, with the Ordinary Form of the Mass, holding my fingers and thumbs together, after the consecration until after the elevation of the Chalice, after which point I thoroughly wipe together my thumbs and fingers over the chalice. After I elevate the host over the chalice with the Ecce Agnus Dei and then consume the Host, I wipe my fingers and thumbs again over the chalice before consumption of the Precious Blood.  I hold my finger and thumb together after distribution of holy Communion until the ablution.
Fr. T.K.
I haven’t given much thought to the lack of said rubric in the postconciliar Missal. Sometimes I adopt the practice, and sometimes I don’t. If I’m celebrating Mass with a congregation that is accustomed to seeing it (such as when I provide coverage for my traditionally minded confreres), then I do it; otherwise I generally do not.
       The inconsistency reflects my divided mind about the use of elements particular to the 1962 Missal when celebrating the modern rite. On the one hand, rubrics exist to instruct the priest in what to do, not what not to do. If I do something the Missal does not call for, then I have no business complaining about other priests who do their own thing. Also, I think it’s important to avoid whatever could confuse the faithful or be construed as idiosyncratic.
       On the other hand, the practice in question, like other traditional practices (e.g., the priest genuflecting before as well as after elevating the Host and the chalice, and crossing himself with the Host and chalice before consuming the Body and Blood of Christ), are, as Fr. Timothy Finigan has argued (quoting Summorum Pontificum), part of what is “sacred and great” both for previous generations and for us; their use, even though technically unauthorized in the modern rite, is not on a par with liturgical abuses and novelties.
       Moreover, I can hardly imagine what “mutual enrichment” (which is supposed to be taking place already) looks like without the adoption of “Tridentine” elements in the usus recentior.
Fr. W.S.
Yes, I use the practice in the Novus Ordo out of sheer coherence—the gesture is not aesthetic but practical, in order to avoid particles falling.
Cardinal Brandmueller

Roman Churches Under Snow

Here’s something you literally don’t see every decade: snow in the Eternal City that lasts long enough to be photographed! Rome is less than a full degree of latitude south of Boston, but the climate is so much milder that the city is about as capable of handling a major snowfall as Los Angeles or Nairobi. All the schools were closed, so a lot of people took the morning and brought their kids out to the parks and piazzas, making for a really joyous carnival atmosphere. The snow was the most perfect kind of weapons-grade sticky, and many battles were waged throughout the city; Roman children, however, are completely unpracticed in this fine and subtle art, and tend to make Soviet-style projectiles that are effectively too heavy to launch. In Piazza San Pietro, American and English seminarians showed them how it’s done. (Courtesy of Mr Jacob Stein, via his blog Passio XP; more photos at the link.)

From our Roman pilgrim Agnese, the church of San Lorenzo in Miranda, and the Roman Forum.
San Luca e Martina, and the forum of Julius Caesar.
A unique snowman made by Mr Lucas LaRoche, a seminarian at the North American College.
A Barbiconi collar was sacrificed to make this Snow-Pope, the work of Mr Joseph Sigur. (Photo by Fr Kevin Staley-Joyce, also of the North American College; see more at his excellent Instagram account.)
From Fr Dominic Holtz of the mighty Order of Preachers (which did NOT cancel classes at the Angelicum today), some views from the roof. Here are the markets of Trajan, with the Colosseum off in the distance.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Requiem Mass and Prayers of the Church in China, Tomorrow in NYC

Tomorrow, February 26, there will be a solemn Requiem Mass and Absolution at the Catafalque to mark the 100th anniversary of the Happy Valley Racecourse Fire in Hong Kong, an event in which 670 people perished. The Mass will be at the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in New York City, beginning at 7:30 PM; the church is located at 448 East 116th St.

Following Mass, the sacred ministers will change from black to violet vestments and lead the choir and people in a procession throughout the Church, singing a Solemn Litany of the Saints to beseech Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Communion of Saints to intercede for the persecuted Church in China, and protect it against the attacks it faces today. At the Requiem Mass, the choir will sing the Missa pro defunctis for six voices by Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650). The Mass is being sponsored by a family that lost five members in the tragedy.


The Second Sunday of Lent 2018

Behold the odor smell of my son is like the smell of a plentiful field, which the Lord hath blessed. May my God increase thee like the sand of the sea, * and grant thee blessing from the dew of the field. V. And may God almighty bless thee, and multiply thee. And grant thee... (The second responsory of Matins.)

Issac Blessing Jacob, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, ca. 1665
R. Ecce odor filii mei sicut odor agri pleni, cui benedixit Dóminus: créscere te faciat Deus meus sicut arénam maris: * Et donet tibi de rore caeli benedictiónem. V. Deus autem omnípotens benedícat tibi, atque multíplicet. R. Et donet tibi...

Saturday, February 24, 2018

New ICEL Translations in England and Wales for the Chrism Mass

Readers of NLM may be interested to know that the Liturgy Office of England and Wales has just announced that the English and Welsh Bishops' Conference has received the recognitio for use of the 2016 ICEL translation of the Ordo benedicendi oleum catechumenorum et infirmorum et conficiendi chrisma (1971)

This use of this translation, entitled The Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism, will be obligatory in England and Wales from 2018 onwards, so will be in use in this year's Chrism Masses. The text is provided on the Liturgy Office website, along with some other related resources.

These are not texts that are used very often, so a good number of people may be unfamiliar with them. For those who are interested, I have drawn up a table where the 1971 Latin editio typica, the 1972 ICEL translation, and the new ICEL translation can be compared:

Comparison of the Order of Blessing the Oil of Catechumens and of the Sick and of Consecrating the Chrism (1971 Latin, 1972 ICEL, 2016 ICEL) [PDF]

(Note: the 2009 translation of the Ordo benedicendi published in the interim Roman Pontifical in 2012 is not part of the comparison here, as to the best of my knowledge it was never in use in England and Wales.)

Pope Benedict XVI breathing on the Chrism before the Prayer of Consecration (2010)
I am sure that NLM readers will enjoy discussing the merits and faults of the new translation in the comments below!

Portable Altars & Roadside Shrines

Recently David Clayton recommended that Catholics think seriously about ways to decorate with holy imagery buildings, gardens, businesses, and other places where non-Catholics might see them and either be prompted to a conversation or simply take that image into their souls and start living with it, a seed of a possible future response to grace. When I posted his article on Facebook, the carpenter who makes what must certainly be the world's most beautiful portable wooden altars, Rick Murphey, responded with a photo of a crucifix he had built in the style of European roadside shrines, and said that people could order such shrines from him.

Mr. Murphey had come to my attention in another way, when a priest a few weeks ago shared with me photos of his new portable altar — the work for which St. Joseph's Apprentice is best known. This altar was described to me as one-of-a-kind, made of cherry wood instead of hemlock but dyed with a red mahogany. It weighs 20 lbs.





Mr. Murphey wrote to me: "I am approaching altar #300. The good St. Joseph seems to send me a steady supply of orders, so I am always working about 2-3 months out."

Here is his contact information if you are interested in either a portable altar or a roadside shrine:
Rick Murphey
St. Joseph's Apprentice
17310 W. Left Fork Rd.
Hauser, ID 83854
(208) 773-1733
Email is preferred contact: stjosephsapprentice@gmail.com

Friday, February 23, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 2)

We continue our annual visit to the Lenten station churches in Rome with our friend Agnese, this year joined by Fr Alek Shrenck. In this post we see the famous relics of St Peter’s Chains at the stational church named for them, the basilica of St Mary Major with its customary set-up of reliquaries on the main altar, and part of the amazing relic collection of St Lawrence in Panisperna.

Monday of the First Week of Lent - St Peter in Chains
The station observance begins in the atrium...
...followed by the procession inside.
The veneration of a relic.

This reliquary contains the chain with which St Peter was kept prisoner in Rome under Nero, and another chain brought from the prison where he was kept by Herod in Jerusalem. Tradition holds that when the two chains were brought together in the mid-5th century, under Pope St Leo the Great, they were miraculously united as a single chain in such fashion that one could not tell where the one began and the other ended. A series of smaller links on the left side is from a chain that was used to hold St Paul. The church of Rome has always honored the two Apostles together as her co-founders; for this reason, one of the antiphons of their office reads, “The glorious princes of the earth; as they loved one another in their life, so also in death they were not separated.”
From Fr Alek, St Peter holding his keys, detail of the fresco on the ceiling of the church’s nave picted by Giovanni Battista Parodi, 1706.

Four Old Classics in New Editions

As NLM readers will have figured out by now, one of my pasttimes is to find good out-of-print Catholic books and republish them. I also enjoy doing better editions of books that are in print but are either overpriced or aesthetically unappealing.

Today I am happy to announce the appearance of four more titles. All are available at Amazon; the titles below are hyperlinks.

The True Vine and Its Branches by Rev. Edward Leen, S.J., published in 1938, is a study of Jesus Christ as the new Adam, and the way in which all things human are re-established in Him. By the gift of incorporation into His Body and by the gift of His grace, each Christian lives and moves and IS in Him. This is the central mystery of our existence as “sons in the Son,” the deepest source of our identity, our direction in life, our consolation, our ability to suffer, our promise of victory. Fr. Leen writes:
To be stamped with the image of a divine Christ is a title to glory far more exalted than the glory due to us were we to bear the image of a purely human head, even though a sinless one. When God pardoned, He pardoned magnificently. So far was He from being grudging in His concessions to submissive humanity. He loaded it with favors. He gave with a divine generosity. He did not content Himself with restoring what had been forfeited. He added superabundantly to His first gifts. God’s incredible magnanimity brought it about that man, instead of losing all by the Fall, can profit exceedingly by it, if only he is willing to utilize all that has been won for him and placed at his disposal by the great Sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

God in Me: Sanctifying Grace or the Mystery of God's Life in Us by Rev. Matthew Swizdor. When I first paged through an old copy of this book a few years ago, I had to ask myself: Why did books like this suddenly vanish from the world? It is so lucid, so convincing, so doctrinally orthodox, and indeed so stirring that it would have been a perfect text for a serious catechism class. And then, as always, I remembered with a sigh: the Second Vatican Council — that's what happened, and all its sorry aftermath, sweeping away everything good like a gigantic tidal wave. But thanks to the ease of print-on-demand, this potent little treatise on grace is available again to the post-postconciliar world. From the Preface:
Nothing is so important to the soul as sanctifying grace; yet nothing is more difficult than the task of imparting to people, especially to children, an effective knowledge of the meaning and importance of this divine gift. In undertaking to supply a practical exemplification of the way in which the meaning and reality of such grace can be brought home even to children, Father Matthew has undertaken a most useful piece of work. Father Matthew’s skill as a catechist is born of his native ability and the loving devotion he has given to many years of experience in instructing children in the truths of their religion. The time and care he has lavished on this little book are immediately evident, and reflect his own love of God, his affection for the children he serves, and his devotion to the great work of the catechist. What characterizes this book is the profuse but clear and apt use of many of the illustrations found in Holy Scripture to explain the significance and effectiveness of sanctifying grace, and the ingenious comparisons he has worked out to imprint these things indelibly on the mind. This book is a real treasure that will never be forgotten by those who read it.

God: His Knowability, Essence, and Attributes by Fr. Joseph Pohle. From a highly-praised series of Thomistic textbooks. Fr. Pohle's work is characterized by its readable style, copious citations of sources, organizational clarity, and engagement with modern questions. A brief description of the content:
Here below man can know God only by analogy; hence we are constrained to apply to Him the three scientific questions: An sit, Quid sit, and Qualis sit, that is to say: Does He exist? What is His essence? and What are His qualities or attributes?  Consequently in theology, as in philosophy, the existence, essence, and attributes of God must form the three chief heads of investigation. The theological treatment differs from the philosophical in that it considers the subject in the light of supernatural Revelation, which builds upon and at the same time confirms, supplements, and deepens the conclusions of unaided human reason. Since the theological question regarding the existence of God resolves itself into the query: Can we know God?—the treatise De Deo Uno naturally falls into three parts: (1) The knowability of God; (2) His essence; and (3) The divine properties or attributes.

The Author of Nature and the Supernatural: Creation, Anthropology, and Angelology by Fr. Joseph Pohle. Another volume in the same series of neoscholastic manuals. A fine treatment of its subject, which is God as creator and sanctifier of the entire universe and, in a special way, of the intellectual creatures, namely, angels and men. A brief description:
God’s first and primal work is the Creation of the universe. Creation constitutes the fundamental and essential postulate of all being and operation in the natural order as well as of all supernatural institutions, such as the Incarnation, Grace, the Sacraments, etc. Hence, the dogmatic treatise De Deo Creante et Elevante, which forms the subject matter of this volume, views God as the Author of Nature and the Supernatural. A true idea of Creation is indispensable to deepen and perfect the conception of God gained from the treatises De Deo Uno and De Deo Trino. Further, the consideration of the creation of men and angels and of their natures—anthropology and angelology—is the most important counterpart to the consideration of God as Creator.
The following two images contain a complete "catalogue" of the books I've printed or reprinted.

 

CMAA 2018 Colloquium in Chicago, June 25-30

The Church Music Association of America is returning to Chicago in 2018! Our last Chicago Colloquium was in 2009; since then, the Sacred Music Colloquium has been held in Pittsburgh (2010, 2011, 2015), Salt Lake City (2012, 2013), Indianapolis (2014), St. Louis (2016), and Saint Paul (2017). For further information about date and venue, highligths of the Colloquium, and registration registration information, see the CMAA website.


For those of us who have been part of the organization since the days of relatively small gatherings of faithful members at Catholic University, the massive increase in interest in Sacred Music has been an exciting and amazing thing. I was fortunate to discover the CMAA when it was just in the process of huge growth, and to experience my first Extraordinary Form liturgy and the wonderful music of the Ordinary Form at the last Colloquium at Catholic University in 2007, just before Pope Benedict issued the motu proprio.

Truthfully, as anyone who knows me has probably heard, I was a bit annoyed when, in my forties, I discovered all the lovely Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony that had been abandoned by most places after Vatican II. An enthusiastic student, I attended at least one of the programs every summer thereafter. In addition, I was constantly trying to convert others by inviting them to weekend workshops whenever possible. As my family moved around at the whim of the military following my husband’s career, I tried to start a new schola at each new location, or at least to do what I could to share this beautiful treasury wherever we were.

Since many of us were struggling to learn to read the chant notation and basic chironomy (just barely a step ahead of our schola members), it was not that easy to find resources to help us along the way. I can remember finding a few online chant recordings of relatively poor quality, and straining to hear the melodies over the sounds of crying babies and loud HVAC systems.

We have come such a long way in such a short time! Now you can find almost any chant you want to learn on a variety of YouTube videos. The entire Liber Usualis and Gregorian Missal are available for free download from the CMAA website, along with many other resources. Corpus Christi Watershed has been a leader in making settings of Responsorial Psalms freely available, and has continued to expand each year the resources offered. Beautiful settings of sacred polyphony are freely available on cpdl.org and other sites. The CMAA Forum offers connection with musicians around the world who share their knowledge (and the occasional snarky comment) very generously with each other. NONE of this was available when I was first trying to learn these things. Books on chironomy, the Solesmes Method, Ward method, and more are all now freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

While the CMAA was the leader in providing training in Gregorian chant then (and still is), there is now a wealth of opportunities for learning and improving your knowledge all around the country. Small groups have formed in various regions and are  hosting their own annual workshops and symposia. Other organizations also have sessions on Gregorian Chant at their conventions, and the big publishers are beginning to offer more resources for both English and Latin chant.

In addition to the resources offered by the CMAA, Ignatius Press, Illuminare and others are now offering wonderful resources in English that are making the sound of plainchant more and more common in parishes around the country. No longer is it an unusual occurrence to find music directors who know the difference between a Mass Ordinary and a Mass Proper.

So… what’s the point of all this? We are living in a wonderful time. Thanks to the visionary leadership of the CMAA board, our organization has continued to thrive. Thanks to the huge work done by Jeffrey Tucker in promoting Sacred Music, and promoting the idea of freely shared resources at our website, we now have a huge online treasury available for the entire world to use. Thanks to Arlene Oost-Zinner, who transformed our programs and developed the model we still use for the planning, we now have a solid history of successful Colloquia and Chant courses. Thanks to the generous faculty who give their time and talent to make the courses successful, traveling from all around the country and Europe, we can offer amazing training in an intense week of study each year. Thanks to generous donors, we can offer scholarships and student/seminarian rates at our Colloquia, and continue to expand our resources with new projects. We have so much to be thankful for as musicians, directors, and faithful Catholics who want beautiful liturgy in the worship of God.

From an article published on the New Liturgical Movement in 2009, just before the beginning of the Colloquium in Chicago for the second year, Jeffrey Tucker wrote:
And let us be clear on what is happening here. This is not a trade show. It is not a series of lectures. Every single person coming here, and there are some 250 people, will be actively participating in a chant choir and a polyphonic choir under a world-class conductor, and they will have to choose among several available options for polyphony - an impossible choice really. I know of no other event that compares in terms of training Catholic musicians of the future, training to be producers on the local level, to establish scholas to sing the Mass, to conduct and sing with the purpose of upgrading the liturgical experience in the Catholic framework… We are living amidst a new renaissance of liturgical music… 
Help us continue forward by joining us at one of our programs this summer. The Colloquium (June 25-30, 2018) is a great thing because of the collaboration of expert teachers and directors AND those attendees who lend their enthusiasm and voices to make the six days a wonderful experience. Come to Chicago and re-charge your batteries along with us so that you can continue the work you are doing in the trenches of your home parish, school, seminary or diocese.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

“The Fingers that Hold God”: The Priestly Benefits of ‘Liturgical Digits’ (Part 2)

I introduced this series (Part 1) with a brief story about how, having noticed the custom of the holding together of thumb and forefinger at the traditional Mass for many years, I decided to ask a number of priests how it appeared in their eyes. The responses of 19 priests to my first question were given in the first installment. Today, we proceed to the second question and the responses.

QUESTION 2. Devotion, Nuisance, or Something Else?
If you began your priestly life celebrating only the usus recentior and later learned the usus antiquior, did learning to hold the fingers together strike you as more devout, or as a nuisance, or something else?

Fr. A.P.
It struck me as both more devout and also, at first, as a bit awkward since I had been used to celebrating the usus recentior without this gesture. But that sense quickly disappeared and I instinctively began to want to use this gesture also when celebrating the usus recentior.
Fr. B.H.
I started my priesthood saying the Novus Ordo but was taught the rubrics for it by a conservative priest superior who taught me to hold fingers together—and why. So when I started the usus antiquior a bit later that same practice then didn't really make any difference for me.
Fr. B.J.
As can be seen from the first answer, it certainly struck me as more devout. It did take a small amount of time to get used to it, but even that was not difficult, since it so powerfully confirmed what I already knew by faith.
Fr. D.C.
This is exactly my situation. I didn’t celebrate the usus antiquior until almost 10 years into my priesthood. However, from the day of my first Holy Mass, I have held my fingers together after touching the Sacred Species. I have always found it to foster devotion in myself, but also in the congregation. I in no way find it a nuisance.
Fr. D.F.
I began celebrating the Extraordinary Form after four years of celebrating only the Ordinary Form.  I did not perceive holding together my canonical digits as a nuisance in any way.  I would say that it did strike me as somewhat more devout, as, related to Question 1, I sensed a particular devotional significance in the gesture.  
Fr. D.N.
I have been a priest for seven years. The first four years I was doing the Novus Ordo. The last three years I have been doing the Traditional Latin Mass. For all of this time (in both Masses over seven years), I have kept liturgical digits. It wasn't a matter of showing people what was devout, as just a result of knowledge that crumbs could be on my fingers. As a guy once said, "You're dealing with plutonium up there." He actually got it right. Would we not follow every precaution possible with something as precious and as powerful as the physical body of the Son of God? For this reasons, it is hardly a nuisance to hold my fingers together in an act of protection.
Fr. E.W.
This was in fact the path I took— celebrating first the newer use, and then learning the older. Holding the fingers together in the older use struck me immediately as more devout.
Fr. E.P.
One who is not a priest and has not had the experience of keeping the fingers joined at the appropriate times cannot fully appreciate the difficulty that this may cause him. Try, as an example, taking your handkerchief out of your back pocket, passing your hand with its joined fingers along the way, opening the handkerchief and blowing the nose after having sneezed!
Fr. J.F.
I was ordained 17 years when I learned and began celebrating the Traditional Rite. It was not all that foreign to me. A friend of mine who was a Franciscan in his late 70’s still used canonical fingers for new Mass during the early 1980’s. Learning to turn pages and hold things without dropping them was something to get used to. Bringing greater respect and reverence to the Holy Sacrament is of utmost importance.
Fr. J.K.
The one thing that became abundantly clear when learning the Extraordinary Form was that I was not in charge. I could not pick and choose this or that option depending on my homily or my personal preference. No, here I had to conform myself to the liturgy. This was experienced both spiritually and physically. In the spiritual life, it is my hope that I can be conformed ever more to the likeness of Christ. This becomes possible in the Extraordinary Form. I never experienced it as a nuisance. I took it up readily and easily.
Fr. J.S.
As said above, from the beginning I celebrated both forms—but always with those two fingers together.
Fr. J.M.
It is clearly more devout. It can also be clumsy especially with the design of some modern ciboria. It just cannot be done with the sign of peace: which suits me just fine! Give me canonical digits over handshakes any day.
Fr. J.B.
I have from the beginning celebrated Mass according to both usages—my first Mass was in the usus antiquior, my second Mass in the usus recentior… However, I found it all three—more devout, in the sense indicated above; somewhat of a nuisance in distributing Communion from a Ciborium or when using a Missal without good tabs; and corresponding to a general greater visible and corporal mimesis in the usus antiquior than in the usus recentior.
Fr. M.K.
Never did I find it annoying or fussy.
Fr. M.C.
In our congregation we learn the “holding together” in both forms from the very beginning. It is even an internal rule to do it in both forms, always.
Fr. M.B.
I learned the usus recentior and then later learned about how to celebrate the usus antiquior. The practice of holding the fingers does strike me as devout and careful. I have held those fingers at nearly every single Mass I’ve ever said. The first 30 or so Masses I said were without this practice. The others included it. I believe that it is a catechetical tool. It gives people something to think about, it is distinctive and it begs the question: why do you do that? It gives me a chance to talk about the Real Presence, thus I like it.
Fr. P.M.
Though holding the fingers together may have been a nuisance to begin with, it quickly became a very conscious sign of the care I needed to take regarding the Host and any particle whatsoever. This consciousness has definitely affected the way I celebrate any Mass.
Fr. T.K.
The practice did not strike me as a nuisance, though it took some getting used to, especially when turning the pages of the Missal.
Fr. W.S.
It struck me as awkward at first, merely from the mechanics of the gesture; but unreservedly as a more devout and indeed as so naturally devout that I wondered how on earth the usus recentior could ever have suppressed the gesture.
St. Josemaria Escriva observing 'liturgical digits'

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Durandus on Lenten Veils

Last week I posted some excerpts from William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, the parts of his treatise on Ash Wednesday which explains the general Lenten customs which begin on that day. (Book 6, chapter 27) In that section, he refers the reader to an earlier section, book 2, chapter 3, “On pictures, curtains and ornaments in the church”, for his discussion of a practice which in his time was very common in the West, the hanging of a veil, or as we will read, two different veils, in the sanctuary in Lent. I include below an excerpt on the same topic from a Sarum Customary of the 15th century, now kept at the British Museum. (Harley 2911)

Of course, everything which pertains to decoration must be removed or covered in the season of Lent. By the custom of some, this takes place on Passion Sunday, since from that point forward, the divinity was hidden and veiled in Christ, since He let Himself be taken and scourged, as a man that did not have the power of the divinity within him; whence it is said in the Gospel of this day, “Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” (John 8, 59, the last verse of the Gospel of Passion Sunday.) Therefore, the crosses are then covered, that is, the power of divinity. Others do this from the first Sunday of Lent, since from that point forward, the Church begins to treat of His Passion; whence in that period, the cross ought not to be carried through the church unless it is covered. According to the custom of some places, two veils or curtains are used, one of which is set around the choir, the other is hung between the altar and the choir, so that the things which are within the Holy of holies may not be seen. …

From last year’s third photopost of Passiontide veils, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome.
… in this season there is commonly hung, or set up a veil or wall between the clergy and people, so that they cannot see each other, (see note below) as if to say by this fact “Turn away thine eyes, lest they see vanity etc.” (Ps. 118, 37) But on Good Friday, every veil is taken away, because at the Lord’s Passion, the veil of the temple was rent, and through this, the spiritual understanding of the King, which formerly lay hidden, was revealed to us, and the door of heaven was opened … However, the veil which divides the sanctuary from the clergy (in the choir) is pulled back or lifted up at Vespers of each Saturday of Lent, when the Office of Sunday begins, so that the clergy can look into the sanctuary, because this recalls the Lord’s resurrection. (He goes on to explain that it is also to honor the Resurrection that there is also no fasting on the Sundays of Lent.)

On feasts of nine readings, the Lenten veil is also lifted up or pulled back. But this does not come from the Church’s primitive custom, since originally, no feast was solemnly celebrated in Lent, but if a feast occurred, whatever day it was, a commemoration was made of it on (the following) Saturday and Sunday… and this because of the sadness of the season. Afterwards, the opposite custom obtained, namely, that a feast of nine readings be solemnly celebrated on its own day, and the fast be observed nonetheless.

Note: Durandus says that the Lenten veil is set up “between the clergy and people, so that they cannot see each other.” This clearly implies that without the veil, they can see each other, even though rood screens were still normative at that point throughout Western Europe. Clearly, he is assuming here that the rood screen is not so solid as to block the view of the sanctuary entirely; a good example would be this one from the basilica of the Santa Maria Assunta on the island of Torcello in the lagoon of Venice.


From the Sarum Customary

On the Monday of the first week of Lent, at Matins, all the crosses, images and relics, and also the vessel containing the Eucharist should be covered until Matins of Easter. But from the preceding Saturday, until the Wednesday before Easter, a veil hangs in the sanctuary between the choir and the altar, which throughout Lent, on the ferias, both at Mass and at Matins and the other hours, must be let down, except when the Gospel is read; for then it is lifted up and raised until the priest says “Orate fratres”. Then the veil is let down, both for the elevation of the Lord’s body (by this time, an extremely important focus of popular devotion), and all the rest of the time of the Mass, until the priest says “Bow your heads to the Lord.” Then it is raised until the service of the Mass is completed. If there follows on the morrow a feast of nine readings, it is not let down again on that day, until the next ferial Matins. …

On the Wednesday before Easter, when the Passion of the Lord is read (Luke 22 and 23), the veil hangs in its place as usual, until the words “the veil of the temple was rent”; and when this is said, the veil falls (i.e. is allowed to drop) in the area of the sanctuary.

EF Solemn Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent in Santa Rosa, California

Our friend Fr Jeffrey Keyes has written in to let us know about the following. “I have been at the Cathedral of St Eugene for two years. In that time, I have celebrated an EF Missa Cantata each Sunday. With encouragement, affirmation, invitation, training and practice, we have taken men accustomed to the Ordinary Form, installed acolytes and permanent deacons, and readied them for the celebration of a Solemn High Mass. Since just before Christmas, we have done this about seven times; we hope soon to be able to do this every Sunday. It is my hope that many in Northern California may come to appreciate the beauty and sacredness of this wonderful Liturgy.”

The cathedral is located at 2323 Montgomery Drive in Santa Rosa.

More on the Ancient Liturgy of Jerusalem

We recently shared a video of Dr Daniel Galadza’s presentation of his book “Liturgy and Byzantinization in Jerusalem”, which was given last month at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Toronto, Ontario. His book examines how the original liturgy of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, also known as the Hagiopolitan Rite (from “Hagia Polis”, Greek for “holy city”), was gradually replaced by that of Constantinople, particularly over the course of the 7th-12th centuries, while leaving numerous traces of itself in the Byzantine Rite. The Institute has now published three other videos on the same subject, which our readers may also find of interest. The first is a presentation of a paper by Dr Galadza, “Patriarchs, Caliphs, Monks, and Scribes: On the Byzantinization of Jerusalem”, a summary history of the topic. The second is a Q&A session on the paper, and the third is a Q&A session on the book presentation linked above.



Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roman Pilgrims at the Station Churches 2018 (Part 1)

Lent is upon us, and so it is time once again for the daily pilgrimages to the station churches in Rome. This will be the fifth year in which our friend Agnese shares with us the photos which she takes during the processions and Masses which are organized at the stations every evening by the Vicariate of Rome. Once again, we wish to express our gratitude to her for enabling our readers to follow along with this beautiful and ancient custom of the Holy See of St Peter.

I have titled this post “Roman Pilgrims” in the plural, since this year, we will have another pilgrim joining Agnese. Fr Alek Schrenk, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is currently studying in Rome at the North American College. For many years now, the students, clergy and staff of the NAC have followed the Lenten stational observance by celebrating a Mass in the various churches in the morning. This often involves getting up even earlier than they normally do; weather and time permitting, many of them walk to the station from the college up on the Janiculum. Fr Schrenk has been taking photos during these visits, and also very kindly agreed to share them with us. He has shared some things with us before, and you can see more of his excellent work at his blog Echi Romani. (Some of his photos are taken at the same church on other occasions; you should be able to tell the difference between his photographic style and Agnese’s fairly easily.)

Since we have two sets of photos to publish from each station, we will probably do more posts this Lent, and fewer churches per post. So, without further ado...

Thursday after Ash Wednesday - San Giorgio in Velabro


His Emincence Gianfranco Cardinal Ravasi, President of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archeology. He holds the cardinalitial title of this church in the illiustrious company of (among many others) Bl. John Henry Newman; his predecessor in the title was Alphonse Card. Stickler. 
From Fr Alek: the apsidal mosaic by Pietro Cavallini, late 13th century, with Christ, the Virgin Mary and St Peter closer to him on either side; on the left, St George, to whom the church is dedicated, and on the right St Theordore, to whom is dedicated a very small church close by, which is now run by the Greek Orthodox Diocese of Italy.
 Friday after Ash Wednesday - Ss John and Paul
Procession outside the basilica before Mass. The dome seen in the middle of this photo is not that of the main church, but of the large side-chapel where St Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionist Order, is buried. St Paul had a brother named Giovanni Battista (John the Baptist), himself now a Venerable, to whom he was very close, and who was instrumental in helping him found the order. Many years after the latter’s death, Pope Clement XIV (1769-74) gave the basilica to St Paul to be the first “retreat”, as the order’s houses are called, in Rome, in remembrance of his beloved brother, since the martyrs John and Paul were also brothers.

Florentine Street Shrines - Will Today’s Della Robbia Please Step Forward?

When I was studying portrait painting in Florence several years ago, I was struck by the charm of the old street shrines that can be seen built into the walls of the narrow streets all over Italy. Many date back to the time of the building itself.


 
 
Not all are still obviously the focus for prayer; many seemed to unnoticed in cities in which Renaissance art abounds, and much of the population has fallen away from the practice of the Faith.
 
Since then, I have wondered from time to time if this is something we could do today, in a time and in places where Catholicism is not the dominant faith and the driving force the culture?
My feeling is we might, in many instances, struggle to persuade local government to go along with such a thing. However, perhaps if done tastefully and discretely on private property that is visible from the public street, it might be possible.
I believe that if such a thing is truly beautiful, even non-believers would want it; and its beauty would to a large degree disarm potential critics by removing their desire to take offense from outward signs of the Faith. I have a friend who runs a menswear shop in the UK, and he always places a small icon of the face of Christ, (of the Mandylion type) low down on the wall behind the counter. While it is not an obviously bold statement of faith, he deliberately places in such a position that when people pay for their clothes, they will see it on the wall behind the till; this gives the impression that they are peeking into his personal space and seeing an image that is there for his private devotion. He says that nobody ever objected, and many asked about it.
Non-Christians (and for that matter many Christians too) are much more likely to be irritated if the art is ugly or sentimental. I have often wondered, for example, if the militant secularists are perhaps doing us a favor by objecting to the kitschy shopping mall Nativity scenes that seem to be standard issue for retailers nowadays. Perhaps they are the unwitting agents of the Holy Spirit? Before my conversion in my early thirties, piped carol music and brightly-colored plastic McChristmasses gave me the impression that Christianity was for saddoes who didn’t even know that they ought to be embarrassed by being associated with this stuff. This did far more to put me off the Church than tales of Popes fathering illegitimate children or the brutality of the Teutonic Knights in the Baltic and the Middle East!
If we did decide to do this, what form should it take?

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