Saturday, September 29, 2018

Liturgical Notes on the Feast of St Michael and All Angels

The traditional title of today’s feast is “The Dedication of St Michael the Archangel”, a term already found in the 8th century Lectionary of Wurzburg, the oldest of the Roman Rite that survives, and in the ancient sacramentaries. The Martyrology erroneously refers this feast to the dedication of the famous shrine of St Michael on Mt Gargano in the Italian region of Puglia, following a medieval tradition attested by William Durandus at the end of the 13th century. In reality, the title comes from the dedication of a church built sometime before the 7th century on the via Salaria, about seven miles from the gates of Rome, and remained in use long after the basilica itself fell completely to ruin. The traditional Ambrosian liturgy, which borrowed the feast from Rome, has in a certain sense preserved the memory of its origin better than the Roman Rite itself; not only does it use the Roman name, but it also takes several of the Mass chants, as well as the Epistle and Gospel, from the common Mass for the dedication of a church.

The central panel of The Last Judgment, by Rogier van der Weyden, 1446-52, showing Christ above, and below, St Michael weighing the souls of the dead.
Despite the fact that the feast’s title refers specifically only to St Michael, September 29th is really the feast of all the Angels, as stated repeatedly in the texts of both the Office and Mass. The Introit is taken from Psalm 102, “Bless the Lord, all ye his angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute his word, hearkening to the voice of his orders.”

This text is repeated in part in the Gradual.

The Communion is taken from the Old Latin version of the canticle Benedicite, “Bless the Lord, ye angels of the Lord: sing a hymn, and exalt him above all forever.” (Daniel 3, 58)

The collect of the Mass makes no reference to St Michael at all: “O God, who in wondrous order assign the duties of Angels and of men: mercifully grant that our life on earth be guarded by those who continually stand in Thy presence and minister to Thee in heaven.”

The Lauds hymn of the Office speaks in its first stanza of all the Angels, and in the following three of Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the only Archangels specifically named in the Bible. In the Greek version of the book of Tobias (12, 15), however, St Raphael refers to himself as “one of the seven holy Angels, who present the prayers of the saints, and who go in before the glory of the Holy One.” This gave rise to a Byzantine custom of depicting seven Archangels standing together around the Lord; many icons of this motif give names to the remaining four from various apocryphal sources. One is called Uriel, who is mentioned several times in the Book of Enoch which St Jude quotes in his epistle (verses 14-15). The names of the remaining three are not the same in all sources; in the 19th century Russian icon seen below, they are given as Jegudiel, Selaphiel and Barachiel.

The Byzantine feast of all the Angels is kept on November 8th, and like the Roman feast, originated with the dedication of a church; this was a basilica in Constantinople known as the Michaelion, traditionally said to have been built by Constantine himself. The formal title of the feast is “The Synaxis of the Great Commanders (ἀρχιστρατήγων) Michael and Gabriel, and the rest of the Bodiless Powers.” Curiously, the liturgical texts of the feast make no reference to St Raphael, nor to any of the other Angels, nor to the origin of the celebration.

In the Middle Ages, many places imitated the Roman custom of celebrating a second feast of St Michael, commemorating the famous apparition which led to the building of the shrine on Mt Gargano. In northern Europe, however, we find instead the feast of “St Michael on Mount Tumba”, the Latin name of the celebrated Mont-St-Michel, as for example in the Use of Sarum, which kept it on October 16th. A votive Mass of all the Angels was already in common use in the early ninth century, as attested by Alcuin of York, and is present among the votive Masses in every medieval missal. However, only very rarely does one find a feast of St Gabriel or of the Guardian Angels in the pre-Tridentine period; a Mass of St Raphael is sometimes found among the votive Masses especially to be said for the sick, but I have seen no reference to an actual feast day for him in the Medieval period.

In the year 1670, Pope Clement X added to the general Calendar of the Roman Rite a feast of the Guardian Angels, which had been granted to the Austrian Empire by Paul V at the beginning of the century. The feast was kept in some places on the first Sunday of September, but the common date, October 2, was chosen as the first free day after the feast of St Michael.

The Three Archangels and Tobias, by Francesco Botticini, 1470
Pope Benedict XV, who reigned from 1914 to 1922, took a particular interest in devotion to the Angels. At the end of 1917, he raised the feast of St Michael to the highest grade, double of the first class, along with the March 19 feast of St Joseph. In 1921, he added the feasts of Ss Gabriel and Raphael to the general Calendar, the former on the day before the Annunciation, the latter on October 24 for no readily apparent reason. The feast of St Michael’s Apparition was removed from the General Calendar in 1960; in the post-Conciliar liturgical reform, Ss Gabriel and Raphael have been added to September 29th, and their proper feasts suppressed, along with the traditional reference in the title to the church dedication.

All-Night Vigil at Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Manhattan, Oct. 5-6

On October 5-6, First Friday and First Saturday, there will be an all-night vigil of Adoration before the Most Blessed Sacrament at the Pontifical Shrine and Parish Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Manhattan, located at 448 East 116th Street. The opening Mass will be offered in the Extraordinary Form, beginning at 7:30 pm, followed by the Stations of the Cross. At approximately 9:00 pm, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed and enthroned on the high altar; silent Holy Hours and vocal prayers will be offered throughout the night. At 4:30 am, there will be an indoor procession with the Blessed Sacrament, followed by Benediction, and a closing Mass in the Extraordinary Form, beginning at 5:00 a.m. Mass intentions and candle offerings are available for this vigil. Gentlemen are invited to serve as acolytes for the Masses, the Stations of the Cross, Exposition, Procession and Benediction; ladies and gentlemen are invited to lead the prayers throughout the night. Benefactors and volunteers to assist in bringing and preparing refreshments in the meeting room, serving as ushers to guide the faithful, especially elderly and disabled faithful to the facilities of the stairs and restrooms.

A Private Shrine of Ss Cosmas and Damian

After seeing our post on Ss Cosmas and Damian two days ago, reader Patrick Werick very kindly sent in these photos of a relief sculpture of them which he commissioned after invoking their intercession and being cured of an illness; it is kept in a little shrine dedicated to them in his house. The artist, Becky Quain, sculpted the image out of clay, created a silicone mold, then a plaster mother-mold, and finally cast it in plaster in September of 2017. She applied gold leaf for their halos, and painted in their names, and the black leg of the Saints’ patient. The miracle depicted is recounted in the Golden Legend, that shortly after Pope Felix IV built their basilica in Rome in the year 527, the guardian was afflicted with a cancer that destroyed one of his legs. As he was sleeping one night, Cosmas and Damian came to him, and not only removed the diseased leg, but substituted it with a new leg taken from the body of an Ethiopian, who had died that very day and been buried in the cemetery of the nearby church of St Peter-in-Chains.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Dominican Vocation Film from 1960

I am sure our readers will find this vocational film made by the Dominican Order in 1960 very interesting, despite the almost completely expressionless voice of the narrator. It was filmed at St Albert the Great College in Oakland, California, and seems to have been made not by professionals, but by the fathers of the house themselves. There are several scenes of the Mass, and one of the Exsultet being sung at the Easter vigil; there is also a brief but lovely scene of a young friar caring for an elderly one, while the narrator recites the words from the antiphon Media vita, the prayer that “we not be cast off in our old age by the Lord, but when our strength shall have failed, He shall not depart from us.” (This was the verse that St Thomas Aquinas could never hear without weeping.) As is almost always the case with such videos from the late ’50s and early ’60s, there are also a few worrisome signs: the almost featureless chapel of the cooperator brothers, the table-altar in the student brothers’ chapel, with a very modern-art crucifix, and the chasuble used at Mass.

Back in July, we shared a vocational film made for the Franciscans in 1962, starring Jack Nicholson, who was then 25 year old, as a young friar looking back on his path to priestly ordination.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Legend of Ss Cosmas and Damian

Saints Cosmas and Damian are said to have been brothers from Arabia and physicians, who left their native place and settled in the Mediterranean port city of Aegea in Cilicia, modern south-east Turkey. They practiced medicine without taking any fee for their services, for which reason the Greek Church gives them the title “Unmercenary Saints”, (ἀνάργυροι, literally ‘un-moneyed’, Slavonic ‘безсребреники’), a title which they share with several others. During the persecution of Diocletian at the beginning of the fourth century, their Christian charity brought them to the attention of the local Roman governor, and they were martyred for the Faith, along with their brothers Anthimus, Leontius and Euprepius. By the 5th century there were two churches named for them in Constantinople, and in 527, Pope Felix IV converted a building in the Roman Forum into a church in their honor. This church is particularly important not only because the original apsidal mosaic is still preserved, although much restored, but also because it was the first “sanctuarium” in Rome, i.e., a church named for Saints, but with no material connection to them. (Churches of the Virgin Mary are an obvious exception.)

The apsidal mosaic of the Church of Ss Cosmas and Damian in Rome. On the far left, Pope Felix IV offers the church which he has built to Christ and His Saints. One of the two brothers is presented to Christ on the left by Saint Paul, the other by St Peter on the right. Peter and Paul, as the patron Saints of Rome, are closer to Christ, and dressed as Roman senators; Cosmas and Damian are wearing clothes that evidently would have look foreign to the eyes of a sixth-century Roman, and their faces are darker. On the far right, St Theodore, whose church is not far away on the other side of the Forum, balances the composition; as a Greek, he is also dressed as a foreigner. Above St Paul’s head, a phoenix, the symbol of the resurrection of the body, perches on a leaf of a palm tree.
They are among the Saints named in the Canon of the Roman Mass and the traditional form of the Litany of the Saints; along with four other Unmercenaries, (Cyrus and John, Panteleimon and Hermolaus), they are also named in the Preparation Rite of the Byzantine Divine Liturgy. The Emperor Justinian I (527-65) attributed to their intercession his recovery from a serious illness, and granted special privileges to the city of Cyrrhus in Syria, where their relics had been brought after their martyrdom. Many churches now claim to have their relics, among them the Jesuit church of St Michael the Archangel in Munich.

In the fifteenth century, they became particularly prominent in Florence as patron Saints of the de facto (and later de jure) ruling family, the Medici, whose name means “doctors.” In 1437, the Dominican convent of San Marco, newly established in an old Benedictine foundation, was completely renovated at the family’s expense. The painter Fra Angelico, one of the founders of the community, was commissioned to do a large altarpiece depicting the Madonna and Child surrounded by various Saints, with Cosmas and Damian kneeling before them in front of the group.

The main panel of the San Marco altarpiece, by Blessed Fra Angelico, 1438-40
The predella panels depict events from their story as given in the Golden Legend of Bl. Jacopo da Voragine. In the first, a woman named Palladia, who had spent all her money on doctors without being cured (like the woman with the issue of blood in the Gospels), is healed of an unspecified ailment by the brothers. She then compels Damian to accept a reward, at which Cosmas is so indignant that he states that he wishes to be buried apart from his brother, but the Lord Himself appears to Cosmas in a dream and excuses Damian.
The five brothers are hauled before a proconsul named Lysias, who orders them to worship an idol, shown on the far right. (Fra Angelico shares with his contemporary Piero della Francesca and other Tuscan artists of that era a predilection for depicting people in unusual hats; this comes from seeing Eastern clergymen during the great ecumenical council of reunion (1431-49), which was moved from Ferrara to Florence while he was working on this project.)

Missa Cantata for the Feast of the Holy Rosary in San Rafael, California

The chapel of the Most Holy Rosary in San Rafael, California, will have a Missa cantata for its titular feast, on Sunday October 7th, sung by the schola of the Benedict XVI Institute and the San Francisco based Schola Sancta. The Rosary will be said before the Mass, starting at 11:15, in conjunction with the US Rosary Coast-to-Coast, with the Mass itself beginning at 12:15. The liturgy also marks ten continuous years of the traditional Mass being celebrated in this church by Fr William Young. The church is located at St Vincent’s School for Boys, 1 St Vincent’s Drive.

Trends in Church Architecture - The Return to Tradition

Yesterday, Aleteia published a nice little article about the return to beauty in church building, with a slideshow highlighting six American churches built within the last 15 years or so. These are all nice examples of the trend away from the ugliness of modern architecture, which continues to grow as the Church slowly, painfully gets over its unrequited love for the modern world and all it represents. One of them, St Benedict’s Parish in Chesapeake, Virginia, run by the FSSP, is also one of the first churches in the world to be designed and used exclusively for the Extraordinary Form since the 1960s; it was dedicated on March 5, 2011 by H.E. Francis X. DiLorenzo, the bishop of Richmond, Virginia, and canonically erected as a parish less than a year later. They are also faithful contributors to our NLM photoposts.

Holy Saturday
Blessing of water on Epiphany

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

An FSSP First Mass in Italy

On June 23rd, the FSSP celebrated the priestly ordination of five of its members at the parish church of Heimenkirch, Germany, very close to their International Seminary of St Peter in Wigratzbad. Among them was Fr Dimitri Artifoni, born and raised in the northern Italian city of Bergamo, who is now the Fraternity’s second Italian priest; he is currently serving at their Roman parish, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. On the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, Fr Dimitri was able to return to his native city and celebrate solemn Mass there for the first time, at the church of the Holy Spirit. The Mass was served and attended by several of his confrères; once again, it is very encouraging to see how young these fellows are who devoting their lives and their priestly ministry to the preservation of the traditional Catholic liturgy. Congratulation to Fr Dimitri, and all the new priests of the FSSP - ad multos annos!

Tradition will always be for the young!

Pray for Rain and Dig for Water! A Traditional Approach to Overcoming a Creative Block

One of my students at www.Pontifex.University has been commissioned to contribute to an exhibition, and has to create one painting a month for the coming year. She asked me if I had any experience of artist’s block when approaching deadlines, saying she was beginning to feel some anxiety about whether or not she would be able to paint at her best, and this was inhibiting her.

The best I could do was suggest the following to her as my personal approach to dealing with it. I can’t promise it will work for everyone, but it has always worked for me, so it might be of help to some of you out there who a facing a similar situation too.

1. Stick to a routine
Schedule the time and paint, regardless of how you feel, and just do your best. Put pen to paper, fingers to the keyboard (as I am doing now), or brush to canvas, and make it happen. Painting engages the intellect, and I find that usually my work isn’t actually affected by how I feel very much. Also, the action of painting will induce a particular feeling more in harmony with the activity, and so it will be more enjoyable once I actually get going. Aside from scheduled breaks (which are a good idea), during your scheduled time never give up and go and do something else instead, such as washing the dishes...or teaching yourself to juggle (which is what I did while studying for my finals at university - I learned to juggle, but I’m not convinced it did much to raise my degree classification.) This is where past discipline and practice help. The more ingrained the good habits and skills are, the better the quality of the work, regardless of mood. In a totally different context, the South African golfer, Gary Player always used to say something that is nevertheless apropos: ‘The more I practice, the luckier I get.’ 

2. Set up an icon corner and pray
Create your prayer corner in the traditional form (Mary on the left, Crucifixion in the center, risen Christ on the right) and pray to it (look at the icons, stand, bow for the doxology etc).
Here’s a simple icon corner I created for my courtyard garden where I live. The plants are fairly new so I am waiting for them to mature - and for the vines to climb up the frames - but it’s getting there.
If you can sing, even just simple monotone chant, all the better. Pray some sort of prayer for guidance, but I suggest the following:

In the name of the Father Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen
Glory to you O God , Glory to You!

Prayer to Holy Spirit: O Heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, Treasury of Goodness and Giver of life: come and abide in us. Cleanse us from every stain of sin and save our souls, O Gracious Lord.

Trisagion Prayer: Holy God. Holy Mighty. Holy Immortal Have mercy on us.(3)
Glory be to the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, both now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen
All Holy Trinity, have mercy on us. Lord, forgive our sins. Master, pardon our transgressions. Holy One, visit and heal our infirmities, for the glory of Your Name.

Lord, have mercy.(3)

Glory be...
Our Father...

Lord have mercy (3)

Way of Beauty prayer: God be in my thoughts and words and deeds. Send your Holy Spirit that I many complete your will, grace responding to grace. May the beauty of my work inspire those who see it to love as Christ loved, that through worship of you and charity to others, all may know His peace and joy.

3. A spiritual exercise for anxiety reduction
If you really have to deal with feelings of deep anxiety, adopt the method of analysis of fears and resentments that I outline in my book The Vision for You. I have been doing these spiritual exercises daily for nearly 30 years now, and there is no anxiety yet that it hasn’t been able to dissipate.

If I were to summarize the approach, two sayings come to mind:

Pray for rain and dig for water! or

Work like it depends on you, pray like it depends on God.

And finally, if none of that works, then try the secular method: stare at the blank canvas, or blank page, and think of a clever justification for it, as it is, as a work of art. Ideally, this will be peppered with pseudo-intellectual jargon. Then call yourself a cutting-edge Minimalist.

The quality of the work is as good as the justification you create - and remember it doesn’t actually have to make sense, so you’ll get away with any old gobbledygook as long as you can keep a straight face as you do it. After, all, that’s what most other people have done for last 100 years.

What is it? is a stupid question’ - a blank canvas named by David Clayton (copyright 2018)

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Blessed Hermann the Cripple

Blessed Hermannus, whose feast day is kept in some Benedictine houses on September 25, is usually called “Hermann the Cripple” or “the Lame” in English, but his Latin appellation “Contractus - the deformed” (literally ‘the contracted one’) is really more accurate, as is so often the case with Latin. The combination of congenital defects from which he suffered made him “not simply a cripple, but ... practically helpless”, writes Alban Butler. Born in 1013 to a noble family in Swabia, modern southern Germany, he survived childhood by some miracle of God’s providence, and was entrusted at the age of seven to the Benedictine abbey on Reichenau Island on the lake of Constance. He was professed at the age of twenty, and lived as a monk for twenty years more.

Although he was barely able to move without assistance, he was a polymath and a genius, well-versed in theology, music, astronomy, mathematics, Latin, Greek and Arabic. Students came to learn from him from many parts of Europe, and his intellectual achievements were such that he was known as the wonder of his age. Among his works are the earliest surviving medieval chronicle of the whole of human history, and a treatise on mathematics and astronomy; he was also able somehow to build both musical and astronomical instruments. Above all, however, his name will live in blessed remembrance as that of the composer of the Marian antiphons Alma Redemptoris Mater and Salve Regina. His cultus was officially approved by the Holy See in 1863. Beate Hermanne, ora pro nobis!

A manuscript illustration of one of Bl. Herman’s treatises on astronomy.

Historical Vestments from an Exhibition in Vilnius, Lithuania

Our thanks to Mr Robert Prybyla for sending us these photographs from an exhibition of liturgical vestments which recently took place in his native city of Vilnius, Lithuania. I thought these would particularly interesting to our readers since a number of them are embroidered with scenes, rather than just floral patterns, something which is rather unusual in many parts of the Catholic world. The exhibition, entitled “Embroidered Heaven”, featured vestments from the 15th-20th centuries that were once used in churches of the archdiocese; it was held in the Church Heritage Museum, which was established in 2009 in what was formerly the church of St Michael the Archangel, a strictly cloistered convent of Bernardine nuns.

The church and convent were founded in 1599 by Leo Sapiega (1555-1637), who held several high offices in the government of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. For devotees of the Divine Mercy Devotion, Bl Michał Sopočko, the confessor of St Faustyna Kowalska, was rector of the church and chaplain of the Bernardine nuns here from 1934-1938. The image of Divine Mercy, which was painted in Vilnius in 1934, was initially hung in the convent corridor, until the archbishop granted permission to place it in the church itself. In the Soviet era, the church and convent were closed, and the 18th-century altar and pulpit were demolished. Following a fire in 1964, the church was renovated and became a museum of architecture; after Lithuania regained independence, the church building and dilapidated convent were returned to the archdiocese in 1993.

More from the exhibition can be seen at its official website:

Miter and cope, 18th century
Chasuble from Vilnius Cathedral, 1792-99
Dalmatic from the Carmelite church of St Theresa, late 18th century; God the Father appears and speaks to a St Joseph Calasanz, saying “To the orphan thou shalt be a helper.” (Ps. 9, 35. A member of the Piarist order, founded by St Joseph, suggests in the combox that this vestment originally belonged to the order’s church in Vilnius, which they had from 1719-1835.)

Chasuble and dalmatic, late 18th to early 19th century

Monday, September 24, 2018

St. Francis of Assisi: Eucharistic Mystic and Reformer

Although we are still a little ways out from the better-known of the two feasts of St. Francis, namely, the one that falls on October 4 (the day after he died), I would like to continue reflecting on the saint of Assisi in connection with last week's article about his stigmatization in 1224.

My fellow NLM contributor, Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., is well known for Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, which a broad spectrum of people (including those who assign books to Franciscans in formation) now consider the definitive biography of the saint in all of his personal complexity, zeal, idealism, and contradictions, set within the fraught context of his age.

One of the most striking elements of this biography is the author’s insistence that the dominant theme in Francis’ spirituality is not poverty or service to the poor, but devotion to the Mass and to the Body of Christ. One of Francis’ few writings is a letter to priests rebuking them for using dirty or unworthy items in the Mass, and his mature letters on the spiritual life also rotate around the Eucharist and the Mass.

For those who have not yet had a chance to read the biography, I will quote the passages that demonstrate this point well, gathering them in one convenient place.
Within a year of his return to Assisi, Francis composed his first extant letter. Something had triggered his decision to go to France, where the Eucharist was venerated properly, and now he was unable to go. Instead, he dispatched this letter, the first of his two “Letters to the Clergy.” Its language is heated, pained, and almost frantic in tone. In it he includes himself among the clergy, a good indication that he had already been ordained to the deaconate. What motivates him is the same passion that sent him on the road to France: his love of the Eucharist. He is outraged at the “great sin and ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy names and words that consecrate his Body.” How that sin expressed itself, and its remedy, he made clear: “Let all those who administer such most holy mysteries, especially those who administer them illicitly, consider how very dirty are the chalices, corporals, and altar linens, on which his Body and Blood are sacrificed. It is placed in many dirty places, carried about unbecomingly, and ministered to others without care. Even his written names and words are at times left to be trampled under foot.” Francis directs that the Host be kept in a “precious place” and locked up, and that scraps of parchment with the words of scripture or the name of God be collected and put in suitable places. Those receiving his letter are to clean their altar linen and polish their chalices without delay.
          This theme reappeared regularly in Francis’s writing, but seldom with such passion and anger. Francis returned to the theme of reverence for the Eucharist in other writings about this time. His “First Admonition,” even if influenced by the mystical understanding of the Mass found in Cistercian writers as some suggest, is authentically Francis’s own. For him, the change of the elements from bread and wine to Christ’s Body and Blood was like the Incarnation. Christ gives himself to those viewing the Host or receiving communion as literally as he allowed himself to be seen and touched by the apostles. By this giving, he is with believers until the end of the age. The locus of Francis’s “mysticism,” his belief that he could have direct contact with God, was in the Mass, not in nature or even in service to the poor. 
          Thus his harsh words for those who ignored the Eucharistic presence are unique: he never used such language about peace breakers or those who oppressed the downtrodden, deeply as those sins pained him. Francis always preferred to speak by actions and gestures rather than words: he expressed his reverence for churches by sweeping and cleaning them. In response to clerical failure to keep the Host in honorable containers, Francis once tried to have his friars bring precious pyxes to all the regions where they were active. He asked that these be used to reserve the Host when other decent containers were lacking. One can imagine the effect of Francis’s poor followers, with their miserable habits, presenting silver pyxes to parish clergy for the reservation of the Sacrament. (Kindle ed., pp. 60–61)
In his “Letter to the Clergy,” Francis spoke warmly of reverence for priests as well as for the Blessed Sacrament. He demonstrated his devotion by kissing the hands of any priest he met: consecrated with sacred chrism, they handled the Host. For the Host itself Francis practiced acts of reverence that, although not uncommon in France, were just becoming popular in Italy. He begged the brothers who met a priest on horseback, especially one carrying the Blessed Sacrament, to kiss the horse’s hooves rather than wait for the priest to dismount.  (p. 62)
Beyond its rubrical concerns, Francis’s first letter gives a window into his developing spirituality. His earlier piety had focused on praying before the Crucifix, repairing or cleaning churches, and reverence for priests. All involved symbolic or mystical manifestations of the Crucified Lord: churches as the place where God chose to dwell, and priests because they have the power to draw Christ down from heaven during Mass.
          Francis’s piety has now focused on God’s most tangible manifestation in the world: the Host itself. Francis was developing an ever greater sense that God is present to Christians in the Sacrament, and that it was to be reverenced above all other presences. In both the Host and Christ’s words, the work of Calvary is delivered to the believer. The Host is Christ’s real Body, the same one that suffered and died for us. The sacred words that especially concerned Francis are those used in the canon of the Mass and found in the Last Supper narratives of the New Testament. These record his action of offering himself to his disciples “on the night before he suffered.”
          Modern observers find Francis’s growing concern about the writing on scraps of parchment somewhat embarrassing or perplexing. Even pious Christians today have lost this sense of the concrete divine presence. In the thirteenth century, however, this attitude was not some oddity that Francis had picked up from Jewish or Muslim practice. For Christians of his age, the words of scripture were not merely didactic reminders of past events or moral norms. As divine words, they were a locus of power. Merely pronouncing them, as when the bishop read the beginning of the four Gospels toward the city gates facing the four points of the compass during springtime Rogation processions, put demonic powers to flight. When used by Brother Silvester over the city of Arezzo, the divine words could, by their very power, end civil strife.
          Now, when Francis began to chant from the book of Gospels as a deacon, he himself proclaimed and enacted the words of power. A perplexed brother once asked Francis about his practice of collecting such scraps of parchment, and he replied: “Son, I do this because they have the letters that compose the glorious name of the Lord God, and the good that is found there does not belong to the pagans nor to any human being, but to God alone, to whom every good thing belongs.” This identification between names and the realities they signify was not only a commonplace in medieval sensibility; it spoke to Francis’s profound sense of God’s presence in the concrete here and now, and in the most commonplace of things and events.
          For a layman like Francis, only marginally able to write, letters themselves were mysterious and somehow sacred: friars knew well that when Francis made a mistake in writing, he let it stand, rather than “killing the letter” by crossing it out. Before, as a simple cleric singing the Office, he had chanted the psalms of David; now, as a deacon, he read the very words of Christ. At Solemn Mass, he did so facing north—the direction of darkness and, for medieval minds, paganism, and thus putting both to flight. That certain clerics treated these powerful and holy texts with disrespect outraged Francis’s acute spiritual sense. To leave sacred books on the floor or in dishonorable places was, in its own way, as sacrilegious as the desecration of the Host.
          Ever more intensely, Francis associated his own experience before the Cross, his transforming encounter with the lepers, and the divine commission to live the Gospel perfectly with the immediate, unmediated presence of Christ given to each Christian in Word and Sacrament. (pp. 62–63)
Not satisfied with writing to priests, Francis also wrote a circular letter to the local superiors in his order, the custodians. In it he made them directly responsible for ensuring that Franciscan communities properly reverenced the Eucharist and had worthy vessels and appointments for Mass. Typical of his unwillingness to place himself (or his brothers) in a position superior to priests, he instructed the custodians, who would often be lay brothers, to “humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 
          In addition, he returned to a theme first mentioned in the letter to priests from before his departure for the East. He begged recipients to pick up and keep in a place of reverence any piece of parchment on which was written one of the holy names of God (Lord, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc.) or the words of institution (“This is my Body”; “This is the chalice of my Blood”) used in the consecration at Mass. Here cooperation of the clergy was not needed; any friar could show reverence to the holy words.
          Writing as much to nonordained brothers as to priests, Francis expressed in this letter his own spiritual preferences, without concern for clerical tradition. Instead of Pope Honorius III’s bow, Francis insisted: “In every sermon you give, remind people about penance and that no one can be saved unless he receives the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord. When it is sacrificed on the altar by a priest and carried anywhere, let all peoples praise, glorify and honor on bended knee the Lord God, living and true.” This instruction on sermons, whether by ordained or unordained brothers, shows his determination to encourage the more dramatic and humbling act of kneeling before the Sacrament in place of the older bow. 
          Francis was himself a leader in this new lay style of prayer and reverence. He considered this message so important that within the year he wrote again to the custodians, reminding them of the instructions in his first letter and again reminding them to preach reverence for the Sacrament, whether this was in the piazza before people or in sermons before “podestas, consuls, or other rulers.” That he wrote twice on this topic to those in the best position to make his will known is a window into the founder’s frame of mind at this time.
          We have from Francis one other message written in 1220, an appeal to the very rulers to whom his friars were to preach repentance and devotion to the Eucharist. Addressed “to the podestas, consuls, and other rulers” of cities, the letter is short and stern, a reminder of death and judgment: Reflect and see that the day of death is approaching. With all possible respect, therefore, I beg you not to forget the Lord because of the world’s cares and preoccupations and not to turn away from his commandments, for those who leave him in oblivion and turn away from his commandments are cursed and will be left in oblivion by him. When the day of death does come, everything they have will be taken from them. The wiser and more powerful they were in the world, the greater will be the punishment they will endure in Hell. He then turned to his favorite topic in this period, the Eucharist, writing that “therefore” they should receive communion with fervor and foster honor to the Lord among those they rule. “If you do not do this, know that, on the day of judgment, you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ.”  (pp. 83–84)
He writes: “We must be Catholics. We ought to visit churches frequently and venerate clerics, and revere them, not so much for their own sake, for they may be sinners, but on account of their office and administration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which they sacrifice on the altar and receive and minister to others.” The logic, or better poetic associations, in Francis’s thought have taken us full circle. The subordination of the Christian to the Church makes sense only because Christ has chosen to use its clergy, sinners as they are, to make his own self-emptying present to the world through the Mass. To participate worthily in this is, for Francis, what it means “to love God above all things.” (p. 87)
His retreat and return are the background to the “Letter to the Entire Order,” which was, in a way, Francis’s public farewell address. The Latin is carefully crafted, although colloquial enough to suggest it is Francis’s own work, not much revised by his secretaries.
          After a formal greeting in which he kisses the feet of the brothers, Francis arrives at his issues and concerns. The first concern would be familiar to anyone who has read his other letters. All possible reverence is to be had for the Body and Blood of the Lord, and priests who celebrate Mass are to do so with the utmost care. In treating the celebration of Mass, Francis’s tone is urgent, indeed harsh and peremptory. Like the priests of the Old Law who violated the laws of temple sacrifice, priests of the New Covenant who celebrate unworthily are damned and cursed. He elaborates on the priestly office in a long section, extolling its dignity and the exalted nature of the priestly calling. Although not a major theme in early letters, Francis’s well-known reverence for the clergy is reflected in his words. In his final words to his followers, the issue he found most pressing was not poverty, not obedience, but proper reverence for the Eucharist. (pp. 119–20)
The issue he found most pressing was not poverty, not obedience, but proper reverence for the Eucharist. Not immigration, starvation, dehydration, disease, global warming, ecology, or endangered species (unless it be the endangered species of bread and wine unworthily treated); not faux obedience to apostolic exhortations, brain-fever fervorinos, or councils of cardinals; but proper reverence for the Lord in His true Body and Blood, expressed through the careful and devout offering of the Mass, the most worthy vessels and vestments one can supply, signs of adoring love, and an unyielding insistence on penance and renunciation of sin prior to communion. This is what St. Francis believed in; this is what he stood for; this is what his order was meant to believe, say, and do.

So, the next time someone tries to invoke Pope Francis on you to downplay the importance of liturgy, you might want to tell them about the real Francis who apparently inspired the pope with his choice of name. The saint was radically different from the modern sentimentalized and romanticized proto-hippie and peacenik. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that this poor deacon who started the single greatest popular religious movement in the history of the Church would not recognize many of his twentieth-century followers as having anything to do with him, his religion, or his priorities—and the same might be said of others who have taken his name upon themselves, but for the wrong reasons.

Hippie Francis... step aside.
Even hipper Francis... definitely step aside.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Reprint of Proprium Officiorum Ordinis Praedicatorum (1982)

At the request of a number of Dominican friars of my Western Dominican Province, Dominican Liturgy Publications has produced a reprint of the Proprium Officiorum Ordinis Praedicatorum of 1982 (i.e. the Latin Dominican propers for the Liturgy of the Hours), which has been out of print for many years. A copy may be ordered here.

I believe that this book will be of great use for not just Friars, nuns, and sisters, but also for members of the Dominican Laity who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin with Dominican propers and other elements.

Before ordering a copy, you should read the product description carefully so you understand the nature of his reprint. Apparently the original was never put under copyright, so it is public domain.

The Hymn of the Ember Saturday Masses

As I noted earlier this week, the Ember Days are one of the oldest parts of the Roman Rite; Pope St Leo I (444-61) preached many sermons on them, and believed them to be of apostolic institution. One liturgical feature which argues strongly in favor of their great antiquity is the inclusion in all four of the Saturday Masses of a reading from the third chapter of Daniel, in which the three children, Ananiah, Azariah and Misael, are thrown into a furnace as punishment for refusing to worship the statue of the Babylonian Emperor. This is the single most frequently represented Biblical story in pre-Constantinian Christian art, since it reflects exactly the situation of the Christians in the Roman Empire, who were persecuted for refusing to worship the statue of the Roman Emperor. (Already in the New Testament, Babylon, the persecutor of the Jews, is twice taken as a symbol of Rome, the persecutor of the Christians: in 1 Peter 5, 13, and six times in the Apocalypse.) The universal custom of singing the canticle which the children sing in the furnace, the Benedicite, as part of the Divine Office, also attests to its great significance for the ancient Church.
Detail of a Christian sarcophagus of the Constantinian period (ca. 305-335), known as the Sarcophagus of Adelphia, discovered in the church of St John in Syracuse, Sicily, in 1872. On the far left, the Emperor Nebuchadnezzar points to a bust of himself set on a column, the gesture by which he commands the three children to worship it. Even though the Biblical text states quite unmistakably that the Emperor made an enormous “statue”, in early Christian art it is usually represented as a bust on a column, since that it what the Romans used. (On the right side are represented the Miracle at Cana and one of the three Magi. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Davide Mauro; CC BY-SA 4.0)
The reading consists of only five verses, Daniel 3, 47-51, which are presented in a slightly different order from that of the Biblical text, as noted below; the words in italics are paraphrased from verse 46. (We may note in passing that no historical Christian lectionary presents all of its readings according to the strict letter of the Bible itself.)

Lectio Daniélis Prophétae. In diébus illis: 49 Angelus Dómini descendit cum Azaría et sociis ejus in fornácem: et excussit flammam ignis de fornáce, 50a et fecit medium fornácis quasi ventum roris flantem. 47 Flamma autem effundebátur super fornácem cúbitis quadraginta novem: 48 et erúpit, et incendit, quos répperit juxta fornácem de Chaldáeis, ministros regis, qui eam incendébant50b Et non tétigit eos omníno ignis, neque contristávit, nec quidquam molestiae íntulit. 51 Tunc hi tres quasi ex uno ore laudábant, e glorificábant, et benedicébant Deum in fornáce, dicentes:

A reading of the Prophet Daniel. In those days, 49 the angel of the Lord went down with Azarias and his companions into the furnace: and he drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, 50a And made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew. 47 And the flame mounted up above the furnace nine and forty cubits: 48 and it broke forth, and burnt such of the Chaldeans as it found near the furnace, the ministers of the king who were heating it. 50b And the fire touched them not at all, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm. 51 Then these three as with one mouth praised, and glorified, and blessed God in the furnace, saying:

The reading ends abruptly (and should always be chanted without the notes that indicate the conclusion) to segue into the following hymn, the only case where a reading is followed by a hymn instead of a gradual, tract, or alleluia. The text is closer to that of the Septuagint version, and the Old Latin version which depended upon it, rather than the Vulgate, a fact which also indicates its great antiquity. The words “and praiseworthy and glorious unto the ages” are very cleverly incorporated into the doxology.

Benedictus es, Dómine,
Deus patrum nostrórum.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou, o Lord, God of
our fathers,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Et benedictum nomen glo-
riae tuae, quod est sanctum.
Et laudábile et gloriósum
in sáecula.
And blessed is the name of Thy
glory, which is holy,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es in templo
sancto gloriae tuae.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou in the holy
temple of Thy glory,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es super thronum
sanctum regni tui.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou upon the holy
throne of Thy kingdom,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es super
sceptrum divinitátis tuae.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou upon the scepter
of Thy divinity,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedictus es, qui sedes super
Chérubim, íntuens abyssos.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou who sittest upon
the Cherubim, looking upon the
depths, And praiseworthy and
glorious unto the ages.
Benedictus es, qui ámbulas su-
per pennas ventórum et super
undas maris.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou who walkest
upon the wings of the winds,
and upon the waves of the sea,
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages.
Benedícant te omnes Angeli et
Sancti tui.
Et laudent te et gloríficent
in sáecula.
Let all Thy Angels and Saints
bless Thee,
And praise Thee, and glorfy Thee
unto the ages.
Benedícant te caeli, terra, mare,
et omnia quae in eis sunt.
Et laudent te et gloríficent
in sáecula.
Let the heavens, the earth, the sea
and all things that are in them bless
Thee, And praise Thee, and glorify
Thee unto the ages.
Gloria Patri, et Filio,
et Spirítui Sancto.
Et laudábili et glorióso
in sáecula.
Glory be to the Father, and to the
Son, and to the Holy Spirit, And
praiseworthy and glorious unto
the ages.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc,
et semper, et in sáecula saecu-
lórum. Amen.
Et laudábili et glorióso
in sáecula.
As it was in the beginning, is now
and ever shall be, and unto the ages
of ages. Amen.
And praiseworthy and glorious
unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Benedictus es, Dómine,
Deus patrum nostrórum.
Et laudábilis et gloriósus
in sáecula.
Blessed art Thou, o Lord, God of
our fathers, and praiseworthy and

glorious unto the ages.

On the Ember Saturday of Pentecost, the reading is the same, but the hymn is replaced with an Alleluia, which is then repeated the following day on the feast of the Holy Trinity. “Alleluia. Benedictus es, Dómine, Deus patrum nostrórum. Et laudábilis et gloriósus in sáecula.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

Orcagna’s St Matthew Triptych

In 1367, the Florentine money-changers’ guild commissioned the painter Andrea di Cione, generally known by the nickname Orcagna, to make a triptych of their patron Saint, the Apostle and Evangelist Matthew. Orcagna, who was then running one of the busiest artistic workshops in the city, fell ill in the course of the work, and left it to be finished by his brother Jacopo when he died the following year. The emblem of the guild is seen at the top of the two side panels above the pinnacles.
Public domain images from Wikipedia; click to see in high resolution.
Its peculiar shape is owed to the fact that it was originally hung on one of the octagonal pillars of the famous church and guildhall known as the Orsanmichele. The central panel, which is mostly Orcagna’s own work, shows St Matthew with a pen and the Gospel book in his hands, the latter identified as his by the opening words “The Book of the Generation of Jesus Christ…” In accordance with the convention of the times, the beautiful decorative carpet on which he is standing is vertical, so that it can be seen; this was probably done by Jacopo. In the pinnacles above him, angels hold the crown and palms of martyrdom.

The side panels show four stories from the Saint’s life, running clockwise from the lower left. In the first one, Christ calls him away from the tollhouse, as described by Matthew himself in chapter 9 of his own Gospel. The Lord is accompanied by the four Apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John, whose calling has already been described before this point, but the rest, who are named in chapter 10, are not yet with him.
The remaining panels show stories from the life of St Matthew as recounted in the Golden Legend. In the second one, when he had gone to Ethiopia to preach the Gospel, he came to a place where two magicians had gained control of the populace, and were worshipped as gods. At Matthew’s preaching, the people were converted to the faith; the magicians therefore planned to punish them by turning two dragons loose on them. Signing himself with the cross, the Apostle went out to confront them, at which the dragons lay down asleep at his feet.
In the third panel, he raises the son of a king named Hegippus from the dead, which the magicians were unable to do. This leads to the conversion of the king; furthermore, at St Matthew’s exhortation, his daughter embraces the state of consecrated virginity, a proposal in which she is followed by many other young women.
Hegippus is then succeeded by his brother Hirtacus, who turns against Christianity, and has St Matthew killed at the altar when he had just finished celebrating Mass, as seen in the fourth panel. Iphigenia, who is seen at the lower right, is still named to this day in the traditional Martyrology of the Roman Rite.
The story goes on that the people wished to avenge the Apostle’s murder by burning down the royal palace, but were restrained from doing so by the clergy, who rather celebrated his martyrdom. Since Iphigenia and the other virgins would not abandon their consecration, Hirtacus set her house on fire, but the Apostle turned the fire back on his house, which was destroyed. Hirtacus, afflicted with incurable leprosy, then kills himself, and is succeeded by Hegippus’ son, who effects the complete conversion of Ethiopia to Christianity, filling it with churches.

Ordinariate Rite Masses for Our Lady of Walsingham, September 24

Tampa, Florida
On Monday, September 24th, Fr Edwin Palka of Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church in St Petersburg, Florida, will offer Mass according to Divine Worship: The Missal for the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham, in pastoral response to some canonical members of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter. This will be the first Mass of its kind in the Diocese of St Petersburg. While Epiphany of Our Lord was designated as the center for the Traditional Latin Mass by Bishop Emeritus Robert N. Lynch in 2015, the celebration of the Mass according to the rite used in the Ordinariate is in absolute continuity with the mission statement of the parish, which is (in part) “to encourage all men to be fully, faithfully, joyfully and unapologetically Catholic in all aspects of life; and to bring about, through the mercy of God and the intercession of the Blessed Mother and all the Saints, the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls.” It is our hope that this Mass will contribute to the sanctification of our parish and diocese, and whose grace will lead the Church Universal to greater unity. The church is located at 2510 East Hanna Avenue; the Mass will begin at 7 pm.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
On the same day, September 24, the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia will host a solemn Mass offered according to Divine Worship: The Missal for the feast of Our Lady of Walsingham. Fr David Ousley, pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Bridgeport, the Ordinariate parish in the Philadelphia area, will celebrate the Mass, with the assistance of Fr Eric Bergman as deacon and homilist, and Fr Albert Scharbach as subdeacon. The faithful will be able to hear sacred music from the Anglican tradition, including Oldroyd’s Mass of the Quiet Hour, motets by Elgar and Stainer, Anglican chant, and a chancel choir rendering English adaptations of the Gregorian Proper antiphons. Clergy and seminarians are most welcome to attend in-choir. The Mass will begin at 7pm, and be followed by a reception; the basilica is located at 1723 Race Street.

Ottawa, Ontario
St Therea’s Catholic Church in Ottawa, Ontario, will keep the same celebration in the Ordinariate Rite, also starting at 7 pm. The church is located at 95 Somerset Street West.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Exaltation of the Cross Photopost 2018

As always, our thanks to everyone who sent these photos of their liturgies celebrated last weekend on the Exaltation of the Cross and the feast of the Seven Sorrows. This year’s submissions include a pilgrimage to one of the oldest centers of Christianity in Italy, the traditional Mass celebrated for the first time in an American parish, and the first school Mass of the new chapel of Jesuit High School in Tampa, Floria, which we featured last month. Evangelize through beauty!

Old St Mary’s - The Oratory of Cincinnati, Ohio
Solemn Mass in the traditional rite for the Exaltation of the Cross was followed by a procession with a relic of the True Cross and a statue of the recumbent Christ; the church then held Adoration though the night in reparation for the sins of the clergy and hierarchy, for the victims of abuse worldwide, and for healing within the Church.

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