Wednesday, May 31, 2023

The Feast and Fast of Pentecost

On the vigil of Pentecost, as on that of Easter, the Roman station church is the cathedral of the Most Holy Savior, popularly known as St John in the Lateran. This is, of course, because of the day’s very ancient character as one of the two occasions for the celebration of baptism, following what the Acts of the Apostles say about the very first Pentecost (2, 41), when St Peter baptized about 3,000 people. In ancient times, it was an almost universal custom that a cathedral should have a baptistery right next to it, and Rome was no exception; furthermore, the administration of baptism was principally a duty of the bishop. This is also why the traditional Roman vigil of Pentecost repeats several elements from the vigil of Easter, most significantly, a series of catechetical prophecies, and the blessing of the baptismal font, a custom attested in all of the ancient liturgical books of the Roman Rite. [1] The collect of the Mass refers to the baptismal character of the rite even more explicitly than that of the Easter vigil, and the Hanc igitur of Easter is said, which speaks of those “whom (God has) deigned to regenerate of water and the Holy Spirit”, as also throughout the octave. [2]

The interior of the Lateran Baptistery
After the celebration of the Easter vigil at a church dedicated to the Savior, the stations of Easter week bring the newly baptized to the churches of the most important Saints, arranged in hierarchical order. Easter Sunday is celebrated at St Mary Major, the Virgin’s most ancient Roman church; the Masses of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are held at the tombs of Ss Peter, Paul and Lawrence respectively, the city’s three principal patrons. On Thursday the station is at the church of the Twelve Apostles, and on Friday at the Pantheon, dedicated to all the martyrs; Saturday returns to the Lateran, where St John represents the confessors. As detailed in the first article linked above, each one of these Masses contains clear references to the Saint or group of Saints to whom the station church is dedicated.

Of the seven station churches of the vigil, feast and octave of Easter, five are also kept at Pentecost, albeit in a different order. Starting from this fact, and from the common station for the vigil, the Bl. Ildephonse Schuster attempts in his book The Sacramentary (vol. 2, p. 397) to explain the stations of Pentecost and its octave in reference to those of Easter, according to a “deliberate design of making the two feasts equal”, and posits various reasons for the change in order. His explanation seems to me, however, to run aground by starting from an a priori assumption that since Pentecost imitates Easter in some ways, we should expect it to imitate Easter in all or most ways, which it clearly does not. For example, at the beginning of the Pentecost vigil, there is no blessing of a fire, even though this would arguably be an especially appropriate rite to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire. [3] But much more significantly in regard to the stations, the texts of the Pentecost Masses, unlike those of Easter, have almost no relationship to the churches where they are celebrated. [4]

The organizing principle of the stations of Pentecost is rather that they are arranged in deliberate imitation of those of the first week of Lent, as shown in the following chart.

First Week of Lent Pentecost
Sunday Lateran St Peter’s
Monday St Peter in Chains St Peter in Chains
Tuesday St Anastasia St Anastasia
Wednes. St Mary Major St Mary Major
Thurs. St Lawrence
in Panispera
St Lawrence
Friday Twelve Apostles Twelve Apostles
Saturday St Peter’s St Peter’s

There are two places where the lists differ, Sunday and Thursday, both of which are easily explained. Before the creation of Ash Wednesday as a part of the liturgical year, Lent began on the First Sunday; the station is held at the cathedral as the most appropriate place for the Pope to begin the catechumenal rites which were such a prominent feature of the season. In the case of Pentecost, the station is at the Lateran on the vigil, and so on the feast, it is kept at St Peter’s instead. As the largest church in Rome, this is the logical choice for a solemnity of such importance, which would presumably draw a very big congregation; and indeed, the station is also held there on Epiphany, on the Ascension, originally on Christmas day, and on the city’s patronal feast.

In the case of Thursday, in Lent, it was originally an “aliturgical” day on which no Mass was celebrated, and this was also true of the Thursday after Pentecost. The custom of having aliturgical days was abolished in the early 8th century, for reasons which I have explained elsewhere, and stations appointed for those days; the Thursdays of the First Week of Lent and of Pentecost were then both assigned to churches dedicated to St Lawrence.

The Martyrdom of St Lawrence, by Titian, from the Spanish Royal Monastery of the Escorial. This is traditionally said to have taken place on the site where the church of St Lawrence in Panisperna now stands.
The question naturally arises as to why the stations of one of the greatest and most solemn feasts copy those of the beginning of the great fast. The answer lies, of course, in the Ember days. We have a total of 22 sermons by Pope St Leo I (444-61) preached on these fast days, four on those of Pentecost, and nine each on those of September and December. In them, he states several times that they were of apostolic institution; we cannot prove that this is in fact the case, but they are unquestionably very ancient. The stations for the Ember Days are always held at Mary Major on Wednesday, at the Twelve Apostles on Friday, and at St Peter’s on Saturday; this being the case, and the necessary exception having been made for Sunday, those of Monday and Tuesday simply reproduce those of the Monday and Tuesday of the First Week of Lent.

The liturgical texts for Pentecost and its octave, including the Ember days, and the stations of the vigil and the first four days of the feast, are attested with a very notable degree of consistency in the oldest liturgical books of the Roman Rite. However, it is also the case that in many early books, the Ember days appear as a feature of the liturgical year separate from the Pentecost octave. In the older version of the Gelasian Sacramentary (Vat. Lat. Reg. 316), they are placed between Pentecost and its octave day, but in the modified form attested in the Gellone Sacramentary, and in the earliest lectionaries, they are not just after the octave, but further separated from it by four feasts and two Sundays. The Mass of Ember Wednesday originally had the following preface, which is modeled fairly closely on a part of Pope Leo’s first sermon on the fast of Pentecost. [5]

“Truly it is worthy… For after those days of rejoicing, which we have kept in honor of the Lord who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, then indeed have holy fasts been foreseen as necessary to us, so that those thing which have been divinely bestowed upon the Church may abide (i.e. continue to be present) in those who keep a pure manner of living. Through Christ our Lord.”

Folio 83v of the Gellone Sacramentary, ca 780AD, with the preface cited above incorporated into the Mass of Ember Wednesday within the Octave of Pentecost in the middle of the page. (Bibliothèque nationale de France. Département des Manuscrits. Latin 12048)
Therefore, just as the Ember days of Lent mark the beginning of the Church’s fast in preparation for the baptismal rites of Easter, this text presents the fast after Pentecost as a preparation for the rest of the liturgical year, the longest part of it, once all of the catechumens have joined the company of the faithful. “Therefore did these teachers (i.e. the Apostles), who imbued all the sons of the Church with their examples and traditions, begin the first service of Christian warfare with holy fasts, so that those who are about to fight against spiritual wickedness might take up the arms of abstinence, by which to cut off all incentives to vice.” (St Leo, ibid. cap. 2)

As in interesting aside, the title of the Ember days in the ancient Roman liturgical books is not “Quatuor Temporum”, as it is in the Tridentine books. Those of Pentecost are called “the fast of the fourth month”, those of September and December, “of the seventh” and “of the tenth month” respectively. [6] These titles come from a verse of the prophet Zachariah, 8, 19, which is included in the fourth prophecy of the Mass of Ember Saturday in September, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts: * The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth shall be to the house of Juda joy and gladness, and great solemnities: only love ye truth and peace.” That this is not mere coincidence is demonstrated by several early epistle lectionaries, in which the words “jejunium primi – the fast of the first (month)” are added to the Biblical text at the place marked with a star above, in order to include the Ember days of Lent.

The fourth prophecy of Ember Saturday of September, Zachariah 8, 14-19, in the so-called Lectionary of Alcuin, an epistolary of the 9th century whose contents represent the state of the Roman lectionary in the early 7th century. The words “jejunium primi” are in the 5th and 4th line from the bottom. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 9452; folio 99r, image cropped.)
It is tempting to speculate that the “fast of the fifth month” may have been fulfilled with the four vigils kept at the end of June, those of Ss Protasius and Gervasius, St John the Baptist, Ss John and Paul, and Ss Peter and Paul, the second and fourth of which are still kept in the Extraordinary Form to this day. The very end of the reading serves as the ferial chapter of Prime in the Roman Breviary, a reminder to continually cultivate the virtues which the Church seeks to instill in us by periods of fasting throughout the year.

NOTES: [1] This is also attested well before any surviving liturgical book, already at the end of the fourth century, in a letter of Pope St Siricius (384-399) to Himerius, bishop of Tarragon in Spain. (Epist. ad Himerium cap. 2: PL XIII, 1131B-1148A) Pope St Leo I (440-461) also asserts that this was the practice of the Church in a letter to the bishops of Sicily, exhorting them to follow the example of the Apostle Peter noted above. (Epist. XVI ad universos episcopos per Siciliam constitutos, PL LIV, 695B-704A).

[2] Further similarities between the vigils of Easter and Pentecost: the rite begins in the penitential color, violet. Six prophecies are repeated from the vigil of Easter, and the three tracts from Easter night are also repeated in their respective places. Each prophecy is followed by a prayer; the six prayers are different from those of the Easter vigil, but express many of the same ideas. At the Mass, the ministers change vestments and color; there is no Introit, and the bells are rung at the Gloria in excelsis. After the Alleluja of the Mass, the same Tract is sung as on Easter night. At the Gospel, the acolytes do not carry candles. Just as on Easter night the Resurrection is watched for, but not anticipated, so also with this same gesture, the Church watches for the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire, as Christ told His disciples to do, but does not anticipate it.

[3] Note further that the Divine Office of Pentecost has only one nocturn at Matins, like that of Easter, but otherwise shares none of the Paschal Office’s unique characteristics.

[4] The Mass of Pentecost Monday, with its station at St Peter in Chains, is a partial exception. The basilica was originally dedicated to both Ss Peter and Paul; the Collect refers to God giving “the Holy Spirit to (His) Apostles”, and the Epistle, Acts 10, 34 & 42-48, to the baptism of the gentiles, a mission fulfilled by both Peter and Paul in Rome.

[5] The Preface: VD: Post illos enim laetitiae dies, quos in honore Domini a mortuis resurgentis et in caelos ascendentis exigimus, postque perceptum sancti Spiritus donum, necessaria etenim nobis ieiunia sancta prouisa sunt, ut pura conversacione uiuentibus que diuinitus sunt aecclesiae conlata permaneant: per Christum dominum nostrum.
St Leo: Igitur post sanctae laetitiae dies, quos in honorem Domini a mortuis resurgentis, ac deinde in caelos ascendentis, exegimus, postque perceptum sancti Spiritus donum, salubriter et necessarie consuetudo est ordinata jejunii: ut si quid forte inter ipsa festivitatum gaudia negligens libertas et licentia inordinata praesumpsit, hoc religiosae abstinentiae censura castiget: quae ob hoc quoque studiosius exsequenda est, ut illa in nobis quae hac die Ecclesiae divinitus sunt collata permaneant. (De jejunio Pentecostes I, 3)

[6] The Roman calendar originally counted only ten months, starting with March, with the days between December and March as a month-less period. Although this impractical system was traditionally said to have been changed less than 50 years after the founding of the city, the Romans were a people who knew how to honor tradition; this is why the names of the last four months, which derive from “septem – seven”, “octo – eight” etc., were never changed. By this reckoning, March is the first month, and June the fourth.

Corpus Christi Procession in London, June 11

All are warmly invited to attend the annual Corpus Christi Procession in London, England, which takes place on Sunday, June 11th. It commences at the church of the Assumption and St Gregory, Warwick St, Soho, at 3pm, and will finish with Benediction at St James’s Church, Spanish Place, 22 George St just before 6pm. Bishop Kenneth Nowakowski, the Eparch of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of the Holy Family, will lead prayers at a station outside the Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral on Duke Street for an end to the sufferings of the Ukrainian people.

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Durandus on the Liturgy of Pentecost Tuesday

Because the Holy Spirit is not given except by the ministers, on Tuesday the Introit “Receive the delight of your glory” is sung, as if the prelates of the Church were speaking. And since by two-fold love (i.e. of God and neighbor) we come to faith in the Trinity, we sing Alleluia five times. And the meaning of it is, “Receive the delight of glory”, that is, the Holy Spirit, because He will glorify and exalt you, such that every man may say which is said in the Communio, “The Spirit who proceedeth from the Father, he will exalt me.”

The Mass of Pentecost Tuesday, celebrated earlier today at the church of St Eugène in Paris, sung by our friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile. The Introit Accipite begins at 6:52, and the Communio Spiritus qui a Patre procedit at 1:05:00.

Introitus Accipite jucunditatem gloriae vestrae, alleluia: gratias agentes Deo, alleluia: qui vos ad caelestia regna vocavit, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Ps. 77 Attendite, popule meus, legem meam: inclinate aurem vestram in verba oris mei. Gloria Patri. Accipite.

Introit Receive the delight of your glory, alleluia, giving thanks to God, alleluia, Who hath called ye to the heavenly kingdoms, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. Psalm Attend, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. Glory be. Receive.

Communio Spiritus qui a Patre procedit, alleluia, ille me clarificabit, alleluia. (The Spirit who proceedeth from the Father, He will glorify me.)
There follows the Epistle (Acts 8, 14-17), which says, “Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Spirit.” ... The Gospel (John 10,1-10) agrees with the Epistle, where it says, “He that entereth not through the door... (is a thief and a robber)”, for he does not enter into the Church who does not enter through those who are the door, namely, through Christ and the Apostles, for heretics do not give the Spirit, except in so far as they agree with the Church. And since the Apostles and their successors attacked the leaders of heresies in a spirit of fortitude, this day’s liturgy is about fortitude, which is a gift of the Holy Spirit.
But the Holy Spirit is also the keeper of the door, who leads us through it to the Father, and this is also sung in the Offertory, “He hath opened the gates of heaven”, that is, the writings of the Apostles.
A polyphonic setting of the Offertory Portas caeli by the Polish composer Mikołaj Zieleński (post 1550 - post 1615).
Offertorium Ps 77 Portas caeli apéruit Dóminus: et pluit illis manna, ut éderent: panem caeli dedit eis, panem Angelórum manducávit homo, allelúja. (The Lord opened the doors of heaven, and rained manna upon them that they might eat; he gave them the bread of heaven, man ate the bread of Angels, alleluia.)

Follow-Up Interview on a Recent Article about Historical Falsehoods in the Liturgy

Earlier today, I appeared on A Catholic Take, with the host Joe McClane, to discuss my recent article Historical Falsehoods about the Liturgy from George Weigel. This goes a little bit deeper into some of the issues discussed in the original article, so if you enjoyed the first one, you might find this interesting. My part begins at 37:55; many thanks to Mr McClane for having me on the program. (The video is not embeddable, but there is a link by which you can reach it below.) Here is the direct link to the website for Mr McClane’s program:

A Bill To Prescribe Traditional Architectural Styles for Federal Buildings

Beautiful architecture by the people, for the people, and of the people?

Last Wednesday, Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican from Indiana, introduced legislation to codify an executive order by former President Trump that made classical architecture the model for new government buildings, an order which was axed by President Biden. He was recently interviewed on the subject by on Fox News.

The “Beautifying Federal Civic Architecture Act” declares “traditional and classical” architectural styles to be preferred for new Federal government buildings. This offers hope, at least, that we might again see a national culture that is beautiful and is in harmony with Christian values.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian dissident, famously said on coming to the US (quoting Dostoevsky) that, ‘Beauty will save the world.’ I would assert that in order to save the world, we must first save America, and that in order to do that, beauty must save America. I write as one, incidentally, who recently became an American citizen, because I want to help save the West through beauty.

Those who wish to see a strong American society rooted in traditional values focus, quite rightly, on the political battles, but can forget at times that this ought to be an urgent cultural battle as well. This is a shame, because a noble and accessible culture of beauty is the greatest ally that those politicians who strive for what is good in America can have. As the British conservative philosopher, the late Roger Scruton, put it, when the world around us is beautiful, ‘it tells us that we are at home in the world.’

When we are at home in the world, our desire is to conserve and develop further what is good, rather than to destroy the institutions of society. Furthermore, beauty inspires in us love for our fellow men, generates a culture of faith and virtue that supports the generation of wealth, and our desire to care for the poor. I have previously written about this principle here.

The neo-Marxist theorists who have steadily gained control of the institutions that influence culture in the West understand this well. They have nothing but disdain for the common taste, and for decades, they have deliberately sought to further their political goals by promoting a contemporary culture of ugliness, despair and death, in order to spark revolutionary and destructive anger directed against the America of the Founding Fathers. Beauty raises our hearts and minds to God, and in so doing, reinforces our desire to live by American values, which are rooted in Scripture and Judeo-Christian values. The Marxists know this, even if many Christians seem not to. Accordingly, the Marxists push ugliness, because they know it undermines traditional values. Their architecture of despair distracts our gaze from ‘heavenly things’, as St Paul puts it, and hence from an adherence to objective truth, leaving us vulnerable to manipulation by false propaganda.
The brutalist US Dept of Health and Human Services, the Hubert H Humphrey building. This speaks directly of the disdain that the elites who push this style have for those whom they serve. It says, ‘You may not like it, but we know better than you, as with everything else we do.’
I was delighted therefore to see in December 2020, right at the end of his term, that President Donald Trump (not a man popularly associated with high culture) issue a barely noticed Executive Order mandating that federal buildings should adopt the traditional American style of classical architecture. I wrote about it at the time as a move that would set a standard for American buildings that could be a visible symbol of the traditional American values of faith, freedom and justice. At last, I thought, at the highest level, we have a move that recognizes the importance of culture in preserving and promoting American values, which are rooted in Judeo-Christian values. “If the EO survives the next administration, it will, contrary to what it’s critics on the left claim, likely encourage creativity, authentic originality, and a new richness in architectural style that can be the driving force for a beautiful American culture that speaks authentically of its past and directs us hopefully to its future.”

It turns out that was an important ‘if’. Within a month of Joe Biden becoming President, the EO was scrapped.

Now, thanks to Rep Jim Banks, there is a proposed bill that seeks to do the same, and which adds more detail and direction to the original mandate. For example, as his press release tells us, it specifies that: 
“The term ‘traditional architecture’ includes classical architecture; and the historic humanistic architecture, including Gothic, Romanesque, Pueblo Revival, Spanish Colonial, and other Mediterranean styles of architecture historically rooted in various regions of America, the bill states. 

The bill denounces modern, ‘brutalist’ styles of buildings made popular in the 20th century, defined as a ‘massive and block-like appearance with a rigid geometric style and large-scale use of exposed poured concrete.’ Buildings should instead be modeled after ‘Greek and Roman antiquity’ like the U.S. Capitol and the Supreme Court. 

Banks said his bill aims to restore respect for the beauty of traditional American culture. 

A 2020 poll from the National Civic Art Society found that 72% of American respondents prefer classical and traditional design for federal buildings. Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, said he is fully behind Banks' bill. 

"It is crucial that the design of federal buildings reflects the preferences of ordinary Americans — namely, that such buildings be beautiful, uplifting, and designed in a classical or traditional style.”
I am hoping that this bill might make progress, and even if not made law, might set the standard for how legislation can have an impact on the culture. 
Setting an example that will drive a wider American culture of beauty. 
On the whole, I believe that the culture is not created from the top-down, but from the bottom up. It is a pattern of how ordinary people interact and behave. So it is appropriate that a federal bill limits its attentions to the aspect of American architecture that it should properly be concerned with, that is federal architecture. This way, its influence beyond that is by example only. If people like what they see, they will be inspired to follow suit in the building design that they have an influence over. 
The Supreme Court building
Architecture for the people, not the elites 
This bill reflects a proper government concern for serving the people. If the views of ordinary people were taken into account, then I am pretty sure there would be no modernist architecture ever. (I am using modern in a broad sense to mean those styles that arise from a conscious rejection of Western tradition). A poll referred to by the drafters of the bill indicated that classical was the preferred style of the public and of federal workers - those who will actually have to look at and work in the buildings. This does not surprise me. In my experience of decades of talking to people about art and culture, it is the many - ordinary people (who don’t consider themselves members of the cognoscenti) who prefer traditional designs. On the other hand, it is the few - elites who are inclined to tell us what we ought to like - who advocate modernist designs, and who dominate the teaching institutions that form the architects who go on to design such buildings. 

A move that will encourage originality and creativity 
One argument that I am sure will be used against the bill is that it will stifle creativity. In fact, in my opinion, the opposite will happen. It will encourage a richer and more authentically American diversity of beautiful architecture than that produce by modernist architects.

As a rule, in art, if you define limits to creativity in one direction, creativity finds room for maneuver in other directions. Rather than being a prescription for sameness and sterility, it is exactly the opposite: a mandate for beautiful creativity and variety. 

History confirms this. Some of the most admired architectural styles began as attempts to copy the past. Without deliberate intent from the architects, their work was a product of the time and place in which it was created as well. So, for example, the High Renaissance classical style began as an attempt to recreate the classical style of the ancient Romans and Greeks. It quickly became its own distinct form of classicism known as Palladian architecture and in turn morphed into English Georgian and the American colonial style.

Monday, May 29, 2023

The Cathedral of Modena: Part 2 - the Interior

I recently posted some photographs taken by Nicola of the exterior of the cathedral of St Geminianus in Modena, one of my favorite churches in all of Italy. Today we follow up with some of the interior, which is arranged in a manner fairly common for the Romanesque period in northern Italy; the main sanctuary is at a considerably higher level than the floor of the nave, and has a crypt below it. Furthermore, the rood screen in front of the altar was never removed, so this is a place where get a really good sense of what a church of the 12th century was actually like.

The sanctuary seen from the nave...
and the nave seen from the sanctuary.
The reliefs on the liturgical pulpit show Christ and the Four Evangelists; those on the balustrade show the Passion of Christ. For obvious reasons, the Last Supper is given a prominent place, perhaps in deliberate imitation of the Byzantine custom of representing it on the iconostasis.

Durandus on the Liturgy of Pentecost Monday

The liturgy of Pentecost) Monday shows that the law was given not only to the Jews, but also to the gentiles, whence the Introit is, “He fed them with the richness of wheat,” that is, with spiritual understanding, “and with honey out of the rock,” that is, with the teaching of Christ, which flows like honey. ... This is said in the Epistle (Acts 10, 34 and 42-48), “Peter (i.e. the rock) opening his mouth” etc. And the wheat is Christ, whose richness is the Holy Spirit, ... in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and the knowledge of God. (Col. 2, 3)

Introitus, Ps. 80 Cibávit eos ex ádipe frumenti, allelúia: et de petra, melle saturávit eos, allelúia, allelúia. V. Exsultáte Deo, adjutóri nostro: jubiláte Deo Iacob. Glória Patri Cibávit eos...
Introit Ps. 80 He fed them with the richness of wheat, alleluia: and filled them with honey from the rock, alleluia, alleluia. V. Rejoice to God our helper: sing aloud to the God of Jacob. Glory be... He fed them...
The Gospel (John 3, 16-21) seems to have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit, but it agrees with the Epistle, for it also shows that the law was given not only to the Jews, but also to the gentiles, saying, “God so loved the world,” understand, not only the Jews, “that he gave his only begotten son”, and afterwards it follows, “that everyone who believes in him may not perish.” Note the fearful saying that he who does not believe has already been judged. Furthermore, because mention is made of love, the Holy Spirit, who is love, is mentioned enough, as in the Communio.
Communio, John 14, 26 Spíritus Sanctus docébit vos, allelúia: quæcumque díxero vobis, allelúia, allelúia. (The Holy Spirit will teach you, alleluia: whatever I have said to you, alleluia, alleluia.)

And it should be known through this whole week, the signs of solemnity are kept, such as the Gloria in excelsis, Credo, Ite Missa est, Te Deum and Alleluia, so that we may all rejoice together at the salvation of the baptized, and be a figure of the fullness of future joy.
Finally it should be noted that the Lord did not preach to the gentiles personally, but through the Apostles, when He says, “go ye therefore, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Christ giving the Great Commission to the Disciples; stained-glass window in the co-cathedral of St Patrick, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Andreas F Borchert, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)
The Mass of Pentecost Monday at Chartres Cathedral earlier today, the closure of the famous annual pilgrimage, attended by a record number of pilgrims this year.

“These things I remembered, and poured out my soul in me…” (Ps 41:5)

Remember, remember...

An unjust trial, the scourges tearing the flesh, the crown of thorns, the beatings, the humiliations, the heavy cross, the iron bands across wrists and feet, the smell of blood, the agony, the death, the resurrection, the ascension.

Remember, O Catholic people, where your strength comes from—today almost forgotten.

Remember your heritage.

Remember the Incarnate Word, born of the Blessed Virgin.

Remember a poor man who silenced the powerful, walked on water, calmed storms, gave sight to the blind, made the crippled walk, healed the sick, and raised the dead.

Remember Him who promised the Kingdom of Heaven to those who followed Him, showing that the most humble would be the first.

Remember Him who said, simply, “Come to me,” “Follow me,” “Obey me.”

Remember the One who made it clear that His main mission was to forgive sins, something only God could do.

Remember the One who said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one goes to the Father except through Me.” “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, even though he die, will live.” “I am the Bread of Life; he who eats of this Bread, even if he dies, will live.”

Remember Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Remember the Holy Supper, where He gave us His Body and Blood.

Remember His Sacrifice on the Cross, where he truly took upon himself our infirmities and our sorrows; and his people considered him afflicted, wounded by God, and oppressed. But he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace was upon him, and by his bruises we were healed.

Remember a small band of defeated cowards—one day hiding in an attic for fear, but a few days later, turned into a company that no persecution could silence.

Remember twelve men who testified that they saw Jesus raised from the dead, ascending to heaven, and then proclaimed this truth for years, never denying it, and spreading it as far across the world as they could. All but one were tortured and suffered horrible deaths for their testimony. Would they have done and endured all this if their message had not been true?

Remember the persecutions, when we were crucified, stoned, scourged, imprisoned, burned alive, and thrown the beasts.

Remember the time when the Gospel conquered the barbarians.

Remember the time when the nations were sisters in Jesus Christ.

Remember the knights, the warrior monks who defended the weak.

Remember the glories of Christendom, its cathedrals and universities.

Remember the saints, the humble servants of Our Lord, who conquered crowds not with swords, like the Mohammedans, but with Rosaries.

Remember St. Dominic de Guzmán, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Anthony of Lisbon, and St. Thomas Aquinas.

Remember the battle of Lepanto, when the prayers of the Rosary defeated the Muslim Turks.

Remember the missionaries, who went to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel, knowing that souls would perish without it.

Remember the time when priests spoke of eternal life, of the need to save one’s soul by fleeing from sin and living in God’s grace.

Remember when there were no “supper table” altars in our churches, but only eastward-facing altars whose very appearance awakened a sense of respectful fear and reverence in people, and pointed them to God above us and beyond us, as well as in our midst.

Remember, remember... when there were no traditionalists, because there was no need to describe any Catholic with this expression. All Catholics instinctively accepted what Popes had prescribed as part of the Tridentine Profession of Faith: “I firmly adhere to and embrace the apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and other observances and constitutions of the Church.”

Remember when there were no lay readers, “lay ministers of Communion” or girls in the sanctuary, but only priests, deacons on the way to the priesthood, and altar boys, who were a source of the abundant priestly vocations that once filled the seminaries.

Remember when there was no profane music during Mass, but Gregorian chant, polyphony, and pipe organ, awakening the soul to the contemplation of the divine, instead of tapping feet, clapping, or pure boredom at the second-rate.

Remember when the priests prayed in Latin, and the Mass was contemplative and meditative. Everyone could pray the Rosary during the silence and the churches were full.

Remember the time when Catholics carried a Rosary in their pocket and prayed it daily.

Remember when there were no empty seminaries, empty convents, abandoned parishes and closed Catholic schools, but places filled with Catholics blessed with large families.

Remember when there was no “ecumenism,” but only the conviction that the Catholic Church is the one true Church, outside of which there is no salvation; when Catholics would not “actively attend or participate in any worship of non-catholics.”

Remember when, instead of “dialogue,” there was evangelization by clergy and lay apologists with the aim of converting people to true religion. And there were the converts who came into the Church in such large numbers that it seemed as though the United States was becoming a Catholic nation, as thirty million Americans listened to Fulton Sheen’s radio show every Sunday.

Remember when there were no mass defections from the priesthood, religious orders, and laity, leading to the “silent apostasy” in Europe and all over the West. Instead, there was what a certain Father at the Second Vatican Council described at its beginning: “the Church, despite the calamities in the world, is experiencing a glorious age, if one considers the Christian life of the clergy and the faithful, the spread of the faith, and the salutary universal influence that the Church possessed in the world today.”

Remember when there were no “movements” promoting strange new ways of worship invented by their founders. There were only Catholics, who practiced the divine cultus in the same way as their ancestors with unbreakable continuity for centuries.

Remember the time when the Church did not need to imitate Protestant sects to become (as it is thought) popular.

Remember the time when the word “divorce” made no sense. Men and women were married for life: “till death do us part.”

Remember the time when having children was not avoided as a “burden,” but embraced as the most important and honorable vocation of the married, and large families of multiple generations were a blessing to be proud of.

Remember the time when priests catechized their flock—when yes was yes, and no was no.

Remember the time when priests heard Confessions every day, and no one needed to make an appointment to confess; when lines of Catholics stood before the confessional, before and during Masses.

Remember the time when Catholics had a horror of sin and knew that dying in sin meant going to hell.

Remember when everything changed—when the worldly spirit invaded the church, at and after the Second Vatican Council.

Remember what the Holy Virgin asked in Fatima.

Remember that she said: “My Immaculate Heart will triumph!”

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope! To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To Thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

“Arise, arise, put on strength, O thou arm of the Lord, arise as in the days of old, in the ancient generations. Hast not thou struck the proud one, and wounded the dragon?” (Is 51:9)

“Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear.” (Is 59:1)

The meditation above was written in Portuguese and sent to me by a reader; it has been translated into English for NLM.

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Durandus on the Liturgy of Pentecost

The following excerpts are taken from book 6, chapter 107, of William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, the Summa Theologica of medieval liturgical commentaries.

Alleluja is frequently sung through the whole week of Pentecost, since throughout these (fifty) days, the Church gathers the people to God through baptism, and therefore the (mystical) body, rejoicing at their salvation, sings the hymn of praise (i.e. ‘alleluia’) as long as they wear the white garments. For then we stand and pray as a sign of the deliverance of those who, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, have merited to be raised from death to life, for on this day was the Spirit sent upon the Apostles in tongues of fire.
(The following recording begins with the antiphon version of “Confirma hoc, Deus” from Matins, which is also used at the rite of Confirmation; the other two antiphons of Matins are sung in exactly the same melody. The same text is sung to a more complex melody as the Offertory at the Mass of Pentecost.)
Aña Confirma hoc, Deus, quod operátus es in nobis: a templo sancto tuo, quod est in Jerúsalem, allelúja, allelúja. (Strengthen, o God, that which Thou hast wrought in us, from thy holy temple that is on Jerusalem, alleluia, alleluia.)
On the night of Pentecost (i.e. at Matins) three lessons are read, and three psalms are said with three antiphons, as on the night of Easter … because of the sacrament of Baptism, celebrated in the name of the three Persons, or because of the burial for three days of the Lord, with Whom we are buried in baptism.
Three psalms are said with three antiphons because the Holy Spirit did three things with the Apostles. For He renewed the aged, He confirmed the renewed, and sent the renewed to convert others. To the first belongs what is said in the first antiphon, “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven”, to the second, what is said in the second antiphon, “Confirm this, o God,” and the third to what is said in the third antiphon, “Send forth Thy spirit.” … and because the Holy Spirit wrought two things in the Apostles, the forgiveness of sins, and the working of miracles, the antiphons end with a double alleluia.
… from every nation which is under heaven, people had to come together for the feast day, and then the Holy Spirit descended visibly upon the disciples, as Christ had promised, and they spoke in all tongues before all. Therefore the Introit begins, “The Spirit of the Lord hath filled the world”, that is, the Church, which is called “the world”, for just as literally nothing lives outside the world, so spiritually, nothing lives outside the Church.
There follows, “and that which containeth all things,” that is, the Holy Spirit, in whose goodness all things subsist, “hath the knowledge of the voice,” that is, of tongues, and thus could He give it to the Apostles, and did so. From this, the enemies of Christ were confounded, and so there follows the verse, “Let God arise and his enemies be scattered” (in the Use which Durandus knows), for through the Holy Spirit all the demons are constrained and cast out.
Again He filled the world when He inebriated the Apostles, whose sound went out into all the earth (Ps. 18, 5, a text traditionally referred to the preaching of the Apostles throughout the world), of which sound it is said in the Epistle, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.” And since the world is separated into four regions, therefore ‘alleluia’ is said four times in the Introit.
The epistle from the Acts of the Apostles (begins), “And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished”, namely the fiftieth day from the Resurrection; for just as the Pentecost of the Jews took place on the fiftieth day after Passover, so does ours. And just as the people of Israel, on the fiftieth day from the sacrificing of the Paschal lamb … came to the mountain of God Horeb, … which is also called Sinai, then they received the law, so also on the fiftieth day from the Resurrection of the Lord, the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in the upper room as they awaited His coming.
The lower section of the Pentecost Polyptych, ca 1478, by the Venetian painter Alvise Vivarini (1442/53 - 1503/5). To the left are Ss Francis of Assisi and Anthony of Padua, to the right, Ss Louis of Toulouse and Bernardin of Siena. Now in the Bode Museum in Berlin. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Sailko, CC BY 3.0)) 
For it is commanded in Leviticus (23, 16) that on the day of Pentecost there should be offered new loaves of bread … from the new fruits, by which it is signified that we must give thanks to God, because He gave the new law through the Holy Spirit on that same day on which the old law was given…
Therefore Luke says about this day, “When the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, all the disciples were together in the same place,” that is, in unity of voice and heart, and then, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven.” … the Holy Spirit, is given, but suddenly, since ‘the grace of the Holy Spirit knows no delay in its workings.’ (St Ambrose, Commentary on Luke, 2, 19) He came down in fire, because just as fire illuminates and inflames, so does the Holy Spirit illuminate unto the knowledge of God, and inflame onto the love of God. Therefore He appeared to them in fiery tongues, that they might be eloquent in every type of speech. And because He himself is the tongue which from the hidden place of His goodness spoke forth the Word into the Virgin’s womb, and brings forth the word in the heart of man, according to that (which the Lord said), “It is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you” (Matt. 10, 20), those whom He fills, He makes also eloquent.
Now the double Alleluia which is sung after the Epistle signifies that rejoicing is to be doubled, and that the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles twice, from earth and from heaven, and it signifies those who sing in spirit and in mind, and the conversion of two peoples (i.e. of the Jews and of the gentiles.) …
Alleluja, Alleluja. Ps. 103 Emitte Spiritum tuum, et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae. (Send forth Thy Spirit, and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.)
Alleluja, Veni Sancte Spiritus, reple tuorum corda fidelium, et tui amoris in eis ignem accende. (Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of Thy love.)

Now because in the Epistle it is said, “suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming”, therefore, to represent this, in some churches trumpets are sounded while the Sequence is sung. For the Holy Spirit came in a mighty wind, because just as a mighty wind casts dust from the face of the earth, so the Holy Spirit casts from the heart of man all earthly concern.
Indeed, the ancients used (two) trumpets, as we read in the book of Numbers (10, 1-10), to gather the multitude to fight, to celebrate on festive days, but with a difference of sounds, and the use of them was of such power in the rejoicing that at the sound of them, the walls of Jericho fell.
The Fall of Jericho; an illustration of Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews by Jean Fouquet, 15th century. (Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
These then are the two Testaments, and the preachers by whom the people is called to gird itself up in faith, to penitence, excited to tearful compunction, and invited to give praises in every way, and to Mount Zion, and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and the gathering of many thousands of angels (Hebr. 12, 22), and called forth to the future judgment of God. And note that both in adversity and prosperity, noise is made with trumpets, for every time befits the Word, whence (the words of Psalm 33, 2), “I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise shall be always in my mouth.”
… Then also fire is cast down from high, because the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples in tongues of fire, and also various flowers, to denote the joy and diversity of tongues and virtues. Doves are also released to fly through the church, by which the sending of the Holy Spirit is indicated.
Rose petals falling through the oculus of the dome of the Pantheon on Pentecost of 2010. (Courtesy of Orbis Catholicus.)

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Historical Images of the Chartres Pilgrimage, from Sharon Kabel

Since today is the first day of the Chartres pilgrimage, we are very pleased to share with our readers some more of the fascinating research work of Mrs Sharon Kabel, who has put together this wonderful collection of historical documentations of past pilgrimages, going back nearly 100 years. (I am sure our readers have already heard that this year, for the first time ever, the number of people enrolled was so high that the organizers had to close registrations.) Félicitations à tous les pélérins!

From Sharon: To start off, here’s a photo from the 1948 pilgrimage. (from The Catholic World in Pictures, 18 June 1948:
We can thank the poet Charles Peguy for reviving the pilgrimage in the 1910s (not in 1935, as the clipping says... Peguy was long dead by then.) The 1955 pilgrimage allegedly had 14,000 pilgrims and two Masses at the end! (from The Catholic Standard and Times, Volume 60, Number 35, 27 May 1955,
1933 - over 5,000 pilgrims. (Catholic News Service - Newsfeeds, 15 May 1933,
I leave American newspapers behind, and turn to the website of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Here’s an announcement for the 1955 pilgrimage in the publication Cité chrétienne. (Cité chrétienne: bulletin trimestriel des chrétiens: anciens résidents de la Cité Universitaire. 1955-05-01.

The Vigil of Pentecost 2023

In those days: the morning watch was come, and behold the Lord looking upon the Egyptian army through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, slew their host. And overthrew the wheels of the chariots, and they were carried into the deep. And the Egyptians said: Let us flee from Israel: for the Lord fighteth for them against us. And the Lord said to Moses: Stretch forth thy hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and horsemen. And when Moses had stretched forth his hand towards the sea, it returned at the first break of day to the former place: and as the Egyptians were fleeing away, the waters came upon them, and the Lord shut them up in the middle of the waves. And the waters returned, and covered the chariots and the horsemen of all the army of Pharao, who had come into the sea after them, neither did there so much as one of them remain. But the children of Israel marched through the midst of the sea upon dry land, and the waters were to them as a wall on the right hand and on the left: And the Lord delivered Israel on that day out of the hands of the Egyptians. And they saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore, and the mighty hand that the Lord had used against them: and the people feared the Lord, and they believed the Lord, and Moses his servant. (Exodus 14, 24 -51 1, the Second Prophecy of the Vigil of Pentecost.)

The Crossing of the Red Sea, by Jacques Cortois, 1621-76. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.)
Let us sing to the Lord, for He is gloriously honored: the horse and the rider He hath thrown into the sea: He has become my helper and protector unto salvation. V. He is my God, and I will honor Him: the God of my father, and I will extol Him. V. He is the Lord that destroys wars: the Lord is His Name. (The Tract that follows, Exodus 15, 1-2; both sung in Latin in the video below, taken at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini in Rome at the vigil of Pentecost in 2018.)

Let us pray. O God, who by the light of the New Testament hast laid open the miracles accomplished in former times, so that the Red Sea should be an image of the sacred font, and the people delivered from servitude in Egypt, should show forth the mysteries of the Christian people: grant that all nations, having obtained the privilege of Israel by the merit of faith, may be reborn by sharing in Thy Spirit. Through our Lord...

Friday, May 26, 2023

St. Philip Neri: A Patron Saint of Traditionalism

St Philip Neri in Ecstasy, 1614 by Guido Reni

As a boy, Saint Philip Romolo Neri (1515-1595), whose feast we celebrate today, was so charming and kind that he was nicknamed Pippo Buono or “Good Little Philip.” Pippo Buono was full of high spirits: when he was eight years old, he saw a donkey laden with fruit standing unattended in a courtyard and jumped onto its back. The startled beast bolted and hurled both itself and its rider into a deep cellar.

Philip left his native Florence at the age of sixteen to learn the business of his father’s cousin, and even though the impressed kinsman wanted to make him his heir, Philip felt called to Rome two years later. He arrived in the Eternal City penniless and took a job as a tutor to the young sons of a fellow Florentine. After another two years he became a student himself, studying philosophy and theology (He had a special fondness for St. Thomas Aquinas). But when after three years Philip felt that his studies were complete, he sold his library and gave the proceeds to the poor. Even decades later, scholars marveled at his theological erudition.

Philip now devoted himself to a love of neighbor, living like a gregarious hermit in the midst of a bustling city. Surviving only on a little bread and some herbs, he visited the Seven Churches of Rome each night and kept vigil in the catacombs of San Sebastian. He began visiting the sick in hospitals and then frequented the piazzas, schools, shops, banks, and rough parts of town such as the warehouse district. His warm conversation melted hearts. In the warehouses he would ask, “Well! my brothers, when shall we begin to do good?” [1] Several workers became his disciples and later entered the priesthood.
A Heart On Fire
St. Philip’s greatest attribute was his burning love of God—literally. At the age of twenty-nine, he was praying to the Holy Spirit shortly before Whitsunday when a mystical ball of fire entered his mouth and lodged in his chest. His heart grew so aflame with divine fervor that he had to rip open his clothes and cool himself on the stone floor.
When he arose, there was a painless swelling as large as a man’s fist next to his heart. An autopsy after the saint’s death would disclose the source of the protrusion. Over his heart, which had expanded with the love of God, two of his ribs were dislodged and curved in the form of an arch. The physicians marveled that Philip’s enlarged pulmonary artery did not cause him extreme pain and officially concluded that the cause was miraculous.
From that moment on, Philip was prone to heart palpitations that would occur any time he was engaged in a spiritual activity. The palpitations were sometimes so violent that his chair or bed or even room would shake from them; disciples who rested their head on his heart said that they sometimes knocked them off his chest. Yet these mysterious heartbeats had a spiritual power as well. Disciples of Philip would later say that when they lay their head on his chest at the saint’s behest, all temptations to sins of the flesh would disappear.
Portrait by Giuseppe Nogari (1699-1766)
Father Philip
Philip Neri labored as a layman in Rome for seventeen years, eventually founding the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity to look after pilgrims and convalescents. The community frequently received the sacraments and met for their distinctive spiritual exercises (see below). It was Philip who helped begin the Forty Hours’ Devotion: every first Sunday of the month, the chaplains of the Confraternity exposed the Blessed Sacrament, during which time he would give a sermon. Some people came to heckle him, amused at the thought of a layman giving a spiritual discourse, but Philip won them over. Once, a sermon of his converted thirty dissolute youths.
In 1551, Philip obeyed the bidding of his confessor and was ordained a priest. As a layman, he had encouraged the frequent reception of Holy Communion (uncommon at the time), but he also taught that the young especially should go to confession more than they communicated. As a priest, he put this policy into practice, and soon his confessional was changing lives. Night and day, he heard confessions, leaving a key under the door of his room so anyone could enter, and he never complained about being interrupted to help someone, saying he was “leaving Christ for Christ.” Philip would typically hear as many as forty confessions before dawn in his room and then go to the church when it opened at sunrise to hear many more. Sometimes, he could read the hearts of penitents before they opened their mouths; once, he converted a young noble by giving him a glimpse of Hell.
Love of the Mass
The sacrament of confession was the cornerstone of Philip’s apostolate, but his first and foremost love was the Blessed Sacrament. For most Catholics, it takes effort to acquire the right spirit of devotion prior to Mass. Father Philip had the opposite problem: he was so prone to spiritual ecstasy that he had to distract himself from the Mass beforehand with joke books and the like or he would be caught up in a catatonic rapture. Even then, he often had visions during Mass, such as the Christ Child on the altar one Christmas or a glimpse of Paradise during the Consecration. His servers were trained to recognize the signs of his being caught up in divine love; they tugged at his chasuble to bring him back to earth. And I choose that metaphor deliberately, for Saint Philip sometimes levitated during Mass.
His palpitations were at their most vigorous during Mass, sometimes shaking the whole altar; he could barely pour the wine into the chalice. And if he paused only a little at the elevation, his arms would freeze in adoration. God’s outpouring of love into Philip’s soul also made it difficult for him to stay within the boundaries of liturgical decorum. He received from the Chalice (the contents of which, one server attests, looked like pure blood) with such intense affection that the silver and the gilding on the lip were worn off and dented with tooth marks. He also had to say random and distracting things to his server such as “Turn those dogs out” in order to control his ecstatic trembling.
Near the end of his life, Philip received permission from the Pope to say Mass privately in a little chapel near his room. His servers would leave at the Sanctus, bolt the door, return two hours later, and knock. If the saint answered, they would resume the Mass; if he did not, they would try again later. No one knows what experiences Philip had during those hours with his Eucharistic Lord, but his servers said that afterwards he looked like he was on the verge of expiring.
The Oratory
Saint Ignatius of Loyola tried repeatedly to recruit Philip for the Jesuits, but Philip knew that his vocation was to be in the world. Once, when he contemplated withdrawing from public life and becoming a hermit, he had a vision that told him “Rome will be your desert.” Later, when he desired a martyr’s death as a missionary in India, another vision informed him that “Rome will be your India.”
God wanted Philip to be the “Apostle of Rome” (as he was later called) for good reason. At the start of his ministry, the Eternal City was a den of iniquity and neo-paganism, its Popes corrupt and its residents wallowing in vice. By the time of his death at the age of eighty, Philip—along with other Saints like Pope Pius V—had turned the city around. His guiding principle was simple: he wanted everyone to become holy, not necessarily by becoming a cleric or religious but by loving God wherever they were. Centuries before the Second Vatican Council’s universal call to holiness and St. Josemaria Escriva’s mission to sanctify work, St. Philip’s “greatest delight and his special desire was that men should make themselves saints in their own homes.” As early as 1570, someone wrote that Philip had established a school of “spiritual worldlings.” [2]
Accordingly, instead of joining or founding a religious order, Philip began the Congregation of the Oratory, a community of secular clergy living under obedience but not bound by vows. Formally recognized by the Pope in 1575, the Oratorians were given Santa Maria in Vallicella; soon after they built a new church, or Chiesa Nuova, on the site of the old edifice.
It was at Chiesa Nuova that the Oratorians continued their “exercises,” a service consisting of four half-hour sermons on a spiritual reading, Sacred Scripture, Church history, and the life of a Saint. Beautiful music was an important element as well. The great Palestrina, who was a penitent of St. Philip, composed for the service several Laudi, a popular form of singing in late-sixteenth century Italy that combined sacred text, interludes of dialogue, and polyphonic texture. The new music forged under Philip’s influence, a happy medium between the sacred and the secular, was promoted by the Oratorians wherever they went as a part of their efforts to attract youth to the Faith. The genre, familiar to many thanks to Handel’s Messiah, subsequently became known as an “oratorio.”
Prophet of Joy
Saint Philip was renowned for the gift of prophecy and for his miraculous healing of the sick and even raising of the dead, but what made him so beloved was what the Italians call festività, his infectious joy and humor. The saint held that being cheerful “is the true way to advance in every virtue.” His long experience in directing souls, he said, had taught him “that in spiritual matters cheerful men were much more easy to guide than the melancholy.”
Consequently, Philip preserved “perpetual cheerfulness” in himself and went to great lengths to encourage it in others. His room, wherein he would receive strangers as if they were his long-lost children at all hours of the day and night, became known as the “Shelter of Christian Mirth.” He sometimes gave his penitents a playful slap on the cheek, saying “It is not you I am beating, but the devil!” Like a zany Italian uncle, he pulled their hair, caressed their faces, boxed their ears, and held their heads near his heart, all of which caused great joy and consolation. In the words of Saint John Henry Newman, “If ever there was a saint who set his face against humbug, it was Saint Philip.” [3]
Gentleness and Patience
Philip’s good cheer extended into his relations with subordinates, peers, and superiors. There is no easier way to rule, he stated, “than by being gentle and sparing in giving orders; he who wants to be well obeyed should give few commands.” Philip preferred exhortations to commands, saying things like, “I should like you to do this, but if it seems hard I will do it for you.” And when correcting another, he would describe the person’s fault as if it were his own in such a way that the person took the admonition to himself.
Philip was also careful in correcting the vanities of the age. Instead of inveighing against some of the fashions of the time, he would tell his disciples, “Just let a little devotion enter into their hearts, and you may then leave them to themselves; they will soon do all or more than you wish.” Consequently, he never said a word to a particular priest who dressed like a layman; after two weeks, the priest started dressing appropriately on his own accord. One of his female penitents asked if it was a sin to wear extremely high heels. Philip only replied, “Be careful you don’t fall!” (The lady decided against the shoes.) To a male penitent who wore a collar with an inordinately large ruff, Philip simply said, “Ah! I should caress you a good deal oftener than I do if this collar did not hurt my hands.” The man soon stopped wearing it.
When it was necessary to correct a superior, Philip recommended using a third party example, like the prophet Nathan did to King David. And when being rebuked by a superior, he advised showing no anger but returning cheerful in order to show no ill will. His policy in this regard would be put to the test several times, as his popularity earned him envy or suspicion from members of the hierarchy. Among his many trials: the Pope’s vicar, who had been fed misinformation about his activities, severely rebuked the saint and ordered him not to hear confession for fifteen days. But the saint merely forbade his supporters from saying one cross word about the vicar and used these false accusations as an opportunity to grow closer to God. “You will see,” he told his disciples. “When this persecution has achieved the fruit God wants from it, it will come to an end.” [4]
There were also initial tensions between Saint Philip and Pope Saint Pius V, who had heard rumors about “unorthodox” sermons coming out of Philip’s community. Concern had also been voiced about the exercises themselves, since they were conducted in the vernacular—not unlike, it was pointed out, the Lutherans in Germany. But the Pope himself approved the exercises and developed a great esteem for Philip and his followers. Philip in return had the highest opinion of the Pope’s holiness; he kept a biretta and a red shoe that had belonged to Pius V and cherished them as relics. Nevertheless, even Saints can disagree. When Pius V ordered gypsies to be rounded up and used as galley slaves in the naval fleet against the Turks, Philip protested and procured their freedom.
Portrait of Pope St Piusm by Scipione Pulzone, 1570-72
Saint Philip was treated with open contempt at various times by cardinals, priests, laymen, and even prisoners. But the saint’s good cheer and patience eventually won them over. One of his sayings explains his motive: “How patiently Christ, the King and Lord of heaven and earth, bore with the Apostles, enduring at their hands many incivilities and misbeliefs, they being but poor and rough fisherman! How much more ought we to bear with our neighbor, if he treats us with incivility.” [5]
Master of Mirthful Mortification
Philip’s festività also colored his practice of mortification. In the words of the Catholic Encyclopedia, he gave “a quaintly humorous turn to the maxims of ascetical theology.” [6] That is putting it mildly. The madcap saint walked through the streets of Rome with half his beard shaved off or wearing a goofy mismatch of clothes. He had his barber cut his hair once in the middle of a crowded plaza and once even in a church nave while Mass was being celebrated. He skipped around like a little boy even when he was an old man, inspiring one astonished onlooker to exclaim, “Look at the old fool there!” When the Pope sent to him a visiting delegation of Polish lords for their spiritual edification, Saint Philip ignored them and listened in rapt attention to a joke book being read. The astonished noblemen stared each other for a while and presently departed, at which Philip told his companion to stop reading, saying that “we have done all that was wanted.”
Why did the saint do these things and many more like them? He wanted above all to be thought of as a worthless person so he could be free of the egoism which chooses one’s reputation over God. As a biographer of Neri notes:
The one who is totally free of egoism, who has given himself completely, is the one who has found perfect joy. Egoists are always the saddest of men, while unclouded joy follows from humility. [7]
St Philip did not deny the value of traditional asceticism (which he also practiced), but he warned: “Take care not to become so attached to the means as to forget the end; and that it is not well to be so taken up mortifying the flesh as to omit mortifying the brain, which after all is the principal matter.” The whole quest for sanctity, as he saw it, could be summed up in the span of three fingers which he placed on his forehead: “to mortify the razionale”—a word which for Philip meant not so much reason but the proud or overheated use of reason. [8] And one of the chief ways reason becomes overheated is by fixating on how one is perceived by others in the theater of life.
An excellent example of his approach: When one of his penitents asked permission to wear a hair shirt, Philip said that he could on one condition: he had to wear it on the outside of his clothes. (The fellow loved Philip so much that he wore it that way for the rest of his life, eventually becoming known as “Berto of the Hair Shirt.”) On another occasion, a Roman prince who had become an Oratorian novice sought full admission into the Congregation. St. Philip told him that one final test would be required: he had to pin a long foxtail to the end of his coat and parade through the streets with all seriousness. When the stunned prince said that he wanted to be an Oratorian for honor and not disgrace, Philip replied that he had come to the wrong place, for the first principle of their community was complete self-renunciation. 
St. Philip Neri is a patron of Rome, of Mandaluyong in the Philippines, and of laughter and humor. He is also the patron of the international seminary of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Florence. In fact, if you attend Mass on St. Philip’s feast day (May 26) at any of the chapels, churches, or oratories run by the Institute of Christ the King, you may gain under the usual conditions a plenary indulgence. Finally, the Apostle of Rome was chosen to be the patron saint of the U.S. Special Forces because “he embodied the traits of the ideal Special Forces Soldier, Selfless, Superb Teacher, and Inspirational Leader."[9] Special Forces also has a distinguished Order of Saint Philip Neri with Gold, Silver, and Bronze levels of membership.
It is our opinion, however, that Saint Philip Neri should be the intercessor of more than the Green Berets or a single traditionalist seminary. He should—along with other holy figures like Gregory the Great, Pius V, and Pius X—be a patron of all traditionalists, lay and clerical alike. For Saint Philip is ideally suited to confirm us in our virtues and cure us of our vices. Saint Philip loved the traditional Mass and calendar, understood the importance of beauty, and lived ascetically and chastely. But he was also on guard against dourness, scrupulosity, and a penchant for tsk-tsking. In the words of Father Paul Türks,
Saint Philip Neri put his trust in the positive, in grace. What is meant is shown by his way of dealing with many of the evil habits of his day. He did not reject the immoral fashions or the excessive wealth. He did not forbid the luxurious creations of the contemporary culture. He trusted in the love of God, which would do its work in men of itself like a fire or a seed—unnoticed and hidden at first, but already growing. [10]
Pippo Buono, pray for us.

An earlier version of this article appeared as “St. Philip Neri: A Patron Saint of Traditionalism” in The Latin Mass magazine 25:1 (Winter/Spring 2016), pp. 34-38. Many thanks to its editors for allowing its publication here.

[1] Pietro Giacomo Bacci, The Life of Saint Philip Neri, ed. Frederick Ignatius Antrobus, 2 vols. (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, and Co., 1902), vol. 1, p. 30. Most of the direct quotations and stories in this article are taken, unless otherwise noted, from Bacci.
[2] Paul Türks, Philip Neri: The Fire of Joy, trans. Daniel Utrecht (Alba House, 1995), 115.
[3] Quoted in Türks, 110.
[4] Türks, 65.
[5] The Maxims and Sayings of St. Philip Neri, ed. F.W. Faber (Athanasius Press, 2009), 62.
[6] Charles Sebastian Ritchie, "St. Philip Romolo Neri," The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 12 (New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911), retrieved May 25, 2023.
[7] Türks, 126.
[8] Türks, 117.
[9] Retrieved February 21, 2016.
[10] Türks, 114.

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