Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Island and Basilica of St Julius

On both calendars of the Roman Rite, today is the feast of St John Bosco, who was canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1934, and added to the general calendar very shortly thereafter. However, his feast was not added to the Ambrosian Rite calendar until the promulgation of the post-Conciliar reforms; January 31st is traditionally the feast day of St Julius, a priest and confessor of the later 4th century. He is said to have been a Greek from the island of Aegina, who together with his brother Julian migrated to northern Italy in the days of the Emperor Theodosius I (379-95), and set about evangelizing the region. After they had built 99 churches in various places, Julius chose as the place for the 100th church an island in the middle of the Lago d’Orta, a lake near Novara in the Piedmont region. Unable to find anyone to take him to the island, which was infested with serpents, he spread his cloak on the waters and used it as a boat; upon reaching the island, he drove away the serpents, and established his church.

The Island of St Julius (Isola di San Giulio) in the Lado d'Orta. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Luca Casartelli)
Modern archeological research has in fact confirmed that a church was built in very ancient times on the island in the same place where a large basilica now stands dedicated to St Julius; he is also mentioned by the 8th century historian of the Lombards, Paul the Deacon. The current building dates from the 12th century, but has of course undergone numerous changes since then. Of particular interest within it are the pulpit, also of the 12th century, decorated with the symbols of the Evangelists, and some frescos of the late 15th century. I thought it would be nice to share these pictures, since Nicola found some old postcards with images of the island and the church.

The Basilica of St Julius (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Rollopack)
An old postcard showing the island from the other side.

An old postcard of the pulpit.
The bull symbolizing St Luke the Evangelist. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Wolfgang Sauber.)

Preaching from the Propers of the Mass — An Example from Ireland

(I post the following with the kind permission of Dom Mark Kirby, O.S.B., Prior of the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration at Silverstream Priory in Ireland. It first appeared at Vultus Christi. Dom Mark has long been a proponent of infusing homilies with the salt and pith of the Propers of the day's Mass, a practice that deserves far more use than it seems to get.—PAK)

LAST THURSDAY, our priest oblates (diocesan priests living in the spirit of the Rule of Saint Benedict, and spiritually anchored in the monastery, whilst labouring in the vineyard of the Lord) met at Silverstream for a day of recollection. I spoke to them of the Propers of the Mass: the Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion, as given in the Roman Missal and in the Roman Gradual. Together we reviewed article 65 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which text authorises the priest to preach on the Proper of the Mass, something rarely done.
65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
Our oblate, Father John Fisher, who serves in a parish that follows the usus recentior, took up the challenge and preached on the Introit of the Mass of the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Here is his homily.

Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Save us, O Lord our God! And gather us from the nations, to give thanks to your holy name, and make it our glory to praise you. (Ps 105: 47)

Before the singing of hymns was permitted at Mass after the Second Vatican Council, the introit (or Entrance Antiphon as it is now called) was sung by the choir as the priest made his way to the altar in the entrance procession. Some of you may well remember Canon Pentony’s famous choir singing those beautiful Latin texts. In the modern liturgy, the introit chant has been shortened to a one-line antiphon that is supposed to be sung but is usually recited by the priest. However, this simplification is no excuse for ignoring the meaning and importance of an integral text of the Mass which the Church, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives to her children to help them enter more fully into the sacred liturgy they are about to celebrate. Each Mass has its own unique antiphon. It is usually a verse from the psalms, the prayer book which Our Lord himself prayed while he was on earth, or from some other book of the Bible. The antiphon is meant to be a spiritual voice that welcomes us, sets the tone of the Mass of the day and points us in the direction of the deep spiritual meanings that the texts of that particular Mass want to reveal to us. You might sometimes have heard a particular priest welcome people at the start of Mass and say, “The theme of today’s Mass is….”. He needn’t have bothered! The tone or theme has already been set by the Entrance Antiphon.

If the antiphon is a voice, then who is it that is speaking? On rare occasions, on the feasts of saints, it is the voice of the actual saint being commemorated that day. But normally it is one of two voices: either the voice of Christ speaking to the Father, or the voice of the Church (which is the body of Christ) calling to Jesus Christ, her God and spouse. If we look at today’s antiphon it is easy to see that this is the voice of the Church, crying out to her Lord in desperation to save her and to lead her back from her exile so that she can then do what is her very purpose and destiny: to praise and thank her God.

When this psalm was written, the Jewish people experienced the pain of exile and alienation. They were evicted from the Holy Land and had to live for years in exile in Babylon, prisoners of a pagan people who did not share their religion or way of life. This pain has always been felt by the Church throughout her history and is most keenly felt today. The Church, unlike Israel, does not have a country to call her own. Christians must always live and work in a world that does not always accept the teachings of Christ and at times does not even tolerate our beliefs or morals. One of our earliest Christian writings, the Epistle to Diognetus, vividly describes the predicament of Christians in the Roman Empire:
“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language, or custom. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens; they participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country. They marry like everyone else, and have children, but they do not leave their unwanted children to die. They share their food but not their wives. … They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. … They love everyone, and by everyone they are persecuted. They are unknown, yet they are condemned; they are put to death, yet they are brought to life. … They are dishonoured, yet they are glorified in their dishonour; they are slandered, yet they are proven right. They are cursed, yet they bless; they are insulted, yet they offer respect. When they do good, they are punished as evildoers. Those who hate them are unable to give a reason for their hostility. In a word, what the soul is to the body, Christians are to the world.”
Today’s Entrance Antiphon reminds us that the Church has ever lived in this predicament. At certain times and in certain places she feels this alienation more sharply. Catholics here in the north often felt marginalised, aliens in their own country as they endured discrimination and hatred because of their religion. Today, that is the experience of good Catholics throughout the western world as countries that were traditionally Christian become secularised. We increasingly find people with power and the influence of the media not just scorning the gospel but trying to force us to conform to modern values which are profoundly anti-Christian. The ways of the nations, of the ‘modern world’, are not the ways of God. They are not our ways. They leave us hurt and alienated. In a world where liberal capitalism has run amok and over 80% of the world’s profit goes to 1% of its people, Christians can only cry out in the voice of our antiphon: “Save us O Lord! Gather us from the nations.” In our own area, where the fruits of the drug trade which begins with gangs in far off lands, bring only grief and anxiety to families, we can only cry out: “Save us O Lord! Gather us from the nations.” As the right to life of the unborn is threatened throughout Ireland so that the State would no longer “cherish all the children of the nation equally” as the Eighth Amendment currently does, we can only cry out: “Save us O Lord! Gather us from the nations.” And lest we ever become like England where one in five pregnancies now ends in abortion, or like Holland or Belgium where even the vulnerable sick and elderly are also killed, or like Canada where businesses must actually state that they uphold immoral practices including abortion in order to receive government grants, we pray to our Saviour with all our heart: “Save us O Lord! Gather us from the nations.”

In today’s readings God answers this cry. In the first reading he promises to send strong, prophetic leaders to his people who will teach them God’s ways and not the ways of false gods. Please pray at this time for our bishops and for all pro-life workers and politicians that the Lord will strengthen them and help them win the struggle to protect the most basic and precious right to life in Ireland. As Christians it is our duty to pray for this country and all its people and to try to influence it for the good: to be the soul for the body of the country, in the words of the Epistle to Diognetus. Let us not grow weary in this, our sacred duty. Let us pray with the responsorial psalm that our fellow citizens’ hearts will not be hardened but that they will hear the voice of Truth. In the gospel, Jesus defeated the evil spirits. He is the Holy One of God. Against him, the Prince of this world, the devil, cannot stand. As Ven. Fulton Sheen said: “God has his day. The devil has his hour.” Strong in this faith, may we endure our current dark hour in the history of civilisation knowing that soon the day will dawn when Christ the Sun of Justice will once again shine out in all his splendour. If we stay strong in faith and hope and active in charity we will merit some day to reach our true homeland with all the elect gathered from every nation. There will our happiness be complete as we give thanks to God for his mercy and goodness and find our eternal glory in praising Him.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Byzantine Subdiaconal Ordination in California

On December 31st, St Peter Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California, welcomed His Grace Benedict Aleksiychuk, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Bishop of Chicago, to celebrate the ordination of one of the church’s native sons, Philip Gilbert, to the orders of candle-bearer, reader, cantor, and subdeacon. We are very happy to share these pictures of this event with our readers, and to offer our congratulations to Mr Gilbert, to his family and to the whole community of St Peter - Mъногая и благая лѣта! There is a video of the ordination part of the ceremony at the bottom of this post; you can see other videos which cover the entire ceremony on the parish’s Facebook page.

The ordination was celebrated after Matins and the hierarchical vesting of the bishop, during which he is repeatedly incensed by the deacons.

The ordinand is led to the bishop, who says a prayer over him, after which he is given a lighted candle; he then recites the trisagion prayers and some troparia.

He receives the clerical tonsure...

Ignatian Retreat in Allentown, NJ, Feb. 17-19

Father Hernan Ducci of the Fraternity of Saint Joseph the Guardian will preach a Lenten retreat based on the Ignatian Exercises at the Church of Saint John the Baptist, located at 1282 Yardville-Allentown Road, in Allentown, New Jersey. The Spiritual Exercises comprise an ordered series of meditations and contemplations born from the profound spiritual experience St Ignatius, gained from his conversion and his time as the first Superior General of the Society of Jesus. These exercises purpose to help the retreatant discern God’s will for his own life.

In addition to the meditations, the traditional Mass will be sung each day, as well as parts of the Divine Office; there will also be plenty of opportunities for spiritual direction and Confession.

The retreat will begin in the early afternoon of Friday, February 16 and finish on the afternoon of Sunday, February 18, with the parish choral Vespers. (The First Sunday of Lent, President’s day weekend.) In order to cover the expenses (Fr. Hernan’s travel from France, food, donation to the parish, etc) we suggest a donation of $60. Also, please bring a sleeping bag.

To confirm your attendance please read the Google doc at this link and fill out the registration form. If you have any questions please contact Feel free to forward this invitation to any else you think would be interested.

Where Can Catholics Learn to Paint or Carve Icons? Go to

I am often asked for recommendations of classes that would be good for Catholics to learn traditional iconography. One place to consider is, which has just announced the first of its icon painting and icon carving courses for 2018. They are now taking students for their “Six Days of Creation” integrated series of workshops for different levels of experience. Go to their site for more details. a non-profit based in the US, founded in 2003, which offers short courses and workshops in a variety of locations around the world, but has its main focus in North America. It is founded by Orthodox Christians, and is welcoming and respectful to Roman and Byzantine Catholics.

All their classes in painting, carving and embroidery are always of the highest quality, and the work of two of their teachers has been featured in the past on this site. Some readers will be familiar with painter Marek Czarnecki, who is Catholic. I wrote about two icons of Western saints that he painted for Our Lady of the Mountains, in Jasper Georgia, here.

Here is his Saint Cecilia:

Another teacher that readers may be familiar with is the Canadian icon carver, Jonathan Pageau. Here is his icon of Jonah.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Who’s Afraid of Predestination?

Not the Roman Catholic Church, who prays in her central prayer, the Roman Canon:
Hanc igitur oblationem servitutis nostrae, sed et cunctae familiae tua, quaesumus, Domine, ut placatus accipias: diesque nostros in tua pace disponas, atque ab aeterna damnatione nos eripi, et in electorum tuorum jubeas grege numerari. 

We therefore beseech Thee, O Lord, to be appeased and accept this oblation of our service, as also of Thy whole family; and to dispose our days in Thy peace, and command that we be rescued from eternal damnation and numbered among the flock of Thine elect.
This petition is a liturgical distillation of the teaching of the Apostle Paul, as found especially in Romans 8 and Ephesians 1.
Who hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children through Jesus Christ unto himself: according to the purpose of his will … In whom we also are called by lot, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will. (Eph 1:5, 1:11).

For whom he foreknew, he also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of his Son; that he might be the firstborn amongst many brethren. And whom he predestinated, them he also called. And whom he called, them he also justified. And whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Rom 8:29–30).
Verifying yet again the Golden Axiom lex orandi, lex credendi, we find this truth perfectly enshrined in a number of places in the usus antiquior, such as the Dies Irae Sequence of the Requiem Mass, and in the following Secret from the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost:
Pro nostrae servitutis augmento sacrificium tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus: ut, quod immeritis contulisti, propitius exsequaris.

May this sacrifice of praise that we offer to Thee, O Lord, be for an increase of our servitude [i.e., our service to Thee]: that what Thou hast begun without our merits Thou mayest mercifully bring to completion.
In what is perhaps the most beautiful of all such liturgical testimonies, the Postcommunion for the usus antiquior Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a relatively recent addition from the 16th century (and incorporated into the general calendar in the 18th), reads thus:
Omnipotens æterne Deus, qui creasti et redemisti nos, respice propitius vota nostra: et sacrificium salutaris hostiæ, quod in honorem nominis Filii tui, Domini nostri Jesu Christi, majestati tuæ obtulimus, placido et benigno vultu suscipere digneris; ut gratia tua nobis infusa, sub glorioso nomine Jesu, æternæ prædestinationis titulo gaudeamus nomina nostra scripta esse in cælis.
O almighty and everlasting God Who didst create and redeem us, look graciously upon our prayer, and with a favourable and benign countenance deign to accept the sacrifice of the saving Victim, which we have offered to Thy Majesty in honour of the Name of Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: that through the infusion of Thy grace we may rejoice that our names are written in heaven, under the glorious Name of Jesus, the pledge of eternal predestination.[1]
The doctrine of predestination (with varying accents and nuances) was taught without embarrassment by all the Fathers of the Church, and received its definitive account in Question 23 of the Prima Pars of the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the twentieth century, Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange devoted much of his labor to explicating and defending the Angelic Doctor’s teaching on just this point, as, for example, in his excellent (if unimaginatively titled) book Predestination.

If anyone doubts that the Catholic Church has always taught and still teaches the doctrine of predestination — obviously, not an erroneous Protestant version of it, but the true notion — he may satisfy himself by consulting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 257, 600, 2012, 2782, and 2823. The Catechism deftly steers clear of the Dominican-Molinist controversy by merely repeating multiple times the statements of St. Paul, and adding only this gloss: “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he established his eternal plan of ‘predestination,’ he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace” (n. 600).

From the main portal of Notre Dame cathedral, Paris

Command that we be rescued from eternal damnation and numbered among the flock of Thine elect. With this pair of entreaties, the Roman Canon repudiates the universalist mentality of our age, which assumes that men will be saved unless they conscientiously and egregiously reject God. On the contrary, the Canon embodies the truth of the Catholic Faith as taught by the Fathers, Doctors, and premodern Popes of the Church, for whom man, due to his inheritance of original sin, cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he dies and rises with Christ in baptism.

Without entering here into subtle exegesis of John 3, we can say as a matter of fact that the consensus of Catholic theologians from ancient times until the early twentieth century was that mankind is a massa damnata (“condemned crowd”) and that Christ came into the world to save sinners from the destruction due to our sins, inherited and actual. The sole path of salvation is to be clothed with Christ,[2] incorporated into His Mystical Body, and to die in a state of sanctifying grace. As Scott Hahn says in a lecture on the Gospel of John, “the history of salvation is also the history of damnation”: Christ came into the world for judgment, to cause separation by revealing the truth and exposing darkness.[3] This is why the Roman Martyrology carefully records not only the names of each martyr, but the names of their persecutors as well.

Moreover, in utter opposition to Pelagianism, the Church teaches that God, not man, takes the first step in the renewal of our life; that all our sufficiency is from Him (2 Cor 3:5); that no man comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (Jn 6:44); that we become adopted sons of God by His predestinating purpose (Eph 1:5); that we persevere by His gift, not by our own efforts. In short, God must number us in the flock of His chosen ones; He knowingly and lovingly chooses us to be the “rational sheep” (as the Akathist hymn says) of His flock. He does not, as it were, happen to find us there in the sheepfold and express pleasant surprise; He brings us there and keeps us there.

All this the Roman Canon succinctly transmits in words as simple as they are sobering: Command that we be rescued from eternal damnation and numbered among the flock of Thine elect.

But why is this doctrine important to us spiritually?

In modern times we are constantly told how good we are, how well-intentioned, and how much we are victims of our environment or upbringing, entitled to various compensations. We are reassured of the greatness of man, of his dignity and rights. But we are in sore danger of forgetting fundamental truths about our condition. We are fallen beings alienated from God, from our neighbors, even from our very selves. We have no rights to stand on before God; we are like “filthy rags,” as Isaiah says (Is 64:4). We are utterly dependent on the divine Mercy at every moment — for our very existence, for our conversion to good, for our repentance from evil, for our escape from damnation, and above all, for the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus.

We stand at the edge of an abyss of neverending misery into which we may fall at any moment by mortal sin, if our life is snuffed out before we have repented of it, or if the Lord does not, in His mercy, prevent us from falling or, after we have fallen, grant us the gift of repentance. “Lead us not into temptation…” Lead us not into the abyss. Command that we be rescued from eternal damnation. This is reality, as opposed to the shallow fantasy of egoism, the “broad path that leads to destruction,” with which our contemporary culture envelops us.

We stand, too, at the edge of an upward abyss, that of the neverending bliss of heaven, into which we are drawn up out of ourselves, in reverse gravity, to the supernatural grandeur of the sons of God. This, too, is a gift we could never have merited; Christ alone won it for us by shedding His Precious Blood upon the Cross, in the one supreme sacrifice that is made present at every offering of the Holy Mass. It is precisely on the verge of making this sacrifice newly present in our midst that we humbly beseech the Lord: Command that we be numbered among the flock of Thine elect. Number us, O Lord, with the good thief to whom Thou didst say: “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.”

The doctrine of predestination has as its positive spiritual effects a deep and abiding thanksgiving to the Lord for His mercies without number, since He died for us while we were yet His enemies, that we might become His friends; a profound humility at having been chosen by God for no beauty of our own but solely that He might make us beautiful in His sight; a sober watchfulness and earnestness, lest our names be erased from the Book of Life; and, most of all, a constant recourse to prayer, that we will be established more and more in Christ, and not in ourselves, for it is by “being made conformable to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29), and in no other way, that our predestination is actually accomplished.

In response to so great a mercy, the Church places the words of the Psalmist on the lips of her priests as they receive the Precious Blood, price of our souls:
What shall I render to the Lord for all the things that He hath rendered to me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and I will call upon the Name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from mine enemies.
It is therefore of immense importance for nourishing the right faith of the people that the doctrine of predestination, transmitted pure and entire in the Roman Canon, be present to priests in their celebration of the Mass and to the people in their participation in it.[4]


[1] In yet another display of theological “neutralization,” the Novus Ordo — from whose calendar the feast of the Holy Name had initially been purged by Paul VI, no doubt because it was a Baroque accretion, only to be replaced later under John Paul II as an “optional memorial” — politely trims down this postcommunion to an acceptable banality: “May the sacrificial gifts offered to your majesty, O Lord, to honor Christ's Name and which we have now received, fill us, we pray, with your abundant grace, so that we may come to rejoice that our names, too, are written in heaven.” The doctrine is there, but as if muffled beneath several layers of sterile cotton.

[2] Cf. Rom 13:14, Gal 3:27; cf. Mt 22:12.

[3] Cf. Jn 9:39; cf. Jn 3:16–21, 5:24–29; Lk 12:51.

[4] Although not intended to be the focus of this article, it surely ought to be disturbing from the point of view of lex orandi, lex credendi that the sole anaphora of the Western Church, prayed every day at every Mass from ancient times until the 1960s, was displaced by alternative Eucharistic prayers in 1970 — a novelty and rupture the magnitude of which had never been seen in the history of any liturgical rite. See Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., “From One Eucharistic Prayer to Many: How it Happened and Why,” first published in the Adoremus Bulletin 2.4, 2.5, and 2.6 (September, October, and November 1996). Fr. Cassian quotes an Italian liturgist on the Roman Canon: “its use today is so minimal as to be statistically irrelevant.” (This was more true of the nineties than it is today, when we are enjoying some fruits of Benedict XVI's pontificate.) This rupture best illustrates the untenability of asserting that the usus antiquior and the usus recentior are merely two versions of the same thing, namely, the Roman Rite. It makes little difference that the passages from Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 are contained in the new lectionary (e.g., Weds of week 30 per annum, year I; 17th Sunday per annum, Year A; Thurs of week 28 per annum, year II; Immaculate Conception, 2nd reading), since readings come and go, like birds at a bird-feeder, whereas the danger of damnation and the divine mercy of predestination are woven into the very fabric of the traditional Roman rite. Moreover, most of the prayers that point to predestination in the usus antiquior have been either removed or toned down in the usus recentior, so that it would be much more difficult to establish that the revised liturgy teaches clearly and unambiguously this Scriptural and traditional doctrine.

EF Candlemas in Jersey City, New Jersey

On Friday, February 2nd, a Solemn Mass in the traditional rite will be celebrated at St Anthony’s Church in Jersey City, New Jersey, starting at 8:00 p.m, beginning with the traditional blessing of candles and procession. The church on located at Monmouth St between 6th and 7th; parking is available.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Septuagesima Sunday 2018

The Lord said to Adam: * Of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, thou shalt not eat; in the hour that thou shall eat thereof, thou shalt surely die. (The antiphon of the Magnificat at Vespers of the Saturday before Septuagesima.)

The prayer: Mercifully hear the prayers of thy people, O Lord, we beseech Thee; that we, who are justly afflicted for our sins, may be mercifully delivered for the glory of Thy Name.

Aña: Dixit Dóminus ad Adam: De ligno quod est in medio paradísi, ne cómedas: in qua hora coméderis, morte moriéris.
Oratio: Preces pópuli tui, quáesumus, Dómine, clementer exaudi: ut, qui juste pro peccátis nostris afflígimur, pro tui nóminis gloria misericórditer liberémur.

This recording comes from the Abbey of LeBarroux, which broadcasts the Hours live everyday, and has a few days worth of previous Offices available to listen and download, all at the following address:

Saturday, January 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcing the 2018 Norcia Summer Theology Program

William Blake, Job
From June 17–28, 2018, the Albertus Magnus Center for Scholastic Studies, in partnership with the Monastero San Benedetto, will hold its seventh summer theology program in Norcia, Italy.

This summer’s program will be: “Human Suffering and Divine Providence: Thomas’ Commentary on the Book of Job.” We will do a close reading of Thomas’ Commentary on Job, considered one of the saint’s finest and most interesting Biblical commentaries, written about an Old Testament book that has always been a favorite with preachers, moralists, and artists.
The affliction of just men is what seems especially to impugn divine Providence in human affairs. For although it seems irrational and contrary to Providence at first glance that good things sometimes happen to evil men, nevertheless this can be excused in one way or another by [invoking] divine compassion. But that the just are afflicted without cause seems to undermine totally the foundation of Providence. Thus the varied and grave afflictions of a specific just man called Job, perfect in every virtue, are proposed as a kind of theme for the question intended for discussion. (From Aquinas’ Prologue)
This year, the program is pleased to welcome as a guest tutor Dr. Michael Sirilla, director of the graduate theology program at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Additionally, Fr. Thomas Crean, OP, of the Dominican priory in Leicester, England, and Fellow of the AMCSS, will be joining us. Fr. Crean is currently teaching at Newman College, Ireland. Besides the daily seminars and lectures offered by the tutors, there will be a guest lecture by Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, OSB, Prior of the monastery, as well as Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, its founder. The two-week program culminates in an authentic scholastic disputation, moderated by one of the tutors.

In addition to the academic program, there is the opportunity to participate in the daily life of worship of the Benedictine monks who live and pray in the mountains overlooking the birthplace of SS. Benedict & Scholastica. Optional excursions include a trip to Orvieto, where St. Thomas lived while he was writing the Commentary on Job. 

Participants are encouraged to plan for extra time before or after the program in order to explore Rome, the glorious foundation seat of the Church. Indeed, the program ends on the day before the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, so participants could attend the Papal Mass at St. Peter’s on that day. Tickets will be arranged for all who are interested.

For more information, including costs and registration, visit the Summer Program details page.

The St. Albert the Great Center is dedicated to the revival of theology undertaken according to the mind and method of the great scholastics, and in particular, the work of St. Thomas Aquinas. All are welcome to apply, including graduate students, seminarians, clergy, and religious. The AMCSS will issue an official transcript with a grade for any who requests it.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Church of St Francis Xavier in Lucerne, Switzerland

The Jesuit church in the Swiss city of Lucerne, dedicated to St Francis Xavier, was built from 1666 to 1677, one of the great Baroque jewels of the 17th century, and like most churches in Switzerland, is very perfectly well preserved. Here are a few shots I took during a recent visit.

St Francis Xavier with the Virgin and Child (above), and imparting a blessing from heaven (middle).
An allegory of St Francis as the patron of Lucerne. At the top, he rides a chariot like the prophet Elijah, which is pulled by exotic animals (an elephant, a cheetah and a camel), symbolizing the various parts of the world reached by his missionary activities. On the white and blue banner of the city is written “To St Francis Xavier, Protector of the City and Region.” To the left, the citizens, led by the bishop, look to him in heaven; the façade of the church is seen at the bottom.

Past Articles on Septuagesima

Tomorrow evening, the season of Septuagesima begins in the traditional rite with Vespers, which are celebrated in violet; two allelujas are added to “Benedicamus Deo” and “Deo gratias” at the end, after which, the word alleluja will not be heard in the liturgy again until Easter night. I thought I would take the opportunity to remind our readers of the excellent four-part series by Henri de Villiers which we ran last year, “The Antiquity and Universality of Forelent.” The original French version was published on the website of the Schola Sainte Cecile in 2014.

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

You may also the following of interest:
The Stations Church of Septuagesima

Septuagesima in the Ambrosian Rite

In 2015, we noted a good piece on the subject by the well-known Catholic blogger Amy Wellborn; our link to her piece also refers to an article on the subject by liturgical scholar Dr Lauren Pristas.

Finally, in 2016, we published some photos from the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian, who revived a medieval custom of writing the word Alleluia on a large piece of parchment, and then after Vespers burying it in the churchyard, so that it could be dug up again on Easter Sunday. If anyone else does this and has pictures, we will be very glad to share them with our readers; you can send them to

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Happy New Year from the Artists in the Sacristy

Before we get too much further into the new year, we should catch up with some things from the old year, some more of the ever-popular amice tie designs made by our friends of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. As always, our thanks to their chaplain, Fr Jeffrey Keyes, for sharing these with us.

Mother and child, for January 22nd, the anniversary of Roe v. Wade
A particularly clever one for the Third Sunday after Epiphany in the EF, in reference to the words of the Collect, “stretch forth the right hand of Thy majesty to protect us.”
Arrows for St Sebastian
Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas
December 23rd, the O antiphon Clavis David, which makes for a nice little pun on Fr Keyes’ name.
St Andrew’s Cross

EF Candlemas in Brooklyn

The church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Brooklyn, New York, will have a solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the feast of Candlemas, featuring Tomás Luís de Victoria’s Mass O quam gloriosum. The Mass will begin at 7 pm; the church is located at 245 Prospect Park West. People are welcome to bring their own candles to be blessed.

Making Books in the Middle Ages

Here is an interesting discovery from the Youtube channel of the Getty Museum, which explains the whole process of making a book in the Middle Ages, from the creation of the parchment, to the ink, the illuminations, the binding and the cover. This really makes us appreciate the considerable time and effort that scribes and craftsman had to devote to the production of a just a single tome. The item shown at the beginning, and seen again towards the end with a high-relief metal cover, is a sacramentary from the Getty collection, made at the famous abbey of Fulda in Germany, in the second quarter of the 11th century. (MS Ludwig V2)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Feast of St Timothy

On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Timothy, bishop of Ephesus and martyr, the disciple to whom St Paul addressed two of his letters; he is also mentioned four times in the Acts of the Apostles, and eleven times in other letters of Paul. Apart from the information recorded about him in the Bible, there is an ancient tradition that he was martyred in his episcopal city in the year 97, beaten to death by a mob after publically protesting at an idolatrous religious festival. In the reign of the Emperor Constantius (337-361), his relics were translated to Constantinople, and placed in the church of the Holy Apostles, alongside those of Ss Andrew and Luke. In his treatise Against Vigilantius, who had written against the devotion and honor shown to the relics of the Saints, St Jerome sarcastically asks, “Was the Emperor Constantius guilty of sacrilege, when he transferred the sacred relics of Andrew, Luke, and Timothy to Constantinople? In their presence the demons cry out, and those who dwell in Vigilantius confess that they feel the presence (of the saints).”
St Timothy as a child, with his grandmother Lois, by Dutch painter Willem Drost (1650s), now in the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg. St Paul writes to Timothy in the second letter (1, 5) of “that faith which is in thee unfeigned, which also dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and in thy mother Eunice, and I am certain that in thee also.” (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Prior to the Tridentine liturgical reform, St Timothy’s feast was kept in several parts of northern and eastern Europe, (Germany, the Low Countries, followed by the Premonstratensian Order, Bohemia and Poland), and in some dioceses in Spain (followed by the Carmelites), but not at Rome itself. He is consistently assigned to January 24th, but there is an interesting discrepancy between the northern European and Spanish liturgical books; in the former, he is generally termed an Apostle, in the latter, a Bishop and Martyr. Of course, the term “apostle” is not used exclusively of the Twelve, but also applied to other early witnesses of the Apostolic preaching and teaching, St Paul first among them. The church of Rome traditionally honors another of his disciples, St Barnabas, as an Apostle, and the Byzantine Rite keeps a “Synaxis of the 70 Apostles” on January 4th, commemorating by name most of the people mentioned in passing in the Pauline letters.

St Timothy’s inclusion in the very first liturgical book of the Tridentine reform, the Roman Breviary issued by St Pius V in 1568, was therefore a novelty for Rome, but not an absolute novelty. It is noteworthy, however, that he was added to the Roman books as a Bishop and Martyr, even though at the time, the majority of places that kept his feast had it as that of an Apostle. As with the retention of St Catherine of Alexandria, and the completely ex novo addition of St Gregory the Wonderworker, this feature of the Tridentine calendar should be understood as part of the Catholic Church’s answer to the ideas of the Protestant reformation.

The story is told that at the end of his life, Luther lamented the fact that, having endeavored to rid the world of one Pope, he had ended up creating a thousand more of them, and if this story is not true, it is certainly indicative of the truth. The chaos which inevitably arose (and still arises to this day) from the concept of private interpretation of the Scriptures led almost immediately to violent disputes between the various groups of reformers; one of the most important such disputes was that between the Calvinists and Anabaptists. Calvin’s work was to a large degree a matter of both systematizing and radicalizing Luther’s very scattered ideas, but he was not at all willing or prepared to accept the much more radical teaching of the Anabaptists; namely, that if Scripture is indeed sufficient as the only rule of the Christian faith, any kind of clerical ministry is superfluous, and should be done away with.

In reaction to the logical conclusion of his own ideas, Calvin largely recreated the authority of the Church that he had rejected. As stated in the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on Calvinism, “The Reformers felt that they must restore creeds and enforce the power of the Church over dissidents. Calvin … built his presbytery on a democratic foundation — the people were to choose, but the ministers chosen were to rule. Christian freedom consisted in throwing off the yoke of the Papacy, it did not allow the individual to stand aloof from the congregation. He must sign formulas, submit to discipline, be governed by a committee of elders. A new sort of Catholic Church came into view, professing that the Bible was its teacher and judge, but never letting its members think otherwise than the articles drawn up should enjoin. … the great iconoclast … makes the visible Church supreme over Christians, assigns to it the prerogatives claimed by Rome, enlarges on the guilt of schism, and upholds the principle Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.”

The words “presbytery” and “committee of elders” are particularly significant here, for it was in the Swiss theocratic republics like Calvin’s Geneva that episcopal governance of the Church was replaced by presbyterian government, “presbyteros” being a Greek word for “elder.” From there, it was copied by John Knox and brought to Scotland, where the new religion came to be known as Presbyterianism, to distinguish it from that of the Anglican Church, which retains the office of the bishop.

In the figure of St Timothy, therefore, who is received into the liturgical tradition of the Roman Church not as an Apostle, but as a Bishop and Martyr, we have a clear statement that the episcopacy as an institution rests on Scriptural foundations. St Paul, in whose letters the reformers claim to find their teaching, writes to him as follows: “A faithful saying: if a man (singular) desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”, and then lays down the qualities necessary for such a man “who will have care of the Church.” (1 Tim. 3, 1-5). At the very beginning of this letter (1, 3), Paul writes that he had commanded Timothy to remain at Ephesus, the city to whose church Paul himself had previously addressed a letter, whose angel St John addresses in the Apocalypse (2, 1-7), and where the latter is traditionally said to have died.

The Martyrdom of St Timothy, depicted in a Byzantine Menologion of the second quarter of the 11th century; now in the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons, cropped.)
Shortly after Timothy’s martyrdom, St Ignatius of Antioch, while passing through Asia Minor on the way to his death in Rome, wrote a letter to the church of Ephesus, in which he refers to the “presbytery” of the city three times, but always in connection with the bishop. “For your justly renowned presbytery, worthy of God, is fitted as exactly to the bishop as the strings are to the harp.” (chapter 4) His other letters speak in similar terms of the importance of the bishop’s role in the Church, except, significantly, the one addressed to the Church of Rome, which “presides in charity”; they repeatedly extol the importance of peace, harmony and a real, visible unity within the Church, all of which are conspicuously lacking among the early reformers. Therefore, if episcopal governance of the Church is a yet another corruption, it is one that rests on the foundation of the Bible, and was built by the Apostles themselves and their immediate successors.

St Paul speaks of his disciple Titus less often than Timothy, four times in 2 Corinthians, and once each in Galatians and 2 Timothy, but also addressed an epistle to him, “my beloved son according to the common faith.” (1, 4) In the latter, before enumerating the qualities of the good bishop, he says that he left him on the island of Crete “to establish elders (presbyterous) from city to city”; it is the bishop who establishes the “elders”, not the other way around. (1, 5-10) There does not appear to be any tradition of devotion to St Titus in any Western liturgy before 1854, when Blessed Pius IX added his feast to the universal calendar, while raising the ranks of Ss Timothy and Ignatius of Antioch. This would seem to be a liturgical answer to some of the Biblical and Patristic scholarship of that age, which often claimed quite openly that the Apostles themselves and their immediate successors did indeed corrupt Christ’s teaching, with Paul the first and worst among them.

In the post-Conciliar calendar reform, Ss Timothy and Titus were consolidated into a single feast, and moved to January 26th. St Timothy’s former day is now occupied by St Francis de Sales, who died on the feast of the Holy Innocents in 1622. As a priest of the diocese of Geneva, then as its bishop for 20 years (1602-22), he helped to bring over 70,000 persons, the majority of them Calvinists, back to the Catholic Church.

Solemn Mass, February 1st, Newman Center, Wabash College, Indiana

The Newman Center of Wabash College and Una Voce Lafayette are co-sponsoring a Solemn High Mass in the Usus Antiquor at the Pioneer Chapel on the Wabash campus in Crawfordsville, Indiana, on February 1st (Feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch) 7:30 PM. Two alumni of the college (Fr. Royce Gregerson '09 and Fr. Ryan McCarthy '95) will act as Celebrant and Deacon, with the role of Subdeacon filled by the Acting Chaplain of UV Lafayette, Fr. Christopher Roberts.

A detail of potential interest: since Wabash is an all-male college, the mass will be served and sung entirely by men and, according to the original directives of Pope St. Pius X, will be celebrated with a true liturgical choir, the singers seated with priests and servers in the sanctuary of the chapel. (Never fear -- ladies are still more than welcome to attend the Mass!)

EF Solemn Mass in San Francisco after the Walk for Life This Saturday

For the seventh year in a row, the National Shrine of Saint Francis of Assisi in San Francisco, California, will hold a Solemn High Mass in the traditional rite at the conclusion of the West Coast Walk for Life, which will take place this coming Saturday. The church is located at 610 Vallejo Street in San Francisco; the Mass will begin at 5 pm. Dr William Mahrt of Stanford University will direct the schola cantorum, singing Byrd’s Mass for Three Voices, and motet Ave Verum, plus the Gregorian propers for the feast of St John Chrysostom.

A New Blog on Catholic Culture and Beauty by Dr Carrie Gress

I would like to draw your attention to this new Catholic blog: Carrie Gress is a mother, journalist and writer, and a philosopher who specializes in beauty and aesthetics, and studied Jacques Maritain for her doctorate.
With such a wide range of interests, all of which are integrated with her faith, I would say she was a Renaissance lady, if I weren’t somewhat negative on Renaissance culture! So, how about baroque lady instead?
Some of you will be familiar with Dr Gress from her articles on National Catholic Register and her books, most notably The Marian OptionShe has courage as well, braving the ire of secular feminists by promoting the values of traditional Catholic femininity and motherhood, intelligently and sensitively applied to modern life.
This blog will cover the full range of her interests and allow her to express her insights in a more personal way. Here is a recent post for you to enjoy, entitled, The Charism of Craftsmanship. In this short but deep exploration of the virtue of craftsmanship, she draws on the writing of Maritain and Marsilio Ficino, and writes of the need for discipline and hard work as well as inspiration in order to create objects of beauty. She highlights the life of Leonardo as an example of a great talent and genius who lacked such discipline, and therefore took years to complete projects. 
She has subtitled the blog, Reclaiming Beauty in the Everyday. Even this idea runs deeper than a simple need for gratitude. We can’t respond to beauty or create it unless we notice joyfully what is good in the world around us.
And I mean this world. Here. Today. 
If we don’t have that facility for appreciating both the details and the grand vista, we not only impair our facility for grasping the good in what we see, we risk degenerating into the opposite - miserable people who only notice and complain about what is wrong in the world. This is not only bad for us, it has a negative impact on those around us; if we are Catholics, it confirms the prejudices about Catholics of those who reject the Church, believing that it only engenders shame and misery. 
This idea was drummed into me nearly 30 years ago by someone who pointed out to me that this negative profile corresponded perfectly... to me! He suggested that as an antidote, in my daily meditation and prayers, I should write out the good and beautiful things that I noticed around me, and thank God each day for these blessings, praying on my knees. This simple exercise had such a profound effect on me that I still do it daily. (For any who are interested, I wrote about this on my blog The Way of Beauty, and I recommend that any artist who is serious about creating beautifully should consider it too.)
Here is a meme from Carrie’s blog that says it well:

You can also listen to her on Catholic Answers live with Cy Kellet this coming Friday, at 6 pm EST.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Feast of St Sebastian in Milan

In the year 1576, Milan was devastated by a particularly severe outbreak of the plague; several of the episodes later noted in the cause of St Charles Borromeo’s canonization relate to his pastoral care of the sick and dying in this period. As part of a vow made to end the disaster, the city government built a church dedicated to one of the most popular Saints to invoke in times of plague, St Sebastian, whose mother, according to St Ambrose, was a native of Milan. The cornerstone was laid in 1577, and the building completed in 1616; it is still to this day owned and administered by the city of Milan, and known in Italian as the “Tempio Civico” (civic temple) of St Sebastian. Each year on the patronal feast day, during the principal Mass, representatives of the municipality offer a certain number of candles, and enough oil to fill a votive lamp, as part of the fulfillment of the vow made in perpetuum, still being honored after almost four and a half centuries!

The following pictures of this year’s Mass come to us from our Ambrosian correspondent, Nicola de’ Grandi. We start, however, with two pictures (also provided by Nicola) of the same event from the days of the great Blessed Ildefonse Schuster. In the first of these, we see the lighting of the “faro”, a spherical metal frame covered in a thin layer of cotton, which is lit on fire at the beginning of the Mass in the Ambrosian Rite; this is done only on the feasts of Martyrs, and only in their own churches. Below, we also have a video of the lighting of the faro this year, very kindy provided by Mr Luca Geronutti, and edited for our use by Mr Marc Williams, with our thanks!

This appears to have been taken during the sermon; note the mitred canons!
From this year’s ceremony: the altar decorated for the feast, with the faro suspended in front of it.
A better view of the faro; note the palm branch and crown of martyrdom which decorate the Cross.

EF Candlemas in London

The church of Our Lady of the Assumption and St Gregory, located on Warwick St in London, England, will have the traditional Candlemas blessing of candles and procession, followed by Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form, with William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices, and motets by Byrd and Orlando Lassus. The celebrant and preacher will be by Fr Benedict Nivakoff, prior of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia; the ceremony will begin at 6:30 pm,

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