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    The daily bulletin of the Holy See’s Press Office for today includes news that the Holy Father has nominated several new Members of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, among them:
    - Domenico Sorrentino, the Archbishop of Assisi‑Nocera Umbra‑Gualdo Tadino, who served as Secretary of said Congregation from August of 2003 until November 2005
    - Piero Marini, titular Archbishop of Martirano and President of the Pontifical Commitee for International Eucharistic Congresses, also formerly the Papal Master of Ceremonies
    - Arthur Joseph Serratelli, Bishop of Paterson, New Jersey
    - Alan Stephen Hopes, Bishop of East Anglia, U.K.
    - Charles Morerod, Bishop of Lausanne, Geneva and Fribourg in Switzerland.

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    The Fall Conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, called You Are Beauty, will be held from November 10-12. To register and for more details go here.

    There is a long list of high-profile invited speakers, including my new favorite on the subject of beauty and culture (and a few other things besides!), Sir Roger Scruton, along with Mgr Timothy Verdon, Alasdair MacIntyre, Mary Ann Glendon, Elizabeth Lev, Dony McManus, and Etsuro Sotoo, sculptor of the Nativity Façade of the Sagrada Família Basilica, Barcelona, Spain.

    I will be attending, and am speaking at one of the panel sessions on the Saturday morning, so perhaps we’ll see some of you there!

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    In the Breviary of St. Pius V, the lives of the Apostles Simon and Jude are summed up in a single lesson of fewer than sixty words. It is noted that St. Simon was called “the Chananean, also the Zealot”; the term “Chananean” was thought by some of the Church Fathers to refer to Cana of Galilee, where the Lord turned water into wine, but it is simply a hellenization of the Hebrew word “qanna’i – zealous.” St. Thaddeus, more often called Jude, was the author of one of the seven Catholic Epistles. After the Ascension, the former went to evangelize Egypt, the latter to Mesopotamia; they later met in Persia, where they continued to preach the Gospel and were eventually martyred.

    The pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary, on the other hand, gives a much more elaborate account of their lives after the Lord’s Ascension. St. Simon is said to have preached the Gospel in many places, which are not specifically named. When St. James the Less was killed by King Herod in 44 A.D., Simon was chosen by the other Apostles to succeed him as bishop of Jerusalem. Having governed the mother church of Christianity for many years, and reached the age of one-hundred and twenty, he was tortured and crucified under the Emperor Trajan. In reality, these stories derive from the life of a different saint with a similar name, Symeon of Jerusalem, who is mentioned by Eusebius of Caesarea (ca. 260-340) in the third book of his Ecclesiastical History.
    Chapter 11. After the martyrdom of James and the conquest of Jerusalem … it is said that those of the Apostles and disciples of the Lord that were still living came together from all directions with those that were related to the Lord according to the flesh … to take counsel as to who was worthy to succeed James. They all with one consent pronounced Symeon, the son of Clopas, of whom the Gospel also makes mention, to be worthy of the episcopal throne … He was a cousin, as they say, of the Savior; for Hegesippus records that Clopas was a brother of Joseph.

    Chapter 32. (Citing Hegesippus again) Speaking of certain heretics, he adds that Symeon was accused by them at this time; and since it was clear that he was a Christian, he was tortured in various ways for many days, and astonished even the judge himself and his attendants in the highest degree, and finally he suffered a death similar to that of our Lord. But there is nothing like hearing the historian himself, who writes as follows: “Certain of these heretics brought accusation against Symeon, the son of Clopas, on the ground that he was a descendant of David and a Christian; and thus he suffered martyrdom, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, while Trajan was emperor and Atticus governor. … And after being tortured for many days he suffered martyrdom, and all, including even the proconsul, marveled that, at the age of one hundred and twenty years, he could endure so much. And orders were given that he should be crucified.”
    The Martyrdom of Saints Simon and Jude
    In his famous Golden Legend, Bl. Jacopo de Voragine writes that the confusion between Symeon of Jerusalem and the Apostle Simon was noted by Eusebius, St. Isidore and Bede the Venerable. In the Tridentine reform of the Breviary, therefore, the error was corrected; the story of St. Symeon of Jerusalem was detached from that of the Apostle, and he was given his own feast day on February 18.

    In each of the Synoptic Gospels, when the Evangelists give the names of the Twelve Apostles, Simon and Jude appear together at the end of the list, right before Judas Iscariot; Sts. Matthew (chapter 10) and Mark (chapter 3) give his name as Thaddeus, but St. Luke (chapter 6) calls him Jude. St. John does not give a list of the names of the Twelve, but recounts in chapter 14 that Jude “not the Iscariot” at the Last Supper asked Christ, “Lord, how is it, that thou wilt manifest thyself to us, and not to the world?” It with the name Thaddeus that he is mentioned in the Communicantes of the Roman Canon, and by this name he also came to be associated with one of the most beloved stories of the Christian tradition, the legend of King Abgar, and the painting of the Holy Face of Edessa.

    The Holy Face of Edessa, often called the Mandylion from the Syriac word for the cloth on which the image was made.
    As recorded by Eusebius in the Ecclesiastical History, (I. 13) King Abgar of Edessa suffered from an incurable disease of some kind; having heard of the many healings wrought by the Lord during His earthly ministry, he sent Him a letter asking Him to come to Edessa and heal him. The Lord replied by letter that He would not come personally, but that after His Resurrection, one of His disciples would be sent to cure him; and in due time, the Apostle Thomas sent one of the seventy disciples, a certain Thaddeus, to perform this office. Eusebius gives what purport to be the text of the two letters, which were kept, he claims, in the public archives at Edessa. The story is repeated in a much more elaborate form in an early fifth-century apocryphal work, “The Doctrine of Addai,” in which the name of the disciple sent to King Abgar appears as Addai, rather than Thaddeus.

    By the late fifth-century, the so-called Gelasian decree, in the section “on books to be received and not to be received”, (i.e., which may be used in the liturgy), already notes the spurious character of the letters exchanged between Christ and King Abgar. (The decree itself would later be spuriously attributed to Pope Gelasius I, and is commonly called after him.) As is the case with many apocryphal writings, formal rejection did not in the least diminish the popularity of the story, which continued to be embellished in various ways. The Doctrine of Addai simply adds that Abgar’s messenger made a picture of Christ’s face to bring back to the King; by the Bl. Jacopo’s time, the legend states that on receiving the reply of Christ, King Abgar sent a painter to make an image of the Lord’s Face on a piece of cloth. The painter was unable to do this himself, however, “because of the exceeding brightness that came forth from His face”; the Lord Himself therefore took the cloth and laid it over His own face, leaving an impression of the image upon the cloth, which was then taken to Abgar. Among Byzantine Christians especially, the Holy Face of Christ is still to this day the object of great veneration; it is known as the Holy Mandylion, a word which derives from the Syriac “mandil – a cloth.” Although Eusebius clearly says that the Thaddeus of the Abgar legend is one of the seventy disciples, and not one of the twelve Apostles, the Golden Legend and the Roman Breviary of 1529 both identify him with the Apostle called Thaddeus in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and Jude in those of Luke and John. Because of the association with the King Abgar legend, he is sometimes shown holding an image of the Lord’s face.

    In modern times, a new devotion has emerged to Saint Jude as the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, the origins of which are quite obscure. There are many variations of the following prayer to ask for his intercession, and it is still a fairly common custom to thank the Saint publicly for his intercession by placing a message of thanksgiving in a newspaper.
    Oh glorious Apostle St. Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus, the name of the traitor who delivered thy beloved Master into the hands of His enemies has caused thee to be forgotten by many, but the Church honors and invokes thee universally as the patron of hopeless cases--of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so miserable; make use, I implore thee, of that particular privilege accorded thee of bringing visible and speedy help where help is almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need, that I may receive the consolations and succor of heaven in all my necessities, tribulations and sufferings, particularly (mention your request), and that I may bless God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity. I promise thee, O blessed St. Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favor, and I will never cease to honor thee as my special and powerful patron, and to do all in my power to encourage devotion to thee. Amen.

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    There is a fascinating article by Marthinho Correia about the connection between Michelangelo and Caravaggio on the Pontifex University blog, Beauty of Catholicism.

    It is the third in a series of six that he is presenting about how the first Michelangelo inspired the work of the second, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. As usual, he helps us with some adept use of photoshop to place the works of the two artists side-by-side.

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    We have received the following announcements for Masses on the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, this coming Wednesday, November 2nd.

    Holy Family Cathedral, Tulsa, Oklahoma

    At 6 pm, the FSSP will celebrate a Solemn Requiem Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at which H.E. Edward Slattery, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Tulsa, will preach. The cathedral is located at the corner of 8th Street and Boulder Avenue.

    The National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackson, Ohio

    The Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon, located at 2759 North Lipkey Road in North Jackson, Ohio, will have a TLM Missa cantata at 7 pm, followed by the Absolution at the Catafalque. Music provided by the Basilica Schola and Choir. (

    Holy Rosary Cathedral, Vancouver, British Columbia

    The Cathedral of the Holy Rosary, located at 646 Richards St. in Vancouver, British Columbia, will have an EF Requiem Mass at 7 pm.

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    In regard to the latest series of appointments to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Disciple of the Sacraments, this column in the Catholic Herald by canonist Ed Condon is very much worth a read. Of particular note are the following observations:

    “While the appointment of 27 new members to a single congregation is bound to have an impact on its character, it must be noted that the Vatican announcement failed to mention which of the current members of the congregation would be staying on. This has not stopped instant and vociferous internet speculation from taking off, with some websites insisting that Cardinals Burke, Pell, Ouellet, and Scola were all leaving the congregation. This speculation, for that is all that it is at the moment, is being framed as a removal of the ‘Ratzingerians’ and a purge of the traditionalists from the congregation. Meanwhile the new Rome based members are being pitched as arch-modernists who will leave Cardinal Sarah effectively isolated at the top of his own congregation. Wild interpretations of this sort should be taken with a large measure of salt.

    “In the first place, none of the supposedly departing ‘Ratzingerians’ has actually been confirmed as yet. Even if these so far unconfirmed reports are true, they fail to account for the considerable depth of experienced members of whom nothing has yet been said, and who can be assumed to be carrying on until we hear otherwise. These include formidable minds and characters like Cardinal Peter Erdö, the Relator General of the Synod of Bishops’ General Assembly; Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, the Archbishop of Columbo and former Secretary of the CDW; Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, former Prefect of the Congregation for Clergy and current head of the Apostolic Penitentiary; and Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

    “While the simultaneous appointment of 27 new members to any congregation represents a real changing of guard, as with so many of the acts of this pontificate there has been an instinctive rush to interpret events through the most ecclesiastically partisan lens to be found.

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    I will be offering a sacred music workshop at Our Holy Redeemer Roman Catholic Church in Freeport, New York,on Saturday, November 19th.

    The afternoon workshop will include study of the rhythmic understanding of the “classical” Solesmes school, conducting, and the chants for the feast of Christ the King. All are welcome, including beginners. There is no charge for the workshop, but those who wish to attend are asked to RSVP to Fr. Alessandro da Luz by calling (516) 378-0665, or emailing him at

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    In our series of missals from the library of the Benedictine Monks of Perpetual Adoration, we have so far looked at magnificent works of art from the 20th century (Maria Laach, Regensburg) and from the 18th century (the Augustinians).

    Today, instead of basking in beauty, we will come face to face with the diabolic disorientation of the Church in the mid- to late 1960s, when prayers and practices of half a millennium’s duration or longer were being discarded and burned like so much chaff. Not even the Roman Canon, that ancient pristine shrine of Romanitas, was safe from this barbarian appetite for conquest, this insatiable lust for violating the sacred under the guise of “simplification” and “modernization.”

    Too much kissing!
    It is not surprising, in fact, that this massive appetite for cultural destruction paralleled the sexual revolution, and that the same generation of radicals that was dismantling the liturgy was also leaving the consecrated celibate life in droves and favoring so-called “liberation” of the id or the libido. As Augustine pointed out in The City of God, power among fallen human beings, without the grace of God, is exercised as libido dominandi, the lust for domination.

    In the liturgical sphere, this took the form of standing in arrogant judgment over centuries of the most holy practices of faith and laying profane hands on a sacred inheritance, following the principle (if it can be called a principle) of “might makes right.” In the sphere of religious life, it took the form of abandoning the choral office and high Mass, casting off habits and veils, diluting constitutions, softening rules, and losing one’s supernatural identity by amalgamation with secular social work and civil rights. The so-called “superiors” who guided the process were guilty of the same libido dominandi as the liturgical revolutionaries, and left in their wake a similar post-nuclear desolation.

    What was important for the Catholic radicals of the mid-twentieth century was to shatter, bit by bit, the taboo of an untouchable liturgy, an object of collective veneration transmitted from generation to generation.[1] They started by messing with the existing prayers and rubrics, as if to say: “See what we can get away with! We haven’t been struck dead by lightning yet. You see now that all these things must be merely human inventions; we can do as we please. Suppress or invent rubrics; omit, rearrange, bawdlerize, or make up new texts; throw out the entire aesthetic of ‘awe’ and replace it with one of ‘brotherhood’ or ‘caring community’ — we must do all this and more, quickly, before our game’s called and our time’s up.” Their eventual success, more complete than they could ever have dreamed at first, is a remarkable testimony to the limits to which Divine Providence permits evil, in order to demonstrate His power in bringing forth good from it and in spite of it, as the phoenix rises from the ashes.

    To me, a poignant sign of that Providence is the fact that Catholics are returning in growing numbers to the use of just those liturgical books that were placed on the butcher’s block half a century ago, and are now praying those very prayers that were canceled out and pasted over. The Benedictines have a motto: Succisa virescit — cut down, it grows back again. It’s a variation on one of the oldest sayings of all: sanguis martyrum semen christianorum. Perhaps there is a special fruitfulness in the blood that, over the centuries, so many priests and faithful have shed (literally or metaphorically) as their Catholic worship was attacked by iconoclasm, be it of the Byzantine, Protestant, or Modernist variety.

    The movement to recover and restore Catholic worship cannot be eradicated. That has been tried and it failed. It can be cut down by persecution or lack of support, but its roots remain and the new growth will be taller and stronger.

    Below are additional photos from this melancholy "interimized" missal.


    [1] Before you write in the comments that the liturgy has never been untouchable and that there have been countless little changes down through the centuries, pause for a moment and ask yourself whether it is likely that I am unaware of this fact. What I am talking about is a general attitude of conservatism and respect for the liturgical rites, such that even archaic elements whose function or meaning may no longer be clear to us (or may have acquired a different, allegorical meaning over time) are jealously preserved. The trend was almost always towards retaining what had been added over the centuries; and certainly the magnitude of the modifications from the 1950s and 1960s has nothing remotely like it in the entire history of the Catholic Church.

    A comparison of two similar missals -- one defaced, one unharmed

    Comparison, take two.

    Bracketing out some of the prayers at the foot of the altar
    We wouldn't want to bow our heads during the Gloria, now, would we?

    The purging of the cross

    Still too much kissing!

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    Here are two announcements from churches which have for many years maintained the tradition of celebrating these important occasions with great music.

    The St Ann Choir will sing Victoria’s Mass Simile est regnum caelorum on the feast of All Saints, and the Gregorian Requiem propers, along with Reniassance motets, on All Souls’ Day, at the church of St Thomas Aquinas in Palo Alto, California. (Details in the posters.)

    The church of St Agnes in St Paul, Minnesota, will have its annual Mass for the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed with the famous Requiem Mass of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. (Details in poster.)

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    After my last post about rood screens, I was contacted by reader Dr Simon Cotton from England, who wrote as follows:
    The Norfolk screen shown in your interesting article is that at Tunstead. For a selection of pictures (not mine), including the saints on the screen, see here.
    We know when the screen was made and also when it was painted. Over 35 years ago I turned up a series of late 15th century Norfolk wills containing bequests to this; it was called ‘new’ in a will of 1470, and money was left for its painting between 1474 and 1490.
    By the way, no mediaeval rood groups survive in situ in English (or Welsh or Scottish) churches. Any you see today are replacements between the late 19th century and c. 1960 (when they became vieux jeu to church architects). I’ve attached a jpeg of Comper’s [Sir Ninian Comper] restored rood group (c. 1930) to the mediaeval screen (substantially its original colouring and gilding) at Eye in Suffolk. Comper also provided the canopy of honour, in the mediaeval style.
    Here are two articles, written in 1987 and 2014, for archeological publications in which he describes the sources for our knowledge on the rood screens. It is interesting to me that so many were made from money left in bequests.

    And once again, whether its cathedrals, railway stations, rood screens, telephone boxes, or a charming English village in its familiar pastoral setting, we see that so much that is good in the world has come from the inspiration of the liturgical forms of High Anglicanism. How much more powerful it will be, with the Real Presence at its heart, when the Anglican Ordinariate develops its own cultural voice rooted in its Catholic liturgy.

    Some readers pointed out that the medieval screens would probably have had curtains. I’m guessing that the extremely ornately carved High Anglican screens would not have done. I don’t feel they are lacking anything for this. The ornate, almost filigree carving that you see on the screens creates a general image of a gossamer like veil before the altar which I personally find appropriate and appealing.

    The final photograph is of a high altar and reredos, also by Sir Ninian Comper at Wymondham Abbey in Norfolk (added by me!).

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    Our next photopost will be for the feast of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, today and tomorrow. We welcome pictures of Mass in either form, as well as celebrations of the Divine Office / Liturgy of the Hours for both of these days. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

    (From last year’s All Saints and All Souls photopost - the absolution at the catafalque after a Dominican solemn Mass at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., and the deacon entering for the Mass of All Saints at the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt Carmel in Hsinchu, Taiwan.)

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    From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the beginning of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.

    Today, most beloved, we celebrate with one rejoicing the feast of All Saints, in whose company heaven exsulteth, by whose protection the earth is made glad, by whose triumphs the Holy Church is crowned, whose confession is all the more glorious in honor, as it was the mightier in their suffering. For as the striving increaseth, so increaseth also the glory of those that strive, and the triumph of martyrdom is adorned by many different sorts of suffering. Come then, brethren, let us now seize upon the way unto life, which bringeth us unto the heavenly city, where we are enrolled and proclaimed as citizens, the way of that happiness whose feast we celebrate today under the name of the dedication of Round St Mary’s.

    The altar of the Pantheon decorated for the feast day today. 

    “Sancta Maria Rounda - Round St Mary’s” was the usual medieval name of the Pantheon as a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and All Martyrs by Pope Boniface IV (608-15) in 609 A.D. The common tradition, explicitly stated in the other All Saints sermons in the 1529 Breviary, was that the origin of the feast of All Saints lay in this act of dedication, by which the temple of all the gods was cleansed from the worship of demons and given to the honor of all the Saints. It must be stated as a matter of history that there is no evidence to prove that the Pantheon was actually a temple. 
    In the Middle Ages, the sermon read at Matins on the feast of All Saints was the same in almost every Use of the Roman Rite, called from its first words “Legimus in ecclesiasticis historiis”; the author is unknown, although it was frequently attributed to St Rabanus Maurus. The first lesson refers to the institution of the feast of All Saints, and the dedication of the Pantheon as a church. The second lesson is about God, while the six lessons that follow descend through the hierarchy of the Saints: the Virgin Mary, the Angels, the Patriarchs and Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, and the various types of Confessors. The holy Virgins and other female Saints are mentioned in the same lesson as the Virgin Mary, the model of consecrated life; the ninth lesson is taken from a homily of St. Augustine on the Sermon on the Mount, the beginning of which is the Gospel of the feast.

    When All Saints was granted an octave by Pope Sixtus IV in the early 1480s, each day of the octave was assigned a different sermon with the same structure, covering the first eight of the nine lessons at Matins. Each year, we commemorate All Saints and its octave with one of these lessons, taking them this year from from the sermon assigned to be read on November 7th.

    Just a few minutes’ walk away, the church of the FSSP, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, celebrates the feast of All Saints every year by decorated the high altar with many of its relics. The large busts in the upper tier are of Ss Gregory the Great, Augustine, Pius V and Charles Borromeo, made for the canonization of the last of them in 1610. On the second tier, relics of the Apostles Peter, Paul, Matthew and John are enclosed in bases which support bronze statues of them (which are unbelievably heavy, with a variety of small relics between them. The relics of arm-bones of two martyrs from the catacombs are enclosed in reliquaries shaped like the forearms, with their hands holding the palm branch of martyrdom.

    The Fraternity welcomed their Superior general, Fr John Berg, for the celebration of the high Mass on today’s great feast.

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    M.C. Escher, Relativity, 1953
    Students of visual art learn early on that a vanishing point is needed to draw three-dimensional figures accurately with proper perspective. It's one of those counter-intuitive things that turns out to be completely necessary and true in the end. Christianity, whether in historical fact, theological understanding, or social application, also requires a “vanishing point” to offer proper perspective and context. That vanishing point quite literally is Jesus Christ. All things are “through him, with him, in him.” When this focus is lost, the other pieces lose their proper perspective and relation.

    What about architecture and liturgy? A centrally-located tabernacle is just the starting point for properly oriented liturgical practice. Church buildings flattened, inside out, backwards, sideways, upside down, etc, actually obscure the purpose we were all gathered in the first place. Jesus should be the visual focal point, not a sideline extra. In this sense, traditional architectural and liturgical forms are more sacred and cultivate a more transcendent experience for the faithful. Even with traditional architectural and liturgical forms, however, it all falls completely flat if Jesus Christ is not truly present... in body, blood, soul, and divinity. Keep the proper focus, and all the other pieces will fall into place. Of course, you’ll have to work hard for those other pieces, too! Visually, what is most central in your parish? Does that correspond with the ultimate reality?
    What about artistic practice? Sacred art and sacred music ought to develop organically from our tradition, because it is in fact our own tradition that connects us historically with Jesus Christ. It’s not about respecting our elders or forebears. Without a real, continuous “apostolic” connection to the historical Jesus Christ, we run the risk of forgetting the Incarnation. It is the Incarnation that gives us "power to become children of God" (John 1). We are, therefore, not free to push aside the apostolic nature of our faith, which is handed down to us through our tradition, because our faith is rooted in the Incarnation, in real historical fact. Do our art and music make this connection and promote a hermeneutic of continuity? 
    What about parish life and community? If we ourselves are the only reason we assemble, people will self-select their peers, and our community will quickly lack the diversity and universality that makes our faith "catholic." If our values are the only reason we assemble, diversity for its own sake becomes relativism, universality for its own sake becomes universalism, and society (or community) for its own sake becomes secular. The end result of relativism is that nobody can find the truth, and the end result of universalism is that nobody gets redemption. If service to others is the only reason we assemble, our charity can become shallow or even toxic: often it is we ourselves who need to change and grow, not the people we think need our help. (Entire books have been written on the topic of so-called “toxic charity.”) But “without works, faith is dead.” If the pastor's unique message is the reason we assemble... well, quite simply we become a cult. Don't drink the Kool-aid! If the reason we assemble is Jesus Christ, however, we will have faithfulness, diversity, universality, conversion, companionship, and service to others. And by this, I mean not the "values" of Jesus Christ, the "spirit" of Christian service, the "wisdom" of the Gospel, etc; these abstractions all fall away into lesser philosophies bound up in lesser personalities. I mean, rather, Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, as defined in the Nicene Creed.
    What about the moral life and questions of personal faith and inspiration? Without Jesus Christ as a model, a companion, and a goal, why would anyone be so stupid or crazy to attempt the Christian religion, let alone make any heroic sacrifices or efforts? Why undergo the Cross if there is no Resurrection? Without a transcendent “vanishing point,” the concrete tasks at hand are simply impossible... or our goals are too low. Even the saints, our beloved Catholic darlings, are reminders in each age, each one pointing toward that transcendent "vanishing point" and reminding us that this whole Christian endeavor is indeed possible with God's help. They are not nice "fairy godmothers" we choose to remember because we like them. No, they are proven advocates in heaven, victors who have demonstrably achieved their reward, the beatific vision, who are praying that we achieve ours. There are no unintentional saints, no saints who did not know the source of their strength and virtue. Today, in their prayers and efforts on our behalf, there is no saint who does not point us back to his or her first love, Jesus Christ, the "author and finisher our faith" upon whom our faith depends from start to finish (Hebrews 12:2, Rev. 5:11-13). Jesus Christ is always and forever the center of true Christian worship and practice. Without this perspective, the whole Catholic enterprise is impossible and falls apart (Colossians 1:12-20). 
    Lastly, I should pause and also mention a new trend in pastoral theology, the so-called “quest for transcendence.” Admittedly we all look for transcendent truth and goodness in our lives as an answer to the grittiness of life, and these are not bad reasons to go to church. Christianity, however, is not the only religion on the market offering “transcendence.” Transcendence loosely understood is actually a very dangerous thing, because the abyss of the universe and the depths of our belly buttons do not necessarily liberate us from error, indifference, or even despair, no matter how hard we squint and struggle. As Frederick Nietzsche famously wrote, “If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Or as the speaker wrote in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanity, all is vanity and a striving after the wind.” In other words, and by God’s design, not all answers come through our own minds – after all, we need answers bigger than that, and if the answers were intuitive we’d already know them! This is why there is revelation through Holy Scripture, through Jesus Christ himself, and through our Catholic tradition. Specifically, hope comes through the paradox of Jesus Christ, who by his Cross and Resurrection has set us free. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, Christ is a “signpost for free travelers.” So “transcendence” loosely understood is not the correct goal, but rather the redemption and grace offered us through Jesus Christ, which makes us transcendent as we become victorious “sons and daughters” of God. In other words, Catholic Christianity offers transcendence as a by-product of a much deeper process, the only one which makes that transcendence really possible. Jesus Christ is at the center of this process, and is the source of its power and effectiveness.
    Do you see a theme here? Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is the cornerstone for all real growth and development in the spiritual life. He is the focus and measure for liturgy, community, artistic expression, sacred music, social justice, and the whole endeavor. As Christians, having Christ at the center should not be a surprise.

    In the end, this is the reason we favor tradition, and the reason a faithful, obedient, reverent liturgy is so important. It’s not stuffy intellectualism, snobbery toward popular culture, love of old things, ethnocentrism, or a tendency toward familiarity; it is, rather, the perspective we must take up in order to see Jesus himself and properly fulfill our obligation to our neighbor. We must once again turn toward the Lord, who, in the Eucharist, is the "source and summit" of our life. And it’s so simple. “Remain in me, and I in you, and you will bear much fruit” (John 15:4). 

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    From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.

    No voice sufficeth to speak of the King who presideth over this city, and who exceedeth every created sense. For so great is the beauty of justice, so great the happiness of eternal light, that is, of unchanging truth and wisdom, that if it were permitted to see it for the space of a single day, for the sake of such a vision alone, numberless years of this life, and they full of delights and abundance of temporal goods, would be disdained. Let us aspire, therefore, unto this happiness, which is to behold God face to face, to be fulfilled with His sweetness without satiation, that we may always wish to have what we have forever, and enjoy the vision of Him without ending in perpetual possession.

    The Beatific Vision - from the Hours of Étienne Chevalier, 1452-60

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    From time to time, it’s nice to look back at some of the articles in our archives (currently over 12,000 items!) For All Souls’ Day, here is a great piece about black vestments posted by our founding editor Shawn Tribe in November of 2005, when NLM was less than four month old. This was a year and half before Summorum Pontificum, and I think it probably not too optimistic to think that opposition to the use of black vestments has weakened even further, now that more people will have used in the EF Requiem Mass, where they are mandatory.  

    Many out there are likely aware that there has been these past 40 years or so an aversion to black vestments for times such as funerals, or for the Feast of All Souls and so on. (Thankfully this is decreasing with the newer generations of clergy.)

    Often black vestments have been excluded in practice (though not necessarily in law) -- enough so that there are entire generations who will have never seen a black vestment worn, let alone know of its existence as a liturgical colour. For example, in the modern rite, red is now worn on Good Friday instead of black, which is still used in the classical rite of course. White will typically be worn for funerals. Sometimes purple will be used.

    Now let us get it straight: this is not a liturgical abuse as these are options which the Church has given, or in the case of Good Friday, changes that have been made. There are some, however, for whom this is not simply aesthetic (nor should it be), nor a question of common practice in a diocese, but is actually an ideological opposition aimed at the perceived “negativity” of black. This latter idea is a problem. I wish to address in a roundabout way both the problem with the former way of thinking, but also I want to make a case for why I believe the effective disappearance of black is not desirable, even when we are just exercising another legitimate liturgical option as a norm.

    The use of black is representative of some fundamental Christian realities. While Christians are a people of hope (the oft used argument for those wishing to exclude black), we are also a people aware of the reality of sin and judgement. We do not presume to know the state of our loved one’s soul. Too often even some parish priests themselves acquiesce to this idea that our achieving of our heavenly reward is a fait accompli. While we indeed hope and pray that our loved one has attained his or her heavenly reward, it is not a hope that is without reservations or loving concern. As Christians we are hopeful and yet also have a humble realism. We know that we are sinful creatures and we do not always meet the mark, nor necessarily repent of our sins. As such, we both hope and pray.

    Black, with its echoes of mourning and reserve, both acknowledges our own emotional response to the loss of a loved one, and is further representative of our need to pray for the repose of our loved one’s soul. It also is a reminder and symbol of our belief in Purgatory wherein the suffering souls require our prayers and especially Masses. After all, Requiem masses are not merely memorials made for the living -- tools for our psychological and emotional comfort -- but are first and foremost powerful prayers and graces for the repose of our dearly beloved. If we approach the afterlife of heaven as “automatic” or as a given, who will take seriously the need to pray for the souls of Purgatory or our departed loved one? Eventually, who will see the need to have a funeral Mass? Black represents our mourning and also that there is work yet to be done -- the work of prayer, the graces of the Mass. The gold or silver which adorns the decoration of a black vestment gives us that silver-lining of Christian hope which we have for the resurrection of our loved one, and eventually ourselves, into Our Father’s House.

    From a cultural perspective, this lack represents a divide from the common cultural sentiment expressed at death which has been informed by religious principles for generations -- one cannot help but notice that black is still the colour of mourning among most people at a funeral. If we are truly interested in speaking to people in symbols and language they can understand and relate to, the use of black at a funeral cannot be surpassed in this regard. (I am not suggesting that culture must inform liturgical practice; in this case, I think the Faith has informed the culture and the culture still retains this formation on a deep level.)

    There really is nothing to stop a priest from re-introducing black vestments into the sacred liturgy when the rubrics allow for it -- and this I would heartily recommend to parish priests who read this weblog.

    That being said, I receive many emails from readers on this weblog asking advice on how to approach such questions in there parishes. Often they are facing situations where there is little interest in the liturgy, or at least, little interest in the goals of the reform of the reform -- which may go in an opposite direction from where their parish is heading.

    In such instances, getting black vestments re-instituted may be a non-starter with their parish clergy -- but as I say, there is a surprising openness to them from many of the younger clergy. If you don't have that situation, don’t worry, there may yet be hope. While you may not get black vestments instituted in your parish, there is another option that comes halfway at least, and may be more acceptable in such a situation and would help begin to restore this balance of hope, mourning and prayers for the dead.

    Here is my proposal for a pastor that can’t yet (or won’t) re-institute black vestments: a white (or preferably off-white cream colour) vestment, with a large, substantial band of black brocade going up the centre of the vestment -- or also with the traditional Y-orphrey. The key is making the black noticeable.

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    It may seem strange to speak this way, but when I saw the photos of the Norcia basilica in ruins, I felt such a sense of loss, grief, and pain that it was as if a friend or a relative had died. It hit me in the gut in the same way. And when I saw how other churches in the town had also crumbled, the effect was only compounded. How oddly reminiscent of that verse about our own mortal bodies: "You are dust, and unto dust you shall return." Churches are earthly images of the heavenly Jerusalem, that is, the Bride of Christ, and they bear upon their facades her face; it is her body their naves imitate, her heart their sanctuaries represent. When a church falls, the Church loses one of her embodiments.

    These churches were places where I have prayed so many times, on so many visits to the monks and the monastery that is my spiritual home (to the extent that one can be said to have a home here in this vale of tears and land of exile). The basilica is where I fell in love with the traditional Divine Office, where I gloried in the splendor of the Mass of the Roman Rite, where I discerned a calling to become a Benedictine oblate, where I learned best what it means to have roots as a Catholic, worshiping in and above the crypt where, by tradition, Saints Benedict and Scholastica were born. Seeing the huge structure as a pile of rubble brought home to me, perhaps more than anything else has ever done, the transiency, fragility, and mutability of all our human works. The most solid structures we can build are still precarious houses of cards compared to the power of the unmoved Mover latent in the cosmos.

    It does not occur to me to blame God. He is as He always is: whispering His Word into our ears, our hearts, our sacraments, our churches, infusing His Spirit into the feeble and fallible works of our hands and minds as we strive to serve Him in fear and trembling, in chaste and filial love. "For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth; and he scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Persevere under discipline. God dealeth with you as with his sons" (Heb 12:6-7). It is a long journey from our fallen human condition to the day of our perfect configuration to the only-begotten Son of God, and there is no telling what kind of sufferings or privations will be visited upon us to make our imitatio Christi more real.

    But there is a time for words and a time for silence. Now is more of a time for the latter. I will share some photographs that my son Julian and I took of this beloved place. (Any good photos are his work, while the blurry ones are mine.) The noble basilica depicted here now rests in pieces. I hope and pray that someday it will rise up in resurrection.

    The roof, seen from the bell tower

    In the bell tower

    This portico was along the side

    Looking towards the western side with the little organ

    One of the side altars

    Missa cantata this past July
    A fresco near the entrance

    Byzantine Divine Liturgy by a visiting priest in the crypt

    The birthplace of SS. Benedict & Scholastica

    The sacristy
    One last photo, to end on a note of hope. As most readers probably know by now, the monks of Norcia are busy building a new monastic home in the mountains, at a location outside the city that they are calling "San Benedetto in Monte." This site has a former Capuchin church that has undergone rebuilding (and has, it seems, withstood the earthquakes). A few years ago I had the chance to visit it before the scaffolding was erected. Here is a photo of part of the interior.

    Please consider making a contribution to help the monks rebuild.

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    From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.

    Dearest brethren, although this truly blessed vision of our Creator would alone suffice, because it infinitely surpasses every other, created joy; there is nevertheless yet another happy vision (to pass over in silence countless others) which gives joy to the mind of all heavenly spirits, namely, to see the sacred glory of the Queen of Heaven, and the glorified humanity of Her Son. For who can even think how great a joy it brings to see Her, the mother of mercy, the finder of grace, the queen of piety and clemency, no longer reclining with a little child crying in the manger, but rather exalted with inestimable joy over every dignity of mere creatures, and now reigning with Christ. There also the most blessed crowd of virgins and holy women, shining in glory for the eminence of their virtue, having followed Christ the Lamb, rejoices as it sings the happy wedding song, “I held him: and I will not let him go forever.” (Cant. 3, 4)

    Virgo inter Virgines (The Virgin Mary among the other holy virgins) by the anonymous Netherlandish painter known as the Master of the St Lucy Legend, ca. 1490. (Click to enlarge.) - Furthest on the left, St Apollonia dressed in white, holds a tooth with a pair of pincers; she had all of her teeth knocked out in her martyrdom, and is the patron Saint of dentists. St Ursula, in a black and gold robe, reads a book; an arrow, the instrument of her martyrdom, is under the folds of her skirt St Lucy, in green, holds a golden plate with two eyes on it. St Dorothy, at the rear in brown and blue, holds a crown and bell. St Catherine receives a ring from the baby Jesus; her red cloak is covered with her symbol, the wheel. St Mary Magdalene, kneeling, wears white over read, and presents to Him a golden pot of ointment; the myrrh for the anointing of His body. St Barbara holds baby Jesus’ other hand of Jesus; her black cloak is covered with her symbol, the tower. St Agnes, in red and sitting on the ground, holds a lamb, and in her other hand a ring. St Margaret, in a black hat, holds a cross and a book; in the background, St George slays a dragon, as Margaret also did. St Agatha in blue holds a pincers with a breast, a reference to her martyrdom. St Cunera, patron of the Rhenen area near Utrecht, holds a cradle and an arrow; she was said be one of the 11,000 companions of St Ursula.

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    On Monday, October 24th, Bishop Athanasius Schneider visited the Church of the Holy Innocents in New York City, and celebrated Mass for the feast of St. Raphael according to the Missal of 1962, before a congregation of 300 faithful. The music for the Mass was the Messa da cappella a quattro voci by Claudio Monteverdi (1650), which used a medieval instrument called from its Greek name “bouzouki”, a precursor to the modern day guitar (picture below). Thanks to Mr Arrys Ortañez for sending us these photographs; several more sets are available on the parish Facebook page.

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    The Vancouver Traditional Latin Mass Society will host our own Dr Peter Kwasniewski at their annual general meeting on November 12th, for a talk on “The Words of Our Lady and the Spirit of the Liturgy.” The talk will be preceded by a Mass at 9 am at the church of the Holy Family; details in the poster below.

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    From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the continuation of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.

    As we began to say in yesterday’s lesson, the holy men of this most blessed city, according to the quality of their merits, shall be joined to the choirs of the heavenly spirits. Those who master (dominantur) in themselves all the vices and desires shall be brought into the order of the Dominations; those who, having received the virtues, surpass the merits of the elect, and are first (principantur) among the chosen brethren, shall receive the lot of the Principalities. Those who, ruling over themselves, and clinging always to the fear of God, are able to rule and judge others with a tranquil mind, are the thrones of the Creator. Those who are full of love for God and their neighbor have received their lot among the Cherubim. Those who, enkindled by the love of heavenly contemplation, are fed only by the love of eternity, are counted among the Seraphim. Therefore, brethren, let us so act here (on this earth) through virtuous deeds, that we may merit to be joined forever to the companies of the citizens of heaven.

    Late 18th or early 19th century Russian icon,  made for the principle feast of the Angels, the “Synaxis of the Bodiless Powers”, celebrated on November 8th.

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