Wednesday, November 30, 2022

An Altarpiece of St Andrew the Apostle

For the feast of St Andrew the Apostle, here is an altarpiece dedicated to him, produced in Catalonia ca. 1425, and attributed to an anonymous painter known as the Master of Rousillon. It is now housed at The Cloisters in New York City, part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Public domain image from the Met website.)

The central panel, with the Apostle shown holding his cross and a book.
Above him, the Madonna and Child with angels.
To the left of the central panel are shown the calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, who are already with the Lord in their boat, and James and John, who are on their father Zebedee’s boat. This episode is the Gospel of St Andrew’s feast day, Matthew 4, 18-22. The remaining episodes of the altarpiece show various miracles attributed to St Andrew in his apocryphal acts, or attributed to him after his death, as recounted in the Golden Legend of Blessed James of Voragine. The lower panel shows a repeat of the episode of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, but between a mother and a son; Andrew intervenes to vindicate the son of any wrongdoing, while the mother is hit by lightning and killed.

In the right panel is shown the crucifixion of St Andrew. Below, he saves a bishop from the devil, who had tried to lead his excellency astray under the guise of a beautiful woman.

Two miracles in the predella panels: a woman goes to pray in front of an idol of Diana on behalf of her sterile sister, but the demon inside it tells her that it cannot do anything, and suggests that she go to the Apostle instead. To the right, Andrew comes to the sister and heals her.

To the left, St Andrew drives away from the city of Nicaea seven demons that haunted its outskirts in the form of dogs; on the right, he raises to life a young man killed by those same demons after they had fled to another city. Between them is a panel of the dead Christ in the tomb, borne up by an angel; this motif is often found in this place on altarpieces of this kind, since it would be right in front of the priest’s face as he inclined to say the words of consecration during the Mass.

St Andrew raises from the dead a group of men (forty in the written account) who had set sail to find him in order to learn the Faith, but had been shipwrecked and drowned. The last panel has long since gone missing.

Sacred Music Workshop in Mississippi, Jan. 27-28

Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church and the Classical Arts Foundation of South Mississippi invite you to join them for their first Sacred Music Workshop, to be held at the beautiful church on the beach in downtown Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This two-day workshop will be presented by Dr. Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka, and will be a great opportunity for cantors, choir members, music directors, and clergy to attend presentations on the Church’s vision for sacred music and praying with sacred music, learn to read and sing Gregorian chant, participate in sung liturgies, and enjoy fellowship with area musicians.

There will be a special session for choir directors on Friday morning from 10 a.m. - noon. The general workshop registration opens at 3 p.m. on Friday and culminates with a sung Mass on Saturday evening at 5 p.m. The registration fee ($40) covers all workshop materials, as well as dinner on Friday, lunch on Saturday, and coffee and snacks both days.
For more information and to register and pay for the workshop, please visit https://classicalartsfoundation.com/sacred-music-workshop/ or write to workshop@classicalartsfoundation.com.
If you would like a little extra, come a day early! On Thursday, January 26, at 7 p.m. Dr. Donelson-Nowicka will offer a free presentation titled The Role of Beauty in the Spiritual Life: Understanding and Praying with the Church’s Sacred Music. This presentation is open to all, no registration required!

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Please Support Our Work

Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.A.) and the widely recognized shopping events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

We hope you will support the mission of the New Liturgical Movement to increase awareness of the importance of the beauty of the sacred liturgy. At the New Liturgical Movement, our articles bring art, architecture, music, and a love of the liturgy together, allowing our readers to share and experience immersion in the sacred liturgy, in a community that strives to reach the ideal our Church has for us to offer in the worship of our Lord. Together we encounter and share the true, good, and beautiful.

Support of the New Liturgical Movement has never been more important than now. As the writers of NLM together to educate and publish, they build on the faith of readers like you, they build confidence in others to demand the best liturgy for the Lord, and they build a Catechetical foundation to nourish the heart and soul.

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Show your support for the Sacred Liturgy with a gift to the NLM this Giving Tuesday. Thank you!

The Christian Mission to Evangelize American Culture

Beauty is the mark of a loving God. A Christian culture, therefore, is a beautiful culture that melts the hearts of non-believers, and tells believers that that they are at home in the world.

As a convert to Christianity, I am often asked why I converted. The short answer is that I thought I would be happier if I did so. 

I have not been disappointed. Even now, nearly 30 years after I was confirmed at Farm Street Catholic Church in Mayfair, London, my life experience has strengthened the conviction that not only was this a good decision for me, but also that the Church offers the way to the greatest happiness for all people. 

When I give this answer - that I would be happier - it usually does not satisfy the questioner. Why, they push me, did I think I would be happier? What led me to believe that the Faith might truly offer me that “pearl of great price”?

That is a reasonable question. 

It is a big step for anyone to submit willingly to an authority that reaches so deeply into our hearts and minds as the Catholic Church. And while I can be convinced by the intellectual arguments that make claims to truth, I couldn’t be sure until I was confirmed as a member of the Catholic Church and lived the life of a practicing Christian. The proof of the pudding is in the eating!

This dive into the unknown - into mystery - was one of faith. This was not so much a leap into the dark, as a leap into the Light, albeit a blinding, dazzling Light. 

It is true for each of us who converts, I believe. Until we are participating in sacramental life of the Church, the Light is too bright for any of us to grasp directly. But once we are in the Church, then our eyes can start to focus and, by degrees in this life, perceive it as we encounter Christ directly in the Eucharist and begin to know Him.

However, even before I became Catholic, even though I couldn't see the Light directly so well, I could perceive that there was a Light, for I could see its glow indirectly, as reflected, glistening and shimmering, in the beauty of the cosmos and in Christian culture (and, for me especially, its art). Christian culture and the way that Christians behaved and interacted with others spoke to me in some way of Christ and of the joy it brings. In so many different ways and on many different occasions, the beauty of Christian art, music, architecture, and the memorable good grace with which some Christians engaged with me combined to form a pattern that gave an overall picture of what it was to be a Christian. It was this picture, which is Christian culture, that beckoned to me in such a way that I wanted more than to be simply an observer of it. I wanted to be part of it. Christian culture convinced me to make that leap of faith.

Consider this painting of the Transfiguration. It is a 16th century Russian icon. 

In this painting we see Christ on the mountain flanked by the two prophets and with the three disciples stunned by the sight of the transfigured Christ. This is a glimpse of his heavenly glory, hitherto unseen by the disciples. The nimbus that surrounds Christ in this picture is called a mandorla. It is called this because it is often used to be depicted in an elliptical, almond shape and mandorla is the Italian word for almond. The mandorla surrounding Christ usually shows concentric bands of shading which get darker toward the center, rather than lighter. It is painted in this way so as to communicate to us, pictorially, the fact that we must pass through stages of what seem like increasing mystery in order to encounter the person of Jesus Christ. For Catholics this encounter takes place most directly and powerfully in the Mass. It is an encounter that transforms us supernaturally by degrees in this life so that we can begin to grasp the glory of Christ ever more directly. 

This encounter is only made possible for each of us by baptism and confirmation by which we have "put on Christ" as St Paul calls it in Galatians. God’s actions are not in any way restricted by the sacraments, of course, but as a general rule, until we are baptised and confirmed we are likely going to be dazzled into a blindness, so to speak, that renders the transfigured Christ less visible to us. This would be symbolized by a mandorla that is a jet-black envelope, with a heart of darkness. 

Prior to being fully part of the body of Christ as members of the Church, we are nevertheless able to perceive those outer rings of the mandorla. These symbolize the Light of Christ reflected in the cosmos, and manifested as the loving interactions of Christians, and as Christian culture and art.  These are the things that indicate to us that there is more to know and love and we yearn for what is as yet only partially known. When we see such beauty we are grasping that reflected Light, even if we don’t recognize it as such, and its tendency is to draw us into the Church. 

Beauty, therefore, not only tells us something about what we do see, is also a perceptible sign of something we cannot see: Almighty God. It calls us to itself and then beyond to Him who inspired it, who is Beauty itself. Creation is beautiful because it bears the thumbprint of the Creator. A culture,  or any aspect of it, whether mundane or sacred, high art, low art or even everyday Christian activity, is beautiful to the degree that it is inspired by God.

The Christian life well lived is one in which potentially every aspect of our lives contributes to the brightness of the outer rings of the mandorla through what we do and what we create. As Catholics we do so as part of the mystical body of Christ, the Church. Each of us is a pixel of supernatural light that collectively created the body of Christ! We participate in the Light by fulfilling in our own way our unique calling in life, which touches on every aspect of our lives. The artist contributes to that light by every beautiful painting he creates. And Christian culture is a pattern of all Christian activity that manifests Christ.

The habitual worship of God every Sunday and if we can, daily worship in the Liturgy of the Hours, is the most powerful formation for as creative Christians. We enter mystically into the pattern of Christ and the cosmos. One might say that the Mass is a jewel in its setting, which is the Liturgy of the Hours, and the Liturgy of the Hours is a jewel in its setting, which is the cosmos. Christian culture permeates the life of the Church and of the world and reflects the beauty of the cosmos. It is a sign of life in Christ and of the world to come. 

A beautiful Christian culture draws people to Christ. It opens up the minds of those who are not believers to be receptive to the Word, and it reinforces the truth of the Word to those who are already believers. The culture is most explicitly Christian in the church and is connected to the liturgy. Historically it was always the case that the wider culture was Christian too, even if not explicitly, for the forms of civic buildings, colleges, hospitals and homes were all derived from and in some way pointed to their consummation in the church. It is the cultural forms that are connected directly to our worship that become the driving force for the transformation of contemporary culture into a beautiful Christian culture.

We live in an age in which American culture is no longer Christian. It used to be. But now, the driving force of contemporary culture is an atheist-materialist worldview that dictates both the style and content of American art, music and architecture, even displacing Christian forms inside the church. This dynamic is running in the wrong direction. Instead of flowing out from the still center at the heart of Christian worship into the world, and so Christianising the culture, we see the forms of an atheist, secular culture that are flowing into our churches from outside, exerting influence to secularizing the beliefs of those who worship.

We must, therefore reverse that flow and evangelize the culture by creating first a culture of faith in our churches that reflects and harmonizes with authentic Christian worship. We need creativity today that re-presents traditional Christian forms in a way that retains what is essentially Christian but in a way that is appropriate today.

This strong and vibrant Christian religious culture will then become the driving force of a wider beautiful culture that permeates all of American culture. This will not always be obviously explicitly Christian - very often this is not appropriate - but it will be beautiful and it is this saving beauty itself is a sign of Christ. When people see it, they will embrace it precisely because it will be beautiful.

Our mission, therefore, is two fold. First, we must help form creative artists in all disciplines who have the skills and knowledge to contribute to a Christian culture at every level. Second, we must stimulate the demand for good art by forming people to appreciate what is authentically Christian and good, true and beautiful.

This is a mission of Christian education and inculturation and all that I write has this mission in mind, so that all may know the joy that is offered to them.

Beauty will save the world!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Offspring of Arius in the Holy of Holies: Recent False Claims about the Roman Rite

Detail of French MS, ca. 1360–1370 (Master of Jean de Mandeville; full image here)

Imagine my surprise when I read, in the second installment of the (now finished) five-part series at Church Life Journal by Drs. Cavadini, Healy, and Weinandy [CHW], the following claim:

Significantly, while the faithful [before The Council] knew and believed that the one God is a Trinity of persons, their liturgical and personal prayer often primarily consisted of praying to the one (generic) God. Only after Vatican II, with the revision of the rite and the use of the vernacular, did the faithful become more cognizant of the trinitarian nature of the liturgy and of their own ability to pray in a trinitarian manner.

Apart from the authors’ remarkable ability to know intimately how millions of Catholics prayed and engaged with the liturgy prior to the 1960s — and in particular, their ability to know that widely-available and popular devotional materials, explicitly Trinitarian in content, in fact must not have been used by anyone who bought them — together with their crystal-ball glimpse into the Trinitarian literacy of modern Catholics (which I am sure a Pew Research survey could quickly establish, together with their literacy in Eucharistic doctrine) and their intimate Trinitarian prayer lives, we should, with discipline, zero in on the central claim: that it was specifically “the revision of the rite and the use of the vernacular” that brought about this renaissance in Trinitarian knowledge and prayer.

Archbishop Lefebvre in one of many flourishing preconciliar missions run by the Holy Ghost Fathers in Africa; sadly, their liturgy did not help them much in their conquest of the continent for Christ.

In my book Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, published in 2014 — a book frequently reviewed, and easily available, for those with a taste for liturgical studies — I devote one of the chapters to documenting the systematic removal of Trinitarian and Christological confessions from the reformed liturgy, demonstrating that the vernacular rite Catholics were given after 1969 was far less centered on the mystery of the Trinity than the Tridentine liturgy to which the faithful were accustomed (especially from the unofficial vernacular versions they would have encountered in widely-used hand missals — unless CHW somehow know, once again, that the millions of copies of such missals that were sold over many decades were never actually used by anyone).

Given the magnitude of this claim — that, essentially, the Church had allowed her faithful for centuries to be deficient in their knowledge and devotion to the Trinity (!) — it seems opportune to share this chapter online, in the interests of making the truth better known.

Offspring of Arius in the Holy of Holies

(Chapter 6 of Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis, Angelico, 2014)

In the New Testament two basic “orientations” of prayer are displayed and inculcated: first and foremost, in keeping with Jewish tradition, prayer addressed to “God” or “Lord” (into this category may also be placed the altogether novel way in which our blessed Savior intimately addresses his “Father,” as we see, for example, in the farewell discourses in the Gospel of John), [1] and occupying a secondary but still important place, prayer addressed to Jesus Christ himself.

To the former and more familiar Jewish practice, Jesus adds a new and crucial element that concerns the very essence of the revelation he embodies: God is to be invoked in Jesus’ name, for the Son of God is now the Son of Man, the one and only Mediator between God and man, through whom all our prayers ascend to the Father and all his graces are given to us in the Mystical Body. Hence the Lord teaches his disciples: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (Jn 15:16), and again: Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, he will give it to you in my name. Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full” (Jn 16:23–24). Such teachings are the revealed foundation of the Church’s custom of concluding her prayers per Christum Dominum nostrum, a formula we already see frequently in St. Paul, whose letters are full of liturgical language: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.” [2]

Nevertheless, our Lord also taught his disciples to address him, the Son and Savior, in prayer: “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; if you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (Jn 14:13–14). [3] When Jesus says: “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (Jn 13:13), he affirms that his followers are right to turn to him as the ultimate authority, the Holy One of Israel. Events, especially miracles of healing, confirmed the truth of these words. “The centurion answered him, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed’” (Mt. 8:8). [4] “The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent; but they cried out the more, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’” (Mt. 20:31). There are the words of the thief: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42), and the words of the doubter: “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28).

Pietro da CORTONA, The Stoning of St Stephen (c. 1660)
Again, the spontaneous exclamations of the early Christians are a precious witness that Christ, as true God, was the addressee of many prayers, not only a mediator through whom one had access to the Father. “As they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’” (Acts 7:59). “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:2–3). More important than any one verse, however, is the general tenor of a number of texts, for example chapter 10 of the Epistle to the Romans, where St. Paul writes:
If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. . . . The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. For, “every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” (vv. 9, 11–13)

Here, in typical rabbinic fashion, the Apostle to the Gentiles weaves together citations from the Old Testament that are manifestly speaking about the one true God, the God of Israel, and applies them to Jesus Christ. In this way he is not only clearly asserting Christ’s divinity, but also urging the Christians who receive his letter to confess this mystery with their lips (a reference to liturgical worship) and to invoke Jesus as God in their prayers.

In the end, both ways of praying are given a succinct endorsement in the solemn words of Jesus that have echoed down the centuries: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me . . . He who has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:6, 9). By saying that he is the way, he self-effacingly presents himself as Mediator, the Word made flesh, the only way to reach the Father; by saying that he is truth and life, consubstantial with the Father, he presents himself as he truly is in the Father’s glory — namely, as the Son who, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, forever and ever. Hence, there can never be any tension, much less contradiction, between praying to the Father and praying to Jesus. For Jesus is Emmanuel, God-with-us, and whoever sees or speaks to him has seen or spoken to the Father.

Icon of the angelic visitors to Abraham, representing the persons of the Trinity

In regard to ways of praying, it comes as no surprise that traditional liturgies of all rites, Eastern and Western, closely adhere to the witness of the New Testament and the practice of the ancient Church. The classical Roman liturgy — viewed in terms of ethos, ceremonial, spirituality, and the dogmatic theology expressed in the texts — shares much more in common with the Byzantine liturgy than it does with the Novus Ordo Missae. [5] Perhaps nowhere is this fact more obvious than in regard to the presence, in liturgical texts and ceremonies, of solemn Trinitarian affirmations and their counterpart, a thoroughgoing Christocentrism.

Indeed, there could hardly be a more insistently Christ-confessing liturgy than the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. In this liturgy there is a constant hymning both of Christ as the one true God and of the indissoluble unity of the Trinity: “Let us commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God”; “For You, O God, are gracious and You love mankind, and to You we render glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and forever.” Right before the Nicene Creed is recited, the priest sings: “Let us love one another, so that with one mind we may profess” — and the people finish his sentence: “The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, one in substance and undivided.” Immediately after the consecration the priest sings: “We offer to You Yours of Your own, on behalf of all and for all,” to which the people respond: “We praise You, we bless You, we thank You, O Lord, and we pray to You, our God.” One of the most beautiful texts in the Divine Liturgy is an ancient hymn that perfectly illustrates the point we are making:

O only-begotten Son and Word of God, Who, being immortal, deigned for our salvation to become incarnate of the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, and became man, without change. You were also crucified, O Christ our God, and by death have trampled death, being One of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit, save us.

The Byzantine liturgy is overflowing with such texts, boldly confessing the divinity of Christ and the perfect unity of Father, Son, and Spirit.

Now, even if the classical Roman liturgy, with its comparative sobriety and simplicity, is not “overflowing” in the same way as Eastern liturgies tend to be, it too conveys the same theological message, and with many of the same expressions and gestures. It clearly belongs to and derives from the same ancient Christian heritage, where chanting the praises of the divine Word-made-flesh and falling in adoration before the Most Holy Trinity were the pith and purpose of liturgical life.

In marked contrast, the Novus Ordo Missae displays an insistent “Patricentrism” or generic Theocentrism that is characteristic of no historically well-established liturgical rite. In its official texts and ceremonial the Novus Ordo exhibits what can only be called a certain Arianizing appearance or tendency. [6] The presbyter Arius of Alexandria (ca. 256–336), after whom the heresy of Arianism is named, taught that Jesus Christ is not truly and properly divine, but rather, a highly exalted creature and specially favored servant of God — a “son” or “god” by grace, not by nature.

St Athanasius Triumphs over Arius, by Jacob de Wit (after Peter Paul Rubens); public domain image from the website of the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD).

Sunday, November 27, 2022

The First Sunday of Advent 2022

Introitus Ad te levávi ánimam meam: Deus meus, in te confído, non erubescam: neque irrídeant me inimíci mei: étenim universi, qui te exspectant, non confundentur. V. Vias tuas, Dómine, demonstra mihi: et sémitas tuas édoce me. Gloria Patri. Sicut erat. Ad te levávi.

Introit To Thee have I lifted up my soul: in Thee, o my God, do I trust, let me not be put to shame; nor let my enemies mock me, for all they that await Thee shall not be confounded. V. Show me Thy ways, o Lord and teach me Thy paths. Glory be to the Father... As it was in the beginning... To Thee have I lifted up my soul...
At the Mass (of the First Sunday of Advent), the Introit is Ad te levavi, because through the coming of the Lord into the flesh, hope is most greatly lifted up, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son” (John 3, 16), and again “He did not spare His own Son” (Romans 8, 32), etc. And note that if some are roused, others nevertheless languish in sleep; therefore the cantor, beginning with “To Thee have I lifted up my soul”, by raising up his voice goes from the lower (note) to the higher, which is typical of one rousing others up. And this is noted also in the Epistle (Rom. 13, 11-14), where it says, “Now is the hour to rise from sleep.” There follows the verse, “Show me Thy ways, o Lord,” because Christ when He comes shows us His ways, whence Isaiah says (2, 2 and 3), “The mountain of the house of the Lord shall be (prepared) etc. Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways.” And the Epistle... shows what those ways are: “Knowing that the hour is nigh for us to rise from sleep.” For in the part where it says, “The night hath passed, and the day approacheth,” the effect (of the Incarnation) is indicated, since day came about when the Sun was born; and therefore it follows, “As in the day, let us walk honestly”, that is, in all good works, “and put ye on the Lord, Jesus Christ”, that we may thus be sons of God, because it was for the sake of this that the Son of God became man, that man might become a son of God. (William Durandus, Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, 6.3.15)

Saturday, November 26, 2022

An Interview with Abp Cordileone: The William P. Mahrt Sacred Music Chair (Part 2)

Last week, we published a guest article by Roseanne T. Sullivan about the recent establishment of the William P. Mahrt Chair in Sacred Music at St Patrick’s Seminary in the archdiocese of San Francisco. We follow up with her interview with His Excellency Salvatore Cordileone, the archbishop of San Francisco, about the new chair, and what he hopes to achieve by instituting it. Our thanks once again to Mrs Sullivan for sharing this with NLM.
Roseanne T. Sullivan: 
Your Excellency, what can you tell about how this new chair came about?

Salvatore Cordileone: I have had this in mind for a long time. The seminary already has a course in church aesthetics and history of the liturgy, which covers the principles of sacred music, architecture, and art.
(Note from Father Mark Doherty, Rector of St. Patrick’s: The course in Church aesthetics has been taught by Father Samuel Weber since he arrived at the seminary about a decade ago. The course is mandatory, situated at the front-end of formation, in pre-theology, precisely because the course content is so central to a man’s overall formation for the priesthood.)
SC: Out of those three, music is highest in the order of priority, because priests will be dealing all the time with music in parish life, at least on a weekly basis, to ensure the music for the Sunday Masses is suitable.
The other two are also important: architecture, because priests may at some point need to build a new church or renovate or restore a parish church they’ve inherited. So they need to know the basic principles of church architecture and have good taste and good judgment in that area.
And they’ll also be furnishing their churches and other spaces with art. So they also need to have knowledge of art.
But most especially music—because it’s such an important part of worship, because music has such a strong effect on people’s experience of worship, and priests will be dealing with music all the time.
It’s reasonable that the priest should have an understanding of our tradition of sacred music, that they know about the principles of Gregorian Chant, its origins and how to sing it, and that they have an understanding of polyphony and that whole tradition.
Now, granted, almost all parishes use contemporary music, but I think this kind of a formation deep within the tradition of the church’s musical heritage will help them to have better judgment about what is, on the musical side, worthy of worship.
And just by the aesthetics of it, the music of it, their theological formation will also give them good judgment about what words are appropriate for worshiping and not. So they need both aspects to get that with their theology courses, but they also need to have the musical formation to make those judgments.
St Patrick’s Seminary
RTS: What made you decide to name the chair after Professor William Mahrt?
SC: Professor Mahrt is a revered world class scholar in sacred music. He teaches at Stanford University only a few miles away from our seminary. He’s contributed so much to the Church’s musical life, no one would be more appropriate to honor in naming this chair.
For decades at St. Thomas Aquinas Church, also nearby in Palo Alto, the St. Ann choir Professor Mahrt directs has been singing beautiful sacred music at Novus Ordo Masses, according to the current edition of the Roman Missal. He demonstrates how this kind of music is not something that the Church left behind when changing the form of the Mass, but it is actually in keeping with what the Vatican II taught. It’s something to be treasured and used so that people can experience its beauty. So he’s realized that vision there and has been doing so for ages.
RTS: How was Professor Jennifer Donelson-Nowicka selected for this position?
SC: I first met her in 2015 at the Sacra Liturgia Conference in New York, which she organized. And so I became aware of her tremendous gifts and her ability to teach. She was teaching at the seminary at Dunwoodie in New York. She had great experience in educating Church musicians, principally seminarians but lay people and priests too for that matter. When I first met her back seven years ago, I would have loved the idea of her teaching at my seminary. To be honest, I didn’t think it would be possible. And now it’s happening.
I’m very grateful for some large bequests we received for Catholic education, which are helping us to get this chair established.
RTS: What should people realize about the significance of there being a chair in sacred music at a diocesan seminary?
SC: Music and the arts in general are not sort of a luxury, an optional add-on after we take care of everything else. They are essential, central to evangelization.
I refer a lot to the three transcendentals: truth, beauty, and goodness. We need all three to evangelize this culture that’s getting further and further away from God.
We need the Church’s witness of care for the poor, the Church’s ability to transmit the truth and help people understand the truth and how that sets us free. But also, again, the area of beauty. And again, the area of music is paramount when it comes to people’s everyday experience in the pews. So we need beauty. As I also like to say, goodness feeds the body, truth feeds the mind, and beauty feeds the soul. People need their souls fed as well.
Beauty has this power to elevate the soul and to unite people and touch upon the transcendental in a way that we can’t with truth, because, in this age of relativism, you know, we argue, “You have your truth, I have my truth.” But when something’s truly beautiful, it cannot be denied. Beauty circumvents that whole denial process. It touches us in a different way. And I think it kind helps to prepare the soil for the seeds of truth to be planted, so people become more receptive to the truth.
To produce seminarians better formed in this whole area of the Church’s musical heritage will add a lot to enhancing the experience of beauty and reverence at liturgies.
There’s been a lot of talk about this lately, since Pope Francis has been focusing a lot on liturgy in these last couple of years. The arguments about the Traditional Latin Mass aside, he is decrying liturgical abuses, encouraging more reverent and beautiful celebrations of the Mass. And this will certainly help us to do that.

Photopost Catch-Up for November

Before the beginning of the new liturgical year, here are a few photopost items, one sent in yesterday, and two others which ought to have gone in with the All Saints and All Souls posts, but slipped through the cracks of my email. (My apologies to those who sent them in.)

St Catherine of Alexandria – Karis, Finland
Missa cantata on the patronal feast day, sung by the Schola Gregoriana from Turku; the building belongs to the Evangelical church of Finland, which hosted the local Catholic community as it has in the past, to celebrate the Mass for which it was built. The church was built in 1470; note that a lot of the original decorations are preserved. (Courtesy of Thomas Nguyễn)

Friday, November 25, 2022

St Catherine of Alexandria 2022

Truly it is worthy ... through Christ our Lord. Through whom the triumphant, most noble, and outstanding martyr, the virgin Catherine, instructed in the teachings of the prophets, apostles and philosophers, and taught in all languages by the grace of the Holy Spirit by her wonderful wisdom overcame the emperor with the orators, and the world with all its vices. She converted to Christ the august empress with the aforementioned orators, and Porphyry (her jailer) with all his companions, by her magnificent teachings and examples; and when they had all received the faith together with the sign of Christ from the virgin Catherine, and been crowned with martyrdom, she sent them before her to the kingdom of the heavens. She is the one illuminated by that wisdom which conquers malice, and mightily reaches from end to end (of the word), and sweetly disposes all things. She is that most glorious virgin who with a hundredfold fruits, by her great martyrdom presented herself as an offering to Jesus Christ. And therefore being confirmed by the word of Christ and the visitation of angels she overcame with wondrous constancy nails and wheels, blades most sharp, the tyrant’s sword and threats. She asked from the Lord for all those who devoutly honor her passion health of mind and body, firmness of faith, and abundance of all things. She also, having been beheaded for the name of Christ poured forth milk instead of blood, so that for us who venerate her with pure mind, her teaching and passion might be spiritual drink and food, and the forgiveness of sins. Through the same Christ our Lord, through whom the Angels praise, the Archangels venerate, the Thrones, Dominations, Virtues, Principalities and Powers adore Thy majesty; whom the Cherubim and Seraphim celebrate joined in exultation; and we ask that Thou order our voices also be brought in among theirs, saying with humble confession, ‘Holy…’ (The preface of the Ambrosian Mass of St Catherine of Alexandria, used before the post-Tridentine reform of the Ambrosian Missal.)

St Catherine of Alexandria explaining the truth of Christianity to the philosophers sent by the emperor Maximin to convince her of its falsehood. Through the window on the right, we see the same philosophers, encouraged by Catherine, accepting martyrdom. This fresco was painted in the chapel dedicated to both her and St Ambrose in the Roman basilica of St Clement by Masolino da Panicale, 1425-31.
VD... per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem triumphatrix nobilissima et egregia martyr virgo Catherina, Prophetarum et Apostolorum atque philosophorum doctrinis imbuta, omnibusque linguis charismate Sancti Spiritus erudita, imperatorem cum rhetoribus, mundum cum vitiis omnibus mirabilia sapientia superavit. Imperatricem augustam cum praefatis rhetoribus, Porphyrium cum sociis omnibus suis, exemplis et doctrinis magnificis convertit ad Christum, omnesque accepta fide cum signo Christi a virgine Catherina, martyrio coronatos, praemisit ad regna polorum. Haec fuit illa sapientia illustrata, quae vincit malitiam, attingit a fine usque ad finem fortiter, et disponit omnia suaviter. Haec est illa gloriosissima virgo, quae cum centenis fructibus seipsam libando, magnoque purpurata martyrio, representavit Jesu Christo. Ideoque famine Christi et angelorum visitatione confirmata, clavos et rotas, seras acutissimas, tyranni gladium atque minas mirabili constantia superavit. Haec pro cunctis ejus passionem devote colentibus, sanitatem mentis et corporis, fideique firmitatem et rerum abundantiam a Domino postulavit. Haec etiam decollata pro Christi nomine lac fudit pro sanguine, ut sua doctrina et passio nobis eam pura mente venerantibus, esset potus spiritualis et cibus, atque peccatorum remissio. Per eundem Christum, Dominum nostrum. Per quem maiestatem tuam laudant Angeli, venerantur Archangeli, Throni, Dominationes, Virtutes, Principates, et Potestates adorant. Quem Cherubim et Seraphim socia exsultatione concelebrant. Cum quibus et nostras voces, ut admitti iubeas, deprecamur, supplici confessione dicentes: Sanctus…
A particularly good turn of phrase from Fr Hunwicke, said à propos of St Nicholas, applies just as well St Catherine of Alexandria; she was “a saint with as large a portfolio of patronages as a Renaissance cardinal.” Devotion to her was very strong in Milan in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, no less than anywhere else, as evidenced by the fact that in some of the early printed editions of the Ambrosian Missal, her name was even added to the list of Saints in the Nobis quoque of the Canon. In addition to this lengthy proper preface (which from a literary point of view is not quite as polished as it could be), her Mass had almost all proper chants, mostly taken from her legendum, and all proper prayers.
A page of an Ambrosian Missal printed in 1499, with the name of St Catherine in the Nobis quoque.
At the same time, it cannot be denied that many reasonable doubts have been raised about the historicity of the written accounts of her life, not by modern skeptics, but by serious and devout scholars such as St Robert Bellarmine and Cardinal Baronius. On the basis of these doubts, the Ambrosian Missal of 1594, the first revised edition after the Tridentine reform of the Roman Rite, removed all the proper chants, and this preface, replacing them with those of the Common Mass of a Virgin Martyr.

The End and the Beginning of the Church Year: Interlocking Clasps in the Hidden Season

The Last Judgment, by Michelangelo, 1536-41

It may seem strange that in a calendar with “only one” annual cycle of readings, two of the Sundays share virtually the same Gospel. And it may seem stranger still that these two Sundays occur consecutively. The Gospel for the Twenty-Fourth or Last Sunday after Pentecost, taken from Matthew 24, 15-35, contains Christ’s twofold description of the destruction of the Temple and the world. That same discourse reemerges the following week on the First Sunday of Advent, in the slightly abridged form in which it appears in the Gospel according to Saint Luke (21, 25-33). From the perspective of the worshipper, it makes little difference that these Sundays are at opposite ends of the calendar, since the cyclical recurrence of the liturgical year ensures that they are experienced back-to-back.

Why then this redundancy, especially when there are fewer “slots” for Gospel readings in the traditional Missal? Shouldn’t one of these “slots” have been put to better use? The answer to these questions teaches us much about the providential nature of liturgical development, the Time After Pentecost, and the season of Advent. And perhaps most interestingly, it reveals a hidden season in the Church year.

Historical Background
An obvious place to begin is how the 1962 calendar took its present shape. Some time during the pontificate of Saint Gregory the Great (590-600), a devastating natural catastrophe (possibly a hurricane) struck Rome in late November. To console the people, the Pope read Luke 21, 25-33, which warns of natural portents and “the distress of nations,” and delivered a homily on it. The Pope’s precedent was duly noted by later generations, who assumed (mistakenly, it is believed) that it was his intention to make this Gospel a permanent feature of Advent. Hence it was included in later liturgical books. [1]
During that same millennium, the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost served as the capstone to the liturgical year. Originally, it dealt explicitly with the conversion of the Jews that is to take place at the end of time, and even after its readings were later modified to give the Sunday its current configuration, it continued to explore those themes indirectly. [2]
A few centuries later, however, the Church added the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, with its Gospel reading of Matthew 24, 15-35, knowing full well that essentially the same Gospel would be read the following Advent Sunday. Instead of ending on the “eternal Alliance” that would at last be struck between Gentile and Jew, the Church year would now conclude with “the prophetic description of the dread coming of the Lord, which is to put an end to time and to open eternity.” [3]
How to Interpret

Thursday, November 24, 2022

“Shortly Before Advent” – An Idea Inspired by St. Gertrude the Great

Saint Gertrude, by Miguel Cabrera, 1763

In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, (General Audience, Oct. 6, 2010) St. Gertrude the Great (1256-1302) “was an exceptional woman, endowed with special natural talents and extraordinary gifts of grace.” A master first of the liberal arts and then of theology, she became famous for her devotion to the poor souls in Purgatory and her mystical visions.

Many of these visions took place in relationship to the liturgical year: the Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter cycles for Gertrude were particularly important seasons of mystical revelations and communion with God. One year, “shortly before Advent,” Gertrude was prompted by God to ask a certain person to pray the following prayer for her every day before a crucifix:
O most Loving Lord, by Thy pierced Heart, pierce her heart with an arrow of Thy love, so that nothing earthly may remain therein, and that it may be entirely filled with the strength of Thy Divinity. 
Her prayer began to be answered on Gaudete Sunday. After receiving Holy Communion, she went to pray before a crucifix and had the following experience:
I saw a ray of light like an arrow coming forth from the Wound of the right side of the crucifix, which was in an elevated place, and it continued, as it were, to advance and retire for some time, sweetly attracting my cold affections.
The Crucifixion, by Juan Sánchez Cotán, ca. 1603
Gertrude’s encounter with the arrow of love, however, was not complete. On Ember Wednesday of Advent, which celebrates the Annunciation and the Incarnation, she meditated after Mass when:
Behold, Thou camest suddenly before me, and didst imprint a wound in my heart, saying these words: 'May the full tide of your affections flow hither, so that all your pleasure, your hope, your joy, your grief, your fear, and every other feeling may be sustained by My love!'
Gertrude thought further: a wound from her Beloved is indeed a gift, but should it not, like all wounds, be bathed, anointed, and bandaged? Our Lord then instructed her by means of a wise friend, who advised her to reflect on the love of Our Lord's Sacred Heart as He hung on the cross and:
to draw from this fountain the waters of true devotion, to wash away all my offenses;
to take from the unction of mercy the oil of gratitude, which the sweetness of this inestimable love has produced as a remedy for all adversities;
and to use this efficacious charity and the strength of this consummate love as a ligament of justification to unite all my thoughts, words and works, indissolubly and powerfully to Thee.
I would like to invite all readers and their loved ones to follow St. Gertrude’s example. Right now, “shortly before Advent,” ask someone to pray that your heart be pierced by an arrow of God’s love. In turn, you can say the same prayer for someone else, either with them knowing about it or not. Then, keep your heart open this Advent season to an arrow of divine love.
I extend this invitation without in any way implying that it will bear the same mystical fruits that St. Gertrude enjoyed. This is not a cleverly-disguised chain letter or a magical charm; it is a call of Oremus pro invicem (Let us pray for each other). With all of the wounds that we bear both as individuals and as a Church, a wound that heals would be most welcome. And those who worship according to the usus antiquior have the added privilege of following the same liturgical year and propers as St. Gertrude, despite the 700 years that divides them. What a beautiful and tangible testimony to the Communion of Saints.
May St. Gertrude the Great pray for us during the upcoming Advent and Christmas seasons, and always.

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