Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Finishing the St Paul Center at UW Madison

Just as a quick follow up to last week’s post about the rebuilding of the St Paul Catholic Student Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Matthew Alderman has shared with us some pictures of the steeple being raised last Thursday. (We may be able to update the post later with a video or two as well.)





Bishop of Copenhagen to Lead Next Year’s Populus Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage

The organisers of the Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage have announced the dates of next year’s pilgrimage to Rome, October 26-28, 2018, and that it will be led by His Excellency Czeslaw Kozon, bishop of Copenhagen, Denmark. In relation to that, here is a video with excerpts from an EF Solemn Pontifical Mass at the throne which Bishop Kozon celebrated for the feast of the Assumption this year to mark the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

Mgr. Kozon has been supportive of the Extraordinary Form since taking office in 1995, and especially since Summorum Pontificum; this was the third such Pontifical Mass which he has celebrated in his diocese. He has also celebrated a few in connection with visits abroad, along with diaconal ordinations for the FSSP. The Extraordinary Form is currently celebrated on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month in Copenhagen, and occasionally in Aarhus, the second city of the country. It is somewhat dependent on visiting priests, but a few younger priests and seminarians are showing interest. The reader who sent this information asks for prayers for the continued growth of the EF apostolate in Denmark.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Difficult Life of the MC

We have posted a number of videos from the old newsreel maker British Pathé from 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and especially those of Papal events from that era. I would say that this one, a small part of Pope Pius XII’s coronation on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, March 12, 1939, is quite unique; pay attention to the Master of Ceremonies immediately to the Pope’s left, starting at 0:47.

Some of the chaos of a ceremony like this is inevitable, given that at this point, they hadn’t had one for 17 years; Pius XI was crowned in February of 1922. Pius XII, of course, remains completely dignified and unflappable, even as the MC gesticulates wildly almost in his face. “May his prayers for peace and goodwill be answered.” Amen! (h/t to long-time reader and commenter Mr Basil Damukaitis.)

Saints of the Roman Canon: St Cecilia, November 22nd

Tomorrow is the commemoration of St Cecilia, one of the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon. Although she was martyred in the 3rd century AD, and devotion to her remained continuous from that time, the imagery of her that comes to mind mostly from the baroque paintings that highlight her role as patron of sacred music.
Here is one painted by Simone Vouet, painted in 1626. St Cecilia is commonly associated with the pipe organ.


In the same period Guido Reni (1606) shows her with with a stringed instrument, rather than organ.


The form of the devotion that associates her with music is relatively recent; earlier images focused more on her martyrdom and her chastity. These aspects of her life were not ignored by later artists, as this famous baroque sculpture entitled The Martyrdom of St Cecilia shows, by Italian-Swiss sculptor Stefano Maderno. It is in the church in Rome which is dedicated to her and has been on this site since the time of her death. (Tradition has it that it is built on the site of her house).
Here is an example in mosaic from Sant’Apollinare in Ravenna, Italy, in the iconographic style, dating from the 6th century, showing her with the palms of martyrdom.


Readers, may be interested, as I was, in the context of this holy image. She is one of a large group of virgin martyrs shown processing down the left hand side of the church, and led by the Magi. (Click to enlarge.)

Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons by Chester M. Wood - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

In the detail above you can see that the artist has faithfully given us her name, on the right, so that it is worthy of veneration. 

This suggests another way of portraying the Saints of the Roman Canon in churches today, so that they can be venerated on their feast day in the context of the Mass. If the Saints are shown, as here, processing towards the altar, then during the entrance or recession the Saint of the day could be solemnly incensed while a hymn to her is sung (before the Introit if during the entrance procession). Might this work? Liturgical experts please feel free to comment!

This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the Saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts, www.Pontifex.University.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Confronting the Heresy of Activism with the Primacy of Prayer

In Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council Notebooks — a resource already put to good use here at New Liturgical Movement in discussions of splendor and Latin — we find the following summary of a speech by Cardinal William Godfrey, archbishop of Westminster, on Friday, November 9, 1962, during the debate over the Divine Office:
Some people exaggerate the onus sacerdotum in opere pastorali [the burden of priests in pastoral work]. I have been a parish priest; I see a large number of priests; I have never met any who have told me that they no longer have time for the breviary. Do not legislate universally for a few exceptional cases. Be careful of the haeresis bonorum operum [the heresy of good works]. Work must be subordinate to prayer. The breviary has already been made lighter. It must remain the essentiale nutrimentum nostri laboris [the essential nourishment of our work]. … In our cathedral, the office is recited or chanted every day; our work is not neglected because of that.[1]
On Saturday, November 10, Bishop Martin Jaime Flores of Barbastro, Spain, made the rather obvious but important point that “Oratio est labor pastoralis”—prayer is, in a way, a pastoral work: it is something that benefits the people more than any other work.[2] Later that day, Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni spoke out against what he called “activismus exaggeratus,” an exaggerated activism, and said that the reduction of the breviary would be “shocking, a scandal to the whole Christian people.”[3]

Bishop John Ireland, father of Americanism
To find the roots of this “exaggerated activism” — which Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P., went so far as to call a “heresy”[4] — we need to go back to the Americanist controversy of the late nineteenth century. Fr. Walter Elliott’s 1891 biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists, appeared in a French translation in 1897. This translation included the controversial Introduction by Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul, which was to occasion Leo XIII’s letter Testem Benevolentiae of 1899, addressed to Cardinal Gibbons and the American bishops. As related in the 1976 book Histoire des crises du clergé français contemporain by Paul Vigneron, the biography of Hecker became a bestseller among the French clergy then under siege from an anticlerical government. Soon there was a turning away from the interior life towards activism, or, as we might nowadays call it, “being pastoral.” Vocations to the diocesan priesthood plunged. Only the publication of Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard’s book L’Ame de Tout Apostolat [The Soul of the Apostolate] (1907, 1909, 1913) would reverse the trend. Vocations flourished until 1946, by which time over 250,000 copies of Chautard’s book had been sold. Then, Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu, national chaplain of the worker priests, publicly attacked L’Ame de Tout Apostolat as outdated: the conditions under which Dom Chautard wrote no longer exist. Vocations to the diocesan priesthood plunged, never to recover.[5]

Marie-Dominique Chenu, opponent of Dom Chautard
Thus, by the time of the meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the battle lines were fairly well drawn up between those who, in accord with Catholic tradition as enunciated by Chautard, saw the inherent priority of prayer and contemplation over works of the active life, and those who, following the modern trend from Ireland to Chenu, wished to lessen the “burden” of prayer in favor of pastoral efficiency.

There is no doubt about which side won in practice: all of the liturgies of the Roman Catholic Church, from the sacramental rites to the Divine Office to the blessings, were greatly shortened, simplified, and streamlined; the people were given much to “do,” and the celebrant was given the more “active” roles of interlocutor, animator, commentator, improviser. Religious life was redefined in terms of social apostolate. Contemplatives, in particular, felt they had to justify their existence by pointing to concrete benefits they conferred on society. As vocations to the diocesan priesthood plummeted, so too, and for much the same reason, religious vocations plummeted, never to recover in the mainstream Church.[6]

Today, many decades into the weary aftermath, the costly “collateral damage,” of all this frenzied activism, we are in a position to see more clearly than ever the wisdom of Godfrey, Flores, and Carli, the wisdom of Leo XIII, Chautard, and Aumann. No less a figure than Joseph Ratzinger frequently and perceptively writes about the problem of activism, which he considered sympomatic of a loss of confidence in the reality of Jesus Christ and the primacy of His kingdom. In a poignant section of The Ratzinger Report, he speaks of the loss of the dimension of feminine receptivity in the Church:
Activism, the will to be “productive,” “relevant,” come what may, is the constant temptation of the man, even of the male religious. And this is precisely the basis trend in the ecclesiologies . . . that present the Church as a “People of God” committed to action, busily engaged in translating the Gospel into an action program with social, political, and cultural objectives. But it is no accident if the word “Church” is of feminine gender. In her, in fact, lives the mystery of motherhood, of gratitude, of contemplation, of beauty, of values in short that appear useless in the eyes of the profane world. Without perhaps being fully conscience of the reason, the woman religious feels the deep disquiet of living in a Church where Christianity is reduced to an ideology of doing, according to that strictly masculine ecclesiology which nevertheless is presented — and perhaps believed — as being closer also to women and their “modern” needs. Instead it is the project of a Church in which there is no longer any room for mystical experience, for this pinnacle of religious life which not by chance has been, through the centuries, among the glories and riches offered to all in unbroken constancy and fullness, more by women than by men.[7]
In a lecture he gave on “The New Evangelization” in the year 2000, Ratzinger, like Chautard, pointed to the necessary foundation of apostolate in prayer:
“Jesus preached by day, by night he prayed.” With these few words, he [Don Didimo] wished to say: Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer. … Theocentrism is fundamental in the message of Jesus and must also be at the heart of new evangelization. … To proclaim God is to introduce [others] to a relation with God: to teach how to pray. Prayer is faith in action. And only by experiencing life with God does the evidence of his existence appear.[8]
Pope Benedict XVI returns to this theme in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, of 2005:
Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbors, however extreme. … It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. … Our crying out [to the Father] is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power.[9]
Vermeer's Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (1655)
One of the most developed treatments of this theme is found in Benedict XVI’s General Audience of April 25, 2012, explaining the Apostles’ decision to ordain deacons to assist them. The pope sees in the Apostles’ focus on the Word and the deacons’ handling of the poor a reflection of the distinction between Mary and Martha of Bethany, and notes that each aspect supports the other: prayerful meditation on the Word leads to its convincing proclamation, and, at the same time, the men to be chosen for works of mercy must be imbued with the Holy Spirit, not mere social workers. He then comes to his central point, which deserves to be read with the “burden” of the recitation or chanting of the Divine Office in mind:
We must not lose ourselves in pure activism but always let ourselves also be penetrated in our activities by the light of the word of God and thereby learn true charity, true service to others, which does not need many things — it certainly needs the necessary things, but needs above all our heartfelt affection and the light of God.
          In commenting on the episode of Martha and Mary, St. Ambrose urges his faithful and us too: “Let us too seek to have what cannot be taken from us, dedicating diligent, not distracted, attention to the Lord’s word. The seeds of the heavenly word are blown away, if they are sown along the roadside. May the wish to know be an incentive to you too, as it was to Mary; this is the greatest and most perfect act.” And he added that “attention to the ministry must not distract from knowledge of the heavenly word” through prayer (Expositio Evangelii secundunm Lucam, VII, 85; PL 15: 1720).
          St. Bernard, who is a model of harmony between contemplation and hard work, in his book De consideratione, addressed to Pope Innocent II to offer him some reflections on his ministry, insists precisely on the importance of inner recollection, of prayer to defend oneself from the dangers of being hyper-active, whatever our condition and whatever the task to be carried out. St Bernard says that all too often, too much work and a frenetic life-style end by hardening the heart and causing the spirit to suffer (cf.II, 3).
          His words are a precious reminder to us today, used as we are to evaluating everything with the criterion of productivity and efficiency. ... Without daily prayer lived with fidelity, our acts are empty, they lose their profound soul, and are reduced to being mere activism which in the end leaves us dissatisfied. … For pastors, this is the first and most valuable form of service for the flock entrusted to them. If the lungs of prayer and of the word of God do not nourish the breath of our spiritual life, we risk being overwhelmed by countless everyday things: prayer is the breath of the soul and of life.[10]
Looking back over these valuable texts from Ratzinger (and there are many more like them), we cannot avoid posing some uncomfortable questions for ourselves—for clergy, religious, and laity who are striving for holiness, which we know is not a product of our actions but a gift given to those who ask for it in prayer, who seek, who knock.

Do we actually believe in God? If we do, we will believe in His lordship, His primacy, His precedence over all created things, material or spiritual, visible or invisible—such that He always deserves priority in our daily life, the best of our time, energy, attention. That goes for liturgical prayer as well as private prayer.

Do we believe Our Lord’s word when He openly says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33), or when He says: “Without Me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5)? If so, we will reject at its very root the secular Pelagian mentality that has crept into and corrupted so many “good works” sponsored by the Church or practiced in the name of Christianity.

Do we believe that Our Lord receives more honor and glory when we put on our lips and fix in our hearts the words of the very Psalms He inspired for Himself to recite as man on earth, as the Church bids us do in the Divine Office? If we do, our thinking about the “burden” of the Office will change; we will consider taking up some form of the preconciliar breviary, be it Roman or monastic; we will not seek shortness, speed, and efficiency; nor, if we are praying in Latin already, will we cut corners by a thoughtless rapidity of recitation.

Do we believe that the same Lord Jesus Christ is really, metaphysically, bodily, personally present to us at Mass? If we do, it should be obvious in the way we are worshiping, and the place that worship occupies in our daily life.

Ultimately, do we believe in the power and mystery of prayer? That is the question Cardinal Godfrey’s words, spoken 55 years ago, should prompt in us today.


NOTES

[1] Henri de Lubac, Vatican Council Notebooks (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 1:258–59. The Latin is not italicized in the book.
[2] Ibid., 266.
[3] Ibid., 268–69.
[4] Jordan Aumann, O.P., “The Heresy of Action,” in Cross and Crown, vol. 3 (1951), pp. 25–45.
[5] I owe this information to Anthony Sistrom. Vigneron cites more than 300 biographies and memoires of French priests in establishing his narrative.
[6] See Hilary White’s fine article "What is the Catholic Religion Actually For? A Monastic Answer."
[7] The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 103.
[8] Available here.
[9] Deus Caritas Est, nn. 36-38.
[10] Available here.

Mass for Fr Magin Catala in Santa Clara, California, Nov. 22

On Wednesday, November 22, the ninth annual traditional Latin Mass will be held at the tomb of the Servant of God Father Magin Catala O.F.M., known as “The Holy Man of Santa Clara”, in Mission Santa Clara, California, on the anniversary of his death. He is famous for his miracles, both before and after his death. and his prophecies; above the altar is a miraculous crucifix “where Fr Catala spent many hours in prayer and contemplation, often through the night. Witnesses testified to seeing this holy missionary raised from the floor while he was praying before this crucifix and that, while so elevated, Christ embraced him.” (From the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco.) Mission Santa Clara is located on the Santa Clara University campus, 500 El Camino Real.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Lectio brevior and the Parable of the Talents

The General Introduction to the Lectionary (GIL) has this to say about lectio brevior, or short forms of readings:
In the case of certain rather long texts, longer and shorter versions are provided to suit different situations. The editing of the shorter version has been carried out with great caution. (GIL 75)
This would seem to imply that short forms of readings are a rarity in the reformed lectionary, as there are not that many “rather long texts”. The Gospel readings for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent in Year A spring to mind, as do the Passion narratives for each year in the Sunday cycle on Palm Sunday. [1] To take the Gospel reading on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in Year A as an example (Jn. 4:5-42), the short form of the reading (Jn. 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42) does preserve the main elements of the narrative.

However, across the three-year cycle, there are a total of 49 occasions where at least one short form of a reading exists. [2] In general, between 20-28% of Masses on Sundays and Solemnities in any given liturgical year will have optional short forms. (The range exists primarily because certain Sundays year to year will be supplanted by Trinity Sunday, Pentecost, etc.). On the majority of these occasions (over two-thirds), it is the Gospel reading that can be shortened, and the rest of the time it is nearly always the second reading from the NT; outside of the Easter Vigil, there is only one short form of a first OT reading (3rd Sunday of Lent [B]).

Given what the GIL says, this figure is a lot more than one would expect, and is not consistent with the magna cautela (“great caution”) claimed by the GIL. Indeed, it is true to say that in the case of certain rather short readings, even shorter forms are provided. The Gospel for the 17th Sunday per annum in Year A (Mt. 13:44-52) is not exactly long, yet a shorter form (vv. 44-46) is provided by the reformed lectionary! And, on occasion, the shortening of the reading has compromised the pericope to such an extent that one wonders how on earth the short form wasn’t eliminated by the 1981 second typical edition of the lectionary, let alone nearly 50 years later.

At the time of writing, one such occasion is coming up this Sunday, the 33rd per annum in Year A. The Gospel reading is the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). It is a little longer than average, but the first and second readings are fairly short, and the Parable itself surely couldn’t be shortened without doing damage to it. Could it? Well, inexplicably there is an optional short form (Mt. 25:14-15, 19-21). Here is the pericope, with the verses that can be omitted in bold:
At that time: Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: “A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” (RSV2CE)
The above ought to speak for itself, but I will point out a couple of things.

First, whereas other short forms of the Gospel readings in Year A omit other parables, or the explanation of parables, [3] this short form omits large parts of the parable itself. We have previously seen this happen a few weeks ago, on the 28th Sunday per annum (A), where the end of the Parable of the Marriage Feast can be omitted, but not quite to this extent. If the short form of the Parable of the Talents is used, the parable itself barely makes any sense! It is emptied of a huge portion of its meaning, and the violence done to this text in its short form is almost without precedent in the reformed lectionary. [4]

Secondly, thanks to the generosity of Blackfriars Library in Oxford, UK, and Rev Fr Luke Melcher at the ICEL Secretariat in Washington, DC, I have been able to establish that there was no short form of this Gospel pericope on this Sunday in any of the Consilium’s draft lectionaries before the final version submitted to Pope Paul VI in May 1969. Indeed, if one compares Group XI’s 1967 draft Ordo lectionum pro dominicis, feriis, et festis sanctorum [5] with the promulgated 1969 Ordo lectionum Missae, there are far fewer short forms in the draft: in tempus per annum, for example, there is only one short form, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost in Year A (Mt. 15:1, 7-20 à 15:1, 7-11, 15-20). Something happened between 1967 and 1969 that resulted in an immense multiplication of optional short forms. I would submit that, if there is to be a third edition of the Ordo lectionum Missae in the future, any rationale for these lectiones breviores needs to be examined in detail, and preferably eliminated in line with the desire of the Council Fathers for the “treasures of the Bible to be opened up more lavishly” to the faithful (SC 51).

* * * * *

I end with a plea to Bishops and Priests celebrating Ordinary Form Masses this weekend. Fathers, please ensure the long form of this Gospel is read! Do not rob the faithful of the words and teaching of Our Lord in order to save barely a minute of time! There can “be no justification for depriving the faithful of the spiritual riches of certain texts on the grounds of difficulty if its source is the inadequacy either of the religious education that every Christian should have or of the biblical formation that every pastor should have” (GIL 76).


* * * * *

NOTES

[1] Please note that, for the purposes of this article, whether such shorter forms (particularly for the Passion narratives) should exist in the first place for these “rather long texts” is an entirely separate question.

[2] This figure counts the Easter Vigil, the Vigil of Christmas, Christmas Day (Mass during the Day), 2nd Sunday after Christmas, and Palm Sunday three times (as they will occur each year); the days that have more than one optional short form (Easter Vigil, 19th Sunday per annum [B]) are counted only once. The two occasions (Holy Family [ABC], 2nd reading; 21st Sunday per annum [B], 2nd reading) where short forms of readings exist in the English language lectionaries but not in the 1981 Latin editio typica altera are not counted here.

[3] E.g. 16th Sunday per annum (Mt. 13:24-43 à 13:24-30); 17th Sunday per annum (Mt. 13:44-52 à Mt. 13:44-46).

[4] However, the short forms of the Gospel reading for the feast of the Holy Family in Year B (Lk. 2:22-40 à 2:39-40) and the second reading for the 3rd Sunday per annum in Year C (1 Cor. 12:12-30 à 12:12-14, 27) are other examples of highly egregious short forms.

[5] Schemata 233 (De Missali 39). This was published pro manuscripto and a copy sent for consultation to each Bishops’ Conference, every participant in the first Synod of Bishops (1967) and around 800 periti nominated by the conferences of Bishops: cf. A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 419-420. Bugnini mentions that 460 responses were received.

St Gregory the Wonderworker

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Gregory the Wonderworker, bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, his native city, the modern Niksar in north-central Turkey. Born around 215 AD, he and his brother Athenodorus, who also later became a bishop, intended to study law at a famous school in Beirut. Their brother-in-law was appointed as an official of the Roman government of Palestine; the brothers therefore accompanied their sister to the city of Caesarea in that province. (Many cities in the East were called “Caesarea”; the one in Palestine is different from the city where St Basil the Great later served as bishop, also in Turkey.) At the time, the famous scholar Origen had taken up residence in Caesarea; on meeting and conversing with him, the two brothers gave up their plans to study law, and devoted themselves to studying with the great master.

A 14th century Greek icon of St Gregory the Wonderworker. (public domain image from Wikipedia.)
Among St Gregory’s surviving works is a Panegyric to Origen, preached upon the completion of his studies, before taking leave of his teacher and departing for home. In it, he states that Origen led and encouraged his students to virtue by personal example no less than by exhortation and teaching. Most importantly, he describes how he taught them to distinguish what was true and useful in pagan philosophy and poetry for knowledge of the true God from what was erroneous. A letter of Origen to Gregory also survives, in which he describes how the Christian may make use of what he learns from the pagan world.

“I am anxious that you should devote all the strength of your natural good parts to Christianity for your end; and in order to this, I wish to ask you to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and astronomy what will serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of the philosophers are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, as fellow-helpers to philosophy, we may say about philosophy itself, in relation to Christianity.

Perhaps something of this kind is foreshadowed in what is written in Exodus from the mouth of God, that the children of Israel were commanded to ask from their neighbors, and those who dwelt with them, vessels of silver and gold, and raiment, in order that, by spoiling the Egyptians, they might have material for the preparation of the things which pertained to the service of God.”

Shortly after returning to Neo-Caesarea, St Gregory was appointed bishop of the tiny Christian community there, said to have only seventeen members at the time. His conversion of the city began with his very first sermon, preached in the house of an important fellow-citizen who hosted him, and followed immediately by numerous miraculous cures of the sick. This was the beginning of a long career of impressive miracles, many of which are recounted by St Basil the Great and his younger brother, St Gregory of Nyssa; by these, he converted so many people that on his deathbed, when he asked how many pagans were left in the city, the answer was “seventeen.” The most famous of these was the moving of a mountain in order to make a convenient space for the building of a church, which had become necessary with the rapid growth of the community, in fulfillment of the Lord’s words which are read in the Gospel for his feast day.

“Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, ‘Be thou lifted up and cast into the sea’, and shall not hesitate in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done, it shall be done unto him. Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (St Mark, 11, 22-24)

Ss Basil and Gregory of Nyssa learned what they knew of St Gregory the Wonderworker from one of his personal disciples, their grandmother, St Macrina the Elder. (St Macrina the Younger is their older sister.) It is through her and her spiritual father that much of Origen’s theological teaching was transmitted to the Cappadocian Fathers, and through them, enters the great tradition of Eastern theology. It is also recounted that before his episcopal consecration, Gregory went on a retreat in the wilderness, during which he was vouchsafed an apparition of the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist, who dictated a creed to him. The text of this survives, and the original manuscript of it was still preserved at Neocaesarea in St Basil’s day. The Canon for his feast in the Byzantine Rite refers to the story as follows: “Guided by God, as one who had sought for Him with longing, you obtained as your teachers Mary, the pure Mother of God, and the son of thunder, who taught you the splendor of the Trinity, as one who spoke from God.” Of particular interest is the last article of this short Creed, which speaks of a fully orthodox doctrine of the Trinity more than half a century before the Council of Nicea.

“There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.”

The Apparition of the Virgin Mary and St John to St Gregory the Wonderworker, by the Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640), more commonly known as the Cavaliere d’Arpino. From the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, ca. 1612.
Prior to the Tridentine reform, there does not appear to be any devotion to St Gregory in the West. His feast appears, however, in the very first edition of the very first liturgical book of that reform, the Roman Breviary issued by St Pius V in 1568, two years before the Tridentine Missal; it is assigned to November 17, his day in the Byzantine Rite. This is a very unusual change for a reform which is in almost every respect extremely conservative, and which changed the calendar of Saints mostly by removing or downgrading those whose lives were thought to be historically unreliable.

This change, like several others, should be seen as part of the Church’s response to the novelties of the Protestant reformers.

Five hundred years after the 95 Theses, it is perhaps hard for us to properly grasp how radical a break with the whole of Christianity’s first millennium and a half was set in motion by Luther, and how much of the Church’s universally received tradition was lightly set aside as thing of little or no value. In regards to the study of philosophy, there have always been heretics and cranks who rejected it as worthless. One of the very first and most notable of these in antiquity was a Syrian disciple of St Justin Martyr called Tatian (ca. 120-180), who turned heretic, and wrote a very funny, but ultimately absurd, attack on the pagan philosophers and the whole intellectual tradition of the classical world. The vast bulk of Christian tradition, however, stands squarely with Origen in this regard, and with his disciple, St Gregory the Wonderworker, receiving philosophy as the “handmaid of theology”; this is the teaching which they then passed on to the Cappadocian Fathers, whose influence in the Byzantine East can never be overcalculated.

This tradition is fundamental to the writings of the great majority of the Fathers, including those in whom the reformers claimed to find justification for their teachings. And yet, after Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Thomas and countless others, and particularly after the great scholastic conquest of the writings of Aristotle, Luther, with his usual lack of temperance and decorum, sought to cast philosophy, and indeed reason itself, out of the Church as “the Devil’s greatest whore… who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom…” And likewise, “Aristotle is the godless bulwark of the papists. He is to theology what darkness is to light. His ethics is the worst enemy of grace. He is a rank philosopher, … the most artful corrupter of minds. If he had not lived in flesh and bones, I should not scruple to take him for a devil.” As for St. Thomas, “he never understood a chapter of the Gospel or Aristotle … In short, it is impossible to reform the Church if Scholastic theology and philosophy are not torn out by the roots with Canon Law.”

St Gregory the Wonderworker therefore serves as an example of the Church’s true tradition, which makes good uses philosophy as a necessary tool for the properly understanding of the Faith. He further witnesses, through his association with the Cappadocian Fathers, to the universality of that tradition in both East and West.
St Gregory the Wonderworker, from Menologion of Basil II (11th century - public domain image from Wikipedia.)
In the post-Conciliar reform, St Gregory was removed from the general calendar as “not of truly universal importance,” a decision which does not speak particularly well of the reformers’ ability to determine which Saints were of truly universal importance. A similar mistake was made with St Catherine of Alexandria, whose life also bears witness to the importance of philosophy in the Christian intellectual tradition. This mistake was happily corrected by yet another Saint who also took a good deal of interest in philosophy, Pope John Paul II, and we may hope that a similar correction will someday take place with St Gregory.

In 1738, Pope Clement XII Corsini (1730-40) decided to add the feast of St Gertrude the Great, who died on November 17, ca. 1302, to the general calendar. Believing that a Saint who moved a mountain should not himself be moved, even by a Pope, her feast was assigned to the 15th. Almost two centuries later, however, she was moved to the 16th, to make way for another giant in the tradition of Christian philosophers, St Albert the Great.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

More from the Lorenzetti Show in Siena

Following up on a post from yesterday, here is some more of the splendid work of the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1290-1348), currently being shown at an exhibition in his native city of Siena.
Altarpiece with Madonna and Child, Angels, Saints and Prophets (often called in Italian a ‘Maestà - Majesty’), from the church of San Pietro in Orto, Massa Maritima; ca. 1335. Here the Sienese love for detail and decoration is particularly evident.
Detail of the Virgin Mary’s throne, the base of which is formed from the three Theological virtues (in ascending order), Faith, Hope and Charity.
Altarpiece of St Michael the Archangel, also known as the Rofena Abbey Polyptych, with the Madonna and Child above; on the left, St Bartholomew, with St John the Evangelist in the pinnacle; on the right, St Benedict, with St Louis of Toulouse in the pinnacle. ca 1337. 
Madonna and Child, from the parish of San Lorenzo alle Serre di Rapolano, ca. 1342-44 
Dismembered altarpiece with the Virgin and Child, Ss Martha and Mary Magdalene, Ss John the Evangelist and Baptist; below, the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, with Ss Augustine and Anthony Abbot.
Detail of St John the Evangelist

Bishop Serratelli’s Recent Pontifical Mass

On October 14th, His Excellency Arthur Serratelli, bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, celebrated a solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the cathedral of St John the Baptist. I must confess that these photos were sent to me a while ago, and slipped through the cracks in the midst of a rather busy month; for the delay in posting them. Our thanks to Bishop Serratelli for his support of the traditional rite in his diocese!





Tradition is for the young!

EF Solemn Mass to be Offered at National Catholic Youth Conference on Friday

Every two years, over 25,000 young people attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), which for the past three years has been held in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center. This year there will be a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form offered at NCYC. Two years ago, a Missa Cantata was celebrated at the conference, and it drew such a large crowd that there were more people overflowing outside of the small chapel than inside the chapel itself.

The Mass has been moved to a larger room this year, and a portable reredos and communion rail are being built for the chapel. Please spread the word to those you know who might be attending NCYC; this will be a great opportunity for young people to experience the Traditional Rite of the Mass at such a large gathering. The Mass will be held in the NCYC Adoration Chapel in the Indianapolis Convention Center on Friday, November 17th at 11:30am.

Missa cantata at the previous NCYC; photo by Sean Gallagher

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ambrogio Lorenzetti Exhibition in Siena

The Italian city of Siena is currently hosting a wonderful show of works by one of her great native sons, the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1290-1348). The younger brother of another very talented painter, Pietro, we know fairly little about Ambrogio’s life. Active from around 1319 until his death, he spent a fair amount of time in Florence, then a bitter rival of Siena for prominence among the independent cities of Tuscany. His style blends the best of the Florentine interest in realism with the Sienese taste for extremely fine and beautiful decoration; in this sense, he develops what is best about the works of earlier Sienese painters like Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, and his brother. His most famous and important work by far is the fresco cycle in the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall) of Siena, known as the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. It is generally believed that he died in the great outbreak of the black plague which devastated the city in 1348.

The current show makes it possible to see several of his large body of work in various forms, gathered together from many different places and displayed in the large complex of Santa Maria della Scala, right across the street from the cathedral. Other works are included as part of the same show at the churches of St Francis and St Augustine.

Here is just a selection of some of the pieces included at Santa Maria della Scala; the exhibition continues until January 28th. A second part will be posted tomorrow.

A detached piece of a fresco showing a group of Poor Clares, from the chapter hall of the church of St Francis in Siena, 1320-25 ca.
King Solomon, detached fresco, some provenance as above.
Painted Crucifix, from the parish of St Lucy at Montenero d’Orcia. 1320-25 ca.
Painted crucifix, 1324-7.
A detail of the background; this is the kind of highly elaborate and elegant work for which Sienese painters were so much admired and sought after in the 14th century.
Altarpiece of the church of St Proculus in Florence, 1332, with the Madonna and Child, St Nicholas and St Proculus; in the pinnacles, Christ, St John the Evangelist (left) and St John the Baptist (right.)

A Beautiful Church Rebuilding in Madison, Wisconsin

From Matthew Alderman come these very nice photos of the Catholic Student Center at the Univ. of Madison, Wisconsin. Matthew himself designed the exterior at the aesthetic level (i.e. surface, not structure), the chapel architecture, the altarpiece surround, altar, and ambo; the interior decoration and color scheme were developed from his initial concept. Some specific elements of the final design, like the stencil work in the apse are also his; the renderings given below, which we reproduce with his permission via his studio’s Facebook page, give a good sense of his contributions. (The Architect of Record is RDG Planning and Design, and the church interior decoration is by EverGreene Architectural Arts.)

The former structure, now happily reduced to landfill, looked like this, hair clipper on the outside, cylon basestar on the inside. Made in 1968 to replace an earlier chapel from 1909, it proved as well as anything the adage that nothing ages as rapidly as modernity.

The new facility which has replaced it, and was just dedicated this past Sunday, looks like this. The mosaic on the façade by Dony McManus copies the central circle of one of the most famous mosaics in Rome, in the apse of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Views of the new chapel.


Beautiful stencilling work in the sanctuary; the peacock, symbol of immortality, and the book and sword, the symbols of St Paul the Apostle, to whom the center is dedicated.

EF Solemn Mass of the Presentation in New York City

On Tuesday, November 21st at 7:30 p.m., there will be sung a Solemn Traditional Latin Mass for the feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Pontifical Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in East Harlem, New York. The sermon and readings from the pulpit will be in Spanish. After Mass there will be devotions to Our Lady of Divine Providence, Patroness of Puerto Rico, whose feast falls on November 19th. The Puerto Rican community has a long and deep history in East Harlem, and is of course praying especially for the island in the wake of the terrible damage from hurricane Maria last month. The shrine is located at 448 East 116th Street.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Relics of St Josaphat in the Vatican

St Josaphat Kuntsevych, né John, was martyred in the year 1623 for his ardent championship of union with Rome among the Byzantine Rite Christians of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. A member of the Basilian Order, he was made bishop of Vitebsk in 1617, at the age of only 37, and archbishop of Polotsk the following year. (Both cities are now in Belarus.) In a period of great tension between Catholics and Orthodox, he went to preach at Vitebsk; on the steps of his co-cathedral he was struck in the head with an ax, and then shot by fanatical opponents of the union with Rome, on the sixth anniversary of his episcopal consecration. They then tore off his clothes, and for a moment thought they had killed the wrong man, since he was wearing a hairshirt underneath; the body was thrown into the river, but recovered three days later. The Roman Breviary states that the first beneficiaries of his martyrdom were his own assassins, who were all reconciled to Rome, as was his principal opponent among the Orthodox clergy, Bishop Meleti Smotrytsky. Beatified only 20 years after his death, he was canonized by Blessed Pope Pius IX in 1867; originally assigned to November 14th, his feast was moved to the day of his death in the Calendar revision of 1969.

The relics of St Josaphat have a remarkable history. At the time of his beatification, they were enshrined in a silver casket at the behest of the Prince Leo Casimir Sapieha. In 1706, they were brought to the castle of Prince Karol Radzwill in the city of Bila Pidlaska, and then moved to the Basilian church in the same city. In 1873, during Tsarist persecution of the Greek-Catholic Church, the relics were removed from the altar of the church to the crypt, hidden in a wall, and apparently forgotten. However, when Bila Pidlaska was occupied by the German army in 1916, a priest of the Basilian order, Fr Pavlo Demchuk, was sent by Fr Platonid Filas, the General Superior of the Basilians, to recover them. Their location in the wall of the crypt was revealed to him by a man who had seen them being immured more than four decades earlier.

Fr Demchuk transferred them to Vienna, where they were kept at the Ukrainian Catholic Church of St Barbara. At the end of World War II, on the eve of the Soviet occupation of Vienna, the relics were moved again, smuggled away to Rome for safekeeping. Originally, the Basilians had planned to enshrine them in their monastery on the Aventine Hill; the street from which the church is entered was even renamed “Via San Giosafat” in his honor, and retains the name to this day. However, Pope Paul VI decreed that this “outstanding champion of Catholic communion should not be separated from blessed Peter, to whose See he remained unshakably faithful, nor from his father, lawgiver and master in the monastic life of the East. (St Basil)” The relics were therefore exposed for the veneration of the faithful in the altar of St Basil in St Peter’s Basilica.

The relics of St. Josaphat in the altar of St. Basil, after their re-vesting.
In 1982, the reliquary was re-opened and cleaned, and the relics revested. The hands and face of St Josaphat were covered by bronze masks donated by the Basilian Fathers of Canada, new vestments were donated by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, and a Byzantine mitre was donated by the late Archbishop Myroslav Marusyn, Secretary of the Congregation of the Oriental Churches from 1982 to 2001. The late Father Raphael Melnyk, Provincial Superior of the Canadian Basilians, testified that the body was intact and the limbs could still be lifted, despite the fact that the Saint had lain at the bottom of the river for three days in 1623, and had been in a humid crypt in Bila for 43 years.

My thanks  to the Rev. Dr. Athanasius McVay, a priest of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton, for the information on the history of St Josaphat’s relics, the photograph of the icon, and the two photographs of the relics taken during the re-vesting in 1982.

The reliquary of St. Josaphat opened during the process of cleaning and re-vesting in 1982.

Dominican Mass for St Albert in Columbus, Ohio

This Wednesday, November 15th, the Dominican Friars at St Patrick’s Church in Columbus, Ohio, will celebrating a Missa Cantata in the Dominican Rite for the feast of St Albert the Great. Mass begins at 7:00 p.m., followed by light refreshments in Patrick Hall. The plainchant of the Mass will be sung by the Choir of St Patrick’s. The church is located at 280 N. Grant Avenue.


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