Saturday, July 31, 2021

Baroque Vespers of St Ignatius of Loyola

For the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, here is a very Baroque musical setting of the psalms and hymn of his Second Vespers, composed by Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726), an Italian Jesuit missionary in South America. The Magnificat is done here in Gregorian chant, followed by an instrumental sonata and an orchestral Te Deum.

A few interesting things to note here. Unlike basically all other religious orders, the Jesuits did not have a proper Office for their founder; these texts are all taken from the Common Office of a Simple Confessor, which can be found in any edition of the Roman Breviary. The first psalm is done in Gregorian chant, the others in polyphony with orchestral accompaniment, a deliberate gesture of respect, I imagine, to the older musical traditional. I don’t know why Zipoli did not include the Magnificat in his setting; perhaps the church for which he wrote this already had a setting which they did not wish to change.

St Ignatius and the Jesuits have taken a lot of criticism, much of it fair, and much of it unfair, for their approach to the liturgy, and especially the Divine Office, which they have never done in choir as an order. It should always been be borne in mind that the liturgical situation of the Society and the whole Catholic Church was very different before the Age of Revolutions began in the later 18th century. (I outlined this in my series on the reforms of the Breviary several years ago, specifically in reference to the Jesuits: see parts 6.1, 6.2 and 6.3.) And yet, here we have a very elaborate setting (which I admit is not entirely to my own personal tastes), not of a Mass, but of Vespers, written by a Jesuit, in an era when the solemn celebration of Vespers was still regarded as a very important part of any major feast. I have also read more than once that particularly in South America, the Jesuit missionaries quickly discovered that many of the native populations were incredibly talented at music, and put those talents to good use in the reducciones.

Domenico Zipoli was born in Prato in Tuscany, and after his early training, which included a brief stint with Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, he became the organist of the main Jesuit church in Rome, the Gesù, at the age of only 23. A year later, he went to Seville in Spain to join the Society; as a novice, he was sent to Buenos Aires, and from there to Córdoba in what is now Argentina, where he completed his studies, but was never ordained, since there was no bishop available at the time to ordain him. He died of tuberculosis in 1726, at the age of only 38, but his fame as a composer had spread thoughout South America; the Spanish Viceroy in Lima wrote to Córdoba, which is over 2,000 miles away, to request copies of his works, which are also found in the musical archives of many of the reducciones. (For a sense of perspective, Zipoli himself had less distance to travel to get from Rome to Seville.)

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Chapel of St Peter Chrysologus in Ravenna

On the calendar of the post-Conciliar rite, today is the feast of St Peter Chrysologus, who was bishop of Ravenna from around 433 until his death in 450; in 1729, Pope Benedict XIII made him the 13th Doctor of the Church. Within the palace of the archbishops of Ravenna is a chapel dedicated to him jointly with St Andrew the Apostle; he is traditionally said to have built it, but it is actually the work of his namesake Peter II, who held the see from 494-519. The chapel is quite small, a cruciform space with a small atrium leading into it. The upper part of both the chapel and the atrium is covered with some very beautiful mosaic work, although it has been heavily restored several times, and some parts are completely lost. (Photos by Nicola de’ Grandi.)
In the apse, the Cross on a starry background. As noted recently, the Cross was generally shown empty in this period to emphasize the Resurrection, which took place after Christ’s body had been removed from it. Above it we see Peter II’s monogram on a background of vines.
Following an older convention, which at the end of the 5th century had already become rare in the most important center of western Christianity, Rome, Christ is shown young and beardless, to indicate that He is a different person from God the Father. (The heresy that God the Son IS God the Father under a different guise, known as “Patripassianism”, was the great scare-heresy of the pre-Nicene period, and Arianism, which made the Son a creation of the Father, was the over-reaction to it.) He wears the purple of the Roman Emperors, and has a decorated halo, as signs of His divinity. To the right are the Apostles Peter, Andrew, and Philip; to the left, Paul, James and John
In the center of the vault, four angels support a stylized XP monogram; between them are the symbols of the four Evangelists, which are shown below in greater detail.

Reconstructing the Oldest Pipe-Organ in the World

Via Aleteia, here’s another very interesting thing on the musical front. At the beginning of the 20th-century, archeologists working at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem discovered a set of organ pipes and a bell carillion. They have since been kept at the Holy Land Musuem run by the Franciscan custody. According to the musicologist who is working on them, Dr David Catalunya, they had been brought to the Holy Land by the crusaders in the early 12th century, and then hidden for safe-keeping during a Muslim invasion. They are in a very good state of preservation; Dr Catalunya is now engaged in a five-year long project to rebuild the organ in such a way that it will be playable again.

The next oldest playable organ is more than 300 years younger, an instrument in the church of Notre-Dame de Valère in Sion, Switzerland, which has 12 of its original pipes.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Gregorian Chants in Chinese

Here are some videos from a very interesting YouTube channel started about eight months ago, dedicated to sacred music for the Roman Rite sung in Chinese. According to the channel’s description, these adaptations of the traditional Gregorian chants are the works of Fr Vincent Lebbe (1877-1940), a Belgian priest of the Congregation of the Mission (also known as the Lazarists, from the title of their mother-church in Paris), who dedicated his life to the evangelization of China. Commenting in the forum in which I found them, a native Chinese-speaker notes that they are written in classical Mandarin, which would not necessarily be easily understood by most Chinese people today. This is, of course, fully consonant with the Church’s authentic custom, which has always been to use (or create) an elegant and literarily elevated form of whatever language She prays in.
There are about 80 more videos on the channel itself. It goes without saying that if this can be done in Chinese, which has very little in common with Latin, there is no good excuse for not doing something similar in other vernacular languages that are far closer to Latin.

The simpler form of the Salve Regina.
The responsory Duo Seraphim from Sunday Matins of the seasons after Epiphany and Pentecost.
The Te Deum.
The Vidi Aquam.
The introit of the Requiem Mass.

Traditionis Custodes vs. St John XXIII: Guest Article by Dr Nancy Llewellyn

We are profoundly grateful to Dr Nancy Llewellyn for sharing with us these reflections on Pope St John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia, and its relevance to the recent motu proprio. Dr Llewellyn teaches Latin at St Joseph College Seminary and at Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the Vice-President of the Veterum Sapientia Institute, which works to promote the study of Latin in accordance with the tradition and law of the Church as outlined in the aforementioned document.

Pope Francis’ new motu proprio Traditionis Custodes repeatedly appeals to two objective goods as justifications for the measures it imposes: the unity of the Church, and the preservation in Church practice of the Second Vatican Council’s reforms. A number of commentators have already addressed the first issue, with more opinions coming out by the hour. I am concerned only with the second.
Traditionis Custodes imposes an immediate return to the liturgical climate that existed before Benedict XVI’s 2007 motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. It states that this return is urgently necessary to preserve the heritage of Vatican II. By inescapable implication, to make such an assertion is to state that the status quo ante prior to 2007 was in accord with the Second Council’s reforms. It was not so.
Indeed, the prevailing condition of Latin liturgy and Latin culture in the Church between the end of the Second Council in 1965 and the 2007 publication of Summorum Pontificum was utterly at odds with the will of St John XXIII, Vatican II’s creator. By extension, it was also contrary to the will of the Council itself, for the Council Fathers never invalidated, altered, or restricted Pope John’s directives on this particular topic, even though they continued in session for more than two years after his death. Logically, then, if the pre-2007 status rerum was not in accord with Vatican II, no one can justify a forcible return to it in the name of the Council.
Even the most basic outline of modern Church history highlights John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council as gargantuan figures: a portentous reformer and his signature accomplishment. But that is only part of the picture, though it has nearly universally been taken to be the whole. Pope John sought also to be a preserver and a rebuilder of Church tradition, particularly with regard to the use of Latin.
His authoritative 1962 document Veterum Sapientia [1] envisioned and required a broad restoration of Latin culture throughout the Universal Church, and provided an arrestingly concrete and detailed plan to make it happen. This document consists of a six-page Constitutio Apostolica – a statement of general goals and principles – followed by twenty-five pages of practical instructions which reach a granular level of detail – even listing the specific authors to be studied year by year over the course of a seven-year compulsory Latin curriculum for seminarians.
It would be difficult to exaggerate the solemnity with which Pope John signed his Constitution. He did so on the High Altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, on February 22, 1962, the feast of the Chair of Peter, second only to the Keys as a symbol of papal authority. As he signed, that very Chair’s earthly relics loomed behind him, enshrined in Bernini’s famous cathedra, while before him lay a packed basilica, a sea of faces including those of two hundred bishops and forty cardinals. One struggles to imagine what more he could have done to emphasize the importance of the document he was signing: hire arc lights, perhaps, and set them up in the Piazza San Pietro?
Pope John’s Constitution contained, in its sixth and final page, an order for the immediate writing of regulations to ensure it would be implemented speedily and properly. These regulations, called in Latin the Ordinationes (English “Ordinances” or “Statutes”) were finished and published just two months later by the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities. [2] The Ordinationes were slated to come into legal force in every Catholic university and seminary on earth in October of 1963 [3]; had they done so, we would today be living in an utterly different world. The death of Pope John on June third of that year appears to be the major reason why the Ordinationes were not put into effect on schedule, even though, on the day of his death, the preparations had already been underway for thirteen months – the last eight of those months with the Second Vatican Council in session. [4]
Image from Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
It is harder to account for the near-total oblivion to which Veterum Sapientia has been consigned in the decades since Pope John’s death. It was duly published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. [5] Decades later, the Constitution alone was included on the Vatican website’s document archive, in its Latin original, and only one vernacular version, in Spanish. The Ordinationes, by contrast, were virtually impossible to find anywhere online outside the AAS, nor was any full translation into a modern language published until early this year. [6]
And yet it is essential to note that no document of the Second Vatican Council, nor any subsequent papal document, has ever abrogated or even modified Veterum Sapientia. If one defines law as valid statute rather than simply what people happen to be doing, then Veterum Sapientia has been the law and policy of the Universal Church since it was signed, and remains so today.
What, then, did this law and policy require? What would be our situation now if Pope John’s vision had been respected in practice? It is a matter of bitter irony, at this writing, that the primary reason John XXIII advanced for restoring Latin to its place of honor in the Church was for the sake of Her unity, across space and through time. For Latin, he wrote, “does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all… while the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time … of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.” [7]
The elevated language and rhetorical vistas of the Constitution might have tempted cynical Modernists to dismiss it as mere lip-service to a distant cultural ideal. But no one could maintain this opinion for long who went on to read the Ordinationes. They are concrete, remarkably detailed, and equipped with sharp statutory “teeth.” Some sample passages: [8]
  • Instructors who are found to be ineffective for whatever reason, and especially those who are hostile to this language [Latin] are to be removed immediately, lest corrosive indulgence or reprehensible neglect compromise their young students’ first instruction, perhaps irreparably. (II, 7)
  • Latin language studies in high schools for clerics [major seminaries] have this principal goal: that aspirants to Holy Orders should be able to go to the sources of Sacred Tradition understand the documents of the popes and the councils, and likewise the liturgy. The goal is to make [seminarians] able to use this language [Latin] to learn their major academic disciplines, to write Church documents and letters, and to correspond with their brother clergy of other nations. Finally, at the highest levels, the objective is to make them able to take part in the sort of ecclesiastical debates on articles of Catholic faith and discipline which occur in councils and meetings… (II.i.§2)
  • This curriculum is to last at least seven years, for young people beginning their Latin classes in seminaries. They are to have no fewer than six hours per week in the first five years, and no fewer than five hours weekly in the remaining two. (II.ii.§1.1)
  • … the other academic disciplines will have to be sequenced and abridged (and some perhaps cut entirely or left for later), so that Our mandate concerning the time to be given to Latin language study may be obeyed in every respect. (II.ii.§2)
  • Latin language teaching method ought to cause students to acquire the ability to use it. For this reason, the overflowing philological pot-au-feu which makes up nearly the entire menu in schools of the Humanities, especially graduate schools, will have to be thrown out, since it does not give the nourishment one would reasonably expect from such study. (II.iv.§2)
  • Any textbook used for teaching Latin syntax shall itself be written in Latin. (II.iv.§7)
  • The academic disciplines to be taught in Latin are: Theoretical Philosophy; General, Dogmatic and Moral Theology; General and Specialized Introduction to Sacred Scripture, and Canon Law. (II. §2)
  • The professors by whom the major ecclesiastical academic disciplines are to be taught in Latin must 1. Prepare everything carefully in Latin; the Latin must be clear and correct, as the dignity of these disciplines requires. They are not to rely on extempore speaking as a form of discourse. 2. Be selected for this task with an eye not merely to their expertise in their own discipline, even if it be unique; it must also be ascertained that they possess the requisite knowledge of Latin and ability to use it. 3. Be informed of this requirement in a timely way so that they may prepare themselves to meet it; appropriate support shall be provided to them so that they may prepare. 4. Be removed from their positions if they neglect and hold in contempt the requirement given here for using Latin in their teaching, lest by their instruction and example they harm their students. (III. ii. §6).
An exhaustive study of Pope John’s vision is beyond the scope of these remarks. But these sample passages make it unavoidably clear that the father of the Second Vatican Council firmly intended the post-Conciliar Church to enjoy a robust intellectual and spiritual culture based on Latin and lived through Latin, as it had done through all its prior history. The Mass itself, which went into the Second Council in Latin and came out of it still in Latin, was to have flourished like the Tree of Life in the middle of a lush garden of letters. How different is this vision from the reality in which we live today!
To what extent the Council Fathers shared the vision of Veterum Sapientia is an investigable question, especially given what actually happened in the years and decades following the Council’s conclusion. It yet remains a matter of fact that neither the Fathers, nor any subsequent synod, nor indeed any of John’s successors ever abridged or abrogated it. Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, in fact, were careful to cite it in initiatives of their own.
Traditionis Custodes aims now to marginalize and, after a generation or two, eliminate, what has become de facto the only surviving Latin Mass of the Roman Church: the Extraordinary Form. It is true that the original Novus Ordo was, and is still, a Latin-language liturgy. But to my knowledge at least, there is not a single “Novus Ordo Latin Community” anywhere on the face of Earth. Perhaps there should be.
Someone might protest that Traditionis Custodes’ restrictions apply only to the Mass and not to other forms of Latin liturgy, still less to Catholic Latin literature or to the language itself. But the ominous directive against further Vatican printing of pre-Conciliar liturgical books suggests a much broader prohibitive intent. The stated goal of guided obsolescence of the EF Mass means hollowing out that center of gravity around which all “Ecclesiastical Latin” ultimately revolves. What becomes of planets when a black hole swallows their star?
And as far as concerns the language itself, if twenty-second-century Catholics, entirely ignorant of their Mother Tongue, cannot hear the voices of their ancestors in the faith, then what does this mean for the communion of the Church Militant with the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant?
Whatever the fortunes of Traditionis Custodes may be, it should be clear that it is ordered toward the shaping of a future Church which will be, in its liturgical and cultural features, not consonant with but rather a break from the unitive vision and hopes of St John XXIII. His name, therefore, and that of his epochal Council, ought not to be invoked in its support.
[1] As a document type, the Apostolic Constitution is ranked either in first or second place for importance, depending on the source. Rankings of papal documents place the Apostolic Constitution between one and five steps above the Motu Proprio in magisterial authority. One place where its text can be accessed is here:
[2], p. 339 et seq. Accessed 22 July 2021.
[3] Catholic institutions in the southern hemisphere were ordered to begin implementation in the first academic term of 1964, as October 1963 would have fallen at mid-term
[4] John XXIII convened the Council on October 11, 1962.
[5] Apostolic Constitution: p. 129 et seq. Accessed 22 July 2021.
[6]; 1) the Acta Apostolicae Sedis (AAS) is the Vatican equivalent of the US Congressional Record, containing a written record of all official papal communications; 2) numerous secular websites of various kinds, providentially, have preserved online the Latin original text of Veterum Sapientia and offer translations into various languages.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Basilica of St Apollinaris in Classe (Part 2): Ancient Christian Sarcophagi

Last week, on the feast of St Apollinaris of Ravenna, we published Nicola’s photos of the basilica dedicated to him in nearby Classe. This church also houses a collection of very well-preserved early Christian sarcophagi, remains of the period (5th-8th) century when Ravenna was both an important see in northern Italy, and the seat of Byzantium’s power in the homeland of the Roman Empire. Unlike the sarcophagi seen in similar collections in places like Rome and Arles, there are no Biblical stories depicted here; the focus is rather on symbols and decorations.

A scene of the type known as the “traditio legis – the handing down of the law,” in which Christ appears in the midst of the Apostles and gives them a scroll, which represents the new law that displaces the law of Moses. This motif was intended to answer a minority among Christians who still felt themselves very close to their Jewish roots, and insisted that all the members of the Church, whether Jewish or gentile in origin, are obliged to keep the Mosaic law. This example is unusual in that Christ is giving the scroll only to St Paul, while St Peter has his keys and cross, but does not receive the scroll. This may reflect the fact that the bishops of Ravenna under Byzantine rule were wont to assert an excessive independence from the see of St Peter. Nothing specifically identifies the other Apostles; the remaining six appear on the side panels.
In this period, there was no need for the Christians to assert the historical fact of the Lord’s Crucifixion, which was not disputed; the “hard-sell” of Christianity in the ancient world was rather the Resurrection of His body, a foolish and repellant idea to Greeks and Romans. The Cross is therefore routinely shown empty, as a way of looking forward to what happened when the Lord’s body had been taken away from it and laid in the tomb; this is, of course, an especially appropriate motif in a funerary context. The vines beneath it represent Christ’s words, “I am the vine, you are the branches”, expressing the union with Him in the Mystical Body, in virtue of which we await the resurrection of our own bodies. The birds are reminiscent of the parable of the mustard seed, Matthew 13, 31-32: “The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed ... which ... becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.”
The inscription reads “This tomb holds enclosed the body of the lord John, the most holy and thrice-blessed archbishop.” (John VI, 777-84 ca.) The term “three-blessed” reflects the rhetorical influence of the Greek liturgy, which was still widely used in many parts of Italy.

Further Articles on the Motu Proprio Traditionis Custodes

I had thought the flood of writing might abate, but it seems not to have done so. In fact, there is so much now that I have not included everything I’ve seen, if the quality did not seem high enough (I don’t know where they get some of the hack journalists for covering religion!) or if it seemed to add nothing or if it wasn’t sufficiently valuable as a case-study of a liberal or progressive viewpoint.

As always, the inclusion of an article here does not mean we endorse its thesis (if it has one), its conclusions, the website where it appears, or really anything about it. For earlier roundups, see here and here.

July 19

Michael Dunnigan, “Traditionis custodes and the raw data on the Latin Mass” (Catholic World Report)

July 21

Michael Brendan Dougherty, “Pope Francis Takes Aim at the Latin Mass—and His Own Faithful” (National Review)

July 22

Matthew Walther, “Pope Francis, the Latin Mass and My Family” (The Wall Street Journal)

Amy Wellborn, “Rigeo, riges, rigere…” (Catholic World Report)

Daniel McGlone, “In defence of the Traditional Latin Mass” (The Tablet) [A beautiful and moving article that points up the heartlessness of the opponents of the TLM]

July 23

Rita Ferrone, “A Living Catholic Tradition” (Commonweal) [A papal cheerleader manages in a short space to celebrate nearly every error on which the industry of modern liturgical reform is founded; this is what a True Believer in the Great Leap Forward sounds like]

Alexandria Chiasson McCormick, “‘Smile for the Camera!’—In the Name of Unity, An Iron Fist” (OnePeterFive)

Fr. Davide Pagliarani, SSPX: “We offer all ‘the certitude that the Traditional Mass will never disappear from the face of the earth’” [Official statement] (Rorate Caeli)

Fr. Gero Weishaupt, “It is to be hoped that bishops will generously exhaust the legal possibilities of dispensation” (Rorate Caeli)

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, “TRADITION BETRAYED: Diane Montagna Interviews Bishop Schneider on Traditionis Custodes” (The Remnant; later republished at Rorate Caeli)

Fr. John Hunwicke, “Der Fuehrerbefehl” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment) [Brilliant, as ever]

Fr. Hugh Somerville Knapman, OSB, “The Motu Proprio: An Opportunity?” (One Foot in the Cloister)

Peter Feuerherd, “The Latin Mass took off in this North Carolina diocese. What will happen under Pope Francis’ new restrictions?” (America)

Notkerus Balbulus, “Mysterium Mysteriorum: How the Ambrosian Rite Survived Charlemagne” (Canticum Salomonis)

July 24

Jean-Pierre Maugendre, “Francis: The Pope of Rupture” (Rorate Caeli)

Gregory DiPippo, “An Exhortation Against Discouragement, by My Father” (New Liturgical Movement)

Brian Jones, “Opinion: The real void” (Catholic World Report)

Fr. John Hunwicke, “S Pius V and Traditionis Custodes” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment) [A must-read, especially for clergy]

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “‘Traditionis’: a picture is worth a thousand words. Wherein Fr. Z is deeply moved” (Fr. Z’s Blog)

John Lavenburg, “Documentarian and Latin Mass devotee says, ‘You can’t just squash it’” (Crux)

July 25

José Antonio Ureta, “The Faithful Are Fully Entitled to Defend Themselves Against Liturgical Aggression—Even When It Comes From the Pope” (The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property)

George Neumayer, “The Upside-Down Church” (The American Spectator)

Fr. Albert Marcello, “Sermon for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost: ‘We rightly mourn these attacks on our beloved Roman Rite’” (Rorate Caeli)

A Benedictine Monk, “Sermon for the Feast of St. James, 2021: ‘We will not abandon the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass celebrated in the traditional form that we have received from our fathers in the faith!’” (Rorate Caeli)

Bishop Michael F. Olson, “Homily for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost” (Life on the Chrism Trail)

July 26

The Growth of the Latin Mass: A Survey” (Crisis Magazine)

Fr. Zuhlsdorf, “It’s not just the numbers right now, it’s the rate of growth” (Fr. Z’s Blog)

Fr. Hugh Somerville Knapman, OSB, “The Motu Proprio: Two Challenges” (One Foot in the Cloister)

Joseph Shaw, “Pope’s Latin Mass edict not only attacks Catholics, but harms interreligious dialogue” (LifeSite News)

Edward Feser, “Pope Francis’s scarlet letter” (Catholic World Report)

Bishop Rob Mutsaerts, “Liturgy is not a toy of popes; it is the heritage of the Church” (Rorate Caeli)

Fr. Michael P. Orsi, “Danger on the Catholic Right and Left for Pope Francis” (Wall Street Journal)

July 27

Regis Martin, “What Really Matters” (Crisis Magazine)

Jonathan Culbreath, “I love Latin Mass and Pope Francis. Please don’t let a few (very loud) traditionalists ruin it for the rest of us” (America)

John Daniel Davidson, “The Latin Mass Is the Future of the Catholic Church” (The Federalist)

Fr. John Hunwicke, “Vacatio Legis” (Fr Hunwicke’s Mutual Enrichment)

Joseph Shaw, “‘Latin Mass Hysteria’? A reply to a hysterical Jesuit-sponsored piece” (Rorate Caeli)

Father de Tanoüarn, IBP: “It is Francis who contradicts communion. We are witnessing a rare case where the pope destroys communion” (Rorate Caeli)

Guest Post: “The Latin Mass Saved My Life” (Unam Sanctam Catholicam)

Gregory DiPippo, “Polish Bishops’ Conference Website Unpersons the TLM” (New Liturgical Movement)

Ross Douthat, “The Ungovernable Catholic Church” (New York Times

Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M., “‘Traditionis Custodes,’ ‘Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus,’ and the Limits of Papal Authority” ( [Makes an excellent argument that the motu proprio's argument implies that the lex orandi prior to Vatican II contains the seeds of schism.]

July 28

Cristiana de Magistris, “Traditionis Custodes: an act of weakness” (Voice of the Family) [a fine article with some good quotations from Gamber, Bouyer, Calmel]

John A. Monaco, “Was the Sacred Liturgy made for the pope, or the pope for the Sacred Liturgy?” (Catholic World Report) [We need more analyses like this, where the question is raised of the papacy’s actual role vis-à-vis the worship of the Church]

Peter A. Kwasniewski, “It’s Time to Imitate Our Forefathers: Never Give Up!” (OnePeterFive)

The effect of reading too much about TradCust

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Polish Bishops’ Conference Website Unpersons the TLM

On Holy Thursday of this year, the website of the Polish Bishops’ Conference published a letter which included the following statement.

“Just as the Eucharist builds and sustains in us a priestly identity, so it is the place where many noble desires of young people are awakened. Every vocation, more or less, matures in the Eucharist. Its importance in the process of awakening and sustaining vocations is undeniable. Many young people have found their vocation precisely in the liturgical experience. It is enough to recall today the multitude of priests whose desire for priesthood was born in the ‘Light-Life Movement’ and in the work of the Servant of God Fr Franciszek Blachnicki. It was through constant attention to the liturgy, to its beauty and nobility, that many of us embarked on the path of priestly life. Today we can also see this in a certain fascination with liturgy celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. (our emphasis) It remains undeniable that many young people today are attracted to such attention to the beauty of the Eucharistic celebration. They seek Christ and want to discover Him in the Church. This desire must be re-read. The experience of recent years shows that young people need a depth of spiritual life and formation rooted in the liturgy. This sensitivity must be recognized and developed by us. Today we need to rediscover the importance of the pastoral care of the liturgical service, which is a place for discovering the beauty of life with Christ, as well as a place to mature in discovering and fulfilling one's vocation. Many young people read God’s invitation to live in the Church precisely in the liturgy. They need to be helped to mature into the fullness of their vocation. This maturation, however, cannot be limited to learning to minister, but must be integral, that is, encompassing the entire life of the young person.” (text in red; click image to enlarge.)

Thanks to our friends at the Facebook page Benedicamus Domino, which promotes the traditional rite in Poland, for bringing to our attention that almost immediately after Traditionis Custodes was issued on July 16th, this passage, which says nothing that everybody doesn’t already know to be true, was removed from the website of the Polish Bishops’ Conference. (We also thank Benedicamus Domino for the translation of the passage given above.)

The original text is still available on the website of the diocese of Warsaw-Praga. Of course, it is perfectly possible, and much to be hoped, that this was done without the knowledge of any Polish bishop; and further, that their Excellencies will follow the good example of so many other bishops, taking paternal and authentically pastoral care of the many young people who have come to know and serve the Lord by worshiping in the manner of their ancestors in the Faith. It is also very much to be hoped and prayed for that their Excellencies will not stand for their employees’ use of tactics reminiscent of those used by the political ideologies that did so much grievous harm to their noble nation in the 20th century.
On the left, a photograph of Joseph Stalin in the company of various apparatchiks of the Soviet Communist Party; to his left (our right) is Nikolay Yezhov, the former head of the secret police organization known as the NKVD, which would later evolve into the KGB. On the right, the same photograph altered to remove Yezhov after his fall from political grace, arrest, torture and execution in 1940.

Pictorial Allegories of the Love of God Inspired by the Song of Songs - Part 3

How do you paint the love of God? Love is not something we will ever see directly, and this creates difficulties for artists who work in a purely visual medium. The answer for many who wish to represent the greatest virtue has been to look for inspiration in the allegorical account of God’s love in the Song of Songs.

This is the third of three reflections on the Song of Songs, an intense love poem as illustrated by different artists. Part 1 - The beloved is in the garden, the beloved is the garden was a reflection on the implications of the symbolism of the garden, a place of fertility and beauty. Part 2 - The beloved is the lover, and the lover is the beloved was a Christian response, inspired by the Song of Songs, to Marxism, social justice, critical theory, and radical feminism.

Part 3 - A garden enclosed, a fountain sealed - Mary the great lover and most beloved of God

One traditional pictorial representation of God’s love as described in the Song of Songs focuses on the interpretation of the book as an allegory of the Father’s love for Mary, the Mother of God. Mary is understood to be the personification of the ‘garden enclosed’ and the ‘fountain sealed’, from verse 4, 12: “She is a garden enclosed, my sister, my promised bride; a garden enclosed, a sealed fountain.”

In Latin this is Hortus conclusus – garden enclosed - and Fons signatus – sealed fountain - and there are genres of paintings that have these Latin names. The Mother of God is likened by the Church Fathers to a garden because of Her fertility as a perfect mother, and the source of the cultivation of the new Tree of Life originally in the Garden of Eden, as described in the book of Genesis.

The Fall, which took place in Eden, resulted from Adam and Eve succumbing to temptation and eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. St Ephraim the Syrian, the Christian commentator from the 4th century AD, declared a Doctor of the Church in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, believed that Adam and Eve were subsequently expelled from Eden in order to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life. If they had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Life, he says, it would have resulted in their living forever in the misery of their fallen state. With Christ’s establishment of His Church, Christians in communion with the Church are now able to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life, the fruit of which is Christ himself present in the Eucharist. By this, we are permitted to live forever, partaking of the divine nature.

Mary is not only the garden enclosed, she is also the Fons conclusus, a fountain of life sealed by her perpetual virginity. The image of ‘living’, that is flowing, water is often connected to the Spirit that brings life out the dry ground of our hearts, and leads us to eternal life. So the Virgin is a garden, watered by the living water of the Holy Spirit, from which springs the Tree of Life, Christ. The garden is enclosed and the fountain sealed because she remains perpetually a virgin. The Mother is both the beloved and lover of the Father, passive and responsive. As such she is most beloved and the great lover of God, both active and passive. She is the greatest lover in the human race, aside from Christ himself.

She is therefore a lover whose pure love for God is a type for perfect Christian feminism, and a perfect human love that is a model for all of us in every relationship, a model that can be the basis of justice in the family and society. Christian feminism neither diminishes the active, vigorously personal, and distinctly feminine role of women in any loving interaction, nor does it blur the distinction between the natures of men and women.

Radical feminism refuses to consider divine love as a type for all love. As a result, its influence is the opposite of what it intends. It proposes patterns of behavior that rupture their relationships with others and degrade their capacity to love and be loved. The result is greater misery and bitterness towards others.

In common with the left in general, it is common for radical feminists to accuse those who disagree with their ideas as ‘haters’. I have some sympathy for them in this, because I suspect that they genuinely feel hated, although they falsely blame those around them for this. The fact is they feel hated because they do not feel loved. And they do not feel loved because they do not accept the love of God. This is as a result of their own choices, not God’s, and it has nothing to do with those whom they blame for how they feel.

We are all sinners, and this tendency to blame others for the unhappiness we feel when we rupture the relationship with God goes with the human condition, of course. However, if we at least acknowledge at some level our need for God, and are inclined to recognize, however imperfectly, that we are the cause of our own unhappiness, then through the infinite mercy of God we can be happy.

All of us, therefore, can benefit from considering the perfection of Mary as a lover in the hope of perfecting the pattern of our love of others.

This painting of the Garden Enclosed shown above was made in the 15th century by a German artist named Stephan Lochner, a work in the late Gothic style known as “International Gothic.” Mary is portrayed as the garden, set in a garden. Angels adore their queen and her son the King. The detailed and beautifully rendered blue mantle spreads out, and connects the figure visually with the gorgeous detail in the portrayal of the flora. The embossed details in the gilding extend the garden upwards and lend a sense of the heavenly dimension. Mary wears a crown as Queen of Heaven

Other common portrayals of Mary connect her to a garden so as to reinforce the point that she is the New Eve, the exemplar of cooperation with grace in the work of redemption. For example, images of the Annunciation, which is the prequel, so to speak, of the Garden Enclosed, will often show a garden, typically in spring, newly bursting into life. The common thread is that both show Her as a sign of fertility and superabundance that opens the door to the incarnation of the Eighth Day of creation, Christ, and which is the new age that ushers in eternal life for all of us.

Sometimes it is subtle. For example, in this late 15th-century painting of the Annunciation by the Italian artist Sandro Botticelli, known as the Costello Annunciation, we see through the window a garden with a tree, presumably the Tree of Life, centrally and prominently placed.

Another example is the Tree of Jesse, the father of David; the line of Christ’s ancestry is shown, with Mary as the stem bearing the fruit of the Tree of Life, who is Christ. It is inspired by the passage from the prophet Isaiah, 11, 1: ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.’

Monday, July 26, 2021

A Parallel between Cassava Domestication and Liturgical Development

Cassava (manioc) root
A friend of mine was reading a book and sent me a passage from it, with the cryptic note: “Relevant to things you’re interested in.” The book is Joseph Henrich’s The Secret of Our Success: How Culture Is Driving Human Evolution, Domesticating Our Species, and Making Us Smarter, published by Princeton University Press in 2017. Another blog, The Scholar’s Stage, summarizes his approach as follows. (I assure you that this post will eventually arrive at a liturgical application!)

“Henrich advances the argument that brain-power alone is not enough to explain why humans are such a successful species. Humans, he argues, are not nearly as intelligent as we think they are. Remove them from the culture and environment they have learned to operate in and they fail quickly. His favorite example of this are European explorers who die in the middle of deserts, jungles, or arctic wastes even though thousands of generations of hunter-gatherers were able to survive and thrive in these same environments. If human success was due to our ability to problem solve, analyze, and rationally develop novel solutions to novel challenges, the explorers should have been fine. Their ghastly fates suggest that rationality may not be the key to human survival.

“If rational thought is not the key to our success, what is?

“To answer that, Henrich says, we should look at the cassava plant. Cassava, or manioc, is one of the most popular staple foods in the world. But there is a catch: if not prepared correctly, cassava will slowly poison you. Yet some populations eat it without a problem. How does this work?”

Now we turn to the words of Henrich himself:

“In the Americas, where manioc was first domesticated, societies who have relied on bitter varieties for thousands of years show no evidence of chronic cyanide poisoning. In the Colombian Amazon, for example, indigenous Tukanoans use a multistep, multiday processing technique that involves scraping, grating, and finally washing the roots in order to separate the fiber, starch, and liquid. Once separated, the liquid is boiled into a beverage, but the fiber and starch must then sit for two more days, when they can then be baked and eaten….

“Such processing techniques are crucial for living in many parts of Amazonia, where other crops are difficult to cultivate and often unproductive. However, despite their utility, one person would have a difficult time figuring out the detoxification technique. Consider the situation from the point of view of the children and adolescents who are learning the techniques. They would have rarely, if ever, seen anyone get cyanide poisoning, because the techniques work. And even if the processing was ineffective, such that cases of goiter (swollen necks) or neurological problems were common, it would still be hard to recognize the link between these chronic health issues and eating manioc. Most people would have eaten manioc for years with no apparent effects. Low cyanogenic varieties are typically boiled, but boiling alone is insufficient to prevent the chronic conditions for bitter varieties. Boiling does, however, remove or reduce the bitter taste and prevent the acute symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, stomach troubles, and vomiting).

“So, if one did the common-sense thing and just boiled the high-cyanogenic manioc, everything would seem fine. Since the multistep task of processing manioc is long, arduous, and boring, sticking with it is certainly non-intuitive. Tukanoan women spend about a quarter of their day detoxifying manioc, so this is a costly technique in the short term. Now consider what might result if a self-reliant Tukanoan mother decided to drop any seemingly unnecessary steps from the processing of her bitter manioc. She might critically examine the procedure handed down to her from earlier generations and conclude that the goal of the procedure is to remove the bitter taste. She might then experiment with alternative procedures by dropping some of the more labor-intensive or time-consuming steps. She’d find that with a shorter and much less labor-intensive process, she could remove the bitter taste. Adopting this easier protocol, she would have more time for other activities, like caring for her children. Of course, years or decades later her family would begin to develop the symptoms of chronic cyanide poisoning.

“Thus, the unwillingness of this mother to take on faith the practices handed down to her from earlier generations would result in sickness and early death for members of her family. Individual learning does not pay here, and intuitions are misleading. The problem is that the steps in this procedure are causally opaque—an individual cannot readily infer their functions, interrelationships, or importance. The causal opacity of many cultural adaptations had a big impact on our psychology.

Traditional cassava preparation
“Wait. Maybe I’m wrong about manioc processing. Perhaps it’s actually rather easy to individually figure out the detoxification steps for manioc? Fortunately, history has provided a test case. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the Portuguese transported manioc from South America to West Africa for the first time. They did not, however, transport the age-old indigenous processing protocols or the underlying commitment to using those techniques. Because it is easy to plant and provides high yields in infertile or drought-prone areas, manioc spread rapidly across Africa and became a staple food for many populations. The processing techniques, however, were not readily or consistently regenerated. Even after hundreds of years, chronic cyanide poisoning remains a serious health problem in Africa. Detailed studies of local preparation techniques show that high levels of cyanide often remain and that many individuals carry low levels of cyanide in their blood or urine, which haven’t yet manifested in symptoms. In some places, there’s no processing at all, or sometimes the processing actually increases the cyanogenic content. On the positive side, some African groups have in fact culturally evolved effective processing techniques, but these techniques are spreading only slowly.

“The point here is that cultural evolution is often much smarter than we are. Operating over generations as individuals unconsciously attend to and learn from more successful, prestigious, and healthier members of their communities, this evolutionary process generates cultural adaptations. Though these complex repertoires appear well designed to meet local challenges, they are not primarily the products of individuals applying causal models, rational thinking, or cost-benefit analyses. Often, most or all of the people skilled in deploying such adaptive practices do not understand how or why they work, or even that they ‘do’ anything at all. Such complex adaptations can emerge precisely because natural selection has favored individuals who often place their faith in cultural inheritance—in the accumulated wisdom implicit in the practices and beliefs derived from their forbearers—over their own intuitions and personal experiences.”

Thus Henrich. It is difficult to read something like that and not think (mutatis mutandis) about the experience of the Catholic Church in the twentieth century. The application to the cultural inheritance of the traditional Latin liturgy is obvious, as well as the limitations of the application of pure reason to culture and ritual, which it cannot fully account for, and yet cannot do without. Consider a creative rewriting of Henrich:

“In the Catholic Church, where the Mass was first practiced, believers who have relied on the traditional inheritance for centuries show no evidence of heretical or irreligious poisoning. The Solemn High Mass, for example, is a complex, multistep process that takes many hours to complete. Despite their beauty and doctrinal content, however, one person would have a difficult time figuring out why everything is done this way, and certainly no person himself, or no committee of persons by themselves, could come up with it (or something better). The children who grow up with this inheritance simply learn it by attending, observing, praying, and, in many cases, serving, or singing, or joining in a procession, with reinforcing customs practiced at home. They would have rarely, if ever, seen anyone get heretical or irreligious poisoning, because the practices work. Although at times practices might be inferior, serious poisoning would have been rare, since the form of prayer removed or reduced the evils and prevented acute symptoms.

“So, if one did the common-sense thing and just followed the customs handed down, everything would seem fine. Since the multistep task of traditional Catholic liturgy is long, arduous, and at times repetitious, sticking with it might seem non-intuitive. Clergy spend about a quarter of their day praying the Mass and the breviary, so this is a costly technique in the short term. Now consider what might result if a self-reliant priest, or bishop, or pope, decided to drop any seemingly unnecessary steps from the daily round of prayer. He might critically examine the practices handed down to him from earlier generations and conclude that the goal of the procedure is to get everyone actively involved in a communal event. He might then experiment with alternative practices by dropping some of the more labor-intensive or time-consuming steps. He’d find that with a shorter and much less labor-intensive process, a similar appearance of religious activity could be maintained. Adopting this easier protocol, he would have more time for other activities, like counseling, social justice, cultural excursions, and golfing. Of course, years and decades later, his flock would develop the symptoms of chronic heretical and irreligious poisoning.

“Thus, the unwillingness of this father to take on faith the practices handed down to him from earlier generations would result in sickness and early death for members of his flock. Individual learning does not pay here, and personal intuitions are misleading. The problem is that the elements of traditional practices are causally opaque—an individual cannot readily infer their functions, interrelationships, or importance.

“Wait. Could I be wrong about the need to accept the practices handed down? Perhaps it’s actually easy to figure out the correct steps for liturgical prayer and any community can rediscover them on its own? Fortunately, history has provided a test case. After the complex form of liturgy was abandoned by the pope, the new form was spread around the world. What was not transported, however, were the age-old rubrics or the underlying commitment to following the Roman tradition. Because the new liturgy was easy to practice, it spread rapidly and became a staple for many communities. The spiritual yields, however, were not plentiful, and even after many decades, chronic heretical and irreligious poisoning remains a serious spiritual health problem in the Catholic Church on all continents. Detailed studies of particular churches (such as those in India) show that high levels of religious syncretism, eclecticism, and indifferentism remain and that many individuals carry them in their brains. On the positive side, some few groups have in fact developed effective prayer techniques (called “reform of the reform”), but they are spreading only slowly.

“The point here is that liturgical development is often much smarter than we are as isolated individuals or committees. Operating over generations as believers attend to and learn from more successful, prestigious, and healthier local churches, especially the Church of Rome, this process generates cultural adaptations and expectations (such as the connection between reverence and kneeling to receive the Eucharist on the tongue). Though these complex repertoires appear, upon close inspection, well designed to meet local challenges, they are not primarily the products of individuals applying causal models, rational thinking, or cost-benefit analyses. Often, the people who value and deploy such adaptive practices do not understand how or why they work. These complex adaptations emerge precisely because divine Providence guides individuals who place their faith in the cultural inheritance of the Church—in the accumulated wisdom implicit in the practices and beliefs derived from their forbears—over their own ideas and personal experiences.”

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Active Participation

A beautiful testimony from His Excellency Robert Reed, auxiliary bishop of Boston, to the reality of active participation in the traditional Mass.

The Legend of St James the Greater

In the Synoptic Gospels, St James the Greater appears as a particularly prominent figure among the Twelve Apostles. When the names of the Twelve are given as a group, he always appears in the first set of four, along with the brothers Peter and Andrew, and his own brother John. After his calling, which is described at the beginning of Our Lord’s public ministry in all three Synoptics, he appears with Peter and John as a witness of several notable events: the healing of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration, when Christ first revealed His divinity to his Apostles, and the Agony in the Garden. The Gospel of St Mark (3, 13-19) tells us that Christ gave to James and John the nickname “Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder”; this transcription of the Hebrew “b’nê regesh” may be intended to suggest something like “boan ergon” in Greek, “the work of shouting.” St Luke writes (9, 53-56) that when the Samaritans did not receive Christ, “James and John … said: ‘Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them?’ And turning, He rebuked them, saying, ‘You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.’ ” (The words in italics are missing in many ancient manuscripts.)

The Transfiguration, by Duccio di Buoninsegna, one of the panels of the dismembered altarpiece of Siena Cathedral known as the Maestà, 1311; this one is now located in the National Gallery in London. (Public domain image from Wikipedia.)
In the Gospel of St Matthew 20, 20-23, it is recounted that their mother, Salome, came to the Lord, “adoring and asking something of him. Who said to her: ‘What wilt thou?’ She saith to him: ‘Say that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left, in thy kingdom.’ And Jesus answering, said, ‘You know not what you ask. Can you drink the chalice that I shall drink?’ They say to him. ‘We can.’ He saith to them, ‘My chalice indeed you shall drink; but to sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.’ ” This is the Gospel of St James’ feast, and also that of his brother John’s feast “at the Latin Gate”, which commemorates his martyrdom, in fulfillment of the Lord’s prophecy that “My chalice indeed you (plural) shall drink.”

In the Acts, James is named once again with the other Apostles right after the Ascension (1, 13), but then only once more, at the beginning of chapter 12. “And at the same time, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the church. And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also.” Concerning his martyrdom, the first among the Twelve, Eusebius of Caesarea records that “Clement (of Alexandria), in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes (a work which is now lost), relates a story which is worthy of mention; telling it as he received it from those who had lived before him. He says that the one who led James to the judgment-seat, when he saw him bearing his testimony, was moved, and confessed that he was himself also a Christian. They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way, he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said ‘Peace be with you,’ and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time.” (Church History 2, 9)
15th century reliquary of St James the Apostle in the cathedral of Pistoia, Italy, which also contains relics of his mother, Maria Salome, as well as St Martin of Tours, and two early local martyrs, priests named Rufinus and Felix.
The tradition that St James went to Spain and began the work of evangelizing that country is a fairly late one; it was unknown to writers of the early centuries, and even explicitly denied by St Julian, the archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain in the later 7th century. The Golden Legend of Bl. James of Voragine devotes very little space to it, saying merely that “he went to Spain, to sow the word of God there. But when he saw that he was making no progress there, and had made only nine disciples, he left two of them there to preach, and taking the other seven with him, returned to Judaea.” These are traditionally known as the “Seven Apostolic Men”, Saints Torquatus, Ctesiphon, Secundus, Indaletius, Caecilius, Hesychius and Euphrasius; the Tridentine Martyrology has an entry for them on May 15th, which states that the Apostles ordained them as bishops and sent them back to Spain, where they preached the Gospel in various places. The Golden Legend goes on to give a lengthy account of St James’ martyrdom, which includes the conversion of a magician named Hermogenes; at the end, a story is told of how his relics were translated to Spain, one which does much to enhance the author’s reputation for excessive credulity.

Lest it seem that too much credulity is given here to the hagiographical skeptics, even the pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary shows great reserve about these traditions, giving no space to any part of the legend of St James, not even the very ancient story recorded in Eusebius. All nine of the Matins lessons for the feast are taken from a homily of St John Chrysostom on the day’s Gospel, in which he says much in praise of Salome as one who followed Christ, and was principally concerned with the eternal salvation of her sons. In the Tridentine Breviary, a new set of readings was composed for the second nocturne, which sum up the traditional story as described above. It also notes that James’ death took place around the time of the Jewish Passover, but that his feast day is kept on the day of the translation of his relics to the famous cathedral at Compostela.

The church of Rome was always very slow to accept new liturgical texts; one often finds that a Saint who was hugely popular in the Middle Ages had a proper Office elsewhere, but was celebrated in the Roman Use with a Common Office. Such is the case with St James. At Compostela itself, an Office was sung with a completely proper set of antiphons, responsories and hymns, which refer to the tradition of his coming to Spain, the presence of his relics, and his frequent aid to the Spanish kings in liberating the peninsula from the Moors during the Reconquista. One of the best of these antiphons was then received by the Dominicans for the Magnificat at First Vespers of his feast, although they did not take on any of the rest of the propers from Compostela.

O lux et decus Hispaniae, sanctissime Jacobe, qui inter Apostolos primatum tenes, primus eorum martyrio laureatus! O singulare praesidium, qui meruisti videre Redemptorem nostrum adhuc mortalem in Deitate transformatum! Exaudi preces servorum tuorum, et intercede pro nostra salute omniumque populorum.

A superb motet by the Spanish composer Ambrosio Cotes (1550-1603), with the first words of the antiphon given above.

O light and glory of Spain, most holy James, who among the Apostles holdest the primacy, the first of them crowned with martyrdom! Our special defense, who merited to see our Redeemer transformed in the Godhead while yet a mortal! Hear the prayers of thy servants, and intercede for our salvation, and of all peoples!

St James is traditionally depicted in the garb of a pilgrim, with a broad hat and a staff, even though he is the destination, and not the traveler. This is not done with other Saints whose tombs or relics were popular pilgrimage centers, indicating perhaps that to the medieval mind, a trip to Compostela was thought of as the pilgrimage par excellence. This may have something to do with its location at almost the westernmost point in continental Europe. Compostela is about 48 miles from a town on the Atlantic called “Fisterra”, which literally means “the end of the land”; pilgrims would often take an extra couple of days to go as far as the ocean itself, beyond which it was believed that there was nothing but more water to the other side of the globe. (Technically, Cabo da Roca in Portugal is 15 minutes of longitude further to the west.)
St James the Greater dressed as a pilgrim, by Ferrer et Arnau Bassa, ca. 1347; from the Diocesan Museum of Barcelona (Courtesy of the Schola Sainte Cécile).
The third element which identifies St James in art is a scallop shell, a custom which ultimately derives from the medieval laws collectively known as the Peace of God. These laws prohibited armed men from bothering various classes of people, including all women and children, clerics and monks, pilgrims, merchants and Jews. Women and children are obviously such, clerics and monks were identified by their tonsure; the other groups habitually wore something to identify them as members of one of the classes entitled to the protection of the Peace of God. For pilgrims, the hat and staff were not at first sufficiently distinct to serve that purpose, and so they would wear something else to indicate their destination. The scallop shell showed that one was traveling as a pilgrim to or from the shrine of St James, along the Galician coast where scallops grow in abundance. This became so well know that even today, the German word for “scallop” is either “Jakobsmuschel – James’ mussel” or “Pilgermuschel – a pilgrim mussel.”

Saturday, July 24, 2021

An Exhortation Against Discouragement, by My Father

I first published this over 10 years ago, in the wake of two sexual abuse scandals within the Church that happened almost simultaneously, both of which have, in the intervening years, been eclipsed by so many more and such graver scandals that I can hardly remember a single thing about either one of them. At the time, I wrote that “Pope Benedict has achieved many good things, but there is still much open dissent against him, especially in regards to the liturgy.” Last week, an attempt was made (and I say “attempt” advisedly, because I do believe that it is doomed to failure) to undo this good work. But whatever challenges await us in the months and years ahead, we must not allow ourselves to give in to discouragement and fear.

On Ash Wednesday of 2010, while going through some of the personal effects of my parents (then both recently deceased), I came across a letter which my father wrote to my mother over half a century ago: a useful reminder, to me at least, that in a certain way, every age in the Church’s earthly life is an age of crisis, but “our labor is not in vain in the Lord.”

In the spring of 1965, my father had just turned 23, and was finishing his last semester of college; having spent a lot of his time at a California school on trips to Mexico (by his own admission), he became one of the original five-year planners. My mother, six months younger than he, had already graduated from the same school and returned to her native New York, where she was working as secretary to the associate publisher of National Review. Although it is not a religious magazine per se, National Review’s founder was one of the most prominent Catholic laymen in America, William F. Buckley, and many other famous Catholic intellectuals were regular contributors. My mother’s immediate boss, James P. McFadden would later found both the Human Life Review, and the newsletter Catholic Eye.

That same year, my mother helped put together a supplement to the magazine, a collection of essays called “What in the name of God is going on in the Catholic Church?”, including contributions by novelist Evelyn Waugh, historian Fr. Marvin O’Connell, and Garry Wills. In an essay called “Open Season On the Church?”, NR’s religion editor Will Herberg, a conservative Jew, correctly predicted that ‘aggiornamento’ would soon lead to what we now call ‘the hermeneutic of rupture,’ well before the close of Vatican II. “Under cover of ‘aggiornamento’, a fronde (i.e. a civil war) has been opened up against the Church.” And, after severe criticism of some of NR’s own writings on then-current Church events, he adds, “I will not permit myself to comment on Ramparts, another ‘Catholic’ journal practicing aggiornamento. Anti-clerical snarling and leftist incitement constitute the bulk of the offerings of this sensation-mongering Liberal magazine. And all in the name of aggiornamento!”

The religion editor was not the only person on the NR staff who found the contents of Ramparts distressing. At some point, my mother voiced some rather serious worries over the situation in the Church generally, and something in Ramparts particularly, to my father. I can’t tell from my father’s response whether it was in a letter or a phone conversation, but it clearly made him think that she was in a bad way, and in need of some encouragement. (And dig the hipster vocab. from the 1960’s!)

I commence this commentary upon your latest hang-up, which is this ‘movement’ which is taking place within Holy Mother the Church. You’ve mentioned to me how shook up you are, and … things about joining some eastern rite and all that. (referring to earlier rebels in the Church like Arius as “fatheads”:) Remember, the cool ones have been those who knew that in spite of all that they saw around them, and what was happening within the Church, their first concern was to save their immortal souls; they worked within the Church. … One must be cool in these things and remember that on many occasions Christ has allowed the devil and his armies to turn the Church into chaos and turmoil, and that every time She has come out refreshed, rejuvenated, and as vital as Her Founder intended Her to be. You must remember that these factions, these creeping elements of fungus and disease have always been in the Church, and that every time they have lost in the end. Let them preach that we are to look upon Christ as a ‘buddy’, as you would say, but should that matter when you know that He isn’t? Look to yourself and not to them … So who or what is Ramparts ? (They) purport to represent the Church. Don’t tell me that you’ve fallen prey to the press and have believed them when they say that Ramparts or anyone else speaks for the Church. Let them yell, let them scream; they speak for no-one, and they speak to no-one. All they do is impress. They do not impress Protestants. They do not impress Catholic laymen. They only impress themselves and those like themselves…who are on newspapers and other such tripe… Just remember that all this will pass and the Church will emerge triumphant.”


At the time these words were written, the ‘hermeneutic of rupture’ was just getting into full swing. My mother’s parish had its first Mass celebrated partially in English; as she and my grandmother told me many times, most of the congregation left the church in tears. When my parents were married in 1968, they were unable to find a priest who would say any of their wedding Mass in Latin; years later, they were both deeply annoyed to learn (from me) that there was absolutely no prohibition, then or now, on saying any or all of the Mass in Latin. They moved to my father’s home town, Providence, R.I., where they lived for the rest of their lives. One parish celebrated in a manner reminiscent of what Vatican II had asked for in Sacrosanctum Concilium; for many years, there was a Sunday Mass celebrated in Latin in the modern Roman rite with an excellent choir. In 1994, this was changed over to the usus antiquior. For my mother especially, one of the greatest joys of her life was the ability to once again regularly attend the liturgy she had known in her youth; time and again she told me that she never thought she would see the day. Both of my parents’ funerals were celebrated there in the traditional rite; so many of our family and friends told me how strongly moved they were by the beautiful music of the youthful and highly talented choir.

In 1975, as my father predicted, Ramparts magazine ceased publication.

My father, Thomas DiPippo, in St Peter’s Square, July 1966. Apart from the cars, it looks just the same today, a fact he would really have appreciated.

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