Monday, April 01, 2024

St. Francis de Sales’ Method of Hearing Mass in Union with the Sacred Passion of Jesus Christ

Sts. Therese, Francis of Assisi, Wenceslaus, Margaret Mary & Francis de Sales: all would have been familiar with Mass allegories (Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, Dayton, Ohio: source

The original Liturgical Movement tended, as a rule, to frown severely on the “methods of hearing Mass” that were proposed in popular devotional books of the Counter-Reformation era. They argued that these methods forcibly superimposed on the Mass an artificial allegory that was foreign to the original intended meaning or function of its various parts, and that it helped to divide the subjective prayer-life of Catholics from the objective content of the liturgy itself.

While one may grant that the proliferation of private forms of prayer during Mass did have certain negative consequences—most importantly, a loss of appreciation of the richness of the prayers of the Church in and of themselves, an appreciation that was much improved by the creation and distribution of hand missals, which are now a ubiquitous feature of traditional Catholic life—nevertheless it seems that here, as elsewhere, the critiques were often too severe and too simplistic.

As Fr Claude Barthe has demonstrated in his masterful work A Forest of Symbols: The Traditional Mass and Its Meaning, the “reading” of the stages of the life of Christ in the Mass is a practice that not only goes back quite a long ways but finds easy correspondence to textual and structural features in the Western Mass. That is, the so-called “allegory” finds more support in the rite than the critics allow. And if there is a certain arbitrariness in various interpretations and methods, it is at the same time limited by an overwhelming consensus in broad outlines and intended purposes.

A devotional work from 1809 in this genre
For me, this question remained entirely “academic” in the worst sense until, one day, I decided I was going to try some of these old devotional approaches to the Mass. I reasoned: “If generations of Catholics followed such devotions and seemed to do so profitably, maybe there is something more to it than meets the eye. Maybe I need to get over my Liturgical Movement strait-jacket and rediscover a variety of ways of engaging with the liturgy.” So I went ahead and tried various “methods of hearing the Mass,” and to my surprise, the attempt went smoothly and bore spiritual fruit! I’m not sure I’d want this to be my habitual approach, but at the same time, I began to grasp why something like it had dominated for centuries.

I recommend that my fellow Catholics give it a try. Although we are now in the Easter season when we dwell on the Resurrection of the Lord, the Mass is always the commemoration of His saving Passion together with His glorious resurrection and ascension, and that makes the following method by St. Francis de Sales quite fitting at any time of the year. 

Another example
Method of Hearing Mass in Union with the Sacred Passion of Jesus Christ
St. Francis de Sales

When the priest goes to the foot of the altar: Jesus enters the garden

O Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Who wast pleased voluntarily to endure mortal terror and anguish at the view of Thine approaching passion, give me grace henceforth to consecrate all my sorrows to Thee. O God of my heart! Assist me to support my trials in union with Thine agony, that through the merits of Thy Passion they may become profitable to my soul.

At the beginning of Mass: Prayer of Jesus in the garden

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Who wast pleased to be comforted by an angel in Thy dreadful agony, grant through the merits of Thy prayer in the garden that Thy consoling angel may ever assist me in mine.

At the Confiteor: Jesus prostrated in the garden

Lord Jesus Christ, Who in the excess of Thine anguish, wast bathed in a sweat of blood while praying to Thy Father in the Garden of Olives, grant that I may participate in Thy sorrows by sympathy, and unite bitter tears of repentance with Thy tears of blood.

The priest kisses the altar: Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst submit to the embrace of Judas, preserve me by Thy grace, from misfortune of ever betraying Thee, and assist me to repay calumny and injustice with cordial charity and active kindness.

The priest goes to the Epistle side: Jesus is dragged to prison

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst submit to be bound with ropes by the hands of wicked men, break, I beseech Thee, the chains of my sins and attach the powers of my soul and body closely to Thee by bonds of charity, that they may never escape from the salutary restraint of perfect submission to Thy Divine Will.

At the Introit: Jesus receives a blow

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast conducted as a criminal to the house of Annas, grant that I may never suffer myself to be led into sin by temptations of the evil spirit, or the evil suggestions of my fellow creatures, but that I may be securely guided by the Divine Spirit in the perfect accomplishment of Thy holy ordinances.

At the Kyrie eleison: Jesus is thrice denied by Peter

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst submit to be thrice denied in the house of  Caiphas, by the head and prince of the apostles preserve me from the danger of evil company, that I may not be exposed to the misfortune of separation from Thee.
From an illustrated devotional for Mass (source)
At the Dominus vobiscum: Jesus looks at Peter and touches his heart

Lord Jesus Christ, who by one glance of love didst melt the heart of St. Peter into a fountain of penitential tears, grant by Thy mercy that I may weep for my sins and never by word or deed deny Thee, who art my lord and my God.

At the Epistle: Jesus is conducted to the house of Pilate

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast pleased to be led before Pilate, and there falsely accused, teach me to avoid the deceits of the wicked, and to profess my faith by the constant practice of good works.

At the munda cor meum: Jesus is led to Herod

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst silently endure to be again falsely accused before Herod, grant me patience under calumny, and silence under outrages.

At the Gospel: Jesus is mocked as a fool and sent back to Pilate

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst submit to be sent as a fool by Herod to Pilate, who though enemies before, then became friends, strengthen me so powerfully by Thy grace, that instead of apprehending the machinations of the wicked, I may learn to bear their malice as Thou didst and thus render their injustice profitable to my soul.

The priest uncovers the chalice: Jesus is stripped of His garments

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast pleased to be despoiled of Thy garments and most inhumanly scourged for love of me, grant me grace to lay aside the burden of my sins by a good confession, and never to appear before Thee despoiled of the virtues of a Christian.

At the Offertory: Jesus is scourged

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast pleased to be fastened to the pillar and torn with stripes, grant me grace to patiently endure the scourges of Thy paternal correction and never more to grieve Thy Heart with my sins.

The priest offers the Chalice: Jesus is crowned with thorns

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst submit, through love for me, to be crowned with thorns, grant that my heart may be so penetrated with the thorns of repentance in this world, that I may deserve to be hereafter crowned with Thee in glory.

The priest washes his fingers: Pilate washes his hands

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, Who, although declared innocent by Pilate wast subjected to the insults and outrages of the Jews, grant me the grace to lead an irreproachable life and at the same time to maintain a holy indifference to the opinions of men.

At the Orate fratres: Pilate says to the Jews, “Behold the Man”

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst submit to the derision of the Jews, and voluntarily wear the badges of their insolent mockery, grant that I may faithfully resist all emotions of vainglory and appear before Thee on the day of judgment clothed in the sacred garment of Thy humility.

At the Preface: Jesus is condemned to death

Lord Jesus Christ, Who, though the God of all sanctity, didst submit through love for me to a most ignominious condemnation, grant me grace to avoid rash judgments and strengthen me to bear with patience, the injustice of men.

At the Memento for the living: Jesus carries His Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst carry thy heavy Cross for my salvation, grant that I may voluntarily embrace the cross of mortification and carry it daily for Thy love.

At the Communicantes: Veronica wipes with a linen cloth the Face of Jesus

Lord Jesus Christ, Who on Thy way to Calvary, didst say to the holy women that wept for the love of Thee: "Weep not for me but for yourselves;” give me the grace to weep for my sins with tears of holy contrition and love that will render me agreeable to Thy divine Majesty.

Blessing of the bread and wine: Jesus is nailed to the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast nailed to the Cross for my redemption, attaching to it through Thy Sacred Flesh, my sins, and the eternal punishment due to them, grant me Thy saving fear, that resolutely observing Thy Holy precepts, I may ever be attached to the Cross with Thee.

At the elevation of the Host: The Cross of Jesus is elevated between Heaven and earth.

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast pleased to be elevated on the Cross and exalted above the earth for the love of me, detach my heart, I beseech Thee, from all terrestrial affections and elevate my understanding to the consideration of Heavenly things.

At the elevation of the Chalice: The Blood of Jesus flows from His wounds.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy sacred wounds are the inexhaustible source of all grace; grant then, that Thy Precious Blood may purify my soul from all evil thoughts and prove a salutary remedy for all my spiritual miseries.

At the Memento for the dead: Jesus prays for all men

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst pray on the Cross for all men, even for Thine executioners, grant me the spirit of meekness and patience, that according to Thy precepts and example I may love my enemies and cordially return good for evil.

At the Nobis quoque peccatoribus: The conversion of the thief (St. Dismas)

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst promise the joys of Heaven to the penitent thief, look on me with eyes of compassion and say to my soul at the last moment of my life: “This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

At the Pater Noster: The seven words of Christ

Lord Jesus Christ, Who from the cross didst recommend Thy Blessed Mother to the beloved disciple, and the disciple to Thy Mother, receive me, I beseech Thee, under Thy protection, and grant that amidst the snares and perils of this world I may never lose the treasure of thy friendship.

At the division of the Host: Jesus expires of the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, Who before expiring on the Cross didst commend Thy Soul to Thy Father, grant that I may die spiritually with You now, and so confide my eternal destiny with confidence to Thy hands at the hour of my death.

The priest puts a particle of the Host into the Chalice: The Soul of Jesus descends into limbo

Lord Jesus Christ, who after overthrowing the empire of Satan didst descend into limbo to liberate the souls imprisoned there ; apply, I beseech Thee, the merits of Thy Blood and Passion to the suffering souls in Purgatory, that, being absolved from their sins, they may be received into Thy bosom, and enjoy eternal peace.

At the Agnus Dei: The conversion of sinners

Lord Jesus Christ, the contemplation of Thy torments has excited repentance in many hearts; grant me, through the efficacy of Thy painful sufferings and ignominious death, perfect contrition for my past offenses, and the grace to avoid all willful sin.

At the Communion: Jesus is buried

Lord Jesus Christ, Who wast pleased to be buried in a new monument, give me a new heart, so that being buried with Thee, I may attain to the glory of Thy resurrection.

At the Ablution: Jesus is embalmed

Lord Jesus Christ, who wast pleased to be embalmed and wrapped in a clean linen cloth by Joseph and Nicodemus, give me the grace to receive most worthily, Thy Precious Body and Blood in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar, with a heart embalmed with the precious ointment of Thy virtues.

After the Communion: The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst triumphantly issue from the fast sealed monument, grant that, rising from the tomb of my sins, I may walk in newness of life so that when Thou shalt appear in glory I may merit also to appear with Thee.

At the Dominus vobiscum: Jesus appears to His disciples

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst gladden the hearts of Thy Blessed Mother and Thine apostles by manifesting Thyself to them after Thy Resurrection, grant that, since I cannot be so happy as to behold Thee in this mortal life, I may hereafter enjoy the unclouded vision of Thy glory.

At the Postcommunion: Jesus converses for forty days with His disciples

Lord Jesus Christ, Who after Thy Resurrection deign to converse for forty days with Thy disciples, instructing them in the mysteries of our faith, increase, I beseech Thee, my knowledge of those Divine Truths, and confirm my belief in them.

The last Dominus vobiscum: Jesus ascends to Heaven

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst ascend gloriously into Heaven in the presence of Thy disciples, grant me so to love Thee that I may desire none but eternal joys, and aspire to the possession of Thee as the first and best of all blessings.

At the priest’s blessing: The descent of the Holy Ghost

Lord Jesus Christ, Who didst send the Holy Ghost on Thine apostles, while engaged in unanimous and persevering prayer, purify my soul, I beseech Thee, that the Paraclete, finding therein a dwelling well pleasing to Him, may adorn it with His gifts and replenish it with His consolations

Thanksgiving after Mass

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God and Redeemer of men, I humbly thank Thee for having permitted me to assist today at the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I beseech Thee, through the efficacy of  that adorable Sacrifice, to strengthen me against all temptations, and to grant that, having served Thee faithfully in this life, I may hereafter attain to the possession of Thy glory. Amen.

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