Monday, September 23, 2019

Resisting the Lowest Common Denominator: A Priest’s Cri de Coeur

Jesus did not settle for the LCD

A priest shared with me some insights from a meeting he attended of diocesan priests with their bishop. In what follows, I will be drawing upon what he told me.

In the meeting, the bishop said that the clergy should work against the temptation to settle for the “LCD,” the lowest common denominator. For, if we allow every member of the clergy to “roam free,” as it were, and aspire to no diocesan-wide standards of excellence, the principle of entropy, or we could just say man’s fallen nature, tells us that things will tend to roll down hill and decay over time, and eventually — at some point not too far down the road — every parish will face immense pressure to conform to this LCD: whatever options are least confrontational, most politically correct, and most socially acceptable will eventually win the day. It takes real vision to see this inevitable outcome and to combat it from the start. Free choice can be attractive, but ultimately results in division and degradation.

The priest then reflected: this is exactly what I and many brother priests have seen clearly happening with the liturgy. Because of the equivocal nature of the Missal of Paul VI, which leaves so much at the disposal of the celebrant, we have quickly slid to the LCD in every area where there is legitimate free choice. In other words, there is no free choice within the system.

For example:

1. A priest is free to celebrate ad orientem or versus populum — in fact, the Missal presumes celebrating ad orientem, which would put us in harmony with the rest of Tradition. But because of the LCD factor, only versus populum is acceptable. Any priest who chooses to celebrate ad orientem is seen as divisive, and is eventually pressured into conforming, unless he wants to be ostracized not only from the faithful, but even from his bishop and brother priests. But is it the priest who is the source of division? Or is it the freedom to choose either option that creates the division? It is the inevitable result of the LCD factor. Priests are accused of fighting what are called “the liturgy wars,” but are they to be blamed, or does the blame not rest squarely on the shoulders of Paul VI and his ambivalent Missal?

2. A priest is free to incorporate as much Latin as he would like. But because of the LCD, de facto only the vernacular is possible — despite the anathema from the Council of Trent: “If anyone says . . . that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only . . . let him be anathema.”

3. A priest is free to incorporate the Extraordinary Form into his parish, or his ministry, but again because of the LCD factor, this is seen as extreme and rigid, and is frowned upon to the point where it is de facto nearly impossible.

4. A priest is under no obligation to concelebrate and is perfectly free to choose to assist in choir so as to be able to celebrate his own Mass, a custom hallowed by many centuries of tradition in the Roman Rite and clearly allowed by the new Code of Canon Law. But de facto, there is immense pressure upon him to concelebrate because of the LCD factor, and to not conform results in receiving the label of being “not community-minded.” At some large gatherings for retreats or conventions or meetings, there is literally no possibility of a private Mass unless you bring your own altar, since such things are no longer even contemplated.

5. A priest is supposed to use a communion paten and not use EMHC’s except under extraordinary circumstances, but because of systemic habitual abuse in the American Church and the LCD factor, doing either of these things would be seen as extreme. The pragmatic norm, on the contrary, is to not have a communion paten but to insist on having EMHC’s.

6. The faithful are encouraged to receive Holy Communion on the tongue which is the traditional custom and still the universal norm as per the Vatican; meanwhile, they are permitted to receive in the hand as long as certain serious conditions are met. But because of the LCD factor, somewhere between 95–98% of the faithful receive in the hand. And everywhere, children receiving First Communion are not even taught the traditional practice, in spite of it still being “on the books.”

7. The same can be said of sacred music, church architecture, sacred vessels, vestments, preaching, etc., etc., etc. We are all now forced by social pressure to conform to the LCD. And what happens when a priest doesn’t want to conform to the LCD but wants to raise the bar? Well, typically the choice is either: conform to the LCD, or hit the highway. The dynamic subtly eats away at the bishop’s own integrity, because when he is confronted with complaints about a “difficult” or “demanding” priest — as identified promptly by Susan from the Parish Council — he must either stick his neck out and risk his reputation to defend the priest, or take the quieter path of pressuring the priest to conform to the LCD or be removed.

It is as if everyone is under the spell of the LCD. Such is the division that has been sown into the heart of the Church, and especially into the heart of the priesthood and religious life, by the Missal of Paul VI.

Order — or Disorder?
The laity need to understand this phenomenon if they wish to grasp why so many faithful priests who want to celebrate in harmony with tradition, and want the faithful to experience the fullness of this rich treasure that we have as Catholics, are afraid to do so, or perhaps suffer a crisis when the tension between their ideals and the LCD reality becomes too intense. Some think that there is a huge conspiracy that planned all this, and certainly this may be true, since no doubt the cunning of the devil is involved. But it can also be explained as the result of societal entropy. Because of original sin, everything tends towards decay, as we see in the movies, music, and media of our culture. The Church is immune from this decay only in her divine element; she is by no means immune to it in her human element, unless her members fight consciously and vigorously against it. The traditional liturgy had long been a barrier against this natural process, but the new Mass has let this process into the Church like a flood.

This “Trojan horse in the City of God” (to use the expression of the great Dietrich von Hildebrand), this Trojan horse in the sanctuary in the form of a new Mass, did not spring up out of nowhere. Its principles had been brewing among modernist theologians and their heirs, the theologians of the nouvelle théologie, expressed in the false distinction made by Fr. Yves Congar between the “unalterable structures” of the Church and the “accessory, changeable superstructures.”

But this mentality is nothing less than a betrayal of a mystical person, as one lover of tradition so poetically expressed it:
I do not love a skeleton nor vital organs, I love Her face, Her sparkling clothes and even Her sandals, Her entire being. With the spiritual canticle I will sing of the hair on Her neck that charmed us as well, her children, as it ravished the heart of her Spouse. Oh, may those who love the Church understand! In her features and her slightest gestures, something indescribably exquisite enraptures us to the summit of her essential Mystery. The liturgical movements, the hymns, the ornamentation of churches, the words of the catechism and the sermon, this flesh, this manner of walking, the sound of the voice, the color of the eyes, revealed the very soul, immediately, and we were struck, intoxicated by it, for Her ancient and universal soul, Her intimate life that came to comfort us, was the Holy Spirit in Person! [1]
This is the reverence that a Catholic should have towards the received rites that come down to us from tradition, and all of their ornamentation. But the new Mass incarnates the false principle of Fr. Congar by deliberately tossing all of this out of the window in a massive overhaul, giving the impression to faithful Catholics and to the world that the Catholic Faith can change its entire appearance. Since changing the so-called “accessory, changeable superstructures,” we have become painfully aware that they were instead an important part of the solid rock that formed our sure foundation, or to use the above imagery, the beautiful wedding garments of Holy Mother Church, so visibly radiant in her sacred rites. And now we find ourselves upon a foundation of sand, always shifting, and — if we are willing to be honest with ourselves — a foundation always eroding down to the LCD, again and again, like a bird with a broken wing that can only manage to throw itself a few inches, or an airplane with faulty engines that rises up from the runway only to crash just beyond it.

My correspondent concluded with this cri de coeur:
If other priests want to accept the status quo, the tyranny of the LCD, that is their decision, between them and God. Perhaps not everyone needs to fight on the front lines and resist usque ad sanguinem. But for us whose hearts belong to the Church of all times, and to her traditional rites, we seek nothing more than to access them in freedom, nothing else than to live and die with them, nothing other than to nourish the faithful with this potent food and drink. May God raise up more and more priests with such a heart.


[1] From the Abbé Georges de Nantes’s “Letter to My Friends,” no. 178, August 6, 1964. Like Padre Pio, de Nantes was reacting to the devastation already being visited on the Tridentine Mass in the mid-sixties, prior to the coup de grâce of 1969. See here for the quotation as well as the mention of Congar.

Visit for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen).

Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Beatification of Pope Innocent XI

After I posted a video of the canonization of St Pius X on September 3rd, his EF feast day, YouTube came up with a useful “you might like” suggestion, a similar report on the beatification of Pope Innocent XI, who was elected on this day in 1676, and reigned for just shy of 13 years. His cause was begun more than once, but stalled at the objections of the French monarchy, with whom he had several clashes over matters of Church-State relations. (These clashes were so severe that at one point, the Pope placed the French royal church in Rome under interdict.) By the 20th century, the controversies had largely passed, and he was beatified on October 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary, in 1956. In the translation below, I have taken a few liberties with the excessively purple prose of the Italian commentary.

“A day of great rejoicing and faith for the Catholic religion; Benedict Odescalchi, who, on ascending to the pontifical throne, was called Innocent, eleventh of that name, is today raised to the glory of the altars. Thick crowds approach the largest church in Christendom, many foreigners among them, especially increased by the presence of the Hungarians. [note] (0:30) And now, everyone’s the gaze is concentrated on the ascetic figure of the Supreme Pastor, who comes forward on the sedes gestatoria. The acclamations of the multitude rise loud and clear, as the Pontiff raises his hand in fatherly blessing. The successor of Peter, kneeling before the altar of the Chair, concentrates a long while in prayer; the brief and solemn ceremony is celebrated by Mons. Bonomini, bishop of Como (where Pope Innocent was born in 1611). Thus, as Pius XII affirmed in his radio discourse, the deep holiness of Innocent XI’s great soul is revealed in the sacred halo of the blessed which shines around his head, and the glorifies the triple diadem of the Popes, as if to symbolize his three greatest works: as reformer of the Church, vindicator of its rights, and defender of Christendom.”

[note] Pope Innocent was the principal organizers of the Holy League between the Papal States, the Holy Roman Empire, then headed by the Hapsburg monarch Leopold I, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, ruled by King Jan III Sobieski, and the Venetian Republic. This was the alliance that led to the great defeat of the Ottoman Turks outside the gates of Vienna on September 12, 1683, in thanksgiving for which the Pope instituted the feast of the Holy Name of Mary. Over the next 16 years, the Ottomans suffered a dramatic series of defeats, and were almost entirely driven out of the territories of the Kingdom of Hungary which they had overrun in the previous century. The large presence of Hungarians noted by the commentator is due to this fact.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Pontifical Requiem Mass at Farnborough Abbey

The Parisian church of St Eugène, home of the Schola Sainte-Cécile, is dedicated to a 7th century bishop of the Spanish city of Toledo, called ‘Eugenius’ in English and Latin; this dedication was also made in honor of the Empress Eugénie, the Spanish wife of the last French Emperor, Napoleon III, during whose reign the church was built. Following the overthow of the French monarchy in September of 1870, the imperial family lived in exile in England. Napoleon III died in early 1873; his heir, Louis-Napoléon, the couple’s only child, was killed in South Africa in 1879 while serving with the British Army during the Anglo-Zulu war. Two years later, Eugénie founded the abbey of Farnborough, partly to serve as a mausoleum for her husband and son; she herself was buried there as well when she died in 1920, at the age of 94. The crypt where their mortal remains repose is similar in design to the royal crypt of the abbey of St Denis just outside Paris, where Napoleon III had intended to be buried.

During the Schola’s pilgrimage to England last month, we visited Farnborough, and the Schola sang a Requiem Mass for the members of the imperial family and founders of their home parish. The Mass was celebrated by Abbot Cuthbert Brogan, in the Pontifical Rite proper to abbots, i.e., from the sedilia, rather than a faldstool. Here are some pictures of the Mass, courtesy of the Schola, as well as a video of the Introit and Kyrie. This post will be followed by another of some of my own photos of the church, which is very beautiful.

The Introit and Kyrie of the Requiem Mass for the Bishops of Langres by Nicholas-Mammès Couturier, canon and choir-master of Langres Cathedral (1840-1911).

Ordinariate Mass in Philadelphia to Celebrate Newman Canonization, October 15

On Tuesday, October 15th, a solemn Mass in the Ordinariate Use will take place at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, to celebrate the canonization of Bl. John Henry Newman. The vicar general of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter, Father Timothy Perkins, will celebrate and preach; a polyphonic choir will sing Harold Darke’s Communion in F for the Ordinary, and a chancel schola will sing the Propers of Mass in Gregorian chant. The Mass will begin at 7pm; the cathedral is located at 1723 Race Street.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Exaltation of the Cross Photopost 2019

As always, our thanks to everyone who sent these photos of their liturgies celebrated on the Exaltation of the Cross. The post is small, but contains a lot of different things; two relics of the True Cross, the Byzantine Rite, a new priest’s first Mass, and a recent Requiem. Our next photopost set will be for All Saints and All Souls; a reminder will be posted at the end of October. Evangelize through beauty!

St Patrick’s Church – New Orleans, Louisiana
This church has just instituted a daily Latin Mass, but has had a weekly Mass in Latin continually since 1967, one of the very few such places anywhere in the world. The new pastor, Fr Garret O’Brien, celebrated his first Mass as pastor this summer, on the feast of the Precious Blood.
St John the Baptist Greek-Catholic Church – Minneapolis, Minnesota
Divine Liturgy of the Feast

Other Miracles of St Januarius

Today is the feast of St Januarius, who is also widely known by the Italian form of his name “San Gennaro”, as emigrants from Naples, of which he is the principle Patron, have brought devotion to him wherever they have settled; the feast held in his honor in New York City is particularly famous. September 19th is the day of his martyrdom, which took place at Pozzuoli during the persecution of Diocletian, alongside that of several other Christians from various parts of Campania; he was in point of fact bishop of Benevento, about 33 miles to the north-east of Naples. In the Middle Ages, his relics were transferred to the important monastery of Monte Vergine, and from there to the cathedral of Naples only at the beginning of the 16th century.

He is of course especially well-known for the miracle which takes place on his feast day in most years, when the relic of his blood is brought into the presence of the relic of his skull and liquifies. Perhaps less well-known is the fact that the miracle normally happens three times a year, since Naples celebrates two other feasts of him as well. On the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, the translation of his relics is commemorated; on December 16th, a third feast commemorates a rather spectacular miracle by which St Januarius demonstrated his care for and protection of the city. In 1631, an unusually powerful lava flow from Mt Vesuvius, the crater of which is only 9 miles from the city center, had come down towards the city and threatened to destroy the granaries which would provide bread for the populace through the upcoming winter. The bishop therefore brought the Saint’s relics to the lava flow, which turned aside at that point. I attended this December feast one year, when the relics of the blood are brought from the cathedral to the church of St Clare; I could see very clearly that the liquified blood was moving around inside the crystal vial which contains it, mounted in the reliquary, as it was carried back to the large chapel at the cathedral where it is housed.

Outside the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples is a monument which commemorates another occasion on which St Januarius saved the city and the region around it from the eruptions of Vesuvius, in 1707.

“To Saint Januarius, chief patron of the city of Naples, because, when (the relic of) his sacred head was shown on an altar set up in this place, he put down and completely pacified the destructive assaults of Mt Vesuvius in the year 1707, as, with a great eruption of fire, it raged with increasing force for a great many days, and thus threatened most certainly to burn the city and all of Campania; the Neapolitans, mindful of his divine favor, as also of the countless others by which he has liberated the city and its region from war, famine, plague and earthquake, set this monument.”
Behind the cathedral, in the Piazza Cardinale Sforza, stands a large baroque obelisk, also still called by the medieval Italian term “guglia”, which was erected in the Saint’s honor after the miracle of 1631. The inscription on the base says that “the grateful city of Naples raised (it) to Saint Januarius, most ready protector of the nation and kingdom, and her most-well deserving citizen.”

And here is really magnificent reliquary formerly used for the processions, now kept in the museum at the church of St Clare, where the December liquefaction happens.

Postscript on St Thomas and the Spirit of Man

Thank you to all those who chipped in with comments on Tuesday’s article on the subject. All very helpful and interesting.

I wanted to pass on a comment that was made in a private group that discussed this question in te wake of that posting; it is quite long so I thought I would add it as a separate post. This came to me as a jpeg via text, and I don’t have access to the original, so I am sharing in jpeg format here. I haven’t credited the writer of the comment because it came to me via someone other than the writer; if the person who wrote this sees this post, and would like to identify himself, I will be happy to credit you; otherwise, thank you for your insights!

I had never heard of Rosmini before, but this does sound worthy of investigation to me! I found this book of his on Amazon, which may be a starting point for any who are curious.

The Triumph of St Thomas Aquinas, by Andrea di Buonaiuto di Firenze, 1366-7, in the Spanish Chapel of the Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Tradition is for the Young (18) - Card. Burke Celebrates Pontifical Mass in Scotland

On the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Una Voce Scotland hosted H.E. Raymond Cardinal Burke for the celebration of a Pontifical High Mass at the church of the Immaculate Heart in the Balornock district of Glasgow – how better to mark the 12th anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum! Once again, we should all find it very encouraging to see how young the people are who made the effort and committment to put together this kind of ceremony, which requires a good amount of work and rehearsal. This is plainly not based in nostalgia, but a real love for the richness and beauty of our Catholic liturgical tradition. (Our thanks to Una Voce Scotland for sharing with is these photos by Mr Matthew Lukowski.)

The genuflection at the words of the Epistle (Phil. 2, 5-11), “that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth:”

The Jerusalem Motets of William Byrd

The ancient corpus of Matins responsories that accompanies the readings from the book of Tobias this week includes one that is actually not Biblical at all, although the verse with which it is sung comes from the book of Judith. (It is repeated on some of the weekdays, including today.)

R. Tribulationes civitatum audivimus quas passae sunt, et defecimus; timor et hebetudo mentis cecidit super nos et super liberos nostros: ipsi montes nolunt recipere fugam nostram; * Domine, miserere. V. Peccavimus cum patribus nostris, injuste egimus, iniquitatem fecimus. Domine, miserere.

R. We have heard of the tribulations of the cities which they have suffered, and we have grown faint; fear and dullness of mind have fallen upon us and upon our children; the very mountains will not receive our flight; o Lord, have mercy. V. We have sinned with our fathers we have done unjustly, we have commited iniquity; o Lord, have mercy.

Folio 98v of the Antiphonary of Compiègne, also known as the antiphonary of Charles the Bald, 860-77 AD, with the texts of three antiphons from the book of Job, six responsories and three antiphons from the book of the Tobias, and the first two from the book of Judith, the second of which is Tribulationes civitatumall of these are used in the month of September. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 17436) – The original corpus for Tobias included only these six responsories, which cover the first two nocturns of Sunday Matins; responsories for the third nocturn, including Tribulationes civitatum, were usually supplied from those assigned to other books.
This was beautifully set as a motet by the composer William Byrd, but with modifications to the text, which is no longer structured as a responsory. The words “Domine, ad te sunt oculi nostri, ne pereamus” are inserted from one of the responsories of the following month which accompany the books of the Maccabees, and the last part is completely changed, also borrowed in part from one of the Maccabee responsories.

Tribulationes civitatum audivimus quas passae sunt, et defecimus; Domine, ad te sunt oculi nostri, ne pereamus; timor et hebetudo mentis cecidit super nos et super liberos nostros: ipsi montes nolunt recipere fugam nostram; Domine, miserere. Nos enim pro peccatis nostris haec patimur; aperi oculos tuos, Domine, et vide afflictionem nostram. (We have heard of the tribulations of the cities which they have suffered, and we have grown faint; o Lord, to Thee do we look, lest we perish; fear and dullness of mind have fallen upon us and upon our children; the very mountains will not receive our flight; o Lord, have mercy; for we suffer these things for our sins, open Thy eyes, o Lord, and see our affliction.)

This is one of three works known collectively as ‘the Jerusalem motets’, written by the Catholic Byrd in response to the intensification of anti-Catholic persecution in England under Queen Elizabeth I. The “city” in each case is the Catholic Church, and the pleas to the Lord for mercy are made collectively, in the plural, which it to say, on behalf of all the persecuted. The second motet is purely Biblical, taken from Isaiah 64, 9-10.

Ne irascaris, Domine, satis, et ne ultra memineris iniquitatis nostrae; ecce, respice, populus tuus omnes nos. Civitas Sancti tui facta est deserta, Sion deserta facta est, Jerusalem desolata est.  Be not very angry, O Lord, and remember no longer our iniquity: behold, see, we are all thy people. The city of thy sanctuary is become a desert, Sion is made a desert, Jerusalem is desolate.
The third, Vide, Domine, has only a few words taken directly from a liturgical text, “veni, Domine, et noli tardare”, from one of the responsories of Advent.

Vide, Domine, afflictionem nostram, et in tempore maligno ne derelinquas nos. Plusquam Hierusalem facta est deserta civitas electa; gaudium cordis nostri conversum est in luctum, et jocunditas nostra in amaritudinem conversa est; sed veni, Domine, et noli tardare, et revoca dispersos in civitatem tuam. Da nobis, Domine, pacem tuam diu desideratam, pax sanctissima, et miserere populi tui gementis et flentis, Domine. Deus noster. – See our affliction, o Lord, and do not forsake us in the evil time. More than Jerusalem, the chosen city hath become desert; the joy of our heart is turned to mourning, and our delight to bitterness; but come, o Lord, and tarry not, and recall the scattered ones into thy city. Grant us, O Lord, thy peace, long desired, (o most holy peace), and have mercy on thy mourning, weeping people, o Lord our God.

Byrd’s collaborator Thomas Tallis was a generation older; having grown up in the Catholic Church before the many woes inflicted upon it by the impiety and avarice of the English monarchs, he remained a Catholic all his life. From the liturgical texts of the same period, he drew the words of one of the most famous motets of all time, very much on the same theme, the Spem in alium for forty voices. In the Office, it is sung as a responsory with the book of Esther in the last week of September, but it is another ecclesiastical composition, not an exact citation of any Biblical text.

Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te, Deus Israel, qui irasceris et propitius eris, et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis. Domine Deus, creator caeli et terrae, respice humilitatem nostram. – I have never had hope in any other but in Thee, o God of Israel, who grow wroth, and art merciful, and forgivest all the sins of men in (their) tribulation. O Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, look upon our lowliness  

Una Voce Canada Meeting on Oct.12, with Guest Speaker Dr John Pepino

The annual general meeting of Una Voce Canada (Vancouver Traditional Mass Society) will be held on Saturday, October 12, following the 9 a.m. Mass at Holy Family Church, which is located at 4851 Beatrice Street, Vancouver, British Columbia. For more information, please see the Una Voce Canda website:

The meeting will take place in the parish hall. The guest speaker will be Dr John Pepino, Professor of Greek, Latin, Patristics, and History at the FSSP Seminary of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lincoln, Nebraska; the title of his talk is “The Roman Mass from the Eve of Trent to the Present and Beyond: An Overview.” Besides his study of the development of the Roman Mass and writing on the liturgy, he has translated the memoirs of Fr Louis Bouyer and the recent biography of Annibale Bugnini, both published by Angelico Press.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Stigmata of St Francis

The Stigmata of St Francis are one of the most thoroughly well-attested miracles in the history of the Church; they were of course seen by many people in the two-year period from when he first received them to his death. The revised Butler’s Live of the Saints quotes one of the very earliest documents to speak of them, the letter which Brother Elias, whom Francis personally chose to run his Order, sent to his brethren in France to announce the death of their founder. “From the beginning of ages there has not been heard so great a wonder, save only in the Son of God who is Christ our God. For a long while before his death, our father and brother appeared crucified, bearing in his body the five wounds which are verily the Stigmata of Christ; for his hands and feet had as it were piercings made by nails fixed in from above and below, which laid open the scars and had the black appearance of nails; while his side appeared to have been lanced, and blood often trickled therefrom.”

St Francis Receives the Stigmata, by Giotto, 1295-1300; originally painted for the church of St Francis in Pisa, now in the Louvre. The predella panels show the vision of Pope Innocent III, who in a dream beheld St Francis holding up the collapsing Lateran Basilica, followed by the approval of the Franciscan Rule, and St Francis preaching to the birds. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
One of the very few acts of the brief pontificate of the Dominican Pope Benedict XI (October 1303 – July 1304) was to grant to his fellow mendicants of the Franciscan Order permission to keep a special feast of the Stigmata of St Francis. St Bonaventure’s Legenda Major, which the Order recognized as the official biography of its founder, and read at Matins on his feast day, states that Francis received the Stigmata “around the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross”, which is on September 14th. Since the 15th was at the time the octave of Our Lady’s Nativity, and the 16th the very ancient feast of Ss Cornelius and Cyprian, the feast of the Stigmata was assigned to the 17th, where it is still kept to this day.

Before the Tridentine reform, the Franciscans repeated the introit of the Exaltation, Nos autem gloriari oportet, at the Mass of the Stigmata, emphasizing not only the merely historical connection between the two events, but also the uniqueness of their founder, whom St Bonaventure describes as one “marked with a privilege not granted to any age before his own.” The modern Missal cites this introit to Galatians, 6, 14, but it is really an ecclesiastical composition, and hardly even a paraphrase of any verse of Scripture. It is also the introit of Holy Thursday, and in the post-Tridentine period, this use was apparently felt to be a little hubristic; it was therefore replaced with a new one, Mihi autem, which quotes that same verse exactly. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” The verse with which it is sung is the first of Psalm 141, “I cried to the Lord with my voice: with my voice I made supplication to the Lord,” the Psalm which St Francis was in the midst of reciting at the moment of his death. The music of this later introit is copied almost identically from another which also begins with the words Mihi autem, and is sung on the feasts of various Apostles, underscoring the point that St Francis was, as one of the antiphons of his proper Office says, a “vir catholicus et totus apostolicus – a Catholic man, wholly like the Apostles.”

This feast has the distinction of being the very first one added to the general calendar after the Tridentine reform not as the principal feast of a Saint, but one instituted to commemorate a miracle. [1] This was originally done by Pope Sixtus V (1585-90), who, like St Bonaventure, had been Minister General of the Franciscans, and showed a great deal of liturgical favoritism to his order. (He also added the feasts of Ss Anthony of Padua and Francis di Paola, the founder of the Minim Friars, to the calendar, and made Bonaventure a Doctor of the Church.) When Pope Clement VIII issued the first revision of the Pian Breviary in 1602, the feast was suppressed, only to be restored 13 years later by Pope Paul V [2], at the behest of one of his most trusted councilors, St Robert Bellarmine.

St Robert had a great devotion to St Francis, on whose feast day he was born in 1542. His native city, Montepulciano, is in the southeastern part of Tuscany, fairly close to both Assisi and Bagnoreggio, the home of St Bonaventure, and very much in the original Franciscan heartland. Not long after he entered the Jesuits, the master general, St Francis Borgia, commissioned a new chapel dedicated to his name-saint, with a painting of him receiving the Stigmata as the main altarpiece. It was built within what was then the Order’s only church in Rome, dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, devotion to which was a Franciscan creation, and heavily promoted by another of their Saints, Bernardin of Siena, who was also Tuscan. This chapel was clearly intended to underline the similarities between the Jesuits and Franciscans as orders promoting reform within the Church, while remaining wholly obedient to it, zealous evangelizers, strictly orthodox, and spiritually grounded in an intensely personal devotion to and union with Christ.

The chapel of the Sacred Heart, originally dedicated to St Francis of Assisi, at the Jesuit church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Rome, popularly known as ‘il Gesù.’ In 1920, the original altarpiece of St Francis Receiving the Stigmata by Durante Alberti was replaced by the painting of the Sacred Heart seen here, a work of Pompeo Battoni done in oil on slate in 1767. Previously displayed on the altar of St Francis Xavier, which is right outside this chapel, it was the very first image of the Sacred Heart to be exposed for veneration in Italy after the visions of St Margaret Mary Alacoque. The other images of St Francis, all part of the chapel’s original decoration, remain in place. (Photo courtesy of Mr Jacob Stein, author of the blog Passio Xpi.)
But the extension of the feast to the general calendar also touches on a much larger issue, one which colors the Tridentine reform, and especially that of the Breviary, in several ways, namely, the response to the Protestant reformation.

St Francis is today held in admiration so broadly by Catholics, non-Catholics and even non-Christians alike, that it is perhaps hard for us to appreciate today how he was seen by the original Protestant reformers. Even within Luther’s lifetime, it was hardly possible to get two of them together to agree on any point; broadly speaking, however, they generally accepted that things had really gone wrong in the Church with the coming of the mendicants, especially the Franciscans, and the flourishing of their teachings in the universities. Luther himself once said “If I had all the Franciscan friars in one house, I would set fire to it”, and more generally, “a friar is evil every way, whether in the monastery or out of it.” Most Protestants had no patience for the ascetic ideals embodied by Saints like Francis and the other mendicants, an attitude sadly shared by supercilious humanists within the Church like Erasmus.

Of course, the mendicants were not immune to the widespread decadence of religious and clerical life justly decried by the true reformers of that age, and which sadly provided much grist for the Protestant mill. And yet, while Ignatius of Loyola was still the equivalent of a freshman in college, the great Franciscan reform of the Capuchins had already begun; where the Jesuits would soon prove the most effective of the new orders in combatting the heresies of the 16th century, the Capuchins would take that role among the older ones. This may be what moved Luther to say, “If the emperor would merit immortal praise, he would utterly root out the order of the Capuchins, and, for an everlasting remembrance of their abominations, cause their books to remain in safe custody. ’Tis the worst and most poisonous sect; the (other orders of) friars are in no way comparable with these confounded lice.” [3]

Fra Matteo Bassi, founder of the Capuchins, and quite possibly the only founder of a Franciscan order who was never canonized; 17th century, author unknown. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
The Tridentine reform was in its essence the Catholic Church’s answer to the question of what to do with what it had developed over the course of the Middle Ages, in response to the Protestant rejection of such developments, and putative return to the most ancient roots of the Christian Faith. It sought to determine which parts of the Church’s medieval inheritance were of perennial or continued value, which needed to be rejected, and which needed to be modified and reformed. This included all aspects of its life: its many institutional forms, its intellectual tradition, its art and architecture, and of course, its liturgy.

St Francis was both a product of the Middle Ages, and a creator of one of its most important and characteristic institutions; he was no more a creation of Luther and Calvin’s imaginary “primitive” church than he was a modern environmentalist. The placement of his feast on the general calendar serves as a very useful reminder that it was a man of that era who was the first conformed to Christ so entirely that he merited to bear His wounds upon his own body.

On April 16, 1959, Pope St John XXIII addressed the following words to a gathering of Franciscans in the Lateran Basilica, where Pope Innocent III had once met the Poor Man of Assisi himself, the occasion being the 750th anniversary of the approval of the Franciscan Rule. “Beloved sons! Permit us to add a special word from the heart, to all those present who belong to the peaceable army of the Lay Tertiaries of St Francis. ‘Ego sum Ioseph, frater vester.’ (‘I am Joseph, your brother’, citing Genesis 45, 4, Joseph being his baptismal name), … This we ourselves have been since our youth, when, having just turned fourteen, on March 1, 1896, we were regularly inscribed through the ministry of Canon Luigi Isacchi, our spiritual father, who was then the director of the seminary of Bergamo.” He went on to recall the Franciscan house of Baccanello, near the place where he grew up, as the first religious house he ever knew, and that four days earlier, he had canonized his first Saint, the Franciscan Carlo of Sezze.

The following year, Pope John approved the decree for the reform of the Breviary and Missal which reduced the feast of St Francis’ Stigmata to a commemoration. As such, the Mass can still be celebrated ad libitum, but is no longer mandatory, and the story of the Stigmata is no longer told in the Breviary. In the post-Conciliar reform, it was removed from the general calendar entirely, and replaced by the feast of St Robert Bellarmine, who died in 1621 on the very feast day he had promoted. It is still kept by the Franciscan Orders.

[1] Before the Tridentine reform, there were many feasts and Saints who were celebrated everywhere the Roman Rite was used, and many of these feasts did originate in Rome itself, but there was no such thing as a “general” calendar of feasts that had to be kept ubique et ab omnibus. When the first general calendar was created in 1568, which is to say, a calendar created with the specific intention that it would also be used outside its diocese of origin, a number of miracle feasts were included; all of these were present in pre-Tridentine editions of the Roman liturgical books, and celebrated in many other places as well.

[2] The feast was added to the calendar by Pope Paul V as a semidouble ad libitum in 1615, made mandatory by Pope Clement IX (1667-69), and raised to the rank of double by Clement XIV, the last Franciscan Pope.

[3] Thanks to Dr Donald Prudlo for this quote from Luther, and the one that precedes it.

Does Thomism Disregard the Spirit?

Am I wrong, or does the Roman Church, and Thomists in particular, have a tendency to neglect discussion of the spirit of man?

While in the Eastern Church, it seems to be taken for granted that this is part of the anthropology, it is not always the case in the West. I have come across Roman Catholics who omit mention of it when discussing the nature of man, or skip over it quickly with a remark such as, “I’m a Thomist, so I’m not sure what the spirit is.”

The Catechism is vague. In the section “Body and Soul But Truly One” (362-368) it stresses the unity of body and soul in man, but mentions the spirit almost as an afterthought without clearly defining it.

I’m wondering why this is? After all, the idea of the spirit of man is rooted in Scripture. St Paul refers to man as body, soul, and spirit, as does the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews. (I understand that Scripture scholars, following Ronald Knox, are now coming back to the idea that St Paul wrote this epistle too.) However, the concept of the spirit does not arise naturally out of philosophical anthropology, and is not referred to by Aristotle. I’m wondering if this apparent neglect is a reflection of this fact. Another factor may be that historically, in seminarian formation in the West, there has been a higher focus on philosophy, and relatively less focus on Scripture than in the seminary formation of priests in the Eastern Church. St Pius X commented on the adverse effects of this in Quoniam in Re Biblica.

Here are some thoughts that I have about the importance of following Scriptural anthropology:

I was first presented with the idea of the spirit when learning to paint. When I was studying iconography, we would sometimes paint a separated shape in a furrowed brow, between the eyebrows. This is not present in all icons, but I was told that this can be and is considered a symbolic representation of the “spiritual eye” by which we “see” God, and that this is the spirit, the highest aspect of the soul.

From my contact with Eastern Christians, here is my simple understanding of how the spirit relates to the soul: the spirit is the highest part of the soul. It is that part of the soul which touches God, a portal for the grace that pours out from God, ‘transfiguring’ us into the image and the likeness of God. The divinely created order of the human person is the spirit, which is closest to God, rules the rest of the soul, which in turn governs the body. All move together in union and communion with God. This does not introduce a duality into the soul; rather it distinguishes between the highest and lowest parts of a single entity. The higher parts liken us to angels and the lower to animals.

Here is Ephraim the Syrian, who is a Doctor of the Church, saying it far more eloquently in his Hymns of Paradise:
Far more glorious than the body is the soul, and more glorious still than the soul is the spirit, but more hidden than the spirit is the Godhead.
At the end, the body will put on the beauty of the soul, the soul will put on that of the spirit, while the spirit shall put on the very likeness of God’s majesty.
For bodies shall be raised to the level of souls, and the soul to that of the spirit, while the spirit shall be raised to the height of God’s majesty.
The account of precisely which faculties are proper to the spirit alone and which are proper to the rest of the soul does vary from commentator to commentator. What complicates the matter further in the East is that even when writing in Greek, the Church Fathers did not always use the same word when referring to the spirit. I’m not a Greek scholar, but they seem to switch between psyche and nous. I’m guessing that the meanings of particular words had migrated over centuries, and so they wrote for their own time. Nevertheless, a common thread that seems discernible is that the spirit is the highest aspect of the soul by which we “see” God.

Consistent with this, a Melkite Catholic priest gave us three simple Lenten exercises this year (in addition to the Lenten fast). First was some additional physical exercise to help the body, second engaged the intellect with some elevating reading or study, and third was to add something to our prayer lives.

The threefold anthropology is present in the Western tradition and even in the writing of St Thomas. In the Letter to the Hebrews (4, 12) we read:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
And in his commentary on this passage St Thomas wrote:
According to the Apostle there are three things in man: body, soul, and spirit: ‘That you wholly spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord.’ (1 Thess. 5, 23). For we know what the body is. But the soul is that which gives life to the body; whereas the spirit in bodily things is something subtle and signifies immaterial substance: ‘Egypt is man and not God: and their horses, flesh, and not spirit.’ (Isa. 31, 3) Therefore, the spirit in us is that by which we are akin to spiritual substances; but the soul is that through which we are akin to the brutes. Consequently, the spirit is the human mind, namely, the intellect and will. This has led some to assert that there are different souls in us: one which perfects and vivifies the body and is called a soul in the proper sense; another is the spirit, having an intellect by which we understand and a will by which we will. Consequently, those two are called substances rather than souls. But this opinion was condemned in the book, The Dogmas of the Church. Therefore, we must say that the essence of the soul is one and the same, and by its essence it vivifies the body, and by its power, which is called the intellect, it is the principle of understanding eternal things. (Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews 222)
This last point, that recognition of the existence of the spirit does not introduce a duality into the soul, is also emphasized in the Catechism (CCC 367).

St Thomas’ analysis is consistent with that of the Eastern Fathers, in respect to his consideration of the spirit as the highest aspect of the soul (although it might differ in other ways). This makes the reluctance of Thomists to engage with the subject all the more surprising to me.

Some recent commentators in the Roman Church are addressing the subject, but they tend to be outside the Thomist mainstream. So for example, in 2001, the late Stratford Caldecott presented a paper at a Liturgical conference at Fontgombault in France called, Towards a Liturgical Anthropology. Caldecott suggested that the diminishment of the importance of the spirit in Catholic anthropology has led, in part, to the rise of the error of dualism in the West, and to an incomplete participation in the liturgy at least since the 19th century; and this, in turn, has led to the Catholic cultural decline that we are all so well aware of. The passage from St Ephraim suggests that the spirit is a special place in us that is in primary contact with God’s majesty, and that it is itself raised to God’s majesty and is transfigured. Thereffore, this indicates a special place for the spirit in our participation in the liturgy, for the liturgy is the primary encounter with God by which we ascend by degrees in this life to union with God and which is complete, as St Ephrem puts it ‘at the end’ in paradise. It reinforces an idea that Caldecott described in his essay, for example:
In his essay on “Tripartite Anthropology” in the collection Theology in History, Henri de Lubac traces the rise and fall in Christian tradition of the idea that man is composed not simply of body and soul, but of body, soul and spirit (1 Thess. 5, 23). Of course, in much of the tradition the soul and spirit are treated as one, yet traces of the distinction remain, whether in St Teresa’s reference to the “spirit of the soul” or (arguably) in St Thomas’s intellectus agens. It is certainly present in The Philokalia, where the eastern fathers contrast the nous dwelling in the depths of the soul with the dianoia or discursive reason. Jean Borella also writes of this topic of the “human ternary,” making clear its roots in the Old Testament. For the philosopher who became John Paul II, the “third” in question seems to be that “reflexive” consciousness by which we experience the drama of human existence as acting persons.
The spirit is the “place” within us where we receive the kiss of life from our Creator (Gen. 2, 7), and where God makes his throne in the saints. Thus when St Paul appeals to the Romans (12, 1-2) to present their bodies as a living sacrifice in “spiritual worship” (logike latreia), he immediately continues: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind [nous], that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Paul implies that the “logic” of Christian worship — a logic of self-sacrifice that conforms us to the will of God - corresponds to a new intelligence. Discussions of the liturgy in the immediate postconciliar period may not have taken enough account of this fact – with the results we have already noted.
Sitting on the panel of speakers at that conference and listening to the presentation was Cardinal Ratzinger. He has written and spoken about the importance of the spirit both before and since. For example, speaking in a general audience on St Gregory of Nyssa, he described this anthropology of body, soul, and spirit as part of the tradition of the Church.

Much earlier, he wrote an article on the nature of the human person entitled Retrieving the Tradition - Concerning the Notion of Person in Theology, published in the Fall 1990 edition of Communio. His approach was, as the title suggested, theological, and it describes how the notion of the human person has arisen from the development of a theology of the persons of the Trinity. From this, he identifies the human spirit as that part of us that makes us distinct from other, lower, creatures, as it enables us to be in relation to others and in relation to God, and to be self-aware in a unique way:
It is the nature of spirit to put itself in relation, the capacity to see itself and the other. Hedwig Conrad-Martius speaks of the retroscendence of the spirit: the spirit is not merely there; it goes back upon itself, as it were; it knows about itself; it constitutes a doubled existence which not only is, but knows about itself, has itself. The difference between matter and spirit would, accordingly, consist in this, that matter is what is “das auf sich Geworfole” (that which is thrown upon itself), while the spirit is “das sich selbst Entwerfende” (that which throws itself forth, guides itself or designs itself) which is not only there, but is itself in transcending itself, in looking toward the other and in looking back upon itself. However, this may be in detail - we need not investigate it here - openness, relatedness to the whole, lies in the essence of the spirit. And precisely in this, namely, that it not only is, but reaches beyond itself, it comes to itself. In transcending itself it has itself; by being with the other it first becomes itself, it comes to itself. Expressed differently again: being with the other is its form of being with itself. One is reminded of a fundamental theological axiom that is applicable here in a peculiar manner, namely Christ’s saying, “Only the one who loses himself can find himself.”
It is the faculty of love by which we relate to God. God loves us, we accept that love and then return it to him. Only then are we, in turn, able to relate to and love other persons. The dynamic of love that originates with God stimulates a special form of knowing and a special form of desiring. If this is indeed the influence of the spirit, it is not so much a seperate entity that can be isolated, but rather one that is influenced by the divine, and in turn impinges upon all aspects of our humanity. It engages all other human faculties, purifies, transforms and elevates them all. We are exalted and directed to our highest end in a unity of the human person.

The desire to love God and to worship him - the virtue of religion - is something that differentiates us from the animals and likens us to angels. It is also the highest expression of the love of God. It is easy to see how the neglect of consideration of the spirit of man might indeed affect our liturgical life profoundly, with all the ramifications that will have on the Christian life and society as a whole.

To think of just once example: the flawed New Age spirituality promoted an anthropology of Mind, Body, Spirit. One wonders if this arose out of a misdirected but instinctive sense of what was right. Perhaps we should be relaunching a Body, Soul, Spirit spirituality to supplant this. This would be a richer spirituality rooted in the Church Fathers, liturgically oriented and founded on a correct understanding of man.

These New Age philosophies, be they the self-indulgent spirituality of California Buddhism or superstitious crystal gazing, fail to deliver what people really want. Christianity - or more particular Christ - is what we yearn for, and Christianity contains all that we need to get it.

However, few are likely to take this path unless we Christians are capable of offering to them, and that begins by grasping it ourselves. So, here is a call for help! All those involved in the creative retrieval of Thomism, of the sort engaged in by figures in the recent past, such as Norris Clarke and Cornelio Fabro, perhaps you could turn your thoughts to the Pauline threefold anthropology? The alternative is to look at the Eastern Fathers for inspiration, and be prepared to pass that on, perhaps giving it a Thomistic spin in the process in order to encourage others in the West to look at it! Wherever we get it from, I think it matters.
Oh no...

Monday, September 16, 2019

“Reactive Participation”: Further Thoughts on the Missa Murmurata

In light of last week’s kerfuffle, it may be helpful to introduce to some readers a certain book that should be familiar already, but in these days of confusion, one hardly knows. Wasting no time in preliminaries, here, then, is an altar missal:

Yes, the one depicted above is black, while most extant copies are red or burgundy, but that’s an accidental difference. Here’s the title page:

This is a 1920 missal (as indicated in the mention of Benedict XV) in an edition published in New York in 1947. Classic years of the untampered-with Missale Romanum.

In this book, as in its precursors and successors (to 1962), there is a section entitled Rubricae Generales Missalis. These are the general rubrics — directions for the priest using the missal, telling him what to do and say, and how to do it and say it. Within, there is a chapter numbered XVI:

Voilà! These are the paragraphs on the parts of Mass to be said aloud or silently, as translated in my preceding post. The paragraphs with their clear content really do exist and really do govern the celebration of Mass. They are not “a personal preference,” or an attempt at quashing legitimate diversity, or a Trojan Horse for the Dialogue Mass or the Radical Liturgical Movement.

The article “The Parish Low Mass is Not a ‘Silent’ Mass” met with fierce resistance on the part of some who do not read carefully or make distinctions.

Let’s review what was said.

1. Priests should observe the rubrics of the missal.

2. This is even more the case if the rubric is designed to share the public prayer of the Church with the public.

3. It is a good thing to be able to hear the prayers of the Mass that are meant to be said or sung aloud, regardless of whether one has a daily missal to hand or not. Indeed, if one likes to follow the Proper of the Mass but happens to be sans missal, audibility becomes still more important.

And let’s review what was not said.

1. There should never be any silence at all for meditating or for praying the Rosary.

2. Everyone should be saying everything at Mass — “dialogue till you die!”

3. A silent monastic Mass is evil and should be abolished.

4. My personal preferences should be those of everyone else.

5. Everyone should have his eyes or nose glued into a hand missal.

Here are five pieces of advice for critics of the Missa recitata:

1. Learn to read the rubrics. They are quite interesting, have a rich history, and are there for a good reason. At least, this can be safely assumed until the reform, at first tipsy, later intoxicated, gets into full swing in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s.

2. Abusus non tollit usum: the deformation of right principle by the reformers does not diminish the rightness of said principle. The reformers wanted the liturgy to be within the hands and hearts of the faithful. Fair enough. Then they slashed and burned the inherited liturgy, with its immeasurable treasures, and built a sleek new liturgy that reflected their modern prejudices. Bad business. The desideratum did not necessitate the disaster.

3. Slippery slope arguments are amongst the weakest. “If you think the priest should speak up, or the faithful join their prayers to the Church’s, then — then — it’s only a matter of time before you’ll want — the vernacular! and communion in the hand! and altar girls! and…” Really?

4. A Low Mass offered according to the rubrics still has plenty of silence in it. No one in the traditional movement will want to do away with the silent Canon that we all dearly love. By this time, we have learned a thing or two from the dark years of autodemolition.

Why have some people arrived at the idea that a stone-silent parish Low Mass, contra rubricas, is either ideal, or at least a form of legitimate diversity? (Again, please read carefully: I am speaking of a regular parish Mass intentionally offered in the presence of a congregation, not a monastic side-chapel Mass at 6:30 a.m. with a couple of boy scouts on their knees in the dim shadow.)

1. The Missa Murmurata was a highly useful precaution against English soldiers combing through the hedges and bogs to arrest Irish priests. Noise attracted danger.

2. The Missa Murmurata is also as remote as possible from the Novus Ordo and all its pomps and works. One gets to relish a nice chunk of quiet personal prayer, while leaving “that liturgy business” to the priest, and then one can receive Communion. In short: the ideal communion service! (And people wonder where the abuses of the postconciliar period came from? Hint: they were already in place, albeit less offensively!) This is what I call “Reactive Participation”: anything that happens to be done in connection with the Novus Ordo should never be done in the old Mass.

While skittishness about repeating the abuses that the Novus Ordo ushered in, especially the reformers’ faulty notion of what constitutes participatio actuosa, is understandable, one ought not to allow such a fear to cloud one’s judgement. Likewise, while the practice of silent Masses was prudent in Ireland under English oppression (see Mass in a Connemara Cabin by Aloysius O’Kelly) and indeed testifies to the heroic fortitude of a great Christian people under trying circumstances, it hardly constitutes an exemplar of the best we can offer to God in a time of freedom.

Priests who remember starting up the TLM again after its near extinction remember what it was like in those bumpy days. Any movement towards having the people participate, other than flipping pages and suppressing noisy kids, was met with “You don’t mean the DIALOGUE MASS, Father?” In other words, anything but Cleveland 1956 was perceived as stepping onto the slippery slope.

Now one need have no particular bone to pick with Cleveland or 1956 in order to have a fundamental objection to the notion that the public prayer of the Church should not be given to God in a public manner that the faithful themselves, if they wish, can internalize in the normal way in which speech is heard and pondered. The very texts of the old Mass are full of ageless wisdom and burning charity. [1] This is our common possession as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, and some of it — the parts codified in the rubrics under discussion — is meant to be prayed in common, in such a way that those who either have a missal or have learned Latin can follow and internalize those antiphons, prayers, and readings if they wish. Outside of individual higher states of prayer, which in any case go beyond words, people have a normal human expectation to hear and grasp the words of the liturgy. After all, it is not, as such, a private ineffable ecstasy, but a verbal sacrifice of praise.

The admiration for St. Pius X is surely well-deserved. It was this Pope who not only encouraged frequent communion but also urged Catholics to “pray the Mass, not merely pray at Mass.” There is more than one way to carry out this advice, and indeed, as Pius XII famously said, not even the same person always wants to pray the same way. Some days we look at a missal, other days we don’t; some days we might pray the Sorrowful Mysteries and meditate on the Crucifixion during the Canon, other days we might sit there quietly, watching, listening, silently absorbing the gestures that are themselves a sublime form of prayer. The rubrics of the Church are meant to guard and foster all these ways of participating, not to dictate only one way to the laity; and yet, allowing for slight differences, there must be a correct way for the priest to offer the Mass if our worship is not to explode into as many different liturgies as there are celebrants. This, in fact, is what the Novus Ordo has done for the Church, and we can see the fragments of faith and innocence scattered about, past all hope of recollection.

In short, there ought to be an objective stability in how Mass is offered so that the faithful know what to expect, know what Holy Mother Church is sharing with them to nourish their prayer, and can, accordingly, conform themselves to the liturgy in order to pray as best they can, in their several ways.


[1] This is why I tend to agree with the perspective of a sermon on the use of the missal by Fr. Joseph Kreuter, OSB, printed in Orate Fratres of October 7, 1933, and reprinted at Rorate Caeli.

Visit for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen).

Children’s Choir Information Request

We will shortly be publishing our annual list of Children’s Liturgical Choirs. If you are a Pastor or Director of Music with such a choir, please check last year’s list here and email me at with any amendments, deletions or additions. We hope to publish the updated list next weekend. If you are providing details of a new entry, please ensure that you use the format shown in last year’s list. Many thanks!

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