Saturday, April 21, 2018

New Misal Romano - Resources Now Available for the Chants in Spanish from the Zipoli Institute

On May 1, 2018, the USCCB will release through selected publishers its unified version of the Misal Romano for use in Spanish-language liturgies (beginning on Pentecost) in the United States.

This release presents a similar opportunity to that of the 2011 release of the new English translation. Though the changes in text from what most parishes have been using are less numerous and dramatic than the 2011 English missal, one of the similarities between the two missals is the integration of musical settings of the texts within the main body of the missal itself. Like in 2011, this presents a tremendous opportunity for priests and deacons to learn to the sing the Mass.

In preparation for the release of the Missal, some of my students and I have collaborated with Dr. Nathan Knutson, the director of sacred music at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia to produce recordings of many of the celebrant's and deacon's chants. The Zipoli Institute has prepared handouts with the music and texts of these chants, and they are now available on the website of the Zipoli Institute.

The free resources on the Zipoli Institute's website include: 

  • Printable/PDF study guides for clergy 
  • Congregational cards
  • Audio recordings 

The Zipoli Institute is also offering a conference next weekend in the DC area (Hyattsville, MD) at the Fulton Sheen House of Formation of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) at which there will be training in singing of the chants, and talks about sacred music.

There is still time to register for the conference. The schedule is given below.

3:00 pm - Welcome
3:15 pm - “Inculturation of the Gospel through Music” - Mr. Heitor Caballero
4:00 pm - Practicum Sessions: Learning the chants of the Missal
5:30 pm - Sung Vespers
6:00 pm - Review the sung Mass in Spanish
6:30 pm - “Principles of Sacred Music according to the Magisterium” - Fr. Diego Ruiz, IVE

8:30 am - Mass, Spanish Novus Ordo
9:30 am - Keynote Presentation - Mr. Heitor Caballero
10:30 am - Workshop, learning to sing the Spanish Mass for choirs and congregations
12-12:30 pm - Closing Address and Prayer

Friday, April 20, 2018

St Agnes of Montepulciano

On the Dominican Calendar, today is the feast of St Agnes of Montepulciano, who predates Catherine of Siena among the great Saints of the Order of Preachers, although she was formally canonized very much later, in 1726. Prior to becoming a Dominican, St Agnes, who was born in 1268, was made abbess of a religious community at Procena at the age of only 15, by a special dispensation issued by the Pope. Her native city was so eager to have her back that a convent was founded specifically so that she could be the prioress of it, and affiliated to the then very new Dominican Order; she ruled over the house at Montepulciano until her death in 1317. When St Catherine, who was born 30 years later, came to her shrine to venerate her relics, as she stooped down to kiss St Agnes’ foot, the foot raised itself to meet her lips. Her life was written by Raymond of Capua, St Catherine’s spiritual director, who was himself beatified in 1899.

Our dear Roman pilgrim friend Agnese counts the Roman martyr as her principal patron and name Saint, but is also very devoted to this later Agnes. Our thanks to her for sharing with us these photos of the shrine at Montepulciano, where her incorrupt body is preserved, along with a great many other relics.

Note the raised foot!

EF Missa Cantata in the Bronx, April 29

The church of the Holy Rosary in the Bronx, New York, will have a Missa cantata in the Extraordinary Form on April 29th, the Fourth Sunday after Easter, starting at 1 pm, with music by Vincent d’Indy and Cristobál de Morales, in addition to the Gregorian chants. The church is located at 1510 Adee Avenue.

Tradition is for the Young (Part 12) - OF Mass Ad Orientem in Boston

Our thanks to a reader for sending us these pictures and description of an OF Mass celebrated ad orientem, with evident care for beauty, solemnity and good music. Once again, we should all find it very encouraging to see these young people, the celebrant, ministers and servers, rediscovering and embracing our traditional Catholic manner of worship!

For Divine Mercy Sunday, St Ann’s parish in Boston Massachusetts hosted a special afternoon celebration with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, who reside next door. ( A Holy Hour with Solemn Benediction was followed by an English OF Mass, offered ad orientem. The Mass was served by two transitional deacons, along with seminarians from St John’s Seminary, and a special schola chanting the propers; the music included Peter Latona’s Mass of the Immaculate Conception, the English Roman Missal Credo I, the Gregorian introit, sequence, and communion, the Offertory chant from Simple English Propers, and the Regina Caeli.

Incensation during the Introit at Mass
The Collect
The program booklet featured a brief explanation of ad orientem, which might be of interest to readers:

Upon entering St. Ann’s Church, one is immediately struck by the beauty of the immense high altar rising over the tabernacle, which stands at the focal point of the entire church. This striking visual reminds us that the mysteries which take place here are nothing less than the source and summit of our Christian lives. To highlight the solemnity of this special occasion, today’s Mass will be celebrated on the high altar in the traditional posture known as ad orientem, or facing “towards the East.” While this position is commonly associated with the traditional Latin Mass, it has always been and remains a legitimate option for the modern rite of Mass as well.

The Gospel Procession
Preparation of the Altar
At first glance, the ad orientem posture may seem to isolate the priest and his actions on the altar from the congregation. However, it can actually accomplish just the opposite. By having the priest and faithful pray together in the same direction, it makes abundantly clear that the priest is no mere performer on a stage; rather, he is speaking to God on behalf of the faithful. This unified orientation toward Christ, who is the rising sun in the east, expresses both our faith in the resurrection and our anticipation of the risen Christ returning again in glory. So may our worship of God’s abundant mercy today bring us one step closer to the coming of His Kingdom!

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A New Graduale Parvum to be Launched in England This Saturday

The Introits of the Graduale Parvum, a new work to support the use of Gregorian chant in parish churches, will be launched at St Mary’s College, Oscott, in Birmingham, England, on Saturday, April 21, at 11 a.m. See the poster below for the full schedule events for the launch, which includes a solemn Mass celebrated with the chants from this book.

The Graduale Parvum is a collection of Gregorian chant Propers for every Sunday and Holy Day in both Latin and English. It is wholly authentic – it uses the same modes as the Graduale Romanum and follows its texts precisely – but simple to sing, and well within the capability of choirs of any parish church. This launch of the Introits will be followed in stages by the other chants of the Propers. The work has been compiled and set by Fr Guy Nicholls, the Director of the John Henry Newman Institute of Liturgical Music, in conjunction with the Association for Latin Liturgy.

Christopher Francis, the Chairman of the Association for Latin Liturgy, writes “Although Latin is the core language of the Church, for most people’s lifetimes it has been usual for worship to take place in the local vernacular. For this reason, the Graduale Parvum is as much an English book as it is a Latin one. But it points the way to bringing that essentially Catholic language back into the Mass, whether as part of a mixture, with some chants in Latin and others in English, or in a fully Latin celebration.”

Archbishop Bernard Longley, who will celebrate Mass as part of the launch event, said “I welcome the work of the Graduale Parvum project and I hope that the Graduale Parvum will help and inspire all who want to enrich their parish liturgy with this extraordinarily significant and uniquely beautiful form of sacred music.”

For further information, or to attend the launch at Oscott, please email: or call 0117 962 3558.

Paul VI’s Dislike of the Liturgical Reform

The story has been told many times and in many quarters how Mons. Annibale Bugnini, the secretary of the committee for implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium, would “sell” the items in his program for radical changes to the liturgy, changes that were neither asked for, nor even distantly imagined by the Fathers of Vatican II. He would tell Pope Paul VI that the proposed changes were strongly recommended by the expert (or supposedly so) liturgical scholars, while telling the scholars (or at least the more sober among them, those who needed reassurance) that the Pope himself insisted on such changes. Fr Louis Bouyer, a personal friend of the Pope, attests this explicitly in his memoires, in which he describes Bugnini, with the rhetorical restraint so typical of the French, as a “criminal and unctuous” man, “as devoid of learning as he was of honesty.” (Bugnini was later made an archbishop, but never a cardinal, and “promoted” to nuncio in Iran as the regime of the last Shah was collapsing.) As summed up by Sandro Magister in an article published in 2014:

“Paul VI, conversing afterwards with Bouyer about one of these reforms ‘which the Pope had found himself approving without being in any way more content with it than I (Bouyer) was’ asked him: ‘But why did you all get entangled in this (particular) reform?’ And Bouyer replied: ‘Because Bugnini assured us that you absolutely wanted it so.’ To which Paul VI answered: ‘But is it possible? He told me that you were unanimous in approving it …’ ” (My translation of the full article can be read here: “Fr Louis Bouyer on the Liturgical Reform and Its Architects.”)

Today, Magister gives a fascinating follow-up to this topic, a series of stories from the diaries of Virgilio Cardinal Noè, who served as Papal Master of Ceremonies during the earliest and wildest years of the reform, from 1970-82. These stories are cited from a new book published in Italian by Mons. Leonardo Sapienza, “Paolo VI: Una Storia Minima.” (On the website linked by Magister, it is described as a book of “fioretti - little flowers”, the name of a very famous collection of anecdotes about the life of St Francis of Assisi and some of the early Franciscan Saints.) No one will be surprised to read that Paul VI himself expressed grave reservations and disappointment about some of these changes, although he himself had approved them, and, heroically exercising the virtues of Prudence and Fortitude, did nothing to correct them. Here are just a couple of examples; there are more in the original article linked above.

“on June 3, 1971, after the Mass for the commemoration of the death of John XXIII, Paul VI commented: ‘How on earth in the liturgy for the dead should there be no more mention of sin and expiation? There is a complete absence of imploring the Lord’s mercy. This morning too, for the Mass celebrated in the [Vatican] tombs, although the texts were beautiful they were still lacking in the sense of sin and the sense of mercy. But we need this! And when my final hour comes, ask for mercy for me from the Lord, because I have such need of it!’ And again in 1975, after another Mass in memory of John XXIII: ‘Of course, in this liturgy are absent the great themes of death, of judgment…’ ”

“Before every Mass, while he was putting on the sacred vestments, Paul VI continued to recite the prayers stipulated in the ancient missal ‘cum sacerdos induitur sacerdotalibus paramentis,’ (when the priest puts on his priestly vestments) even after they had been abolished. And one day, September 24, 1972, he smiled and asked Noè: ‘Is it forbidden to recite these prayers while one puts on the vestments?’ ‘No, Holy Father, they may be recited, if desired,’ the master of ceremonies replied. And the pope: ‘But these prayers can no longer be found in any book: even in the sacristy the cards are no longer there… So they will be lost!’ ”

Paul VI during a pastoral visit to Venice, with Patriarch Albino Cardinal Luciani, who would succeed him as Pope with the name John Paul I for 33 days in August and September of 1978. Virgilio Noè, a curial Monsignor at the time this photo was taken, is seen on the right. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Solemnity of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church 2018

From the decree of the Sacred Congregation for Rite Inclytus Patriarcha Joseph, dated Sept. 10, 1847, extending the feast of the Patronage of St Joseph to the general calendar. The translation is my own.

The glorious Patriarch Joseph, whom the Almighty Father enriched with singular graces, and abundantly filled with heavenly gifts, so that he might serve as the reputed Father of His only-begotten Son, and the true Spouse of the Queen of Angels and mistress of the world, fulfilled the duties and offices of this high calling so perfectly that he merited to receive the praise and rewards of a good and faithful servant.

The Coronation of St Joseph, by Juan de Valdés Leal (1622-90), ca. 1665. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
For, every mindful of the preeminent dignity and holiness of the noble offices entrusted to him by the Divine Wisdom, he never ceased to obey the counsels and will of God  in all matters with inexpressible joy; and by pleasing God, was made beloved, until, being crowned with glory and honor in heaven, he received a new office, namely, that by his many merits, and the support of his prayers, he might come to the aid of man’s most wretched condition, and by his most powerful intercession, obtain for the world what the efforts of man cannot. For this reason, he is venerated as a merciful advocate and a powerful patron, and the feast of his patronage is kept in a great many places with a proper Mass and Office on the third Sunday occurring after the joys of Easter.

However, one thing was still left to be desired, namely, that the office of the Patronage of St Joseph should be extended to the whole Church. This did the Very Eminent and Rev. Cardinal Costantino Patrizi earnestly beseech from the Holy Father Pius IX, with most humble supplication offerred in his own name and that of the Cardinals of Holy Roman Church, and of a very great number of the faithful from home and abroad. The Holy Father, receiving these supplications, so conformable to his own devotion to St Joseph, with Apostolic kindness … gave his formal consent to the petition, and ordered that henceforth, the Mass of the Patronage of St Joseph should be celebrated by the clergy of Rome and of the whole church on the Third Sunday after Easter.

When the custom of fixing feasts to particular Sundays was abolished as part of the Breviary reform of Pope St Pius X, the feast of the Patronage of St Joseph was anticipated to the previous Wednesday, the day of the week traditionally dedicated to Patron Saints. It was removed from the general Calendar in 1955 and replaced by the feast of St Joseph the Worker; the new feast itself was then downgraded from the highest of three grades (first class) in the 1962 Missal to the lowest of four (optional memorial) in 1970.

Prominent Catholic Women Announce the Launching of

A Site that Collects the Best Content Available to Fortify the Dignity of Women In Harmony with the Common Good (and So It’s Good for Men Too!)

Launched just this week, Helena Daily is the new gathering space for all Catholic women, a site that collects the best content available to help all women rediscover, highlight, and emphasize the best of who they are, helping them to become the women that God created them to be.

Carrie Gress, author of the bestselling book The Marian Option, and one of the founders of the project, alerted me to this recently, and I am very happy to pass on the information. She told that Helena Daily, “is rooted in the 2,000-year-old Catholic tradition that fortifies the dignity of women, and is a place where the content is rich and beautiful, drawing on the Church’s teaching as a guiding compass.

“From the checkout stand to social media, women are barraged with a very narrow and generally unhealthy model of what it means to be a woman. We want to both challenge this narrow vision and show why the Catholic Church has so much to offer women,” she said.

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Guido Reni
There are three women behind the new site:

Becky Carter, co-host of Thriving in the Trenches podcast, is a mother to five strong-willed children. She and her family returned to the Catholic Church after leaving it for 17 years. The years of searching for the truth have led her to be a fierce defender of the Faith.

Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America. She is a regular blogger at The National Catholic Register and at My Favorite Catholic Things. She has authored several books, including a best-seller, The Marian Option (TAN 2017), and most recently, Marian Consecration for Children (TAN 2018).

Megan Schrieber, co-host of Thriving in the Trenches podcast, is a Catholic mother of six, an athlete, interior designer, and speaker who is eager to address and defend the Catholic Church’s empowering vision of womanhood and religious freedom.

The content for Helena Daily will focus exclusively on issues and topics for women, and will collect fresh pieces ranging from well-known writers to obscure bloggers. The three founders felt that although there are several great Catholic aggregate sites, none focus solely on issues and topics for women.

I have started to follow Carrie Gress recently through her articles on NCR and her blog. What has struck me is how by a simple, clear and unapologetic articulation of all that is so positive about the Church’s understanding of women, she gets noticed. The response is not all positive. If you thought that liturgy sites had the potential for generating bitter commentary from readers, you should try looking at the response that women’s issues get. I don’t think I have seen such vitriol in writing as I have from people who push back on women’s issues.

I am grateful to her and her colleagues Becky and Megan for having the courage to start such a project.

The Helena Daily site is live, and already offering fresh, meaningful content for all Catholic women.

Content suggestions can be sent to or through the URL of the site itself:

“Mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, friends - these are the basic relationships that make up our lives. And these are the places in the past where women flourished, learned from each other, supported each other, and grew into the women that God called them to be. Through births, deaths, high days and holy days, dark days and mundane days, tears and laughter, women have been there for each other. For millennia, this was simply the fabric of everyday life.”
From About Helena Daily,

All images are Virgin and Child with St Anne, mother of Our Lady and the Nativity of the Mother of God.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Easter Sunday 2018 Photopost

Well, we got to the Easter Sunday photopost, the last for this series, much more quickly than we did last year. The total number of photographs published, including eveything from Palm Sunday to this one, is over 650! Once again, we extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who sent these in, participating in the work of evangelizing though beauty, and celebrating the richness of our Catholic liturgical tradition. Our next photopost will be for Pentecost; a reminder will be posted shortly before the day, which is May 20th this year. May the Easter season continue to bring you every blessing in the Risen Lord!

Holy Child Naval Chapel - Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, Philippines

Mission Saint-Irénée de Lyon - Montréal, Canada (FSSP)
Chapelle St Augustin - Lausanne, Switzerland (FSSP)

Bearing Witness to the Faith in a Secular Society and Living to Tell the Tale

In the West, we live in a time of steadily increasing hostility towards Christianity. The late and much missed Cardinal George of Chicago, who died of cancer in 2015, famously summed up the situation with the following statement made several years before his death.
I expect to die in my bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. 
This statement caught attention at the time, but it not quite as pessimistic a statement as some have suggested. Clearly, there is an assumption here that his successors would be as orthodox in their faith as he was in his, and so merit attack from secular forces. Some might say that in itself was foolishly optimistic! But also, he went on to say in the same statement, that after the death of the martyr bishop:
His [the martyr’s] successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the Church has done so often in human history.
In other words, we should not lose heart, for the Church will prevail, regardless of the malice of men or the devil.

I thought about this recently when I heard a homily about the need to bear witness to the Faith today. The pastor made the point that while we are not at the point yet of being persecuted for our faith in this country, it might happen in the future, and it is more likely to happen if we do not stand up for the Faith now. Countering prejudice at an early stage, he suggested, can help to stop it growing into open hatred and persecution in the future. He reminded us of how blessed we are in this country, still, compared with many who live in real fear for their lives for practising their faith, especially those in some predominantly Islamic countries.

I pray that if required, I might have the courage of the martyrs through the centuries who stood up to oppression, whether from ISIS or the Emperer Diocletian.

In the meantime, the question is: What can I do here and now to play my part? How do I bear witness in such a way that people know that I am Catholic, and is likely to create an impression positive enough to draw people to the Faith?

The first thing, I think, is to acknowledge my need for God’s grace to be able even to begin to live up to Christian ideals.

The second is let people know that I am a Christian. I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and I often hear derogatory remarks about Christians and Christianity. Wherever possible, I try to respond by casually and cheerily remarking that I am Christian. Usually, that has the simple effect of halting the conversation because “the Christian” is no longer an abstraction in their imaginations, he is a real person. And I find that even here, most people shy away from offending flesh-and-blood people standing in front of them.

In his sermon, our pastor at St Elias Melkite Catholic Church suggested one simple way of discreetly but visibly making such a statement is to wear a Cross, which may arouse curiosity and cause people to ask what it is. This can also give us the motivation to be better Christians, because we are so clearly identifying ourselves with the Faith.

I have bought one and wear it, but I’ll admit that it sits under my shirt, and is only visible when I have an open-necked shirt. A necklace or medallion is not something that I would ordinarily wear and I don’t feel absolutely comfortable with it. I therefore decided to do something different that felt more natural to me; I found a company online that makes personalized lapel pins and asked them to create some for me based on the Holy Face. I sent them a jpeg of the following icon:

When the batch came (I had to order 100) they looked like this:

People have already asked about it, and one even asked where I go to church, so I gave her a St Elias Melkite Catholic Church business card, which the pastor had printed up and encouraged us to have in our wallets, just in case! I also see many people looking at it when I wear it, although most do not say anything. Nevertheless, I am pleased about this because I feel that I have made a statement without saying anything, in a way that I feel comfortable with. I might be wrong, but I don’t feel that I am the sort whose natural gifts include attracting people to the Faith by standing on a soapbox and preaching on a street corner to passers-by, or by wearing a sandwich board that says “The End is Nigh”, as a man used to do for years in Liverpool city center when I was growing up in the 1960s and 70s.
Perhaps I am less courageous than this man. But a lapel pin is my way of being in-your-face with the Holy Face, while not looking as though that’s what I'm trying to do. It was easy enough to do - you could easily create your own if you have a jpeg file of an image you like.
I am curious to hear from readers. Do you have any ways that tell people you are Christian without putting people off? I’d love to hear about what you do and the reactions you get. This is probably something that would appeal more to men than women, so what might women do alternatively? 

Meanwhile, I am still waiting for someone to come up and incense my jacket...perhaps one day, you never know.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Living the Vita Liturgica: Conditions, Obstacles, Prospects

I have been teaching young adults in college and graduate school for 20 years now, and find it not only endlessly rewarding, but also endlessly provocative. What these young people take for granted, what they see or do not see, what they doubt, question, assume, expect, or aspire towards, is always subtly shifting from year to year, and certainly from one decade to the next. I do not claim to be the best analyst of the phenomena, but I have noticed consistent patterns that cannot be insignificant.

One thing that puzzled me for the longest time is how difficult it proved to be — initially, at least — to make headway with Catholic young adults in convincing them to live a vita liturgica, that is, a life centered on the sacred liturgy.[1] What I mean by this phrase includes living by the liturgical calendar, the seasons, the days of fasting and feasting; paying attention to the saints in their annual pageant; making Mass the heart of one’s day; praying hours from the Divine Office when possible. Authors in the Liturgical Movement used to sum it up as “living from the Mass and for the Mass.”

The perplexity vanished when, as the years went by, I started having among my students an increasing number who came from a more traditional background (let us say, from parishes of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter or the Institute of Christ the King). I discovered that these students were, to one degree or another, already living a vita liturgica. And it was then that I realized the essence of the problem.

If all someone has ever known is the reformed liturgy celebrated in a horizontal way, the very concept of a vita liturgica is alien, and what’s worse, incapable of realization. Asked to center his life on the Mass, the recipient of such an upbringing is likely to stare at you as if you are from a different planet: “Center my life — on what?” It is like trying to sell someone on the merits of cultivating an intellectual life when he has never once tasted the joy of philosophical inquiry, or trying to persuade someone of the value of spending four years studying the Great Books when she has only ever slogged through textbooks.

When the liturgy is bland, perfunctory, in today’s vernacular and with today’s music, it does not — and what is more, it cannot — stand out as the supreme defining act of the Christian’s life, the center of its gravity, the most special, most important thing we can possibly do in our waking hours. The single greatest impediment to living a vita liturgica is the reformed liturgy itself, precisely because of its assimilation to a modernity that is anti-sacramental, anti-ritual, and anti-transcendent. In attending the new liturgy, one moves progressively into further and further stages of alienation from the liturgical spirit per se and its embodiment in an authentic tradition. It makes the vita liturgica recede, weaken, and finally dissolve in a miasma of sentiments that derive whatever grip they have from emotional stimulation.

I am not surprised, therefore, that one can predict with fair accuracy which students grew up with the usus antiquior and which ones with the Novus Ordo. The young man or woman who cares about the liturgical seasons and tries to observe them; who wants to set apart Sundays and Holy Days as something special; who pays attention to which saint’s feast it is, or wishes a friend a happy name day; who knows what an Ember Day is, or what a Vigil really is; who fasts and abstains with regularity — this one most likely grew up with the traditional Latin Mass, or at very least in a milieu influenced by the usus antiquior.

In contrast, the young man or woman who thinks of Mass as something you “have to do on Sundays” and is pretty clueless about the rest of the stuff mentioned above is most likely an ecclesiastical orphan separated at birth from his own tradition, someone who, having grown up far away in another country with a foster liturgical mother, no longer speaks the same language as his ancestors. Apart from sudden conversions (which I have seen, Deo gratias), the learning curve will be steep. Progress can be slow, in fits and starts, with regressions, and fluency is rarely achieved. Sometimes people in this predicament do not seem to care at all — what they have is “good enough” for them, and they feel no need to reconnect with their family, their history, their heritage, their native tongue. This is the tragic product of the Consilium’s laboratory: a man without roots, and without awareness that he is without roots.

“Let nothing be put before the work of God” (Rule, ch. 43). This sovereign principle of cenobitic monasticism became the foundational principle of Christendom and of Europe. What have we done instead? We have put dozens of things before the opus Dei: ecumenism, interreligious dialogue, youth ministry, social work, evangelization, you name it. Ironically, even the organization Opus Dei seems to put vocation, activity, and fellowship before what is properly called the opus Dei.[2] The gradual disappearance of Christianity from the West is caused by nothing other than this eclipse of our primary obligation, our first love.

If a spouse betrays a spouse, it does not many how many children they have, or how big a house, or how much worldly success; the marriage is vitiated at its core, and the rest turns to ashes. The Bride of Christ has for her permanent and preeminent duty to love, honor, and obey her husband, and this she does in the purest, deepest, most powerful way in the liturgy. All the rest flows from this and returns to augment it, as indeed Sacrosanctum Concilium said (§10) — and one is free to think that many actually shared this conviction, before it was abandoned as one more medieval fetter shattered in the Great Awakening.

But the thousand-year Reich of purified piety and exultant participation never materialized. Achieving the nirvana of participation not only prescinded from meaningful content, it actively precluded it. The faithful who did not drop out of the Church were rewarded with decades of banality, mediocrity, and wooing of the world, epitomized in churches half-full of half-engaged Catholics half-singing the ditties led by the geriatric Youth Ensemble. If this is the mystery hid from the ages, it should have remained hidden. No wonder the wild warbling of muzzeins and the disciplined silence of Buddhists continue to make inroads throughout the West: they face no spiritual resistance, and claim a native soil surrendered by once-liturgical Catholics.[3]

In his 1891 encyclical Au Milieu des Sollicitudes, Leo XIII advocated the policy of ralliement, urging French Catholics to abandon monarchical aspirations and throw themselves into secular politics for the good of the nation. Decades later, Paul VI issued a ralliement to Roman Catholics to abandon medieval mysticism and throw themselves into modern liturgy for the good of the Church. But this modern liturgy, at least in the hands of its most ardent promoters, proved to be as secular in its assumptions and aims as the godless republicanism of France. Pius X was compelled, finally, to condemn once and for all the principle of the separation of Church and State in Vehementer Nos (1906). We are still waiting for our “Pius X moment” with regard to liturgical republicanism and the “Law of Separation” embodied in the lex orandi of the new liturgical books.

We may be waiting for that for a long time. But the interior life of each individual is left in his own hands. Each of us is supposed to be leading a liturgical life, and we need to find or make the right conditions for doing so, and help others to do it. A first and irreplaceable step in awakening the souls of liturgical orphans to the grandeur of divine worship is simply to invite and encourage them to attend the traditional Latin Mass from time to time. There they will experience something strange and uncomfortable, something directed to a transcendent God and not bending over backwards to include and instruct them, something curiously unmodern and even indifferent to its surroundings, yet utterly in earnest. They might get a taste of what adoration, supplication, and repentance feel like. They will see a visible sacrifice offered up.

The traditional Catholic liturgy benefits modern man precisely by accentuating much that is profoundly unmodern — truths and symbols that come to us from the Old Testament, the Apostolic age, the Church of the Fathers, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque, every century through which the believing and adoring Bride of Christ has walked, offering up her Lord and herself in the sacrifice of praise. As Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said, the liturgical reform in its relentless turning away from this vast and living repository (rhetorical nods to heavily redacted ancient sources notwithstanding) has wounded Christ’s Mystical Body on earth and afflicted it with an accumulating amnesia. For fifty years we have deprived Our Lord of due worship and ourselves of its benefits, with Him as its sole object and we as humble servants of His sacred mysteries. We must not only repair this damage, but, as Aristotle would have it, bend the stick in the opposite direction, cleaving with all our might to inherited forms redolent of the piety of the Age of Faith.

But the traditional liturgy does more than reconnect us with the wisdom and love subsisting in the communion of saints. It benefits man as man, the homo liturgicus who was created to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” bearing the gold of sacred music, the incense of stately ceremonial, the myrrh of silent homage, so that he may fully exercise the virtue of religion.

What was hidden from the learned and clever but is obvious to little ones is that the richer the liturgy’s content, the more incentive and reward there is to work oneself into it. If we apprentice ourselves to Catholic tradition, we will lose something, yes — our contemporary illiteracy and the illusion of our superiority. But we will acquire something far more precious: the rock-solid reality of a bimillenial inheritance, the demanding and delightful school of the saints. We will find ourselves beginning to live the vita liturgica in earnest.


[1] The phrase vita liturgica itself comes from Sacrosanctum Concilium §18: “Priests, both secular and religious, who are already working in the Lord’s vineyard are to be helped by every suitable means to understand ever more fully what it is that they are doing when they perform sacred rites; they are to be aided to live the liturgical life and to share it with the faithful entrusted to their care.”

[2] This is not the theoretical account they would give of themselves. It is, however, not difficult to see that the organization is not in fact centered on the opus Dei as traditionally defined and practiced, and to this extent, its name is a troubling equivocation.

[3] For supporting argumentation, see a number of the excellent “Position Papers” published by the International Federation Una Voce—on the EF and China, the EF and Africa, the EF and Islam, the EF and the New Age, etc. I am not claiming that all Catholics prior to the liturgical revolution were liturgically “literate” or that all praxis was ideal; far from it. But the Liturgical Movement had made significant inroads; the Ward method and others like it had taught countless children and adults how to sing chant; seminaries and religious houses were overflowing; confession was held in honor as a regular part of Christian life; and the list could go on and on. Anyone who cannot see that this situation was far superior to our current malaise would seem to be living in a state of denial, either from ignorance of historical record, the blinding influence of ideology, or the fear of succumbing to depression. But Our Lord teaches us that knowing the truth will set us free; it will be no different in this case. Before we can correct our wayward postconciliar course, we must first admit we made a wrong turn and are lost. Then, something can be done about it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Good Shepherd Sunday 2018

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and flieth: and the wolf catcheth, and scattereth the sheep: And the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling: and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep. And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd. (John 10, 11-16)

The Good Shepherd, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82), ca. 1660; Museo del Prado, Madrid. The ruined classical building in the background on the left represents the fallen world renewed by Christs coming, as it does also in Nativity scenes; the flock on the right alludes to the 99 sheep whom the shepherd leaves behind to seek the one that has wandered (Matthew 18, 12-13). The Christ Child wears a purple garment, the color of royalty, to indicate His divinity, and a rough skin in brown over it, to indicate His humbling of Himself in the Incarnation. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)

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