Friday, July 31, 2020

The Church of Saint Germain l’Auxerrois in Paris

As I noted on this day last year, most places which use the Roman Rite keep today as the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, who died on July 31, 1556. But in the Middle Ages, this date was kept in France, England and some other places (although not at Rome) as the feast of St Germanus, a 5th-century bishop of the French see of Auxerre; Ignatius himself would have celebrated this feast during his years as a student in Paris, along with the earliest members of the Company. A church dedicated to St Germanus sits directly in front of the Louvre in Paris, and is currently being used as the cathedral pro tempore while Notre Dame is undergoing restoration after last year’s fire. In French it is called “Saint Germain l’Auxerrois” to distinguish it from “Saint Germain des Prés”, which is dedicated to a 6th-century bishop of Paris. It was originally founded in the 6th or 7th-century, but has been rebuilt several times, and contains a number of real artistic treasures from different periods. Here are some pictures of it which I took when I visited Paris last summer.

A fifteenth-century statue of the church’s Patron.
A retable made in Flanders in the early 16th century, which depicts the events of Our Lord’s life, focusing on the Passion; donated to the church by the Comte de Montalivet, Minister of the Interior, in 1839. See this article on French Wikipedia for closer views and explanations of the individual scenes.
The preaching pulpit in the nave, made in 1684.
The pulpit faces this group of seats made at the same time for the use of the royal family, since Saint Germain l’Auxerrois was the parish church of the royal palace, the Louvre.
The 15th-century Gothic apse, seen from the gate of the church’s very large choir. 

Weeping Over Jerusalem: The Ninth Sunday after Pentecost and Two of Its Prayers

Francesco Hayez, Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple of Jerusalem (1861)
Lost in Translation #10

This Sunday is unique: it is, as far as I can tell, the only time that the Catholic liturgical year commemorates a Jewish event or feast that happens after the birth of the Church. It is one thing for a Christian calendar to incorporate Jewish feasts like the Passover (Good Friday) or Shavuot (Pentecost) that Jesus of Nazareth Himself kept, or that the Holy Spirit sanctified, but the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost hearkens to the Ninth of the Month of Av or Tisha B’av, the “saddest day in the Jewish calendar.” On this day – which like the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost falls some time in July or August – pious Jews remember the destruction of the first Holy Temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C., and the destruction of the second by the Romans in A.D. 70. Observances include a twenty five-hour period in which all eating and drinking, washing and bathing, application of creams and oils, wearing of (leather) shoes, and marital relations are forbidden.

In the Gospel for this Sunday (Luke 19, 41-47), our Lord sheds tears over Jerusalem’s fate after coming from the Mount of Olives where, more than thirty years later, the Roman legions would commence their horrific and devastating campaign against the holy city. (Readers interested in learning more about this terrible event can read Josephus’ harrowing account of it, or Dom Gueranger’s entry for this Sunday in The Liturgical Year.) The destruction of the Temple is a stern reminder of divine chastisement and the need for our repentance and conversion. As St Paul teaches in the day’s Epistle (1 Cor. 10, 6-13), we must never think we stand on our own, lest we fall.

The Collect and Secret offer two aids to our conversion and staying on the right side of divine justice, so to speak. The Collect reads:
Páteant aures misericordiae tuae, Dómine, précibus sup­plicantium: et ut peténtibus desideráta concédas; fac eos, quæ tibi sunt plácita, postu­láre. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Let the ears of Thy mercy, O Lord, be open to the prayers of the suppliant; and so that Thou wilt grant the things desired by the petitioners, make them to ask for the things that are pleasing to Thee. Through our Lord.
The function of a Collect is to collect the individual prayers of the congregation into a unified whole to present to God, but this Collect keeps a rather aloof tone. Rather than speak of “Thy people” or “Thy family” as other Collects do, it generically mentions suppliant petitioners (of course, in Latin the possessive pronoun is often implied, so the Collect is not disowning these supplicants either). The aloofness, as I am calling it, creates a rhetorical space that puts an onus on the listener or reader to do what the Collect prays for, namely, submit only good petitions. Even though the Collect is beseeching God to make us ask for things that are pleasing to Him, it is clearly pressuring us (in a good way, of course) to start thinking in these terms so that we are part of those Elect supplicants. And what are those terms? Not simply to ask for things that are pleasing to God, but to desire them. The early Collects for the Time after Pentecost (the fifth through the thirteenth Sunday) tend to focus – as we will see in the coming weeks – on retooling and heightening our very desires.

How far is this schooling of desire from the gussied-up materialism of “the Prayer of Jabez” fad, in which Christians were encouraged to pray for the trinkets of this life as if they had no eternal longings at all! The Roman Rite, by contrasts, aims both to expand and reorder our desires so that higher goods take priority over lower, and then, once they are reordered, to transcend even them. 
The Secret for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost also implies an internal transformation, for it prays that we may frequent the mysteries of the Mass worthily
Concéde nobis, quáesumus, Dómine, haec digne frequentáre mysteria: quia, quoties hujus hostiae commemoratio celebrátur, opus nostrae red­emptiónis exercétur. Per Dó­minum nostrum.
Which I translate as:
Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, to frequent these mysteries: for as often as the memory of this sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is performed. Through our Lord.
The Secret, the meaning of which was once the subject of much debate in 20th century liturgical studies, abounds in references to the Eucharist. “Hujus hostiae commemoratio”, which I have translated as “the memory of this sacrifice,” is an example of a genitivus inversus, that is, “an abstract noun accompanied by another noun in the genitive case, used instead of a combination of an adjective with a noun.” Therefore, the phrase can also be translated as “this memorial sacrifice.” Translating “opus nostrae redemptionis exercetur” also presents challenges. A very literal translation is “the work of our redemption is exercised.” As Sr. Mary Ellebracht argues, redemptio in the Roman orations is not “the historical Sacrifice of the Cross extended and made numerically present in the Eucharistic Sacrifice”, but rather “the sacramental effect of the cultic action” of the Mass itself. She continues: “What we, in more abstract terminology, would call the ‘graces which flow from the Work of Redemption,’ the liturgy expresses with its characteristic concreteness as redemptio.” [1] We need the graces which flow from the work of redemption in order to be worthy of receiving the Eucharist; if we are worthy of the Eucharist, we are persons who desire and ask for the things that are pleasing to God. Finally, we need to desire and ask for the things that are pleasing to God to avoid being like the unhappy earthly Jerusalem, over which the Chosen People, like Our Lord, still weep.

[1] Remarks on the Vocabulary of the Ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum (Dekker, 1966), 53.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Cathedral of Pistoia

As a follow-up to a recent post on the relic of St James the Greater kept at the cathedral of St Zeno in Pistoia, here are some photos of the main church which I took during a wonderful nighttime tour a few years ago. These hardly show all of the church’s artistic treasures, some of which could not really be photographed in the low light.

The Romanesque bell-tower and façade, both of the mid-twelfth century, with considerable alterations and additions made in subsequent centuries.
The high altar, with the Sacrament chapel on the left. The whole medieval sanctuary, including a 13th-century apsidal mosaic by Jacopo Torriti, was demolished between 1598 and 1614 and replaced in the Baroque style. Interventions of this sort were sadly very common in Medicean Tuscany.
The left aisle. The monument seen on the right commemorates Pope Leo XI, né Alessandro de’ Medici, bishop of Pistoia for just over 10 months, from March 9, 1573 to January 15, 1574, before his appointment as Archbishop of Florence. During his 31 year reign in the latter See, the Carmelite Saint Maria-Magdalene de’ Pazzi predicted to him that he would be elected Pope, but that his reign would be brief. This prophecy was realized in 1605; elected Pope on April 1st, and choosing the name Leo in honor of the first Medici Pope, Leo X (1513-21), he was crowned on April 10th, and died on the 27th. His papal reign is the eighth shortest in history!
A Madonna of the 15th century.
On the counter-façade, a 13th century fresco of the cathedral’s titular Saint, Zeno, who was a bishop of Verona in the 4th century, and evidently holy enough to be adopted by a city 150 miles away. The tomb of St Atto, shown more clearly in the next photo, is on the lower left.
The tomb of St Atto, bishop of Pistoia from 1134-53, who obtained the cathedral’s famous relic of St James the Greater. His relics were discovered in the church of St John in Corte, and enshrined in this tomb in 1337. In 1786, the tomb was transferred to the cathedral, and the colored marble panel added.

The Funeral of Cardinal Tardini, 1961

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1961 of Domenico Cardinal Tardini, the Vatican Secretary of State under Pope St John XXIII. Born in Rome in 1888, and ordained a priest in 1912, he served in the Curia under Pope Pius XI as a close collaborator of the Cardinal Secretary of State Eugenio Pacelli, a role in which he continued when the latter was elected Pope in 1939. In 1952, he was made Pro-Secretary of State for (Extraordinary) Foreign Affairs. Shortly after Pius XII’s death in 1958, John XXIII made him Secretary of State, and raised him to the cardinalate; he was ordained a bishop at the end of the year.

From the always-interesting YouTube channel of British Pathé, here is some archival footage, without soundtrack, of the funeral ceremonies held in St Peter’s Basilica, a Mass coram Summo Pontifice, followed by the Absolution at the catafalque celebrated by the Pope himself.

A few points of interest: throughout the ceremony, the Pope is accompanied by Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviani, whom he had appointed Secretary of the Holy Office, and walking in front of the Pope at the beginning is his Master of Ceremonies, the famous Mons. Enrico Dante. The ceremony is held not at the main altar, but in the right (north) transept, dedicated to Ss Processus and Martinian; starting at 1:44, we see the three chapels of the transept covered over with black drapes, and the central one decorated with a large plain cross. At 2:25, we briefly see the Elevation of the Host during the Mass, which is celebrated at a temporary (but very beautiful) altar set up in front of the drape. The Absolution begins at 2:34; notice how Mons. Dante gestures to people to stand up as he leads the Pope to his place at the foot of the catafalque.

YouTube’s suggestion algorithm also recommended to my attention this footage (once again, archival material without soundtrack), taken in January of 1962, of meetings held in the Apostolic Palace in those strangely perfervid years between the calling of the most recent ecumenical council and its actual beginning.


At 0:21, we see a fresco of St Raymond of Penyafort, the Patron Saint of canon lawyers, presenting his collection of Decretals, the great canon law book of the Middle Ages, to Pope Gregory IX, ca. 1232. At 0:56, we see a group of bishops and cardinals, including Card. Ottaviani and Mons. Dante once again, and at 1:26, Marcel Lefebvre, then newly appointed as Archbishop of Tulle in France; he would serve in this office for less then seventh months, resigning it to take up the role of Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. At 1:33, we see Giovanni Cardinal Montini, the Archbishop of Milan and future Pope Paul VI, and then Eugène Cardinal Tisserant, dean of the College of Cardinals, and retired Secretary of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. The rest of the footage is of a meeting at which Card. Tisserant presides.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Strange Case of the Antipope Venerated as a Saint

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, the feast of St Martha is kept today with the commemoration of four Roman martyrs named Felix, Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix. This commemoration originated as two separate observances, which seem to have been united because St Felix was buried in a catacomb named for him along the via Portuensis, the great ancient road which led to the port of Rome, while the other three were buried further down the same road in the Catacomb of Generosa. In earlier liturgical books, however, Felix is called “Pope Felix II”; this is true even in editions printed in the early 1950s, despite the fact that ever since the 1947 revision of the Annuario Pontificio, he has been officially listed as an antipope.

The Mass of Ss Simplicius, Faustinus and Beatrix, and the Mass of St Felix, who is named only as a Martyr, in the Gellone Sacramentary (folio 97v), ca. 780 AD. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048)
Felix was the archdeacon of Rome in the mid-4th century, when the Church, so recently freed by the Emperor Constantine from pagan persecution, was subjected to its first “Christian” persecution by his son Constantius, an ardent supporter of the Arian heresy. In 355, the latter banished Pope Liberius to Greece for his opposition to Arianism, and Felix was consecrated by three Arian bishops to take his place. Although the majority of the Roman clergy apparently did recognize him as their bishop, the laity would have nothing to do with him. Two years later, when Liberius was permitted to return from exile, Felix and his supporters tried but failed to occupy the basilica of Pope Julius I (now known as Santa Maria in Trastevere); he was then banished from Rome by the Senate, never to return. After living for eight years near Porto in quiet retirement, he died in 365.

However, his entry in the Roman Martyrology before 1960 told the story differently. “At Rome, on the Via Aurelia, (the death of) St Felix the Second, Pope and Martyr, who, having been cast out of his see by the Arian Emperor Constantius because of his defense of the Catholic faith, died gloriously at Cera in Tuscany, being secretly slain by the sword.” According to the revised version of Butler’s Lives of the Saints by Herbert Thurston SJ and Donald Attwater, Felix was confused with two persons: first with his rival Liberius, which is difficult to explain, and secondly, with a martyr named Felix who was buried along the Via Aurelia, on which this Felix had built a small church. (Felix was an extremely common name in ancient Rome.) They also note that this confusion is already evidenced in documents of the 6th century. Therefore, the revised liturgical books of 1960, conforming to the updated Annuario Pontificio, eliminate the title “Pope” and the number “II” from his name, and delete his separate entry from the Martyrology altogether, while adding his name to that of the other three martyrs named above.

An engraved portrait of Cardinal Baronius, the frontispiece of a 1624 edition of his Annals. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Jeffdelonge, CC BY-SA 3.0)
What I think is particularly interesting about this is not the hagiographical confusion per se, but rather the way this confusion is treated in the revised Butler’s Lives, which calls it “a sad memorial to the still backward state of critical scholarship at the time when Cardinal Baronius was editing (the Martyrology).” After noting that “(t)he insertion of Felix as Pope and Martyr was not any oversight, for Baronius in his annotated edition of the martyrology refers his readers for an elucidation of the matter to the volume of his great work, the Annales, which was on the point of appearing,” it goes on to ascribe all of the confusion to the Liber Pontificalis, a famous collection of Papal biographies, famously unreliable as an historical document.

It turns out, however, that Baronius’ treatment of the problem is far more detailed and interesting than the brief entry in Butler’s would lead one to believe.

First of all, Baronius did not “insert” Felix into the Martyrology; he was already in the Roman liturgical books (Missal, Breviary and Martyrology) before the Tridentine reform. Moreover, Baronius was perfectly well aware of the historical problem posed by his cultus. In the pre-Tridentine Roman breviary, the first lesson of Matins on July 29th tells the story of Felix II in terms similar to those of the Martyrology entry noted above. It is followed, however, by another lesson which gives the history of Pope St Felix III, who reigned from 483-92, and also staunchly opposed a heresy supported by the Roman Emperor, although he was not martyred for this. The prayer of this Office, however, names only one Felix; this strongly suggests that the compliers of this earlier edition of the Breviary hedged their bets, so to speak, as to which Pope named Felix was actually honored by the feast.

In the Tridentine Breviary, both of these historical lessons were completely expunged, along with those of the other three martyrs, and their collective feast reduced to just a commemoration on the feast of St Martha. This change is a clear sign that that the editors, Baronius among them, were aware that the statements contained in the older lessons could not to be regarded as historically reliable.

Turning to the relevant entry in Baronius’ Annals (Liberii ann. 4, 56-58) mentioned in Butler’s Lives, we discover the real reason why the notice of Felix as “Pope” was retained. He points out that Felix was (to borrow an odious turn of phrase from modern politics) personally faithful to the Nicene confession of faith, although he did not therefore separate himself from communion with the Arians or refuse ordination at their hands; this, according to the testimony of two ancient Church historians, Sozomen and Theodoret of Cyrus. Since he was deacon under Liberius, who also held fast to the Nicene faith, Baronius thought it unlikely that the latter would promote a convinced heretic to the important position of archdeacon, or keep him in that role. Furthermore, he explains, Felix must have known that he could not legitimately be Pope if Liberius was unlawfully deposed by a heretical Emperor. It was therefore Baronius’ opinion that Felix had accepted episcopal ordination not as the unlawful replacement of Liberius, but rather as a “chorepiscopus”, the title of a bishop who took care of rural areas without a fixed see in a city; effectively, what we would nowadays call an auxiliary bishop. He would have accepted this role so as to not leave the Church of Rome without governance during the exile of its rightful pastor.

Baronius goes on explicitly state that “what is said about Felix’s ordination in the book about the Roman Popes falsely attributed to the name of Pope Damasus (i.e. the Liber Pontificalis), does not seem to be at all true”, an important recognition of that book’s value (or lack thereof) as an historical source. Further on (Liberii ann. 6, 58), he also notes that the ancient sources were not in agreement as to Felix’s ultimate fate, whether he died in peace near Porto, as is now believed, or was condemned by Constantius and killed at Caere in Tuscany, as formerly stated in the Martyrology.

Baronius then gives an account (ibid. 62) of something which happened in his own time, which vindicates him from Thurston and Attwater’s charge of being a backward scholar. He writes that scholars had long accepted that Felix was an intruder in the papal office, and that the ancient sources did not agree on the circumstances of his death. Under Pope Gregory XIII (1572-85), several learned men had gathered in Rome to work on the revision of the Martyrology, and there had been a great deal of intense discussion among them specifically about the case of Felix. Baronius himself leaned strongly towards removing him altogether, and wrote a lengthy treatise in defense of this position, which found much support and agreement among his colleagues.

Mass for the Lenten Station at Ss Cosmas and Damian in 2017, photographed by our Roman pilgrim friend Agnese.
It happened, however, that in the year 1582, a side-altar of the very ancient church of Ss Cosmas and Damian in the Forum was moved, revealing a marble box that was divided into two parts by a stone slab. On the one side were the relics of three Martyrs, Ss Mark, Marcellian, and Tranquillinus; on the other, bones, and the following inscription on a small stone plaque: “The body of St Felix, Pope and Martyr, who condemned Constantius.” This discovery happened to take place on the day before his feast. “To the wonder of all, Felix himself seemed to appear as one come back to life, as if to personally take up his own cause, since he had been greatly overwhelmed by the pens of those who wrote against him. I myself, struck by no small wonder at an event of such greatness… with the moderation of a Christian, then curbed my pen, which I had sharpened in zeal for the truth, and deemed that it had most happily (felicissime) befallen me to be beaten by Felix.”

Now none of this is to say that Baronius’ assessment of the historical question was necessarily correct, or that the revisers of the liturgical books were wrong to do as they did in 1960 by joining Felix to the other martyrs. It is however, very much to say that whether he was ultimately right or wrong, Cardinal Baronius was not careless; he acted in good faith, and in the belief that divine providence had intervened to prevent the suppression of the long-standing veneration of a Saint. Contrast this with the disdainful attitude of the supposedly far more sophisticated modern scholars, who speak of his work as the product of a “backward” state of affairs, but do not mention the discovery of the relics in connection with him, nor the reason why he changed his mind about St Felix. This cavalier and unjustified attitude of superiority has been all too common for far too long, and we have lived with the damage it has done to the Church’s tradition for far too long.

The Prodigal Church, by Brandon McGinley: Review by Urban Hannon

Our thanks to Mr Urban Hannon for sharing with us this review of The Prodigal Church: Restoring Catholic Tradition in an Age of Deception by Brandon McGinley, recently issued by Sophia Institute Press. Mr Hannon studies theology at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC, and has previously written for The Lamp and First Things, inter alia. He is also celebrating his name day today, the feast of Pope Bl. Urban II, and will be grateful for the prayers of our readers.

“The book you are reading is not a Vatican II book. In fact, it is anything but a Vatican II book.” And frankly, thank God. With all due respect for Benedict XVI’s hermeneutic of continuity—which is true as far as it goes and obviously preferable to the heresy-adjacent hermeneutic of rupture—I like to joke that I advocate instead for the hermeneutic of talking about something else. It’s 2020. My millennial peers and I did not live through the Second Vatican Council, nor the collapse of the Church’s midcentury structures in its aftermath. We were born in the ruins. And to be honest, we’re sick of talking about it. How I long for a day when someone will use the phrase “The Council,” and everyone will have to ask, “Which?” Consider: We are about to be as far removed in time from Gaudium et Spes as Gaudium et Spes is from Pascendi. Vatican II was an ecumenical council, to be sure, ratified by the holy father and protected by the Holy Spirit—and when random Twitter accounts show up in my mentions to suggest otherwise, I answer with an eyeroll, an “okay boomer,” and a block. But that said, Vatican II was also an ecumenical council which sought to address itself to the particular contingent problems of a world that no longer exists. Whether it did so with utmost prudence or not, we do not need to keep relitigating disputes that are over half a century old and increasingly irrelevant to our circumstances. That’s a pointless distraction. It is time to talk about something else.

This is what makes my friend Brandon McGinley’s new book The Prodigal Church so refreshing: its serene focus on the present moment, its gracefulness, its hope. “There are two basic prerequisites to allowing God’s grace to renew the Church,” says McGinley: “We have to want it, and we have to believe it is possible.” This excellent book checks both boxes. It asserts that grace is real, that God is in control, and that true renewal is achievable. Love is stronger than death, and grace is stronger than postmodernity. Thus does McGinley insist on “seeing in millennial and Gen-Z frustration, rebellion, and alienation an opportunity for evangelization rather than for mockery.” Right now, he says, “people are looking for big solutions to big problems, and big answers to big questions. This is our moment—if only we have the godly confidence to seize it by embracing the transcendent, incandescent authenticity of the Cross.” The Prodigal Church sets the example for such godly confidence.

Of course, McGinley is under no illusions about the challenges we Catholics face today, or about the sins and failings that have brought us to this point. But he is not especially shocked or scandalized by our apparently failing Church—remember it’s the only one we millennials have ever known—and he refuses to give sin the last word. The world as it is is a mess, but, he insists: “We don’t have to accept the world ‘as it is.’ This is a completely secular framing of human affairs, one that denies anything beyond wallowing in our brutishness. . . . Indeed, there is no greater acquiescence in secular ideology than to reject the truth that grace can and will elevate our possibilities.” McGinley knows how far we have fallen, that at this point ours is truly “a dissipated Church.” But he does not harbor a spirit of criticism, and he will not give up on God. Appropriately, John 6:68 is his favorite verse in the Scriptures: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

The Prodigal Church is a book in five parts: How We Got Here, The Church, The Parish, The Family, and Friendship and Community.

1. How We Got Here
St Adalbert’s Church in the South Side neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; photo by Brendan McGinley
McGinley’s retrospective on the Church in America takes an it-was-the-best-of-times–it-was-the-worst-of-times angle on the 1950s. On the one hand: “Sacraments galore! Priests and kids everywhere! Ministries and societies and sodalities, oh my! Silver screen hero priests! Hollywood beholden to Catholic principles! An archbishop in full regalia on prime-time TV! This was it! What else could we ask for?” On the other hand, it turns out that last wasn’t a rhetorical question: What else we could have asked for was faith, fidelity to the Church and her traditions before conformity to the mainstream American culture. “If midcentury truly was the heyday of American Catholicism,” says McGinley, “then we must say that it was also the triumph of the adjective over the noun—the moment Catholicism went native.” Or, as an older Fulton Sheen (the aforementioned prime-time pontiff) commented in hindsight, “[Religion in this period] began to give not theological insights into the meaning of life, but rather psychological and sociological views to accommodate the bourgeois good life to religion.” Material prosperity and social respectability replaced the sacraments and sanctity as the where-your-treasure-is of the American Catholic heart. In McGinley’s words: “We have dissipated our distinctive traditions in order to please the surrounding culture, but have lost both our patrimony and our position in the process.”

Thus the title of this book: Like the prodigal son, the Church in America has taken her inheritance and squandered it, and she’s starving. But that isn’t the end of the parable: The boundless generosity of our God before his repentant children is. This book is meant as an encouragement for us to return to our Father’s house.

2. The Church

Faithful Catholics may mock the “spiritual but not religious” line thrown out by so many of our secular contemporaries. But there is an insidious version of this same error to which the devout themselves often fall prey. “It is in vogue now,” says McGinley, “even and especially among Catholics, to speak of the institutional Church in the same way a civil libertarian speaks of the federal government: at best a necessary evil, a leviathan that needs to be reined in, even a threat to genuine faith and conscience.” (Or as he puts it elsewhere: “No one likes the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” heh.) Against this temptation, The Prodigal Church recommends a rediscovery of the true identity of our holy mother the Church: “anchored in heaven but bound to earth, united to Christ but a vessel of sinners.” McGinley also celebrates the integral and consistent witness of the Church’s moral tradition—not focusing, for example, on sexual morality to the exclusion of economic justice or vice versa—for “a renewed Church is a consistent Church.” Regarding the economic libertarianism which plagues our society, McGinley calls the Church to speak out once more against usury and for just wages. Regarding the sexual revolution and its bitter fruits, he says, “It would be tragic indeed if the Church acquiesced to the new bourgeois just as it fell into disrepute, and just as her steadfastness might be rewarded.”
St Stanislaus Kostka, the mother of the Polish ethnic parishes in Pittsburgh; photo by Brendan McGinley
McGinley quotes St. John Chrysostom to great effect on the awesome responsibility of bishops for the salvation of souls, and reminds us that, “in the same way that the Church shouldn’t act like a corporation or an NGO, the bishops shouldn’t seem like CEOs or executive directors.” Especially important, in our moment, will be the willingness of bishops “to give up some secular respectability for the sake of the kingdom.” Here he recalls the witness of St. Ambrose condemning the emperor Theodosius, lest he should lose both the emperor’s own soul and those of his subjects. “I wonder what might have happened,” writes McGinley, “at that time and ever since, if a bishop had rebuked President Kennedy for his public and private scandals. But that would have threatened the mainstream acceptance we had worked so long to achieve. Ambrose weeps.” Yet rather than succumbing to impious disparagement of our local ordinaries, the successors of the apostles, McGinley invites us to prayer: “And so let all of us pray for our bishops, and for the elevation of good men to the episcopacy, and for the grace to recognize genuine holiness when it might not be obvious.”

The rest of McGinley’s treatment of Holy Church is a reminder that chancery bureaucracy is not her summit: Heaven is. “The invisible Church is our celestial anchor of holiness, the perfection to which we are called that is not a theoretical future possibility, but an ongoing present reality. There is no better cure for ecclesial despair than remembering, honoring, and relating to this cloud of witnesses.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

The Basilica of the Virgin Mary “at St Celsus” in Milan

On the Ambrosian calendar (both EF and OF) and on the Roman calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of the martyrs Nazarius and Celsus; in the Roman Rite, they are celebrated liturgically togther with two Popes, Victor I and Innocent I. Nazarius is said to have been a Roman who in the very earliest years of Christianity preached the Faith in northern Italy, and to have been beheaded at Milan in the reign of the Emperor Nero, together with a boy named Celsus who accompanied him on his missionary journeys. Their burial place was discovered in a small woods by St Ambrose not long before he died in 397, and that of St Nazarius, whose blood was as fresh as if it had just been shed, was conveyed to a church originally dedicated to the Apostles. At the same time, a small church was built in the place of the discovery, and St Celsus was buried there. Beginning in the late 15th century, a much larger church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built next to it, and in 1935, the Bl. Ildephonse Schuster had the Saint’s relics transferred there. (Photos by Nicola de’ Grandi; some historical images of the church, and pictures of some relics of the Bl. Ildephonse Schuster, are included below.)
The relics of St Celsus.
The relics were for many centuries kept in this sarcophagus, made sometime between the end of the 3rd and mid-4th century. On the left is one of the earliest know depictions of the Birth of Christ with the ox and the ass; the three kings are shown traveling not towards the infant Christ, but rather to the Christ in majesty of the Traditio Legis in the center. On the right are the three Marys at the tomb, and Christ’s appearance to St Thomas. (On the sides, not seen here, are Moses making water run from the rock, and the healing of the woman with the issue of blood.)
The church of St Celsus, originally built in the 4th century, but completely rebuilt in the 11th; the front of it was then partly demolished at the end of 18th century, and this neo-Romanesque façade added in the 19th. The church is only occasionally open...
and the interior is extremely austere.
Next door, however, is the very splendid basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built to house a miraculous image of Her (shown below), a project which was begun in the late 15th century, and completed at the end of the 16th. Here we see the church of St Celsus on the right, the cupola of the Marian church (1498), its façade (designed by Galeazzo Alessi, modified and constructed by Martino Bassi, 1572), and the portico in front of it by Cristoforo Solari (begun in 1505).
A closer view of the façade.

The Divine Is In the Detail

One of the things that characterized the medieval Gothic style was a theologically driven attention to detail. The Gothic mason not only wanted those details that people could see to be beautiful and structurally sound, but also the hidden structural details of the buttresses, for example, would be created according to principles of harmonic proportion. It would not occur to the illuminator or mason not to create even the smallest or hidden aspect beautifully, for to the Gothic artist, beauty had a utility. Beauty is the outward sign that a thing is suited to its purpose, and that that purpose is good. When we behold it, it’s influence is to direct our spirits to God. To create beautiful art elevates the work of the artist to a virtue that benefits the artist, who is content to try to please God with his work, as well as anyone who sees his art, to the degree that it is good and beautiful.

Shrewsbury Catholic Cathedral in Shropshire, England, has been undergoing a renovation under the patronage of Bishop Mark Davies. This is a 19th century, Puginesque English Gothic style; an article on the restoration in process, with comments by Fr Edmund Montgomery, the cathedral administrator, was published here at the end of March.

In the spirit of this Gothic love of detail, a piece of embroidered art in the style of the School of St Albans - that is, 21st-century English Gothic - is to be displayed permanently at Shrewsbury Cathedral. The piece will be framed and hung in the confessional on the priest’s side at the request of Fr Edmund. Stylistically, this is fully in keeping with the overall artistic schema of the cathedral.

The creator of this piece, Alix Murray, lives in Shrewsbury, and tells me that she was inspired by images from St Albans Psalter and the Bury Bible made in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, England, both of the 12th century. She is a student of Pontifex University’s Master of Sacred Arts program.

Here is a picture of the interior of the cathedral.
This is the second piece of work to come out of a collaboration of PU students via a student Facebook group. I have had no personal input in this group - the ideas are generated amongst themselves. We showed a similar embroidered image by another PU student, Kathryn Laffrey, was published a few weeks ago, which resulted in her getting a commission for an embroidered chalice pall from an American cathedral.

Alix told me:
Our agreement was to use the materials we had available to us. I used a bedsheet for the canvas and embroidery floss (untangled with tremendous effort) from my daughters’ craft drawer. In the end, I had to order more floss as I was so limited for colours. I was inspired by two 12-century English illuminated manuscripts and the homeschooling group I am a member of is trying to organize a British history curriculum, so I used particularly English Catholic sources as my inspiration.
There is a saying that the devil is in the detail. However, if we care to make it so, the divine can be in the detail too. This is a detail that will be seen by only the priests in confessional. It’s potential for spiritual impact, without the glorification of the artist, is great. The influence of its beauty first on the confessor, and then in turn, indirectly, on the penitent, has the potential to affect many for the good in the diocese. Beauty will save the world!

Here is an original illumination from the Bury Bible created by an artist known as Master Hugo.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Are Pews in Churches a Problem—and, If So, How Much of a Problem?

This article may be considered a continuation of the one entitled “Should the Postures of the Laity at the TLM Be Regulated, Legislated, or Revised?,” which generated such lively dialogue.

A reader once sent me the following letter:
I would like to ask you what is your take on church pews, their place (or lack thereof) in the Traditional Roman Rite and what the Traditionalist movement should do about them. Almost unknown in the East, they have become the norm in the Western Church in the last centuries. There are informal (sometimes odd) ‘rubrics,’ with wide variations from place to place, that direct the faithful to stand, sit, or kneel at different parts of the Mass.
          A priest from the Institute of the Good Shepherd, who is also very familiar with the Byzantine Liturgy, instructing some of us about the Mass and the real meaning of ‘active participation,’ said we ought not to worry about when to sit, kneel, or stand in Mass, as long as we remain standing for the Gospel and kneeling during the Consecration. As to anything else, his advice was simply to follow the local custom. His reason was that pews in the church are a rather recent phenomenon that has never been officially incorporated into the rubrics for the usus antiquior, and that before the introduction of pews the faithful used to remain standing, or would sometimes walk in the church during Mass, as the faithful still do in the Eastern Rites.
          Also, from my own research, I discovered that pews are mostly a Protestant invention. The Protestants emphasized the pastor’s preaching as the most important part of the Liturgy and understood the church to be some sort of ‘school,’ where the ‘students’ had to be able to sit to learn the Bible from their pastor. It was also a way to raise money via pew rents.
          The more I attend the Traditional Latin Mass (which hopefully will recover its rightful place as the sole ‘Ordinary Form’ of the Roman Rite), the more I am uncomfortable with the pews and the mechanical, sometimes almost nonsensical, ‘novus-ordoish’ sequence of standing-kneeling-sitting-standing-etc. during Mass. The pew feels almost like a ‘cage.’
          Do you hold a similar stance? Are pews a good or a bad thing? Should we accept them as a fact, as a good ‘organic development’ like the shortened Roman chasuble, or should traditional Catholics recognize them as foreign to the Roman Rite and start using their wood for a better purpose, like keeping the church and rectory warm in the winter?
I find this reader’s note admirable in its directness. The question of pews is indeed an interesting one. I am convinced it was not a good idea to introduce pews into Catholic churches, in imitation of the Protestants, for all the reasons mentioned. An Eastern Orthodox writer offers a vigorous set of arguments in “A Call For the Removal of Pews in Orthodox Churches,” the main contentions of which are summarized by Richard Chonak:
  • pews make the laity into passive observers;
  • pews teach us to want Christian life to be without inconvenience;
  • pews remove the freedom to engage in devotional acts such as lighting a candle during the liturgy;
  • pews make the processions overly regimented;
  • pews particularly isolate young children from the liturgy.
Chonak continues: “Going without pews would be a bigger deal for us Latin Catholics in the US than for Orthodox, since a fair number of their churches already lack pews, so that their faithful would have experienced worshipping without them. Most US Catholics won’t have seen a Catholic church without pews unless they have visited one of the medieval cathedrals.” As far as I can tell, no one advocates abolishing all seating, since there are nursing mothers and elderly folk (among others) who will need places to rest. It is more a question of opening up the space in the nave of the church.

George Rutler addressed the question in a 2015 article “The Problem with Pews,” saying, inter alia:
For most of the Christian ages, there were no pews, or much seating of any sort. There were proper accommodations for the aged (fewer then than now) and for the infirm (probably more then than now) but churches were temples and not theatres.  One need only look at the Orthodox churches (except where decadence has crept in) or the mosques whose architectural eclecticism echoes their religion’s origin as a desiccated offshoot of Christianity, to see what churches were meant to look like.  The word “pew” comes from the same root as podium, or platform for the privileged, indicating that if there were any pews in the Temple of Jerusalem they were those of the Pharisees who enjoyed “seats in high places.” The first intrusion of pews into Christian churches was around the twelfth century and they were rare, and mostly suited to the use of choir monks in their long Offices. But filling churches with pews was chiefly the invention of the later Protestant revolution that replaced adoration with edification.
Racks, Butchers, and Choirstalls

According to Dr. John Pepino, the term “pew” appears in an official Vatican document for the first time in 1969, in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani promulgated together with the Novus Ordo Mass (link)—the first time in Catholic history that the laity’s postures were dictated to them in the same way that ministerial rubrics were dictated:
VIII. De locis fidelium
273. Loca fidelium congrua cura disponantur, ut ipsi oculis et animo sacras celebrationes debite participare possint. Expedit ut de more scamna seu sedilia ad eorum usum ponantur. Consuetudo tamen personis quibusdam privatis sedes reservandi reprobanda est. Sedilia autem seu scamna ita disponantur, ut fideles corporis habitus a diversis celebrationis partibus requisitos facile sumere possint et expedite ad sacram Communionem recipiendam accedere valeant. Caveatur ut fideles sive sacerdotem sive alios ministros non tantum videre, sed etiam, hodiernis instrumentis technicis adhibitis, commode audire valeant.
In the 2002 edition of the IGMR, this text was slightly modified, to privilege the word scamna:
311. Loca fidelium congrua cura disponantur, ut ipsi oculis et animo sacras celebrationes debite participare possint. Expedit ut de more scamna seu sedilia ad eorum usum ponantur. Consuetudo tamen personis quibusdam privatis sedes reservandi reprobanda est. Scamna autem seu sedilia, præsertim in ecclesiis noviter exstructis, ita disponantur, ut fideles corporis habitus a diversis celebrationis partibus requisitos facile sumere possint et expedite ad sacram Communionem recipiendam accedere valeant. Caveatur ut fideles sive sacerdotem sive diaconum et lectores non tantum videre, sed etiam, hodiernis instrumentis technicis adhibitis, commode audire valeant.
The USCCB translation of the latest version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal renders the passage thus:
Places for the faithful should be arranged with appropriate care so that they are able to participate in the sacred celebrations, duly following them with their eyes and their attention. It is desirable that benches or seating usually should be provided for their use. However, the custom of reserving seats for private persons is to be reprobated. Moreover, benches or seating should be so arranged, especially in newly built churches, that the faithful can easily take up the bodily postures required for the different parts of the celebration and can have easy access for the reception of Holy Communion. Care should be taken to ensure that the faithful be able not only to see the Priest, the Deacon, and the readers but also, with the aid of modern technical means, to hear them without difficulty.
Note the word used in Latin, scamnum (stool, step, bench), a word with an interesting history. In the Salic Law, 5th cent., it means “the rack,” for the torture of slaves (Lex Salica tit. 42. §1: Servus super Scamnum tensus; ibid. §8: Et qui repetit, virgas paratas habere debet, quæ in similitudinem minimi digiti grossitudinem habeant, et Scamnum paratum habere debet, ubi versum ipsum tendere possit). How suggestive of the experiences of many Catholics with the postconciliar liturgy! According to a Latin dictionary, the word also signified a butcher’s display table, which prompts comparisons with extemporaneous liturgical creativity. By the 12th century, the term had acquired the meaning of “choirstall” (ad vesperas monachos in scannis residentes se vidisse palam asseruit: Ordericus Vitalis, Historia ecclesiastica III 13, p. 138).

The compilers of the IGMR might equally well have chosen the Latin term transtrum, or rower’s bench, which makes for an equally suggestive image: the faithful confined to their benches, heave-hoing in unison as they labor to propel forward the ship of the Church! Smelling of tar and sweat, the term would have been appropriate for the workerism that was substituted for the contemplative engagement in which participatio actuosa finds its summit.

The Relation between Pews and Postures

Nevertheless, the question of the postures of the faithful is somewhat independent of the question of pews, for the faithful would have stood, knelt, and quite possibly sat ad libitum in open churches long before the advent of pews. The key question here is whether or not the postures of the laity should be regimented. Prior to 1969, the postures of the faithful were never officially regulated in the traditional Mass. They varied by custom, and even then, there was not the same sense of obligation as we have now. If a person felt sick or tired, he could sit; if someone felt especially fervent in prayer, he could kneel the whole time. In my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness, I gave the following description:
None of these bodily actions is scripted in the sense that a rubric requires the people to do them, since the usus antiquior is blessedly free of rubrics dictating how the people are (or are not) to participate at every moment. As a result, different people at worship do some or all of these actions, according to their knowledge or inclination, or even what they happen to notice as the Mass progresses, and no one minds this diversity. There is a healthy sense of freedom of movement a little reminiscent of what one may find among the Eastern Orthodox who may walk about during the liturgy lighting candles and venerating icons. The Novus Ordo, on the contrary, perversely takes for granted the Protestant innovation of cluttering open sacred space with benches or pews and turns sitting on them into a scripted pseudo-sacred action befitting its wordy worship. (p. 202, note 24)
The regimentation of lay posture occurred, as we have seen, in 1969 with the Novus Ordo, which enforces specified moments of sitting, standing, kneeling, speaking, singing, or exchanging a sign of peace (though this particular routine has fallen out of fashion nowadays).

But shouldn’t we, in good Thomistic fashion, allow the other side to have its say, too?

A Modest Defense of Pews for the TLM

Pews can be helpful in several ways. First, they are like an extended prie-dieu, making it easier to kneel for long stretches—and this, to my mind, is a good thing. Not many people are ready yet to kneel for an hour or more on a marble floor without a prop to support them. The usus antiquior already requires more asceticism; it seems counterproductive, at this early stage in its restoration, to demand in everyone a footsoldier’s capacity for discipline.

Second, pews seem to foster a more focused and leisurely contemplation of the unfolding ceremonies of the Mass; one can too easily imagine how a group of people amassed in an open space could be disorderly, particularly if a large number of small children were escaping from their families and causing distraction to many.

Third, since we live in a literate age and have grown accustomed to reading our missals at certain points during Mass, it is convenient to have a place to put down and pick up one’s book. The use of a daily missal has permitted me to memorize large parts of the Mass and to meditate on them. It has familiarized me with the calendar of seasons and saints. This is not incompatible with a lack of pews, but I very much doubt it would work as well.

Fourth, until the usus antiquior is again the norm in every church for every Mass, most Catholic families have to deal with inconvenient times of Mass, and it can be a great relief to let the small child sleep in the pew if Mass happens to be very early in the morning or in the mid-afternoon.

One can admit that comfort-seeking is a spiritual error and danger for the Church—the carpeted, air-conditioned churches of suburbia are, in fact, deadly for the spirit of prayer—while not writing off completely the modest convenience of a pew, which might be compared with heating in the winter or electric fans and short-sleeve shirts in the summer.

Such are my thoughts. The great handicap is that it is so rare to have the experience of a Catholic church without pews. One can still see them in Europe, but seldom are traditional Latin Masses held without at least folding chairs being placed out. The closest thing in my experience has been attending silent Low Masses at monastery side chapels, where often there is no seating; one simply kneels near the entrance to the chapel. I would relish the opportunity to worship for a year in a church without pews, and then revisit the subject with the benefit of extended experience.

This church cries out to have (at least some of) its pews removed
Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s website, SoundCloud page, and YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Durandus on This Sunday’s Introit

William Durandus explains why the Introit of the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost is repeated from the feast of the Purification. “There follows the Eighth Sunday, on which the Church teaches us to avoid all vanity. For this must be the effect of its teaching within us, because in its teaching it teaches us to become spiritual men, and be removed from bodily desires, unto the likeness of the Blessed Virgin, whose feast (i.e. the Assumption) is approaching. For this reason the Introit begins, ‘We have received Thy mercy’, that is, Thy Son, Jesus Christ, given to us out of mercy, ‘in the midst of Thy temple’, that is, in Thy universal Church. ‘According to Thy name, o God’, for God is named everywhere; ‘so also is Thy praise unto the ends of the earth’, that is, everywhere. For the ‘temple’ is also the Blessed Virgin, in whom we have truly received the mercy of God; wherefore, reasonable do we sing the current Introit around the time of Her feast, since she is the temple of the Lord, and the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit.” (Rationale Divinorum Officium, VI.122.1)

Durandus’ understanding that on the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost the Church “teaches us to avoid vanity”, depends on an assumed correspondence between the Scriptural readings at Matins and specific Sundays, based on a rather late date for Easter, and a period of 24 weeks after Pentecost. This would put the Eighth Sunday on the second Sunday of August, when the Scriptural readings at Matins are taken from Ecclesiastes, with its famous opening words “Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.” In point of fact, this correspondence rarely occurs because of the variable date for Easter; the Eighth Sunday can fall as early as July 5th, which is closer to the Visitation (which did not exist as a feast in Durandus’ time) than the Assumption. For all this, we can nevertheless appreciate his understanding that the Church’s received liturgical texts, like the Scriptures themselves, may be explained as having a mystical significance greater than their mere letter.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

A Famous Medieval Relic of St James the Greater

All Catholics know that the church of Santiago di Compostella in Spain is one of the most important pilgrimage shrines in the world. Far less well known today is the fact that the Tuscan city of Pistoia was once another major locus of pilgrimage in honor of St James the Great. Since the middle of the 12th century, the cathedral of St Zeno has possessed a relic of the Apostle, a small piece of his skull acquired by Bishop Atto in 1145. A few years ago, I took a nighttime tour of the cathedral, during which the archpriest, Don Luca Carlesi, gave an extremely interesting presentation on its history. In the Middle Ages, the relic was a major draw for pilgrims who could not travel all the distance to Compostella. Large crowds of pilgrims were often a source of great prosperity to medieval cities, and, as Don Luca phrased it to a mostly local group of visitors, “Everything that our ancestors were able to make of the city of Pistoia in the High Middle Ages is due to the presence of this relic.”
The reliquary of St James the Apostle, made in the 15th century; it also contains relics of Maria Salome, traditionally identified as his mother, St Martin of Tour, and two local early martyrs, priests named Rufinus and Felix.
The relic was formerly kept in a special chapel gated off from the rest of the church at the back of the right nave; this chapel was the property of the city, and under its jurisdiction, not of the cathedral and its bishop and canons. The city’s governing council held its meetings in it, as a sign of the Apostle’s protection and patronage, and its constitution was kept in the small safe-room which also stored its precious objects.

Between 1287 and 1456, the chapel’s altar was commissioned in different stages. The various parts of it have been dismantled, reassembled and reordered on several occasions; during the Second World War, it was taken apart and removed to a deposit for safe-keeping. and afterwards reassembled. The current arrangement dates from the year 1953. Since the panels are made of silver, it is now kept behind rather thick glass to prevent people from touching them, which makes a certain amount of lens flare unavoidable.
Several parts of this upper panel were originally a frontal. Two of the figures were stolen and never recovered; this is why the figures which were inserted in the niches to either side of St James’ head to replace them are slightly too large.
St James with a pilgrim’s hat and staff.
The panels of the frontal have also been rearranged. The upper register shows the Annunciation and Visitation, the Birth of Christ, Christ in majesty between the Virgin and St James, the arrival of the Magi, and their adoration of the Christ Child. The middle register shows King Herod ordering the Massacre of the Holy Innocents, the arrest of Christ, the Crucifixion, the Angel’s appearance to the Three Marys at the tomb, and Christ’s to St Thomas. The lower register shows the Ascension, the Presentation in the Temple, and the Sermon on the Mount, followed by the condemnation and beheading of St James.

The Centenary of the Last Integral Editio Typica of the Missale Romanum

Today is a date that should not go unrecognized among lovers of the Latin liturgical tradition. On July 25, 1920, Pope Benedict XV promulgated a new editio typica of the Missale Romanum, incorporating the revisions decreed by Pope St Pius X. It was the fifth such edition since the original promulgation by St Pius V of the Missale Romanum secundum consuetudinem Romanae Curiae in 1570. Only one more editio typica, namely, that of Pope St John XXIII in 1962, was to emerge before the all-out postconciliar liturgical revolution.

1570 – Pope Pius V
1604 – Pope Clement VIII
1634 – Pope Urban VIII
1884 – Pope Leo XIII
1920 – Pope Benedict XV
1962 – Pope John XXIII

As is well known today among traditionally-minded Catholics, the Roman rite suffered modifications of unprecedented magnitude in the period after World War II, during the pontificates of Pius XII and John XXIII, to such an extent that the 1962 missal cannot truthfully be said to be in full and unequivocal continuity with the heritage represented by the preceding five editions. It is one thing to welcome new feasts or prefaces added bit by bit; it is quite another to see a radical remodeling of its ancient and venerable core, Holy Week, especially Palm Sunday and the Triduum; the abolition of nearly all vigils and octaves; the suppression of the oldest vestment customs in the Roman tradition; and much else besides.

At this point, given the extensive research published on NLM and in many books, it is no longer possible to pretend that the dismantling of the historic Roman rite took place solely in the 1960s. In reality, it was already well under way from the late 1940s onwards, step by step, as circumstances allowed. The missal of 1962 is a halfway house between Trent and travesty.

It goes without saying that insofar as the 1962 missal preserves the heritage of the Roman rite (which it does to a very great extent), it is to be valued and embraced, and it is not clear how Benedict XVI, with his way of thinking, and with the constraints of the SSPX situation to contend with, could have made any other choice in Summorum Pontificum; but clearly the 1962 cannot serve as a permanent and adequate basis for the ongoing restoration of tradition, which we see in the ever-increasing number of celebrations of the pre-1955 Holy Week, the return of folded chasubles, and the gentle reintroduction of such octaves as Epiphany, Ascension, and Corpus Christi.

What is needed as a point of departure, then, is the last editio typica that contains this tradition in its Tridentine plenitude. That, without a doubt, is the Pio-Benedictine Missal of 1920, duly enriched with subsequent feasts and prefaces.

(To read a fuller statement of this argument, see my article from last August, “Why Restoring the Roman Rite to Its Fullness is Not ‘Traddy Antiquarianism.’”)

Here is a beautiful edition of this missal from the year 1920:

And a 1931 printing from Maria Laach (more pictures here):

Friday, July 24, 2020

What the? The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost and Its Collect

"Parable of the Unjust Steward" by Marinus van Reymerswaele

Lost in Translation #9
   Each year, the Gospel for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost hits me like a slap in the face and makes want to say at the end of its proclamation "What the?" instead of Laus tibi Christe (Kudos to the ancient architects of the Roman liturgy for including one of the "hard sayings" of the Gospels.) The Gospel is perplexing because it appears to approve the injustice of a corrupt employee. The master in the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-9) praises his assistant as one worldling admiring the clever maneuvering of another; our Lord, on the other hand, commends the man’s foresight in providing for his future. It is also possible that by reducing the amount which his master’s debtors owed, the unjust steward took out his own unjustly added commission and thereby became, in his actions if not his intentions, more just.
   Christ’s command in the Gospel to “make yourself friends with the mammon of iniquity” is not a call to worldly compromise but an admonition to use riches and so on in such a way that we are worthy of eternal life, fit to be received into our Father’s everlasting dwellings. For as St. Paul explains in this Sunday's Epistle (Rom. 8:12-17), we are to live not by the light of temporal goods but according to the Spirit, mortifying the deeds of the flesh.
It is in light of these readings that the Collect seems almost ironic:
Largíre nobis, quǽsumus, Dómine, semper spíritum cogitándi quæ recta sunt, propítius et agéndi: ut, qui sine te esse non póssumus, secúndum te vívere valeámus. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
Graciously grant to us, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the spirit to think and do always the things that are right; that we who cannot be without Thee may be able to live according to Thee. Through our Lord.
I say "almost" because there is no contradiction between the Collect and the biblical readings. Indeed, the Collect functions as a hermeneutic or lens by which to interpret them. Of course God wants us always to think and do what is right, but that does not mean carrying on like babes in the woods or deer in the headlights. Rather, as Our Lord says elsewhere, "Be as prudent as serpents and as innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). In Theology for Beginners Frank Sheed observes that "prudence" is often misconstrued as timidity or playing it safe, but it simply means the virtue of  seeing "the world as it actually is and our relation to it as it should be" (136). There are therefore circumstances in which it is prudent to be subtle and clever, and there are circumstances in which it is prudent to be martyred, for as Sheed points out, "there is no gain in avoiding martyrdom at the loss of one's eternal soul" (136). Live, then, prudently, like St. Thomas More. It is a good lesson to keep in mind at all times but especially in an age such as ours.
But the Collect is even more specific than that: it does not ask for the ability to think and do what is right but for the spirit to think and do what is right. The petition ties into the Epistle's call to live according to the Holy Spirit, who makes us the adopted children of God, transposing us into a supernatural state of intimacy with, and participation in, our Maker; it also reminds us of a spirit world of good and evil. During Rogationtide and other litanies we pray for deliverance from the "spirit of fornication"; here we pray for the infusion of a better spirit. "Spirit" is breath, and we want to be filled with and breathe the good in order to think it and do it.
Finally, the petition for the spirit to think and do what is right is subordinate to the main request of the prayer: to be able to live according to God. What a wonderful life that would be. The verb used for "to be able" is valeo/valere, which also means to "have the strength to do" (Vale, for example, means "Wax strong" or "Fare well" in Latin and is used to say goodbye). We want God to infuse a spirit of right thinking and right action not for its own sake but to have the strength to live in total conformity with His will, which we cannot muster on our own. For if we can't exist without God, we certainly can't live consistently as a perfect reflection of His will without Him.


Thursday, July 23, 2020

St John XXIII on St Lawrence of Brindisi

Yesterday, the feast of St Mary Magdalene, was the anniversary of the birth of St Lawrence of Brindisi in 1559, and of his death at the age of sixty in 1619; his feast is kept on the 21st. Although his family was Venetian, he was born in the major port city of Brindisi, then in the Kingdom of Naples, far down Italy’s Adriatic coast. After entering the Capuchins at the age of 16, he studied at the University of Padua, then the major university of the Venetian Republic, and showed a remarkable facility for languages, learning several modern ones in addition to the languages of the Bible. He was instrumental in establishing the Capuchin Order, then still a fairly new branch of the Franciscans, in Germany as a bulwark against the further spread of Protestantism, but also in rallying the German princes against the Ottoman Turks. He was chaplain to the army, which he helped to organize, stirred to attack with a rousing address, and led in battle armed only with a crucifix in his hand.

Despite these and many other activities, including a period as the head of his Order, and despite the extreme austerity of Capuchin life and the full round of liturgical and devotional prayer, St Lawrence also found time to write hundreds of sermons, almost all in Latin, covering a very wide variety of topics, as well as a commentary on Genesis and some writings against Lutheranism. As is noted in the revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints, when these writings were examined during his canonization process, it was said that “Indeed, he is fit to be included among the holy doctors of the Church.” This honor was bestowed upon him by Pope St John XXIII in 1959, the fourth centennial year of his birth, making him the 30th Doctor of the Church.

Here are a few interesting excerpts from the Apostolic letter Celsitudo ex humilitate, promulgated by Pope St John on March 19th of that year, the feast of St Joseph, in which he expounds some of the reasons for making St Lawrence a Doctor.

St Lawrence of Brindisi, from the Monte dei Cappuccini church in Turin, Italy; photo by Toma Blizanac, reproduced by permission.
Oh, the inestimable affection of the love of Christ, Who never has never allowed Himself to be lacking to the Church, His Bride, and finds present remedies for the evils that are hurled against her. When the insane daring of the innovators rose up, and the Catholic name was attacked by hostile assaults, when the Faith was languishing in many places among the Christian people, and morals were in steep decline, He raised up Lawrence to defend what was under attack, to avenge what had been destroyed, and to promote that which was conducive to the salvation of all. And since wicked plagues are again being introduced, and men are being ensnared by the inventions of false beliefs and other corruptions, it is useful that this many be placed in a brighter light, so that the Christian faithful may be confirmed towards what is right by the glory of his virtues, and nourished by the precepts of his salutary teaching. Therefore, just as Rome boasts of Lawrence, Christ’s unconquered champion, who by the most dire torments which he suffered, increased the strength of the Church as She was rent by persecution, so Brindisi is held in honor for begetting another Lawrence, who strengthened Her by his zeal for religion and the abundance of his talents as she was afflicted by evil from within and from without. …

In this noble and excellent two things are especially outstanding: his apostolic zeal, and his mastery of doctrine. He taught with his word, he instructed with his pen, he fought with both. Not deeming it enough to withdraw into himself, and dedicate himself to prayer and study in the refuge of his monastery, and occupy himself only with domestic matters, he leaped forth as if he could not contain the force of his spirit, wounded with the love of Christ and his brothers. Speaking from many pulpits about Christian dogma, about morals, the divine writings, and the virtues of the denizens of heaven, he spurred Catholics on to devotion, and moved those who had been swallowed up by the filth of their sins to wash away their crimes, and undertake the emendation of their lives. … outside the sacred precincts, when preaching to those who those who lacked the true religion, he defended it wisely and fearlessly; in meetings with Jews and heretics, he stood as the standard-bearer of the Roman church, and persuaded many to renounce and foreswear the opinions of false teaching. …

In the three volumes called “A Sketch of Lutheranism” (Lutheranismi hypotyposis), this defender of the Catholic law, mighty in his great learning, seeks to disabuse the people of the errors which the heretical teachers had spread. Therefore, those who treat of the sacred disciples, and especially those who seek to expound and defend the catholic faith, have in him the means to nourish their minds, to instruct themselves for the defense and persuasion of the truth, and to prepare themselves to work for the salvation of others. If they follow this author who eradicate errors, who made clear what was obscure or doubtful, they may know they walk upon a sure path. (Pope St John continues, in the traditional manner of such documents, with a lengthy list of the praises other Popes before him have heaped upon St Lawrence.)

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