Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Gregorian Missal

All the world knows that Americans are peculiar people when it comes to language. If it is not in American English or if an American-English translation isn't nearby, we tend to treat the text as if it belongs to someone on another planet and has no possible application for us. Foreign tongues boggle our minds, and rather than get busy and actually learn another language (never!) we just toss it aside.

It's my own private theory that this tendency has long hindered the dissemination of the church's music in the United States. The Graduale Romanum, the official songbook of the Roman Rite, is entirely in Latin. Hand it to a typical musician and it will not penetrate their brains. It's not the Latin in the music so much as the absence of English. Call it ignorance or bigotry if you want but it is a fact of reality. Latin chant will never go anywhere in this country until singers can feel a sense of ownership over the meaning, and that means translations.

This is why the CMAA produced the Parish Book of Chant as the new book for people. It opens up the Latin hymn tradition to all English speakers.

The complementary book for the scholas--the book containing the propers of the Mass--is the Gregorian Missal published by the Solesmes Abbey in France. This book is a treasure, a glorious thing to behold. The running headers are all in English. All Latin texts are translated. And this allows the great revelation to unfold: here is the music of the Mass.

Probably 9 in 10 Catholic musicians would be shocked to know that music at Mass isn't really about picking hymns. The Mass comes with music already built into its structure--and that is as true of the new Missal as the old Missal. There is the ordinary but there is also the great repertoire of the propers inherited from the whole history of the Church. This is not only the music of the Mass; it is also the most wonderful and meaningful music ever written.

I can personally recall the first time I saw this book and opened its pages. It was like the dawn. Here it all is right before: the Sunday and its music, the next Sunday and its music, the next Sunday and its music, for the entire year. And there is more music than you can possibly sing week to week, which is an inspiration!

Why didn't I know? Why didn't someone tell me? Here are the jewels long hidden from view. What a liberation. What a exciting challenge. What a comfort to know that this critical part of the Mass is not something we make up on our own but rather can embrace in the same way we embrace all the teachings of the Church!

It's been my dream--and many share it--that the Gregorian Missal could be examined by every Catholic musician in the English-speaking world. It wouldn't cause an immediate outbreak of chant in every parish. I know this. But it would change the debate. It would illustrate what we fanatics have been saying for so long. It would illustrate what Vatican II intended. It would instill a sense of the ideal. It would make it clear that chant is the music of the Roman Rite. It would provide direction for the future. The hermeneutic of continuity between old and new would become clear. We could begin again to stitch together our practice with our tradition.

Glorious news: the Solesmes Abbey has made this possible. The monastery has given permission to the Church Music Association of America to upload a beautiful copy, fully bookmarked, online at It is here, the first universally downloadable presentation of the Gregorian Missal. Now and for the first time, it will be clear to musicians in the postconcilar period that chant is deeply and intimately connected with the rite.

I strongly suggest that you send this link to every priest and every Catholic musician you know. They will be astounded. They might ask where this music comes from. The answer is that it dates to the earliest years of the Church. It developed as the Mass developed, with the music as the perfect expression of the liturgical meaning of the moment in the year and in the Mass.

How did it manage to come to be so integrated into the 1970 Missal? It was part of what the Vatican did in response to the changes in the calendar. It also adapted the chant books. Solesmes completed the job with its Graduale Romanum of 1974.

This wonderful book came out in 1990. The magnificent decision of Solesmes to go digital with this publication is the fulfillment of a long heritage of progressive means of chant scholarship and distribution. The monastery had previously worked with the Church Music Association of America with the Liber Cantualis, so it was a natural partnership to take modern chant into the modern age.

What this means from an educational point of view is extraordinary. I fully expect to see a massive and rising demand for this book, which is also available from many distributors linked in the front matter of the digital version. In addition, poor parishes will now have a resource from which they can sing -- consistent with the Benedictine dedication to the poor. In many ways, it is the fulfillment of the dream of Dom Gueranger, the founder of the monastery who prayed for a worldwide re-dedication to the beauty of the liturgy.

The first thought of people when seeing this for the first time is likely shock that the Mass is not just a text but a song. The next is likely to be disappointment that most musicians are not able to sing this music or even read it. It does indeed take a bit of study but it is not nearly as tricky as it seems. The staves have 4 lines because that is all the human voice needs. The opening clef marks the Do or Fah, below which the half step occurs. Every note gets a pulse, and the dots add a pulse. That's all you need to know to get started.

Other interesting features: note the near total absence of hymns. No processional hymn; rather we have an introit. The offertory is a chant, not an intermission. When the GIRM refers to the communion chant, this is what it means. And note the inclusion of the Gradual Psalm instead of the Responsorial Psalm. The Gradual Psalm has a far deeper history in the Roman Rite and remains a valued option in the rite. It is also a wonderful challenge for musicians.

In any case, all Catholics everywhere should say a prayer of thanksgiving for the Solesmes Monastery, for its founding, for its remarkable work over the years, and for its inspired vision to take the music of the Roman Rite into the new millennium with this far-seeing and progressive step.

Te Deum laudamus:
te Dominum confitemur.
Te aeternum Patrem
omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes Angeli;
tibi caeli et universae Potestates;
Tibi Cherubim et Seraphim
incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus,
Dominus Deus Sabaoth.

Candlemas in New Jersey

Mater Ecclesiae Mission:

On Monday, February 2, the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Candlemas, there will be a solemn celebration of the feast at 7:30PM. Approximately 12 priests from across the Delaware Valley, along with the parishioners of Mater Ecclesiae will receive the blessed candles, walk in procession and celebrate the Mass of the Purification. The Schola, under the direction of out music director Nicholas Beck, will sing all the Gregorian propers for the feast, along with the Nunc Dinittis and Senex Puerum of Victoria. The ordinary will be Lotti”s Mass Student Mass in C accompanied by violin and our organist, Karl Tricomi.

Since the foundation of Mater Ecclesiae in 2000, the solemn celebration of this feast has been a parish tradition. We hope that everyone who is able, will consider joining us on this wonderful occasion.

High Fashion in the Church: The Place of Church Vestments in the History of Art from the Ninth to Nineteenth Century

I wanted to share with NLM readers -- a number of whom are interested in the paraments of the Church -- a book I recently received, which looks to be of some notable interest to many of our readership.

The book, which is titled High Fashion in the Church, pertains to "the place of Church vestments in the history of art from the Ninth to Nineteenth century".

What first drew me to the title, which is authored by Pauline Johnstone and published by Maney press in 2002, was a review by Fr. Neil J. Roy, the former editor of Antiphon and a good friend of the NLM. In that review, written for The Catholic Historical Review he commented that the book "affords the reader a fascinating and lavishly illustrated study of the origins and development of sacred vestments, chiefly in the Catholic tradition." He continued:

This splendid tome ought to adorn the shelves of every Catholic seminary and house of formation where, according to the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, "During their philosophical and theological studies, clerics are to be taught about the history and development of sacred art and about the basic principles which govern the production of its works. Thus they will be able to appreciate and preserve the Church's ancient monuments, and be able to aid by good advice artists who are engaged in producing works of art" (Sacrosanctum concilium 129).

This snippet certainly piqued my interest, and indeed, so far I haven't been disappointed.

The book has a nice foreword by Fr. Jerome Bertram of the Oxford Oratory which includes a pertinent reminder for those who might react to subjects such as these with some discomfort, or particularly, with disdain:

Through most of Christian history, men and women have believed in giving the very best for the worship of God. All the arts have been enlisted in the service of the church... Though a few scoffers have been found in every century to ridicule the splendour of liturgical art, echoing Judas in the gospels who begrudged the oil to anoint the Lord's feet, there have always been more who, like Mary Magdalen, are glad to pour out their oil as a sign of the love they feel for their Saviour, and for the church which brings them together.

Among the treasures of ecclesiastical art, not the least important are the vestments. They were not made to enhance the priest but rather to humiliate him. The priest in his own clothes is only himself, and can attract people or repel them by his own character and his own abilities, or lack of them. But once vested in the raiment of the church, he ceases to be himself, he 'puts on Christ', speaking not in his own name but in that of the church. Vestments are a continual reminder to the priest that he is nothing, only the mouthpiece of the church at the service of the people; they are a continual reminder to the people that the man inside them does not matter, but only the eternal priesthood. They are not the property of the priest to display his affluence or his poverty; they are the property of the whole church, beautiful things for performing the service of the poor. Beauty and colour, splendour and art are offered for all to see and appreciate, so that the poorest outcast may enjoy treasures such that in other societies only the rich can see.

At present, I have only had time to quickly survey the book, but from what I can see of it, it shows itself to be quite useful as a resource.

The book's introductory chapters contain pertinent summations of the origins, usage and development of the various liturgical vestments. This is comprised not simply of the most common vestments (such as the chasuble, alb, dalmatic, and so on) but also includes the likes of those used for pontifical ceremonies, such as buskins, as well as others like the humeral veil. This section also covers some of the different forms of ornamentation of vestments, even touching upon apparels upon albs and amices. The matter of the development of liturgical colours and their observance (or lack thereof in particular periods) is also touched upon in its own chapter.

I am also pleased to note, at least in what I have been able to survey so far, that the author acknowledges and speaks to some of the differences that might be found between the Roman rite and rites such as the Ambrosian -- at least in passing. Consideration is likewise given to particular regional variations that might be observed.

The bulk of the book analyzes vestment design through four primary periods: the Mediaeval period, the Renaissance, the Baroque and Rococo, and finally the 19th century and early 20th century. In these sections, Johnstone considers particular technical developments like embroidery and textile techniques to in turn consider how this manifested itself in terms of vestment design. She also gives consideration to stylistic and ornamental developments -- with consideration to how they were reflected culturally and regionally -- including textile design and particular iconographic themes. In this regard, the book is extremely useful for tracking and understanding the origins of these designs, their influences and how they may have spread.

If there were one element that I can see which would have been of great benefit for a subject such as this, it would have been having all of the photographs in colour. Instead -- as is not uncommon in books as these -- the photographs that are interspersed with the text are in black and white:

This said, even these provide a good illustration of the various designs and design elements and give clues for further exploration. To be fair as well, there are 32 pages of colour plates to be found at the back of the book, so one does have this desire satiated to a decent enough degree. Here are some sample pages of the colour plates found at the back of the book:

All said, it seems like a book that would be well worth acquiring, particularly those interested in sacred vestments, which is perhaps an area of the sacred arts which we see published upon all too rarely by comparison with other areas of ecclesiastical art.

Book Details

176 pages plus 32 colour plates; 176 b&w and 110 colour illustrations
ISBN 1 902653 60 2 (978-1-902653-60-0)

Price : £36.00 / $59.00

Product link:

Further Details

As a treat, here are some details of some of the vestments featured in the book.

(Early 11th century, in the collection of the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, Munich)

(19th century; based off 15th Century Netherlandish crucifixion orphreys)

(A chasuble you have seen here before. The 17th century chasuble of the Barberini Pope, Urban VIII)

(17th Century Viennese Chasuble)

(A pair of 12th century episcopal sandals and buskins from Canterbury)

Usus Antiquior with a Sevillian Cofradía

The Pontifical and Royal Archconfraternity of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene, the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and of Mary Most Holy of the Conception (Archicofradía Pontificia y Real de Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, Santa Cruz en Jerusalén y María Santísima de la Concepción) of Seville, popularly known as "El Silencio", celebrated yesterday the fourth day of a five day celebration in honour of Our Father Jesus the Nazarene with Mass in the usus antiquior. The celebrant was spiritual director of the Confraternity, Fr Parrilla. "El Silencio" was thus the first of the Sevillian penitential confraternities (which have their impressive processions during Holy Week) to recuperate the Extraordinary Form for its solemn acts. Una Voce Sevilla, which helped to organise the celebration has pictures, here are some of them:

Note the presence - traditional in the orbis hispanicus - of ministers in tunicles:

Thanks to Hoc Signo for the tip.

St Andrews & Edinburgh Schola

A new Gregorian schola in Scotland! Have a look.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Nicola Bux and Salvatore Vitiello on the Revocation of the SSPX Excommunication: an Act of Real Ecumenism

Another view on the the recent lifting of the excommunications comes from the regular WORDS OF DOCTRINE column of Fr Nicola Bux and Fr Salvatore Vitiello on the Agenzia Fides, the news agency of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith:

Revocation of excommunication: an act of real ecumenism.

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The Holy Father Benedict XVI expressed a wish in a Letter which accompanied the Motu proprio “Summorum Pontificum”, addressed to the Catholic bishops of the world, on 7 July 2007: “ It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church. Looking back over the past, to the divisions which in the course of the centuries have rent the Body of Christ, one continually has the impression that, at critical moments when divisions were coming about, not enough was done by the Church’s leaders to maintain or regain reconciliation and unity. One has the impression that omissions on the part of the Church have had their share of blame for the fact that these divisions were able to harden. This glance at the past imposes an obligation on us today: to make every effort to enable for all those who truly desire unity to remain in that unity or to attain it anew. ” .

Now, following various meetings between the Pope and officials of the Roman Curia, and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of the Pius X Society, we have the result: the revocation of the excommunication on the four bishops ordained by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988 without pontifical mandate.

The Holy Father Benedict XVI did this with the authority to bind and to loose, - the “power of the keys ” – which the Lord gave to Saint Peter and his Successors in the Church. This is part of the Church's mission or “oikonomia”. Therefore this gesture towards the Saint Pius X Fraternity of priests, was analogous to the gesture Paul VI made towards Orthodox Christians on 7 December 1965: excommunication is revoked to foster reconciliation in charity.

The presupposition is given by the fundamental unity of faith, which persisted despite the schismatic ordination of bishops. Moreover, it was agreed that there are no substantial doctrinal differences and that Vatican II, and its decrees signed also by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, cannot be separated from the whole of Church Tradition. Marginal errors must be tolerated and corrected with a spirit of understanding. Through the working of the Holy Spirit, old or more recent divergences must be healed by means of purification of hearts, the ability to forgive and the will to overcome these divergences once and for all.

Very often in the past, anathema were revoked without any formal act, but simply with reciprocal acceptance of the parties in conflict. Today this step is clearly indispensable on the path towards Christian unity. The abrogation of excommunication is therefore, an “act of charity”.

In a letter to the S. Pius X Society, the Society's superior general Bishop Bernard Fellay wrote that the gesture was a fruit of ardent praying of the Rosary to Our Lady of Lourdes, and he reaffirmed faith in the Roman Catholic Church and obedience to the Pope.

Above all it is necessary to reflect on the fact that the itinerary which led to the revocation of the excommunication is pleasing to God who forgives us when we forgive one another; in this Gospel spirit, it cannot fail to be appreciated by all true Catholics all over the world as an expression of reconciliation and a call to continue, in reciprocal charity, dialogue which will lead, with God's grace, to the full communion of faith, fraternal harmony and sacramental life which existed before the schism.

May 'political' interpretations of the ecclesial community which aim only to divide the Body of Christ into traditional and progressive be put aside once and for all. Let us leave this to the world. We belong to Christ. Do we not seek dialogue and reconciliation? Or are we only ecumenical on alternate current?

The Sacred Liturgy: The First School of the Faith

Speak to most any teacher and they will tell you that students learn through more than just their intellect. They know that students also learn through their experiences and through their senses. Ideally, for optimal learning, both the intellect and experience need to be engaged. Our nature is very much tied to these two aspects, for while we are creatures gifted with an intellect, we are also physical beings who learn through our senses, and the latter often engages the former.

"It [the sacred liturgy] is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the people of God." CCC

But what does this have to do with the liturgy? Our approach to the liturgy shares in these two aspects: the sensory/experiential and the intellectual. Sometimes there are those who focus upon the intellectual teaching of the Faith who question the importance of the liturgy in its outer aspects; they would suggest that what matters is not so much how we do something, but rather that we simply know (intellectually) what we are doing. In regards the sacred liturgy, they often think that it does not matter so much how the liturgy is celebrated so long as one knows what the liturgy is all about in general. But, this thinking is not in accord with the mind of the Church and fails to understand how the actions of the liturgy connect to doctrine and pass on the Faith; it also fails to recognize the importance of the experiential aspect of human learning. Two comments that often reveal a lack of understanding of the liturgy-doctrine connection are these: "all that matters in the Mass is that Our Lord is present in the Eucharist" or "to be concerned about vestments, music, and other externals in the Mass is pharisaical."

Now, we should be clear from the outset that the didactic aspect of the liturgy is not its primary aspect; rather, the worship of God is the primary aspect. But this said, the Church teaches us that the liturgy, by its nature, does have a didactic dimension. This didactic, or catechetical dimension comes to us not only through the intellect (e.g. studying our catechism and homilies) but it also comes to us through our experience of it; that is, through our senses.

Lex orandi; lex credendi (The law of prayer is the law of belief.)

I spoke earlier of our human nature and how we learn, and who would know this nature better than God, our Creator? It makes perfect sense, then, that God would provide and inspire, through the authority of the Church, all that is necessary for the faithful to learn about Him, to worship Him and ultimately draw closer to Him through the liturgy by way of its words, beauty, ceremonies, gestures, postures, signs, symbols, sacred art, and sacred music. All of these visible things help to draw us from the visible to the invisible; they draw us toward the transcendent that we may be able to more deeply unite ourselves to the sacred mysteries taking place in our midst. Of course, this is not to deny the place of intellectual catechesis as well. It is also through mystagogical catechesis -- the intellectual explanation of the sacred mysteries, gestures, etc, within the liturgy -- by way of the homily, personal study, catechism classes, and so forth, that the faithful are able to know what the visible realities represent in terms of spiritual realities.

"For the Sacred Liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine.."(RS)

The Holy Father has been drawing our attention, through his words and deeds, to the understanding that everything matters in the sacred liturgy. He has written and spoken of the need to see the liturgy as a whole that cannot be taken apart, added to or subtracted from, without affecting all of the other parts. This is because everything in the liturgy, words and gestures, is intertwined with Catholic doctrine; the Church safeguards this through the authorized texts, rubrics, and instructions. It is for this reason, therefore, that introducing aspects into the liturgy which are not authorized is prohibited. It is for this reason that the liturgy cannot and should not be arbitrarily changed; abuses in the liturgy obscure Catholic doctrine and subsequently the errors are passed on to the faithful. It is also for this reason that everything (licitly) done within the liturgy, and in continuity with liturgical tradition, can serve as a light to brighten and make clearer the doctrines of the Church and the sacred mysteries being encountered. As the Holy Father has stated and witnesses to us, the external forms of the liturgy are not inconsequent or mere pharisaism rather they are of great importance for the experiential in teaching and passing on the Faith.

"The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content.." (Pope Pius XII)

The sacred liturgy is an essential means for the transmission of the Faith. The Catholic faith cannot be passed on and learned through the intellect alone; it must be understood that an experiential aspect is necessary to fully teach the Faith and make it incarnate in each of the faithful. The catechical nature of the sacred liturgy is an important aspect to realize since the majority of the faithful do not study the catechism or theology on their own and often the weekly liturgy may be the only contact they have with their Catholic faith. It is through the authorized liturgical rites celebrated with a sense of mystery, beauty, and reverence, evidenced in every word, gesture, and every piece of sacred art, that the truths of the Catholic faith will be learned, experienced and passed on.


I would like to simply share a few relevant quotes that may be helpful in driving some of these points home. Perhaps they might be useful to priests for catechetical purposes as well:

"The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the font from which all her power flows." It is therefore the privileged place for catechizing the people of God. "Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist [the liturgy], that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of men." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1074)

"[I]t must first be said that "the best catechesis on the Eucharist [the liturgy] is the Eucharist itself, celebrated well." By its nature, the liturgy can be pedagogically effective in helping the faithful to enter more deeply into the mystery being celebrated. That is why, in the Church's most ancient tradition, the process of Christian formation always had an experiential character. While not neglecting a systematic understanding of the content of the faith, it centred on a vital and convincing encounter with Christ, as proclaimed by authentic witnesses." (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis #64)

"The liturgy is the first source of the divine communion in which God shares his own life with us. It is also the first school of the spiritual life." (Pope Paul VI)

"There is thus a close connection between dogma and the sacred Liturgy, and between Christian worship and the sanctification of the faithful." (Pope Pius XI, Divini Cultus)

"The sacred liturgy.. is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit." (Sacrosanctum Concilium #14)

"For the Sacred Liturgy is quite intimately connected with principles of doctrine, so that the use of unapproved texts and rites necessarily leads either to the attenuation or to the disappearance of that necessary link between the lex orandi and the lex credendi." (Redemptionis Sacramentum #10)

"The liturgical words and rites, moreover, are a faithful expression, matured over the centuries, of the understanding of Christ, and they teach us to think as he himself does; by conforming our minds to these words, we raise our hearts to the Lord. All that is said in this Instruction is directed toward such a conformity of our own understanding with that of Christ, as expressed in the words and the rites of the Liturgy." (Redemptionis Sacramentum #5)

"For abuses “contribute to the obscuring of the Catholic faith and doctrine concerning this wonderful sacrament”. (Redemptionis Sacramentum #6)

"We observe with considerable anxiety and some misgiving, that elsewhere certain enthusiasts, over-eager in their search for novelty, are straying beyond the path of sound doctrine and prudence. Not seldom, in fact, they interlard their plans and hopes for a revival of the sacred liturgy with principles which compromise this holiest of causes in theory or practice, and sometimes even taint it with errors touching Catholic faith and ascetical doctrine." (Pope Pius XII - Mediator Dei #8)

"[A]s Catholic doctrine on the Incarnate Word of God, the eucharistic sacrament and sacrifice, and Mary the Virgin Mother of God came to be determined with greater certitude and clarity, new ritual forms were introduced through which the acts of the liturgy proceeded to reproduce this brighter light issuing from the decrees of the teaching authority of the Church, and to reflect it, in a sense so that it might reach the minds and hearts of Christ's people more readily." (Pope Pius XII - Mediator Dei # 52)

"The entire liturgy, therefore, has the Catholic faith for its content, inasmuch as it bears public witness to the faith of the Church." (Pope Pius XII - Mediator Dei #47)

Tridentine TV

An interesting sounding initiative was sent the NLM's way today: Tridentine TV

The site self-describes its purpose as follows:

At Tridentine Mass TV, we wish to promote the beautiful, unchanging, reverent Holy Tridentine Mass per the 1962 Roman missal, and per the guidelines of Pope Benedict XVI's Summorum Pontificum. Tridentine Mass TV is intended to be a resource for the United States (and if wished it can be extended to Canada and elsewhere) for local groups attempting to establish the celebration of the Tridentine Mass in their parishes. Tridentine Mass TV has subdomains for local groups in various geographical regions to post news, information, etc. An example for Chino Hills, California is CH.Tridentine.TV.

Bishop Williamson Apologizes

We have not covered this particular angle on the story, given that it is not directly involved in the matter of the liturgy, but given that it has come to surround the broader question of the SSPX, this particular letter seems worth sharing.

From Rorate Caeli:

Mgr Richard Williamson
To His Eminence Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos

Your Eminence

Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused to yourself and to the Holy Father so much unnecessary distress and problems.

For me, all that matters is the Truth Incarnate, and the interests of His one true Church, through which alone we can save our souls and give eternal glory, in our little way, to Almighty God. So I have only one comment, from the prophet Jonas, I, 12:

"Take me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you; for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you."

Please also accept, and convey to the Holy Father, my sincere personal thanks for the document signed last Wednesday and made public on Saturday. Most humbly I will offer a Mass for both of you.

Sincerely yours in Christ

+Richard Williamson

UPDATE: Comments are now closed on this post because this topic simply stirs up too much emotion.

The just of the opposing positions is this: some think this shows a sign of humility on Williamson's part, others say his comments don't yet go far enough.

In point of fact, both positions may well be correct. The latter certainly is, insofar as the views that were expressed were indeed offensive; as for the former, only God can judge his heart, but it certainly seems to at least be a step in the direction of repentance and the beginnings (potentially) of a re-consideration. Let us hope and pray that it is so.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bishop Fellay, Superior of SSPX has Recognized Vatican II "Theologically"

Some news that has the potential to have very big implications with regard to the SSPX question over on Rorate Caeli (who are really the blog to watch for up to date news on these SSPX related events):

Thursday, January 29, 2009
Cardinal Castrillón:
Relevant declarations to Corriere della Sera
Excerpts of an article published today in Italian national daily Corriere della Sera:


"[Card. Castrillón:] Full communion will come. In our discussions, Bishop Fellay recognized the Second Vatican Council, he recognized it theologically. Only a few difficulties remain...[sic]"

Maybe on Nostra Aetate, the declaration which represented a turning point in the relationship with the Jews?

"[Card. Castrillón:] No, that is not a problem. It involves discussing aspects such as ecumenism, liberty of conscience...[sic]"

See here for more.

Also, they report this interesting interview with Bishop Fellay.

It is my hope that pictures such as that above, and which we featured here the other day, will become far more frequently seen in the coming weeks and months.

Please re-double your prayers. St. Pius X, ora pro nobis.

A contribution to the American Organist

Everyone tells me that I have an article in the new issue of The American Organist. That's very exciting to me, and I look forward to seeing a copy. Perhaps they will put the archives online at some point.

Sorry, ICEL says no

A few weeks ago, I received a draft of a sung Missal for the proposed new Mass texts, and I posted it for study purposes, to elicit comments and criticisms. Just now I received a note from ICEL that it has to come down. I can't think of a better demonstration of how presumed proprietary nature of what will in fact be the possession of the whole Church impedes the development and dissemination of quality liturgical materials.

On 27 August 2008, I wrote you a letter (see below) asking that you not include settings of the new Order of Mass texts on the music sacra site. Recently it has been brought to my attention that the "Missal of St. Cecilia" containing the new texts was included on the site. Again I kindly ask that these texts be removed from the site until the new Order of Mass texts have been promulgated by the Conferences of Bishops.

It is possible, however, to distribute via email. Send me an email if you want a copy.

Update: I've now sent out about 65 emails (ICEL sure knows how to impose unnecessary work on people!). If you have comments, post them here. Again, I'm sorry for all the run-around here, but it is not my own doing.

Update two: Thanks to all those who have written and continue to write. don't be deterred by the extra step here. This silliness is just what happens under the conditions. I've got it down to a science now.

Solemn Requiem, Franciscans of the Immaculate

Rinascimento Sacro shares some very edifying photos from a recent requiem Mass offered on January 24th at the Monastery of Murate in Città di Castello by the Franciscans of the Immaculate for the anniversary of the death of one of their friars.

The Franciscans of the Immaculate -- founded by Pontifical Right by Pope John Paul II from what I can see -- are not an order I have followed a great deal to date, but they would seem to be a group to keep more of a watch upon.

Very exciting new release from St. Michael's Abbey

They have moved from chant to polyphony with what looks to be a fantastic release from the Norbertine Fathers. Here is their store. It would appear that all of the polyphony on this CD is by Palestrina.

Dr. Alcuin Reid on Our Approach Now to the SSPX Question

From The Catholic Herald, Dr. Alcuin Reid speaks upon the recent lifting of the excommunications and our approach in these times to these questions.

Let’s thank God for the return of the prodigal sons

Those who wish to cast out the SSPX are like the elder son in Jesus's parable, says Alcuin Reid

30 January 2009

"I am delighted that you are back. I do not agree with everything you did, but today my heart is filled with joy. You're back; that is all that now matters." Might not these not have been the sentiments of the father for his prodigal son in the Gospel of St Luke? Might they not also be the sentiments of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, in lifting the excommunications from the bishops of the Society of St Pius X?

This act is nothing if not an act of paternal love and mercy designed to bring back into the fullness of the family of the Church those who had - at least in one sense - strayed from it. It may also be said to be a true fruit of the bouquet of prayers offered in recent months for this precise intention by members of the SSPX, as well as of the ongoing prayer for Christian unity that is such a feature of the modern Catholic Church.

This is the second major step towards the full canonical integration of the SSPX (the first being the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum). But it is not the last. The four bishops are now "in communion", but as yet they have no canonical mission and they and their clergy still labour under the irregularities that follow from the positions taken since the Seventies, including suspension.

To wave this suspension in the face of returning brethren is hardly in the spirit of the reconciliation that Pope Benedict clearly desires, but it exists and it does need to be addressed, and quickly. This is a delicate period. There is much more to do in preparing for the peaceful integration of the SSPX and that will take time, just as it is taking time to give an appropriate canonical status to the former "Transalpine Redemptorists" in Scotland, reconciled last June.

During the somewhat untidy months ahead, charity and patience are called for - from all perspectives. We ought to note, though, that Rome has been clear for some time that Catholics may attend SSPX Masses out of devotion to the Church's Latin liturgical tradition, and that they do not thereby commit sin or incur any canonical penalty, so long as they do not do so out of "a schismatic mentality which separates itself from the teaching of the Supreme Pontiff and the entire Catholic Church". Given Pope Benedict's acceptance of the SSPX's declaration of its determination to remain Catholic and its acceptance of the Church's teachings, including the Primacy of the Pope, with filial disposition, it is hard to see how any barrier in simply attending Mass now remains.

The issue the validity of the Sacraments of Penance and Matrimony celebrated by SSPX priests (who because of their suspension are unable validly to marry couples or absolve penitents except in danger of death) remains, but we may hope and pray that this is addressed equitably and swiftly.

Of course, there are other issues involved. That is why Bishop Fellay, while expressing profound "filial gratitude" for Pope Benedict's "unilateral, benevolent" act has also called it "courageous". The key issue is Vatican II - or certain aspects of it. Archbishop Lefebvre, a Father of Vatican II, signed its Constitutions and Decrees. He lobbied against some of the stances finally adopted, but he nevertheless signed up to them. Later he reacted against their interpretation with what Pope Benedict calls "a hermeneutic of rupture" that was not in continuity with the Tradition of the Church. And the SSPX has continued this reaction - at times intemperately, without making the necessary distinctions between the Council's pastoral policies and its articulation of Catholic doctrine.

Now Bishop Fellay speaks of "reservations" about Vatican II. Reservations are not denials of doctrine, and anyone may have reservations about even an Ecumenical Council's pastoral policies and be a Catholic in good standing.

It is certainly courageous for the Holy Father to allow bishops who have strong reservations about an event that has so profoundly dominated Catholic life in the past few decades to return to communion with the Church. In doing so he has added to the dialogue about Vatican II - which the Holy Father has himself fuelled - some substantial participants from a very specific perspective. They, too, may be able to contribute to the reading of the Council with that "hermeneutic of continuity" for which Pope Benedict has so famously called.

And then there is Bishop Williamson: it is courageous indeed to welcome back such a prodigal. He is not the first Catholic bishop to espouse untenable positions and he probably won't be the last. It may help us to retain perspective if we realise that priests and bishops committed to the ordinary use of general absolution, the ordination of women, baptisms using invalid formulae, etc, may - without in any way excusing the extremes of either - seem as beyond the pale to the SSPX as do anti-Semitic holocaust deniers or multi-faceted conspiracy theorists (practically all of the SSPX would reject both).

It is telling to see Bishop Fellay distancing himself from such positions. Every Catholic bishop is subject to the Church's discipline, and if Bishop Williamson behaves inappropriately the Holy See may have to act. But the Pope has demonstrated that paternal love and mercy are to be offered even - perhaps especially - to him.

In spite of the difficulties, there is every reason for hope that the SSPX, for their part, truly want and will work for unity. Bishop Fellay has stated that he is "confident" and that he thinks "we will reach a true solution". Their superior in England, Fr Paul Morgan, said when explaining the Holy Father's act to his faithful last Sunday that the situation is now better than they could ever have expected. This is a tremendous shift.

What has been said hitherto has, at times, been - to put it mildly - somewhat less open. These people are Catholics. They love Christ and His Church and wish to serve her mission. There are also number of small, devout, monasteries and other religious communities who, while not belonging to the SSPX, rely on their bishops for Holy Orders, etc, and who are simply trying to live the Catholic faith as it had been lived for centuries. For the SSPX and these associated communities once again to be in full, unimpeded communion with and under the Bishop of Rome cannot but be for their good and for the good of the Church and of the world.

There were two sons in the parable in St Luke's Gospel. The older one, who had always remained faithful, felt utterly indignant at the celebration of the return of his profligate brother and stood aloof in disapproval. He was rightly rebuked. Let's not make the same mistake.

Dr Alcuin Reid's new edition of the classical guide to celebrating the traditional Mass, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, is published by Continuum in February

Traditional Anglican Communion to be Received as Personal Prelature?

By way of Creative Minority Report comes news from the Australian Catholic weekly The Record about the possible way ahead of the Traditional Anglican Communion which had requested full, corporate, sacramental union with the Church in October 2007. If true, this would be absolutely thrilling news, and also show a possible canonical solution for the future status of the SSPX once, Deo volente, full communion is reestablished there as well. As always with such articles, however, keep in mind that this is only a rumour so far. Here is an excerpt of the article:

History may be in the making. It appears Rome is on the brink of welcoming close to half a million members of the Traditional Anglican Communion into membership of the Roman Catholic Church, writes Anthony Barich. Such a move would be the most historic development in Anglican-Catholic relations in the last 500 years. But it may also be a prelude to a much greater influx of Anglicans waiting on the sidelines, pushed too far by the controversy surrounding the consecration of practising homosexual bishops, women clergy and a host of other issues.

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has decided to recommend the Traditional Anglican Communion be accorded a personal prelature akin to Opus Dei, if talks between the TAC and the Vatican aimed at unity succeed, it is understood.

The TAC is a growing global community of approximately 400,000 members that took the historic step in 2007 of seeking full corporate and sacramental communion with the Catholic Church – a move that, if fulfilled, will be the biggest development in Catholic-Anglican relations since the English Reformation under King Henry VIII. TAC members split from the Canterbury-based Anglican Communion headed by Archbishop Rowan Williams over issues such as its ordination of women priests and episcopal consecrations of women and practising homosexuals.

The TAC’s case appeared to take a significant step forwards in October 2008 when it is understood that the CDF decided not to recommend the creation of a distinct Anglican rite within the Roman Catholic Church – as is the case with the Eastern Catholic Churches - but a personal prelature, a semi-autonomous group with its own clergy and laity.

Opus Dei was the first organisation in the Catholic Church to be recognised as a personal prelature, a new juridical form in the life of the Church. A personal prelature is something like a global diocese without boundaries, headed by its own bishop and with its own membership and clergy.

Because no such juridical form of life in the Church had existed before, the development and recognition of a personal prelature took Opus Dei and Church officials decades to achieve.

An announcement could be made soon after Easter this year. It is understood that Pope Benedict XVI, who has taken a personal interest in the matter, has linked the issue to the year of St Paul, the greatest missionary in the history of the Church.
The Basilica of St Paul outside the Walls could feature prominently in such an announcement for its traditional and historical links to Anglicanism. Prior to the English Reformation it was the official Church of the Knights of the Garter.

The TAC’s Primate, Adelaide-based Archbishop John Hepworth, told The Record he has also informed the Holy See he wants to bring all the TAC’s bishops to Rome for the beatification of Cardinal Henry Newman, also an Anglican convert to the Catholic Church, as a celebration of Anglican-Catholic unity.

Although Cardinal Newman’s beatification is considered to be likely by many, the Church has made no announcement that Cardinal Newman will be beatified.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Pontifical Mass in France; Spanish Baroque in Spain

Just a simple report on a couple of liturgical events that have recently caught my attention.

First, confirmations at the ICRSS apostolate in Montpellier, France performed by the Archbishop of that diocese, Msgr. Thomazeau, on the 18th of January. The event also included Solemn Pontifical Mass.

(Tip: Nowy Ruch Liturgiczny)

Next, in Spain, some photos for those of you who love Spanish baroque coming from the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany with the Fraternity of Christ the Priest. Here is one of them.

A Brief Consideration of the Decree Lifting the Excommunications

Now that the initial flurry of activity has subsided with regard to the lifting of the excommunications on the four bishops of the Society of Saint Pius X, it seems an appropriate time to share some very brief considerations as to what the impact of these events might be and how we should approach them.

Some will no doubt ask themselves how this news affects them. Some might even wonder why it should matter to them. Perhaps it is only a matter of concern to the SSPX and at best a footnote for the majority.

The (true and substantial) unity of Christendom should be the concern of each of us. It was, after all, the prayer of Our Lord Jesus Christ that we would be one (John 17:21-22) and we should never desire to see anyone separated from or outside the normal communion of the Church. Such a desire would be fundamentally contrary to our evangelical mission and if we adopt this disposition, we are in danger of acting like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. This is all the more pressing in times when we see ideologies gaining strength in the world which would attack Christ, the Church and the Gospel. Anything that can be done, therefore -- and of course, we are not speaking of unity at any and all costs, but real unity in essentials, with liberty where it may be given -- to increase the Body of Christ will be of benefit and will further help strengthen the Church Militant so that it might bear more effective witness to the world. In this particular matter, the work of reconciliation is evidently not yet complete, but a significant step has been taken, and so we should be both encouraged by and encouraging of this process.

Beyond this matter though, there is another consideration.

It is no great secret that the past decades have seen some intense struggles, particularly as some came to interpret the Council in the light of rupture. They saw it as establishing a "new Church" in distinction from the "old pre-conciliar Church" and they promoted and acted upon their vision accordingly. Thus, a spirit, or hermeneutic of rupture came to characterize so much of the approach of life within our churches and dioceses following the Council. This manifested itself liturgically, it manifested itself by talk of "the spirit of Vatican II" rather than consideration of the letter of Vatican II and it manifested itself in the overall approach to our tradition and the teaching of the Church. (This subject has been more formally and academically treated in a book, set to be released in English this year by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council: A Counterpoint for the History of the Council. A good summary of the basic argument can be found in this article by Marchetto.)

Of course, Pope Benedict has been steadfastly working to introduce the proper hermeneutic by which any ecclesial reforms or documents must be understood, that is, through the lens of continuity with our Tradition. He has initiated this process both in his practice and in his discourses.

These present events may well provide a further spark of opportunity for this hermeneutic to be advanced to the fore, either as a tangible consequence or even simply in consciousness. If so, it would be something of great benefit, for re-emphasizing the fact that reform must always be understood, interpreted and enacted in continuity is something that is beneficial to all alike.

Whatever the case, each of us should do what we can to foster a climate that will be condusive to the healing of this wound.

May I also recommend that we each take this matter up as a part of our daily prayer intentions.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Images from Russia and the Byzantine Liturgy

Just prior to the news of the election of Metropolitan Kirill, I thought it would be of interest to share some of the liturgical scenes going on in Russia surrounding this event, and attach to them some explanations from one of our Eastern Catholic readers, as a means of further exploring the treasures of the Byzantine liturgical tradition.

"The bishop is reciting commemorations at the "Transfer of the Gifts or Great Entrance". He would be singing: "May the Lord God remember in His Kingdom [N.N.] always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." He is holding the chalice covered with a small veil. There are priests holding blessing crosses to the north and south of the holy doors and the trikirion and dikirion held by subdeacons, as well as subdeacons holding ripdia [fans] over the diskos. We see in the foregound two subdeacons. The one on the north is the candle bearer and the one on the south is the staff bearer [crozier]. The staff is not visible from our perspective but he should have it in this procession. Notice the icon on the analogion of the Baptism of Christ. The apodosis [leave taking] of the Feast of the Baptism is today."

"The completion of the opening of the antimension [yellow cloth] and the bishop is making the sign of the cross over it with the sponge which is used for wiping particles from the diskos into the chalice after the fraction and before communion, and again following communion. The bishop will kiss the sponge and then place it on the upper right side of the antimension. He does this at the ekphoneses [doxology] of the Litany for the Catechumens: "That with us they also may glorify Thy most honorable and majestic name, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages." The cloth under the antimension is iliton which is unfolded completely during the Litany of Fervent Supplication [following the Gospel and homily]. The antimension is consecrated and contains relics, and is signed and dated by the bishop who consecrates it. It and the ilition function much like the corporal. The antimensia today usually depicit the deposition of Christ from the cross; His being laid in the tomb and around the edge is often written the troparion: "The noble Joseph having taken Thy most pure Body down from the Tree and wrapped It in pure linen and covered It with spices, laid It in a new tomb."

"The bishop is blessing with the trikirion [a triple branched canle symbol of the three persons of the most Holy Trinity] and the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] following the deposition of the unconsecrated holy gifts upon the holy table. The bishop says nothing at this blessing but the choir/assembly responds: "Eis polla eti, despota". [Many years, master.] He is wearing the small omophorion which originally was a folded great omophorion [pallium]."

"At the Trisagion when the clergy sing the second "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us." the bishop makes the sign of the cross with the dikirion [a double branched candle symbol of the two natures in the one person of Christ] over the gospel book."


Kirill Elected New Russian Orthodox Patriarch

The bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church this evening in Moscow elected Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, 62, to succeed the late Patriarch Alexi II as the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The new Patriarch's challenge: to deepen the Church's influence inside Russia, and to widen its presence outside Russia

Kirill will "certainly" invite Pope Benedict XVI to visit Russia, and increase collaboration with the Roman Catholic Church worldwide, Orthodox sources say.

His election thus opens new perspectives for closer relations between Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the "two lungs," East and West, of a Christianity divided since the Great Schism of 1054.

His election also opens a new era in the post-Soviet period of the Russian nation, its internal life and its relations to the West and the entire world.


One great question concerns his relations with the Pope of Rome and with the Roman Catholic Church in general. It seems certain that Kirill, who has traveled several times to Rome and has met with Pope Benendict XVI more than once, will invite Benedict to visit Russia -- something Pope John Paul II wished to do but was not able to due to the unwillingness of Patriarch Alexi to receive him.
(Photo: Pope Benedict XVI greets Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill before a meeting at the Vatican Dec. 7. The pope and Metropolitan Kirill, head of the Moscow Patriarchate's office for external relations, held a rare meeting in a bid to improve often-strain ed relations.

"Kirill has a keen sense of the important role of religious institutions in public life," said Daniel Schmidt, an American philanthropist who has met and spoken at length with Kirill. "He recognizes the essential role of religious faith, not just in his own country, but in human society in general, in building social trust," Schmidt, director of programs for the Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said. The foundation has supported many Russian youth centers, orphanages, clinics and schools over the past 10 years.

Kirill's election, then, may usher in a time when the Russian Church will be more open to collaboration and common efforts, in Russia and worldwide, with the Catholic Church, and with others as well.

Source: Inside the Vatican, Dr. Robert Moynihan

Missa in honorem Sancti Paul

Here is a nice photo set from St. John Cantius at the premier of Fr. Scott Haynes's "Missa in Honorem Sancte Paule."

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Sung Vespers from St. Gabriel's in Stamford, Connecticut

Father Cyprian La Pastina of St. Gabriel's in Stamford, Connecticut has sent in some more photos of their parish Vespers, this time for the Conversion of St. Paul. They report that about 250 people were in attendance.

The music was sung using the Psalm settings from the Mundelein Psalter.

I must say, the fact that this parish pursues sung Vespers is something wonderful, and as I have written of here before, something which I think should be given more serious consideration as a part of the new liturgical movement.

St. Willibrord's: Archbishop of Utrecht and Ad Orientem

Speaking of the use of ad orientem in the context of the modern liturgy, a North European reader wrote in yesterday to inform the NLM that, yesterday, January 25th, the Archbishop of Utrecht, Msgr. Willem Eijk, re-consecrated St. Willibrord's church in Utrecht, a church which had been separated from that Archdiocese since the 1960's, but which recently repaired that schism. (For more of the background on this, see the original press release -- in English translation -- provided here and also see here.)

The church was put under the auspices of the Dutch Society for Latin Liturgy, and Masses are regularly celebrated ad orientem in this church. Both forms of the Roman liturgy are also offered.

Yesterday, for this occasion, the Archbishop offered Mass in accordance with the modern form of the Roman liturgy and it was offered ad orientem.

(A beautiful view of the interior of this spectacular church)

(The Archbishop of Utrecht, celebrating ad orientem in St. Willibrord)

More photos of the event may be found here.
(All photos are Copyright © Hans de Mol 2009 -

Msgr. Georg Ratzinger Installed as Honorary Canon of Regensburg Cathedral

Perhaps some of you have seen pictures or snippets from the concert of the Regensburg Cathedral Choir - the famous Domspatzen, the oldest continually existing Catholic choir in the world, being founded in 975 - which was held last Sunday in the Sistine Chapel in honour of the 85th birthday of Msgr. Georg Ratzinger, the Holy Father's brother. (Cf. CNS story here; I had the good fortune to see the entire concert, as well as the Pope's very moving off-the-cuff address in German, on Bavarian TV, but you can watch large parts of the concert online, click here for part 1, part 2 and part 3.)

In the context of this concert, the bishop of Regensburg, Most Reverend Msgr. Gerhard Ludwig Müller announced that

Because of his outstanding merits regarding the worthy celebration of the liturgy of the Cathedral and the Choir of the Regensburger Domspatzen I, having consulted the Cathedral Chapter, appoint the Cathedral Kapellmeister em. of the Cathedral of St. Peter's at Regensburg, Most Reverend Protonotary Apostolic Prof. Dr. h.c. Georg Ratzinger, Canon of the Collegiate Chapter of Saints John Baptist and John Evangelist at Regenburg, as Honorary Canon of the Cathedral Chapter ("Ehrendomherr") of the Cathedral of St. Peter's of the Diocsese of Regensburg.

Yesterday, during Pontifical Vespers in said Cathedral celebrated by the ordinary of Regensburg, Msgr. Ratzinger was installed in this new office. Here are some pictures which show the distinctive mozzetta of the Regensburg Cathedral Chapter. Also note the German four-horned biretta.


Images of the occasion are now available at the website of the diocese of Regensburg.

From these it would seem that the fur mozzetta, together with the capitular cross on the blue-and-white ribbon, actually is the choir dress of the Collegiate Chapter of Saints John Baptist and John Evangelist at Regenburg, of which Prelate Ratzinger was already a member, while the Canons of Regensburg Cathedral wear a purple (paonazza) mozzetta with the capitular cross on a black-and-gold ribbon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ad Orientem up North: "They now prefer it"

Good news from a priest-friend, Fr. Mitchell Beachey, on the issue of ad orientem. I have spoken of him and his liturgical endeavours here before on a few occasions. He has been busy working at restoring the liturgical orientation of his churches through, not only the Benedictine arrangement of the altar, but also through the use of ad orientem liturgicum -- amongst his other liturgical pursuits, including the usus antiquior.

Just this evening he gave me an update on one of his parishes where he began celebrating ad orientem at the beginning of Advent. His intention was to do this solely for Advent and Christmas and then return to the Benedictine arrangement, but what should transpire but this:

I have been celebrating ad orientem since Advent. I was going to stop after Christmas, but they now prefer it [ad orientem].

And so, this parish church will now just continue on, from henceforth, with the celebration of the Mass ad orientem. Needless to say, this is a marvellous and gratifying thing.

(Fr. Beachey celebrating the modern liturgy ad orientem liturgicum)

There is something very pertinent in this account.

Evidently there must always be some preparation and catechesis and there must also be prudence employed when dealing in these matters -- and indeed, situations can vary from place to place, and this must be earnestly taken into account -- but perhaps this report is a reminder of what these things, in combination with a little bit of pioneering spirit, can accomplish. It is perhaps also a reminder that the faithful themselves should not be underestimated in their ability to receive that catechesis and come to appreciate our venerable liturgical tradition.

Papal Vespers from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is one of the great churches of Christendom, and one of the most beautiful of the papal basilicas.

A brief history of the basilica:
At the beginning of the 4th century, with the end of the persecutions and the promulgation of the Edicts of Tolerance in favour of Christianity, Emperor Constantine ordered the excavation of the cella memoriae, the place where Christians venerated the memory of Saint Paul the Apostle, beheaded under Nero around 65-67 A.D. Above his grave, located along the Ostiense Way, about two kilometers outside the Aurelian Walls surrounding Rome, Constantine built a Basilica which was consecrated by Pope Sylvester in 324.

Between 384 and 395 the Basilica, under the emperors Theodosius, Valentinian II and Arcadius, was restored and enlarged according to an extensive project consisting of five naves opening out into an atrium (quadriportico), or courtyard with four rows of columns. Throughout the centuries the Basilica would not cease to be embellished and enhanced by the Popes. For example, the massive defensive wall was built to protect against invasions at the end of the ninth century, while the bell tower and the magnificent Byzantine door were constructed in the eleventh century.


On the night of July 15, 1823, a fire destroyed this unique testimony to the Paleo-Christian, Byzantine, Renaissance and Baroque periods. The Basilica was reconstructed identically to what it had been before, utilizing all the elements which had survived the fire. In 1840 Pope Gregory XVI consecrated the Altar of the Confession and the Transept.

The basilica today:

It is in this beautiful Roman basilica that we bring you coverage of Papal Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul Apostle.

(Cardinal Deacons)

So far we see that these vespers are very similar in arrangement to the same event a year ago. (As a point of interest, another arrangement that has also been used in this basilica can be seen from the NLM coverage for the inauguration of the Pauline year, held on June 28, 2008.)

(The altar incensed at the Magnificat by two deacons)

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