Saturday, July 31, 2010

Spanish Bishop Celebrates Usus Antiquior Funeral

This Wednesday, 28 July, the Archbishop of Saragossa, H.E. Msgr. Manuel Ureña Pastor, proceeded to reinter the remains of the family of the counts of Aranda, which had been resting in the parish church of Epila since 1745 and had to be moved during a recent restoration. Msgr. Ureña celebrated the burial according to the usus antiquior rituale in Latin. This is significant insofar as Msgr. Ureña is thus the first Spanish bishop to publicly use the usus antiquior books in Spain since the promulgation of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. The parish of Epila was featured before on the NLM, cf. here.

H/t to Una Voce Málaga, which is also the source of the photos.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Don Stefano Carusi on the Holy Week Reform of 1951-56: A Brief Assessment

As Shawn noted on Wednesday, Don Stefano Carusi, a priest of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, has recently written an analysis of the Holy Week reforms promulgated by Pope Pius XII between 1951 and 1956. The original Italian text was first posted on Disputationes Theologicae in March; an English version has just been made available this week on Rorate Caeli.

Don Carusi’s treatment of the subject should certainly be read by those who are interested in the liturgical changes of the pre-Conciliar period. Much detail on the reform is given from the notes of the committee that created it, which were recently published by Msgr. Nicola Giampietro; these notes provide a great deal of useful information concerning both the reformers themselves, and the sources (or putative sources) for the various changes that were made. Such information is particularly important because many of those who were involved in the new Holy Week would later participate in the post-Conciliar liturgical reform. Furthermore, as some of committee’s own members have noted, the Holy Week reform was the first substantial change made to the Roman Missal since the time of St. Pius V, and several features of the post-Conciliar liturgy were given a trial run, so to speak, in 1955. To give only one example, praying versus populum was first made a formal part of the Roman Rite in the new version of the blessing of palms.

After a brief description of each change, Don Carusi also offers a theological commentary on the meaning of the changes; this commentary is as a whole very well done, and should be carefully considered by the reader on a point-by-point basis. There are a few matters which might have been given greater attention; for example, the cutting back of the Easter prophecies from twelve to four is hardly mentioned. Likewise, he correctly notes that in the Missal of St. Pius V, the Cross remained on the altar throughout the Mass of the Presanctified, a custom which was altered by the 1955 reform. However, there were many medieval usages in which the Cross was not present for the first part of the rite, and was brought from the sacristy with a solemn procession, (as a general rule, with a far more solemn procession than the one instituted in 1955). However, Don Carusi’s critique in itself suffers nothing from these omissions.

Much of it is certainly written in an unabashedly polemical vein. For example, describing the newly introduced rubric that the people recite the Lord’s Prayer with the celebrant on Good Friday, he writes, first quoting the notes of the committee:

“The pastoral preoccupation with a conscious and active participation on the part of the Christian community” is dominant. The faithful must become “true actors in the celebration .... This was demanded by the faithful, especially those more attuned to the new spirituality.... The Commission was receptive to the aspirations of the people of God.” It remains to be proven whether these aspirations belonged to the faithful or to a group of avant-garde liturgists…

Likewise, in regard to the alteration of the rituals performed during the Exultet, “Thus it happened that one of the most significant moments of the liturgical cycle became a theater-piece of astonishing incoherence.”

The commentary makes it very clear that Don Carusi regards the Holy Week reform as a hastily made-up concession to the fashionable liturgical ideas of the 1950’s, and a gross impoverishment of the Roman Rite. On the other hand, given the circumstances of its implementation, and the fact that so much of it was jettisoned by its own creators in the making of the post-Conciliar liturgy, it is difficult not to share his opinion in a great many respects.

There is one passage in particular which should be noted, not only for its own sake, but for the important shift in the methodology of liturgical scholarship which it represents. It is undeniably the case that at the time the Holy Week reform was introduced, many of the “known facts” of liturgical scholarship were in reality merely assumptions or conjectures. Such a “fact” was the origin of the Good Friday ritual known as the Mass of the Presanctified, in which a consecrated Host was incensed as at Mass, and then the Fraction ritual of Mass performed with It into a chalice of unconsecrated wine. It was the common opinion of liturgical scholars that this rite derived from “a belief in the Middle Ages that the commingling of the consecrated bread… alone in the wine was sufficient to consecrate even the wine… once the Eucharist was studied more profoundly, the lack of foundation for this belief was understood. But the rite remained.”

Don Carusi points out that this opinion was shared by the committee, and provided the basis of the reform, in which the entire rite of the Presanctified was eliminated. (I have here given his citation of it from their notes.) He also points out that this idea is a mere conjecture that rests on no historical foundation. In addition, he correctly notes the resulting impliction that, according to the reformers, “the Roman Church fell into error to the point that she made it (i.e. the error) part of the liturgy with this precise theological view in mind… In this context, one would be affirming that the Roman Church, conscious of the serious error, did not wish to correct it.”

What Don Carusi has written here is not just an argument for or against a particular form of the rite of Good Friday. It is more importantly a statement of the principal that any reform of the liturgy must be based on sound historical research, rather than guesswork, and must take into careful consideration all of the theological implications of what is done. (He is not, of course, the only liturgical scholar to do so, and apply this principal to his work.) I consider that the broader implications of what he writes on this and similar topics are such that even those who may not be particularly interested in the Holy Week reform should read his critique for a good understanding of how liturgical research, and liturgical reform, ought to be accomplished.

What's in a Name?

While reading Prof. László Dobszay's new book, The Restoration and Organic Development of the Roman Rite [1], the old question, "What's in a name?" came to mind. On page 66 Dobszay writes: "... from now on I do not advocate the expression 'Reform of the Reform'. I do not think that the content of the postconciliar reform liturgy can really be reformed." For Dobszay, the "reform of the reform" obviously means reforming the reform that actually took place following the Second Vatican Council—that is, reforming the liturgical rites promulgated by Pope Paul VI. Yet it needs pointing out that the expression “reform of the reform” originally denoted an alternative implementation of the Vatican II Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, returning to the Missal of 1962 (used immediately before and during the Council) and guided by what Pope Benedict XVI calls the "hermeneutic of continuity in reform," and reviewing in depth the processes and actual achievements of the postconciliar reform. With this agenda are associated Msgr Klaus Gamber (d. 1989), Fr. Brian W. Harrison, and Fr. Aidan Nichols.

Father Harrison was the first to proffer a detailed scheme for how this might be carried out in regard to the liturgy of the Mass. [2] Father Nichols suggested a similar direction. [3] Since its inception, the “reform of the reform” has encompassed a variety of proposals and perspectives. Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, in his still-useful analysis of the various liturgical camps and the groups associated with them, identifies Fr. Joseph Fessio (co-founder of the Adoremus Society) as "probably the leader of this agenda in the United States," while noting (correctly) that Fessio seems “less intent on a return to the 1962 Missal as the point of departure than on seeking a normative re-ordering of the Mass of 1969 along lines inspired by the 1962 Missal and its 1965 and 1967 revisions. This would inevitably involve some structural changes in the present order of liturgy" [4]. Historically, then, the “reform of the reform” agenda includes people on both sides of the question as to which edition of the Missal, the 1962 or the 1970 (third typical edition, 2002), should serve as the point of departure for closing the gap between the two forms of the Roman liturgy presently in use.
I do not wish to fault Prof. Dobszay for defining the reform of the reform too narrowly. On the contrary, I think he might be on to something. After all, the genitive "reform of the reform" indicates that the end product of a reform (in this case, the novus ordo of Paul VI) is itself the object of reform. Perhaps it would be helpful, then, to use another denomination for the program first proposed by Msgr. Gamber and set forth in detail by Fr. Harrison (and now to a greater extent by László Dobszay): the “alternative reform” or "Gamber Proposal," perhaps? Thus, the “reform of the reform” would have the current Missal as its starting-point, whereas the “alternative reform” (or whatever we might call it) would have as its starting-point the Missal of 1962; either way, the end goal is the same.
Am I making too much of nothing? Maybe. But I think the distinction might unravel some of the terminological confusion behind Dobszay’s somewhat ironic disavowal of the “reform of the reform” in favor of what was originally meant by the selfsame expression.
[1] My review of this book will appear in the new journal Usus Antiquior. A review by Fr. Neil J. Roy will appear in Antiphon: A Journal for Liturgical Renewal.
[2] Brian W. Harrison, O.S., “The Postconciliar Eucharistic Liturgy: Planning a ‘Reform of the Reform’,” published serially in Adoremus Bulletin, November 1995–January 1996; reprinted in Appendix III of Thomas M. Kocik, The Reform of the Reform? A Liturgical Debate (Ignatius Press, 2003).
[3] Aidan Nichols, O.P., Looking at the Liturgy: A Critical View of Its Contemporary Form (Ignatius Press, 1996).
[4] M. Francis Mannion, "The Catholicity of the Liturgy," in Beyond the Prosaic: Renewing the Liturgical Movement, ed. Stratford Caldecott (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1998), pp. 20-21.

August 1st and the Procession of the Wood of the Life-Giving Cross

Guest article by John Vernoski
Webmaster of

August can be a dangerous month! In times of old Constantinople (now Istanbul) and the whole Byzantine world the summer was far more dangerous than the winter. Homes were small and cramped. The days and even the nights were often hot and stifling. Food spoiled quickly. People became ill. The best practice and medicine of the day were not enough to prevent people from becoming sick, let alone heal them. Something more was needed: prayer, fasting, almsgiving and the healing power of the Wood of the Cross.

August is also the time in which the Church celebrates two great feasts: The Transfiguration of Our Lord (August 6th) and the Dormition (Falling Asleep) [or Assumption in the West - SRT] of the Mother of God (August 15th). What a wonderful opportunity to call the world back to Christ! This call to re-dedication developed into a two week lent that Byzantines now call the “Dormition Fast”. In Constantinople, from the eve of July 31st to August 15th the Wood of the Cross was brought out from the imperial treasury and placed on the holy table in the Great Church of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom). From the Great Church it was carried in procession each day throughout the city of Constantinople, calling all people back to Christ and for the healing of sickness, both physical and spiritual. Everywhere the Tree of Life went the people fell down in veneration of the Savior and His Cross.

To this feast the Slavs also add the celebration of the memory of the Baptism of Rus, as the Chronicles of the sixteenth century record that it was on August 1st that the Great Prince Vladimir of Kiev and All Rus received Baptism and Christianity took root in the Slavic lands. In remembrance of this Baptism the Slavic Churches sanctify water and bless the faithful in re-dedication and healing.

Today the Cross of the Lord is carried forth, and the faithful welcome it with love. They receive healing of soul and body, and of every weakness. Come! Let us venerate the Cross with fear and joy! With fear, because in our sin we are unworthy. With joy, because upon it Christ the Lord was – in His great mercy – crucified and granted salvation to the world. (from Matins)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Discovery of Thirteenth-Century Dominican Chant of Stabat Mater

It has been called to my attention that an important article has been published, announcing the discovery of the famous Stabat Mater used as a sequence in the Gradual produced by a convent of Dominican nuns in Bologna in the later thirteenth century. This is by far the earliest known example of this hymn used as a sequence rather than as a devotional hymn. It has been commonly believed that the hymn only became used as a sequence in the late middle ages. It is also interesting that the melody provided matches neither the received Roman one nor that found in the printed Dominican books. This text is found in Bologna: Museo Civico Medievale MS 518, fo. 200v-204r.

The news was published in Cesarino Ruini, "Un antico versione dello Stabat Mater in un graduale delle Domenicane bolognesi," Deo è lo scrivano ch’el canto à ensegnato: Segni e simboli nella musica al tempo di Iacopone, Atti del Convegno internazionale, Collazzone, 7-8 luglio 2006, ed. Ernesto Sergio Mainoldi and Stefania Vitale, Philomusica On-line, 9, no. 3 (2010). Those who would like the full text of the chant may find it at the end of this article.

For those who do not wish to read the article in Italian, here is the English summary:

The discovery of a Stabat Mater version set to music as a sequence in a late 13th-century Gradual from a Bolognese Dominican nunnery, makes it possible to advance new hypotheses about the origins and history of this renowned text. Untilnow there was no evidence that it was used as a sequence before the mid 15th century. The analysis of the piece highlights previously unidentified peculiarities regarding the historical and the liturgico-musical context in which it was used, whilst the comparison with the wealth of textual variants offered by its complex tradition points to concordances with later sources, mainly originating in Veneto and Emilia. As one of the earliest witnesses of this popular composition (there is only one other contemporary version, also from Bologna, but it is unnotated) there can be no doubt about its importance for textual criticism, and, inter alia, it does not favour the disputable paternity of Iacopone da Todi.

Here is the image of the manuscript with the beginning of the chant.

Careful readers will not that there are textual variants in this version as well. The Dominican Rite used by the friars added the Stabat Mater as a sequence on the feast of our Lady of Sorrows only in the 15th Century, conforming the rite to the Roman, which had already added it. But the melody is not that of the thirteenth-century version. Here it is for comparison:

And here for additional comparison is the first verse with the melody as found in the 1961 Roman Gradual:

I would hope that some attempt will be made to use this chant.

I thank Bro. Innocent Smith, O.P., for calling this article to my attention.

Archival Photo of Pontifical Mass "Coram Summo Pontifice"

It has been awhile since we have shown any historical photos coming within the context of the older form of the papal liturgy, and a reader recently sent in the following photo from the Fondo Giordani collection, which was taken in the Sistine Chapel on February 12, 1938, on the occasion of the sixteenth anniversary of the coronation of Pius XI.

The photo shows a Pontifical Mass "Coram Summo Pontifice" celebrated by Giovanni Battista Cardinal Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano, Archbishop of Bologna, Italy:

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill Encourages Orthodox Clergy to Blog

I was very gratified that Fr. Finigan of the Hermeneutic of Continuity drew our attention to the following piece found on The Voice of Russia: Church to enhance its influence through blogging:

Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill has urged the clergy to use Internet blogs for missionary work. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church warned against idle talk or passing one’s own thoughts for the postulates of the church. The Patriarch was speaking ahead of his second pastoral visit to Ukraine.

This recent appeal by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, aimed at enhancing the church’s influence through blogging and networking, made the headlines throughout the Runet. IT-analyst Alexander Mitrofanov believes that the Internet is a good vehicle to carry the live language of the church to the people.

"Many priests and church hierarchs have their own blogs in the global network," he says. "It helps people seeking their paths in life. Jesus Christ taught His apostles to attract people by the word. High technology and the Internet should serve the same purpose."

Patriarch Kirill sees social networking as an opportunity for dialogue and revival of the epistolary genre...

Newman CD: Heart Speaks to Heart

Speaking of Cardinal Newman, some of you will no doubt be interested in the following recording, Heart Speaks to Heart, "a meditation in words and music based on a selection of the spiritual writings of Blessed John Henry Newman" narrated by Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, with music sung by the Schola Cantamus under the direction of Jeremy de Satgé.

Newman Shrine, The Church of Our Saviour, New York City

Yesterday, we spoke of the three Newman chapels which are being planned for the Birmingham, London and Oxford Oratories. But of course, interest in and devotion to the person of Cardinal Newman extends well beyond the borders of the United Kingdom to other parts of the world.

Today the NLM is pleased to share news of a Newman shrine which is being erected at the Church of Our Saviour, New York City, where Fr. George William Rutler is the parish priest -- and incidentally, the NLM's own Matthew Alderman is also involved in the project:

A memorial bust of John Henry Newman in the Church of Our Saviour, New York City, will be dedicated by Archbishop Timothy Dolan at a service of Vespers and Benediction on Thursday, September 23 at 6 PM. The parish is a center of many university scholars, students and converts. This memorial will be a center of prayer and thanksgiving for the beatification of the Cardinal.

The shrine is in the place of one of four confessionals. Many confessions are heard daily in the parish. This fourth confessional, after Vatican II, was enlarged to serve as a Reconciliation Room with chairs and other furnishings. Later, that use was ended and the space served for storage. It visually blocked the St. Jude shrine. The carvings have been preserved and the original woodwork has been restored to its original dimensions.

The architectural design is the work of Joel Pidel. The cartouche and other elements were crafted by Matthew Alderman. Both are parishioners of the Church of Our Saviour and studied at the University of Notre Dame, whose former Dean, Thomas Gordon Smith, studied architecture in Rome while his friend Father Rutler was studying theology there at the same time. They have collaborated on various projects.

The bust is the work of the Arrigihni studios of Pietrasanta in Tuscany. It is of the Carrera marble from the quarries used by Michelangelo, and is the second study done of Newman, an earlier one is now in the libary of Newman's library at Littlemore outside Oxford. Father Rutler consulted on the present sculpture, working from a clay model. and also did the gold leafing and decoration of the shrine.

Gifts received have enabled this project to be completed. Friends of Newman may wish to celebrate his beatification by contributing to the parish's Seminarians' Fund. In recent years, eight young men in the parish have been ordained, are in seminary, or are preparing for seminary.

Once the shrine is complete, the NLM will certainly provide you with photos. However, we are pleased to be able to present you with some of the conceptual sketches to give you a sense of the Newman shrine at the Church of the Saviour.

If others also are intending any similar sorts of project as this, or as at the English Oratories, please do write to us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Three Shrines for Cardinal Newman, Three English Oratories

[The NLM is pleased to present the following guest article by Fr. Anthony Symondson, which gives an accounting of the architectural work which is being undertaken at the three English Oratories in the light of Cardinal Newman's forthcoming beatification.]

* * *

Three Shrines for Newman

by Fr. Anthony Symondson, S.J.

The forthcoming beatification of John Henry, Cardinal Newman has led to some significant architectural commissions from the English Oratorian houses in Birmingham, London and Oxford.

The Birmingham Oratory

In Birmingham, St Philip Neri’s chapel on the south side of the high altar is to be re-dedicated to Newman and contain his relics. These consist of a lock of hair, a drop of blood and secondary relics retrieved from his grave. A new floor is to be laid and the chapel re-decorated by the International Fine Art Conservation Studio, of Bristol. IFACS is experienced in working in historical interiors, sacred and secular. A copy of Walter Ouless’s portrait, hung in the Oratory house, will replace one of St Philip above the altar. The decoration will be in keeping with the church’s Baroque architecture and retain existing with new decoration. The overall ornamental effect will be buff and stone, decorated with stencilling and heraldic cartouches, and the conservation of surviving figurative panels by John Hungerford Pollen, Newman’s friend, fellow-convert, favoured decorative artist and father of ten children.

The Oxford Oratory

The Oxford Oratory has major, long-term plans to include a new chapel designed by Anthony Delarue in their extension to the north-west end of St Aloysius church. Delarue is a noted church architect who works in the historic styles, Classic and Gothic, as a living architectural language. His subtle proposals for Oxford combine Roman Baroque elements, drawn from Borromini, and English Classical drawn from Soane. The scheme includes a baptistery and parish centre built round a central cortile with a fountain open to the sky. Facing south, the chapel will include sculpture and be permanently bathed in sunny light created by yellow glass; but it is estimated that it will be some years before it is built.

Sketch of the Proposed Chapel in Oxford

In the meanwhile, IFACS has recently restored the Relic Chapel at Oxford, containing the collection assembled by Hartwell de la Garde Grissell, and formerly kept in his private oratory in Oxford, augmented by other collections, including a donation from the Jesuits.

The Restored Relic Chapel, Oxford
(Image Source: Oxford University Newman Society)

They have designed a temporary shrine dedicated to Newman to go into the chapel, with a reredos in the form of a copy of the Ouless portrait, contained in an elegant Classical aedicule. It promises to be a fitting anticipation of a permanent memorial to Newman in Oxford.

The Temporary Shrine to Newman for the Oxford Oratory

The London Oratory

The London Oratory has commissioned a new chapel to be dedicated to Newman, designed by Russell Taylor, one of the most distinguished Classical architects currently working in Britain, to be situated beneath the organ loft in the south aisle, and replaces the Calvary chapel. Taylor has already refurnished St Joseph's chapel at the west end of the north aisle.

The focus of the altar in the chapel will be a copy in oils of Sir John Everett Millais’s portrait of Newman, currently hanging in Arundel Castle. It will be positioned in the centre of the reredos, divided by small Corinthian pilaster-shafts. These help resolve the portrait’s dimensions with the square space of the reredos. The mensa of the altar will be supported on paired volute consoles aligned with the reredos. These will give necessary vertical movement because the ceiling of the chapel is exceptionally low and the emphasis on a higher scale becomes necessary.

Digital Rendering of the Future Newman Chapel at the London Oratory

The gradine of the altar will be inscribed with Newman’s motto from his grave cross: Ex Umbris et Imaginibus Veritatem (Out of the shadows and images into reality and truth) and on the foot of the altar, below the mensa, there will be Newman’s arms and his motto: Cor ad Cor Loquitur (Heart speaks to heart). The altar rails, returned at the sides, are in a baluster design and made of timber, with a pair of gates of wrought iron and brass in the centre. The furniture is to be executed in wood, and marble will only be used for the mensa and altar steps.

The walls and ceiling of the chapel will be painted light stone. But the altar-piece and rails will be marbleized in scagliola and their colours have been chosen to enhance Millais’s portrait. Imitation marble is a compound of marble fragments, plaster of Paris, colouring matter and glue. It has been known since Classical Antiquity and the secret of its manufacture was rediscovered in north Italy in the seventeenth century and was used there for intricate coloured inlay work for columns and pilaster-shafts. In the late-eighteenth century English architects such as Adam and Wyatt, who had little access to true marbles, used it for surfacing columns when they were working in the Roman manner.

Scagliola has had 500 years of continuous use and is a proper material in its own right. Taylor used it successfully in St Joseph’s chapel. The reredos and rails will have simulated Italian marble panels of black and gold (Poroto); white and light pink (Calacata Borghini); dull yellow (Travertino Dorano); while the flanking walls will be decorated with red (Travertino Rosso). The glare coming from the two side windows will be reduced by trellis screens that will diffuse the light and enable the chapel to be used as a whole.

Taylor and Delarue are both insistent that their work is not pastiche. Neither is trying to make it look as though it might have been designed in, say, the eighteenth century. People who make that criticism only betray their own visual illiteracy. For the last 2000 years all Classical architecture has relied upon precedent; architects looked back from one age to another and taken elements from the language of their predecessors to enrich their own. In this way the principles of Classicism are developed as an evolving expression of traditional design and these new works demonstrate the process.

These Oratorian projects are emblematic of Catholic architectural patronage at its most enlightened and provide a model of how to set about commissioning new work in historic churches. But, above all, they will delight the eye because they are beautiful. Newman was a lover of beauty in nature, art and architecture and no better commemoration of his beatification, memory and cult may be found than that.

* * *


It is estimated that the Newman chapel at the Oxford Oratory will cost £1.5m, comprising five gifts of £300,000. Donations should be sent to the Rev'd Provost Robert Byrne Cong. Orat., The Oratory, 25 Woodstock Road, Oxford, OX2 6HA.

Donations for the Birmingham project should be sent to the Rev'd Provost Richard Duffield Cong Orat, The Oratory, Hagley Road, Birmingham, B16 8UE.

Donations for the London project, which has an estimated cost of £109,020, can be sent to the Rev'd Provost Ignatius Harrison Cong. Orat., The Oratory, Brompton Road, London, SW7 2RP, United Kingdom. Cheques payable to: "London Oratory Charity"

Ralph Adams Cram and Our False Inevitability

East Liberty Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, designed by Ralph Adams Cram (source)

Stuart Chessman has a great piece up on the St. Hugh of Cluny weblog about the great social critic Ralph Adams Cram, who is probably better known to our readers as the famous neo-Gothic architect Ralph Adams Cram. It is not a surprise that the builder of such masterworks as St. John the Divine and St. Thomas, Fifth Avenue, might hold that, "[i]n a way[,] the eleventh century may be considered one of the most marvelous centuries in all history," or that an Episcopalian of his Catholic leanings might consider the corruption of the Renaissance and the tumult of the Reformation to among history's great tragedies. Indeed, he describes it as a "weirdly assorted couple" in one instance--though later in life he came to appreciate the more contiguous and medievalizing glories of the Spanish Renaissance, if not its Italian cousin. And this was not mere table-talk among like-minded friends, but the substance of a stream of numerous and popular books and articles.

But what may startle you was this great traditional radical was on the cover of Time magazine in the late '30s, and considered at one point the pre-eminent architect and architectural theorist in the realm of academic and collegiate architecture, to the point he essentially invented the modern American college campus through his work at Princeton, Rice, and elsewhere. We're talking about a man who advocated a quasi-monastic organization for architecture schools, and yet was taken seriously by the faculty at MIT and was even made Vice-President of the American Institute of Architects at one point. (Today, still less than a century after his death, he seems almost unimaginable to most critics, and his cultural contributions are either ignored, elaborately reinterpreted, or thinly psychoanalyzed away.) While even within that milieu, he was defiantly counter-cultural, the fact the culture at large was willing to give him a listen, suggests that the cultural dominance of modernistic thought, art and architecture, was hardly as assured or as easy a progress as we have been led to believe. We often read in books of the Liturgical Movement era of the coming golden age of Gregorian chant and popular participation, with the same inevitable assurance one heard in subsequent decades of Jetsons-style flying cars, neither one of which has come to pass.

For a time, though, it looked like the future was going to get medieval all over the culture. Cram's introduction to the 1929 publication of American Church Architecture of Today, speaks of a return to "the best types of the pre-Reformation art of Christianity," and contrasts it not only with the "curious fad of modernism," which he seems largely to ignore, but, more intriguingly, with the banal carpenter Gothic and catalog art of nineteenth-century Christianity. In our occasional idolization of the period, his (admittedly snarky) aside that "the Roman Catholic Church [in America] remained impervious to any infiltration of beauty and propriety" until comparatively late in the Gothic revival, ought to be remembered. And this, from a man, who for all his northern tastes, was Catholic enough to passionately love the art and culture of the Mediterranean, and often recommended in southern climes, even to his Episcopal clients, the use of the Spanish mission or even Baroque styles. Cram was radical in his love of tradition--going to the root and the heart of it--and never reactionary or narrow in his appreciation of the past and its application to the problems of today. In some respects as a social critic and diagnostician, he has the nuance and range that Pugin, painting with a broader brush in a coarser era, was denied. Some, used to a straw-men traditionalism in architecture, may find this baffling, but even we classicists are capable of subtlety.

Cram's comment on the "pathetic impudence" of "modernism," that it will never "obtain a foothold" in the United States, may seem dismissively and shortsightedly triumphalist, but it does show us that the great divorce between the modern age and history was not nearly as inevitable or as relentless as it has been painted--nor, given the cultural wasteland that Cram himself emerged from, and helped himself make into a blooming garden, is its continued triumph quite as assured as one might think. If we work hard enough, his description of the progress of his own time might apply, in a century or two, to our own future:
Stained glass has made surprising progress during the last twenty-five years, while the last five have witnessed the advent of at least three very able sculptors, at least one of which finds no rival during the past three centuries. [...] If the various religions in America will recognize the indispensable nature of good art, the essential wickedness of bad, and will demand the best, accept only the best, then there is no reason why the "Great Recovery" begun just half a century ago, should not go on to its high fruition in another fifty years.
Admitted, when one turned on the television in 1979 one saw Bob Newhart ensconced in shag carpeting and plywood and not linenfold paneling, but the fact it might not have been, and was not supposed to be, is electrifying.

It is especially interesting to note that this "Great Recovery," while thoroughly Catholic in feeling, was a highly ecumenical venture. Cram the Anglican wrote numerous articles on art for Catholic publications and from a Catholic view, while congregations of Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists and even Unitarians often put up splendidly medieval edifices of a surprising (if under-utilized) liturgical purity. The revival of an authentically Jewish synagogue architecture was also an important facet of this movement. Cram once commented that the only thing that was lacking to render the vast chancel of his masterful East Liberty Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh ready for a high mass was the addition of six candlesticks and a crucifix. There is an image of the Mother of God in its stained-glass windows, though it is not entirely clear to me that the clients actually realized this. (By way of apology, I will comment some of the most morally faithful Christians, and the most enthusiastic Gothicists I have met and worked for, were Presbyterians!)

Such stylistic unity may seem superficial to us today, rather like the curious fad of "Anglo-Catholic Congress Baroque" architecture in Britain around the same time, that sought reunion with Rome through the strategic deployment of Continentally-inspired roccoco curlicues, but both in the case of Cram's Gothicism and of the Congress Baroque school, there was a real and sincere passion for a healing of Christendom. Cram's clients may have opted for Gothic as a way of reconnecting with the past, or simply because it was fashionable, but it did re-establish visual continuity in a way that is almost impossible to fathom today. In America, a century ago, the stereotype of the church building was the clapboard Puritan meeting-house; today, for all our sins, it is the liturgical Gothic edifice, if at least Hollywood is to be believed.

Admitted, in some instances, this old architecture was often allied with a new and novel religion (as in the instance of Riverside Church in New York, or the various Unitarian or Universalist societies that opted for the Gothic) but it also introduced numerous, formerly-iconoclastic denominations to the Catholic arts, however tenuously. Today, when groups of Anglicans are rallying to Rome and often we find ourselves with more common moral ground with the Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians and Baptists than certain fellow Catholics, there is a lesson and a precedent here worth remembering. The Great Recovery, cut short by the Depression and the Second World War, may yet be re-started, if we but try.

Don Stefano Carusi, The Reform of Holy Week in the Years 1951-1956

I wished to briefly draw our readers attention to the following piece, translated into English and published on Rorate Caeli, written by Don Stefano Carusi of the Institute of the Good Shepherd, The Reform of Holy Week in the Years 1951-1956.

As many of our readers will already be aware, our own Gregory DiPippo likewise pursued an indepth consideration of the Pian Holy Week reforms last year in his NLM series, Compendium of the 1955 Holy Week Revisions of Pius XII.

Gregory will be providing some commentary on Don Carusi's piece shortly, but for the moment, I wished to draw your attention to the piece itself.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Thomas More College Establishes Mediaeval Style Guilds

I was quite interested to receive the following from Thomas More College today, where our own David Clayton is artist-in-residence. It relates to the planned establishment of Catholic Guilds of mediaeval inspiration at the College.

This has a particular interest for our own purposes here from the perspective of the liturgical arts, inclusive of sacred art and sacred music.

Indeed, the college itself specifically notes that it "expects that its guilds will enhance religious life on campus. This fall, for example, students in the woodworking guild will build a new altar for the College’s chapel, while students in the sacred art guild will produce religious art that will hang on the chapel walls. Students in the music guild will be trained to chant and produce sacred music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass."

A very worthwhile goal and enterprise indeed and one which could not only be of benefit to Thomas More College, but also of benefit beyond its walls.

Here is the full text of the press release [with NLM emphases]:


The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts announced that it has established a series of medieval-style Catholic guilds that will enable its students to gain skills and experience from master craftsmen in areas such as woodworking, sacred art, music, and baking.

Thomas More College’s guilds will take its spirit from the associations of men and women who advanced their trades and responded to the needs of their local communities in the Medieval Age.

“Catholic guilds flourished during medieval Europe, but by the Nineteenth Century they had all but disappeared,” said Thomas More College president William Fahey. “Guilds in its earliest form were developed out of man’s natural spirit of association. The Catholic Church took medieval guilds under its tutelage and infused into them the vivifying spirit of Christian charity.”

Thomas More College’s guilds will operate with the same level of community and charity.

“Not only will students learn skills they can use throughout their lives,” said Fahey, “they will have an opportunity to bake bread for the homeless, produce icons for local churches, create chairs, cribs, and other projects for the poor and needy in our community, and bring music to nursing homes and hospitals.”

Thomas More College also expects that its guilds will enhance religious life on campus. This fall, for example, students in the woodworking guild will build a new altar for the College’s chapel, while students in the sacred art guild will produce religious art that will hang on the chapel walls. Students in the music guild will be trained to chant and produce sacred music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The newly established Catholic guilds at Thomas More College will also play a key role in the development of its students.

“It is important for students to balance the rigors of one of our country’s most challenging curricula with projects that are physical and hands-on,” said Fahey. “In this way, Thomas More College’s guild system will further assist in the formation of the whole person while enhancing our already vibrant community life. We must never forget that even communities based on the intellectual and spiritual life must make visible signs of culture in this world. The ideals of the mind and the richest of the spiritual world can be visibly drawn down into our daily lives.

“In many ways, our guilds will show students how to live,” added Thomas More College director of admissions Mark Schwerdt. “Students will now have confidence that they can fix their own furniture or make music with their family. They will learn how the common man can create works of art as well as how to balance work, family, and leisure—all while enhancing their ability to be creative.”

“Thomas More College is preparing its students for a life of self-sufficiency,” said Schwerdt.

Each guild will meet weekly and will be taught by a master craftsman who has spent his life perfecting the skills of his trade. Students will be required to meet a series of benchmarks throughout the year so their performance can be measured.

Last fall, the College transformed the third floor of its Eighteenth Century barn into a woodworking classroom. It now boasts a professional woodworking bench, complete with vises for holding the work of up to four students at once.

Master carpenter Frank Jenkins will lead the St. Joseph woodworking guild, exploring with students the properties of the major kinds of wood used in fine woodworking, the use and care of hand tools, the preparation of rough lumber for finish work, joinery, project conception and design, and finishing. The class will culminate in the completion of a small project of the student’s choice, such as a bookcase.

Thomas More College’s artist-in-residence David Clayton will teach the St. Luke sacred art guild. Participants will learn the Catholic traditions in art as well as the theological principles behind them. Students will also learn about the principles of harmony and proportion that are infused in the work of the old Masters.

“Anyone can be an artist,” said Clayton. “All they have to do is practice, and the sacred art guild provides young men and women with the training and time they need to develop their artistic skills. Students will learn the skills of observation and control in drawing. They will also learn the entire iconographic painting process.”

Mark Schwerdt will lead the St. Gregory music guild, teaching students liturgical chant as well as folk music. In addition to vocal lessons, students will be able to learn how to play the banjo, guitar, or piano. The St. Gregory music guild will enable students to play music and add to celebrations on campus.

“I hope that many of our students will advance in their development of these skills over time so they can teach—or apprentice—new incoming students each year,” said Fahey. “I would expect nothing less from our students, all of whom operate with an intense desire to learn and engage others with a spirit of charity and humility.”

Lawrence Klimecki Interviews Matthew Alderman on Art and Architecture

Matthew Alderman. The Espousal of the Blessed Virgin with SS. Joachim and Anne. Ink, 2010.Cover for a wedding missalette. Private Collection, Minnesota.

I was recently interviewed by Deacon Lawrence Klimecki of Gryphon Rampant Studio about my my work in art and liturgical design. Lawrence is a seasoned and very talented graphic artist in his own right, incidentally, with considerable skills in the digital realm as well. Perhaps it is a bit vainglorious to quote from your own interview, but I think both Deacon Klimecki's questions and my answers will be of interest to our readers, if only to generate further thought and discussion on the subject of sacred art. The article is accompanied by examples of my illustrations and designs. Some extracts:

LK: Tell us some more about your work.

MGA: [...] I have a lot of admiration for the medieval model of sacred art, which saw the highest form of art as indelibly religious, and more importantly, tied to both the liturgy and to a received culture. It's one reason I love taking commissions, as it forces me to submit my own interests and preferences to bigger needs and wants. At the same time I'm not trying to turn the clock back. I see myself as engaging in a search-and-rescue operation for much of the remainder of Western Culture that emerged after the Renaissance, which is why I often incorporate elements of later styles--art nouveau, art deco, and even some fairly modern influences, etc.--into my work, though always subject to larger, older traditions. [...]

Concept for an Altar to Our Lady incorporating an 18th century Spanish-American portable shrine.
Designer: Matthew Alderman, 2008.

I also have worked in the field of architecture, sometimes as a member of a firm, sometimes as a designer of church furnishings or as an independent design consultant working in association with an architect. The design consultant creates aesthetic concepts for an interior or exterior that an architect develops in terms of details, structure, and materials. [In addition to my illustration work,] [d]esign consulting and church furnishing design is what I am doing at present, which gives me both the opportunity to focus on the more intellectual and aesthetic aspects of the project while working with an experienced architect with an understanding of structural issues. A local classical firm which I have great relations with has been very helpful thus far along this path, and has offered to be the architect of record when I need one, or when the client hasn't obtained one already.

Altarpiece and tabernacle shrine for Vladivostok Proto-Cathedral. Construction completed 2009. Designer: Matthew Alderman. Architect of Record: Pavel Manomov. (More here.)

LK: In your opinion what is the role of the artist in our culture?

The problem is art has become something of a closed circle. [...] Essentially, [contemporary artists] say, "Here is my vision," while pounding into our heads that art is a necessity, even if we find it incomprehensible. The odd thing is even the wealthy and au-courant types still love the old masters, and will pay through the nose to support some blockbuster Rembrandt exhibit, but the idea of producing something genuinely new within that tradition simply does not seem to be an option for them in many cases. In an odd way, we've become a very "conservative" culture in terms of actually producing anything. [...]

For me, an artist's job is to follow the rules and conventions set down by received tradition [...] But that doesn't mean he can't work within those conventions to produce something wonderful and beautiful and genuinely new. [...] The central problem is our culture now has very little content--whether in terms of the Faith or even in terms of a central secular story. We have nothing to celebrate, nothing to impart, and thus as a consequence rather than, say, decorating our airports with great allegorical and historical images of flight, or of national virtue, or of the patron saints of the air, we get safely non-controversial art generated by a contest among our schoolchildren, or, at most, something abstract designed carefully not to offend. How are we supposed to get inspired by this? How are we supposed to discover what it means to be the inheritor, as a nation of immigrants, of some of the best cultural traditions of the west and the east as well?

Matthew Alderman.
Christ the Youth. Ink, 2010. Private Collection, Kansas.

I think a lot of people find this sort of traditional culture "elitist" or "imperialist," which drives me crazy, as I think often when you get down to it you can find more in common among the traditional cultures of the whole world than the secular universe you have nowadays. [...] Ideally, inclusion within culture would be represented by a series of statues of the great philosophers where you have both Socrates and Confucius, who the Jesuits actually first translated and introduced to the west. Nowadays you just don't have any statues at all. [...]

In architecture, it's a bit different... [...] Most of us who work for classical or traditional firms (quite a few of which exist, and in usual economic conditions, even flourish) have to fight a two-front war between people who assume we're dangerous reactionaries ([Deconstructivist par excellance] Peter Eisenmann once called an audience of classical students, to their face, a bunch of "terrorists"), and those who want something traditional but don't know where to look and thus end up asking Bob's Discount Architects for a Georgian home that appears to have been molded out of plastic. And then, nobody wins, save perhaps Bob. [...]

Matthew Alderman. Madonna and Child. Ink, 2010. Private Collection, Michigan.

LK: How is your faith reflected in your work?

MGA: Considering most of my work consists of images of various saints and other religious figures, it's everywhere! There's always a slight tension between when I treat an illustration I'm doing as an exercise in composition, and as an aid to devotion, or to illustrate a particular theological point. I think ideally there should be no such clash, as they ought to be perfectly beautiful and perfectly suitable for their purpose, but working out that relationship can be tricky. I think, though, there is a tendency among purists to want to reduce religious art to a series of flat theological diagrams, which is simply not part of the Western Catholic tradition, which has had room for some limited artistic freedom (admittedly sometimes abused) for six or seven centuries or more. While I could stand to be more systematic, I do pray while I work, and try to ask God and the saint I am drawing to find that balance between composition and intelligibility--I usually ask God to let me do a worthy drawing, but also to have a bit of fun with the subject while I'm at it. And that "fun" also has a component of Faith to it, as it usually manifests itself in the details where I work in another subtler level of symbolism. An ornamental edging of a dress worn by the Virgin might have seashells worked into it, for her title of Stella Maris, for instance. I am reminded of the work of the architect Edwin Lutyens, who once designed light fixtures resembling cardinal's hats for a Jesuit chapel, with the humbling and subtle joke behind then that the red hat was always just a bit above reach for most Jesuits.

Matthew Alderman. Conceptual Sketch for a Basilican Interior in the style of Otto Wagner.

In architecture, it's much the same. It's easy to assume a "Catholic" church building will have some saints here, some pointy windows there, maybe a dome--and it often should have these things--but if you don't get the essence right, if you don't adhere to those fundamental underlying codes, it'll look superficial. The way we lay out the sanctuary, the way we plan the location of the altar, or install a baldachin or pulpit, the spatial arrangement of all these is critical in elucidating what we believe. Is the altar and the tabernacle the center or focus of the church, or is it the people? What do these choices tell us about what we believe? It's not enough to simply smear a coating of badly-done "traditional" ornament over a modern shell-though ornament, well-done, is extremely important as well. You just have to get the soul and structure right first. In some places, of course, this may not be possible--in which case you have to use space cleverly and find subtle ways to redirect people's attention to the points that matter.

The full interview can be found here. Images are derived from here and here.

400th Anniversary of the Baptism of Mi'kmaq Chief, French Catholics in Canada, and a Book about the Liturgy and Two Native American Missions

In both VIS and Zenit yesterday, mention was made of Marc Cardinal Ouellet -- the newly appointed Prefect for the Congregation of Bishops and former Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada -- acting as the special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI this Sunday for the observance of the 400th anniversary of the conversion and baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou of the Mi'kmaq in Canada.

The Zenit story sets forth some of the history:

Grand Chief Henri Membertou of the Mi'kmaq nation was baptized June 24, 1610, by French Father Jessé Fléché. Another 20 members of the indigenous leader's family were also baptized, and within 50 years the entire nation was Christian. The chief, who was the first aboriginal in North America to become Christian, led the Mi'kmaq people in the choice of St. Anne as their patron... The Mi'kmaq started an annual pilgrimage to St. Anne's Mission on Chapel Island, marking the event with a procession, Mass, and feasting.

The article continues further on:
Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa, Ontario, who previously served as archbishop of Halifax, told the Canadian Catholic Register that the Catholics of the East Coast owe a debt of gratitude to the Mi'kmaq nation.

He explained that in the mid 18th century, French Catholics were being deported from that region by the British army. Yet in 1752, the Holy See signed a treaty with the British to allow for a French priest to enter that region to care for the Mi'kmaq.

"And so when the priest came to minister to the Mi'kmaq," the archbishop explained, "he also came to minister to [other Catholics], rather clandestinely, but nonetheless he gave them the opportunity when he was in the area."

The prelate affirmed that the people of that region had access to the sacraments due to the treaty with the Mi'kmaq people, which helped the Church to survive in that region.

This story, and its relationship to the historic Native American missions, provides an opportunity to remind readers of a rather interesting liturgical study which was written by Claudio Salvucci, and which we have noted here on the NLM before, The Roman Rite in the Algonquian and Iroquoian Missions: From the Colonial Period to the Second Vatican Council.

As one can see from the title, this particular book doesn't deal with the Mi'kmaq nation that is the subject of the aforementioned story, but rather with the Algonquins and Iroquois. Nonetheless, it is of related interest, and further provides some very interesting and pertinent insights into those particular Native American missions and their liturgical life -- inclusive, incidentally, of some rather unexpected insights related to the place of Latin and of hieratic forms of vernacular within the liturgy; a historical element which is most certainly pertinent to contemporary discussion and debate.

It is a unique study and one which I would encourage people to pick up sooner than later, lest it become unavailable.

Innovation versus Novelty: The Sun Still Shines at the Same Angle

"A new church in what is called 'the modern style' is often no different in its plan and construction from the dullest Victorian Gothic church in brick; the effect is 'unusual' but not truly modern, and is obtained by moldings and shapes and colors which are the result of indigestion after a visit to Stockholm Town Hall, and the neue Baukunst of Germany. This is 'modernistic.' Some young man thought he would invent new moldings, new window shapes, new pews, new light-fittings, and in his anxiety to avoid the admittedly bad 'churchiness' of ecclesiastical fittings, he has gone to the other extreme and produced an arrogant decoration of his own - because he is not an artist, but a professional man taught in a school. Only a consummate artist can produce moldings, shapes, and details, which are more suitable than those used for centuries in Europe from Greece and Sicily to East Anglia. The sun still shines at the same angle on us, and at the same intervals. You cannot suddenly run up a new style in an office with the aid of a prize-medallist from the Architectural Association."

--Sir J.N. Comper, footnote to "On the Atmosphere of a Church," 1947

(Image source)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jubilee of St James the Greater

This Sunday, 25 July 2010, the Holy Year in Santiago de Compostela (read more about it and its solemn opening here) reached its climax with the Feast of the Apostle. Here are some images from the Pontifical Mass, during which the King of Spain made the traditional offering to the Apostle on behalf of the Spanish people.

The King and Queen being greeted by the Archbishop:

The botafumeiro is swung

The King reads the ofrenda (offering), beginning:

Lord St James, Apostle and Patron of Spain,

as in every Holy Year of Compostela, today I fulfil the ageold and solemn tradition of presenting you as King of Spain the offering in the name of the entire Spanish people. [...]

I want to ask you once again, for Spain and all Spaniards - and if you allow me also for my family and myself - the boon of your protection and intercession.

(You can read the entire text in Spanish here.)

King and Queen venerate the Apostle with the traditional embrace:

(Images: EFE/El Correo Gallego/Religión Confidencial)

Archbishop Ranjith at Work in Colombo

The following was recently drawn to the NLM's attention, coming from Archbishop Malcolm Ranjith, former Secretary for the Congregation of Divine Worship and present Archbishop of Colombo. It is a discourse which was given on March 15th, 2010, to the clergy of his diocese [we pick up his talk mid-stream]:


Speaking about this Pope John Paul II lamented that “ especially in the years following the Post Conciliar liturgical reform, as a result of a misguided sense of creativity and adaptation there have been a number of abuses which have been a source of suffering for many “ [ Eccl. de Eucharistia 52 ]. The revered Pope goes on to say “ I consider, it my duty therefore to appeal urgently that the liturgical norms for the celebration of the Eucharist be observed with great fidelity. These norms are a concrete expression of the authentically ecclesial nature of the Eucharist ; this is their deepest meaning. Liturgy is never anyone’s private property, be it of the celebrant or of the community in which the mysteries are celebrated……………..Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms and communities which conform to these norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church…….. No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands : it is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and its universality “ [ibid]. The same is stated boldly and clearly in more recent documents of the Holy See, like “Redemptionis Sacramentum“ of 2002 and Pope Benedict XVI ‘s “Sacramentum Caritatis“ of 2007.


In fact the then Cardinal and present Pope Joseph Ratzinger in a soul searching analysis of what happened in some quarters in the interpretation of the II Vatican Council stated as follows : “ the true Council, already during its sessions and then increasingly in the subsequent period was, opposed by a self styled ‘spirit of the Council’ which in reality is a true ‘anti-spirit ‘ of the Council. According to this pernicious anti-spirit (Konzils – Ungeist in German), everything that is new is always and in every case better than what has been or what is. It is the anti-spirit according to which the history of the Church would first begin with Vatican II , viewed as a kind of point zero” [‘ The Ratzinger Report ’ Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 1985, PP. 34-35 ]. Cardinal Ratzinger indeed was a peritus (expert) of the II Vatican Council who worked very closely with its theological commission on major Conciliar Constitutions like De Revelatione, Lumen Gentium and Gauduim et Spes. He himself saw some of the later “ loosening up “ of the norms and traditions of the Liturgy as pernicious. If you would recall, the Conciliar Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium, never advocated such a sense of freedom with regard to liturgical norms for, it insisted that Regulation of the Sacred Liturgy depended solely on the Apostolic See (cfr SC 22 :1) and to a lesser extent on the Bishops (cfr SC 22:2 ) and that - “ absolutely no other person, not even a priest may add, remove or change anything in the Liturgy on his own authority“ [SC 22 :3]. These are words of the Council and not my creation. If anyone then decides he can do as he likes, he neither knows his theology, nor liturgy and would only manifest his ignorance and arrogance.


The Eucharistic Year, then, Dear Fathers, has to usher in a spirit of greater nobility and dignity as well as reverence towards the Sacred in the liturgy especially in the Eucharist and the Sacraments. We should encourage Eucharistic devotions, ourselves celebrate them reverently, processions, holy hours, encourage Holy Communion on the tongue and on our knees ( altar railings should return to the sanctuary area perhaps with a cushion line as it has been done at our Cathedral ), beautify liturgically our sanctuaries, introduce forms of sacred art, ensure that Altar linen and Sacramental objects are clean and graceful, take greater care to prepare ourselves spiritually for the Eucharist, ensure that we wear the liturgically prescribed vestments and organize Eucharistic rallies and motivate the faithful to draw inspiration from the mystery of the Eucharist in being concerned about the poor, about evangelization and about the value of life witness. It can also be said that this shabby way with which at times we treat the Eucharist and the Sacraments drives away our people from the Church. So let us make a courageous paradigm shift in this matter during this special Year of Grace.

Source: Archdiocese of Colombo

Benedict XVI to Proclaim Antonio Gaudi's Church a Basilica

Awhile back we had noted that Pope Benedict XVI will consecrate Antonio Gaudi's famed Sagrada Familia church in Barcelona. reported recently that he will also elevate the church to the status of a basilica. Read the story on Zenit.

Sing Like a Catholic in Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Observer reports on an upcoming chant workshop at St. Ann's church. Workshop dates are August 6-7, 2010. Faculty includes Arlene Oost-Zinner and Jeffrey Tucker. The workshop will culminate with an EF Missa Cantata on Saturday evening with St. Ann's pastor, Rev. Timothy Reid, as celebrant. Registration is still open.

An Interview with Monsignor Nicola Bux

Carlos Antonio Palad at Rorate Caeli has published a translation of a lengthy interview given by Msgr. Nicola Bux, originally published on the site, Disputationes Theologicae.

Many will know that Msgr. Bux is a professor of sacramental theology at the Theological Faculty in Bari (Italy), a Consultor of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith as well as for the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff.

Here are a few excerpts:

· For a while now even the most tenacious supporters of a “permanent revolution” in the liturgy seem to give in before the wise argumentation of the Pope, of which there’s a clear echo in your book. Are we witnessing a new (or old if you prefer) vision of the liturgy?

Liturgy is, by its nature, of divine institution, based on the unchangeable will of its divine Founder. Because this is in fact the basis of the liturgy, we may affirm that the liturgy is “of divine right.” It is not by chance that the Orientals use the term “Divine Liturgy,” because this is God’s work, the “opus Dei”, as Saint Benedict says. The liturgy is not of a thing of human origin. In the conciliar document on the liturgy, in no. 22, § 3, it is clearly stated that no one, not even a priest, may add, take away, or change anything. Why? The liturgy belongs to the Lord. During Lent, we read the passages from Deuteronomy where God Himself establishes the practical details of worship. In the New Testament, it is Jesus Himself Who tells the disciples how they should prepare the supper. God has the right to be adored as He wishes and not as we wish. Otherwise we fall into a cult of “idolatry” in the proper meaning of the Greek term, i.e. worship made in our own image. When the liturgy mirrors the tastes or creative tendencies of the priest or of a group of the laity it becomes “idolatry.” Catholic worship is worship in spirit and in truth; it is a turning towards the Father, in the Holy Spirit, but it has to pass through Jesus Christ, has to pass through the Truth. Therefore, it is necessary to rediscover that God has the right to be adored as He Himself has established. The ritual forms aren’t a matter “to be interpreted,” because these forms come out of the discerned faith, which becomes, in a certain sense, the culture of the Church. The Church has always been anxious that the rites not be the product of subjective tastes but the exact expression of the entire Church, which is “catholic.” The liturgy is catholic, universal. Therefore, even when we are dealing with a particular celebration held in a particular place, it is not possible to celebrate it in contrast to the “catholic” physiognomy of liturgy.


· The old Offertory rite spoke eloquently to mankind about God, using profound expressions about the sacrificial power, about the nature of the Mass as a sacrifice offered to God. Can a correction in this sense be considered for the new rite [of Mass]?

It is important that the old Mass (also called the Tridentine rite but more appropriately the “rite of Gregory the Great”) become [better] known, as Martin Mosebach has recently said. This Mass received its form already under Pope Damasus and afterwards, in fact, under Gregory [the Great], and not under Saint Pius V. The only thing Pope Pius V did was to make some adjustments and to codify what already existed, retaining the enrichments of earlier centuries and putting aside what had become obsolete. With that understood, we can consider this rite of Mass, an integral part of which is the Offertory. There have been many papers written by great scholars on this subject and many have asked themselves whether it would be opportune to bring back the old Offertory, which you mentioned. However, the Holy See alone has the authority to act in this way. It is true that the logic which dictated the liturgical reform after the Second Vatican Council led to a simplification of the Offertory, because it was thought that there were several [alternative] forms of offertory prayers. In this way, the two prayers of blessing with a Judaic flavor were introduced. The secret prayer remained and became the “Prayer over the Gifts”; also the “Orate, fratres,” and those were considered to be more than sufficient. However, this simplicity, which was understood as a return to the purity of the origins, collides with liturgical tradition, with the Byzantine tradition, and with other Oriental and Occidental liturgies. The structure of the Offertory was seen by the great commentators and theologians of the Middle Age as the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, Who goes to be immolated in a sacrificial offering. It is for this reason that the offerings are already called “holy” and that the offertory was of great importance. The modern simplification, which I have described, has led many people to demand the return of the rich and beautiful prayers of the “Suscipe, sancte Pater” and the “Suscipe, Sancta Trinitas,” to mention only a few.

However, only through a wider diffusion of the old Mass will this “infection” of the new Mass by the old be possible. Therefore, the reintroduction of the “classical” Mass – if you will allow me the expression – may be a factor of great enrichinment. It is necessary to facilitate a regular Sunday [festiva] celebration of the traditional Mass, at least in every cathedral of the world, but also in every parish. This would help the faithful get used to Latin and to feel themselves part of the Catholic Church. And as a practical matter, it would help them participate in Masses held during international gatherings at [various] shrines. At the same time, I think we have to avoid re-introducing things “out of context.” By this I mean that there is a an entire ritual context connected with the things expressed [by the prayers], which cannot be brought back simply by inserting a prayer; a more complex kind of work is involved here.

· The series of gestures and orientation certainly are of great importance, because what the faithful see is a reflection of an invisible reality. Is having the cross at the center of the altar a way to call to mind what the Mass is?

Yes, having the cross at the center of the altar is a way to bring to mind what the Mass is. I do not speak of a “miniature” cross but of a cross such as can be seen. The dimensions of the cross should be proportional to the ecclesial space. It should be brought back to the center [of the altar], aligned with the altar, and everybody must be able to see it. It should be the focal point of the faithful and of the priest, as [the former Cardinal] Joseph Ratzinger says in his Introduction to the Spirit of the Liturgy. It should be in the center, independently of the celebration, even if it is Mass “facing the people.” I insist on a cross that is clearly visible. Otherwise, what is the use of an image that cannot be sufficiently profited from? Images refer to the prototype... In an era in which vision has become the favored medium of our contemporaries, it does not suffice to have a little cross that lies flat or an illegible “sketch” of a cross, but it is necessary that the cross, along with the figure of the Crucified, be clearly visible on the altar, regardless of the angle from which it is viewed.

Read the entire interview in translation on Rorate Caeli.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: