Friday, August 30, 2019

The Final Days of the Blessed Ildephonse Schuster

We never let August 30th pass without remembering the Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who went to his eternal reward on this day in 1954, after serving as Archbishop of Milan for just over a quarter of a century. We have written about him many times on NLM, partly in connection with our interest in the Ambrosian liturgy, of which he was a great promoter, but also as one of the most important scholars of the original Liturgical Movement.

Last year, we published a brief meditation of his on the value of praying the Office, which, to judge from viewing numbers and several requests for permission to reprint, was very much appreciated. This was taken from the account of Schuster’s final days included in the book Novissima Verba by Abp Giovanni Colombo, the cardinal’s successor-but-one in the see of St Ambrose. At the time of Schuster’s death, the latter was a simple priest, serving as both rector and professor of Italian literature at Venegono, the archdiocesan seminary which the cardinal had founded; it was he who who administered the last rites to Schuster. I am pleased to offer a much fuller version of this incredibly moving account, although my translation does not do justice to Abp Colombo’s magnificent Italian.

Had it been possible to foresee that these were his last words, that each one was almost like a will, they would certainly have been noted down one by one with diligence, to be kept in a notebook with the veneration due to a father. But there was no way any one could have seen ahead of time how close and how swift his final departure would be, not even the doctors who hoped to get him back his strength with a few weeks’ rest and care. So now, after five years, the heart alone remains, with no written aid, to remember his final holy words, and record them faithfully as it finds them in memory.

The call by which his secretary, Mons. Ecclesio Terraneo, informed us that His Eminence would come to Venegono for a period of rest was received in the seminary with a sense of joy, and also amazement. Joy, because it hardly seemed real that we could have time to enjoy the presence of the archbishop, whose visits were frequent, to be sure, but always accompanied by his eagerness to run off to other places and persons; amazement, and almost dismay, because the suspicion had arisen in us all that only a serious illness could have brought such a tireless shepherd to yield at last to the idea of taking a vacation, the first in 25 years of his episcopacy, and as it would prove, the last. …

… although nature and vocation had made him for the peace of prayer and study, more than for the turmoil of action, he never deceived himself (as to his duty), not even when old age and poor health would have urged greater moderation (in his activities). He had no wish to spare his energies, even when he was close to the end. He used to say “To be archbishop of Milan is a difficult job, and the archbishop of Milan absolutely cannot allow himself the luxury of being ill. If he becomes ill, it is better that he go at once to Paradise, or renounce his see.”

Cardinal Schuster’s episcopal consecration, celebrated in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Pius XI, himself previously archbishop of Milan, on July 21, 1929.
The archbishop’s car stopped outside the entrance to the seminary around 6 p.m. on August 14, 1954. It was no longer raining, but a low cloud cover filled the sky, … Exhausted, wan, in pain, walking towards the elevator with difficulty, he said, “I would like to read some of the recent publications on archeology, liturgy, church history while I am here.” He had always taught that studies are an essential component of the priest’s spiritual life; all his life had borne witness to this teaching, and he remained faithful to it even in the face of a deadly illness.

On the feast of the Assumption, the radio broadcast the noon Angelus recited by Pope Pius XII. Standing in the room where he took his meals privately, because he did not have the strength to reach the common dining room, while awaiting the Pope’s prayer, the archbishop heard along with us the joyful tolling of the bells of St Peter’s. At the sound, he looked at us with eyes full of emotion, and repeated twice, “The bells of my town, the bells of my town!” His voice was trembling; was it the sweet nostalgia of other occasions that called back to him to the long-ago solemnities of his childhood, or was it rather the sad understanding that he would never hear them again?

On the afternoon of August 18th, the high school seminarians and those of the theologate, who had come back to the seminary the day before… gathered on the tree-lined slope under the window of his apartment to see and greet the archbishop. Called by their youthful song, he appeared smiling on the balcony, and spoke to them with these words. “Here I am among you, on a forced rest; because I did not wish to pay the interest year by year, now I am forced to pay both interest and capital at once. You have asked for a memento from me. I have no memento (to give you), other than an invitation to holiness. It seems that people do not any longer let themselves be convinced by our preaching, but in the presence of holiness, they still believe, they still kneel and pray. It seems that people live in ignorance of supernatural realities, indifferent to the problems of salvation, but if a true Saint, living or dead, passes by, everyone runs to see him. Do you remember the crowds around the caskets of Don Orione or of Don Calabria? Do not forget that the devil has no fear of our playing fields and our movie theatres [1], but he does fear our holiness.” …

His days, which should have been passed in complete rest, were full of prayer, reading, decisions on the affairs of the diocese, and discussions. Someone said to him, “Your Eminence allows himself no rest. Do you want to die on your feet like St Benedict?” Smiling, he answered, “Yes.” This was truly his wish, but this was a matter of Grace, and thus it was God’s to grant.

It was only a few days before the 25th anniversary of his entry into the diocese. In the quiet sunsets of Venegono, he was beset by memories. How many labors and events, some of them tragic, did he have to confront after that serene morning of September 7th (1929), when, on the journey from Vigevano to Rho, he stopped the car half-way over the bridge on the Ticino river, got out, and kissed the land of St Ambrose on its threshold? That land had become his portion of the Church, the sacred vineyard of his prayerful vigils, of his austere penances, of his labor and his love, of his griefs both hidden and known, of all his life, and now of his death. From the end of the road he had traveled, looking back, he saw that he had passed through dangers of every sort, but felt that the hand of God had drawn him safely through fire and storm; above all, he was comforted by the thought that he had always had the affection and loyalty of his people. …

(Unedited footage of Cardinal Schuster’s installation as archbishop in Milan cathedral, unfortunately without soundtrack. Particularly noteworthy is the Latin plaque shown at the beginning, which set over the door of the cathedral, and starts with the words “Enter (‘Ingredere’, in the imperative,) Alfred Ildephonse Schuster.” Starting at 1:20, one sees the extraordinarily large crowd in the famous Piazza del Duomo, far too large for them all to enter the cathedral for the ceremony itself, many of whom have climbed up onto the large equestrian statue of King Victor Emmanuel II. From the YouTube archive of the Italian film company Istituto Luce.)

The archbishop spoke of the recent canonization of St Pius X, saying among other things, “Not every act of his governance proved to be completely opportune and fruitful. The outcome of one’s rule in the Church, as a fact of history, is one thing, whether for good or ill; the holiness that drives it is another. And it is certain that every act of St Pius X’s pontificate was driven solely by a great and pure love of God. In the end, what counts for the true greatness of the Church and Her sons is love.”

He spoke of St Pius X, but he was certainly thinking also of himself, in answer to his own private questions. Looking back upon his long episcopacy, the results could perhaps have made him doubt the correctness of some of his decisions, or the justice of some of his measures; he might perhaps have thought that he had put his trust in both institutions and men that later revealed themselves unworthy of it. But on one point, his conscience had no doubts: in every thought and deed, he had always sought the Lord alone, had always taken His rights with the utmost seriousness, and preferred them above everything and every man, and even above himself. As his spiritual father, Bl. Placido Riccardi, had taught him when he was a young monk, the Saint is set apart from other men because he takes seriously the duties which fall to him in regard to God. …

One morning, the door of his room was left half-opened; from without, one could see the cardinal sitting at the table in the middle of the room in the full light of the window. His joined hands rested on the edge of the desk, with the breviary open before them; his face, lit by the sun, was turned towards heaven, his eyes closed, and his lips trembled as he murmured in prayer. A Saint was seen, speaking with the invisible presence of God; one could not look at him without a shiver of awe. I remembered then what he had confided to me some time before concerning his personal recitation of the Breviary, in the days when he found himself so worn out that he had no strength to follow the sense of the individual prayers.

“I close my eyes, and while my lips murmur the words of the Breviary which I know by heart, I leave behind their literal meaning, and feel that I am in that endless land where the Church, militant and pilgrim, passes, walking towards the promised fatherland. I breathe with the Church in the same light by day, the same darkness by night; I see on every side of me the forces of evil that beset and assail Her; I find myself in the midst of Her battles and victories, Her prayers of anguish and Her songs of triumph, in the midst of the oppression of prisoners, the groans of the dying, the rejoicing of the armies and captains victorious. I find myself in their midst, but not as a passive spectator; nay rather, as one whose vigilance and skill, whose strength and courage can bear a decisive weight on the outcome of the struggle between good and evil, and upon the eternal destinies of individual men and of the multitude.” …

He had decided to end his stay and continue on his way. In vain did the doctors and all his close friends ask him to stay longer – he was set to depart from Venegono on August 30. “Neither rest nor the treatments have helped me: I might as well return to Milan. If death comes, it will find me on my feet, at my place and working.” And he would indeed depart that Monday, but on a different voyage.

Giovanni Cardinal Colombo, 1902-92; archbishop of Milan 1963-79.
In the middle of the night, shortly after 1 o’clock in the morning of the 30th, the brother in charge of the infirmary called me to his sickbed. I found him alone, sitting on the bed, with his hands joined, in deep recollection. Just a moment before he had received the Holy Eucharist from his secretary, Mons. Terraneo.

“I wish for Extreme Unction. At once, at once.”

“Yes, Your Eminence; the doctor will be here in a few moments, and if necessary, I will give you Extreme Unction.”

With a voice full of anguish, he replied, “To die, I do not need the doctor, I need Extreme Unction. … be quick, death does not wait.”

Meanwhile, Agostino Castiglioni, the seminary doctor, had arrived, and after seeing his illustrious patient, told us that his condition was very serious, but did not seem to be such that we should fear his imminent death.

Assisted by Mons. Luigi Oldani, by Fr Giuseppe Mauri, and Mons. Ecclesio Terraneo, I began the sad, holy rite. He spoke first, with a clear and strong voice: “In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. Confiteor Deo omnipotenti...”

He followed every word with great devotion, answering every prayer clearly; at the right moment, he closed his eyes, and without being asked, offered the back of his hands for the holy oils.

When the sacrament has been given, sitting on the bed, he said with great simplicity, “I bless the whole diocese. I ask pardon for what I have done and what I have not done. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” He traced a wide Sign of the Cross before himself; then he lay down on the bed. The doctor at the moment realized that his heart was giving out.

“I am dying. Help me to die well.”

The signs of his impending death became more evident.

He groaned: “I cannot go on. I am dying.” …

He was told that in every chapel of the seminary, the various groups, the students of the theologate, the high school, the adult vocations, the oblate brothers, the sisters, were gathered in prayer and celebrating Masses for him. “Thank you! Thank you!”

He looked steadily upon each person who entered the room, as if he were trying to recognize someone for whom he was waiting. With his innate gentility, which did not fail even in his final agony, he invited those present to sit. “Please, have a seat!”

Again and again he repeated the prayers suggested to him, but at a certain point he said, “Now I can’t any more. Pray for me.” …

At 4:35, he let his head fall on the pillow, and groaned. His face became very red, then slowly lost its color. From the other side of the bed, the expression of the doctor, who was holding his wrist, told us that he no longer lived upon the earth. The heart of a Saint had ceased to beat. …

None of those present felt that they had attended three hours of agony, but rather, at a liturgy of three hours’ length. Three hours of darkness, but a darkness filled with the hope of the dawn that would rise in the eternal East. Three hours of suffering, but a suffering permeated by waves of infinite joy coming rapidly on. He spoke no uncontrolled words; his suffering, which was great, (he said “I cannot go on! I cannot go on!” several times), was indicated by quiet laments, as if in dying he were not living through the sufferings of his own flesh and spirit, but rather reading those of the Servant of the Lord in the rites of Holy Week. [2] He made no uncontrolled movements; his translucent hands, his arms, his head, all his slender body, held to the hieratic gestures of a pontifical service.

The archbishop’s death was in no way different from those of the ancient giants of holiness on whose writings he had long meditated, with such fervor as to become familiar with their very thoughts, their feelings and their deeds. A year before he died, describing their death in the Carmen Nuptiale [3], without knowing it, he prefigured his own death. “The death of the ancient Fathers was so dignified and serene! Many holy bishops of the Middle Ages wished to breathe their last in their cathedral, after the celebration of the Eucharist, and after exchanging the kiss of peace with the Christian community. Thus does St Gregory the Great describe the death of Cassius, bishop of Narni, of St Benedict, of St Equitius, etc. In the Ambrosian Missal, the death of St Martin is commemorated as follows: Whom the Lord and Master so loved, that he knew the hour in which he would leave the world. He gave the peace to all those present, and passed without fear to heavenly glory. [4] But what was it that made the death of these Saints so precious in the sight of God (Psalm 115, 6) and of the Church? In the fervor of their Faith, they rested solidly on the divine promise, and so set their feet on the threshold of eternity. ‘Rejoicing in the sure of the hope of divine reward….’ These are the words of St Benedict.” [5]

The Carmen Nuptiale was a truly prophetic swan song. Speaking of St Benedict, Schuster had written, “After the Holy Patriarch’s death, some of his disciples saw him ascend to the heavenly City by a way decorated with tapestries, and illuminated with candlesticks. This was the triumphal way by which the author of the Rule for Monks and the Ladder of Humility passed.”

The street which descends from the hill of the seminary, passing through Tradate, Lonate Ceppino, Fagnano Olona, Busto Arsizio, Saronno, and comes to Milan, was the triumphal way decorated with tapestries, illuminated by the blazing sun, on which not just a few disciples, but crowds without number, watched him pass, one who out of humility had refused all celebration of his 25th year of his episcopacy.

Who drove all those people, on that August 31st, to line the streets? Who drew the workers to come out of their factories, along the city walls? Who brought those men and women together, waiting for hours for the fleeting passage of his casket? Who drove the mothers to push their little ones towards that lifeless body? Why did they all make the Sign of the Cross, if his motionless hand could not lift itself to bless them? What did those countless lips murmur, what was it that they wished to confide to a dead man, or ask of him?

He himself gave the answer fifteen days before to the seminarians, speaking from the balcony of his rooms. “When a Saint passes by, everyone runs to see him.”

*   *   *
[1] “our playing fields and our movie theatres.” In the post-war period, Italian parishes built countless playing fields for various sports and movie theaters, to provide healthy activities for young people, while keeping them away from similar facilities run by the communists. This was especially common in the urban centers of the north, Milan most prominent among them, which were taking in large numbers of new residents from the poorer regions of the South.

[2] Isaiah 53, known as the Song of the Suffering Servant, is read at the Ambrosian Good Friday service ‘post Tertiam’, before the day’s principal account of the Lord’s Passion.

[3] “Carmen Nuptiale – Wedding Song” is the title of a poem on the monastic life written by the Bl. Schuster in the year before he died.

[4] The Transitorium (the equivalent of the Roman Communio) of the Ambrosian Mass of St Martin. “Quem sic amavit Magister et Dominus, ut horam sciret qua mundum relinqueret. Pacem dedit omnibus adstantibus: et securus pergit ad caelestem gloriam.”

[5] The Rule of St Benedict, chapter 7. “Securi de spe retributionis divinae... gaudentes.”

Mater Ecclesiae’s Annual Assumption Mass

For 19 years, Mater Ecclesiae Church in Berlin, New Jersey, has celebrated the Assumption with particular solemnity, and for the last several years, has been welcomed to keep the feast at the Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul in Philadelphia, thanks to the kindness of the rector, Father G. Dennis Gill, and the generous permission of His Excellency, Archbishop Charles Chaput. This year, the Ars Laudis Festival Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Dr Timothy McDonnell, performed Haydn’s “Theresienmesse,” nicknamed for its unofficial dedicatee, the empress Maria Theresa of the Two Sicilies, consort of the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II. We are happy to share a complete video of the ceremony published a few days ago, and these photographers by one of our favorite photographers, Mrs Allison Girone.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dominican Mass and Eucharistic Process in London

Last week, on the feast of the Immaculate Heart, our long-time contributor Fr Lawrence Lew celebrated a sung Mass in the Dominican Rite at the shrine of the Holy Rosary in London. This was part of the annual pilgrimage of the Schola Sainte-Cécile, who sang the Dominican chant propers and the Missa Exsultate Deo by the 17th-century French composer François Cosset. The shrine has 15 side-chapels, each one dedicated to a mystery of the Rosary. After the Mass, a Eucharistic procession was held, stopping at each of the last five chapels, where the Glorious Mysteries were prayed; while the procession went from one chapel to the next, the Schola sang a sequence for the feast of that mystery. (These were Victimae Paschali for the Resurrection and Veni, Sancte Spiritus for Pentecost; the sequences for the Ascension, Assumption and Coronation were taken from the medieval Parisian tradition.) The final Benediction was held at the main altar of the church, which as you can see below is huge, and has a huge choir in front of it. The church was quite packed for the Mass, and most of the congregation stayed for the procession. Thanks to Fr Lawrence and Mr Wojtek Szymczak for these photos; we also have a video from the Schola Sainte-Cécile’s Facebook page below.

At the singing of the Gospel.
Preaching pulpits are still being used in England!
Incensation at the Offertory

Mass in Fairfield (CT) This Sunday to Mark Beginning of Sanctuary Restoration

The church of St Pius X in Fairfield, Connecticut, will mark the beginning of a three-month renovation, reconstruction and restoration with a Solemn Mass in the Extraordinary Form in honor of its patron saint on Sunday, September 1st at 7 p.m. This Mass will be the last big event in the church, which will then be closed for renovations until at least Christmas; the Mass anticipates St Pius X’s feast, which is on September 3. The church is located at 834 Brookside Drive.

The Rev. Samuel Kachuba, pastor, will celebrate his first EF Solemn Mass to mark the occasion. Fr. Kachuba has taken the summer to learn the rite, and saw this first Mass as a way to amplify the theme of the renovation work, echoing the Saint, whose Papal motto was “To restore all things in Christ.” He will be assisted by Fr Michael Novajosky, rector of St Patrick’s Cathedral as assistant priest, Fr Timothy Iannacone, parochial vicar, as deacon, and Mr Brendan Blawie as subdeacon. The parish choir will provide the proper Gregorian Chants and sing a polyphonic setting of the ordinary.

The plans for the renovation call for a new main altar which allows for celebration on both sides, restoration of the rail, new flooring, pews, side chapels and confessionals. The Patrick Baker Company of Bristol is in charge of the work.

St Pius has become one of the leading parishes in the Diocese of Bridgeport for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form, with Fr Iannacone as the regular celebrant. Fr Kachuba made the decision to learn the Mass and has celebrated private low Masses over the summer.

The Beheading of St John the Baptist 2019

Truly it is fitting and just, right and profitable to salvation, that we should give Thee thanks, o Lord almighty, and bless Thee at every time, and praise Thee especially on this day’s festivity, on which the blessed John the Baptist acquired the crown of martyrdom, even he than whom there hath been none greater among those born of woman. By prohibiting an illicit marriage, he obtained the glorious triumph of martyrdom when he was beheaded; in his bodily presence, he showed that Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, had come, and, going before Him, also proclaimed His descent to those below (i.e., in the limbo of the Fathers). And therefore... (The Ambrosian Preface for the Beheading of St John the Baptist.)

The Head of St John the Baptist Presented to Salome, by the Dutch painter Carel Fabritius, ca. 1640; now in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. – Fabritius, born in 1622, studied with Rembrandt, and was considered one of his best pupils. In about 1650, he moved to Delft, where he was killed on Oct. 12, 1654, in the incident known as the ‘Delft Thunderclap’, the explosion of a gunpowder magazine which leveled about a quarter of the city. Fabritius’ studio was destroyed, along with most of his paintings; this is perhaps the earliest of his surviving works, which number only about a dozen.
Vere quia dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare, nos tibi, omnipotens Domine, gratias agere: teque omni tempore benedicere, et in hujus praecipue festivitate diei laudare. In quo beatus Ioannes Baptista martyrii coronam est adeptus: quo inter natos maior nemo exstitit mulierum. Nuptias prohibendo illicitas, gloriosum martyrii triumphum capite truncatus obtinuit: et Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum mundi Salvatorem venisse corporali præsentia demonstravit, eius quoque descensionem praecurrens inferis nunciavit. Et ideo...

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Proper Hymn for St Augustine

Despite his overwhelming importance to Western theology, there was very little liturgical devotion to St Augustine in the Roman Rite during the first millenium. His feast does not appear in the majority of ancient liturgical books; his day was originally kept in Rome itself as that of an obscure martyr named Hermes, who is still celebrated as a commemoration on August 28th in the traditional rite. Towards the end of the eleventh century, however, as the great reform movement within the Western Church gained momentum, there emerged a huge number of new religious congregations of the sort which we now call canons regular, followed within a few generations by the mendicant friars. [1] Many of these, such as the Premonstratensians and Dominicans, took the Rule of St Augustine as their own, since it is very simple, and permitted a wide variety of adaptations and additional customs. Augustine himself then began to be honored in the liturgy as the great legislator of canonical life, just as St Benedict had long been honored as the great legislator of monastic life.

Sometime in the 12th century, a proper Office was composed for him, and widely adopted by many of the Augustinian orders in their various kinds. Here is the hymn which the Dominicans sing at Vespers and Matins, the Premonstratensians at Vespers and Lauds. The prose translation given below is my own.

Magne Pater Augustine,
Preces nostras suscipe,
Et per eas Conditori
Nos placare satage,
Atque rege gregem tuum
Summum decus Praesulum.
Great Father Augustine,
receive our prayers,
and by them, seek thou to
reconcile us to the Creator,
and rule thy flock,
o highest glory of bishops.
Amatorem paupertatis
Te collaudant pauperes:
Assertorem veritatis
Amant veri judices:
Frange nobis favos mellis
De Scripturis disserens.
The poor praise thee
as one who loved poverty:
true judges love thee
as a defender of the truth;
share with us the sweetness
as thou expound the Scriptures.
Quae obscura prius erant
Nobis plana faciens,
Tu de verbis Salvatoris
Dulcem panem conficis
Et propinas potum vitae
De Psalmorum nectare.
Making plain to us
what was once obscure,
thou makest sweet bread
from the Saviour’s words,
and offer us the drink of life
from the nectar of the Psalms.
Tu de vita clericorum
Sanctam scribis regulam
Quam qui amant et se-
Viam tenent regiam
Atque tuo sancto ductu
Redeunt ad patriam.
Thou didst write the holy rule
for the life of clerics;
and they that love and follow it,
keep the royal way,
and under thy holy leadership
return to the Father’s land.
Regi regum salus, vita,
Decus et imperium:
Trinitati laus et honor
Sit per omne saeculum:
Qui concives nos adscribat
Supernorum civium. Amen.
To the King of kings be life,
salvation, glory and rule:
to the Trinity praise and honor
be through every age:
and may He make us fellow-
citizens of those that dwell
in heaven. Amen.

The Office also includes a full complement of proper antiphons and responsories; here is the antiphon for the Magnificat at Second Vespers, set as a polyphonic motet by Sulpizia Cesis (1577-1619 ca.), an Augustinian nun from Modena, Italy.

Aña Hodie gloriosus pater Augustinus, dissoluta hujus habitationis domo, domum non manufactam accepit in caelis, quam sibi, cooperante Dei gratia, manu, lingua fabrefecit in terris, ubi jam quod sitivit internum gustat aeternum, decoratus una stola securusque de reliqua. – Today our glorious Father Augustine, the earthly house of this habitation being dissolved, received a house not made by hands in heaven, which he built for himself with his hand and tongue, helped by God’s grace, where now he tastes within himself forever that for which he longed, graced by one stole, and sure of the other. (i.e., of the final resurrection.)

[1] See the introduction (p. 430) to the article “On the Prose Historia of St Augustine” by Janka Szendrei, in “The Divine Office in the Latin Middle Ages: Methodology and Source Studies, Regional Developments, Hagiography”, edited by Margot Fassler and Rebecca Baltzer; Oxford Univ. Press, 2000.

“Weeping and Gnashing of Teeth” : A Curious Feature in the Reformed Lectionary

This last Sunday in the Ordinary Form, which was the 21st Sunday per annum in Year C, Catholics will have heard the following passage from the Gospel of Luke read at Mass:
[At that time: Jesus] went on his way through towns and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. And some one said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the householder has risen up and shut the door, you will begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us.’ He will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity!’ There you will weep and gnash your teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves thrust out. And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God. And behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” (cap. 13:22-30, RSV2CE)
This passage contains a number of memorable phrases: the last shall be first and the first last, the necessity of entering by the narrow door, and weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is the last of these, however, that we might not associate so strongly with Luke’s Gospel. Only once does the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Gk. ekei estai ho klauthmos kai ho brygmos tōn odontōn) occur in Luke, at 13:28. It is really more of a Matthean phrase, where it occurs a total of six times (8:12; 13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30).

The Gospel of the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Matthew 8, 1-13, in a Roman lectionary of the last quarter of the 9th century (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits Latin 9453, folio 11r). The words “weeping and gnashing of teeth (fletus et stridor dentium) are seen in the last line of the page.
It may surprise readers of NLM to know, then, that last Sunday was the only time in the three-year cycle of the reformed lectionary that Catholics who attend the Ordinary Form are guaranteed to hear this phrase. Put another way: a very Matthean phrase does not ever have to be read on Sundays in Year A, the year of Matthew, but does have to be read once in Year C, the year of Luke.

This is thanks to the “short forms” of readings generously scattered throughout the Ordo lectionum Missae. Out of the six times the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” appears in Matthew, two (8:12 and 24:51) are not included in the OF Sunday lectionary cycle, [1] and the other four are omitted in the short forms of the Gospel readings for the following Sundays in Year A:
  • 16th Sunday per annum (13:24-43 → 13:24-30)
  • 17th Sunday per annum (13:44-52 → 13:44-46)
  • 28th Sunday per annum (22:1-14 → 22:1-10)
  • 33rd Sunday per annum (25:14-30 → 25:14-15, 19-21) [2]
To me, this all seems rather odd. Part of the idea of the three-year cycle is that at least some of the unique features of each of the synoptic Gospels can be more easily utilised by homilists. [3] This includes obvious things like the structure of each Gospel - for example, the readings of Year A are structured around the five “great sermons” in Matthew (chs. 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 24-25), whereas those of Year C are built around Luke’s “travel narrative” (Nazareth → Galilee → Jerusalem → Passion). But it also includes more subtle literary features, such as the different uses of grammar and vocabulary in each Gospel. Indeed, the General Introduction to the Lectionary itself says that the Gospel readings for Sundays per annum “are arranged in such a way that, as the Lord’s life and preaching unfold, the teaching proper to each of these Gospels is presented” (GIL 105), and provides various tables outlining the arrangement of the per annum Sunday readings for each of the three years.

Do the short forms of readings impair this aim of the post-Vatican II Ordo lectionum Missae? Well, when we are faced with an order of readings that allows clergy, through ad libitum use of these short forms, [4] to entirely omit a Matthean phrase considered important enough to be included four times in Year A, but requires it to be read on the one occasion it occurs in Year C, this would seem to be a legitimate question. Quite aside from the issue of whether or not the reformed lectionary minimises certain “difficult” aspects of Catholic teaching, [5] there are doubts about whether it is entirely consistent with its own aims and desires. The short forms of readings are in my opinion a significant problem that, for a number of different reasons, need to be examined during any work towards a future third edition of the Ordo lectionum Missae.


[1] Though they do occur on weekdays, and Matt. 8:12 is paralleled in Luke 13:28.

[2] This last short form is especially egregious, and I have commented on it previously in my article Lectio brevior and the Parable of the Talents.

[3] Whether the reformed lectionary actually achieves this aim is a separate question.

[4] Typically, the “pastoral criterion” of GIL 80 as to when short forms of readings ought to be used is very vague. In my experience, most clergy use them principally to make the liturgy shorter so as to get people out of church ‘on time’. I am not sure this is what Coetus XI had in mind as a suitable “pastoral criterion”!

[5] For comparison with the above, in the usus antiquior on Sundays, the faithful will hear the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth” twice every year, on the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany (Matt. 8:1-13) and the 19th Sunday after Pentecost (Matt. 22:1-14). Dr Peter Kwasniewski also touches on this wider subject of “difficult” texts in his foreword to my book Index Lectionum: A Comparative Table of Readings for the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite (Amazon USA, UK).

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary

For a fairly brief period, today was kept by the Franciscans as the feast of the Seven Joys of the Virgin Mary. As an expression of the Seraphic Order’s devotional life, it corresponds to the feast of the Holy Rosary, which began among the Dominicans, and the observance on September 15th of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin, which was originally the Patronal feast of the Servites. The principal contribution of the Franciscans to the Church’s cycle of Marian feasts is, of course, the Immaculate Conception, whereas the liturgical celebration of the Seven Joys is very late, and short-lived. It was granted to them in 1906, and at first fixed to the Sunday after the Octave of the Assumption; when the reform of St Pius X abolished the practice of fixing feasts to Sundays, it was permanently assigned to August 27th. In the Calendar reform promulgated in 1961, which aimed at reducing the number of feasts, and especially the so-called “feasts of devotion” (as opposed to those of Our Lord and the Saints), it was suppressed.

The Altarpiece of the Seven Joys, by the anonymous painter known as the Master of the Holy Family, ca. 1480; now in the Louvre.
The devotion to the Seven Joys in and of itself, however, is much older; the story of its origin is told thus in the Manual for Franciscan Tertiaries.
About the year 1420, a young man, deeply devoted to Our Lady, took the habit of St Francis. Before joining the Order, he had, among other practices, been accustomed daily to make a chaplet of flowers, and with it to crown a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Having in his novitiate no longer an opportunity of making this crown for his Most Beloved Queen, he, in his simplicity, thought that she would withdraw her affection from him; this temptation of the devil disturbed his vocation, and he resolved to abandon the cloister. The merciful mother appeared to him, and gently rebuking him, strengthened him in his vocation by telling him to offer her instead of the chaplet of flowers, a crown much more pleasing to her, composed of seventy-two Ave Marias and a Pater after each decade of Ave Marias, and to meditate at each decade upon the seven joys she had experienced during the seventy-two years of her exile upon the earth. The novice immediately commenced reciting the new crown or rosary, and derived therefrom many spiritual and temporal graces. This pious practice spread quickly through the whole Order, and even throughout the world… St Bernardin of Siena used to say that it was by the Crown of the Seven Joys that he had obtained all the graces which Heaven has heaped upon him.
A traditional Franciscan Rosary of the Seven Joys, still worn as part of the Order’s habit.
The Seven Joys listed in the Manual are the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Christ, the Adoration of the Magi, the Finding of the Christ Child in the Temple, the Resurrection and the Assumption, but other version of the list may be found. Two more Aves are added to make the number seventy-two mentioned above, and another Pater and Ave for the intentions of the Pope. The recitation concludes with a versicle and response, and the Collect of the Immaculate Conception.

V. In thy Conception, o Virgin, thou wast immaculate.
R. Pray for us to the Father, whose Son thou didst bear.
Let us pray. O God, Who by the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, prepared a worthy dwelling place for thy Son; we beseech thee, that, as by the foreseen death of Thy same Son, Thou preserved Her from every stain, so Thou may grant us also, through Her intercession, to come to thee with pure hearts. Through the same Christ our Lord. R. Amen.

V. In Conceptione tua, Virgo, immaculata fuisti.
R. Ora pro nobis Patrem, cujus Filium peperisti.
Oremus. Deus, qui per immaculátam Vírginis Conceptiónem dignum Filio tuo habitáculum praeparasti: quaesumus; ut qui ex morte ejusdem Filii tui praevisa, eam ab omni labe praeservasti, nos quoque mundos ejus intercessióne ad te perveníre concedas. Per eundem Christum, Dominum nostrum. R. Amen.

New Decorations for Covington Cathedral

The Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption in Covington, Kentucky, has recently completed the installation of three new carpets for the main sanctuary and Blessed Sacrament Chapel, designed by Gardiner Hall Associates, Inc., of Rockville, Maryland. The “Ave” pattern woven into the red background was designed by Indiana-based artist Daniel Mitsui, whose work we have featured on several occasions here on NLM. The new carpets complement the jewel-box interior of the cathedral, which was modeled after some of the great Gothic churches of France such as St Denis and Notre-Dame de Paris. Begun in 1894 and completed in 1915 under Covington’s third bishop, Camillus Maes, the cathedral houses numerous artistic treasures, including a triptych mural by the renowned American portrait painter Frank Duveneck, as well as one of the world’s largest church stained glass windows. It was raised to the rank of minor basilica in 1953 and greets close to one million visitors each year for tours, liturgies, and private prayer. Our thanks to Jordan Hainsey for sharing this information and these photographs with us.

The main altar
The Blessed Sacrament Chapel
The predella of sanctuary

New Outreach Project from the Eastern Catholic Church

I thought that NLM readers would be as interested as I was to learn about a new project that is being undertaken by Eastern Rite Catholics in the United States.

Fr Hezekias Carnazzo, a Melkite Catholic priest, whom many will know through his work with the Institute of Catholic Culture, recently contacted me about the creation of a new institution organized in a very similar way: God With US Online is dedicated to the catechetical renewal of Eastern Catholics in the United States in accord with the Church’s call for the New Evangelization.

While the goal is to teach Eastern Catholics about their faith, it strikes me that this will be of great interest to many Roman Catholics also. People can watch the talks and participate in video conferences. For more information on the project and the program for the coming year, see the posters below.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Learning from the French Foreign Legion and the Story of Victor

In an article this past May, I suggested that the advice of an MIT professor on the need for a “new habit of mind” for modern Westerners fits surprisingly well with the habit of mind inculcated by participation in the traditional Latin liturgy.

Another article, of October 2018, looked at how the Marines recruit new members, and compared it with how the Church recruits seminarians. The Eastern Orthodox and the SSPX imitate the Marines’ appeal to challenge and radical self-donation, while the mainstream Catholics offer milquetoast vocational videos that would cause most straight young men with an ounce of idealism to wince.

I would like to offer another analogy from secular culture — this time, a video on the French Foreign Legion. The full video may be found here, but I am most interested in the closing 2-minute segment, which has been excerpted for this article. The clip concerns the crucial importance of time-honored rituals, “carved in stone” as it were, for maintaining the cohesion and integrity of the Legion. The ritual we see here is the receipt of the soldiers’ pay in their coveted kepis, which they drag with them all the way out to Afghanistan, for no other purpose but to carry out this ritual:

The commanding officer explains how such rituals bind Legionnaires together from all around the world. The minutely-prescribed choreography of the Legion’s rituals constitute a sort of common language, which they can all relate to, no matter what the member’s country of origin. (Sadly, the video cuts out just before the officer finishes his remarks.)

As I watched this, I was struck by the obvious parallel with the function of Latin in the traditional Mass, the value of the precise rubrics lovingly observed and cherished, and the ineffable importance of the full pleroma of accompanying rites and ceremonies and sacramentals. It isn’t just the meaning of the language or the “intellectual content.” It is the whole action as something to be performed, a thousand times always the same, and so deeply satisfying every time — a fixed star in the chaotic night of combat, to which eyes from all nations can turn. Doubtless, if Church officials had not stopped thinking of the Church on earth as the “Church Militant,” they would no sooner have abandoned her immemorial rituals and traditions than the French Foreign Legion would consider dropping its cherished customs.

When success really matters — as in, say, life-and-death situations — you stick with what has proven its worth. You do not change the slightest symbol. You don’t act like the Knights of Columbus, now completely altering their uniforms in an aggiornamento that has the membership divided. Those who love their identity love also the signs by which it is proclaimed, the rituals by which it is cemented.

The Knights of Columbus: their internal "Novus Ordo" moment

*          *          *

A friend sent me a video about Victor, a young man who grew up Russian Orthodox but converted to the Catholic Faith and was eventually ordained a priest. The video is in German, but those who don’t speak the language can still follow the beautiful videography and get a sense of what’s happening:

Victor’s first step was recognizing that the Catholic Church taught the truth and that he had to become Catholic. But when he saw the Novus Ordo liturgy he was confused by its worldliness, especially in contrast to the Orthodox liturgies he had known before. He was, in fact, utterly perplexed: how can the Church that teaches the truth worship in a manner so totally at odds with her doctrine? He might have remained frozen in this no man’s land had he not found the traditional Latin Mass through the SSPX.

Victor left his family and his fatherland to go to the seminary at Zaitzkofen in Germany. He was ordained according to the rite that developed without interruption from the time of the Apostles. In other words, he encountered a perfect unity between doctrine and symbol, idea and expression, truth and ritual.

How many other Victors are there who are kept from conversion, or from priesthood or religious life, or from a coherent and mature Catholicism, because of the jarring divorce of realities so obviously meant to be wedded and, in their wedlock, fruitful? “What God hath joined together, let no pope put asunder.”

Visit for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen).

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Mystery Play of the Assumption

Many years ago, a Spanish friend of mine showed me a video of the Misterio de Elche, a mystery play that represents the Dormition and Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and I have been meaning and forgetting to post on it on NLM ever since. This is performed each year in the Basilica of the Virgin Mary in Elche, Spain, in two parts, the first on the evening of August 14th at Vespers, and the second on the feast day itself. I don’t have time to write my own explanation of it, but the article on Spanish Wikpedia (El Misterio de Elche) gives a pretty thorough account of it. (Google translate via Chrome works very well with Spanish.) Here are complete videos of the two parts of the play; there is a lot of very nice music, and it is staged with several impressive devices and stage machines, including a chandelier-like structure that is lowered from the church’s ceiling to bring the Virgin Mary up to heaven.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Liturgical Books at Christ Church, Oxford

Yesterday, the pilgrimage group of the Schola Sainte-Cécile visited the library of Christ Church, Oxford; among the items on display were a couple of particularly interesting liturgical books. The first is the only extant printed copy of the Antiphonary for the Divine Office according to the Use of Sarum, printed in Paris in 1519.

Christmas Eve (photo by Henri de Villiers)
The second, perhaps even more interesting from an historical point of view, is this late 15th century Epistolary, with letters in the classicizing style preferred by the Italian humanists, rather than the Fraktur types seen above. This is the Epistle for St Thomas of Canterbury; note that the words “sancti Thome Martyris” in the rubric have been partly effaced. After breaking with Rome, King Henry VIII ordered a complete damnatio memoriae of St Thomas; all churches and chapels titled to him had to be renamed for the Apostle Thomas, and every trace of his feast suppressed. In this case, as in many others, the effacement of the rubric was clearly not done in a very thorough way, since many people in England believed that the storm would eventually pass, and all things would be restored to their rightful place.

Christ Church was originally founded as Cardinal College in 1525 by Thomas Wolsey, Cardinal Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor of England. (The latter position was also once held by St Thomas of Canterbury.) This galero of his was stored for many years in the royal wardrobe, where it was found by Gilbert Burnet, the Anglican bishop of Salisbury, who gave it to his son, who gave it to his own housekeeper, who gave it to the butler of a countess, who gave it to his mistress, who gave it to the writer Horace Walpole, the 4th Earl of Orford. When items from Walpole’s estate were sold off, it was bought by a famous Shakespearean actor named Charles Kean (1811-68), who wore it when he played Cardinal Wolsey in Henry VIII. It was acquired by Christ Church in 1898.
Other items of religious interest: a very small Vulgate of the “Parisian” recension, a mass-produced (so to speak) edition made on cheaper paper and written in a very small and highly abbreviated script for the use of students at the Sorbonne and the other great medieval universities (13th century. The braided rope is used so that people can keep the book open without touching it, since there is always oil on the fingers, which is very bad for paper and parchment.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Comburg Abbey

Our Ambrosian writer Nicola de’ Grandi, tireless traveler and photographer that he is, recently visited several churches and Benedictine abbeys in German; here are some pictures from the abbey of Grosscomburg near the town of Hall in Swabia. Particularly interesting is the large medieval chandelier, which is made to represent the heavenly Jerusalem as it is described in the Apocalypse; this is one of only three that survive of the dozens made in the Middle Ages. Most of Comburg’s moveable metallic objects were melted down during Germany’s gigantic theft of church property known as the Sekularisation, and innumerable artistic treasures lost in the process. (In a recent post, you can see a chandelier broadly similar to this in one of the monasteries on Mt Athos, starting at about 1:13:00 in the video.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Gone on Pilgrimage 2019

It’s that time of year again, so I just wanted to let our readers know that things will be a little slower than usual this week on NLM. I am currently in England on a pilgrimage organized by the Schola Sainte Cécile from Paris, visiting a series of major churches and shrines, and attending Masses and Vespers sung by one of the best choirs in the world. The schedule is pretty full, so I won’t have a lot of time to post here, but there will be a lot of beautiful photos, and hopefully some videos, to share with you in the coming days and weeks. (I am for the moment also in a place with very bad internet service.) Yesterday, we celebrated Vespers and Benediction at the Oxford Oratory...

where I also bumped into an old and dear friend.
“The Oratory... where Cardinal Newman preached, Gerard Manley Hopkins was a priest, and JRR Tolkien worshipped.”

J. Kirk Richards: Sacred Art in the Naturalistic Style

One heartening trend today is the growing number of young artists who are rejecting the ethos of our mainstream art schools, and choosing instead to learn to draw and paint in the classical naturalistic styles. We have moved from a situation 50 years ago in which there was barely anywhere still teaching traditional methods, to one today where there are many. In US cities today there are dozens - perhaps hundreds - of small independent ateliers offering training in what is called the academic method, which originated in the art academies of the High Renaissance period.

For Christians who are interested in contributing to an improvement in sacred art, the ability to draw and paint naturalistically with great skill is not enough. Christians must strike a balance between naturalism and idealism. They must modify naturalistic appearances by partial abstraction to reveal invisible truths. The Baroque masters, for example, used stylistic elements with great skill to suggest that a person has a soul, or that the beauty of creation points to a Creator.

Pope Pius XII summed up the necessary balance of naturalism and idealism in his 1947 encyclical, Mediator Dei (195). He uses the words “realism” and “symbolism” to denote what I refer to as naturalism and idealism, respectively.
Recent works of art which lend themselves to the materials of modern composition, should not be universally despised and rejected through prejudice. Modern art should be given free scope in the due and reverent service of the church and the sacred rites, provided that they preserve a correct balance between styles tending neither to extreme realism nor to excessive “symbolism,” and that the needs of the Christian community are taken into consideration rather than the particular taste or talent of the individual artist. Thus modern art will be able to join its voice to that wonderful choir of praise to which have contributed, in honor of the Catholic faith, the greatest artists throughout the centuries. 
It is not an easy task for artists to do this, even assuming they have the necessary drawing and painting skill. The tendency of those who try is to make the art too naturalistic on the one hand - which lacks a sense of the sacred; or to make it too abstract on the other - which creates bad expressionistic art.

Here is the approach to striking that balance taken by one contemporary art called J. Kirk Richards (h/t to reader Kathryn Cardenas, who is a highly skilled artist herself, for bringing his work to my notice).

First, here are examples of mundane art by the artist. His style in these reminds me of the work of Gustav Klimpt of the Vienna Successionist school from the turn of the last century.

Here are examples of his sacred art.
The Resurrection
The woman at the well
The commissioning of the women

The Nativity
Suffer the Children
Interestingly, Kirk is a Mormon. I do not know anything about the tradition of art in the Church of Latter-Day Saints and so cannot say if this is typical. Certainly, I think that Catholics should consider, at least, his approach. I am not suggesting necessarily that you adopt an identical form of idealization (I happen to like it very much), but I would say that you need some coherent departure from natural appearances if you are serious about creating sacred art for the Church today. 

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