Tuesday, February 28, 2017

ICK Pastor Installed in Detroit

Our thanks once again to our friend Teresa Chisolm for sending in these photos, along with her description of a very rare liturgical event, the traditional rite of installation of a pastor.

On February 5, His Grace the Most Reverend Allen Vigneron, Archbishop of Detroit, installed Canon Michael Stein of the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest, as Pastor of St Joseph Oratory in Detroit. A Solemn High Mass with Palestrina’s Missa Aeterna Christi Munera followed the rare Installation ceremony. The ceremony beautifully displays the fundamental duties of a pastor. Here are photos of the day; the full album of images may be found on the St Joseph Oratory Facebook page.

The Archbishop first imposes the pastoral stole at the entrance.

Entrance procession with Ecce Sacerdos Magnus by Maximillian Stadler.

Chanting of the Veni Creator Spiritus.

With the Gospel placed on his lap, the Archbishop receives the Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity of the Pastor.

Archbishop Vigneron guides Canon Stein to open and close the doors of the tabernacle and touch the ciborium.

Photopost Request: Ash Wednesday 2017

Our next photopost will be for Ash Wednesday; please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form) to photopost@newliturgicalmovement.org for inclusion. We are also always glad to receive photographs of Lenten celebrations in the Eastern rites, such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts or the Great Canon of St Andrew. 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!

From our 2015 Ash Wednesday photopost: Mass in the Premonstratensian Use at the church of St Michael in Budapest.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Silverstream Priory Canonically Established as a Monastery: UPDATE

The following wonderful news comes from the official website of the diocese of Meath, Ireland.

“Bishop Smith presided at the canonical establishment of a new monastery at Silverstream Priory in the Diocese of Meath on Saturday 25 February 2017.

Silverstream is home to a community of eight male religious who follow the Rule of St Benedict. The community came from Tulsa, USA in 2012 and occupies the former residence of the Visitation Sisters in Stamullen, Co. Meath. The monastery is contemplative in nature, with a particular focus on the Liturgy and Eucharistic Adoration. Its constitution and canonical norms were approved by the Holy See earlier this month.

Bishop Michael Smith signed a Decree on 25 February ‘erecting the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar as a monastic Institute of Consecrated Life of diocesan right in the Diocese of Meath’. This Decree is believed to mark the first formal establishment of a monastic community in the Diocese of Meath since the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1536.

‘The history of religious life has seen many developments over the centuries’ Bishop Smith said ‘and I am delighted to recognise the unique presence of this new monastery in the Diocese of Meath. Through their prayer, study and hospitality, the monks are ‘speaking to the heart’ and their quiet witness is a reminder that the Lord continues to provide the Church with new gifts and grace.’

The Bishop of Meath celebrated Mass in Silversteam Priory on 25 February, accompanied by Very Reverend Dom Mark Kirby, Conventual Prior of the Institute.”

NLM offers our heartiest congratulations to Dom Kirby and the entire Silverstream community, and our thanks to Bishop Michael Smith for his efforts on their behalf. Ad multos et laetos annos!

(From an interview with Dom Kirby which we published in 2013; conventual Mass, the chapel and the house. He also has a blog of his spiritual and monastic writings, Vultus Christi.)

UPDATE: Dom Kirby very kindly sent us some photographs of the canonical erection of the monastery.

Book Sale — Liturgical, Historical, Reference, and Rare Books

It's that time again: the love of books, which is deeply ingrained in my nature, bids me never sell anything of beauty or scholarly interest, but the practicalities of life often demand it, not to mention the lack of space (as biblioclaustrophobia is an occupational hazard for teachers and writers). For any of the following titles, please feel free to contact me with questions. There are some real gems this time, so I don't want to part too easily with them, but all prices are negotiable. I will also send higher-res photos upon request. NB: Prices do not include shipping, which will be by Priority Mail.

The Treasury of the Sacred Heart, with Epistles and Gospels for All Sundays and Festivals. [SOLD]
Dublin: Charles Eason, 1860. Padded leather cover. Front cover detached. Otherwise pages in good condition. Full of interesting devotional texts. 554pp. $100.

Hymns by John Henry Newman. [SOLD]
New York: Dutton, 1885. Gilt edges. Binding fragile but intact. First signature loosening. Otherwise very good condition. 282pp. $50.

Morning and Evening Prayers of the Divine Office. [SOLD]
Lauds, Vespers, and Compline for the entire year, from the [1961] Roman Breviary, translated completely into English (no Latin in this volume). New York: Benziger, 1965. 846pp. $100.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Six-Week Summer Courses in Latin, Greek, Biblical Hebrew - Philology Institute

The Philology Institute in Wilmore, Kentucky will offer intensive, six-week summer courses in Latin, Greek, and biblical Hebrew from June to July 2017. (See their website for course-specific dates.) The cost is $2500 for the equivalent of two semesters of regular coursework, and they offer a limited number of $500 scholarships. The course enrollment is capped at 12 students, and they are already accepting applications. More information is available at www.thephilologyinstitute.com.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Some Useful Information on Byzantine Lent

Our recent series by Henri de Villiers on the origins and traditions of Fore-Lent made a number of references to the Byzantine tradition, so I thought it would be good to follow up on Lent itself with these two graphics. The first comes from a Facebook page called Eastern Catholics for Renewal, and lists the major steps of the “Journey to Pascha.” (This graphic was created by Fr Jonathan Bannon of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Rockford, Illinois.)

Each Sunday of both the Triodion (Fore-Lent) and Lent has a particular theme, and one or more special names. The first three of the Triodion are called from the Sunday Gospels, the Publican and Pharisee, the Prodigal Son, and the Last Judgment; the final one is called generally called Forgiveness Sunday, and the Gospel is Christ’s words about fasting from the Sermon on the Mount. The Sunday of the Last Judgment (which falls on the Roman Sexagesima) is also called Meatfare, since it is supposed to be last day for eating meat, and Forgiveness Sunday is also called Cheesefare, the last day for eating daily products. After Vespers of the latter, all the faithful and clergy present exchange the kiss of peace, and ask each other for prayers and forgiveness.

The Byzantine Rite’s liturgical week runs from Monday to Sunday, rather than from Sunday to Saturday; therefore, the first day of Great Lent is Monday after Forgiveness Sunday. The Divine Liturgy is not celebrated on weekdays, except on the feast of the Annunciation, but the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Vespers with a Communion rite, is generally said on Wednesdays and Fridays. On the ferial days of Lent, Compline is said in a longer and more complex form known as Great Compline. On the first four days of the first week, the Great Penitential Canon of St Andrew of Crete is added to it, divided into four parts, one for each day, because of its extreme length; the whole is then repeated at Matins of Thursday of the Fifth week. (In practice, much of it will be omitted in a parish.)

The First Sunday of Great Lent is called Orthodoxy Sunday, commemorating the defeat of the iconoclast heresy in 847. Most Byzantine churches will have a procession in which all the faithful carry icons. The Second is dedicated to St Gregory Palamas, the principal theologian of the hesychast movement; before his canonization, it was dedicated to St Polycarp. The Third is called the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross; a painted crucifix is usually set up in the midde of the church and venerated with a ritual similar to the Roman cross-creeping. The Fourth is dedicated to the great spiritual writer St John Climacus, and the Fifth to St Mary of Egypt. The graphic recommends a spiritual practice consonant with the theme of the Sunday.

The second graphic comes from Our Lady of Fatima Russian Catholic Church in San Francisco, and explains the traditional rules about Lenten fasting. (These are held to rather strictly in monasteries, and often written into their customaries; the faithful may choose to conform to them as best they can or wish to.) Note that wine, oil, dairy products, and fish are also regulated.

Ash Wednesday with the St Ann Choir in Palo Alto

The Saint Ann Choir will sing the Mass for Ash Wedneday at the church of St Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto, California, starting at 8 pm, with Gregorian chant and polyphonic motets. The church is located at 751 Waverly Street.

More from a Procession in India

Last week I published a photo of a procession at the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church of St Mary in Kuravilangad, in the Kerala region of India, in which the sacred images were carried by elaborately dressed elephants. Since then, the following picture, which shows them more closely, has popped up several times on Facebook.

In the background, we can see a metal framework covering the façade of the church; this is to support a very large number of bright electric lights, which look like this at night.

I was told once that in India, electricity is fairly expensive, and the use of lots of bright colored electric lights (both inside and outside a church) is the local way of giving something very precious to God.

A reader also gave a few links to a blog which shows more pictures of the same procession and celebration, which you can see here, here and here, an incredibly festive and impressive display. Note the many different processional Crosses, the colored umbrellas, and the float in the form of a boat which they somehow manage to get into the church itself.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

St Peter Damian on Liturgical Prayer

St Peter Damian died on the feast of St Peter’s Chair, February 22, in the year 1072, a very appropriate day for one who spent so much of his life in service to the Church and to the Holy See. His feast was extended to the general calendar in 1828 by Pope Leo XII, who also made him a Doctor of the Church, and assigned to the day after his death; in the new calendar, St Polycarp of Smyrna was moved to February 23rd, his date in the Byzantine Rite, and so St Peter was moved to the 21st.

The Madonna and Child with Ss Anne, Elizabeth, Augustine and Peter Damian, by Ercole Roberti, 1479-81. Executed for the church of Santa Maria in Porto outside Ravenna, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan.
The revised Butler’s Lives of the Saints describes Peter Damian very well as “one of those stern figures who seem specially raised up, like St John the Baptist, to recall men in a lax age from the error of their ways and to bring them back into the narrow path of virtue.” He was born in the early years of the 11th century, an age in which the Church in western Europe lay very low indeed. Lay control of ecclesiastical offices and the attendant vice of simony were rampant, and the discipline of clerical celibacy was widely ignored; the years of his youth also saw the appalling spectacle of Pope Benedict IX, whom St Robert Bellarmine called “the nadir” of the Papacy. It is perhaps difficult to for us even imagine the career of this man, who was temporarily driven off the Papal throne by violence for his personal immorality, reinstated, then sold the Papacy (see note below), attempted to take it back, and was deposed again by the Holy Roman Emperor.

However, even the darkest days of the Church’s history are not without their Saints. As France gave Her the abbey of Cluny, which was ruled by six Saints in a row over a 190 year period, to pave the way for reform, Italy saw a new flourishing of strict and reform-minded monastic orders in the 11th century, led by St Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese Order, and St John Gualbert, the founder of the Vallombrosians. It was among these communities that Peter Damian was formed as a religious, and was called to serve as abbot of an important Camaldolese house at Fonte Avellana.

It is often darkest before the dawn; after the deposition of Benedict IX and the extremely brief (24 day) reign of Damasus II, the Papal throne was occupied by Leo IX (1049-54), an active and enthusiastic reformer, now canonized as a Saint. From this time, the reform party within the Church was very much in the ascendant, with St Peter Damian as one of its most powerful leaders and spokesmen. In 1057, Pope Stephen IX made him the Cardinal-Bishop of Ostia, to which office it then belonged to crown the Pope, but he was later released from this position at his own request by Pope Alexander II. He continued to serve as a Papal legate and ambassador, and to write a great deal by way of exhortation to the clergy at all levels to a stricter and more disciplined life. Two particularly famous example of his severity are his rebuke to the canons of Besançon in France for sitting down during the Office (!), although he was willing to allow this during the lessons of Matins, and to the bishop of Florence for playing a game of chess.

King Otto IV of Brandenburg indulges in frivolity. (From the Codex Manesse, 1305-13; public domain image from Wikipedia)
In his large body of writings, three of his letters were regarded as especially important treatises for the reformers of the age, and circulated widely as “books.” The “Liber gratissimus” treats of the problem of simony, which he condemns in the harshest possible terms. (“Judas sold the Lord, … but soon thereafter cast away the price of blood… you, on the other hand, … keep the profit from the sacrilege you commit.”) The “Liber gomorrhianus” treats of the worst aspects of sexual immorality among the clergy. The third is known by the odd title “Liber ‘Dominus vobiscum’ ”, and is of particular interest in the field of liturgical history.

It was addressed to a monk and hermit named Leo, who had written to St Peter to inquire whether he ought to say “The Lord be with you” and “Pray, lord, give the blessing” when saying the Divine Office alone in his cell. St Peter’s answer is argued at length and with great thoroughness, but what it really boils down to is “the liturgy is not about you.” Since it is the public prayer of the Church, which is made of many members and yet One in the Holy Spirit, the liturgy may rightly speak in the singular in choir (he cites Psalms such as “Incline to me Thy ear, o Lord” and “I will bless the Lord at all times”), and in the plural when celebrated by only one. He also notes, perhaps more persuasively, that a very large part of the Divine Office is said in the plural, invitatories such as “Come, let us worship the Lord”, hymns such as “Rising in the night let us all keep watch” etc.; so much, in fact, that to switch it to the singular in private prayer would mean to either omit most of it or mutilate it.

(Note: The man who bought the Papacy from Benedict IX was his godfather, an archpriest named John Gratian, who did so for the worthiest of motives, namely, to get Benedict out of the way; as Pope he was called Gregory VI. Although he was deposed for this act of simony, he was held in such high regard that almost 30 years later, when St Gregory VII was elected, certainly no laxist in matters of Church discipline, he chose his Papal name in John Gratian’s honor.)

Magnificent New Recording by London Oratory Boys Choir, Charles Cole Director

The latest release from AimHigher Recordings, now in conjunction with Sony Classical, is a glorious encapsulation of the splendid work of The London Oratory Schola Cantorum Boys Choir, under the direction of the NLM’s own Charles Cole. It is superb in every respect, from the quality of the mastering and engineering, to the selection of repertoire and the creative artistic choices.

Typical of the label’s past releases, the story of the Schola as an ensemble focused on the singing of the Church’s sacred music in the context of the sacred liturgy, and an account of the boys’ lives, which revolve around the demanding schedule and discipline required to execute such a high purpose, come to the fore. The ensemble is no mere showpiece, though they rightly belong to the uppermost tier of boy choirs in the world—they are clearly dedicated to the opus Dei, the offering of the most beautiful and most worthy efforts for the worship of almighty God.

The English Tudor era repertoire on the disc mixes well-known and beloved pieces like the William Byrd (1540–1623) Ave verum corpus and Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585) O nata lux with lesser-known gems like the Missa Euge bone of Christopher Tye (c. 1505–1573). 

The opening track of the disc, Haec dies, captures the energetic and expansively glorious lines typical of John Sheppard's (c. 1515–1558) writing through its masterful balance between parts; both treble and lower voices are powerful without being overbearing. The Missa Euge bone is delightful in its charm—surprising textural and harmonic turns abound—and Cole's thoughtful approach to the architecture of each movement through contrast, good pacing, and a mindfulness of the trajectory of lines reflects an understanding of the integral connection between the movement of the sacred liturgy and its sacred music. The tenderness of Robert Parsons' (1535–1571) Ave Maria is captured through the delicate and insistent shaping of phrases. The choice of tempo for Byrd's Ave Verum demonstrates the flexibility of this masterpiece in its ability to inspire and bear varied artistic choices, and Cole's choice of a slower tempo clearly hearkens to the use of the text in elevation motets, capturing the adoration inherent in that liturgical moment, and allowing the striking cross relations to be clearly heard. The choice of the Peter Phillips (c. 1560–1628) Ascendit Deus for the final track of the disc provides a fitting conclusion, having traversed from Easter through different moments of salvation history to Our Lord's going up "in jubilation . . . with the sound of the trumpet." This sparkling setting embodies well what so many composers have found in this brilliance of the text, adding to it the soaring soprano lines emblematic of Phillips' writing. 

Visitors to the Brompton Oratory have long known of the musical treasure Catholics have in this institution. How wonderful it is that their work will be made known to a wide audience through the distribution of this disc. My hope is that it will also inspire musicians and pastors to pursue musical excellence in the context of the sacred liturgy, for the greater glory of God. Both this music and this institution demonstrate the great musical heights to which the sacred liturgy can soar when sacred music is treasured, encouraged, and supported as the Church urges in her documents on the sacred liturgy. 

Requiem Mass in the Princeton Univ. Chapel

On Thursday, February 16th, Fr Carlos Hamel of the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian celebrated a traditional Latin Requiem Mass at the Princeton University Chapel, for the departed souls of those affiliated with the Aquinas Institute of Princeton University. The Schola Cantorum of St John the Baptist sung the chants of the Requiem Mass under the direction of Mr. Peter Carter. (Photographs courtesy of the Fraternidad de San José Custodio.) Fr Hamel was in New Jersey to preach spiritual exercises for men; some photos of the liturgical activities during the exercises are given below.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cardinal Stickler’s Mass in NYC, 25th Anniversary

Editor’s note: This article first appeared three years ago as a retrospective of a major event in the return of what is now called the “Extraordinary Form.” The feast of St Peter’s Chair this year marks the 25th anniversary.

February 22, 1992 is a date dear to the hearts of people who love the liturgy of the Roman Rite, one that marked a watershed event in the revival of the Traditional Mass in the practice of the Church. On that day—the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter (and Septuagesima Sunday)—Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler walked up the aisle of St Agnes Church in New York City, and celebrated Pontifical Mass from the Throne. The first such event in more than 20 years, it gave hope to the hundreds in the church that day, and to millions worldwide.

Looking back on that day after a quarter of a century, it was important in many ways: many obvious, but many not so apparent.

As the assistant Master of Ceremonies on that day, it was not until years later that I realized how important the event had been. To this day when people find out I was involved in that Mass, they remember it with fondness; and more importantly, they understand just how monumental the visit was:
  • John Cardinal O’Connor, archbishop of New York, approved the event, allowing another prelate to pontificate in his diocese.
  • The Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest was intimately involved in the planning and execution of the event. For many, it was our first experience with the Institute. Msgr. Giles Wach, founder of ICRSS, was the Assistant Priest.
  • It affirmed St Agnes as the prime locus of the traditional rites in New York City under the direction of then-pastor Msgr. Eugene Clark.
  • But the fact of overriding importance was that a high-ranking Vatican prelate gave not only his, but Rome’s, imprimatur for the Traditional Mass. In 1992, that was game-changing.
Less obvious then, it was the beginning of a recognition by Church authorities that the traditional rites had a place in the life of modern Catholicism. Though it would be another 15 years before the publication of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, many of us believe the seeds of that decree may have been planted on that Sunday morning.

In the days and weeks leading up to the Mass, one nagging question was on the minds of the organizers: would people come? We knew there was interest in some quarters, but in the days following Pope John Paul’s indult Quattuor abhinc annos and his subsequent request to the world’s bishops that they be “generous,” many still had the impression that what was happening was wrong, disobedient and even sinful. Those growing up in the post-Summorum Pontificum era have no idea of the political climate of those days. Cardinal Stickler was sending a message to the traditionalist faithful, and we knew he was doing it with the approbation of “higher authority.”

Still, the question remained concerning the interest of people. The Catholic people, we were told, had accepted the changes following the Vatican Council; the Novus Ordo was loved and appreciated, and to have the liturgy celebrated in the former rite was the desire of blue-haired dowagers and frumpy codgers.

In fact, much as we find in 2017, the desire for tradition was not the possession of the Vatican II generation, but of younger people. In those days, St. Agnes Church was a two-tiered nave with a balcony around the perimeter. The church was filled to overflowing – and mostly with people in their 20s and 30s: first question answered.

The second nagging question was our ability to pull off such an intricate rite somewhat ex nihilo, pulling together disparate people from various places in the tri-state area. Seminarian (now Father) Timothy McDonnell was asked to come in and be MC at the Throne. I was called because the work of the St. Gregory Society of New Haven, Connecticut, since 1986 had put us at the forefront of the movement.

I can remember getting the call and being asked to be part of such an undertaking. I said yes, and the import of what we were about to do hit me immediately. Dr. John Rao, one of the sponsors, was confident we could get things organized, and it was in his living room that Tim and I began the work of putting together a liturgy that required more than 30 clergy and servers.

The answer to the second question was partially answered on the first night of rehearsals – the Sunday before the Mass, February 15, 1992. Within minutes we knew we could do what needed to be done. Enough men had volunteered to be part of the ceremony and were divvied up into the various roles. From familiares to pluvialists to acolytes to torch-bearers, the positions were filled.

The second part of the question—could we pull off such an intricate ceremony?—took a little longer to be answered. The beauty of the traditional rite is that one knows what must be done. The trick is adapting it to the space. Manuals on pontifical liturgy never envisioned (with few exceptions) small parish churches. Like many churches in New York City, St. Agnes was wider than it was long, and the sanctuary, while adequate for Solemn Mass, was a tight fit for a pontifical throne and 27 servers plus attending clergy.

For six nights we worked to get everything working smoothly. By the time the day of the event came, the servers were ready. Much as a team is ready for a big game, the boys and men were experiencing a jumble of nerves and excitement and the desire to get on with it.

Of course, the answer to the question’s second part — could we pull it off? — wasn’t answered until the Mass was over. It was a resounding “yes.”

There were a few problems, of course. The vestments had to be flown in from Italy. The key to the trunk was forgotten, and we had to jimmy it open. John Rao, the sub-deacon, came down with laryngitis and couldn’t sing the epistle. The assistant MC had to do it over his shoulder with the admonition that Rao read it along while it be sung. In the fury to get things ready, a surplice became entangled in a sacristy bell rope. The bell sounded, the congregation stood, the trumpets played. We had to have a do-over.

Despite the problems, it proved to all of us the traditional liturgy had a place in the Church. Hundreds showed up for the Mass. It was so successful that four years later a second visit by Cardinal Stickler was held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where the biggest crowd in the recent history of the building was jammed four deep in every aisle.

Nearly a quarter-century and several pontifical masses later, the questions answered served as a foundation for what came later. The myth of the traditional rites being forbidden: smashed. The myth that only old people were interested: buried. The assertion that the liturgy which served so many millions through the centuries had no place in the modern Church: overturned.

While it is true the world of 2017 is much different than that of 1992, some of the myths and legends still survive — the grist of a liturgical establishment that refuses to see the vitality of the movement.  Every time a traditional Mass is celebrated, those myths and legends are pushed further and further toward the ash heap of history.

The work remains for younger clergy and laity to take up the cause. Thankfully, the political headwinds of those days were altered by Pope Benedict XVI and ratified by the words of Pope Francis. The renewal of the Church’s worship, like any good thing, must be taken up by every generation.  To a certain extent, the questions posed 25 years ago remain. Each congregation must find out whether the rites can be done and whether people will come.  They find out very quickly, the answer is affirmative in both cases.

Decorations of the Vatican Basilica on the Feast of St Peter’s Chair

On the two feast days of St Peter, the feast of his chair on February 22nd, and the principal feast on June 29th, special decorations are put up in the Vatican Basilica. (This was formerly done also on the feast of St Peter’s Chains on August 1st, and on January 18th, back when there were two feasts of Peter’s Chair.) The bronze statue of the Apostle attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (1240 - 1310 ca.), made in all likelihood for the Jubilee of 1300, is dressed in pontifical robes similar to those formerly worn by the Pope. Here is the statue as it normally appears; the feet are famously worn down by the constant kissing and touching of the faithful.
And here it is “dressed” for the feast day today.
The altar is decorated with two bronze statues of Saints Peter and Paul, donated to the Vatican Basilica by the family of Pope Urban VIII Barberini in 1692.
The enormous sculpture of St Peter’s Chair by Bernini at the back of the Basilica is covered with candles. Here we see the Chair as it normally appears, in an older photograph that also shows the former altar of the Cathedra beneath the sculpture.
The Cathedra as it appears on the feasts of St Peter’s. (Decorating it in this fashion must have been a rather messy business before the modern electric lights which we see here.)
Two other views, the second of which also shows the modern altar, which in the reign of Pope Benedict replaced an earlier (and comically ugly) free-standing altar installed in this same part of the Basilica.
The feast of St Peter’s Chair is not only the commemoration of his ministry as chief of the Apostles, but also the feast of a relic long reputed to be his actual throne. Although it never attained to the popularity of the Veil of St Veronica, the Vatican Basilica’s relic par excellence in the High Middle Ages, it was regularly seen and venerated by the faithful, being first explicitly named “the Chair of St Peter” in 1237. Before the long period of the Popes’ residence in Avignon, (during which many medieval customs of the Papal liturgy disappeared,) the Pope was enthroned on the relic for part of his coronation ceremony, and used it as his liturgical throne in the Basilica on the feast of February 22. Its veneration continued through the Renaissance and the Counter-Reformation periods, but since 1666, it has been kept within Bernini’s Cathedra Petri at the back of the Vatican Basilica, and very rarely brought out. The very magnificence of the sculpture, and its presence as the visual culmination of the church, has overwhelmed its purpose as a reliquary; all the more so since the relic itself cannot be seen within it, and has so rarely been removed from it for viewing. It was last exposed in 1867, at the behest of Blessed Pope Pius IX, during the celebrations of the eighteenth centennial of the martyrdoms of Ss Peter and Paul. A copy (pictured below) is displayed in the treasury of St Peter’s, but with little to indicate the prominence which the original formerly held.

This is not the place to explain in detail the much-discussed question of the authenticity of the throne itself; suffice it to say that as it exists today, it now known to be largely a work of the ninth century, given to the Pope by the Emperor Charles the Bald in 875. On the other hand, the ivory panels on the front of the chair are much older, although it is impossible to say how much older; they may have been removed from another chair which was earlier regarded as a throne of St Peter. It may be supposed that if these panels were incorporated into the Carolingian chair from a much older object, there was a very good reason for doing so. In any case, whether or not any part of it was once used by St Peter, it may be venerated as are other relics of uncertain authenticity, such as those of Christ’s Crib at St. Mary Major, as a kind of icon in three dimensions. (Pictured below, the original chair in an image made during the exposition in 1867.)

How the Current Health Care Market in the US Fails Liturgical Man

I attended a talk on healthcare at Star of the Sea Catholic Church in San Francisco last week, given by my colleague at Pontifex University, Dr Michel Accad. Much of the talk was devoted to consideration of the options that Catholics have for affordable healthcare.

Dr Accad spoke in detail about sharing ministries as alternatives to health insurance, and how many general practitioners are structuring their practices in a new way so that they are employed directly by patients and act as their advocate. This is in contrast to the usual arrangement by which the doctor effectively becomes an agent who sells treatments and drugs on behalf of the providers to the payer, who is not the patient, but the insurance company.

In his new model, Dr Accad is motivated to act on behalf of the patient first, and so is an advocate for him, striving to bring down the cost of treatments and drugs by negotiating with pharmaceutical companies. He is also able to devote much more time to their care. Furthermore, it enables him to offer treatment that is in accord with Catholic social teaching.

He opened up his talk by asking the question: Who here thinks healthcare in this country is going well? No hands went up. He then described how it is possible to have healthcare options that allow for the flourishing of the patient as a human person - body, soul and spirit - and a relationship between doctor and patient that is fruitful for both patient and care provider.

In the Q &A session afterwards, it became apparent from the discussion that this was of interest not only to currently disgruntled patients but also to doctors, who are frustrated that they cannot give the sort of treatment they would like to give. Several spoke of this frustration under the current system.

Dr Accad is a medical doctor (qualified both as a general practitioner and as a cardiologist) who is able to take a broad view of the crucial issues involved. He is one of those rare people who is simultaneously able to analyse the details and to synthesize them all into the big picture. A committed Catholic, he writes about medicine and is published in peer reviewed medical journals. He writes about the philosophy of nature and philosophical anthropology and has been published in The Thomist, and he has delivered papers on the economics of healthcare at the Mises Institute. He also has a popular blog on how these issues impact the medical profession, called Alertandoriented.com.

Of course, I was interested in the details of how one might have access to affordable health care that is aligned with Catholic social teaching and imbued with genuine consideration of the patient as a person. (If you are interested in this I suggest you contact him through his blog, here). But aside from that, what I found fascinating what his description of how so many of the problems associated with healthcare today, even before Obamacare, emanate from a dualistic understanding of the human person as a physical body occupied by a thinking soul; rather than as a single entity, a profound unity of body and soul. This is not a bad thing in itself; a deep understanding of how the physical functions of the body work has lead to great strides in medicine; however, it does place limitations on the scope of treatment through a neglect of the happiness of the person and his spiritual needs. If the underlying problem is spiritual, for example, treatments might alleviate its symptoms, which can then resurface in other forms.

And the problem runs even more deeper than that. Without a clear picture of what the human person is, the idea of a health as a goal for treatment is not clearly defined either. This has lead over the last 100 years or so to the creation of a “health market” which has been engineered to serve that idea of the human being as machine, an object to be repaired, rather than as a person who needs health in order to direct his activity towards his ultimate end, which is union with God. Consequently, the patient occupies a role in this financial model that is more like that of the car in the repair shop, in which the insurance company is the car owner and the doctor is the mechanic. While this model might work well for cars, when the doctor’s surgery becomes a glorified human “body shop”, the misalignment and conflict of interests and goals leads to secondary problems in health care.

As soon as the current system, under the guidance of the US government, began to be introduced in the early 20th century, he told us, it caused an escalation of costs, because there is no incentive for the key players to keep costs down on the patient’s behalf. The doctor seeks to serve first the specialist treatment providers, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies, rather focusing primarily on the restoration and maintenance of the patient’health, (however that is defined).

Those who wish to know more about the connection between the structuring of the health market and anthropology might be interested in reading or listening to Dr Accad’s talk on the subject given to the Mises Institute last year, which can be accessed via his blog, here: From Reacting Machine to Acting Person.

Dr Accad is currently preparing material for his first course for Pontifex University on the Philosophy of Nature and Philosophical Anthropology. He is a wonderful addition to the faculty precisely because of his ability to draw themes from one area of expertise and apply them in another. The development of this ability to think synthetically is part of what a good Catholic education ought to aim for, and it is why a formation in beauty is so important as part of that education. When one apprehends the beauty of something, one is able to see not only how it’s parts are in right relation to each others in due proportion, but also how the whole is in accord with its purpose and in right relationship with all that surrounds it (integritas). In short, one is able to look at the details (analysis) and place them in the bigger picture (synthesis). This is why beauty and culture, which touch every aspect of human life, including economics and health provision, are so intimately related.

As Catholics, we must strive always to take that mental step away from whatever field of study we are engaged in and ask ourselves the big question: How does this relate to man’s goal of union with God through worship of Him in the earthly liturgy in this life, and in the heavenly liturgy in the next?

As an inspiration for this in the field of health care, I look to the Spanish saint, John of God, here portrayed by the 17th century Spanish artist Bartolomé Murillo.

St John of God (1495 – 1550) was a Portuguese-born soldier who founded a hospital in Granada, Spain, and whose followers later formed the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God, dedicated to the care of the poor, sick, and those suffering from mental disorders.

How many doctors today are taught of the need for God’s grace in their work for the benefit of both patient and doctor? One only has to look at the design of hospital buildings past and present to see how differently the provision of care was considered. Below are photographs of the exterior and interior of the Hospital de Tavera in Toledo, Spain, built in the 16th century. (Today it is a museum housing many El Greco paintings.)

And here is a standard National Health Service hospital building, in Darlington County, Durham in England:

The standard criticism of the modern building is that it is only designed for utility, hence its depressing appearance. I would argue something different: in my opinion, beauty does have a utility, which is to raise hearts and minds to God. When a hospital building is beautiful, its beauty helps serve the spiritual needs of all the people in its care, and the good of all concerned. Furthermore, just as the person is a profound unity of body and soul, the hospital should be a profound unity of design that aids its function of restoring health to all aspects of the human person. Such a hospital will be beautiful and optimize its purpose of providing both spiritual care and physical care. It is no accident that the Spanish hospital shown above, like the educational institutions built at the same time, has the look of a monastery. Both institutions have aims that cannot be separated from the supernatural end of the human person, and both aim to create a community in which all work toward this end for themselves and others.

Here’s another example, Broadmoor Hospitalin Berkshire, England, built as a prison for the criminally insane, which houses some of Britain’s most violent and notorious criminals.

Those who are committed to its care are almost certainly going to live the rest of their natural lives behind its walls. The original building was completed in the mid-19th century. It does not have the cloisters and prayerful feel of the 16th century Spanish hospital, but nevertheless it is a listed building. The prison/hospital is currently being redeveloped, and there has been discussion as to what use the original building will be put to; newspaper reports suggest that one idea is to turn it into a luxury hotel. While I am sure that it was not pleasant to be an inmate there, it seems that in some ways our Victorian forebears had greater insight than we moderns do into the need to care for the souls of the most reviled members of society, how to do it.

The Darlington hospital no doubt has dedicated staff, and patients there surely receive the best that the National Health Service in the UK has to offer. (The NHS has its problems too, for similar reasons, although manifested in different ways; it is interesting to note that while the quality of care in many measures is not a good as that offered by the American system, patients’ satisfaction with it is anecdotally reported to be higher). Regardless, the design of the building tells us something about how the human person who is to be treated therein is viewed. I would argue that it is not even the optimal design if the provision of physical care, for the physical and spiritual cannot be separated. The building of beautiful hospitals is not an extravagance, but ought be considered a necessity that will give us the most highly functional hospitals by any measure. As we can see through Dr Accad’s discussion of the provision of healthcare, care of body and soul cannot be separated, just as body and soul cannot, in reality, be separated in the person being cared for.

Neglecting the spiritual aspects of man will almost certainly affect detrimentally the care of even man-as-machine in ways that cannot always be anticipated. Let us be clear: wrong anthropology does not suddenly invalidate all that is good about modern medicine  and its methods or even its method of delivery. Even allowing for problems that exist, there is much that is good. Rather, it allows us to locate the source of the problems that remain with the recognition there is more to be done. Once we recognize that man is a single entity that is both physical and spiritual who is made to worship God in the sacred liturgy, and that this is the activity to which all others are ordered in this life, then we have the greatest chance of restoring all aspects of human health, and having beautiful hospitals once again!

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