Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Traditional Liturgical... Radio stations??

Yes, that's right. Okay, its not strictly liturgical necessarily, but here are two places you can go to get traditional liturgical chant, polyphony, etc.

From the East:

Ancient Faith Radio

Description: Ancient Faith Radio provides high quality 24 hour internet based Orthodox radio. Here you will find music, teaching, interviews, features, convert testimonies, conference recordings, and much more.

Good online streaming chant from the Christian East.

From the West:

I don't have a link, but AOL's online radio stations includes a "Renaissance" category, the vast majority of which is renaissance sacred polyphony. I found this through "Winamp" which includes these radio stations -- and will incidentally also work with the station above as well.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Vatican official on the Latin Mass


Rome, Sep. 26 ( - An influential Vatican official
believes that Pope Benedict XVI could soon expand permission for
priests throughout the world to celebrate Mass using the Tridentine

However, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez cautions that serious
doctrinal issues, as well as liturgical questions, must be resolved
before the traditionalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) can be fully
reconciled with the Holy See.

Cardinal Medina, the former prefect of the Congregation for Divine
Worship, is a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission, set up by Pope
John Paul II to serve the needs of Catholics who cling to the Latin
Mass. In an interview with the I Media news service, the Chilean-
born prelate said that the Pope could act soon to liberalize Church
regulations, allowing all priests to use the Tridentine rite.

Questioned about the outcome of the Pope's August 29 meeting with
Bishop Bernard Fellay, the superior general of the SSPX, Cardinal
Medina observed that the meeting was preceded by "many other
contacts" between Vatican officials and representatives of the
Lefebvrist group. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, the prefect of
the Congregation for the Clergy, had met repeatedly with Bishop
Fellay, he said. And the Chilean prelate added that he, too, had met
with the traditionalist leader during his term as prefect of the
Congregation for Divine Worship.

Consequently, the cardinal said, "you could not say that they
meeting with the Holy Father was unexpected." He added that SSPX
leaders are well aware that Pope Benedict "is concerned about full
communion among all Catholics-- all Christians-- and particularly
those who uphold the decisions and positions of Archbishop

Reconciliation between the Vatican and the breakaway traditionalist
group, the cardinal continued, would require "addressing a list of
doctrinal difficulties." He said that a working group could be set
up to discuss those problems.

"But within the Society [SSPX], there are different currents,"
Cardinal Medina observed. While some members of the traditionalist
group are "inflexible," others are more inclined toward dialogue
with Rome, he said. He said that when some traditionalists refer to
the Novus Ordo Mass as "heretical" or "invalid," they create "an
extremely difficult situation." The Vatican will insist that SSPX
members acknowledge the validity of the post-conciliar Mass, he
said; they will also be required to accept the teachings of Vatican

After his meeting with Pope Benedict, Bishop Fellay suggested that a
first step toward reconciliation could be a Vatican recognition of
the right for all priests to celebrate the Tridentine-rite Mass,
using the liturgical form codified by Pope Pius V after the Council
of Trent. Cardinal Medina saw "no difficulty" in expanding access to
the Latin Mass. But he reiterated that such a step 'would not
resolve the fundamental problems with the SSPX."

Questioned on whether Vatican II intended to abolish the Tridentine
rite, Cardinal Medina said that the arguments were inconclusive on
that point.

However, he said, each rite is valid, and "the missal of St. Paul V
and that of Paul VI are both perfectly orthodox." He observed that
each ritual appeals to "different sensibilities," and noted that the
Offertory prayers of the old rite are particularly useful in their
emphasis on "the sacrifical character of the Mass: an essential
aspect of the Eucharistic celebration." The restoration of universal
permission to use the Tridentine Mass would involve canonical and
liturgical questions, but no major theological concerns, the
cardinal said. "So I hope that, little by little, the possibility of
celebrating the old form of the Roman rite will be opened," he said.

As a member of the Ecclesia Dei commission, Cardinal Medina
reported, he is sometimes asked to celebrate a Tridentine-rite Mass.
When he receives such a request, he said, "I do it, without asking
anyone's permission."

Karl Keating weighs in on the Liturgy

[I thought I would share this with the list as it highlights some of the liturgical struggles out there.]


September 27, 2005


Dear Friend of Catholic Answers:

Last week's E-Letter, which was about the possibility of a universal
permission for priests to celebrate the old Latin Mass (and how such a
permission may not have much effect), generated more posts at Catholic
Answers' forums than did any previous E-Letter.


One poster, in a private message to me, blamed me for using
"inflammatory rhetoric." I reread last week's E-Letter and could not see what
prompted him to use, uh, inflammatory rhetoric. It simply may be that, when it comes
to the old Mass, no matter which side you are on, anyone who disagrees
with you is being inflammatory, while you are being the model of composure.

Most of the responses to what I wrote, whether in favor of the old Mass
or opposed, were crafted in terms of the writers' personal preferences,
not in terms of liturgical theory or theology:

"I like Latin (because I understand it)." "I dislike Latin (because I
don't understand it)."

"I like Latin (even though I don't understand it)." "I dislike Latin
(even though I do understand it)."

"The old Mass is more reverent." "The new Mass is friendlier."

"The old Mass attracts young families." "The old Mass appeals just to
the old."

"The new Mass is unfulfilling." "The new Mass suits me just fine."

"The old Mass is elitist." "Calling the old Mass elitist is elitist."

And on it went, through 200 posts before I closed the thread. What I
took to be a low-intensity E-Letter sure generated a lot of heat.

I still think that my main point was almost devoid of controversy: If
we want to know whether there is a "demand" for the old Mass, we need to
set up a fair test and--something I did not say explicitly--give that test
enough time and support so that it really will be fair.

No one knows how many Catholics would prefer the old Mass to the new.
We do not even know how many might prefer to attend the new Mass in Latin
versus the new Mass in the vernacular because there has been no widespread
test of that either.

When changes were first made to the Mass, nearly forty years ago now,
they were of two kinds. The most obvious was the switch from Latin to the
vernacular. More subtle were changes in the underlying prayers. The
text of the Mass was simplified in some ways, adjusted in others. While many
prayers stayed the same, many were modified--and some even disappeared.

I never have met a layman who said that changing the prayers of the
Mass was something that was high on his wish list in the 1960s, but I have met
countless older laymen who liked the change from Latin to English. I
suspect that had the old Mass simply been put into the English that was found
on the facing pages of missals, very little of the subsequent liturgical
turmoil would have occurred.

That English was not old-fashioned. It was a twentieth-century
translation that did not use "thee" or "thou." It was dignified but not stiffly
formal. At times it even was poetic. It certainly surpassed the current

In the official Latin edition of the new Mass, many of the prayers are
identical to those in the old Mass. It is instructive to compare their
current translations to the ones found in the old missals. Sadly, often
there is no comparison. It is as though in the space of a generation
translators developed tin ears.

The best example of this, I think, is not actually from the prayers of
the Mass itself but from one of the readings. Psalm 23 used to say that God
"refreshes my soul." Now he "revive[s] my drooping spirit." Clunk.
Whenever I read the revised line the image I have is of a frazzled woman taking
a breather from household chores. "Drooping" is just too colloquial.

I do not want to imply that the English that we now have in the Mass is
everywhere inferior to the English that used to be found in the
missals. That is almost universally the case, but only almost. There is at least
one improvement.

In the third Eucharist prayer the priest says, "From age to age you
gather a people to yourself so that from east to west a perfect offering may be
made to the glory of your name." The central words are a revision of what
used to be "from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof."

The older translation certainly seems more evocative, but I suspect in
most people it evoked the wrong idea. The underlying Latin text is talking
about a sacrifice that is made everywhere throughout the world. "From east to
west" covers that. "From the rising of the sun to the setting thereof"
also covers it--if you understand that the phrase is referring to
geographical extent and not to the time of day.

But most Catholics, not thinking things through or not being blessed
with a good literary background, likely understood "from the rising of the sun
to the setting thereof" to be a synonym for "from morning until night."
After all, that is what the phrase means in everyday language.

"I work hard from sunrise to sunset" implies that at night, at least, I
do not work. It does not mean that I work from one end of the world to the
other. The older translation, pretty as it was, gave many people a bum
steer, and the newer translation gets the point across better.

No doubt the industrious can find other improved renderings in the
current text of the Mass, but none come to my mind at the moment. In any case,
the number cannot be large, which is one reason we are getting a better
translation in a few years. (Yes, one is in the works--and has been for
much longer than most of those working on it ever expected. Present
indications are that the English will be improved considerably.)

Hmmm. I see that, like the respondents to last week's E-Letter, I have
gotten carried away. My apologies. Discussing the text of the Mass can
do that to you. I will do my best to write about something quite different
next week.

Until next time,


Universal Indult rumours

Church historian sees end to restrictions on Latin Mass

Dublin, Sep. 15 ( - Pope Benedict XVI will take action soon to allow all Catholic priests to celebrate the Latin Mass, a Cambridge historian has predicted.

Speaking to a conference of priests in Ireland earlier this week, Eamonn Duffy said that it was "extremely likely that Pope Benedict will lift the restrictions on the celebration of the Tridentine liturgy," the Irish Independent reported.

The Tridentine ritual, which was the universal form of the Mass prior to Vatican II, is now celebrated only with the explicit permission, or "indult," of the diocesan bishop. Some Vatican-watchers speculate that Pope Benedict will announce a "universal indult," giving blanket permission for all Catholic priests to use the old ritual.

In remarks to the National Conference of Priests of Ireland, Eamonn Duffy said that he thought the Pope would make the policy change in October, during the meeting of the Synod of Bishops. The topic for Synod discussions is the Eucharist.

[Comment: Will it happen? Hard to say. And I'm not certain what "in" Eamon Duffy has in making this prediction, or if he is merely conjecturing like anyone of us as to what might happen under Pope Benedict. I must say though, my attitude tends to be "I'll believe it when I see it." For my part, I hope he is right in his prediction, though I must confess that what needs to really happen is a move which will help the Tridentine rite religious orders operate in a way where whether a local bishop is friendly to them or not is as irrelevant as it is to a Byzantine Catholic. -- SRT]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Una Voce Conference - 2 interesting points

Point 1: They have their own blog up now:

Point 2: (Quoted from their blog) "The low Mass on Saturday, November 19th will be according to the Rite of Braga, celebrated by a priest of the Archdiocese of Braga: Father Joseph Santos. The Rite of Braga was one of the rites permitted by the Council of Trent and dates from the 12th century AD. The Holy Father (then Cardinal Ratzinger) mentioned it in his talk on the Ten Years of the Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei" . This is a rare blessing for the conference attendees, to see such an ancient and uncommon liturgy of the Church!"

Friends of La Nef blog

I've been asked to sign on to a new blog, Friends of La Nef spearheaded by Pete Vere, the Canon Lawyer who wrote the (canonical) book on the SSPX.

The blog defines itself as "a blog promoting Catholic traditionalism and the Ecclesia Dei movement through orthodoxy, intellegent and non-polemical writing that is respectful of the Church and her hierarchy."

The ultimate purpose of the blog seems to be an attempt to get an English language equivalent of the French journal "La Nef" going.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Book Review: Looking again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger

Book Review: Looking again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Conference. Edited by Dom Alcuin Reid, OSB. St. Michael's Abbey Press: 2003.

Reviewed by Shawn Tribe

Books of essays are not always appealing to the general public, but this is a collection that is simply too important to pass up. This publication presents essays that were given at a liturgical conference held deep in (what remains of) Catholic France, at the traditional Benedictine Abbey of Fontgombault – a conference organized and presided over by (then) Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now our beloved Pope. The nature of this conference is perhaps most succinctly explained by Dom Alcuin Reid in his introduction:

"How, today... do we achieve 'the true celebration of the liturgy'? Is the answer a wholesale return to the traditional rites? Is it in accepting a wide diversity of divergent uses – new, old and inculturated – in the Roman rite? Or is it in seeking an official reform of the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council? These are the issues that were discussed by both liturgists and well qualified non-liturgists alike..."

In the past, Cardinal Ratzinger and others have spoken of the need for a new liturgical movement, and this conference would certainly have to be classified as yet another step in that direction. Particularly important in this endeavour is that its speakers and invitees were equally representative of the Tridentine rite and Reform-of-the-Reform movement. This gives the book with a healthy, rigorous and moderate balance which helps to draw out the bigger liturgical issues in addition to the particular considerations which affect each community.

Four main themes are pursued in the book: the theology of the liturgy, anthropological aspects of the liturgy, the question of diversity of liturgical rites within the Roman rite, and the problems and lessons to be learned from the liturgical reform. The themes are tackled in an academic way, which is typically both constructive as well as critical – but a criticism that is free from polemics. A particular strength of the book is to be found in the addresses on the themes of the liturgical reform and the diversity of rites. The former essays lay bare the underlying theological and philosophical precepts which influenced and derailed both the original liturgical movement and the liturgical reform and gives a keen insight into some fundamental problems which need to be addressed. The latter tackles the issue of openness to legitimate liturgical diversity in the Latin rite, taking head on the kind attitudes which would marginalize the classical Roman rite, or which would pit those in the two communities represented in this book against one another. In this sense, implicit within this book is a subtle call for reason and common sense for the good of both communities and for the liturgy itself. The book's constructive dimension is particularly found in the practical considerations and suggestions for how we might move forward to a genuine renewal. This dimension is what particularly marks this text as one of the foundational documents of the new liturgical movement.

The spirit of this text is not that of a rejection of the Second Vatican Council, nor of the idea of reform or ressourcement as pertains to the liturgy. Rather, it is defined by a desire for a more genuine and thorough approach to the Council, faithful to the rule of Faith (lex credendi) and to the Church's tradition and Council's requirement for organic development. This is what must define our rule of prayer (lex orandi), for as Cardinal Ratzinger reminds us, "what we previously knew only in theory has become for us a practical experience: the Church stands and falls with the Liturgy. When the adoration of the divine Trinity declines, when the faith no longer appears in its fullness in the Liturgy of the Church, when man's words, his thoughts, his intentions are suffocating him, then faith will have lost the place where it is expressed and where it dwells. For that reason, the true celebration of the Sacred Liturgy is the centre of any renewal of the Church whatsoever."

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sponsor the NLM Blog to attend important Liturgical Conferences!

Calling all benefactors!

The Idea: NLM weblog attendance at the most important liturgical conferences

The Purpose: 1) Report in detail on the acta of these conferences, including photographs if permissable to conference organizers, to this weblog; 2) use the research presented for advancing the new liturgical movement by means of article writings, reviews, etc. both on this weblog and Catholic periodicals.

The Need: Benefactors willing to fund (either in full or in part) travel and accomodation expenses to this end.

The Reward: See "the purpose", and mull over the heavenly rewards. ;)

The context: The above idea comes as the result of my musing with some of my blog team on how it would be good if I could attend some of the very most important liturgical conferences to better serve this weblog and the new liturgical movement in general. Sadly, this requires significant financial resources, and one's which I simply do not have. A person suggested to me that there are benefactors around who are willing to fund such projects in the name of the good of the sacred liturgy, and for their own benefit by sending someone as their proxy of sorts. At first I felt it too self-serving to even put out the possibility. However, on thinking of it more, I realize, the goal here is really to advance the new liturgical movement, and this means funding people. Moreover, if the Lord wills it, the Lord will provide. If not, I shall be content to serve him in whatever way I can from here.

Therefore, if you are such a benefactor, or if anyone knows of such a benefactor sympathetic to the goals of this blog, and would be interested in funding or helping to fund such a project, please have them contact me privately. In such an instance, money would only exchange hands when such a time occurs that enough money was available for such a venture, and it was confirmed that I would be able to attend. If the latter should not be possible, the offer would be held null and void unless the benefactor should wish to conditionally extend it for possible conferences in the future.

At present, there are two conferences which seem particularly important, both of which are in Oxford:

1) Ever Directed to the Lord Conference, Oxford, England (Oct. 29, 2005) -- Estimated funds that would need to be raised: $1000 USD for flight and moderate accomodation for 2 nights.

2) 2006 CIEL Conference, Oxford, England (Oct. 2006) -- Estimated funds that would need to be raised: $1200 USD

Monday, September 19, 2005

New Liturgy books available from Ignatius Press

[From Ignatius Press]

The History and Future of the Roman Liturgy

By Denis Crouan

Since the Second Vatican Council, the liturgy has become the source of conflicting opinions. This situation has given rise to disputes that continue to divide those who practice their faith. But what has created this state of affairs? Author Denis Crouan shows how the decisions made by Vatican II that aimed at restoring the Roman rite were presented poorly, applied incorrectly, and often not applied at all.

In many places the Mass has been turned into a permanent work-in-progress, in which the objectivity of the liturgy yields to the subjectivity of those who take part in it.

Where does the current unwillingness to apply the liturgical rules come from? Why have the directives of the last council been ignored or circumvented? This book offers answers to the questions asked by Catholics who want to understand their liturgy better, so as to put an end to deviant practices that threaten Church unity.

ISBN: 1586170155
Length: 324 pages
Price: $19.95 USD

The Mass and Modernity: Walking to Heaven Backward
By Fr. Jonathan Robinson, cong. orat.

Many in the Church have accepted modernity in their effort to speak to the modern world, and not nearly enough attention has been given to trying to disentangle the complex of ideas and half-formulated convictions that constitute this mind-set which is in fact contrary to Christianity.

The first aim of this book is to examine the origins and present day influence of modernity, and then to argue that there is nothing in the Christian's concern for the modern world that requires accepting this damaging mind-set in connection with the highest form of worship, the Mass.

The second aim of the book is to show that that the sources of a genuine liturgical renewal are to be found in a heightened sense of the centrality of the Mass and a return to a theology compatible with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“Fr. Robinson’s book is a philosopher’s gift to the Catholic liturgy. He provides a thoroughly lucid account of the climate of ideas which handicaps the celebration of Catholic worship in the modern world. This is a diagnosis which shows just how far reaching must be the cure.” -- Fr. Aidan Nichols

Availability: On Back Order
ISBN: 1586170694
Length: 380 pages
Your Price: $17.95

More from Fr. Stravinkas

Homily delivered by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph.D., S.T.D. on the occasion of the annual celebration of the patronal feast of the St. Gregory Foundation for Latin Liturgy, 3 September 1996, at the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City.

As we once more find ourselves honoring st. Gregory the Great, we are reminded of the fact that he earned the title of “Great” because his influence extended to so many areas of ecclesiastical and civil life. The one sphere of his interest and perhaps his finest success, however, was that of beautifying the Roman Liturgy. It was for that reason, obviously, that he was chosen to be our heavenly patron when we embarked upon our venture with this Foundation seven years ago.

When Pope Gregory looked at the Roman liturgy of his day, he realized a reform was needed.. Today we hear voices like Cardinal Ratzinger’s raised, calling for “a reform of the reform” which occurred in the seventies. What might some obstacles be in the way of such a project? I have assembled a dozen such hindrances – in no special priority order; the list is not exhaustive, but I think it makes a good start. Will you allow me to lead you in this introspective and reflective exercise? What problems suggest themselves?

1. The lack of eschatology: “Eschatology” is an intimidating word for a most essential aspect of Christian faith, namely, conviction about the afterlife. Sacraments, you see, ultimately make no sense if we don’t view our life here below as the prelude to something bigger, better and more enduring. Cardinal Ratzinger maintains that the gravest error of the post-conciliar period has been the shunting off of eschatology to the sidelines of the Catholic experience. Admittedly, forty years ago one could get the impression that life on earth was little more than a troublesome way-station, through which we had to pass to get to the “real thing.” But we’ve now gone to the opposite extreme in many cases, both in our preaching and in our teaching. Twenty years ago, people were already remarking that we never heard homilies on Hell anymore; now, it’s hard to discover homilies on Heaven. The sacraments are the meeting-place between time and eternity, between Heaven and Earth; hence, a one-dimensional view of things does irreparable damage to the sacramental system as God willed it for our salvation. Sacramentality without eschatology is meaningless and ineffectual sentimentality.

2. A misreading of Sacrosanctum Concilium: Please do not think me irreverent when I say that the greatest Catholic secret is not the “third secret of Fatima.” Without fear of contradiction, I believe it is the material contained in Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal giving it competition for neglect. Before anyone is allowed to declare something a desideratum of the Council, it should have to be proved that the person in question has indeed read the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy – and has read it with the same lenses as the Council Fathers who approved it. A careful reading of that text reveals that the goal was to be liturgical renewal, not a liturgical reform which has devolved into liturgical choreography which, in turn, has led to little more than an incessant re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

3. Spiritualism/Neo-Gnosticism: We must recall the significance of symbols and how the created world brings us into contact with the uncreated. Ironically, not a few liturgists who press mightily for a deeper appreciation of sign and symbol are the gravest offenders when it comes to what I have dubbed “neo-gnosticism.” The “old” gnostics had no use for the material universe and so despised the use of sacramental signs. Their contemporary descendants do not see how important it is to take symbols seriously – which means, among other things, not tampering with them unnecessarily. Or, as the priest-sociologist Andrew Greeley is fond of saying, “When you’re talking about a symbol, you can never modify it by the adverb ‘just’.” Nothing is “just a symbol.” As a body-soul unity, the human person needs signs and symbols to direct and focus one’s being on affairs outside the normal scope or range. St. Thomas Aquinas understood this well when he asserted that “we arrive at the invisible through the visible.”

4. Exaggerated immanentism: One of the most tragic developments in liturgy has been an anthropocentrism which has pitted itself, with a vengeance, against theocentrism, that is, an approach to liturgy which has so emphasized the horizontal as to obfuscate or even, in some instances, obliterate the vertical. Now, no one would be foolish enough to suggest that human considerations and realities should not be given due attention in the celebration of worship; after all, as Pope John Paul has put it so well, “man cannot live without adoring.” So, yes, there must be concern for what “makes us tick,” so that worship can be “meaningful” in the most profound way we can interpret that word. However, the focus must nonetheless be clear: It is God Whom we must adore, not ourselves.

When we lose sight of the sacred and the transcendent, in the end we distort the nature of Christian worship so fundamentally as to make it of little use to man and an abomination to God. We desperately need to re-capture reverence, awe and mystery in our rites; without those basic components, it is no surprise that our young people inform us that they find the Sacred Liturgy “boring.”

5. A lost sense of sin: If we have lost our sense of the sacred, even more have we lost our sense of sin, so much so that over two decades ago, the non-believing psychiatrist, Karl Menninger, could author a book entitled, Whatever Became of Sin? Granted, we Catholics are not Lutherans or Calvinists or Fundamentalists who almost delight in sin. But we must take account of sin – it is an indispensable element of the human equation since the sin of our first parents, no matter what Matthew Fox would have us believe. In fact, the ever-quotable Chesterton once quipped that the only dogma of the Catholic Faith which is absolutely provable from human experience is original sin. And it is precisely because of the existence of sin and our weak human natures that God, in His goodness, gave us the sacramental system. Adam and Eve, in the state of original justice, did not need sacraments; they communicated with God face-to-face.

Similarly, we must recall that each and every sacrament is, in some way, connected to returning man to his lost innocence. And that awareness should make us rejoice in the goodness of God and in the nearness of our salvation. Anything less is but a shadow of the fullness and brightness of the whole truth.

6. Excessive subjectivity: In the “old days,” it is probably fair to say, the sacramental principle of ex opere operato may have been over-emphasized, but now that is being done with the companion principle of ex opere operantis. What do I mean? Ex opere operato theology holds that the sacraments “work” simply by virtue of the power of Christ’s grace, so that with a duly ordained minister, proper form and matter and a right intention, a sacrament is confected.

Nowadays, we suffer from the flipside. Ex opere operantis teaches that human cooperation is needed for the offer of divine grace to be fruitful. And that has brought about a new form of Pelagianism. You may remember old Pelagius from the fifth century, who preached the sufficiency of human effort for salvation. He was mightily resisted by none other than the great Father of the Church, St. Augustine. The Doctor of Grace acknowledged that there is a human element to human salvation, to be sure, but he also stressed that God’s work is primary and indispensable. In much of the liturgical practice of the day, we encounter both implicit and explicit denials of the necessity of grace. In all too many of the ICEL translations, for example, the Latin word gratia is totally ignored in the English renditions, with subtle, long-range but truly disastrous effects.

7. The reduction of language, art and music to the least common denominator: Thomas Day tweaked the liturgical establishment with his insightful and popular book, Where Have You Gone, Michelangelo? The sign of their discomfort was their near-total silence in response. So much of the external dimension of Catholic worship in the post-conciliar period is impoverished, banal and bleak. A visitor from Mars would never imagine that we are supposed to be the spiritual descendants of a Giotto or Mozart, a Da Vinci or Vittoria, a Boromini or Palestrina. Style and class have been banished from most Catholic sanctuaries in our land – and we are all the poorer for it. The transient, the ephemeral, the cheap have replaced the beautiful, the uplifting, the inspiring. The perfect symbol of all this is the disposable missalette, for there is little of permanence to be found therein.

When we survey the landscape of the would-be liturgical arts of the past thirty-five years, what do we behold? Truth be told, we find little, except for what was created last year or the year before.

As we turn our gaze toward the language of worship, what could be more confusing and upsetting than English translations which are of a lower quality than most tabloids and of such dubious theological worth? Only a fool would imagine that the average worshipping Catholic on any given Sunday morning is a Shakespearean scholar, but he is not an idiot, either. The genius of the Book of Common Prayer was that it used elevated language to elevate an entire nation, so that words, phrases and thought-patterns of that liturgical text became the very fiber of language of the English people from that day forward.

Please do not get me wrong. I am not arguing for a “bells and smells” attitude in regard to liturgy so well exemplified by the Anglicans because, in sadness, we must admit that most of them are “all dressed up with nowhere to go.” But once again, there is a happy medium between foppishness and the contemporary cult of the slob. Beyond that, it is crucial to recall that Aristotle taught us that “the good, the true and the beautiful” coinhere, that is, you can’t have one without the others. Having lost the beautiful, should we be amazed to wake up and find that we shall have eventually lost the good and the true as well?

8. Celebration of sacraments without requisite faith or knowledge: Someone has observed that the contemporary problem may be summed up in the line that all too many of our people are “sacramentalized but not catechized.” I would go even a step farther and say that in many instances, they are not even evangelized. Granted, we believe that sacraments confer grace by their very operation, but Sacrosanctum Concilium (which spends several paragraphs talking about this matter) makes the point that all this presupposes recipients who are “well-disposed” [cf. nn. 59-61]. In addition to the obvious element of being in the state of grace, proper disposition includes faith and a basic grasp of the doctrines involved. Without those two dimensions, the Church’s sacramental life would be little more than magic – a caricature of her teaching and Tradition from time immemorial.

9. American Pragmatism: We Americans are notorious for being satisfied with the “quick fix,” which leads to a poor sense of liturgy and is revealed in minimalism. The old “get
’em in and get ’em out” mentality did not die with the last celebration of the pre-conciliar rites. We find it today when people ask questions like: Is incense required? If not, forget it. It is operative when pastors decide that they will use extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion “because otherwise it’ll take too long.” It comes to the fore when we go for a vessel or vestment which is ugly and cheap because it “works” just as well as something beautiful and more expensive.

We need to re-capture the idea of liturgy as having no practical purpose – only to adore God and elevate man. More than two decades ago, Hugo Rahner [Karl’s brother] wrote a book called, Man at Play. Father Rahner used the expression in its best and deepest sense, namely, that the most important thing that man can do is to “waste” time and energy before his God.

10. “Chinese Monkey” Bishops/Liturgy Offices: By this term, I refer to those in authority who are committed to hearing, seeing and speaking no evil. In other words, they don’t want to be confronted by reality and do not wish to confront it, either. Therefore, when liturgical abuses are reported, they are ignored or glossed over or, worse yet, the complainer is labeled “negative” or “legalistic.” I am firmly convinced that demands for the Tridentine Mass are directly related to the inability of those in authority to control the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy according to the revised rites. Many indult-Mass devotees mistakenly equate the new rite with aberrations, forgetting that without enforcement of norms, the old rite would go in exactly the same direction. After all, if a priest or other minister has no intention of following the rubrics and his superior has no intention of making him do so, a liturgy hand-written by the Son of God Himself would be ruined as well.

Put simply, disregard for liturgical law – whether coming from the left or the right – must be dealt with, if we are going to have a liturgy which is sacred, closed to political influence, and conducive to the peace of the Church.

11. Pseudo-sophistication: One of the most justified gripes against the liturgical reform is the charge of an inordinately verbal/cerebral approach to worship. We are awash in words and short on symbols – and that is not the Catholic way. The Protestant reformers shied away from signs and symbols because, whether consciously or not, they had a fear of the Incarnation. Catholic sensibilities have always been very keen on celebrating the beauty of created things and their ability to move us beyond to their Creator – and ours. The Baroque in art, architecture and music was the Catholic response to Protestant skittishness with beauty. Nowadays, we often come up against a mindset which suggests that what cannot be quantified, objectified and analyzed is little more than magic, superstition or peasant spirituality. Pascal was right to warn us that “the heart has reasons the mind knows not of.” In good catechesis, in good liturgy, as in all fully human experiences of life, there is not, nor should there ever be, any dichotomy between the head and the heart; they are intimately, inextricably related and mutually reinforcing.

12. Antiquarianism/Trendiness: Many observers have remarked that so-called liberals and conservatives have much more in common than they would like to admit. One wit said of an archconservative priest-friend, “He’s gone so far right to the right that he’s on the left.” In liturgical matters, it is not uncommon to hear proponents of a particular practice imagine that they have secured their argument with the line, “And it was done that way in the Early Church” – or some other allegedly “golden era” in the Church. In Mediator Dei, that landmark liturgical encyclical of Pope Pius XII, the Church was cautioned against “antiquarianism.” We judge something on the basis of its value, not its age. Therefore, simply because something is old does not necessarily mean that it is good. Trendiness makes the opposite presumption, and it is equally wrong.


As we come to the end of our liturgical review, we recall that St. Gregory’s nickname, which is engraved on his tombstone in St. Peter’s Basilica was “God’s consul” since he always endeavored to make the divine agenda the human agenda. May I suggest that we ask “God’s consul” to give us the insight, the faith and the courage to advance the restoration of the good, the true and the beautiful to the Roman Rite? I am sure that he would be most receptive to such a petition and would even be willing to share his title with us.
Sancte Gregori, ora pro nobis.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Modest Proposal - Part 2

I received a great deal of interest in the development of brochures for the promotion of the reform of the reform.

A couple of areas have come up as obvious brochure topics. One is the whole issue of ad orientem celebration. Sacred music was another.

With regards sacred music, I'd be interested in hearing suggestions people might have for what might be brought out in such a pamphlet? Or whether there might be multiple pamphlets for such a topic?

What other topics do those think relevant? The use of Latin is a possibility.

At any rate, I've decided to throw it open for suggestions. If you have a suggestion, please leave a comment.

Una Voce Conference, Rhode Island


Una Voce America would like to invite you to a special weekend conference this
November (Nov. 18-20) in Providence, Rhode Island: TRADITION IN THE 21st

The guest of honor for this weekend will be BISHOP RIFAN of Campos, Brazil, and
the list of speakers includes Father JOSEPH WILSON (contributor to; Father THOMAS KOCIK (Fall River, MA Diocese and well-known
Catholic writer); and Fra FREDRICK CRICHTON-STUART (Vice-president FIUV).

The conference will start Friday, Nov. 18 with workshops and presentations for
UVA chapter leaders; Saturday, Nov. 19th is open to all and will include a
line-up of lectures and lunch, followed by a dinner and key-note speaker;
Sunday, Nov. 20th concludes the weekend with a pontifical High Mass and
Communion breakfast with speaker. In addition to the roster of speakers, the
conference weekend will include pontifical vespers, Holy Hour, confessions, and
a pontifical High Mass offered by Bp. Rifan. Accomodations will be available at
a conference rate at the Providence Marriott.


Friday, September 16, 2005

Press Release from Society of St. Catherine of Siena

Society of St. Catherine of Siena


A One-Day Conference at Blackfriars, Oxford Saturday 29th October 2005

Ever Directed to the Lord . . .
The Love of God in the Liturgy of the Eucharist Past, Present, and Hoped For


Professor Eamon Duffy, University of Cambridge
Fr. Jonathan Robinson, Provost, Toronto Oratory
Professor Lauren Pristas, Caldwell College
Dr. Laurence Hemming, Heythrop College, University of London
Professor Paul Bradshaw, University of Notre Dame
Dr. Susan Parsons, Society of St. Catherine of Siena

Registration begins at 9.00 am. The Opening Mass will be offered by the
Archbishop of Birmingham.

£25 • £15 students: cheques payable to the Society of St. Catherine of
Siena. Places at the conference are very limited – please apply in advance
with conference fee to Conference, Society of St. Catherine of Siena, 32,
Denison Street, Beeston. NG9 1AY.

This will be a major conference, intended to mark the end of the Year of the
Eucharist and which will re-open questions of central importance. We have
already had a message of support for it from Cardinal Arrinze, Prefect of
the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Conference Sponsors include: The Friends of the Society of St. Catherine of
Siena; Blackfriars, Oxford; St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford; SCM-Canterbury Press
Ltd; The Latin Mass Society; The Oratories of St. Philip Neri in London and
Oxford; Anthony Short and Partners (Ashbourne); Prince Rupert zu Löwenstein;
Mrs. Linda Helm. We are at present seeking other sponsors.


Conference, Society of St. Catherine of Siena, 32, Denison Street, Beeston.

[The attached file is here below. Simply copy and paste it into your Word Processing program - SRT]

The Society of St. Catherine of Siena

A One-Day Conference at Blackfriars, Oxford
Saturday 29th October 2005

Ever Directed to the Lord . . .
The Love of God in the Liturgy of the Eucharist
Past, Present, and Hoped For

Eamon Duffy • Jonathan Robinson • Lauren Pristas
• Laurence Hemming • Paul Bradshaw • Susan Parsons

Registration begins at 9.00 am. The Opening Mass will be offered by
the Archbishop of Birmingham.

Name (please include all names of attendees applying):


I wish to reserve ( ) place(s) for the conference and I enclose a
cheque for (£ ).

£25 • £15 students and Friends of the Society: cheques payable to the
Society of St. Catherine of Siena. Places at the conference are very
limited – please send conference fee to: Conference, Society of St.
Catherine of Siena, 32, Denison Street, Beeston. NG9 1AY.

I wish to be named as a sponsor of the conference and I enclose a
donation for (£ ).

Registration begins at 9.00 am. The Opening Mass will be offered by
the Archbishop of Birmingham.

Because Places at the conference are limited, there is an allocation of
seats for Friends and associates of the Society of St. Catherine of
Siena, so it will help if you use the form of words below to inidicate
this to us.

I am/am not a Friend of the Society of St. Catherine of Siena.

I have/have not attended events of the Society of St. Catherine of
Siena in the past.

Conference Sponsors include: The Friends of the Society of St.
Catherine of Siena; Blackfriars, Oxford; St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford;
SCM-Canterbury Press Ltd; The Latin Mass Society; The Oratories of St. Philip Neri
in London and Oxford; Anthony Short and Partners (Ashbourne); Prince
Rupert zu Löwenstein; Mrs. Linda Helm.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Word from the East (continued)

When you come to worship the Lord in the Byzantine liturgical tradition, you come to meet the Lord of Glory. The worship in the early Church had a strong eschatological dimension, for many expected the imminent return of Christ. Churches faced east (ours still do), the place of the rising sun and hence of the return of the Light of the World. “As lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt. 24:27). We face east because it belongs to Christian worship to expect the return of the Lord. (When you die, you’re supposed to be buried facing east, too, though that’s not always possible.) Many of our liturgical texts have to do with preparing, in one way or another, for Judgment Day.

Worship in the Byzantine tradition helps to ease our sense of exile from Paradise—by taking us there! It is understood that what we do in our churches here on earth is not merely a humble imitation of the heavenly worship, but an actual participation in it. As we read in the Book of Revelation, the angels and saints worship the Lord unceasingly. For the time we are church praising God, we “plug in” to that heavenly choir, for the Church is one both in heaven and on earth, and the Lamb of God is one, in the glory of heaven and upon the altars on earth.

In the same way, the icons that adorn Byzantine churches are not mere reminders of the presence of Christ, the Mother of God, and the saints—they are spiritual portals through which they are actually present. The angels and saints unceasingly worship the Lord, and you are there! A Byzantine church is never without a “congregation,” for every Liturgy is crowded with heavenly worshippers.

On this topic of participating in the heavenly liturgy, the late Fr Alexander Schmemann makes an interesting point. He says that we shouldn’t think primarily of Christ descending from heaven to our altars during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Rather, the Divine Liturgy is a movement of ascension: rather than coming to where we are, Christ takes us up to where He is! He promised his disciples that they would eat and drink at his table in his kingdom (Lk. 22:30), and that is what we do in a mystical way during the Divine Liturgy.

The presence of God is always a transcendent mystery in Byzantine worship, and hence must be approached with reverence. The design of the churches (e.g. the sanctuary separated from the nave and inaccessible to all but clergy and acolytes) and the structure of the Liturgy itself (e.g. in its hieratic language and solemn ritual) foster that sense of mystery and reverence. But there is also an invitation to intimacy, lest one’s holy fear and trembling would prevent his approach to the Holy Mysteries. We kiss the sacred images and the holy cross, and we eat and drink the Body and Blood of the Son of God, at once the most reverent and intimate of liturgical acts.

Another way of expressing the mystery of God is by covering the holy things. To hide or cover something is meant to communicate, in a non-verbal way, that this is holy, a divine mystery. The sanctuary is set off from the rest of the church by a screen of icons, and usually by a curtain as well. This is the Holy of Holies. It is to be veiled: the eyes of even the seraphim cannot look upon the blinding glory of God. When the deacon carries the Gospel book in procession, he covers it with his orarion (stole), for the word of the Lord is holy. Likewise the gifts prepared for the Eucharistic Sacrifice are veiled: they are elements of a divine mystery. This is the main reason why Eastern Churches do not have exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. According to Eastern religious sensibilities, that which is most holy is not to be exposed to view, but remains under the veil of mystery. As it is said, nothing is revealed by gazing on the consecrated Host, because the senses only perceive bread. What is revealed to the senses can be seen in the icons of the mysteries of the life of Christ, which occupy one tier of the iconostas. There is depicted visually the mystery that can only be interiorly known by actual communion in the Holy Eucharist.

(Another reason there is no exposition, benediction (outside of the Liturgy, anyway), or similar Eucharistic devotions is a historical one. The Byzantine Churches did not suffer from the medieval Eucharistic heresy begun by Berengarius, so no special practices were needed to emphasize the Real Presence, the faith in which was never so threatened in the East. In a similar situation, the West was relatively unscathed by the iconoclastic heresy that ravaged the East. Therefore the East developed a detailed theology of sacred images to counteract the heresy, while such a theology remained undeveloped in the West.)

Finally, before I go back to monastic silence, I’ll say something about silence. I’m not sure how things are in the Byzantine churches on the parish level, but here in our monastery we permit zero small talk in the church. I have no qualms about walking up to people who would chat in the house of God, reminding them where they are, and asking them to step outside if they wish to continue their conversation. If it is a liturgical principle that there is to be unceasing praise during the times of services, it is also a principle that there is to be unceasing reverence through silence when a service is not in progress. Singing and silence belong inside the church; conversations belong outside. Divine intimacy is not expressed through cheap human familiarity, but through the rituals prescribed by the Church for the sake of bringing man to God and God to man.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Liturgical Conference and Call for Papers

[Thanks to Stratford Caldecott for pointing this out. Please note the call for papers at the bottom paragraph.]

CONFERENCE: The Liturgical Legacy of Pope John Paul II

Commemorating the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II, The Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, announces a conference examining the liturgical legacy of Pope John Paul II.

As the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy Newsletter has commented, “Pope John Paul’s efforts were aimed at enabling all to appreciate the deepest spiritual dimensions of the Sacred Liturgy,” (v. 61, March-April 2005). Many liturgical books were renewed and other writings clarified the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in the area of liturgy. Subject matter for proposals may include, but is not limited to, the Missale Romanum (2002), the Ordo Lectionum Missae (1981), Order for Crowning the Blessed Virgin Mary (1987), Rites of Anointing and Pastoral Care of the Sick (1983), De Benedictionibus (1984), Directory for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of Priest (1988), Ordo Celebrandi Matrimonium, edition altera (1990), as well Liturgiam authenticam (2001), Varietates Legitimae (1994), Vicesimus quintus annus (1989), Spiritus et Sponsa (2003), reflections on the Eucharist, ad limina addresses, and motu proprios.

The Liturgical Institute seeks to bring together established scholars and new voices representing the "John Paul II Generation," theologians who have been formed by John Paul's theological contributions to the Church in the area of sacred liturgy.

See website for more details.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Mysterium Fidei problem

An interesting issue recently came up in our parish (a very typical medium-sized parish) concerning the sung Mysterium Fidei, and our experience might have implications for others who might be dealing with this or other similar issues.

Our schola over four years has systematically introduced most of the ordinary parts of the Mass in Latin with simple settings as well as a consistent use of the Communio and sometimes the Introit from the Gregorian Hymnal (Solesmes), in addition to employing solemn hymnody. One small piece we haven't really tackled--for a variety of reasons generally classified as "pastoral"--is the sung "Mystery of Faith" and "Memorial Acclamation," which are still in English.

For the tune, we have used a slight leftover from the old days (1970s) of the ubiquitous "Mass of Creation"--not repeated and not accompanied and chant-like, but still suggesting, for those who know, a slight shadow of an unfortunate period in music history. There have been so many other issues to deal with that we just left this one alone.

It worked well enough, and is not disruptive (as the sung MF and MA can often be!). In any case, the choice of Latin ("Mortem tuam annuntiamus, Domine, et tuam resurrectionem confitemur, donec venias"—text and music written especially for use in the 1970 Missal) seemed unviable for us, and experience suggests that an unsuccessful attempt to introduce Latin can come at a high price in terms of parish support.

Then we were sent a new pastor, a person who is often in a position similar to that of a house shopper who, better than the owner, sees the strengths and flaws of an interior design or paint color. The way our schola had done the Mystery of Faith was on his nerves for reasons he couldn't entirely articulate other than to say it seemed too slow, seem truncated and out of place, and generally just didn't fit. He seem torn between asking us to do the entire Mass of Creation (purgatory!) or finding some other solution.

We knew we had but one chance to find that "other solution." We had to find a setting that would be instantly accessible (participation!) but would integrate with the rest of the Mass. So we hit the books and found what we should have found years ago: the plain Gregorian setting rendered in English. Perhaps this is sung all over the world but somehow this obvious solution evaded us for years. But it is truly wonderful: not as long as the Latin and therefore less imbalanced somehow, with words that are familiar to everyone so there is no struggle over text.

In any case, we went over it and over it in rehearsal to make sure that the schola could sing it with great confidence with the proper inflections and style. Just this last week, it was done for the first time. It was a smashing success: stately, calm, intuitive, nondistruptive, and very beautiful overall. For reasons that are still not entirely clear to me, everyone sang it. The new pastor just loved it, and we were spared the fate of adopting a 70s-80s setting with a popular feel.

Yes, there are other solutions, and probably better ones like leaving out the congregational response altogether, but we all deal with existing constraints. And of course no one came up to us after and said: "Hey ya’ll, that was a great Memorial Acclamation!" It is a small change but it helps us move toward that ideal of an organically integrated liturgy that provides a seamless environment for prayer.

What lessons did we learn?

1. Even the smallest shred of problematic music can be, well, a problem; a schola shouldn't be satisfied until it has replaced it all with truly sacred music (as defined in the General Instruction) with due regard for political and pastoral sensitivities of course.

2. If you are unclear about which direction to go or where to turn to solve a liturgical music problem, return to the basic with the Gregorian itself, even if it has to be rendered in the vernacular. The plain chant is always the best starting place.

3. Don't ever assume that a pastoral mandate for change necessarily spells disaster; it could actually offer an opportunity for change in a positive direction.

(Since this is my first post, let me say that I am a member of the St. Cecilia Schola in Auburn, Alabama, and honored to be its director.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Participation in the Current Magisterium

[Fr. Stravinskas asked if I could post a few of his writings that he was written in the past on the liturgy. Here is one of those pieces.]

A paper presented by the Reverend Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ph. D., S.T.D., to the Centre International des Études Liturgiques, 21 November 2003, Paris.


Laudetur Jesus Christus. Loué soit Jésus-Christ. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo. Albado sea Jesucristo. Garbė Jėzui Kristui. Praised be Jesus Christ. Slava Isusu Christu.
Your response to that acclamation is the highest form of participation in Christian worship possible, particularly when the witness of your life supports the profession of your lips.

It is a great joy and privilege for me to be with you at this conference. I am grateful to Loic Merian for the invitation, which has given me a wonderful excuse to visit your beautiful city yet again. Allow me to share with you a little secret. I am asked to make dozens of presentations every year and because I find it hard to say “no”, I compensate by re-cycling previously given talks very often. Twice a year, however, I make a point of doing fresh research on a topic that interests me greatly and as a way of forcing me to do original research. Back in August, I produced a paper entitled, “Newman the Failure.” My second sally into serious and brand-new work is the present effort.

I said that I thought this was an important topic because so many of our problems in the contemporary Church can be laid at the doorstep of a mistaken notion of participation – liturgical and otherwise. Let me illustrate this by means of an anecdote. Somewhere around 1985, National Review, the publication of noted conservative columnist Bill Buckley, ran a cartoon. It depicted an aboriginal tribe gathered around an altar with a young woman tied to it and a pagan priest preparing to thrust a knife into her in sacrifice. Two tribesmen, standing on the periphery of the liturgical assembly, are observing the event and one comments to the other: “Serves her right. She was always whining about women not being allowed to participate in the services.” Now, questions of human sacrifice and sexism aside, I think you can see where an exaggerated sense of “participation” can get someone.

The Latin adage says, “Discimus docendo.” And that has surely proven true as I went about the preparation of this paper. I knew that the “participatio actuosa” of Vatican II had a long pedigree, indeed, all the way back to Pope St. Pius X. I thought, however, that rendering it as “active participation” was just a mischievous English translation, only to discover that at least all the Romance languages have the equivalent translation.1 My next suspicion was that using the equivalent of “active” in the various vernaculars was a modern attempt to create a new vision or reality through linguistic manipulation. Once more, an historical search revealed that “active” was the word of choice going back to translations of Pius X’s landmark document, Tra le Sollecitudini.

That said, I am still going to suggest a better translation of actuosa, at least for our moment in history. Perhaps “active” did not carry all the baggage it does today. At any rate, it seems to me that if Pius X or the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had wanted to say “active”, they could have used activa, but they didn’t; they used actuosa.

When I was sharing the sum and substance of my paper with someone recently, he asked, “So what’s the big difference between actuosa and activa? They’re all just words – a petty squabble over words.” Well, I explained, words are important for they bear meaning. Think, for instance, of this situation: You are living in a house. Does it matter whether you are the tenant or the owner? I don’t know anyone who would respond in the negative. And if that little example from daily life holds true, how much more so in philosophy and theology. After all, the Nicene Creed we pray at every Sunday Mass was the direct result of an apparently “petty squabble” over not a word but a letter – homoousios versus homoioousios. The little letter “iota”, hence, our common expression, “It doesn’t make an iota of a difference.” Except that it did in 325 A.D. And words continue to make a difference seventeen centuries later.

The methodology of this paper will be to “back into” my suggestion for a more appropriate vernacular rendering of actuosa by reviewing the use of participatio actuosa over the past forty or so years, so as to come up with a picture of what the contemporary Magisterium has had in mind. Then, we can settle on a word that might more adequately capture the reality.

Continue Reading...

Friday, September 09, 2005

CIEL Publications

With mention of the CIEL conference in Oxford in 2006 and Rome in 2005, I thought I should share with you a little bit about CIEL for those not familiar.

(Solemn Liturgy at CIEL Conference, France)

First off, let me tell you, you should get familiar with CIEL. CIEL itself works for the scholarly, non-polemical study of the classical Roman liturgy. That much you probably know. But what you may not know off hand is that these proceedings from these conferences are published. These essays are of the highest calibre and are amongst some of the finest liturgical material available today on the Roman liturgy. If there are any books you have been thinking of buying, I would place the CIEL proceedings at the top of them.

If you take a look at my CIEL Canada website, under Publications, you can look at all the of the English translations of the proceedings to date, including the table of contents for each of them.

Here's the themes of the colloquia that have been published in English to date:

The Veneration and Administration of the Eucharist
Altar and Sacrifice
Ministerial and Common Priesthood in the Eucharistic Celebration
Theological and Historical Aspects of the Roman Missal
The Presence of Christ in the Eucharist
Faith and Liturgy
Liturgy and the Sacred

(You'll note that there has been a delay in publishing the 2003 proceedings -- and there was no 2004 colloquium. They are due out still, but there have been delays.)

The Catholic Bard: Shakespeare & the ‘Old Religion'

[A topic of interest to me for some time, and which makes reference to potential liturgical references found in Shakespeare's plays. Asquith has published a book on this topic. Readers may also want to check out Fr. Peter Milward's book The Catholicism of Shakespeare's Plays published by the St. Austin Press.]

Published in Commonweal

By Clare Asquith

Ever since a seventeenth-century Protestant clergyman, Richard Davies, remarked that “William Shakespeare dyed a papist,” Shakespeare's religion has been a thorny subject for scholars and biographers. Protestant England would much rather he had not died a papist. Three hundred years after Shakespeare's death, English Catholics were still viewed as a fifth column liable to join forces with the country's enemies at a moment's notice. Even today, England's entry into the European Union is portrayed in some quarters as a Vatican plot to reclaim England for Catholic Christendom.

Until recently the English nation was viewed as incontrovertibly Protestant, and, of course, so was the national poet. Favorite schoolboy quotations stressed his solidarity with the Elizabethan nation-state. The patriotic concluding speeches of King John and Henry VIII, the battle cry of the “reformed” military hero, Henry V, the support throughout Shakespeare's works for authority and the rule of law all identified the playwright as a staunch Protestant Englishman. “Naught shall make us rue,” as the Bastard says at the end of King John, “If England to herself do rest but true.”

But what was England's “self,” exactly-to what should she rest “true”? These lines have always been read in the light of the play's depiction of the proud reunion of the country after the divisions created by the pope's mischievous interdict of the English king-supposedly a parallel to the country's antipapal solidarity in the face of the similar interdict of Elizabeth (1533-1603). Yet in the play the Bastard's lines actually celebrate the moment England submits to the authority of the papal deputy and resumes relations with Rome.

What are we to make of this kind of ambiguity, which is so typical of Shakespeare? Many scholars see it as evidence of his political and religious neutrality. Still, there is another possible explanation, one that politically oppressed audiences such as those in Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe would readily understand.

During my years in Moscow as the wife of a British diplomat, I was introduced to the double-speak of subversive drama, an ingenious method designed to circumvent the Communist censor. Minute alterations to plays by classical authors enabled dissidents to communicate with their audience about contemporary politics. The result gave initiates an enjoyable sense of complicity, but was innocent enough to hoodwink the authorities. I began to wonder whether the many incongruities in the apparently apolitical works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries indicated that they were playing the same dangerous game.

So long as Shakespeare was seen as a pillar of the establishment, no one dreamed of looking for coded meanings in his work. Today the characteristic ambiguity of his writing is beginning to take on a new significance. Since the Second World War, England has become less certain of her Protestant identity. “Is This the Death of Protestant England?” asked one apprehensive headline in the wake of the blanket coverage by the English media of the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Historians no longer feel obliged to perpetuate the orthodox “Whig” view of England's history, and have been re-examining the nature of Protestantism in Shakespeare's day. Influential books such as Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the Altars conclude that the embrace of Protestantism was largely reluctant. This is a revolutionary position. As presented by Protestant historians, England welcomed the Reformation. Henry VIII's (1491-1547) quarrel with the pope and dissolution of the monasteries constituted a break with the superstitious past. Reformers swept away the obscurantist ceremonies and the humiliating subservience to Rome and gave the country a national church, the Protestant work ethic, the Bible in English. They released a new spirit of intellectual inquiry and national self-confidence which was to be embodied some seventy years later in the works of Shakespeare.

Recent research has resurrected a wider and darker picture, however. Fresh evidence from parish records and wills, from neglected manuscripts and archives, and from the writings of exiles indicates that Shakespeare lived in an age of silent, sullen resistance to the imposed new order. In spite of penal legislation and horrific executions, Catholics remained in the majority through 1600, conforming under duress, not out of conviction. Elizabeth's undermanned national church was still a raw, uncomfortable compromise. On a religious level it satisfied few, and was implemented by force and subterfuge. Catholics were not the only casualties. Humanists and scholars of all persuasions were alienated by the narrow Bible-based ideology imposed at Oxford and Cambridge. Protestants themselves suffered. Those who objected to state control of religion were efficiently eradicated in a McCarthyite purge led by the archbishop of Canterbury. By the time Shakespeare began to write, in the late 1580s, there was a widely held view across the political spectrum that the English Reformation had been a destructive failure. It had been hijacked, and had become the vehicle for the ambitions of a corrupt, power-hungry elite led by two powerful royal advisers, the father-and-son team William and Robert Cecil.

Shakespeare's biographers now give full weight to material sidelined by earlier scholars. There were many Catholics among his family, friends, and neighbors, all of whom suffered under the crippling new laws. The current consensus is that his childhood was deeply imbued with the “old religion,” and that as an adolescent he may well have been involved in the 1580 Jesuit mission led by the charismatic Edmund Campion.

Few scholars, though, entertain the possibility that Shakespeare retained Catholic beliefs throughout his working life. In a recent letter to the London Tablet, Richard Wilson, author of Secret Shakespeare and a leading proponent of the Campion connection, maintains that Shakespeare was ultimately “repelled” by the extremism of the Jesuit-led mission to England. Michael Wood (In Search of Shakespeare) believes that by 1600, “his mind was too open, his habit of empathy too deep-rooted, to side with one view any more.” In his bestselling Will in the World, Stephen Greenblatt takes the same line: Shakespeare's mind was too free, speculative, and wide-ranging to be confined by the prescriptive dogma of the Catholic Church. It appears that the Protestant Shakespeare is being replaced by a secular one.

For centuries, though, Catholics, however unscholarly, have had an unwitting advantage over many Shakespearean critics. They possess part of the key to a forgotten form of coded writing familiar to the dissident intelligentsia of Elizabethan and Jacobean England. Acquaintance with Catholic idiom, history, and liturgy offers a glimpse of something momentous hidden beneath the familiar words, encouraging an alert reader to look beyond the familiar fabric of the work and discover a second layer below. Once detected, the concealed dimension is so distinct and coherent that there is no danger of reading in a subjective meaning. A clear political message emerges, one that Shakespeare, like an Eastern European dissident, deliberately injected into his work using signals designed to alert those who remembered the practices of the old religion while avoiding unwelcome attention from those who did not.

Shakespeare has always been seen as a writer capable of unparalleled precision of thought and language who could be-and often was-unaccountably discursive. Dr. Johnson censured him for failing to observe the classical unities, and for pursuing the “fatal Cleopatra” of wordplay at the expense of coherence. To dissidents, though, these patches of apparently loose writing had a purpose. Rather like hollow sounds discovered by those tapping a wall in the search for a hidden chamber, they would once have attracted immediate scrutiny from certain readers and spectators.

A typical instance of Shakespearean digression occurs at the end of The Merchant of Venice. Because of its lyrical beauty, most of us fail to notice that the strangely brief final act is almost completely extraneous to the plot. I have chosen this example because it will ring bells with Catholics who have attended the Easter Triduum. Among the highlights of the liturgy are certain distinctive elements: the Easter moon; the veneration of the Cross; solemn music in the open air; a single candle; the repeated refrain “This is the night.” All these are reminders of key stages in the three days of symbolic ceremony when the church celebrates the entry of light into a darkened world as she reenacts the events of Christ's Last Supper, Passion, and Resurrection.

Once central to Christendom, these ceremonies were banned at the time of the Reformation and, at least among Protestants in Northern Europe and much of North America, are now largely unknown. So from the seventeenth century onward only Catholics would be likely to notice that exactly the same combination of elements are puzzlingly present in this final act-moonlight, a single candle dispelling the darkness, music, the repeated phrase “in such a night,” kneeling at holy crosses. Anyone who has lectured on Shakespeare and Catholicism will know that this unexpected parallel is pointed out frequently if tentatively by Catholics in the audience.

The links between the Easter liturgy and The Merchant of Venice are striking. The opening love-duet between Lorenzo and Jessica in Act V repeats the phrase “in such a night” eight times: exactly the same number that the phrase “this is the night” is repeated in the great Easter hymn, the “Exultet.” Like the Easter Vigil, the action ends at dawn and takes place on a night when the moon is full. Music of a distinctly spiritual kind induces meditations on the power of harmony to touch the immortal soul. The heroine, Portia, about to arrive home, is reported to be kneeling at holy crosses in the company of a hermit. When she enters, she is struck by the distant effect of a light burning in her hall: “How far that little candle throws his beams! / So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” Trite though these words are, they express the theological symbolism of the Paschal candle.

The echoes continue throughout the act. The Easter Vigil describes the stars as the “lights of heaven”; so does Shakespeare. The “Exultet” celebrates the “night on which heaven is wedded to earth”; Shakespeare's is a night when the lovers Lorenzo and Jessica celebrate a daring elopement and the newlywed Portia prays for “happy wedlock hours.” This is the night, according to the “Exultet,” when the Jews escaped from captivity; in such a night, says the Christian Lorenzo, in order to marry him the Jewish Jessica escaped from her jealous father, Shylock. One of the most memorable phrases from the Good Friday reading of St John's Passion, ecce homo, is recalled in a deliberately superfluous phrase, “this is the man,” a reference deepened in the exchange that follows: “You should in all sense be much bound to him....for as I hear, he was much bound for you.”

Are these simply nostalgic echoes of the old religion? Or are they, as some critics suggest, instances of outdated spiritual language being recycled for secular purposes? A close look at the play suggests something more unexpected and startling, indicating an underlying artistic unity of which even eighteenth-century critics like Johnson would have approved.

One of the first results of applying the new version of English Reformation history to sixteenth-century literature is the discovery that it was common practice to use coded language to plead the cause of toleration with the queen. A delusion of Elizabethan Catholics, carefully fostered by the regime, was that the queen was secretly in favor of their cause. The private masques and entertainments at the great houses she visited on her journeys around the country were full of skilfully contrived political messages, sponsored by Catholic gentry who knew that Elizabeth prided herself on her skill in decoding allegory. The messages were all of course deniable; to plead openly for religious toleration was fatal. The unfortunate Richard Shelley died in prison merely for presenting a written appeal to the queen, and it is unlikely that she ever read one of the most direct and eloquent pieces of Elizabethan prose, A Humble Supplication written by Robert Southwell, a Jesuit missionary on the run from her ubiquitous spy service. But she certainly saw the plays of Shakespeare's predecessor, the court dramatist John Lyly, who specialized in allegorical pleas for toleration, describing one of his plays as a Trojan horse-a gift with a dangerous message. Read with the revisionist understanding of Elizabethan history in mind, it emerges that The Merchant of Venice, written in the mid-1590s, is in the same mold; it deploys ravishing language, a gripping story, a flattering central role, partly to entertain but also to persuade the queen to look mercifully on her suffering subjects and lift the ban on their native religion.

Only in the light of a plea to the queen does the strange last act of the drama make artistic sense. The key to discovering its inner meaning is to revisit the play with the revised history and the Catholic background in mind, and to bring a resolutely literal, crossword mentality to the text, staying constantly on the alert for puns, hidden allusions, and oblique wordplay-the approach that sixteenth-century readers, the queen above all, brought to literature. Seen in this light, the play's many digressions double as wittily accurate topical references.

First, a trail of allusions suggests that the clever, beautiful, much-courted Portia would have been understood as a flattering portrait of the queen, and that the plot contains an ingeniously coded dramatization of Elizabeth's dilemma as the ruler of a country torn by bitter religious conflicts. Shakespearean scholars Peter Milward and John Klause point out that the Jewish/Christian feud in The Merchant of Venice has unmistakable parallels with the Puritan/Catholic feud dividing Shakespeare's England. The Venetian usurer, Shylock, has close affinities with London's Puritan money lenders, known as “Christian Jews.” These would have been more familiar to Shakespeare's audiences than Jews themselves, who had been banned from England. Like Shylock, these godly capitalists were steeped in the language and thinking of the Old Testament, and like him were derided by many as hypocrites who condemned worldliness yet amassed worldly goods. And they were vengeful. “Puritan” Protestants loathed Catholics not simply because they represented the antichrist, but because Catholics had persecuted them so brutally during the previous reign of Mary Tudor (1553-58). Quoting Old Testament precedents, Shylock uses the law to exact savage revenge on his enemy. In the same way, Puritan priest hunters and their sponsors levied charges of treachery against Catholic priests, who were accordingly hanged, drawn, and quartered. The young Jesuit Robert Southwell, a widely admired poet, died in this way in February 1595, after three years of torture at the hands of his Puritan captor, Richard Topcliffe.

In The Merchant of Venice, through sheer intellectual brilliance, tempered by compassion, Portia solves the impasse between the vengeful Shylock and the contemptuous Antonio. This, Shakespeare suggests, is what the equally shrewd and merciful Elizabeth can do for her country. At the end of the play he goes further. He attempts to awaken Elizabeth to the true significance of the religion her Protestant churchmen dismissed as “popish trish-trash.” Stealthily, he attempts to reconcile her to the Catholicism she would have remembered from her childhood, invoking lost ceremonies that not only embodied the beauty and theological depths of the banned liturgy, but also the annual occasion during the Easter Vigil where converts were officially welcomed into the church.

Act V takes the form of a single extended scene, a meditative coda to the play, ending with a brief flurry of action as true identities are revealed all round. Portia's household “ceremoniously” prepares a musical welcome for her as she journeys back from her courtroom triumph, penitentially kneeling and praying at wayside crosses. The aim of her servants is to guide her home: “Wake Diana with a hymn! / With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear. / And draw her home with music.”

Their aim coincides with Shakespeare's designs on Elizabeth. The allusion to the virginal Diana evokes the moon-goddess who was the queen's most popular allegorical identity. When Portia finally appears on stage, the nighttime impact of candle and music take her by surprise. “Music!...Methinks it sounds much sweeter than by day”; “How far that little candle throws his beams.” She apprehends her own household as if for the first time, transfigured by the occasion. It holds a beauty she was previously unaware of: “How many things by season seasoned are / To their right praise and true perfection!” These lines typify Shakespeare's “cryptic crossword” technique: the emphasis on “season,” the pun on “right,” the quietly incongruous word “praise” all pick up the previous allusions to the Good Friday veneration of the cross and the Holy Saturday “Exultet,” and place the scene firmly in the context of the Easter liturgy.

The austerity of her journey and the nighttime ceremony of her arrival have a profound effect on Portia. They remind her that she is subject to a greater power; her response recalls the lesson of the Paschal candle. “Let me give light,” she says, “but let me be not light.” She is awed and humbled. In lines that gracefully recall the language of the Easter blessing of water, Shakespeare relates this newfound humility to the correct relationship of a secular monarch to God, the true king. “A substitute shines brightly as a king / Until a king be by, and then his state / Empties itself, as doth an inland brook / Into the main of waters.” Elizabeth was criticized for usurping the spiritual authority of the church, and was fond of describing herself as God's deputy on earth; here Shakespeare reminds her of the limitations of her power. His prevailing tone is persuasive. In the final lines he conveys the admiration and gratitude due to a mistress who “drops manna in the way / Of starved people.” The language evokes the return of the Mass, the one thing Catholics most longed for.

Did Elizabeth respond to this plea? It seems not. The plays Shakespeare wrote over the next few years are models of political correctness: it looks as if the court dramatist was cautioned, and his work suspiciously scrutinized. Even so, he managed to smuggle through artful disclaimers which would have meant nothing to the censor but which again opened out a second layer of meaning for dissident onlookers. Another of these covert references gives a second glimpse of the way Shakespeare deliberately planted markers in apparently rambling patches of dialogue in order to give a sharply political dimension to his plays.

In the first scene of Much Ado About Nothing, written not long after The Merchant of Venice, Benedick is being teased for his misogyny. As it is so often in Shakespeare, the banter is bafflingly obscure. In fact, the teasing conceals a skein of allusions associating Benedick with the thousands of “don't knows” who were beginning to regret their conformity to the state religion, and to reconsider the merits of revived, Counter-Reformation Catholicism.

One joke is particularly puzzling. If Benedick ever does fall in love, laugh his friends, he will sign a letter on “the sixth of July.” Benedick is stung. “Mock not, mock not,” he reproves, “ere you flout old ends any further, examine your consciences.” Like the language of the liturgy, July 6 meant nothing to Protestants at the time, and nothing either to modern textual commentators. But to Elizabethan Catholics it was a highly significant date. It was on July 6 that Henry VIII executed Sir Thomas More, his former chancellor, for refusing to acknowledge the monarch as the supreme head of the church in England. More had become the model for “recusant” English Catholics, ready to face destitution, imprisonment, exile, or death for their religion. The significance of the date was deepened for Catholics when the young Edward VI, Henry VIII's fervently Protestant son, also died on July 6-clearly a judgment on his heretic father. This is why Benedick puts a stop to the banter. His friends have gone too far. Mock not old ends he says-the deaths of Thomas More and Edward are not a laughing matter-and his parting shot “examine your consciences” is a reminder of the case of conscience which drove More to the scaffold. From this moment on, Benedick's behavior-and the hidden identity of Beatrice-would have been of consuming interest to dissident audiences.

The Easter liturgy in The Merchant of Venice and the death of Thomas More in Much Ado are only two of the many markers in Shakespeare that have been neglected over the centuries because they depend for their impact on a history largely overlooked until now. They represent more than the lingering resonance of the old religion. They can be compared to the PULL HERE tabs on modern packaging, highlighting accessible entry points to Shakespeare's masterpieces, revealing a series of topical linings exquisitely tailored to fit the great universal plays. And these entry points lead to a second discovery: Shakespeare was not dealing in vague topical parallels. He developed a series of code words that remain the same throughout his work and give the reader unerring compass bearings to the hidden dramas. These simple code words, some of them shared by fellow writers, include terms for Protestantism, Catholicism, England, the queen, the Reformation, the Catholic powers abroad, the underground resistance. They provide the basis for a range of more fleeting topical allusions, many of them brilliantly ingenious, some of them intensely poignant.

Shakespeare's published work is prefaced by hints that a hidden layer is there, waiting to be discovered. “Read him therefore; and again and again,” urge the actors, Heming and Condell, in the preface to the First Folio. They advise those who do not catch on to the wit that lies “hid” in the plays to consult Shakespeare's friends, the Catholic or crypto-Catholic poets who supply the series of literary tributes that follow the preface. Those who do catch on should act as “guides” to others. But, as persecution continued and Catholicism was gradually eliminated from English public life, it seems that generations of potential guides kept silent about what they knew. And gradually, as the full political context was forgotten, so was the existence of the code.

Four hundred years later, things have changed. Now that England's anti-Catholicism is on the wane and American scholars in particular are beginning to take a searching interest in the history of early modern England, the moment has come for Catholicism to reevaluate its stormy sixteenth-century past, and for Shakespeare's hidden work to receive the attention it deserves.

Copyright © 2004 Commonweal Foundation

Thursday, September 08, 2005

CIEL 2006, Merton College, Oxford

(View of Merton College, Oxford University)

People may wish to keep up on the CIEL colloquium coming up the year after this. This year's colloquium will be held in Rome and in 2006 it will be held in Oxford.

A website for the 2006 colloquium has been setup, and you can add your name to a mailing list to be kept abreast of updates.

Thanks to Fr. Uwe-Michael Lang for directing me to this.

(Now I just need to find wealthy benefactors to get me over there.;)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Seldom Heard Thoughts about Saying Mass

Published in Adoremus Bulletin, 10 (July/August, 2004).

James V. Schall. S. J.
Georgetown University, DC, 20057-1200

In his Encyclical on the Eucharist (EE, April 17, 2003), John Paul II recalled his visit in 2000 to the Cencacle, where, by tradition, the Eucharist was first said in Jerusalem. “Every priest who celebrates Holy Mass, together with the Christian community which takes part in it, is led back in spirit to that place and that time” (EE #4). The Eucharist is not an abstraction.

A priest should say Mass each day. “It is “important ... for the spiritual life of the priest, as well as for the good of the Church and the world, that priests follow the Council’s (Vatican II) recommendation to celebrate the Eucharist daily: ‘for even if the faithful are unable to be present, it is an act of Christ and the Church (P.O., #14)’ (EE #64).” A priest may con-celebrate Mass with other priests, though he need not: “An individual priest is, however, permitted to celebrate the Eucharist individually, though not at the same time as a con-celebration is taking place in the same church....” (US Bishops 2003 Guidelines for Con-celebration #4)

When a priest celebrates Mass, he should follow the rubrics and vestments indicated by the Church. “Priests may not con-celebrate in secular attire, in ordinary clerical garb, or by wearing the stole over the cassock.” (USBGC, #19). At Mass, a priest should normally wear an alb, a stole, and a chasuble (USBGC #17). A priest should not suggest, by making up his own words or gesture, that he is the one in control of what the Mass is. He too is obedient to what is not his creation. A priest should not impose his personality, however splendid, as if that display is the primary thing occurring at Mass.

“Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated.... Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to those norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church.” (EE #52). This is the proper spirit motivating a priest at Mass.

Moreover, priests should not themselves simply “attend” Mass as if that substituted for saying their own Mass. “Priests should participate in the Eucharist, fulfilling their office according to their proper order, that is, by celebrating Mass rather than merely receiving communion as lay-persons” (USBGC, #6). But there is no substitute for a properly ordained priest. “The assembly gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, if it is to be a truly Eucharistic assembly, absolutely requires the presence of an ordained priest.... The community is by itself incapable of providing an ordained minister” (EE #29). This is the way the Church understands Christ to have instituted and provided for the perpetuation of the Eucharist.

The Mass makes the community, not vice versa. It is the proper form of the worship of God. “The Mass makes present the sacrifice of the Cross; it does not add to that sacrifice nor does it multiply it. What is repeated is its memorial celebration ... which makes Christ’s one, definitive redemptive sacrifice always present in time. The sacrificial nature of the Eucharistic mystery cannot therefore be understood as something separate, independent of the Cross or only indirectly referring to the sacrifice of Calvary” (EE #12) The Eucharist makes present the sacrifice of Calvary.

The Mass is not simply a “meal” as if no more profound reality were present within it. The Pope warned: “Stripped of its sacrificial meaning, it is celebrated as if it were simply a fraternal banquet. Furthermore, the necessity of the ministerial priesthood, grounded in apostolic succession, is at times obscured and the sacramental nature of the Eucharist is reduced to its mere effectiveness as a form of proclamation” (EE #10).

Or to put these points positively, “though the idea of a ‘banquet’ naturally suggests familiarity, the Church has never yielded to the temptation to trivialize this ‘intimacy’ with her Spouse by forgetting that he is also her Lord and that the ‘banquet’ always remains a sacrificial banquet marked by the blood shed on Golgotha. The Eucharistic Banquet is truly a ‘sacred’ banquet, in which the simplicity of signs conceals the unfathomable holiness of God.” (EE #48). The “Banquet” reveals and makes present the Cross.

The Eucharist remains present outside of Mass. A parish or diocese that does not encourage this form of worship, with its relation to the Mass, is incomplete. “The worship fo the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church .... Pastors (should) encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament (Benediction) in particular, as well prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species”(EE #25). Sufficient for now are my seldom heard thoughts on this central rite of our faith.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Eamon Duffy

I've just noticed there there is a second edition out now of Eamon Duffy's well known work, The Stripping of the Altars. I am not certain what is different in this second edition from the first.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

SSPX and Rome

From Catholic News Agency:

SSPX Calls on Rome to Make First Move Toward Reconciliation

Friday, September 02, 2005

A Modest Proposal

After writing musings the other day on effecting the reform of the reform in a typical parish setting -- and then further formalizing this privately into a formal essay -- and in considering the likes of the Cambridge Camden Society and Oxford Movement, it has made me think there is a project that needs to be accomplished. First a bit of history.

The background:

From what I have read, Anglican church interiors of the late 18th and early 19th centuries were often re-ordered in a way in which the sanctuary and altar were no longer a point of focus. Sometimes churches were turned around in the ordering so that people no longer faced toward the sanctuary, but rather toward the sides of the nave. Large, three-decker pulpits were often installed which became the primary focus. These sometimes sat in the middle of the church amidst the pews or in a way that somewhat dwarfed or obscured the altar.

Stove pipes were often insensitively placed. Large pew boxes were present which people rented and which were effectively private boxes; in some cases you could not see your neighbours they were so high -- by design. Sometimes altars were not kept in their original positioning like we are accustomed, but were tables (sic) which were turned clockwise 90 degrees -- presumably to de-emphasize the idea of an altar. These were not treated as a sacred space as things became stored on them that ought not be.

Apparently this arrangement was not uncommon in typical Georgian-era Anglican Church arrangement. A far cry from what we almost universally see today in Anglican Churches.

(Chapel of Queen's College, Cambridge University)

The Camden project:

The Cambridge Camden society was made up of young Cambridge University undergraduates. Their project was to effectively re-Catholicize the sanctuaries of the Anglican Church. They succeeded in their project. What they did was produce various pamphlets. These would be easy to produce and cost-effective. Moreover, they targetted the pamphets, both in terms of content and in style of language to their audience. Some pamphlets were targetted to clergy and bishops. Others were targetted to benefactors who had the money to help fund the project. Still others were targetted to the simple, blue collar laymen.

The Camdens were aware that they needed support from everyone: the bishops, the parish clergy, benefactors, academics, and the common man. Thus, they sought to convince them of the project. They did so by way of pamphlets that promoted their principles and gave practical suggestions for implementing them. At the time, there was great suspicion about Romanizing or "Popish" influences, and yet despite this opposition, they accomplished their project. I believe their targetting of particular audiences, including the common man in the pew, is in large part of the reason they succeeded.

The Reform of the Reform Project Proposal:

The project for reforming the reform in a typical parish setting as things stand today could immensely benefit from a project similar to that undertaken by the Cambridge Camden Society.

I propose that tri-fold pamphlets be developed which detail and outline things such as:

Ad Orientem Celebration (Perhaps titled for a popular edition: "Why would the priest say Mass with his back to the people?") A short history and apologetic of ad orientem celebration, debunking common myths and proposing the spiritual, communal and liturgical benefits of this method could be succintly given.

Practical Ways to Effect the Reform of the Reform in your Parish (especially directed to priests and choir directors, outlining what the Church allows, and what resources they can acquire. E.g. the Adoremus Hymnal alongside a quote about Gregorian Chant from Sacrosanctum Concilium, or from Pope Benedict, etc.)

Pamplets could be composed about sanctuary arrangement, like the placement of the celebrant's chair. Others could be composed debunking common myths about what "Vatican II did away with", such as the matter of Latin, etc.

This list is certainly not exhaustive but gives you an example of what I am thinking of.

Such pamphlets could be created in PDF format, something which is easily printable, either by a professional printer, or by a parish's own computer printer, to be freely distributed on the internet, in the parish, to pastors and bishops, etc. Thus the undertaking can be taken up locally with little cost.

The pamphlets should avoid polemics, but should be straight forward and to the point. Some of these topics could have an academic version and a popular edition. The pamphlets should be rigorous for their accuracy and thoroughly checked over and revised whenever necessary due to new liturgical laws or statements from the Church.

Anyone definitely interested in helping with the project may wish to privately email me. I cannot promise everyone that responds will actually be involved. The help mainly needed would be in terms of suggestions for pamphlets, and in some cases, the necessary research into a particular topic. In some cases, writers may be needed.

At this point, the project is merely an idea and a proposal. One whose time I think has come.

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