Friday, March 31, 2017

Card. Sarah’s Address to Conference Pulls No Punches

Catholic World Report has just published the text of an address sent by Robert Cardinal Sarah, the prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, to the 18th Cologne International Liturgical Conference. The subject of the conference, which concludes tomorrow, is the upcoming tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. His Eminence is extremely frank about the current state of crisis of the liturgy, indeed, no less frank than Pope Benedict was in the texts quoted by the Cardinal within the address. Here are some particularly interesting excerpts.

“...The particular care that should be brought to the liturgy, the urgency of holding it in high esteem and working for its beauty, its sacral character and keeping the right balance between fidelity to Tradition and legitimate development, and therefore rejecting absolutely and radically any hermeneutic of discontinuity or rupture: these essential elements are the heart of all authentic Christian liturgy. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger tirelessly repeated that the crisis that has shaken the Church for fifty years, chiefly since Vatican Council II, is connected with the crisis of the liturgy, and therefore to the lack of respect, the desacralization and the leveling of the essential elements of divine worship. ‘I am convinced,’ he writes, ‘that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the disintegration of the liturgy.’

Certainly, the Second Vatican Council wished to promote greater active participation by the people of God and to bring about progress day by day in the Christian life of the faithful (see Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 1). Certainly, some fine initiatives were taken along these lines. However we cannot close our eyes to the disaster, the devastation and the schism that the modern promoters of a living liturgy caused by remodeling the Church’s liturgy according to their ideas. They forgot that the liturgical act is not just a PRAYER, but also and above all a MYSTERY in which something is accomplished for us that we cannot fully understand but that we must accept and receive in faith, love, obedience and adoring silence. And this is the real meaning of active participation of the faithful. It is not about exclusively external activity, the distribution of roles or of functions in the liturgy, but rather about an intensely active receptivity: this reception is, in Christ and with Christ, the humble offering of oneself in silent prayer and a thoroughly contemplative attitude.

... it is necessary to recognize that the serious, profound crisis that has affected the liturgy and the Church itself since the Council is due to the fact that its CENTER is no longer God and the adoration of Him, but rather men and their alleged ability to ‘do’ something to keep themselves busy during the Eucharistic celebrations. Even today, a significant number of Church leaders underestimate the serious crisis that the Church is going through: relativism in doctrinal, moral and disciplinary teaching, grave abuses, the desacralization and trivialization of the Sacred Liturgy, a merely social and horizontal view of the Church’s mission. Many believe and declare loud and long that Vatican Council II brought about a true springtime in the Church. Nevertheless, a growing number of Church leaders see this “springtime” as a rejection, a renunciation of her centuries-old heritage, or even as a radical questioning of her past and Tradition. Political Europe is rebuked for abandoning or denying its Christian roots. But the first to have abandoned her Christian roots and past is indisputably the post-conciliar Catholic Church.

Some episcopal conferences even refuse to translate faithfully the original Latin text of the Roman Missal. Some claim that each local Church can translate the Roman Missal, not according to the sacred heritage of the Church, following the methods and principles indicated by Liturgiam authenticam, but according to the fantasies, ideologies and cultural expressions which, they say, can be understood and accepted by the people. But the people desire to be initiated into the sacred language of God.”

Oratory Canonically Established in Cincinnati

We have received news that the Cincinnati Oratory, which has been in formation since 2008, was formally and canonically established on the feast of St Joseph by a decree of the Holy Father. As you can see from the photos below, the Oratory takes the liturgy seriously, and offers the Mass in both forms with beauty and reverence; the OF is celebrated in Latin, English and German. NLM is very pleased to offer our congratulations to the community, and our prayers that their apostolate will continue to bear fruit for many years to come. Here is their press release.

“On March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the Holy Father issued a decree establishing the Congregation of the Oratory of St. Philip Neri in Cincinnati, a Congregation of Apostolic Life. The first congregation was founded by St. Philip Neri in Rome in the 16th Century. In addition to St. Philip Neri, the Oratory also counts Bl. John Henry Newman among its saints and blesseds.

The Cincinnati Oratory began the project of founding a house in Cincinnati in 2008, with the support of then Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk. In 2009, Archbishop Dennis Schnurr, succeeding as Archbishop of Cincinnati, began supporting and working with the community of priests and seminarians to see the project brought to its completion. The current Procurator General, Fr. Mario Avilés, of the Confederation of Oratories throughout the world, has been the delegate from the Oratory since the beginning of the project to provide guidance and assistance. The Oratory is based in Over-the-Rhine at Old St. Mary’s Church.

In addition to Old St. Mary’s, the priests of the Oratory also minister at Sacred Heart Church, Camp Washington, Christ Hospital, Mt. Auburn, and the Hamilton County Justice Center, Downtown Cincinnati. This establishment brings the total number of Oratories in the United States to nine, with over seventy internationally.

The Oratory is a community of priests and brothers who do not take vows, but live a common life of prayer, apostolic work, and mutual support under a common rule. The community is composed of Fr. Jon-Paul Bevak, Fr. Adrian J. Hilton, Fr. Lawrence G. Juarez, Br. Brent L. Stull, and Br. Henry O. Hoffmann.

Fr. Jon-Paul, until now the Moderator, said: ‘We are grateful to the Holy Father for bringing this good work that was begun in 2008 to completion. We are also grateful to both Archbishop Pilarczyk and Archbishop Schnurr for their continued support throughout these past nine years. We thank Fr. Mario, and all of those who supported us with their prayers, donations, and friendship all of these years. We are excited to begin this next chapter in our history.’

The Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr, the Archbishop of Cincinnati, will offer a Mass on April 25, 2017 at Old St. Mary’s Church in Over-the-Rhine to celebrate the occasion and the delivery of the Holy Father’s decree. Further details will be forthcoming on the time of the Mass.

For more information, please visit You may also contact Fr. Jon-Paul at”

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Raising the Dead in Lent

Before the early eighth century, the church of Rome kept the Thursdays of Lent (with the obvious exception of Holy Thursday) and the Saturdays after Ash Wednesday and Passion Sunday as “aliturgical” days. (The term aliturgical refers, of course, only to the Eucharistic liturgy, not to the Divine Office.) This is attested in the oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite, and in the collection of papal biographies called the Liber Pontificalis, which tells us that Pope St Gregory II (715-31) instituted the Masses of these days. This is why even in the Missal of St Pius V, the Thursdays of Lent borrow their chant parts (the introits, graduals, offertories and communions) from other Masses; the respect for the tradition codified by St Gregory the Great was such that it was deemed better not to add new pieces to the established repertoire. (The two formerly aliturgical Saturdays simply repeat the Gregorian propers from the previous day, indicating perhaps that their Masses were added by a different Pope.)

This change was made in the midst of significant controversies between the Popes and the Byzantine Emperors, first over the Quinisext Synod, and later over the iconoclast heresy. The former, also known as the “Synod in Trullo”, was held in Constantinople in 692 to supplement the work of the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils, which had both adjourned without issuing any disciplinary decrees; hence its peculiar name, which means “Fifth-Sixth.” The Emperor Justinian II called it to legislate for the whole Church, without reference to Rome, and attempted to impose its decrees by force. The response of Pope St Sergius I (687-701) was not only a defiant refusal to recognize or approve the synod; he also added the Agnus Dei to the Mass, “a protest against canon 82 of the Synod in Trullo, which forbade the symbolic representation of the Savior in the form of a Lamb.” (Msgr. Louis Duchesne, in his critical edition of the Liber Pontificalis, quoted in the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on the Agnus Dei.)

Pope Sergius also added this mosaic to the triumphal arch of the church of Ss Cosmas and Damian, where Pope Gregory II instituted another one of the new Thursday stations, that of the third week of Lent. (Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew O.P.)
Before his election to the Papacy, Gregory II served the church of Rome under four Popes. Ordained a subdeacon by Sergius, in 710 he accompanied Pope Constantine on a year-long visit to the imperial capital, and negotiated a compromise with Justinian II on Rome’s acceptance of the Trullan decrees. Two months after their departure, the emperor was deposed and executed, and succeeded first by an active supporter of the heresy condemned by the sixth ecumenical council, then, after two very brief reigns, by Leo III, the inventor of Iconoclasm. As the latter initiated a brutal persecution which gave many martyrs to the Church, relations between him and the Pope deteriorated; in a famous letter, Gregory writes “It grieves us that the savages and barbarians are becoming tame, while you, the civilized, are becoming barbarous.” (The “savages” are the peoples of northern Europe, then being converted to Christianity by St Boniface, whom Gregory himself had sent to Germany.)

In such a climate of tension between the Pope and Emperor, the institution of the Lenten Masses of Thursday should be seen as another rejection of Byzantine practice as codified at the Quinisext Synod, the 52nd canon of which decrees, “On all days of the holy fast of Lent, except on the Sabbath, the Lord’s day and the holy day of the Annunciation, the Liturgy of the Presanctified is to be said.” Since the Byzantine council had established that the Eucharist not be celebrated on the ferial, fasting days of Lent, Gregory II all but abolished the practice in Rome.

The liturgy thus instituted for today, the Thursday of the fourth week of Lent, copies several features from that of the following day. In the Epistle of the older Mass on Friday, the prophet Elijah raises a dead child to life (3 Kings 17, 17-24); in that of Thursday, his disciple Elisha does the same (4 Kings 4, 25-38). The Gospel on Friday is the raising of Lazarus (John 11, 1-45), on Thursday, that of the son of the widow of Naim (Luke 7, 11-16). The older Lenten station on Friday is kept at the church of St Eusebius; the newer station on Thursday is kept less than a third of a mile away, at the church of Ss Sylvester and Martin on the Esquiline Hill. (In Italian it is now usually called “San Martino ai Monti.”)

The stational Mass at San Martino ai Monti last year. (Photo by our favorite Roman pilgrim, Agnese Bazzucchi.)
The church of St Eusebius was chosen for the reading of the Gospel of Lazarus because it stands right next to a large necropolis, a “city of the dead”, which dated back even before the founding of Rome itself. In this way, the Church, led by the bishop of Rome, proclaimed to the ancient pagan world Her belief in the resurrection of the body, made possible by the death and resurrection of the Savior. San Martino stands on the opposite side of the necropolis, in an area where even more tombs have been discovered than in the part closer to St Eusebius.

Eusebius himself was a Roman priest traditionally said to have died in the mid-4th century after several months of forced confinement in his house, inflicted on him because of his stance against the Arian heresy. As such, he was venerated as a “Confessor”, a title which originally meant one who had suffered for the Faith, without being violently killed. (The distinction between Martyrs and Confessors is sometimes a bit blurry.) Pope Sylvester I and Martin of Tours, to whom the station church of Thursday is jointly dedicated, were the first two Saints venerated as “Confessors” in the modern sense of the term, a male Saint who was not an Apostle or Martyr. Among the titular Saints of the Lenten station churches, these are the only Confessors. (The station of the following Saturday is now held at the church of St Nicholas ‘in the Prison’, but was originally at St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls.)

The question then arises as to why it was felt necessary or useful to have two stational Masses so similar to each other on two successive days. The answer lies in the theological controversies of the era, and the resulting clashes between the Old and the New Rome.

For most of the 7th century, the Church was plagued with the Monothelite heresy, the teaching that in Christ, the human faculty of the will is absent, replaced by the divine will. The history and purpose of this heresy are very complicated matters; suffice it to say here that its chief promotor, the Emperor Heraclius (610-41), enshrined it in law by a decree known as the Ecthesis, supported by the contemporary Patriarchs of Constantinople. In 648, his grandson Constans II (630-68) attempted to impose silence on the resulting controversy by an imperial edict; Pope St Martin I, elected in July of the following year, held a synod at the Lateran basilica very shortly thereafter, which condemned the edict of Constans, the Ecthesis, three Patriarchs of Constantinople, and one of Alexandria.

In response to this, the Pope was arrested by Constans’ exarch and brought to Constantinople, where he was kept in a jail for months and subjected to appalling mistreatment; eventually tried for treason, he was sent to the city of Kherson on the Crimean peninsula (the very end of the earth for a Roman), where he died of the hardships of his exile. He is the last Pope venerated as a martyr, although he would perhaps have been called a Confessor by his contemporaries, since he did not die a violent death. (The title “Confessor” has become the standard epithet of the greatest opponent of Monothelitism, St Maximus, whom Constans tortured and maimed by cutting out his tongue and cutting off his right hand.)

A 17th-century Russian icon of St Maximus the Confessor, with events of his life in the surrounding panels. He is shown being tried and imprisoned more than once; the removal  of his tongue and right hand is the second panel from the bottom on the right side. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
It was the son of Constans, Constantine IV (668-85), who called the Sixth Ecumenical Council of the Church, which definitively condemned the Monothelite heresy and its supporters, while vindicating the memory of Pope Martin and St Maximus. This was the third held at Constantinople, from 680-81, and took place in the same domed hall, or “trullo”, where the Quinisext Synod would be held 11 years later.

During the 15th session (April 681), there occurred one of the strangest events (among many) in the long and checkered history of the Ecumenical Councils. A leading Monothelite, a priest named Polychronius, offered to prove the truth of the doctrine by raising a man from the dead, and was allowed to put this claim to the test before the assembled council fathers. In a public square, he laid a copy of the heretical profession of faith on the chest of a corpse, and prayed whispering in the dead man’s ear for several hours, to no effect. Despite his promise to the contrary, he refused to recant after his failure, and was condemned as both a heretic and a blasphemer. (Mansi XI, p. 609)

All of this was very recent history when Pope Gregory II instituted the Mass for this day, and the station at the church dedicated to the first two Confessors. One of these, St Sylvester, was Pope at the time of the First Ecumenical Council, Nicea I, which condemned Arianism, and was also called by an Emperor named Constantine; the other, St Martin of Tours, was likewise an opponent of the Arians, the namesake of Pope Martin (see note below), and known to have raised three persons from the dead. (As he himself was wont to note, two before his episcopal consecration, but only one after.) The Epistle of the day recalls how Elisha raised the dead child by laying on top of him, “and his flesh grew warm”; surely this would have reminded those who were present for the first celebrations of this Mass of the failed attempt at the recent council to raise a dead man by laying something on his chest.

Within St Gregory II’s lifetime, imperial Byzantium had twice professed and repudiated the Monothelite heresy, and was then moving on to Iconoclasm, and once again persecuting the orthodox. The stational Mass of this day may thus be read as a declaration that it is the Church of Rome which professes the true doctrine of the Incarnation, and the fruit thereof, when She says at the end of the Creed, “I await the resurrection of the dead.”

The Raising of the Widow of Naim’s Son, by Mario Minniti, 1620
Note: It is also stated in various sources, but with some uncertainty, that the relics of Pope St Martin I were later brought to the church; I cannot find any clear reference as to when this is supposed to have taken place.

Triple Photopost: St Joseph, the Annunciation, and Laetare Sunday (Part 2)

Once again, heartfelt thanks to the many readers who sent photographs of their liturgies celebrated on the feast of St Joseph, the Annunciation and Laetare Sunday! Our next photopost will be of Passiontide veils; a reminder will be posted this weekend. Evangelize through beauty!

Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini - Rome, Italy (FSSP)
A new complete set of rose vestments, including frontal and tabernacle veil, was used for first time this Laetare Sunday. (Photos courtesy of Mr Jacob Stein, author of the blog Passio Christi, and of the parish Facebook page.)

Cathedral of St Patrick - Charlotte, North Carolina
Laetare Sunday

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Roman Pilgrim at the Station Churches 2017 (Part 5)

Our annual visit to the Roman Station churches continues, thanks as always to our friend Agnese. The theme of this post is, quite accidentally, processions in cloisters, of which we see three here, at the churches of Ss Cosmas and Damian, the Four Crowned Martyrs, and St Lawrence ‘in Damaso.’  The station on Laetare Sunday at Holy Cross ‘in Jerusalem’ is not included, since it was held in the morning; Agnese was at the high Mass at the FSSP church, Trinità de’ Pellegrini, where a new complete set of rose-colored vestments was used for the first time, as will be seen in a photopost tomorrow. (I just heard from Agnese that she is feeling poorly and missed the Mass this evening at St Paul Outside-the-Walls, so please remember to say a little prayer for her. Thanks!)

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent - Ss Cosmas and Damian

Friday of the Third Week of Lent - San Lorenzo in Lucina

In the magnificent painting over the high altar, The Crucifixion by Guido Reni (1575-1642), the body of Christ is pale and white against a much darker background. The effect is somewhat obscured in the photo by the lighting, but normally, one can see the body of Christ raised above the altar at a distance, even standing outside the church in the piazza, a reminder of the Elevation of the Host during the Mass.

Mass of Our Lady of Sorrows in New York City, April 7th

On Friday, April 7th at 7:15 p.m., a Solemn High Mass in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows will be celebrated in the traditional rite at the church of the Most Precious Blood, located at 113 Baxter Street in Manhattan’s Little Italy neighborhood. The Mass, which is sponsored by the Constantinian Order of St George, will be followed by the veneration of a Relic of the True Cross.

Now Available: Lectures and Disputed Questions on the Letter to the Hebrews

Praelectiones et Quaestiones Disputatae -- On St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews. Proceedings of the 2016 AMCSS Summer Theology Program. Ed. John P. Joy. Strathcona, MN: Libri Albertini, 2017. Paperback, 140pp. $18.99. /

NLM readers are most likely already familiar with the work of the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies (AMCSS). The theme of last summer's program was "The Transcendent Christ: On St. Paul's Letter to the Hebrews." This just-published volume collects the lectures delivered over the course of the program as well as the culminating scholastic disputation, which involved several disputed questions, conducted at a very high level -- but with some entertaining elements, too. As one who was present for all the lectures and involved in the disputed questions, I can say that this is a most helpful book for those interested in the theology of the liturgy, the sacrifice of Christ, the Mass as a true and proper sacrifice, and the headship of Christ over the Church.

“The Sacrifice of Christ as an Act of Vicarious Satisfaction”
John P. Joy, S.T.L.

“How Is the Mass a Sacrifice?”
Rev. Thomas Crean, O.P., S.T.D.

“The Symbolism of the First Entrance of the Holy Synaxis in the Mystagogy of St. Maximus the Confessor”
Rev. Yosyp Veresh, S.T.D.

“Biblical and Liturgical Typology in the Letter to the Hebrews”
Rev. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., S.L.D.

“The Christian Liturgy as Sacrificium Laudis in the Epistle to the Hebrews”
Peter Kwasniewski, Ph.D.

“‘Credere oportet accedentem ad Deum’ – On the Nature and Necessity of Faith”
Br. Evagrius Hayden, O.S.B., S.T.M.

“Christ as Head of the Human Race”
Daniel Lendman, S.T.L.

Quæstiones Disputatæ 
Rev. Thomas Crean, O.P., S.T.D.
Q. 1. Whether he who performs the rites of the Old Law offends God?
Q. 2. Whether the shedding of blood is necessary for the remission of sins?
Q. 3. Whether to please God it is sufficient to believe that he is and is a rewarder of those who seek him?

Also, a reminder to readers that the AMCSS is now welcoming applications for the upcoming Summer Theology Program in Norcia in July, dedicated to St. Thomas's sacramental theology. See here to read NLM's announcement. The online application page is here.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Triple Photopost: St Joseph, the Annunciation and Laetare Sunday (Part 1)

Since the feast of St Joseph, the Annunciation and Laetare Sunday all fell within a single week, we had a pretty large number of submissions in response to our joint photopost request, so I am splitting them up into two posts. As always, our thanks to all of our readers who sent them in - Evangelize through beauty!

Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Mass of St Joseph, celebrated at the altar of the Assumption

Church of St Joseph, Peoria, Illinois
Mass of St Joseph. The celebrant, Fr Alexander Millar, is wearing a chasuble that once belong to Abp. Fulton J, Sheen.

How the Study of History and Literature Directs Us To the Liturgy...Or At Least It Ought To

I recently heard a lecture as part of his Pontifex Univeristy class entitled The Bible and the Liturgy, given by Fr Sebastian Carnazzo, in which he explains how the Bible is primarily a liturgical document. This is an inspiring class that, for me, connects the whole educational ethos of Pontifex in the bible and the liturgy - in accord with the Catholic understanding of education ultimately the role of our teachers is to direct all of us to the Teacher who offers divine wisdom.

The study of Scripture in the classroom is valuable, of course, but as the lecture explains, primarily it is to the degree that it deepens our reception of the Word in a liturgical setting. Through the readings and chants of the words of Scripture in the Mass, Divine Liturgy and Divine Office, we are evangelized and catechized most powerfully. We are formed for supernatural transformation through Christ, and as evangelists who carry the word out to the unevangelized and uncatechized in the world.

The sources Fr Carnazzo uses to support this idea are the writings of the Church Fathers, the descriptions of the historical and current practices of the Church, especially in Her worship, and Scripture itself, as well as two recent books, The Bible and the Liturgy, by Jean Danielou, and Baptismal Imagery in Early Christianity by Robin Jensen.

There has been so much in this course that was worth highlighting, but I want focus particularly one aspect which I found enlightening, namely, the Biblical descriptions of evangelization. This is done through the description of salvation history as the part of the ongoing story of humanity in which we are protagonists right now.

Fr Sebastian described to us how at various times, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles and Saints of the early Church addressed the gathered people and told them their story. It would be modified according the assumed knowledge of those listening, sometimes starting with a description of the Creation, at others with Abraham. So, for example, we might think of Joshua talking to the Israelites before crossing the Jordan, or the martyr St Stephen addressing the Jews before he was stoned to death. The point was to make those listening, Jew or Gentile, understand that this is their story too, just as it is our story. The consummation of this story is in the reconciliation between God and man, through the Church, by the death of the old self - united to Christ crucified - in baptism; and by the rebirth of the new self - united to Christ’s resurrection and partaking of His divine nature - through Confirmation and the Eucharist.

The words of the liturgy and of scripture in the liturgy tell this story for us too, both prosaically and poetically, through the readings, the chanting of the psalms and canticles of the Church; they give us a mystagogical catechesis (one that deepens our grasp of the mysteries) so that we are prepared for that supernatural transformation in Christ that is available to us through the reception of Christ’s Body and Blood. All of this is made easier for us to grasp of course, when the external forms of the liturgy - the way in which it is celebrated, the art, the music and the architecture for example - are in harmony with this end.

This approach to evangelization, engaging outside the church building with people who do not have Christ - the telling of the story which was used by the early Church - works because it appeals to something that is deep within us. Every one of us knows instinctively that this is what we are made for. The task for each of us is to reveal that grand story, so that the listener can place his own personal story into the drama that it describes. Quite how we do this in the many situations that we are likely to deal with in life is another matter, but each of us will be able to to do it, with God’s grace, to varying degrees according to our calling. But, here is the key thing, it seems to me: our actions and words must point to this story that is the preaching of “Christ crucified.” At the very least, having a clear idea of what it is we are going to say is the most important thing. Much has been written about this elsewhere in the context of, for example, the New Evangelization; Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI speaks on the subject here and here.

This principle also tells us the purpose of the study of the history and great works of the culture. Taking history as a subject first: all history, to be of any human value, must be a participation in salvation history, and so must be seen as an aspect of Christian history. Just as every person has a story, whether he has lived his life as a Christian up to a given point or not, one that has the potential for a happy ending through the Church; so also every natural association within society has a story that, in the context of a Christ-centered view of history, participates in salvation history. This is why we need stories that reinforce these natural associations in a way that appreciates the natural hierarchy of each, and places the Church as the highest in value. (I am not arguing here for political power for the Vatican by they way). Therefore, the study of history can be a history of all peoples and all times, but always seen in the light of this principle. It should focus especially on the history of the societies that the person being taught belongs to, his country, his local neighborhood and for us, Western culture as Christian culture.

Just as important as the teaching of the facts of this history, is the teaching of what history is, why it is being taught, so that the student always places what they are learning into this context. This gives us a sense of our place in the world and where we are going, and whether or not we are on the right path. It also stimulates our faculty for seeing things historically, so that when we are presented with the ultimate expression of our history - salvation history in the liturgy - we are able to respond more deeply for the glory of God.

Poetry and literature tell our story in another way, the story itself is the same. In a wonderful talk last year at the Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame, Alasdair MacIntyre spoke of the need for the reading of poetry, which preserves the collective memory of who we are. I was moved by what he said and agreed wholeheartedly, in principle. But I remember thinking at the time, this is fine for those who like poetry, but what about those like me who hate it. What was not said is that, like history, the teaching of poetry and the cultivation of an enjoyment of it ought to have an even higher end in mind. That end is the telling of my human story and the development of the faculty of responding poetically, so to speak, to the poetry in the liturgy and especially the psalms. What I now realize is that so much of the literature and poetry that I was taught years ago didn’t speak to me of my story, either because it wasn’t contained within it, or because I wasn’t taught how to see it. Whatever the reason, it was not pointing to the ultimate poetry that helps transform me and which, I now realize, I was longing for even before I found it in the liturgy of the Church prior to my conversion. Perhaps if it had been presented to me in this way, I might have responded differently.

I also think that I am not by inclination particularly literary or poetic (referring to written poetry) by nature. I respond much more to art and music. Therefore while I do now appreciate the value of introducing it to those who are naturally of a literary bent, we should not think only of the written or spoken word as ways of telling stories. In fact, the whole of the culture in some way ought to participate beautifully and gracefully in the telling of that story. Art and music can do this through their beauty, not simply through the telling of a narrative, but through the cosmic beauty of form that can communicate truths beyond words. They can stimulate that deeply embedded faculty in our hearts that is receptive to the Word, the single encapsulation of whole of the story. In the end, by whichever route we get there, the goal is to be as literary as we can be in regard to scripture and the words of the literature. I feel no sense of guilt or lack in that I now rarely read a novel or poetry outside that context. I do pray the psalms daily and love them.

The images of the church should be directed to this end, in harmony with the liturgy, of course. This should be especially so in baptistries, where Christian initiation begins, along with the other rites of initiation from which it should not be separated in our minds (Confirmation and first Communion.)

This is a point that should be appreciated in designing an educational curriculum, I think. While all should be introduced to a canon of literature and poetry for reasons outlined, we should accept that not all will respond to it the same way, and not all will wish to spend their lives enjoying poetry. Part of the goal of such an education is to find those aspects of the culture to which we respond most readily and creatively, and through that door, stimulate our ability to know connaturally so that we can participate in the liturgy actively.

Connatural knowledge is sometimes also called synthetic or poetic knowledge (rather confusingly, I think, given that it is not about the means of communication of truth but about the form of knowing. This is not restricted to poetry or any written communication of the truth in the sense that the word is generally used today). Connatural knowledge is that intuitive grasp on the whole by which, for example, we know and love a person on meeting them, as one hopes to do when encountering Our Lord in the Eucharist.

This explains why the evangelization of the culture is so important. When the very fabric of our culture from top to bottom reflects aspects of this story it will be beautiful. Another speaker at the same conference last year, Roger Scruton, (who spoke on this occasion on the joys of wine) summed up the need for beauty in the culture succinctly in his book How to Be A Conservative: the beauty of the culture, he wrote, tells us we are “at home in the world.”

Here is one little piece of anecdotal evidence for the truth of this, taken from my own experience, something has happened since I first heard this and thought about it: I don’t think I have ever mentioned baptism when talking about the Christian life to non-Christians. This is something that I should mention, just as Philip mentioned it to the Ethiopian in Acts, as it will resonate with them in some way, appealing to their natural instincts. This is a bit of a preachy leap, for me but I resolved to look for opportunities

With my brother, I have started a group here in the Berkeley, California area that meets weekly at St Jerome Catholic Church, and offers discernment of personal vocation. (We call it “The Vision for You.”) We aim especially to connect with people who are delving into New-Age spirituality and who are looking for a purpose in life. We present it as a series of spiritual exercises in the 'Western mystical tradition'. While it is pretty obvious that what we do comes from Christianity, we do not demand the people become Christian in order to participate. Rather, using a sort of Pascal’s-wager approach, we suggest that if they are willing to try this, then they will feel the effects; this is precisely what was done to me nearly 30 years ago, and as a result I converted from atheism. The hope is that it will send people on that journey, just as it sent me; however, I tend to let people conclude for themselves what the source of the power that we have as a small group of people who are working their way through this.

At each workshop, those who have experience of the process share personal stories of working through it. I realize now that what we are doing is telling our stories and placing them in the context of our ultimate purpose as we see it. I do always mention that I became Catholic as a result. The last time I did so, I added something that I hadn’t before; I said that although I wasn’t Christian at all when I went through the discernment process, I am nevertheless very grateful to my parents for having had me baptized as an infant. I now believe, I said, that although I was unaware of why at the time, that this is what placed within me an additional facility for responding to God’s grace during the process, and this is why it was so life changing for me.

I could see some cringing a bit as I mentioned baptism and grace, but after the workshop was over someone approached me. He told me that he was ill with cancer and had never been baptized. He had assumed that it wasn’t worth it, but as a result of what I said, he was thinking that he might go through with it. I encouraged him to do so, of course.

This is just anecdotal and not definitive proof of anything, but it does help to convince me that this is something that I should try to include in any account of my story in future!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Full Latin Text of St. Francis Borgia's Litany of the Summa Theologiae

I was pleasantly surprised by the great interest aroused by St. Francis Borgia's Litany of the Summa Theologiae, a segment of which I posted on the eve of the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. So many readers contacted me to ask (a) if an English translation had been done or could be done, and (b) if the original Latin text could be made available in full. In answer to (a), to my knowledge no one has ever translated this text. However, as to (b), I am glad to offer the text to NLM readers at the link below, and I strongly encourage any enterprising Latinist out there to render it into English. If you do so, please let me know; I'd be happy to discuss ways to make it available to a wider readership.

The title of the book is

Studi Tomistici 22
S. Francisci Borgiae, S.I.
Praecipuae Divi Thomae Aquinatis materiae in litaniarum rationem redactae
denuo editae a B. de Margerie, S.I.
Pontificia Accamedia di S. Tommaso
Libreria Editrice Vaticana
The book is comprised of several litanies that follow certain thematic areas in the text of St. Thomas. Their intellectual and devotional value is considerable. I have been told by a Benedictine monk that Borgia used the Summa for lectio divina, which, I must say (as a Thomist and as a Benedictine oblate) is an impressive feat.
The Litany of the Divine Attributes
The Litany of the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity in general, and of each of the Three Divine Person in particular
The Litany of the Holy Angels
The Litany of the Mystery of the Incarnation, and the union of the Divine Nature with the Human
The Litany of the Virtues and Graces which adorned the Incarnate Word
The Litany of the Annunciation and Conception of the Eternal Word
The Litany of the Mysteries of the Life of Christ, beginning with His Baptism
The Litany of the Lord’s Passion
The Litany of Our Lord’s Resurrection
The Litany of the Glorious Ascension of Our Lord
The Litany of the Most Adorable Mystery of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar
The Litany of Thanksgiving for the endowments of the created Soul
The Litany of the Benefits conferred on the Soul by the infusion of the moral, cardinal, and theological virtues
The Litany of the Soul in its glorified and beatified state.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

The Chinese Chasuble of Dom Pierre-Célestin Lou Tseng-Tsiang, OSB

Almost seven years ago, on April 21, 2010, I published an article here, Liturgical Arts Quarterly 1935: “Christian Art in the Far East.” This article presented some fine examples of liturgical inculturation -- something that I often explored here on NLM, particularly as so many things manifest in the name of “inculturation” in our time seem so often misguided and misplaced; it is worthwhile remembering, however, that it hasn’t always been this way, nor must it be.
One of the pieces that was shown in this article was a Gothic Revival chasuble that employed Chinese themed motifs:

This particular chasuble belonged to Dom Pierre-Célestin Lou Tseng-Tsiang, OSB (1871-1949) and is now in the possession of St Andrew’s Abbey in Bruges, Belgium. Dom Lou is shown here wearing it:

Now black and white photos of vestments, in my experience, can do one of two things: they can either make the vestments look better than they really appear in person, or they can do the exact opposite and not show forth just how spectacular they are. (The reason for this is the same in both instances: the lack of colour doesn’t adequately provide a view into all the textures, textile qualities and colour harmonies or disharmonies).

The case of Dom Lou’s chasuble is clearly an instance of the latter, for the modern colour image shows forth the full exquisiteness of this chasuble in its every detail, from the beauty of its colours and materials to the richness of its embroideries and their corresponding textures. Take a look:

As you can see, this is an absolutely exquisite piece of craftsmanship. Putting aside the themes for a moment, the silks, the bead work, the embroideries, the colours, they all combine into a splendid harmony. Added to that are the splendid Chinese motifs that make this a truly stunning and unique piece of liturgical art and, in my estimation at least, an example of one of the very best manifestations of liturgical inculturation.

Photo Credit: Photos of the chasuble by Cyril J. Law with kind permission of the Abbot of St. Andrew's Abbey, Bruges. Cyril also provided us with historical photos of Dom Lou. Thanks to him.

Follow Shawn Tribe on Facebook and Twitter.
Send in your news, photos or other feedback to him at

Upcoming Book Launch, Lectures, and Panel Discussion with Dr. Kwasniewski in Vienna

An announcement to any NLM readers who might be able to make it to the Karlskirche in Vienna on Passion Sunday, April 2: Una Voce Austria is sponsoring an afternoon's lectures and panel discussion for the Austrian launch of the German edition of Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis. (The book will be also be launched in Germany at the Liturgische-Tagung in Herzogenrath two days before.)

Full information may be found in the two images below. The lectures will be in German while the panel discussion will be conducted in English. After a break, a special Viennese form of the Solemn High Mass, the Five Minister Mass, will be celebrated.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Feast of the Annunciation 2017

This is the day which the Lord hath made; today the Lord hath looked upon the affliction of His people, and sent a Redeemer. Today a woman hath put to flight the death which a woman brought in; today, God become man remained what He was, and took on what He was not. Therefore let us devoutly consider the beginning of our redemption, and rejoice, saying, “ Glory to Thee, o Lord.” (The Antiphon of the Magnificat at Second Vespers of the Annunciation, according to the Dominican Use.)

The Annunciation, by Andrea Cavalcanti; from the pulpit of the church of Santa Maria Novella, the principal Dominican Church of  the city of Florence, 1445. (Image from Wikimedia commons by Sailko.)
Aña Haec est dies quam fecit Dominus: hodie Dominus afflictionem populi sui respexit, et redemptionem misit. Hodie mortem quam femina intulit, femina fugavit; hodie Deus homo factus, id quod fuit permansit, et quod non erat assumpsit. Ergo exordium nostrae redemptionis devote recolamus, et exsultemus dicentes: Gloria tibi Domine.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Samaritan Woman in the Liturgy of Lent

In the lectionaries of the various Latin rites, one of the most prominent Gospels of the Lenten season is that of the Samaritan woman who spoke to Christ at the well of Jacob (St John 4, 5-42). Although the Roman, Ambrosian and Byzantine Rites each read this Gospel on a different day, it appears in all three as a lesson of particular importance for the preparation of those who will be baptized at Easter or Pentecost.

In the Roman Rite, it is read on the Friday of the third week, joined with one of the most important epistles of Lent, Numbers 20, 1-13, in which Moses makes water run from the rock in the desert. This story was understood by the early Christians as a prefiguration of the sacrament of baptism, starting with St Paul himself, who tells us that “our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea. And all in Moses were baptized, in the cloud, and in the sea: and did all eat the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink; and they drank of the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.” (1 Cor. 10, 1-4) Moses striking the rock to make the water run from it is one of the most frequently depicted Biblical scenes in early Christian art; just in the paintings of the Roman catacombs, it appears over 70 times, along with numerous other representations on ancient sarcophagi.

Moses making the water run from the rock in a fourth-century fresco in the Catacomb of St Callixtus.
On the previous Sunday, the Lenten station is kept at the church of St Lawrence Outside-the-Walls, where anciently the catechumens underwent a formal examination of their Christian faith, the ritual known as the scrutiny. The Gelasian Sacramentary contains a beautiful prayer for them to be said on that day, “that they may worthily and wisely come to the confession of Thy praise; so that through Thy glory they may be reformed to the former dignity which they had lost in the original transgression.” At the same Mass, the Memento of the living has an interpolation to pray for their future godparents, and during the Hanc igitur, the names of the catechumens were read out loud. On the following Friday, the station is kept at another church of Rome’s most venerated martyr, St Lawrence ‘in Lucina’, nicknamed, like so many sacred places in the city, for the woman upon whose property it was originally built. Here, they would hear Christ speaking to the Samaritan woman of the “living water … springing up unto life everlasting”, and understand His words as a clear reference to baptism.
A piece of the gridiron of St Lawrence’s martyrdom, preserved in a reliquary in a side-altar of San Lorenzo in Lucina. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.
In his treatise on the Gospel of St John (tract 15, 10), St Augustine explains the woman as a type of the Church, “not yet justified, but waiting to be justified”, like the catechumens themselves. He also reminds us that the Samaritans were not part of the Jewish people; indeed, the Bible itself says that they were a mixed nation of Jews and pagans, observing the customs of both. (4 Kings 17, 24-41) So too, the early Church was a mixture of Jews and pagans, now united in Christ in whom “there is neither Jew nor Greek … for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3, 28) Augustine continues by saying, “Therefore, in her, let us hear ourselves (spoken of), and in her, let us recognize ourselves, and in her, let us give thanks to God for ourselves.” (i.e. for what He has done for us.)

The dedicatory inscription on the counter-façade of Santa Sabina in Rome, the only part of the church’s original mosaic decoration which survives, ca. 425 A.D. The two figures on the sides are “the church from the circumcision” on the left, and “the church from the gentiles” on the right. Photo courtesy of Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P.
In the Ambrosian Rite, the first Sunday of Lent is called “in capite jejunii – at the beginning of the fast”, a title also used for Ash Wednesday in medieval liturgical books of the Roman Rite. The remaining Sundays are named for their gospels, all taken from St John, the second Sunday being that of the Samaritan woman, the third ‘of Abraham’ (chap. 8, 31-59), the fourth ‘of the man born blind,’ (9, 1-38), the fifth of Lazarus (11, 1-45) and the sixth ‘of the Palms’ (11, 55 – 12, 11). On the second Sunday, the following antiphon is sung after the Gospel, while the deacon spreads the corporal on the altar in preparation for the Offertory. (As in the Roman Rite, most of the Mass propers use the Old Latin version of the Scriptures.)
For I will take you from among the gentiles, and I will pour upon you clean water; you shall be cleansed from all your iniquities. I will give you a new heart, and renew a righteous spirit within you. (Ezechiel 36, 24, 25 and 26.)
In the Roman Rite, the same prophecy of Ezechiel (though not exactly the same words) provides both the introit and the first epistle of the Mass of the Wednesday of the fourth week of Lent, on which day the catechumens were exorcized and blessed at the tomb of St Paul, the great Apostle of the gentiles.

The Ambrosian Missal contains proper prefaces for nearly every Mass of the temporal cycle, generally rather longer than the those of the Roman Rite. The Lenten prefaces of the Sundays are each based on the Gospel of the day, and that of the Samaritan woman reads as follows:
Truly it is worthy and just…through Christ our Lord. Who, to instill (in us) the mystery of His humility, being tired, sat at the well, and * asked of the Samaritan woman that a drink of water be given Him, even He that had created the gift of faith in her; and so He deigned to thirst for her faith, so that, as He asked water of her, He might enkindle in her the fire of divine love. * We therefore beseech Thy boundless compassion, that defying the dark depths of vice, and leaving behind the vessel of harmful desires, we may ever thirst for Thee, that art the fountain of life, and source of all goodness, and may please Thee by the observance of our fast. Through the same etc.
The words here noted between the stars form the basis of a Preface used in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in the first year of the three-year lectionary cycle, when the story of the Samaritan woman is read on the third Sunday of Lent. Since this crucial passage is not included among the readings of the second and third years, a rubric provides that it may be read on Sunday in place of the Gospels assigned to those years, or it may displace one of the ferial Gospels; a similar provision is made for the blind man and Lazarus.

The Orthodox church of Jacob’s Well, also known as St Photini’s, in the city of Nablus on the West Bank. The current church is the fifth structure to stand over the site, which has been venerated by Christians as the Well of Jacob since the fourth century.
In the Byzantine tradition, the story of the Samaritan woman is read in Eastertide rather than Lent, as is that of the man born blind; however, the association of it with the sacrament of baptism is just as clear as in the Latin rites. On the fifth Sunday of Easter, the following three exapostilaria are sung at the end of Matins; the first is that of the Easter season, the second relates to the Gospel of the day’s Divine Liturgy, and the third to the feast of Mid-Pentecost. (This latter is a particular custom of the Byzantine rite which celebrates the half-way point between Easter and Pentecost, the Wednesday before the Fifth Sunday.)
Exapostilarion of Easter  Having fallen asleep in the flesh as a mortal, O King and Lord, You rose again on the third day, raising up Adam from corruption, and abolishing death. O Pascha of incorruption, O salvation of the world!
of the Samaritan Woman  You reached Samaria, and talking with a woman, sought water to drink, my all-powerful Savior, who poured out water for the Hebrews from a sharp rock, and led her to belief in you: and now she enjoys life eternally in heaven.
of Mid-Pentecost  At the mid-point of the feast, Lover of mankind, you came to the temple and said: You who are full of thirst, come to me and draw living water welling up, through which you will all revel in delight and grace and immortal life.
Note how the exapostilarion of the Samaritan woman makes the same association between the Lord’s revelations to her and the episode of the water running from the rock that is made in the Roman Rite by the readings of the Mass. This reference to the waters of baptism continues in the third text, which quotes Christ’s second reference to the “living waters” in the Gospel of John, when He speaks in the temple during the feast of Tabernacles. (chapter 7, 37-39.)

The text of this second Gospel of the “living waters” is deferred by the Byzantine Rite to Pentecost itself, a custom which it shares with the Ambrosian and Roman Rites in different ways. The church of Milan preserves to this very day an ancient custom of celebrating two Masses on both Easter and Pentecost, the traditional days for the administration of baptism; one is the Mass “of the solemnity” itself, and another “for the (newly) baptized.” On Easter Sunday, the Gospel at the Mass for the baptized is John 7, 37-39, with the second part of the last verse omitted.
On great day of the festivity, the Lord Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him.
At the Mass for the baptized on Pentecost, this Gospel is repeated, adding the final words of verse 39 which are not said on Easter, “for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” In the Roman Rite, the same text provides the Communion antiphon for the Mass of the vigil of Pentecost, although the Gospel itself is read on the Monday of Passion Week.

The Byzantine Rite has traditionally honored the Samaritan woman as a saint, and she was often called both an Apostle and Evangelist. Her legend states that she, her five sisters and two sons were among those baptized by St Peter and the other Apostles on the first Pentecost, and afterwards traveled to preach in many places; after evangelizing Carthage, they came to Rome, where they were martyred under Nero. Her given name is Photeine (or “Photini” in the modern pronunciation), the Greek word for “bright”; the cognate “photistes – illuminator” is used in the Byzantine tradition as a title for the saint who first evangelizes a people, the best-known example of this being perhaps St Gregory the Illuminator of Armenia. With the latinized form of her name, Photina, she was added to the Tridentine edition of the Roman Martyrology by Cardinal Baronius, along with her family members, on March 20th, the day of her feast in the Byzantine Rite. Her troparion makes the same association between the waters of baptism and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost indicated by the placement of her Gospel on the Sunday after Mid-Pentecost.
Wholly illuminated by the divine Spirit, and sated of your thirst by the springs, you drank deeply of the water of salvation from Christ the Savior, all praiseworthy one, and shared it abundantly with them that thirst; o Great Martyr and Equal to the Apostles, Photini, entreat Christ our God to save our souls.

Dominican Mass in NYC for the Feast of St Vincent Ferrer

In honor of the patronal feast of St Vincent Ferrer, a Solemn Mass in the Dominican Rite will be offered on April 5 at 7:00 p.m., at the church of St Vincent Ferrer in New York City, located at 869 Lexington Ave. The church’s Schola Cantorum will sing a very nice selection of polyphony, the Missa Sancti Wilhelmi devotio by John Taverner (c. 1490-1545), In dedicatione templi by Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594), and Quod autem cecidit by Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650).

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: