Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Never Before Heard in North America

That much-talked-about Requiem Mass by Joan Brudieu (ca.1520-1591) is now online in full. Listen for the heartbeat underneath the polyphonic structure on top, beautifully crafted by the choir under the direction of Wilko Brouwers. The same Mass has Dies Irae sung in octave alternation. Much more here. In fact, it is an entire evening of thrilling listening.

Pope to Inaugurate Newly Restored Cappella Paolina with Vespers on Saturday

Readers may recall the March 22nd NLM story which detailed the restoration of the Cappella Paolina in the Apostolic Palace.

In that story we reported that "...the Vatican has announced that the rearrangement of the liturgical space carried out under Pope Paul VI after the Second Vatican Council will be almost completely reversed, restoring most of the furnishings to their original place..." including the return of the original marble altar, but as a freestanding altar.

The restoration also included work on Michelangelo frescoes depicting the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter.

It has been reported today that this restoration is now complete and the inauguration will take place. This was announced this morning in a press conference in the Sala Regia of the Vatican Apostolic Palace. (Original source)

Pope Benedict XVI will inaugurate the restored chapel this Saturday with the celebration of Vespers in the chapel. The NLM will endeavour to bring you coverage of this event.

A detail made available by made available by L' Osservatore Romano today, which shows some of the restoration work

Cardinal O'Brien at the London Oratory

Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien at the London Oratory for the Feast of St. John with the Knights of Malta. (Photo by Function Photos, Hampton)

Pontifical Mass and Canons Regular of St. John Cantius on EWTN July 1st

For those of you who have never had an opportunity to attend a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the usus antiquior, you may be interested to know that the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius, along with Bishop Joseph Perry, an auxiliary of the archdiocese of Chicago, will be celebrating one live on EWTN tomorrow, July 1st, on the Feast of the Most Precious Blood in the calendar of the usus antiquior.

The Mass will begin airing at 8:00am EST (and will be re-aired at midnight EST). The Schola will be comprised of the Poor Clare nuns and the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius.

In addition to the Pontifical Mass, Bishop Perry and Fr. Frank Phillips of the Canons Regular will be on the programme, EWTN Live with guest host, Fr. Joseph Wolfe, MFVA, to discuss the re-invigoration of the St. John Cantius parish.

This will air tomorrow at 8:00pm EST.

Finally, on Friday, July 3, 2009 at 8:00am EST, Fr. Frank Phillips, C.R. and the Canons Regular will celebrate the modern Roman liturgy in the chapel of the EWTN Studios in Irondale.

The brothers of the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius will sing Kyriale IV and the Gregorian chant propers from the Gradulae Romanum for this festal Mass of St. Thomas the Apostle.

For those interested in one or all of these events, EWTN can be watched live on the internet by clicking on the "Television" menu and going to "Live TV" in either English of Spanish.

Bridge Building and Sacred Music

It's a common error made in contemporary literature on sacred music to suggest that style doesn't matter, even though the Second Vatican Council clearly speaks of the "qualities proper to genuine sacred music." In fact, at least one defunct document issued in 1982 ("Music in Catholic Worship") explicitly claimed that we cannot judge the style of music as such. The replacement document, "Sing to the Lord," does not repeat the false claim, which was a great relief to the competent musicians involved.

However, at some stage of the drafting of "Sing," someone snuck in a phrase that admits the sentiment that style doesn’t matter. Such is the nature of committee work in which everyone gets a piece of the action. The phrase in paragraph 71 reads: "…the Church seeks to employ only that which, in a given style, meets the ritual-spiritual demands of the Liturgy." That seems like a pretty small nail on which to hang the hat of rock music, overt in its secular beats and emotionalism, but, sure enough, that is what we are seeing.

In any article in the June 2009 issue of Pastoral Music, a piece called "Praise and Worship Music: Can We Use it at Mass," by Ed Bolduc who is associated with a Christian publishing business, this statement is quoted to justify a rousing defense of P&M music. He admits that the music is "simple," but says that is fine since it is focused on the "individuals' personal, intimate relationship with God" and can be played by musicians "with even a minimal knowledge of their instrument." It is suitable because it address "specific needs" and "speaks to the heart." Further, it is suitable liturgical music because it encourages "vibrant, participatory, singing and worship."

Striking, isn't it? A magazine entirely devoted to the issue of Catholic music, in the same issue that discusses chant with a high degree of competence, would hand all musicians of the world a blank check to sing and play whatever they want provided it speaks to people in some way and gets people to sing. By that standard, no music, no style, no text, can be excluded from Mass, so of course Praise and Worship music is suitable too.

One would have no idea that there is any legislation governing the choice of music at Mass, though Popes have been written on this material for nearly 2000 years. The writer of this article feels free to completely ignore the whole of this writing and the whole of tradition, which is free to do, but it strikes me as the height of irresponsibility for this article to be published by a reputable Catholic publication.

Nonetheless, let's take on the notion that anything and everything can be played and sung at Mass. St. Pius the X summarized all the teachings of the Church by delineating three marks of sacred music: it is holy, beautiful, and universal. Gregorian chant is therefore the model and ideal.

Rather than explain each directly, it might be more fruitful to explain this by reference to building a bridge, the very physical structure that stretches over a body of water to road to allow transport above ground.

Let us say that we decide that a bridge has three marks: it design must obey geometric laws governing structure so that it will do its job, it must be made of solid material so that it can withstand wear, and it must be aesthetically pleasing.

The point about geometry is roughly analogous with the principle of universality: the laws of geometry are universal principles that no bridge can do without. In the same sense, sacred music should obey the dictate of universality, possessing quality that elicits a sense of the sacred worldwide.

The point about material integrity—the bridge can't be made of Styrofoam or paper but must have steel or thick wood enforcement—is roughly analogous to the principle of holiness in music. Without it, the music serves some other purpose but not a liturgical one. Holiness means to be set apart from things of the world to serve a particular godly purpose. If the music is not "made" with that quality, it cannot serve that purpose.

The final principle of bridge building concerns aesthetics. It is large and imposing and a permanent feature of the landscape. Without beauty, it can still do its practical functional work but it will be an eyesore. So it makes sense to insist on that quality since the bridge is not just providing transportation. It is also something we experience with this senses in the same way that we experience music with the senses.

So there is the analogy: music must be holy (be made of sound material), beautiful (aesthetically pleasing with an order that elevates our senses), and universal in its appeal to the best in everyone (obey universal norms that transcend time and place).

Now, just imagine if someone came along and said, you know, all these old strictures are just the work of fuddy-duddies, rules imposed by people who don't understand the contemporary bridge-building impulse. Bridges don't have to obey the laws of geometry. They don't have to be made of anything in particular. And the standards of what is aesthetically pleasing are so various as to resist any attempts at objectification.

What would happen to a bridge that in the building of which ignored all these principles? I think we know. Cars would drive on the bridge without any real assurance of safety in getting from here to there. Depending on the degree to which the rules were ignored, they might no make it at all. Meanwhile, the bridge would in fact be an eyesore.

The person behind the project would not end as a community hero. He would probably develop the reputation as a fool and rightly so: anyone who attempts to serve a community of traveler while willy-nilly ignoring established rules has little to offer anyone.

So it is with music at Mass. There are principles. There are rules. These are essential in accomplishing the task at hand. It is not enough that people's hearts are in the right place and that the music moves them in some emotional sense. It must conform to the principles governing the task at hand.

Now, I admit here that there is plenty of room for creativity in the application of these principles. No question about it. That is a good thing. If every bridge looked the same or operated the same way, the world would become rather boring. But that creativity must occur within an established framework else the job would not and could not be said to be well done.

A song singled out by Mr. Bolduc as particularly appropriate for Mass is "Open the Eyes of My Heart, Lord" by Paul Baloche. I've not heard this song before. But listening to it now for the first time, I hear bongos, a trap set, electric guitars, a simplistic musical and textual structure, a rock-beat meter, and familiar rock riffs throughout, along with an ego completely unleashed from all decorum and discipline. It might be a good thing that it has a vaguely religious message (a guy wants to see God) but that alone is not enough. It does not serve the purposes of liturgical music. And for anyone with a well-formed liturgical conscience, this music will introduce scandal to many at Mass.

So, no, it does not qualify. Based on this sample, I would say that Ed Bolduc is wrong. Praise and Worship music should not be used at Mass, even if his firm of World Library Publications sells the sheet music.

A Minimum Repertoire for Children

Here is Fr. Jeffrey Keyes of St. Edward Catholic Church, Newark, explaining the rationale of his Minimum Parish Repertoire that is part of the school curriculum.

An Open-Source Conference

Here is an initial round of recordings of the music at the Sacred Music Colloquium in Chicago, a gathering of 250 musicians along with Masses in the ordinary and extraordinary form, including one celebrated by Cardinal George. The Haydn Mass included orchestra. The Requiem Mass used a polyphonic ordinary written 500 years ago but never before heard in North America. The final Mass was the Byrd Mass for 5 voices. All readings were sung. All propers were sung in Gregorian chant. The Masses themselves were expertly crafted with ceremonial detail provided by priests and brothers of St. John Cantius.

Many more recordings will posted, along with video and interviews. All are completely open source. Click them to your hard drive. Share them. Use them for any purpose you want to use them for without asking any permission. The same is true for all scores which are online for free download.

As a funny side note, on the last night of the conference, I notice a new conference arriving on campus, mostly people in the 70s and 80s. It looked like about 40 people arriving to discuss spiritual renewal. All very nice and the attendees seemed like sweet people.

But to my surprise, I was looking through the latest issue of Pastoral Music under events and I saw that very conference listed as something to attend. There was no note about age, so it turns out not to be an age specific event. Meanwhile, there was not one word about the Sacred Music Colloquium, in this publication wholly devoted to Catholic music. The unannounced Colloquium was so large that it nearly took over the campus. And so it goes in the course of human events.

New Illustration: The St. Bernard Triptych, Part II

Continuing our excursion into one of my latest illustration commissions, a sequence of images depicting events from the life of St. Bernard done for a client in New York City, here is a view of the central panel, depicting the saint in glory.

Matthew Alderman. S. Bernard of Clairvaux. Ink. June 2009. Private Collection, New York City.

Above his head, two angels bear the coat of arms of the Cistercian Order, while below, St. Bernard bears his crozier in his right hand, the abbatial veil curling around its shaft. His posture is derived in part from Zurbarán's marvelous painting of St. Francis upright in the tomb (ca. 1630/34). Numerous smaller details depict the saint's various attributes in discrete ways--the bees worked into the foliage of his crozier-head, representing his title of Doctor Melifluus; the arms of the Templar Order, whose rule he wrote, on the knob of its staff; another shield depicting the mitres of the three dioceses he rejected; an angel presenting him with a model of the abbey of Clairvaux, and a scroll inscribed with the opening passage of the Canticle of Canticles, on which he frequently preached.

For those of you who missed it, the first installment of this series can be found here. Tomorrow I will share the final panel in the sequence, depicting Christ's revelation of the Holy Shoulder to the saint.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Saint Paul Parish Philadelphia Concludes the Year of St. Paul and Begins a Weekly Missa Cantata

From a reader comes a story which gives an opportunity to share some news and photos from today's feast of Ss. Peter and Paul:

St. Paul Parish in South Philadelphia marked the closing of the Year of St. Paul with a solemn celebration of Mass in the Extraordinary Form (Missa Cantata) celebrating the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul. Approximately 350 people were in attendance for the Mass including many visitors who came as pilgrims for the close of the Pauline Year. In addition to the Propers and various motets by Perosi and Ravenello provided by a small schola, the Missa de Angelis was sung for the Ordinary. Mr. Nicholas Beck directed the Schola and Mr. Robert Ridgell was the organist.

Father Gerald P. Carey, Pastor celebrated the Mass and announced to all present that beginning in the Fall, there will be a sung TLM every week at 12:00 Noon beginning on October 25 (Feast of Christ the King).

Father Carey is still very new to the Extraordinary Form and is asking everyone for their prayers in this big step forward. Please remember him and all of his parishioners as they embark upon this endeavor.

Fr. Carey celebrates Mass on the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul

(Readers are invited to send in their news and photos from today's great Feast, which is so intimately tied to the Roman See.)

The Roman Empire, the Early Christian Martyrs and a Thought about the Martyrology

At this time of the year, I find that my mind particularly turns toward the martyrs and Rome. This is for two reasons. For one, we find ourselves today celebrating the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul, both of whom were martyred within Rome. As well, tomorrow in the modern Roman calendar, we mark the feast of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church. In the spirit of these liturgical days, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some brief and random reflections on the martyrs from some early historical sources.

We begin with the Roman orator and historian, Tacitus (ca. A.D. 56-125). In The Annals, Tacitus speaks of the persecution and martyrdom of some of the Christians in the time of the Emperor Nero (reigned A.D. 54-68) -- while also providing some period pagan Roman commentary about the "superstition" and "abomination" of the Christian Faith. The account comes in the context of the great fire of Rome, "a disaster... whether accidental or treacherously contrived by the emperor, is uncertain... and more dreadful than any which have ever happened to this city by the violence of fire." (Annals, 15.38)

Tacitus picks up on Nero's machinations to deal with the political fallout from this event, which involved the martyrdom of many Christians:

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.

Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man's cruelty, that they were being destroyed.

Annals, 15.44

The Torches of Nero, by Henryk Siemiradzki

The Roman lawyer and magistrate, Pliny the Younger (ca. A.D. 61-112), spoke as follows with regard to the consequence of simply being a Christian, writing to the Emperor Trajan to receive confirmation (which he received) from the Emperor:
Never have been present at any trials of the Christians, I do not know what means and limits are to be observed in examining or punishing them... This is the way I have dealt with those who have been denounced to me as Christians: I asked them if they were Christians. If they admitted that they were, I asked them again a second and a third time threatening them with capital punishment. If they still persevered, I ordered them to be executed. For I felt certain that whatever it was that they professed, their contumacy and inflexible obstinancy obviously demanded punishment. There were others of like madness, but since they were Roman citizens, I had them sent to Rome....

- Letters 10.96

Pope St. Clement, the fourth Roman Pontiff (reigned A.D. 88-97) wrote briefly of the martyrdom of Ss. Peter and Paul and of other Roman martyrs in his epistle to the Corinthians. There, he also makes a reference to the persecution ("calamitous events") of the Emperor Domitian (reigned A.D. 81-96) against the Church:
The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth, to them that are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us...

Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished us with a most excellent example. Through envy, those women, the Danaids and Dircæ, being persecuted, after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, finished the course of their faith with steadfastness, and though weak in body, received a noble reward.

- Letter to the Corinthians, ch. 5-6

The great ecclesiastical historian Eusebius (ca. A.D. 263–339), in his Historia Ecclesiastica also gives us this account of the martyrdom of Ss. Peter and Paul in Rome:
The Persecution under Nero in which Paul and Peter were honored at Rome with Martyrdom in Behalf of Religion.

1. When the government of Nero was now firmly established, he began to plunge into unholy pursuits, and armed himself even against the religion of the God of the universe.

2. To describe the greatness of his depravity does not lie within the plan of the present work. As there are many indeed that have recorded his history in most accurate narratives, every one may at his pleasure learn from them the coarseness of the man's extraordinary madness, under the influence of which, after he had accomplished the destruction of so many myriads without any reason, he ran into such blood-guiltiness that he did not spare even his nearest relatives and dearest friends, but destroyed his mother and his brothers and his wife, with very many others of his own family as he would private and public enemies, with various kinds of deaths.

3. But with all these things this particular in the catalogue of his crimes was still wanting, that he was the first of the emperors who showed himself an enemy of the divine religion.

4. The Roman Tertullian is likewise a witness of this. He writes as follows: "Examine your records. There you will find that Nero was the first that persecuted this doctrine, particularly then when after subduing all the east, he exercised his cruelty against all at Rome. We glory in having such a man the leader in our punishment. For whoever knows him can understand that nothing was condemned by Nero unless it was something of great excellence."

5. Thus publicly announcing himself as the first among God's chief enemies, he was led on to the slaughter of the apostles. It is, therefore, recorded that Paul was beheaded in Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified under Nero. This account of Peter and Paul is substantiated by the fact that their names are preserved in the cemeteries of that place even to the present day.

6. It is confirmed likewise by Caius, a member of the Church, who arose under Zephyrinus, bishop of Rome. He, in a published disputation with Proclus, the leader of the Phrygian heresy, speaks as follows concerning the places where the sacred corpses of the aforesaid apostles are laid:

7. "But I can show the trophies of the apostles. For if you will go to the Vatican or to the Ostian way, you will find the trophies of those who laid the foundations of this church."

8. And that they both suffered martyrdom at the same time is stated by Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, in his epistle to the Romans, in the following words: "You have thus by such an admonition bound together the planting of Peter and of Paul at Rome and Corinth. For both of them planted and likewise taught us in our Corinth. And they taught together in like manner in Italy, and suffered martyrdom at the same time." I have quoted these things in order that the truth of the history might be still more confirmed.

- Church History II.21.7


We could of course continue on with various sources which speak to the persecution and martyrdom of so many Christians in the Roman empire in these times. Instead I will focus on two points.

One is that this consideration of the plight of the early Church further emphasizes the importance of the activities of the Emperor Constantine for the Church, who, with the Edict of Milan, legalized Christianity, removing the penalties associated with it. Accordingly, he is revered as a saint within the Eastern Churches, and given the title of "Constantine the Great" also within the Latin Church.

(Right: A statue of Constantine which is found in the portico of the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran)

In the second instance, these matters bring us to an extension of our recent consideration of the importance of the breviary, which is the further consideration of the Martyrlogium Romanum or Roman Martyrology. The Roman Martyrology, like the breviary, is a liturgical book proper. It strikes me that in our day, we should strive to be more conscientious of the sacrifice made by the early martyrs. What better way than by reading each day the brief and commemorative accounts carried in the Martyrology, to at least bring them, however briefly, to our daily recollection.

(For those interested, Preserving Christian Publications sells a copy of the edition published in 1961. See here: The Roman Martyrology)

Papal Mass for Ss. Peter and Paul

This morning, Pope Benedict celebrated a Papal Mass for the Feast of the Holy Apsotles Peter and Paul. During this Mass, he imposed the pallia on the metropolitan archbishops appointed since the same date last year. While the NLM was unable to follow the Mass, you can watch a video of the Mass at French kto TV here, and here are some images from Daylife (click to enlarge).

The Cardinal Deacons are Angelo Comastri, President of the Fabric of Saint Peter, and Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State.

The Pope is wearing yesterday's mitre and a new chasuble belonging to the set of yesterday's cope. Here are two shots allowing us a closer look at the nice damask of the vestments:

The pallia are brought to the Pope:

The Pontiff imposes the pallium on Archbishop Carlson of Saint Louis:

And on Archbishop Ghaleb Moussa Abdalla Bader of Algiers:

Archbishop Vigneron of Detroit having received the pallium:

The Holy Father with some of the metropolitans having received the pallium:

- o - O - o -

Incidentally, I've come across a rather interesting detail on the occasion of yesterday's papal Vespers. A user of the Pope Benedict Forum noticed that the mosaic depicting Pope Benedict XVI in the line of papal portraits in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls has been changed. Originally, it showed the Holy Father wearing the form of pallium introduced by Msgr. Piero Marini in 2005 (cf. NLM article here):

Now, the roundel portrays him wearing the form of pallium introduced by Msgr. Guido Marini on this day last year (cf. NLM article here and here, as well as images from last year's Mass here):

(Images from St. Paul Outside the Walls by Pope Benedict Forum user "Benodette".)

New Illustration: The St. Bernard Triptych, Part I

I recently completed a large commission for an original piece of art for a client in New York City, a series of three interrelated illustrations of scenes from the life of St. Bernard. I hope to share each of the three panels with our readers over the next few days, concluding with the three placed together in context.

Matthew Alderman. S. Bernard Healed by the Virgin.
Ink. June 2009. Private Collection, New York City.

This image is derived from an event described in St. Bernard of Clairvaux: Oracle of the Twelfth Century by the Abbé Maria Theodor Ratisbonne, a convert and the brother of the more famous fellow-convert Alphonse Ratisbonne:

One day, however, his [St. Bernard's] sufferings became so excessive that, no longer able to bear up against them, he called two of his brethren and begged them to go to the church and ask some relief of God. The brethren, touched with compassion, prostrated themselves before the altar, and prayed with great abundance of tears. During this time, Bernard had a vision which ravished him with delight. The Virgin Mary, accompanied by St. Lawrence and St. Benedict, under whose invocation he had consecrated the two side altars of his church, appeared to the sick man. "The serenity of their faces," says William of St. Thierry, "seemed the expression of the perfect peace which surrounds them in Heaven." They manifested themselves so distinctly to the servant of God that he recognized them as soon as they entered his cell. The Virgin Mary, as well as the two saints, touched with their sacred hands the parts of Bernard's body where the pain was most acute; and, by this holy touch, he was immediately delivered from his malady; and the saliva which till then had been flowing from his mouth in a continuous stream ceased at the same time.
I used this commission, in part, to experiment with some stylistic elements derived from the work of the Irish stained glass designer Harry Clarke, whose work has appeared here in the past. The edging of sea-shells along the Virgin's cloak is partially inspired by Clarke's work, and also refers specifically to St. Bernard's devotion to the Virgin as Star of the Sea; the saint is thought to be the first to have invoked the Virgin under this title. The star motif on the Virgin's morse also recalls this. St. Bernard and St. Lawrence are visible in the background, with the ill saint curled up at the bottom of the panel.

Tomorrow, I will post an image of the central panel, showing the saint surrounded by his attributes.

Homily of Papal Vespers on 28 June 2009

The Italian original of yesterday's outstanding homily of Pope Benedict XVI at Solemn Vespers on the occasion of the conclusion of the Pauline Year has now been published by the Holy See here, as well as the German version in which it was written. And now (2 July), an English translation of this seminal sermon has also been published:

Your Eminences,
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Distinguished Members of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. In particular, I greet the Cardinal Archpriest of this Basilica and his collaborators, I greet the Abbot and the Benedictine monastic community; I also greet the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The commemorative year for the birth of St Paul ends this evening. We have gathered at the tomb of the Apostle whose sarcophagus, preserved beneath the papal altar, was recently the object of a careful scientific analysis. A tiny hole was drilled in the sarcophagus, which in so many centuries had never been opened, in order to insert a special probe which revealed traces of a precious purple-coloured linen fabric, with a design in gold leaf, and a blue fabric with linen threads. Grains of red incense and protein and chalk substances were also found. In addition, minute fragments of bone were sent for carbon-14 testing by experts unaware of their provenance. The fragments proved to belong to someone who had lived between the first and second centuries. This would seem to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition which claims that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our hearts with profound emotion. In recent months, many people have followed the paths of the Apostle the exterior and especially the interior paths on which he travelled in his lifetime: the road to Damascus towards his encounter with the Risen One; the routes of the Mediterranean world which he crossed with the torch of the Gospel, encountering contradiction and adherence until his martyrdom, through which he belongs for ever to the Church of Rome. It was to her that he also addressed his most important Letter. The Pauline Year is drawing to a close but what will remain a part of Christian existence is the journey with Paul with him and thanks to him getting to know Jesus, and, like the Apostle, being enlightened and transformed by the Gospel. And always, going beyond the circle of believers, he remains the "teacher of the Gentiles", who seeks to bring the message of the Risen One to them all, because Christ has known and loved each one; he has died and risen for them all. Therefore let us too listen to him at this time when we are solemnly beginning the Feast of the two Apostles who were bound to one another by a close bond.

It is part of the structure of Paul's Letters always in reference to the particular place and situation that they first of all explain the mystery of Christ, they teach faith. The second part treats their application to our lives: what ensues from this faith? How does it shape our existence, day by day? In the Letter to the Romans, this second part begins in chapter 12, in which the Apostle briefly sums up the essential nucleus of Christian existence in the first two verses. What does St Paul say to us in that passage? First of all he affirms, as a fundamental thing, that a new way of venerating God began with Christ a new form of worship. It consists in the fact that the living person himself becomes adoration, "sacrifice", even in his own body. It is no longer things that are offered to God. It is our very existence that must become praise of God. But how does this happen? In the second verse we are given the answer: "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God..." (12: 2). The two decisive words of this verse are "transformed" and "renewal". We must become new people, transformed into a new mode of existence. The world is always in search of novelty because, rightly, it is always dissatisfied with concrete reality. Paul tells us: the world cannot be renewed without new people. Only if there are new people will there also be a new world, a renewed and better world. In the beginning is the renewal of the human being. This subsequently applies to every individual. Only if we ourselves become new does the world become new. This also means that it is not enough to adapt to the current situation. The Apostle exhorts us to non-conformism. In our Letter he says: we should not submit to the logic of our time. We shall return to this point, reflecting on the second text on which I wish to meditate with you this evening. The Apostle's "no" is clear and also convincing for anyone who observes the "logic" of our world. But to become new how can this be done? Are we really capable of it? With his words on becoming new, Paul alludes to his own conversion: to his encounter with the Risen Christ, an encounter of which, in the Second Letter to the Corinthians he says: "if anyone is in Christ, he is in a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" (5: 17). This encounter with Christ was so overwhelming for him that he said of it: "I... died..." (Gal 2: 19; cf. Rm 6). He became new, another, because he no longer lived for himself and by virtue of himself, but for Christ and in him. In the course of the years, however, he also saw that this process of renewal and transformation continues throughout life. We become new if we let ourselves be grasped and shaped by the new Man, Jesus Christ. He is the new Man par excellence. In him the new human existence became reality and we can truly become new if we deliver ourselves into his hands and let ourselves be moulded by him.

Paul makes this process of "recasting" even clearer by saying that we become new if we transform our way of thinking. What has been introduced here with "way of thinking" is the Greek term "nous". It is a complex word. It may be translated as "spirit", "sentiments", "reason", and precisely, also by "way of thinking". Thus our reason must become new. This surprises us. We might have expected instead that this would have concerned some attitude: what we should change in our behaviour. But no: renewal must go to the very core. Our way of looking at the world, of understanding reality all our thought must change from its foundations. The reasoning of the former person, the common way of thinking is usually directed to possession, well-being, influence, success, fame and so forth. Yet in this way its scope is too limited. Thus, in the final analysis, one's "self" remains the centre of the world. We must learn to think more profoundly. St Paul tells us what this means in the second part of the sentence: it is necessary to learn to understand God's will, so that it may shape our own will. This is in order that we ourselves may desire what God desires, because we recognize that what God wants is the beautiful and the good. It is therefore a question of a turning point in our fundamental spiritual orientation. God must enter into the horizon of our thought: what he wants and the way in which he conceived of the world and of me. We must learn to share in the thinking and the will of Jesus Christ. It is then that we will be new people in whom a new world emerges.

Paul illustrates the same idea of a necessary renewal of our way of being human in two passages of his Letter to the Ephesians; let us therefore reflect on them briefly. In the Letter's fourth chapter, the Apostle tells us that with Christ we must attain adulthood, a mature faith. We can no longer be "children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine..." (4: 14). Paul wants Christians to have a "responsible" and "adult faith". The words "adult faith" in recent decades have formed a widespread slogan. It is often meant in the sense of the attitude of those who no longer listen to the Church and her Pastors but autonomously choose what they want to believe and not to believe hence a do-it-yourself faith. And it is presented as a "courageous" form of self-expression against the Magisterium of the Church. In fact, however, no courage is needed for this because one may always be certain of public applause. Rather, courage is needed to adhere to the Church's faith, even if this contradicts the "logic" of the contemporary world. This is the non-conformism of faith which Paul calls an "adult faith". It is the faith that he desires. On the other hand, he describes chasing the winds and trends of the time as infantile. Thus, being committed to the inviolability of human life from its first instant, thereby radically opposing the principle of violence also precisely in the defence of the most defenceless human creatures is part of an adult faith. It is part of an adult faith to recognize marriage between a man and a woman for the whole of life as the Creator's ordering, newly re-established by Christ. Adult faith does not let itself be carried about here and there by any trend. It opposes the winds of fashion. It knows that these winds are not the breath of the Holy Spirit; it knows that the Spirit of God is expressed and manifested in communion with Jesus Christ. However, here too Paul does not stop at saying "no", but rather leads us to the great "yes". He describes the mature, truly adult faith positively with the words: "speaking the truth in love" (cf. Eph 4: 15). The new way of thinking, given to us by faith, is first and foremost a turning towards the truth. The power of evil is falsehood. The power of faith, the power of God, is the truth. The truth about the world and about ourselves becomes visible when we look to God. And God makes himself visible to us in the Face of Jesus Christ. In looking at Christ, we recognize something else: truth and love are inseparable. In God both are inseparably one; it is precisely this that is the essence of God. For Christians, therefore, truth and love go together. Love is the test of truth. We should always measure ourselves anew against this criterion, so that truth may become love and love may make us truthful.

Another important thought appears in this verse of St Paul. The Apostle tells us that by acting in accordance with truth in love, we help to ensure that all things (ta pánta) the universe may grow, striving for Christ. On the basis of his faith, Paul is not only concerned in our personal rectitude nor with the growth of the Church alone. He is interested in the universe: ta pánta. The ultimate purpose of Christ's work is the universe the transformation of the universe, of the whole human world, of all creation. Those who serve the truth in love together with Christ contribute to the true progress of the world. Yes, here it is quite clear that Paul is acquainted with the idea of progress. Christ his life, his suffering and his rising was the great leap ahead in the progress of humanity, of the world. Now, however, the universe must grow in accordance with him. Where the presence of Christ increases, therein lies the true progress of the world. There, mankind becomes new and thus the world is made new.

Paul makes the same thing clear from yet another different perspective. In chapter three of the Letter to the Ephesians he speaks to us of the need to be "strengthened... in the inner man" (3: 16). With this he takes up a subject that earlier, in a troubled situation, he had addressed in the Second Letter to the Corinthians. "Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day" (4: 16). The inner person must be strengthened this is a very appropriate imperative for our time, in which people all too often remain inwardly empty and must therefore cling to promises and drugs, which then result in a further growth of the sense of emptiness in their hearts. This interior void the weakness of the inner person is one of the great problems of our time. Interiority must be reinforced the perceptiveness of the heart; the capacity to see and to understand the world and the person from within, with one's heart. We are in need of reason illuminated by the heart in order to learn to act in accordance with truth in love. However, this is not realized without an intimate relationship with God, without the life of prayer. We need the encounter with God that is given to us in the sacraments. And we cannot speak to God in prayer unless we let him speak first, unless we listen to him in the words that he has given us. In this regard Paul says to us: "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3: 17ff.). With these words Paul tells us that love sees beyond simple reason. And he also tells us that only in communion with all the saints, that is, in the great community of all believers and not against or without it can we know the immensity of Christ's mystery. He circumscribes this immensity with words meant to express the dimensions of the cosmos: breadth, length and height and depth. The mystery of Christ has a cosmic vastness; he did not belong only to a specific group. The Crucified Christ embraces the entire universe in all its dimensions. He takes the world in his hands and lifts it up towards God. Starting with St Irenaeus of Lyons thus from the second century the Fathers have seen in these words on the breadth, length and height and depth of Christ's love an allusion to the Cross. In the Cross, Christ's love embraced the lowest depths the night of death as well as the supreme heights, the loftiness of God himself. And he took into his arms the breadth and the vastness of humanity and of the world in all their distances. He always embraces the universe all of us.

Let us pray the Lord to help us to recognize something of the immensity of his love. Let us pray him that his love and his truth may touch our hearts. Let us ask that Christ dwell in our hearts and make us new men and women who act according to truth in love. Amen!

Images Daylife.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Solemn First Vespers for Ss. Peter and Paul

From the Birmingham Oratory this evening, we have a few photographs, courtesy of Mrs. Jackie Parkes, of the First Vespers of the Feast of Ss. Peter and Paul.

The Incensation of the Altar at the Magnificat

Papal Vespers for the Conclusion of the Pauline Year

In a few moments, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will begin the celebration of Solemn Vespers - first Vespers of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul - on the occasion of the conclusion of the Pauline Year, commemorating the 2000th anniversary of the birth of St. Paul, in the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Here is the booklet for those who want to follow along. Below you will find some images of the ceremony.

Before we come to them, however, here are some pictures of what is probably the oldest icon - in the sense of a cult image - of St. Paul the Apostle, probably dating from the end of the fourth century. It was discovered, as today's edition of L’Osservatore Romano reports, last Friday 19 June in the course of restoration works in the Roman catacombs of St. Thecla on the Via Ostiensis, not far from the burial place of St. Paul:

And now for Papal Vespers:

The Holy Father arriving and being greeted by the Archpriest of St. Paul, Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo:

The Pope entering the Basilica:

Descending into the Confessio to venerate the tomb of the Apostle:

Having venerated the altar, the Holy Father goes to the throne:

A nice view of the confessio, the altar, and the Pope at the throne in the background:

The Pope at the throne. The Cardinal Deacons are the Archpriest of St. Paul, Cardinal Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo, and, if I am not mistaken, Cardinal Raffaele Farina, Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church:

In this close-up, note the fine silver laminee of the covering of the papal throne:

The homily. During the homily, the Pope revealed that a special minuscule probe has been inserted into the sarcophagus of St. Paul, which has never been opened, and a radiocarbon examination of a very small piece of bone retrieved in this way, along with traces of precious vesmtents and incense, has shown that the bones belong to a person who lived between the first and second century. In the words of the Holy Father: "This seems to confirm the unanimous and undisputed tradition that these are the mortal remains of the Apostle Paul. All this fills our mind with deep emotion."
The entire homily is incredible, I would say among the greatest of his pontificate, I will post an English translation once it becomes available (see post above):

Incensation of the altar...

...and of the tomb of the Apostle at the Magnificat (the practice of having the incensation performed by two deacons - a feature, I believe, of the Ambrosian rite - seems now to have become a fixed element of papal Vespers under Msgr. Guido Marini):


Veneration of the altar:

The Holy Father leaves the Basilica:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul, Brünn, Czech Republic

Quite by accident, I came across this stunning photo of the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Brünn, Czech Republic.

Here is some further information from the site if Czech Bishops Conference:
According to the latest research, [the] beginnings of the church in Petrov go back to the 1170's. Later it was rebuilt in Gothic style and around 1500, during one of several reconstructions, its title of St. Peter was extended to Ss. Peter and Paul. During the Thirty Years' War the church burned out and was renewed in Baroque style in 1651-1652 and 1743-1746.

In 1296 a collegiate chapter was established by the church and when Pope Pius VI established the Diocese of Brno in 1777, the church of Ss. Peter and Paul was elevated to cathedral.

After an archaeological research in 1990's a Romance-Gothic crypt was opened for public. In 2005 permanent exposition called "Cathedral Treasury" was started. People can see there liturgical vestments, monstrances, chalices and other things that had been deposited before. The treasury is thus another place available for visitors of Petrov, beside Romance crypt and two towers that offer view of the city (from the southern tower) and of Pálava hills (northern one).

Source: Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul

Pope Benedict XVI will be visiting the Czech Republic from September 26-28 of this year.

The Awesome Beauty of Silence

This morning's Mass at the Sacred Music Colloquium was a Requiem Mass in memory of the deceased members of the CMAA, among whom Msgr. Schuler. Dies Irae was sung in octave alternatim by 250 people to create a beauty of enormous power. The ordinary was polyphonic, a setting by Spanish composer Joan Brudieu (1520-1591), a Mass that was only recently re-transcribed and has probably never been sung in the United States. It was sung with stunning elegance by the choir directed by Wilko Brouwers.

And yet, after all this music, and there was so much of it, and after a full week of unbelievable sounds in liturgy after liturgy, something interesting happened during the recessional. It was done in complete silence. You could only hear footsteps. Even those sounds faded after a time and everyone slowly knelt and prayed for a long while.

I was struck by a sudden and amazing irony that after a full week of the most magnificent music one can hear in a lifetime of listening, there was a special beauty to the silence. There was almost a sense I had that it was the most beautiful moment of the week, and my mind raced to John Paul II's talk about the importance of silence, and how little we permit it to live on its own during Masses today.

Why are we so afraid to be silent? Maybe because of the messages it conveys that we don't want to hear? It is hard to say, but we do resist it, don't we? Its power overwhelms us, especially in this context. The silence reaches deep within us and calls us to something deeply contemplative, a profundity that can surpass everything else. Music has to be wonderful to improve on it and there are times when even the greatest music cannot improve on it.

Priestly Ordinations in Wigratzbad

This morning, H.E. Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Karganda, Kazakhstan, and author of the book "Dominus est", ordained new priests for the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in the shrine church of Wigratzbad, Germany, where the Fraternity has its European seminary. Here are some images from the ceremony (unfortunately, the person who uploaded them has chosen to overlay the original soundtrack with music):

Those who understand German may watch the bishop delivering the excellent sermon on the centrality of the offering of the most holy sacrifice of the Mass in the life of the priest here.


Our good friend Henri de Villiers of the Schola Sainte Cécile now has photographs. Here is a selection:

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: