Thursday, February 23, 2017

St Peter Damian on Liturgical Prayer

St Peter Damian died on the feast of St Peter’s Chair, February 22, in the year 1072, a very appropriate day for one who spent so much of his life in service to the Church and to the Holy See. His feast was extended to the general calendar in 1828 by Pope Leo XII, who also made him a Doctor of the Church, and assigned to the day after his death; in the new calendar, St Polycarp of Smyrna was moved to February 23rd, his date in the Byzantine Rite, and so St Peter was moved to the 21st.

The Madonna and Child with Ss Anne, Elizabeth, Augustine and Peter Damian, by Ercole Roberti, 1479-81. Executed for the church of Santa Maria in Porto outside Ravenna, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan.
The revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints describes Peter Damian very well as “one of those stern figures who seem specially raised up, like St John the Baptist, to recall men in a lax age from the error of their ways and to bring them back into the narrow path of virtue.” He was born in the early years of the 11th century, an age in which the Church in Western Europe lay very low indeed. Lay control of ecclesiastical offices and the attendant vice of simony were rampant, and the discipline of clerical celibacy was widely ignored; the years of his youth also saw the appalling spectacle of Pope Benedict IX, whom St Robert Bellarmine called “the nadir” of the Papacy. It is perhaps difficult to for us even imagine the history of this man, who was temporarily driven off the Papal throne by violence for his personal immorality, reinstated, then sold the Papacy (see note below), attempted to take it back, and was deposed again by the Holy Roman Emperor.

However, even the darkest days of the Church’s history are not without their Saints. As France gave the Church the abbey of Cluny, which was ruled by six Saints in a row over a 190 year period, to pave the way for reform, Italy saw a new flourishing of strict and reform-minded monastic orders in the 11th century, led by St Romuald, the founder of the Camaldoese Order, and St John Gualbert, the founder of the Vallombrosians. It was among these communities that Peter Damian was formed as a religious, and was called to serve as abbot of an important Camaldolese house at Fonte Avellana.

It is often darkest before the dawn; after the deposition of Benedict IX and the extremely brief (24 day) reign of Damasus II, the Papal throne was occupied by Leo IX (1049-54), an active and enthusiastic reformer, now canonized as a Saint. From this time, the reform party within the Church was very much in the ascendant, with St Peter Damian as one of its most powerful leaders and spokesmen. In 1057, Pope Stephen IX made him the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, to which office it then belonged to crown the Pope, but he was later released from this position at his own request by Pope Alexander II. He continued to serve as a Papal legate and ambassador, and to write a great deal in exhortation to the clergy at all levels to a stricter and more disciplined life. Two particularly famous example of his severity are his rebuke to the canons of Besançon in France for sitting down during the Office (!), although he was willing to allow this during the lessons of Matins, and to the bishop of Florence for playing a game of chess.

King Otto IV of Brandenburg indulges in frivolity. (From the Codex Manesse, 1305-13; public domain image from Wikipedia)
In his large body of writings, three of his letters were regarded as especially important treatises for the reformers of the age, and circulated widely as “books.” The “Liber gratissimus” treats of the problem of simony, which he condemns in the harshest possible terms. (“Judas sold the Lord, … but soon thereafter cast away the price of blood… you, on the other hand, … keep the profit from the sacrilege you commit.”) The “Liber gomorrhianus” treats of the worst aspects of sexual immorality among the clergy. The third is known by the odd title “Liber ‘Dominus vobiscum’ ”, and is of particular interest in the field of liturgical history.

It was addressed to a monk and hermit named Leo, who had written to St Peter to inquire whether he ought to say “The Lord be with you” and “Pray, lord, give the blessing” when saying the Divine Office alone in his cell. St Peter’s answer is argued at length and with great thoroughness, but what it really boils down to is “the liturgy is not about you.” Since it is the public prayer of the Church, which is made of many members and yet One in the Holy Spirit, the liturgy may rightly speak in the singular in choir (he cites Psalms such as “Incline to me Thy ear, o Lord” and “I will bless the Lord at all times”), and in the plural when celebrated by only one. He also notes, perhaps more persuasively, that a very large part of the Divine Office is said in the plural, invitatories such as “Come, let us worship the Lord”, hymns such as “Rising in the night let us all keep watch” etc.; so much, in fact, that to switch it to the singular in private prayer would mean to either omit most of it or mutilate it.

(footnote: It should be noted that the man who bought the Papacy from Benedict IX was his godfather, an archpriest named John Gratian, who did so for the worthiest of motives, namely, to get Benedict out of the way; as Pope he was called Gregory VI. Although he was deposed for this act of simony, he was held in such high regard that almost 30 years, later, when St Gregory VII was elected, certainly no laxist in matters of church discipline, he chose his Papal name in John Gratian’s honor.)

Magnificent New Recording by London Oratory Boys Choir, Charles Cole Director

The latest release from AimHigher Recordings, now in conjunction with Sony Classical, is a glorious encapsulation of the splendid work of The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir, under the direction of the NLM’s own Charles Cole. It is superb in every respect, from the quality of the mastering and engineering, to the selection of repertoire and the creative artistic choices.

Typical of the label’s past releases, the story of the Schola as an ensemble focused on the singing of the Church’s sacred music in the context of the sacred liturgy, and an account of the boys’ lives, which revolve around the demanding schedule and discipline required to execute such a high purpose, come to the fore. The ensemble is no mere showpiece, though they rightly belong to the uppermost tier of boy choirs in the world—they are clearly dedicated to the opus Dei, the offering of the most beautiful and most worthy efforts for the worship of almighty God.

The English Tudor era repertoire on the disc mixes well-known and beloved pieces like the William Byrd (1540–1623) Ave verum corpus and Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585) O nata lux with lesser-known gems like the Missa Euge bone of Christopher Tye (c. 1505–1573). 

The opening track of the disc, Haec dies, captures the energetic and expansively glorious lines typical of John Sheppard's (c. 1515–1558) writing through its masterful balance between parts; both treble and lower voices are powerful without being overbearing. The Missa Euge bone is delightful in its charm—surprising textural and harmonic turns abound—and Cole's thoughtful approach to the architecture of each movement through contrast, good pacing, and a mindfulness of the trajectory of lines reflects an understanding of the integral connection between the movement of the sacred liturgy and its sacred music. The tenderness of Robert Parsons' (1535–1571) Ave Maria is captured through the delicate and insistent shaping of phrases. The choice of tempo for Byrd's Ave Verum demonstrates the flexibility of this masterpiece in its ability to inspire and bear varied artistic choices, and Cole's choice of a slower tempo clearly hearkens to the use of the text in elevation motets, capturing the adoration inherent in that liturgical moment, and allowing the striking cross relations to be clearly heard. The choice of the Peter Phillips (c. 1560–1628) Ascendit Deus for the final track of the disc provides a fitting conclusion, having traversed from Easter through different moments of salvation history to Our Lord's going up "in jubilation . . . with the sound of the trumpet." This sparkling setting embodies well what so many composers have found in this brilliance of the text, adding to it the soaring soprano lines emblematic of Phillips' writing. 

Visitors to the Brompton Oratory have long known of the musical treasure Catholics have in this institution. How wonderful it is that their work will be made known to a wide audience through the distribution of this disc. My hope is that it will also inspire musicians and pastors to pursue musical excellence in the context of the sacred liturgy, for the greater glory of God. Both this music and this institution demonstrate the great musical heights to which the sacred liturgy can soar when sacred music is treasured, encouraged, and supported as the Church urges in her documents on the sacred liturgy. 

Requiem Mass in the Princeton Univ. Chapel

On Thursday, February 16th, Fr Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian celebrated a traditional Latin Requiem Mass at the Princeton University Chapel, for the departed souls of those affiliated with the Aquinas Institute of Princeton University. The Schola Cantorum of St John the Baptist sung the chants of the Requiem Mass under the direction of Mr. Peter Carter. (Photographs courtesy of the Fraternidad de San José Custodio.) Fr Hamel was in New Jersey to preach spiritual exercises for men; some photos of the liturgical activities during the exercises are given below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cardinal Stickler’s Mass in NYC, 25th Anniversary

Editor’s note: This article first appeared three years ago as a retrospective of a major event in the return of what is now called the “Extraordinary Form.” The feast of St Peter’s Chair this year marks the 25th anniversary.

February 22, 1992 is a date dear to the hearts of people who love the liturgy of the Roman Rite, one that marked a watershed event in the revival of the Traditional Mass in the practice of the Church. On that day—the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter (and Septuagesima Sunday)—Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler walked up the aisle of St Agnes Church in New York City, and celebrated Pontifical Mass from the Throne. The first such event in more than 20 years, it gave hope to the hundreds in the church that day, and to millions worldwide.

Looking back on that day after a quarter of a century, it was important in many ways: many obvious, but many not so apparent.

As the assistant Master of Ceremonies on that day, it was not until years later that I realized how important the event had been. To this day when people find out I was involved in that Mass, they remember it with fondness; and more importantly, they understand just how monumental the visit was:
  • John Cardinal O’Connor, archbishop of New York, approved the event, allowing another prelate to pontificate in his diocese.
  • The Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the event. For many, it was our first experience with the Institute. Msgr. Giles Wach, founder of ICRSS, was the Assistant Priest.
  • It affirmed St Agnes as the prime locus of the traditional rites in New York City under the direction of then-pastor Msgr. Eugene Clark.
  • But the fact of overriding importance was that a high-ranking Vatican prelate gave not only his, but Rome’s, imprimatur for the Traditional Mass. In 1992, that was game-changing.
Less obvious then, it was the beginning of a recognition by Church authorities that the traditional rites had a place in the life of modern Catholicism. Though it would be another 15 years before the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, many of us believe the seeds of that decree may have been planted on that Sunday morning.

In the days and weeks leading up to the Mass, one nagging question was on the minds of the organizers: would people come? We knew there was interest in some quarters, but in the days following Pope John Paul’s indult Quattuor abhinc annos and his subsequent request to the world’s bishops that they be “generous,” many still had the impression that what was happening was wrong, disobedient and even sinful. Those growing up in the post-Summorum Pontificum era have no idea of the political climate of those days. Cardinal Stickler was sending a message to the traditionalist faithful, and we knew he was doing it with the approbation of “higher authority.”

Still, the question remained concerning the interest of people. The Catholic people, we were told, had accepted the changes following the Vatican Council; the Novus Ordo was loved and appreciated, and to have the liturgy celebrated in the former rite was the desire of blue-haired dowagers and frumpy codgers.

In fact, much as we find in 2017, the desire for tradition was not the possession of the Vatican II generation, but of younger people. In those days, St. Agnes Church was a two-tiered nave with a balcony around the perimeter. The church was filled to overflowing – and mostly with people in their 20s and 30s: first question answered.

The second nagging question was our ability to pull off such an intricate rite somewhat ex nihilo, pulling together disparate people from various places in the tri-state area. Seminarian (now Father) Timothy McDonnell was asked to come in and be MC at the Throne. I was called because the work of the St. Gregory Society of New Haven, Connecticut, since 1986 had put us at the forefront of the movement.

I can remember getting the call and being asked to be part of such an undertaking. I said yes, and the import of what we were about to do hit me immediately. Dr. John Rao, one of the sponsors, was confident we could get things organized, and it was in his living room that Tim and I began the work of putting together a liturgy that required more than 30 clergy and servers.

The answer to the second question was partially answered on the first night of rehearsals – the Sunday before the Mass, February 15, 1992. Within minutes we knew we could do what needed to be done. Enough men had volunteered to be part of the ceremony and were divvied up into the various roles. From familiares to pluvialists to acolytes to torch-bearers, the positions were filled.

The second part of the question—could we pull off such an intricate ceremony?—took a little longer to be answered. The beauty of the traditional rite is that one knows what must be done. The trick is adapting it to the space. Manuals on pontifical liturgy never envisioned (with few exceptions) small parish churches. Like many churches in New York City, St. Agnes was wider than it was long, and the sanctuary, while adequate for Solemn Mass, was a tight fit for a pontifical throne and 27 servers plus attending clergy.

For six nights we worked to get everything working smoothly. By the time the day of the event came, the servers were ready. Much as a team is ready for a big game, the boys and men were experiencing a jumble of nerves and excitement and the desire to get on with it.

Of course, the answer to the question’s second part — could we pull it off? — wasn’t answered until the Mass was over. It was a resounding “yes.”

There were a few problems, of course. The vestments had to be flown in from Italy. The key to the trunk was forgotten, and we had to jimmy it open. John Rao, the sub-deacon, came down with laryngitis and couldn’t sing the epistle. The assistant MC had to do it over his shoulder with the admonition that Rao read it along while it be sung. In the fury to get things ready, a surplice became entangled in a sacristy bell rope. The bell sounded, the congregation stood, the trumpets played. We had to have a do-over.

Despite the problems, it proved to all of us the traditional liturgy had a place in the Church. Hundreds showed up for the Mass. It was so successful that four years later a second visit by Cardinal Stickler was held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the biggest crowd in the recent history of the building was jammed four deep in every aisle.

Nearly a quarter-century and several pontifical masses later, the questions answered served as a foundation for what came later. The myth of the traditional rites being forbidden: smashed. The myth that only old people were interested: buried. The assertion that the liturgy which served so many millions through the centuries had no place in the modern Church: overturned.

While it is true the world of 2017 is much different than that of 1992, some of the myths and legends still survive — the grist of a liturgical establishment that refuses to see the vitality of the movement.  Every time a traditional Mass is celebrated, those myths and legends are pushed further and further toward the ash heap of history.

The work remains for younger clergy and laity to take up the cause. Thankfully, the political headwinds of those days were altered by Pope Benedict XVI and ratified by the words of Pope Francis. The renewal of the Church’s worship, like any good thing, must be taken up by every generation.  To a certain extent, the questions posed 25 years ago remain. Each congregation must find out whether the rites can be done and whether people will come.  They find out very quickly, the answer is affirmative in both cases.

Decorations of the Vatican Basilica on the Feast of St Peter’s Chair

On the two feast days of St Peter, the feast of his chair on February 22nd, and the principal feast on June 29th, special decorations are put up in the Vatican Basilica. (This was formerly done also on the feast of St Peter’s Chains on August 1st, and on January 18th, back when there were two feasts of Peter’s Chair.) The bronze statue of the Apostle attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (1240 - 1310 ca.), made in all likelihood for the Jubilee of 1300, is dressed in pontifical robes similar to those formerly worn by the Pope. Here is the statue as it normally appears; the feet are famously worn down by the constant kissing and touching of the faithful.

And here it is “dressed” for the feast day today.

The altar is decorated with two bronze statues of Saints Peter and Paul, donated to the Vatican Basilica by the family of Pope Urban VIII Barberini in 1692.

The enormous sculpture of St Peter’s Chair by Bernini at the back of the Basilica is covered with candles. Here we see the Chair as it normally appears, in an older photograph that also shows the former altar of the Cathedra beneath the sculpture.

The Cathedra as it appears on the feasts of St Peter’s. (Decorating it in this fashion must have been a rather messy business before the modern electric lights which we see here.)

Two other views, the second of which also shows the modern altar, which in the reign of Pope Benedict replaced an earlier (and comically ugly) free-standing altar installed in this same part of the Basilica.

The feast of St Peter’s Chair is not only the commemoration of his ministry as chief of the Apostles, but also the feast of a relic long reputed to be his actual throne. Although it never attained to the popularity of the Veil of St Veronica, the Vatican Basilica’s relic par excellence in the High Middle Ages, it was regularly seen and venerated by the faithful, being first explicitly named “the Chair of St Peter” in 1237. Before the long period of the Popes’ residence in Avignon, (during which many medieval customs of the Papal liturgy disappeared,) the Pope was enthroned on the relic for part of his coronation ceremony, and used it as his liturgical throne in the Basilica on the feast of February 22. Its veneration continued through the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation periods, but since 1666, it has been kept within Bernini’s Cathedra Petri at the back of the Vatican Basilica, and very rarely brought out. The very magnificence of the sculpture, and its presence as the visual culmination of the church, has overwhelmed its purpose as a reliquary; all the more so since the relic itself cannot be seen within it, and has so rarely been removed from it for viewing. It was last exposed in 1867, at the behest of Blessed Pope Pius IX, during the celebrations of the eighteenth centennial of the martyrdoms of Ss Peter and Paul. A copy (pictured below) is displayed in the treasury of St Peter’s, but with little to indicate the prominence which the original formerly held.

This is not the place to explain in detail the much-discussed question of the authenticity of the throne itself; suffice it to say that as it exists today, it now known to be largely a work of the ninth century, given to the Pope by the Emperor Charles the Bald in 875. On the other hand, the ivory panels on the front of the chair are much older, although it is impossible to say how much older; they may have been removed from another chair which was earlier regarded as a throne of St Peter. It may be supposed that if these panels were incorporated into the Carolingian chair from a much older object, there was a very good reason for doing so. In any case, whether or not any part of it was once used by St Peter, it may be venerated as are other relics of uncertain authenticity, such as those of Christ’s Crib at St. Mary Major, as a kind of icon in three dimensions. (Pictured below, the original chair in an image made during the exposition in 1867.)

How the Current Health Care Market in the US Fails Liturgical Man

I attended a talk on healthcare at Star of the Sea Catholic Church in San Francisco last week, given by my colleague at Pontifex University, Dr Michel Accad. Much of the talk was devoted to consideration of the options that Catholics have for affordable healthcare.

Dr Accad spoke in detail about sharing ministries as alternatives to health insurance, and how many general practitioners are structuring their practices in a new way so that they are employed directly by patients and act as their advocate. This is in contrast to the usual arrangement by which the doctor effectively becomes an agent who sells treatments and drugs on behalf of the providers to the payer, who is not the patient, but the insurance company.

In his new model, Dr Accad is motivated to act on behalf of the patient first, and so is an advocate for him, striving to bring down the cost of treatments and drugs by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies. He is also able to devote much more time to their care. Furthermore, it enables him to offer treatment that is in accord with Catholic social teaching.

He opened up his talk by asking the question: Who here thinks healthcare in this country is going well? No hands went up. He then described how it is possible to have healthcare options that allow for the flourishing of the patient as a human person - body, soul and spirit - and a relationship between doctor and patient that is fruitful for both patient and care provider.

In the Q &A session afterwards, it became apparent from the discussion that this was of interest not only to currently disgruntled patients but also to doctors, who are frustrated that they cannot give the sort of treatment they would like to give. Several spoke of this frustration under the current system.

Dr Accad is a medical doctor (qualified both as a general practitioner and as a cardiologist) who is able to take a broad view of the crucial issues involved. He is one of those rare people who is simultaneously able to analyse the details and to synthesize them all into the big picture. A committed Catholic, he writes about medicine and is published in peer reviewed medical journals. He writes about the philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology and has been published in The Thomist, and he has delivered papers on the economics of healthcare at the Mises Institute. He also has a popular blog on how these issues impact the medical profession, called

Of course, I was interested in the details of how one might have access to affordable health care that is aligned with Catholic social teaching and imbued with genuine consideration of the patient as a person. (If you are interested in this I suggest you contact him through his blog, here). But aside from that, what I found fascinating what his description of how so many of the problems associated with healthcare today, even before Obamacare, emanate from a dualistic understanding of the human person as a physical body occupied by a thinking soul; rather than as a single entity, a profound unity of body and soul. This is not a bad thing in itself; a deep understanding of how the physical functions of the body work has lead to great strides in medicine; however, it does place limitations on the scope of treatment through a neglect of the happiness of the person and his spiritual needs. If the underlying problem is spiritual, for example, treatments might alleviate its symptoms, which can then resurface in other forms.

And the problem runs even more deeper than that. Without a clear picture of what the human person is, the idea of a health as a goal for treatment is not clearly defined either. This has lead over the last 100 years or so to the creation of a “health market” which has been engineered to serve that idea of the human being as machine, an object to be repaired, rather than as a person who needs health in order to direct his activity towards his ultimate end, which is union with God. Consequently, the patient occupies a role in this financial model that is more like that of the car in the repair shop, in which the insurance company is the car owner and the doctor is the mechanic. While this model might work well for cars, when the doctor’s surgery becomes a glorified human “body shop”, the misalignment and conflict of interests and goals leads to secondary problems in health care.

As soon as the current system, under the guidance of the US government, began to be introduced in the early 20th century, he told us, it caused an escalation of costs, because there is no incentive for the key players to keep costs down on the patient’s behalf. The doctor seeks to serve first the specialist treatment providers, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, rather focusing primarily on the restoration and maintenance of the patient’health, (however that is defined).

Those who wish to know more about the connection between the structuring of the health market and anthropology might be interested in reading or listening to Dr Accad’s talk on the subject given to the Mises Institute last year, which can be accessed via his blog, here: From Reacting Machine to Acting Person.

Dr Accad is currently preparing material for his first course for Pontifex University on the Philosophy of Nature and Philosophical Anthropology. He is a wonderful addition to the faculty precisely because of his ability to draw themes from one area of expertise and apply them in another. The development of this ability to think synthetically is part of what a good Catholic education ought to aim for, and it is why a formation in beauty is so important as part of that education. When one apprehends the beauty of something, one is able to see not only how it’s parts are in right relation to each others in due proportion, but also how the whole is in accord with its purpose and in right relationship with all that surrounds it (integritas). In short, one is able to look at the details (analysis) and place them in the bigger picture (synthesis). This is why beauty and culture, which touch every aspect of human life, including economics and health provision, are so intimately related.

As Catholics, we must strive always to take that mental step away from whatever field of study we are engaged in and ask ourselves the big question: How does this relate to man’s goal of union with God through worship of Him in the earthly liturgy in this life, and in the heavenly liturgy in the next?

As an inspiration for this in the field of health care, I look to the Spanish saint, John of God, here portrayed by the 17th century Spanish artist Bartolomé Murillo.

St John of God (1495 – 1550) was a Portuguese-born soldier who founded a hospital in Granada, Spain, and whose followers later formed the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, dedicated to the care of the poor, sick, and those suffering from mental disorders.

How many doctors today are taught of the need for God’s grace in their work for the benefit of both patient and doctor? One only has to look at the design of hospital buildings past and present to see how differently the provision of care was considered. Below are photographs of the exterior and interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, Spain, built in the 16th century. (Today it is a museum housing many El Greco paintings.)

And here is a standard National Health Service hospital building, in Darlington County, Durham in England:

The standard criticism of the modern building is that it is only designed for utility, hence its depressing appearance. I would argue something different: in my opinion, beauty does have a utility, which is to raise hearts and minds to God. When a hospital building is beautiful, its beauty helps serve the spiritual needs of all the people in its care, and the good of all concerned. Furthermore, just as the person is a profound unity of body and soul, the hospital should be a profound unity of design that aids its function of restoring health to all aspects of the human person. Such a hospital will be beautiful and optimize its purpose of providing both spiritual care and physical care. It is no accident that the Spanish hospital shown above, like the educational institutions built at the same time, has the look of a monastery. Both institutions have aims that cannot be separated from the supernatural end of the human person, and both aim to create a community in which all work toward this end for themselves and others.

Here’s another example, Broadmoor Hospitalin Berkshire, England, built as a prison for the criminally insane, which houses some of Britain’s most violent and notorious criminals.

Those who are committed to its care are almost certainly going to live the rest of their natural lives behind its walls. The original building was completed in the mid-19th century. It does not have the cloisters and prayerful feel of the 16th century Spanish hospital, but nevertheless it is a listed building. The prison/hospital is currently being redeveloped, and there has been discussion as to what use the original building will be put to; newspaper reports suggest that one idea is to turn it into a luxury hotel. While I am sure that it was not pleasant to be an inmate there, it seems that in some ways our Victorian forebears had greater insight than we moderns do into the need to care for the souls of the most reviled members of society, how to do it.

The Darlington hospital no doubt has dedicated staff, and patients there surely receive the best that the National Health Service in the UK has to offer. (The NHS has its problems too, for similar reasons, although manifested in different ways; it is interesting to note that while the quality of care in many measures is not a good as that offered by the American system, patients’ satisfaction with it is anecdotally reported to be higher). Regardless, the design of the building tells us something about how the human person who is to be treated therein is viewed. I would argue that it is not even the optimal design if the provision of physical care, for the physical and spiritual cannot be separated. The building of beautiful hospitals is not an extravagance, but ought be considered a necessity that will give us the most highly functional hospitals by any measure. As we can see through Dr Accad’s discussion of the provision of healthcare, care of body and soul cannot be separated, just as body and soul cannot, in reality, be separated in the person being cared for.

Neglecting the spiritual aspects of man will almost certainly affect detrimentally the care of even man-as-machine in ways that cannot always be anticipated. Let us be clear: wrong anthropology does not suddenly invalidate all that is good about modern medicine  and its methods or even its method of delivery. Even allowing for problems that exist, there is much that is good. Rather, it allows us to locate the source of the problems that remain with the recognition there is more to be done. Once we recognize that man is a single entity that is both physical and spiritual who is made to worship God in the sacred liturgy, and that this is the activity to which all others are ordered in this life, then we have the greatest chance of restoring all aspects of human health, and having beautiful hospitals once again!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Solemn Mass in the Philippines for a Priestly Anniversary

On February 10, the Cathedral of St Ferdinand, the seat of the Archdiocese of San Fernando in the Philippines, hosted a solemn traditional Latin Mass for the 33rd anniversary of the priestly ordination of Msgr. Eugenio Galang Reyes, the cathedral’s rector, and the chaplain and spiritual director of the Latin Mass Society of Saint Ferdinand. (The 33rd anniversary is locally regarded much like a silver and golden anniversary, being the number of years of Our Lord’s earthly life.) The Mass was attended by the Metropolitan Archbishop, Florentino Galang Lavarias, and the Archbishop Emeritus, Paciano Basilio Aniceto, and many other members of the clergy. Congratulations to Msgr. Reyes, with our best wishes for many more years of service, and our thanks to him and to His Excellency bishop Lavarias for his support of the traditional Mass.

Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies Announces 2017 Norcia Theology Summer Program

Agriturismo Casale - the base of our operations

The Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies is happy to announce that registration is now open for the July 2017 summer theology program in the town of Norcia. This will be our sixth summer program since 2011. We are especially excited to be studying the sacraments, with a close look at baptism and the Holy Eucharist, through the lens of Book IV of the Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard by St. Thomas Aquinas, which has some of the Angelic Doctor's most extensive and intriguing discussions of sacramental theology from his entire career. The tutors will be Fr. Thomas Crean, O.P., Christopher Owens, and Peter Kwasniewski. Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., the founding prior of Norcia, will join us for a lecture and conversation.

"Divine Power in a Hidden Way:

Thomas' Commentary on Sentences IV"

July 2nd - July 14th in Norcia, Italy

"These are the sacraments, in which, under the cover of visible things, divine power works our healing in a hidden way, as Augustine says."
~St. Thomas Aquinas, Prologue, Commentary on Sentences IV

Program Description 

The theme for the 2017 Summer Program is Sacramental Theology. We will be undertaking a close reading of selected texts from the Commentary of Aquinas upon the Fourth Book of the Sentences of Peter Lombard. The Sentences was the standard "textbook" of the 13th and 14th century University of Paris, and all bachelors were required to write a commentary. Thus, in this work we find the thought of a relatively young Thomas Aquinas, having begun his writing of it at around 28 years of age.

This study is a particularly noteworthy one, as it will be the first time a study of Aquinas' Commentary on the Sentences will be accessible to all, thanks to a new translation into English. A taste of the commentary, from its prologue:
He sent his Word and healed them, and delivered them from all their destructions (Ps 107:20). By the sin of the first man, the human race incurred two things, namely, death and infirmity. Death, because of its separation from the principle of life, of which it is said, with you is the font of life (Ps 36:9); whoever is separated from this principle necessarily dies, and this happened through the first man. Hence it is said, by one man sin entered the world, and by sin, death (Rom 5:12).
          But a sufficient remedy could be obtained for this only from the word of God, which is the font of wisdom on high (Sir 1:5) and, accordingly, the source of life: for wisdom endows its possessor with life (cf. Sir 7). Thus it is said, as the Father raises up the dead and gives life, so the Son also gives life to whom he will (Jn 5:20). The word is the power of God, by which all things are upheld: upholding all things by the word of his power (Heb 1:3). And this is why it is efficacious for removing infirmity.
          Therefore in this way three things are touched upon in the words above: namely, the preparation of this medicine, healing from infirmity, and liberation from death. The preparation of the medicine is touched upon when it says, he sent his word. This should be understood as referring to the incarnation of the Word, who is said to be sent by God because he became flesh: God sent his Son, born of a woman (Gal 4:4).
          It should also be understood as referring to the institution of the sacraments, in which "the word is combined with the element and the sacrament is made"; so that in this way a sacrament is similar to the Incarnate Word. For sensible creation is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer (1 Tim 4:5).
In accordance with the particular mission of the Saint Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies, which seeks to promote the study of theology according to the mind and method of the great scholastics, the core of every summer program lies in the attentive reading and thoughtful discussion of the great texts of the Catholic theological tradition. After Scripture itself, pride of place belongs to the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and especially to St. Thomas Aquinas.


Our verbal commentary on these texts, carried out in a formal seminar setting, is intended to approximate the scholastic practice of written commentary undertaken by the theological "bachelors" of the day. Participants in the program will be expected to read the assigned selections before each seminar in order to come prepared to participate in group discussion of the texts. Although every participant is expected to contribute his or her insights to aid the entire group in coming to a deeper understanding, these seminars will be guided by our program directors, Fr. Thomas Crean, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, and Mr. Christopher Owens, who have advanced degrees in theology, competency in the subject matter, and experience in the seminar method of pedagogy.


The second part of the program consists of a series of lectures delivered by our "masters" of theology, who consist of the Fellows of the Center, joined by members of the monastery of St. Benedict in Norcia. A keynote will be given by Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., the founder of the community. Topically, the lectures will complement the subject-matter of the seminars.

Scholastic Disputation

The program reaches its culmination with our authentic scholastic disputation: the questions to be disputed will be announced at least one day in advance, and the participants divided into teams, which will be assigned to argue either for or against each question. Each participant will be expected to form his or her own thoughts on the questions, and attempt to answer them. At the disputation itself, members of each team will offer arguments in scholastic style as an objection or a ‘sed contra’ (“it seems that…” or “it seems not…”). After each team has argued its case, the "Master" of the disputation will give his solution, and then reply to each of the arguments posited by the participants.

Liturgy and Spiritual Life

Throughout the two weeks of the program there will be ample opportunities for spiritual activities. Even though this past year has seen the devastation of the town and of the monastery, the monks are working with us to ensure that the spiritual needs of the program participants will be met. Holy Mass in the usus antiquior will be available daily, as well as various hours of the Divine Office. The priests of the monastery will be available for spiritual counseling, guidance, and/or confessions upon request.


The enrichment of mind and spirit fostered by attentive reading of the Scriptures and participation in the prayers and liturgies of the monastery will be complemented by moments of relaxation and cultural activities. Optional excursions will be organized to nearby towns (places to be announced; in the past, we have traveled to Assisi and Cascia).


The 2017 Summer Program is open to all applicants 18 years and older. The application process includes the completion of an application form and the submission of a letter of recommendation.


Inclusive of course materials, classes, full board, and housing, as follows:

Quadruple room: 1050 Euro
Triple room: 1175 Euro
Double room: 1300 Euro
Single room: 1550 Euro

Camping (bring your own equipment): 550 Euro
Camping (rental equipment provided): 800 Euro

(See our Housing Page for more details.)

Participants should plan some extra money for excursions, souvenirs, etc. Payment can be made by check, credit card, or paypal account. If paying with U.S. Dollars, simply calculate the amount necessary based on the exchange rate at the time of payment.

Course Book: We are very blessed to be in partnership with the Aquinas Institute, who is giving us a substantial discount on the beautifully bound volume of St. Thomas' Commentary on IV Sentences (Retailed at $40). This will be included as a part of the program fees!

Location: The 2017 Summer Program will be held in Norcia, Italy. Norcia is a small town in the province of Perugia in southeastern Umbria. For directions on reaching Norcia, see Getting to Norcia.

Course Credits: The Saint Albert the Great Center for Scholastic Studies is not a degree granting institution, but we will assign grades and provide official transcripts verifying completion of a four credit-hour course for those who are interested.

To Apply

Apply now online and complete the application form, and have your letter of recommendation emailed to the following address:

A 350 Euro deposit is due upon acceptance. The deadline for applications is May 16, 2017. The remainder of payment is due by June 1.

For online application and more information, visit the website.

The location of the 2017 program, nearby the monastery "in monte"
The view from the rooms

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Model Letter on the Restoration of All-Male Altar Service

This article was originally published in 2015, removed for editing, and is now ready for reposting.

A topic of conversation that often arises among young (and not-so-young) traditionally-minded Catholics is: “Can we do anything about the problem of female altar servers?” It is a problem worth solving and one that is capable of being solved, rather than a fateful mistake about which nothing can be done.

Imagine you are a bishop, thinking about what a wreckage feminism has made of the Church in the Western world, as men continue to feel alienated, women no longer offer themselves to religious life, and a pathetic number of priestly vocations dribble in. You are planning to write a letter to your presbyterate, explaining why you are abrogating, in your diocese, the use of female altar servers. What might such a letter look like? How would you make the case?

* * *
Dear Priests and Deacons,

Praised be Jesus Christ! With this letter I announce, after careful consideration and prayerful reflection, an important change in the liturgical praxis of the Diocese of Bromptonville.

As you know, some time ago the Vatican allowed local Ordinaries to permit female altar servers because, due to Pope Paul VI’s suppression of the minor order of acolyte and reassignment of its duties to the office of instituted acolyte, this type of service appeared to be no longer directly connected with the path to priestly ordination. Indeed, in the old days, laymen, particularly boys, substituted for acolytes in most situations (hence the familiar term “altar boys”). At the same time, the Vatican made it clear that female altar servers are not required, may not be imposed against the will of a celebrant of any Mass, and do not cancel out the good of retaining the traditional practice of male-only service at the altar.

With the wisdom of hindsight, we can now see that this experiment of admitting females to the service of the altar has proved problematic, for several reasons. First, altar servers are visibly dedicated, both by their responsibilities and by their vestments, to ministering in the sanctuary at the altar of sacrifice. Theirs is a role that appears to be intimately associated with the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It was for this very reason that the discipline of training and working with altar servers was traditionally regarded as — and, in truth, still remains — a means of fostering vocations to the priesthood. To serve at the altar is to be involved in priestlike activities. Operative here is a language of symbols that is more powerful than mere words.

Experience has shown that the now widespread presence of female altar servers in the sanctuary continues to create confusion among the faithful about the roles that women may legitimately play in the liturgical life of the Church. Again, the symbolism of a vested altar server ministering at the altar speaks more decisively than any catechesis. It is therefore no surprise that many Catholics, despite the definitive judgment of the Church expressed in John Paul II’s Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, feel that “altar girls” are a first step towards the eventual allowance of “women priests.” Such confusion on matters bound up with the very deposit of faith is not healthy for our faithful people.

More profoundly, Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” helps us to understand that a whole realm of cosmic and metaphysical symbolism is literally embodied in man and woman. Even if we are not always consciously aware of this symbolism, it has a steady formative effect on our thoughts and attitudes at worship. It should not be simply ignored in the assignment and execution of liturgical roles. Modern society has shown a remarkable ability to ignore the obvious natural and God-given differences between the sexes, differences that support their complementarity. As grace builds on nature, so does Christian liturgy build on natural anthropology. Introducing confusion at so basic a level prevents the liturgy from exhibiting clearly the spousal relationship of Christ and the Church, where Christ is represented primarily by the celebrant offering sacrifice at the altar in the sanctuary, and the Church is represented primarily by the assembly of believers gathered in the nave to do Him homage and to receive His gifts.

Finally, on a practical note, the placing together of boys and girls has had the effect, consistent with human nature, of driving away boys who might otherwise have been interested in serving or who might otherwise have been persuaded to serve. Boys and girls of certain ages either do not wish to be together, or find one another’s company distracting. A similar distraction is caused for laymen by older girls or fully-grown women in the sanctuary. If the “theology of the body” is true, and surely it is, we should have been able to foresee these problems and avoided them altogether by not having departed from the constant and universal custom of the Church in regard to altar servers. Moreover, boys enjoy the challenge of a demanding and regimented approach to serving, characterized by a manly esprit de corps. Mixed service cancels out this psychological advantage.

Even beyond these concerns, the expansion of ministries to more and more lay people is characteristic of the “clericalization of the laity” and the “laicization of the clergy” against which John Paul II warned many times. The role of the laity is to sanctify the vast world outside the Church, not to take care of the sanctuary and its tasks. The holiness proper to the laity is best expressed when they participate in the liturgical rites by the responses and gestures appointed for them. This is the “spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1) that corresponds harmoniously to the sacerdotal and diaconal ministries exercised at the altar.

Recognizing that the novelty of female altar servers was never to be required but only to be allowed at the discretion of the diocesan bishop, and recognizing also that male altar servers remain normative for the Roman Rite, the Vatican left the decision in this matter in the hands of the diocesan bishop. Accordingly, exercising my right to legislate, I decree that, as of the Solemnity of the Assumption, August 15, 2017, the use of female altar servers is altogether abrogated in this Diocese, and is to be discontinued without exception, all customs to the contrary notwithstanding.

I shall send you a brief pastoral letter on this subject to be read from the pulpit early in June; it will also be published in the Bromptonville Catholic Register. When and as necessary, please prepare your parishioners for the change, emphasizing that it has nothing to do with a lack of appreciation of the countless gifts that women bring to each parish and to the Church. As John Paul II frequently emphasized, the Church is feminine, indeed motherly, in her deepest identity as Bride of Christ and Mother of the faithful, and this is why the Virgin Mary is the supreme model of the Christian disciple. Those who minister at the altar, on the other hand, do so not merely as disciples, but as representatives of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is Eternal High Priest and Servant (Deacon). This role of representation is symbolically shared by other liturgical ministries, especially that of altar server. That is the fundamental basis of my decision, and I am sure that further reflection on it will show the wisdom of the hitherto unbroken Catholic tradition.

I count on your understanding and support in this important step for the renewal of our diocesan liturgical worship, and ask that you speak with me personally if you have any concerns.

Cordially yours in Christ,
       etc. etc.

* * *
So that is how it might be done, although undoubtedly a better letter could be drafted. One can only hope that, as the years go on, bishops will become more and more aware of the harm that has resulted from unheard-of innovations in the Roman Rite and will take the necessary steps to restore liturgical tradition, such as all-male service in the sanctuary.

Although in the letter it is mentioned only in passing, I am convinced that part of the crisis of vocations to the priesthood stems from the lack of real “vocational training” in the form of a more demanding ministry for boys and young men in the sanctuary, connected with a richness of public worship that feeds the imagination and the intellect. When the liturgy is celebrated in a more traditional way, that is, with a certain solemnity, ritual beauty, and complexity, it exercises a mysterious and powerful fascination over the minds of youths. This experience of the sacred and its inherent worthiness has drawn more than a few men into the seminary, as I have witnessed in many different communities. In that sense, it is not rocket science to believe that nudging the liturgy towards greater solemnity and continuity with Catholic tradition, while curtailing female altar servers, cannot but be a most effective path to the promotion of priestly and religious vocations.

Altar boys, New York City, ca. 1957

Altar boys, St. John Cantius, today

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Now This Is A Procession

From the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of St Mary in Kuravilangad, in the Kerala region of India, comes this photo of a procession with two elephants carrying sacred images, courtesy of Mr Abin Babu.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More Art from the Sacristy

Last month, I published some photographs taken by Fr Jeffrey Keyes of the clever designs made with the ties of his amice by the sacristan of the convent where he says Mass. (This is at the Regina Pacis Convent of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, in Santa Rosa, California.) Judging from the viewing statistics, which went through the roof, you really liked them, so here are several more. As I said previously, Sister is a true artist in her field, and with an authentic Catholic liturgical spirit, makes different designs depending on the liturgical season or feast day.

The keys of St Peter for the Feast of St Peter’s Chair
A sword, the emblem of St Paul, for the feast of his Conversion.
A crosier for the bishops Ss Timothy and Titus
A chalice and host for the feast of St Ignatius of Antioch, in reference to his famous words about the true presence his description of the Sacrament as “the medicine of immortality.”
On the feast of St Josephine Bakhita on February 8th, the Lamb of God, sitting on the book with the seven seals. (Apocalypse 5, 1)

Good News from Ireland: TLM in Waterford Cathedral

From the Latin Mass Society of Ireland comes this report of the first Traditional Latin Mass held in the cathedral of Waterford in 50 years. The next one is scheduled for February 26th, Quinquagesima Sunday, at 10 a.m.

“After a 50 year absence the Traditional Latin Mass returned to the oldest cathedral seat of the oldest city in Ireland. With the kind permission of Very Rev. Canon Edmund Cullinan, Adm., the Traditional Roman Catholic Mass was offered in Waterford Cathedral on Sunday 22nd of January at 10 am. The celebrant, Polish priest Fr Andrzej Komorowski, processed in a rather fitting green cope through a respectably filled Cathedral of over 250 people, all eagerly awaiting the Traditional Mass.

It was a wonderful opportunity for older Mass goers in the diocese to experience once again the beauty, solemnity, and splendour of the Traditional Latin Mass. It was also an opportunity for younger Mass goers to witness for the first time the central and most splendid jewel of their Catholic liturgical heritage – the magnificent Mass with sacred music that formed all the great saints of the Church and nourished the faith and lives of their grandparents and ancestors.

Many older Catholics remembered their chants and took up their part in the singing of the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. It was a great delight to all the servers when a young boy, without a moment of hesitation or insecurity, presented himself to the serving team and requested to serve with them. ...

A great day for Waterford and a privilege for all who assisted. Fr Faber never spoke truer words when he described this Mass as ‘The most beautiful thing this side of Heaven.’ ”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Back to the Future? No Thanks, I've Been There!

Catholic World Report probably did not envision the reaction it received when it published an article by Fr Peter Stravinskas entitled, “How the Ordinary Form of the Mass can ‘Enrich’ the Extraordinary Form.” The comments section on this opinion piece is still receiving responses.

My immediate reaction when I read it was: Haven’t we been here before? Indeed, when one looks at the alterations Fr Stravinskas suggests, they’ve been done. The seven-year period before the implementation of the so-called Missa Normativa, which became the Novus Ordo Missae, had many of these revisions.

As one who lived through the upheavals (and they were exactly that) of the period from 1963 to 1970, the list Fr Stravinskas enumerated seemed like a walk back to a place I’ve visited before, and don’t want to return to.

Things as they were in some place, circa 1965.

It brought back a kaleidoscope of memories of seemingly endless changes in the liturgy, confusion, and ultimately, a break with what was before. That was my experience during those days, and as someone who has fought for most of his adult life to see the restoration of the Traditional Mass, I am wary of any attempts to coalesce parts of the Ordinary Form into the Extraordinary Form.

Of course, the changes in the liturgy began in the 1950s, with the revision of Holy Week and the first simplification of the rubrics in 1955. A further simplification occurred in 1961, leading to the publication of the 1962 Missal. Those changes in many respects set the stage for what was to follow, and those subsequent changes were the most jarring, especially after Sacrosanctum Concilium.

The 1962 Missal really only lasted for a bit more than a year. In 1963, changes were promulgated that truncated the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, and eliminated the Last Gospel. It is interesting to note, in little more than seven years, we went from particular Last Gospels on feasts to no Last Gospels. Changes were also ordered by which much of the Mass took place at the celebrant’s chair, rather than the altar.

But all these were paltry compared to what was to greet churchgoers on Advent Sunday of 1965.

I was an altar boy in those years when confusion reigned. My home church in New Haven, St Anthony’s, was run by the Scalabrini Fathers, who at least there were very liturgically centered. For its time, it was good parish liturgy. We had “Our Parish Prays and Sings” by St John’s Collegeville, from which we did chant Masses and learned some good hymnody, especially for the students of the school. Of course, being a Scalabrini parish, we learned some of the Masses by Fr Carlo Rossini, a member of the order who was the Director of Music at the Pittsburgh Cathedral. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the Missa Salve Regina.

On that Advent Sunday, we arrived to see a portable altar put up in front of our high altar. We were prepped for the change by the sisters in the school, who told us what a great thing was going to happen, and that the liturgy was going to be more understandable and bring us more into the celebration. Words like “liturgy” became part of the language. Don’t call it “Mass” anymore.

But it was not an easy roll out. A funny thing happens when you turn a sanctuary around: it’s like doing things in a mirror. Everything looks a bit familiar, but also very different. The priests at St Anthony’s had taken the changes in stride, but thought they would be an experiment, and then we’d go back to what worked.

A good example of what was happening in those days is seen in a story I tell often. Fr Remegio Pigato was a jolly priest, a former rector of the Scalabrini Seminary on Staten Island, learned, humble and holy. Every day he could be seen in the church lot, walking and reading his breviary. He had the early Mass on the second Sunday of Advent, the week after everything changed. We had been attempting to get along with the new order, but things were different. Servers mixed up the Gospel side and the Epistle side, and changing the book became a problem. This time the server charged with moving it took it off the altar facing the people, came around in front, genuflected and got confused. He hesitated. Finally, he put the book on the Gospel side, but the hesitation was seen by everyone.

Fr Pigato, who’d been celebrating all week and saw various servers do the same thing, could take it no longer. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he said in his thick Italian accent, “I apologize. We are no saying the Mass backwards.” That pretty much summed up the confusion.

That wasn’t the end of it. Introits, collects, the entire ordinary, and the Lord’s Prayer had been switched to English. From the Preface through the Canon, things were in Latin.

The Offertory Procession was inserted into the Mass, and a commentator read us a script to let us know what was coming up. Add the Prayers of the Faithful to that, and immediately there was a different ethos. The Offertory Procession, which was supposed to show the offering of the congregation, was really just a very perfunctory event that added little to the solemnity of the Mass; if anything, it detracted from it. It was foreign, it called attention to itself.

The Prayers of the Faithful, rather than being something for and by the congregation, was a scripted set of biddings with a parroted “Lord, hear our prayer” after each invocation. Already one could see that this new change was going to import something into the Mass that was very alien to Catholic worship: chatter. Everything was said aloud.

Meanwhile, we were told that turning the altars would mean that we would see what the priest was doing. That was true, but the ceremonies were then pared down so much that the priest really wasn’t doing anything that needed to be seen. However, the change did alter the focus, no matter how observant the celebrant; facing the people meant engaging the people. Custody of the eyes, which had always been so important for the celebrant to focus on praying the Mass, now had been jettisoned in favor of dialogue. The last saving grace was that the Canon was still in Latin. The priest had to focus during the most important part of the Mass.

We were told the Canon, that most untranslatable prayer, would never be in the vernacular because it is too steeped in meaning. In 1967, it was put in the vernacular.

Sacred music, meanwhile, was being supplanted. In some churches, congregations monotoned the propers in English, while most places used either “hootenanny” songs or “Protestant” hymns. Catholic hymns were immediately replaced, with a few exceptions. The changes did have an immediate effect. Church attendance began to plummet. People voted with their feet. The youth whom the new music and altered liturgical practice were supposed to attract said, “No thanks.”

Concurrent with the changes in liturgy came a lessening in discipline. Many priests in many churches told people not to worry if they missed Mass, there was a new “Spirit of the Council” that was throwing off the “rigidity” of the past.

Add to this the abolition of meatless Fridays as an obligation and other disciplinary strictures, and it was too much for many people. This was not what they signed up for. It is an anomaly that 1965 was the banner year for church attendance, conversions, and men and women in seminaries or religious life. A year later, at least in New Haven, there was already talk about closing schools and churches, attendance had plummeted that much.

The changes were to continue. More and more vernacular came into the liturgy. Communion in the hand, standing for Communion and the demolition of sanctuaries followed, along with anticipatory Masses on Saturday. Finally, in 1970 a new order of Mass was introduced, and it was even more jarring, more opposed to what went before. By that time, church attendance at St Anthony’s and many other places had halved. The revolution of the mid- to late-1960s had upended society.

Many people who defend the liturgical changes of that era say that part of the problem was the rise of the counter-culture late in the decade, and that the Church declined because of those forces. One wonders if the changes of 1965 and later didn’t help bring about societal upheavals of 1968. I’ll leave that up to historians.

Fr Stravinskas put forth proposals that go farther than what happened in 1965 or later. His are the opinions expressed by the liturgical experts of that time. The problem with many of those experts was they were not parish priests; most were university professors whose pastoral experience was, at best, limited. Their prescription for reviving Catholic practice and liturgy has been tried and found wanting.

With all due deference to Fr Stravinskas, a priest whom I know and respect, what we need is a time of liturgical peace. While some feasts might be added, or some prefaces allowed, the alterations he suggests are just rehashes of ideas that were implemented and led to the Missal of Paul VI. Been there, done that. I don’t want to go back to the future. I’ve been there, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

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