Saturday, October 03, 2015

A New Image of the Coptic Martyrs of Libya, by Nikola Sarić

I recently stumbled across this interesting new piece of work by Mr Nikola Sarić, a Serbian artist currently living in Hannover, Germany. (Reproduced here with his kind permission.) It represents the martyrdom of the Coptic Martyrs of Libya, a group of Egyptian Copts who, as I am sure most of our readers will remember, were working in Libya when they were captured by Islamic fanatics, and had their throats cut on the seashore this past February. With them was a man named Matthew Ayariga, from the Subsaharan nation of Ghana, who was not himself a Copt, but on witnessing the martyrs’ courage in choosing death over denial of their Christian faith, joined them in confessing Christ, and professing their faith as his own, saying “Their God is my God. ” The Coptic Pope, His Holiness Tawadros II, officially recognized them as martyrs, and ordered that their commemoration be inserted into the Synaxarium; their feast is kept on February 15th.

Notice how the waves of the sea stained with the martyrs’ blood are shown around the edge of the image; Matthew Arayiga is distinct among the group on the top right. The men were killed wearing orange prisoners’ jumpsuits; all them are looking at Christ except for the one at the bottom, who is looking out at us.

The original 100x70 cm watercolor is currently displayed at the Brenkhausen Monastery in Höxter, a town in the Westphalia region of Germany; this is a former Cistercian house which since 1994 has been a Coptic Orthodox monastery and the seat of the Coptic bishop of Germany. Mr Sarić plans to sell the work and donate the money to the families of the martyrs.

You can read more about Mr Sarić and his various works at his website (in both German and English.)

Friday, October 02, 2015

Vesper Hymn for the Feast of the Guardian Angels

A very nice alternation of chant and polyphony, by the Ensemble Venance Fortunat. 

1. Custodes hominum psallimus angelos,
Naturae fragili quos Pater addidit
Coelestis comites, insidiantibus
Ne succumberet hostibus.

Angel-guardians of men, spirits and powers we sing,
Whom our Father hath sent, aids to our weakly frame,
Heavenly friends and guides, help from on high to bring,
Lest we fail through the foeman's wile.

2. Nam quod corruerit proditor angelus,
Concessis merito pulsus honoribus,
Ardens invidia pellere nititur
Quos coelo Deus advocat.

He, the spoiler of souls, angel-traitor of old,
Cast in merited wrath out of his honoured place,
Burns with envy and hate, seeking their souls to gain
Whom God's mercy invites to heaven.

3. Huc custos igitur pervigil advola,
Avertens patria de tibi credita
Tam morbos animi, quam requiescere
Quidquid non sinit incolas.

Therefore come to our help, watchful ward of our lives:
Turn aside from the land God to thy care confides
Sickness and woe of soul, yea, and what else of ill
Peace of heart to its folk denies.

4. Sanctae sit Triadi laus pia jugiter,
Cujus perpetuo numine machina
Triplex haec regitur, cujus in omnia
Regnat gloria saecula. Amen.

Now to the Holy Three praise evermore resound:
Under whose hand divine resteth the triple world
Governed in wondrous wise: glory be theirs and might
While the ages unending run. Amen.

Dominican Compline - A Video by Fr Lawrence Lew

Fr Lawrence Lew, a long-time contributor to NLM and a diligent photographer and videographer, has just posted this video which he made to youtube. It has the singing of the antiphons at the end of Compline: Sub tuum praesidium, translated into English, followed by O Lumen Ecclesiae, the antiphon of the Magnificat at Second Vespers of St Dominic in the Dominican Use. The latter is traditionally sung each day, along with the Salve Regina, in honor of the Order’s patron and founder.

The video was made at the Dominican House of Studies in DC, with a large number of guests in the house for the recent Papal visit. Fr Lew notes in his comments on youtube, “On the vigil of Pope Francis’ historic Mass for the Canonization of St. Junipero Serra, Dominican Friars (with representation from all four US provinces) gathered in DC to welcome our Holy Father, Pope Francis. It was a huge joy to pray with our friars from all four provinces on this historic occasion!” 

O lumen Ecclesiae, doctor veritatis, rosa patientiae, ebur castitatis, aquam sapientiae propinasti gratis; praedicator gratiae, nos junge beatis.

O light of the Church, teacher of truth, rose of patience, ivory statue of chastity, freely you gave the water of wisdom to drink; preacher of grace, join us to the blessed.

More about the Art in the Newman Center, Lincoln, Nebraska

A good approach to re-establishing a cultural tradition

In my recent posting about newest edition of the Adoremus Bulletin, I showed the cover photo of the publication, which is of a beautiful wall panel.

I was delighted to hear just now from the architect James McCreery, whose firm was the design architect for the Thomas Aquinas Chapel of the Newman Center. He sent me this fine photo of the panel in its setting, which shows that this was a detail of an arched recess designed as a backdrop for the chapel’s Baptismal font...hence the descending dove! The painting work was done by artists at the Evergreene Studios, he tells me.

He explained to me that the font itself is hand-carved oak dating from the English Arts and Crafts / Gothic Revival period of the late 19th/early 20th centuries. This is the movement that came out of the work of Pugin, Ruskin and Morris particularly.

I am an admirer of this style, what might be termed Victorian neo-Gothic art and architecture. Some talk of it as though it is a pale version of what went before. I don’t think of it that way at all. To me this is an authentic model of Christian art and architecture that characterizes the 19th century. 

In many ways I see theirs as a lesson of how revivals ought to take place, one which can help us today. Their method was to study the underlying principles from the great models of the past - in this case looking at Gothic architecture, and Gothic and Romanesque art and decoration - and then apply those principles to a contemporary setting - the 19th century. The desire was to change as little as possible, but it was not an unthinking copying of the past. There was a willingness to modify or change those aspects that were no longer appropriate to needs of the Church of the time, and those aspects which, when considered in humility, might be improved upon.

Now, 100 years or so later, the same process goes on. This time the model of the past is the Victorian style and the Church to which it must relate is that of the early 21st century. This is how it works!

Thursday, October 01, 2015

The Importance of Latin in the Life of the Church - A Guest Article by Andrew Meszaros

This guest article comes to us from Mr Andrew Meszaros, moderator of the Miami Chapter of the Familia Sancti Hieronymi, an organization which seeks to cultivate the use of Latin as a sacred and liturgical language, but also a living language of particular importance for Catholics.

The Family of St. Jerome held its annual “Cenaculum” from July 27 to August 1 in Menlo Park, California. Holy Mass was celebrated daily in Latin, including all the sermons. The Liturgy of the Hours was chanted in Latin. All talks were given in Latin, and all conversations during meals or otherwise, were restricted to Latin, since the members of this canonical association are committed to a lifelong study and promotion of the Church’s language and for the duration of their annual meeting, they restrict themselves to converse in no other language but Latin. Why would anybody want to do that? (Below: Participants in the Cenaculum praying the rosary at Santa Clara Mission Church. Each day of the Cenaculum ends with Benediction.)

These days, whenever the question of liturgical language is brought up, most English-speaking Catholics are ready to affirm uncompromisingly their preference for the vernacular. “It is better” one hears often “to celebrate the liturgy in English because one can understand it”, the implication being that Latin is not understandable. It is reasonable for someone to humbly acknowledge a need for the vernacular due to his ignorance of Latin, but it is tantamount to serious arrogance to impose such ignorance on the entire ecclesiastical community as a general standard and principle applicable to all. Not to have studied Latin, “a treasure” as Pope Pius XII called it “of unsurpassed excellence” amounts to a “lamentable mental neglect”. Many don’t appreciate such statements, but the language of the Romans, as Pope John XXIII stated “sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for learning highly intelligent thought and speech.” (Veterum Sapientia) No one should proudly claim a preference for its dismissal, especially, since human life is not a series of disengaged beginnings. In spite of many regional differences, major cultural trends involve the entire human family, even when they do not involve each individual equally.

One such major trend is the heritage of the Roman civilization and its language, and their role in shaping our history and our thinking from antiquity to this day, “pointing to the universality of the human spirit, whose basic needs” as Pope St John Paul II stated “are the same in the most disparate cultures.” (Fides et Ratio 72) This cannot be dismissed. He goes on to say, “The Church cannot abandon what she has gained from her inculturation in the world of Greco-Latin thought. To reject this heritage would be to deny the providential plan of God who guides his Church down the paths of time and history. This criterion is valid for the Church in every age, even for the Church of the future.” (ibid.)

The Latin language is like a major river of knowledge that has watered many people and nations in the course of its long history. And as Pope Benedict XVI writes, “the Church of Rome not only continued to use Latin but, in a certain way, made herself its custodian and champion in both the theological and liturgical sectors as well as in formation and in the transmission of knowledge.” (Motu Proprio Latina Lingua) That is why “the Roman Pontiffs ... have assiduously encouraged the knowledge and dissemination of Latin.” (ibid.) It should also be pointed out that the Second Vatican Council, whose authority is often falsely invoked by those who wish to abandon the usage of Latin in the Church, stated plainly that “the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy No. 36).

Moreover, it is a serious misconception to think that a translation of one language into another can produce a perfectly equivalent meaning. Each language carries within itself a unique mode of expression which cannot be reproduced in any other language. Would anyone consider teaching English literature by studying Hungarian translations of English works? If absolute correspondence existed among languages, it would be very easy to reduce all of the world’s languages into one. But languages differ not only in sound, not only in form, but above all, in their mode of expression. Hence, vernacular languages can never be turned into some equivalent counterparts of Latin.

Three specific qualities, as St. John XXIII explained, make Latin eminently suitable for being the Church’s language: Latin is universal, it is immutable, and it is sacred. (Veterum Sapientia) As previously mentioned, it is universal as a substantial heritage of mankind across many and diverse regions and across many centuries, embracing the entire Christian era from its beginning to the present.

It is immutable since it is not a national tongue of any particular ethnic group subject to constant change. Today, students of Latin are learning the same language as the one spoken by Cicero two thousand years ago, while in four centuries Shakespearean English has changed so much that presently our students often need a translator to understand it.

Finally, Latin is a sacred language. It was prepared through divine providence (divinitus provisum est: Pius XI - Officiorum Omnium) to be transformed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and become the language of the Church’s social foundation on the rock of Peter in Rome. The entire terminology of our religion took shape in Latin and its full meaning can only be appreciated in Latin: humanitas, persona, virtus, aeternitas, gratia, sacramentum, natura, matrinomium, incarnatio, misericordia, and the list of words goes on. Even if we could somehow reinvent the wheel, so to speak, and set up some modern language as a new norm (imagine how well that would be agreed upon) it would create an enormous rift with the past. Languages are not interchangeable. It is not possible to jump from one language to another and to retain a consistency of thought.

In view of the above, it would be absurd to think that the Church might abandon the study and use of Latin, which “is a most suitable bond that binds the Church’s present age with the past and with the future.” (Veterum Sapientia) That is why the “Roman Pontiffs have so often extolled the excellence and importance of Latin ... warning against the dangers that would result from its neglect.” (Veterum Sapientia).

Finally, those who frown at Latin should take to heart the words of Pope Pius XI: “For any member of laity, who is at least somewhat literate, the ignorance of the Latin tongue, which we can call a truly Catholic language, indicates a certain lack of affection towards the Church.” (In quopiam homine laico, qui quidem sit tinctus litteris, latinae linguae, quam dicere catholicam vere possumus, ignoratio quendam amoris erga Ecclesiam languorem indicat. Officiorum Omnium).

Death and Confession - A Beautiful Commentary in the Catholic Herald

The online Catholic Herald has just published a very moving commentary by an English doctor (written under a pseudonym), telling of his experience in treating patients dying of cancer, first as a “jolly pagan” with a “head was full of confusing, syncretist, New Age nonsense”, and then after returning to the Church and the Sacraments. It is a very beautiful and inspirational piece; do yourself a favor by reading it over there. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Communion of St Jerome by Domenichino

It is to be expected that the Renaissance would greatly admire the figure of St Jerome, second only to St Augustine as the most prolific writer among the Latin Fathers. Augustine himself describes Jerome as “learned in the Greek and Latin tongues, and furthermore in Hebrew,” and says that he had “read all those before him, or nearly all, who had written anything about the Church’s teaching in both parts of the world,” i.e., among the Greek or Latin writers. (Contra Julianum 1, 34) The scholars of the Renaissance prided themselves on their rediscovery of the classical world, and their return to the original sources of Greco-Roman culture. By learning Hebrew and producing a new and better Latin translation of the Bible, that which we now call the Vulgate, St Jerome had done what they themselves were doing, but with the very Word of God itself.

In the 15th century, which produced a great many images of St Jerome, he is often shown as a scholar in his study, sitting at a desk and surrounded by books. Since he had revised the Latin version of the Gospels at the behest of Pope St Damasus I, and served for a time as his secretary, he is traditionally depicted as a cardinal, which the contemporary Pope’s secretary would normally be. There are few episodes of what one might describe as a legendary character attached to him, but a famous one is the Christian version of the Androcles and the lion story, that while he was living in his monastery in Bethlehem, he removed a thorn from the paw of lion, which henceforth became his pet. A lion is therefore usually shown in the study along with the Saint.

St Jerome in His Study, by Jan van Eyck, 1442 
A contrary trend, however, shows St Jerome as an ascetic and penitent, praying in the desert, as he did indeed spend much of his life as a monk in the deserts of the Holy Land. As evidenced by many of his writings, but especially by his fierce polemics against the errors of his times, Jerome was not the kind of man to do anything by halves; the apprehension of his character gave rise to the tradition by which he is shown beating his own breast with a rock as an act of penance. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) is said to have remarked on such a representation of the Saint, who also quarreled violently with several of his friends (including Augustine), “If it is true, that would be the only way you got into heaven.” The figure of Jerome the Ascetic corrects a tendency common among the learned men of the Renaissance, (Erasmus is a classic example), to disdain the Christian ideals of detachment and renunciation, a disdain which all too often degenerates into further disdain for “the ignorant”, and one’s fellow man generally.

St Jerome in the Wilderness, by Jacopo del Sellaio, later 15th century
Before the middle of the 16th-century, these two manners of representing St Jerome appear side by side, each with roughly the same frequency. In the Counter-Reformation, however, Jerome the Ascetic and Penitent comes to dominate almost completely. One of the most famous such paintings of the Roman Counter-Reformation is that of Domenico Zampieri, a painter from Bologna generally known by the nickname “Domenichino – Little Dominic.” After coming to Rome in 1602 at the age of twenty, and making a name for himself first as a student of Annibale Carracci, and then with various projects of his own, he was commissioned in 1614 to do his first altarpiece, for the church of San Girolamo della Carità, once the home of St Philip Neri. (“Girolamo” is Italian for “Jerome”.)

One of his contemporaries, Gian Pietro Bellori, described Domenichino’s Communion of St Jerome as follows: “Who could ever speak worthily and at great enough length of such a stupendous work, if one observes its drawing and expression? These are the parts that are unanimously considered the merits of Domenichino, over and above all other painters of this century.” He also reported that Nicholas Poussin, a much-esteemed French painter of the era who worked most of his life in Rome, “was ravished by its beauty, and used to set it beside Raphael’s Transfiguration… as the two greatest paintings that lend glory to the brush.” (Paintings in the Vatican, ed. Carlo Pietrangeli, p. 474) Another contemporary, Giovanni Lanfranco, famously accused Domenichino of plagiarizing the work from Agostino Caracci, a brother of his teacher, but was fiercely defended from this imputation by Bellori and Poussin among others.

The Communion of St Jerome, by Domenico Zampieri, 1614; now in the Painting Gallery of the Vatican Museums 
St Jerome was a figure at once important and difficult for the Protestant reformation. He was the only Father of the Church to whose authority the early Protestants could appeal in their rejection of the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, (he is cited to this effect in the Articles of the Church of England), even though he himself did not hold his position against them consistently. John Calvin famously stated about St Augustine, “totus noster est – he belongs entirely to us”, (a typically gross exaggeration), and as noted above, Augustine praised Jerome as the most learned man of their age. But Jerome was also a fierce defender of many things rejected by the Protestants: devotion to the Saints and the cult of relics, the Papacy, asceticism and monasticism, celibacy and virginity.

In Domenichino’s painting, therefore, an exemplary work of the Counter-Reformation, Jerome the Ascetic comes entirely to the fore, and there is no trace of Jerome the Scholar. His open robes reveal the body of an elderly man emaciated by years of fasts and long vigils. The robes themselves are cardinalitial red, representing the highest institutions of governance in the Church. A woman kneeling down beside Jerome kisses his hand, venerating him as a Saint. He himself gazes in adoration at the Host of the Viaticum which he is about to receive; Domenichino emphasizes its importance by making the background immediately around it very dark, and having several of the lines in the painting converge upon it. The priest who administers the Host is holding it in the traditional Catholic manner, between his canonical digits, and under a paten.

The Catholicity, i.e., the universality, of the true Church founded by Christ is highlighted by the fact that the priest is assisted by a deacon in a Roman dalmatic (note the tassels on the back), and another wearing the crossed horarion and cuffs (called “epimanikia”) of the Byzantine tradition. St Jerome spent about 35 years of his life in Bethlehem, and died there on this day in the year 419; in his time, the city had Christian communities of both Latin and Greek speakers, especially after the sack of Rome in 410, when many Romans fled to the East. The Counter-Reformation often sought to proclaim, as it does here, the unified witness of East and West, the Latin Fathers and the Greek, against the theological innovations of the 16th century.

Finally, we may note the Angels in the upper right hand corner, watching the scene and ready to welcome the dying Saint into their company. They are shown as smiling children, the emissaries of a loving and benevolent God, unlike the deeply unpleasant deity of Calvin. They will soon bring St Jerome before the Lord, who will receive him with the words sung at the Benedictus in the Office of Confessors, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

EF Pontifical Mass with Archbishop Cordileone, Oct. 2

Full details given in the poster below: click to enlarge. Please note that there will also be Pontifical Vespers in the evening of the same day. 

Sacred Liturgy Conference in Portland, Oregon, Oct. 29 - Nov. 2

St Stephan Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon, will be hosting a Sacred Liturgy Conference from October 29th to November 2nd. Latin Masses will be celebrated daily in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, and many conferences will be given by a variety of priests, monks, laity, and Archbishop Sample. Please see the attached poster, schedule, and registration materials. (Click to enlarge.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Liturgical Notes on the Feast of St Michael and All Angels

The traditional title of today’s feast is “The Dedication of St Michael the Archangel”, a term already found in the 8th century Lectionary of Wurzburg, the oldest of the Roman Rite that survives, and in the ancient sacramentaries. The Martyrology erroneously refers this feast to the dedication of the famous shrine of St Michael on Mt Gargano in the Italian region of Puglia, following a medieval tradition attested by William Durandus at the end of the 13th century. In reality, the title comes from the dedication of a church off the via Salaria, about seven miles from the gates of Rome, sometime before the 7th century, and remained in use long after the basilica itself fell completely to ruin. The traditional Ambrosian liturgy, which borrowed the feast from Rome, has in a certain sense actually preserved the memory of its origin better than the Roman Rite itself; not only does it use the Roman name, but it also takes several of the Mass chants, as well as the Epistle and Gospel, from the common Mass for the dedication of a church.

The central panel of The Last Judgment, by Rogier van der Weyden, 1446-52, showing Christ above, and below, St Michael weighing the souls of the dead. 
Despite the fact that the feast’s title refers specifically only to St Michael, September 29th is really the feast of all the Angels, as stated repeatedly in the texts of both the Office and Mass. The Introit is taken from Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, all ye his angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute his word, hearkening to the voice of his orders.”

This text is repeated in part in the Gradual.

The Communion is taken from the Old Latin version of the canticle Benedicite, “Bless the Lord, ye angels of the Lord: sing a hymn, and exalt him above all forever.”

The collect of the Mass makes no reference to St Michael at all: “O God, who in wondrous order assign the duties of Angels and of men: mercifully grant that our life on earth be guarded by those who continually stand in Thy presence and minister to Thee in heaven.”

The Lauds hymn of the Office speaks in its first stanza of all the Angels, and in the following three of Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the only Archangels specifically named in the Bible. In the Greek version of the book of Tobias, however, St Raphael refers to himself as “one of the seven holy Angels, who present the prayers of the saints, and who go in before the glory of the Holy One.” (12, 15); this gave rise to a Byzantine custom of depicting seven Archangels standing together around the the Lord. Many icons of this motif give names to the remaining four from various apocryphal sources; one is called Uriel, who is mentioned several times in the Book of Enoch which St Jude quotes in his epistle (verses 14-15). The names of the remaining three are not the same in all sources; in the 19th century Russian icon seen below, they are given as Jegudiel, Selaphiel and Barachiel.

In the Middle Ages, many places imitated the Roman custom of celebrating a second feast of St Michael, commemorating the famous apparition which lead to the building of the shrine on Mt Gargano. In northern Europe, however, we find instead the feast of “St Michael on Mount Tumba”, the Latin name of the celebrated Mont-St-Michel, as for example in the Use of Sarum. A votive Mass of all the Angels was already in use in the early ninth century, as attested by Alcuin of York, and is present among the votive Masses in every medieval missal. However, only very rarely does one find a feast of St Gabriel or of the Guardian Angels in the pre-Tridentine period; a Mass of St Raphael is sometimes found among the votive Masses especially to be said for the sick, but I have seen no reference to an actual feast day for him in the Medieval period.

In the year 1670, Pope Clement X added to the general Calendar of the Roman Rite a feast of the Guardian Angels, which had been granted to the Austrian Empire by Paul V at the beginning of the century. The feast was kept in some places on the first Sunday of September, but the common date, October 2, was chosen as the first free day after the feast of St Michael.

The Three Archangels and Tobias, by Francesco Botticini, 1470
Pope Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, took a particular interest in devotion to the Angels. At the end of 1917, he raised the feast of St Michael to the highest grade, double of the first class, along with the March 19 feast of St Joseph. In 1921, he added the feasts of Ss Gabriel and Raphael to the general Calendar, the former on the day before the Annunciation, the latter on October 24 for no readily apparent reason. The feast of St Michael’s Apparition was removed from the General Calendar in 1960; in the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, Ss Gabriel and Raphael have been added to September 29th, and their proper feasts suppressed.

Italo Albanian Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy in Manhattan, Sunday Oct. 4

Information about this upcoming liturgical event in New York City was provided to us by Mr Patrick O’Boyle.

On Sunday, October 4 at 10:00 a.m., an Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Divine Liturgy will be celebrated at Most Precious Blood Church, 109 Mulberry Street (between Canal and Hester Streets) in the Little Italy section of Lower Manhattan, sponsored by the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Society in honor of their patron saints. The society is composed of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants from the town of San Cosmo Albanese in Calabria, Italy. San Cosmo is one of the many communities formed in southern Italy by Albanian Christian refugees in the 15th century, who were seeking to escape the conquest and persecution of the Ottaman Turks. To the present day, a distinct Italo-Albanian culture continues in parts of southern Italy, with communities that retain many unique customs and dress, the ancient Albanian language and Byzantine Christianity. The Italo-Albanian Rite posses two Eparchies in Italy, at Lungro in Calabria and Piana degli Albanesi in Sicily, as well as the famous monastery of Grottaferrata outside Rome. Their priests can be married, and their liturgical language was Greek up until the time of the Second Vatican Council.

Between 1904 and 1946, the Italo-Albanian immigrants to New York possessed a parish, Our Lady of Grace, which existed in a Lower Manhattan store front, due to the community’s poverty. The parish was under the care of an Italo-Albanian immigrant priest, Papas Ciro Pinnola, who worked under the auspices of the Archdiocese of New York, since the United States did not have an Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Eparchy of its own. Upon Father Pinnola’s death in 1946, the Archdiocese of New York failed to procure a priest of the rite from Italy to serve the parish, which was therefore closed the parish. (below: external and internal views of the church of the Most Precious Blood.)

In other major American cities where they settled, Italo-Albanian Greek Catholics were absorbed into Italian national parishes of the Latin Rite. Plans to form their own parishes outside Manhattan never came to fruition, due to the poverty of these immigrant communities and the apparent disinterest of many bishops.

Italian-American Catholics of Italo-Albanian descent have begun working in recent years to reclaim their spiritual heritage. A renewed Italo-Albanian Greek Catholic Society of Our Lady of Grace was formed in New York to promote the Rite in the Northeast; a parish, Our Lady of Wisdom, was formed in Las Vegas under the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix, and occasional liturgies have been celebrated in New Orleans.

In this spirit, the Sts. Cosmas and Damian Society has decided this year, on the occasion of their patronal celebration, to forgo the annual Latin rite Mass held at Most Precious Blood, and instead return to their ancestral tradition and sponsor the Divine Liturgy according to the Byzantine Rite. The Rt. Rev. Economos Romanos V. Russo will serve the liturgy in English (at the Society’s request) assisted by Subdeacon Alexei Woltornist. This is a very rare opportunity to experience the Italo-Albanian Rite that should not be missed.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass

By the grace of God I’ve been a Catholic all my life, and during these decades, I’ve known and observed many priests going about their duties. One of the most fascinating differences among them is how they bear themselves before and after Mass. It took me a long time to realize how great an impact for good or for ill this can have.

Let us take as our point of departure a marvelous line in the Code of Canon Law. Canon 909 reads: “A priest is not to omit dutifully to prepare himself by prayer before the celebration of the Eucharist, nor afterwards to omit to make thanksgiving to God.”

As if commenting on this canon, Bishop Marc Aillet writes:
Tearing us away from the secular world and thus from the temptation of immanentism, [the liturgical rites] have the power to immerse us suddenly in the Mystery and open us to the Transcendent. In this sense, one can never stress enough the importance of the silence preceding the liturgical celebration, an inner narthex, where we are freed of the concerns, even if legitimate, of the secular world, in order to enter the sacred space and time where God will reveal his Mystery; one can never stress enough the importance of silence in the liturgy to open oneself more readily to the action of God; and one can never stress enough the appropriateness of a period of thanksgiving, whether integrated into the celebration or not, to apprehend the inner extent of the mission that awaits us once we are back in the world.

The Time Before Mass

Consider first the time before Mass. Shawn Tribe wrote an article here a number of years ago that deeply affected me—an article urging the recovery of a spirit of reverence, respect, and quietude in the sacristy before the celebration of Mass. He noted that many sacristies have a sign reading SILENTIUM, and recalled the very old custom of the priest reciting hallowed prayers as he dons each separate garment in preparation for offering the Holy Sacrifice. Before a High Mass, a Solemn Mass, or some other major liturgy the platoon of servers will be very busy, but there is no reason why they can be quietly busy, learning to move in an atmosphere of prayerful preparation and anticipation, keeping their voices down and their conversations useful to the matters at hand.

The holiest priests I’ve known (although there are exceptions to any rule) have tended to arrive in the sacristy early so that they could prepare in an unrushed spirit. I have noticed that they would carefully say the vesting prayers and be ready, waiting, often looking at a wall-mounted crucifix, before the servers had finishing pulling themselves together. When the bell rings or the clock strikes, such a priest is ready to process in, with a “Procedamus in pace” on his lips. What a profound “ripple effect” his earnest, calm, and focused mind can have on the entire sacristy atmosphere, and on all who are working in it!

Contrast this with the priest who rushes in at the last minute, in a whirl and a tizzy. He’s looking here and there, maybe stealing a quick glance at the Ordo, racing against the clock. He throws open the closet and grabs the alb and the chasuble, scarcely taking time to straighten them before walking out into the church. Where is the “dutiful preparation” of Canon 909? Do the servers imbibe a true spirit of reverence towards this most awesome of all human actions—indeed, do they see that the priest is embarking on a divine action of which he is, and they are, totally unworthy, and before which we stand in fear and trembling? Or take the other contrast, Father Foghorn, whose arrival everyone knows because you can hear him yacking away in the sacristy before Mass, about the weather, or football, or something in the news, or someone’s sick aunt, or whatever the topic du jour may be. Indeed, he might even be giving out commands about liturgical preparations, but the generalissimo manner is enough to debar anyone from prayer.

The truth is simple: Father Foghorn and Reverend Roadrunner are not edifying. We need clergy who, before Mass, conscientiously pursue the spirit of recollection, prayerfulness, humility, and peace. At the end of the day, this is not merely for the benefit of a bunch of rag-tag servers or half-asleep pewsitters; it is for the benefit of the clergy themselves, who stand to win or lose their vocations based on how they approach the very work for which they have been set apart. The devil, shall we say, never omits to prepare for whatever dark business he has in hand, and it seems he targets those who have forgotten their dignity. We must not omit to prepare ourselves for ascending the mountain of the Lord in the company of the angels.

The Time After Mass

Let us turn to the time after Mass. Although I don’t remember ever seeing this custom while growing up in a mainstream American parish in the 1970s and 1980s, I began to notice in college and afterwards that more conservative or traditional priests, having returned to the sacristy, would say “Prosit” and then give a blessing to the kneeling altar servers. This is a laudable custom that surely deserves to be retained wherever it exists or revived wherever it has fallen into desuetude.

But what should happen next? The best way I can answer that question is to describe a particular priest friend of mine, whose example in this regard was as luminous as can be. After blessing the servers, he would quietly divest (no indulging in sacristy banter and very little of the “post-game debrief”), and then immediately step out to the sanctuary, kneel on the side, and pray for several minutes. He sometimes used the traditional prayers of thanksgiving from the Missale Romanum, other times not. It was clear that he was not doing this to be seen by men, yet everyone saw him nonetheless—and this is as it should be. The priest who offers the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the most sublime act of worship on the face of the earth, the ecstasy of angels and the terror of demons—how can he possibly return immediately to secularity, light chit-chat, text messages, voicemails, or emails, or rush away to do something else (unless it is a genuine emergency)?

The holy priest just described is the polar opposite of the priest who seems unable to get away fast enough when Mass is over. He zips out of the sanctuary or nave (depending on the planned or available route of escape), whips off the garments, and is out the door quicker than you can say: “Father, do you have a minute to hear a confession?” To a layman, this is a dismaying experience. I was taught in grammar school to stay a bit after Mass and make thanksgiving. Why isn’t our priest, our leader, doing the same? We always say that example speaks louder than words.

Then there is the priest who obviously thinks that the time after Mass is created for socializing, often at great length, in the atrium or right outside the main doors of the church. I’m not saying that greeting people, shaking hands, and asking “How’s your mother doing?” or questions of that sort is a bad idea; in fact, on Sundays it seems to be an especially good opportunity for making the sort of “horizontal” connections that ought to be avoided during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass itself. Nevertheless, when the post-liturgical bonhomie is conducted with such vim and vigor that the faithful who are trying to pray in the church can hear the guffawing and backslapping pouring through the entrance, or when the extent of the socializing crowds out any real prayer of thanksgiving on the priest’s part, we are dealing with a mixed-up sense of priorities.

When we have received our Lord in Holy Communion, He is, for some precious minutes, really, truly, substantially present within us. If we are in a state of grace (and we’d have no business receiving communion otherwise), He is always with us spiritually; but He is not always with us in the miraculous mode of His physical Eucharistic presence. This is a special time, a time of unique intimacy and love, when our praises to God and His favors to us are poured out more abundantly, when we are most of all abiding in Him and He in us. Let us not squander this gift from the Lord—and let the clergy lead the way in setting a strong and sincere example of how to rejoice and give thanks. I am reminded of a saying attributed to St. Pius X: “If the priest is an angel, the people will be saints; if the priest is a saint, the people will be good; if the priest is good, the people will be mediocre; and if the priest is mediocre, the people will be beasts.”

The Advantage of the Usus Antiquior

As a parting thought, the impression has grown on me more and more over the years that one of the strongest merits of the usus antiquior is that it has preparation and thanksgiving already “built in.” Yes, there is still a brief period for each in the Novus Ordo, but nothing comparable to Psalm 42 and its accompanying versicles and prayers, or to the Placeat and the Last Gospel. One feels that one has decisively begun and decisively ended. There is a suitable psychological and spiritual transition from the secular world to the sacred, and again from the sacred to the secular. And yet, paradoxically, it is among usus antiquior-celebrating priests that I have tended to find the greatest recollection and prayerfulness before and after Mass, too. What this suggests to me is that the very reduction of the rituals of preparation and thanksgiving within the Ordinary Form has had a bleed-over effect on the time before and after the liturgy itself.

This is why we should adamantly oppose any “reform” of the 1962 Missale Romanum that involves the abolition of the prayers at the foot of the altar and the Last Gospel. Those who speak of the value of the 1965 Missal—the supposed implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium—as if it’s the fulfillment of legitimate liturgical reform are not thinking carefully enough about why these introductory and conclusory parts became popular in the first place and why, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they were eventually integrated into the liturgy.

Catholic Artist Society Speaker Series for 2015-16 in NYC

I have received the itinerary for the Catholic Artist Society speaker series in New York City for the coming year.

Amongst the very strong line-up there are two speakers whom I have had contact with in the past. First is Denis McNamara who is always interesting when he talks about beauty and architecture. He has a deep understanding also of the form of liturgical art and how to place it in the right architectural setting. He is on the faculty of the Liturgical Institute at Mundelein. Second is Francesca Murphy whom I knew through Stratford Caldecott and her contributions to the journal Second Spring.

I encourage all who can make it to attend all of the lectures on the list.

I attach the poster. You can see it directly on the Catholic Artists Society Facebook page also.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

St Maria Goretti at St John Cantius, Chicago

On Monday, October 12, the major relics of St. Maria Goretti (canonized in 1950) will be venerated at St. John Cantius Church in Chicago. Information is available here. As a prelude to the “Year of Mercy,” those who venerate the relics of this young virgin-martyr will have the opportunity to experience the Mercy of God that St. Maria Goretti experienced when she forgave her murderer in her last breath.

The Most Rev. Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass according to the 1962 Pontificale Romanum at 7:30 pm on October 12th at St. John Cantius, and everyone is encouraged to attend this Votive Mass of St. Maria Goretti. The choral music will be provided by Ensemble Cor et Vox with Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC, Director, and Corrado Cavalli, Organist, and will include:
• Messe brève No. 2, Félix-Alexandre Guilmant (1837–1911)
• Ecce Sacerdos, Anton Bruckner (1824–1896)
• Justorum animae, Op. 38, No. 1, Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
• Beati quorum via, Op. 38, No. 3, Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
• Ave Verum, Colin Mawby (b. 1936)
• Allegro from Fantasie in Eb, C. Saint-Saens (1835 – 1921)
The propers for the Feast of St. Maria Goretti (July 6) are located in an appendix (Proprium Sanctorum Pro Aliquibus Locis) of the 1962 Missale Romanum:
INTROIT (Ps. 118, 95-96)
Me exspectant peccatores ut perdant me: ad praescripta tua attendo: omnis perfectionis vidi esse terminum: latissime patet mandatum tuum. Ps. Ibid., I Beati quorum immaculata est via: qui ambulant in lege Domini. V. Gloria Patri.
GRADUAL (Ps. 70,4-6)
Deus meus, eripe me de manu iniqui, de pugno improbi et oppressoris. V. A ventre matris meae eras protector meus.
ALLELUIA (Ps. 70, 6-7)
Alleluia, alleluia. V. Ps. 70, 6-7 In te speravi semper. Tamquam prodigium apparui multis; tu enim fuisti adiutor meus fortis. Alleluia.
OFFERTORY (Ps. 73, 19)
Ne tradideris viilturi vitam turturis tui, vitam pauperum tuorum noli oblivisci in perpetuum.
COMMUNION (Isai. 33, 6)
Timor Domini ipse est thesaurus eius.
The Gregorian chant setting of these propers for the Feast of St. Maria Goretti (which are appointed to be used for her Votive Mass at St. John Cantius on October 12th) have proved difficult to locate. It seems that these Gregorian chant propers can neither be found in the 1962 Liber Usualis nor in the 1961 Graduale Romanum. (They are also not found in the 1974 Graduale Romanum.) Because St. Maria Goretti’s spiritual formation was guided by the Passionists, one might hope that the Passionists, who fostered devotion to her, might have these proper Gregorian chants in their possession (perhaps in the archives of their congregation). If any NLM readers have access to the proper Gregorian chants for the Feast of St. Maria Goretti please contact Fr. Scott A. Haynes, SJC at St. John Cantius at 312.243.7373 x 111 or at

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: