Monday, September 30, 2019

The Communion of St Jerome by Domenichino

It is to be expected that the Renaissance would greatly admire the figure of St Jerome, second only to St Augustine as the most prolific writer among the Latin Fathers. Augustine himself describes Jerome as “learned in the Greek and Latin tongues, and furthermore in Hebrew,” and says that he had “read all those before him, or nearly all, who had written anything about the Church’s teaching in both parts of the world,” i.e., among the Greek or Latin writers. (Contra Julianum 1, 34) The scholars of the Renaissance prided themselves on their rediscovery of the classical world, and their return to the original sources of Greco-Roman culture. By learning Hebrew and producing a new and better Latin translation of the Bible, that which we now call the Vulgate, St Jerome had done what they themselves were doing, but with the very Word of God itself.

In the 15th century, which produced a great many images of St Jerome, he is often shown as a scholar in his study, sitting at a desk and surrounded by books. Since he had revised the Latin version of the Gospels at the behest of Pope St Damasus I, and served for a time as his secretary, he is traditionally depicted as a cardinal, which the contemporary Pope’s secretary would normally be. There are few episodes of what one might describe as a legendary character attached to him, but a famous one is the Christian version of the Androcles and the lion story, that while he was living in his monastery in Bethlehem, he removed a thorn from the paw of a lion, which henceforth became his pet. A lion is therefore usually shown in the study along with the Saint.

St Jerome in His Study, by Jan van Eyck, 1442 
A contrary trend, however, shows St Jerome as an ascetic and penitent, praying in the desert, as he did indeed spend much of his life as a monk in the deserts of the Holy Land. As evidenced by many of his writings, but especially by his fierce polemics against the errors of his times, Jerome was not the kind of man to do anything by halves; the apprehension of his character gave rise to the tradition by which he is shown beating his own breast with a rock as an act of penance. Pope Benedict XIV (1740-58) is said to have remarked on such a representation of the Saint, who also quarreled violently with several of his friends (including Augustine), “If it is true, that would be the only way you got into heaven.” The figure of Jerome the Ascetic corrects a tendency common among the learned men of the Renaissance, (Erasmus is a classic example), to disdain the Christian ideals of detachment and renunciation, a disdain which all too often degenerates into further disdain for “the ignorant”, and one’s fellow man generally.

St Jerome in the Wilderness, by Jacopo del Sellaio, later 15th century
Before the middle of the 16th-century, these two manners of representing St Jerome appear side by side, each with roughly the same frequency. In the Counter-Reformation, however, Jerome the Ascetic and Penitent comes to dominate almost completely. One of the most famous such paintings of the Roman Counter-Reformation is that of Domenico Zampieri, a painter from Bologna generally known by the nickname “Domenichino – Little Dominic.” After coming to Rome in 1602 at the age of twenty, and making a name for himself first as a student of Annibale Carracci, and then with various projects of his own, he was commissioned in 1614 to do his first altarpiece, for the church of San Girolamo della Carità, once the home of St Philip Neri. (“Girolamo” is Italian for “Jerome”.)

One of his contemporaries, Gian Pietro Bellori, described Domenichino’s Communion of St Jerome as follows: “Who could ever speak worthily and at great enough length of such a stupendous work, if one observes its drawing and expression? These are the parts that are unanimously considered the merits of Domenichino, over and above all other painters of this century.” He also reported that Nicholas Poussin, a much-esteemed French painter of the era who worked most of his life in Rome, “was ravished by its beauty, and used to set it beside Raphael’s Transfiguration… as the two greatest paintings that lend glory to the brush.” (Paintings in the Vatican, ed. Carlo Pietrangeli, p. 474) Another contemporary, Giovanni Lanfranco, famously accused Domenichino of plagiarizing the work from Agostino Caracci, a brother of his teacher, but he was fiercely defended from this imputation by Bellori and Poussin among others.

The Communion of St Jerome, by Domenico Zampieri, 1614; now in the Painting Gallery of the Vatican Museums 
St Jerome was a figure at once important and difficult for the Protestant reformation. He was the only Father of the Church to whose authority the early Protestants could appeal in their rejection of the Deuterocanonical books of the Bible, (he is cited to this effect in the Articles of the Church of England), even though he himself did not hold his position against them consistently. John Calvin famously stated about St Augustine, “totus noster est – he belongs entirely to us”, (a typically gross exaggeration), and as noted above, Augustine praised Jerome as the most learned man of their age. But Jerome was also a fierce defender of many things rejected by the Protestants: devotion to the Saints and the cult of relics, the Papacy, asceticism and monasticism, celibacy and virginity.

In Domenichino’s painting, therefore, an exemplary work of the Counter-Reformation, Jerome the Ascetic comes entirely to the fore, and there is no trace of Jerome the Scholar. His open robes reveal the body of an elderly man emaciated by years of fasts and long vigils. The robes themselves are cardinalitial red, representing the highest institutions of governance in the Church. A woman kneeling down beside Jerome kisses his hand, venerating him as a Saint. He himself gazes in adoration at the Host of the Viaticum which he is about to receive; Domenichino emphasizes its importance by making the background immediately around it very dark, and having several of the lines in the painting converge upon it. The priest who administers the Host is holding it in the traditional Catholic manner, between his canonical digits, and under a paten.

The Catholicity, i.e., the universality, of the true Church founded by Christ is highlighted by the fact that the priest is assisted by a deacon in a Roman dalmatic (note the tassels on the back), and another wearing the crossed horarion and cuffs (called “epimanikia”) of the Byzantine tradition. St Jerome spent about 35 years of his life in Bethlehem, and died there on this day in the year 419; in his time, the city had Christian communities of both Latin and Greek speakers, especially after the sack of Rome in 410, when many Romans fled to the East. The Counter-Reformation often sought to proclaim, as it does here, the unified witness of East and West, the Latin Fathers and the Greek, against the theological innovations of the 16th century.

Finally, we may note the Angels in the upper right hand corner, watching the scene and ready to welcome the dying Saint into their company. They are shown as smiling children, the emissaries of a loving and benevolent God, unlike the deeply unpleasant deity of Calvin. They will soon bring St Jerome before the Lord, who will receive him with the words sung at the Benedictus in the Office of Confessors, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Celebration of Card. Newman’s Canonization in Louisville, Kentucky

St Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Louisville, Kentucky, will celebrate the canonization of Bl. John Henry Newman on Sunday, October 13th, with music especially chosen for the occasion. At the 10:30 a.m. OF Mass, which is that of the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Paul Weber’s Missa Brevis in G Minor, along with a setting by René Clausen of Newman’s prayer “Radiating Christ” (wrongly attributed to St Teresa of Calcutta, who prayed this prayer daily with her sisters), Stanford’s Justorum Animae, and various other hymns written by Newman himself. The music for the 12:15 p.m. EF Mass will also reflect the occasion of Newman’s canonization, comprising the Weber Missa Brevis, two Stanford motets, Justorum Animae and Beati Quorum Via, and will conclude with a chanted Te Deum; the proper texts will be from the 18th Sunday after Pentecost.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Card. Burke to Celebrate Pontifical Mass in Rome on Wednesday

On Wednesday, October 2, the feast of the Guardian Angels, His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke will celebrate a Pontifical High Mass at the Fraternity of St Peter’s Roman church, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. The Mass will begin at 6:30 pm; afterwards, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed, and the church will remain open until midnight for Adoration. The church is located in the Piazza Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, close to the Ponte Sisto.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Music for Vespers of St Michael

When Pope Urban VIII had the hymns of the Roman Breviary revised in a more classicizing style, few were altered as completely as the hymn for Vespers of St Michael. The original version, traditionally attributed to Blessed Rabanus Maurus (ca. 780-856) was written in four stanzas of six lines, in a trochaic meter (alternating long and short syllables, with one syllable missing at the end of each even-numbered line); Pope Urban’s version is in the iambic dimeter (eight syllables per line, alternative short and long) popularized by St Ambrose. This rearrangement, the version still used in the Roman Breviary of the Extraordinary Form, necessitated a complete recasting of the music as well. (English translation by Fr Edward Caswell C.O., 1814-78.)

Te, splendor et virtus Patris,
Te vita, Jesu, cordium,
Ab ore qui pendent tuo,
Laudámus inter Angelos.
O Jesus, life-spring of the soul!
The Father's Power and Glory bright!
Thee with Angels we extol;
from Thee they draw their life and light.
Tibi mille densa millium
Ducum coróna mílitat;
Sed éxplicat victor Crucem
Míchaël salútis sígnifer.
Thy thousand, thousand hosts are spread,
embattled o’er the azure sky;
but Michael bears Thy standard dread,
and lifts the mighty Cross on high.
Dracónis hic dirum caput
In ima pellit tártara,
Ducemque cum rebéllibus
Caelesti ab arce fúlminat.
He in that sign the rebel powers
did with their dragon prince expel:
and hurled them from heaven’s high towers,
down like a thunderbolt to hell.
Contra ducem superbiae
Sequámur hunc nos príncipem,
Ut detur ex Agni throno
Nobis coróna gloriae.
Grant us, with Michael, still, O Lord,
Against the prince of pride to fight;
So may a crown be our reward,
Before the Lamb’s pure throne of light.
Deo Patri sit gloria,
Qui, quos redémit Filius,
Et Sanctus unxit Spíritus,
Per Angelos custodiat. Amen.
To God the Father, with the Son
And Holy Paraclete, with thee,
As evermore hath been before,
Be glory through eternity. Amen.

Many churches, including St Peter’s basilica, as well as the various orders of monks, and the religious orders that retained their own liturgical (Dominicans, Premonstratensians and Old Observance Carmelites) did not accept the revised hymns of Pope Urban, and continued to use the original version. It has also been restored to the post-Conciliar Liturgy of the Hours, with only two small alterations, which are included in this recording; the words “omnes caeli milites” are changed to “inclytos archangelos”, to reflect the recasting of the feast as that of the three Archangels named in the Bible, and the word “zabulum”, an early medieval version of “diabolum”, is replaced, purely in function of Dom Lentini’s literary taste. (English translation by John Mason Neale, 1818-66).

Tibi, Christe, splendor Patris,
Vita, virtus cordium,
In conspectu Angelórum
Votis, voce psállimus:
Alternantes concrepando
Melos damus vócibus.
Thee, O Christ, the Father’s splendor,
Life and virtue of the heart,
In the presence of the angels
Sing we now with tuneful art,
Meetly in alternate chorus,
Bearing our responsive part.
Collaudámus venerantes
Omnes caeli mílites,
Sed praecípue Primátem
Caelestis exércitus:
Michaélem, in virtúte
Conterentem zábulum.
Thus we praise with veneration
All the armies of the sky;
Chiefly him, the warrior primate,
Of celestial chivalry,
Michael, who in princely virtue
Cast Abaddon from on high.
Quo custóde procul pelle,
Rex Christe piíssime,
Omne nefas inimíci:
Mundo corde et córpore,
Paradíso redde tuo
Nos sola clementia.
By whose watchful care repelling,
King of everlasting grace,
Every ghostly adversary,
All things evil, all things base,
Grant us of Thine only goodness,
In Thy paradise a place.
Gloriam Patri melódis
Personémus vócibus,
Gloriam Christo canámus,
Gloriam Paráclito,
Qui trinus et unus Deus
Exstat ante sáecula. Amen.
Laud and honor to the Father,
Laud and honor to the Son,
Laud and honor to the Spirit,
Ever Three, and ever One,
Consubstantial, co-eternal,
While unending ages run. Amen.

The earlier version was, of course, the one known to the great composers of the Counter-Reformation; here is a particularly beautiful setting in alternating chant and polyphony by Tomás Luís de Victória (1548-1611.)

The antiphon for the Magnificat at First Vespers – Aña Dum sacrum mysterium cérneret Joannes, Archángelus Míchaël tuba cécinit: Ignosce, Dómine, Deus noster, qui áperis librum, et solvis signácula ejus, allelúja. – While John beheld the sacred mystery, the Archangel Michael sounded his trumpet: Forgive, o Lord our God, Who openest the book, and loosest the seals thereof. Alleluia.

And for Second Vespers – Aña Princeps gloriosíssime, Míchaël Archángele, esto memor nostri: hic et ubíque semper precáre pro nobis Fílium Dei, allelúja, allelúja. – O Prince most glorious, Michael the Archangel, do thou remember us; here, and everywhere, always entreat the Son of God for us, alleluja, alleluja.

The text was set as a motet by Palestrina’s contemporary Luca Marenzio (1553-99), who was famous as a composer of madrigls, of which he wrote over 500, but also wrote a large number of sacred works.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Solemn Mass of St Matthew in San Diego

Last Saturday, on the feast of St Matthew, a Solemn High Mass in the traditional was sung at St Joseph’s Cathedral, in downtown San Diego. The ordinary of the Mass was Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, sung by the Tomas Luis de Victoria Choir of San Diego, along with motets; the complete Gregorian propers were sung by the Brothers of the Little Oratory in San Diego and the young men of the Benedict XVI Youth Schola, conducted by John Polhamus. The Mass was celebrated by priests of the FSSP, and served by members of Holy Martyrs Catholic Church in Murrieta, California, a church of the Anglican Ordinariate. Here are a couple of pictures and a complete video of the ceremony, thanks to Mr Robert Lionello. Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum celebrare fratres in unum!

Some Rubrical Notes for the Coming Weeks

Over the next several days, there are some rubrical matters which are a little out of the ordinary in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form; these regard the Masses of the next two Sundays, and the arrangement of the Scriptural readings in the Breviary.

1. In the Extraordinary Form, next Sunday will be celebrated as the feast of St Michael and All Angels (officially “the dedication of St Michael”), which is a first class feast, and therefore takes precedence over the second class Sunday, the 16th after Pentecost. At Mass, a commemoration is made of the Sunday, and in the Office, commemorations of the Sunday are made at both Vespers and Lauds. The liturgical books of St Pius V also prescribe that the Gospel of the Sunday (in this case, Luke 14, 1-14) be read at the end of Mass in place of the Prologue of St John, and the first part of the corresponding homily in the Breviary be read as the ninth lesson of Matins. Neither of these customs is retained in the Missal and Breviary of St John XXIII.

Page 118 of the summer volume of the Antiphonary of Hartker, (St Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 391), ca. 1000 AD. At the top of the page are the last parts of the Office of Ss Maurice and Companions, followed by a single antiphon for Ss Cosmas and Damian, and then the beginning of the Office of St Michael: the Magnificat antiphon for First Vespers (which are often called “vigilia” in medieval rubrics), Dum sacrum mysterium, is followed by the Invitatory, and the first antiphon of Matins.
Corpus Christi Watershed has all the Gregorian Mass propers available for consulation in pdf, recordings in video and MP3 format, and scores for organ accompaniment (in pdf); click the following link and scroll down to “Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel”:

The older rubrics of the Missal also prescribe that when the Mass of the Sunday is impeded, it is to be said during the week on the first day on which no major feast occurs, but without the Gloria or the Creed; in the case of the coming week, this would be done on Tuesday, October 1st. This custom was, of course, intended to guarantee that as far as possible, every Mass of the annual cycle of Sundays would be said at some point. In the Missal of St John XXIII, this is no longer done, but on October 1st, the priest is free to choose which Mass he will say, and may therefore choose to say the Mass of the previous Sunday, (again, without the Gloria or the Creed.)

In the Ordinary Form, the feasts of Ss Gabriel and Raphael were consolidated with that of St Michael, and the feast on September 29th is now titled to all three archangels. Wherever any one of them is honored as a principal patron, it is kept as a solemnity, which outranks the ordinary Sunday; elsewhere, the Sunday is celebrated, and the feast is omitted. This is one of the most ancient feasts of the Roman Rite, and prayer to invoke the protection and intercession of the archangels is older than Christianity itself; the total omission of it when it falls on a Sunday is a serious flaw of the post-Conciliar calendar. However, there are two free ferial days during the following week, October 3 and 5, and it would be an excellent idea to compensate for this flaw by celebrating a votive Mass of the Archangels on one or both of these days.

2. Prior to the liturgical reform of St Pius X, the feast of the Most Holy Rosary was always celebrated on the first Sunday of October; in the Extraordinary Form, it may still be celebrated on that Sunday as an external solemnity. This privilege is attached to the feast as a matter of law, and requires no special permission or indult, as specified in #358b of the General Rubrics of the 1962 Missal. No such provision exists in the Ordinary Form, in which the feast was downgraded from 2nd class (1962) to “memorial”, another mistake waiting for correction.

However, if the external solemnity is celebrated, it is still obligatory to say both the Mass and Divine Office of the feast of the Rosary on its fixed day, October 7th. An external solemnity is not the transference of a feast, but a non-obligatory pastoral provision which may be made when a reasonable number of the faithful are unable to attend the feast on its proper day. The Mass of the feast is repeated (in this case, by anticipation), but the Office is not changed to match it; the rubrics of the 1962 Missal (numbers 356-361) describe it as “celebratio … festi absque Officio – the celebration of the feast without the Office.” Whereas on the feast day itself, a church may celebrate as many Masses of the feast as are possible, desired, or necessary, only two may be said of the feast on its external solemnity (number 360), and only one of them may be sung.

The Madonna of the Rosary, by Guido Reni, 1598
3. I normally publish the following material each year towards the end of July or August, since it describes a change which the 1960 revision made to the Breviary which affects the arrangement of the months from August to November; in some years, it also displaces the September Ember days from their traditional date. This year, however, its first application only comes with the month of October.

The first Sunday of each of these months is the day on which the Church begins to read a new set of Scriptural books at Matins, with their accompanying responsories, and antiphons at the Magnificat at Vespers of Saturday; these readings are part of a system which goes back to the sixth century. In August, the books of Wisdom are read; in September, Job, Tobias, Judith and Esther; in October the books of the Macchabees; in November, Ezechiel, Daniel, and the twelve minor Prophets. (September is actually divided into two sets of readings, Job having a different set of responsories from the other three books.)

The “first Sunday” of each of these months is traditionally that which occurs closest to the first calendar day of the month, even if that day occurs within the end of the previous month. This year, for example, the first Sunday “of October” is actually September 29th, the Sunday closest to the first day of October. In the 1960 revision, however, the first Sunday of the months from August to November is always that which occurs first within the calendar month. According to this system, the first Sunday of October is the 6th this year.

This change also accounts for one of the peculiarities of the 1960 Breviary, the fact that November has four weeks, which are called the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth. According to the older calculation, November has five weeks when the 5th of the month is a Sunday, as it was in 2017. (This is also the arrangement that has the shortest possible Advent of 3 weeks and one day.) According to the newer calculation, November may have three or four weeks, but never five. In order to accommodate the new system, one of the weeks had to be removed; the second week of November was chosen, to maintain the tradition that at least a bit of each of the Prophets would continue to be read in the Breviary.

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year are arranged as follows according to the traditional system:

September 29 - the 1st Sunday of October (Commemorated on the feast of St Michael; the books of the Maccabees begin on Monday.)
October 6 - the 2nd Sunday of October
October 13 - the 3rd Sunday of October
October 20- the 4th Sunday of October
October 27- the 5th Sunday of October (commemorated on the feast of Christ the King.)

November 3 - the 1st Sunday of November
(The second week of November is omitted this year)
November 10 - the 3rd Sunday of November
November 17 - the 4th Sunday of November
November 24 - the 5th Sunday of November

The Sundays for the rest of the liturgical year, according to the 1960 system:

September 29 - the 5th Sunday of September (Commemorated on the feast of St Michael; the book of Esther is read during the week.)

October 6 - the 1st Sunday of October (The books of the Maccabees begin.)
October 13 - the 2nd Sunday of October
October 20 - the 3rd Sunday of October
October 27 - the 4th Sunday of October (The entire Office of the Sunday is omitted on the feast of Christ the King)

November 3 - the 1st Sunday of November
November 10 - the 3rd Sunday of November
November 17 - the 4th Sunday of November
November 24 - the 5th Sunday of November

A Special Mass for Card. Newman’s Canonization, October 13th in Stamford CT

The basilica of St John the Evangelist in Stamford, Connecticut, will host the US premiere of Charles Villiers Stanford’s Great Mass in G major (opus 46), on Sunday, October 13, in celebration of the canonization of the Bl. Cardinal John Henry Newman, which will take place that same day. The Mass will begin at noon; the basilica is located at 279 Atlantic Street in downtown Stamford. Admission to the Mass is free and open to the general public; advance media coverage is encouraged, and members of the media are welcome to attend.

Charles Stanford (1852-1924) was a major composer, music teacher, and conductor, and the founding director of the Royal College of Music in London; his Great Mass in G major was written in 1892 at the request of Thomas Wingham, choirmaster of the London Oratory, and has never been performed outside of the United Kingdom. “The Great Mass was written when Stanford was at the height of his musical powers and calls for a wealth of musical forces, employing a full orchestra, choir, and soloists,” says Nicholas Botkins, musical director of the basilica, who will serve as conductor. “Stanford is one of the giants of British music, and I can’t think of a better way for our Catholic community to honor the canonization of a giant figure in our Church, John Henry Cardinal Newman.”

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Card. Sarah Visits the Monastère Saint Benoît

This past weekend, the Monastère Saint Benoît in La Garde-Freinet, France (diocese of Fréjus-Toulon), welcomed Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, for the celebration of Pontifical Mass on the feast of St Matthew, and the presentation of his latest book, The Day is Now Far Spent. On Sunday, His Eminence attended and preached at a solemn Mass on the feast of the dedication of the cathedral of Fréjus, followed by solemn Vespers in the evening. Our thanks to the prior, Dom Alcuin Reid, for sharing these photographs with us; the complete set can be seen at the monastery’s Facebook page.

Following Up on “Bible Vigils”

Earlier this month, I posted some photos which Dom Hugh Sommerville-Knapmen of Douai Abbey in England very kindly shared with us from a variety of liturgical publications, mostly from the 1960s. One of these was a book produced by the monks of Douai for the celebration of “Bible services”, as recommended by paragraph 35.4 of Sacrosanctum Concilium, during the brief period when the Church still held that the letter of a document promulgated by an ecumenical council is a thing to be taken seriously. A friend of mine then shared with us a story about how these Bible vigils popped up and disappeared within a very short time

Here is what some other readers very kindly shared with us, in response to our request for further information about their own experiences with Bible vigils, and the shift in devotional life in the post-Conciliar period.

Reader A.M. send in several items from British and Irish newspapers with “Bible vigils” listed among the church services in the mid-to-late ’60s.
– A Catholic Youth Day held at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Knock in Ireland lists among the events “Concelebrated Mass with full liturgical participation by the Youth ... Bible vigils (readings by teenagers)”, followed by “the usual Pilgrimage Devotions.” It does not appear that this event is held at all any longer.
– Another article states that “In order to make the liturgy of Holy Week more meaningful, Fr B. began ‘Easter and You’ weeks... they involve bringing mime (!), drama and Bible vigils into the churches in preparation for the liturgy.” Should this be taken as a confession that the reformed Holy Week of 1955 failed to achieve its stated goal of bringing the services closer to the faithful?
– Dr John Barkley, Professor of Church History at Assembly College in Belfast, a theological college of the Irish Presbyterian Church, in an article titled “What is happening in Rome”, with the subheader “Wyclif would have welcomed this move to Bible study”, writes with approbation of “the introduction, instead of evening services (my emphasis), of Bible Vigils based on Scripture, and meditation thereon.” The cathedral of the Roman Catholic prelate named in the article does not currently list anything like a “Bible vigil” on its schedule of services, nor any kind of evening devotions, or a single Hour of the Divine Office.

M.F.: In the late 1960s we used a book for these services called The Liturgy and the Laity, produced by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood. It provided services for seasons, feasts and devotions like First Fridays. We used to dress these up with a procession with the Bible, candles and incense,  and those participating wore surplices. There was a short homily by a friar, sometimes a priest was present and vested. On the night before Thanksgiving, a priest or a new reader would bless bread wine and fruit for dinner; in Lent we had veneration of a relic of the cross. At the church of — in , we transformed the devotion of the 13 Tuesdays in honor of St Anthony into a Bible vigil,  with the better elements of the devotion, the singing of (the miraculous responsory) Si quaeris Miracula, the blessing with the relic and the veneration of the relic at the altar rail. The prayers were edited carefully.” The church currently lists devotions on its regular schedule (Adoration on First Friday, Rosary before every Mass, etc.), and a twice monthly Bible study, but no Bible vigil.

C.O. wrotes in to note that this book is still available; here is part of the description. “Liturgy and Laity is a prayer book designed to help average Catholics share deeply in the Church’s rich, liturgical life. (It) offers a series of reflections on the doctrines underlying the Liturgy as outlined in the Constitution on the Liturgy, and a series of prayer exercises known as Bible Vigils, which are meant to increase our knowledge and love of the Word of God. Liturgy and Laity is a complete guide to the liturgy of the Church offering both the theological basis of the liturgy as well as liturgical devotions. This book is perfect for use in group prayer among the family, study groups, and parish life.”

B.D.: I remember attending a Bible vigil service once during my freshman year at — seminary. It was celebrated on a Friday afternoon with music and a touch of ceremony. The lector was a senior, attired in cassock and surplice, hymns were sung, but I don’t recall Benediction being celebrated. I do recall that the next vigil was canceled and never heard of again. We had a perfectly horrid prayer book with ugly drawings and uglier hymns. The 1964/65 Missal was used during two years of my time there. I can still hear the pronunciation of various celebrants of the Latin Canon amongst other prayers. No attempt was made at celebrating the Office.

The following comments originally appeared on the post requesting people to share their experiences with Bible vigils.

D.V.: I received my First Holy Communion in 1968. I remember that on the Friday evening before that Sunday we had a ‘Bible Vigil”. It was a Liturgy of the Word and we were, at the conclusion, enrolled in the Brown Scapular. There was no Benediction as I recall.

S.M.: Bible Vigils in Baltimore were usually synaxes of the Word with 3 lessons, hymns, and intercessions. They were frequently followed by Benediction or some other devotion, e.g., Stations.

S.F.: Bible services were all the rage in the 1960s. Essentially, from the examples that I have seen, they were what became the Liturgy of the Word in the Novus Ordo Missae. There was an introduction, first OT reading, psalm, NT reading, Gospel, homily and prayers.

D.A.: I was in the parish grade school through the 1960s, and I do remember seeing "Bible vigils" published, but I do remember a desire to become more aware of the Bible. Looking back, that makes little sense. There was always a bible in our home, and obviously the Scriptures were read at Mass, and repeated in the vernacular during the homily. And at my parish, it was generally about the Epistle and/or Gospel reading for that day, as opposed to whatever was on the pastor's mind.

On the subject of devotional life in general:

D.P.F.: I’m happy to share that Rosary continues to be said daily in our parish church every day at 4 am, followed by a 5 a.m. Mass. Devotion to Our Lady Perpetual Help is said every Wednesday, and occasional vigil and procession of St Peregrine whenever there is a pandemic of anything. Lenten Stations of the Cross are an annual thing for each community and villages, same thing for visiting 7 churches during Maundy Thursday, attending siete palabras or communal reflection on the 7 last words of Christ lead by the parish vicar or an assistant priest.

What is lamentable is the gradual disappearance of domestic devotions. Until the late 90s, it was not uncommon for grandparents to call us kids who were still playing in the streets in for the evening Rosary, lead by them or our parents. A picture or statue of Christ the King was displayed in front of our houses during last Sunday of October, even though the feast is now celebrated in November. Every kid in my generation learned the Spanish prayer Bendito (de Altar) before any other prayer, since it is still said every after Rosary or novenas. Friday meat abstinence was still a common practice for most Catholic families until the mid ’90s; the Holy Saturday night vigil at homes to anticipate the Easter Mass by the whole family is practiced by very few families today.

Basically, Catholic kids in the Philippines still experienced in the 1990s a kind of domestic church, where parents and grandparents observed the changing of the liturgical season and major feasts of the Church.

The Art of the Beautiful: 7th Lecture Series Begins September 27th in NYC

Thanks to Kevin Collins for sending the schedule for the 7th season (2019-20) of the Art of the Beautiful lecture series. It starts tomorrow, September 27th at the Catholic Center at NYU and is organized by the Catholic Artists Society. The opening event is a presentation by LA-based film and theatre producer T.J. Berden (Paul, Apostle of Christ; Full of Grace) who will show clips from several films and discuss his work as a producer, his concept of “sacred arthouse” cinema, and speaking to audiences with works of beauty, goodness and truth. There is a reception at 6 pm, and the lecture starts at 7 pm. The Catholic Center is located at 238 Thompson Street, New York - just south of Washington Square Park

The Scottish composer Sir James MacMillan will be their guest in November. Here is the full schedule of speakers.

A Dominican Preaching: Agnolo degli Erri, active 1440s - 1497

Dominican Rite Sung Mass in Anchorage, Alaska October 3

I am pleased also to announce that a Dominican Rite Missa Cantata is celebrated at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage AK every Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

“Mass of the Americas” and the Flourishing of Religious Culture: Guest Article By Roseanne T. Sullivan

In our era, new musical Mass settings are rarely commissioned. So, it’s notable that a new musical Mass was commissioned and celebrated by Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in San Francisco last December. For this article, Roseanne T. Sullivan interviewed by email the respected Bay Area traditional sacred music composer, Frank La Rocca, who composed the Mass. They discussed when it is legitimate to call a musical composition a “Mass,” and how he was able to incorporate multiple languages and non-traditional musical instruments and elevate them into a composition suitable for the sacred liturgy of the Catholic Church. This article was previously published on the blog Dappled Things.

On December 8, 2018, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the “Mass of the Americas” premiered at San Francisco’s Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. The Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Cordileone at the end of the 25th annual “Cruzada Guadalupana,” a 12-mile pilgrimage in honor of our Lady of Guadalupe—which is held every year on the closest Saturday to her feast day December 12. This popular annual event draws thousands, many of them Mexican-American, from around the Bay Area.

Mark Nowakowski—who is also a composer and who attended the “Mass of the Americas”—wrote in his review “Return to Liturgical Glory?” that even though many mass goers were exhausted from the pilgrimage, the music elicited their rapt attention.

This reaction was confirmed for me personally by Lety (Letitia) Hernandez, who cleans house for me once in a while. She lives in San José, which is an hour’s drive from San Francisco. She told me the next Monday—with great enthusiasm, in a mixture of Spanish and a little English—that she took part in the walk, attended the Mass, and (¡Me gusto mucho!) she liked the music very much.

The Mass was sung by a 16-voice choir and by soloists singing different parts, in Spanish, Latin, English. One hymn was sung in Nahuatl, the language in which Our Lady of Guadalupe spoke when she appeared to Saint Juan Diego. The singing was accompanied at various points by an equally unusual ensemble of organ, string quartet, bells and marimba.

Frank La Rocca, who composed “Mass of the Americas,” is a classically trained musician and composer, and he is the composer in residence for the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship—which was founded by Archbishop Cordileone.

When I first read the announcements at the Benedict XVI Institute website about the planned inclusion of multiple languages and non-traditional instruments in “Mass of the Americas,” I feared the result might be a hodgepodge that departed from the accepted traditional norms of musical Mass settings. But in the process of researching the Mass and interviewing its composer, I became convinced that composer La Rocca deftly incorporated the non-traditional elements with the best possible understanding and reverence for what a Mass is supposed to be.

How It Came About

Mass of the Americas was envisioned by Archbishop Cordileone as an intertwined tribute to our Lady of the Immaculate Conception as Patroness of the United States and our Lady of Guadalupe as Patroness of all the Americas, with sacralized folk music. “I’m trying to model how the Church has always appropriately enculturated the Gospel by adapting aspects of the local culture, but within the sacred tradition” — Archbishop Cordileone

The quotes in this section are from “The Making of the Mass of the Americas” by Maggie Gallagher, the director of the Benedict XVI Institute, from an interview with La Rocca. More specifics about why and how La Rocca used various languages in the parts of his “Mass of the Americas” are in the Gallagher interview and in my own interview at the end of this article.

La Rocca at first resisted Archbishop Cordileone’s request. “I am a dyed-in-the-wool Western European classical composer. All of these things take me well outside the orbit of what I know.” However: “It is the job of a composer-in-residence to respond to commissions.”

In response to the commission, La Rocca researched the Mission period, the music, and the various versions of Mexican Marian folk hymns that the archbishop suggested, including Las Mananitas and La Guadalupana. “La Mananitas is the Mexican equivalent of Happy Birthday, although originally the tune was created for a text about the Virgin Mary and King David, so it has a devotional history even though it’s not used that way now. . . . La Guadalupana has always been, and it sounds like, a typical Mexican Mariachi tune: the oompah, oompah guitar, the crooning violins, and the two robust male singers. The challenge before me was to make the tune recognizable enough so anyone paying attention would sit up and say, ‘I know that,’ but with the words changed and the sounds of the guitars, the violins, and the voices lifted up and transformed.”

“That occupied a great deal of my time trying to figure out how close to the surface to bring the tune – how close to what listeners would be literally familiar with — in order for it to be recognized, and yet still get absorbed into the fabric of reverent music for the liturgy.” His challenge was to do it “in a musical style appropriate to the tune while taking it to sacred places that, for all I know, no other arranger ever has.” In some ways, it’s not that different than what many classical music composers have done over the centuries in incorporating folk tunes into the classical tradition.

Frank La Rocca, “Mass of the Americas” Composer

Sixty-eight year old La Rocca has a B.A. in Music from Yale, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Music from University of California at Berkeley. He was a cradle Catholic who left the Church as a young man and returned after forty-two years of being away. The first piece of sacred choral music he ever composed as a Catholic was his Ave Maria, which is included the Mass of the Americas.

He dedicated his Ave Maria to a friend, an old Cistercian Nun, Sister Columba Guare, O.C.S.O. When he sent it to her and told her he had come back to the Church, Sister Columba told him that her whole community at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in Iowa had been praying for his return! (You can listen to La Rocca’s Ave Maria here).

La Rocca has said he approaches his work in sacred choral music as “a kind of missionary work” and regards himself in that role “as an apologist for a distinctively Christian faith—not through doctrinal argument, but through the beauty of music.”

MOTA’s Use of the Ordinary

La Rocca stayed true to the traditional practice of using the words of the Catholic Mass for his settings of the Ordinary. For example, La Rocca set the text of the Kyrie with each Greek verse preceded by a Spanish invocation (trope) from the Spanish translation of the Missal. For example, “Tú que vienes a visitar a tu pueblo con la paz. Kyrie Eleison.”

MOTA’s Use of Historic Hymns

La Rocca’s Mass included the music for three hymns that have deep roots in California history. The Processional (Entrance Hymn) “El Cantico del Alba,” the “Canticle of the Dawn,” is a morning hymn in Spanish to Our Lady. Historians have recorded that hymn was sung upon rising and on the way to Mass, by almost everyone, every day, and everywhere Catholics lived throughout Alta and Baja California, in the missions and the pueblos, during the years of Spanish and Mexican rule.

A unique musical setting by La Rocca was used for the Communion meditation. He set the text of a translation of “Aue Maria,” “Hail Mary” in the Nahuatl language, which he discovered in a collection used for teaching Nahuatl-speakers that was written in 1634 by a mixed-race missionary in Mexico who was fluent both in Spanish and in Nahuatl.

La Rocca’s Mass ended with a Recessional setting of the Latin Marian Antiphon for the season, “Alma Redemptoris Mater,” which melded gradually into counterpoint between “Alma” and the melody of “La Guadalupana,” a musical symbol of the unity Archbishop Cordileone asked La Rocca to embody in the work. As La Rocca explained, the tune of La Guadalupana was “elevated into a high classical sacred musical language” to suit the reverence due the liturgy. The tune was also subtly woven into a number of other movements, most notably the Gloria.

The words themselves are charming; they tell about how Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to Juan Diego, in the form of a young native woman, how she asked for an altar in her honor to be built on the hill where she appeared, and how from the time she appeared she has been the mother of all peoples in Mexico. Pope John Paul II canonized Juan Diego in 2002 and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe the patroness of the all the Americas.

Catholic Children’s Choirs 2019

Each year since 2013, NLM has published a list of Catholic Liturgical Children’s Choirs. Over time the list has expanded, and we are delighted that there are a number of new additions this year. The start of the academic year is an ideal time to be thinking about enrolling your child in a choir; in so doing, you are helping to beautify the Liturgy, and your child will gain the immeasurable benefits of an immersion in the musical treasures of the Catholic Church.

If any information is out of date, or if you are the Director of a Catholic children’s choir which is not listed, please email the details in the format shown below to and the post will be updated.

UNITED STATES (Alphabetically by state)

Cathedral of St Paul: a Schola for boys and girls learning Chant and other Sacred Music. Director of Music, Mr. Bruce Ludwick, Jr.: Website

A chorister programme “in formation” is beginning this month at St Joan of Arc, Phoenix, AZ. The first year will focus on musical education and sight-singing,  learning both modern notation as well as Gregorian. For more information please contact Jeffrey Morse,

Corpus Christi: The St. Cecilia Schola Cantorum offers a music education and choral experience which includes instruction in sight singing, theory, Catholic catechesis and Gregorian chant. The St. Cecilia Choir (7+ years) and the Mary’s Angels Choir (under age 7) rehearse on Friday afternoons. Open to non-parish members. Contact the director, Valerie Nicolosi, at Website

Pax Christi Church: Chorister program in European Cathedral tradition. Director Raymond Ortiz: Website

The Cathedral Parish: The Cathedral Children's Schola sings chanted ordinaries of the mass and other chants, hymns, and some anthems with organ for one Sunday mass a month. Rehearses Wednesday evenings; boys and girls grades 1-8. Contact Director of Sacred Music Dr. Samuel Schmitt:

Corpus Christi Chapel, a mission of Christ the King Church, Sarasota (FSSP): Saint Michael the Archangel Boys’ Schola, for boys 8-13 with unchanged voices, and Saint Cecilia Girls’ Schola, for girls 8-13. The children sing Gregorian Ordinary chants, hymns, and other liturgical chants. They also sing the treble part in polyphonic motets with Capella Corpus Christi, the parish’s adult choir. Rehearsals are on Saturday mornings; for further information, please contact the Director, Dr. Susan Treacy, at

St John Cantius: multiple choirs. Contact Director of Music Kevin Allen Website

Most Pure Heart of Mary Schola Cantorum, Topeka, KS. Founded in 2011 as an “after school choir school,” there are currently more than 50 students involved as Probationers (new singers), Junior Choristers (training choir) and Senior Choristers. The Senior Choristers, along with the Men of the Choir, sing every Sunday from September through Corpus Christi, as well as for concerts and civic events. Contact Dr. Lucas Tappan: Website

Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church: The Student Schola of Ss. Magnus & Bonosa is an ensemble for boys and girls Grades 1-12 dedicated to formation in the Catholic faith and instruction in Gregorian Chant as well as other forms of Sacred Music. Director of Music, Dr. Emily Meixner. Website

Regina Caeli Schola Cantorum: a Gregorian Chant class for children grade 3-8. Rehearsals on Mondays. Contact the Director Mia Coyne: Website

St Jane Frances de Chantal: Parish Children’s Choir for children grade 3-8, rehearses on Wednesday evenings and sings for Sunday 10am Mass. Gregorian Chant and Hymns. Director Mia Coyne: Website

St Paul’s, Harvard Square: home to the renowned St Paul’s Choir School, one of two Catholic Choir Schools in the USA. Musical boys in 3rd grade should apply for entry at 4th grade. Contact James Kennerley, Director of Music: 617-868-8658, Website

St. Mary’s, Kalamazoo, Michigan has a children’s choir which sings principally at the EF Mass. Propers, Ordinary, and hymns and motets. Chant and some polyphony. Website

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

First TLM of the Year At Steubenville

The chapel ministry of the Franciscan University of Steubenville held its first Latin Mass of the semester at the Christ the King chapel, which was filled with a standing-room only crowd of more than 400. One of our favorite photographers, Mrs Allison Girone, was present; our thanks to her once again for sharing her work with us.

Learn to See Harmonious Proportion in Architecture: Victorian Suburbs in West London

From time to time, I am asked by architects how they can incorporate proportion into their work. I am not an architect, and I have to say that while I can recognize when architects have used traditional proportion in their design, I struggle to direct them on how to do it themselves. So, while I am aware of the mathematical descriptions of the proportions, I cannot tell architects how they can design everyday buildings – homes and offices, even gas stations – in harmonious proportion.

It is just like music. It is one thing to be able to listen to a piece of music and say that it uses harmony or dissonance, it is another to know how to compose polyphony. Composers need thousands of hours of training and an innate gift for composition and, usually, a willingness to follow inspiration.

Nevertheless, I am convinced that it is possible through the use of traditional proportion to make ordinary buildings created in otherwise modern styles that are beautiful. By making the ordinary shine with divine beauty, we can also draw people to God through beauty. (See the article Monotony and Cacophony are the Twin Principles of Modern Design.) I always hope to find architects who can grasp these ideas, and have the insight to introduce them into their own work, and then having done it, can tell other architects what they have done.

I thought I would show some examples of buildings that I have seen in my travels. I will try to point out what I am noticing. The hope is that as a result, some architects will start to see how they can build this into their work.

First, we will look at the suburban houses of Bedford Park and Turnham Green, in Chiswick in West London. Bedford Park was a purpose-built suburban community, with houses, gardens, shops, churches, and community buildings and halls, built in the latter part of the 19th century.

Photograph by Jaqueline Banerjee
In this scene above, the charm looks natural, but in fact, lots of thought has gone into the design. The three attributes of beauty are present: due proportion, integrity, and claritas. First of all, these are designed so that when you look at them, you know you are looking at homes. They could not be mistaken for town halls, shops, museums, storage facilities, gas stations, or churches. The very design of the buildings tells us what it is - this claritas. Second, the parts relate to the others in a way that is appropriate to what the building is - this is due proportion. Third, the design of the whole is in harmony with its purpose of being a place to live - this is integrity. When we decide we find the buildings charming, we are not consciously asking ourselves whether or not they have these attributes. Rather, we respond instinctively and positively to buildings which have these attributes. The good architect does think of these things when designing them, but we don’t need to think about them when we appreciate his work.

If we use harmonious proportion, it doesn’t mean that what you design has to look like the designs of the past - a Victorian, medieval or ancient Greek building, for example. Harmonious proportion can be built into modern designs that use modern materials as well, and this is what I would like to see. So in principle, even gas stations and shopping malls can be pleasant places to be. Automobiles, such as the iconic, British designed Mini, shown in this photo, can employ harmonious proportion too if we want them to.

I took the two pictures above because the proportions used in the windows and doors exemplify classic harmonious proportion. The essential elements are three different magnitudes that are clearly in relation to each other in such a way that there is a rhythmical progression. The first relates to the second as the second relates to the first.

In each of these examples, if you look at the window (or the door) on the ground floor, it is taller than the window on the second, which in turn is larger than that in the third. This tells us that the main activity of living is on the ground floor (sometimes you see the second-floor window with the greatest dimension for the same reason). It is curious to note that as a design feature in the first photograph, while the vertical window dimensions reduce as you go higher up the building and further away from the ground, the horizontal dimension increases in the opposite direction. While this is interesting, it creates, I would say a tension within the design and which tends to give me the sense that it is top-heavy, so this is a feature I would not have chosen.

Three is the ideal minimum number because, as with a musical chord, it is the common experience that people hear and see the fullness of beauty for relationships that come in threes. When there are two stories in the building, we can suggest a third in different ways, or introduce other features that create the sense of different-sized parts relating to each other harmoniously. This is where the skill of the architects comes in. They need to have an appreciation of what parts of their design naturally relate to each other when the building is viewed. Then they draw our attention to these relationships by creating eye-catching features that emphasize the connection. It can be contrasting colors, or sills, for example.

Now, look at the photograph below of the main shopping street in Turnham Green.

This is not the most attractive shopping street in the world, I admit, but it is not bad. The building with the upper stories, built in cream-color brick on the corner, is proportioned. The building to the left as we look at it is not.

The building on the corner is probably Victorian or Edwardian, and while the proportions seem good to me, there is a problem in that the ground floor is visually detached from the two above it because of modernizations to accommodate the shops. Therefore we don’t pick up the proportions easily. There is a balance to be struck here. The lower part of this building has a different purpose (retail) from the upper two stories (living accommodation). One is public the other private. So we do need some sense of detachment. However, if that differentiation is so great that we don’t make any connection, it won’t work either. There is a reason that the two parts are in the same building - the idea is that the shopkeeper would live above his shop, so there is still some connection. We don’t want to create the sense of a two-storey building floating above a single-storey building, we want some unifying principles to be present.

This example doesn’t quite get that balance right, in my opinion. I’m guessing that the reason for this is that the building did become separated in its purpose - the person living above the shop was not the person working in it. As a result, there is a lack of cohesion in the pattern of the renovation of the two parts. Nevertheless is for an ordinary shopping street, this isn’t the worst in the world!

The building to the left is more modern and almost certainly built since the Second World War; there is no discernible pattern of proportion in the same way. It jars visually.

For those who are interested, the theory of proportion which I am referring to here is derived from the observation of how we respond naturally to the cosmos and is described in theoretical terms in my book, The Way of Beauty, and in an online course, the Mathematics of Beauty offered by www.Pontifex.University. Creation speaks of the Creator; its beauty participates in divine beauty and we take delight in its appearance. It is by mimicking an idealized vision of the cosmos that the culture of man can surpass nature in its beauty. When designed and built well, even a minor suburb of London can, in principle, surpass Yosemite in its grandeur. It’s down to us to make it happen.

I explain how the sacred permeates the mundane in Christian culture also in an article titled Churches Should Look Like Airports, But Not Like This.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Resisting the Lowest Common Denominator: A Priest’s Cri de Coeur

Jesus did not settle for the LCD

A priest shared with me some insights from a meeting he attended of diocesan priests with their bishop. In what follows, I will be drawing upon what he told me.

In the meeting, the bishop said that the clergy should work against the temptation to settle for the “LCD,” the lowest common denominator. For, if we allow every member of the clergy to “roam free,” as it were, and aspire to no diocesan-wide standards of excellence, the principle of entropy, or we could just say man’s fallen nature, tells us that things will tend to roll down hill and decay over time, and eventually — at some point not too far down the road — every parish will face immense pressure to conform to this LCD: whatever options are least confrontational, most politically correct, and most socially acceptable will eventually win the day. It takes real vision to see this inevitable outcome and to combat it from the start. Free choice can be attractive, but ultimately results in division and degradation.

The priest then reflected: this is exactly what I and many brother priests have seen clearly happening with the liturgy. Because of the equivocal nature of the Missal of Paul VI, which leaves so much at the disposal of the celebrant, we have quickly slid to the LCD in every area where there is legitimate free choice. In other words, there is no free choice within the system.

For example:

1. A priest is free to celebrate ad orientem or versus populum — in fact, the Missal presumes celebrating ad orientem, which would put us in harmony with the rest of Tradition. But because of the LCD factor, only versus populum is acceptable. Any priest who chooses to celebrate ad orientem is seen as divisive, and is eventually pressured into conforming, unless he wants to be ostracized not only from the faithful, but even from his bishop and brother priests. But is it the priest who is the source of division? Or is it the freedom to choose either option that creates the division? It is the inevitable result of the LCD factor. Priests are accused of fighting what are called “the liturgy wars,” but are they to be blamed, or does the blame not rest squarely on the shoulders of Paul VI and his ambivalent Missal?

2. A priest is free to incorporate as much Latin as he would like. But because of the LCD, de facto only the vernacular is possible — despite the anathema from the Council of Trent: “If anyone says . . . that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular tongue only . . . let him be anathema.”

3. A priest is free to incorporate the Extraordinary Form into his parish, or his ministry, but again because of the LCD factor, this is seen as extreme and rigid, and is frowned upon to the point where it is de facto nearly impossible.

4. A priest is under no obligation to concelebrate and is perfectly free to choose to assist in choir so as to be able to celebrate his own Mass, a custom hallowed by many centuries of tradition in the Roman Rite and clearly allowed by the new Code of Canon Law. But de facto, there is immense pressure upon him to concelebrate because of the LCD factor, and to not conform results in receiving the label of being “not community-minded.” At some large gatherings for retreats or conventions or meetings, there is literally no possibility of a private Mass unless you bring your own altar, since such things are no longer even contemplated.

5. A priest is supposed to use a communion paten and not use EMHC’s except under extraordinary circumstances, but because of systemic habitual abuse in the American Church and the LCD factor, doing either of these things would be seen as extreme. The pragmatic norm, on the contrary, is to not have a communion paten but to insist on having EMHC’s.

6. The faithful are encouraged to receive Holy Communion on the tongue which is the traditional custom and still the universal norm as per the Vatican; meanwhile, they are permitted to receive in the hand as long as certain serious conditions are met. But because of the LCD factor, somewhere between 95–98% of the faithful receive in the hand. And everywhere, children receiving First Communion are not even taught the traditional practice, in spite of it still being “on the books.”

7. The same can be said of sacred music, church architecture, sacred vessels, vestments, preaching, etc., etc., etc. We are all now forced by social pressure to conform to the LCD. And what happens when a priest doesn’t want to conform to the LCD but wants to raise the bar? Well, typically the choice is either: conform to the LCD, or hit the highway. The dynamic subtly eats away at the bishop’s own integrity, because when he is confronted with complaints about a “difficult” or “demanding” priest — as identified promptly by Susan from the Parish Council — he must either stick his neck out and risk his reputation to defend the priest, or take the quieter path of pressuring the priest to conform to the LCD or be removed.

It is as if everyone is under the spell of the LCD. Such is the division that has been sown into the heart of the Church, and especially into the heart of the priesthood and religious life, by the Missal of Paul VI.

Order — or Disorder?
The laity need to understand this phenomenon if they wish to grasp why so many faithful priests who want to celebrate in harmony with tradition, and want the faithful to experience the fullness of this rich treasure that we have as Catholics, are afraid to do so, or perhaps suffer a crisis when the tension between their ideals and the LCD reality becomes too intense. Some think that there is a huge conspiracy that planned all this, and certainly this may be true, since no doubt the cunning of the devil is involved. But it can also be explained as the result of societal entropy. Because of original sin, everything tends towards decay, as we see in the movies, music, and media of our culture. The Church is immune from this decay only in her divine element; she is by no means immune to it in her human element, unless her members fight consciously and vigorously against it. The traditional liturgy had long been a barrier against this natural process, but the new Mass has let this process into the Church like a flood.

This “Trojan horse in the City of God” (to use the expression of the great Dietrich von Hildebrand), this Trojan horse in the sanctuary in the form of a new Mass, did not spring up out of nowhere. Its principles had been brewing among modernist theologians and their heirs, the theologians of the nouvelle théologie, expressed in the false distinction made by Fr. Yves Congar between the “unalterable structures” of the Church and the “accessory, changeable superstructures.”

But this mentality is nothing less than a betrayal of a mystical person, as one lover of tradition so poetically expressed it:
I do not love a skeleton nor vital organs, I love Her face, Her sparkling clothes and even Her sandals, Her entire being. With the spiritual canticle I will sing of the hair on Her neck that charmed us as well, her children, as it ravished the heart of her Spouse. Oh, may those who love the Church understand! In her features and her slightest gestures, something indescribably exquisite enraptures us to the summit of her essential Mystery. The liturgical movements, the hymns, the ornamentation of churches, the words of the catechism and the sermon, this flesh, this manner of walking, the sound of the voice, the color of the eyes, revealed the very soul, immediately, and we were struck, intoxicated by it, for Her ancient and universal soul, Her intimate life that came to comfort us, was the Holy Spirit in Person! [1]
This is the reverence that a Catholic should have towards the received rites that come down to us from tradition, and all of their ornamentation. But the new Mass incarnates the false principle of Fr. Congar by deliberately tossing all of this out of the window in a massive overhaul, giving the impression to faithful Catholics and to the world that the Catholic Faith can change its entire appearance. Since changing the so-called “accessory, changeable superstructures,” we have become painfully aware that they were instead an important part of the solid rock that formed our sure foundation, or to use the above imagery, the beautiful wedding garments of Holy Mother Church, so visibly radiant in her sacred rites. And now we find ourselves upon a foundation of sand, always shifting, and — if we are willing to be honest with ourselves — a foundation always eroding down to the LCD, again and again, like a bird with a broken wing that can only manage to throw itself a few inches, or an airplane with faulty engines that rises up from the runway only to crash just beyond it.

My correspondent concluded with this cri de coeur:
If other priests want to accept the status quo, the tyranny of the LCD, that is their decision, between them and God. Perhaps not everyone needs to fight on the front lines and resist usque ad sanguinem. But for us whose hearts belong to the Church of all times, and to her traditional rites, we seek nothing more than to access them in freedom, nothing else than to live and die with them, nothing other than to nourish the faithful with this potent food and drink. May God raise up more and more priests with such a heart.


[1] From the Abbé Georges de Nantes’s “Letter to My Friends,” no. 178, August 6, 1964. Like Padre Pio, de Nantes was reacting to the devastation already being visited on the Tridentine Mass in the mid-sixties, prior to the coup de grâce of 1969. See here for the quotation as well as the mention of Congar.

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