Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mass on a Zeppelin and More

Our readers have run across Mr Andrew Cusack’s coverage of some of the stunning Catholic chapels on board the great Art Deco passenger liners, but I was pleasantly surprised by a friend who pointed out that around the same time, Mass was also being said in the air. The incomparable eccentric Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson imagines chapels aboard futuristic flying craft in his fanciful scientific romance The Dawn of All, the lesser known and even stranger companion to his more famous novel Lord of the World. But a little over two decades later, there was at least one actual aerial Mass said. This is a photo from of a Mass said by Fr Paul Schulte, the so-called “Flying Priest,” aboard the LZ 129 Hindenburg in its happier pre-Lakehurst days.

Fr. Schulte is an interesting character in and of himself. The founder of MIVA (Missionalium Vehiculorum Associatio/Missionary International Vehicle Association), while still a seminarian he was conscripted into the Prussian 4th Guard Grenadiers in the First World War, and only was ordained as a priest of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1922, after a brief stint as a military pilot. MIVA was founded in 1925 in South-West Africa (modern Namibia) and was dedicated to acquiring transportation vehicles and qualified pilots and drivers for the missions abroad, especially Africa, Asia and Latin America. The first aerial Mass was said in 1936, with special Papal permission, by Fr. Schulte aboard the Hindenburg; presumably this is a photo of the event, though I am unable to confirm this supposition. Schulte was later stationed in the far north of Canada and spent most of the Second World War in Belleville, Illinois; he later helped found the outdoor National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, itself an intriguing exercise in “mid-century modern” Catholic art and architecture. He died in 1975 in what is now Namibia.

Two Personal Parishes for the EF in Switzerland

His Excellency, the Most Rev. Vitus Huonder, Bishop of Chur in Switzerland, has erected two Personal Parishes for faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. These are the first such parishes erected in a German-speaking diocese.

Here is a quick translation of the communiqué released by the Diocese of Chur, which is also interesting in its reasoning:

For more than 35 years there have been in the Diocese of Chur two centres for faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. There, pastoral care has been provided at a scale equivalent to many regular parishes, but without a corresponding regulation. The Bishop of Chur wants to end this unsatisfying long-time provisional arrangement and to establish canonical clarity. Therefore, on 22 February 2012 he has erected two Personal Parishes. The Personal Parish of Mary Immaculate in Oberarth is being erected for the faithful of the original cantons [NLM: i.e. Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden], the Personal Parish of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Thalwil for the faithful of the canton Zurich.

Membership of a Personal Parish does not primarily depend on the place of residence, as with a normal parish, but on belonging to a group which is characterised by particularities of rite, language, or nationality. For instance, the Italian Mission in the cities of Zurich and Winterthur is likewise organised as a Personal Parish.

Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio "Summorum Pontificum" of 7 July 2007 provides for the bishop erecting Personal Parishes for faithful attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. Such Personal Parishes have already been erected in various dioceses, e.g. in Rome, Blois, Straßburg, Quebec, Denver, Colorado Springs or Dallas.

Book Notice: Gothic Forever, AWN Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury and the Rebuilding of Catholic England

Recently I saw the following notice of a forthcoming release from Spire Books which I think will be of interest to a number of NLM readers.

The book will be available this spring and is set to sell for £49.95.

'Gothic for Ever': A.W.N. Pugin, Lord Shrewsbury and the Rebuilding of Catholic England

Michael Fisher

ISBN 978-1-904965-36-7

A.W.N. Pugin (1812-1852) was the foremost propagandist of the nineteenth-century Gothic Revival, whose aim was the restoration of the ancient splendours of the Catholic Church. Turning this vision into reality required a wealthy and influential patron, and Pugin found one in John Talbot (1787-1852), sixteenth earl of Shrewsbury and England' s leading Catholic layman. Impressed by PuginÕs talent and enthusiasm, and by his devotion to the Church, Lord Shrewsbury provided Pugin with the means and the opportunities he needed, in and around his ancestral Staffordshire estate Ð Alton Towers. The Pugin/Shrewsbury partnership was arguably the most successful and creative of its kind in Victorian Britain, drawing the attention of scholars, artists and architects from all over the country and from overseas. The buildings themselves, and the close relationship between earl and architect, and their wider significance in the context of the Gothic and Catholic Revivals, are examined in detail in this book which has been published to mark the 200th anniversary of Pugin's birth.

'This remarkable and significant book is a major contribution to Pugin studies and a fitting contribution to the commemoration of the bicentenary of Pugin's birth in 2012.' - The Most Reverend Bernard Longley, M.A., S.T.L., Archbishop of Birmingham

'A remarkable insight into the dynamic relationship between A. W. N. Pugin and his patron John Talbot, the sixteenth earl of Shrewsbury, creators of Victorian Gothic.' - Paul Atterbury

'If you want to discover how great Pugin was, and how much the Church and the Gothic Revival owe to him, this is an essential study' - Anthony Symondson SJ

'This handsome book will add greatly to the pleasure of a visit to north Staffordshire' - Alexandra Wedgwood

Staffordshire-born Michael Fisher has had a lifelong interest in the work of Pugin in his home county. A history graduate of Leicester University and former Research Scholar at Keele, he is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. His publications include Pugin-land (2002), Hardman of Birmingham, Goldsmith and Glasspainter (2008), and Alton Towers: Past and Present (2009), and he has written articles for Country Life. He was an adviser to Time Team in their TV production of Pugin: God of Gothic (2006), and appeared in the programme. He is a member of the Fabric Committee of St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, and of the Alton Towers Heritage Committee. Ordained as an Anglican priest in 1979, he is based at the twelfth-century church of St Chad, Stafford.

Dominican Rite Missa Cantata on March 7 in New York City

On Wednesday, March 7, 2012 at 6:30 pm, a Missa Cantata in honor of St. Thomas Aquinas will be celebrated according to the traditional Dominican Rite at St. Vincent Ferrer Church in New York City. The celebrant for the Mass will be Fr. Austin Dominic Litke, O.P., and Fr. James Dominic Brent, O.P., assistant professor of philosophy at the Catholic University of America, will be the preacher. The music for the Mass will be Dominican chant sung by a schola of Dominican friars.

On the evening before the Mass, a public lecture, "Beyond Dogma: St. Thomas & Postconciliar Modernism" will be given by Rev. Guy Mansini, O.S.B. (Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 7:00pm in the Church). Fr. Mansini is a monk, pastor, and theologian from St. Meinrad Abbey in Indiana.

St. Vincent Ferrer Church is located at 869 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10065, (between 65th and 66th streets). For more information, call (212) 744-2080, or see the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer blog. You may invite friends on the Facebook events pages for the Mass and Lecture.

This is the first Dominican Rite Sung Mass to be publicly celebrated in the Eastern Dominican Province in at least 40 years. May it be the first of many!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Details on Fifth Fota International Liturgy Conference

The following details were sent to NLM recently, pertaining to the Fota V liturgical conference in Ireland this year on the topic of "Celebrating the Eucharist: Sacrifice and Communion."

Fifth Fota International Liturgy Conference

St. Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that its fifth Fota international liturgy conference will take place at the Clarion Hotel, Lapp’s Quay, Cork, 7-9 July 2012.

The theme of the conference is Celebrating the Eucharist: Sacrifice and Communion.

The Conference will be opened by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

Professor D. Vincent Twomey will moderate the proceedings.

Among those who will deliver papers are: Professor Dr. Klaus Berger (Heidelberg); Dr. Mariusz Biliniewicz (Wroclaw and Dublin); Dr. Patrick Gorevan (Maynooth and the Maryvale Institute); Professor Dr. Manfred Hauke (Lugano); Dr. Daniel Jones (Detroit); Mons. Joseph Murphy (Rome); Professor Dr. Michael Stickelbroeck (Austria); Dr. Oliver Treanor (Maynooth); and Fr. Gerard Deighan (Dublin).

During the Conference, it is expected to launch the proceedings of the third Fota conference, Benedict XVI and beauty in sacred music, published by Four Courts Press, Dublin.

Registration forms and further details of the Conference may be obtained from the secretary at or tel. (353) 214 813445, or Mrs. Declan Pender, Leeview, Rushbrooke, Cobh, Co. Cork.

Dino Marcantonio, St. Germanus and Turning Eastward

For the past while now, we have been following architect Dino Marcantonio's consideration of the parts of the church building, as guided by the writings of St. Germanus of Constantinople. Mr. Marcantonio has now written his his concluding piece of this series, which we reprint below in full. (The article also appeared in First Things.)

* * *

How Would St. Germanus Site Your Church?

In recent years, much work has been done to restore the traditional principles of church design; one principle, however, is still often overlooked: siting. St. Germanus is brief and clear on the subject, as always. In the final section of Ecclesiastical History and Mystical Contemplation, which deals directly with architectural matters, he says:

Praying toward the East is handed down by the holy apostles, as is everything else. This is because the comprehensible sun of righteousness, Christ our God, appeared on earth in those regions of the East where the perceptible sun rises, as the prophet says: "Orient is his name" (Zech 6:12); and "Bow before the Lord, all the earth, who ascended to the heaven of heavens in the East" (cf Ps 67:34); and "Let us prostrate ourselves in the place where his feet stood" (cf Ps 67:34); and again, "The feet of the Lord shall stand upon the Mount of Olives in the East" (Zech 14:4). The prophets also speak thus because of our fervent hope of receiving again the paradise in Eden, as well as the brightness of the second coming of Christ our God, from the East.

For St. Germanus, praying toward the east meant that at Mass, the priest and assembly were both on the same side of the altar. The priest was not facing the people; all faced God together. Likewise, church buildings, including St. Germanus’ Hagia Sophia, were commonly orientated, that is, the front doors were located toward the west and the sanctuary was located toward the east.

Note in his last sentence St. Germanus mentions two goals: Eden and the Second Coming. Thus one's movement through the church building, from west to east, darkness to light, front door to Sanctuary, is a metaphor for the personal Christian life: conception in original sin; baptism and life in sanctifying grace; increasing sanctifying grace through a life of virtue assisted by the sacraments; and finally, death, judgment, and (we hope) the Beatific Vision, that is, Eden. This structural orientation is also a metaphor for all of salvation history: from the Old Testament age of prophecy, to the New Testament age of grace, to the Second Coming and the end of the world.

There is a prominent exception to this basic rule for church siting. The earliest church buildings in Rome, built centuries before St. Germanus was born, were oriented in the exact reverse direction, that is, with the doors to the east and the sanctuary to the west. The priest in these churches stood on the west side of the altar and effectively faced the people on the other side. Liturgical scholars tell us that, at a certain point in the Mass, the assembly turned around, the church doors were opened, and all faced the rising sun in the east.

So far as I know, we can only speculate as to why these basilicas were sited this way. Three reasons are commonly offered: first, it may have been to accommodate the confessio, the tomb of a saint located underneath the high altar, often with steps leading down to it (as at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome), or the sanctuary and altar can be raised up a few steps so that the confessio is at the same level as the nave (as at San Clemente, for example). Either way, a small, simple confessio prevents the celebrant from standing on the same side of the altar as the congregation. Second, it may have been an attempt to imitate the Temple at Jerusalem, whose doors were to the east, and Holy of Holies to the west. Finally, some claim the orientation was intended to imitate synagogues, which pointed toward the Temple at Jerusalem.

The confessio below the high altar at Santa Maria in Trastevere
makes it impossible to say Mass from the assembly's side of the altar.

St. Germanus' explanation of the symbolism of the parts—that the sanctuary is Christ's tomb; and that the apse is the cave in which He was buried; and that the altar is the spot in the tomb in which Christ was placed suggests a fourth possible reason: as one moves from east to west, from light to darkness, one joins Christ's Passion, death, and burial. When one turns around part way through the liturgy and moves from west to east, one is joined to his resurrection and ascension, and is ready to greet him when he comes again.

As beautiful as the architectural symbolism of this reverse orientation is, it strikes most people as a rather awkward arrangement for liturgy. Yet the orientation of church buildings was considered so important that people were willing to live with unusual siting in order to get it. The result sometimes produces churches like Saint Agnes Outside the Walls in Rome, where the front door is not located on the main road (the Via Nomentana) but rather near the apse. To gain access from this side, a small portico just to the north of the apse leads to the side aisle mezzanine, the ancient matroneum. This was a difficult architectural problem. On the other hand, it is just this sort of problem which sets the stage for an original and memorable solution.

A contemporary view from the Via Nomentana.

After the Middle Ages, Christians gradually stopped insisting on orientated churches. Nevertheless, we continue to refer to the sanctuary as "liturgical east" whether it is truly east or not. Of course, the orientation of our church buildings is wrapped up in liturgical questions which are beyond the scope of the architect, to be sure. But so far as this profession is concerned, a recovery of the practice would be most welcome. For a church which prays toward the east is architecturally, if not necessarily spiritually, richer for it.

More From the Philippines: Solemn Mass in the EF

Following on our recent posting of an OF Mass offered ad orientem in the Philippines, here some video of a Solemn Mass in the usus antiquior offered at Holy Family Parish, Quezon City, the Philippines.

The Mass was celebrated by Fr. Jean Marie Moreau, ICRSS on February 12, 2012. He was assisted by Fr. Eric Forbes, OFM.Cap and Fr. Rodel Lopez, OMI.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ordinary Form and Ad Orientem in the Philippines

A reader from the Philippines sends in the following images of a Mass offered in the Ordinary Form recently, which was celebrated ad orientem. The Mass was offered to commemorate the opening of the Chapel of the Holy Relics in Cebu City, Philippines.

Long Awaited and Now Here

Many of you will no doubt be very interested too see what arrived on my doorstep today:

That's right, it is the long-awaited three volume, Latin-English edition of the 1961 Breviarium Romanum/Roman Breviary published by Baronius Press.

NLM is going to be doing a full review in very short order but I thought you would be interested in seeing this little teaser now.

Let me just say this for now though: it looks great.

Something new at the Sacred Music Colloquium

We are doing something different this year at the Sacred Music Colloquium XXII,  held at the remarkable Cathedral of the  Madeleine in Salt Lake City, Utah, June 25-July 1, 2012.

Too often, liturgical music has been regarded as the preserve of specialists. If you are not a musician, it is often thought that you have nothing to do with it: no need for knowledge or training. This attitude creates serious problems because decision makers in parish life need to know about the musical demands of the Roman Rite, just as musicians need to know more about the liturgy than just its musical aspects.

When putting together the structure of this program, we decided to take on this canard that music is for musicians only, and make the Colloquium something anyone interested in Catholic liturgy (or just Catholicism generally!) would be happy to attend. You do not need to  regard yourself as a singer or even a musician. There are  plenty of Gregorian choirs for first-time singers, and sessions are  available for those who opt not to sing in a polyphonic choirs - but you don't have to be able to read music at all. There  will be opportunities for both professional musicians and non-musicians who are just interested in the well-being of music at liturgy.

The hope is that this change will broaden the scope and increase the attendance, perhaps even removing completely that intimidation factor that has created artificial barriers between the loft, the nave, and the sanctuary. 

The venue of the Cathedral in Salt Lake is beautiful beyond  description. Historically significant as well as aesthetically  magnificent, the Cathedral of the Madeleine ranks among the finest  locations ever made available for the Sacred Music Colloquium, which has  grown in size in scope every year for six years.

The year 2012 promises to be the grandest ever with new  opportunities for learning, singing, listening, and interacting with the  best minds and musicians in the Catholic world today. The Cathedral  Choir School has been wonderfully accommodating and opened up the full  use of its facilities for the Colloquium.

You will have the opportunity to see how the Choir School functions,  experience the amazing acoustic of the Cathedral, study under the best  conductors and intellectuals in the entire Catholic music world, and  form new friendships that you will value for years to come.

The primary focus of the Colloquium is instruction and experience in  chant and the Catholic sacred music tradition, participation in chant  choirs, daily and nightly lectures and performances and daily  celebrations of liturgies in both English and Latin. You are there not  merely as an attendee but as an integral part of the greatest music you  will ever experience. It will will touch your heart and thrill your  artistic imagination.

Attendance is open to anyone interested in improving the quality of  music in Catholic worship. Professional musicians will appreciate the  rigor, while enthusiastic volunteer singers and beginners new to the  chant tradition will enjoy the opportunity to study under an expert  faculty. Those who choose not to sing at all but merely want to learn  will find a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to absorb the full ethos of a  world of the best liturgical music.

Do you want to make this trip your family vacation? There are so many  things so see and do in the Salt Lake City area.

Once registered, there is no required sign up for individual choirs,  scholas, or breakout sessions. Attend as suits your needs.

  • Extensive training in Gregorian chant under a diverse and world-class faculty,  with choices of a chant class for beginners, and intermediate and and  advanced chant classes;
  • Morning and afternoon sessions all week with lectures and workshops  with the best of the best thinkers and doers in the world of Catholic  music;
  • Optional choral experience with one of four large choirs singing  sacred music of the masters such as Palestrina, Vierne, Bruckner,  Victoria, Byrd, Tallis, Josquin, and many others;
  • Daily liturgies with careful attention to officially prescribed musical settings;
  • Experience in singing or just listening to Mass settings, motets, chants, and responses;
  • Residency in a full service hotel;
  • Two gala dinners with top lecturers and events;
  • Training in English chant from newly published works;
  • Training in vocal production and technique;
  •  Conducting practicum;
  • Training for Priests in the sung Mass;
  • Pedagogy demonstrations;
  • Composers’ Forum;
  • Seminars on parish music management, integrating sung parts of the  liturgy, polyphonic repertoire for beginning and more established  choirs;
  • All music, including prepared packets of chant and polyphony, as part of registration.

Salt  Lake City is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with some  of the finest dining, mountainous views, and nicest people anywhere.  Under the leadership of the Right Reverend Lawrence Scanlan (1843 –  1915), the first bishop of Salt Lake, the construction of The Cathedral  of the Madeleine was begun in the year 1900 and completed in 1909. On  August 15 of that year, the cathedral was dedicated by Cardinal James  Gibbons of Baltimore. The architects were Carl M. Newhausen and Bernard  O. Mecklenburg.The exterior of the cathedral remains substantially the same today as  it was in 1909. The interior of the cathedral was largely created under  the leadership of The Right Reverend Joseph S. Glass, who became Bishop  of Salt Lake in 1915. A man of refined taste and strong artistic  sensibility, Bishop Glass enlisted the aid of John Theodore Comes, one  of the leading architects in America at the time, to undertake  beautification of the original plain interior. The Comes interior, begun  in 1917, was inspired in great part by the Spanish Gothic of the late  Middle Ages. the colorful murals were added at that time, as was the  dramatic polychrome evident throughout the building. The ornate reredos  shrine of St. Mary Magdalen and the various shrines were notable  features of the Comes renovation. Under the leadership of The Most Reverend William K. Weigand, who was  appointed bishop of Salt Lake City in 1980, a much needed restoration  of the interior, which had suffered the effects of dirt and pollution in  the intervening decades, was planned and executed. The results are on  full display today in breathtaking beauty.

  • Mary Jane Ballou, Cantorae St. Augustine
  • Wilko Brouwers, Monterverdi Choir, the Netherlands
  • Dr. Horst Buchholz, St. Louis Cathedral
  • Charles Cole, Westminster Cathedral; Brompton Oratory
  • Charles Culbreth, Chant Cafe
  • Rudy de Vos, Oakland Cathedral
  • Aristotle Esguerra,
  • Dr. Paul Ford, St. John Seminary; Camarillo, CA
  • Gregory Glenn, Cathedral of the Madeleine
  • David J. Hughes, St. Mary, Norwalk, CT
  • Dr. Ann Labounsky, Duquesne University
  • Dr. Mee Ae Nam, Eastern Michigan University
  • Kathleen Pluth, St. Louis Church, Alexandria, VA
  • Dr. William Mahrt, CMAA President, Stanford University
  • Dr.Jason McFarland, Assistant Editor, ICEL
  • Jeffrey Morse, St Stephen, the First Martyr Church, Sacramento, California
  • Arlene Oost-Zinner, CMAA Programs Director; St. Cecilia Schola
  • Jeffrey Ostrowski, Corpus Christi Watershed
  • Sister Marie Agatha Ozah, Ph.D., Duquesne University
  • Rev. Robert Pasley, CMAA Chaplain; Pastor, MaterEccelsiae, Berlin, NJ
  • Dr. Kurt Poterack, Christendom College
  • Jonathan Ryan, Organist; Jordan Prize Winner
  • Dr. Edward Schaefer, University of Florida
  • Dr. Susan Treacy, Ave Maria University
  • Jeffrey Tucker, Chant Cafe, CMAA Director of Publications
  • Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, Executive Director, ICEL
  • Dr. Paul Weber, Franciscan University of Steubenville


The Mary Pappert School of Music at Duquesne University   will be extending the option of two hours of undergraduate or graduate  credit to interested Colloquium participants. Dr. Ann Labounsky, chair  of Sacred Music at Duquesne University and internationally known  organist, will be your faculty adviser. Registration and payment  information for undergraduate or graduate credit is provided by Duquesne  Universtiy and payable to Duquesne University. Summer Course Registration Sheet 2012.  If you are interested in obtaining two undergraduate credits, you must  first file a formal application with Duquesne University. For more  details about the application process, please contact Director of Music  Admissions, Troy Centofanto, at  Note that registering for credit at Duquesne is supplemental to  registering for the program with the CMAA through the registration  process outlined below. Any questions concerning Duquesne’s policies  should be directed to Mr. Steve Groves at 1.412.396.6083 or


Friday, February 24, 2012

NLM Quiz no. 11: What Is Happening In This Scene? : The Answer

Can you guess what is taking place in this illustration from a liturgical book? Please give your answer in the comments, and give whatever detail you can about the context, and the type of liturgical book from which the image is taken. To make this more interesting, please make your answer in the combox before reading the other comments.

Permission to use this image has been very kindly granted by the courtesy of the Pitts Theological Library, Candler School of Theology at Emory University. (Going to their website to look up the answer totally counts as cheating; I may never know, but God will!)

The answer: Considering that this ritual has been out of use for centuries, an impressively large number of people correctly answered that this is the reconciliation of the public penitents on Holy Thursday. In accordance with my devious plan, a few of you were fooled by the day I chose for the post into thinking this was the expulsion of the public penitents on Ash Wednesday. In the Pontifical of 1595 from which this image was taken, said expulsion looks like this. (Also courtesy of the Pitts Theological Library.)
The complete correct answer (Holy Thursday, Reconciliation of Penitents, image taken from the Pontificale) was given by only two people, TJVigg3 and John Ridgewaywood; well done! The Most Creative Wildly Incorrect Answer goes to Biedrik; nice guess, but if it were an anathematization, the candles would be upside down. The competition for the Best Non-Serious Answer was pretty stiff, and has been determined by the fact that I laughed aloud at Mcarson' answer "Blessing of the Arsonists." I wish you all a most salutary Lenten season!

Learn the Way of Beauty at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts

We are pleased to be offering three courses this summer - an icon painting week and two weekend retreats - Traditional Paths to Creativity and Inspiration. (Follow the links just given to apply) No experience or specialist knowledge is necessary for any of these courses. They take place in New Hampshire July 2012.

Both retreats offered teach about the forms of traditional art focusing on the baroque, the gothic and the iconographic, and how to pray with visual imagery especially in the context of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. The weekend is lived in conformity to the rhythm of the Church's liturgy. However, the emphasis is different in each one.

The first weekend is a repeat of what we offered last year and has a greater emphasis on the talks about the culture and the liturgy.

The second is more reflective and focuses more on the prayer, chant and contemplation of visual imagery. It would be of interest to anyone, but was created in response to those who attended the first retreat last year and wanted to repeat the experience, but didn't want the same set of lectures. So this is of a form that can be repeated year on year if you wish: I will pick out particular paintings to talk about as exemplars of each tradition; and we will spend more time learning the techniques of the prayer that incorporates the whole person, and includes chant. As such, the hope is that anyone who has been through this would be able to teach members of their family or parish to chant the liturgy of the hours. No one need feel worried that they do not have the required musical ability. The chant is simple enough so that anyone who can approximately hit a note can learn it through listening; and beautiful enough that they want to.

Hispano-Mozarabic Liturgy Celebrated in Royal College of Spain by Archbishop of Toledo

A little over a month ago, we reported on the celebration of the post-conciliar Mozarabic liturgy by the Archbishop of Toledo on the feast of St. Ildefonso. Now reports the following story: Misa en Rito Hispano-Mozárabe en el "Real Colegio de España".

The story relates to the celebration of the post-conciliar version of the Mozarabic liturgy, once again celebrated by D. Braulio Rodríguez Plaza, the Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain, in the Royal College of Spain.

From their account of the event:

Accompanied by the Hon. Mr. D. Jose Guillermo Garcia Valdecasas, Rector of the Royal College, the Archbishop paid a visit to this institution and celebrated Mass in Hispano-Mozarabic Rite in the Chapel...

In his homily the head of the Hispano-Mozárabe rite said that this rite is "an alive, never dead, liturgy even in the midst of the difficulties to celebrate it and the ups and downs that we all know."

Here are a few photos:

It is good to see this apparent interest in the Mozarabic rite. It is my own hope that this will also extend, in the spirit of Summorum Pontificum, to the same in its preconciliar manifestation as well.

Sights and Sounds of the Ash Wednesday Papal Liturgy from Santa Sabina, Rome

For those who didn't have an opportunity, but would have liked to have seen a bit of the papal liturgy on Ash Wednesday from basilica of Santa Sabina in Rome, the following video has been made showing the imposition of the ashes.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Return of the Altar Rail

We recently learnt that Fr. Jay Finelli (better known to some as the "iPadre") and his parish, Holy Ghost in Tiverton, Rhode Island, are returning to the use of the altar rail for the reception of Holy Communion:

For the past few years, a number of people have asked why we can’t use the Altar Rail for Sunday Masses. So, after much thought and prayer, distribution of Holy Communion will take place at the Altar Rail, beginning on the 1st Sunday of Lent.

Lumen Christi Missal: An Ordinary Form Book for the Pew

Guest Piece by Adam Bartlett

I am grateful to Shawn Tribe and Jeffrey Tucker for posting weekly here practice videos of the Simple English Propers, a book of English chant for the Ordinary Form that I composed and edited, and that was published by the Church Music Association of America in the summer of 2011. And I am especially thankful to the readership of the New Liturgical Movement for welcoming this offering which is aimed at enacting a shift in the musical orientation of liturgical celebrations in common parish life.

The SEP, as it now commonly called, is a book for the average, volunteer, parish choir or schola. Its aim is to offer an achievable repertoire of proper chants for the Introit, Offertory and Communion, in English, to those who may have never sung propers before, and may be largely unfamiliar with the idiom of liturgical chant.

I can confirm, through my own work on the ground in an OF parish in transition, that the methods employed in the SEP work. Hundreds of other parishes around the US and throughout the English-speaking world have also reported similar success. It is all so exciting to see. For many, this is a first step toward giving Gregorian chant "first place" in the liturgy. It is an achievable first step for those who are willing to take up the task, toward the Gregorian ideal that is enshrined in Sacrosanctum Concilium.

What many parishes are beginning to discover, though, is that while the SEP offers the choir and schola what they need for success, the people in the pews are often left in the dark. The common hymnals and missalettes are not adequate, and really have little to no place any more. What is needed is an Ordinary Form book for the pew that gives parish congregations what they need to fruitfully participate in the liturgy according ideals of the new liturgical movement.

Introducing the Lumen Christi Missal. (Pre-orders are now being taken here.)

The Lumen Christi Missal answers this need. It is a complete resource that can replace common parish disposable "missalette" programs, and is permanent, hard bound, beautiful and dignified, bespeaking the permanence, beauty and dignity of the sacred liturgy. All musical settings are in square note chant notation, and the layout is clear and in continuity with the tradition of beautiful Catholic liturgical books.

The Lumen Christi Missal is not a hymnal; it contains no hymns. It is a book for the Mass, though it is not necessarily a hand missal either.

It contains Lectionary Readings, Antiphons of the Graduale Romanum and Roman Missal for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion (Latin and English in two columns for Graduale texts), simple chant style Responsorial Psalms and Alleluias, in addition to the various chants and texts that are found in the Roman Missal throughout the year (such as the sequences, various chants for Holy Week, Presentation of the Lord, etc.).

In addition to the Proper of Time, the propers and antiphons of the Proper of Saints, antiphons for all Daily Masses (including chant settings of daily Responsorial Psalms), various Ritual Masses, Votive Masses, and Commons are also included. View Sample Contents.

The Lumen Christi Missal also contains the Order of Mass according to the new English translation of the Roman Missal, set to be sung, and contains 4 new simple English chant Ordinaries, the 5 Ordinaries of the Kyriale Simplex, and 8 of the most commonly sung Ordinaries of the Kyriale Romanum. View Sample Contents.

Every Latin chant setting in the Lumen Christi Missal has an English translation directly below the Latin text for the better comprehension of those with little to no familiarity with Latin.

The Lumen Christi Missal also contains over 300 simple chant antiphon settings that may be sung by parish congregations in a proper or seasonal manner. These are contained in a separate section, toward the back of the book, and are numbered and "disguised" as congregational hymns. The reality in most Ordinary Form parishes today is that replacing congregational hymns at the Entrance, Offertory and Communion with propers sung by the choir alone is too drastic a leap. The antiphons in this section are offered as an achievable repertoire of congregational liturgical chant that can begin to slowly replace the problematic hymn repertoires of parishes. These may be sung in conjunction with the schola's singing of the fully proper chant, whether in the vernacular, or in its full Gregorian setting, or in various other polyphonic possibilities. The aim here is to wean parishes off of hymns. The reality in most parishes today is that even when propers are introduced, the hymns never really go away, but are sung in conjunction with congregational hymns. The Lumen Christi Missal offers an alternative that can be slowly introduced into any existing parish repertoire. View Sample Contents.

And finally, the Lumen Christi Missal contains a section of devotions including prayers before and after Mass (taken from the Roman Missal), an examination of conscience, formulas of Catholic doctrine, prayers before and after confession including the Seven Penitential Psalms, and the Rite of Reconciliation, various common prayers (from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church), common litanies, the Stations of the Cross, Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, and more. View Sample Contents.

The Lumen Christi Missal is currently in the final stages of preparation and will be available in the Spring to Summer of 2012. You can now pre-order a copy at a discounted price here.

While it is a book that is intended for the pew in parishes, it will also be very amenable to personal use.

A "new era of liturgical renewal" is now upon us, and the fruits are beginning to bud forth every where we look. The future of the Church's sacred liturgy is indeed very bright, and much grace awaits us as we press on in the work of renewal and reform. It is my hope that the Lumen Christi Missal will assist parishes and dioceses in this movement of the Holy Spirit that will continue to bring an abundance of graces into the life of the Church.

If you have any questions or if you would like to consider bringing the Lumen Christi Missal to your parish, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Pope Benedict XVI On the Decorations of St. Peter's Basilica

Under the normal rules for the translation of a feast, St. Peter's Chair would be moved from yesterday to today, since Ash Wednesday can never be impeded by any feast. This year, however, it was anticipated in the Vatican Basilica to Sunday the 19th, the day after the Consistory. Pope Benedict XVI concelebrated the Mass of St. Peter's Chair in the Basilica, with the 22 Cardinals created the previous day. During his homily, he offered this beautiful reflection on one of the artistic masterpieces of the church, the great bronze Throne of St. Peter by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The full text of the Holy Father's discourse may be read here on the Vatican website; a video of the ceremony and a photo gallery are also available.
Bernini's Chair decorated with candles for the feast of St. Peter's Chair last year.
Dear brothers and sisters, this Gospel episode that has been proclaimed to us (Matthew 16, 13-19) finds a further and more eloquent explanation in one of the most famous artistic treasures of this Vatican Basilica: the altar of the Chair. After passing through the magnificent central nave, and continuing past the transepts, the pilgrim arrives in the apse and sees before him an enormous bronze throne that seems to hover in mid-air, but in reality is supported by the four statues of great Fathers of the Church from East and West. And above the throne, surrounded by triumphant angels suspended in the air, the glory of the Holy Spirit shines through the oval window. What does this sculptural composition say to us, this product of Bernini’s genius? It represents a vision of the essence of the Church and the place within the Church of the Petrine Magisterium.

The window of the apse opens the Church towards the outside, towards the whole of creation, while the image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove shows God as the source of light. But there is also another aspect to point out: the Church herself is like a window, the place where God draws near to us, where he comes towards our world. The Church does not exist for her own sake, she is not the point of arrival, but she has to point upwards, beyond herself, to the realms above. The Church is truly herself to the extent that she allows the Other, with a capital “O”, to shine through her – the One from whom she comes and to whom she leads. The Church is the place where God “reaches” us and where we “set off” towards him: she has the task of opening up, beyond itself, a world which tends to become enclosed within itself, the task of bringing to the world the light that comes from above, without which it would be uninhabitable.

The great bronze throne encloses a wooden chair from the ninth century, which was long thought to be Saint Peter’s own chair and was placed above this monumental altar because of its great symbolic value. It expresses the permanent presence of the Apostle in the Magisterium of his successors. Saint Peter’s chair, we could say, is the throne of truth which takes its origin from Christ’s commission after the confession at Caesarea Philippi. The magisterial chair also reminds us of the words spoken to Peter by the Lord during the Last Supper: “I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:32).

The chair of Peter evokes another memory: the famous expression from Saint Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Romans, where he says of the Church of Rome that she “presides in charity” (Salutation, PG 5, 801). In truth, presiding in faith is inseparably linked to presiding in love. Faith without love would no longer be an authentic Christian faith. But the words of Saint Ignatius have another much more concrete implication: the word “charity”, in fact, was also used by the early Church to indicate the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Sacramentum caritatis Christi, through which Christ continues to draw us all to himself, as he did when raised up on the Cross (cf. John 12:32). Therefore, to “preside in charity” is to draw men and women into a eucharistic embrace – the embrace of Christ – which surpasses every barrier and every division, creating communion from all manner of differences. The Petrine ministry is therefore a primacy of love in the eucharistic sense, that is to say solicitude for the universal communion of the Church in Christ. And the Eucharist is the shape and the measure of this communion, a guarantee that it will remain faithful to the criterion of the tradition of the faith.

The great Chair is supported by the Fathers of the Church. The two Eastern masters, Saint John Chrysostom and Saint Athanasius, together with the Latins, Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, represent the whole of the tradition, and hence the richness of expression of the true faith of the holy and one Church. This aspect of the altar teaches us that love rests upon faith. Love collapses if man no longer trusts in God and disobeys him. Everything in the Church rests upon faith: the sacraments, the liturgy, evangelization, charity. Likewise the law and the Church’s authority rest upon faith. The Church is not self-regulating, she does not determine her own structure but receives it from the word of God, to which she listens in faith as she seeks to understand it and to live it. Within the ecclesial community, the Fathers of the Church fulfil the function of guaranteeing fidelity to sacred Scripture. They ensure that the Church receives reliable and solid exegesis, capable of forming with the Chair of Peter a stable and consistent whole. The sacred Scriptures, authoritatively interpreted by the Magisterium in the light of the Fathers, shed light upon the Church’s journey through time, providing her with a stable foundation amid the vicissitudes of history.

After considering the various elements of the altar of the Chair, let us take a look at it in its entirety. We see that it is characterized by a twofold movement: ascending and descending. This is the reciprocity between faith and love. The Chair is placed in a prominent position in this place, because this is where Saint Peter’s tomb is located, but this too tends towards the love of God. Indeed, faith is oriented towards love. A selfish faith would be an unreal faith. Whoever believes in Jesus Christ and enters into the dynamic of love that finds its source in the Eucharist, discovers true joy and becomes capable in turn of living according to the logic this gift. True faith is illumined by love and leads towards love, leads on high, just as the altar of the Chair points upwards towards the luminous window, the glory of the Holy Spirit, which constitutes the true focus for the pilgrim’s gaze as he crosses the threshold of the Vatican Basilica. That window is given great prominence by the triumphant angels and the great golden rays, with a sense of overflowing fullness that expresses the richness of communion with God. God is not isolation, but glorious and joyful love, spreading outwards and radiant with light.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Can Singers Do for Lent?

The lovers of chant have to be creative these days. This much we’ve discovered. The challenge is to find ways to share the love even in an environment where there are so many obstacles, so much misunderstanding of liturgy, an usual degree of musical illiteracy, and an entrenched musical culture in parishes that embed a strong bias toward the status quo of pop hymns instead of true liturgical art.

In every parish situation I know of, the moment of change comes when the chant advocates stop thinking of themselves as demanding something and starting thinking of themselves as servants of the others in the parish community and the faith generally. That’s when the ice begins to melt, the hearts open, people start listening, and progress begins to happen.

Service is the watchword here. It assures the pastoral staff and other parishioners of good faith. Having that frame of mind is good for the singer too. It has something to do with the willingness to make a sacrifice in order to achieve the goal. We need first to bury our own egos in order to see the the triumph of a music that is the ultimate non-egoistic art, the art that is not only directed outside ourselves but even outside the passage of time on this earth.

Lent is upon us -- rather suddenly it seems -- and I’ve been trying to think of ways to integrate Lent and interest in chant. In my household, we’ve usually sung night prayer with a great consistency than throughout the rest of the year. This practice has been made possible because of a wonderful book simply called Compline, as put together by Fr. Samuel Weber. It has the office of Compline for the full liturgical year with English and Latin on facing pages.

I highly recommend this practice as a lovely Lenten discipline. It will help you discover the Psalms as never before. Somehow chanting them in this way opens up the treasures to our hearts and minds - and more poignantly than merely listening on Sunday. The antiphons become part of your life in a beautiful way. It only takes 10 or 15 minutes but it offers great benefits.

I’ve been thinking of ways to expand on this model. The answer finally occurred to me this week. I was in a discussion with a mother of three very young children, one of which truly loves music. She would like to see a way to foster this interest. But like many people today, she doesn’t think she is a musician at all. She doesn’t think she can sing and it would never occur to her that she could lead any kind of sung prayer in her house.

I was listening to this scenario when it suddenly struck me. This is something that I can actually help with. This is something I can do. It wouldn’t take much time at all. I could swing by quickly on my way home from work or in the early evening, pass out the books, and just sing Compline with the family. They wouldn’t have to go anywhere. They could build it into the course of their evening routines. I would arrive and be gone again in a short 20 minutes, and repeat this as often as possible throughout the season.

At first the chants would be completely out of reach for them. They would be lost in the book. They would find the notation odd. They wouldn’t know how to repeat on their own anything that happened. That situation would be true for the first fire times, even the first week or longer. But after two weeks? Three weeks? The method would start to stick. The repeated parts would start to become familiar and memorized.

Think of it. By they end of Lent, what will the family take away from this experience? They will have forever in their hearts the sound of the Church at prayer. It will affect parents and children. It will give them a strong taste for the beauty of prayer. This will create in all present a special place in their hearts for this ancient tradition. They will have new ways to pray wherever they are. The Psalms will be implanted in their minds. For the children, they will carry this throughout their lives.

And all of this happens by giving up 20 minutes a day. That’s remarkable if you think of it. It really is like the loaves and fishes in the story. The singer is the apostle who has the food. The blessing is multiplied by Jesus himself and miraculously shared with others even as it does nothing to diminish the original contents of the basket.

I’m sharing this idea because I’m wondering if other musicians might consider doing the same thing as a Lenten discipline. If we all did this, many lives would be changed. If a choir dispatched singers throughout the parish into homes, many more people in the parish could come to love the chant and be supportive of it in the Mass on Sunday.

So I’m imagining a dream scenario here. Imagine that the pastor of the parish decides to make this a parish program. He first goes to the choir and asks everyone in the choir to learn to sing Compline in its most simple form. Then he asks each member of the choir to help this Lent by volunteering to go into homes of parishioners.

Once he has them committed to this idea, he announces to the whole parish that there is a sing up sheet in the back of the parish for any parishioner who would welcome a choir member to come to sing Compline in their home during the season. I suspect that there would be many people thrilled to sign up for such a service brought right into their homes.

Think of people at home with all sorts of issues and difficulties for whom a nightly sung prayer would be such a blessing. Maybe there is a problem with the kids. Maybe someone at home is caring for an aging parent. Maybe there are family issues that are putting strains on everyone. For everyone to come together for just a few minutes a day to sing the Psalms might bring a kind of heavenly peace to a household.

But most people believe that they cannot do this on their own. They need help. Members of the choir can help perform this service. It is also a way to give choir members practice in leading others in chant prayer. That can only improve their singing talent on Sunday.

This might seem like a small thing but it can have huge effects. If a dozen or so families in the parish accept this offer, they will enter the Easter season with a new talent and a new love for the beautiful art of sung prayer.

What’s more, this is a gift that musicians can give to their parish. Yes, it takes time. Yes, there are other things that one could be doing during cocktail hour. But the last years have taught chanting musicians something extremely important. The most important step toward achieving progress toward the goal of beautiful liturgical music is to show to others and yourself that the driving motivation is the same one that led tot he composition and perpetuation of chant: humility in the service of God.

Dom Prosper Gueranger on Ash Wednesday

Yesterday, the world was busy in its pleasures, and the very children of God were taking a joyous farewell to mirth: but this morning, all is changed. The solemn announcement, spoken of by the prophet, has been proclaimed in Sion: the solemn fast of Lent, the season of expiation, the approach of the great anniversaries of our Redemption. Let us, then, rouse ourselves, and prepare for the spiritual combat.

But in this battling of the spirit against the flesh we need good armor. Our holy mother the Church knows how much we need it; and therefore does she summon us to enter into the house of God, that she may arm us for the holy contest. What this armor is we know from St. Paul, who thus describes it; 'Have your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice. And your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace. In all things, taking the shield and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. The very prince of the apostles, too, addresses these solemn words to us: 'Christ having suffered in the flesh, be ye also armed with the same thought'. We are entering, today, upon a long campaign of the warfare spoken of by the apostles: forty days of battle, forty days of penance. We shall not turn cowards, if our souls can but be impressed with the conviction, that the battle and the penance must be gone through. Let us listen to the eloquence of the solemn rite which opens our Lent. Let us go whither our mother leads us, that is, to the scene of the fall.

The enemies we have to fight with, are of two kinds: internal, and external. The first are our passions; the second are the devils. Both were brought on us by pride, and man's pride began when he refused to obey his God. God forgave him his sin, but He punished him. The punishment was death, and this was the form of the divine sentence: 'Thou art dust, and into dust thou shalt return'. Oh that we had remembered this! The recollection of what we are and what we are to be, would have checked that haughty rebellion, which has so often led us to break the law of God. And if, for the time to come, we would preserve in loyalty to Him, we must humble ourselves, accept the sentence, and look on this present life as a path to the grave. The path may be long or short; but to the tomb it must lead us. Remembering this, we shall see all things in their true light. We shall love that God, who has deigned to set His heart on us notwithstanding our being creatures of death: we shall hate, with deepest contrition, the insolence and ingratitude, wherewith we have spent so many of our few days of life, that is, in sinning against our heavenly Father: and we shall be not only willing, but eager, to go through these days of penance, which He so mercifully gives us for making reparation to His offended justice.

This was the motive the Church had in enriching her liturgy with the solemn rite, at which we are to assist this morning. When, upwards a thousand years ago, she decreed the anticipation of the lenten fast by the last four days of Quinquagesima week, she instituted this impressive ceremony of signing the forehead of her children with ashes, while saying to them those awful words, wherewith God sentenced us to death: 'Remember, O man, that thou art dust, and into dust thou shalt return!' But the making use of ashes as a symbol of humiliation and penance, is of a much earlier date than the institution to which we allude. We find frequent mention of it in the Old Testament. Job, though a Gentile, sprinkled his flesh with ashes, that, thus humbled, he might propitiate the divine mercy and this was two thousand years before the coming of our Savior. The royal prophet tells us of himself, that he mingled ashes with his bread, because of the divine anger and indignation. Many such examples are to be met with in the sacred Scriptures; but so obvious is the analogy between the sinner who thus signifies his grief, and the object whereby he signifies it, that we read such instances without surprise. When fallen man would humble himself before the divine justice, which has sentenced his body to return to dust, how could he more aptly express his contrite acceptance of the sentence, than by sprinkling himself, or his food, with ashes, which is the dust of wood consumed by fire? This earnest acknowledgment of his being himself but dust and ashes, is an act of humility, and humility ever gives him confidence in that God, who resists the proud and pardons the humble.

-- Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday, Simple English Propers

Quinquagesima Sunday, Rio de Janeiro

Celebrant: Msgr. José de Matos, Apostolic Administration of St. John Marie Vianney
Church: Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Gloria de Outeiro

Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey: First EF Solemn Mass

One of our NLM readers sends this report into us:

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Quinquagesima Sunday was the occasion for the first Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form sponsored by the Diocese of Trenton since the restoration of the Traditional Mass.

Approximately 650 people filled the Church of St. Anthony in Hamilton, NJ. A large romanesque structure, complete with a vaulted coffered ceiling, the original polychromatic marble altar in ciborium, with heavy mosaic. Located within the neighborhoods of the state capital, St. Anthony’s is one of the most beautiful and historically significant churches in the Diocese of Trenton, built as a Franciscan parish in the mid-20th Century.

The Mass setting was Franz Schubert’s Mass in G Major, expertly sung and accompanied by students of Westminster Choir College, in Princeton, NJ. The students commented that, after having previously performed this Mass setting in concert, by singing it in its intended context, they were able more profoundly to appreciate its beauty and integrity.

The Mass was celebrated by Rev. Brian Patrick Woodrow (Ord. ’06), the Trenton Diocesan Liason for the Extraordinary Form. The Deacon was Rev. Kevin J. Kimtis (Ord. ’11), the subdeacon was Rev. H. Todd Carter (Ord. ’11). All three being junior clergy of the Diocese of Trenton. The Master of Ceremonies was Mr. Carlo Santa Teresa.

With the generous support of Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., Father Woodrow has been commissioned to promote and coordinate the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass throughout the Diocese of Trenton, assisted by the Diocesan Office of Worship.

More information is available at

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ash Wednesday, Graduale Romanum

Pre-Lent - Ash Wednesday: Introit from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

11th Sunday after Pentecost: Offertory from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

Pre-Lent - Ash Wednesday: Communio from Corpus Christi Watershed on Vimeo.

The Altars of Santa Prassede

The basilica of Santa Prassede is one of the most interesting in Rome, not least because of its beautiful mosaics which date to the reign of Pope Paschal I (817-824), and the impact of the Council of Trent on its interior, thanks to St Charles Borromeo, who was titular of this church from 1564. St Charles, for example, had no qualms about obscuring the ancient mosaics with two new display cabinets for the relics of the saints, and knocking out 24 Carolingian windows and replacing them with eight large ones.

At some point in the 13th-century the High Altar of this basilica was given a Cosmati front, but following the Council of Rome in 1725, yet another remodelling was thought to be necessary to "stress the importance of the main altar". As such, a new baldachino in the then-current Baroque style was produced, albeit utilising four columns of red porphery from the medieval baldachino. And, to match this, a new altar was put in place to a design by Francesco Ferrari. The medieval altar was thus relegated to the newly-enlarged crypt, and a fresco from the 1700s was painted above it.

To my mind, the medieval altar surpasses the Baroque altar that replaced it both in its form and in the dignity of its decoration. But at some point, someone decided that a Council necessitated a change, and the older altar was replaced. And history repeats itself, so that today even that Baroque altar is unused, having been superseded by a table covered with an unsightly white sheet, no doubt thought to have been necessitated by the Second Vatican Council despite the fact that the existing High Altar was already free-standing.

Considering the history of this basilica, and the changing of its altars, it is instructive to see how each Council stirs up in its wake such considerable structural and decorative changes, even to a venerable church such as Sta Prassede. This fact, I think, may help put into perspective the changes we have seen to our beloved churches since the 1960s, and the restoration that is, thankfully, now occurring in some places. But I suppose it's too much to hope that the medieval altar of St Prassede will be restored as the new High Altar!

Interview with Prior of Monastère Saint-Benoît, Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon

In December 2011 Mgr Dominique Rey, the Bishop of Fréjus-Toulon in the South of France, erected the Monastère Saint-Benoît, a new monastic community following the Rule of Saint Benedict and celebrating the Sacred Liturgy according to the older, classical forms of the Roman and monastic rites. The Superior, Dom Aidan, has given this interview -- which is, to my knowledge, the first such interview given by this monastic community.

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NLM: Father Prior, can you tell us about the origins of this monastery?

Our monastery’s origins lie in our longstanding desire to live the monastic life in accordance with the Rule of Saint Benedict. Some of us were previously formed and professed as Benedictine monks but found ourselves frustrated in living out our vocation by circumstances beyond our control. Others, too, experienced this difficulty but still wished to be monks. The resultant time away from the monastic life, painful though it was, concentrated our desire to live the traditional monastic life and each day to live its natural harmony with the classical liturgical rites and monastic office. Through circumstances that were truly Providential we were able to express this desire to Bishop Rey.

Bishop Rey received us as would a true father. Our enquiry initiated a period of discernment and of practical preparation which involved the Bishop’s own team, ourselves, my own bishop (who also showed great paternal solicitude, kindness and generosity) and the support and generosity of many friends – not to mention the warm welcome of the locals here in La Garde-Freinet. Somewhat to our own – rather happy – astonishment, it was possible to begin the full monastic horarium for the first Sunday of Advent and to celebrate our canonical erection at solemn first Vespers of the Immaculate Conception last December.

NLM: What support have you received from the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon and its bishop?

The bishop and the diocese have been, and remain, utterly supportive. Bishop Rey’s approach is to always ask how he, as a bishop, can encourage and further the growth of the Church. He is willing to put his person and his diocese behind initiatives that he believes will further the Kingdom of God on earth. He looks for solutions, not problems. So too do his team – from the vicar general, his secretaries and canonists, his financial officer, etc. All work together in order to build up the Church – to be sure, on sound financial and canonical foundations also!

We have been given use of a very large presbytery (which already we are in the happy situation of worrying about being too small) next to the parish church. We have been given use of the church for all of our liturgical offices. The Curé, who has welcomed us warmly, lives in another village of which he is also Curé and celebrates three Masses here each week for the small, very committed, local parish. This ‘sharing’ of the church works well and provides the Mass and Office here each day in addition to the parish’s existing Masses.

The bishop has also generously given us some financial aid to us get started – the costs of health insurance alone in France are astronomical – but we need to work to become financially self-sufficient very quickly.

Practical and fraternal support has come from around the diocese and indeed from the local clergy and people, who as well as encouragement, have provided us with many of the material things necessary for this large house. A monastery is something different and new, but its arrival has been greeted with the hospitality and openness for which the local people and the clergy of this diocese are known.

NLM: Are you part of the worldwide Benedictine Confederation?

While two of us have completed valid Benedictine novitiates and have been professed monks in the Confederation, our community is established by the bishop and is of the diocese. That is not to say that we are isolated: many monks of the Confederation are good friends and we have been delighted to receive their fraternal encouragement and help. One friend, an Abbot, has accepted the bishop’s invitation to assist both ourselves and the bishop as we grow. We have asked the Abbot to be of particular assistance in the formation of novices. So whilst we are independent of the Confederation we maintain strong links with monks of it, and are very appreciative of their visits, their support and of the wisdom and experience they share with us.

NLM: Tell us about the horarium and the liturgical life of the monastery.

Our horarium is straightforward, commencing with matins at 4.00am and ending with compline at 8.00pm. It includes all the offices sung according to the Breviarium monasticum (1963) as well as conventual Mass according to the usus antiquior. The horarium is not a publicity gimmick or a fantasy – it is real – and it has to be said that, whilst it is demanding, it is a joy to live.

In our liturgical life we ‘dare to do as much as we can’ as St Thomas Aquinas would urge. Whilst we are small this is sometimes necessarily modest. But faithfully to sing all the monastic offices each day is no small endeavour. As we grow more becomes possible, and each new vocation is a gift of God’s Providence enabling the whole monastic family to praise God more fully in the sacred liturgy.

Of course the liturgical life is the life of the monastery. It is our raison d’être. We are here first and foremost to offer worship to God, to ‘put nothing before the work of God’ as Saint Benedict teaches. This gives us a clear identity and gives order to our day, and again, it is a joy. It is a particular joy that, thanks to our Holy Father’s vision and legislation (which is wholeheartedly shared, supported and promoted by Bishop Rey), the use of the older liturgical rites is not an issue. There is no controversy about our spending our days and nights singing God’s praises or offering the holy sacrifice of the Mass in the way monks have done for centuries, as indeed there should not be!

NLM: How so you foresee the monastery participating in and advocating Pope Benedict's desired new liturgical movement?

We are a small monastic community living the liturgical life as fully and as faithfully as we are able. We seek to give Almighty God the worship that is His due and in so doing to further our own conversion of life in conformity with His ways. So as we see it, the ‘new liturgical movement’ is about first becoming liturgical myself, about being steeped in the sacred liturgy, about letting it form whom I am and how I live, about allowing it to bring about that conversion of life that is at the heart of the Rule of Saint Benedict.

We have no pretentions to making any great contribution on a larger scale. But if each day we can faithfully and generously live the liturgical life, that itself will make its own little difference in the Church and in the world. In God’s Providence we will play our small part in furthering the new liturgical movement.

Certainly, we do offer a certain monastic and liturgical witness and this has its effect. Our inauguration was celebrated with solemn first vespers of the Immaculate Conception – sung entirely in chant according to the monastic rite. Friends, local clergy and parishioners and some who had not been inside a church for a long time, joined together in praying vespers – many for the first time – and they sang very well! The Church’s liturgy, resplendent in the fullness of its monastic tradition, touched many hearts that evening. If we can continue to do that – and we can – that too will make its contribution.

NLM: What could a man thinking about the monastic life expect if he asked about joining your community?

He would be welcome to visit for a short period in order to taste something of our life: talking is one thing, but experiencing the life first hand is what is necessary. After that a longer visit for further discernment would be appropriate – normally at least a month. If he then wished to apply to enter the monastery, the usual application procedures would take place followed in due course by postulancy (which is usually at least three months, but is flexible, and then the novitiate which is a year, or possibly a year and a half).

NLM: And what formation would follow?

During postulancy and novitiate formation centres on monastic life and prayer: the Rule, monastic history, the sacred liturgy and the psalms, etc. Latin and, given our location, French would also be studied. After simple profession formation would be according to the individual’s gifts and the monastery’s needs. Some will go on to studies for ordination whilst others will develop their skills in other areas – our monastic family has room for all those Almighty God sends, be they what used to be called “choir monks” or “lay brothers”. Higher studies are also something we wish to encourage where the individual has the necessary gifts and where these would serve the monastery and the Church.

But for all that, the greatest formation for any postulant or novice is striving to be faithful to the many demands of our daily life with its challenges and at times its real difficulties. Persevering through these enables those called to the monastic vocation to begin that conversion of life which is our vocation, and to taste something of the delights thereof, together with one’s brethren in an ordered fraternity, a ‘school of the Lord’s service’. It’s hard to explain, but for those called to it, it is real, sustaining, a true grace and privilege. As we sing at Sunday Prime, “Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, cum dilatasti cor meum.” (I have run the way of thy commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart.) Ps. 118: 32.

NLM: Do you have novices at present?

At the moment we have not even had the time for a postulancy to run its course! We have two serious candidates for the novitiate and, God-willing, they could be clothed as novices later in the year. There are other candidates planning to make extended visits. It is important not to rush discernment and to allow each candidate the time, space and freedom necessary to take the right steps at the right time. We prefer not to talk too much about who and when and so on in order to protect this freedom: they – and also the monks – are entitled to their privacy.

NLM: Is the monastery exclusively English-speaking?

Not exclusively. Whilst we certainly speak English, each of us must each learn French. We are open to all whom God sends. Indeed, our bishop has recently entrusted to us the final formation of a seminarian and he is not an English-speaker – so our French is improving all the time! When we preach we use both French and English – many of the local people are native English speakers.

NLM: What work do members of the community do?

Our first work is prayer and our own conversion of life. Then there is the necessary work of discernment and formation of candidates. After that follow all the usual administrative and household tasks, from cooking to cleaning to answering correspondence and paying bills.

We also run a small shop and produce some of the things sold there ourselves, as well as print cards and other items. We hope to do a little publishing. We have the use of a little land to grow food. Sometimes we tutor people in liturgical or academic areas or do other intellectual work. We welcome guests and retreatants and provide some pastoral care for people in the older rites. From time to time we assist the bishop with different projects.

Apart from the basics, our work will be a response to the opportunities, talents and needs that God’s Providence sends, provided always that these do not eclipse the work of God.

NLM: Where are you situated? Is it possible for people to visit?

We are in a village high up in the midst of “the Maures” mountain range, between Fréjus and Toulon, in Provence. We are a little over ten kilometres from the Mediterranean sea, and are twenty kilometres north of Saint-Tropez. It is an exceptionally beautiful region, and our village enjoys the benefits of being small and quiet. It has splendid views, with extensive mountain walks – ideal for people on retreat. We have posted some pictures on our website.

Yes, visitors are always welcome, be that to attend the Office or Mass (all of which are open to the public), or for a few days of rest or retreat. Male guests who would like to stay in the monastery should always contact us in advance of course, but hospitality is an important part of our vocation.

Regarding getting here, there are some buses that come to the village – more on weekends and in the summer – and there is a major railway station (Les Arcs) not that far away. However car is the most convenient means of transport and there is a good road up here from the coast, and another from the major Provencal autoroute (A8). We are not thirty minutes drive from either.

NLM: How can people support the monastery?

Firstly I must record our gratitude for the many benefactions, small and large, we have received to date. We have been continually moved by the goodness of God’s Providence working through so many generous hearts. That we have been able to make a good start to our life here is in no small part due to the charity of these individuals – whose acts are known to Almighty God – and for whom we pray each day and offer Mass each month.

That said, as I said earlier, yes, we have need to become financially independent quickly. With the arrival of new vocations that need is not small. Support and benefactions are always welcome, and are a true blessing. Whilst our website mentions various ways of supporting us – from buying goods through our Amazon links, sending something from our wish list at Amazon (we do need to build up our library especially), purchasing from our monastery shop, making a donation, sending Mass offerings, etc. – we are also conscious that we must work hard and develop both industries and income ourselves. That requires both personnel and capital – but God’s Providence will not fail us so long as we are faithful to our monastic vocation.

NLM: Do you have an oblate programme?

Yes, and we had the joy of clothing our first oblate-novice, a diocesan priest and great friend of the monastery, shortly after our inauguration. Oblates are our extended family, as it were, and share in the spiritual fruits of our prayer as we benefit from their fraternity and support. Catholic men and women who are interested in oblature should consult our website.

NLM: Dom Aidan, what does the future hold for the Monastère Saint-Benoît?

It holds the next monastic office, the next opportunity to exercise fraternal charity amongst the brethren, the next occasion to endure suffering in faith and hope, the next opportunity to welcome as Christ the person who comes to the monastery who perhaps is not even aware of the need to search for God. And if I am faithful to what the Rule commands of me in each of these circumstances, the future holds – no, it promises – that God shall be praised and found, and that in this I shall be more conformed to Him.

Certainly, we have hopes and plans, but Providence will shuffle them and deal her own hand according to a greater Plan. We shall see what the future holds. But if this community can be faithful to the Rule and attentive to the voice of God, the future, whatever it brings, will be of God.

God bless you and all your readers!

* * *

For more information on the monastery:

Monastère Saint-Benoît
2, rue de la Croix
83680 La Garde-Freinet


© Monastère Saint-Benoît 2012

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