Thursday, August 05, 2021

Traditionis Custodes, or Competing Concepts of Unity” — Guest Article by Dr. Tomasz Dekert

We are pleased to publish this insightful essay by Dr. Tomasz Dekert, who wrote the original in Polish and then translated it for NLM.

Mark Searl, a well-known American liturgist, in one of his books wrote that someone who was theologically formed, or more precisely: accustomed to thinking about liturgy in the first place in terms of sacramental “matter and form,” can approach real rituals from the position of one who “already knows what is significant and what is not,” and who views “the rest, whether it be the rite or people, as dispensable.”[1] These words came to mind when I reflected on the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes and its background. Well, I have the impression that they say something very important about the deep causes of the present situation, causes that are in no way limited to Rome’s usual reaction to the alleged destruction of the Church’s unity by the presence and development of groups centered around the liturgy in the classical Roman Rite, but that are stuck in a kind of mental alienation of parts of the Church elites, both academic and hierarchical. And not only the present ones, but above all those from half a century ago.
Early critics of the post-conciliar liturgical changes, who, in addition to being Catholic, were also prominent figures in sociology and anthropology – I mean Mary Douglas and Victor Turner – pointed out that from their professional perspective, the way in which the reform was carried out was burdened with the error of misdiagnosing the true needs of the masses of believers in terms of things such as the consistency, repetitiveness, and archaic nature of the ritual. As in the famous case study of “bog Irish” in Douglas’ Natural Symbols, the elites turned out to be insensitive to “dense” and ritualized symbolic communication, which in turn built a whole world of religious references, not necessarily conceptualized, for people from classes of lower cultural capital. Therefore, the changes in the structure of the Catholic ritual system forced by intellectuals and hierarchs constituted, as in the parable of the prophet Nathan, taking the poor man’s last sheep. The point, however, is not to reduce the problem to the relationship between different social classes. It is more about noticing the fact that the beginning of a specific split in the Church lies at the moment when her elites began to think of themselves as omnipotent regulators of the life of this huge and very internally diversified social body, based on their own intellectual competences and possessed power.

In an article from 1969, Yves Congar describes in an almost surprising way the importance of the permanence and traditionality of the liturgical ritual:
The conservative character of the liturgy makes it possible for it to preserve and transmit intact the values whose importance one epoch may have forgotten, but which the next epoch is happy to find intact and preserved, so that it can live from them again. Where would we be if this liturgical conservatism had not resisted the late medieval taste for sensory devotions, the eighteenth century’s individualistic, rational, and moralizing imperatives, the nineteenth century’s critique, or the modern period’s subjective philosophies? Thanks to the liturgy everything has been retained and transmitted. Ah! Let us not expose ourselves to the reproach sixty years hence that we squandered and lost the sacred heritage of the Catholic communion as it is deployed in the slow flow of time. Let us keep a healthy awareness that we carry in ourselves only a moment, the tip of the iceberg in relation to a reality which is beyond us in every way.[2]
I would add one more to these values. Wherever ritual is a widely accepted medium and – at the same time – an object of traditio (a content handed on) in which all members of the community participate, regardless of social class, political affiliation, cultural capital, etc. (which does not mean that it has to be the same everywhere) there the foundations of unity are so deep that they transcend all particularisms that are abundant in such a vast social organism. The necessary condition, however, is not the “uniformity”, that is, by the way, often mythologized in traditionalist thinking, but precisely the traditionality, a certain “organicity” (at least on the perception level) of the relationship between the community and its ritual system. In the circumstances in which this relationship found itself in the Roman Church after the reforms of St. Pius V, the above-mentioned condition required that a possible reform process should not in any way violate the visible and experiential traditional liturgical forms. At the level of the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, the awareness of this fact was expressed in one of the sentences of section 23: “there must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

As we know, in the end the liturgical reform proceeded in a way that differed greatly from the fulfillment of this condition. Fr. John Baldovin, S.J., an ardent supporter of reform and critic of traditionalist tendencies, expressed it with endearing and at the same time brutal simplicity: 

The implementation of the reform, under Bugnini’s tutelage and involving dozens of experts in the fields of history, theology and pastoral practice, resulted in the complete vernacularization of the liturgy, reorientation of the presiding minister vis-à-vis the assembly, an extensive and even radical reform of the order of Mass, and a major overhaul of the liturgical year, not to mention a complete revision of every sacramental liturgy and daily liturgical prayer.[3]

It should be added that the liturgy subjected to such a total “makeover” could not be introduced in the entire Church solely on the basis of the authority of the professors’ titles or even the cardinal hats of its creators, but it required the involvement of the supreme authority, i.e. the Pope. Paul VI, although there are known cases when he vetoed the proposals of the Consilium, was himself actively involved in the reform process, and willing to use his power to this end. The reformed Roman Rite was proclaimed, and the Church was obliged to accept it, with the simultaneous – administratively ordered and almost non-exceptional – suspension of the functioning of the previous ritual. And this was precisely the situation in which the Church elites, or at least some of the dominant part of them at the time, manifested their sense of omnipotence as regulators of religious life throughout the Church from the position of those who “know better” and “can do more”. The Church as a whole was to embody in her new liturgy a series of concepts and beliefs of a certain particular group of her members about what she and her liturgy were to be.

The founding sin of the breakdown of unity, for which Francis declares such concern in Traditionis Custodes, is the very fact of the reform understood and carried out in this way. Introducing into the bloodstream of the Church rituals that are “non-traditional” in a very visible and experiential way, but enforced by the power of the highest authority (in fact, as a result of the transition from a certain range of self-steering to manual control, this act made the rites dependent on this authority and its bureaucratic agendas) has practically abolished the “naturally” and profoundly unifying influence of the liturgy. In a sense, the liturgy itself was problematized; it put before each of the faithful the need to respond to the proposal of a new ritual submitted to him – albeit in an “irrefutable” mode.

Of course, for a large part of the members of the Church, the mandate of the papal seal was enough for them, and the fact that today they participate in rituals other than the day before yesterday, became the order of the day. Many elements of this new liturgical reality were attractive to some Catholics, and even gave a sense of a new quality of participation. But there were also those who deeply understood and felt the meaning and importance of the traditional Catholic liturgy, and who saw in the Vatican’s “proposal” a number of things that were dubious or even wrong, and the fact that, as Archbishop Bugnini argued, the actions of the reformers were accompanied by “the scrutiny of hundreds of experts and of the Church’s hierarchy,”[4] and that everything had been approved by the Pope, did not provide sufficient justification in the eyes of tradition-loving faithful. Here, in fact, we have a whole spectrum of attitudes, from trust in Church authority, saturated with deep sadness and the more or less rationalized submission to authority’s orders, to the complete refusal of such submission in the name of the “true Roman Church” and other products of overwhelming cognitive dissonance. Finally, there were those who could be described as victims of the Church’s modernization process, that is, people who simply drifted away in the post-conciliar period, or at least stopped attending church. It is not known just how many people in this large crowd who, during and after the Council, in one way or another departed from the Church[5] did so because of the liturgy. In this very group the motivations were certainly varied. Some people were affected by the loss of the sense of the Church’s credibility, others by fatigue with destabilization and permanent fluctuations, others by disgust due to the invasion of pop culture in the liturgical space or other such phenomena. Some of the faithful have also fallen victim to the discouragement resulting from an excessively progressive approach (interestingly described by James Hitchcock),[6] that is, the inability to find “something” appropriately “relevant” in ever new experimental para-ritual forms. Nevertheless, although the post-conciliar losses of the Church have never been comprehensively established, it is difficult to imagine that the liturgical factor would be irrelevant here; in fact it seems to have played a key role.

Since history is written by the victors, the dominant narrative in the post-conciliar Church makes reform a providential, even theological movement, and a great pastoral success, proclaimed in probably every subsequent document on the liturgy. There is no doubt that, in the scale of the entire Church, the reform campaign was successful. As a result, a new face of “unity” was obtained, which is not rooted in the organic totality of the traditional ritual – this is practically non-existent in the reformed liturgy – but which is based on trust and obedience to the ecclesiastical authority (especially the Pope) and the post-conciliar liturgical order introduced by it. In the victors’ narrative, the fraction of the dissatisfied or dissenters and their activity are either ignored in silence or accused of schism, that is, for nothing but active disobedience. However, from the perspective of the above-presented argument, one has to look at it differently. Opposition does not simply arise from disobedience, as if the opponents were just rude brats or prideful hotheads, but from a different understanding of the fundamental principle of unity itself. And the fact that there has been a radical change in this area and the controversy it sparked was not caused by “traditionalists,” but by the post-conciliar reform itself. It was what destroyed, or at least greatly violated, the foundations of the unity of the Church. This fact tends to be overlooked in current Catholic discourse.

Traditionis Custodes consciously operates within the strictly narrowed framework of the above-mentioned new face of “unity,” which it elevates to the rank of absolute, central value. The projects of the “post-conciliar” Church and liturgy, precisely because of their foundation in acts of power, are understood here as a reality without alternative – ultimately (“in due time”, as Francis puts it in his letter to the bishops), one who will not accept them (= who will not obey), has no right to be in the Church and call himself Catholic – even if he or she was baptized, believes in all dogmas, leads a full prayer life and sacramental life, tries to do works of mercy and live the gospel. Sounds absurd? But that’s what the Pope announced to us.


[1] Mark Searle, Called to Participate. Theological, Ritual, and Social Perspective, eds. Barbara Searle, Anne Y. Koester (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2006), 20.

[2] Y. Congar, O.P., „Autorité, Initiative, Coresponsabilité”, La Maison-Dieu 97 (1969), 55.

[3] John F. Baldovin, “The Twentieth Century Reform of the Liturgy: Outcomes and Prospects,” Institute of Liturgical Studies Occasional Papers 126 (2017): 4–5.

[4] Annibale Bugnini, “The Consilium and Liturgical Reform,” The Furrow 19, no. 3 (1968): 177.

[5] Two sociological works on France and the English-speaking world, respectively, have been recently devoted to this topic: Guillaume Cuchet, Comment notre monde a cessé d'être chrétien. Anatomie d'un effondrement (Paris, Éditions de Seuil, 2018, 95-141); Stephen Bullivant, Mass Exodus: Catholic Disaffiliation in Britain and America since Vatican II (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019)

[6] See James Hitchcock, Recovery of the Sacred: Reforming the Reformed Liturgy (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1974).

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

The Orthodox Baptistery of Ravenna

Until the early 5th century, the cathedral of Ravenna was at the nearby port city of Classe, where we saw the basilica of St Apollinaris last month. At the very end of the 4th century, St Ursus (399-426), the predecessor of St Peter Chrysologus, began building a new cathedral in Ravenna itself, some remains of which are incorporated into the current cathedral. He also began a new baptistery, which is generally known as the “orthodox” baptistery, since it was used by those who professed the orthodox Nicene faith, as opposed to that of the Arians. It is also known the Neonian Baptistery from St Neon (451-68), St Peter’s successor, who completed it by replacing the original flat roof with a cupola, richly decorated with mosaics. In common with many early baptisteries, the structure is octagonal, the eight sides representing the eight persons who were saved on Noah’s ark, a symbol of the Church, and the cycle of creation and new creation, with Sunday, the day of the Resurrection, being the first and the eighth day. Like many buildings in Ravenna, it has subsided considerably since its original construction, and is now over 6 feet below its original level. The small apses were added in the tenth century, but the rest of the walls are original. (Photos by Nicola de’ Grandi.)
The baptismal font is relatively new, from the 16th century, but the raised platform from which the priest performed the baptisms is original, from the 5th century.
The mosaic cupola
In the tondo at the center, the Baptism of Christ; the brighter area in the upper part of it, including the faces of both Christ and John the Baptist, and the dove of the Holy Spirit, are restorations of the 18th century. The figure behind the Lord, labelled as the personification of the River Jordan, is original. In the blu eband around them are the Twelve Apostles, each of whom is dressed as a Roman senator, and holding a crown.

Liturgical Notes on the Feast of St Dominic

Saint Dominic died on the evening of August 6, 1221, and was canonized in 1234 by Pope Gregory IX (1227-41) who had known him personally and declared that he no more doubted his sanctity than he did that of Saints Peter and Paul. At the time of his canonization, the feast of the Transfiguration had not yet been adopted in the West. August 6th, however, had long been kept as the feast of Pope St Sixtus II, who was martyred in 258 after a reign of less than a year. He is named in the Canon of the Mass, and was the Pope under whom St Lawrence served as deacon; his feast is part of a two-week long series of feasts associated with the great Roman martyr. One of the very first churches given to the Order (still the home of Dominican nuns to this day), was the ancient church of St Sixtus in Rome; for these reasons, the feast of St Dominic was assigned by Pope Gregory to August 5th, and kept on that day for over three centuries by the Dominicans and others.

In 1558, however, Pope Paul IV ordered the general observance on August 5th of the titular feast of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, the feast of Our Lady of the Snows, and the transfer of St Dominic’s feast back one day to August 4th. This change was at first rejected by a general chapter of the Order held at Avignon in 1561, but was slowly accepted and eventually adopted formally in a revision of their liturgical books promulgated in 1603. St Jean-Marie Vianney, who is still often referred to simply as “the Curé d’Ars”, died on the feast of St Dominic in the year 1859, and was canonized by Pius XI in 1925. His feast was added to the General Calendar three years later, originally on August 9th, but later moved back to August 8th.
The Madonna and Child with St Catherine, and St Dominic Presenting the Donor, by Titian, 1512-16.
In the Calendar of the Novus Ordo, St Dominic and the Curé d’Ars were made to switch places; the idea being, apparently, that since Dominic’s feast could hardly be kept on the actual day of his death, which would involved bumping the Transfiguration out of the way, at least St Jean-Marie could. This seems a case where a basically good principle was applied with more zeal than wisdom, since no account was taken of the fact that the Curé d’Ars himself had celebrated that day as the feast of St Dominic, like centuries of priests before him.

As is also the case with the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, many Dominican houses keep the feast of St Dominic on the more traditional feast day, including the basilica in Bologna where he is buried, and which is now named for him. It was originally known as San Niccolò nelle Vigne, (St Nicholas in the Vineyards), and at the time it was given to the still very new Order of Friars Preachers in 1219, was on the outskirts of the city. The friars were able to expand it rapidly into a large complex to serve one of their most important communities, near one of the oldest and most important centers of learning in Europe. It was here that St Dominic died and was buried, originally laid in the floor of the church’s choir.

Upon his canonization in 1234, a proper Office and Mass were composed for his feast; this was sung for the first time in the choir of San Niccolò on August 5, 1234. At the time of St Dominic’s death, the prior of the Dominican house of Brescia, Guala Romanoni, beheld a vision, which he later described thus to Blessed Jordan of Saxony, Dominic’s successor as master general. Jordan writes:
He saw an opening, in heaven, by which two bright ladders descended. The top of one was held by Christ, the other by His Mother; on either one, angels ascended and descended. At the bottom of the two ladders, in the middle, was placed a seat, and on it sat one who seemed to be a brother of the order, with his face covered by his hood, as we are wont to bury our dead. Christ the Lord and His Mother pulled the ladders up little by little, until the one who was sitting at the bottom reached the top. He was then received into heaven, in a cloud of light, with angels singing, and that bright opening in heaven was closed. … That brother who had the vision, who was very weak and sick, realized that he had recovered his strength, and set out for Bologna in all haste, where he heard that on that same day and same hour, the servant of Christ Dominic had died. I know this fact because he told it to me in person. (Libellus de Principiis Ordinis Praedicatrum)
In the Office of St Dominic, the third antiphon of Lauds refers to this event: “Scala caelo prominens fratri revelatur, per quam Pater transiens sursum ferebatur. – A ladder stretching forth from Heaven is revealed to a brother, by which the Father passing was borne on high.” The very first time this Office was sung, it was Guala himself who intoned this antiphon. (He is now a blessed, and his feast is kept by the Order on September 4th.)

The Vision of Blessed Guala, depicted on the tomb of St Dominic in his church in Bologna.
Most of the propers for the Mass of St Dominic in the Dominican Use (the Introit, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel and Communio) are taken from the common of Doctors of the Church. Some of these parts are found in more than one Mass, but here the choice is a deliberate one, to express that St Dominic in his teaching and his life stands in the same position to the Order specifically as a Doctor does to the Church as a whole. (The Cistercians observe a similar custom on the feast of St Bernard.) The Alleluia verse is proper to the Dominicans, and like many medieval composition for both the Office and Mass, is in rhyme.
Alleluia, Pie Pater Dominice, / tuorum memor operum, / Sta corum summo judice / Pro tuo coetu pauperum. ~ Holy Father Dominic, / mindful of thy works / stand before the great Judge / for thy gathering of the poor.
A leaf of a Missal decorated by the Blessed Fra Angelico, the famous Dominican painter, from the museum of the Dominican church of San Marco in Florence, ca. 1430.
This is followed by a lengthy sequence, In caelesti hierarchia, which can be read at this link in Latin and English.

In 1921, a newly composed proper preface for the feast of St Dominic was added to the Missal.
Vere dignum … Qui in tuae sanctae Ecclesiae decorem ac tutamen apostolicam vivendi formam per beatissimum patriarcham Dominicum, renovare voluisti. Ipse enim, Genitricis Filii tui semper ope suffultus, praedicatione sua compescuit haereses, fidei pugiles gentium in salutem instituit, et innumeras animas Christo lucrifecit. Sapientiam ejus narrant populi, ejusque laudes nuntiat Ecclesia. Et ideo cum angelis et archangelis etc.
Truly it is meet … Who for the glory and defence of Thy Holy Church did will to revive the apostolic manner of life through the most blessed patriarch Dominic. For he, supported always by the help of Thy Son’s mother, put down heresies by his preaching, established champions of the faith for the salvation of the nations, and won innumerable souls for Christ. The nations speak of his wisdom, and the Church declares his praise. And therefore with the angels and archangels etc.
In the Tridentine period, the Dominicans instituted a special feast for all the saints of their order, as did several other religious orders. Ironically, this feast was also bumped from its original location by the dedication feast of a Roman basilica; initially kept on November 9th, the day after the octave of All Saints, it was later moved to the 12th to make way for the Dedication of Saint John in the Lateran. The preface of St Dominic noted above was appointed to be said also on this feast, a fine liturgical expression of the holy Founder’s position as the model for all the sons of his Order.

Fr Thompson has written previously about the procession that accompanies the singing of the Salve Regina at the end of Compline in the Dominican Use. In many houses, it was also customary to add after it the antiphon of the Magnificat for Second Vespers of the feast of Saint Dominic; it is here sung by the Dominican students at Blackfriars, Oxford.

O lumen Ecclesiae, doctor veritatis, rosa patientiae, ebur castitatis, aquam sapientiae propinasti gratis; praedicator gratiae, nos junge beatis. ~ O light of the Church, teacher of truth, rose of patience, ivory statue of chastity, freely you gave the water of wisdom to drink; preacher of grace, join us to the blessed.

Tuesday, August 03, 2021

Peace-Builder or Pacifier? Some Considerations of Traditionis Custodes and Pope Francis

The following essay by Prof. Ruben Peretó Rivas was published on his blog Caminante Wanderer on July 31st, and is here given in a translation from the original Spanish which he has reviewed. Dr. Peretó Rivas is a member of the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature at the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina. We are very grateful to him for his kind permission to share this with our readers.

Political theory in the Anglo-Saxon world makes an interesting distinction between the concepts of “peace-building” and “pacification”. The first, “the building of peace”, refers to a process by which peace is sought through dialog between the parties in a conflict. In the second, on the other hand, peace is achieved by coercive military action which forces the parties to keep silent about their complaints under pain of violent reprisals.
This schema can also be applied to the reading of what has happened in the Church in the last several years in regard to the traditional Mass. The conflict which dragged on from the very moment of the promulgation of the new Missal by Paul VI was previously almost resolved with Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, who in this way became a “builder of peace.” With the sudden appearance a few weeks ago of Traditionis Custodes, Pope Francis has not only dynamited the dialog and peace reached in liturgical matters, but has also established himself as a “pacifier” in the Anglo-Saxon sense of the term: one who imposes peace by force, while threatening the punishment of those who do not accept his designs.
The trial-by-fire of the liturgical books of the Mozarabic Rite. “Both books were thrown into the fire.The Roman one leapt out of the fire. The Gothic one was unharmed in the flames.” (From an NLM quiz in 2011.)
This is the reading which the majority of analysts of the ecclesiastical and liturgy situation have made, such as Cardinal Mueller, Cardinal Burke, Mons. Rob Mutsaerts and Fr Guillaume de Tanoüarn, reaching the conclusion that Traditionis Custodes (TC) is, fundamentally, a profoundly anti-pastoral document, one which generates division and reopens a painful conflict, causing enormous damage to many of the faithful. Undoubtedly, this is the most important characteristic of the most recent motu proprio, but it may not be the most grave, since from the theological point of view, it dismantles the construction which Benedict XVI had achieved, and creates a thorny problem which becomes unresolvable.
Pope Francis bases part of what little argumentation he provides to justify his draconian measures in regard to the traditional Mass on the assertion that it was permitted by Pope John Paul II, and afterwards regulated by Pope Benedict XVI, with the “desire to favor the healing of the schism with the movement of Mons. Lefebvre.” Although it is certainly true that both Popes wished to resolve the problem posed by the SSPX, as all good Catholics should want to do, they also wanted to maintain continuity with the traditional liturgy. In the book The Last Testament. In his own words, Pope Benedict responded to the claim that the reauthorization of the Tridentine Mass was a concession to the Society of St Pius X, with these clear and conclusive words. “That is absolutely false! For me, what is important is the unity of the Church with itself, in its interior, with its past; that that which was holy for Her before should not be in any way an evil now.” (Pope Benedict XVI with Peter Seewald, London: Bloomsbury, 216, pp. 201-202).
And there are many other witnesses who can be cited in support of this. Card. Antonio Cañizares, as prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, one with privileged knowledge of the thought and intention of Pope Benedict in Summorum Pontificum, wrote: “The will of the Pope was not only to satisfy the followers of Mons. Lefebvre, nor to limit himself to answering the just wishes of the faithful who feel attached, for various reasons, to the liturgical inheritance represented by the Roman Rite, but also and especially to open the Church’s liturgical riches to all the faithful, making possible in this way the discovery of the treasures of the Church’s liturgical patrimony to those who still do not know them.” (Prologue to the book The Reform of Benedict XVI, by Nicola Bux.)
His Eminence Antonio Card. Cañizares celebrates a Pontifical Mass in the traditional Rite at the high altar of the Pope’s cathedral, St John in the Lateran, in 2009.
The website of the now defunct Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, which can still be visited, and which, according to the introduction by Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, then president of the Commission, is not an opinion site, but a site that includes “information and material in absolute fidelity to the thought of the Holy Father”, affirms that “the legitimacy of the Church’s liturgy resides in continuity with tradition.” Therefore, the usus antiquior certainly has legitimacy; it has hundreds of years of history behind it, and the other rites both eastern and western recognized by the Church alongside it. It has the Tradition to defend it. The idea that brought Pope Benedict to hold this position is that a rite which was a sure path to sanctity over the ages cannot suddenly become a threat, “if the Faith which is expressed in it is still considered valid”, says one of the documents on the aforementioned site. To present an opposition of missals – one good and one bad, and therefore prohibited – as Pope Francis does in TC, although it may on the practical level go to the detriment of the old one, on the level of principles, reveals the weak foundation of the new one.
In this theological perspective, what is left weakened is the Missal of Paul VI, since it is clearly a construction hastily put together in a laboratory by a group of specialists, as the protagonists of its creation bear witness in their memoires. (E.g., those of Louis Bouyer, Bernard Botte, or Annibale Bugnini).
Joseph Ratzinger, while he was still a priest, wrote in 1976 to Prof. Wolfgang Waldstein, “The problem of the new Missal lies in its abandonment of a historical process that was always continual, before and after St Pius V, and in the creation of a completely new book, although it was compiled of old material, the publication of which was accompanied by a prohibition of all that came before it, which, besides, is unheard of in the history of both law and liturgy. And I can say with certainty, based on my knowledge of the conciliar debates and my repeated reading of the speeches made by the Council Fathers, that this does not correspond to the intentions of the Second Vatican Council. (Wolfgang Waldstein, “Zum motuproprio Summorum Pontificum”, in Una Voce Korrespondenz 38/3 (2008), 201-214).
This worry has accompanied Pope Benedict all his life – how to theologically save the Missal of Paul VI, which lacks the continuity with tradition that always existed in the Church’s liturgy. Since it was impossible to demonstrate this continuity as a matter of history, the only way to do so was, and is, through an act of the will, without further proof that this continuity existed. And this is precisely what he did in Summorum Pontificum. Pope Francis has just dynamited this theological assemblage, which saved the two missals and re-established the pax liturgica, thereby not only rekindling the conflicts of the ’70s and ’80s, but also, and more importantly, aborting the solution which was found in the theological field to justify the liturgical reform of the late ’60s.
Certainly, the theology which is hidden behind TC is not an original creation of Pope Francis. It is in fact no more than a by-product of the rupturist position developed by the School of Bologna, and curiously, coincides with the theories which of one of the lesser representatives of that school, Andrea Grillo, has published in recent years.
TC also shows the concepts of authority and obedience to which Pope Francis holds, nearer to perinde ac cadaver [note] than to the tradition and theology of the Church. His authoritarian and absolutist reflections bring to my mind a passage of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons
With TC, Pope Francis seeks to impose on the Church the mentality of Humpty Dumpty, and govern it as a despot: the question is, which is to be master?
We must recognize one success of TC: its title, Traditionis custodes, the opening words which gives the document its name, is perfectly true, since the bishops are the “guardians of the tradition”, which is to say, they are obliged to know it, contemplate it, and protect it. And for this reason, it is the tradition as something objective which ought to determine their actions as bishops. However, we must here note a certain nuance: the motu proprio seems to understand the expression in the sense that the tradition is what the bishops – and especially the bishop of Rome – decide it is: La tradition, c’est moi.
editor’s note: The Latin words “perinde ac cadaver – just like a corpse” are often used to describe a notion of religious obedience introduced by the Jesuits. A trenchant essay by Dr John RT Lamont, published on Rorate Caeli in 2018, describes it very well as one open to “tyrannical understanding of authority in general as based on the arbitrary will of the possessor of power, rather than on law.” Law here may also be replaced by “tradition” or “custom.”

5th Century Frescoes From a Church Built Into a 1st Century Roman Aqueduct

A reader brought this article in the History Blog to my notice recently, which I encourage you to read. It features a partially restored and recently reopened church that was originally built in the 1st century AD as an aqueduct in a small village, Santa Maria in Stelle outside Verona, Italy. There is a World Monuments website description here.

The current exterior of the church
The History Blog article linked above describes in thorough and well-presented detail the content of the frescoes, which date from the 5th to the 9th century, and gives an account of the church’s history. It began as an aqueduct, which later had a nymphaeum (a shrine dedicated to the water spirits known as nymphs) built into its arches in the 3rd century AD. This became a baptistry in the 4th century, and in the following century, a church. In the hypogeum (which is the underground part, what we might call the crypt in a church today) there is a fresco of the Virgin Mary with a blue background and stars, not yet restored, and not clearly discernible at this point. This is what gives its name to the village. 
This aroused my curiosity. It seems that the need for a baptistry was greater than the need for a church, which is why it was built first. The other place where I have seen this occurring is at the Duomo in Florence, where the baptistry was built a century or so before the main cathedral building. One couldn’t image this happening today - any suggestions as to the thinking behind this would be welcome in the comments!
The frescoes are all line based, that is, they use line to describe form, rather than tonal variation, and are done with a sure and smoothly flowing hand, which indicates great skill, especially on this scale. Coloration tends to be applied as flat, ungraded tone. The donkey upon which Christ rides is done particularly gracefully, I thought.
The northern chamber, recently restored with Christ Enthroned among the Apostles, above the altar.
The post also includes a link to a visual device, here, that leads to a virtual tour of the more recently constructed north chamber, which has frescoes of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem, the three young men in the fiery furnace, and the massacre of the Holy Innocents. Look out for the ornate and beautiful floor design, not remarked upon by the writer of the article.
Another point that struck me is the contrast between the care given to the use of space under the arches of an aqueduct in Roman times, and the most common use for the space between such arches today, which are under viaducts. Today, in California, at least, these become tented villages for the homeless.

Monday, August 02, 2021

Married Couples Recorded in the Roman Martyrology, with a Litany for Private Use

Saints Aquila and Priscilla

As I was reviewing page proofs for the book Are Canonizations Infallible? Revisiting a Disputed Question, I was struck once again by the account that was given during John Paul II’s pontificate of why so very many people “had” to be beatified and canonized starting in 1983. The rationale was this: the Church taught at Vatican II that holiness is everyone’s calling. And since the Church always remains faithful to Christ, there must therefore be a whole lot of saints in every category, especially from recent times, that need to be accelerated through the process in order to provide lots of examples and encouragement.

Now, this is a curious mixture of truths and falsehoods. It is of course true that the Church will always produce sanctity; no age is without saints. But it is not true that we can, as it were, crank up the factory and simply make more saints while maintaining the most rigorous standards of what constitutes publicly venerable holiness, or Christian perfection in charity. Nor is it by any means guaranteed that any particular age will be more fruitful than, or even equally fruitful as, any other age in verifiable saints. It could well be that modernity erects more barriers to the achievement of beatifiable and canonizable holiness. Indeed, this seems to be implied in Leo XIII’s letter Testem Benevolentiae.

One claim I have frequently seen in the literature surrounding John Paul II’s pontificate is that he wanted to present lots of examples of married sanctity to the laity. In and of itself, and taking into account the caveats of the preceding paragraph, we can say this is a laudable intention. For instance, we can rejoice in Louis and Zélie Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who, living relatively near to us in history, make spousal and parental holiness more vivid to our eyes. One also occasionally meets with cynical interpretations of hagiography that accuse the Church of denigrating marriage and promoting only a celibate model of sanctity. While some writers over the centuries doubtless had an axe to grind with marriage, this is by no means an operative assumption, nor is the dogmatic teaching that virginity consecrated to Christ is a more perfect state of life incompatible with a generous estimation of the good of sacramental marriage.

A way to see that the Church has not, in fact, been slow to recognize the sanctity of married couples and parents is to become more familiar with the traditional Roman Martyrology, which, as I have grown familiar with it over the years, has placed before me daily after Prime a remarkable procession of spouses, parents, and widows who have been part of our collective memory and liturgical worship for untold centuries. I continue to believe that it is highly valuable to read the Martyrology daily, for it furnishes a fuller picture of the models of sanctity venerated by the Catholic Church than the vastly smaller number of saints who are venerated in the Mass itself can give us by itself.

When we look more closely, we find in fact quite a good number of married saintly couples listed in the traditional Martyrology. By this, I mean something very specific: an entry that lists both the husband and the wife as saints. There are, as one would imagine, many more that list a saintly man or woman, husband or wife, without making mention of the other spouse or parent; and there are times when the whole family is martyred but only the husband is named. These have also been listed, because they too bear witness to the sanctity achievable in the married state and in the responsibilities of parenthood. (I have also included a few entries that speak of continent marriages, but these are few in number compared to the other categories.) It should also go without saying that plenty of other saints in the Martyrology would, in fact, have been married and/or parents, but here I am listing only those where the text itself includes such a description.

This article concludes with a litany in the usual style, for devotional use.

Saints Daria and Chrysanthus 

1. Saints who were married to each other

At Rome, blessed Dafrosa, wife of St. Flavian, Martyr, and mother of SS. Bibiana and Demetria, Virgin-Martyrs, who after the slaying of her husband was first sent into exile, and afterwards beheaded under the same prince. (Jan. 4)

At Sebaste, in Armenia, St Peter, Bishop, the son of SS. Basil and Emmelia, and brother also of SS. Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Bishops, and of Macrina, Virgin. (Jan. 9; cf. Mar. 9 and Jul. 19)

At Rome, on the Via Cornelia, the holy martyrs Marius and Martha his wife, and their sons Audifax and Abachum, Persians of noble birth, who came to Rome to pray in the time of the Emperor Claudius. After they had borne scourging, the rack, fire, iron hooks and the amputation of their hands, Martha was slain in the Nympha, and the others beheaded, and their bodies burnt. (Jan. 19)

At Caesarea in Mauritania, the holy martyrs Severian and Aquila his wife, who were burnt to death. (Jan. 23)

At Ostia, the holy martyrs Maximus and Claudius, brothers, and Praepedigna, the wife of Claudius, with their two sons, Alexander and Cutias; who, though they were of very noble birth, were at Diocletian's command all put to the test, and sent into exile. Later they were burned to death, offering themselves to God as a sweet sacrifice of martyrdom. Their relics were cast into the river, but discovered by the Christians, and buried near the same city. (Feb. 18)

At Nicomedia, the birthday of the holy martyrs Victor and Victorinus, who for three years were tormented by many tortures, together with Claudian and his wife Bassa; and, being cast into prison, they fulfilled there their life's course. (Mar. 6)

At Nicomedia, the birthday of the holy martyrs Macedonius, Patricia his wife, and his daughter, Modesta. (Mar. 13)

In Illyria, SS. Philetus, a senator, Lydia his wife, and his sons Macedo and Theoprepes; and also Amphilochius, a captain, and Chronides, a notary, who endured many torments for their confession of Christ and obtained the crown of glory. (Mar. 27)

At Milan, St Valeria, Martyr, wife of St Vitalis, and mother of SS. Gervase and Protase. (Apr. 28)

At Attalia in Pamphylia, the holy martyrs Exuperius, his wife Zoe, and Cyriac and Theodulus their sons; they were the slaves of a certain Paganus, and in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, by order of their master, on account of their outspoken profession of the Christian faith, were scourged and severely tortured. Finally they were cast into an oven and so gave up their souls to God. (May 2)

In the Thebaid, the holy martyrs Timothy and Maura, his wife, whom, after many torments, the prefect Arian ordered to be fixed to a cross, whereon they hung alive for nine days, confirming each other in the faith, and achieved their martyrdom. (May 3)

At Rome, blessed Calepodius, Priest and Martyr, whom the Emperor Alexander had slain with the sword, and his body dragged through the city and cast into the Tiber. Pope Callistus buried it after it had been recovered. Palmatius the consul was also beheaded, with his wife and children, and forty-two others of his household, of both sexes; likewise Simplicius the Senator with his wife and sixty-eight of his household; and also Felix with Blanda his wife, whose heads were suspended at different gates of the City as a warning to the Christians. (May 10)

At Rome, St. Artemius, with his wife Candida, and his daughter Paulina. Artemius, at the preaching and miracles of St. Peter the Exorcist, believed in Christ, and was baptized with all his household by St. Marcellinus, Priest. He was scourged and slain with the sword by command of the judge Serenus: while his wife and daughter were driven into a crypt and buried beneath stones and debris. (Jun. 6)

At Rome, on the Via Salaria, the passion of blessed Getulius, a most famous and learned man (the father of the seven holy brethren, whom his wife Symphorosa bore him), and his companions Cerealis, Amancius and Primitivus. At the command of the Emperor Hadrian they were arrested by the governor Licinius and first of all scourged, then cast into prison, and lastly delivered to the flames: but since they were in no wise hurt thereby, they fulfilled their martyrdom by their heads being broken sticks. Symphorosa, the wife of blessed Getulius, gathered up their bodies and buried them with honour in a sand pit in her villa. (Jun. 10; cf. Jul. 18)

At Rome, St. Zoa, Martyr, wife of the blessed martyr Nicostratus, who, while praying at the Confession of blessed Peter the Aposde, was taken by the persecutors under the Emperor Diocletian, and cast into a dark prison. Then she was tied to a tree by the throat and hair, and a horrible smoke produced beneath her, and so she gave up the ghost, confessing the Lord. (5 July) [To which is related an entry two days later:] At Rome, the holy martyrs Claudius, a notary, Nicostratus (chief secretary, and the husband of blessed Zoa the Martyr), Castorius, Victorinus and Symphorian. St. Sebastian brought them all to the faith of Christ and the Priest blessed Polycarp baptized them. While they were busied in recovering the bodies of the holy martyrs, the judge Fabian ordered them to be apprehended, and after he had tempted them for ten days with threats and flatteries, and could not move them in the least, he ordered them to be thrice tortured and then cast headlong into the sea. (Jul. 7)

In Asia Minor, SS. Aquila and Priscilla, his wife, of whom mention is made in the Acts of the Apostles. (Jul. 8)

At Cordova in Spain, the holy martyrs George, a Deacon, Aurelius and his wife, Natalia, Felix and his wife, Liliosa, in the Arab persecution. (Jul. 27)

At Tomi in Pontus, the holy martyrs Marcellinus, a tribune, his wife Mannea, and their sons John, Serapion and Peter. (Aug. 27)

At Adrumetum in Africa, SS. Boniface and Thecla, who were the parents of twelve sons, blessed Martyrs. (Aug. 30)

At Caesarea in Cappadocia, SS. Theodotus, Rufina and Ammia; the first two of these were the parents of St. Mamas the Martyr, to whom Rufina gave birth in prison and whom Ammia educated. (Aug. 31)

At Rome, on the Via Appia, blessed Cornelius, Pope and Martyr; in the persecution of Decius, after being exiled, he was commanded to be beaten with leaden scourges, and was beheaded with twenty-one others of both sexes. And Cerealis also, a soldier, with his wife Sallustia, whom the same Cornelius had instructed in the faith, were beheaded on the same day. (Sep. 14)

At Rome, the passion of the holy martyrs Eustace and Theopistis, his wife, and their two sons Agapitus and Theopist, who were condemned to the beasts, under the Emperor Hadrian but by the help of God were uninjured by them. They were then enclosed in a heated brazen bull and consummated martyrdom. (Sep. 20)

At Damascus, the holy martyrs Paul and Tatta his wife, and their sons Sabinian, Maximus, Rufus and Eugene, who, accused of professing the Christian religion, were tortured by stripes and other punishments, and in torment gave up their souls to God. (Sep. 25)

In Persia, the holy martyrs Dadas, a kinsman of King Sapor, Casdoa his wife, and Gabdelas his son, who were deprived of their honours, wounded by various tortures and, after long imprisonment, slain by the sword. (Sep. 29)

At Jerusalem, SS. Andronicus and Athanasia his wife. (Oct. 9)

At Rome, the holy martyrs Chrysanthus and his wife Daria, who, after many sufferings which they endured for Christ, under the prefect Celerinus, were commanded by the Emperor Numerian to be set in a sand-pit on the Via Salaria, and there, while still living, to be covered with earth and stones. (Oct. 25)

St. Zachary, Priest and Prophet, the father of blessed John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Lord. Also St. Elisabeth, the mother of the same most holy Precursor. (Nov. 5)

At Emesa in Phoenicia, the holy martyrs Galatio and Epistemis his wife, who in the persecution of Decius were beaten with scourges, their hands, feet and tongues mutilated, and finally achieved martyrdom by beheading. (Nov. 5)

On the same day, St. Natalia, the wife of blessed Adrian, Martyr, who for a long time ministered to the holy martyrs held in prison at Nicomedia under the Emperor Diocletian; and when their battle was over she went to Constantinople, and there rested in peace. (Dec. 1)

At Rome, the holy martyrs Claudius, a tribune, and his wife Hilaria, and their sons Jason and Marus, with seventy soldiers. Of these the Emperor Numerian commanded Claudius to be bound to a huge stone and cast headlong into a river, while the soldiers and sons of Claudius were condemned to death. Blessed Hilaria, after burying the bodies of her sons, was arrested by the heathen a little while after while praying at their tombs, cast into prison and passed to the Lord. (Dec. 3)

At Rome, the finding of the holy martyrs Nemesius, a Deacon, Lucilla, a Virgin, his daughter, Symphronius, Olympius a tribune, Exuperia his wife, and Theodulus his son, whose commemoration is made on August 25. (Dec. 8; cf. Aug. 25.)

In the same city, St. Flavian, an ex-prefect, who was the husband of blessed Dafrosa, a martyr, and the father of the holy virgin martyrs Bibiana and Demetria. He was condemned under Julian the Apostate to be branded for Christ's sake and sent into exile at Bagni-di-Ferrata in Tuscany, where he gave up his spirit to God in prayer. (Dec. 22)

On the same day, St Melania the Younger, who left Rome with her husband Pinian and went to Jerusalem; she led a religious life among the holy women, and her husband among the monks, and both died a holy death. (Dec. 31)

St. Henry and St. Cunegund

2. Married saints who lived a life of continence

At Antioch, under Diocletian and Maximian, the birthday of St. Julian, Martyr, and of Basilissa, Virgin, his wife, who kept her virginity while with her husband, and ended her life in peace. But Julian (after a crowd of priests and ministers of Christ's Church, who fled to them because of the cruel persecution, had been burnt with fire) was tortured with many torments at the command of the governor Marcian and condemned to death. With him suffered also Antony, a priest, and Anastasius. The latter, after he had been raised from the dead, Julian himself had made a sharer of Christ's grace. Celsus, a boy, with his mother Marcionia, and his seven brothers, and many others, suffered martyrdom. (Jan. 8)

At Bamberg, St. Cunegunda, Empress, who was married to the Emperor Henry I, but preserved her virginity with his consent. Enriched with the merit of good works, she rested in a holy death and thereafter was famous for her miracles. (Mar. 3)

Solemnity of St. Joseph, Workman, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Confessor, Patron of Artisans. (May 1)

At Bamberg, St. Henry I, Emperor of the Romans and Confessor. He led a life of perpetual virginity with his wife St. Cunegund, and brought St. Stephen, King of Hungary, and almost all his people, to embrace the faith of Christ. (Jul. 15)

3. Wives and widows, mentioned as such

Wives: St. Joanna (May 24), St. Clotilde (Jun. 3), St. Perpetua (Aug. 4), St. Serena (Aug. 16), St. Tryphonia (Oct. 18).

Widows: St. Paula (Jan. 26), St. Marcella (Jan. 31), St. Louisa Albertoni (Jan. 31), St. Joan de Lestonnac (Feb. 2), St. Juliana (Feb. 7), St. Frances of Rome (Mar. 9), St. Louisa de Marillac (Mar. 15), St. Lea (Mar. 22), St. Grata (May 1), St. Corona (May 14), St. Rita of Cascia (May 22), St. Margaret of Scotland (Jun. 10), St. Elisabeth of Portugal (Jul. 8), St. Athanasia (Aug. 14), St. Jane Frances Fremiot de Chantal (Aug. 21), St. Cyriaca (Aug. 21), St. Margaret (Aug. 27), St. Eutropia (Sep. 15), St. Catherine of Genoa (Sep. 15), St. Galla (Oct. 5), St. Bridget (Oct. 8), St. Hedwig (Oct. 16), St. Elisabeth of Hungary (Nov. 19), St. Olympias (Dec. 17), St. Begga (Dec. 17).

4. Husbands, mentioned as such

St. Craton (Feb. 15), St. Palmatius (May 10), St. Simplicius (May 10), St. Euthymius (Aug. 29), St. James Intercisus (Nov. 27), St. Venustian (Dec. 30).

5. Mothers or fathers, mentioned as such

Fathers: St. Richard, King of the English (Feb. 7), Theusetas (Mar. 13), St. Quirinus (Mar. 30), St. Pudens (May 19), St. Philip the Deacon (Jun. 6), St. Tranquillinus (Jul. 6), St. Thomas More (Jul. 6), St. Joachim (Aug. 16), St. Simplicius (Aug. 26), St. Marcellus (Oct. 30).

Mothers: St. Macrina (January 14), Queen Matilda (Mar. 14), St. Monica (Apr. 9), St. Plautilla (May 20), St. Marcella (Jun. 28), St. Mary (Jun. 29), St. Anne (Jul. 26), St. Theodota (Aug. 2), St. Nonna (Aug. 5), St. Helen (Aug. 18), St. Bassa (Aug. 21), St. Philippa (Sep. 20), St. Sophia (Sep. 30), St. Tryphonia (Oct. 18), St. Mary Salome (Oct. 22), St. Denise (Dec. 6), St. Fausta (Dec. 19).

Saints Joachim and Anne

A Litany of Married Saints
(For private use)
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us. Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us.

Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Zachary and Elisabeth, pray for us.
Saints Aquila and Priscilla,
Saints Flavian and Dafrosa,
Saints Basil and Emmelia,
Saints Marius and Martha,
Saints Severian and Aquila,
Saints Claudius and Praepedigna,
Saints Claudian and Bassa,
Saints Macedonius and Patricia,
Saints Philetus and Lydia,
Saints Vitalis and Valeria,
Saints Exuperius and Zoe,
Saints Timothy and Maura,
Saints Felix and Blanda,
Saints Artemius and Candida,
Saints Getulius and Symphorosa,
Saints Nicostratus and Zoa,
Saints Aurelius and Natalia,
Saints Felix and Liliosa,
Saints Marcellinus and Mannea,
Saints Boniface and Thecla,
Saints Theodotus and Rufina,
Saints Cerealis and Sallustia,
Saints Eustace and Theopistis,
Saints Paul and Tatta,
Saints Dadas and Casdoa,
Saints Andronicus and Athanasia,
Saints Chrysanthus and Daria,
Saints Galatio and Epistemis,
Saints Adrian and Natalia,
Saints Claudius and Hilaria,
Saints Olympius and Exuperia,
Saints Melania and Pinian, pray for us.

Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Let us pray. Grant, we beseech Thee, O almighty God, that the intercession of Holy Mary, Mother of God, St. Joseph, her most chaste Spouse, and all holy husbands and wives, fathers and mothers now reigning in Thy Kingdom, may everywhere gladden us, so that, while we commemorate their merits, we may experience their protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, August 01, 2021

The Revolution Is Over

Today is the sixteenth anniversary of the New Liturgical Movement, and of course, we never let this day pass without a word of thanks to our founder Shawn Tribe for his nearly eight years of dedication to the site, to our long-time contributor Jeffrey Tucker, who succeeded Shawn as editor, to our publisher, Dr William Mahrt, to our parent organization, the Church Music Association of America, as well as to the rest of our team, new and old, and our innumerable guest and photopost contributors, for everything they have done for the site over these many years. I also just realized that in addition to my time as a staff writer (starting in late 2009), between my time as managing editor and editor, during this summer I passed the point of running NLM longer than Shawn did. Over the years, I have received many words of encouragement and appreciation from readers, and I wish to reiterate how grateful I am for them. I know our other writers share this sentiment.

The NLM banner as it appeared from 2005-8
When Shawn founded NLM in August of 2005, it was a propitious time to discuss the liturgy in the Catholic Church. The name “New Liturgical Movement” comes from the writings of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who had been elected Pope less than four months earlier. In the chaos and madness of the post-Conciliar era, he was one of the few notable Catholic prelates and theologians willing to recognize and publically say that things had gone badly wrong in the liturgical reform. He also understood as few others of his rank did that the Church cannot be faithful to itself if it continues to treat its own past (and this, of course, includes so much more than its liturgical tradition) as just so much garbage. When he issued Summorum Pontificum in 2007, he did NOT do so solely or even principally as a matter of reluctant pastoral necessity for the sake of reconciling the SSPX, as some have contended. He himself told us that he did it for the much greater necessity that the Church be reconciled to itself. “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.” [1] “It was important for me that the Church be one with herself inwardly, with her own past; that what was previously holy to her not be somehow wrong now.” [2] No power on earth can erase the truth of these statements, or the moral force that lies behind them.

Given the most recent developments in the liturgy, many perhaps will feel the temptation to sadness and discouragement. This is why I recently reposted some words of wisdom which my father wrote to encourage my mother in 1965, when the Church first began to enthusiastically erase itself. The progress that has been made (however tentative, however incomplete) in the last many years towards undoing that erasure was unthinkable when they were the age I was in 2007. On Saturday, I will repost an article from three years ago about St Cajetan, the founder of the Theatine Order, who lived in some of the most decadent times that the Church has ever known. The foundations of reform that he helped to lay led to a radical improvement in the Church’s life, in more ways, more rapidly and more thoroughly, than anyone could possibly have foreseen while he was alive in this world.

Nonetheless, I do not deny that I have shed a few tears in the last two weeks. In various capacities, not just writing for NLM, I have been actively involved with the traditional liturgy for over a quarter of a century. The rediscovery of this treasure, (one which my parents had thought lost forever), has shaped my life for the better in more ways than I can count. Over the years, I have been blessed to know many priests who were wise and generous shepherds, seminarians zealous for the salvation of souls and the sharing of the gift of the Faith, and laypeople of all conditions who have found or come back to the love of God through the same life of prayer that guided our ancestors for countless years before us. Of course it is painful to consider that the door of mercy has been slammed so violently in the faces of these good people, that the only accompaniment offered to them is to the exit of their parishes, to exile and dissolution; and this, on such transparently specious and disingenuous pretexts.
But these tears and worries are a matter for the short term, not for the long term. For the long term, the progress which has been made for liturgical recovery will be set back, in some places more badly than others, but it will not be erased. And I go much further than that: the most recent motu proprio was not the end, but it was most certainly the death knell, of the post-Conciliar revolution.
As I wrote last month in an article for Crisis Magazine, Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II’s constitution on the sacred liturgy, begins with a statement of what the Council hoped to achieve. “This sacred Council … desires to impart an ever increasing vigor to the Christian life of the faithful; to adapt more suitably to the needs of our own times those institutions which are subject to change; to foster whatever can promote union among all who believe in Christ; to strengthen whatever can help to call the whole of mankind into the household of the Church.” None of this has happened. The Christian life of the faithful has not become more vigorous; its institutions have not become more suitably adapted to the needs of our times; union has not been fostered among all who believe in Christ; the call of the whole of mankind into the household of the Church has not been strengthened.
When does this start?
In the wake of this failure, the post-Conciliar Catholic Church finds itself a post-revolutionary society, no less than France was in 1794, or Russia was in 1925. And when a revolution fails, when “freedom, equality and brotherhood” lie buried under a pyramid of severed heads, when the worker’s paradise consists of millions of square miles of rust and cadavers, its paladins can go forward on one of two paths. The hard path is to recognize that the revolution has not achieved its goals, and work to rebuild their society in the light of that recognition. The easy path is to find some “reactionaries” and “counter-revolutionaries”, and blame the revolution’s failure on them.

And of course, in any revolution, there do exist “reactionaries” and “counter-revolutionaries.” But their true numbers are never enough to explain the revolution’s failure, and they do not bear the brunt of its anger. Far more peasants than depraved aristocrats lost their heads in revolutionary France; far more ordinary Russians were deported to Siberia than actual opponents of communism. And likewise, far more ordinary people face the prospect of having a way of praying that they love taken away from them than people who purportedly threaten the unity of the Church.
The surest sign that a revolution has failed, and chosen to take the easy path, is its fear of the past, its fear of the memory of what life was really like before the revolution. And this is why, in the midst of a tidal wave of crises within the Church, a hammer has been dropped where it has been dropped: not on the German Synodal Way, or the various Catholic institutions that have to all intents and purposes walked away from the Faith. The problem so grave that it must be met with the same furious scribbled-on-the-back-of-a-napkin haste that we remember from Fr Bouyer’s memoires is not the long-standing persistence of grave liturgical abuses, the de facto absence of catechetical formation in once-Catholic nations, or widespread moral, doctrinal and financial corruption. The hammer has been dropped, rather, on the father and mother who were born at least 20 years after the last time a cleric used the word “aggiornamento” unironically, and on their children who are too young to remember the papacy of Benedict XVI.
Dangerous counter-revolutionaries threatening the unity of the Faith!
There can be no clearer sign that the post-Conciliar revolution is totally uninteresting to the rising generations, and knowing this, grows deathly afraid, and resorts to doing by force what it cannot do by persuasion. One of the most famous things that St John Paul II ever said was also one of the simplest things he ever said: “Do not be afraid!” I am not a saint, but I make bold to repeat the same words: Do not be afraid. A dying revolution is not a dead revolution; it can still strike out and cause pain, and will likely do so. But in the very act of doing so, it confesses that it has failed and is dying. Do not be afraid. The revolution is over.

The Feast of the Holy Maccabees

August 1st is the feast of the Seven Maccabee Brothers, long celebrated as a commemoration on the feast of St Peter’s Chains. Theirs is the only feast of Old Testament Saints kept on the general calendar, although certain others are found on local calendars, such as that of the Prophet Elijah, whom the Carmelites honor as their founder. From very ancient times, it is one of the most universally attested feasts in liturgical books of the Roman Rite, and is kept on the same day in the Ambrosian and Byzantine Rites.

In 332 BC, Alexander the Great’s invasion of the Persian Empire, under which the Jewish people had been living for over two centuries, made them subjects of the Greeks. After Alexander’s death and the break-up of his empire, their land became the frontier between two of the successor states, the Egyptian kingdom ruled by his general Ptolemy, and the vast territory which fell to his general Seleucus, known as the Seleucid Empire. In the course of a series of wars, Judaea passed to the control of the latter in 198 BC.

The two biblical books of the Maccabees tell the story of the persecution of the Jews initiated by the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus IV, who succeeded to the throne in 175 BC, as part of his empire-wide policy of forced Hellenization. The first book begins with some harrowing stories of the terrible punishments inflicted on the Jews for continuing to observe the Law of Moses; it goes on to narrate the rebellion which broke out against the Seleucids in 167 BC, led by a priest named Mattathias, which would ultimately lead to the reestablishment of an independent Jewish kingdom.

“Maccabee” is derived through Latin and Greek from Aramaic “maqqaba – the hammer”, and is properly the nickname only of Judas, the third of Mattathias’ five sons, who on his father’s death took over the leadership of the rebellion (1 Macc. 2, 4). This nickname is extended to the two Biblical books, as well as several apocryphal works, and likewise to the other sons of Mattathias, and the Saints honored in today’s feast. However, nothing is known about the latter apart from the narration of their martyrdom in the seventh chapter of Second Maccabees, which does not give their names, and there is no reason to think they were related to Judah Maccabee and his family. There is a very ancient tradition that the name of the mother was Solomone, the Greek feminization of the name “Solomon”, although this is not stated in the Bible either.

A fresco of the 6th or 7th century in the church of Santa Maria Antiqua in the Roman Forum, showing Solomone in the middle, with a halo and her name written next to it, and Eleazar to the left, with his name written above his head.
The second half of 2 Maccabees 6 tells of the martyrdom of an elderly scribe of the Law named Eleazar, who refused to eat pork, or even pretend to eat it, in obedience to the Emperor’s edict, and for this was beaten to death. Some of the Church Fathers assumed that he was the father of the seven brothers, although this is also not stated in the Bible. In the Roman Breviary of St Pius V, this passage and the beginning of chapter 7 were read in the first nocturn of the fifth Sunday of October; in the second nocturn, a reading of St Gregory of Nazianzen commends Eleazar as “the first-fruits of those who suffered in this world before Christ… (who) offered seven sons, the fruits of his discipline, a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing to God, more splendid and pure than every sacrifice of the Law; for it is most right and just to refer to the father what belongs to the sons.” [1]

The liturgical texts of the Byzantine Rite, on the other hand, refer to Eleazar several times not as their father, but as their teacher. This seems to have been inferred from the last verse of chapter 6, “Thus did this man die, leaving not only to young men, but also to the whole nation, the memory of his death for an example of virtue and fortitude,” since his death is followed immediately by the heroic martyrdom of the seven young men. At Orthros, for example, the following text is sung in their Canon. “Rejoice, Eleazar, seeing your holy disciples piously contending on this day for the laws and commandments of their fathers, and with wise words reproving the madness of the persecutor Antiochus.” The reading of the Synaxarion (the Byzantine equivalent of the Martyrology) for their feast day also gives names to the seven brothers, Abim, Antonius, Gurias, Eleazar, Eusebonas, Akhim and Marcellus; it should be noted that at least two of these are highly improbable, since Antonius and Marcellus are Roman names.

In the traditional Ambrosian liturgy, the Maccabee Martyrs share their feast with St Eusebius [2], who was the first bishop of Vercelli in northern Italy from roughly 345 until his death in 371. As one of the great defenders of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity against the Arians, and a staunch supporter of St Athanasius, he suffered a long exile in the East at the command of the Roman Emperors; he was therefore one of the first “Confessors” in the original sense of the term, one who suffered for the Faith without undergoing a violent death. (In the Roman liturgy, he is traditionally honored as a Martyr.) The lengthy Ambrosian Preface of the Maccabees celebrates this day also as that of St Eusebius’ birth unto eternal life.

The reliquary of St Eusebius in the cathedral of Vercelli. (Photo by Nicola)
“Truly it is worthy and just, meet and profitable to salvation, that we, o Lord, in honor of Thy name, in the yearly feast of Thy Holy Martyrs the Maccabees, should celebrate with all wonderment those who, being brothers by birth, were companions in martyrdom. Their glorious mother conceived them in body and in spirit, so that those whom she had born into this world according to the flesh, she might also beget for glory unto almighty God, in spiritual fecundity. For those who were born according to the flesh that they might die, died piously unto life. Their tongues were cut our, their scalps taken, but in the midst of these things, these most glorious youths did not grieve for the cruelty of their torments, but exsulted that they died all the more gloriously, that they might each be a comfort and example to the others. After the rest, their mother by both blood and faith followed them at last, not that she might be last, but that before herself she might send to God the fruits of her womb, and so in peace follow her beloved sons. What then can we say, and with what exsultation, for the fact that on the day of their passion, there passed from this world to the seat of eternity the witness of the faith and confessor of the truth Eusebius? who on that very day, on which the martyrs of the Old Law suffered, as a champion of the New Testament was also taken to heaven. The former departed observing the commandments of the Jewish law; the latter fell asleep, affirming the unity of the undivided Trinity. Through Christ our Lord etc.”

In the official account of the post-conciliar changes made to the calendar, published by the Vatican Polyglot Press in 1969, it is stated that “the memorial of the Holy Maccabees, although it is very ancient and nearly universal, is left to local calendars; until the year 1960, it was kept only as a commemoration on the feast of St Peter’s Chains.” It would have been more accurate to say that the feast of the Maccabees was kept as part of the feast of St Peter’s Chains, since the same Roman basilica that houses the chains also keeps directly underneath them, in a crypt under the altar, the relics of these Saints. It not certain when or how exactly these relics came to be in Rome, and it is known that they were venerated at Antioch in the 4th century. Antioch, which was built by Seleucus and named for his father at the very end of the 4th century BC, was severely damaged by a terrible earthquake in 526, and never really recovered from the blow; it is quite possible that the relics were taken to Rome shortly thereafter.

This paleo-Christian sarcophagus in the crypt of St Peter in Chains is partitioned internally into eight compartments, which contain the relics believed to be those of the Maccabees. (Image from Wikipedia by Luciano Tronati, CC BY-SA 4.0)
The calendar commentary goes on to say “But now, the memorial of St Alfonse-Maria de’ Liguori is kept on August 1st, and according to the rubrics, another memorial cannot be kept on the same day.” This refers, of course to yet another innovation of the post-Conciliar reform which was not asked for nor even hinted at in Sacrosanctum Concilium, the almost total abolition of commemorations. The suppression of such an ancient feast for the sake of a merely rubrical expedient speaks very poorly for the reformers’ capacity to correctly identify which feasts were “truly of universal importance.” (SC 111)

[1] The reading from St Gregory was removed from the Breviary when the feast of Christ the King was instituted, which permanently impeded it; the readings from 2 Maccabees were redistributed through the week, with a special rubric to guarantee that they would almost always be read.

[2] In the post-Tridentine editions of the Ambrosian liturgical books, St Eusebius is completely detached from the feast of the Maccabees and transferred to August 17th; this error was corrected by revisions made in the early 20th century.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Baroque Vespers of St Ignatius of Loyola

For the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, here is a very Baroque musical setting of the psalms and hymn of his Second Vespers, composed by Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), an Italian Jesuit missionary in South America. The Magnificat is done here in Gregorian chant, followed by an instrumental sonata and an orchestral Te Deum.

A few interesting things to note here. Unlike basically all other religious orders, the Jesuits did not have a proper Office for their founder; these texts are all taken from the Common Office of a Simple Confessor, which can be found in any edition of the Roman Breviary. The first psalm is done in Gregorian chant, the others in polyphony with orchestral accompaniment, a deliberate gesture of respect, I imagine, to the older musical traditional. I don’t know why Zipoli did not include the Magnificat in his setting; perhaps the church for which he wrote this already had a setting which they did not wish to change.

St Ignatius and the Jesuits have taken a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and much of it unfair, for their approach to the liturgy, and especially the Divine Office, which they have never done in choir as an order. It should always been be borne in mind that the liturgical situation of the Society and the whole Catholic Church was very different before the Age of Revolutions began in the later 18th century. (I outlined this in my series on the reforms of the Breviary several years ago, specifically in reference to the Jesuits: see parts 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3.) And yet, here we have a very elaborate setting (which I admit is not entirely to my own personal tastes), not of a Mass, but of Vespers, written by a Jesuit, in an era when the solemn celebration of Vespers was still regarded as a very important part of any major feast. I have also read more than once that particularly in South America, the Jesuit missionaries quickly discovered that many of the native populations were incredibly talented at music, and put those talents to good use in the reducciones.

Domenico Zipoli was born in Prato in Tuscany, and after his early training, which included a brief stint with Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, he became the organist of the main Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesù, at the age of only 23. A year later, he went to Seville in Spain to join the Society; as a novice, he was sent to Buenos Aires, and from there to Córdoba in what is now Argentina, where he completed his studies, but was never ordained, since there was no bishop available at the time to ordain him. He died of tuberculosis in 1726, at the age of only 38, but his fame as a composer had spread thoughout South America; the Spanish Viceroy in Lima wrote to Córdoba, which is over 2,000 miles away, to request copies of his works, which are also found in the musical archives of many of the reducciones. (For a sense of perspective, Zipoli himself had less distance to travel to get from Rome to Seville.)

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