Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Residential Icon-Painting Class, With Option of College Credits or Continuing Education Units

A residential class teaching the English gothic style of the School of St Albans will be offered in Columbus, Ohio between October 23rd and 26th. It will start on the Thursday morning and will finish after Mass on Sunday. There will be regular praying of the Liturgy of the Hours and lectures to supplement the practical classes.

For those who wish to take the college level credits there is an additional online element which teaches about Catholic culture and the Catholic traditions in art.

This is suitable for beginners or experienced painters and I am pleased that now students who take it will have the option of obtaining 3 undergraduate college credits or 25 continuing education units accredited by Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, whose accreditation at undergraduate level is nationally recognized. I will be teaching this course and from now on all residential courses that I teach will be done so that those who take them have the option of gaining credits (including, for example, next year's summer schools).

The painting class is offered in conjunction with an online element that has 12 recorded lectures (produced by Catholic TV in Boston) and written material about Catholic culture and art that has not be published anywhere else. The painting course in October will be supported by talks and instruction on learning to pray with sacred imagery in the context of the liturgy of the hours. I have posted examples of both 13th-century originals in the style we study, and works done by past students in these classes.

The options for those who take this course are:

Audit the class and learn to paint: to take the course without obtaining credit, as has happened before cost is $370

Continuing Education Units: to take the painting course and obtain 25 hours continuing education units cost is $49+$370 = $419

Undergraduate College Credits: to take the course for 3 college level credits the cost is $1,050 + $370 = $1,420. In order to obtain the credits, as well as taking the residential class, students will do the online element which requires a short test after each lecture and appropriate reading, and a written 'mid-term' and a written final exam which will be submitted for marking. You can audit the online element immediately, here. The tests and examinations will be available when the painting class starts.

Online only for Continuing Education Units: in addition the online part can be taken without the practical element and without taking the tests and exams and this will qualify the student for 25 hours continuing education units. Suitable for all teachers or those wishing to design a curriculum such as homeschoolers, the cost is just $99. To register now go here. Learn about Catholic culture and transform you world!

In the online element, there are case studies on great works of art from the liturgical artistic traditions of the Church plus coursework on traditional harmony and proportion in detail not offered before, that goes right back to the original sources such as Plato, Augustine and Boethius. There is also an examination of how an education in beauty has its place in general Catholic education.

To register for the painting class contact Gina Switzer at  To register for the online course for a preview of the online course go to here 

You will be able to register for college level credit from the first day of the class on October 23rd or if you wish to audit if for continuing education units you can register right now. For more information about the course feel free to contact me, emailing me through this website on .

Pictures above and first two below are of images from the Westminster psalter. Below that you can see work by past students.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FSSP Mission Trip to Peru

Our thanks to Fr Daniel Heenen of the Fraternity of St Peter for sending us this account and some pictures of a recent mission trip to Peru. You can see more pictures by clicking here.

The 3rd annual St. Francis Xavier Mission Trip of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter traveled once again to the city of Piura in the north of Peru to work with the poor and to spread devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass. The group consisted of 33 youth from around the country as well as 3 priests, 5 seminarians, and 4 chaperones. The young people had the opportunity to put their faith in action through a great variety of charitable works, including helping at orphanages, delivering food to the poor, building homes for needy families, assisting in the medical and dental clinics, visiting rehab centers, and more. Missionaries were reminded, however, that they had not traveled so far simply to be social workers. Their mission was, most importantly, a spiritual one. Therefore, missionaries had the chance to accompany the priests as they brought Communion to the sick, blessed homes, and visited the hospitals. The goal of this trip was to enkindle both in the missionaries themselves and in those whom they served a greater love for Christ and His Church. The missionaries therefore attended Mass in the Extraordinary Form daily, prayed the Rosary, had the opportunity for Eucharistic Adoration, and listened to spiritual talks given by the priests and seminarians.

One of the most important accomplishments of the trip was introducing many new people to the Traditional Latin Mass. The parish of Sanctísimo Sacramento, where the St. Francis Xavier Mission Trip served, is a parish of approximately 40,000 souls all served by one parish priest. Though the pastor’s labors are nothing less than heroic, he is always grateful for help with his immense flock, so he requested that the FSSP priests celebrate public Masses in chapels throughout his parish. Each time a new group of people, some of whom only have the chance to attend Mass occasionally, were introduced to the beautiful chants and ceremonies of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Some people remembered when they had last attended Mass in that manner. Others asked if they would now be able to attend this Mass every Sunday. Without exception, all were edified and commented profusely about the transcendence and beauty of the ritual.

The St. Francis Xavier Mission Trip is expanded and is always in need of help. If you would like to donate or learn how you can help, please email or visit (new website coming soon.) Registrations for the 2015 trips will begin at the end of October. Of course, we earnestly depend on your prayers for the success of this endeavor. May God reward you.
Fr. Daniel Heenan, FSSP
Nuestra Señora del Pilar
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Fr Louis Bouyer on the Liturgical Reform and Its Architects

Sandro Magister has just published on the website of L’Espresso an interesting account of the Mémoirs of Fr Louis Bouyer, the French convert and Oratorian priest who played so prominent a role in the post-Conciliar reforms, not the least because of his personal friendship with Pope Paul VI. Fr Bouyer was one of the first people to openly and honestly denounce what he (and of course many others) considered to be the failure of these reforms, in his book The Decomposition of Catholicism. Magister’s summary of the newly published Mémoirs, (yet to be published in English, to the best of my knowledge), will be of particular interest to our readers for its account of certain aspects of the liturgical reform. For the benefit of those who do not read Italian, I here give my translation of the complete article. Let it be understood that the criticism of other people given here in the quotations are Fr Bouyer’s words, not Magister’s or my own.

Paul VI seriously thought about making him a Cardinal, but was held back by the ferocious reaction against this which the nomination would surely have provoked among the French bishops, chief among them the then-Archbishop of Paris, and president of the (French) bishops’ conference Cardinal François Marty, a person of “crass ignorance” and “devoid of even the most basic capacity for discernment”.

The man who missed the red robes, and branded his archenemy thus, was the great theologian and liturgist Louis Bouyer (1913-2004), as we learn from his fiery posthumous Memoirs, published this summer by Éditions du Cerf, ten years after his death.

Raised as a Lutheran, after becoming a Protestant minister in Paris, Bouyer converted to Catholicism in 1939, drawn to it above all by its liturgy, of which he quickly distinguished himself as a gifted enthusiast with his masterful study on the rites of Holy Week, “The Paschal Mystery”.

Being called to serve on one of the preparatory commissions for Vatican II, Bouyer immediately realized from his own experience its greatness and its wretchedness, and soon pulled back from it. He found the cheap ecumenism of that crazy era unbearable, like “something from Alice in Wonderland.” Among the few theologians of the council saved by him were the young Joseph Ratzinger, who in the book is the subject of nothing but praise. On the other hand, among the few important churchmen who appreciated at once the talent and merits of this theologian and liturgist who was so untypical, the most outstanding was Giovanni Battista Montini, while he was still archbishop of Milan.

After becoming Pope with the name of Paul VI, Montini wanted Bouyer on the committee for the reform of the liturgy, presided over “in theory” by Cardinal Giacomo Lercaro, “a generous man” but “incapable of resisting the maneuvers of the criminal and unctuous” Annibale Bugnini, secretary and factotum of that same body, a man “as devoid of learning as he was of honesty”.

It was Bouyer who had to fix in extremis a horrible formula of the new Second Eucharistic Prayer, from which Bugnini wished to expunge even the “Sanctus”. And one evening, on the table of a trattoria in Trastevere, he had to rewrite the next of the new canon which is read today at Mass, together with the Benedictine liturgist Bernard Botte, with the added worry of having to deliver the whole thing by the following morning.

But the worst part is when Bouyer recalls the peremptory “The Pope wants it so” by which Bugnini would silence the members of the commission every time they opposed him; for example, in the dismantling of the liturgy for the dead, or in purging from the Divine Office the Psalms with “imprecatory” (i.e. cursing) verses.

Paul VI, conversing afterwards with Bouyer about one of these reforms “which the Pope had found himself approving without being in any way more content with it than I was” asked him: “But why did you all get entangled in this (particular) reform?” And Bouyer replied: “Because Bugnini assured us that you absolutely wanted it so.” To which Paul VI answered: “But is it possible? He told me that you were unanimous in approving it …”.

Paul VI sent the “contemptible” Bugnini into exile in Teheran as nuncio, Bouyer recalls in his “Memoires”, but at a point when the damage was already done. Bugnini’s personal secretary, Piero Marini, would later become the director of Papal ceremonies from 1987 to 2007, and is now even spoken of as a possible prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

In the last year of his life, Paul VI invited Bouyer to share with him “a few weeks of vacation at Castel Gandolfo”. But he was unable to accept this extraordinary sign of friendship and esteem, taken as he was with so many other responsibilities. And he lived to regret this, since Pope died on August 6th of that year, 1978.

The following year, Cardinal Jean Villot revealed to Bouyer that Paul VI wanted to make him a cardinal, were it not for the harshness of the reaction against this foreseen within the Church.

At the news of this failed nomination, Bouyer recalls that he “felt relieved”, his thoughts going immediately to the unhappy lot of another great theologian and liturgist, who was raised to the dignity of the cardinalate, the Jesuit Jean Daniélou, “made the subject of ignoble calumnies by his own confreres,” both before and after his death in 1974.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Two Articles of Potential Interest to NLM Readers

As a companion piece to my article here at NLM on Summorum Pontificum, I published over at One Peter Five a more "pastoral" consideration of where we stand, where we need to be going, and some of the inequality and inequity that lovers of the traditional Latin Mass are still facing throughout the world. (This article features a nice introduction by Steve Skojec that serves as a crash-course on the motu proprio, for those who may not yet be familiar with it -- think of young Catholics who are only now becoming aware of the landscape.)
As we commemorate the seventh anniversary of the implementation of this momentous motu proprio, every member of the Latin Rite should do an examination of conscience, taking an inventory of attitudes, policies, and practices.
          Bishops: Have you seen to it that the Extraordinary Form—which “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage”—is widely available in your diocese, since “it behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place”? Have you seen to it that training sessions are made available for priests and seminarians, so that they may benefit from this profound school of prayer, the nourishment of countless saints, stretching back to the first millennium of the Church?
          Priests: Have you taken advantage of the opportunities for learning the usus antiquior? Have you responded generously when the faithful ask for the sacraments in the traditional rites? Have you proactively taken steps to offer it to the faithful even when they do not request it, confident that the Holy Spirit can and will use this magnificent treasure of the Church to enrich the lives of many believers?
          Laity: Have you supported your diocese, your bishop, your pastor, your clergy, in a friendly and generous manner, so that they may more readily accede to legitimate desires for the usus antiquior? Do you pray for them when they are resistant, dismissive, irritated, or even spiteful? Have you repeatedly asked for the traditional Mass and sacraments, humbly but confidently? Have you been ready and willing to help defray the expenses associated with instruction in this rite and the celebration of it? Do you try to find ways to spread knowledge and love of the Extraordinary Form among the youth?

The other article is an interview Trent Beattie did with me that just appeared in the online edition of the National Catholic Register, touching mainly on Wyoming Catholic College, but also going into sacred music and the publication of the works of Aquinas. If you are interested in what I do for my "day job," as it were, please take a look at the interview.
          TB: With all of your academic experience, what do you think are the top challenges for Catholic institutions of higher learning today?
          PK: There are many challenges, but I will name two. The first is curricular integrity and depth. It is very tempting for institutions to follow the conventions and assumptions of our day — for example, by conceiving of higher education as glorified job training, rather than seeing it as a profound formation of the mind and heart, as the Catholic Tradition views it.
          Catholic schools have an irreplaceable vocation to bring an intellectual and spiritual patrimony of two millennia into the lives of their students, and this is not something that will happen by chance or luck. It needs to be carefully built into the mission, the curriculum, the campus life, the chaplaincy and then pursued with great clarity and zeal.
          The second challenge is related to the first: convincing parents, and even clergy, that there is nothing more important for young men and women than attending a college or university that will actually strengthen their faith, feed their minds with natural and supernatural truths and help them lead a moral life in conformity with the Gospel.

Photopost - Nativity of Mary 2014

Although it fell on a weekday, we received several photos from readers from last Monday's feast of the Nativity of Mary, including some from the Divine Office, which is encouraging!

The Brothers of the Little Oratory, San Diego, CA celebrated Vespers of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Imperial Beach, CA.

Solemn High Mass
Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary, Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines

Divine Liturgy
Russian Catholic Church of St. Michael, New York City

Juventutem London: Solemn High Mass at St Mary Moorfields

Announcing a Catholic Arts Conference for Fall 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska - Can Such an Event Be a Success?

There will be a conference for Catholic artists and patrons, covering painting, sculpture, architecture, music and film will take place in Omaha, Nebraska from October 27-29, 2016. Featured speakers are Anthony Visco, Fr Michael Morris (who writes the art articles for Magnificat, Denis McNamara and many other well known names, As well as sharing ideas about art, it will be a showcase for the artists and they will be able to interact with patrons, publishers, liturgical design companies and so on. I anticipate regular updates through the year.This is good news. I am not aware of something done on this scale before and so I pray that it is successful in furthering the new 'epiphany of beauty'.  The website is here.

However it does raise the question in my mind of what the aims of such conference should be and how might they be achieved? I am thinking particularly of the visual arts of painting and sculpture, the area I know best, as I write.

Over the years several people have suggested exhibitions to me as a way of promoting beautiful art and helping Catholic artists. As a rule I am skeptical about their value. The assumption seems to be that there are good artists out there who are unknown, and if we can provide a showcase for their work, it will give them a chance to become known and then patrons will commission them. I think that this assumption is wrong. In this age of the internet it has never been easier for artists to publicize their work. The reality is that there are very few good artists out there, most (not all) of these are trained iconographers and they are already generally known. Furthermore, the vacuum is so great, that anyone who really is any good will be noticed very quickly. So, when the call goes out for submissions and the art comes in, there are usually just a handful of good pieces but not enough for a whole exhibition and the organizers are forced to display much mediocrity just to fill the wall space. The overall, general impression for those who attend is that while the publicity speaks of a return to the values of timeless beauty produced by skillful artisans, they don't see it in the works on display. In the end art is a good as it looks, and people know what they are seeing. They see the disparity between the rhetoric and the product and will leave discouraged, believing that the future is bleaker than ever.

It might be that I am wrong and the work done in recent years in teaching artists skills and forming them so that they are aware of what constitutes Catholic sacred art has begun to pay off and there are now more good artists out there than I imagine. If so perhaps this event will put some patrons in touch with some artists who were previously unknown to each other. I am skeptical, as I have explained, but would be very happy to be proved wrong so I guess it is always worth a try!

I am a great believer in the idea that when the art is good enough, people will be clamoring to buy it. This is why Popes have stressed the importance of beauty. When it is present it connects with people regardless of how educated and how cultured they are and it sidesteps prejudice. I think that the evidence bears this out; good artists are able to get commissions. This says to me that the work to be done is not so much in publicising the work of artists, but rather in forming them.

Perhaps this conference can do more and play a part in sharing of ideas and in formation in way a simple exhibition does not ? Because of the stature of the people attending, it seems to me that it does offer the possibility of dialogue between creative people and with the Church and it's patrons. To the degree that it can achieve this, then I think that it can be useful. This dialogue is precisely what John Paul II called for in his Letter to Artists, so that there could be the development of new art that nevertheless participate in the timeless principles of beauty, goodness and truth. The desire is to create new popular forms that speak of and to the Church as it is today without compromising on the essential elements that make the art sacred and Catholic. Pope Benedict spoke of a similar need, for example in Sing A New Song, He talked of the need for artists to move out of the 'esoteric circle' (ie their friends at dinner parties!) and connect with 'the many'.

I believe that this will require all involved to be sincere in seeking to learn from each other try to understand what is needed today. On the whole artists are not good at listening to each other. I just think of my own reactions here. I am keen to meet patrons or people who might pay me for work, but it is easy for me to see other artists as competitors and my instincts are to avoid contact with them. This is my loss. I should be ready to learn from my peers. Raphael, no less, did not hesitate to copy the styles of others if he thought it would help his own, and I think we should be ready to do the same.  At such a conference, I would have to try to put aside this tendency and try to be ready humbly to learn from others and especially try to deepen my sense of how prayer and liturgy is connected to the form of art. This might enable my worship to inform my painting and in turn, one hopes, nourish that of others' too.

In this regard, I am pleased that the organisers have stated their intention to make prayer central to this. I hope that this a conference in which the liturgy - the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours -punctuates the days and that the organizers think very carefully about the environment in which they take place so that art, music, architecture and worship are all in harmony. By this the attendees might deepen further their instincts for how we engage with art in music in the service of our worship, which in turn will help them to paint better art.

As I have said I think that the signs are good here, so fingers crossed!

The website is

Monday, September 15, 2014

Does the EF Have Too Much Pomp?

So often, I have heard it said that the Extraordinary Form of the Mass was filled with too much pomp, too many rules, and that it's not what Christ wanted, as if the Church was drastically departing from Christ's will for the past 500 years. It makes nice talking points, but it just isn't true.

Christ was a Jew, indeed it could be said that he was the perfect Jew. The Jews also had formal liturgy as part of their worship, if I recall. Christ is also one with the Father, the very same Father who earlier in the scriptures commanded Moses directly that the high priest be dressed ornately, and also gave very specific instructions for what was to be done, and what was to be built.

The EF provides very specific rubrics for the Mass, just like God did for the high priest in the Old Testament. And in regard to vestments, we see the Old Testament high priest commanded by God to wear richly embroidered, jeweled, and multi-layered ceremonial vesture, not unlike our vestments in the Roman Rite. Look at some of the commands from Exodus 28 that God commands the priest to wear when in the ceremonies in the temple:

A rendering of the vesture of the high priest,
with descriptions and scriptural references.
Compare it to the image of a fully vested Bishop below
The ephod they shall make of gold thread and of violet, purple, and scarlet yarn, embroidered on cloth of fine linen twined. (vs 6)

The breastpiece of decision you shall also have made, embroidered like the ephod with gold thread and violet, purple, and scarlet yarn on cloth of fine linen twined. (vs 15)

When the chains of pure gold, twisted like cords, have been made for the breastpiece, you shall then make two rings of gold for it and fasten them to the two upper ends of the breastpiece. (vs 22, 23)

The robe of the ephod you shall make entirely of violet material. (vs 31)

You shall also make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, as on a seal engraving, “Sacred to the LORD.” (vs 36)
Not entirely foreign to the old
testament high priest's vesture
Does that sound like too much pomp? If so, you might want to reconsider your position: they are commands directly from the Lord as to what the priest was to wear in the temple.

Looking next to the Last Supper: we must remember that it was far from a casual community meal where Christ lounged around; rather, he began it in the context of a serious, rubricized religious ceremony of the Passover meal. Furthermore, we can't forget that even the Last Supper is not our be-all end-all of liturgical models, otherwise we should be restricting our Masses to only men, and ordaining them all bishops before they leave. And also, let's go make sure to kill the celebrant the next day.

One last time, let's look at the divine precedent for liturgy, this time in the Book of Revelation.

And indeed, in the Book of Revelation, we see something described that could be said to be full of "pomp."
Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders* sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads. (Rev 4)

When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones. (Rev 5:8)

The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev 5:14)
In any case, it certainly isn't the causal "community meal" atmosphere some would advocate for.

Not to mention that Christ gave us a Church to carry his mission forward, not to be stagnated by what He did on earth and do nothing more. We are not called to be restorationists like many of the Protestant groups which do not have the fullness of truth; we are called to follow the Church, who Christ handed His authority on to a Church, which lawfully instituted the 1962 missal as binding upon Catholics at that time, and is still a legitimate option today.

Christ was also the almighty king of the universe and high priest, worthy of all praise and glory that we can possibly give him. You'll note this in John 12: Christ took no issue with lavish display of devotion and love from those who are close to him. Judas had the same objection that many do: that we should not give into supposed excess and support the poor instead, and Jesus spoke strongly back that he was in error. Just as Christ says, we should give our absolute best when He is there (in churches and most importantly, in the sacred liturgy, primarily the Mass); then when He is not, as we return to our everyday lives, we can take that time to care for the poor.

In other words, those who complain that the Extraordinary Form, or the Ordinary Form celebrated with a spirit of continuity, has too much pomp and isn't what Christ wanted, may want to reexamine their positions and look at the larger context, including even what Christ said himself, both through the scriptures (cf. John 12, for one example) AND through His Church, which now wields His authority on earth.

Sunday Vespers starting soon at the Oratory in Formation in DC

Sunday Vespers starting soon at the Oratory in Formation in DC:

It is a long established custom in Oratorian communities to sing Vespers (Evening Prayer of the Church) on Sundays and major feasts. We have now established that there are sufficient people interested in supporting this project and so we propose to begin Sunday Vespers next month.

Vespers is an entirely sung liturgy, the music of which is Gregorian chant, the ancient musical patrimony of the Church in the West. The chanting of the psalms and their antiphons and the beautiful hymns of the liturgical seasons form a majestic prayer that can be outstandingly beautiful and very prayerful.

As it takes time to learn how to sing Vespers and as we hope you will want to learn how to participate in this ancient form of prayer, we shall gather at 3.30pm to prepare the music and the liturgy will begin at 4pm. The service of vespers is followed by Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament - the whole thing lasting about 45 minutes. We shall begin weekly Sunday Vespers on:

3.30pm Music rehearsal for all participants
4pm Vespers and Benediction

The Oratorian Fathers of the Community of St Philip Neri

The Calculation of the September Ember Days (Reprint)

This article, which explains the difference between the traditional dating of the September Ember Days, and that currently used in the EF, was originally published in 2010. The discrepancy between the traditional rubrics and the 1960 version does not occur every year, but it does this year, and so I am republishing it for reference, adjusting the dates for 2014. You may also find interesting this article from last year on the September Ember Days .

One of the changes made to the Breviary in the revision of 1960 regards the arrangement of the months from August to November. This change is often noticed in September, because it causes a shift in the occurrence of the Ember Days.

The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying antiphons and responsories; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.) The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of September” was actually August 31st, the closest Sunday to the first day of September, and the third Sunday of September was September 14th.

The Ember Days of autumn are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of the third week of September, during which the book of Tobias is read; according to the traditional system of calculation, this year they will occur on the 17th, 19th and 20th. The system is also calculated so that the Ember days will always begin on the Wednesday after the Exaltation of the Cross.

In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of September was the 7th of the month, the third will be the 21st, and the Ember Days will be the 24th, 26th and 27th.

This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the fourth of the month is a Sunday; according to the newer calculation, November always has four weeks. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

What Does Opposition to the Traditional Mass Really Signify?

At the ordination of priests dedicated to the
usus antiquior: Bp. Marc Aillet, June 28, 2014
In the post-Summorum world, the ancient Roman Rite can no longer be considered forbidden, dubious, marginal, or obsolete. It enjoys equal rights of citizenship with the Novus Ordo: two forms of the Roman Rite—one called Ordinary because most recently promulgated and more widely used, the other called Extraordinary, the usus antiquior, deserving respect for its venerable use—with each able to be freely celebrated by any priest of the Roman Rite, no special permission needed. One would think that, as a gesture of reconciliation at the heart of the Church, the two forms would be flourishing side by side, with Catholics everywhere privileged to experience both of them offered reverently and beautifully.

But this is still far from the reality, and, sadly, there are still far too many bishops and priests who oppose the traditional Mass, tether it with burdensome conditions, or resort to power politics to ensure that its supporters are duly warned and penalized for their rash embrace of our Catholic heritage.

As we commemorate today the seventh anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, whose provisions went into effect on September 14, 2007, it will be both edifying and sobering to consider the meaning Joseph Ratzinger himself attached to opposition to the traditional Mass. What does it mean when someone opposes this Mass, or those who celebrate it, or those who cherish it as a form of prayer dear to them?

In the book-length interview Salt of the Earth, published in 1997, Ratzinger said:
I am of the opinion, to be sure, that the old rite should be granted much more generously to all those who desire it. It’s impossible to see what could be dangerous or unacceptable about that. A community is calling its very being into question when it suddenly declares that what until now was its holiest and highest possession is strictly forbidden, and when it makes the longing for it seem downright indecent. Can it be trusted any more about anything else? Won’t it proscribe tomorrow what it prescribes today?  (176-77)
Ten years prior to Summorum, he was placing his finger on the crux of the matter. If the liturgy that was the Church’s holiest and highest possession for centuries, the object of total reverence and honor, the means of sanctification for countless Catholics, is suddenly forbidden, and if the desire to worship as our forefathers did is treated as wrong, what does that say about the Church herself, about her past, her tradition, her very saints? Truly, her credibility vanishes entirely, her proclamations become arbitrary diktats. Was there something fatally flawed, all this time, with our central act of worship? Were all the popes of the past who lovingly cultivated this liturgy mistaken, were all the missionaries who brought it around the globe misguided? Could they say, in the words of Gatherer, son of Vomiter, “I have not learned wisdom, and have not known the science of saints”? (Prov 30:1, 3, Douay).

In God and the World (2002), another of those splendidly insightful and doctrinally robust interviews which now, in retrospect, make for such wistful reading, Ratzinger returned to the point:
For fostering a true consciousness in liturgical matters, it is also important that the proscription against the form of liturgy in valid use up to 1970 should be lifted. Anyone who nowadays advocates the continuing existence of this liturgy or takes part in it is treated like a leper; all tolerance ends here. There has never been anything like this in history; in doing this we are despising and proscribing the Church’s whole past. How can one trust her present if things are that way? I must say, quite openly, that I don’t understand why so many of my episcopal brethren have to a great extent submitted to this rule of intolerance, which for no apparent reason is opposed to making the necessary inner reconciliations within the Church.  (416)
Here we have language strikingly akin to what we will find five years later in Pope Benedict’s Letter to the Bishops that accompanied Summorum Pontificum. Once again, we find the telltale insistence on possessing the right attitude towards the undying and life-giving heritage of the Church. The liturgical rites that arise from apostolic seeds in the Church’s sojourn through history are the fruits of Him who is the Lord and Giver of Life, and they cannot, in themselves, either die or bring death—nor can they be legitimately prohibited.

This would explain why Pope Benedict XVI, in Summorum Pontificum, says that the traditional Latin Mass “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage” and, in the Letter to the Bishops, adds:
What earlier generations held as sacred remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.
The giving of due honor, which translates into the actual celebration of the rite, is not an optional matter, and this is why we should politely refuse to allow ourselves or our fellow Catholics to be categorized as people with certain “preferences”: “Oh, you prefer the old and I prefer the new.” No, it goes beyond preferences to the very structure of the Catholic Faith: those things that are venerable and ancient must be given due honor; what earlier generations held as sacred must be sacred—and great!—for us, too; it is incumbent on us to preserve these riches and to make sure that they occupy their proper place in the life of the Church today.

Again, a sign that we are reading Pope Benedict correctly is that the clarifying instruction Universae Ecclesiae goes out of its way to emphasize these points. In fact, section 8 of this document is striking in its uncompromising simplicity, its total lack of hedging qualifications or loopholes:
The Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum constitutes an important expression of the Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and of his munus of regulating and ordering the Church’s Sacred Liturgy. The Motu Proprio manifests his solicitude as Vicar of Christ and Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and has the aim of: (a) offering to all the faithful the Roman Liturgy in the Usus Antiquior, considered as a precious treasure to be preserved; (b) effectively guaranteeing and ensuring the use of the forma extraordinaria for all who ask for it, given that the use of the 1962 Roman Liturgy is a faculty generously granted for the good of the faithful and therefore is to be interpreted in a sense favorable to the faithful who are its principal addressees; (c) promoting reconciliation at the heart of the Church.
*            *            *
At the ordination of priests dedicated to the usus antiquior:
Bishop James Conley, June 14, 2014
With these points established, we can readily see why any move to obstruct or diminish the presence of the usus antiquior in the Church today would only cause great harm and long-term damage.

First, it would be an act and a symptom of disobedience, which is never blessed by God and always punished by Him. More specifically, it would constitute disobedience to Pope Benedict XVI’s legal provisions in Summorum Pontificum (and their clarifications in Universae Ecclesiae), as well as to St. John Paul II’s well-known statement that “respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.” As has been demonstrated above, it is not enough to refrain from bad mouthing the traditional sacramental rites; they must be known and loved, re-introduced and promoted, studied in seminaries, offered generously to the faithful as a precious treasure.

Second, and more profoundly, divine worship goes to the heart of a person’s spiritual life, that which is most intimate and cherished. Any refusal to share the treasures of the Church, any heavy-handed restrictions on what is already available (or should be available), can only provoke anger, disappointment, and mistrust, hurting the Church’s unity, which is a fragile good of enormous value. Certain bishops, priests, and laymen may have no great love for the Extraordinary Form themselves, but they ought to recognize and respect the sizeable minority of Catholics who do, and appreciate that depriving them of it, or begrudging it to them, is pretty nearly the most offensive thing that could be done—rather like slapping a man’s wife, mother, or grandmother. To be blunt, those who sincerely want peace and mutual understanding had better act generously or they may end up with another ecclesiastical Cold War on their hands. Who wants that?

It does not require a degree in nuclear physics to see that a significant and growing number of Catholics are flocking to parishes and chapels where the traditional Mass is being celebrated, and with their (on average) very large families and strong commitment to homeschooling, the future belongs to them. In 1988 there were about 20 weekly Sunday TLMs; today there are over 500. There is no reason to fight this movement, and every reason to support it.

In spite of the anxieties of some who find it difficult to give peace and mutual coexistence a chance, the Extraordinary Form is not a problem for the Church, and, as Ratzinger/Benedict helps us to see, never could be a problem in and of itself. Instead, one may encounter unfortunate traditionalist attitudes that alienate or provoke—and, to be quite fair, this cuts both ways, since the promoters of the Novus Ordo frequently exhibit offensive attitudes of their own, such as a peculiar fusion of theoretical liberalism and practical totalitarianism. The thing to do is not jealously to limit and control the usus antiquior as if it were a dangerous addictive substance, an approach that only fuels those unfortunate attitudes, but to teach and model a right attitude, receiving with open arms, with humility and childlike simplicity, all that the Church herself gives, so that it becomes something normal and natural, not something forbidden (and thus, perhaps, more alluring?), controversial, or divisive.

Let us give the final word to Pope Benedict, from his Letter to the Bishops of July 7, 2007:
I think of a sentence in the Second Letter to the Corinthians, where Paul writes: “Our mouth is open to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return … widen your hearts also!” (2 Cor 6:11-13). Paul was certainly speaking in another context, but his exhortation can and must touch us too, precisely on this subject. Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.

The Exaltation of the Cross

As the sacred pledge is revealed from Heaven, the faith of Christ is strengthened; the divine wonders are now present, that were first prefigured in the rod of Moses. V. At the touch of the Cross, the dead rise, and the wondrous deeds of God are made manifest. The divine wonders are now present, that were first prefigured in the rod of Moses. (Fifth responsory of Matins of the Exaltation of the Cross)

The Bronze Serpent (Numbers 21, 4-9), by Michelangelo Buonarroti, 1511, from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
R. Dum sacrum pignus caelitus revelatur, Christi fides roboratur: * Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata. V. Ad Crucis contactum resurgunt mortui, et Dei magnalia reserantur. Adsunt prodigia divina in virga Moysi primitus figurata.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Recent EF Training in Mississippi

n the first week of September, at the invitation of the new bishop of Jackson (Mississippi, USA), the Most Reverend Joseph R. Kopacz, the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius gave a Sancta Missa Latin Mass Workshop in cooperation with Una Voce Mississippi. Priests learned to offer Mass according to the 1962 Missale Romanum, as men learned to serve at the altar for Low Mass and High Mass. For those interested in learning more about the Extraordinary Form, the Canons will offer additional workshops for clergy and seminarians in Chicago this fall, and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf will give a conference for laity (and interested clergy) at St. John Cantius in Chicago, October 3-5.

In joyous thanksgiving for the graces flowing from the pastoral guidance of Bishop Kopacz, on September 5th a votive Mass of the Sacred Heart (Missa cantata) for first Friday was offered in the Extraordinary Form by Fr. Scott Haynes, SJC, at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Jackson, with Fr. Anthony Rice, SJC, homilist (video highlights HERE). The schola of Una Voce Mississippi sang for the Mass and the cathedral organist, James Scoggins, provided fabulous organ music on the Rieger organ (made in Schwarzach, Austria). With the leadership of Bishop Kopacz, the Latin Mass, celebrated according to the usus antiquior, is returning to the Jackson Diocese. Deo gratias!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Eternal Memory: Fr. Robert Siu

Today before sunrise, Fr. Robert Siu has at last returned to his Lord.  He is not a priest many of NLM's readers have heard of, and yet I feel compelled to write him a tribute on this page all the same.  He was the retired priest in residence here in Lander, WY, and his passing is not likely to gather much national attention.  Yet for the parishoners of Holy Rosary Parish, and for students, faculty, and staff here at Wyoming Catholic College, we have been privileged to be present at the passing of a saint.
Fr. Siu's passing was not unexpected; throughout the summer we knew his time was approaching, and these last few weeks the imminence of his departure has been ever more evident.  Yet when I received word that the time had finally arrived, I prayed the very words that King Josiah had prayed at the parting of Elisha, and which Elisha had prayed at the parting of Elijah: "My father, my father: Israel's chariot and its charioteer!"  For the first time, the meaning of those words prayed by one who had lost his spiritual father seemed remarkably clear.  My spiritual father, the one whose prayers had defended me from my enemies, whose calm wisdom stood guard against the tempter, and whose absolution rescued my soul from the oppressor is no longer here.  There are not many words for it.
Fr. Siu was a son of Chinese immigrants in Hawaii.  Raised a Buddhist, he converted to Catholicism while still a child, against the wishes of his mother.  At the moment of his baptism, he said he knew he was to be a priest.  Once ordained he had a varied career: a pastor and then theology professor at a seminary in Hawaii, and then eventually released for studies on the mainland of the US.  Once here he continued his studies, and served as a hospital chaplain and pastor in various places, before finally coming to Wyoming in 1980.  I asked him once what brought him out to this high mountain desert, and he replied, "I always wanted to be a cowboy."
This man of the Far East who ended up in the Wild West, struck up a friendship with me, a man born in that West, but who had set his sails for Byzantium.  By the time I knew him, he was no longer in active parish ministry, but had moved on to offering spiritual direction as our local spiritual elder.  He would spend hours studying deeply the works of the Carmelite Doctors, and then try to integrate their thought with the Thomistic studies the students at WCC were undertaking, and add that occasional perspectives on Salesian and Ignatian meditation.  The man was a veritable fountain of knowledge, who, when he was not reading, was praying.  (Okay, that is a slight exaggeration; a lifetime member of the N.R.A., he would also go out to practice his marksmanship until just recently.)  I spent many hours with him discussing how to relate St. John of the Cross' Ascent of Mount Carmel to St. Thomas Aquinas' Treatise on Charity, and then to integrate that wisdom with the experience of the Byzantine hesychasts.  At over ninety, he would still call me late in the evening to ask a question about an obscure line in the Summa Theologiae, or confront me after Church with a burning question: "Have you grown in holiness since I last saw you?"
A week or so ago, I was able to be present at one of Fr. Siu's last Masses, celebrated in the rectory.  He wanted to celebrate a Mass that "brought it all together", and so he offered a Votive Mass for the Sacred Heart and still managed to deliver a homily.  Now a Votive Mass to the Sacred Heart, celebrated in a living room by a partially vested priest is about as far from the Byzantine notion of liturgy as one can get.  And yet, as this ancient priest, carefully and intimately offered one of his final Masses, I was drawn into that fundamental reality that is the end of any liturgy.  Here was a good and faithful servant, offering his very self as an immolation with this Holy Eucharist.  While he was aware, he refused morphine, and when possible, even water in order to win souls for Christ.  During the night he would toss and turn, engaged in an epic spiritual battle for those souls most in need.  And now, here, in this living room, with no incense, chant, or iconostasis, this priest united all those heroic struggles to the act that makes angels tremble.  Perhaps more than at any other liturgy in my life, I felt like the prophet Isaiah, taken up into the Holy of Holies and beholding seraphic holiness handling flaming coals.  And beholding such a sight, stripped of all its earthly splendor yet shining with Divine Light, I felt my heart cry out: "I am a man of unclean lips."  Yet after that Mass, when Fr. Siu told me to go forth and serve the Lord, I hoped I could communicate to others the beauty of holiness that I witnessed in that man.
In this day and age it is a rare blessing to have a real spiritual father, and those of us granted that grace in Fr. Siu may never find another like him.  It is snowing today in Lander, and that gives me some consolation that even the material creation is marking the departure of such a figure.  While there were no flaming chariots, a snow-storm in September is at least a nod in that direction.  
In a blessed falling asleep, grant, O Lord, eternal rest unto thy departed presbyter, Robert, and make his memory to be eternal.


FSSP Superior General Visiting Hong Kong

The Tridentine Liturgy Community of the Diocese of Hong Kong will welcome Fr. John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of St Peter, this Sunday, September 14th, 2014. He will celebrate a Solemn High Mass at 12:30 pm at the Church of Mary, Help of Christians, and afterwards give a talk entitles “7 Years after Summorum Pontificum - The Influence of the Motu Propio on the Life of the Church” in the music room of Tang King Po School at 2:30pm. The church and school are both located at 16 Tin Kwong Road, Ma Tau Wai, Kowloon, Hong Kong.