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    Fr Hunwicke posted an article yesterday in which, with his characteristically marvelous wit, he describes St Nicholas as “a saint with as large a portfolio of Patronages as a Renaissance cardinal.” This is particularly true among Byzantine Christians, who keep his feast with particular solemnity; he is honored as a Patron of both Greece and Russia, but also of Sicily and Puglia, regions of southern Italy in which, as we have noted before, there many communities of the Byzantine Rite. Here are some photos of the celebrations held in his honor this year among some of them in the area around Palermo, Sicily.

    Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie - Palazzo Adriano

    St Nicholas of the Greeks (“Martorana”) in Palermo
    Vespers and Artoklasia - photos by Antonio Paratore

    San Nicola Mezzojuso
    Procession with a relic of St Nicholas - photos by Salvatore Bisulca

    Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie - Palazzo Adriano
    Divine Liturgy and Procession with the Icon and Relic of St Nicholas

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    The nature and greatness of the blessed and glorious ever-Virgin Mary, is divinely declared by the Angel in these words: Hail, thou that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. For indeed, it was fitting that the Virgin should be endowed with such favors, that She might be full of grace, even She who gave glory to heaven, the Lord to earth, who brought forth peace and faith to the nations, and end to vices, order to life, discipline to our ways. And indeed, She is full of grace, for to others it is given in part; but upon Mary, all the fullness of grace hath poured itself at once. Truly, she is full of grace, for although we believe that grace was upon the holy Fathers and Prophets, yet not in such a degee; but into Mary came the fullness of all the grace which is in Christ, albeit otherwise (than as it is in Him.) Therefore (the Angel) sayeth: Blessed art thou among women, that is, more blessed than all other women. (From the 4th reading of the Office of the Immaculate Conception promulgated by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1863. The sermon from which this is taken, generally know from its opening words as “Cogitis me” is written in the person of St Jerome, but is actually a work of the 9th century author St Paschasius Radbertus.)

    La Inmaculada Concepción, by José Antolinez, 1650
    For Our Lady’s feast day, enjoy this magnificent recording of the 8th O Antiphon, set as a motet by Josquin Desprez.

    Aña O Virgo virginum, * quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

    Aña O Virgin of virgins, * how shall this come to pass? for Thou seemest to have none like Thee before, nor any such to follow. Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you regard me in wonder? This which you see is a divine mystery.

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    The church of the Holy Innocents in New York City has scheduled ten traditional Rorate Masses this Advent, some sung and some read, six of them celebrated at 6:00 a.m., and one at 5:00 a.m., with three more to go. Despite the early hour, attendance has been good, usually around 40 people, with more than 70 at the very early one on Saturday the 3rd. The next three will be celebrated on Saturday, December 10, Tuesday, December 13, and Thursday, December 15, all at 6:00 a.m. For some photos of the beautiful photos taken during several of these beautiful and inspiring Masses, go here: (Our thanks to Mr Eddy Turibio for sending us these photos.)

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  • 12/09/16--05:00: A Bit More About Boy-Bishops
  • Judging from the viewing statistics, people really enjoyed the British Pathé video which we posted a few days ago of the installation of a boy-bishop in England in 1935. I mentioned in the post that I couldn’t find any recent Catholic examples, but someone helpfully pointed out in the combox that the tradition is alive and well in Spain, where they are called “obispillos - little bishops.” Here is a video from last year of the installation of the obispillo at the cathedral-school (escolanía) in Burgos.

    And another from 2008, taken at Chavagnes International College, an English-language Catholic boarding school in France which has a strong liturgical life.

    Here is a wonderful photo of the obispillo of Montserrat, Spain, and some members of his chapter, taken in 1927. I am given to understand that smiling for portraits, both painted and photographed, was considered quite inappropriate until the mid-1940s; one of the things I have always like about this picture is that the three canons (“canoniguillos”?) in mozzetta look very serious indeed, but His Excellency and the crook- and miter-bearers really seem like they are trying to suppress a grin.

    File these under two of my favorite headings: “Tradition is for the Young” and “Fostering Young Vocations.”

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    It seems that the start of every new liturgical year brings forth at least one article in the Catholic parts of the web “explaining” that Advent is not a penitential season. The Code of Canon Law is generally cited, since Advent is not included in the “official” list of penitential days and seasons, along with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which describes it as a period of “devout and joyful expectation”, with no mention of penance.

    The reality of the matter is more complex. The Church’s traditions are not comprehensively determined by or summed up in any Code of Canon Law, nor in any Missal or other liturgical book. It is true that Advent is not a fasting season, and has not been so in the West for a very long time. On the other hand, fasting in Lent, the most ancient and universal sign of that season’s penitential nature, has been reduced to a risible two days, and the many references to “fasting” have either been removed or changed to “abstinence” in the prayers and hymns of the Lenten liturgy.

    Gaudete Sunday at Our Lady of the Rosary in Blackfen, England, 2013. 
    Historically, Advent and Lent have a great deal in common liturgically, and that has actually not changed very much in the post-Conciliar rite. The liturgical colors of the season, violet and rose, remain the same. (More on this below.) From very ancient times, the vestments which symbolize the joy of a feast day, the dalmatic and tunicle, were replaced in both seasons by folded chasubles, which were then (inexplicably) abolished tout court, not just for Advent. (In churches which did not have them, the deacon and subdeacon served in albs, the former with a stole.) In the new rite, the dalmatic may be left off “for necessity’s sake, or because of a lesser degree of solemnity.” (GIRM 338) Since no indication is given as to what constitutes “a lesser degree of solemnity,” one is perfectly free to regard the Sundays of Advent as less solemn than the festivities of the Christmas season, and leave the dalmatics off. (The vagueness of this rubric has, unfortunately but inevitably, lead in many places to the abuse of deacons never wearing a dalmatic, but rather the penitential arrangement of alb and stole, even on the greatest solemnities.)

    In the Mass, the Gloria in excelsis is omitted on Sunday in both Forms of the Roman Rite. On the ferial days of Advent, the Alleluia is traditionally omitted before the Gospel; this is optional in the Novus Ordo, which is to say, a perfectly licit way of continuing to observe the Church’s historical custom. Traditionally, Advent and Lent also both saw the removal of flowers from the altar, and the silencing of the organ. In the post-Conciliar liturgy, this has been slightly modified; flowers and the organ are forbidden in Lent (not merely discouraged), but may be used in Advent “with that moderation which is fitting for the nature of this season.” (GIRM 305 and 313) Again, the rubrics’ vagueness leaves one perfectly free to decide that they are best left off altogether.

    The exceptions to the traditional rule about flowers and organ music are Gaudete and Laetare Sundays, on which they may be used as they would be on other Sundays and feasts, along with the characteristic rose-colored vestments, which were created as a mitigation of the penitential violet. The continued existence of Gaudete Sunday in the middle of Advent is the clearest sign that the season’s penitential character endures.

    And If It Isn’t, It Should Be

    Laying all this aside, when the time comes to Reform the Reform, (as it certainly will, even though we know not the day nor the hour,) it will have to be admitted that “devout and joyful expectation” has been a failure, and should be redressed as such. It does not seem to have achieved anything at all by way of restraining the orgy of consumerism that passes for Christmas in much of the world. The spectacle of “Black Friday” shopping on the day after Thanksgiving is fortunately limited to the United States, (where, however, Catholics are the single largest Christian denomination by an enormous margin.) The restoration of some degree fasting and penance in Advent, already practiced by many on a private level, would provide a powerful Catholic witness to the “reason for the season.”

    While videos of Black Friday are often a very sad thing to watch, personally I have always found it even sadder to see how many Christmas trees are out on the sidewalk with the trash by the evening of the 26th. This is one of many common signs that, rather than being kept as a season of expectation, joyful or otherwise, Advent has become in many places a backwards version of the Christmas and Epiphany octaves. Pastorally, the Church should encourage the faithful to bear witness to the importance of the birth of Christ by keeping the whole of the Christmas season, with the very ancient and important feasts that follow, as the great prolonged festival it traditionally was; reestablishing a formally penitential character for Advent would certainly help us to do that, as Lent does for Easter.

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  • 12/10/16--06:40: The Holy House of Loreto
  • Every Catholic country has a Marian shrine which may be regarded as its national shrine of the Mother of God par excellence, such as Lourdes in France and Czestochowa in Poland; for Italy, that shrine is the Holy House of Loreto, which keeps its principal feast today. The traditional story recounts that the Virgin Mary’s house in Nazareth, where the Incarnation took place, was flown by angels from the Holy Land when the Crusader states fell, and brought first to Croatia in 1291, then three years later across the Adriatic to the area of Loreto. (There is some evidence that the angels in question may have actually been an aristocratic family of the Italian Marches named “Angeli.”) By the mid-15th century, it had become a very important pilgrimage shrine, and a project was begun to construct a large church around the Holy House, as well as a pilgrim hospice; this was completed in 1587, during the papacy of Sixtus V, a native son of the region who was famous for promoting important building works.

    The façade of the basilica at Loreto at night; photo by Nicola de’ Grandi.
    The house itself is a fairly small plain stone structure, certainly very ancient, and certainly made from materials commonly used for simple houses in the Holy Land, but not in Italy. It is now enclosed in a large rectangular marble box, commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1509 from the architect Donatello Bramante, whose design was completed from 1513 to 1527 by Antonio Sangallo the Younger; the importance of the Holy House is also indicated by the fact that both of these men served as chief architect for the rebuilding of St Peter’s, before Michelangelo took over in 1545. The box is beautifully decorated on the outside with sculpted relief panels of the life of the Virgin, works of very high quality.

    A 14th century statue of the Madonna long venerated in the Holy House was destroyed by fire in 1921, and replaced by a copy; it is traditionally clothed over with an elaborate jeweled garment. This year, however, it was processed through grounds of the Basilica without the garment, as a sign of mourning for the deaths and damage caused by the recent earthquakes; Loreto is in fact fairly close to Norcia. Many Italian churches have relics of the “veil of the Virgin Mary”, which are actually pieces of previous versions of this garment.

    Photo of the procession last night, courtesy of Prof. Andrea Carradori
    On the evening of December 9th, many towns in the area, including Norcia, build bonfires in their public squares, to light the way for the angels carrying the Holy House to Loreto, while at midnight precisely, church bells ring to commemorate their arrival. The feast was traditionally referred to as the “Translation of the Holy House” in pre-Conciliar liturgical books, and celebrated in every diocese of Italy; it is generally known as the “festa della venuta – the feast of the arrival” in Italian. In 1920, Pope Benedict declared Our Lady of Loreto Patron Saint of aviators, then still a very new and dangerous profession.

    Here are some photos of the Basilica taken by Nicola de’ Grandi during a recent visit. The church also has a treasury with some very nice liturgical objects; I will make a separate post with Nicola’s photographs of it tomorrow.

    Three views of the marble box which encloses the Holy House; the third photo also shows the dome, which was completed in 1500, and at the time, second in size only to that of the Duomo of Florence.

    The choir chapel is also known as the German chapel, since was decorated at the expense of German Catholics by the Painter Ludwig Seitz for the sixth centenary of the translation of the Holy House.

    The basilica has four sacristies, each named for one of the Evangelists. The frescoes of Angels and Prophets in the sacristy dedicated to St Mark, by Melozzo da Forlì (1477-79) are particularly famous.

    The treasury room was created by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) to house the enormous quantity of votive offerings left at the shrine; the frescoes in the ceiling by Pomarancio show stories of the life of the Virgin, along with prophets and sibyls.

    This passage connects one of the sacristies with the basilica and the treasury; over the door is a marble relief by Francesco Selva (1611), showing the translation of the Holy House.

    The dome of the shrine seen as one walks up the hill.

    The view of the countryside of the Marches from the top.

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    We are still receiving photos of celebrations of the Immaculate Conception, which will be posted in a day or two, but we will also do a photopost of Gaudete Sunday Masses, featuring your rose-colored vestments, and any Rorate Masses celebrated at any point this Advent, in either Form of the Roman Rite. We will be very glad to include anything else from your Advent celebrations as well, such as Vespers, Masses of Our Lady of Guadalupe etc. Please send photos to: for inclusion; be sure to include the name and location of the church, and any other information you consider relevant. Thanks as always - Evangelize though Beauty!

    From last year’s Gaudete Sunday photopost, from the parish of the Holy Redeemer in the diocese of Cubao in the Philippine Islands.

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    Of the many excellent options out there for traditional Catholic calendars (either EF exclusive or EF & OF combined), the Norcia wall calendar has become my favorite. This is not simply due to my being an oblate of the monastery, although I can't deny that that's a part of its appeal, but has to do with the meditative quality of the photos and the easy-to-follow layout, which works well for me as a choir and schola director who leads music for both forms of the Roman Rite. There are very few bi-formal wall calendars out there (Cantius is the only other one I know of, but readers could correct me in the combox if there are others.)

    The monks of Norcia have made a beautiful calendar for 2017, but due to the upheavals, they will not be publishing it in paper form. It is available for free download here.

    (It can be printed in a number of ways, but if you have access to 11"x17" paper, it prints nicely on that size.)

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    As mentioned yesterday, the famous shrine of the Holy House of Loreto has a very interesting treasury with many very beautiful liturgical objects. Here is a selection of photos taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi during a recent visit.

    Altar decorations made in the Sicilian city of Trapani, and given to the Holy House by the Prince Caracciolo d’Avellino in 1722. The cross and candle set is made of silver and coral, the frontal of silk and satin, with gold and silk threads. Only the best for Our Lady!
    Altar lectern made in Kyoto, Japan at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17 century, with the monogram of the Jesuit order.
    Another from the beginning of the 17th century, from the island of Macao.

    A floral decoration made entirely from bird feathers.
    A reliquary containing a shoe of St Charles Borromeo, end 18th century.
    A throne for exposition of the Sacrament.
    An ex-voto left by the composer Orlando di Lassus (1530 ca. -1594)

    Furniture from the Papal apartment of the Holy House, used by Popes Pius VII, Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, Bl. Pius IX and St John XXIII.
    An 18 century terracotta Nativity set made in Puglia.
    Among many other interesting items, the treasury also houses a set of tapestries woven in Brussels in the school of Heinrich Mattens, based on a series of preparatory drawings originally commissioned by Pope Leo X from Raphael in 1514.

    Christ Gives the Keys to St Peter
    The Sacrifice at Lystra (Acts 14)
    The Conversion of St Paul
    The Death of Ananias (Acts 5, 1-11)
    The Miraculous Draught of Fish at the Sea of Tiberias

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  • 12/12/16--05:00: More Outdoor Mass Photos
  • I don't know how it is where you live, but here in Wyoming there is snow on the ground and it's bitterly cold outside. This is a time of year when one might understandably dream of summer and of lingering in the great outdoors when it's pleasant to do so (well, minus the mosquitoes and other little reminders that we were expelled from Eden). My thoughts therefore turn to a few magnificent photos of Masses celebrated outdoors, submitted by two readers some time ago but neglected by me until this wintry moment. The first six photos are obviously really far out-there outdoor Masses, and all the more impressive for the beauty and reverence with which they are conducted. The last three are of Mass done in some sort of car-accessible park structure, but once again demonstrating "the way to do it right" -- including, one might add, the ad orientem position.

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    Two new DVDs have just been released by St Anthony Communications. The first, entitled The Crisis of Faith in Our Days, has two talks by His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider which were delivered during his visit to Ramsgate, Kent in February 2016. The first talk, 'The Immutability of the Catholic Faith and the Crisis of Faith in Our Days,' draws upon Scripture, Tradition, and Magisterial teaching to address the challenges today and offers a sure guide for Catholics to navigate through these turbulent times. The second talk, 'Blessed John Henry Newman and the Sacredness of the Liturgy,' considers the prescient writings of Newman on the importance of sacredness in worship, and demonstrates the errors that follow from inappropriate and informal approaches to liturgy. Bishop Schneider stresses the importance of Eucharistic devotion and reverent reception of Holy Communion. Also included are highlights from the Holy Hour and Benediction, with Bishop Schneider reading meditations by Saint Peter Julian Eymard.

    The second DVD entitled Grace, is presented by Fr Marcus Holden and Fr Andrew Pinsent. From the website: "What is grace? What is its purpose? How do we receive it? Who can receive it? Are there different types of grace? Are there mistaken or erroneous teachings about grace? How does modern research help us understand the idea of grace? In Christian theology, the various names and types of grace share one key idea: a second birth into a new and holy life, like a seed in the ground that grows into a plant and bears fruit. In this new life of grace, a human being participates in the life of God, becoming one of His adopted children, and calling Him 'Father'. St Augustine, as a young man in the Roman Empire, speculated about the existence and nature of divinity. Only after his conversion into the life of grace, however, did he speak to God in personal, passionate, and intimate terms: 'Late have I loved You, O beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved You!'”

    A trailer for Grace follows below:

    Both DVDs are now available from St Anthony Communications.

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    Why has church attendance dropped off so dramatically in the last 50 years? There are a whole range of reasons, I am sure, and nearly every article in this blog addresses the issue in one form or another, but if you ask me one of the main contributory factors is the music that is generally heard at Mass. And in my opinion, it is the style of music offered by the most common pew missalettes that is contributing most powerfully to that decline.

    I am talking about a style of music that seems to have started to develop around the late 1960s, and sounds to me like a sort of fusion of American folk (vintage 1967), 19th century pop classics, Broadway musicals, with a hint of Victorian hymnody thrown in for good measure. Whatever you call the genre, it is responsible, I believe, for many fleeing the pews.

    Before anyone writes me to say how much they like the music they hear each Sunday, or tell me how high is the quality of the pianist or band that plays, and how heartily those in the congregation that do attend join in, I want to say one thing: my argument is not based upon the assertion that this is bad music. I do have strong opinions on that, but my personal taste has no bearing on the conclusion that I draw. My argument is that the whole philosophy that has contributed to the composition of such music is fatally flawed and causes the damage.

    So, for argument’s sake, let us assume that the music we hear in Mass is of the highest quality within its genre. I would say that it would still have the same effect, which is to drive most people away from Mass. And I would say the same even when the standard of the musicianship is of the highest order, and the choir consists of the best trained professional singers.

    The problem, in my opinion, lies in the whole ethos that underlies the creation of music for the missals. The goal, it seems, is to connect with people by giving them music that is derived from already popular forms. The problem with this approach is that it can only connect to those people who actually listen for enjoyment to that style of music out of church. But today’s western society is so fractured that tastes vary hugely, and there is no style of secular music that has universal appeal. As a result, whichever style we choose, and however well it is done, it can only ever hope to appeal to a small part of the population. The rest will be driven away because they do not like it. So, if we create music that appeals to those who were young in the late 1960s, it will be detested by those who were young in the 1970s (like me) and all people who are younger.

    If we go for something that is actually cutting-edge today and takes its form from current youth culture, even if it connects with the 17-year-olds who listen to that style of music, it will drive away all the older generations and even most other youth, because youth culture is itself fractured, and there is no single style that all 17-year-olds listen to. I just think of what was going on when I was seventeen. The sixth form in Birkenhead School in northern England in the 1970s (for Americans, the sixth form is the upper two years of high school) was divided between punks, heavy metal fans and progressive rock fans, with a few who liked disco, funk and soul.

    (Just in case you’re interested, I liked obscure progressive rock and jazz fusion, such as Return to Forever, Frank Zappa and Be Bop Deluxe. I used to like being seen with the LP covers tucked under my arm to show people I had highly developed musical taste.)

    There was a little crowd of Christians who were trying to be cool and had their own Christian rock music; After the Fire was the name of the group they all liked. To me they seemed to be a sad bunch who obviously “just didn’t have a clue” if they thought that stuff was any good. We all used to make fun of them.

    I didn’t start to take the Faith seriously until many years later, when I was 26 and met a Christian who was just as disparaging of “cool” Christianity as I was, and who obviously didn’t even care about trying to be cool, hip and trendy at all. He just wasn’t playing that game.

    What appealed to me was a Faith, and an associated culture that I saw at the Brompton Oratory, that spoke of a world beyond the petty, secular concerns that had absorbed me up to that point. I don’t think I’m the only one. (I would refer you to the recent Tradition is for the Young articles by Gregory DiPippo on this blog to back up my case.)

    But before we get too smug, traditionalists aren’t totally exempt from bad music either. Much “traditional” church music has the same fault, especially if hymns are chosen. Holy God We Praise They Name or Immaculate Mary are really just the On Eagles Wings from your great-grandmother’s day. Many of these hymns, even the vast majority of non-chant hymns in hymn books that are considered fairly traditional, such as the Adoremus hymnal or the St Michael hymnal, sound off-puttingly “churchy” to most people outside church, and just like the missalette music, drive more people away from church than they attracts for the same reason. It is a genre that is not universal and so only appeals to a small part of the population.

    I for one can’t bear any of these hymns; they sound just like what I grew up with going to Methodist church; I didn’t like them when I was eight and I don’t like them now. It is one of the main reasons that I chose to escape from going to church when I was given the choice at 13 years old. But even if this weren’t the case and I had grown to love traditional Methodist hymns, and therefore now loved 19th century Catholic hymns, it would be no argument for their inclusion in the liturgy. Most other people would not like them, and they are not intrinsically liturgical.

    I would argue that music derived from 19th century operatic styles, so strongly criticized by St Pius X, is just the same. We may feel that it is a higher form of music than that provided by Christian rock band liturgy, but it will still only appeal to very narrow group of people and will drive all others away. This is true, even if it was written for a Latin Mass.

    If the argument about the music at Mass is raised, very often the counter argument is that we have to be “pastoral.” It will be said that most of those attending church like the music they are getting. There would be a revolt if we changed what is so familiar to them, so the argument runs, and so we can’t risk changing the music even if we wanted to.

    In response, I say that it is very likely true that the people in attendance like the music they are getting, Those who attend do so because they like, or at least can tolerate, the music. Most of those who can’t stand the music they hear at Mass just stay away. They find the experience so excruciatingly, embarrassingly banal, that they go jogging or decide to read the Sunday papers over a cup of coffee instead. This is why, I suggest, the majority of teenagers leave the moment their parents give them permission to make up their own minds about attending church. And, for the reasons already described, it will be true even if we try to find a form of music that some teenagers love - because there is no form of secular music that most teenagers love. It doesn’t exist.

    We can go further than this and raise another argument as to why the approach of the common missalette music, the aping popular forms, will inevitably cause a decline in attendance at Mass. Suppose we did have a society in which the wider culture was more homogeneous and tastes were more consistent across the generations; it would still be a flawed approach.

    I understand that many African cultures, for example, are more homogeneous and less fractured than western culture. In such cases, even if the music of the Mass reproduced the popular African style perfectly, it would still not be the right approach. Although it might well appeal to a wider proportion of the population and you might find higher attendance at Mass, it would not facilitate a deeper and active participation in the liturgy.

    This is because the liturgy is the wellspring of its own culture, and an authentic liturgical culture must be at the heart of any Catholic culture of faith. It is a separate world that appeals to what is universally human in us, and draws us to God in a way that is impossible for secular culture. The music that draws us to it and directs us to the Eucharist most powerfully is that which is derived from a liturgical culture, which, so the Church tells us, is Gregorian chant.

    Secular forms might well draw us in, but if they are so far removed from the forms of an authentic liturgical culture, then even in the context of the liturgy they are inclined to lead us back to the secular values, not on to the Eucharist. Such music is less likely to draw us into a genuinely deep and active participation in the worship of God. In the long term, therefore, any secular music, even if it draws people to Mass, will inevitably lead to more people leaving the Church than staying because the music is distracting them from what is at the heart of the Mass. As a result, there is less of a force that draws us into a supernatural transformation in Christ. There will be fewer Christians, therefore, with the capacity for transmitting an authentic Christian joy to those with whom they interact in their daily lives, outside the Mass and the liturgy. With this reduced power for evangelization, we will lose our lifeblood.

    This ultimately is how we get people back to Mass. The absolute priority is to make the encounter one in which there is the highest possibility of transformation of those present, however few they may be at this point. These people will in turn draw others to the Faith for the right reasons, and those they attract will find the source of what they seek when they get to the Mass.

    This is why Cardinal Sarah said, in his address at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, that even in Africa the liturgy is not the place to incorporate African culture. Rather, because the liturgy has its own culture, which is uniquely and universally Christian, it should seep into the wider culture and transform secular culture into something greater, something that is in some way derived from and points to the liturgy, while simultaneously being distinctly African.

    The only hope we have for the Mass to be a true long-term draw, capable of touching the many who currently have no interest in attending, is to focus on making chant the dominant form. We must even be prepared to lose a few of those who are currently at Masses with missalette music, and who are there for the wrong reasons, to drift away or even be prepared to carry on in the face of strong complaints from these people if it is changed.

    While having chant at all Masses would help, even then it is not going to be enough, in my opinion.

    We must chant in such a way that is going to connect with the ordinary person, and this probably means singing at a pitch that is natural for men to join in. I have been told, for example, that men are less likely to join in if you have female cantors. This is not because of an inherent sexism, but because the female voice is a pure sound, and men find it difficult to come in at a pitch an octave below what the cantor is singing, because it is totally separate from what he is hearing. If there is a male cantor or an exclusively male choir leading the parts that the congregation are meant to sing, on the other hand, the men can emulate what they hear and the women still find it easy to join in because the male voice contains higher harmonics which allow for a connection with female voices. One way of approaching this, perhaps, is to have male or mixed voices for those parts that we are encouraging the congregation to sing along to, and female voices only for those parts where the intention is the congregation will listen or only women members of the congregation join in. Even if men are chanting, there is a style of chant in which a thin, strained, high pitch voice is encouraged. This sounds effeminate to me, and I suggest has the same problems for congregations - it is not only as difficult for most men to sing along to as a female voice, but it is also difficult also to listen to, as the hearer struggles to make a connection to a voice that is so alien to his own.

    Were the approach to music correct and, (dare one hope for more?) our liturgies celebrated in the way that the Church truly desires, would this then bring huge numbers back to churches? In the long run, I would say yes, but in the short run, almost certainly not. But it would bring to the church immediately those who are genuinely looking for what the chant directs their hearts to - God. In the long term, this would have a domino effect. More people who attend Mass would be participating more deeply and become emissaries of the New Evangelization, shining with the light of Christ as they go about their daily business. This, in turn, would draw others to Christ. Because we have free will this is never going to be the whole population, but I do believe that it can be far more than we currently see in our churches today.

    Has the throw-away missalette approach to church music had its day? Probably not yet, to judge from the support that so many bishops, priests and choir directors currently give to this style in the cause of a faux pastoralism that actually alienates most people. But because of this alienation, it does contain the seeds of its own destruction. Unless it is replaced by something else, under the influence of brave pastors and choir directors who are prepared to take the truly pastoral approach, one that takes into consideration the majority who aren’t at church, then we are doomed to steadily declining congregations until the generation that currently listens to this style of music grows old and disappears.

    Faith tells us that the parasite will die before it has killed its host. The Church will remain; and so one has to conclude that at some point the music will change before it brings the whole edifice to collapse. I pray that it is soon.

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    On Sunday of last week, I posted a request for people to report their experiences from those churches which have heeded Cardinal Sarah’s call to return ad orientem worship, beginning with this Advent. As you can read in the combox of that post, we had some positive reports, one person who registered his own personal, dead-set opposition to it, and no reports of any parish priests being lynched by their enraged congregations, or apocalyptic budget short-falls from soon-to-be-empty collection plates. (The latter was actually predicted by some of the more excitable opponents of the new translation, and didn’t happen either.) There were a few notes on our Facebook page as well, including this rather clever one: “For us, file this under, ‘Other people get nice things...’ ” We only received a few photos of newly-instituted ad orientem worship, which will be given below. However, we did receive a gigantic bumper-crop of submissions for our Immaculate Conception photopost, which will appear later today, and for the Gaudete Sunday and Rorate Mass photopost, which will be posted tomorrow. Both of these will show a great many churches where ad orientem has been the norm for the while, even for Mass in the OF, or has been instituted fairly recently.

    I did receive the following message via e-mail. “When I asked the Liturgy Director if our parish was going to implement ad orientem worship, he implied that we needed USCCB approval to do so. When I suggested that this was not the case, he told me the parish was not going to do so and to drop it. When I realized that the other members of the parish catechetical advisory board on which I served did not know what ad orientem worship was or that it was possible (!), I sent them educational materials, and got kicked off the committee for my ‘divisive’ attitude.”

    Self-reporting, informal surveys of this kind do not, of course, give more than the very broadest possible idea of what’s really happening in the world, but hopefully, it is a good sign that this was the only such negative report. For those who find this kind of thing discouraging (and reasonably so), remember the parable of the mustard seed, “the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof.” Forty years ago, there was almost no debate among liturgists that having the priest look the people in the face while addressing God was one of the great conquests of the post-Conciliar reform; the very idea that any Cardinal, much less the head of the CDW, could propose to return to a proper orientation, would have seemed to most people utterly impossible. We are still only at the beginning of the beginning of the Reform of the Reform.

    Here then are the photos, first the church of St Elizabeth-Ann Seton in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, in the diocese of Pittsburgh.

    At the church of Our Lady of Good Health, also called Our Lady of Castello, in Zadar, Croatia, the Archbishop of Zadar, and President of the Croatian Episcopal Conference, H.E. Želimir Puljić, decreed that altar towards people to be moved, and himself celebrated the Mass of the feast day. 

    Also from Croatia, ad orientem in the Cathedral of St Anastasia in Zadar:

    and at the parish church of Ss Peter and Paul on the island of Iž.

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    The Ember Wednesday of December is a particularly special day in the liturgy of Advent, since it is the day on which the Gospel of the Annunciation is traditionally read for the first time in the ecclesiastical year. (It is also read at the Votive Mass of the Virgin in Advent, the famous Rorate Mass, and is quoted repeatedly in the Divine Office.) The Use of Sarum highlighted its importance by a very lovely ceremony, one of the rare example of a special rite being added to the celebration of Matins.

    After the invitatory, hymn and psalms, when it is time to read the homily on the day’s Gospel, “the deacon proceeds with the subdeacon, (both) dressed in white,…bearing a palm from the Holy Land in his hand, with the thurifers and torch-bearers…and he incenses the altar. And so he proceeds through the middle of the choir to the pulpit, to proclaim the Exposition of the Gospel, …with the torch-bearers standing to either side of (him), …and he holds the palm in his hand while he reads the lesson.” (rubric of the Sarum Breviary) As usual, the beginning of the Gospel is read, followed by a long treatise from the Venerable Bede’s Sermon on the Annunciation, of which I here give an excerpt; the Roman Breviary traditionally gives a fairly brief passage from St Ambrose, but the English very often preferred the writings of their fellow-countryman.

    Salisbury Cathedral, from the choir looking west towards the nave. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons by David Iliff. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0. Click to see the original in very high resolution.)
    “Todays’ reading of the holy Gospel, dearest, brethren, commends to us the beginning of our redemption; it tells us that an angel was sent by God from heaven to the Virgin, to announce the new birth of the Son of God in the flesh, so that through it, we may be able to be renewed, our ancient guilt being taken away, and counted among the sons of God. Therefore, that we may merit to obtain the gifts of the promised salvation, let us take to listen carefully to its beginning.

    The Angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph.” It is certainly a fit beginning for humanity’s restoration, that an Angel should be sent by God to a Virgin, who would be consecrated by the birth of God, since the first cause of humanity’s ruin was when a serpent was sent by the devil to deceive a woman in a spirit of pride. Nay rather, the devil himself came in the serpent, that he might strip the human race of the glory of immortality by the deception of our first parents. Therefore, because death entered (the world) through a woman, rightly did life also return through a woman. The former, led astray by the devil through a serpent, offered the taste of death to a man; the latter, taught by God through an Angel, brought forth the Author of our salvation to the world.

    The Annunciation, from a Book of Hours according to the Use of Sarum made for Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443-1509), the mother of King Henry VII. (From the website of the British Library.)
    Therefore, the Angel Gabriel was sent by God. Rarely do we read that Angels are given a name when they appear to men. But when this does happen, it is for this reason, so that from the name itself, they may make known what they are coming to do in God’s service. For Gabriel means “the might of God”, and rightly does he stand out with such a name, who bears witness to God when He is to be born in the flesh; of whom the prophet says in the Psalm, ‘the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle,’ that battle, to wit, in which He came to make war against the spiritual powers, and deliver the world from their sway.

    And going in unto Her, the Angel said, “Hail, that art full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art Thou among women.” And this greeting was as fitting to the dignity of the blessed Mary as it was unheard of in the dealings of men. For indeed she was truly full of grace, to whom it was given by divine favor that first among women, She might offer to God the most glorious gift of virginity. For this reason, She rightly merited to delight in the appearance and speech of the Angel, since She sought to imitate the angelic life. Truly was She full of grace, to whom it was given to bear Jesus Christ, through whom came grace and truth.”

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    As always, we are very grateful to everyone who sent in their photographs of liturgies celebrated on the Immaculate Conception, a very large number indeed this year. For obvious reasons, we can only post a selection, but a few of these sets are posted on Facebook and elsewhere, and links are given where you can see some more of the photos. These are posted in the order received; we have a few Pontifical Masses, and some blue vestments from both the Philippine Islands and California.

    Basilica of the Immaculate Conception - Fribourg, Switzerland (FSSP)
    Pontifical Mass with Bishop Athanasius Schneider. The music in Fribourg is always great, but particularly splendid here, with timpani, trumpets and theorbo! (Photos from the FSSP en Suisse Romande, click here to see the full set.)

    Oratory of the Immaculate Conception - Birmingham, England
    Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Grace Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham (See more on the Oratory’s Facebook page.)

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

    St Mary’s Parish - Kalamazoo, Michigan

    St Louis Church - Tallahassee, Florida
    OF ad orientem, with the ordinary of the Mass in Latin; courtesy of Una Voce Tallahassee, from their Facebook page.

    St Andrew’s School chapel - Parañaque City, Philippine Islands

    St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michican
    Recently featured here on NLM as a new apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King.

    Latin Mass Chaplaincy of Christchurch, New Zealand
    Pontifical Mass celebrated by H.E. Basil Meeking, Bishop Emeritus of Christchurch. (See the full set of photos on their Facebook page. The young man in the first photo was one of three elevated as a Knight of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.)

    Co-cathedral of St Joseph - Burlington, Vermont

    St Joseph’s Church - Troy, New York
    Pontifical Mass celebrated by H.E. Edward Scharfenberger, Bishop of Albany

    Santa Maria degli Angeli - Civitanova Alta, Italy
    Currently hosting the community of the faithful of Summorum Pontificum of Tolentino (Sacred Heart Church) hit by the recent earthquake.

    Ss Peter and Paul - Wilmington, California

    Cathedral Basilica of Ss Peter and Paul - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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    Among the most beloved of Christmas pieces is surely the so-called “Huron Carol.” The carol’s text was written by St. Jean de Brebeuf in Quebec in 1642 or 1643 while his father recuperated from a broken clavicle, and set to a familiar French tune of the day, Une jeune pucelle. St. Jean composed the text in the Huron dialect (also known as Wyandot) that he had learned quite well. Fortunately, one of the later missionaries, Fr. de Villeneuve, wrote down the words and translated them into simple French; otherwise we would have lost it altogether.

              Ehstehn yayau deh tsaun we yisus ahattonnia
              O na wateh wado:kwi nonnwa 'ndasqua entai
              ehnau sherskwa trivota nonnwa 'ndi yaun rashata
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

              Ayoki onki hm-ashe eran yayeh raunnaun
              yauntaun kanntatya hm-deh 'ndyaun sehnsatoa ronnyaun
              Waria hnawakweh tond Yosehf sataunn haronnyaun
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

              Asheh kaunnta horraskwa deh ha tirri gwames
              Tishyaun ayau ha'ndeh ta aun hwa ashya a ha trreh
              aundata:kwa Tishyaun yayaun yaun n-dehta
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

              Dau yishyeh sta atyaun errdautau 'ndi Yisus
              avwa tateh dn-deh Tishyaun stanshi teya wennyau
              aha yaunna torrehntehn yataun katsyaun skehnn
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

              Eyeh kwata tehnaunnte aheh kwashyehn ayehn
              kiyeh kwanaun aukwayaun dehtsaun we 'ndeh adeh
              tarrya diskwann aunkwe yishyehr eya ke naun sta
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Ahattonnia, Iesus Ahattonnia.

    The following is John Steckley’s literal translation of the carol from Huron to English:

              Have courage, you who are humans; Jesus, he is born.
              Behold, the spirit [demon] who had us as prisoners has fled.
              Do not listen to it, as it corrupts the spirits of our minds.
              Jesus, he is born.

              They are spirits, sky people [angels], coming with a message for us.
              They are coming to say, “Be on top of life [Rejoice],
              Marie, she has just given birth. Rejoice!”
              Jesus, he is born.

              Three have left for such, those who are elders.
              Tichion, a star that has just appeared on the horizon, leads them there.
              He will seize the path, he who leads them there.
              Jesus, he is born.

              As they arrived there, where he was born, Jesus,
              the star was at the point of stopping, not far past it.
              Having found someone for them, he says, “Come here!”
              Jesus, he is born.

              Behold, they have arrived there and have seen Jesus,
              They praised many times, saying “Hurray, he is good in nature.”
              They greased his scalp many times [greeted him with reverence],
              saying “Hurray.” Jesus, he is born.

              “We will give to him praise for his name,
              Let us show reverence for him as he comes to be compassionate to us.
              It is providential that you love us and wish, ‘I should adopt them.’”
              Jesus, he is born.

    The song is crafted to appeal to the worldview and customs of the natives. However, in Brebeuf’s text, no God is praised except Jesus. One may see the same thing in the French translation of Brebeuf’s original:

              Chrétiens, prenez courage
              Jésus Sauveur est né
              Du malin les ouvrages
              A jamais sont ruinés
              Quand il chante merveille
              A ces troublants appas
              Ne pretez plus l’oreille
              Jésus est né, in excelsis gloria!

              Oyez cette nouvelle
              Dont un ange est portuer
              Oyez, âmes fidèles
              Et dilatez vos coeurs
              La Vierge dans l’étable
              Entoure de ses bras
              L’Enfant-Dieu adorable
              Jésus est né, in excelsis gloria!

              Voici que trois Rois Mages
              Perdus en Orient
              Déchiffrent ce message
              Ecrit au firmament
              L’astre nouveau les hante
              Ils la suivrant là-bas
              Cette étoile marhante
              Jésus est né, in excelsis gloria!

              Jésus leur met en tête
              Que L’Etoile en la nuit
              Qui jamais ne s’arrête
              Les conduira vers Lui
              Dans las nuit radieuse
              En route ils son déjà
              Ils vont l’âme joyeuse
              Jésus est né, in excelsis gloria!

              Pour l’enfant qui repose
              Dans un petit berceau
              Humblement ils déposent
              Hommages et cadeaux
              Comme eux, l’âme ravie
              Chrétiens, suivons ses pas
              Son amour nous convie
              Jésus est né, in excelsis gloria!

    Problems arise, however, when we get to the exceedingly well-known 1926 English version of the carol done by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1872-1960). Middleton's version rather self-consciously enhances the “Indianness” of the text by stating that Jesus is born in “lodge of broken bark” and wrapped in a “robe of rabbit skin.” He is surrounded by hunters rather than shepherds, and chiefs bring him “fox and beaver pelts” instead of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Most troublingly, Middleton gratutiously inserts the name of one of the pagan gods of the Algonquin, “Gitchi Manitou,” which is not in the original Wyandot version. Indeed, the very words “Gitchi Manitou” are from the Ojibwe language, not the Wyandot.

    Why is this a big deal? The answer is simple: Middleton’s familiar translation is not faithful to St. Jean de Brebeuf’s authorial intentions. With classic Jesuit ingenuity and precision, Brebeuf wrote a text that, while utilizing native concepts, going overboard to avoid asserting or honoring anything pagan. We, too, when singing this carol, should avoid the same. While it is true that “Gitchi Manitou” can be translated as “Great Spirit” and subsequently entered into common usage among Algonquian Christians (an insight for which I am thankful to a commenter below), in context it would be somewhat like those Renaissance Latin hymns that addressed God as thundering Jupiter.

    Years ago I composed a harmonization of the Huron Carol and published it in my Sacred Choral Works. I regret that I used Middleton’s text, the difficulties of which I did not grasp until much later, when a discerning musician wrote an email to me about all of these matters.

    Do we have any alternatives, then, when singing the Huron Carol? Fortunately, yes, we do. Julie Pyle's translation is quite useable (see here). A similar translation of two stanzas from Heather Dale makes me wish she had done all of them:

              Let Christian men take heart today
              The devil’s rule is done;
              Let no man heed the devil more,
              For Jesus Christ is come
              But hear ye all what angels sing:
              How Mary Maid bore Jesus King.
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Jesus is born, Iesus Ahattonnia.

              Three chieftains saw before Noel
              A star as bright as day,
              “So fair a sign,” the chieftains said,
              “Shall lead us where it may.”
              For Jesu told the chieftains three:
              “The star will bring you here to me.”
              Iesus Ahattonnia, Jesus is born, Iesus Ahattonnia.

    For a fascinating scholarly article on this subject, see John Steckley, “Huron Carol: A Canadian Cultural Chamelion,” British Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 27, n. 1 (March 2014): 55–74. Retrievable from ResearchGate.

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    The response to our request for photos of Gaudete Sunday liturgies and Rorate Masses has been really remarkable, much greater than it was last year, and there are enough that we will make at least two posts of them, possibly three. If you sent photos in, but don’t see them here, know that they will definitely be posted, and that we are very grateful for your submissions. (I put them up in the order they are received.)

    I think it important for us to briefly consider something about this. Rose vestments are not just optional, but can only be used twice a year, while Rorate Masses are entirely optional. It should be an encouragement to us all to see how many Catholics are not just letting these things drop as unimportant or inessential, but rather, positively encouraging and promoting them as part of our tradition and heritage; not asking “Why was not this vestment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor?”, getting up extra early for Mass before sunrise. So thank you all also for your good example - evangelize through beauty!

    Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey

    St Stephen - Portland, Oregon

    Christ the King - Gothenberg, Sweden

    St Mary - Kalamazoo, Michigan

    The first three photos are of the OF, the second three of the EF; the chasuble was made by a parishioner and ‘debuted’ at these Masses

    Holy Innocents - New York City
    (Every year, we have at least one example of a rose-colored chasuble which seems like it is of a different color because of the camera.)

    Co-cathedral of St Joseph - Burlington, Vermont

    Mary, Mother of God - Washington, D.C.

    St Eugene Cathedral - Santa Rosa, California
    (sanctuary under construction...)

    Mater Dei Latin Mass Parish - Irving, Texas (FSSP)

    Holy Spirit - Fountain Valley, California

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    On Saturday, December 3, Fr. Innocent Smith, O.P. gave a pair of lectures at the Catholic Center at New York University, entitled “The Rest is Said in Praise to God: Thomas Aquinas on the Rites of the Mass,” drawing on the commentaries on the Mass that may be found in the Scriptum on the Sentences of Peter Lombard and the Summa theologiae. Throughout his writings, St Thomas Aquinas offers profound insights into the liturgy that draw on the thought of his predecessors, while bringing his own to the mysteries of the Church’s prayer. Fr Smith’s lectures focus on the traditional and innovative aspects of Thomas’s liturgical thought within his 13th century context, and also aim to help us to enter more deeply into the liturgy as experienced in its various forms today.

    They have just been posted on Soundcloud, and can be heard at the following links:

    There are also two handouts which can be accessed through

    Our thanks to Fr Smith for letting us know that these are now available, I am sure many of our readers will find them extremely useful and interesting. 

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    Dominican Liturgy Publications is happy to announce the publication of the Ordo for The Dominican Rite in 2017, which is the work of the editor of Breviarium S.O.P.  This booklet is intended for use by anyone who prays the 1962 Dominican Rite Breviary. It includes a complete calendar for the Dominican Rite liturgical year for 2017.

    In addition, it includes the collects for the Dominican blesseds who are not on the calendar (so that a votive commemoration can be made of their feast), obits of the deceased masters of the Order, and announcements of days when Lay Dominicans can obtain plenary indulgences.  Finally, it contains an English translation of the Office of Prime, which was omitted from the 1967 English translation of the Dominican Breviary.

    It can be purchased here.

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    We continue with your photos of Gaudete Sunday liturgies and Rorate Masses, which are still coming in! There will be a third post of these, so again, if you sent photos in and don’t them here, they will be included in the next one. Thank you all once again!

    St Robert Bellarmine Parish - Glasgow, Scotland
    Here is the first of a series of nine videos; you can see the whole Mass by clicking this link, which will take you to their Youtube playlist. This was the first traditional Latin Mass celebrated in this church in 30 years.

    St Joan of Arc - Oberlin, Louisiana
    Courtesy of Mr Ryan Rozas; the second and fourth photos in this set are particularly good. (St Joan of Arc was featured here last month in one of our most popular posts of the year.)

    St Kevin - Dublin, Ireland
    Courtesy of Mr John Briody. (See the full album here.) The Mass of Gaudete Sunday was celebrated in the presence of His Excellency, Archbishop Charles J. Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, who afterwards conferred the Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice on Mr. Gerry Murphy in the presence of a large crowd of family, friends, and parishioners in the church hall. Mr. Murphy played a pivotal role in the reintroduction and continuance of the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in Ireland during the turbulent decades following the Second Vatican Council. The Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in July, 1888 and made a permanent distinction in October, 1898, recognizing those who have distinguished themselves in their services to the Church and to its visible head, the Pope. St. Kevin’s Church, Harrington Street, Dublin 8, is home to the Latin Mass Chaplaincy for the Dublin Archdiocese.

    Santa Maria degli Angeli - Civitanova Alta, Italy
    Currently hosting the community of the faithful of Summorum Pontificum of Tolentino (Sacred Heart Church) hit by the recent earthquake.

    Holy Ghost - Knoxville, Tennessee

    St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michigan (ICRSP)

    Our Lady of Mt Carmel Pontifical Sanctuary - Manhattan, NYC 

    All Saints - Minneapolis, Minnesota (FSSP)
    Courtesy of Tracy Dunne. The vestments are newly made from Spain; the fourth photo is of Vespers on Gaudete Sunday.

    St Matthew - Dix Hills, New York

    London Oratory

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