Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How Artists Create a Dynamic of Prayer Through Style and Content in Sacred Art

As I described last week, praying with sacred art is not difficult if it is practiced regularly, and if the art is well chosen. Some holy images are created so as to promote good prayer, by artists who understand deeply what prayer is and how visual imagery can nourish it. In this article, I will consider how artists working within the three liturgical traditions of the Church - the iconographic, the Gothic and the Baroque - have employed the visual vocabulary of style to this end. I should point out that this analysis is my own. I cannot cite accounts from the artists themselves of their intentions in order to support what I am saying. I am drawing personal experience of painting and praying with art to formulate the account that I give you now.

Prayer is “...the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God” (CCC 2559), and within these aspects listed by the Catechism, we can distinguish also between two movements. One is passive (or receptive) by which we listen to what God is saying to us. The other is active, responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, by which we might, for example, give praise or thanks to God or ask something of Him.

A well-painted piece of sacred art will engage the viewer in such a way that it promotes both attitudes of prayer, active and passive, and each of the traditions of liturgical art has been developed to serve this double role, but in different ways. Each is painted to use visual devices that engage us, so that we might see what God is telling us through the image, and then be inspired to respond in love.

Iconographic art and Gothic art employ similar techniques, and as a result, engage us in a similar dynamic of prayer. Both are more stylised and less naturalistic than later Western traditions such as the Baroque. The less naturalistic styles of these traditions promote a sense of emotional distance between the observer and the Saint portrayed; the lack of naturalism always gives a painting an other-worldly feel. The stylization is also deliberately unsentimental - it does not evoke the sense of a Hallmark type prayer card, for example - and this ensures that we are not beguiled by prettiness. The austerity reminds us that this is an image and not the actual Saint. A spiritual hunger is created by this as we long for a relationship with the real Saint. At this point there is a mental jump in our imaginations, and our thoughts move from the image to the real Saint in heaven.

The image acts as a mental stepping stone by which we come to contemplate the real Saint in heaven. This is why these styles of art are often described as “windows to heaven.” When we see Christ in an icon, through this image there is a profound awareness of the real Christ beckoning to us from heaven and saying, “Come to me, join me in heaven!”
There is another way in which an image can create a sense of distance, which the power of the prayer dynamic just described overcomes. This is the way that the artist combines the angle of vision with the amount of detail visible. I will explain how this works.

In nature, the closer you are to an object the wider the angle of vision. So a man close to us appears large and the angle that subtends his limits - say from feet to head - is large. However, if the man moves away from us, that angle is reduced. We naturally judge how far away a man is from us by matching his apparent height (i.e. angle vision) with the height we assume him to be. Without being able to quote precise numbers we develop through experience an innate sense of the fact that a man who is 6ft tall will create an angle of vision of about 15 degrees of arc when he is 18 feet away.

If the artist wants to control the perception of distance, he must be aware of the point where the image is most likely to be observed from, and then he controls the angle of vision accordingly to create the desired perception of distance. So if the image is seen from 12 feet away, and the image is 4 feet high, then the angle of the arc that subtends the height of the image will be about 15 degrees; we will not think we are seeing a 4 foot tall man 12 feet away, but a 6 foot-tall man 18 feet away. We assume this because on the whole, men aren’t only 4 feet tall.

A reasonable question might be, but there are some people who are 4 feet tall; how do we know that this isn’t a life-size image of one of them? The answer is that there are other signs. First of all, we do the same intuitive calculation for every other person or object portrayed in the picture. We quickly gauge that unless everything else in the painting is also proportionately reduced in size, which is unlikely, then this person is a 6 feet tall, not 4. As I mentioned before, we don’t think of the numbers when we look at the image, any more than when we look at an ordinary person, we just have a sense of how far away someone is and how tall he is.

Something else that gives us a clue as to how far away something is from us is the amount of discernible detail we can make out, what we might call “detail perspective.” Through the experience of seeing things around us, we know whether, e.g., at a distance of 18 feet, we can to make out individual strands of hair on a head, or if we will see a broad swathe of color which we recognize as a mass of hair. It takes great skill for an artist to match this detail-perspective with the angle of vision so that all is in harmony. If the two factors are not in harmony, then usually we will sense that something is wrong, and we feel uneasy about it. Getting the balance of these two effects wrong is a common error made by inexperienced or poor artists. It is a fault of many well-known artists who should have known better, for example, many of the Pre-Raphaelites. Their paintings were over-packed with detail, so that every blade of grass and every individual leaf might be painted. Typically, our brain struggles to interpret what is seen in paitings like this, because one way of discerning distance, the amount of detail, tells us “This is close”, while the other, the angle of vision, says, “This is far away.” This generally causes a feeling of unease.

Baroque art of the 17th century, unlike Pre-Raphaelite art, is a naturalistic style that balances these two factors perfectly. However, paradoxically, iconographic and Gothic art deliberately introduced a mismatch, but in such a way that they contrive to enhance their spiritual power.

Both iconographic and Gothic art are designed so that when measured by angle of vision, the image is in the middle distance; we can get close enough to kiss an icon, for example, and it still seems in the middle distance because of the angle of vision. This further reinforces the dynamic of prayer described above. However, by the measure of detail-perspective, Gothic and iconographic art seem to break the rule of harmony with the angle of vision; there is lots of detail, and so the images are much closer to us than the angle of vision ould lead us to judge.

Ordinarily, we would expect to feel disconcerted by this, but generally we don’t. What then, is the difference between iconographic and Gothic art, where it works, and the Pre-Raphaelites, where it doesn’t? Clearly, something else is at play here. The difference is that while the Pre-Raphaelites attempt to portray things as they are naturalistically, the Gothic and iconographic styles are not intended to portray things as they are naturally. The style of both is informed by a theology of what man is like in heaven; the integration of theology and form in these traditions is so well worked out that we pick up on this instinctively. In heaven, to see someone is to know them perfectly, and so all the detail of their lives (in fact, more than simply the visual details) would be known to us. When we look at an icon or Gothic image, we see that they are otherworldly, and therefore the excess detail doesn’t seem unfitting to us. If this were just an arbitrary stylization that was not reflective of a truth, it would not be a convincing portrayal, but it works because these styles really do reflect something of the heavenly reality to us. In short, it rings true, because it is true.

To recap: in the case of Gothic and iconographic art, all of this “visual engineering” by the artist comes together to create a natural dynamic of prayer as follows. We look at the image, and because it seems to be in the middle distance, we are drawn toward it; we want to pull the image into the foreground so that we can establish a firmer relationship with the Saint. As we move closer, the image rewards us, so to speak, with a clearer vision of all the rich detail, which then increases our sense of wanting to get closer. However, we just can’t get close enough to satisfy our desire. Even if our noses are pressed against the image, it seems to be in the middle distance because of its design. The only way to get closer is through the use of our imaginations, which take us through the image to the real Saint in heaven; this is a profound connection that nourishes prayer. The Saints in heaven call us to be with them through the sacred art; each is saying, “Come to me and be in heaven with me.” The image of Our Lady will be seen, for the most part, from a great distance, and so will have a small angle of vision when viewed by most people.
Some will point out, quite legitimately, that there are life-size images in the iconographic style. The images at ground level on the walls are commonly close to life size. In these examples, the artists want the images to appear closer so that we know the Saints are praying alongside us in the liturgy. But even then, in my experience, the images are often slightly smaller than full-size on the side walls. (Often, but not always; this shows icons where are definitely close to life size, if not larger. This is the reason why I carefully inserted the word “generally” before my argument above.) I would say in regard to these paintings, that the other stylistic aspects that affect our engagement in the way I describe are still present, and these continue to reinforce the heavenly, otherworldly reality of the image. Secondly, if I was commissioning or painting such images today (a big “if”, I hear some of you say!), I would make efforts to ensure that there were no mixed messages by making them just slightly smaller than life-size.
Baroque art contains a visual vocabulary of style which, in contrast to the iconographic and Gothic styles, is intended to portray man on earth, what John Paul II called “historical man”, in a Christian way. This naturalistic, but nevertheless authentically liturgical style has been carefully worked out so that, in contrast to the iconographic and Gothic styles, the level of detail matches perfectly the perceived distance of the image from the observer when judged by angle of vision. This creates a different dynamic of engagement, and therefore of prayer, from that generated by iconographic and Gothic art.

To illustrate, consider the following situation: have you ever had the experience of seeing a beautiful large traditional oil painting in an art gallery? If you are like me, you want to get closer, but when you approach the image, it transforms. What was originally a clear image changes into a mess of rough brush strokes and you can no longer see the image as clearly. Then, in order to make it cohere visually again, you have to retreat back to the place where you first saw it. This is not accidental. The artist has deliberately painted the image so that it is out of focus when you are close, and in focus when you are several feet away.

Baroque art generally works like this. This effect is that rather drawing us into the image, as a Gothic painting might, the image jumps out to us. And when the image is of Christ, for example, God is made present to us here on earth. It says, “You stay where you are, I am with you.” This sense of the presence of God on earth is reinforced further by the artist when this device is combined with the other distinctive aspects of the visual vocabulary of Baroque art. The strong contrast between shadow and light, for example, communicates to us a sense of Christian hope that transcends suffering - the Light of the good that overcomes the darkness of evil.

Here is Velazquez’s crucifxion.

And here are two details of that same painting.
The different dynamics of prayer that we see in the different liturgical traditions need not be seen in opposition to each other; rather, they are complementary. One can think of them working together as the angels on Jacob’s ladder. Some go up, taking us with them, others come down to give us solace, and all help us on our path to God.

Ordinarily, I bemoan the fact that in the Roman Church we are detached from our authentic liturgical traditions. (I have devoted so much time to trying to understand them int he hope of helping to re-establish them as living traditions.) But there is some good in this. We can look more objectively at the past from our current position of detachment from it, and so choose what we feel is best for a new beginning.

In regard to this discussion, we could, potentially, establish a double tradition today, one that allows for both dynamics of prayer and so enrich our worship and prayer in a way that has not been done before. We might choose the come-to-me style for the side altar and for our contemplative prayer; and the I-am-with-you style, for greater and more immediate impact, for the reredos or altar piece that is in the sanctuary and will be viewed from a distance. The task for artists who set out to do this would be to do so in such a way that each side of the coin is connected stylistically, as well as distinguishable from the other, so to maintain the sense of unity that a single tradition has.

Monday, July 16, 2018

World War I Army Mass Kit

Many readers will be familiar with the site Sancrucensis, where they will find the learned lucubrations and edifying epigrams of Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., not to mention a fair share of uplifting photographs of the yearly round of monastic life at the thriving Heiligenkreuz Abbey.

Recently Pater Edmund shared with me the exciting news that he had received the gift of a portable Mass kit that once belonged to a World War I chaplain, which an antique store in Oberösterreich had put up for sale.[1] It features a built-in altar stone and altar cards that fold out, and in the compartments inside there are not only chalice and linens, etc., but even four chasubles in different colors (!). The chalice seems to have been made in Fulda, while the Missal is from Regensburg. The whole set-up is typical of kits in the World War I era.

Pater Edmund asked that I share these pictures at NLM. I must say, it is both a pleasure and a challenge to do so. A pleasure, for obvious reasons; how could a more complete and better portable kit ever be devised? A challenge, because this war-time worst, this compact gear meant to be carried through mud and bullets, is more complete and more appropriate than what one might find in many peace-time sacristies today!





Saturday, July 14, 2018

Musica Sacra Florida 2018 - Registration Extended

There’s still time! The registration deadline for Musica Sacra Florida 2018 has now been extended to Tuesday, July 24.


Musica Sacra Florida 2018
10th Annual Gregorian Chant Conference
Friday, July 27 & Saturday, July 28, 2018 
++++++++ 
“Treasures of the Catholic” Church Camp
Monday, July 23 to Friday, July 27

at Royal Palm Academy and Saint Agnes Chapel, Naples, FL 


The conference will include:
A SPECIAL EVENT!
“Treasures of the Catholic Church” Camp (July 23-27): For young people from 8 to 18. Children will receive instruction in Gregorian chant and Catholic culture (including great art) from an expert faculty, including Father Jonathan Romanoski, FSSP, Susan Treacy, Ph.D., and others.

Musica Sacra Florida 2018 Workshops (July 27-28): 

“What Came before the Square Notes” (Edward Schaefer, D.M.A.) - Learn the fascinating history of pre-square-note notation.

“A Plain and Easy Guide to Square Notation” (Susan Treacy, Ph.D.) – Are you mystified or intimidated by those little square notes? Fear not! In this workshop you will receive basic instruction on how to read Gregorian chant notation. Likewise, if you need a refresher course, come join us.

“Gregorian Chant as the Basis for Choral Excellence” (Larry Kent, D.M.A.) - This workshop will examine various ways that correct chant technique is an essential element in mixed choral ensembles, especially with regard to sacred music of the sixteenth century. Participants will work with excerpts of works by Byrd, Victoria, Tallis, and Palestrina.

Keynote Lecture for the Musica Sacra Florida 2018 Gregorian Chant Conference:
Dr. Edward Schaefer (University of Florida): "The Place of Gregorian Chant in Western History and Its Importance Today”

Gregorian Chant Conference Faculty 
Larry Kent, D.M.A., Director of Florida Pro Musica, Tampa
Edward Schaefer, D.M.A., University of Florida College of Fine Arts
Susan Treacy, Ph.D., Ave Maria University

For all the details about registration, schedule and conference hotel, visit their website: musicasacraflorida.com

Friday, July 13, 2018

Santa Maria in Organo in Verona, Italy

The church of Santa Maria “in Organo” in Verona takes its name not from its own organ, but from an ancient Roman water clock which was powered by the river Adige, which runs through the city; as the water flowed through the device and turned it, it also passed over pipes that played music. The clock was perhaps already badly damaged by the flooding of the Adige when it was destroyed by the Lombards in the 8th century.

In 1444, the church was given to the Olivetan monastic order, who held it until the suppressions of the Napoleonic era, in 1808. At the very end of the 15th century, a monk of this order, Fra’ Giovanni da Verona, built and decorated the sacristy, a work of which the great artist historian Giorgio Vasari described as “the most beautiful sacristy in all of Italy. ” Here are some photos taken by Nicola; those of the church itself are given below.

“...in the lunettes he painted various Popes in pontifical habit, two per section, those who were elected to the papacy from the order of St Benedict. Around the sacristy ... there is a band ... in which are depicted in monastic habit various emperors, kings, dukes and other princes, who left the states and principalities which they had, and became monks.” (Vasari)





“And truly it was because of this decoration that this became the most beautiful sacristy in all of Italy, because, apart from the beauty of the well-proportioned space of a reasonable size, and the fact that the paintings are very beautiful, there is also in the lower part the doors of the cupboards, worked in cut and inlaid wood, with lovely images in perspective, done so well that in those days, and perhaps also in our own, none better are to be seen, since Fra’ Giovanni da Verona, who made the work, truly excelled in that art...  as is also demonstrated (by his other works.)” (Vasari)
The city of Verona has an ancient Roman amphitheater, known simply as “the Arena”, built in the first century, but severely damaged by an earthquake of 1117, as seen here in Fra’ Giovanni’s representation of it. After various modern restorations, it is now used for operatic performances and many other events.

Card. Arinze to Celebrate Patronal Feast at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in NYC

On Sunday, July 8, the Divine Liturgy (Qurbono Qadisho) was offered according to the rite of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch at the Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in New York City. This annual liturgy is part of the Pallottine tradition of presenting Eastern Catholic Liturgies during the Octave of the Epiphany, and now also as part of the Novena in preparation for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. (Photographs by Father Christopher Salvatori S.A.C.)






Here is the schedule of Masses and other liturgical celebrations for the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Saturday, July 14
9 AM - EF Sung Mass, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and praying of 1,000 Hail Mary’s until 5 PM

Sunday, July 15
10:25 AM - EF Sung Mass
Noon - 1:30 PM - Rosary Rally & Street Evangelization in front of the Rectory, East 116th Street
5:30 PM - EF Sung Mass
7:30 PM - 1st Solemn Latin Vespers (EF), & Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament
9 PM - Outdoor Candlelight Procession
11 PM - International Rosary & Litany of the Blessed Virgin chanted in Latin
Monday, July 16
12 AM - EF Solemn Massm starting at Midnight
6 AM - EF Low Mass
7 AM - EF Low Mass
(Masses offered every Hour, Last Mass at 8 PM)
10 AM - Solemn Mass, Ordinary Form (ad orientem) celebrated by His Eminence Francis Arinze, Cardinal Bishop of Velletri-Segni and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments
11:30 AM - Grand Procession

See this recent post for the schedule of events on Saturday, July 21, when the church will hold its the Seventh Annual Traditional Mass Pilgrimage as the culmination of the 134th annual feast of the Shrine and Parish’s Patroness.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Feast of St John Gualbert

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St John Gualbert, founder of the monastic congregation known from their mother-house as the Vallumbrosians (the “Shady Valley” monks.) Like his contemporaries Ss Romuald and Peter Damian, he played an important role in the great reform movement taking place within the Church in the 11th century. The life of the Vallumbrosians was extremely austere in an age of terrible laxity among monks, and Pope Alexander II (who died very shortly before him in 1073) testified that it was largely though St John’s efforts that the vice of clerical simony, which had become so common it was hardly even noticed, was largely extirpated in central Italy.

The Vallumbrosa Altarpiece, by Perugino, 1500. The Saints at the bottom are, from left to right, Bernardo degli Umberti, a member of the Vallumbrosian Order who became a cardinal in 1097, and bishop of Parma in 1106, John Gualbert, Benedict and the Archangel Michael.
However, St John is particularly known for an episode that took place in his early life, before he embraced the monastic state. He was born into a Florentine noble family in the later 10th century, when faction-fighting and street-battles among the nobility were a routine fact of life. In the course of this, his older brother Ugo was murdered, and John determined to avenge him privately. One day (the Breviary says it was Good Friday), when he was in the company of his friends and supporters, all of them fully armed, he came across the murderer, unarmed, in an alley from which there was no way to escape. As John advanced to kill him, the man fell on his knees and threw out his arms like those of Christ on the Cross; the sight of this moved him to repent, and he not only forbore his revenge, but embraced and forgave the murderer. John then went to pray at the church of St Miniato on a hill outside the city, where the crucifix on one of the altars nodded to him, signifying the Lord’s acceptance of this gesture of true Christian forgiveness. For this reason, the Gospel of his feast day is not the taken from the Common of Abbots, but repeated (in part) from the Friday after Ash Wednesday.

“You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5, 43-48)

In the altarpiece show above, by Giovanni del Biondo, (ca. 1370), St John is shown forgiving his brother’s killer in the upper left section. Below it is depicted an especially famous episode in the ecclestical history of Florence, one which is connected to a contemporary of St John known as “Petrus Igneus - Fiery Peter.” A simoniac bishop, Peter of Pavia, was made bishop of Florence, much to the indignation of the populace, who demanded a trial by fire to determine the legitimacy of his appointment. Their appellant, a monk of St John’s order also called Peter, celebrated Mass in the presence of a crowd of some 3000 people, then, removing his chasuble (of course), walked between two raging pyres set close very to each other, remaining totally unscathed, even though the fire seemed to fill his alb, and he sank into the hot coals up to his ankles. This was taken as God’s judgment that his cause was just, and Peter of Pavia was removed from the See at the order of Pope Alexander, while Peter the monk was eventually made a cardinal and Papal legate. His feast is kept in Florence and by the Vallumbrosian order on February 8th.

Liturgy and Laity: Dom Alcuin Reid Reviews a History of Una Voce

First Things has just published Dom Alcuin Reid’s very interesting review of a history of Una Voce by Leo Darroch, who was president of that organization from 2007-13. (Una Voce: The History of the Foederatio Internationalis Una Voce) Here we give a few excerpts; I encourage you to read the whole of the original. The title of the review reflects one of the many ironies with which the post-Conciliar liturgical reform was fraught from start to finish, namely, that the greatest opposition to it came largely from the lay people for whose benefit it was purportedly being done.

“Una Voce’s history, faithfully compiled by Leo ­Darroch in the present volume, is indeed the history of lay men and women coming of age in the life of the Church. It is not too much to say that following the Second Vatican Council, Una Voce formed a lay movement that, in spite of at times not insignificant opposition, came to be of singular importance. For at a time when the required obedience had anesthetized the greater part of the clergy ... it was the laity who enjoyed the freedom necessary to organize themselves to ­promote the goods that were ­seemingly being squandered by the Church herself.

... The history of Una Voce is the history of devout, intelligent, and indeed obedient Catholic men and women (at times, to be sure, severely frustrated and almost driven to distraction) seeking for decades to convince ecclesiastical authorities at every level, including the highest, that the Church had made a fundamental error not in reforming or developing her public worship—that she had done throughout history—but in excluding substantial and important elements of her liturgical tradition (including Latin) in so doing. They argued that the almost complete prohibition of the older forms of worship was pastorally harmful, culturally deleterious, and gravely unjust to the worthy aims of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.”

In mid-March of 1964, when the Consilium ad exsequendam was not yet two months old, Dom Gregory Murray of Downside Abbey in England wrote in the Tablet, “The plea that the laity as a body do not want liturgical change, whether in rite or in language, is, I submit, quite beside the point. … (it is) not a question of what people want; it is a question of what is good for them.” The great Michael Davies, who of course figures very prominently in Darroch’s book, rightly observed in “Liturgical Time Bombs in Vatican II”, that this contempt for the laity was no different from that of the Soviet Communist Party for the people; as the Party “ ‘interpreted the will of the people,’ so the (liturgical) ‘experts’ interpret the wishes of the laity.” Dom Reid gives an excellent example of the the very Soviet behavior characteristic of those sad and difficult years from no less a person than the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worhsip.

“It is by no means an easy task to inform a naked emperor that he is wearing no clothes, as the early Una Voce leaders learned only too quickly. Darroch’s history is replete with polite but firm reminders from ecclesiastics that the old ways have been replaced by newer and better ones and that everyone needs to make the best of them. A 1970 petition to Pope Paul VI requesting the preservation of the older rite of Mass received this reply from Cardinal Benno Gut, prefect of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship: ‘You know that the decree . . . ­issued with the ­publication of the new Ordo provided for a certain period of transition. . . . But after this period of transition all the faithful should get used to the new form.’ His Eminence conceded that the difficulties ex­perienced by many of the faithful with the new order were ‘due to (very genuine) psychological inhibitions.’ He concluded: ‘Your letter, written in such a ­distinguished tone, gives us the ­assurance that you will find the ­correct attitude.’ ”

In this age of the Church’s life, as in every other, there are many reasons to take encouragement, and many for discouragement. For those are for whatever reason inclined to the latter, it will certainly be useful to read this remarkable prophecy made by the first President of Una Voce, Dr Eric de Saventhem, in 1970.

“...from the outset Una Voce was blessed with the leadership of the German-born convert from Protestantism Eric de Saventhem—a providential unifier, spokesman, and coordinator of the movement. While for many years he too had received polite but firm replies entreating him and his associates to adopt the “­correct attitude,” his vision was ­nothing less than prophetic. As early as June 1970, speaking as the guest of honor at the annual meeting of Una Voce USA at the Liederkranz Club in Manhattan, de Saventhem would assert:
A renaissance will come: asceticism and adoration as the mainspring of direct total dedication to Christ will return. Confraternities of priests, vowed to celibacy and to an intense life of prayer and meditation will be formed. Religious will regroup themselves into houses of strict observance. A new form of Liturgical Movement will come into being, led by young priests and attracting mainly young people, in protest against the flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies which will soon overgrow and finally smother even the recently revised rites.
He continued:
It is vitally important that these new priests and religious, these new young people with ardent hearts, should find—if only in a corner of the rambling mansion of the Church—the treasure of a truly Sacred Liturgy still glowing softly in the night. And it is our task, since we have been given the grace to appreciate the value of this heritage, to preserve it from spoliation, from becoming buried out of sight, despised and therefore lost forever. It is our duty to keep it alive: by our own loving attachment, by our support for the priests who make it shine in our churches, by our apostolate at all levels of persuasion.”

TLM for Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Newark, New Jersey

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church in Newark, New Jersey will celebrate a Solemn High Mass in the traditional rite on the eve of the patronal feast day of his parish, this Sunday, July 15th, starting at 5:00 p.m. Following Mass there will be a grand procession with a statue of Our Lady and a full symphonic brass band, and the streets of the parish will host an Italian festival with live entertainment. The church is located at 259 Oliver Street; there is ample parking on premises.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Recent TLM Pilgrimage In Spain

Our thanks to reader Daniel Martínez Pasamar for sharing with us this account of a pilgrimage / retreat recently held in Spain for a group of the faithful attached to the traditional Latin Mass.

From Thursday, June 28th to Sunday, July 1st, the first edition of the Family Retreat ‘Vayamos Jubilosos’ for people attached to the Traditional Liturgy of the Roman Rite in Spain took place. This is the first time ever that such an initiative, geared at deepen knowledge of the Mass of Ages and the values and principles of Christendom has been held in Spain.

In addition to the lectures for adults, and the parallel educational activities and talks specifically designed for the children, the participants in the retreat were able to attend Mass every day, either one of the Low Masses celebrated by the priests present at the event, or the Solemn High Mass which was the spiritual core of each day. Furthermore, the attendees took part in different traditional devotions: daily solemn Vespers in Gregorian chant, Benediction and the Holy Rosary.



On Saturday, the group walked on pilgrimage to the shrine of Blessed Virgin Mary of the Cross, the site of a famous and offically recognized apparition of the Virgin Mary to a young shepherd girl named Inés, which took place in 1449. This shrine was visited by personages such as the Emperor Charles V, Don John of Austria (the victor of Lepanto), and Cardinal Franisco Cisneros went on pilgrimage to the shrine when Saint Juana de la Cruz was the abbess of the convent attached to it. The Stations of the Cross were prayed on the way to the Shrine.

Card Müller Keynote Speaker at 2018 Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference

The Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce its 2018 conference, to be held September 27–29 in Miami, Florida, at the Cathedral of St. Mary. The conference theme is the centenary of the publication of Romano Guardini’s Spirit of the Liturgy.


The conference will feature keynote addresses by His Eminence, Gerhard Cardinal Müller (“Lex orandi - lex credendi”), Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, and the Secretariat of the USCCB’s Committee on Divine Worship.


The liturgies of the conference are a solemn Mass in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite to be celebrated by Cardinal Müller, and a solemn pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form, celebrated by Archbishop Wenski.

Papers on the conference theme will be delivered by Steve Baker, Rev Mr Samuel Bellafiore, Dr Michael Brummond, Rev Daniel Cardó, Peter Carter, Jonathan Ciraulo, Dr Andrew Dinan, Rev David Friel, Dr Michael Foley, John Haigh, Barnaby Hughes, Dr Kevin Hughes, Dr Nathan Knutson, Kevin Magas, Dr William Mahrt, Dino Marcantonio, Dr Michon Matthiesen, John Monaco, Rev Michael Monshau, Sr Esther Mary Nickel, Dr Timothy O’Malley, Dr Edward Schaefer, Dr Jeremy Sinkiewicz, Joshua Wopata, and Zachary Watters. Topics can be viewed on the schedule available on the conference website

All are welcome to attend the conference; there is a discount for members of the Society, as well as for seminarians. Day passes are also available. Registration and more information is included below and at the Society’s webpage

The registration deadline is Monday, September 17th. Please also note that discounted hotel prices are good only until July 27th. Please book early if you'd like the discount. 

I hope you'll be able to join us in Miami in September!

Guest Article: Time to Say “No Thanks” to Liturgical Deviations

Today NLM is pleased to present a translation of the response by Monika Rheinschmitt, president of Pro Missa Tridentina, to an article by Fr Engelbert Recktenwald, FSSP, entitled “Time to say ‘Thanks’ ”, which was published on June 28 in Die Tagespost.

Time to Say “No Thanks” to Liturgical Deviations
Monika Rheinschmitt

Together with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, we rejoice over its 30th anniversary and wish God’s blessing upon its current General Chapter.

After Fr. Recktenwald, FSSP in his article from June 28, 2018 (“Time to say ‘Thanks’”) has finished discussing the history of the birth of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and, as a second theme, the mutual trust between Rome and the Fraternity as well as between bishops and members of the Fraternity who care for individual parishes, he busies himself in the last two paragraphs with “the danger of a hyperliturgization [Hyperliturgisierung], especially among traditional laity.”

In response, I would like to offer a few thoughts to ponder. In my work for the lay association “Pro Missa Tridentina,” I have many contacts with about 230 sites of classical Roman tradition in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Not surprisingly, while I encounter a wide variety and certainly a diversity of different views, I cannot confirm the existence of such a tendency. The faithful, who often travel long distances to be able to assist at Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, are well aware of what a great treasure the Catholic Church preserves in this liturgy, and what a unique historic opportunity is the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which ensured that the liturgical books in use in 1962 might continue to be used, and used without restriction. According to the will of Pope Benedict XVI, this treasure of the classical Roman Rite is not intended for a small, elite group, but rather “offered to all of the faithful” (Instruction Universae Ecclesiae).

People find their way to the traditional Roman Rite along many paths: the beauty of the music in the churches, the great painting and architecture, the solemn liturgies, things they read—all that expresses reverence and adoration of the Most High. As in the Gospel parable about the treasure in the field (Mt 13:44-46), they do not want to lose again what they have found, but rather to conserve the beauty of this treasure. They respect and practice forms grown up over the centuries and maintained in the life of the Church—forms that also help Catholics today to pray more devoutly and reverently and to believe more deeply.

It is not “pastoral,” therefore, when priests carry out their own little private liturgical reform and, for example, replace Latin Scripture readings with German ones, or the sung Ordinary of the Mass with Schubert Mass-paraphrases (as Fr. Recktenwald advocates), or allow certain liturgical prayers to be said in German rather than Latin. Especially today in the age of globalization, in which communities of the faithful in places like Frankfurt or Bonn or Stuttgart can easily show a linguistic diversity like that of Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost, a common liturgical language and a single worldwide form are of inestimable value for preserving a spiritual homeland.

The desire to remove deviations accumulated over the course of years in order to keep this form visible and available is also expressed in the following papal provisions:

1) The motu proprio Rubricarum instructum of Pope St. John XXIII: As of January 1, 1961, all who belong to the Roman rite must obey the rules set forth in the liturgical books. All conflicting provisions, privileges, exemptions, permissions, and customs of any kind are withdrawn—even if they have existed for centuries or from time immemorial.

2) The Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, enacted by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei in the name of Pope Benedict XVI, frees the celebration of the usus antiquior from any laws adopted after 1962 that concern the sacred rites and are incompatible with the rubrics of the liturgical books in force in 1962.

Edifying, perhaps, but not the Mass

Here, the intention of the papal legislators is clear: to eliminate any possible deviations from the rubrics, whether they are matters of custom or are motivated by “pastoral” or “contemporary” adjustments. This ought to receive complete agreement on the part of all traditional believers, clergy as well as laity, and especially members of priestly communities that make an exclusive use of the liturgical books of 1962.

The authentic celebration of the liturgy by no means neglects pastoral care in favor of a self-sufficient aesthetic. As the well-known formula puts it: lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivendi: worship, faith, and concern for the salvation of souls belong together. Prayer, faith, and life are based on the same foundations and are supported by an authentic liturgy that is faithful to its rite.

Accordingly, in the decree of establishment of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, October 18, 1988, it says:
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is dedicated to the sanctification of priests through the exercise of pastoral ministry, principally through the uniformity of their lives with the Eucharistic sacrifice and by observing the liturgical and disciplinary traditions about which the Pope writes in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesia Dei of July 2, 1988.
It may be taken for granted that the statutes of the Priestly Fraternity have meanwhile been conformed to the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of 2007 and the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae of 2011, but this would not modify anything in the assertion that the statutes of the Priestly Fraternity imply adherence to the liturgical rites.

Let us take up an example from Fr. Recktenwald’s article: the presentation of the Scripture readings immediately in the vernacular, instead of (as intended for High Mass) first being sung in Latin, and then optionally read out in the vernacular. On this point Rome has expressly spoken. The already-mentioned Instruction Universae Ecclesiae specifies: “As foreseen by article 6 of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the readings of the Holy Mass of the Missal of 1962 can be proclaimed either solely in the Latin language, or in Latin followed by the vernacular or, in Low Masses, solely in the vernacular.” This means: in all sung Masses on Sundays and Holy Days as well as feasts of the first class such as St. Joseph on March 19, or the Sacred Heart of Jesus, or SS. Peter and Paul on June 29, or the Assumption on August 15, the Epistle and the Gospel must first be sung in Latin (if the priest is not ill such that he may only read out the text in Latin).

It remains incomprehensible why, after this clear statement in the Instruction Universae Ecclesiae, many priests (above all in the sphere of the German language and in France) ignore the latreutic aspect of the Scripture readings and insist, even at High Masses, on reading out the Scripture immediately in the regional language—and then accuse those who “dissent” from this abuse of “rubricism,” and complain about “hyperliturgization.”

In support of his position, Father Recktenwald refers to the Pontifical Mass that was celebrated this year by Cardinal Sarah at the conclusion of the Paris-Chartres pilgrimage. There, after all, the Epistle and Gospel were read aloud immediately in French, and Cardinal Sarah in his homily issued a reminder about how one should celebrate the liturgy: “with noble simplicity, without useless additions, false aestheticism or theatricality, but with a sense of the sacred that first and foremost gives glory to God.”

This quotation seems to me to be torn out of context and not taken in the sense in which Cardinal Sarah meant it. In the same homily, the celebrant refers in a positive way multiple times to the Pontifical Mass just celebrated, with the following words:
Let us take today’s Mass as a model: it brings us to adoration, to a filial and loving fear before the greatness of God. ... Dear brothers and sisters, let us love these liturgies that enable us to taste the silent presence and transcendence of God and turn us toward the Lord. ... What the world expects of the priest is that he proclaim God and the Light of his Word, without ambiguity or falsification. Let us know how to turn together to God in a liturgical celebration full of reverence, a silence that expresses holiness. We invent nothing new in the liturgy; we receive everything from God and His Church. We don’t want to put on a show or seek our own success. The liturgy teaches us: To be a priest is not to do a lot, it means, far more, to be with the Lord upon the Cross. ... Whether in the Ordinary or the Extraordinary Form, let us always celebrate, as we also do today, according to what the Second Vatican Council teaches: with a noble simplicity, without useless additions, false aestheticism or theatricality, but with a sense of the sacred that first and foremost gives glory to God, and with the true spirit of a son of the Church.
Whether Cardinal Sarah, in a Pontifical Mass for 15,000 international pilgrims, many of whom did not understand French, really endorsed (a) the disregarding of the Roman requirement that the Scripture readings be first given in Latin and (b) the reading of them immediately and exclusively in French, eludes my knowledge, but it appears to me to be questionable.

Presumably, this remark (“useless additions, theatricality”) referred more to other elements of large-scale Mass celebrations that can be witnessed at the Pope’s Masses, and most recently at the Catholic Day [in Germany]: liturgical dance with the Gospel book, guitars, percussion, even drum kits, never-ending Offertory processions in which many people bring all sorts of gifts down the aisle to the altar, a lengthy and excessive Kiss of Peace, and so forth.

Comparable to the prescriptions about the Scripture readings are the provisions concerning church music, especially what is to be sung during Holy Mass. Ever since the motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini (1903) of Pope St Pius X, all the popes as well as the Second Vatican Council have stressed the importance and primacy of the Gregorian chant in the liturgy and have highlighted that, in addition to the cantors (Schola), the others who are assisting at Mass should also learn the Gregorian melodies and sing the parts that pertain to them. All the worshiping communities at locations where Holy Masses in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite are regularly offered make an effort to build up a schola cantorum. This should also be encouraged and appreciated by the celebrants, because the Gregorian chant is a necessary, indispensable part of the liturgy.

For the greater glory of God, believers of all centuries have made the best of what has been available to them in the fields of architecture, painting, fine arts, paraments, goldsmithing, and music. We should continue to do this today, so that the sacraments, especially the Mass, “the most beautiful thing this side of heaven,” may be celebrated as fittingly as possible.
Almighty God,
grant me the grace
to desire ardently all that is pleasing to Thee,
to examine it prudently,
to acknowledge it truthfully,
and to accomplish it perfectly,
for the praise and glory of Thy Name.
Prayer of St. Thomas Aquinas
[The original German text of this article may be found here.]

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fota XI Conference, Day 2 - Pontifical Mass with Card. Burke

On Sunday, July 8th, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Mass from the Throne at the church of Ss Peter and Paul in Cork, Ireland, as part of the 11th Fota International Liturgical Conference. The Mass was sung by the wonderful Lassus Scholars, conducted by Dr Ite O’Donovan; here are the Gloria and Creed of Orlando de Lassus’ Missa Entre Vous Filles.


In the afternoon, a paper by Fr Joseph Briody was presented, entitled “The Imprecatory Passages of the Psalms and their use in the Divine Office.” Here is the abstract. - The revised Liturgy of the Hours omitted some difficult passages from the Psalms in order to facilitate the public and vernacular praying of the Divine Office. These passages are sometimes called the “curses” or imprecatory passages. In recent years some scholars – including non-Catholic scholars – have argued that the praying of these difficult passages can be beneficial, especially in certain circumstances or in personal prayer. These passages express the deepest pain of the human heart and cry out to the Lord for deliverance. This paper examines some of these passages and their literal, theological, spiritual and theological senses. Interestingly, even the most difficult passages do not envisage the author himself taking revenge on enemies. This is left to the Lord: vindication and restoration belong to the Lord. The passages express a cry for justice, while leaving the outcome to the Lord. The passages recognize the movements of the heart and channel these movements away from destruction to resolution, trust and peace. The praying of the Psalms is therefore both therapeutic and transformative. These difficult passages candidly bring human suffering before the living God who speaks and heals.

Fr Briody was unable to be present for the conference this year, and so his paper was read by Fr Dennis McManus, who will begin teaching at Mount St Mary Seminary in the fall. Even though the paper which he presented was not his own work, Fr McManus nevertheless fielded questions on the topic, and I have to say that the discussion which resulted was one of the most interesting I have ever attended at any kind of conference.

Afterwards, Cardinal Burke presented the printed volume of the paper delivered at last year’s Fota Conference, which is entitled “Resourcing the Prayers of the Roman Liturgy: Patristic Sources”, edited by Fr Joseph Briody, and soon to be available from Smenos Publications

How to Pray With Sacred Art

How do we pray with sacred art? Judging by the length of some books that have been devoted to this subject, one might imagine that the answer to this question this is long and complicated. However, in my experience, much of the content of these books is devoted to discussion of the symbolism of traditional imagery, to the question as to why we ought to pray with sacred art, and general information about techniques of prayer that are not specific to images. This is all good information, but it is available elsewhere, and the inclusion of these subjects in one place creates thick tomes which give the impression that you need to be a bookish academic to be able to do this. Once we focus on the actual engagement with imagery during prayer, then the subject becomes much simpler.

So simple in fact, that I would say that the short answer to this question is just this: pray as you would normally, but look at sacred art as you do it.

Good sacred art will promote a right attitude in the one who prays, through the combination of its content, compositional design, and stylistic elements. In this sense, the artist does the hard work in advance to make it easy and natural for us. I will write another post soon, called How Artists Create a Dynamic of Prayer Through Style and Content in Sacred Art, which will explain this further. This will be, I hope, useful for artists and interesting to the curious, but I will happily say in advance, not actually necessary for the one who prays.

I am also assuming a certain degree of wisdom on the part of the one who chooses that art and its placement in the place of worship or prayer. Style, for example, can be distracting even if the content is right. When we choose art for home this is a personal choice, but I would be far more conservative when choosing art for church, where it has to appeal to as many people as possible. The traditional styles are more likely to do this. You can decide whether or not this modern style is distracting or supportive of your prayer. (It wouldn’t help mine).

The Virgin Mary
If you are praying to the Virgin Mary, look at the image of her and treat the image as you would her, with the greatest respect. We can kiss or bow to an image on the understanding that we are offering that respect, appropriately, not to the image in isolation, but rather to the one portrayed through the image. When the right image of (e.g.) the Mother of God is set up in such a place that when we wish to pray to Her in the liturgy, we do so naturally and easily, then very little instruction is needed. I would be more inclined to choose a traditional style even for home, such as this:

Madonna and Child with Ss Jerome, Bernardin, John the Baptist, Anthony of Padua and Two Angels, by Sano di Pietro, ca. 1465
The hierarchy of prayer and how sacred art harmonizes with this
In his little paper on the New Evangelization written in the year 2000, Pope Benedict XVI gives us a lesson in prayer. He does this to make the point that in order to be evangelists, we ourselves must first be transformed supernaturally, which happens through prayer. He describes a three (or perhaps two)-tiered hierarchy of prayer. Highest is the worship of God the Father, through the Son in the Holy Spirit in the liturgy; second is what he calls para-liturgical prayer, which is prayer in common derived from popular religiosity and devotions (such as the rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet); and third, or perhaps equal second, is personal prayer, carried out in the “in the quiet of one’s room, alone in front of God’s eyes.”

Each form of prayer has a value in and of itself. God is not limited by His sacraments or the liturgy and the connection to us can be profound and real if He wishes it. But as a general principle, their greatest value is in the enrichment of the highest form of prayer. By all prayer, we are formed as lovers capable of an ordered reception of Him and the giving of ourselves back to Him in the liturgy. In turn, it is the liturgy which forms us most powerfully to be lovers of our fellows and neighbors in the world.

The Church tells us that art is not just desirable, but necessary to prayer and to the liturgy. We have a problem in the Roman Church at the moment, in that we seem to have forgotten how to engage with art in the context of the liturgy. In my observation, this can be as true of pious traditionalists as it is of liturgical liberals. Even when the church is beautifully adorned with high-quality art, and the liturgy that takes place in that church is dignified and orthodox, very rarely do I see anybody engaging with art in the Mass itself. As a result, the art is reduced to something that creates a mood-setting beautiful backdrop - not altogether useless, but still underutilized. Contrast this with an Eastern Church where typically every time the Mother of God is prayed to, the image is incensed by priest or deacon and all turn and address the Theotokos through her image. We need to find ways that this can happen too in the Roman Church.


As a layperson, I have no power over what the priests do and can’t, for example, direct them as to when we might process to and incense a particular image so I leave it to any priests or seminarians who might be reading this to think about what I am saying. However, there are other things that I can focus on. I can develop the habit of looking at the imagery at appropriate junctures. I don’t need permission from anyone, when the Father is addressed, for example, to look to the image of Christ (those who see the Son, see the Father); or at the same image when Christ Himself is addressed, or Our Lady and the Saints when they are mentioned. I am free to turn to their images and bow as the prayers are said, and so on.

Compressing many truths into a single visual ‘utterance’
There are also things we can do outside the church in order to make this engagement in the liturgy more fruitful. One is to practice praying with sacred imagery in front of the icon corner at home. Ideally, we would choose art to accompany all of our prayer at home. By developing the habit of praying with images whenever we can, aside from being an additional source of inspiration for our prayer, the image becomes associated in our minds with all the words of our prayers, meditation and inspirational thoughts that occur during those prayers. Each time we see that image, or another of the same subject, all those memories are re-presented to us. So, for example, if we simply ensure that we look at a single image of Mary when praying the rosary, then all the truths associated with the rosary and our reflection on the mysteries will be associated in our minds with the picture of Mary. At a certain point, simply seeing the image brings to mind in a single moment all that we know about her and that we know about her Son through her. It is as though all the time of that prayer is compressed into a momentary sight of the image. It is just like when we see a person we love from whom we have been separated, all that we know about that person is with us in the joy of that first moment of seeing her again.

The hope is that we can be like this in the liturgy. We look at Our Lady when her name is mentioned, perhaps on a feast day dedicated to her, and all that we know about her is made present in our minds in some mysterious way and then added to and reinforced by our experience in the liturgy itself.

Vassily Maximov, ‘Sick Husband’, painted in 1881, showing a traditional icon corner

FSSP Elects New Superior General

The General Chapter of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter, which is currently being at Our Lady of Guadalupe International Seminary in Denton, Nebraska, yesterday elected Fr Andrzej Komorowski as Superior General for 6 years. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei was immediately informed and sent a message of congratulations.


Born in Poland in 1975, Fr. Komorowski joined St Peter’s International Seminary in Wigratzbad after studying economics at the University of Poznań. Ordained a priest in June 2006 by Jorge Cardinal Medina-Estévez, he served in various apostolates of the Fraternity in Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Elected Assistant to the Superior General at the 2012 General Chapter, he held that position at the General House in Fribourg, while fulfilling the duties of General Bursar and ministering to the faithful in French-speaking Switzerland. As successor to Fr John Berg, Fr Komorowski is the 4th Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

We are very happy to offer our congratulations and the assurance of our prayers to Fr Komorowski for the good success of his new ministry - ad multos annos!

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