Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let us celebrate sorrow so that we do not become incapacitated for joy

This is a marvelous paper by Eric Andersen, from the CMAA conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.


Pope Francis Celebrates Ad Orientem

According to reports at Rorate, it appears Pope Francis celebrated Mass ad orientem at the tomb of Blessed Pope John Paul II this morning. Is it a sign of things to come?
At the very least, I think it's a very positive sign that he is not actively against celebrating ad orientem.  If nothing else, it's a good support for those parishes doing so already.

Guest Article: Remembering the Saints

On this Vigil of All Saints, I am very happy to share with the readers of New Liturgical Movement an article offered to us by the Academic Dean of Wyoming Catholic College, Dr. Jeremy Holmes. It is a most appropriate reflection as we circle around to the annual celebration of the citizens of the Heavenly Jerusalem, the countless host of angels and souls who worship the Lamb in eternal joy.

Remembering the Saints

The book that ICEL (almost) forgot...
See if you can answer this Catholic trivia question without reading ahead: What post-Vatican II liturgical book intended for daily use has never been published in English? Even my well-educated Catholic friends, and even those reading and publishing in the area of liturgy, have trouble coming up with an answer. The average Catholic boggles at the very idea.

Answer: the Roman Martyrology. The most recent edition was published in Latin in 2004, but ever since Vatican II—which most American Catholics identify with the movement of liturgy into English—no edition of the post-conciliar revision has been published in translation. It seems that a translation was submitted to Rome five years ago or more, but it has been idling in the Vatican offices all the while. The average Catholic does not know that the Martyrology even exists, and while the liturgically educated usually do know it exists, it is so far off the beaten path that most are unaware of whether it exists in the vernacular or not. It’s an unfortunate situation, because the Martyrology really ought to be more widely known and celebrated.

The Roman Martyrology (2004)
The 2004 Roman Martyrology is a handsome, burgundy hardback with five red ribbons. One ribbon marks the rubrics for praying the Martyrology, either as part of the Liturgy of the Hours or as its own liturgy, and another marks the biblical readings which form an optional part of the celebration. A third ribbon marks the closing prayers, and a fourth the chant tones for the various parts. The fifth ribbon marks the current day, with the name, place, and a brief description of each saint commemorated.

Although devotion to the saints remains strong in many Catholic homes, it often seems an affair separate from liturgical prayer. Unless there are propers in the Mass or the Breviary, Catholics generally think that a saint’s “feast day” means a day when you can have a cake or sing a song at home. They don’t realize that every saint with a feast day is commemorated by a liturgical act. Even well-educated Catholics tend to think that the number of saints celebrated over the course of the liturgical year is limited by the number of days in the year, when in reality a typical day in the Church sees the liturgical remembrance of 20 or more.

Indications for chanting
By the same token, Catholics often think that a Sunday “cancels” the feast of a saint. I have often heard people say that we will “lose” so-and-so’s feast this year because it falls on a Sunday. They don’t realize that, although we do not use the propers of that feast at Mass on a Sunday, the feast of that day is in fact liturgically celebrated via the reading or chanting of the Martyrology. So for example when Pope Francis asked the Church to fast on the eve of the feast of the Birth of Mary, it made sense—even though that feast fell on a Sunday this year.

Ironically, the last edition (1956) of the Martyrology for the preconciliar Extraordinary Form—which most people identify as “the Latin liturgy”—has been available in English since 1962, although the translation by Canon J. B. O’Connell does not carry approval for liturgical use and seems to have been prepared for the sake of private devotion and study. However, John Paul II canonized a lot of saints, and for specific purposes: he wanted people to know about saints of modern times, suffering modern conditions, and from every walk of life. His purposes are lost on most of the world, because without the current Martyrology people remain only vaguely aware of the newly canonized men and women.

Title page of the 1956 Roman Martyrology,
available in English!
Besides having the specific advantage of more modern saints, greater awareness of the current Martyrology could subtly change the way people tend to compare the liturgies of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. For example, one often hears that the Extraordinary Form has more “saints days” than the Ordinary Form. While it is true that in the Ordinary Form there are fewer days in the calendar marked by Masses with propers and readings tied to the sanctoral cycle, it is not true, simply speaking, that the Ordinary Form has fewer liturgical celebrations of saints. In fact, due to a greatly enriched Martyrology, more saints are celebrated in the Ordinary Form than ever before, an impression that grows on one who uses the old version and experiences firsthand the glaring absence of many recently canonized saints—including great devotees of the traditional liturgy such as St. Pio of Pietrelcina and St. Josemaria Escriva. While this expansion of the Martyrology does not directly address the question of how many Masses proper to individual saints the sanctoral cycle should have, it does change the context of the question somewhat.

In a similar vein, it is well known that, in reforming the liturgical calendar after the Council, the Vatican placed great emphasis on historical reliability. Saints that seem to have been merely legendary, or whose existence cannot be proved, were dropped from the general calendar. However, this move toward the historical was not as sweeping as is generally thought. Often, when something about a saint cannot be verified, his life is described in the Martyrology under the clause ut fertur, “as is said.” Most notably, Old Testament figures such as Job and Jonah, whose lives or even whose existences are often considered to be Hebrew literary creations, retain their feasts in the reformed liturgical calendar as officially given in the book of the saints.

December 1st in the 1956 edition
The presence of Old Testament saints in the Martyrology is worth noting in its own right. In the Ordinary Form of the Mass, the only Old Testament saints with propers are the Archangels—two of whom are also mentioned in the New Testament—and it seems to the average Catholic that the Old Testament saints were dropped from the calendar altogether, particularly when the August 1st feast of the Seven Holy Maccabees disappeared. But Abraham is still there, and Moses, and the prophets, and December 24 is the commemoration of “all the holy ancestors of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Adam.”

With this sweep of names and lives from Abraham to Mother Teresa, the cumulative effect of praying the Martyrology day after day is to make real what the Epistle to the Hebrews says about the “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us. Every day, anywhere from ten to thirty heroic predecessors in the faith are brought to mind, both their lives and their often difficult ends. Every celebration of the Martyrology concludes with the same sentence: Pretiosa in conspectu Domini mors sanctorum eius, “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his holy ones.”

As a record of all those whom the Church has declared to be citizens of heaven, the Martyrology resembles that “book of life” mentioned in Scripture, in which God is said to have written the names of all the saved. Just as the printed name is a sign of the saint commemorated, so the book as a whole is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem, our eternal home. To hold it in one’s hands is to think of life’s end and goal.

So it is truly a shame that the current Roman Martyrology is not more widely known and prayed. For English readers at any rate, this is largely the fault of delays in making available to the public a translation of the 2004 edition. Since the book includes rubrics for celebration by laypersons, the intention seems to have been that the Roman Martyrology would become more widely used, as has occurred with the Liturgy of the Hours. We can hope that someone in the offices of ICEL will take note—and take action.

November 1-2 in the 1956 edition

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Dominican Rite Solemn Mass of All Saints, Anchorage AK

Dominican Rite Mass at the Cathedral
I am pleased to announce for those readers up in Alaska, that the Solemn Mass of All Saints will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Anchorage AK at 5:30 p.m. this Friday, November 1, according to the traditional Dominican Rite.

The major ministers will be: Fr. Paul Raftery, O.P., priest; Fr. Mark Francis Manzano, O.P., deacon; and Mr. Michael Rannal, subdeacon.

The choir will be singing music by Franz Joseph Haydn and Tomas Luis de Victoria, as well as the Dominican chant propers.

A Dominican Rite Missa Cantata is sung every Sunday at 4:00 p.m. in the Cathedral. The cathedral is staffed by friars of the Western Dominican Province.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Solemn High Mass at Portsmouth Cathedral

Recently, there was a Mass at Portsmouth Cathedral, which is one of the first times a bishop in England and Wales has presided at Mass in his own Cathedral in the Vetus Ordo since the reform. A reader provides photos of the Mass:

Chicago's Gem: St John Cantius

On Sunday I took the opportunity to visit St John Cantius in Chicago, IL, a church which I have posted about before but never until now had the chance to visit. On the front of the church, large letters spell out 'Ad majorem Dei gloriam', to the greater glory of God, a phrase which always reminds me of the Cardinal Vaughan School, a unique and remarkable school in London where I directed the Schola for many years; the boys there used to write the abbreviated form A.M.D.G. at the end of every piece of work.

The exterior of St John Cantius, named for a Polish Saint, belies the interior of the church which quite literally took my breath away, overwhelmingly beautiful, lovingly restored, the sweet smell of incense serving to emphasise the sacred purpose of the church. As I entered, the Pastor, Father Frank Phillips, was addressing a group of children, explaining the meaning of various signs in the church, in particular those on the wooden inlaid floor. He spoke to them in understandable terms yet without speaking down to them. Along both sides of the church were lines of people waiting for confession. The pews were filled with people in silent prayer, both preparing for Mass and having been to Mass. The words over the Altar are most apposite: Domus mea domus orationis est.

I attended both the 11am and the 12.30pm Masses, the first of which was a Novus Ordo Mass in Latin, the second of which was a Tridentine Mass, the sanctuary filled with a number of seminarians visiting from Detroit. (In addition there is a Tridentine Low Mass at 7.30am and a Novus Ordo Mass in English at 9am, so you might say that the whole spectrum is covered.) The Liturgy was magnificent at both Masses with the Chant Propers sung by the wonderful Schola, and at the Extraordinary Form Mass there was also a beautiful choir which even sang a polyphonic Credo. The church was full for both Masses and there were a large number of immaculately behaved young children at both. The people were kind and welcoming, especially the lovely lady running the shop at the back who quickly picked up on my 'accent' and realised I had come a long way. And I'm so glad I had.

Some Upcoming Speaking Engagements

For any who might be interested, I have three speaking engagements coming up in the next few weeks; in Vermont, New Hampshire and New York City.

The first is at Vermont Catholic Conference which is an all-day event taking place at St Monica's Church in Barre, VT on Saturday November 2nd. The broad theme is 'Rebuild My Church', evoking the call of evangelisation of both Pope Francis and St Francis of Assisi. I will be speaking about how the style and beauty of liturgical art communicates the truths of the Faith with a special focus on the artistic liturgical traditions as described by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, with a particular focus on his book, the Spirit of the Liturgy. I am one of a number of speakers supporting the keynote speaker, Sheila Liaugminas, who will be speaking on the Faith and the Family in the modern world. Follow the link above for more information and to register for the conference.

The second is at St Raphael's Church in Manchester, NH on Tuesday, November 5th at 7pm. I have been asked to talk about the role of the artist in the Church today and it will involve a short presentation, about half and hour and then discussion chaired by pastor Fr Jerome. This is one of a series of three, the first is today, in which professionals discuss their work in the context of the Faith. For information follow the link here.

The third is on Saturday, November 14th, 7.30pm at the Catholic Center at New York University, 238 Thomson Street, NY, NY. This is one of a series called the Art of the Beautiful sponsored by the Thomistic Institute, which has as series of monthly lectures running through to February next year. Their promotional poster is below.

Mozart's Requiem sung by Westminster Cathedral Choir

A concert performance of the Mozart Requiem will be sung by Westminster Cathedral Choir on Wednesday 13th November 2013 at 7.30pm. The full programme and details are below:

Mozart, Adagio and Fugue for Strings K546
J S Bach, Komm Jesu komm, BWV 229
Mozart, Ave verum corpus K618
Mozart, Requiem (Mozart/Sussmeyer version)

Westminster Cathedral Choir and Orchestra
Conducted by Martin Baker, Master of Music
Sophie Bevan soprano
Frances Bourne alto
Robert Murray tenor
David Soar bass

Tickets available from or from the Cathedral Gift Shop (priced £10 - £40)

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Schola Sainte Cécile In Rome

Our dear friends from the Schola Sainte Cécile in Paris have posted some wonderful photos from Rome, where they sang at three of the four major ceremonies of the Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage for the closure of the Year of the Faith.

On October 24th, His Excellency Archbishop Guido Pozzo, secretary of the Ecclesia Dei Commssion, celebrated Pontifical Vespers of St. Raphael the Archangel at the Fraternity of St. Peter’s Roman parish, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. The choir was split into three groups, two in the smaller choir lofts above the sanctuary on either side, with a third, larger group in the main loft at the back of the church. The psalmody alternated between the faithful seated in the nave, the two small choirs, the faithful again, and the large choir; the effect was truly remarkable. The Magnificat was done in a beautiful setting by Palestrina, again alternating the choirs.

The altar of Trinità dei Pellegrini prepared for Pontifical Vespers. The tabernacle of the main altar is on runners, and can be pushed backwards to move it out of the way, since Pontifical ceremonies are not to be done at an altar where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. The medallion painting of St. Raphael and Tobias is one four that normally sit on top of the large armoires in the sacristy.
The view from the Gospel side choir loft. 
The coped assistants and acolyes enter for Vespers.
The dressing of the bishop.
The bishop ascends the altar to give his blessing at the end.
The following evening, H.E. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, celebrated a Pontifical Votive Mass of the Holy Cross, also at Trinità dei Pellegrini. In addition to the Gregorian propers (again sung by dividing the choir into different parts), the Ordinary was sung in a polyphonic setting by Hans Leo Hassler, as well as several motets: Vexilla Regis by de Bertrand, a Tantum Ergo by Victoria, etc. I was the second MC at this ceremony, and it was musically one of the most impressive things I have ever heard at a liturgy.

The chanting of the Gospel, as seen from the choir loft on the Epistle side.
The elevation of the Host.
On Saturday the 26th, His Eminence Dario Card. Castrillón-Hoyos, the former president of the Ecclesia Dei commission, celebrated the Saturday Votive Mass of the Virgin Mary in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Schola Sainte Cécile here added another impressive repertoire of motets to the ordinary chants of the Mass, by a variety of French composers. The full program is noted on the Schola’s blog; more pictures from these events will be added soon

All Souls Dominican Rite Missa Cantata in Oakland CA

Mass at the High Altar of the Priory
I am pleased to remind our readers that this coming Saturday, November 2, at 10 a.m., a traditional Dominican Rite Missa Cantata Requiem Mass will be celebrated at St. Albert the Great Priory, 5890 Birch Court, Oakland CA on the occasion of All Souls Day.  This Mass is organized by the students of the Western Dominican Province, who will sing the Dominican Propers and Ordinary, as well as serve the Mass.

The Missa Cantata will be preceded by the Ordinary Form Community Mass of All Souls at 8 a.m., and so will use the texts of the Second Mass of All Souls.  It will be followed by the Third Mass of All Souls (Low Mass, Dominican Rite) at 11:15 a.m.  All three Masses, including the Community Mass are open to the public.

Confessions will be heard for the First Saturday Devotion from 9:30 to 9:50 in the Priory Chapel (Gospel-Side Transept).  The chapel is most easily entered at 6172 Chabot Road, Oakland CA, where there is also public parking in the old tennis court.

 For other up-coming Dominican Rite Masses in the Bay Area and Western Dominican Province, check here.

Bishop Egan of Portsmouth on the importance of plainchant and Latin

High Mass was celebrated yesterday in the Extraordinary Form marking the Feast of Christ the King at Portsmouth Cathedral in the presence of Rt Rev Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth. The music was sung by the Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge directed by Christopher Hodkinson. A video of the Mass is available here.

During the sermon Bishop Egan spoke about the Extraordinary Form and the important role of plainchant and Latin in the Novus Ordo:

As the Bishop of this diocese, I'm very happy to encourage, where there is a wish, the celebration of the Roman Rite in the Extraordinary Form, and more, to ensure that across the Diocese of Portsmouth, celebrations in Latin of the Novus Ordo, ideally with plainchant, find a rightful place in the diversity of our Diocesan Liturgy.

When Mass is celebrated in Latin, it is a splendid reminder of the Catholicity or universality of the Church across space and time, that all of us, past, present and future, belong to one great family, the people of God. Latin, with its poetry, majesty and economy, is, along with Greek and Hebrew, a sacred language that is a sacramental that places us before God's transcendence. And this is a vital corrective to the modern tendency to stress immanence with the danger of reducing God to a false god, namely a 'warm feeling' within.

Indeed I might add that although unfamiliar with it myself, the Extraordinary Form expressly reminds us that Mass in either form is not merely a communion meal but a ritual of love, a sacrifice at Calvary, by which, for you and for me, yes, here and now, Jesus Christ lays down his life.

Astonishing 21st Century Geometric Art from Traditional Russian Icon Painters

Recently I featured carved icons by Russian Rashid and Inessa Azbuhanov. Also on their website, here, there is a section entitled Avante Garde 21st Century Art (I am assuming that the Google translator is accurate here). I imagine that the artists describe them in this way because they do not think of them as works of sacred art at all. I think that these are worth looking at in the context of sacred art. What I find on their site are some geometric patterns that I would happily see as the basis for tiled floors, for example, in churches.

The artists have given each one a title which assigns an allegorical meaning to them. I don't understand the basis of these and without wishing to undermine any significance that they see in them, we are entitled to see them in the light of traditional numerical symbolism and use them in the light of this. So any shapes with octagonal symmetry, for example, could be used in a sanctuary floor given the symbolism of Christ as the 'eighth day' of Creation. In some ways they remind me of traditional Romanesque, western patterns, but there are also elements that I have not seen elsewhere before.

Do We Pray for "the Dead" or for "the Faithful Departed"?

With November, the Month of All Souls, around the corner, it seems pertinent to raise the question: Are we in danger of a slow corruption of our understanding of liturgical prayer for the dead? Put differently, for which souls are we praying at Mass?

If one examines liturgical formulae to see how Catholics pray for the dead, one is struck by the specificity of intention, the delimited subject of these prayers—namely, baptized Christians. A much-loved prayer expresses it thus: “May the souls of the faithful departed (fidelium animae defunctorum), through the mercy of God, rest in peace.” As will be demonstrated below, the official liturgical books offer overwhelming evidence for this claim. First, however, let us consider what might be called the problem on the ground.

The Problem on the Ground

In many Ordinary Form Masses, communities pray for the dead in an entirely generic or undifferentiated manner. Consider an otherwise excellent book, Prayers of the Faithful for All Sundays, Solemnities, Major Feasts and Other Occasions, edited by Bishop Peter J. Elliott (New Jersey: Catholic Book Publishing, 2009). Throughout the book, petitions are announced on behalf not only of the “faithful departed” (or variations on that theme: “all who have died in faith,” “all who sleep in Christ,” “the dead who have entered a state of purification,” “our dead,” “our departed brothers and sisters”), as is traditional, but also on behalf of “the dead” or “those who have died” with no specifying language whatsoever:
That the dead may rejoice forever in the house of the Lord… (p. 1); That the Son of Man may grant his salvation to those who have died… (p. 3); That the eternal light of salvation may shine upon those who have died (p. 6); That those who have died may find eternal rest… (p. 7); For our deceased relatives and friends, and all the departed, that they may be gathered into the eternal joy of their heavenly home… (p. 16); That the dead may be cleansed from all their sins… (p. 28); That the departed may taste and see the eternal goodness of God… (p. 39); That those who have died may live for ever in the God who is love (p. 66); That the dead may be called to perfect union with God for ever (p. 67); etc.
Although I have not tabulated the hundreds of petitions for the dead included in this volume, my impression from using the book is that the language goes about half of the time in the traditional direction and the other half of the time in the generic/undifferentiated direction.

An older book, The Prayer of the Faithful for Weekdays, ed. Eltin Griffin, O.Carm. (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1985; repr. 2003), exhibits a bigger problem in that it rarely has the living faithful praying for the faithful departed at all. When it does, the language tends to be elegant and specific, but with occasional lapses into vapid inclusivism:
Bring all the dead into the light that no darkness can quench; may we all meet in joy with you (p. 59); That Jesus, who is our resurrection and life, may give peace for ever to all who have died (p. 292).
The problem was brought home to me when I was attending Mass at the Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City one Sunday morning, and the deacon offered a public prayer for the deceased wife of the head of the Mormon church. This was, on any reading of it, an absurd petition to make, since the true Church of Jesus Christ has already defined that Mormons are not confessionally Christian and that their “baptism” is null and void.

In summary, at a Novus Ordo Mass we will frequently hear something like: “Let us pray for the dead…” or “For all who have died this week…” or “For all our departed loved ones…”—with no specificity or delineation that we are praying for Christians or faithful who have died.

What’s the Big Deal?

To pray at the liturgy for someone who is either not known to have been a baptized Christian or known to have not been a baptized Christian, or to offer prayers “for the dead” in a completely generic way, without specifying that we are praying for departed brethren and servants of God, is not just a departure from custom; it implies and leads to theological error.

Those who are not Christian when they die cannot be saved; and the only people we know to be Christians in such a manner that we may publicly pray for them are those who were baptized or were formally seeking baptism (e.g., RCIA candidates). Someone who is neither baptized nor known to have been seeking baptism is simply not someone for whom we can publicly pray, as he or she is not known to be a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and the liturgy of the Church is the prayer of the Mystical Body of Christ, the prayer of the Head and of the members in union with the Head. It is not the prayer of the non-members and it is only a prayer for non-members who have not yet departed from this world. Once non-members depart from this life, they are eternally non-members and they are never prayed for, either on earth or in heaven.

In short, we can and should pray for the living who are not yet joined with us, but we cannot pray for the dead who are not joined with us. This, it seems to me, is the fundamental reason why the Church’s formulas of prayer, stretching back as far as we have records and continuing right into the official liturgical books in use today, nearly always qualify the dead for whom we pray by indicating those who are servants or handmaids of God, those who are baptized, those who are united with the Son in a death like his (another reference to baptism), those who have faith (meaning at very least a votum implicitum for baptism), those on whom God has had mercy (in that they have received the effect of baptism prior to death), etc.—whatever the formula may be, it is never merely, without qualification, “the dead.”

Establishing the Fact

We can establish this fact by reviewing a number of liturgical texts from both the Extraordinary Form and the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, since they agree on this theological point, although the usus antiquior expresses it with greater clarity and frequency.

The Usus Antiquior

We begin with the usus antiquior, giving translations from the Baronius Missal.
Offertory. Accept, O holy Father, almighty and eternal God, this unspotted host, which I, Thine unworthy servant, offer to Thee . . . for all faithful Christians, both living and dead . . .
Roman Canon. Remember also, O Lord, Thy servants and handmaidens N. and N., who are gone before us with the sign of faith, and rest in the sleep of peace. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshing coolness, light, and peace.
From the Requiem Mass on All Souls:
Collect. O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful: grant to the souls of Thy servants and handmaidens the remission of all their sins: that through pious supplications, they may obtain that pardon, which they have always desired.
Tract. Absolve, O Lord, the souls of all the faithful departed from every bond of sin. And by the help of Thy grace may they be enabled to escape the avenging judgment: and enjoy the bliss of everlasting light. 
Offertory. O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit: deliver them from the lion’s mouth, that hell swallow them not up, that they fall not into darkness, but let the standard-bearer Holy Michael lead them into that holy light, which Thou didst promise to Abraham and to his seed. . . . 
Secret. Mercifully regard, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the Sacrifice which we offer Thee for the souls of Thy servants and handmaidens: that to those to whom Thou didst grant the favour of the Christian Faith, Thou wouldst also grant due reward. 
Preface. For to Thy faithful people, Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and when the home of this earthly sojourn is dissolved, an eternal dwelling is made ready in heaven.
From the Absolution and Burial:
Wherefore suffer not, we beseech Thee, the sentence Thou pronouncest in judgment upon one whom the faithful prayer of Christian people commends to Thee, to be a doom which shall crush him utterly. Rather succour him by Thy gracious favour, that he may escape Thine avenging justice who, in his lifetime, was signed with the seal of the holy Trinity.
Grant to Thy servant departed, O Lord, we beseech Thee, this favour, that he who desired to do Thy will may not receive punishment for his deeds; and that even as here on earth the true faith joined him to the ranks of the faithful, so in heaven by Thy mercy he may have fellowship with the choirs of Angels.
Other prayers could be cited, but that’s plenty to establish the point. From the earliest liturgical records down to the 1962 editio typica of the Missale Romanum, when Catholics of all places and times prayed for the dead, this is how they prayed.

The Ordinary Form

Drawing from the current ICEL translation of the Novus Ordo Missae:
Preface I for the Dead. Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended, and, when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.
Eucharistic Prayer I. Remember also, Lord, your servants N. and N., who have gone before us with the sign of faith and rest in the sleep of peace. Grant them, O Lord, we pray, and all who sleep in Christ, a place of refreshment, light and peace.
Eucharistic Prayer II. Remember also our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection, and all who have died in your mercy: welcome them into the light of your face.
Eucharistic Prayer II (in Masses for the Dead). Remember your servant N., whom you have called (today) from this world to yourself. Grant that he (she) who was united with your Son in a death like his, may also be one with him in his Resurrection.
Eucharistic Prayer III. To our departed brothers and sisters and to all who were pleasing to you at their passing from this life, give kind admittance to your kingdom. There we hope to enjoy for ever the fullness of your glory through Christ our Lord, through whom you bestow on the world all that is good.
Eucharistic Prayer III (in Masses for the Dead). Remember your servant N. whom you have called (today) from this world to yourself. Grant that he (she) who was united with your Son in a death like his, may also be one with him in his Resurrection, when from the earth he will raise up in the flesh those who have died, and transform our lowly body after the pattern of his own glorious body.
Eucharistic Prayer IV. Remember also those who have died in the peace of your Christ and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known.
The last text, from E.P. IV, is the most ambiguous of the lot, but inasmuch as it mentions the faith of the departed, it is asserting (in line with defined Catholic doctrine) that God knows if a man or woman died with a sufficiently explicit and living faith in Christ the Redeemer to have been a sharer in the fruits of Redemption. “All who have died in your mercy,” from E.P. II, is a similar kind of formula.

On November 2nd, All Souls:
Second Mass, Collect. O God, glory of the faithful and life of the just, by the Death and Resurrection of whose Son we have been redeemed, look mercifully on your departed servants, that, just as they professed the mystery of our resurrection, so they may merit to receive the joys of eternal happiness. 
Second Mass, Prayer over the Offerings. Almighty and merciful God, by means of these sacrificial offerings wash away, we pray, in the Blood of Christ, the sins of your departed servants, for you purify unceasingly by your merciful forgiveness those you once cleansed in the waters of Baptism.
Third Mass, Postcommunion. Through these sacrificial gifts which we have received, O Lord, bestow on your departed servants your great mercy and, to those you have endowed with the grace of Baptism, grant also the fullness of eternal joy.
Again, other texts could be cited, but it is enough to point out that one can see two general trends. In the usus antiquior, the prayers for the dead are worded in such a way that there can be no doubt that the one being prayed for was a member of the Church through baptism. In the Novus Ordo, by contrast, most of the texts use qualifying language, either mentioning baptism explicitly or using words like “servant” or “handmaid,” but some texts are more generic and vague, although one can argue that the meaning is discernible from the context. In any case, the General Instruction of the Roman Missal removes all doubt when it says:
379. The Church offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice of Christ’s Pasch for the dead so that, since all the members of Christ’s Body are in communion with one another, what implores spiritual help for some, may bring comforting hope to others.
In order to benefit from the Eucharistic Sacrifice or any other liturgical action of Christ and His Church, a departed soul must already be in communion with Christ and His Church. This is the reason we pray for those souls.

What’s At Stake and What We Should Do

If one has followed the earlier theological reasoning about the very nature of the liturgy, one can see that the question of whom we pray for, and under what aspect or title, is a far from trivial matter. It goes the very heart of what it means to be a Christian, to be sanctified, to be graced with the very ability to reach heaven. It is not enough that Christ accomplished our Redemption on the Cross (objectively, one can say); we ourselves, each one of us, must actually (or subjectively) participate in it through faith and the sacraments, especially baptism. Without that actual participation in His Death and Resurrection, there is no salvation for us; and we do not, we cannot, find that participation apart from His Mystical Body, the Church, which, in her inner identity, is nothing other than perfect communion with Christ.

Thus, to ask what difference it makes whether we pray for (e.g.) “the dead” or “our dead,” “the departed” or “the faithful departed,” is precisely a test case of whether we adhere to the de fide doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus, “outside of the Church there is no salvation,” or have instead imbibed the poison of indifferentism, latitudinarianism, and false ecumenism, all of which involve a denial of Jesus Christ as the one Savior of mankind and the Catholic Church as His very Body in which all will be saved who are to be saved.

Two courses of action therefore suggest themselves. First, at a minimum, the Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions in an Ordinary Form liturgy must be written out with care so that we are raising up prayers for “the faithful departed,” “our brothers and sisters in Christ,” etc., and if a published version is used, it should be reviewed ahead of time (and corrected, if need be).

Second, we desperately need a renewal of catechesis in this area, because it touches on fundamentals of the Catholic Faith such as the necessity of belonging to Christ and the Church for salvation, the necessity of dying in a state of sanctifying grace in order to be admitted to the beatific vision (whether immediately or after purgation), the eternity of hell and the impenitence of the damned. These truths are not sufficiently known or preached nowadays, and given the truth of the axiom lex orandi, lex credendi, the way we are praying for the dead, week in and week out, will either confirm true doctrine or reinforce false doctrine.

Animae omnium fidelium defunctorum, per misericordiam Dei, requiescant in pace. Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Church of San Miniato al Monte in Florence

Today, the Italian city of Florence keeps the feast of Saint Miniatus, (or Minias; San Miniato in Italian) who was martyred there during the persecution of Decius in 250-51 A.D. The authentic story of his martyrdom is now lost to us; he is traditionally said to have been the son of an Armenian king, who served in the Roman army, and was beheaded for being a Christian after various torments. He was buried on the large hill that looms over the city on the far side of the Arno river; a small shrine was built over the site of his burial, but replaced in the early 11th century by a magnificent basilica, one of the finest examples of Romanesque art in all of Italy. His relics today are kept in the crypt of the church. In a city much more famous as the home of so many of the great artworks of the Renaissance, San Miniato al Monte serves as a reminder of an earlier and no less glorious artistic past. Since the 14th century, the basilica has been the home of a community of Olivetan monks, who still sing the much of the Mass and Office in Latin and with Gregorian chant. (Unfortunately, Romanesque churches tend to have fewer and smaller windows than a modern photographer would consider ideal.)

The façade, built towards the end of the 11th century, is decorated with a classically Tuscan mix of local white and green marbles, as can also be seen in the city’s Baptistery and the façade of Santa Maria Novella.
As in many Italian Romanesque churches, the choir and principal sanctuary are significantly higher than the floor of the nave, with a crypt directly below it, much lower than the floor of the nave. The relics of San Miniato are in the altar of the crypt-chapel. The small aediculum seen in the middle used to house a famous crucifix. Saint John Gualbert, a Florentine monastic reformer of the 11th century, once came to pray before it and ask whether he was indeed called to become a monk; his vocation was confirmed when the figure of Christ on the cross nodded to him.
The nave seen from the choir.
The apsidal mosaic (1297), showing Christ and the Virgin, with the symbols of the Four Evangelists, and Saint Miniatus, who is here labelled “King of Armenia.”
The choir of the church contains a great deal of very beautiful and elaborate inlaid marble work from the early 13th century, as seen here on the side of the main pulpit.
The balustrade of the choir. The crucifix in the background is attributed the famous Della Robbia workshop, better known for their colored terracotta work.
Frescoes from various periods survive on the walls of San Miniato one right next to another; here, the part on the left is from the later 13th or early 14th century, the part on the right (Saint Jerome) from the mid-15th. In many other Florentine churches, as elsewhere, walls covered with these works of mixed styles and periods were stripped bare during the Counter-Reformation.
More classically Florentine Renaissance frescoes, 15th century.
Large images of Saint Christopher such as this were created in reference to the tradition that honored him as a Patron Saint against sudden death. It was popularly believed that if one saw an image of St. Christopher, one would suffer no harm or violence on that day. Pictures of him were therefore made very large so that they would be easy to spot; the tradition that Christopher himself was a giant probably derives them.
The ceiling of the church also preserves an elaborate style of decoration (here much restored) that was eliminated in many places during the Counter-Reformation.
Florence seen from the steps of San Miniato.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Stella Splendens - a beautiful CD by six high school girls from Michigan

“Stella Splendens” features unaccompanied sacred vocal music sung by six ladies in high school. Formed at the parish of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Schola Sancta Caecilia has been singing for the Extraordinary Form Mass since last year. All of the members are 18 or younger, but their approach to the music is very mature. This CD features Gregorian chant, ancient hymns, medieval polyphony and three recent compositions from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Kansas City. Recorded in Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic church, the CD has a very “live” sound. Here are some reviews:

With their purity of tone and clarity of diction, the Schola Sancta Caecilia are the "Anonymous Six" of the Midwest. Like the professional group, Anonymous Four, these young ladies sing Gregorian Chant and Medieval Polyphony with an expert tonal blend and a flawless intonation. They also branch out into Renaissance Polyphony and more modern pieces with equal success.
Kurt Poterack, Adjunct Professor of Music
Director, Choir and Schola Gregoriana
Christendom College
I was blown away by the purity of their tone, the blend, intonation and precision of their ensemble and their command of the liturgical music. It prompted me to pass along to them a setting by St.Hildegard of Bingen which they included on their new recording. They are truly using their gifts to praise God. What a pure sound they are projecting--something that more "mature" singers only dream of.
Linn Maxwell Keller,
The Schola has been inspired by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Kansas City, with whom the young ladies have had strong personal and family relationships. The sisters generously permitted the schola to record three of their original compositions for this CD. The Benedictines of Mary’s own best-selling CD “Angels and Saints at Ephesus” set a recent Billboard record by residing at #1 on the Classical chart for 13 weeks. While four of the original members have moved on to college or the religious life, the Schola will continue with new members this year. A sample from “Stella Splendens” is available in the clip below. You can download the CD at, and it will be available through iTunes and Amazon. All proceeds from the sale of the CD will go to the Sacred Heart of Jesus music program.

Juventutem London Mass on Friday

Juventutem London's next Solemn High Mass is this Friday at 7.30pm, details below. Photographs of last month's Mass can be found here.

How the Domestic Church and Adoration Preserved the Traditional Mass in the Former Soviet Union

An interview with His Excellency Athanasius Schneider ORC, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan and titular of Celerina. 

Bishop Schneider is a noted author and speaker. His best known work is Dominus Est – It is the Lord! – a defense of the traditional discipline of receiving communion.

This is a translation of an interview, first published in Polish after his recent visit to Poznan, Poland, and it first appeared in Polonia Christiana magazine. The interview was by Izabella Parowicz. What I find particularly interesting is his description of growing up in the former Soviet Union when, at some periods, there was no possiblity of attending Mass at all. He describes how the profound reverence for Our Lord he saw in his family members and for the Blessed Sacrament during adoration was transmitted to him and others around him. Ironically, irreverence in the Mass came to the former Soviet Union from missionary priests from the West once there was relaxation of political control. He talks, for example, of how even when the Novus Ordo was introduced in Kazakhstan, it was celebrated as a matter of course in Latin and ad orientem and with such reverence that it was not noticeably different to the celebration of the Extraordinary Form (as it is referred to now). I should mention that Izabella did the translation and asked me to correct any grammatical errors (Polish is her first language). I was reluctant to make too many changes for fear of inadvertently changing precise meanings, but did do so on some occasions neverthe less. So please be aware, that if there appears to be any confusing terminology or error, it is almost certainly due to my misunderstanding and ignorance!

 Here is the interview (the photographs were taken at a Pontifical Mass celebrated by Bishop Schneider in Poznan):

 Izabella Parowicz:  Your Excellency is ethnically German but you were born and raised in the then Soviet Union. How has this come about?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: In the beginning of the 19th century (1809-1810) there was a great emigration of farmers from southwest Germany to the Black Sea region in the former Russian Empire. They emigrated from the regions such as Baden, Elsass, Lothringen, Pfalz. The Tsar granted to them gratis plots of very fertile land (“chernozem”, black earth). They were permitted to establish exclusively German speaking villages, and were separated also by their religious confession (pure Catholic and Lutheran villages) with German names, such as Strassburg, Elsass, Karlsruhe, Baden, Mannheim, Speyer etc. My ancestors emigrated from Alsace, near the town Seltz and Hagenau. They lived there until the Second World War. After the war the Stalinist regime deported them to several places in the Soviet Union for internment under hard labour. So my parents were deported to the Ural Mountains. After they were freed, they moved to central Asia, Kirghizstan, where I was born.

Your Excellency’s childhood must have been affected by the omnipresent persecutions of the Faith imposed by the Soviet regime. Under what conditions was it possible for Your Excellency and His family to practice their Faith? How did Your Excellency’s religious life develop and who played the most important role in it?
The communist regime had the aim to establish a society without God. So every public religious sign of worship was forbidden. The faith was lived and handed on in the families, thanks to the Catholic family as domestic church. I had the great privilege and happiness to be born in a very Catholic family, and I received the Catholic faith, so to speak, with my mother’s milk. During the persecution and in the absence of a priest (which sometimes took some years), my parents celebrated and sanctified each Sunday with the children by
common prayers in the morning. Later we moved to Estonia, where we had a church and a priest some 100 km away. So we traveled the 100 km to participate in the Holy Mass each Sunday. We liked these Sunday journeys to the Church, even though this demanded some sacrifice. Our family had the privilege of knowing personally two saintly priests: Blessed Father Alexij Zaritzki, a Ukrainian priest from Lviv, who died as a martyr in the Gulag in Karaganda in 1963 and who was beatified in 2001; and Father Janis Andreas Pavlovsky, a Latvian Capuchin, who suffered as confessor of the faith in the Gulag in Karaganda. He was my parish priest in Estonia and died in Riga in 2000.

As a teenager, in the 1970s, Your Excellency was allowed to return to Germany together with your family. Finally it became possible to practice the Faith freely. What were Your Excellency’s first experiences in this regard? We are talking about the times in which many of the unfortunate, post- conciliar liturgical reforms had already been implemented.
We, who lived the Catholic faith during the persecution, were thinking about Germany and the Western world like a “paradise”. In the persecuted church we lived a profound faith with a great reverence towards all sacred realities, the priest, the liturgy and especially Holy Communion. What shocked us so deeply now was the lack of reverence and sacredness in the liturgy of the Holy Mass. We observed for the first time in our life the unbelievable scene of the distribution of the Holy Communion on hand. It seemed to us so banal and so common - like the distribution of cakes. As we returned at home, we felt a silent pain in our souls. When my mother found that this was the situation in almost all other churches we visited, she suffered so deeply that she cried.

Your Excellency frequently emphasises that Holy Communion should be received in the mouth and in the kneeling position. What are the gravest risks and consequences of the widespread practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand (both in objective terms as well as for the faith of an individual)?
The gravest risk and consequence of the practice of Communion on hand is the enormous loss of the Eucharistic fragments and the consequently the fact that these fragments are trampled under the feet of the people in our churches. The next serious risk is the great risk it creates for the stealing the sacred host. Clearly also this practice weakens the Faith because when the Holiest of Holies is treated like common food and without appropriate gestures of adoration, it undermines the conviction of the truth of the Real Presence and in the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

Some Catholics who support (or simply are used to) receiving Holy Communion in the hand make the following arguments: they argue that a person’s hand tends to sin less than his mouth; they say that holding Our Lord in their hands gives them a beautiful opportunity to adore Him for a while; they also argue that kneeling would be against their human dignity and that the standing position is more appropriate and equally respectful. How would Your Excellency respond to these arguments?
The organs of our body (hand, tongue etc.) are not guilty of the sin. The guilt is imputed to the human person. The organs used by the human person to commit a sin, remain always innocent. That lay people may hold the sacred Host in one’s hand in order to adore the Lord contradicts the entire tradition of the universal Church. This practice is a subjectivist, though pious, exaggeration. The right to touch the sacramental Body of Christ the Church was always reserved to the ordained ministers. Exceptions were made during the time of persecution or in the case of a very grave necessity for objective reasons, but not in order to satisfy individual piety. Even during the first centuries, the Blessed Sacrament was not touched by the lay people with their fingers, but they took the sacred host directly with their mouth from the palm of their hand, and the women would cover their hands with a white cloth. The standing position does have value at certain times. It is a typical Christian position, because the Christian is a person who is redeemed and lives a new life and believes in the resurrection of the body. But the kneeling position is a typical Christian position as well, and is used in the moments and acts of adoration of God, of Christ, the Incarnate God. It is used also to express the prayers of petition, penance and contrition. Our Lord Himself prayed kneeling, so also the Apostles, the women in the Easter morning of the Resurrection. The kneeling gesture is shown in the Heavenly Jerusalem, where the Angels and the redeemed mankind prostrate themselves on their knees and even on their face to adore Christ, the Lamb of God. Therefore the most biblical, the most appropriate and logical gesture is the kneeling position in the moment when the faithful greets and receives the Lamb of God under the veil of bread.

We say we believe in God yet we do not know how to revere Him appropriately; we do it in our own, frequently lamentable ways. What may be the reasons for the diminishing of reverence shown to Jesus Christ Our Lord? What pastoral and catechetical solutions would Your Excellency recommend to restore this reverence? 
The nature of human being consists of an invisible and of a visible part, that is of the union of the spiritual soul and the material body. Consequently, man has to act according to his nature, and that means in our case: he has to adore God simultaneously with an interior and with an exterior act. The interior act is the most important and animates the exterior act, but the exterior act must not to be neglected. To stress only the interior and neglect the exterior act, brings us to the inhuman attitudes of Platonism and Gnosticism. To stress only the exterior act, forgetting and neglecting the interior act, brings us to hypocrisy and lifeless formalism. Our Lord said: “These ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Mt 23:23). In view of restoring the reverence it is indispensable to teach and preach faithfully and completely the truth of the Eucharistic Sacrament, especially the Real Presence and Transubstantiation; this has to be accompanied with the introduction of exterior reverent gestures.

Although the possibility of receiving Holy Communion in the hand was introduced in Poland in 2005, it is still, thanks be to God, not really widespread. There are, however, other sad novelties being introduced: the seat of the celebrant is being placed centrally between the altar and the Tabernacle (so that, while seated, he is showing his back to Our Lord), altar boys, when passing from one side of the presbytery to the other, bow reverently (but rather unreflectively) towards the empty altar table while having the Sanctissimum, the King of Kings, right behind them. We also observe a phenomenon of a “fraternization” of the faithful, especially youth, with Our Blessed Lord Jesus Christ. This “fraternization” is accompanied by a trivialisation and infantilization of the way we worship God and it is often approved, if not promoted, by priests. When approached on these matters, parish priests usually plead newest liturgical or pastoral instructions as an excuse and generally, they do not wish to discuss such issues with the “troublesome” faithful. What arguments should we use to convince our shepherds that lex orandi does affect our lex credendi? Are we as laypeople at all entitled to admonish our priests (in the way that Our Lord Jesus commanded in the Gospel) whenever reverence towards Our Lord is at stake? 
The supernatural knowledge of the truth of the faith about the greatness of the Eucharistic mystery has to grow firstly in the clergy. Also the laws of the authentic Christian and Catholic worship have to be better known according to the immutable Tradition and the perennial teaching of the Magisterium (“perennis sensus ecclesiae”). The fundamental law of the Divine worship is this: God, Christ, the eternity is the center and all aspects and details of the worship have continuously be subordinated and be directed to Him (so spoke the II Vatican Council in “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, 2). When the celebrating priest puts his chair in the center, he visibly stresses that in the liturgy man is in the center. This contradicts the teaching of the Church, especially the teaching of Vatican II already referred to. When instead the tabernacle and the Cross with the image of Christ remains in the center, with the chair of the priest on the side, this expresses the truth the Christ is the president, the leader and the head of each Eucharistic liturgy. Christ is the Head of His Mystical Body, and therefore Christ is also the Head of His “liturgical body”. Since Christ is incarnated and liturgy is sacramental, the truth that Christ is the center and the Head has to be also visible, that is: His Real Presence in the Tabernacle and His visible image on the Cross have to be in the center of the church and of the Eucharistic liturgy. The Second Vatican Council and Canon Law encourages the lay people to express to the clergy their concerns about the spiritual good of the church (cf. II Vatican Council “Lumen gentium”, 37; can. 212 and can. 213 CIC). Therefore each lay person has the right to ask the clergy to correct scandals and abuses which contradict the spiritual good of the souls and the rights of God Himself. The Church gives to the faithful such a right: “Any Catholic, whether Priest or Deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan Bishop or the competent Ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman Pontiff” (“Redemptionis Sacramentum, n. 184”).

Blessed John Paul II said in the year 1980 that “to touch the sacred species and to distribute them with their own hand is a privilege of the ordained”. What is Your Excellency’s opinion of the lay ministers distributing Holy Communion? Although (at least in Poland) they are usually carefully selected, respected men, husbands and fathers, their ambiguous, growing role is somewhat disturbing.
The fact that lay people distribute the Holy Communion during the Eucharistic Sacrifice contradicts the entire tradition of the universal Church (East and West) and was never practiced. It is an absolute “novum” and a
real rupture with the Tradition. Holy Communion could be distributed to the faithful, in times of persecution and by the eremites in the desert, but always outside the Holy Mass. The introduction of lay ministers is justified by the argument that it saves time and lightens the burden of the priests in distributing Holy Communion to a very big crowd. When one considers and accepts the incomparable greatness and sacredness of the Holy Communion and that this moment of receiving the Eucharistic Lord is really the summit in the life of a Catholic, nobody - neither priest, nor other faithful - could justifiably look at their watches counting the minutes or lament tiring circumstances. The reality nowadays shows us the following: in churches where lay ministers are engaged in distributing Holy Communion, the priest after Holy Mass wastes time in chatting with people or engaged with internet and television. So in these cases the priest often wastes more time after Holy Mass than he would use when distributing Holy Communion alone and without lay ministers. The other justification in engaging lay ministers is this: to express the active participation of the lay people in the liturgy. This is a wrong understanding of active participation and contradicts the teaching of the Magisterium and the Tradition of the Church. To distribute Holy Communion is an essential part of the ordained ministry and was never in the Church a means of active participation of the laity. The Second Vatican Council teaches: “In liturgical celebrations each person, minister or layman, who has an office to perform, should do all of, but only, those parts which pertain to his office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 28) and “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper times all should observe a reverent silence” (ibid., 30). There is no mention for lay ministers of Holy Communion as means of active participation, because such an understanding and such a measure contradict the perennial tradition of the Church and the following principle, taught by Vatican II: “There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing” (ibid., 23).

In Your beautiful book on Holy Communion entitled “Dominus Est”, Your Excellency described the role of the “Eucharistic women” in the Soviet Underground who, in the absence of priests, managed to preserve the flame of Faith by adoring Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist so as to be able to receive Him at least spiritually. Your Excellency described a moving story of your mother, Maria Schneider, who was, exceptionally, allowed by a priest in hiding to administer Holy Communion to her sick mother, on condition that she would do it with greatest possible respect. Your Excellency’s mother put on new white gloves and with tweezers gave Holy Communion to her mother. Eventually she burned the envelope in which the consecrated Host had been kept. This is a description of women acting with profound respect and in extraordinary circumstances; in contrast, nowadays there is certain confusion with regard to the increasing involvement of women in all areas of the liturgical service (whether as altar girls, ministers of Holy Communion or even “pastoral assistants”). What should be the limits of such female activity and what arguments should be used to discourage women from getting involved in the altar service? 
The role of the woman in the Church is determined by God Himself and corresponds to the laws which God in His wisdom and love has written in regard to the role of women. The order of the creation of the human nature in two sexes reflects beauty and complementarity rather than rivalry. In the supernatural order of the life of the Church the supreme and most beautiful model for a Christian woman is Mary, the Mother of God. The most profound and most beautiful characteristic of a woman is her maternity. Christ, the Incarnate God and Eternal High Priest assumed the human nature in the male sex and in His wisdom He linked irrevocably the ministerial priesthood in all degrees and services with the male sex, for it represents the spiritual paternity of Christ Himself. The degrees of Christ’s priesthood are the episcopacy and the presbyterate and these represent the highest level of the serving on the altar. The diaconate in its services of the altar and of the word represents this episcopal and presbyterial service in a concrete and sacramental form. All the other orders and services beneath the diaconate (sub- deacon, acolyte, lector, altar boy) are exercises of the diaconate in a non-sacramental form like an unfolding of the diaconate and ultimately also of the presbyterate and the episcopacy. Accordingly, the universal and perennial tradition of the Church is never to admit women to the service of the altar or of the word during the Eucharistic Sacrifice, which is the liturgy of the ministerial priesthood. During the liturgy of the hours, which is not a priestly and sacrificial liturgy in the strict ministerial sense, lay people and women, however, could accomplish the service of lectors. The ultimate model of the sacrificial liturgy in the strict ministerial sense is the liturgy of the Last Supper, where there were only the twelve Apostles and even not Mary, the Mother of God. The Cenacle of the Last Supper corresponds to the altar space or to the “presbyterium” nowadays in our churches. Therefore during the Eucharistic Liturgy women were never acting within the altar space, but within the nave of the church, because the nave symbolizes the common priesthood and together with the altar space, the “presbyterium”, shapes the entire church, or the entire priesthood of Christ, consisting in the ministerial and the common priesthood as one body, but with essential different functions (cf. II Vatican Council, “Lumen gentium, 10”).

I would like to touch upon the hygienic aspect of receiving Holy Communion in the mouth. I find it simply impossible that any disease might be spread through Our Lord Who is substantially present in the consecrated Host and, to my knowledge, the Church has never in history been accused of causing or spreading any epidemics. Nevertheless, there was recently a case that the receiving of Holy Communion in the mouth was temporarily banned and distribution of Holy Communion in the hand was instead introduced by a national Conference of Bishops due to the fear of swine flu. As one could expect, this has resulted in a drastic diminishing of the respect for the Blessed Sacrament and even after the ban was lifted, almost no one in that country has been receiving Holy Communion in the mouth ever since in view of the “hygienic concerns” which sadly seem to outweigh the belief in the Real Presence. I would like to ask Your Excellency if such instances of epidemics should be at all considered valid reasons for introducing distribution of Holy Communion in the hand? Would an episcopal recommendation for making a Spiritual Communion be a viable alternative for such situations of epidemics? 
Indeed in the two thousand years of Christian liturgy it was not heard, that through the Holy Communion there were transmitted deceases and epidemics. It is demonstrated that the palm of the hand contains more bacteria than the tongue. Everybody uses the saliva to make the first disinfection on a wound, but will never use the fingers of the hand for this purpose. The hand of a person who receives Holy Communion in the hand has usually previously touched many objects which are full of bacteria and dirt: the door-handles in the public places and in the church, but especially coins and paper money. With such unwashed fingers these persons touch the sacred host, leaving upon it the imprints of a huge quantity of bacteria which is then placed in their own mouth. Indeed it is Communion in the hand that is unhygienic. When a diocesan authority has sincerely “hygienic concerns” he has firstly to forbid the Communion on hand. In some rare cases of a dangerous epidemic a recommendation for making spiritual Communion would be a viable alternative. We have indeed to rediscover and esteem the fruitful practice of spiritual Communion.

My next question concerns the possible ways of avoiding the risk of sacrilege during Holy Masses which are celebrated for large crowds and which may be (partly) frequented by people who are not baptised Catholics (or not even Christians), who came for a Holy Mass out of curiosity and who, however, do not refrain from receiving Holy Communion. While the practice of distributing Holy Communion in the mouth as requested by our beloved Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and maintained by our Holy Father Francis seems to be a natural “filter” which can prevent non- Catholics from receiving it, what other means could be implemented by priests in situations in which the risk of committing a sacrilege is too high? 
The Church from the beginning of her historical journey always protected the Holiest of Holies, the “sanctissimum”, the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic sacrament, according to the admonition of the Lord: “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine” (Mt 7:6). In the Eucharistic liturgy during the first centuries after the liturgy of the word all catechumens and all unbaptized were dismissed. The deacon proclaimed: “Catechumen go away. That no catechumen may remain”. These words the Byzantine Liturgy uses still nowadays. The Church had a special liturgical service that of the “porter” (ostiarius), who vigilantly had to watch that no unbaptized would receive Holy Communion and no person with bad intentions would disturb or profane the liturgy and the sacred place. It is a real pastoral demand to restore universally in the Church the order and the service of such a porter. In the Byzantine Liturgy the person who receives Holy Communion has to say his name, has to identify himself to the priest who distributed Holy Communion. This manner makes the rite of Holy Communion more personal, giving an atmosphere of a family and in the same time provides more security against profanations. This could be also adopted by the Church of the Latin Rite.

When going to the church in the Western European countries, Catholics who wish to receive Holy Communion in the kneeling position and in the mouth are sometimes treated by priests with aversion. Once (with the tears in my eyes) I had to beg a priest to give me Holy Communion in the mouth as he kept refusing to do so. Eventually, he gave it to me with an evident disgust. What, according to Your Excellency, is better: to persist and to be ready for a reprimand or even a verbal conflict with the priest in the moment in which one should be solely focusing on reception of Our Blessed Lord? Or should one rather decide to make in such instances the Spiritual Communion so as to avoid any heart- or conscience-breaking situations? Is there perhaps another alternative?
The Church law is very clear: no priest or bishop has the right to refuse to the faithful Holy Communion only because the of wish to receive it kneeling and on the tongue. This right of the faithful is laid down in the Instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum”, n. 91. The violation of this norm the Church considers as “grave matter”: see the mentioned Instruction, n. 173. The Church admonishes the sacred ministers with these grave words: “Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred Liturgy at Christ’s command. For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the Sacred Liturgy” (“Redemptionis Sacramentum”, n. 186). To refuse a faithful Holy Communion only because of a wish to receive it kneeling or on the tongue, constitutes an unbearable clericalism and clerical despotism.

For about 15 years Your Excellency has been performing His priestly and episcopal ministry in Kazakhstan. For many dozens of years the faithful in the former Soviet Union had not been allowed to hear Holy Mass, they had been deprived of priests and sacraments. The missionary priests who went there in 1990s must have naturally introduced Novus Ordo Missae and a number of new, formerly unknown liturgical or pastoral practices which were as such less reverent towards the Sanctissimum. What was the reception of these novelties by those Catholics who still remembered the old Mass and whose religious formation was much more traditional?
The Novus Ordo had already been introduced into the former Soviet Union in the early 1970s. But it was celebrated with the spirit of the Vetus Ordo, with deep faith and reverence. In my own parish, to which I belonged from 1969-1973 in Tartu/Estonia, the Holy Mass was celebrated according to the Novus Ordo, but “versus Deum” at the High Altar, in Latin, Communion on the Communion Rails kneeling and on the tongue. So for my parents and me there was almost no perceptible difference between the two “ordo”. The celebration “versus populum” was introduced in Kazakhstan still in the time of Soviet Union, but the manner of celebration was very reverent. It was introduced out of devout obedience towards the indications of the Holy See. After the downfall and disintegration of Soviet Union there came many missionary priests from different countries. Some of these priests introduced liturgical practices which are not according to the life of devotion of the faithful inherited from the time of persecution. Such practices were for example receiving Holy Communion standing, the use of guitars and clapping hands during Holy Mass, sentimental songs and songs with worldly melodies during the liturgy. But thanks be to God the Conference of the Catholic Bishops of Kazakhstan established the norm, that the only admitted manner to receive Holy Communion is kneeling and on the tongue, except in the case of persons who physically are impeded to kneel.

How would Your Excellency describe the faith of His flock? Are they still more reverent towards the Sanctissimum than the Western Catholics or was their piety too much affected by the state atheism?
The Catholics in Kazakhstan conserved the precious heritage from the times of persecution, it means: a deep faith; great reverence towards the liturgy and especially towards the Holy Eucharist; a clear conscience of sin, therefore the faithful receive frequently the sacrament of penance; a great love for prayer and especially for Eucharistic adoration; love and reverence towards the priests and the bishops; a general clear sense and reverence of the sacred.

In the Eastern Churches no drastic liturgical reforms were introduced in the 20th century. Has, according to Your Excellency’s observations, the reverence for the Eucharistic Christ been preserved in these churches or was it rooted out by the influence of the Soviet atheism?
The Eastern churches, either Catholic or Orthodox, conserved still a great reverence towards the liturgical tradition. To change the liturgy means for them to change the faith. They are profoundly rooted in the fidelity to the faith and to the liturgical tradition. The liturgy is something that they consider a sacred treasure, which the Church has carefully to conserve and to hand over to the following generations. Such an attitude of the Eastern, and of the Orthodox churches is a value which can and should enrich the Latin Church in these days of a great doctrinal and liturgical crisis. This is my experience from my contacts with the clergy and the faithful of the Orthodox church. To learn and to accept the liturgical spirit and fidelity of the Orthodox churches would be one of the best ecumenical gestures on the part of the Catholics.

We can never show enough reverence for our Blessed Lord. How can we train ourselves in continuously improving it? Could Your Excellency offer us some practical advice in this regard?
First we have to know better the fullness of the Catholic faith about the Eucharist, especially the very rich documents of the Magisterium. Then it will be also helpful to read the lives and examples of the Eucharistic Saints and Martyrs. Then we have to express our faith with clear gestures of reverence, adoration and devotion towards the Eucharistic Lord. The practice of Eucharistic adoration is spiritually fruitful. We have to promote the Eucharistic adoration there, where we live and even establish groups or fraternities of Eucharistic adorers. We have also to console Our Lord because of the enormous and numerous acts of sacrilege and irreverence and offer in the spirit of penance through the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Eucharistic Woman, acts of expiation and reparation according to the example of the Angel, who appeared to the children of Fatima.

In conclusion, I would like to ask what is Your Excellency’s definition of a saintly priest? 
A saintly priest is that priest who is conscience of what he is, objectively and ontologically: “alter Christus”, and who tries with the grace of God to become each day more “alter Christus” also in his mind, his intentions, his words and deeds according to the spirit and the example of Christ, the Eternal High Priest, the good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the eternal salvation of the immortal human souls, who does not seek his own profit, but entirely the glory of God and the spiritual good of the souls. And the greatest help in this process is then, when he every day celebrates with deeper faith and deeper love the sacrifice of the Holy Mass.

+ Athanasius Schneider, Titular Bishop of Celerina and Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan 01.08.2013

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