Friday, September 22, 2023

Care-Cloths: The Mystagogical Value of Traditional Wedding Customs, Part II

Last week, we looked at the use of coins in traditional Catholic weddings. Now, we look at an ancient veiling ceremony and some of its later usages.

Contributors to the New Liturgical Movement have already enriched our understanding of what is variously known as the carecloth, cerecloth, velatio nuptialis, pallium nuptiale, etc. (see here, here, here, and here). The following reflections and overview are offered as a supplement to these contributions--and possibly a clarification about its origins.

A French medaille de mariage, nineteenth century, depicting the carecloth during the Solemn Nuptial Blessing. 
A History of the Care-Cloth
A reader who sees the above illustration might be tempted to conclude that the custom being depicted was inspired by the Jewish wedding canopy or chuppah. The Christian care-cloth or wedding veil, however, is derived from or at least partially inspired by the marriage customs of ancient Rome. A flammeum (so-called because of its fiery red color) was a veil worn by a Roman bride during the torchlit procession from her father’s home to her husband’s known as the deductio; it was this veil and this procession that marked her transition from betrothal to wedlock. The flammeum is mentioned several times in Latin literature and even became proverbial: Juvenal uses the phrase “she wears out veils” (flammea conterit) for a woman who changes husbands repeatedly. Moreover, the taking of the flammeum is responsible for one of our English words for wedding. The verb nubo/nubere, from which comes the adjective “nuptial,” originally meant to cover or veil oneself as a bride in order to wed; only later was its meaning broadened to signify the bridegroom’s marrying as well. Curiously, then, a couple’s “nuptials,” their “crowning,” or their chuppah—words for a wedding in the Western Church, the Eastern Churches, and the Jewish synagogue, respectively—are all derived from ceremonies not of the hands or the ring but the head.
Tertullian (160-225) rejected a Roman custom of wedding crowns as idolatrous, but he accepted the veil on the grounds that it accorded with the Pauline teaching on women in church and with the exemplary modesty Rebecca showed in veiling herself before Isaac; he subsequently writes of a lex velaminis and a disciplina velaminis for betrothed and married women lasting even after the ceremony. Tertullian uses the word flammeum only once, when contrasting a wedding done properly, which involves torch and flammeum, with what he suspects is the fiery nuptial eschatology of the Valentinian heretics. It is possible that Tertullian is merely invoking well-known wedding props that, because of their use of or association with fire, can be neatly juxtaposed with the Valentinians’ incendiary version of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb. As David G. Hunter notes, “it was a common rhetorical pattern in Tertullian’s thought to contrast pagans and Christians by re-describing the Christian in pagan terms” without implying that Christians actually engaged in those practices. Nevertheless, Hunter concludes that the evidence in Tertullian’s writings points to Christians in North Africa celebrating “their betrothals and nuptials with the same rituals as… non-Christians.”
An unadulterated use of pagan customs by the Church would not last long, but the exact metamorphosis is difficult to reconstruct. By the end of the third century the word flammeum had been dropped from the Christian lexicon (if it had ever really been picked up in earnest at all), but Church Fathers continued to praise the veiling of a betrothed woman or of a bride; indeed, the nuptial custom of “taking the veil” also came to designate the religious life of consecrated virginity. Moreover, the ceremonial act of veiling occurred along with a blessing from a priest or bishop, not only conferring grace but sealing, from the Church’s perspective, the promises of betrothal or wedlock. In A.D. 385, Pope Siricius answered a question about conjugal veiling (conjugalis velatio) posed by Himerius, the Archbishop of Tarragona, as to whether someone can take to wife a girl (puella) who has been betrothed to another. Siricius replies in the negative on account of illa benedictio quam nupturae sacerdos imponit, “that blessing which the priest placed on the fiancée,” thereby implying a link between the veiling and the priest’s blessing. At the very least, both correspondents knew of Christian betrothal (which in some places was almost as binding as matrimony) as a velatio.
The same year that Pope Siricius was writing to Himerius, St. Ambrose of Milan (340-397) was writing to St. Vigilius of Trent and asserting that it “behooves [the priest] to sanctify the marriage with a priestly veil (velamen sacerdotalis) and blessing.” Ambrose’s diction suggests that both the bride and the groom were veiled, since it is the marriage and not the bride being blessed. In another writing Ambrose describes the indissolubility of the marital bond regardless of whether the husband is present or away; his description is of interest because it may also echo the Christian wedding of his time:
The same law connects those who are together and those who are apart; the same bond (vinculum) of nature has bound tight the rights of conjugal charity between the absent as well as the present; by the same yoke (jugum) of blessing are both necks joined together, even if one should go out a long way away to distant regions; for they have received the yoke (jugum) of grace not by the neck of the body but by that of the soul.
It is possible that Ambrose is not merely speaking metaphorically about the yoke of marriage but alluding to a wedding veil that acted as a yoke and bound the couple at the neck (i.e., was placed over their shoulders). This veil, in turn, would be associated with the grace their souls received at their nuptials, mostly likely from the priestly blessing that he mentions to Vigilius. Lastly, there may be an additional ceremonial element with the vinculum that is related to the marital act and to the conjugal rights of the spouses.
What remains ambiguous in Ambrose becomes clearer in St. Paulinus of Nola (354-431). Around A.D. 400, Paulinus describes the wedding of two people from prominent clerical families:
He [Bishop Aemilius], joining the heads of them both under a nuptial peace,
Veils them with his right hand, sanctifying them with prayer.
Whereas Ambrose speaks of a jugum on the necks of the bride and groom, Paulinus speaks of a pax jugalis over or on their heads that is presumably identical to the veil associated with the bishop’s sanctifying prayer or blessing. Pope Pelagius I (556-61) employs similar language when discussing the case of a woman who was veiled with a man (cum alio velata) during their betrothal and who died before their wedding.
To what degree the Christian velatio nuptialis—as the early sixth-century Leonine Sacramentary calls it—emerged from the Roman flammeum is a matter of dispute. Kenneth Stevenson, following Anné, writes that the “Roman blessing of the bride, duly veiled, is a superb example of the Christianizing of a pagan custom, the old flammeum.” But Philip Reynolds contends that the Christian “veil, which the priest applied with his blessing, was distinct from the” flammeum. The Church Fathers would probably have been content to let it remain a moot point. Before describing the veiling of the couple by the bishop, Paulinus of Nola declares in the same poem that he wants no “profane pomp” or “alien smells” from heathen sources to spoil this Christian wedding. Clearly, he saw the velatio as either purely Christian in origin or at least thoroughly purged of any objectionable pagan residue, and for him it probably did not matter which.
St. Isidore of Seville’s witness to the Spanish liturgy of the sixth century also provides data that can be interpreted in a number of different ways. He mentions two nuptial objects: 1) a veil called a mavors in the vulgar tongue (an old Latin name for the god Mars) that is worn by the bride as a sign of her subjection to her husband in the spirit of 1 Corinthians 11, and 2) a vitta, the Latin word for a fillet or headband such as those worn by the Vestal Virgins as symbols of their chastity but used here as something by which the priest, after the blessing, joins (copulare) the couple in a single bond (unum vinculum). Isidore adds that the vitta is a mixture of white and the color purpura: the white signifies the periodic continence that Paul allows for married couples (I Cor. 7:5) and the purpura the times when the couple may render to each the conjugal debt for the sake of offspring or “the posterity of blood” (sanguinis posteritas). (Given Isidore’s pairing of the family bloodline with purpura, the color in question was probably more of a deep scarlet than purple or violet.)

As for the vitta, Reynolds thinks of it as a second veil, but Stevenson refers to it as a garland. Oddly, both may be right since, as we will see later, in early modern Spain there was a veil that went over the couple as well as a long cord or jugale. Whatever it was, Isidore’s vitta was a vinculum that bears significant similarities in meaning to the vinculum naturae characterized by Ambrose in terms of conjugal rights. Lastly, it is my conjecture that the mavors worn by the Spanish bride was the flammeum or a direct descendant of it, named by the common folk after the god of war because its color reminded them of Mars, whose bright color was that of freshly spilled blood. If my interpretation is correct, then the use of the mavors would indeed be an instance of a Christian use of the flammeum, since Isidore assigns to it a Pauline meaning. On the other hand, Reynolds would be correct in distinguishing the Christian velatio of both bride and groom from the flammeum, since the mavors pertains only to the bride and is distinct from the mysterious vitta—although it does not rule out the likelihood that the velatio was in some way inspired by the flammeum. In any event, there may be several correct answers to these questions since Christian adaptations of Roman customs (or their wholesale replacements) did not always occur uniformly throughout the different regions of Christendom.
The veiling of the shoulders of the bride and groom, however, invites further inquiry and reflection. If the Christian care-cloth was not an adaptation of the flammeum, why did it develop? And if it was, why “veil” the bridegroom? Ambrose, Paulinus, and Isidore speak of a yoke-like quality to the veil and its blessing, which could easily hearken to the yoke of Christ (Mt. 11:30) and, more specifically, to the couple’s new shared labors and responsibilities as husband and wife. These shared responsibilities, moreover, include prescriptions on Christian chastity, prescriptions that are equally binding on both. The Latin Fathers departed sharply from their pagan counterparts in their rejection of a double standard. Roman law only recognized the adultery of a married woman as a crime and as grounds for divorce; men were only culpable if they slept with another man’s wife or were conspicuously indiscreet with their extramarital affairs. The Church, on the other hand, expected husbands and wives to be equally faithful to their marital vows. One possible reason for binding both the man and the woman under the yoke of the wedding veil, then, may have been as an instruction in total monogamy and fidelity. That the vinculum in Ambrose and the vitta in Isidore are understood as pertaining to sexual matters would support this reading.
The first extant liturgical manuals from the seventh and eighth centuries as well as Pope Nicholas I’s letter to the Bulgarians place the velatio in the nuptial Mass rather than at a betrothal, and it is relatively safe to assume that the ceremony almost always included both the bride and the groom, as Nicholas’ letter explicitly attests. By the twelfth and thirteen centuries the wedding veil was known by a variety of names, such as velamen caeleste, velum, pallium album, linteus, pannum, and mappa. In French, it was called the voile sur les époux or the poêle nuptiale. In English, it was a “care-cloth,” a term that may be derived either from the French carré for square or from the old English “carde,” a fabric used in making canopies, curtains, and linings.
As this diversity of nomenclature would suggest, the custom of the wedding veil was widespread throughout Europe during the medieval and early modern periods. The veil was used during the solemn nuptial blessing which, fittingly, includes the line sit in ea jugum dilectionis et pacis—“may [her wedlock] be for her a yoke of love and peace.” The blessing was typically given either before the Pax or after the Pater Noster of the nuptial Mass (it was assigned the latter place in the 1570 Missale Romanum). No official reason was given for either position, but we may speculate that bestowing the blessing in the wake of the Consecration, with the risen Christ now present on the altar, was considered an especially auspicious time to call down an abundance of grace on the new marriage. Piously looking upon Christ’s Body and the Precious Cup at the elevations, the reception of the Pax, and the reception of Holy Communion were all considered significant moments of grace and blessing; it was a tribute to the dignity of matrimony and to the power of the solemn nuptial blessing that the latter would be inserted into this array. And the solemn nuptial blessing was most likely given after the Our Father because it was the first place after the Consecration that the blessing could be added without disrupting the integrity of the sacrificial action that began with the Preface. Unlike the Eastern rites, the Our Father in the Roman liturgy does not appear to have been viewed as the introduction to the Communion rite but as the epilogue to the Canon, just as the Preface was its prologue. The “book-end” function of the Preface and the Pater Noster may also be gleaned from their similar execution: the celebrant intoned both the Preface and the Pater Noster alone and was followed by the choir or congregation with a response, be it the Sanctus or Sed libera nos a malo.
The wedding veil, which was usually white in color and made of silk or linen, continued to be placed on the shoulders of the couple (or the head and shoulders of the bride and the shoulders of the groom) in Spain, central France, and other parts of Europe. In northern France and England, however, it came to be held over their heads by two or four canopy-bearers, either clerics or witnesses or sometimes children. Additional significance was attached to this variation of the custom. Because the veiling partially obscured or hid the couple, it signified that they should be discreet and modest, careful to avoid untoward public displays of affection and cognizant of the “importance of secrecy in family affairs.” But the care-cloth also betokened the marriage bed and its sheet, and thus it tied into the solemn nuptial blessing’s prayer for a marriage fruitful in offspring as well as the Patristic associations of the veil with the virtuous regulation of the marital act. Finally, according to medieval canon law, there was an additional benefit to the suspended care-cloth that links it to the marriage bed: placing any children born out of wedlock under it during the solemn nuptial blessing automatically legitimated them. Indeed, some dioceses in the seventeenth century added a special prayer imploring God for pardon and for the legitimation of the child. 
Beginning in the same century, however, the care-cloth went into gradual decline. The 1584 Rituale Romanum of Gregory XIII had mentioned it, but it was not included in the 1614 Rituale of Paul V. “Indeed,” writes J. Wickham Legg, “so forgotten was the custom in Italy that when in 1789, at the marriage of a prince of the house of Savoy, the practice was restored, it was denounced as an innovation, and a pamphlet had to be written in proof of its antiquity”— M. Gianolio’s De antiquo ecclesiae ritu expandendi velum super sponsos in benedictione nuptiarum. In England the custom had fallen into oblivion by the mid-nineteenth century and had to be explained to English readers, although there is a report of an Anglican wedding in the late nineteenth century involving a blue silk veil held over the heads of the bride and groom. On the Continent, the custom fared in France into the late nineteenth century and was included in most diocesan manuals, despite a reproving decree from the Congregation of Rites in 1850. (In the diocese of Bourges, it survived into the twentieth century. ) The custom also appears to have been practiced in Spain well into the twentieth century, though not universally and not without adaptation. A liturgical manual in Salamanca in 1532 instructs the priest to cover the man’s shoulder and the woman’s head with a linen cloth and to place over the cloth a girdle or cord called a cingulum benedictum. A similar custom is mentioned in southern France around the same time, where the cord is called a jugale or jugalis.
Mexican lasso rosary
As with the coin ceremony, the wedding veil thrives mostly in Spain’s former colonies, where it is still practiced in areas of Central and South America. In Mexico, the veil is less common while the cord has become a lasso or lazo rosary, a large set of double-looped rosary beads placed on the couple by a pair of elder sponsors or padrinos. The lazo is then kept by the couple as a keepsake of their wedding, sometimes displayed in the home by itself on the wall or next to an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  n In Cuba, there is a wedding shawl called a manteleta.
Filipino veiling
And once again, it is the Philippines that has best preserved the ancient nuptial rituals mentioned by the Church Fathers. The Filipino velo is made of white tulle (no doubt a prudent adaptation to the islands’ steamy climate) and is placed onto the groom’s shoulders and the bride’s head and shoulders by two specially designated sponsors, a ninong and ninang. It is said that the veil represents the bride and groom or their families becoming one, as well as hope for the couple’s health and protection. After the veil is pinned in place, another pair of sponsors places the cord, or yugal, in the shape of a figure eight over the heads of the couple to symbolize the infinite bond of married love. The yugal is usually a white silk rope, although it can also be made of flowers, links of coins, and even diamonds.
A Theology of the Care-Cloth
The wedding veil or care-cloth mystagogically invites the couple to make sense of their own story in light of the biblical narrative and to model their behavior on biblical protagonists. The scriptural image of a yoke is rich and polyvalent, providing much fodder for pious rumination, as does the story of the veiling of Rebecca. Further, the care-cloth symbolizes aspects of married life that are as relevant to a new couple today as they were in the Patristic and medieval eras, aspects such as: a single standard for both sexes regarding the vows of fidelity and chastity; the Pauline parameters for periods of sexual abstinence; the purity of Christian marital love and the sanctity of the marriage bed; the yoking of two souls who will now labor in the Lord’s field together as one; the hope for protection; the need for discretion, modesty, and appropriate public displays of affection; and the goodness of (legitimate!) offspring and of the continuation of the family name or bloodline. The veiling ceremony as it has come to be practiced also serves to highlight the Roman rite’s solemn nuptial blessing, drawing the couple and congregation’s attention to it in much the same way that a baldachin guides the eye to the altar. Such an emphasis, which underlines the importance of having one’s marriage not only ratified or recognized but blessed by the Church, further conditions the faithful to take this blessing and its content seriously.
An earlier version of this article appeared as part of article entitled, “Coins and Care-Cloths: The Mystagogical Value of Traditional Wedding Customs,” Antiphon 18:2 (Summer 2014), pp. 115–143. Many thanks to its editors for allowing its publication here.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

The Proper Office of the Evangelists

In the Roman Breviary, the Evangelists are treated liturgically as a subcategory of the Apostles, and their common office consists solely of proper readings for Matins; everything else is said from the common of Apostles. This in part reflects the habitual conservatism of the church of Rome, which was always much slower to accept new proper Offices, and is partly due to the fact that a proper Office for the Evangelists has only a very limited application.

St Matthew, in the Gospel book of St Henry II, ca. 1000 AD.
Nevertheless, there does exist such a proper, which is found in most medieval Uses, including those of the Dominican, Carmelite and Premonstratensian Orders. It has a complete set of nine proper antiphons for the psalms of Matins, five for the Psalms of Lauds (repeated through the day hours and at Vespers) and the three major antiphons for the Magnificat of both Vespers and for the Benedictus at Lauds. It also includes nine responsories, all texts from the vision of the four animals in the first chapter of Ezekiel, which also provides the readings for the first nocturn of Matins and the Mass Epistle of Ss Matthew and Mark. These responsories were not received by the Dominicans, and I do not include them here, since they aren’t particularly interesting.

Ad Matutinum
In I nocturno
Aña 1 Convocatis * Jesus duodecim Apostolis, misit illos praedicare regnum Dei: egressi autem evangelizabant et curabant ubique. - Calling together the twelve Apostles, Jesus sent them to preach the kingdom of God; and going forth, they preached the Gospel and everywhere wrought cures.
Aña 2 Mittens Dominus * et alios ad praedicandum, dicebat illis: Messis quidem multa, operarii autem pauci. - The Lord, sending also others to preach, said to them: The harvest is great, but the workers are few.
Aña 3 Jesu Christi * Domini gratia, credentibus populis Doctores et Evangelistae sunt in ministerium fidei missi. - By the grace of Jesus Christ the Lord, Doctors and Evangelists were sent to the peoples that believe for the ministry of the Faith.

In II nocturno
Aña 4 Sapientia Domini * Evangelii eruperunt abyssi, et annuntiantes, foecundati rore caelesti, mundo intonant. - By the wisdom of the Lord the depths of the Gospel burst forth, and made fruitful by the dew of heaven, thunder their proclamation to the world.
Aña 5 Labia eorum * salutarem disseminaverunt scientiam, opus sanctum, dignum, benedictione plenum fecerunt: ministerium sibi traditum devote impleverunt. - Their lips spread abroad the knowledge of salvation; they did a holy work, worthy and full of blessing; devoutly they fulfilled the ministry given to them.
Aña 6 Elegit eos * ex omni carne et dedit illis praecepta, et legem vitae et disciplinae. - He chose them from among all flesh, and gave them precepts, and the law of life and discipline.

In III nocturno
Aña 7 Electi sunt * in Christo ante mundi constitutionem, ut essent sancti et immaculati in conspectu Dei in caritate. - They were chosen in Christ before the establishment of the world, that they might be holy and immaculate in God’s sight in charity.
Aña 8 Sapientiam eorum * narrabunt omnes populi, et laudem eorum pronuntiat omnis Ecclesia sanctorum. - All peoples shall tell of their wisdom, and all the Church of the Saints proclaims their praise.
Aña 9 Sapientiam antiquorum * exquisierunt sancti Evangelistae, et prophetarum dictis narrationem suam confirmaverunt. - The holy Evangelists sought out the wisdom of the ancients, and by the sayings of the prophets, confirmed their narration.

Ad Laudes
Aña 1 Dilecti Deo * et hominibus sancti Evangelistae, qui ordinaverunt tempora Christi bono odore, usque ad consummationem vitae. - Beloved unto God and men are the holy Evangelists, who set in order the times of Christ in a good odor, until the completion of His life.
Aña 2 Dederunt * in celebratione operis sancti decus: ideo memoria eorum in benedictione est in sæculum sæculi. - They gave glory in the celebration of a holy work; therefore their memory is in blessing for all ages.
Aña 3 Implevit eos * Dominus Spiritu sapientiae et intellectus; jucunditatem et exsultationem thesaurizavit super eos. - The Lord filled them with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding; He gathered rejoicing and exultation upon them.
Aña 4 Ex omni corde * laudaverunt nomen sanctum Domini, ut amplificarent nomen sanctitatis. - From all their heart they praised the holy name of the Lord, that they might magnify the name of holiness.
Aña 5 Datum est * opus eorum in veritate; ideo in terra sua duplicia possidebunt, et lætitia sempiterna erit eis in Christo. - Their work was given in truth; therefore in their land they shall have a double portion, and eternal happiness in Christ.

Detail of the St John Altarpiece by Hans Memling, 1474-79, showing the vision of St John in Apocalypse 4.
Ad Magn. Aña Ecce ego Joannes vidi ostium apertum in caelo; et ecce sedes posita erat in eo, et in medio sedis et in circuitu ejus quattuor animalia plena oculis ante et retro: et dabant gloriam et honorem et benedictionem sedenti super thronum, viventi in saecula saeculorum.
At the Magnificat of First Vespers Behold, I, John, saw a door opened in heaven, and behold there was a throne set in heaven, and in the midst of the throne, and round about it were four living creatures, full of eyes before and behind; and they gave glory, and honor, and blessing to him that sitteth on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever.

Ad Bened. Aña In medio et in circuitu sedis Dei quattuor animalia senas alas habentia, oculis undique plena, non cessant nocte ac die dicere: Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus Dominus Deus omnipotens, qui erat et qui est, et qui venturus est.
At the Benedictus In the midst and round about the throne of God, four living creatures, having wings, full of eyes on all sides, rest not day and night, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.

Ad Magn. Aña Tua sunt haec, Christe, opera, qui sanctos tuos ita glorificas, ut etiam dignitatis gratiam in eis futuram praeire miraculis facias: tu insignes Evangelii praedicatores animalium caelestium admirabili figura praesignasti: his namque caeleste munus collatum gloriosis indiciis es dignatus ostendere: hinc laus, hinc gloria tibi resonet in saecula.
At the Magnificat of Second Vespers These are Thy works, o Christ, who so glorify Thy Saints, that Thou also cause the grace of dignity that will be in them to be first preceded by miracles. Thou marked beforehand the wondrous preachers of the Gospel by the marvelous figure of the heavenly animals; for by these glorious signs, Thou deigned to show the heavenly gift given to them; hence let praise, hence glory resound to Thee forever.

A New Hymn for the Eucharistic Revival by Kathleen Pluth

Two nationally advertised hymn contests were held recently with the aim of making fresh resources available for parishes during this year of the Eucharistic Revival. The competitions, one sponsored by the USCCB and the other by the Archdiocese of Detroit, were judged anonymously and each received scores of entries. In both cases, texts written by Kathleen Pluth ( were selected as the winning hymn. This is the winning hymn in the Detroit contest:

The hymn is Trinitarian in structure: it thanks each of the divine Persons in turn for the gift of the Eucharist:

• the Father for pouring out the Blessed Sacrament upon the earth.
• the Son for staying with us (Luke 24, 29) in this surpassing way.
• the Holy Spirit for sharing with men the priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Throughout, it acknowledges God’s will to raise us into participation in the divine life. Far from reserving His glory to Himself, God gives us everything we need to grow beyond our nature and to share the abundant life of Communion with Him ever more fully.

The hymn’s final doxological verse ends in the beatific vision, an element borrowed from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Adoro te devote, which ends in the same way.

Set here to the familiar tune HYFRYDOL, most often used in the United States for “Alleluia, Sing to Jesus” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, the text can be equally well sung to the tunes NETTLETON, HYMN TO JOY, AUSTRIA, or IN BABILONE, according to local needs. The hymn can be copied or reset freely during this Parish Year of Revival (June 11, 2023 to July 21, 2024.) (PDF)

Sacred Architecture Journal’s 25th Anniversary Gala, Philadelphia, Oct. 14

Sacred Architecture Journal will be holding a gala to mark its 25th anniversary on Saturday, October 14, in Philadelphia. The anniversary celebration will begin with Mass celebrated by the His Excellency Salvatore J. Cordileone, archbishop of San Francisco, at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, starting at 3pm. (Open to the public.) Following the Mass, there will be a cocktail reception, dinner, and keynote address by Wall Street Journal architectural critic Michael J. Lewis, from 5:00-9:00 p.m. at Le Méridien Hotel, located at 1421 Arch Street.

For more information and to register, please visit

Discounted hotel rooms at Le Méridien are available until September 23.

SAJ editor Duncan Stroik reflects: It all started in someone’s basement. A new journal dedicated to sacred architecture. With the help of John Stroik, my architect father, and some talented writers, we launched the magazine in 1998. There was nothing like it that I knew of – a journal dedicated to promoting the artistic patrimony of the Church.

The magazine’s godfather was Ralph McInerny at Notre Dame who earlier had asked me to help him on an issue of Catholic Dossier dedicated to church architecture. Ralph was writing books on philosophy, murder mysteries, and editing four journals at the time. Another early supporter, John Powers, convinced me to go full color, and after that we were cheered on by prelates, priests, and architects, especially John Burgee and Thomas Gordon Smith.

It has been great fun to do, and I hope a pleasure to read. People sometimes ask me what we have accomplished in 25 years and I tell them there has been a great sea change in the way American Catholics look at their churches. Where once they thought of their parishes as worship centers, they now see them as they should be, sacred places and houses of God. ~ What are some of the fruits of 25 years of Sacred Architecture?

1. Over forty new traditional parish churches.

2. Upwards of one hundred tasteful renovations and restorations of historic churches.
3. Several new classical cathedrals, shrines, and seminaries.
4. The re-catholicization of many churches built since the 1950s.
5. Numerous classical buildings at Catholic colleges and Newman centers.
6. The commissioning of sacred art with a new generation of classical artists.
7. Choir lofts with pipe organs, both new and borrowed from other churches.
8. Several new architectural firms that specialize in sacred architecture.
9. Five architecture schools where students can once again learn the basics of classical architecture.
10. A generation of priests, bishops, and cardinals who embrace their artistic patrimony and acknowledge the importance of sacred art and architecture for the faithful.

We invite you to join Sacred Architecture and our honored guest The Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone at a gala celebration in Philadelphia on October 14. Mass will be celebrated by the Archbishop at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul at 3:00 p.m. and is open to the public. A ticketed dinner and lecture by Wall Street Journal architectural critic Michael J. Lewis will follow.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Torah and Haftarah in the Roman Liturgy (Part 1)

On the Jewish calendar, the civil New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is the first day of the month of Tishri, but for religious and liturgical purposes, the first month is Nisan, and Tishri the seventh. Because this calendar is lunar, this day falls on the solar Gregorian calendar within a range from September 5th to October 5th. The tenth of Tishri is Yom Kippur, “the day of atonement”; these two feasts together are often called “the High Holy Days.” On the 15th occurs Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles, which goes on for seven days, the last of which is Hoshanah Rabbah, “the great supplication.” The next day, the 22nd, is a kind of supplementary feast originally known as “the eighth (day) of assembly” (Shemini Atseret), but nowadays often called “Simchat Torah – the joy of the Law.” This is the day on which the annual cycle of readings from the Law of Moses ends with the last part of Deuteronomy, and restarts with the beginning of Genesis. It is traditionally marked by a procession in which the Torah scrolls are removed from the arks in which they are kept, and carried around the synagogue by people as they dance.

The Celebration of Simchat Torah in the Synagogue of Livorno, Italy, 1850, by the English painter Solomon Hart (1806-81), the first Jewish member of the Royal Academy of Art. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Rome is home to the oldest Jewish diaspora community in western Europe, dating back to at least the second half of the 2nd century B.C., and of course, many of the early converts to Christianity in the city were of Jewish origin. Even as late as the early decades of the 5th century, the distinction between Jewish converts and gentiles was evidently still felt. The mosaic dedicatory inscription on the counterfaçade of the Roman basilica of St Sabina, made around 425 AD, has a symbolic figure of “the Church from the circumcision” on the left, and another of “the Church from the gentiles” on the right.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
It should therefore be no surprise to find that these ancient Jewish feasts had some influence on one of the most ancient features of the Roman Rite, the Ember Days, with which they often overlap. Pope St Leo the Great, the first author known to us to speak of the latter, says several times in his sermons about them that they were taken from the Old Law. For example, in his seventh sermon on those of September, he writes, “we take up the fast of the seventh month from the preaching of the old doctrine, for the purification of our souls and bodies, but we do not therefore subject ourselves to the burdens of the law, but rather, we embrace the usefulness of that temperance which serves the Gospel of Christ.”
In the liturgical texts of the September Ember days, there are two very explicit references to the Jewish High Holy Days. The more obvious is the pair of readings from Leviticus 23 on Saturday, which describe the celebration of the Day of Atonement and the feast of Tabernacles. The other is the Introit of Ember Wednesday.

Introitus, Ps. 80 Exsultáte Deo, adjutóri nostro: jubiláte Deo Jacob: súmite psalmum jucundum cum cíthara: cánite in initio mensis tuba, quia praeceptum in Israël est, et judicium Deo Jacob. V. Testimonium in Joseph posuit illud, cum exíret de terra Aegypti: linguam, quam non nóverat, audívit. Gloria Patri … Exsultáte Deo... (The Introit begins at 2:45 in this recording of the Mass celebrated last year at the church of St Eugène in Paris, sung by our good friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile.)

Introit, Psalm 80 Rejoice to God our helper: sing aloud to the God of Jacob. Take up a pleasant psalm; blow the trumpet at the beginning of the month, for it is a commandment in Israel, and a judgment unto the God of Jacob. V. He ordained it for a testimony in Joseph, when he came out of the land of Egypt: he heard a tongue which he knew not.

“The beginning of the month” refers to Rosh Hashanah, and “the trumpet” to the musical horn known as the shofar, which figures prominently in the celebration of it and other observances. The words “for it is a commandment in Israel” refer to the fact that these feasts are all kept in obedience to specific precepts of the law of Moses.
The mosaic floor of a synagogue, dated from the 5th to the 7th century, in the town of Beth Shean, Israel. The torah ark in the middle has a menorah to either side; under each menorah is a shovel for incense and a shofar. ~ This motif is often accompanied by what Jewish tradition calls the Four Species (a citron fruit, a frond of a date palm, a bough of myrtle and a branch of willow), which are carried during the rites of Sukkot and Simchat Torah, in fulfillment of Leviticus 23, 40, “And you shall take to you on the first day the fruits of the fairest tree, and branches of palm trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God.” Their absence here may indicate that this was a Samaritan synagogue, since their use was associated with the rites of the Jerusalem temple, which the Samaritans rejected. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
The Hebrew Bible is traditionally divided into three parts, the Law (Torah), the Prophets (Nevi’im) and the Writings (Ketuvim). From these divisions comes the acronym “Tanakh”, the common Hebrew term for “Bible.” The Prophets are then subdivided into two groups, Former (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and Latter (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, but not Daniel as in the Christian tradition.)

In the Jewish liturgy, the Torah is divided into sections called “parashoth – portions”, such that going from Sabbath to Sabbath, the whole of it is read over the course of a year. Each parashah is followed by a reading from the Prophets called a “haftarah – leave-taking.” (Despite the similarity between “torah” and “haftarah” in English transliteration, the two words are completely unrelated.) This custom is very ancient, and several different systems of haftaroth are attested.

Compared to a typical Mass lesson in the Roman tradition, the individual parashoth are quite long, since they need to cover 187 chapters at 52 services, an average of more than 3½ per week. The first, for example, ends at Genesis 6, 8, a total of 144 verses. (And in fact, many synagogues have in modern times adopted a three-year reading system to shorten them… sigh…) It would be impossible to cover the whole of the Prophets (almost 340 chapters) at the same time, and so the haftarah readings are selected to match the parashoth thematically, and rather shorter (although also mostly rather longer than a typical reading of the Roman Rite.)

A page of the Aleppo Codex, a Hebrew Bible copied out ca. 920 AD. The blank line in the upper part of the right-hand column indicates a break between two parashoth. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
It seems that this tradition had some influence on the ancient Roman lectionary, since there are several occasions when readings from the Law and the Prophets are likewise thematically paired. St Leo also refers to this union in his Ember Day sermons a number of times, for example in the ninth on those of September. “The love of neighbor is the love of God, who established the fullness of the Law and the Prophets in this union of two-fold charity, so that no one might doubt that he offers to God what he shall have given to man”, (i.e., by fasting, and therefore not spending money for food on himself.)

By definition, such parings would be found on days which have more than one reading from the Old Testament, most of which are Ember Wednesdays and Saturdays. For example, on the Ember Wednesday of the first week of Lent, the first reading, Exodus 24, 12-18, ends with Moses fasting for forty days and forty nights, and the second, 3 Kings 19, 3-8, ends with the prophet Elijah fasting for forty days and forty nights.

But if the compilers of the Roman lectionary were in fact inspired by the Jewish liturgical tradition, they did not always copy it exactly. On the Ember Wednesday of September, the first reading is the last three verses of the book of the prophet Amos, chapter 9, 13-15. This is paired with a reading which is not from the Law, but about it, Nehemiah 8, 1-10, in which Ezra, Nehemiah and the Levites read and interpret it to the people. It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that in one tradition of the haftaroth, a longer section from Amos 9 (verses 7-15) is read with a parashah which begins with Leviticus 16, explaining the ritual of Yom Kippur.
A portrait of Ezra as a scribe in the Codex Amiatinus, the oldest complete copy of the Vulgate Bible, ca. 700 AD. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.) 
The reading from Nehemiah ends with the words, “And he said to them, ‘Go, eat rich meats, and drink sweet wine, and send portions to them that have not prepared for themselves: because it is the holy day of the Lord, and be not sad: for the joy of the Lord is our strength.’ ” The reading of Amos refers to the richness of the land from which the rich meats and sweet wine come: “Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when the ploughman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed: and the mountains shall drop sweetness, and every hill shall be tilled.” The importance of this second reading is highlighted by the fact that it provides the text of the Communio, which is normally taken from a Psalm or the day’s Gospel. In the context of the Mass, the “rich meats and sweet wine” then come to mean the species of the Holy Eucharist.
The text of the Offertory is taken from Psalm 118, the great praise of the Law, and the longest psalm in the Psalter. And perhaps the double occurrence of “commandments” was chosen as another reference to the “Law and the Prophets”, and the double occurrence of “I have loved” to the two precepts of charity. “Meditabor in mandatis tuis, quæ dilexi valde; et levabo manus meas ad mandata tua, quæ dilexi. – I will meditate upon Thy commandments, which I have loved, and I will lift up my hands unto Thy commandments, which I have loved.” “I will meditate” would therefore be a reference to the contemplative life, and “I will lift up my hands” to the active.
Lastly we may note the second gradual, taken from Psalm 32, 12: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he hath chosen for his inheritance”, a text which originally meant the Jewish people alone. The second part, however, goes back to verse 6: “By the word (Verbo) of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit (spiritu) of his mouth.” This combination of the Lord, the Word and the Spirit was naturally understood by the Church Fathers as a reference to the Trinity. God’s people and inheritance thus become all those who are baptized in the name of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission to make disciples of all nations.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

A Eucharistic Miracle in Ferrara, Italy

On Easter Sunday of the year 1171, a Eucharistic miracle occurred in a church in Ferrara, Italy, called Santa Maria Anteriore; at the moment of the fraction of the Host, blood gushed forth from it and landed on the apse above the altar. The church became a pilgrimage site, but by the later 15th century, was in a very dire condition, so a new church was built nearby called Santa Maria in Vado. (“Vado” is Ferrarese dialect for “guado - a ford”, and interestingly, closer to the Latin “vadum.”) The remains of the blood-spattered apse were later brought into the new church in 1501, and set up as part of a shrine in the right transept, which was then completely rebuilt in 1594. A friend of mine recently visited the church, and kindly agreed to share his pictures of it with us; to these, I have joined several others by Nicola de’ Grandi.

The right transept, with the shrine built in front of the remains of the blood-spattered apse of Santa Maria Anteriore.
This inscription added at the base of the remains of the apse reads, “Here is the precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which in the year 1171 on the day of Easter, March 28, leaping forth in the midst of the priest’s hands by a miracle, stuck to the upper part of this apse; wonder, adore, and give thanks to God.”

Other Miracles of St Januarius

Today is the feast of St Januarius, who is also widely known by the Italian form of his name “San Gennaro”, as emigrants from Naples, of which he is the principal Patron, have brought devotion to him wherever they have settled; the feast held in his honor in New York City is particularly famous. September 19th is the day of his martyrdom, which took place at Pozzuoli during the persecution of Diocletian, alongside that of several other Christians from various parts of Campania; he was in point of fact bishop of Benevento, about 33 miles to the north-east of Naples. In the Middle Ages, his relics were transferred to the important monastery of Monte Vergine, and from there to the cathedral of Naples only at the beginning of the 16th century.

He is of course especially well-known for the miracle which takes place on his feast day in most years, when the relic of his blood is brought into the presence of the relic of his skull and liquifies. Perhaps less well-known is the fact that the miracle normally happens three times a year, since Naples celebrates two other feasts of him as well. On the Saturday before the first Sunday of May, the translation of his relics is commemorated; on December 16th, a third feast commemorates a rather spectacular miracle by which St Januarius demonstrated his care for and protection of the city. In 1631, an unusually powerful lava flow from Mt Vesuvius, the crater of which is only 9 miles from the city center, had come down towards the city and threatened to destroy the granaries which would provide bread for the populace through the upcoming winter. The bishop therefore brought the Saint’s relics to the lava flow, which turned aside at that point. I attended this December feast one year, when the relics of the blood are brought from the cathedral to the church of St Clare; I could see very clearly that the liquified blood was moving around inside the crystal vial which contains it, mounted in the reliquary, as it was carried back to the large chapel at the cathedral where it is housed.

Outside the church of Santa Caterina a Formiello in Naples is a monument which commemorates another occasion on which St Januarius saved the city and the region around it from the eruptions of Vesuvius, in 1707.

“To Saint Januarius, chief patron of the city of Naples, because, when (the relic of) his sacred head was shown on an altar set up in this place, he put down and completely pacified the destructive assaults of Mt Vesuvius in the year 1707, as, with a great eruption of fire, it raged with increasing force for a great many days, and thus threatened most certainly to burn the city and all of Campania; the Neapolitans, mindful of his divine favor, as also of the countless others by which he has liberated the city and its region from war, famine, plague and earthquake, set this monument.”
Behind the cathedral, in the Piazza Cardinale Sforza, stands a large baroque obelisk, also still called by the medieval Italian term “guglia”, which was erected in the Saint’s honor after the miracle of 1631. The inscription on the base says that “the grateful city of Naples raised (it) to Saint Januarius, most ready protector of the nation and kingdom, and her most-well deserving citizen.”
And here is really magnificent reliquary formerly used for the processions, now kept in the museum at the church of St Clare, where the December liquefaction happens.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Dr Emily Thelen’s Talk on the Mass of the Seven Sorrows

As promised last week, here is the superb talk which Dr Emily Thelen gave last Monday about devotion to the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin in the Low Countries in the later 15th centuries, and an important manuscript that contains a very beautiful Mass composed for that feast. This talk was held as part of an ongoing lecture series offered by the Catholic Institute of Sacred Music; the next one in the series will be on Tuesday, November 7th, at 5:45 pm Pacific.

Cardinal Sarah on Joseph Ratzinger’s Liturgical Theology and Francis’ Departure from It

New Liturgical Movement has many times featured the name and writings of Cardinal Robert Sarah, whom Benedict XVI chose to be his close collaborator in the sacred liturgy, and who was sidelined during the early years of the present pontificate.

Cardinal Sarah has never ceased to bear clear witness to the priority of the liturgy in the life of the Church, and of the dire need for a return to sane liturgical praxis after the maelstrom of the Council. He has spoken with particular clarity since the release of Traditionis Custodes.

It is therefore of considerable interest to note that he has published a major article in the journal Communio entitled “The Inexhaustible Reality: Joseph Ratzinger and the Sacred Liturgy” (vol. 49, Winter 2022), which has been made available for free by the publication (here). Although the entire article is worth a read, I would like to draw particular attention to the following passages.

On pp. 639-40:

One of the “unnoticed” but important contributions of [Joseph Ratzinger’s] The Spirit of the Liturgy is its reflection on authority—specifically papal authority—and the sacred liturgy. Noting that the Western liturgy is something that (borrowing the words of J. A. Jungmann, SJ) “has come to be,” that is “an organic growth,” not “a specially contrived production,” “something organic that grows and whose laws of growth determine the possibilities of further development,” Cardinal Ratzinger observes that in modern times “the more vigorously the [Petrine] primacy was displayed, the more the question came up about the extent and limits of this authority, which of course had never been considered. After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the pope really could do anything in liturgical matters, especially if he were acting on the mandate of an Ecumenical Council. Eventually, the idea of the givenness of the liturgy, the fact that one cannot do with it what one will, faded from the public consciousness of the West. In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not 'manufactured' by the authorities. Even the pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.” [1]

In this assertion of the objectivity of the sacred liturgy in its developed ritual forms, and of the duty of the highest authority in the Church to respect this reality, [2] Cardinal Ratzinger laid the theological foundations for the consideration of a reform of the liturgical reform, or even for legitimately leaving aside the reformed rites in favor of their predecessors. Uncritical obedience to papal authority—already something long since abandoned in many places, but clung to by others as the guarantee of orthodoxy in turbulent times—was dealt a blow, at least with respect to the liturgical reform, by one of the highest ranking prelates in the Church (albeit writing in a private capacity).
Again, on pp. 643-45:

Pope Benedict’s most famous act of liturgical governance was, of course, his motu proprio Summorum pontificum (2007), “On the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970,” establishing that the older liturgical rites were “never abrogated” (1) and could therefore be freely used, and indeed that the requests of groups of the faithful for their celebration must be accepted. Bishops could no longer a priori exclude their celebration. Pope Benedict’s regulation of these principles was permissive, marking a sharp change to the parsimonious approach of too many bishops up to that point.

His accompanying “Letter to the Bishops on the Occasion of the Publication of the Apostolic Letter ‘Motu Proprio Data’ Summorum Pontificum on the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970” of the same date, dealt deftly with the loud opposition that this measure had attracted even before it appeared; he noted the pastoral reality that “young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the mystery of the most holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them” [3], and appealed to the bishops: “Let us generously open our hearts and make room for everything that the faith itself allows.” The pope stated clearly,

“In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. 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.”

Again, for those who knew the liturgical thought of Joseph Ratzinger, this stance is no surprise. His openness to the realities concerned—historical, theological, and pastoral—is clear. But for those who shared neither his vision nor his openness, these were retrograde acts calling into question the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical reform.

The argument, such as it was, was won over time by what has come to be known as “the liturgical peace of Benedict XVI,” wherein the “liturgy wars” of previous decades which had established “old rite” and “new rite” factions subsided and, certainly thanks to many of the younger generation of bishops, gave way to a peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and even a degree of mutual enrichment between the liturgical forms that lasted well beyond the end of his pontificate, repairing the unity of the Church to some extent and enhancing it while respecting legitimate differences of expression within the Church of God.

It is profoundly to be regretted that the motu proprio Traditionis custodes (July 16, 2021) and the related Responsa ad dubia (December 4, 2021), perceived as acts of liturgical aggression by many, seem to have damaged this peace and may even pose a threat to the Church’s unity. If there is a revival of the postconciliar “liturgy wars,” or if people simply go elsewhere to find the older liturgy, these measures will have backfired badly. It is too early to make a thorough assessment of the motivations behind them, or of their ultimate impact, but it is nevertheless difficult to conclude that Pope Benedict XVI was wrong in asserting that the older liturgical forms “cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful,” particularly when their unfettered celebration has manifestly brought forth good fruits.
Notes (from the original Communio article)

[1] Ratzinger, The Spirit of the Liturgy, 165–66. As Pope Benedict XVI, he would develop this theme with respect to the wider Petrine ministry in his homily on the occasion of taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, May 7, 2005.

[2] A reality taught by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, §§1124–25.

[3] Benedict XVI, Letter to the Bishops on the Occasion of the Publication of the Apostolic Letter “Motu Proprio Data” Summorum Pontificum on the Use of the Roman Liturgy Prior to the Reform of 1970 (Vatican City, 7 July 2007). I also can testify to this reality from many encounters with young people―lay men and women, religious, seminarians, and priests―whose vocations in the world either to Christian marriage or to the religious or the apostolic life are grounded in and nourished by the older liturgical forms in a truly life-giving way. In this respect, I can never forget my visit to the Paris-Chartres Pentecost pilgrimage in 2018: what hope these young people give to the Church of today and of the future!
Visit Dr. Kwasniewski’s Substack “Tradition & Sanity”; personal site; composer site; publishing house Os Justi Press and YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify pages.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

O Lord, look unto my aid; let them be confounded and ashamed, who seek after my soul to take it away. O Lord, look unto my aid. (The Offertory of the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost.)

Offertorium, Ps. 39 Dómine, in auxilium meum réspice: confundantur et revereantur, qui quaerunt ánimam meam, ut áuferant eam. Dómine, in auxilium meum réspice.

This Offertory is also sung on Friday of the second week of Lent; when I went to search for it on YouTube, this very beautiful polyphonic version written for that season also came up. No information is given about who composed it; if any one knows, please be so kind as to leave a message in the combox.
Today is also the feast of the Stigmata of St Francis. The painter Giotto worked for the Franciscan Order on many occasions, most famously, in the upper basilica of St Francis in Assisi, where he and his assistants painted a cycle of 28 panels of the founder’s life. This altarpiece of the stigmatization was originally commissioned for the church of St Francis in Pisa; the predella panels show three episodes of the Saint’s: the dream by which Pope Innocent III is persuaded to allow the Franciscan order to continue; the approbation of the Rule, and St Francis preaching to the birds.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Photos of the Annual Marie Reine du Canada Pilgrimage

The annual Marie Reine du Canada pilgrimage to Canada’s historic Marian shrine, Notre Dame du Cap, took place on September 2-4. A lay-led endeavour based out of the FSSP’s apostolate in Ottawa, the parish of St Clement, the pilgrimage is an annual three-day trek, covering 100 km (62 miles) in the footsteps of the North American Martyrs along Quebec’s north shore of the St. Lawrence River. Much like the Pentecost pilgrimage to Chartres, pilgrims walk in chapters, and carry banners while singing and praying; chaplains provide confession and spiritual direction en route, and all participants camp in tents. Priests celebrate the Mass in the traditional Roman Rite each day of the pilgrimage in parish churches along the route, with the solemn High Mass taking place in the historic Old Shrine of Notre Dame du Cap, where upon the high altar stands the miraculous statue of Our Lady of the Cape, which opened its eyes on June 1888, in the presence of Fr. Frederic Janssoone (now Blessed), Fr. Luc Desilets, and a layman, Pierre Lacroix.

This year marks twenty years since the pilgrimage’s inception. Approximately 100 walking pilgrims attended, mostly from Ontario and Quebec, with a small cohort from the United States joining in. The chaplain of the pilgrimage, Fr. Jacques Breton FSSP, recently authored a book on the shrine, “The Miraculous Story of Our Lady of the Cape”, which is now available in both English and French. This year Fr. Breton was joined by a priest of the diocese of Pembroke, Fr. Peter Do. Next year’s pilgrimage will be from August 31 to September 2.

Laudato Si’, Laudato No

In function of that peculiar charism (and, in the telling of some, very peculiar) by which the god of surprises goes about his business, the Sacred Congregation for Rites has just announced the promulgation of a novel liturgical tradition. In order to remind us in a more profound and meaningful way that we celebrate every liturgy as a liturgy of creation, it is now permitted to replace the traditional scheme of liturgical colors with the skins of extinct or endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Conservation Status” scheme. NLM is very honored to be chosen once again by the Sacred Congregation as the medium of promulgation for this important new tradition. Here is an outline of the scheme:

Extinct – funerals
Extinct in the wild – Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
Critically endangered – Lent
Endangered – Advent
Vulnerable – Confessors, Virgins
Near threatened – Apostles, Martyrs
Least concern – feasts of Our Lord, Our Lady and the Angels.
The official Latin text is still being composed (it will be called Risu dignum et justum), but a special note has already been released, which recommends the black-and-white striped hide of the quagga as a profound and meaningful expression of the unity of the Paschal mystery, and therefore especially appropriate for funerals. (It is left to the local episcopal conferences to determine which extinct animals’ hides will be most profoundly significant and meaningful for use in funeral liturgies; they are, however, strictly forbidden from making any such determination without the approval of the Sacred Congregation for Rites, to be requested in writing.)
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
The Italian church, always especially forwardist when it comes to matters liturgical, has already put the new tradition to good use, for a celebration of the optional memorial of St Tarzanius. (Courtesy of the Facebook page of the Italian blog Messa in Latino.) 
Laudato Si’...
Laudato No!
NLM asked Mons. Giovanni Boidenio, pontifical cerimoniere and titular archbishop of Amafratria, for his comments on the new tradition. He wrote: “I would love to see the orphreys of a Requiem set done in Great Auk, which has a very rich sheen. Less pliable hides such as those of the Sumatran elephant may represent a challenge for vestment design companies. Could they be employed in a mitre? or perhaps the footwear? I think incorporation of each category is important: nothing would raise environmental awareness more than, say, an alb appareled with Pernambuco pygmy owl, or perhaps some California condor.

This raises another question: is the employment of such endangered/extinct species limited to seasonal vestments? What about liturgicalia that are not season-indicated, such as sacred vessels? For example, the Hawaiian gastropod laminella sanguinea is critically endangered/possibly extinct, so it would qualify as decoration. It has a gorgeous deep red shell and would look really nice inset on the base or cup of a chalice or ciborium. Would this be possible? Or is the new custom limited to vestments?”

Of course, with the emergence of new gene-splicing and cloning technologies, it is possible that some extinct species may become unextinct in the not-too-distant future, in which case, the new liturgical market could provide an important incentive for breeding them. NLM will be the first to let you know about any exciting developments in this new tradition.

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