Saturday, January 31, 2015

Farewell to the Alleluia

Today is Saturday before Septuagesima, and Roseanne Sullivan has an article on Dappled Things about the custom of bidding farewell to the Alleluia on this day:

I began thinking about Septuagesima yesterday because I was a little surprised that this pre-Lenten season is upon us already. Blogger Veronica Brandt drew my attention to this imminent change of seasons by posting a little video yesterday on “Farewell to Alleluia” on the Views from the Choir Loft blog, which showed some of her five children using puppets to sing Alleluias as a way to say “goodbye to the Alleluia.” She wrote, “In the Extraordinary Form tomorrow is Septuagesima, or (roughly) the 70th day before Easter, where all alleluias are suddenly taken away.” You may be wondering, “What does that mean, that all Alleluias are suddenly taken away? And what’s this about singing goodbye to the Alleluia?”

In 1969, the Septuagesima season was removed from the liturgical calendar and its three Sundays and two week days were absorbed into Ordinary time. Even though I was raised a Catholic and attended Mass for years before the liturgical calendar was changed, I only heard about Septuagesima maybe six years ago, and I’m still finding out what it means. For me, as I’m sure is true for others, writing about a subject is the best way to learn about it. It’s a rich topic, and I can just barely scratch the surface, but here goes with a little introduction to Septuagesima, for those who live in an ordinary time world or those who, like me, worship according to the traditional calendar, but just haven’t been paying attention.

Continue reading this article at Dappled Things. . .

A Beautiful New Altar in a Soon-to-be-Dedicated Church (Mary Help of Christians, in Aiken, SC)

As we reported last week, the church of St Mary, Help of Christians in Aiken, South Carolina, will be dedicated next Monday, the feast of Candlemas, by His Excellency Robert Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston. The architectural firm that designed the church, McCrery Architects, and Fr Gregory Wilson, the pastor, both sent us photographs of various parts of the church building, the decorations and furnishings, which you can see by clicking here; the whole project is worth seeing as an example of a brand new church which is built in complete respect for the Catholic tradition of sacred art and architecture. McCrery has just sent me several photographs of the various phases of the project to design and build the altar, (a project which took about 11 months from initial idea to execution), which I am happy to be able to share with our readers.

The altar of the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral was chosen by Fr Wilson as the starting point for the project:

The final approved drawing for the altar design.

The seven species of marbles employed in the altar. The one on the upper left was later replaced with a much whiter specie that forms the body of the altar and mensa.

Color studies using color pencils, which are later sent to the fabricator’s shop.

Fabrication begins: small inlay pieces cut by computer-guided water-jet now ready for assembly.

Friday, January 30, 2015

A New Child Chorister Program at the San Francisco Oratory-in-Formation

A child chorister program will be starting this spring for boys and girls between 8 and 12 at the San Francisco Oratory-in-formation at Star of the Sea Church, San Francisco. The children admitted into this unique program will be taught the elements of music, modern musical theory and notation, as well as Gregorian Chant and its theory, modes and performance. Emphasis will be placed on learning solfege in order to perfect sight-singing, as well as rhythmic training. Special emphasis will be placed on voice production and training. The eventual goal of the Chorister Program will be to supply singers for one of the Sunday morning Masses at Star of the Sea Church. The program is under the pedagogical auspices of the Royal School of Church Music. This is a splendid opportunity for a musical education for your child which the parish offers free of charge. Homeschooling parents can receive music/arts credits for the class in most programs. Interested parents should call the parish office on 415.221.8558 or email at, to make an appointment to meet the director, Jeffrey Morse, and for a very short audition, primarily to ascertain that your child is able to match pitch. Classes will begin in March, exact date to be announced once auditions have ended.

Gregorian Chant Meeting 2015 - London - March 14, 2015

For those in the London area who have a love of Gregorian Chant, or would like to learn more about it, I'd encourage you to check out this event which will be held in a little over a month.
The next meeting of the Gregorian Chant Network will take place on Saturday 14th March, 2015. For the first time it will be open to all. Directors of chant groups registered with the GCN will get a discount.

We will be addressed by Daniel Saulnier, former choirmaster at Solesmes, and Giovanni Varelli, Cambridge researcher who discovered the manuscript of the earliest written polyphonic music, which will be performed at the meeting.

The meeting includes lunch, for those who want it, and concludes with Vespers, followed by tea.

Programme (Subject to minor changes)
10.30 Registration
11.00 Talk by Daniel Saulnier
12noon Angelus and talk by Giovanni Varelli
1pm Lunch
2.30 Joseph Shaw on the GCN
2.45-4pm Rehearsal for Vespers with Daniel Saulnier
4.15 Vespers in the Little Oratory
5pm Tea

Prices: Directors of scholas and chant choirs which are members of the Gregorian Chant Network: £10 including lunch. Others: £10 without lunch; £25 including lunch.

The Latin Mass Society is hosting a booking page here.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Fostering Young Vocations (Part 2)

Yesterday I posted an old photograph of a young boy dressed as a priest and playing at saying Mass, with another boy acting as his server. I had originally thought to contrast it with the following video, as an example of how the practice of children “playing” at the liturgy is still, God willing, fostering vocations and devotion even in our own day. I had seen the video on facebook some time ago, but its title is in Russian, and I couldn’t track it down in time for yesterday’s post. I am therefore very grateful to reader James Badeaux for giving a link to it in the combox.

Note, by the way, that these children are not playing at celebrating the Eucharistic liturgy, but Matins, complete with incensations. (There is so much we Romans can learn from the East!) The “anointing” (with glue, it seems) is a part of the Byzantine Great Vigil service held on Saturday evenings and the day before the major feasts. The celebrating priest paints a cross of rose-scented oil on the foreheads of the laity, who each kiss his hand. However, the other priests present each take the brush from the celebrant, and paint the oil on their own foreheads; the celebrant and the priests kiss each others’ hands before and after. Also note, therefore, how at 1:53 the boy in the red hat correctly acknowledges his brother’s sacerdotal dignity by kissing his hand and giving him the brush. (Slightly missing the point, he later kisses his own hand.) At the end, the smaller one blesses the people and says, (as one does towards the end of every major Byzantine service) “Mir vsyem - Peace to all!” And with thy spirit, little brother!

A Victoria Mass in Palo Alto, CA, for Candlemas

On Candlemas, the St. Ann Choir, directed by Stanford Musicology Professor, William Mahrt, (President of the Church Music Association of America, and Editor of the journal Sacred Music), will sing the Missa Quarti Toni by Tomás Luis de Victoria, along with the propers for the Feast. The Mass will be followed by the Blessing of the Candles and a Candlelight Procession. The Ordinary Form Mass will be sung in Latin at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto, California, at the address and time in the poster below.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fostering Young Vocations

h/t MTK

Candlemas Photopost Request

Our next major photopost will be for the feast of Candlemas; please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form) to for inclusion. We are also always glad to receive photographs of celebrations in the Eastern rites. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

“Balance Instead of Harmony” : A Guest Article by Paweł Milcarek on the History of the Liturgical Reform (Part 1)

We are very pleased to offer to our readers this excellent article by Paweł Milcarek, an account of some important aspects of the Liturgical Reform before Vatican II. Dr. Milcarek is a Polish philosopher and historian, founder and director of the journal “Christianitas”, (published thrice annually; see also, the author of several studies about the liturgical reforms in the 20th-century, and the critical editions of Vatican II documents. He lives in Brwinów near Warsaw, with his wife and six children. This article will be published in two parts.

Balance instead of Harmony: Conditioning and Ideas of the Liturgical Movement on the eve of the Second Vatican Council
One hundred years have passed since the “Liturgical Movement” appeared in the Church: within some milieus – not very numerous, but fairly active – the desire arose to make the piety of the faithful as a whole more grounded within the communal prayer of the Church. This movement has always shown a certain longing for the Middle Ages, the period when liturgy was indeed a model for all prayer, and the liturgical year constituted the main calendar for Catholics. But the real motive behind the creation of this movement was not nostalgia, but an anxiety based on a rather sobering diagnosis: the divorce between the inherited liturgical forms and the piety of the masses of the faithful, a process characteristic of the late modern period, had caused this piety first to break away from its objective model within the Church, and then to break up into numerous particular services, and sometimes simply to degenerate or burn out.

The fact that personal piety was in practice narrowed down to private prayers and spiritual exercises made it easy to regard the social dimension of life as in a way neutral, no longer under the influence of religion, opening it to increasing “colonization” by secular ideologies of both the left and right.

Striving towards “liturgical participation”
Therefore, since the days of Dom Guéranger, the aim of the whole Liturgical Movement was to shape piety with the liturgy, the communal prayer of the Church, in order to make the traditional lex orandi, (rather than services secondary to it) a permanent source of and model for Catholic spirituality. At the beginning of the 20th century, this idea was explained as the desire to help the masses of the faithful actually take part in the liturgy, both the crowds that still attended church services, and those that had ceased to do so. This intention was expressed in the notion of participatio actuosa, which soon became the watchwords of the whole renewal. The idea was sanctioned and promoted in the documents by the three popes: St. Pius X , Pius XI and Pius XII. (cf. the motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini, 22 Nov. 1903; the Apostolic Constitution Divini cultus, 20 Dec. 1928; and the motu proprio Mediator Dei, 20 Nov. 1947)

The aim was not to create yet another elite with a specific spirituality, comparable to social activists, zealots for particular services, or clubs of people interested in theology. Promoters of the Liturgical Movement strongly felt themselves to be acting for the common good. One of its chief representatives, the Belgian monk Dom Lambert Beauduin, wrote in 1924:
Let’s be practical. Millions of Belgians (to mention only this small country) gather each Sunday only to attend a liturgical assembly headed by the priest, who can celebrate the liturgy due to the authority given to him by God and the people; the faithful gather in spacious buildings – located in the centers of human settlements, designed and consecrated for worship – willing to fulfill the work that according to Pius X... is the first and irreplaceable source of Christian life... May this fact – which we still take too little advantage of – become a life-giving act... Everything is in place, now all we need is to enrich the life of this organism. Can we even for a moment question the practical nature of such an undertaking? (Liturgy; the Life of the Church; transl. Virgil Michel, Farnborough, 2002)
In this statement – taken from a booklet that expands upon the theses of his famous paper given at the Malines Congress in 1909 – there is of course a tension between the announcement that “substantially nothing will change” and the call to “enrich the life of this organism.” This tension was the starting point for various proposals that oscillate between the desire to transform the liturgy fundamentally (in its human aspects), and a determination to transform the pastoral care of the faithful, so that it could adjust itself to liturgical tradition.

Tridentine order of the liturgy
The real context of the modern liturgical movement’s formation was of course the Church’s liturgical life, which for centuries had been determined by the Tridentine order of the liturgy.

However, when we speak of the Tridentine order of the liturgy, we are using a mental shortcut. The resolutions accepted at the Council of Trent did not lead to the creation of a new order of worship within the Catholic Church. The Popes who implemented the post-Tridentine liturgical reform, first among them St. Pius V, simply brought into general use an already-existing standard of Roman liturgy, with fairly small modifications. The Tridentine order of the liturgy is almost identical with the pre-Tridentine Roman liturgy, and preserved an incontestable and clearly visible continuity with its medieval and Gregorian form, and through them, with the very beginnings of the Roman Rite.

Among the elements of the Tridentine reform, one must note the far-reaching Romanization – or rather papalization – of the Latin liturgy, which permitting the whole Church of the Roman rite to use the Roman books, with exceptions in respect for acknowledged particular traditions; the centralization of power, which made the management of liturgical issues an exclusive prerogative of the Papal administration (1); and the precise legal codification of liturgical texts in typical editions.

We must also note the proclamation that this codified form of the Roman liturgy represents its “pristine” shape (2); an inaccuracy which, deriving from the Renaissance’s fascination with the “sources” of all things, can now be seen as the time-bomb that would explode into “archaeologism”, as the rationalistic cult of “the sources” intensified. Furthermore, alongside the inclination to “regulate” the development of liturgy exclusively through rubrics, propers and calendar, we see the growth of paraliturgical devotions that were supposed to make up for this “stiffening” of the liturgy.

Papal absolutism
As mentioned above, an important aspect of this Tridentine reform of the much older liturgical tradition was exclusive Papal authority in the field of liturgy. (3) This factor – introduced at the request of the Ecumenical Council – successfully protected the Roman rite from deformations that could have resulted from its adaptation to new and various “modern” trends.

However, has this protective factor itself not been subjected to some deformations, precisely under the influence of modern ideologies? Already at the time of St. Pius X, the Popes’ sovereign authority started to show a tendency towards liturgical absolutism, a tendency in contrast with the principle that authority consists in guardianship of what has been entrusted to it. This absolutist tendency prevailed in some cases of primary importance, such as the major reorganization of the Breviary by St. Pius X, or, to an even greater extent, the reforms of Pius XII to the text of the Psalter and the Holy Week services.

In The Spirit of the Liturgy, Card. Ratzinger states: “After the Second Vatican Council, the impression arose that the Pope really could do anything in liturgical matters.” However, this idea is clearly much older than Vatican II, rooted in an absolutist interpretation of both the Popes’ supreme authority in liturgical matters, as articulated after Trent, and in the understanding of Papal supremacy in general. “In fact, the First Vatican Council had in no way defined the Pope as an absolute monarch. On the contrary, it presented him as the guarantor of obedience to the revealed Word. The Pope’s authority is bound to the Tradition of faith, and that also applies to the liturgy. It is not ‘manufactured’ by the authorities. Even the Pope can only be a humble servant of its lawful development and abiding integrity and identity. . . . The authority of the Pope is not unlimited; it is at the service of Sacred Tradition.” (transl. John Saward, pp. 165-66)

The principle of the Popes’ liturgical sovereignty was openly expressed in Pius XII’s 1947 encyclical on the liturgy Mediator Dei. This principle constitutes a “strong refrain” (4) of the encyclical, as the author repeatedly speaks of the absolute authority of the Holy See, and explicitly states that the Pope has the right to “recognize and establish”, “to introduce and approve new rites”, which can be modified by him if “he judges... [that they] require modification.” (5)

The paucity of references to liturgical tradition as such in Mediator Dei underlines the emphasis on the prerogatives of “authority” even more strongly, granting it the status of the first principle of the liturgical order. Of course, we must also bear in mind that this emphasis derived from a desire to tame some of the unrestrained experimentation of the liturgical movement.

Still, if we describe this as a kind of absolutism, we must also note that it strove to be an enlightened absolutism, exercised in consideration of the researchers’ achievements and the experts’ opinions; provided, of course, that the latter respect the Popes’ supreme authority.

A perfect illustration of these concepts is found in the speech by Card. Gaetano Cicognani, Prefect of the Congregation of Rites, given at the famous liturgical congress of Assisi:
The essential end of this congress is to pass in review the admirable initiatives of Pope Pius XII in the field of pastoral Liturgy, and to pass them in review with the spirit of loyalty and reverence which every one of the faithful ought to nourish toward the Supreme Shepherd who guides us. The Liturgy demands precisely the direction of the Supreme Shepherd... We have come together not to study problems or to propose reforms, but to put into relief ... the laws and ordinances emanating from Pope Pius XII in his untiring activity as father and master...
Looking over the documents which integrate this liturgical period, we have been able to notice that His Holiness welcomes with delicate courtesy what the students of the Liturgy present or indicate; but in virtue of the supreme power which belong only to him, it is the Pope who fixes the principles; giving secure and firm orientations to minds and spirits, he puts them on guard against opinions not in conformity with the aim of the spiritual life. (The Assisi Papers: Proceedings of the First International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy, p. 6-7, as cited in Alcuin Reid’s The Organic Development of the Liturgy, pp. 248-49)
Long before the Second Vatican Council, the promise of a general reform of the liturgy began to blossom in the encounter between the highest authority that “fixes the principles”, and the researchers who “present or indicate” the issues. To some extent, this was happening without regard for the context of Tradition, or the principles of the organic development of liturgy.

In search of a new balance
A document of special importance for the analysis of the reformers’ intentions is the Memoria sulla riforma liturgica, a text drawn up in 1948 by the Historical Section of the Congregation of Rites, then reviewed by the consultors, and further discussed by a special commission appointed by Pius XII to prepare a general reform of the liturgy (the so called Pian Commission). (6) The document was confidential, and indeed became a point of departure for the reforms undertaken by Pius XII. Later on, the members of the commission on the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council had access to it.

Giving a reason for the reform of the liturgy, the Memoria begins with a statement that the liturgy suffers from a number of problems, such as an overcrowded calendar, too many octaves, the complexity of the rubrics; and all this is said to diminish the love of the priests for the Liturgy. Hence there arises “a desire for a reform that would bring about a sensible simplification and a greater stabilization of the liturgy”. Fortunately, the development of liturgical studies allows “a solid revision of the Liturgy on a broad and secure basis in [liturgical] science”. Therefore, it is possible to fulfill the desire, reinforced by the Liturgical Movement, to free the liturgy “from certain accretions that obscure its beauty and diminish in a certain sense its efficacy”.

After briefly summarizing earlier projects to modify the liturgy, fundamental principles of future reform are presented in no. 15 of the Memoria. The first of these says, “The opposed claims of the conservative tendency and the innovative tendency must be balanced.” This first principle is later developed in no. 16, where so called archaelogism, (7) on the one hand, and innovativeness, (8) on the other, are indicated as two unacceptable extremes.

Then the document states:
Now, a wise reform of the Liturgy must balance the two tendencies: that is, conserve good and healthy traditions, verified on historico-critical bases, and take account of new elements, already opportunely introduced and needing to be introduced. Since the Liturgy is a living organism ... so the Liturgy, which is a continuous manifestation of ... religious vitality [of the Church], cannot be something set in stone; rather, it must develop, as in fact it has developed, in parallel line with all the other vital manifestations of the Church.
Hence, it is the task ... of the liturgical reform to balance ... the just demands of the opposed tendencies, in such a way as not to change through sheer itching for novelty and not to mummify through exaggerated archeological valuation. To renew therefore, courageously what is truly necessary and indispensable to renew and to conserve jealously what one can and must conserve.
It is easy to sense the appeal for some restraint and prudence behind these words – but it is the balance that seems to be a central notion here. And balance is always about allowing the opposing forces to act, in order to sustain some object, which would otherwise literally loose its balance. The authors of the Memoria are aware of the fact that there exist “opposing tendencies,” and their counsel is to balance them through a “wise reform”. Interestingly, the things to be balanced are the notions of change and of preservation – while pastoral care for “liturgical participation”, so significant within the Liturgical Movement, is not even mentioned here. The balance of “forces” seems to prevail over the harmony of the whole entity.

footnotes: 1) This principle derives from authorization delegated by the Council of Trent in the Decree on the Index of Books, on the Catechism, Breviary, and Missal, 4th December 1563.
    2) In the bull Quo primum issued on 14th July 1570, which promulgated the Roman Missal and was part of each edition of this Missal until the reform of 1969, St. Pius V spoke of restoring the Missal “to the pristine form and rite of the Holy Fathers” (ad pristinam sanctorum Patrum normam ac ritum)
    3) The principle itself was briefly and clearly described in the 1917 Code of the Canon Law, can. 1257. “Unius Apostolicae Sedis est tum sacram ordinare liturgiam, tum liturgicos approbare libros.”
    4) Alcuin Reid, The Organic Development of the Liturgy, p. 140
    5) “It follows from this that the Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, and also to modify those he judges to require modification. Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship.” (Pius XII, Mediator Dei 58, emphases added).
    6) Cf. Congregatio Sacrorum Rituum, Sectio Historica, Memoria sulla riforma liturgica, no. 71, Vatican 1948. Parts of the Memoria analyzed here are cited and commented in Reid, pp. 150-161
    7) “There are some liturgists and promoters of the Liturgical Movement who sin by archaelogism; for them the most archaic forms are always and of themselves the best; those later ones, even if of the High Middle Ages, are always to be set after those more ancient. They would like to take the entire Liturgy back to a state closest to its origins, excluding all successive developments, regarded as deteriorations and degenerations. In short, listening to them, the Liturgy would be reduced to a species of a precious mummy, to preserve jealously as in a museum.” (Memoria no. 16. s 15)
    8) “There are others, instead, of precisely the opposite tendency, who would actually like to create a new and modern Liturgy; we no longer understand, they say, the forms, gestures, chants, created in now distant ages; the Liturgy must be a manifestation of current religious life; hence, the language, pictorial and sculptured art, music, dramatic action, and so on, ought to be completely new, in conformity with modern culture and sentiments.” (ibid.)

Anthony Visco's Sacred Art Summer School in Florence, June 22nd to July 10th

In a juxtaposition between old and new, I heard of Anthony Visco’s summer school in Florence when I was invited to like the page on Facebook. So, via blog posting, I happily pass on the information to you.

The Facebook page is called “Sacred Art School, Florence/Summer  Courses 2015.“ ” It appears from this that the three week class is one of several things that he is doing in Florence over the summer. For more information email Anthony directly at

Here is the poster:

The website for Anthony Visco’s atelier is here

The Feast of St John Chrysostom, and Mozart’s Birthday

Although the Christian names most commonly used in reference to Mozart are “Wolfgang Amadeus”, he was actually baptized as “Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.” The first two of these names were chosen for the feast day on which he was born, that of St John Chrysostom, which was universally kept in the West on January 27th until the calendar reform of 1969. “Wolfgang” was the name of his maternal grandfather, while “Theophilus” was one of the names of his godfather, Johannes Theophilus Pergmayr, a name which is Germanized as “Gottlieb” and Latinized as “Amadeus.” He was baptized the day after his birth in 1756.

The Te Deum

St John Chrysostom died on September 14, 407, at the city of Comana in Pontus (in the north-central part of modern Turkey) while travelling into exile, banished at the behest of the Empress Eudoxia by her husband Arcadius. Over thirty years later, their son Theodosius II, as a gesture of penance for his parents’ injustices against the Saint, had John’s relics translated from their original burial site to the church of Hagia Irene (Holy Peace) in Constantinople. Since he died on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, his feast day was appointed for November 13th, and is still kept on that day in the Byzantine Rite; the Byzantine Calendar also marks the feast of the translation of the relics on January 27th, whence his traditional Roman day. I have a copy of the Hieratikon, a priestly service book for all the main functions of the Byzantine Rite, printed in 1977, an official publication of the Orthodox Church of Greece; in the Calendar, the feast of his Translation is marked as one of a fairly small number of  “red letter days,” but the November 13th feast is not.

The Byzantine Rite keeps on January 30th a feast with the imposing title (again, from my copy of the Hieratikon) “Our Fathers among the Saints, the Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian (i.e. Gregory of Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom.” This commemoration arose from a vivid dispute in the 11th century as to which of the three should be regarded as the Church’s greatest theologian and teacher, a dispute in which people formed parties that called themselves “Basilians” (not, of course, in reference to the religious order), “Gregorians,” or “Johannites”. It was resolved when all three Saints appeared to John, bishop of Euchaita (a city fairly close to where Chrysostom died), saying “There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.” The Byzantine Calendar keeps the feasts of St Basil on January 1st, and Gregory Nazianzen on the 25th, the days of their respective deaths; therefore, the principle feasts of all three, as well as their joint commemoration, all occur within the same month. Along with St Athanasius, all three were declared Doctors of the Church by Pope St Pius V in 1568.

A 17th-century icon of the Three Holy Herarchs. (image from wikipedia)
St Basil shares his Byzantine feast day with the Circumcision; the structure of the Byzantine Rite permits the celebration of more than one feast on the same day, without really “reducing” any of them to a mere commemoration, as is historically done in the Roman Rite. This was clearly not an option in the West, which therefore assigned his feast to June 14th, the day of his episcopal ordination. January 25th is the Conversion of St Paul in the Latin Church, and so St Gregory was historically kept on May 9th, a week after St Athanasius, whose mantle he inherited as the greatest theological writer in the controversies over the Trinity and Incarnation. In the beautiful Byzantine custom of giving distinctive epithets to the more important Saints, he shares the title “the Theologian” with St John the Evangelist.

While the tradition of keeping the Saints’ feasts on the day of their death is certainly very ancient, and for that reason alone laudable, it was frequently applied with more zeal than wisdom to the Calendar reform of 1969. One could hardly keep St Basil as a mere commemoration on the newly-created Solemnity of the Mother of God, which replaced the Circumcision in the Roman Rite, even if commemorations still existed. He and Gregory were therefore given a joint feast on January 2nd. Chrysostom, on the other hand, was moved from January 27th to September 13th, the day before his death. It is perplexing, to say the least, why any of this was thought necessary, especially in an age purportedly so concerned with ecumenism. The final result of these changes is that none of these Saints keeps his traditional Western day, not even the one shared by the East; none of them moves to his Byzantine feast day; and none of them moves to his death day.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Altars in the Grand Tetons

Each January, Wyoming Catholic College freshmen spend a week in the vicinity of the Grand Teton mountains near Jackson, learning how to live in the wintry outdoors, cross-country skiing with backpacks, building quigloos and quinzees, and generally getting comfortable (or as comfortable as possible) with the cold, quiet, and beautiful world of deep winter. I won't say much more about the winter trip or the outdoor program with its experiential leadership component; interested readers can find out more here and here.

What I'd like to post on today, instead, is an amazing "competition" that took place on this year's winter expedition. Because they knew the two College chaplains would be traveling from site to site to celebrate Mass, the students challenged one another's groups to build the ultimate snow altar for the occasion. (Credit for the initial idea goes to Mr. Rob Meeker, Assistant Director of the Outdoor Adventure Program.) And, as the photos show, they outdid themselves. Altars weren't enough; they built chairs, pews, altar rails, and other furnishings, and decorated them with Latin phrases. One of the photos shows Fr. Christopher Saliga's Byzantine altar cloth that he carried with him so that he could celebrate Mass upon the relics of saints.

Congratulations to the freshmen of the College for their creative adaptation of the plentiful God-given ice and snow, so that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass could be fittingly celebrate even in the remote wilderness. How can one not be reminded of the verse of the Benedicite: "Benedicite, rores et pruina, Domino; benedicite, gelu et frigus, Domino, laudemus et superexaltemus eum in saecula. O frost and cold, bless the Lord; O ice and snow, bless the Lord: praise Him, and exalt Him above all for ever."

I'll post the photos according to student groups -- there are five different Masses (and therefore five different "sanctuaries") shown here.

The sanctuary -- with altar, altar rail, chair, and ambo.

Getting ready for Mass. Where has the sun gone?

Celebrating ad orientem.

A new kind of monastic cowl?

There's even a statue of Our Lady.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Fr Richard McBrien RIP

I have just seen a report that Fr Richard McBrien has died after a lengthy illness. (Also here, at the website of Notre Dame University, where he formerly taught.) Fr McBrien was a prominent presence in the American Catholic world from the 1970s on, often called upon by the media to comment on Catholic issues. He was also a prominent dissenter from the magisterial teachings of the Church, and promoter of other dissenters, such as Hans Kung and Charles Curran. Pray for the repose of his soul, in Latin.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Missa Solemnis Videos from England

A reader recently send in some videos of fascinating historical interest from Ushaw College in England. I found them interesting, and I hope you do as well. In the first video, Mass begins around the 8 minute mark, and appears to be the Christmas Mass at midnight (Dominus Dixit). In the second, the procession begins right away, with the asperges around the 6 minute mark, and is one of the last Sundays after Pentecost (dicit dominus ego cogito). Interestingly, they both have entire Masses, not just clips.

All of them were from Offerimus Tibi Domine. HT to Sam Guzman for the find.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Sermon by Cardinal Burke: On the Marriage of the Virgin Mary with St Joseph

January 23rd is the traditional day of the feast called “The Espousal of the Virgin Mary with St Joseph.” Although never on the general Calendar, it was kept by many religious orders, especially those with a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary, and on many local calendars. On January 10th, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrated a Votive Mass of the Espousal of the Virgin in the Basilica of San Nicola in Carcere in Rome, as part of a recent conference of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy; this Mass was chosen because marriage and the family, and issues related to them, were the topic of the conference. His Eminence has very kindly allowed New Liturgical Movement to share the full text of his sermon with our readers, for which we offer him our gratitude. (The Scriptural readings of this Mass are Proverbs 8, 22-35, and Matthew 1, 18-21.)

Celebrating the Votive Mass of the Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph, we contemplate anew the great mystery of God’s immeasurable and unceasing love for us. In the brief account from the Gospel of Saint Matthew, we see how God provided that His only-begotten Son be incarnate in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary and at the same time, by His Incarnation, become part of the family of Joseph and Mary. In other words, although Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary had married before the virginal conception of God the Son in Mary’s womb, they did so with full respect for the consecration of Mary’s virginity to God from her youth, the offering of her virginity to God for consecration. In other words, Saint Joseph had married Mary with the intention to honor, throughout their marriage, her consecrated virginity.

From the text of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, it is clear that Mary was already married to Saint Joseph at the time of the Annunciation, but that Saint Joseph had not yet brought her into his home. For that reason, upon learning of her pregnancy, Saint Joseph, for the sake of decency, thought to divorce her in as discreet a manner as possible. To be clear, the word “betrothed” is not rightly understood as “engaged,” but rather as “espoused” or “married,” as the rest of the language of the text makes clear.

Here, it is important to recall the Jewish Rite of Marriage, which the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, as devout Jews, were carefully observing. The Rite consisted of two phases: a first phase by which the contract of marriage was sealed, making the parties truly husband and wife, and a second phase by which the marriage was consummated by the bringing of the wife into the home of her husband. In his Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Pope Saint John Paul II, described the observance of the Jewish marriage practice by the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph with these words:
According to Jewish custom, marriage took place in two stages: first, the legal, or true marriage was celebrated, and then, only after a certain period of time, the husband brought the wife into his house. Thus, before he lived with Mary, Joseph was already her husband.
Mary is indeed the spouse of Saint Joseph and, therefore, the Divine Child conceived in her womb by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit is a member of the family of Joseph and Mary, and enjoys the divine maternity of the Virgin Mary and the foster-fatherhood or guardianship of Saint Joseph.

Father René Laurentin, making reference to Mary’s decision from her youth “not to belong to any man but to God alone,” thus describes her marital status at the time of the Annunciation:
The Bibles inexactly translate “engaged,” while Mary is really married to Joseph in keeping with the two phases of Hebrew marriage: the consent (qidushin) before the Annunciation, and the second phase, the introduction of the wife into the house of the husband (nissuin), in accord with Joseph’s agreement to a virginal marriage (non-consummated). - (Marie, source directe de l’Évangile de l’Enfance).
Father Laurentin goes on to explain how Mary, by reason of her status of wife in a virginal marriage, believed that she had renounced the possibility of maternity of the Messiah. Accordingly, at the Annunciation, she asked the Archangel Gabriel: “How shall this happen, since I do not know man.” The Archangel then made clear that it is precisely her virginity which prepared her to be the Mother of God. Father Laurentin, referring to her vow of virginity, writes:
But this vow brought about, on the contrary, the only means of achieving this unique privilege. Such are the paradoxes of the Most High. She receives, then, the response which makes new and clarifies everything. (ibid.)
The Church, in fact, has seen in the text about the eternal wisdom of God from the Book of Proverbs an image of the Virgin Mary whom God had chosen, from the beginning, to be the Mother of the Redeemer: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” The inspired text draws us into a deeper reflection on Mary’s Marriage to Joseph and her Divine Maternity in the great Mystery of Faith, the mystery of our eternal salvation. Searching its deepest meaning, we understand the truth of the final verses:
For he who finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; But he who misses me injures himself; all who hate me love death.
Contemplating the Marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph, we see how, at the very beginning of the work of salvation, God the Father took care that the conception of His only-begotten Son in our human flesh be virginal, as it indeed must be, but, at the same time, completely legitimate, so that it manifest fully the truth, beauty and goodness of God. God the Son is virginally conceived in the womb of Mary, Wife of Saint Joseph. The Gospel according to Saint Matthew is marked, in particular, by attention to the juridical nature of our faith and its practice, presenting Christ as the New Moses, the New Lawgiver, most eminently in the Sermon on the Mount. It is inconceivable that God the Son, at His Incarnation, would not respect fully, indeed would not bring to perfection, both the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the sanctity of her marriage to Saint Joseph.

The accurate understanding of the marital status of Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary is important for our fuller knowledge and love of the Mystery of Faith, but it is also important for the avoidance of a confusion and an error which are common today. Reference is made to the serious situation in the revised edition of The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Basic Catholic Catechism Course. It will be helpful to quote a part of his treatment of the subject:
The fact that Jesus was virginally conceived and born after the marriage of Mary and Joseph means that Jesus was conceived and born within wedlock. This is contrary to what so many, even priests, are saying at the present time, namely, that Jesus was born out of wedlock, like the children of so many unmarried women today, and that this is not an “abnormal” situation. A pregnant, un-wed mother is said to be, according to these people, in the same condition as Mary, who they claim was also un-wed at the time she conceived Jesus. This is false; it is indeed a very serious falsehood, for it undermines the sanctity of marriage and the reason for that sanctity. It is said by defenders of this position that Jesus was conceived after Mary and Joseph were engaged, but not yet married. (The Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Basic Catholic Catechism Course, Manual, Revised Edition, ed. Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke.),
The erroneous position described above is held not only by those who knowingly dissent from the constant teaching of the Church but also by many individuals who are simply poorly catechized and therefore fall prey to such false teaching.

The importance of clarity regarding the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph is also most important for the discussions regarding marriage undertaken at the present time by the Synod of Bishops. While the Synod of Bishops is called to lift up the beauty of marriage, as God established it from the beginning, there is a strong attempt to introduce discussions about the so-called “positive elements” in the cohabitation of a man and of a woman, like husband and wife, without respect for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. We see in the marriage of Mary and Joseph, in a most remarkable way, the beauty of marriage, established by God at the Creation and restored to its original perfection by God the Son Incarnate at the Redemption. Contemplating the marriage of Mary and Joseph, we understand more fully and heartfeltly the words of Christ Himself, when the Pharisees tested him regarding the truth of the indissolubility of marriage:
Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one”? What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder. (Matthew 19, 4-6)
The teaching of Christ on Holy Matrimony shines forth with particular splendor in the marriage of His Mother Mary and His Foster-Father Joseph.

We are about to witness the great victory of the Cross, the great work of God the Son Who took our human nature in the immaculate womb of the Virgin Mary. Christ now sacramentally offers the Sacrifice of Calvary. He gives us the incomparable fruit of His Sacrifice: His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He gives us the Heavenly Medicine and Food by which we overcome sin in our lives and live in true freedom for love of God and our neighbor. May our contemplation of the Mystery of Faith in the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Saint Joseph inspire us to teach, to celebrate, and to live the truth about Holy Matrimony, as God established it from the beginning and redeemed it through His saving Passion, Death and Resurrection. May we seek always in the Eucharistic Mystery the grace so to teach, so to celebrate, and so to live.

Raymond Leo Cardinal BURKE.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Earliest Known Piece of Polyphonic Music Discovered

This news dates back over a month, but was just brought to my attention today. The website of the University of Cambridge published a report last December on the discovery of a manuscript fragment which contains the oldest known piece of polyphonic music. (Click the link above to read the complete article.)
The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music - a piece of choral music written for more than one part - has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.
The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered.
Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, ... (t)he piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.
Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.
Varelli’s research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece – a short “antiphon” with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment – was writing around the year 900.
... the piece is also significant because it deviates from the convention laid out in treatises at the time. This suggests that even at this embryonic stage, composers were experimenting with form and breaking the rules of polyphony almost at the same time as they were being written.
“What’s interesting here is that we are looking at the birth of polyphonic music and we are not seeing what we expected,” Varelli said....
Nicolas Bell, music curator at the British Library, said "This is an exciting discovery. When this manuscript was first catalogued in the eighteenth century, nobody was able to understand these unusual symbols. We are delighted that Giovanni Varelli has been able to decipher them and understand their importance to the history of music."
The complete text of the antiphon is: Sancte Bonifati, martyr inclyte Christi, te quaesumus ut nos tuis precibus semper gratiae Dei commendare digneris. (Saint Boniface, renowned martyr of Christ, we ask thee that by thy prayers, thou may ever deign to commend us to the grace of God.)

British Library MS Harley 3019, with the polyphonic antiphon Sancte Bonifati. Image from the original article.  
The video below shows the piece being performed by Quintin Beer (left) and John Clapham (right), both music undergraduates at St John’s College, University of Cambridge.

An Upcoming Missa Cantata at Princeton University

On February 3rd, the Princeton University Chapel will have a Missa Cantata in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite at 9 p.m., sponsored by the Aquinas Institute. The Mass will celebrated by Fr. Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian, assisted by Princeton alumnus Brother Gerhard. A reception will follow after Mass; Latin-English worship aids will be available. More information is available on the event's facebook page.

Image from Wikipedia by Andreas Praefcke

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Blessing of the Lambs on the Feast of St Agnes

Over the course of Lent last year, I did a series of twelve posts of photographs from the Station Churches, taken by a Roman friend, Agnese Bazzucchi. Agnese celebrated her name-day today (tanti auguri!) with a visit to the church of Saint Agnes outside-the-Walls, the original site of the martyr’s burial, and very kindly agreed to share some more photos with us. Each year at the principal Mass of the feast held in this church, the Abbot of the Canons Regular of the Most Holy Savior of the Lateran blesses two lambs; their wool is then shorn to make the pallia which, on the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, the Pope gives to all those who have been made archbishops over the previous year. The second photograph shows how beautifully the church’s sanctuary is decorated for the feast.

In the crypt under the altar is a silver casket donated by Pope Paul V Borghese (1605-22), containing the relics of St Agnes, and also those of St Emerentiana, her “collactanea” or “foster-sister”, whose mother was Agnes’ wet-nurse. According to her legend, two days after Agnes’ martyrdom, Emerentiana was spied praying at her tomb by a gang of pagan thugs, and stoned to death by them on the very site. At the time of her death, she was only a catechumen; the veneration of her as a Saint from very ancient times is an important testimony to the Church’s belief in baptism by blood and by desire. Her feast is on January 23rd in the calendar of the Extraordinary Form.

The Dedication of a New Church in Aiken, SC, February 2, 2015

On February 2nd, the feast of Candlemas, His Excellency Robert Guglielmone, Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina, will dedicate the church of St Mary, Help of Christians, in the city of Aiken. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m., and be celebrated in the Ordinary Form; the church is located on Fairfield Street, just north of Park Avenue. The parish was founded in 1853, but has now grown to the point where the current church building is completely inadequate to the size of the congregation; the new building has the capacity to seat 1000. The design is entirely the work of McCreary Architects, who provided us with some images of their designs; the project is scheduled to be completed very shortly. We hope to provide images of the dedication ceremony shortly after it takes place; thanks to those who provided us with these images.

Update: Fr Gregory Wilson, the pastor of St Mary, has sent in photos of some of the church’s furnishing, which I have added below.

An aerial view of the new church
interior view
the west façade
Fr Renaurd West, a priest of the Diocese of Charleston, took these photos back in December; the works have of course advanced considerably since then. In my personal opinion, the mosaic work on the main altar is some of the best of its kind that I have ever seen in a modern church. The architects, designers and clergy involved in this project are much to be commended for a beautiful church in a classical style which embraces and respects the Catholic artistic tradition. 

The front of the main altar
The baldacchino 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A New Setting for the Salve Regina

My last article about the music of Paul Jernberg and Roman Hurko provoked such a positive response I thought that readers might enjoy listening to this recording  and video of Paul Jernberg’s sublime setting of the Salve Regina. It is on his CD featuring the Mass of St Philip Neri recording in Chicago by the Schola Cantorum of St Peter the Apostle. CDs and sheet music are available from

Summorum Pontificum Pilgrimage to Rome, October 22-25, 2015

From the Coetus Internationalis Summorum Pontificum: The fourth annual pilgrimage to Rome for supporters of Summorum Pontificum will take place from Thursday, October 22nd through Sunday, October 25th , 2015. The pilgrimage will begin, as every year, with Pontifical Vespers in the FSSP’s personal parish church of Trinità dei Pellegrini, and will conclude with the celebration in the same church of the feast of Christ the King, on Sunday October 25th .

This year the pilgrimage will coincide with the closing of the Synod on the Family, and so the prayer of the pilgrims will be offered, in a particular way, that the Church will once again find home for our “little domestic churches” (Familiaris Consortio, 51) under the protection and guide of the Holy Family of Nazareth, model of conjugal life, of education and sanctification, so that new generations of Catholic families might be the leaven of the new evangelization.

Saturday October 24th, the pilgrimage will arrive at its culmination with the solemn procession towards St Peters and the celebration at noon in the Vatican Basilica of Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. The CISP would like to warmly thank His Eminence Cardinal Comasti, Archpriest of St Peters for the generous solicitude with which he agreed, far in advance, to the date and time of the celebration of the Mass.

+39 366 70 46 023

To strengthen the organization, the CISP has decided to nominate the Director, Giannicola D’Amico, as musical coordinator for the pilgrimage:

All relations with the press will be handled by Giovanbattista Varricchio:

Finally some pilgrims who have participated in one of the previous pilgrimages have agreed to become delegates for the pilgrimage for their own countries and for their linguistic groups. Their job will be to disseminate information which regards the pilgrimage in their respective countries and language groups.For the moment, our first national delegates are:

Germany: AnneMarie Wimmer,
Poland: Kasia Jagos,
Denmark: Gideon Ertner,
Hungary: Bertalan Kiss,
France: Jean-Vincent Gaiffe,

The Pope Creates a New Sui Juris Church in Eritrea

It was announced yesterday on the Bulletin of the Holy See that the Holy Father has erected the Eritrean Catholic Church to sui juris status as a Metropolitan Church, separating its territory from that of the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa (the capital of Ethiopia). The 23rd sui juris Church, which follows the Alexandrian liturgical tradition, will comprise four eparchies, covering the entire territory of the nation of Eritrea: the Archeparchy of Asmara, seat of the new Metropolitan and the national capital, and the Eparchies of Barentu, Keren and Segheneity. The Pope has nominated as the first Metropolitan His Excellency Mons. Menghesteab Tesfamariam, who has served hitherto as the Eparch of Asmara. In 1995, the Latin Rite Apostolic Vicariate of Eritrea was abolished, and so the Latin Rite Catholics of Eritrea are also under the spiritual jurisdiction of the new Metropolitan and his suffragans.

The Pope has also created a fourth eparchy of the Ethiopian Catholic Church, that of Bahir Dar - Dessie, the territory of which is also removed from the Archeparchy of Addis Ababa.

The Cathedral of St Joseph in Asmara, Eritrea. Image from wikipedia. by David Stanley.
His Grace Abune Menghesteab Tesfamariam, the newly created Archeparch of Asmara, (in white vestments, and wearing a crown.) Image from the blog of the Eparchy of Asmara

Monday, January 19, 2015

Announcing a New Children’s Book: The Life of Saint Benedict

As father of a family and an oblate of the Benedictine monastery of Norcia, I am truly delighted to be able to announce to NLM readers the publication of a new children’s book on the life of St. Benedict, written by one of the monks of Norcia, Br. John. Below are some photos and the press release from Ignatius.

Let’s be honest: most children’s saint books are a combination of sentimentality, superficiality, and bad artwork, so when a very fine book like this one comes along, it’s a serious cause for rejoicing. Parents ought to snap up this one as quickly as they can. If Alasdair MacIntyre is right that we, in the worn-out West, are desperately looking for a new St. Benedict, it is going to be important to plant those Benedictine seeds early and deeply in the hearts of our children.

As a friend wrote to me: “Now the Monks of Norcia have beer for adults and a book for children!”

SAN FRANCISCO, January 7, 2015 – Who would be better to write a story for children about Saint Benedict than a son of the Saint himself? Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B., a Benedictine monk from the Monks of Norcia, has composed a delightful story that captures the amazing life of this beloved saint, called The Life of Saint Benedict. Children and parents alike will be delighted by the lovely illustrations by artist Mark Brown, lay oblate of the monastery. Based on the biography of Saint Benedict by Pope Saint Gregory the Great, these stories and pictures are rich with interesting details.

Br. John explains why he decided to write a children’s story about his order’s founder, saying, “The life of St. Benedict is filled with great imagery and authentic monastic wisdom. The Benedictine Monastic Life expands over 1,500 years of lived tradition and it has a home on all continents of the world! This book was simply put together so that families, most especially kids, can get a chance to understand the greatness and uniqueness of my holy founder, not to mention his twin sister St. Scholastic who also plays a central role in this book. In short, I wanted to show just how cool St. Benedict really is.”

The holiness of Benedict, his wisdom, his great impact on the world, and his miracles will intrigue and inspire everyone in the family. Also included are stories involving his twin sister, Saint Scholastica.

About the Author: Br. John McKenzie, O.S.B., was born and raised in Detroit, MI. In 2005 he entered the Benedictine Monastery in Norcia, Italy, the birth place of St. Benedict. He made his solemn profession in 2009 and is currently studying theology in Rome.

The book may be ordered from Amazon or directly from the publisher. (The book is also available in Italian, here.)

Sample pages:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Antique Monstrance from the Duomo of Milan

The website of the Milan Cathedral Museum has just posted this photograph of a beautiful 15th-century monstrance.

The Italian version of the article is titled “Un antico intreccio di preziosità”, which has been rather oddly mistranslated in the English version as “An ancient twine of preciosity.” A better version would be “an antique work of varied precious materials.” Its date is uncertain, from roughly 1435 to the end of the 15th century; the vegetable motif in the stem is reminiscent of some of Leonardo Da Vinci’s architectural work. It may have been created as a drinking cup, and later transformed into a monstrance after it had been donated to the cathedral. The article on the website correctly notes that it is different from the more classically Roman form of monstrance, but this is not a particular feature of the Ambrosian tradition; monstrances of this kind were fairly common before the Counter-Reformation era.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Feast of St Anthony the Abbot

St Athanasius of Alexandria is best known as the great champion of the Nicene Faith, for which he was exiled five times over the course of an episcopate of 45 years (328-373); for his witness to the truth of the Incarnation, and his important writings on the subject, he is honored as a Doctor of the Church. But it was also he who brought to the attention of the West the ascetic and anchoretic life, a phenomenon well-established in his native Egypt by the early fourth-century, but at that point just emerging in the West. This was done by writing the Life of St Anthony of Egypt, who is often called “the Abbot” to distinguish him from his later namesake, St Anthony of Padua; in the East he is simply “Anthony the Great.” Of this Life, which was to have an enormous influence in the Church, both East and West, it might well be said what St Thomas Aquinas said about St Bonaventure writing the life of St Francis: “Let us leave the saint to work for the saint.”

St Anthony was not the first monk or hermit, as Athanasius’ Life makes quite clear; and indeed, the Church honors a saint named Paul with the title “the First Hermit.” Anthony was ninety years old, and had been living as an ascetic for over 70 years, before he first met Paul, shortly before the latter’s death at the age of 113. Paul’s feast day was long kept on January 10th, exactly a week before that of Anthony, to symbolize that he preceded him in the ascetic life. (It was later moved to his date in the Byzantine Rite, January 15.) Anthony also had as a contemporary St Pachomius, who is held in particular honor in the East as the founder of the cenobitic life, and the author of an important monastic rule. Nevertheless, Anthony may rightly be called the Father of Monasticism in the East, as St Benedict is in the West; for it was by his example, more than any other, that so many men and women of his own time and subsequent eras were inspired to embrace the monastic life.

A 19th-century Coptic icon of Ss Anthony the Abbot and Paul the First Hermit. (image from  wikimedia commons.)
In the Confessions, St Augustine writes that two officials of the imperial court, (then at Trier, where Athanasius passed his first exile), on reading the life of Anthony, renounced their position to become monks, the one saying to the other, “ ‘Now I have broken loose from those hopes of ours (for preferment in the court), and am resolved to serve God; and this I begin upon, from this hour, in this place. If thou like not to imitate me, oppose me not.’ The other answered, he would cleave to him, and be his fellow in so great a reward, so great a service.” (Book 8.15) Shortly thereafter, in the famous episode where Augustine, torn about how to free himself of his past sins and follow God, hears children singing “Take up, read; take up, read”, he takes up the epistles of St Paul and reads, “ ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and impurities, not in contention and envy: But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.’ (Rom. 13, 13-14) No further would I read; nor was there need to: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.” But it was the life of St Anthony that convinced him that “Take up, read,” meant to take up the Bible and read it, since Anthony, “coming in (to a church) during the reading of the Gospel, received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him, ‘Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me.’ (Matthew 19, 21) And by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee.” (Book 8, 29)

St Athanasius tells of many times when St Anthony struggled against devils, both by resisting temptations, and suffering bodily harm that the devil was permitted to inflict upon him. On one such occasion, early in his life as an ascetic, “a multitude of demons … so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain.” He was discovered unconscious by the local villagers, who thought him dead, and brought him to their church. On recovering, he fearlessly returned to the place where he had been tormented, and
after he had prayed, he said with a shout, ‘Here am I, Antony; I flee not from your stripes, for even if you inflict more, nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ.’ … But the enemy, who hates good, marveling that … he dared to return, called together his hounds and burst forth, … so in the night they made such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons, as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling, seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. And the place was on a sudden filled with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, …. But Antony … said, ‘If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come, but since the Lord has made you weak, you attempt to terrify me by numbers: and a proof of your weakness is that you take the shapes of brute beasts.’ … So after many attempts they gnashed their teeth upon him, because they were mocking themselves rather than him.” (Life of Anthony 8 and 9)
This passage and others of a similar vein in Athanasius’ Life have provided artists with the opportunity to indulge their strangest fantasies in depicting the demons who attack Anthony. Hieronymus Bosch, not surprisingly, painted a complete triptych on the subject, which was also tackled (also not surprisingly) by Salvador Dalí.

Hieronymous Bosch, Triptych of the Temptations of St Anthony, 1505-06; Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, Lisbon
Salvador Dalí, The Temptation of St Anthony, 1946; Royal Museums of the Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium.
The art historian Giorgio Vasari records that Michelangelo, while still a young apprentice in the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio, copied the same subject as a painting from an earlier engraving by the German artist Martin Schongauer. A painting of The Torments of St Anthony now in the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, is indisputably of the right period and school, but the debate as to whether it is indeed the one done by Michelangelo will probably never be resolved to the satisfaction of all art historians.

On the left, the original engraving by Martin Schongauer, ca. 1475, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City; on the right, the painting attributed to Michelangelo, ca. 1487.
Anthony was also tempted on various occasions by lust, by laziness and by riches. The last of these was depicted by the anonymous painter now called the Master of the Osservanza, but the heap of gold lying by the side of road, originally painted in gold leaf, was later scraped off, leaving Anthony to confront a completely non-demonic looking rabbit.

When St Anthony went to visit St Paul the First Hermit, as recorded in the latter’s biography written by St Jerome, they greeted each other by name as they met, though they had never seen each other before. A crow then brought them a full loaf of bread, at which Paul said to Anthony, “for sixty years I have daily received (from the crow) half a loaf of bread; now at thy coming, Christ has doubled the provision for his soldiers.” Perhaps inspired by the similarity between this episode and that of the crows that brought food to the Prophet Elijah (3 Kings 17), the Byzantine Liturgy explicitly compares Anthony to Elijah in the dismissal hymn (apolytikion) of Vespers on his feast day.
You imitated the zealous Elias by your life, you followed the Baptist by straight paths, our Father Anthony; you became the founder of the desert and strengthened the whole world by your prayers. And so intercede with Christ God that our souls may be saved.
Throughout the Middle Ages, St Anthony was also venerated as the patron Saint against various skin diseases, such as erysipelas and ergotism, some of which are still called “St Anthony’s fire” or “holy fire” in places. A commonly used medieval prayer of his Mass was as follows.
Deus, qui concedis obtentu beati Antonii Confessoris tui, morbidum ignem extingui, et membris aegris refrigeria praestari: fac nos, quaesumus, ipsius meritis et precibus, a gehennae incendiis liberatos, integros mente et corpore tibi feliciter presentari.
God, who grantest by the protection of Thy blessed Confessor Anthony that the fire of illness be extinguished, and refreshment given to sickly members; we ask that by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the fires of hell, and happily presented to the Thee, sound in mind and body.

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