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    Recently I reviewed the new book Mantilla: The Veil of the Bride of Christ. I was pleasantly surprised by the popularity of this post and by the many positive comments I received about it. Clearly, we are living at a time when it is not only possible to discuss such things with great openness and a spirit of calm, but also where one sees a deep hunger for the rediscovery of Catholic traditions.

    A reader informed me about the appearance of a new video, almost half an hour in length, entitled El Velo: Respeto ante Dios y Honor para la mujer [The Veil: Respect before God and Honor for Women], from AGNUS DEI PROD in Spain. I am glad that the producers decided to include English subtitles, which will earn for their work a much wider diffusion. There is much food for thought and prayer in the running commentary. I encourage you to watch it and then consider whom you might share it with.


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    The Cathedral of St Rufino in Assisi, the third church to be built on the same site, was begun in 1140 A.D., about 40 years before St Francis was born. It is perhaps less visited than the major Franciscan sites in the city, but it was certainly very important in the early history of the Order. It was while hearing Francis preach in the church (where they were both had been baptized as children, along with many of their early followers) that Clare decided to follow him in his life of poverty. We are very glad to share with our readers these marvelous photographs of the church’s façade, along with the accompanying commentary, both by Julian Kwasniewski, Peter’s son; I think that the use of black and white really conveys very well how intricate these carved decorations really are. You can see some more of his excellent work recently publish on the website OnePeterFive (here and here).

    The Façade of the Cathedral of Assisi: A Personal Discovery
    Introduction: Where and How
    “Terrible is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the court of God.” (Genesis 28, 17, the Introit for the Dedication of a Church.) 
    This past July, I was blessed to be able to visit Assisi, the magnificent city of St. Francis, and of medieval Christendom. Although we saw many famous places of beauty and majesty, here I wish to share my thoughts about an obscure place of wonder, that of San Ruffino, the Cathedral of Assisi. At this church I found a beauty which, after reflecting on it later, filled me with delight and fear at the truth shown therein.


    Having glanced briefly at the interior and exterior and said the usual sort of thing that you say about another great edifice, my group of family and friends prepared to move on, hoping for some lunch and gelato! However, I was about to have the scales lifted from my oblivious eyes. Some of our group ended up taking a look at the crypt–treasury, and my father and I were left to wait in the square in front of the church. Then I discovered the real beauty and complexity of this court of God.


    This is what I wrote in my journal: “July 16th 2016 …The Façade of the Cathedral of Assisi is exquisite: not awe-inspiring like the façade of Chartres, but in the way that one must ‘get to know it.’ It took me a good half hour to appreciate its workmanship. Going over the façade again and again, each time bringing to my eyes new details: heads, faces, people, and animals, all secretly hidden only for the attentive. The idea of a church that is so extensive in its decoration that no one man can appreciate it is a lost principle—and only God can really understand and value the offerings that these churches make. Also, in Christendom there is no sense of ‘we have built some great churches, now we can do something else.’ No, rather: ‘nothing we do can satisfy God—but a little bit more makes a little bit more…’ ”








    These things really took me by surprise, since the overall effect of the church was not one that would make you expect such intricacy or whimsy. When do you just have a dog standing near a rose window?


    I looked closer and found even smaller details on the tympanum. These details are only a few inches in size! Look at the carving used to indicate the patterns on the clothing or, so delightful, the censer which a smiling figure is vigorously swinging. This exuberant decoration is fitting for God’s house, is it not? For, in a way, it is our version of God’s creation of “useless” things, so many plants and animals of the earth that do not serve our immediate needs. We are thanking God for His beautiful and complex creation that He did not have to create by creating something beautiful and complex for Him.




    Discovery: Why and Who
    “…I heard a great voice from the throne saying: Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them…And He that sat on the throne said: Behold, I make all things new.” (Apoc. 21)
    This is a beautiful and awe–inspiring work of art and it could be left at that, but I want to ask about the meaning and consequence of such carvings. Rather than breaking my head on the theology of churches, I have a theme presented to me by the church itself in the decoration of its main entrance.


    On either side of the Great Doors are stone lions devouring people, reminding all those who enter of the words of Saint Peter, “Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5,8)  It should also remind us of what the psalmist says: “For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help me. They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring.” Earlier in the same psalm occurs the following verses: “But I am a worm, and no man…From my mother’s womb Thou art my God…my hope from the breasts of my mother…Depart not from me.” (Ps. 21) Directly above the devouring lion is a Romanesque tympanum depicting the Blessed Virgin nursing the child Jesus, and the Great Judge surrounded by the sun and moon and Saint Ruffino, to whom the church is dedicated.


    So this is the theme we are shown: life, death and judgment. If I go to a church and, on the way in, I am confronted with these things, will this not change my prayer? When I enter the church and see statues and paintings of the saints in heaven with their King Jesus, and participate in the truly mysterious liturgical dance of man and God which comes to a head when God Himself comes to us at the consecration, my prayer and, therefore, my relationship with God, will be immeasurably richer for having been faced with hard truth.

    These days the phrase “hard truth” seems to have a very negative connotation, signifying work we don’t want to do, prayers we don’t want to say, sufferings we don’t want to deal with. However, I don’t think this is the way “hard truth” should be used. In my life, hard truths were “difficult,” but in the end I was always a much happier person for having this hard and sharp truth “cut” away my spiritual “tumors.” I think we are dealing with a case of hard truth.

    If you pass depictions of death on either side of you when you enter a church, if you see your final Judge, and a mother nursing a child, and a saint, someone like you who got it right, will you not have some serious things to think about in the context of Mass and before our Lord in the tabernacle? Won’t you be more likely to consider the things that really matter in life? If your soul is dead in sin, you will see yourself as you really are, being devoured against your good, and below heaven. If you are a mother or father, you will see yourself closer to the throne in proportion to how much you were like the Virgin Mary or Saint Joseph—and especially how much you children are like Christ. And what if you are unmarried or in the religious life—will you see yourself here? Maybe in the unidentified saint, or maybe you will not see yourself because you are united with Christ in a special way and where He is, you also are.

    I don’t have the insight combined with the zinger lines of my father (yet), so I can’t properly critique modern liturgy and architecture. However, I do want to ask one question.

    Which better fulfills the quotation from the Apocalypse at the beginning of this section: the “reformed” liturgy, the buildings built for it, and the sort of prayer it fosters, or the traditional Latin Mass, the psalms of the Bible, and the art of the Middle Ages?

    Conclusion: Nourishment
    This is how I finished the entry in my journal about this church: “In conclusion, let’s build some beautiful churches and become holy by building them and by helping others to worship through these arts . . . which are so needed, so that people do not faint for lack of food for thought and prayer.”

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    I recently posted the following item atDominican Liturgy, but it has been suggested that readers here might also find it interesting.

    The Dominican Rite, both for the Mass and Office is famous for its stability and resistance to liturgical changes.  And, at least for the text of the Mass, this is certainly true.  The Office, however, after resisting many changes affecting
    Elevation at the Solemn Mass (Star of the Sea Church, SF 2015)
    other Latin rites, such as the adoption of the reformed hymnal of Pope Urban VIII, did conform to the new Psalter arrangement of the Psalms in 1923.

        My recent historical work on the history of the Dominican lay brothers (today called "cooperator brothers"), included reading through the nine volumes of Acta of the Dominican General Chapters from 1220 to 1843.  As I was doing this, I noted the legislation that reformed or modified the liturgy.  Here are the major reforms.

        For me, the most suggestive piece of legislation was not directly liturgical, but involved the preparation of priests.  In 1345, the General Chapter at Manresa, required that the prior of the local priory (priestly formation was the responsibility of each priory in those days) make sure that any friar to be ordained "understand the Canon of the Mass from the Te igitur to the Pater noster. Ignorance of the meaning of the Latin was such a problem that neither subpriors or vicars were allowed to make this decision.  But now on to liturgical changes.

        Today some of the most controversial issues for Catholics in church involve how to show respect to the altar, cross, and Blessed Sacrament.  In the middle ages, the profound bow was the usual way of showing respect.  The Dominican Rite only slowly adopted genuflection that became the Roman practice in the later middle ages..

    Dominicans added the Elevation of the Chalice in about 1300
    The General Chapter of Rome 1569 (Acta Capitulorum Generalium S.O.P., 5: 90) explicitly required that the priest bow ("inclinet") after each of the Consecrations, a clear sign that some Dominican priests were imitating the Roman practice of genuflecting.  This chapter also strictly forbad the priest to say the Words of Institution in the Canon out loud, "which certain priests are doing contrary to many chapters and the decree of the Council."  It was only some forty years later, at the Paris General Chapter of 1611 (ACG 6:145) that the Dominican Rite finally suppressed the use of bows at the Consecration and Elevation, replacing them with the modern four genuflections. This was also the point that the rite adopted the use of a genuflection before and after touching the Sacred Species, a practice often considered traditionally Dominican.

        Introduction of genuflections where the medieval Dominican Rite proscribed bows had actually begun earlier than that.  For example, the General Chapter of Rome 1569 (ACG 5: 90) instructed the priest to simply bow while all others present knelt at the words Incarnatus est in the creed.  Rome 1580 (ACG 5: 192) then introduced kneeling at the word "procedentes" in the Epiphany Gospel, during the Te Deum, and at the word "vereremur" in the hymn Tantum Ergo, "following Papal Chapel example."  And finally the chatper of Lisbon in 1618 (ACG 6:300) confirms for general use the "pious custom" in Spsnish Provinces of kneeing at the words "Eia ergo" in Salve Regina.


    A Dominican Deacon Sings the Gospel (ca. 1950)
       Early modern chapters also changed the texts of the medieval liturgy and modified rubrics to conform to Roman practice or developed theology.  For example, the Rome Chapter of 1569 (ACG 5: 102) changed the collect of Pope St. Gregory the Great from "ex poenis aeternis" to "ex poenis purgatorii," to reflect the developed doctrine of Purgatory.  Famously, and against considerable resistance, the Chapter of Rome in 1589 (ACG 5: 281) mandated the reading of the Last Gospel at the end of Mass, as in the Roman Rite.  Later, the chapter of Rome, 1656 (ACG 7: 390) required that the priest at Solemn Mass read the Gospel quietly before deacon chanted it, duplication finally made optional by rubrical reforms in 1060.  I find nothing about the priest's reading the Epistle quietly at sung Mass. Probably introduced by custom about this time like the Gospel.  Another change in practice, that of Rome 1656 (ACG 7: 394), which rquired the priest is to say the Sign of the Cross and the verse "Confitemini Domino" in a loud voice at Low Mass, which explains this practice during the use of the "moderate" voice during the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, something I have often wondered about..

        The early modern period also so introducted ritual changes that friars often think of as dating back to the
    Salve Procession after Vestition, St. Dominic Church, SF, 2012
    days of Humbert of Romans in the thirteenth century.  Take, for example, the lighting of the Sanctus Candle during the Canon at Low Mass.  This was not made obligatory until the Rome Chapter of 1580 (ACG 5: 169), although it does seem to have been a custom at Solemn Mass already.  This introduction was again approved at Lisbon in 1618 (ACG 6: 296).  Bologna 1625 (ACG 6: 241) introduced the wearing of the cope and stole when incensing the Sacrament during Benediction, as well as requiring the singing of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin during the procession after Compline on Saturdays.  Finally, in 1622, the Chapter of Milan (ACG 6: 325) introduced the "Dominican" practice of moving to center of the altar for the Dominus Vobiscum when Mass is before the tabernacle so that the priest's back not be turned to the Sacrament.  This is a clear sign that Dominicans were adopting the modern practice of reservation of the Sacrament on the main altar.  This chapter also introduced the practice of  priests wearing the stole over their cappas when receiving Communion on Holy Thursday, as well as placing over the cappa of a deceased friar prior to interment.

        I had always wondered about the origin of the idea that medieval friars broke sleep to rise for "Midnight Matin" and then returned to their cells for a couple hours rest before Lauds.  This was not the case.  In the middle ages, the friars rose early, usually around 3 a.m. to sing both Matins and Lauds together, finishing before dawn.  I now know that the first example of breaking sleep is only witnessed at the Chapter of Valencia in 1647.  It was then confirmed at Rome in 1650 (ACG 7: 282), where the "usus" of rising for "Midnight Matins," is required of all priories in the order, "according to the custom of the provinces as to when midnight is."  This is the first time Matins is separated from Lauds as a "midnight" office."  But small houses, at least, could rise before dawn for the traditional single office of Matins-Lauds.  In the north the combined office of Matins-Lauds should be at 4 am in winter and 3 am in summer, as it was usually in all the middle ages.

        Finally, I now know when the Order finally adopted a ritual for distributing Communion to the laity present
    at conventual Masses, something not done in the middle ages.  The Chapter of Rome, 1583 (ACG 5: 239) provided as follows:  First, the Confiteor was recited by the laity with the priest giving the two absolutions.  Then he asked each communicant, "Credis hunc esse verum Christum Deum et Hominem?" as he displayed the Host.  The recipient responded "Credo" and then recited the formula "Domine non sum dignus, etc." three  times.  The priest then gave Communion using the usual formula, "Corpus Domini nostri Iesu Christ," etc.

        I have also found some interesting legislation on music and the use of the organ, but will save that for another posting.

    As I cannot, for some reason unclear to me, post or reply to comments here, you may make them at the original posthere.

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    Those who are familiar with the traditional Roman missal will know that it features quite a number of prayers of priestly preparation before Mass and of thanksgiving after Mass. Often a sampling of these orations, antiphons, psalms, veriscles, etc., were (and still are) printed in Daily Missals intended for the use of the laity.

    It would be interesting, apart from anything else, to know how many of the clergy and laity actually employ these prayers. It must be admitted that some of them are quite long, and for some while before Mass, the priest is occupied with putting on vestments (using the appropriate vesting prayers), holding quiet parleys with MCs, servers, choir or schola directors, and well-meaning folks seeking "a word or two with Father." And while the post-Mass period is usually less chaotic, it still requires at times a heroic effort to withdraw, like Our Lord in the Gospels, into the wilderness where heartfelt thanksgiving becomes possible. (For a more in-depth treatment, see my article "Priestly Preparation Before Mass and Thanksgiving After Mass.")

    Given all of these things, it has often seemed to me that it would help to have a short, well-made prayer for before liturgy and another one for afterwards -- something that could be recited in the midst of any circumstances and still wonderfully focus the mind on what is about to transpire or what has transpired.

    This past summer, I finally found these prayers, and found them as the result of a happy accident. My son and I were in Chicago for a retreat, and on the way back I decided to swing by St. John Cantius, a legendary place that I had never visited. After Sunday Vespers, I bumped into one of the canons, a very affable priest whom I had met at Sacra Liturgia in Rome a few years ago, who offered to give me a tour of the hidden rooms of the immense church. One of these rooms is a Gothic side chapel with a life-size reproduction of a famous carved altar from Krakow [update: a reader has pointed out that this is a scale model]:
    The chapel is beautifully appointed with Gothic furnishings:
    And it was at a Gothic side altar that I spotted the two prayer cards.
    The priest giving me the tour said that this was his favorite place to offer a morning private Mass and that he and other canons often used the prayers on either side of the altar:
    Here is a transcription of the texts:
    BEFORE DIVINE SERVICES
    Let us pray:
    Almighty and Merciful God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Thou hast invited us to participate in this worship with Thy beloved Son, our High Priest and King. Grant us the grace to fulfill our sacred duty with faith, reverence, and love, so that we may please Thee, edify Thy people, and deserve to obtain the fruits of this holy service, through Christ our Lord.
    We adore Thee and bless Thee because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.
    AFTER DIVINE SERVICES
    Let us pray:
    We give thanks, heavenly Father, for the honor bestowed upon us by assisting at this holy service. Accept, we beseech Thee, our most humble ministry and forgive us whatever failings we have committed before Thy Divine Majesty. Enlighten and strengthen us, Lord, so that we may always render Thee praiseworthy homage through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end. Amen.
    These really do seem to fit the need of the moment, and therefore I gladly share them with the readers of NLM, in case others may find them suited to their needs.

    But now that I am writing about my visit to St. John Cantius, I have to share a few more photos of the back rooms. What a treasure trove of relics they have!

    Monstances galore, all of them (I believe) gifts to the canons -- and they use them regularly:

     A rare set of Italian papier mâché Nativity dolls:

    And -- why not? -- the last pair of papal shoes worn by Pope Pius XII:



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    On Thursday, September 29th, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel, a Solemn High Traditional Latin Mass will be celebrated at 7:00 p.m. in the historic Church of the Most Precious Blood, located in New York City’s Little Italy. The intention of the Mass will be for the spiritual and physical well being of all police and law-enforcement officers. This Mass and the Mass at Holy Innocents at 6:00 p.m. will make for two Solemn Traditional Latin Masses being celebrated almost simultaneously a few short miles from each other in Manhattan; such an occurrence, just a few short years ago, would have seemed impossible.



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    Speaking of prayers in preparation for Mass, Newman House Press wrote to let us know that they have available a prayer written for that purpose by the Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, addressed to the Virgin Mary.

    This can be ordered on a printed card for $5 plus $1 shipping and handling through their webpage noted above; just mention the item in an email to the address given under the link Contact.

    They are also offering a special discount on a treatise by Fr Peter Stravinskas on “The Rubrics of the Mass”, a useful explanation of why rubrics ought to be followed, which then goes through the Mass and explains the basic rules. The special offer price is 100 copies for $10 plus shipping and handling. Here is the first page (click to enlarge).

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    For today’s feast of the martyrs Ss Cosmas and Damian, our friend Jordan Hainsey sent in some photographs which he took of the Roman basilica dedicated to them, which is one of the oldest in the city. In 2007, he did some work with the art conservator who was restoring the church’s high altar, which he describes as “an amazing opportunity to see decades of dirt and soot removed from precious marble, and see precious frescos regain their brilliance and clarity.” In the first photo, he is standing on the high altar helping to lift up and place the 75 pound gold candlesticks. Of special interest, the candlesticks had fascinating 19th century extenders which allowed for smaller candles while giving the illusion of a tall candle. The descriptions which follow are all by Jordan.

    The Basilica of Ss Cosmas and Damian is located in the very heart of ancient and modern Rome. The building was originally a Roman structure that belonged to Vespasian’s Forum of Peace, and may have been one of the libraries of that forum. It was rebuilt and consecrated as a church by Pope St Felix IV in 527. The circular structure known as the Temple of Romulus in the Roman Forum is incorporated into the church. The basilica was entrusted to the Franciscan Friars T.O.R. in 1503 and remains in their care. Over the past decade, it has been extensively restored, starting with the high altar in 2007. Since then, the side chapels have been cleaned and restored, along with the choir in the apse behind the altar.

    The high altar was designed by Domenico Castelli at the order of Fr. Ludovico Ciotti, and constructed in 1638. The four black and white marble columns formerly supported the baldachino above an ancient altar in the crypt. In the 18th century, the tabernacle was fashioned from ebony and stone, mixed marble, and bronze.


    This cosmatesque ambry was donated by Cardinal Guido Pisano in 1150. It is of white marble, with a mosaic of patterned glass set into the wall; the wooden doors are painted in gold leaf.


    The apse mosaic dates from 527-530 A.D. Christ the Judge stands above the dramatically colored clouds; this is the first time in Western art that Christ is depicted as an Easterner, like the Saints to whom the church is dedicated, who were from Arabia. The Apostle Peter presents Cosmas and the Apostle Paul presents Damian so that they may receive the crown of their martyrdom. At the far left, Pope Felix IV presents the model of the basilica, and to the far right stands the soldier St Theodore; the latter is dressed as a Byzantine official in a cloak with a square purple cloth sewn on it, one of the insignia of a magistrate in the court of Justinian. A procession of sheep make up the lower band, moving from Bethlehem and Jerusalem towards the Divine Lamb from Whom spring up the rivers of life: the Geon, Phison, Tigris and Euphrates.





    Reliquaries of Ss Cosmas and Damian



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    Two years ago, we reported that the Archdiocese of Naples, Italy, had established a new home for the regular celebration of the Traditional Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation at the church of the Archconfraternity of Santa Maria del Soccorso all’Arenella. We recently received word from the organizers of the Mass, the Coetus Fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino», that His Eminence Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, has now entrusted the celebration of this Mass to the priests of the Institute of Christ the King, beginning last week on the feast of the city’s principal Patron Saint, Januarius.

    The Coetus fidelium «Sant’Andrea Avellino» wishes to express their gratitude to Cardinal Sepe for his paternal and pastoral solicitude in their regard, and likewise to the superiors of the ICK, Mgrs Gilles Wach and Michael Schmitz, and to Don Aldo Scatola, the parish priest of Santa Maria del Soccorso, and head of the Archconfraternity, for his generous hospitality. (Below, various Masses at the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso all’Arenella.)





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    The following paper was originally delivered at the CIEL conference in Paris in 2003; we here present it in a modified form with the permission of the author, Fr Peter Stravinskas. In it, he examines the question of how the famous words “actuosa participatio” in Sacrosanctum Concilium were originally meant to understood. The second part will appear on Friday, arguing that “actual” participation better expresses the mind of the Church and the Magisterium after the Council and the liturgical reform. We are grateful to Fr Stravinskas for allowing us to reprint the article here on NLM.

    Many of our problems in the contemporary Church can be laid at the doorstep of a mistaken notion of participation – liturgical and otherwise. The Latin adage says, “Discimus docendo.” And that has surely proven true as I went about the preparation of this paper. I knew that the “participatio actuosa” of Vatican II had a long pedigree, indeed, all the way back to Pope St. Pius X. I thought, however, that rendering it as “active participation” was just a mischievous English translation, only to discover that at least all the Romance languages have the equivalent translation.1 My next suspicion was that using the equivalent of “active” in the various vernaculars was a modern attempt to create a new vision or reality through linguistic manipulation. Once more, an historical search revealed that “active” was the word of choice going back to translations of Pius X’s landmark document, Tra le Sollecitudini.

    That said, I am still going to suggest a better translation of actuosa, at least for our moment in history. Perhaps “active” did not carry all the baggage it does today. At any rate, it seems to me that if Pius X or the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council had wanted to say “active”, they could have used activa, but they didn’t; they used actuosa.

    What, then, is the difference between actuosa and activa? The methodology of this paper will be to “back into” my suggestion for a more appropriate vernacular rendering of actuosa by reviewing the use of participatio actuosa over the past forty or so years, so as to come up with a picture of what the contemporary Magisterium has had in mind. Then, we can settle on a word that might more adequately capture the reality.

    Participatio actuosa in Historical Perspective

    Monsignor Richard Schuler, an eminent student and promoter of the Sacred Liturgy as well as an accomplished musician, has traced out for us a good deal of the historical background to this important phrase, and I wish to acknowledge my indebtedness to him for this. (“Participation” Sacred Music, Winter 1987) As noted earlier, the first magisterial use of our expression occurs in Tra le Sollecitudini, wherein the Pope observes: “. . . the faithful assemble to draw that spirit from its primary and indispensable source, that is, from active participation in the sacred mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church” [emphasis added]. Twenty-five years later, Pope Pius XI in Divini Cultus opined that through the restoration of Gregorian chant to the people, “the faithful may participate in divine worship more actively” [emphasis added]. Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis [1943] and in Mediator Dei [1947] likewise used the term. In 1958, the Sacred Congregation of Rites in De Musica Sacra distinguished several levels of participation. We find the following: “The Mass of its nature requires that all those present participate in it, in the fashion proper to each.” First of all, this participation should be “interior”, that is, union with Christ the Priest. The participation becomes plenior if the interior participation is yoked to external participation [e.g., gestures, posture, responses, singing]. The highest degree of participation is achieved when sacramental participation is added to the other forms.

    The Conciliar and Post-Conciliar Vision of Participatio Actuosa

    One might arguably say that the most-cited and perhaps the most-misunderstood text of the Second Vatican Council is the following from the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: “Valde cupit Mater Ecclesia ut fideles universi ad plenam illam, consciam atque actuosam liturgicarum celebrationum participationem ducantur, quæ ab ipsius Liturgiæ natura postulatur. . . .” That has come into English as: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the Liturgy” [n. 14].

    The conciliar use of participatio actuosa takes for granted the understandings of the term as I have just outlined them. Oddly, though, Sacrosanctum Concilium employs our expression without providing a single reference as to its source or history – almost as if it were a novel concept.

    The same article observes that such participation by the Christian people is their “right and duty by reason of their baptism.” The passage goes on to speak of this actuosa participatio as the primary goal of all liturgical renewal, which will endow the faithful “with the true Christian spirit.”

    Lest we get too far afield, however, let us return to the vision set forth in article 14. A context is given for it three articles earlier, where we read: “But in order that the Liturgy may possess its full effectiveness, it is necessary that the faithful come to it with proper dispositions, that their minds be attuned to their voices, and that they cooperate with divine grace, lest they receive it in vain.”

    Most realistically, the Council Fathers note “pastors must therefore realize that when the Liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration; it is also their duty to ensure that the faithful take part fully aware of what they are doing, actively engaged in the rite, and enriched by its effects” [n. 11]. And how will this occur? The clergy “themselves must become imbued with the spirit and power of the Liturgy and capable of giving instruction about it” [n. 14]. And hasn’t that all too often been the very problem with our liturgical life in the post-conciliar era? Indeed, could we not even refer to this as a locus classicus of the trahison des clercs?

    Subsequent articles flesh out just what is envisioned for this program of actuosa participatio. Thus, we read in article 30: “To promote active participation, the people should be encouraged to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs, as well as by actions, gestures, and bodily attitudes. And at the proper time a reverent silence should be observed.” Eighteen articles later, this is spelled out in even greater detail:
    The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators. On the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action, conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s Word, and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s Body. They should give thanks to God. Offering the immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn to offer themselves. Through Christ, the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into an ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.
    Clearly, no kind of shallow or superficial “participation” is being advocated. Nor is any type of frenetic activity anticipated or encouraged. Even the Consilium, in its document restoring the Universal Prayer or Prayer of the Faithful, on 13 January 1965, stresses the importance of “participation through silent prayer.”

    A little more than a month after Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope Paul VI promulgated Sacram Liturgiam [25 January 1964], wherein he pleaded with bishops “to set at once about teaching their people the power and the interior worth of the Sacred Liturgy, taking into account their age, condition in life, and standard of religious culture,” with the hoped-for result that “their shared knowledge will enable the faithful to take part in the religious services together, devoutly, body and soul.”

    Pope Paul was quite exercised about ensuring the proper implementation of the Council’s liturgical document, never missing an opportunity to share its vision with clergy and laity alike. In an address to the pastors of Rome on 1 March 1965, he said: “You must be convinced that the objective is to reach the heart of today’s people through the Liturgy as the truest, most authoritative, sacred, and effective way and so to rekindle in them the flame of love for God and neighbor, the awesome, intoxicating power to commune with God – authentically, consolingly, redemptively.” Less than a week later [7 March 1965], he explained to a group of lay faithful that the Church had embarked on this liturgical reform, “so that you may be able to unite yourselves more closely to the Church’s prayer, pass over from being simply spectators to becoming active participants.” Inexplicably, he saw this goal necessitating, in his own words, the “sacrifice” of Latin!

    A year later, during a homily at a Roman parish [27 March 1966], the Pontiff informed the congregation: “A second undertaking of the Council is the reform of the Liturgy, and in a most beautiful and fruitful direction. The Council has taken the fundamental position that the faithful have to understand what the priest is saying and to share in the Liturgy; to be not just passive spectators at Mass but souls alive; to be the People of God responsive to Him and forming a community gathered as one around the celebrant.” Within ten days, he took the occasion of his general audience during Holy Week [6 April 1966] to assert: “If there is any liturgy that should find us all drawn together, attentive, earnest, and united through a participation that is ever more full, worthy, devout, and loving, it is the Liturgy of Holy Week.”

    Prescinding from some judgment calls Paul VI made, one can see a consistent trajectory of thought on his part: The participation of the faithful needs to be interior as well as exterior, arising from personal faith and knowledge and bringing about an ever deeper life of faith and holiness.

    From this time forward, one also finds the Holy Father becoming much more cautious and reserved in his praise of liturgical developments. Thus, in an address to a national congress of liturgical commissions, on 4 January 1967, he warned that the primacy of the sacrament itself “does not in any way justify arbitrarily stripping Church-established worship of the sacral and aesthetic forms that surround it and present it to the People of God. Such a course would do more than cast aside the elements of art gracing divine worship; it would trivialize the meaning of the mystery celebrated, undermine the principles of community prayer, and could lead ultimately to doubt or even denial of the reality of the Sacrament of the Eucharist.”

    Musicam Sacram, promulgated on 5 March 1967, offered a most balanced depiction of our topic:
    The faithful carry out their proper liturgical function by offering their complete, conscious, and active participation. . . . This participation must be: a. internal, that is, the faithful make their thoughts match what they say and hear, and cooperate with divine grace; b. but also external, that is, they express their inner participation through their gestures, outward bearing, acclamations, responses, and song. [n. 15]
    Tres Abhinc Annos, issued by the Sacred Congregation for Rites on 4 May 1967, indicates that reports from bishops around the world attest to “increased, more aware, and intense participation.” One might have hoped that such an assessment was an accurate reflection of the reality; having been a boy in high school at that time, that is certainly not my recollection. Indeed, as catechesis began to fall on hard times, we were less aware than ever of the mysteries being celebrated.

    It would seem officials in that dicastery may have been less impressed by episcopal assurances than first meets the eye, for within a month, Eucharisticum Mysterium makes its appearance. Article 5 addresses our area of concern by underscoring the Congregation’s notion of what is involved in participatio actuosa:
    The active part of the faithful in the Eucharist consists in giving thanks to God as they are mindful of the Lord's Passion, Death, and Resurrection; offering the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him; and, through the reception of the Body of the Lord, entering into the communion with God and with each other that participation is meant to lead to. . . . All these things should be explained to the faithful in such a way that in consequence they share actively in the celebration of the Mass by both their inner affections and the outward rites, in keeping with the principles laid down by the Constitution on the Liturgy.
    Do not miss the strong emphasis on a participation which springs from a clear understanding of a truly Catholic appreciation of the eucharistic mystery – the whole point of the document.

    In yet another general audience address [19 November 1969], Pope Paul highlighted his hopes for the liturgical renewal: “The result anticipated – or better, longed for – is the more intelligent, more effective, more joyous, and more sanctifying participation by the people in the liturgical mystery” [emphasis added]. Again, the internal aspects occupy center stage.

    Jean Cardinal Villot, as Secretary of State, in December 1969, sent a message to the 12th International Congress of Les Petits Chanteurs:
    A few words may be said about the liturgical aspect. A more immediate and active participation in the Liturgy calls for and even demands a sense of the sacred, a knowledge of the significance of the feasts, liturgical seasons, and rites. . . . Preparation of this kind is a necessary prerequisite for the opening of the spirit to the knowledge of what singing as the service of God is meant to achieve. . . . The singing will become a true harmony to the degree that it is a blending of skilled technique and of a genuinely religious spirit that allows the voice to become the devout expression to the soul.
    While the Cardinal was addressing choristers, his insights apply across the board. Notice certain key phrases: “a sense of the sacred,” “knowledge of the significance,” “preparation,” “service of God,” “a genuinely religious spirit,” “devout expression to the soul.” Are these not the very elements whose loss is experienced and so lamentable in all too many post-conciliar liturgical events?

    On 30 January 1969, L’Osservatore Romano took a rather unprecedented step in publishing an article by the Reverend Hubert Jedin, renowned scholar of the Reformation and the Council of Trent. Entitled, “Crises in the Church,” it delineates three crises: of the liturgy, of authority, of the Faith. Of course, these three are inextricably bound to one another. I wish to quote him in some detail because I think he really captured significant aspects of our question. Writing before the final liturgical reforms were enacted, he says, “Only with great circumspection would I wish to express my opinion about the liturgical crisis.” Not at all opposed to liturgical reform, he nonetheless warns:
    A liturgical renewal which proceeds step by step with a deepening of our concept of the Church can be regarded as one of the most important processes in the history of the Church of our century, as the overcoming of formalism which for many years has prevented the development of the liturgical life. A famous liturgist said, when the new Easter Vigil was introduced: “Now the ice age is over.” But let us remember: Liturgy is a disciplined service of God, a common actio of the celebrant and the community. The previous or concomitant reading of the texts of the Mass by the community is not the only, nor the most important form, of active participation (actuosa participatio) in the carrying out of the Liturgy; the decisive form is the interior participation of the faithful in the sacrifice and in the eucharistic meal.
    He goes on: “Let us also remember this, that the Constitution of the Council on the Sacred Liturgy [nn. 22, 23] demands that all reforms take account of the sana traditio, the sound tradition, and that the venerable heritage of the tradition. . . should not be lightly jettisoned.” He sums up his analysis in this way: “The Catholic divine service is both mystery and catechesis. As mystery, it is and remains impenetrable to our reason, and this fact cannot be changed in the least by the translation into the vernacular.”

    Why have I spent so much time citing a non-Magisterial source? Because I have a suspicion that his article’s publication in L’Osservatore Romano was anything but happenstance and, further, that Magisterial statements thereafter adopt his approach with much greater clarity and force, as should become evident as we proceed in our survey of texts.

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    The church keeps the feast of the Angels for two reasons. The first is that they minister to us, “for they are all ministering spirits, sent to minister for them, who shall receive the inheritance of salvation.” (Hebr. 1, 14) The second is that they fight for us against the wicked angels, and do not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear. (cf. 1 Cor. 10, 13). Of this battle it is said in the Apocalypse, “There was a war in heaven.” (12, 7) This war will be especially in the time of the Antichrist, but it has also been and is always in the death of the martyrs. “And the dragon was cast out”, that is, the devil was cast out of heaven, which is to say, out of heavenly men, and down into the hearts of evil men.
    St Michael Fights the Dragon, from the Livre d’heures d’Étienne Chevalier, by Jean Fouquet, 1452-60
    The leader of this war is the most blessed Michael, and therefore the feast is kept for him, although he is of the last hierarchy, of a lower order. For there are nine orders of Angels…, and although they are all sent (by God to various tasks), they are sent but rarely, … but the prince of those who are sent is Michael, …

    But since this is the common feast of all the Angels, why is it specially named the feast of Michael, rather than of Gabriel or Raphael? I answer that it was Michael who was sent into Egypt, and wrought the famous plagues, who divided the Red Sea, who lead the people out through the desert and into the promised land. He is set in charge of Paradise, and the guardian thereof; he receives souls into it, and is the Prince of the Church, and therefore we ought to reverence him more. … (Another) reason is that men by venerating the Angels may come into their fellowship, and for this reason on Sundays and solemn feasts, nine psalms, nine readings and nine responsories are sung, that by singing these things we may come to the company of the Angels, whose proper role is to sing to God. (William Durandus, Rationale 7, 12)

    The Archangels Raphael, Michael and Gabriel by Michele Tosini; from the choir of the Abbey of St Michael in Passignano, Italy, ca. 1550.

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    Two years ago, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church of St Elias the Prophet in Brampton, Ontario, was completely destroyed by fire. Ever since then, the community has been diligently working to rebuild its church, and after just over 2½ years, it is ready to be consecrated. (Back in June we posted a rather astonishing video of the main dome being lifted into place by a crane, which really has to be seen to be believed; wait for the end, when the bells of the church are rung to celebrate.)

    This weekend, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, will consecrate the finished church. The complete schedule of services, which begin tomorrow evening at 6 pm, may be consulted at the website http://www.sainteliasconsecration.com/. The main ceremony takes place on Saturday, October 1st, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; this is also the day of an especially lovely Byzantine feast called The Protection of the All-Holy Mother of God. If you are anywhere near the area, you should certainly attend the ceremony if at all possible. St Elias has and deserves a reputation as a place where the Byzantine liturgy is cultivated in the fullness of its richness and beauty, and this will be a truly unique opportunity to witness a ceremony of even-greater-than-usual magnificence.

    If you cannot attend the ceremony, you can still watch it on a Youtube live-stream at the following address:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/oleniatko/live.

    The finished church can be seen on the outside in this video.



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    Saint Cecilia, presumably after a long weekend of music making at her parish,
    as scuplted by Stefano Maderno (Church of St. Cecilia, Rome)
    Each profession has its unique delights, drawbacks, and dangers. Teachers work exceptionally long hours during the year and deal with challenging situations, but enjoy ten weeks of uninterrupted summer vacation. Dentists can keep regular hours, but must deal with the painful intricacies of our teeth and mouths. Park rangers spend days enjoying natural wonders and wilderness, but may miss out on the companionship and stability of family and society. In some professions, workers are paid for risk, handling hazardous materials or managing dangerous situations. So, then, what are the unique challenges of Catholic Liturgical Music as a profession? And beyond "whining" about problems, are there solutions? Be sure to read to the end!

    Let’s start with the unique professional challenges:

    1. Generally speaking, the Catholic Church does not take into account experience and seniority for its musicians. If you stay in a parish for five years, ten years, or fifteen years, the parish budget will remain constant, and most likely, so will your salary. If you need better healthcare or a stronger salary to support your family, you will need to find a new job at a larger parish. There are no “senior music directors,” only music directors with more responsibility in larger parishes. This introduces a measure of instability to your career path, and also means you will sometimes need to leave lots of good work and friendships behind in order to provide for your family. These transitions are never easy, and most likely, your employer and parishioners will not understand your situation.

    2. Wider disagreements and resulting instability surrounding liturgy and music can destroy years of work overnight, especially during a change of leadership. It takes a decade to build a good choir program and a day to destroy it. Be prepared for some disappointments.

    3. Hiring practices vary widely from diocese to diocese and parish to parish. Even though the Catholic Church may seem like a large, modern corporation, in reality it runs like a medieval fiefdom. Young, inexperienced, and under-qualified musicians are sometimes appointed overnight to responsible and significant posts without a public job posting or search process, simply because they were the first ones willing to quit their current position and fill the vacancy. Inside hires are unfortunately quite common. While this manner of hiring may seem expedient to the pastor, it has a widespread demoralizing effect that extends well beyond the local church or diocese. It does little to foster musical excellence, loyalty, or stability. Granted, the show must go on, and parishes don’t have resources or time to mount a national search; but nonetheless, be prepared in this profession to feel discouraged and occasionally scandalized by a general lack of respect and professionalism surrounding hiring practices.

    4. There's no senior executive “in your corner,” looking out for you and your career and thinking about how to help you grow, stick with it, and be successful in the long haul. There's rarely even someone looking at parish music and musicians from the diocesan perspective. If you expect a clear career path, with a step up the ladder every few years directly correlated to your education and experience, you’re set for disappointment.

    5. Even in large parishes, most positions advertised today are calling for "bachelors degree in music" and "two to five years experience." In other words, your work will be considered entry level by your employers in most positions-- even if, frankly, it's not entry level, and you have years of experience, advanced degrees, and many other qualifications that are prerequisite for the successful implementation of the parish music program as defined in the job posting.

    6. Your busiest times of year will be holidays like Christmas and Easter, when your family will inevitably miss you during dinners, family traditions, and gatherings at home. While most families understand and visits can happen at other times of the year, nonetheless holidays are special and you will likely miss significant portions of them due to work responsibilities.

    Let’s also identify some common spiritual dangers:

    1. Often a liturgical musician will hear the same homily and readings several times in a weekend. Poorly executed jokes, theological blunders, carelessness, clichés, emotions on cue, and generally speaking any repeated bumps in the road can make it easy to miss the substance.

    2. Your musical literacy will always be higher than your congregation's, provided there aren't any disgruntled former music directors attending Mass at your parish! This musical ability is the reason they hired you--and hopefully a good measure of people skills, pastoral sense, and authentic spirituality! Understandably, congregational music needs to be approachable by the average parishioner. “Approachable,” however, can easily begin to feel cliché. Once you notice that “Sing to the Mountains” sounds just like the Indiana Jones soundtrack, or that “On Eagles Wings” uses chord progressions very similar to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album (close enough that they are interchangeable, measure for measure), or that Dan Schutte’s Mass of Christ the Savior is based on the My Little Ponies theme song, you can’t ignore it. Even good quality music can begin to feel worn out through repetition. I once worked for a pastor whose singing voice sounded just like Paul Simon. As much as I like both Paul Simon and the priest, I couldn't get the thought out of my head; and even when the priest was singing fluently and beautifully using complex ancient tones, I found myself chuckling, "methinks Paul Simon is chanting the preface today." Even in the best of circumstances, it can be easy to forget to pray. I don’t mean this as open criticism of popular Catholic songs or pastors with voices like Paul Simon. Rather, I confess that “familiarity breeds contempt.” This can happen especially when you feel you have capacity to offer better, when you want your prayers to be sincere and your music to be excellent. This can affect your morale, your feeling of personal investment and enjoyment, and even your prayers.

    3. Your pastor is your boss, but he may also want to be your spiritual father. This is often a dangerous conflict of interests. As Catholic liturgical musicians, we need pastoral care, but we generally should seek it outside of our workplace. Just as a nurse wouldn’t seek medical care from the physician who offers him or her employment, we too seek pastoral care outside of our workplace. Pastors can find this confusing and even hurtful, that we don’t find complete spiritual fulfillment “in house.” It can be even more confusing if you seek spiritual nourishment in another parish which adheres to different liturgical practice than your workplace. Nonetheless, it's important to rest and to take care of your soul, and attending Mass at another parish for this purpose does not indicate any disloyalty to your pastor/employer or even a problem with your professional relationship.

    4. In some circles, further study in music and theology (in other words, further job training) is not supported, and may even be met with suspicion. After all, if you rediscover the glories of the Renaissance or read Church Fathers, you may develop an appetite for things that don’t match well with current popular ecclesiology and pastoral practice. Pastors generally don’t want to make time to revisit these questions, and therefore they will usually not encourage you, financially or otherwise, to pursue further study. This can leave you feeling confused and miffed. Why is this incredible stuff from our Catholic heritage off-limits? “Formation is for priests,” we are told, or “that’s old church stuff.” None of the responses you will hear in this regard will actually address the substance. There are, of course, some notable exceptions, but by and large further job training will be at your own expense.

    Are there solutions? I could suggest that Catholic liturgical musicians simply pray more, or “get over it.” Prayer is always good, but prayer and action is better. There are solutions! So I will be bold and speak plainly:

    From the diocesan level all the way down to the parishes, we need standard hiring procedures for musicians that take into account experience, education, and qualifications. When hiring, larger parishes, basilicas, and cathedrals should not be seeking candidates with entry-level qualifications, but rather should seek candidates with ten or more years of proven experience, with masters or terminal degrees in music, and with evidence of substantial study of theology and sacred liturgy. After hiring, dioceses should consider strategies to retain qualified musicians and build trust and loyalty, including funded opportunities to pursue further formation and qualifications. Whether hiring or not, dioceses should offer pastoral care and formation specifically for their musicians, through workshops, retreats, and perhaps even a designated diocesan chaplain for parish musicians. Healthy spirituality and musical excellence are both essential. How is your diocese charting a path towards musical and liturgical literacy in all its members, and encouraging a lifetime of learning and dedication among parish musicians?

    Bishops locally and bishops collectively (USCCB) should take the question of musicians and music selections more seriously. In addition to proper hiring practices, adequate consideration and oversight is needed for music resources. Lots of hymnals, psalm books, choral octavos, etc. are available, but what is being done in terms of quality control? Is the market driving our theology and liturgical practice, or are we being faithful to the gospel and offering our musical best? As parish musicians, we know that bishops allow a certain subsidiarity and flexibility for local customs, but even some occasional suggestions for improvement would help us know that our work is important to you and we are on the right track (or perhaps the wrong one; we can discuss that possibility, too).

    Pastors and parish priests, you can help your musicians first of all by offering a liturgy obedient to the rite and free of “isms” and clichés. If you have a "signature style" of saying Mass which is different than the Roman Rite as outlined in the Missal, you can be certain it will wear thin rather quickly. The days of “the Lord IS with You,” "Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer," and other such innovations have long passed, and the faithful everywhere are saying “Thanks be to God.” Nobody misses these sorts of quirks, tics, improvisations, and aberrations, no matter how sincere or heartfelt they might have been at one time.  All true evangelism is rooted in the words of St. John the Baptist, "He must increase, I must decrease" (John 3:30), and accordingly we follow the rite and smooth out bumps in our liturgy so that Jesus can be the focus. A priest's faithful, devout, prayerful, and reverent celebration of the Mass is itself a sacramental (small "s") for the faithful and the skeptic observer alike. It draws us in and communicates the value and sanctity of the actions.  For the priest himself, reverence and obedience to the rite are the only way to be so grounded in Jesus Christ, so peacefully and strongly at rest in God, that the priest himself can also participate in the liturgy as a fellow worshipper and student in the school of grace. Trust God to act. This is not an insignificant detail. If there are aspects of the liturgy that regularly don't go smoothly or need more preparation, let's "prepare the way for the Lord, making straight his ways," so that minor details don't detract from our focus on Jesus. Usually all it takes is some advance planning and effort. We can do it.

    Parish musicians, encourage one another! Experienced and trained musicians, be mentors! Share your resources and skills with the wider diocese, through workshops and friendships. Encourage collaboration, not competition; invite neighboring choirs to join your parish choir for feast days (with lots of advance preparation) and choose the best music within your reach. Be a professional. Put aside all gossip, shifting alliances, teams, and unhealthy rivalry. Every parish can have great music, not just yours. Share and help each other. Welcome newcomers. Invite even your rivals and enemies (hopefully you have none) to your workshops and events. Look for solutions, not problems; and seek opportunities for improvement, no matter how small. And don't forget to be honest and even assertive if there are problems.

    Lastly, dear fellow parish musician, the most important solution is one you can offer to yourself: don’t forget to pray, even if it means attending your fifth or sixth mass for the weekend. At this last Mass, pray quietly and don’t help with the music. I find that a quiet Mass with no music is just the ticket at the end of a busy weekend. It helps me reconnect with God, whose love and generosity are the reason I got into sacred music in the first place. In my prayer at this last Mass, I release each challenge and success of my work to God, and then I go home and have dinner with my wife and family.

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    We continue with the second part of a paper by Fr Peter Stravinskas, originally delivered at the CIEL conference in Paris in 2003. The first part examined the question of how the famous words “actuosa participatio” in Sacrosanctum Concilium were originally meant to understood; this second part continues with its treatment after the liturgical reform, and particularly, the continued emphasis on interior disposition.  Our thanks once again to Fr Stravinskas for allowing us to reprint the article here on NLM.

    Taking on the rearing of iconoclasm’s ugly head in modern guise, Paul VI addressed the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Art on 17 December 1969. Therein, he rehearsed Church teaching on sacred art, revisiting Nicaea II, Trent and Vatican II:
    Their (sacred images’) purpose is to raise the spirit beyond the figure to what the figure stands for. . . . The Church entrusts art with a mediating role, analogous, we might say, to the role of the priest or, perhaps better, to that of Jacob’s ladder descending and ascending. . . . The Liturgy superbly fulfills this (artistic) vocation in both beauty of form and profundity of content. . . . The alliance between art and the life of religion will also succeed in giving again to the Church, the Bride of Christ, a voice that love inspires and that inspires love. . . . As always, we must begin with the education of the person.
    The Holy Father reflects a strong incarnational sense here, seeing beauty as bearing a meaning beyond its own objective value. Once more, he connects liturgical significance to “the education of the person.”

    Cardinal Villot picked up that theme in comments made to the Italian bishops’ committee on the liturgy for the 21st Italian Liturgical Week (4 September 1970): “There is cause for comfort in the increased measures to bring about a deeper knowledge of the Liturgy and an ever more intelligent, active, and personal participation by the faithful in the rites of the Church.” Was this his honest appraisal of the situation or wishful thinking? It is hard to tell, but there is no mistaking the linking of proper catechesis to any true actuosa participatio.

    The Sacred Congregation for the Clergy presented the Church with the landmark General Catechetical Directory on 11 April 1971. In tackling our theme, we find that catechists ought to be engaged in “forming the minds of the faithful for prayers, for thanksgiving, for repentance, for prayers with confidence, for a community spirit, and for understanding correctly the meaning of the creeds. All these things are necessary for a true liturgical life.”

    In a general audience on 22 August 1973, Paul VI spoke about the preservation of “Latin, Gregorian chant,” and prayed, “May that be God’s will.” He linked this intention up to full liturgical participation.

    The ill-advised Directory for Masses with Children made its début on 1 November 1973, but even there we find this salutary reminder: “In all this, it should be kept in mind that external activities will be fruitless and even harmful if they do not serve the internal participation of the children. Thus religious silence has its importance even in Masses with children. The children should not be allowed to forget that all the forms of participation reach their high point in eucharistic communion, when the Body and Blood of Christ are received as spiritual nourishment” (n. 22). Then quoting the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 23, it repeats: “Even in Masses with children, ‘silence should be observed at the designated times as part of the celebration,’ lest too great a place be given to external action. In their own way, children are genuinely capable of reflection” (n. 37).

    Iubilate Deo, which provided a basic repertoire of Latin chants and hymns deemed essential for every parish community, was promulgated on 11 April 1974; this document was presented to the whole Church as a way of implementing Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 54, “that the voice of the faithful be heard in both Gregorian chant and vernacular singing.” The musical dimension was hit upon again by Cardinal Villot in an address to the 21st National Congress on Sacred Music (13 September 1974): “All the parts of the Mass are in themselves already a form of evangelization, because they revivify faith and transform into adoration. But in singing and music, the parts of the Mass can find a powerful and expressive way to foster the participation of the faithful.” Noteworthy, too, are the references to evangelization and adoration.

    In a general audience on 26 March 1975, Pope Paul returns to our theme, this time relying on both Scripture and St. Thomas Aquinas:
    But there is an essential difference in the liturgical drama. . . . In contrast, the liturgical drama not only brings to mind again Christ's deeds but reactualizes His salvific action (see ST 3a , 56.1 and 3); . . . as He is the always active source of our salvation. . . . In any believer who participates in the Liturgy there is no sense of remoteness or of being on the outside. Consequently, in celebrating the Paschal Mystery, the believer is taken into and overcome by the dramatic power of the “hour” of Christ, “my hour” as he called it.
    Later that year (6 August 1975), exactly three years before his death, the Holy Father gave a very fully developed appreciation of what is entailed in liturgical participation:
    The Liturgy is a communion of minds, prayers, voices, agape or charity. Passive presence is not enough; participation is required. The people must see in the Liturgy a school for listening and learning, a sacred celebration presented and guided by the priest, but in which, as a gathering of hearts and voices, they join by their response, their offerings, their prayers. . . . Remember that Liturgy is believing, praising in song, alive to earthly experience, on pilgrimage toward the celebration of the eternal revelation.
    Finally, on 6 June 1976, Paul VI sent a message to the bishops of the United States, commemorating the bicentennial of the nation. He urged the bishops to bring their people “to a deeper realization of the centrality of the Eucharist in their lives and of their need to participate therein,” and “to a profound sense of reverence for the eucharistic mystery.” He recalled for priests “their special duty: sancta sancte tractanda.” This dimension of worship, he said, is connected to “the very holiness of God, of Jesus Christ, (which) demands reverence and profound respect.”

    Three years later (4 October 1979), Pope St John Paul II, during his first pastoral visit to the United States, reminded priests in Philadelphia that “all our pastoral endeavors are incomplete until our people are led to the full and active participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. . . .” Throughout his pontificate, the Holy Father underscored numerous elements of what he understands by “full and active participation.” To cite them individually would be nearly impossible and would overload the circuit unnecessarily, especially since they reiterate the very elements presented by the Magisterium of the 20th century.

    What is interesting, however, is to look up the topic of participation in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The references deal with how we participate in the Lord’s Paschal Mystery (e.g., nn. 618, 654, 668, 1006). The Catechism links our participation in a definitive manner to the Sacred Liturgy, especially the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Eucharist. We are taught that “grace is a participation in the life of God. It introduces us into the intimacy of Trinitarian life: by Baptism the Christian participates in the grace of Christ” (n. 1997, emphasis in the original). This grace likewise brings about our “participation. . . in Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet and King,” particularly through Baptism and Confirmation (n. 1546). We also learn that Baptism confers “the sacramental character that consecrates (us) for Christian religious worship.” It goes on to speak of how this “enables and commits Christians to serve God by a vital participation in the holy Liturgy of the Church and to exercise their baptismal priesthood by the witness of holy lives and practical charity” (n. 1273). All this is brought to its culmination in the Eucharistic Sacrifice: “This ‘how’ exceeds our imagination and understanding; it is accessible only to faith. Yet our participation in the Eucharist already gives us a foretaste of Christ’s transfiguration of our bodies” (n. 1000). How is this so? Because “the Liturgy is also a participation in Christ’s own prayer addressed to the Father in the Holy Spirit. In the Liturgy, all Christian prayer finds its source and goal. Through the Liturgy the inner man is rooted and grounded in ‘the great love with which (the Father) loved us’ in His beloved Son” (n. 1073). An awareness of Christ’s unique presence in the Eucharist “moves us to an ever more complete participation in our Redeemer’s sacrifice which we celebrate in the Eucharist” (n. 1372).

    We should notice, therefore, how all our attention is focused on interior dispositions, rather than merely external postures, gestures and other such activities (as important as these are for body-soul unities to worship). Why might this emphasis be given? I venture to say that the experience of two decades of liturgical confusion and frenzy caused the editors of the Catechism to attempt to balance the matter in favor of fundamental truths that had been lost in the post-conciliar shuffle – at least at the practical level or lived experience of the average person in the pew.

    For several years, Angelo Cardinal Sodano sent letters to the annual liturgical conferences in Italy, which in later years took a decided cautionary turn. And so, we read the following sent on 2 August 2001:
    . . . it is necessary to keep in mind the particular nature of the Sacred Liturgy. As the Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium of the Second Vatican Council explained, “every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the Priest and of His Body, which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others. No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree” (n. 7).
    He continues:
    According to the famous statement, used for the first time by the Magisterium in the motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini (22 November 1903) of Pope St. Pius X, the Constitution on the Liturgy desires: “that all the faithful be guided to that full, conscious and active participation in the liturgical celebrations, which is required by the very nature of the Liturgy” (n. 14). Today this participatio actuosa (active participation) of the faithful is sometimes reduced to their performing some liturgical ministry. However, the Council wishes to invite all believers to take part, consciously and actively, in the liturgical prayer itself, by offering to God the sacrifice of praise and adoring Him “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:23).
    Once more, the interior dimension is highlighted.

    Surely we cannot ignore Holy Thursday of 2003, when Pope John Paul II promulgated Ecclesia de Eucharistia on the silver jubilee of his accession to the Chair of Peter. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the entire encyclical can be viewed as an essay on the meaning of genuine participatio actuosa. He mentions three serious obstacles to full, conscious and active participation: liturgical abuses (n. 10); lack of full ecclesial communion, both visible and invisible (n. 35f); the presence of grave sin in a participant (n. 37). All of Chapter Five is devoted to “the dignity of the eucharistic celebration” as he considers how the interior and external aspects of Christian worship should interact, including art, music, architecture and liturgical discipline. It was in reference to that last item – liturgical discipline – that the Holy Father took the occasion to announce the preparation of a “juridical” document confront the abuses which have marred the life of the post-conciliar Church. In a powerful line, he declares: “No one is permitted to undervalue the mystery entrusted to our hands. It is too great for anyone to feel free to treat it lightly and with disregard for its sacredness and universality” (n. 52).

    At the end of his encyclical, we hear echoes of the words he spoke to the priests in Philadelphia at the beginning of his pontificate:
    Every commitment to holiness, every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination. In the Eucharist, we have Jesus, we have His redemptive Sacrifice, we have His Resurrection, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, we have adoration, obedience and love of the Father. Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency? (n. 60)
    And then comes the clarion call to live the mystery of the Eucharist in all its fullness:
    The mystery of the Eucharist – sacrifice, presence, banquet – does not allow for reduction or exploitation; it must be experienced and lived in its integrity, both in its celebration and in the intimate converse with Jesus which takes place after receiving Communion or in a prayerful moment of eucharistic adoration apart from Mass. These are times when the Church is firmly built up and it becomes clear what she truly is: one, holy, catholic and apostolic; the people, temple and family of God; the Body and Bride of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit; the universal sacrament of salvation and a hierarchically structured communion. (n. 61, emphasis in original)
    Finally, he takes on the pernicious dichotomy between the head and the heart introduced by the Enlightenment (1), following Blaise Pascal’s trenchant observation, “The heart has reason that reason knows not.” “If, in the presence of this mystery,” he says, “reason experiences its limits, the heart, enlivened by the grace of the Holy Spirit, clearly sees the response that is demanded, and bows low in adoration and unbounded love.” He then turns to St. Thomas Aquinas, whom he describes as “an eminent theologian and an impassioned poet of Christ in the Eucharist,” urging us to “turn in hope to the contemplation of that goal to which our hearts aspire in their thirst for joy and peace” (n. 62).

    Participatio Actuosa: A Synthesis and a Re-direction

    On October 8, 2033, Francis Cardinal Arinze, in his capacity as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, addressed the national meeting of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions in San Antonio, Texas. I think he admirably summarized the picture I have been trying to sketch when he asserted, “It is important that the internal aspect of participation is indispensable as a basis, a requirement and the aim of all external participation. That is why personal prayer, scriptural meditation and moments of silence are necessary.” And even more to the point: “A sense of reverence and devotion is conducive to interiorized active participation.”

    The Reverend Michael R. Carey, O.P., offers a succinct explanation of the terms of the debate and excoriates what he calls “liturgical activism.” He maintains that our participation “is conscious in that it engages the rational part of our soul – mind and heart. It is active in that it also engages our body. But the main point is that it must not be merely active, but full.” Good Dominican that he is, he expands on the question, relying on the Angelic Doctor:
    So, a first principle of active participation is that whatever we do bodily should be a sign of what ought to be happening in our souls. For this, we have to look to what we are doing and to the words we are praying. Are we listening to the Word of God? Then it is appropriate to sit. Are we humbly beseeching God? Then it is appropriate to kneel. Are we contemplating after Holy Communion the Lord we have just received? Then it is appropriate that we close our eyes and bow our heads in silent prayer.
    He seals his argument in this fashion: “External acts which inhibit or contradict the natural movements of the soul in prayer are simply wrong, and will instinctively be felt to be wrong.” (2)

    As I read that last line, I was reminded of a conversation I had with a Sister who informed me she had just finished preparing her second-graders for their First Holy Communion. I said she must be thrilled and proud. She replied, with great sadness in her face and in her voice: “Father, I have taught them everything the Church wants them to know and believe about the Holy Eucharist, but I just have the impression that they do not believe what I believed at their age.” I then asked her about eucharistic practices in her parish. Like most parishes in the West, just about anyone distributes Holy Communion to anyone in any position and in any degree of disposition. Until those situations are dealt with, I told the nun, her children will never be able to believe what she believed and, hopefully, still does believe. Why? Because our praxis is under-cutting our theology. The interior participation is not allowed to flower because of external modes of participation which are problematic.

    What, then, is the image of participatio actuosa with which to conclude? That of another Dominican, Colman E. O’Neill. More than three decades ago, he offered the following definition:
    (It is) that form of devout involvement in the liturgical action which, in the present conditions of the Church, best promotes the exercise of the common priesthood of the baptized; that is, their power to offer the Sacrifice of the Mass with Christ and to receive the sacraments. It is clear that, concretely, this requires that the faithful understand the liturgical ceremonial; that they take part in it by bodily movements, standing, kneeling or sitting as the occasion may demand; that they join vocally in the parts which are intended for them. It also requires that they listen to, and understand, the Liturgy of the Word. It requires, too, that there be moments of silence when the impact of the whole ceremonial may be absorbed and deeply personalized. (3)
    What has been suggested by Father O’Neill is no more and no less than what Aristotle would have referred to as a “catharsis,” namely, that a would-be spectator so enters into the dramatic action that he becomes a participant. And I think the word we have been searching for is not “active” but “actual.” To illustrate the validity of this suggestion, let me finish with this scenario.

    You have decided to go to the opera for Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. You have paid your hundred dollars or euros and have a superb seat. The orchestra is outstanding. The sets are splendid. The performances are stellar. You are so drawn into the action that you completely identify with the protagonist, experiencing all the emotions the composer envisioned. In short, by the end of the work, you have run out of handkerchiefs and tissues. The only drawback, however, is that you did not get up on the stage and sing the final, heart-tugging aria yourself. I ask you: Did you have a genuine experience of catharsis in the Aristotelian sense? Was it an example of participatio actuosa? I believe it was. Was it “active” participation? I think not. What was it, then? I submit it was that form of real participation which we should call “actual.” And that, I further submit, is the kind of participation the post-conciliar Magisterium has had in mind. May it become a reality in our day.

    Footnotes:
    (1) For a fine discussion of this problem and for some healthy remedies, see: Stratford Caldecott, “The Heart’s Language: Toward a Liturgical Anthropology, Antiphon, 2001 [Number Two].
    (2) “Active Participation Again,” The Priest, July 2003, 32.
    (3) “The Theological Meaning of Actuosa Participatio in the Liturgy,” in Sacred Music and Liturgy Reform after Vatican II. Rome: Consociatio Internationalis Musicæ Sacræ, 1969, 105.

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    The church of St Joachim in Madera, California, (401 West 5th St) will hold an EF Solemn High Mass, this coming Monday, October 3rd, for the feast of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus, patroness of the Diocese of Fresno. The Fresno Traditional Mass Society will be assisting in the preparations; the Mass begins at 6 p.m. This is the first Solemn Mass held in the church since since the post-Conciliar reforms were instituted.


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  • 10/01/16--09:39: St Jerome and Caravaggio
  • Yesterday was the birthday of the famous early Baroque painter Michelangelo Merisi, who was born in Milan in 1571, and named for the Saint of the day. “Michelangelo” is a fairly common name in Italy, and he shares it with more than one artist of the same century, of whom the most famous by far bore the last name Buonarroti. The young Merisi would discover this to be a problem for his career when he came to Rome in 1592 at the age of 21, less than 30 years after the death of the painter of the Sistine Chapel, sculptor of the Pietà, and architect of St Peter’s; to set himself apart, he used the name of the village where his parents had been born, Caravaggio.

    Today, he is without question one of the most admired painters of his era; between 2000 and 2010, there were five major shows dedicated to him in the city of Rome, where many of his works can be seen in various churches and museums. In his own lifetime, while certainly successful, and very influential on other painters, he was also a controversial figure, for reasons which are far more interesting that the silly anti-clerical fantasies of certain modern writers. His life can most charitably be described as disordered, but was rarely described charitably by his contemporaries; the introduction of the Wikipedia article on him states with clever restraint that “he handled his success poorly.”

    More than one of his paintings was rejected after completion. The best-known of these, the Madonna dei Palafrienieri (“of the grooms” of the Papal court), was first displayed in St Peter’s, but soon moved to the parish church of the Vatican, dedicated to St Anne, and thence to the private collection of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.


    Ss Joachim and Anne were traditionally held to have been childless for many years when they conceived the Virgin Mary by a special grace; therefore, by the time Mary herself was the mother of a toddler, Anne would be very old indeed. Caravaggio, who believed intensely in the use of radical naturalism and realism in his works, paints her as a very old woman, whose face has none of the sweetness one might expect an Italian (of all peoples) to show in the face of Jesus’ grandma. Much more importantly, the whole orientation of the painting, the lines and the sweep of the light, sends the eye downwards; this, and the intense darkness of the background, are wholly out of keeping with the architectural spirit of the churches in which it was only very briefly displayed, both of them bright spaces with bright domes that lift the eye up to heaven.

    It is perhaps no more than a coincidence, but a very interesting one, that Caravaggio did three fairly similar paintings of the Saint whose name he would perhaps have received if he had been born only one day later. I suspect Jerome was a figure with whom he must have felt a strong affinity. The great project of this Doctor of the Church, to produce a fresh translation of the Bible from the “truth of the Hebrew text (Hebraica veritas)”, as he often called it, was as controversial in the late 4th century as Caravaggio’s work would be 12 centuries later. In his prologues to the various books, St Jerome complains frequently of those who ignorantly criticize him for “changing the Bible”, not realizing how much and how often the older Latin and Greek versions had themselves been changed. In the prologue to Ezra and Nehemiah, he even pleads with the people he was sending it to not to circulate it publicly, lest it stir up further hatred against him. (This is, of course, a purely rhetorical plea from a master polemicist who knows full well that his work will be widely circulated and in the end vindicated.) In a similar vein, Caravaggio was once called “that Milanese fellow who wants to destroy the art of painting.”

    The most famous of the three is the one now displayed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, directly across the room from the Madonna dei Palafrenieri.


    It is possible that Scipione Borghese commissioned this shortly after becoming a cardinal in 1605. Jerome had served for a time as the secretary of Pope St Damasus I, and is therefore traditionally depicted as a cardinal, which the contemporary Pope’s secretary would normally be. In addition to a host of other roles, Card. Borghese was made Secretary for Apostolic Briefs, the equivalent of Jerome’s position, by his uncle, Pope Paul V.

    Caravaggio was trained in youth as a still-life painter, and never really learned to paint as anything else. He was completely dependent on models, and this accounts for some of the flaws in his work. The Counter-Reformation period laid heavy emphasis on the fact that St Jerome was not merely a learned man, but a monk, a response to the Protestants’ misuse of his learning in support of their theological innovations. His robes are therefore opened to show his body emaciated by an ascetic life of the kind rejected by the early Protestants. (This will become the standard way of representing him for the rest of the 17th century.) The anatomy of Jerome’s chest in this painting is not so much incorrect as absent; the elderly model simply cannot stay in that odd position long enough for Caravaggio to paint him properly. On the other hand, the figure on the left, whose model is long past feeling fatigue, shows no distortion at all.

    One may also imagine how the featureless black background appeared to those who were used to seeing St Jerome in a rather more cluttered study. This version by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo’s painting teacher, is typical. (From the church of All Saints in Florence, 1480)


    His other two paintings of St Jerome are less well known than that of the famous Borghese Gallery, but in point of fact both done rather more precisely. One of them, St Jerome in Meditation, is thought to be contemporary to the Borghese one, and commissioned for another Cardinal, Benedetto Giustiniani; it is now at the Museum of the Abbey of Montserrat.


    The same model is used as in the Borghese painting; for an artist who is wholly dependent on the use of models, it is easier to learn a face and use it repeatedly than to constantly learn new faces, and there are several models who appear in more than work by Caravaggio. The less strained position has given the artist time to paint a much better figure in regards to anatomy; the background is now completely featureless, bringing Jerome the ascetic to the fore, with no hint of Jerome the scholar.

    The other dates from two years later, when Caravaggio had gone to Malta to work under the patronage of the Knights of Malta, and is kept in the cathedral of St John in Valletta.


    Here the various traditions for representing St Jerome are finely balanced. The scholar writes at his table, but the crucifix and skull show us that he is also a monastic and a contemplative. The table itself, which is almost sticking out at the viewer, the section of a wall on the right, and especially the wall on the left where the galero hangs, create a much more realistic sense of space. (The galero also reminds us, against the idea of a “Protestant” Jerome, of his close association with the Papacy.) Most notably, the radical chiaroscuro of the earlier paintings is considerably tempered by the lighter background; it is a far less showy painting which speaks of an artist who is maturing.

    Caravaggio is today known by many for the shocking realism of some of his works, such as the very bloody “Judith Decapitating Holofernes” in the Barberini Gallery in Rome, or the “Martyrdom of St Ursula”, which captures the very moment at which she is shot in the chest with an arrow. It is probably fair to say that is what makes him so appealing to modern tastes, just as it made him widely detested in the 19th century. (One English guide book of Rome which was well-known in that era did not mention his “Madonna of Loreto” in its description of the church of St Augustine.) And yet it is in the painting of an elderly man quietly working in his study, or alone in silent contemplation, that we see this maturation taking place.

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    Have you ever wanted a two-page handout with great quotations on various liturgical “hot topics”? Something you could use at a youth group or Juventutem gathering, an RCIA meeting or adult formation, parish council meetings, theology classes, or just to hand out to friends and acquaintances? Today, in spite of (or perhaps because of) an enormous glut of online information, people are surprisingly ignorant of fundamental points.

    Enter the 1- or 2-page Quotation Sheet. As a teacher, I often need a simple, effective way to introduce important questions in settings where Catholics come together to learn more about their faith, in a way that is not excessively time-consuming. When quotations on key subjects are chosen well, they can serve as the sparks needed to get the fire kindled.

    Having created several such teaching resources, I would like to share them now with readers of NLM. I will make them available in several formats below: as plain Word documents; as the PDFs of those Word documents; and as ready-made double-sided trifold brochures with graphics (you just fold the sheet until it looks like a proper brochure with a cover on top). The last option will only work if you are using American Letter-sized paper (8.5 x 11 inches). For those who wish to adapt to other size paper, I recommend downloading the Word documents. Feel free to use these in any way you wish; there is nothing proprietary about them.

    The ones completed so far are:

    Liturgical Tradition and the New Evangelization

    1. Word doc
    2. PDF
    3. Trifold brochure

    On the Traditional Latin Mass

    1. Word doc
    2. PDF
    3. Trifold brochure

    On Worship and the Transcendent

    1. Word doc
    2. PDF
    [3. Brochure not available]

    On Gregorian Chant

    1. Word doc
    2. PDF
    3. Trifold brochure

    On Musical Instruments and Styles

    1. Word doc
    2. PDF
    3. Trifold brochure

    I believe that many more such Quotation Sheets need to be created — e.g., on veiling, on ad orientem, on the importance of High Mass — but I’ll start with what I have. If anyone has any topics or texts to suggest, please add a comment below or write to me directly.

    I am convinced we should be offering a whole range of such brochures, which could even be put into pamphlet racks in foyers or parish centers. We supporters and promoters of a "new liturgical movement" do not always do such a great job explaining the Catholic tradition to curious newcomers or hard-boiled skeptics, and part of the reason for this, at least in my experience, is the lack of adequate handy materials to serve as a basis for conversation.


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    This past Saturday, His Beatitude Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church, consecrated the church of St Elias the Prophet in Brampton, Ontario, just over 2½ years after the earlier structure was destroyed by fire. Videos of this marvelous event are now available; the first contains 35 minutes of highlights, the second is the complete 4- hour long ceremony, which includes both the consecration and the Divine Liturgy that followed. I have also included below a video of the candelit night vigil celebrated the evening before the consecration. As is always the case with St Elias, the music is particularly good!

    At 2:19:00 in the longer video, Archbishop Shevchuk preaches a very beautiful sermon on the rite of the consecration of a church: “You saw that at the beginning of the consecration service, the bishop is supposed to pray a special long prayer, invoking the Holy Spirit, facing the people. Not facing the altar, which was not consecrated yet. Not the sanctuary, but the people. Why? Because our church was not yet consecrated. Only you were living temples of the Holy Spirit. Facing to you, with the one Holy Trinity who lives in your hearts and in your souls.”

    The clergy and faithful of St Elias labor mightily to promote knowledge and love of the great Byzantine liturgical tradition. Our heartiest congratulations to the community for the success (and rapidity) of their rebuilding project, and our prayers that their mission continue На многая і благая літа!! (for many blessed years)



    The night vigil


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    Robert Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, recently gave an interview to the French newspaper La Nef, regarding his new book La Force du silence (The Strength of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise). In it, His Eminence addresses a number of significant topics in the liturgical field, particularly the importance of silence in the liturgy, and the problems that result from the noisiness of so much modern liturgical practice. He also returns to the subject of worship ad orientem, and the proposal which he made this summer at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London to return to a much broader use of it.

    Catholic World Report yesterday published an English translation of the interview by Michael J. Miller, who also translated His Eminence’s book God or Nothing. Here are a few excerpts; as always, the Cardinal’s words are full of great wisdom, and well worth your time to read.

    La Nef: This book that you are offering to your readers is a veritable spiritual meditation on silence: why have you launched into such a profound reflection, which is not usually expected of a Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, who is in charge of dossiers that deal very concretely with the life of the Church?

    Cardinal Sarah: ... It is time to rediscover the true order of priorities. It is time to put God back at the center of our concerns, at the center of our actions and of our life: the only place that He should occupy. Thus, our Christian journey will be able to gravitate around this Rock, take shape in the light of the faith and be nourished in prayer, which is a moment of silent, intimate encounter in which a human being stands face to face with God to adore Him and to express his filial love for Him.

    Let us not fool ourselves. This is the truly urgent thing: to rediscover the sense of God. Now the Father allows Himself to be approached only in silence. What the Church needs most today is not an administrative reform, another pastoral program, a structural change. The program already exists: it is the one we have always had, drawn from the Gospel and from living Tradition. It is centered on Christ Himself, whom we must know, love and imitate in order to live in Him and through Him, to transform our world which is being degraded because human beings live as though God did not exist. As a priest, as a pastor, as a Prefect, as a Cardinal, my priority is to say that God alone can satisfy the human heart. ...

    La Nef: Is it still possible to understand the importance of silence in a world where noise, in all its forms, never ceases? Is this a new situation of “modernity”, with its media, TV, and internet, or has this noise always been a characteristic of the “world”?

    Cdl. Sarah: ...  The Christian owes it to himself not to be of the world. It is up to him to turn away from the noises of the world, from its rumors that run headlong in order to turn better toward what is essential: God.

    Our busy, ultra-technological age has made us even sicker. Noise has become like a drug on which our contemporaries are dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids looking oneself in the face and confronting the interior emptiness. It is a diabolical lie. The awakening can only be brutal.

    I am not afraid to call on all people of good will to enlist in a form of resistance. What will become of our world if it cannot find oases of silence? ...

    La Nef: What role to you assign to silence in our Latin liturgy? Where do you see it, and how do you reconcile silence and participation?

    Cdl. Sarah: Before God’s majesty, we lose our words. Who would dare to speak up before the Almighty? Saint John Paul II saw in silence the essence of any attitude of prayer, because this silence, laden with the adored presence, manifests “the humble acceptance of the creature’s limits vis-à-vis the infinite transcendence of a God who unceasingly reveals Himself as a God of love.” To refuse this silence filled with confident awe and adoration is to refuse God the freedom to capture us by His love and His presence. Sacred silence is therefore the place where we can encounter God, because we come to Him with the proper attitude of a human being who trembles and stands at a distance while hoping confidently. We priests must relearn the filial fear of God and the sacral character of our relations with Him. We must relearn to tremble with astonishment before the Holiness of God and the unprecedented grace of our priesthood. ...

    Indeed, it allows us to enter into participation in the mystery being celebrated. Vatican Council II stresses that silence is a privileged means of promoting the participation of the people of God in the liturgy. The Council Fathers intended to show what true liturgical participation is: entrance into the divine mystery. Under the pretext of making access to God easy, some wanted everything in the liturgy to be immediately intelligible, rational, horizontal and human. But in acting that way, we run the risk of reducing the sacred mystery to good feelings. Under the pretext of pedagogy, some priests indulge in endless commentaries that are flat-footed and mundane. Are these pastors afraid that silence in the presence of the Most High might disconcert the faithful? Do they think that the Holy Spirit is incapable of opening hearts to the divine Mysteries by pouring out on them the light of spiritual grace?

    La Nef: After your conference in London last July, you are returning to the topic of the orientation of the liturgy and wish to see it applied in our churches. Why is this so important to you, and how would you see this change implemented?

    Cdl. Sarah: Silence poses the problem of the essence of the liturgy. Now the liturgy is mystical. As long as we approach the liturgy with a noisy heart, it will have a superficial, human appearance. Liturgical silence is a radical and essential disposition; it is a conversion of heart. Now, to be converted, etymologically, is to turn back, to turn toward God. There is no true silence in the liturgy if we are not—with all our heart—turned toward the Lord. We must be converted, turn back to the Lord, in order to look at Him, contemplate His face, and fall at His feet to adore Him. We have an example: Mary Magdalene was able to recognize Jesus on Easter morning because she turned back toward Him: “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” “Haec cum dixisset, conversa est retrorsum et videt Jesus stantem. – Saying this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there” (Jn 20:13-14).

    How can we enter into this interior disposition except by turning physically, all together, priest and faithful, toward the Lord who comes, toward the East symbolized by the apse where the cross is enthroned?

    The outward orientation leads us to the interior orientation that it symbolizes. Since apostolic times, Christians have been familiar with this way of praying. It is not a matter of celebrating with one’s back to the people or facing them, but toward the East, ad Dominum, toward the Lord.

    This way of doing things promotes silence. Indeed, there is less of a temptation for the celebrant to monopolize the conversation. Facing the Lord, he is less tempted to become a professor who gives a lecture during the whole Mass, reducing the altar to a podium centered no longer on the cross but on the microphone! The priest must remember that he is only an instrument in Christ’s hands, that he must be quiet in order to make room for the Word, and that our human words are ridiculous compared to the one Eternal Word.

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  • 10/04/16--14:10: St Petronius of Bologna
  • Long before St Francis of Assisi was canonized in 1228, the city of Bologna kept the day which is now his feast on the general calendar, October 4, as the feast of St Petronius. He was born in the later part of the 4th century into a noble Roman family, and his father had held important offices in the imperial government. He was elected the 8th bishop of Bologna in about 432, and died around 18 years later; very little else is known of him. A medieval hagiographical life, composed on the occasion of the finding of his relics in 1141, supplies a great many legendary stories about him of the sort that have given something of a bad odor to the word “legendary.” Several of these stories are concerned with his role in obtaining various privileges for Bologna from his “relative”, the Emperor Theodosius II, among them, the establishment of the university which boasts of being the oldest in Europe. (More accurate history would place the foundation over six centuries later.)

    This statue of St Petronius on the Palazzo Comunale (city hall) in Piazza Maggiore was originally of Pope Gregory XIII (1571-85), after whom the Gregorian Calendar is named. A native of Bologna, he had studied law, both canon and civil (the famous “laurea utriusque”) at the university, which came into existence originally in the later 11th century specifically as a studium of canon law. During the Napoleonic invasion of Italy, the French government ordered the destruction of all public statues of the Popes; the Bolognesi hastily erected the inscription over the statue “St Petronius, Protector and Father” to save it, and wound up never changing it back.
    A statue of St Petronius at an intersection fairly close to the Piazza Maggiore, between the famous towers (the Garisenda on the left, and the Asinelli on the right), which are the two best-known landmarks and symbols of the city. They are the most prominent of the 24 medieval towers that survive in Bologna, which saw the construction of over a hundred of them in 12th and 13th centuries. The Garisenda was already leaning heavily by 1351, when it was cut down from almost 197 feet to 157½, but still declines 4 degrees off the perpendicular, slightly more than the more famous leaning tower of Pisa. 
    In the mid 13th-century, the city began to honor him as its principal patron, and in 1390, an enormous basilica titled to him was begun in the central piazza of the city. It is now the 6th largest church in Europe, far larger even than Bologna’s own cathedral. There are several famous churches in Italy which went for long periods with an unfinished façade, most notably among them, the cathedrals of Florence and Milan; St Petronius’ remains incomplete to this very day. (When I went was last in Bologna and took these pictures, there was a lot of scaffolding on the façade. so I nicked this photo of an old postcard from Wikimedia instead.)


    Each bay of the six bays of the church is about 62 feet long, for a total length of 433 feet; the building is about 197 feet wide, and over 145 high at the vault of the central nave, making it the largest brick Gothic church in the world.


    The baldachin was constructed in the mid 16th century by Jacopo Vignola, who succeeded Michelangelo as the chief architect of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 1564.


    The organ on the right side of the sanctuary (still commonly referred to as the organ “in cornu epistolae”) was built from 1471-75, and is the oldest functioning pipe organ in Italy.


    The chapel which preserves the relics of St Petronius’ head.


    The very  impressive relic chapel.




    The basilica also preserves the four crosses seen below, which according to tradition, were set up on ancient Roman columns by either St Ambrose or St Petronius outside the city walls, each near one of the gates; they were moved into the church in 1798, when both the walls and the small chapels that housed the crosses were destroyed. The first one seen below was dedicated to the Apostles, the second to the Holy Virgins, the third to all the Saints, and the fourth to the Martyrs. The attribution of the crosses to St Ambrose, whose see was the metropolitan see of all of northern Italy in the 4th century, including the territory of Bologna, fits nicely with the fact that Ambrose built in Milan churches at the four ends of the city which were similarly dedicated to the various orders of Saints, as a ring of protection around the city.






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    November 4-6, Petersham, Mass. 

    I have just been sent information about this 'vocations weekend' for men. The monastery chants the liturgy in Latin - seven Offices a day and daily Mass. It is a daughter house of a wonderful monastery in northern Scotland, Pluscarden, where I have stayed many times.



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