Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week So Far at Ss. Trinita, Rome

Palm Sunday


Images from Holy Week in Italy

Image source: Rinascimento Sacro: Tolentino: portato in processione il venerato Crocefisso della Confraternita dei Sacconi

April Desktop Calendar from the Cause of Cardinal Newman Site

The last time we posted this it proved rather popular, and before we enter the Triduum I wanted to make mention of the new desktop wallpaper calendar for April which has been made available by the site for the cause of the canonization of Cardinal Newman.

The calendar will remind you to pray for Newman's cause, and also give you a very nice view of both the splendid sanctuary of the London Oratory, and Sir John Everitt Millais' portrait of Cardinal Newman.

Two More Items Related to Palm Sunday

Before we head into the Triduum, a few last things surrounding Palm Sunday.

The first is that the site of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph has posted a piece, The Riches of a Dominican Holy Week: Palm Sunday.

The piece was written by Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. They will be putting up similar pieces in the course of the Triduum.

* * *

The second item are some images from the Mercedarians in Philadelphia, who use the modern Roman liturgy.

Stational Churches of Holy Week: Wednesday in Holy Week

Station: S. Maria Maggiore
(Collecta: S. Pietro in Vincoli)

The stational church for today needs little in the way of introduction and was already covered earlier in our series.

Do however see this beautiful image of the basilica.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blessing of the Palms and Mass at Palazzo Altemps, Rome

[John Sonnen sent these the NLM's way, and they in turn came from a friend of his. They show the Mass of Palm Sunday at the "Palazzo Altemps" in Rome, celebrated by Familia Christi. The images particularly struck me insofar as they give a glimpse of the architectural and artistic beauty of both the chapel and the loggia.]

Heiligenkreuz Abbey and the Cause of Abbot Karl Barunstorfer

The Abbey of Heiligenkreuz in Austria, which we have featured many times before on the NLM for reason of its relation to the reform of the reform, recently held a conference about a former Abbot of their community, Abbot Karl Braunstorfer, for whom the process of beatification has been started. (See here for coverage the NLM provided in 2008.)

One of the monks has put together a short video report from the conference, which includes an interview with the postulator of the cause.

Amongst the topics that arise are the Abbot's work to implement the liturgical reform in continuity with the tradition.

Then Presiding Judge of Milwaukee Priest Case Speaks

Yet another exception I feel compelled to make. The Catholic Anchor, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Anchorage Alaska, publishes, Setting the record straight in the case of abusive Milwaukee priest Father Lawrence Murphy written by the then-presiding judge for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Fr. Thomas Brundage, JCL. In this article, this same judge gives first-person account of church trial with the intent:

To tell the back-story of what actually happened in the Father Murphy case on the local level;

To outline the sloppy and inaccurate reporting on the Father Murphy case by the New York Times and other media outlets;

To assert that Pope Benedict XVI has done more than any other pope or bishop in history to rid the Catholic Church of the scourge of child sexual abuse and provide for those who have been injured;

To set the record straight with regards to the efforts made by the church to heal the wounds caused by clergy sexual misconduct. The Catholic Church is probably the safest place for children at this point in history.

Stational Churches of Holy Week: Tuesday in Holy Week

Station: S. Prisca all’Aventino
(Collecta: S. Maria in Portico)

(Image source)

From the Churches of Rome wiki:
The identity of St Prisca is uncertain. One tradition claims that she is identical with Priscilla, who is mentioned in the New Testament, another that she was the daughter of Aquila and Priscilla. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts XVIII, 1-4), it is written that St Paul stayed with Aquila and Priscilla, Jewish Christians exiled from Rome, when he was in Corinth and again in Ephesus after they had moved there. Later, they were apparently able to move back to Rome, as St Paul sends his greetings to them there (Romans 16, 3-5). The tradition claims that this was her house. This has been challenged, and Prisca may be another woman altogether. No private house has been found underneath the church - in fact, a temple to Mithras was found during excavations in 1940 and 1958[1]. It has, however, been established that Christian worship was established here at an early time, as ancient terracotta lamps with the chi-rho monogram has been found. The commonly accepted date for the church is the 4th or 5th century.

The first documentary evidence of the church is from 489, when it is mentioned in an inscription. It is also mentioned in the list from the Roman Synod of 499.

The church has been altered several times throughout the centuries, and the only clearly identifiable ancient remains are the columns and the parts that are underground.

It was damaged by the Normans under Robert Guiscard in 1084.

In 1094, Pope Urban II invited monks from Vendõme to serve the church. The Catalogue of Turin, c. 1320, mentioned that the church has black monks ("monachos nigros"), which must be a reference to the black-clad Benedictines. The order left the church in 1414.

The most comprehensive restoration took place in 1660. The ancient columns were embedded in pilasters, and a new façade was constructed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Long Applause for New York Prelate Who Defends Pope

While only this very day I suggested that I would only speak once on this topic, I have determined to make an exception for this: Long Applause for New York Prelate Who Defends Pope.

Here is an excerpt:

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York brought hearty approval from a standing-room-only crowd at St. Patrick's Cathedral on Palm Sunday when he defended Benedict XVI against "unrelenting insinuations" in the scandals of sexual abuse.

The archbishop asked the congregation for a couple of minutes of patience at the end of the lengthy Mass, and then said the "somberness of Holy Week is intensified for Catholics this year" by a "tidal wave of headlines about abuse of minors by some few priests, this time in Ireland, Germany, and a re-run of an old story from Wisconsin."

"What deepens the sadness now is the unrelenting insinuations against the Holy Father himself, as certain sources seem frenzied to implicate the man who, perhaps more than anyone else has been the leader in purification, reform, and renewal that the Church so needs," Archbishop Dolan stated.

The 60-year-old prelate suggested that Sunday Mass is "hardly the place to document the inaccuracy, bias, and hyperbole of such aspersions," but it is "the time for Catholics to pray for Benedict our Pope."

According to the Associated Press report of the archbishop's words, the congregation responded with 20 seconds of applause.

Archbishop Dolan suggested that Benedict XVI is suffering "some of the same unjust accusations, shouts of the mob, and scourging at the pillar, as did Jesus.

Read the remainder of the article on Zenit.

Lenten Veils

Throughout Lent, Daniel Mitsui of The Lion and the Cardinal has shared some rather interesting images of Lenten veils.

For more on Lenten veils, see this NLM post from 2008: Lenten Veils

More Photos from FFI Ordinations

Our friends over at Rinascimento Sacro inform us that they have their own photos up of the recent ordinations of eight for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.

As always, their photos are of excellent calibre.

The Passion of Benedict XVI

This week past, it was evident that yet another wave and renewed attempt to drag the Holy Father into the mire that is sexual abuse scandal was beginning to mount, and accordingly I had thought about writing a reflection on this in the light of Holy Week. In the end, I determined that likely more than enough commentary could be found on any number of sites and perhaps there was something to be said for some calm and "business as usual" as a form of respite.

While I still generally subscribe to this thought and do not intend to dwell on this subject beyond this brief reflection, yesterday, as we showed some images from the Papal Mass of Palm Sunday, the matter arose in the comments in the light of some public protests which followed from the frenzy which many in the media seem only too intent on stirring up; the dismay was tangible. Accordingly, I thought I perhaps should present my brief meditation as I originally intended after all.

Evidently, the scandals themselves are matters which need to be dealt with; they are indeed filth in need of cleansing -- and this should be clearly stated and understood.

As for our Holy Father, when all this began in his regard, my mind turned a particular passage of Sacred Scripture; namely, Zechariah 13:7. In that passage we read:

Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me," says the LORD of hosts. "Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered.."

While this prophetically refers to the events surrounding the life and person of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I believe we might find an analogous application in relation to the Vicar of Christ in this present situation -- one that perhaps gives us a broader spiritual context in which to understand and make sense of these goings on; one which emphasizes the fact of the real spiritual warfare which we face. In that light, and in the light of these events in the life of Christ Himself, perhaps seeing His Vicar so similarly struck should come as little surprise.

Further, in the Mass of Palm Sunday, we read the Passion narrative and in the coming week we will again recount this, and be brought into a further meditation on the events of the Passion and Death of Our Lord.

We hear of how one of Christ's own apostles betrayed Him and how others, through their fear, temporarily fell by the wayside. This brings to mind how, even in Christ's own time and within the body of His own apostles, the frailties and sinfulness of a fallen humanity have been present and have been a source of pain and affliction. This reality is good to recollect as we struggle to understand how such scandals can so painfully inflict Christ's Church in our own time.

We will also hear recounted how Christ was persecuted; how he was insulted, abused, mocked and suffered great trials.

Let us here recall how, in the history of the Church, it has often been found to be the case that the disciples must follow in the footsteps of their Divine Master -- and such is never found to be in vain or without some greater purpose. Is not Pope Benedict himself presently bearing the cross of similar abuses and attacks?

Finally, let us recall that Benedict XVI himself has not been naive to these realities. Let us bring to mind these words which he spoke during the homily of the Mass of his papal inauguration, April 24th, 2005:

One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another.

Let us then carry the Holy Father by our prayers now as he bears this cross; as he bears with the abuses and buffets which Christ Himself bore to an even greater degree. Let us pray for him, support him and publicly defend him, as he, our earthly shepherd, is indeed struck by the sword and surrounded by wolves. Let us not be scattered but instead rouse ourselves, taking heart and taking courage, remembering that the ploys and attacks of Satan are ultimately in vain for ultimately, in Christ, the battle is already won and He reigns victorious.

Long Life to Pope Benedict XVI


Stational Churches of Holy Week: Monday of Holy Week

Station: S. Prassede all’Esquilino
(Collecta: S. Balbina)

(Image source)

From the Churches of Rome wiki:
The first church here ... was one of the tituli, the first parish churches of Rome, known as Titulus Praxedis. The first definite mention of the church is from 489.

The present church is the one built by Pope Adrian I c. 780, completed and altered by Pope St Paschal I c. 822. It was enlarged at that time mainly to serve as a repository for relics from the catacombs. It was the first church in Rome since Santa Sabina to be modeled on San Pietro in Vaticano.

It was granted to the Vallombrosian Benedictines by Pope Innocent III in 1198.

Some changes were made in the 16th century by St Charles Borromeus, with Martino Longhi the Elder as architect. His restorations were not altogether successful. Later, Ludovico Cardinal Pico della Mirandola also had it renovated.

The sanctuary and crypt were rebuilt in the 18th century.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Cistercian Blessing of the Palms

Brother Stephen of the Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Spring Bank, has a short piece up on the Blessing of the Palms in the Cistercian liturgy this weekend.

The New

Everyone hates site redesigns because they involve unfamiliar environments, usually contain many bugs, and mostly seem like pointless reshuffling, at least to the end user. I have no doubt that many people will feel this way about the new, but I invite you to visit in any case. We what gain is mostly behind the scenes: better fuctionality, a better development environment, a more stable database, and a more reliable infrastructure. Essentially, progress would have been impossible without this shift. Painful but necessary! At least now, the registration forms work for the Colloquium.

FFI Ordinations by Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life in Florence

As recently noted, Franc Cardinal Rodé, Prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, celebrated, on March 25th, a Solemn Pontifical Mass which saw the ordination of eight friars of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate in Florence.

Here are a few photos from those ordinations.

More photos are available from James Bradley.

"Hosanna Filio David, Benedictus Qui Venit in Nomine Domini"

Source: Daylife

Stational Churches of Holy Week: Palm Sunday

Our consideration of the stational churches now shifts to those of Holy Week. Today's station is the same as that of the First Sunday in Lent, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. Accordingly, we shall keep this entry brief.

Read the Churches of Rome wiki entry here.

Palm Sunday

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mass in the Medieval Carmelite Use

Before the NLM is deluged with photographs of Holy Week celebrations, I thought I would share some final images from Lent. These were taken on March 7, the third Sunday of Lent, at the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in Valparaiso, Nebraska, very close to the F.S.S.P.'s seminary in Denton; the Mass was celebrated by members of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Powell, Wyoming. Both of these institutions are very much dedicated to the contemplative side of the Carmelite tradition. The women's house in Valparaiso follows the liturgical traditions of the 16th-century Discalced Reform in utroque usu; the men's house in Wyoming, however, uses the ancient Carmelite liturgy, adopted by the friars from the Latin-rite Canons of the Holy Sepulcher at the time of the Crusades. The men who served as deacon and subdeacon are studying for the priesthood at OLG; they were both ordained deacon the previous day by His Excellency Arthur Seratelli, Bishop of Paterson, N.J. It is greatly encouraging to see a young religious order striving to maintain the liturgical customs proper to its own tradition.

The Carmel of Jesus Mary and Joseph. The dome of the church and the top of the bell tower were originally copper-colored, but have turned black in the snowy Nebraska winter, to pleasing effect.
A bit of rehearsal, before the lights in the church are turned on.
The Collect. Note that the deacon is bowing to the celebrant as he says “Dominus vobiscum”. The acolytes often stand at the altar with the major ministers, similar to the custom of the Ambrosian Rite.
The burse, corporal and chalice are brought to the altar, and the latter is filled with wine and water, during the Mass of the Catechumens. Here one can see the celebrant blessing the water while the deacon moves the Missal, just prior to singing the Gospel.
The celebrant listens to the Gospel, as in the Roman Rite. The burse is on the altar, the corporal spread; the filled chalice is covered with the pall and chalice veil.

The "Sabbatum in Traditione Symboli" in the Ambrosian tradition

According to the Ambrosian liturgical tradition, the Saturday after the 5th Sunday in Lent is known as Sabbatum in traditione Symboli or Saturday of the handing over of the Symbolum, where "Symbolum", again in the Ambrosian liturgical tradition, is the common name for the Creed.

This day, as we shall see in the following parts of this article, is liturgically very similar to a normal Lenten Saturday, but, as I mentioned in a previous post, the liturgical colour shifts this day from black/morello to red, giving a visual sign of the beginning of the time immediately before the Passion and Death of Our Lord, called "Hebdomada Authentica" -- which should be translated as "Eminent Week", in the same sense used by Eastern Rites, that call it "Great Week" (cfr. Msgr. M.Navoni, La Settimana Santa Ambrosiana).

As a matter of fact, this Saturday, in the complex pattern of Ambrosian Lent, is both the end of the long catechetical preparation of the catechumens for the Mysteries of the Christian Faith, and the beginning of the solemn commemoration of the last days of Our Lord on the earth before His salvific Death on the Cross.

This gives us an occasion to sum up some of the most important features of Ambrosian Lent until the Sabbatum in Traditione Symboli.

As a preliminary note, it should be noted that, in the Ambrosian Rite, like in most Catholic liturgical rites, during the time immediately before Easter, the liturgy retains its most ancient and venerable traditions, if not intact, then at very least visible. So it is not rare to find a testimony of the customs proper to the Milanese Rite in text written by St. Ambrose himself, who considered them as customary already by his time.

1) Lenten weekdays (excluding Saturdays):

As I mentioned in my previous article, all weekdays in Lent are feriae, according to the Ambrosian tradition. In all post-Carolingian sources, the text of the propers of weekday Masses during Lent - excluding only the ordo lectionum - are entirely borrowed from the Roman Rite.

An important study by Abbess Judith Frei about the Ambrosian-monastic Missal of St. Simpliciano (Judith Frei, Das ambrosianische Sakramentar D 3-3 aus dem mailändischen Metropolitankapitel), has given good evidence that, before the Carolingian reform of liturgical books, there existed an Ambrosian libellus quadragesimalis with prayers used throughout Lent for all weekdays. This would give a strong resemblance to the pattern of the Gallican liturgical books.

After the Carolingian reform, under influence of the Roman custom for every weekday in Lent to have its own propers, the older propers were replaced with the newer, "Roman" ones.

The original order of the readings, on the contrary, have always been retained. Amongst its features are worth noting:

- the lectio continua of Our Lord's "Sermon of the Mount" according to Matthew (from 5:1 on the Monday after the Dominica in capite Quadragesimae to 7:21 on the Thursday after the 4th Sunday of Lent)

- the readings from the books of Genesis and Proverbs before the Gospel, only in the Cathedral, until the Sabbatum in Traditione Symboli, attested to since St. Ambrose's time (De Mysteriis 1.1)

2) Lenten Sundays:

We have already focused on the strong catechetical character of Lenten Sundays in the Ambrosian Rite in a previous article, which can be read here.

3) Lenten Saturdays:

Lenten Saturdays, according to St.Ambrose's own words, were considered semi-festive days, and the fast was suspended (De Elia et jejunio, 34).

In fact, the Gospel of the First Saturday in Lent (Matth. 12:1-8) sounds very much like a strong defense of this Ambrosian custom, when, in response to the Pharisees reproaching the disciples who were eating corns ears on Sabbath day, Our Lord's words are proclaimed:

Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with him: How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the loaves of proposition, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for them that were with him, but for the priests only? Or have ye not read in the law, that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple break the sabbath, and are without blame?

But I tell you that there is here a greater than the temple. And if you knew what this meaneth: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: you would never have condemned the innocent. For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath

The special character of these semi-festive days is also attested by the three readings of the Mass, and by the presence of the Antiphona post Evangelium.

On Saturdays there also took place the scrutinies of the catechumens, as suggested by the Gospels for the Mass of the day.

2nd Saturday: the imposition of the hands. Mark 6:1-5:
...And Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and in his own house, and among his own kindred. And he could not do any miracles there, only that he cured a few that were sick, laying his hands upon them.

3rd Saturday: the anointing with the oil of the catechumens. Mark 6:7-13:
...And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them.

4th Saturday: the imposition of the sign of the Cross on the catechumens' foreheads. Matth. 19:13-15a:
...Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray

Finally, there came the Sabbatum in Traditione Symboli.

According to St. Ambrose's testimony in a letter to his sister, St. Marcellina (Epist., 76,4) the Symbolum was originally handed over to the Catechumens on the Sunday before Easter. They had to learn it by heart and they were instructed to not write it down, according to the well-known "disciplina arcani", like St. Ambrose writes (Explanatio Symboli ad initiandos, 9 passim). The scrutinies probably also took place on Sundays.

Later, perhaps in the 5th century (see Navoni), under the strong influence of the liturgy of Jerusalem, the Sunday before Easter became Palm Sunday, and both the scrutinies and the Traditio Symboli were anticipated on the Saturday.

A special feature of the Mass of this day is that, unlike all other ferial Masses, the Credo is sung.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Symbolum has, in the Ambrosian Mass, a strong mystagogical character, coming immediately before the Canon.

As a perfect parallel, the Mass dedicated to the ceremony of the Traditio Symboli stands immediately before the beginning of "Eminent Week" which leads the catechumens, and all the Christian faithful, into the "mystery" of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Four Recordings of the Choir of the London Oratory

When it comes to renaissance polyphony, most are no doubt familiar with the recordings which are available for purchase from such excellent groups as The Tallis Scholars or The Sixteen; recordings which certainly deserve our interest and provide much edification. But I was particularly pleased to be made aware of some recordings from the famed choir of the London Oratory -- more popularly known as the Brompton Oratory.

For those who have been to the London Oratory, you will no doubt know of their renown in the area of the sacred liturgy -- and if you have not been, you will probably at least know it by reputation. Their approach to the liturgical rites and the beauty of the sacred architecture of the Oratory church itself is also matched by the calibre of the choral tradition found therein.

Four of their recordings were recently sent to me.

One which particularly caught my attention was Vexilla Regis Prodeunt: Music for Holy Week and Easter. As I write, I am listening to this particular recording, which was recorded in 2006 at St. Alban's Church in London, under the direction of Patrick Russill, the Director of Music at the London Oratory. The quality of the recording itself and the execution of the music is superb.

The music is sung with great clarity and precision and, wonderfully, takes one sequentially through selections of Holy Week, with musical selections for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday. (See here)

While Holy Week is already upon us, these selections would certainly make for good listening throughout the Easter Season and the rest of the year as well.

In addition to this particular recording, here are three others from the London Oratory choir which may pique your interest; two of Marian inspiration and another, the Blessed Sacrament. (Click each CD cover for more information about the CD.)

If you enjoy Gregorian chant and particularly renaissance polyphony, you will most certainly want to add these CD's to your collection. In so doing, you will be showing your support for the liturgical pursuits of the London Oratory, partaking in a taste of their liturgical life, and further giving your financial support to a good cause, Aid to the Church in Need, who offer support to the faithful in areas of oppression or impoverishment.

* * *

You may also wish to browse some of the other recordings made available through Aid to the Church in Need: Aid to the Church in Need Shop.

Fr. Nicola Bux on the Priest and the Paschal Triduum

ROME, MARCH 26, 2010 ( Given the proximity of Holy Week, Father Nicola Bux, professor of Eastern Liturgy and Consultor of several Holy See dicasteries, proposes a substantial liturgical meditation on the key moments and symbols of the celebrations proper to Palm Sunday and the Holy Triduum.

Father Bux's reflections are a valid aid -- offered both to priests as well as the rest of the faithful -- to bring us closer to the divine mysteries that will be celebrated in the forthcoming days, with a spirit of contemplative faith and prayer of adoration, and not of mere organizational pragmatism.

We take advantage of the occasion to wish our readers a Holy Easter that will bear fruits of interior joy and conversion (Father Mauro Gagliardi).

To read Fr. Bux's commentary: The Priest and the Paschal Triduum

Stational Churches of Lent: Saturday after Passion Sunday

Station: S. Giovanni a Porta Latina
(Collecta: S. Pietro)

(Image source)

(Image source))

From the Churches of Rome wiki:
The church was built in the 5th century, according to tradition by Pope St Gelasius I (492-496). Maker's stamps on roof tiles have been dated to the end of the 5th century, so it seems likely that it was indeed built during St Gelasius' time.

It was rebuilt c. 720, and restored in 1191.


During the latest restoration, an archaeologist found 12th century paintings hidden by plaster. They depict scenes from Genesis, the Creation and the Fall of Man, and from the New Testament, the Redemption. The Old testament scenes start on the right side near the sanctuary, and the New Testament scenes are painted below them in two tiers.

In the central apse are 12th century paintings of the 24 Elders of the Apocalypse and symbols of the Evangelists.

Fragments of ancient sculptures have been reused in the pavement of the sanctuary and the narthex, and some of the pieces can be interesting.

The church has a triple apse in the Eastern style.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Five Problems, Five Solutions

Five Problems, Five Solutions
by Jeffrey Tucker

After years of observing the Catholic music scene, particular as it affects the liturgical life of the Church, I think I can narrow down the most pressing problems of our time. The good news is that all five problem have answers that are readily at hand. For this reason, we all have cause for being extremely hopeful.

1. Musicians do not have a model, much less ideals, in mind. Catholic musicians are very sincere people who aspire to do research so that they can do their jobs well. They order book after book and read many official documents. And yet even after this, the music they sing in Mass seems like a big blur. They pick a Mass setting, some hymns, and slog their way through various small bits but otherwise have little understanding of the structure of what they are doing.

The best solution for these people is to break down all the things they sing during the course of a Mass and classify them as: ordinary, propers, and dialogues. They need to come to recognize that their hymns are substitutes for propers, that they need a stable and predictable model for dealing with dialogues, and that the ordinary of the Mass, which is changing, involves only a narrow set of music. Understanding this would go a long way toward stabilizing and eventually solemnizing the liturgy.

As a second step, musicians need to come to realize that in every case, there are ideal solutions to all these musical questions. That ideal is found in the chant tradition in general and the Roman Gradual in particular. Many musicians would be amazed to discover that they are singing nothing but substitutes for the music that the Church has given us long ago to sing at Mass! This understanding would be a major step in the right direction.

2. The music resources in the typical parish are nothing short of pathetic. Every weeks, I'm reminded of this when I attempt to sing a regular hymn and discover that the words in the missalette are different from the choral books from which the choir is singing. Sometimes whole verses are missing. The Psalms that mainstream Catholic publishers are pushing are a mere shadow of genuine Christian Psalm singing. The arrangements range from bad to ghastly, pointlessly changed from traditional arrangements only so that the music can be recopyrighted. The missalettes even leave out sequences and important chants for Holy Week. Believe me, this short summary only scratches the surface. The resources available today for Catholic musicians are a grave embarrassment. The worst nightmare of any Catholic musician is to have a Presbyterian or Episcopal friend visit the loft and see what we are using!

Here I can only praise the glories of digital media. On the internet, we can find all that we need to displace and replace the whole of this garbage cluttering up the pews and the loft. There are Psalms. There are free propers in English and Latin. There are free settings for the ordinary chants in English and Latin. There are tens of thousands of motets and other pieces. There are tutorials and sound files and more. It is all 100% freed. It is really incredible. Now, to be sure, you have to know something of what you are doing to make your way around the resources. We are all working together now to make all this material more accessible. The time will come. In any case, this is the source of our salvation.

3. The musical competence within the typical parish is shockingly low. Many parishes of 500 families have only a few people who know how to read music at all. Among them, very few are willing to commit to singing every week or volunteering to direct. As a result, many parishes lack even the personnel to begin a serious sacred music program.

I can't speak to how matters were before the great meltdown of the 1960s but it is fact, undeniable, that musical competence was depreciated after the Council. Many people came to believe, during the great folk movement, that competence was a bad thing that prevented people from creating art from the heart. You know the old story. Anyway, we are stuck with the results. The mass of Catholics can't find their way around a four-part hymn. Musical notation is Greek to them.

Fortunately, chant can be sung without formal training in musical notation. Often it is best sung by amateurs who care. Above all, sacred music requires a king of humility. People without training are more adept at humility simply because they have spirits that are more teachable. It's not that a lack of technical competence is a good thing, but I do think that Catholic music is not thereby shut off to them. In fact, to begin in ignorance is not necessarily a disaster. We can work around this and turn it to an advantage.

Another important element here: children's choirs. This must never be overlooked.

4. Catholics lack of a universal song. This problem shows up not just between countries but between parishes and even within parishes. The early morning Mass is traditional. The mid-morning Mass is adult contemporary. The evening Masses are divided between student populations. And so on. And none use the music you hear at any other Mass. It is the Tower of Babel. We are divided and fractured, and sometimes out of necessity to keep the peace.

But clearly this will not do for the long term. We need a universal Catholic song, and the answer here is clear: there is only one viable body of music to claim this mantle and that is chant. It is the music that can brings us all together. It is the music of the rite itself, and its style knows no demographic or period of time. It has lasted and lasted, as much as a thousand years with a tradition that stretches back perhaps three thousand years. It will be around long after we are all dead. By singing it, we are becoming part of something larger than our own generation. We help link the past with the future. It makes our musical efforts mean something. Then we can actually come together as a parish or even as Catholics from all nations and sing together.

5. The final problem involves orientation and I do not just mean the orientation of the altar, though that is a symptom. We need to make a decision here. Is Mass by and for the people or is Mass by and for God? There is a crucial difference here. If we are properly oriented to God, turning toward the Lord must be a pervasive action and activity not only of the celebrant but of everyone and everything. We become less demanding that our needs are met by happy clappy music. With a proper orientation, the people will demand music for prayer, and prayer will become our main need. This, after all, is what liturgy is all about: removing us from our mundane fixation on our earthly needs to prepare us for an eternal encounter. If all we do is demand more of what we can get outside of Church, we will never really find fulfillment in liturgy.

Perhaps this last point is the most serious of all, and there only way to address it is through pastoral leadership. We need people like Moses who will condemn our Golden Calfs made from our own possessions and lead us to higher goals. Once our orientation is right, the rest follows. We will find our voices, find our song, find the resources, and develop our knowledge and talents.

The Altar of Repose

Fr. David Grondz sent me this very interesting commentary on a huge confusion out there concerning the altar of repose:

Since the revision of the Roman Missal and its promulgation in 1969, many problematic issues have arisen concerning rubrics and liturgical practice in general. Details have been left unclear and at times the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Sacraments has not been especially helpful in clarification of practice in the Liturgy. Perhaps the most confusing time for any parish priest is the period that we are about to enter, Holy Week.

We have all experienced celebrations of the Sacred Triduum that have left us less than satisfied. Much could be written about the intricacies of these ancient ceremonies. Permit me to address only one aspect, the Altar of Repose.

Our starting point must be Catholic Praxis and Tradition in that tradition informs us on many of the finer points of our faith; this is especially true when it comes to detail questions in the Liturgy. Classically stated the principle is, Lex orandi, lex credendi. The revisers of the Liturgy made several assumptions about common knowledge and experience that can no longer apply simply because common practice has changed over the last decades given the lack of a traditional consciousness.

Since, as the maxim implies, there is a reciprocal and mutually informative value found between prayer and belief, we need to consider again our approach to the example that we, as priests, give to the faithful not only when we celebrate Mass, but more importantly, when we are in the presence of the Eucharistic Lord.

A friend on mine once warned me, “it is easy to be reverent when there are other people around, but if you don’t genuflect in Church when you're by yourself, then you miss the point. It isn’t a question of show or drama, but of an abiding sense of the presence of Christ in the Tabernacle.”

The rubric at the end of Mass for Holy Thursday stresses the fact that SOLEMN adoration not continue after midnight. According to a traditional understanding this would mean that the externality or public nature of the adoration should cease. Nowhere does this suggest that private persons may not adore before the altar of repose, and nowhere does this suggest that the Blessed Sacrament need be removed from its rightful place in the Tabernacle of the Altar prepared for this purpose.

It would, however, suggest that some modification of the locum repositionis take place so that the sobriety of Good Friday be maintained. To my mind this would mean (applying the principles of traditional adornment and restraint---which cannot be outlined in great detail here) removing the plants and flowers at this altar as well as all of the superfluous candles. Accordingly, the basic liturgical and canonical requirements would remain at this altar; two candles, sanctuary lamp (perhaps the tabernacle veil) and the altar cloths and carpet. All of this remains solely because the Blessed Sacrament is present. The Ciborium then, is brought from this altar to the main altar for Holy Communion on Good Friday.

Any of the liturgical authors such as Fortescue and Wapplehorst spell this out in great detail.

Somehow a notion that has emerged in the United States that Solemn adoration means simply the presence of the Eucharist the Church, at least on this occasion. A moment’s thought reveals the shallowness of this way of thinking in that its logical conclusion is to remove the Sacrament from the Church and place It somewhere else (usually in a safe or cupboard of the sacristy).

To be clear: this understanding is CORRECT, but MISPLACED in the liturgical sense. It is clear that at least for part of the Triduum, the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in two places, one for the Liturgy of Good Friday (locum repositionis) and another OUTSIDE the Church for the sole purpose of Viaticum. It is also in this second location that the hosts which may remain before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are placed (since the main Tabernacle is to be conspicuously empty) and to which the remaining hosts after Communion on Good Friday are taken after the ablution of the fingers.

It would seem that these two locations are important: First, because the Missal makes it clear that enough bread is to be consecrated on Holy Thursday for both that Mass and the Communion of Good Friday, hence no mixture of pre-triduum hosts with those consecrated on Holy Thursday night. Second, these three days are considered as one in a liturgical way: each is another part or continuation of what preceded.

The insistence of receiving the elements consecrated during a particular liturgy is most important here. Because the faithful receive in this way, it seems that the Sacrament should remain in the Church, until after Communion on Good Friday and only then removed to the sacristy. The old phrase of “in actu functionis” seems to sum this up.

I suspect that the common practice of putting Christ in the Sacristy is a reaction to a fear of the faithful paying more attention to the reserved Sacrament than the liturgy. After all, this has been a fairly common complaint in some circles and we have seen the fruit of this understanding… tabernacles removed permanently from Churches, Eucharistic Chapels (some of which are barely accessible, or only accessible by walking through the Sanctuary!) and churches that have been remodeled in such a way as to obliterate all foci and symmetry.

But since we believe, lex credendi, that the Eucharist is both meal and sacrifice, the Eucharistic presence encompasses both Thursday and Friday. The tradition of the altar of repose makes this link. It is a moment when precisely because the location of the Eucharist is different, but still in the Church, that this connection between meal and sacrifice can be explained to the faithful.

I was formed in an environment where the altar of repose was a major undertaking, no expense was spared and it remains one of the most beautiful parts of the Triduum for me. I have brought this experience to my people and tried to foster this sense in them. To be sure, it’s a lot of work and beeswax candles are costly, but the catechetical value of the experience in addition to truly following the rubrics and interpreting them in light of an understanding of continuity, exposes to our people the mystery of salvation more fully as it is enshrined for us in these three holy days.

Next week, for the first time in my parish, the Holy Eucharist will remain at the altar of repose until Holy Communion on Good Friday; and only then will the ciborium be placed in the safe for the communion of the dying.

Stational Churches of Lent: Friday after Passion Sunday

Station: S. Stefano Rotondo
(Collecta: Ss. Giovanni e Paolo)

(Image source)

From the Churches of Rome wiki:
The first church was consecrated in the time of Pope St Simplicius I (468-483), or possibly in 460, to hold the relics of St Stephen, protomartyr of the Church. His tomb had been discovered Kafr Gamala in the Holy Land in 415. It was later rededicated to St Stephen of Hungary. This was the first circular church in Rome, and it was modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The circumference and diameter of Santo Stefano is almost exactly the same as those of the Holy Sepulchre. Strangely, the church does not appear among the tituli in the synod list of 499. It is thought that it may have been financed by the wealthy Valerian family, whose estates covered large parts of the Coelian Hill. St Melanie, a member of this family, was a frequent pilgrim to Jerusalem and died there, so the family had connections to the Holy Land. The site housed the Castra Peregrinorum, a large army barracks with an ancient pagan sanctuary to Mithras, a deity that was very popular among soldiers. A gold-covered head from a statue of Mithras was found during excavations beneath the church.

It was decorated by Pope John I (523-526) and Pope Felix IV (526-530).

The colonnades were altered by Pope Innocent II (1130-1143), when a series of transverse arches were introduced to support the roof.


The painting in the apse shows Christ between two martyrs. The mosaic and marble decoration is from the period 523 to 530. One mosaic shows the martyrs Primus and Felician flanking a jewelled cross. They were martyred in 305, and their relics were brought here by Pope Theodore I.

On the left is a tablet recording the burial here of the Irish king Donough O'Brien of Cashel and Thomond, son of Brian Boru, who died in Rome in 1064.

An ancient chair in which Pope Gregory the Great sat to deliver one of his homilies, in c. 580, is preserved here.

To the left by the entrance is the Chapel of Sts Primus and Felician. The chapel was commissioned by Pope Theodore I (642-649). The saints are depicted in a 7th century mosaic, and there are also frescoes depicting their martyrdom and burial. This is one of the rare examples of 7th century mosaic in Rome...

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: