Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Martyrs of the Theban Legion

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Thomas of Villanova (1488-1555), an Augustinian friar who became Archbishop of Valencia in Spain in 1516, and served in that office until his death, which happened on the feast of Our Lady’s Nativity. When he was canonized in 1658, Pope Alexander VII took the unusual step of assigning him to a date already occupied by another feast, that of Ss Maurice and Companions, also known as the Martyrs of the Theban Legion, who were thus reduced to a commemoration. This is unusual for two reasons.

The Martyrdom of Ss Maurice and Companions, by El Greco, 1580-2 (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
First, at the time, there was a date closer to that of his death, September 18th, which was free of any general observance; indeed, the Saint who would later occupy it, Joseph of Cupertino, was still alive in this world. Second, even though the feast of these martyrs was kept at the lowest rank, it was still very uncommon to place one feast on top of another where it was possible to avoid doing so, and this remained a general principle for centuries. [1] Even so late as 1954, the feast of Pope St Pius X was assigned to a date two weeks after his death date, rather than either of the similarly low-ranked feasts in the area (Aug. 26 and Sept. 1).

This decision most likely reflects a certain diffidence about the historical details of the martyrs in question, whose feast was previously reduced in the Tridentine reform from an Office of nine proper historical readings to only one.
They are called “the Theban Legion” from the place where they were recruited, Thebes [2], which in very ancient times had been the capital of the Kingdom of Upper Egypt. The traditional story recounts that they were all Christians, and sent to Gaul in the year 287 AD, specifically, the area around Lake Geneva, where they were placed under the command of the Emperor Maximian. The first account of their passion was written by St Eucherius, bishop of Lyon, who was born about a century after their time, and died ca. 450, who represents Maximian as a ferocious persecutor of the Christians, one who, “beset by greed, lust, cruelty and the other vices … had armed his impiety to extinguish the name of Christianity.”
The emperor therefore ordered the Theban legion to participate in the persecution of their coreligionists, which they refused absolutely to do so, withdrawing to the town of Agaunum, a short distance from the main encampment. For this, they were then “decimated”, a traditional disciplinary practice of the Roman army by which every tenth man of a refractory military unit was killed. Encouraged particularly by three of their officers, Mauritius, Exsuperius and Candidus, the soldiers remained wholly unintimidated. Eucherius’ account includes the text of their written statement sent to the Emperor, expressing their continued refusal to obey him, which begins as follows.
“We are thy soldiers, o emperor, but yet servants of God, which we freely confess. To thee we owe our military service, but to Him our innocence. (i.e., the duty to remain free from sin.) From thee we have receive the wage of our work, but from Him, the very beginning of our life. In this, we can in no wise follow the emperor, that we should deny God, who is indeed our maker and Lord, and thy maker too, will thou or no. If we are not forced so grievously to offend Him, we will obey as we have hitherto; otherwise we will obey him rather than thee.”
A 12th century reliquary bust of the skull of St Candidus, from the treasury of the Abbey of St Maurice. which located on the site of their martyrdom in ancient Agaunum, now known as Saint Maurice. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Lothar Spurzem, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE)
The legion, numbering 6000, was then massacred without offering any resistance. Eucherius also reports that a veteran named Victor happened to pass by as the soldiers who had perpetrated the massacre were dining off the spoils of their victims, and invited him to join them. On learning the cause of the party, he refused to join in; when asked whether he too was a Christian, he replied that he was and always would be, for which he was immediately killed. “And as he was joined to the other martyrs in that same place in death, so also he is joined to them in honor. Of that company of martyrs, only these names are known to us, those of the most blessed Maurice, Exsuperius, Candidus and Victor; the rest are unknown to us, but are written in the book of life.”
The historical difficulty here lies in the reported cause of the martyrs’ death, which requires a bit of background to understand.
The 3rd century was an era of prolonged crisis for the Roman Empire, often described as a “military anarchy”, with one general after another contending for the imperial throne, and most meeting a violent death at the hands of their successor after only a few years. The man who, after almost 50 years of this, finally began to restore stability was Diocletian, who became emperor in 284, and is now infamous as the last major persecutor of the Christians. Recognizing that the empire was too large for a single man to rule, he divided it into two parts, East and West, [3] each ruled by an “Augustus” and a “Caesar”, i.e., an emperor and a vice-emperor. He also instituted an orderly succession, by which an Augustus would resign after 20 years and be succeeded by his Caesar. [4] Within this system, known as the Tetrarchy, the Maximian named above was the first Augustus of the West, as Diocletian was of the East. And in due course, they both resigned in 305 in favor of their respective Caesars, Galerius and Constantius Chlorus, the latter of whom was the father of the first Christian Emperor, Constantine.
A sculptural group representing the Tetrarchs, made ca. 300 AD out of Egyptian porphyry, an extremely durable material, the color of which was long considered a sign of royalty by the Romans. It was originally located in a public square in Constantinople called the Philadelphion; the piece missing at the lower right was found nearby in 1965, and is now in the Istanbul Archeological Museum. During the sack of Constantinople in 1204, it was stolen by the Venetians, brought to their city, and installed in a corner of the façade of St Mark’s Basilica. A Venetian legend claims that they were four thieves (unusually well-dressed!) who attempted to steal some of the basilica’s treasures, and were petrified by St Mark as a warning to other miscreants. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Rino Porrovecchio, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Now the historical problem. First of all, it is a well-established fact that Maximian was in the region of Lake Geneva in 287 not to institute or enforce a general persecution of Christians, but to put down a rebellion that had broken out against the Romans among several Gallic tribes in the area.
Secondly, it is true that as the Tetrarchy approached its first (and last) peaceful transition of power, the hostility which its eastern half, Diocletian and his Caesar Galerius, had long shown to the Christians broke out into open persecution. This was enforced with great severity and violence in the East, marginally less so in the provinces governed by Maximian, hardly at all in those governed by Chlorus. [5] However, persecution of this sort was hardly even possible in 287, when Diocletian and Maximian were literally pulling the empire back from the brink of collapse. It seems possible, therefore, that Eucherius assumed too much about the events of Maximian’s earlier career on the basis of his actions during the great persecution.
Third, the story of the Theban legion was embellished considerably over time, which is always a red flag to the hagiographical skeptics. Like the veteran Victor mentioned by Eucherius, several other Saints from different regions have been made honorary members of the legion, and by the 6th century, St Gregory of Tours had transplanted them and their martyrdom to Cologne. According to the version of their story in Bl. Jacopo of Voragine’s Golden Legend, they were ordered by Diocletian and Maximian to sacrifice to the idols, which was a feature of many ancient persecutions, but which is nowhere hinted at by Eucherius. In the Breviary of St Pius V, this is made the sole cause of their conflict with Maximian.
As one might guess from all this, their legend has been the subject of a great deal of scholarly discussion; the broad consensus now seems to be that Eucherius exaggerated or misunderstood their numbers, but that the martyrdom was real. In the post-Conciliar reform, their feast was removed from the general calendar. According to the official account of the reform, this was done, not done in function of the almost total suppression of commemorations, since St Thomas of Villanova was also suppressed, but because “not a few difficulties are found in regard to their history”, and because their feast, which was adopted at Rome only in the 11th century, “does not belong to the Roman tradition.” This latter alleged reason is difficult to square with the suppression of any number of other feasts which are thoroughly Roman and much older than the 11th century.
As to the difficulties in their history, Prof. Donald O’Reilly, in an article published in Vigiliae Christianae in 1978, makes some very interesting observations. A papyrus dated to the year 282, and found at Panopolis, which is not far from Thebes, records the requisition of a quantity of bread large enough to support a legion-sized unit for three months, roughly the time needed to travel at a military march from Egypt to Gaul. In the same period, coins were minted in Egypt of a type specific to the commemoration of the founding of a legion.
A page of the Notitia Dignitatum, with the shields of military units under the “magister peditum – master of the footsoldiers”; the “Thebans” are in the middle of the 4th rank. All of the surviving copies depend on a single Carolingian manuscript which was in the capitular library of Speyer Cathedral, and lost sometime before 1672. The copy from which this page (folio 110v, image cropped) is taken was made directly from the Speyer manuscript in 1436 at Basel in Switzerland, for one of the bishops then participating in the Ecumenical Council then being held there, later transferred to Ferrara and then Florence. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 9661)
Prof. O’Reilly then argues that one of the principal objections to the legend, the massacre of an entire legion of over 6000 men, is also the result of a misunderstanding. Diocletian effected a major reorganization of the Roman army, in which many legions were brought down to only 1000 members. By 293, a document called the Notitia Dignitatum, an explanation of the Roman imperial administration which includes the names of many military offices and titles, lists four such units as the bodyguard corps of the four Tetrarchs, each named after one of them (e.g. “Legio Diocletiana”), and qualified with the words “Thebaeorum – of Thebans.” Thinking of their last sixty years’ worth of predecessors, most of whom were murdered by their own troops, what better guards could the Tetrarchs find than men who believed, as a matter of strongly held religious conviction, that such an act would be a grave offense against God? The original Theban legion, therefore, would not have been massacred to a man, but rather, after suffering a decimation, and that, very possibly for some matter having to do with their religion, simply organized out of existence as a unit.
[1] Particularly in the 19th century, many local calendars and those of many religious orders came to be filled with so many Saints that this principle could no longer be maintained.
[2] There were several ancient cities called “Θῆβαι” in Greek, “Thebae” in Latin, whence the English “Thebes”. The most important of these, in the region of Greece called Boeotia, was known as “the city of seven gates”, and figured prominently in both myth and history; the Egyptian Thebes was known as “the city of 100 gates.”
[3] The division effected by Diocletian would be undone and redone a few times over the course of the 4th century, and become definitive only in 395 with the death of Theodosius I.
[4] If a Caesar should die before his term ended, his Augustus would appoint a new one; if an Augustus died, his Caesar would complete his term, and appoint a new Caesar as his own eventual successor.
[5] In his book On the Deaths of the Persecutors (cap. xv in fine), Lactantius reports that Chlorus permitted the demolition of some churches, but inflicted no violence on the Christians themselves.

Byzantine Ressourcement #2: How Did They Reform the Liturgy and Avoid Ugliness and Rancor?

Subsidiarity: the key to a peaceful transition to the best liturgy for the Roman Church?

I recently posted an article on the reforms of the Eastern Churches (Eastern Catholic and Orthodox) called Byzantine Ressourcement? Liturgical Reform In The Orthodox Churches, As A Model For The Roman Rite, in which I described how the non-Roman, Apostolic Churches - I used the generic descriptive ‘Eastern’, but as readers pointed out, the picture applies to other non-Roman Churches as well - had, strangely, reformed in accordance with the ideas of the Roman Catholic liturgical reformers of 20th century, and in many ways in accordance with what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had hoped to see in the Roman Church.

Some readers felt compelled to comment on the merits of the reforms themselves (many, it seemed to me, were Roman Catholics who seemed unhappy with what had happened to their neighbors on the other side of the garden fence).

I don’t want to revisit that discussion here because this was not actually the main reason for my writing the first article.

The main thrusts of my article were:

First, regardless of what we feel about those changes, the Churches themselves seem largely happy with what they have (even if some of their Latin cousins are not), and this has been achieved with minimal, or in most cases zero, input from Vatican II and without the strife and liturgy wars seen in the West.
Second, the fact that a fragment of a single sentence of instruction, in the case of the Eastern Catholic Churches, and zero instruction from the Council, in the case of Orthodox Churches, can bear such fruit in both cases, undermines a criticism of Vatican II made by some - that it was deliberately written in a tone of aggressive ambiguity in order to sow confusion. This phenomenon of peaceful and gradual reform elsewhere suggests, on the contrary, that there was more than sufficient detail addressed to the Roman Church. The mistake was in assuming the good intentions of those who were charged with implementing it.
The evidence of the reform of the Eastern Churches is that if one accepts the arguments behind the proposals and takes the trouble to understand the reasoning behind them, then the result will be as the framers intended. If on the other hand, people are disposed willfully to misinterpret or ignore the texts of the Council, no matter how clearly articulated, they will do so. And this, I believe, is what has happened in the West. In other words, the Council is largely irrelevant to what has happened - given the intentions of the architects of the mess we have today, it would have happened anyway.  
My thought is that this is worth examining so that we can consider a mechanism by which the Roman Church can move peacefully towards a general dominance of the best liturgy - whatever you may feel that is.

If I have painted a reasonable picture of the pattern of reform in the Eastern Churches (and I had several letters sent to me privately by members of these Churches telling me that I have), the next question is, why? Why has the situation in regard to the liturgical change been so different in the two lungs of the Church? One seems to be inhaling and exhaling freely and developing, dare I say it, ‘organically’; while the other is suffering from chronic COPD.
A clue to the answer, it seems to me, might come from the comments made by those readers of the article who did not dispute the general picture that I painted - that reforms had occurred and the Churches themselves were largely happy with what had occurred - but did point out, quite rightly, that the ‘Schmemann effect’, was not universal either. Some Churches, on the more conservative side, for example, had rejected change altogether, while others, a small minority, had introduced the liberal reforms all too familiar to us in the Roman Church (e.g. female altar servers). But while acknowledging that this is a patchwork quilt of differing ideas of what the liturgy ought to be, the general picture is that Schmemann has had a broad effect due to the free adoption of his ideas.

The answer as to why the pattern of reform is so different, it seems to me, relates to a difference in governance. In the East, the authority to change the liturgy is much more dispersed according to the principle of subsidiarity- maximized local freedom - while in the West, authority is far more centralized, with the focus of that authority in Rome. Consequently, what we have now in the West, again painting a broad picture, is the result of a top-down imposition of a reformed liturgy in the manner of the ‘suburban rite’ Novus ordo, while in the East the process has been more bottom-up. The unity of the Eastern Churches, in this regard, is the pattern of activity that emerges from many freely chosen actions. (For those that are interested in this idea of how order emerges as a pattern for the whole by the free action of the individual parts, here are some thoughts of mine on the subject in an earlier article called Does Order Come Out of Chaos, Or Chaos Out of Order?).

In general, and perhaps counter-intuitively, a bottom-up approach which recognizes local authority tends to give us more stability, and less radical change, and when reforms do occur by this mechanism, those changes that are good are more likely to predominate, while those that are bad are more likely to wither on the vine. The bottom-up implementation also allows for differing but valid local interpretations of what is good: differences don’t always indicate error. So we see a rich variety of local implementations of Schmemann’s ideas and different degrees of reform that sit alongside each other happily.
A top-down approach to implementation, on the other hand, which overrides natural local authority, tends to result, ultimately, in the predominance of what is bad. In the case where there is a single central authority, when innovation goes bad it lacks an internal mechanism for change and we are stuck with it. It is always possible that what is good might go bad in the future, but it is likely that what is bad will remain so.
Here’s why it happens this way, in my opinion:
Imagine, hypothetically, that every parish is free to decide how it celebrates the liturgy. It is likely that some will make bad decisions. However, others will likely exercise their freedom faithfully. In this situation, the ones that choose well will flourish and become beacons of the Faith, while others that choose badly will not. But, those places that get it right and flourish will inspire vocations, will attract the faithful, and will influence their neighbors by example. Those that get it wrong will continue to hemorrhage parishioners and in time die out.
It is analogous, in some ways, to what one might call Jesuit vs Oratorian styles of organization. When you have a very strong central organization, as the Jesuits have if the center goes bad, the whole organization suffers and it is very difficult for it to recover, for there is no natural mechanism for self-correction, except yet more powerful and yet more centralized authority. As a result, the best hope for redemption in the Jesuit-style organization, if it goes wrong, is a miracle!
However, if you have more distributed authority, so that separate houses are autonomous, as Oratorian houses are, then some will flourish and persist while others will decline. However, those that succeed will become mission churches that attract the laity, encourage vocations, and influence the founding of other Oratorian houses by the example of their success. This way even a few successes can be beacons of light that become good examples to inspire many. This is, I believe, the best mechanism also for an organic and authentic development of the liturgy.
The one drawback with this dispersed pattern of authority in the perception of many is, paradoxically, precisely the source of its strength in practice, namely that no part can directly control what any other does. Each autonomous unit has authority only over itself and may have to accept that a neighbor does things differently. If my mindset is such that my main concern is over what others ought to do, then I am less inclined to give others freedom in case they fail to do what I want them to. The liturgy wars then become more than simply debates about right and wrong, they become a struggle for political control of centralized power.
How localized is the natural authority for freedom to implement liturgical changes in the Roman Church? I am happy to be guided by canon lawyers on this, but I believe, historically at least, it resided with bishops (and from what I can tell theoretically does still does so today, although it is not often exercised in practice). If this were so, each diocese would not feel bound by Congregations in Rome or national councils of bishops, and each could choose to exercise the authority given to them and the situation would begin to right itself. Even better, each bishop might choose to allow parishes freedom too.
There is one aspect of the liturgy in which some authority for participation as one chooses lies within individual parishes and even laypeople, and that is with the Liturgy of the Hours when practiced in, for example, the domestic church. (I discussed the possibilities of people exercising this freedom well in a recent blog post entitled, Will the Domestic Church Grow as the Institutional Church Shrinks?). The ideal, it seems to me, is that at every level, all members of the Church take the initiative to exercise their natural authority for the good.

The need for subsidiarity is the argument made by Adam DeVille in his book, Everything Hidden Shall Be Revealed which I reviewed here. He addresses a different problem within the Church (corruption and the sexual abuse scandal), but the argument regarding subsidiarity as a solution is the same. He argues that if dioceses chose their bishops, as they used to do, and parishes are accorded freedom by their bishop, then this would encourage still further the right exercise of free autonomy.
To be clear, this is not an argument against papal authority as traditionally understood and as reflected in the First Vatican Council. Rather it is an argument for greater recognition of a natural local authority that is already present, but not always exercised. Nor is it the encouragement of license. Full freedom, as we know, is a choice free of constraint or restraint, but directed towards a right end. So the fullest freedom is in the choice to do what is good. However, it is not freedom if there isn’t the possibility of people exercising it poorly. In most situations, there are different opinions on what is good, and sometimes what is good for me is not the best for you. So, in this model each local authority decides, in good faith, what they believe Vatican II meant in regard to the degree or nature of reform, one taking a maximalist line, while another a minimalist ‘organic development’ approach to reform, and yet a third might reject change altogether and stick to the 1962 Missal. We can’t predict which approach will flourish and effectively become the Church, but in faith, we trust that the good will win out, even if some making the choices are bad actors.
In my experience, many pious Roman Catholics are not inclined to believe that subsidiarity is a good thing in this regard. I used to be skeptical too; I was reluctant to believe that giving people freedom to choose will facilitate the emergence of what is truly best, fearing that the opposite would happen and everything would eventually default to the lowest common denominator. What I yearned for, therefore, was a centralized authority to impose on the whole Church what I wished to see in my local parish.
However, happily, not all are as I used to be. I do see some recognition of this idea of subsidiarity even amongst devotees of the Traditional Latin Mass, (and contrary to the ultramontanist outlook that one might expect). For example, I read recently an article in which one was encouraging an even more radical dispersion of local autonomy than I am, by suggesting that individual priests might be justified in celebrating the Latin Mass even if it meant disobeying their bishop’s wishes.
Some, at the other end of the scale, have more ultramontanist instincts, will worry that this is a prescription for anarchy. I would say no, it is in fact a prescription for freedom. And freedom is always a good thing, for the pattern of freedom is dynamic and self-regulating. What can’t be guaranteed, however, is that the pattern that emerges ultimately will be the one that I would like it to be. I have to have faith that whatever predominates is the best, even if it is not what I would have liked.
And for many, therein lies the rub.
Photos above, top to bottom: St Margaret Mary, Oakland; The Brompton Oratory; The Birmingham Oratory; Holy Family parish, which is run by the Toronto Oratory; a private home altar; and Star of the Sea, San Francisco.

Monday, September 21, 2020

A Look Back on the Festival of Saint Louis

Early in the summer, St. Louis, Missouri, was the site of crowds threatening to vandalize or eliminate the great statue of the saintly king in Forest Park. Catholics quickly organized and rallied to the defense of their city’s patron, gathering daily all summer to pray the Rosary around the statue. But something special had to be done on his feast day, August 25th, this year above all, and that is what the following article is about. We are grateful to Anna Kalinowski for submitting the text, photos, and videos to NLM. May this inspire many other Catholics around the world to plan similar days around patron saints.

Apotheosis of St. Louis in Forest Park

Catholics of Saint Louis and others from far abroad gathered this year in the Rome of the West to celebrate in a spectacular way the feast of their patron, King St. Louis IX. The festival of Saint Louis witnessed hundreds of Catholics gathering to offer praise on the 750th anniversary of the Crusader King’s death and birth into heaven, with many of the ancient liturgical uses he would have recognized.

In June 2020, amid widespread riots and the destruction of historical monuments all over the country, a few voices shouted for the removal of the iconic statue of St. Louis in Forest Park, which, until the construction of the St. Louis Arch, was universally considered the symbol of the city. A group of Catholics in St. Louis immediately responded by planning peaceful prayer in support of the statue, reciting the rosary there for the first time on June 21st. This nightly rosary continued, rain or shine, and praying Catholics were openly harassed by disgruntled rioters. It wasn’t long, however, before the rioters lost interest. The Catholics, on the other hand, had only just begun. The rosary continued night after night, storming heaven for the preservation of the statue and for peace and unity in the city. As it became clear that the campaign of prayer had succeeded, the St. Louis Forever Rosary Coalition began to plan with other Catholic groups to bring the nightly rosary to a close with a magnificent Catholic festival in honor of the city’s patron.

The celebrations began officially with solemn First Vespers of St. Louis on the evening of Monday, August 24th, followed by adoration and Benediction. After a night of celebrating, many rose early on August 25th to take part in full sung Matins and Lauds at 5 a.m. The proper chants for Vespers, the hymn at Lauds, and the propers of the Mass were taken from a manuscript of an Office composed just after St Louis’s canonization in 1297 for use at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris. It was, for many years, the most widely celebrated Office for St. Louis. The last time this formulary was estimated to have been chanted before its transcription for the celebration this year was perhaps in the 14th or 15th century, although some parts have been in use in Paris. *

Manuscript for the proper chants of the feast of St. Louis, King of France: “glory of all kings who reign.

The Feast begins! Benediction just after First Vespers.

Blessed image of St. Louis receiving Holy Communion while wearing the humble robe of a friar. This was displayed for Matins and Lauds, which took place at Epiphany Catholic Church.

Our Lady shared her altar with King Louis for his Feast day at St. Luke’s Catholic Church, the location of most of the liturgies.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bidding Prayers from Medieval Regensburg: Guest Article from Canticum Salomonis

Our thanks once again to the authors of Canticum Salomonis, this time for their kind permission to reprint this very interesting article on a medieval form of the bidding prayers said at Mass.

When adoption of the Roman rite north of the Alps during the Carolingian period displaced the general intercessions that had been an ancient feature of the Gallican rite, it seems that various attempts were made to remedy their absence. In places such as Milan, the people sang a vestigial Kyrie eleison before or even during the Creed.
By the 12th century, in Germany, the void had been filled by Leis or Credo-songs, often elaborate vernacular hymns with a refrain Kyrie eleison, sung during the Credo.

In France, however, a new ritual, called the prône (Latin pronaüm), developed out of a combination of the sermon and several additional elements that appeared in no particular order: an instruction on Christian doctrine, often on the Our Father and Creed as per Charlemagne’s orders, pious prayers and examinations of conscience, memorials of the dead, bidding prayers, announcements, and, by the 17th century, the vernacular repetition of the Epistle and Gospel. Templates for the prône appear in many ritual books and homilaries beginning in the Middle Ages, and collections of these intercessory prayers are some of the oldest monuments in the German language. In England too the bidding prayers were said in the vernacular on Sundays and feasts. These prayers concluded with song.
A whole architecture developed to house this miniature recapitulation of the Liturgy of the Catechumens. During the Middle Ages the prône was delivered from the rood loft (jubé in French), where the readings of the Epistle and Gospel also took place. In the Baroque era, when many rood screens were destroyed, elaborate preacher’s pulpits were erected with a bank of chairs facing it on the opposite side of the nave to seat the ministers. This “compromise” that the prône represented—a vernacular para-liturgy within the Latin whole—proved fruitful and long-lived. Because of its evocation of the most primitive early Christian arrangement of readings around a central choir, Louis Bouyer calls this era the golden age of Latin liturgy.
A view of the rood loft (jubé) of the church of Ste Madeleine in Troyes
Honorius Augustodunensis, writing in the 12th century, most likely in Regensburg, includes an early example of a prône in his sermon collection Speculum Ecclesiae, in the middle of the Christmas sermons. He says it is to be used “on the highest feasts.” Though written in Latin as a preaching guide for clerics, its text would have been delivered in the vernacular by the preacher who used it. It is a remarkable hybrid of several elements:
I. A catechesis on the Our Father and Creed
II. An examination of conscience followed by a general absolution
III. Bidding prayers
IV. A concluding exhortation and Kyrie eleison
The catechesis takes the form of a guided lesson. First the audience is asked to recite the Our Father, word by word, perhaps in order to memorize it; indeed he calls the Our Father “your prayer.” A line-by-line allegorical and numerological exposition of the prayer follows. His word choice may indicate a call-and-response technique, wherein the preacher invites the crowd to shout out (clamatis, dicitis, uociferamini) each successive line of the prayer before explaining it. His ladder analogy is at once homely and yet almost bold in its invitation to the laity to practice Christian perfection and contemplation. The seven petitions of the Our Father lead him into a discussion of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, also based on the metaphor of the ladder.
This is followed by a paraphrase of the Apostles’ Creed. Although not a line-by-line exegesis like that of the Our Father, he does insist that the people should know it by heart, and use it to combat demons and temptations.
The examination of conscience is quite thorough. (More than one sensitive copyist tried to scratch out one article referring to the sin of bestiality!) His advice to seek out confession and penance suggests the coëxistence, in the early 12th century, of both public and private modes of penance, with grave public sins requiring a public 40-day penance and absolution. He seems to assume frequent confession, and communion more than once a year.
Having taught the faith and absolved their sins, the preacher leads the people in a set of bidding prayers that closely resemble the penitential preces of the Divine Office, the Great Intercessions of Good Friday, and Greek litanies. The response “Amen” is indicated; whether it was to be said by the preacher or people is unclear.
The prône ends with the celebrant stirring up the crowd to raise the joyful cry Eia, and join their voices in a loud refrain of Kyrieleison.
The instruction gives the laity a wealth of material to meditate and pray on during the silent canon. 
Honorius thus gives us a glimpse into the lively interior of a high Romanesque church. Inside we see a clergy who zealously and skillfully impart the doctrine of perfection, and a receptive and enthusiastic people who delight in allegory and loud, even rowdy acclamations of faith.
The prône continued to be said in French and German churches well into the 19th century, conserving the same general structure as found in Honorius’ example.
The text has been established based on the following MSS, and subdivided by the editors with Roman numerals.
Read the English translation below, or download a PDF with the Latin and English texts.
I. On the Faith
A. On the Pater noster I
Say each word of the Pater noster with them from beginning to end. Then add:
Dearly beloved, God himself composed this prayer, and taught us to climb it like a ladder up to the joys of heaven. The sides of this ladder are the contemplative and active lives, into which the supreme Wisdom inserted seven rungs of petitions.
On the first rung you stand and cry out to heaven: Pater noster. Take heed, brethren, of what you say. You call God your Father. God did not wish that we call him Lord but Father, that you might consider that you are all brethren in him, and so love each other as brethren, and as a reward for this love, become heirs of his kingdom. If God is your Father, then you are brethren in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. And if, like sons, you do deeds that please your Father, you shall doubtlessly receive your inheritance from God along with Jesus.
Then you say: qui es in celis. Although God is everywhere, nevertheless he dwells more intimately in the saints, who are called “heaven,” since his grace enlightens them more brightly. These words admonish you to pray that you yourselves might become heavens, wherein God may be pleased to dwell.
Thereafter you say: Sanctificetur nomen tuum. God’s name was always hallowed. You ask that the name “our Father” be so hallowed in yourselves that through your good works you might be worthy to be called his sons. For you are called Christians after Christ, and you beg that you might become one body in Christ, so that you might secure hallowdom with him in his kingdom.
Whence, standing on the second rung, you say: Adueniat regnum tuum. That is, may God be pleased to reign in you through grace, and make you worthy of his kingdom.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Another Solemn Mass in the Rite of Lyon

Earlier this summer, we shared photos and video of a solemn Mass in the traditional Rite of Lyon celebrated on the feast of the city’s patron, St Irenaeus, at the FSSP’s church there. On September 6th, the solemn Mass was once again celebrated, this time for the feast of the church’s patron, St Just, a 4th century bishop of Lyon. Our thanks to the FSSP Apostolate in Lyon for permission to reproduce some photos of the Mass from their Facebook page, and our congratulations to Fr Brice Messonier, who has worked patiently for many years to restore the regular use of the Lyonaise Mass, to his confreres Frs Hubert Lion and Côme Rabany, and all the church’s servers. This Mass was also a farewell for Fr Messonier, who is now taking up the leadership of Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, the FSSP church in Rome, and we wish him all the best in his new assignment.

The cross-bearer and thurifer wear a garment something like a stole called an “orfrois de tunique – the orphrey of a tunicle”, since it looks like the decorative bands of a tunicle, which in the Middle Ages was very often worn by acolytes on solemn feasts. The two acolytes who carry the candles wear full albs with the cincture, as was generally done in the Middle Ages.
The subdeacon does not usually stay with the priest and deacon as he does in Roman Mass; his “default” position, so to speak, for the Mass of the Catechumens is in the first choir-stall on the Epistle side.
As in the Dominican Mass, there is no incensation of the altar at the beginning of the Mass, so the priest goes straight to the reading of the Introit.

The Overstepping Collect of the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Lost in Translation #17
Those who think that liturgical language should be easy to understand and readily accessible would do well to contemplate the Collect of the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost. The Collect is not the most ancient prayer in our treasury, but it employs a distinctive figure of speech that is found several times in the so-called Leonine or Verona Sacramentary, the oldest collection of liturgical prayers of the Roman Rite.
Tua nos, quáesumus, Dómine, gratia semper et praeveniat et sequátur: ac bonis opéribus júgiter praestet esse intentos. Per Dóminum.
Which I translate as:
May Thy grace, we beseech Thee, O Lord, forever come before us and after us: and may it make us ever intent on good works. Through our Lord.
The author of the prayer has used a literary device called a hyperbaton, the separation of a noun or pronoun from its modifier. [2] Word order in English is everything, but in Latin the author can play more with syntax. Putting the noun and its modifier next to each other makes the sentence easier to understand, while separating them makes it a little harder. Hyperbaton, which comes from the Greek for “overstepping”, has several rhetorical uses, but instant access to meaning is not among them. 
In this Sunday’s Collect, the adjectival tua (Thy) is separated from its noun gratia (grace) by three words. That may not sound like a lot, but it is enough to create an initially disorienting experience as the Latin listener or reader first encounters an adjective modifying Lord knows what, then the direct object of again Lord knows what (nos or us), then the plea, “we beseech, O Lord.”
Huh? We are halfway through the prayer’s protasis or prelude, and we have no idea what the subject is or the action. Even a native ancient Roman hearing this prayer would experience temporary befuddlement before the pieces fall into place and he delights in comprehension (which may have been the author’s intention, since putting in extra effort deepens comprehension once attained).
The meaning of the Collect, by contrast, is straightforward. The Church prays that God’s grace be in front of us and behind us. In his Moralia St. Gregory the Great describes how the great sin of pride can ensnare the soul before we do something, as we are doing something, or after we do something. I can become proud as I am about to do an action, I can become proud as I do the action, or I can become proud afterwards as I think about what a great action I did. We therefore need grace to flank us every step of the way to keep pride from ambushing and spoiling all of our good works.
And good works is the prayer’s final petition, or rather that we remain ever intent on them. How great indeed it would be to have a purely good intention, not one subtly mixed with a proud self-love or self-promotion. How great it would be to be intent on doing good--nothing more, nothing less.
Good works and good intentions also occupy our attention in the Gospel of the day (Luke 14, 1-11), in which our Lord cures a man on the Sabbath while the Pharisees watch on. After the Pharisees refuse to answer Jesus’ question about whether it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath day, He asks them a second question: “Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out on the Sabbath day?” They won’t touch that question, either. Rescuing an animal from danger is a compassionate and selfless act, but since it is also one’s livestock (and therefore a possession of value), it is also a self-interested act. That, of course, does not mean that one should let one’s ox languish in the pit, but it does point to the complexity of human intentions. Jesus’ curing of the man with the dropsy, on the other hand, is purely selfless. Our Lord is ever intent on good works, as we wish to be.

[1] Sacramentarium Leonianum (Cambridge University Press, 1896), 77, 116, 133.
[2] Sr. Mary Gonzaga Haessley, Rhetoric in the Sunday Collects of the Roman Missal (Ursuline College for Women, 1938), 179.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Monastic Profession in France

On the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Monastère Saint Benoît in the diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France, celebrated the solemn profession of one of the monks, Dom Ildephonse, in the course of a solemn Mass. With the kind permission of the Prior, Dom Alcuin Reid, we are happy to share these pictures, and the text of his address to the newly professed monk. Notice in particular the beautiful rite by which the newly professed monk lies on the ground in the middle of the church and is covered with a funeral pall, from the Offertory until Communion. This symbolizes the death of the old man and the putting on of the new in the permanent acceptance of the religious state, and the offering of himself to God.

Dom Ildephonse signs his written promise of profession on the altar of the community’s new chapel. In August they moved to a medieval commandery of the Knights Templar with an 11th century Romanesque chapel, and have restored it to monastic use.

An Update from OPChant

We first wrote last December, about OPChant, a YouTube channel founded last October by two young seminarians of the Dominican order living and studying in Fribourg, Switzerland, Brother Alexandre Frezzato, who is Swiss, and Brother Stefan Ansinger, who comes from the Netherlands. The mission of OPChant, as the brothers explain, is to use YouTube as a teaching tool to preserve and promote the rich Catholic heritage of Gregorian chant. Each video includes in the description a link to a PDF of the full musical score with the lyrics in Latin, as well as an English translation. In only 11 months, they have produced over 100 videos with appropriate works of music, recorded in high quality in beautiful Swiss monastic settings. Originally intended to reach other Dominicans or church music specialists, they now have 19,000 subscribers, and their videos have been viewed almost 450,000 times.

The brothers also run an ancillary website, OPChant.com, which gathers together all of their scores as an aid to learners, and which includes a Media section that presents links to press coverage of their project. The wide coverage is a phenomenon in itself, and a very encouraging one for those of us who love the chant tradition and wish to see it restored to more regular use in the sacred liturgy. To date, 54 media outlets in 17 countries and regions around the world have produced articles, short videos, or radio programs with and about the brothers. As the channel prepares to celebrate one year online, its success is also newsworthy. This project is the most widely-received public initiative of the Dominican order in Switzerland in over 50 years. The fact that it is a channel for teaching medieval sacred music in Latin makes that all the more remarkable.

Here is a message which Brothers Alexandre and Stefan recently recorded for their followers, and below, a few of their more recent recording. (This post is taken in part from a press-release.)

Per signum Crucis, the Communio of the Exaltation of the Cross.
O Sancta Mundi Domina, a hymn for the Nativity of the Virgin.
Gaude Mater Ecclesia, the Vesper hymn for the feast of St Dominic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Liturgical Notes on the Ember Days of September

The origin of the English term “Ember Days” seems to be disputed. Some scholars claim it is merely a corruption of the Latin name “Quattuor Temporum – of the four times (or ‘seasons’)”, through the German “Quatember”, while others derive it from the Anglo-Saxon words “ymb-ryne”, meaning “regularly occurring.” English-speakers used also to refer to them as “Quarter tense”, another corruption of the Latin name. In German liturgical books of the Middle Ages, they are often called with an entirely different word, “angaria”; for example, the index of the 1498 Missal of Salzburg calls the Ember Days of Advent the “angaria hiemalis”, (i.e. of winter), those of Lent the “angaria vernalis” etc.

This word derives from the verb “angariare – to press someone into service”, which occurs three times in the Latin New Testament. The first occurrence is in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 41), “And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two.” The other two are when Simon of Cyrene is forced to help the Lord carry His Cross, Matthew 27, 32 and its parallel in Mark 15, 21. The noun “angaria” therefore means “a pressing into service” or “exaction”; according to DuCange’s Medieval Latin Glossary, it was used in Germany to refer to a quarterly tax that was collected at the Ember Days. Missals and breviaries printed for use in Germany do however also regularly use the Latin “Quattuor Tempora”.
The index of the Missal of Salzburg, printed at Nuremburg in 1498. At the bottom of the left column are read “angaria hiemalis” etc. From the website of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.
One of the most beautiful features of the Masses of Ember Saturday is the canticle Benedictus es which follows the fifth prophecy from the Book of Daniel in Advent, Lent and September. (During the octave of Pentecost, the reading is the same, but the canticle is substituted by an Alleluia with one versicle.) Medieval liturgical commentators offer a clever explanation as to why the prayers which precede the first four prophecies are introduced by “Oremus. Flectamus genua. Levate.”, but the fifth one is introduced by “Dominus vobiscum.” In his Summa de Ecclesiasticis Officiis, Johannes Beleth writes in the mid-12th century that “Among these (prophecies) there is one which as it is being sung, no one ought to sit. This is the song of the three children, who contend for the faith of the Trinity, and so were cast into the furnace. Therefore at this song it is not good to genuflect, because the children would not genuflect before the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, although many princes did.”

As I have noted previously, the Missal of Sarum has a different arrangement for this reading and its canticle on each of the four Ember Days. On Pentecost, the reading found in the Roman Missal, Daniel 3, 47-51, is lengthened by the addition of the Biblical canticle, chapter 3, 52-88; the addition is sung by the reader as part of the lesson, and not with the proper melody of the Benedictus es. As is often the case with the lessons in medieval missals, the text does not correspond exactly to the wording of the Vulgate; there are a number of variants which derive from the Old Latin version of the Bible. Furthermore, several of the repetitions of “praise and exalt him above all forever” are omitted. The reading is then followed by the Alleluia and its verse as in the Roman Missal.

In September, Sarum has the same reading as at Pentecost. It is followed, however by a canticle composed by the German monk, poet and scholar Walafrid Strabo, a student of Rabanus Maurus at the famous abbey of Fulda in the first half of the 9th century. This canticle is a poetic paraphrase of the Benedicite, each verse of which is followed by a refrain, “Let them ever adore the Almighty, and bless him through every age.” At Sarum, the refrain was sung with the verbs in the indicative, “They ever adore the Almighty, and bless him in every age.”; it is split into two parts, which are sung after alternate verses. There are a few other minor variants from Walafrid’s original version.

semper adorant,
Et benedicunt
omne per aevum.
They ever adore
the Almighty
and bless Him
through every age.
Astra polorum,
cuncta hominum gens
Solque sororque,
lumina caeli
semper adorant.
The stars of heaven,
every sort of men,
and the sun and his sister,
the lights of heaven.
They ever adore
the Almighty.
Sic quoque lymphae
quaeque supernae
Ros pluviaeque,
spiritus omnis.
Et benedicunt
omne per aevum.
So also all the waters
in heaven above,
the dew and the rains,
and every wind.
And bless Him
through every age.
Ignis et aestus,
cauma geluque
Frigus et ardor
atque pruina.
Omnipotentem etc.
Fire and heat,
warmth and cold,
chill and burning
and the frost.
They adore etc.
Nix glaciesque,
noxque diesque
Lux tenebraeque,
fulgura, nubes.
Snow and ice,
night and day,
light and darkness,
lightnings and clouds.
Arida montes,
germina, colles,
Flumina, fontes,
pontus et undae.
Deserts, mountains,
plants, hills,
rivers, springs,
the seas and the waves.
Omnia viva,
quae vehit aequor,
vegetat aer,
terraque nutrit
All things that live
and are born on the waters,
that the air quickens,
and the earth nourishes.
Cuncta hominum gens,
Israel ipse
servuli quique.
Every sort of men,
Israel itself,
and the worshipers of Christ,
and all His servants.
Sancti humilesque,
corde benigno
Tresque pusilli
The holy, the humble,
the gentle of heart,
and the three little ones
in their triumph.
Rite camini
ignei flammas
jussa tyranni
temnere prompti.
Justly ready
to disdain the flames
of the fiery furnace,
and the tyrant’s orders.
Sit Genitori
laus, Genitoque
lausque beato
Flamini sacro.
Praise to the Father,
and to the Son,
and praise to the blessed
Holy Spirit.

The Three Children in the Furnace, as depicted in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome ca. 275 A.D.
The Ember Days are often said to be connected with the agricultural seasons, especially in reference to the harvest seasons of the Italian peninsula, since they originated in Rome. In point of fact, there are only a few references to harvests and harvest-offerings at Pentecost, only one in Lent (the first prophecy) and none at all in Advent. In September, on the other hand, the references to the harvest are very clear, especially in the Epistles of the Masses. On Wednesday, Amos 9, 13-15, on Friday, the end of the book of Hosea (14, 2-10) and the second reading from Leviticus on Saturday (23, 39-43) all speak of harvests and the fruits of the earth. The last of these prescribes that they be kept “starting on the fifteenth of the seventh month”; according to the Roman tradition, September was originally the seventh month of the calendar, and indeed, September 15th is the earliest day on which the first Ember Day can occur.

To the medieval liturgist William Durandus, however, as probably to most of his contemporaries in the clergy, the most prominent feature of the Ember Days was not thanksgiving for the bounty of God in the harvest, but rather the traditional celebration of these days as the proper time for ordinations. He therefore offers the following allegorical reflections on the three Masses, explaining them in reference to season of the ordinands.  (Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, Liber VI, capp. 132-134)
On Wednesday is read the Gospel (Mark 9, 16-28) … about the deaf and mute (boy) whom the Apostles could not heal, since “that kind of demons is not cast out except in fasting and prayer”; which is fitting to this day. For today is the fast of the four times, and therefore two readings are read, so that the ordinands may be taught in the two precepts of charity, or in the two laws.
The Mass of Friday expresses the penitence of the ordinands, whence in the Gospel… they are instructed unto conversion, and in the introit they are invited to seek the Lord. (“Let the heart of them that seek the Lord rejoice. Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened, seek ye ever His face.”)
The Mass of Saturday is all said for the teaching of the ordinands, lest they be sterile, like the fruitless fig tree, of which the Gospel is read (Luke 13, 6-17), and lest their lives be caught up in earthly matters, like the bent over woman. In the Epistle (Hebrews 9, 2-12), which treats of the first and second tabernacles, they are admonished to serve in the tabernacle of the Church Militant in such wise that they may be presented to the Lord in the tabernacle of the Church Triumphant. … Rightly in this month are the ordinations of clerics done, since in this month took place (in the Old Testament) the celebration of (the feast of) Tabernacles. Now the ordained are the ministers of the Church, established in the seven orders on the day of tabernacles through seven-fold grace.

The Traditional Mass Returns to Jamaica

We are happy to share this news from the Latin Mass Society of Jamaica, courtesy of Fr Michael Palud, Provost of the Oratory at Port Antonio. “On Saturday, September 12th, the feast of the Holy Name of Mary, the Latin Mass Community in Jamaica had its official launch with the first official public TLM held since the Ordinary Form of the Mass became the norm in 1969. The event was organised by the Latin Mass Society of Jamaica; some 25 people were present from different parishes in the Archdiocese. The Latin Mass Society wishes to let people know that a TLM will be celebrated every 1st Sunday in Port Antonio at 3:30 p.m. All are welcome to experience this ancient and ever new rite of the mass in the Extraordinary Form.”

The Archbishop of Kingston, Kenneth Richards, in his decree entrusting the apostolate for the traditional Mass to the Oratory, writes, “I also encourage Seminarians and Priests to at least be cognizant of the Old Rite. Indeed, knowledge of our Liturgical History is important. A knowledge of the Old mass can inform and help us foster dignified celebration ofthe Mass in its Ordinary Form. It is my hope that this new pastoral service might contribute to growth in holiness of our Laity and a renewed awareness of the beauty of the Catholic Liturgy in both its Ordinary and Extraordinary Form.” Many thanks to His Excellency for his pastoral solicitude for the faithful of his diocese who are attached to the traditional Rite!

Here are a few pictures of last Saturday’s Mass.

Sir James MacMillan on Transcendence, Beauty, and Universality in Music - Season 3 of Square Notes Launches

A pre-eminent composer of our times, Sir James MacMillan offers listeners profound insights into the nature of music, its ability to speak and to move the heart and soul, and its invaluable place in the sacred liturgy, as well as on the concert stage. We hope you’ll tune in for the first episode of season 3 of Square Notes: The Sacred Music Podcast.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Liturgical Notes on the Feasts of the Seven Sorrows

From 1814 until 1960, the General Calendar of the Roman Rite contained two different feasts of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary. The older of these is the one long celebrated on the Friday of Passion week; the latter is now fixed to September 15th, but was originally a movable feast. The Offices of these two feasts have only a few elements in common, but the Masses are almost identical. This doubling of the feast is not, therefore, a case like Corpus Christi, which emphasizes one particular aspect of what the Church celebrates on Holy Thursday, nor is one a “secondary” feast like the Apparition of St Michael or the Conversion of St Paul.

The Seven Sorrows Polyptych by Albrecht Dürer, ca. 1500. The seven sorrows shown here are slightly different from those of the Servite Rosary shown below; counterclockwise from the upper left, they are the Circumcision (considered a sorrow because of the shedding of Christ’s blood,) the Flight into Egypt, the Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple, the Carrying of the Cross, the Nailing to the Cross, the Crucifixion, and the Deposition of Christs Body.
The Passiontide feast emerged in German-speaking lands in the early 15th-century, partly as a response to the iconoclasm of the Hussites, and partly out of the universal popular devotion to every aspect of Christ’s Passion, including the presence of His Mother, and thence to Her grief over the Passion. It was known by several different titles, and kept on a wide variety of dates; Cologne, where it was first instituted, had it on the 3rd Friday after Easter until the end of the 18th century. Before the name “Seven Sorrows” became common, it was most often called “the feast of the Virgin’s Compassion”, which is to say, of Her suffering together with Christ as She beheld the Passion. This title was retained by the Dominicans well into the 20th century; they also had an Office for it which was quite different from the Roman one, although the Mass was the same. It appears in many missals of the 15th to 17th centuries only as a votive Mass, with no corresponding feast; this was the case at Sarum, where it is called “Compassionis sive Lamentationis B.M.V.” (The Sarum Missal also has a highly irregular sequence for this Mass, 128 lines long, more than twice as many as the Stabat Mater in the Roman Mass.)

It was also occasionally known as the “Transfixio”, in reference to Simeon’s prophecy to the Virgin (Luke 2, 35) that “a sword shall pierce Thy heart.” For this reason, the Collect of the feast states that “we remember with veneration (her) Transfixing and Passion.” The Preface of the Virgin Mary contains the phrase “et te in *** Beatae Virginis semper Virginis collaudare, benedicere et praedicare – and to praise, bless and preach Thee in the *** of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin.” The name of the feast (Assumption, Nativity etc.) is said where the stars are, but on the feast of the Seven Sorrows, “transfixione” is said in that place. (The Dominicans said “compassione.”)

The corresponding Office has a number of interesting features. The Seven Sorrows is the only feast of the Virgin which has special psalms at Vespers and Matins, those of the former being the same which are sung on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The Stabat Mater is divided into three parts and sung as the hymn of Vespers, Matins and Lauds, with simpler music than that of the same text when it is sung as the Sequence at Mass. (In Italy, this simpler form is still often sung at the Stations of the Cross.) The responsories of Matins all refer to the Passion of Christ; the fourth is the most famous of the Tenebrae responsories from Good Friday, Tenebrae factae sunt, with the verse changed: “What dost Thou feel, o Virgin, when Thou beholdest such things?”

The sequence version of the Stabat Mater

The readings of the first nocturn are the famous prophecy of the Suffering Servant, Isaiah 53, which is also read at the Mass of Spy Wednesday, when the Lenten station is kept at St Mary Major. In the second nocturn, they are taken from a famous sermon of St Bernard of Clairvaux, in which he demonstrates that it is indeed proper to refer to the “martyrdom” of the Virgin, and addressing Her directly, says “Therefore, the force of grief passed through Thy soul, so that we may rightly preach that Thou are even more than a martyr, in whom the affection of compassion exceeded even the sense of bodily passion. … Wonder not, brethren, that Mary is called a martyr in spirit. Let him wonder (at this) who remembereth not that he has heard Paul say, when he recalls the greatest crimes of the pagans, that they were ‘without affection.’ Far was this from Mary’s senses, and far be it from her servants.”

The Pazzi Crucifixion, by Pietro Perugino, 1496, in the convent of St Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi in Florence. St Bernard of Clarivaux and the Virgin Mary are on the left, St John the Evangelist and St Benedict on the right.
In the wake of the Protestant reformation, the feast continued to grow in popularity, spreading though southern Europe, and most often fixed to the Friday of Passion week. It was extended to the universal Church on that day by Pope Benedict XIII with the title “the feast of the Seven Sorrows”, although none of the various enumerations of the Virgin’s sorrows is referred to it anywhere in the liturgy itself.

The second feast of the Seven Sorrows was promulgated in 1668 as the Patronal feast of the Servite Order, which was founded in the mid-13th century by seven Florentine noblemen, and soon spread all over Europe. (St Philip Benizzi, who stands in their history as St Bernard does in that of the Cistercians, not their founder, but their most famous member, was almost elected Pope in 1271.) This order had always nourished a strong devotion to the Mother of Sorrows, and has its own rosary of the Seven Sorrows, which are as follows.

1. The Prophecy of Simeon.
2. The Flight into Egypt.
3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
4. The Meeting of Mary and Jesus as He Carries the Cross.
5. The Crucifixion.
6. The Removal of Christ’s Body from the Cross.
7. The Burial of Christ.

A Servite Rosary, also known as the Crown of the Seven Sorrows, one of which is depicted on each of the oval medals between the beads. Only seven Hail Marys are said per sorrow; on the beads that lead to the Cross, three more are added in honor of the tears which the Virgin shed as She stood by the Cross. This example was made in the 19th century; it has more recently been the custom to make them with only black beads, the color of the Servite habit. (Courtesy of Mr Forrest Alverson.)
Since the Servite version of this devotion is not focused entirely on the Passion of Christ, but contains three events from His childhood, a number of changes were made to the corresponding liturgical texts for the second feast. The words of the Collect “we remember with veneration (her) Transfixing and Passion” are changed to “we remember with veneration (her) Sorrows”; however, “transfixione” is still said in the Preface. In the Office, the regular psalms of the Virgin’s other Offices are said at Vespers, but not at Matins; three different hymns, all very much in the classicizing style in vogue in the 17th century, replace the three parts of the Stabat Mater. The responsories of Matins are completely different, each referring in order to one of the mysteries of the Servite rosary given above. An eighth one is added to complete the series, a very beautiful exhortation: “In all thy heart, forget not the groans of Thy Mother, that propitiation and blessing may be perfected. Hail, most noble woman, that art the first rose of the martyrs, and lily of the virgins!” The readings of the first nocturn are taken from the Book of Lamentations, which is otherwise read only at Tenebrae, and the lessons of the second are the same passage from St Bernard read on the other feast. (This passage was also read in the Dominican Office of the Compassion.)

Michelangelo’s Pietà in St Peter’s Basilica.
This Servite version of the feast was added to the general calendar by Pope Pius VII in 1814, after he returned from the exile in France shamefully visited upon him by Napoleon. Part of the Pope’s reason for doing would certainly have been to ask the Virgin’s intercession and protection for the Church in the midst of the many horrors visited upon it by the French revolution and the subsequent wars. It was originally kept on the Third Sunday of September, as it had been first by the Servites, but when Pope St Pius X abolished the custom of fixing feasts to Sundays, it was placed on September 15th, the day after the Exaltation of the Cross. While the connection between the Sorrows of the Virgin and the Crucifixion is essential, the Seven Sorrows was of higher rank at the time, and its new placement therefore had the unfortunate effect of cancelling Second Vespers of the much older feast of the Exaltation. This defect was remedied by the Breviary reform of 1960, but at the cost of a much more serious general defect, the abolition of First Vespers from all but the highest grade of feasts. At the same time, the older Passiontide feast was reduced to a commemoration.

Pictures of the Newly-Built St Joseph’s Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina

Thank you to Fr. Matthew Kauth, Rector of St. Joseph College Seminary in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, for these photographs of the new buildings after the completion of the first phase of construction. The architect’s drawing below shows the first and second phases as originally envisaged.
The need for the seminary has arisen from the growing number of vocations in the diocese. I’ll let the architectural specialists describe the style of the final design precisely, but to me, it has the look of American Neo-Gothic from the turn of the last century, say Ralph Adams Cram. (There were civic buildings designed by him in Nashua, New Hampshire, where I used to live.)

This first phase of construction includes 40 seminarian rooms, a refectory and kitchen, a conference room, classrooms, administrative offices, faculty rooms, guest rooms, a cloister walk, and a temporary chapel. Anticipating future growth in the number of seminarians, Phase II will include additional seminarian rooms and a larger, permanent chapel. When complete, the seminary will be split into three different zones with the chapel and residential wings acting as ‘bookends’ to the academic and administrative building. A capital campaign is currently underway to fund the construction of this project. Here are some photos of the exterior:

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