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    St Colman’s Society for Catholic Liturgy is pleased to announce that the Fota X International Liturgy Conference will be held in Cork, Ireland, July 8-10, 2017. The subject of the conference is Resourcing the Prayers of the Roman Liturgy: Patristic Sources and will be explored by a panel of experts drawn from the United States, Germany and Ireland, among them Prof. Manfred Hauke (Lugano), Prof. Dieter Boehler (Frankfurt), Prof. Joseph Briody (Boston), Dr. Lauren Pristas (New York), and Gregory DiPippo (New Liturgical Movement). Registration for the Conference will open after Easter.

    His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke celebrating Pontifical High Mass during the Fota IX conference last July.

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  • 03/14/17--16:03: Vespers in Dominican Chant
  • Dominican Liturgy Publications is pleased to announce that the volume containing the texts and music for singing Vespers for all the solemnities and Sundnays of the year in Dominican Gregorian chant is now available for purchase. The volume,Vesperale ex Liturgia Horarum iuxta Usum Ordininis Praedicatorum, also contains the music for Vespers of all celebrations with the fank of feast proper to the Dominican Order.

    This hard-back volume is ideal for Dominican communities and parishes who want to include Gregorian Chant Vespers according to the Liturgy of the Hours to their prayer schedule on a regular basis. If you are a Dominican friar or sister ordering more than 10 copies for your community's use, contact me by email for arranging a bulk discount. The volume may be ordered here.

    Those who want to sing the Office according to the traditional Dominican Rite can download or order resources at Dominican Liturgy on the left sidebar.

    I am also happy to announce that the newly revised Dominican Rite Calendar for 2017 now includes the local feasts for all American dioceses where there are priories or communities of Dominican friars. Previously it included only dioceses where there are houses of the Western Dominican Province. This calendar may be downloaded gratis here. If any friar notices a error or something lacking for his province, please let me know and I will correct it.

    We invite readers to visit Dominican Liturgy Publications and see our other publications!

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    The Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Newark, New Jersey, will have an EF Missa Cantata for the transferred Feast of St. Joseph on Monday, March 20th at 7:00 p.m., celebrated by Msgr. Joseph Ambrosio. Following Mass there will be Italian sweets (zeppole di San Giuseppe, sfinge) and coffee to celebrate Monsignor’s name day. The church is located at 259 Oliver Street.

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    In the Byzantine Rite, the feast of St Benedict is kept on March 14th, one week before the day of his death, which is his traditional Roman day. The Greek College in Rome honors him as its Patron Saint, but because his feast always falls in Lent, when the Divine Liturgy is only celebrated on Sundays and Saturdays, it is commemorated when it falls during the week at a Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, Vespers combined with a Communion service. Here are a few pictures from yesterday evening’s ceremony.

    An icon of St Athanasius. titular Saint of the College’s main church.
    As Elijah once did, Father, you brought down the rain from heaven by your divine entreaty; you made a vessel run over with oil, and raised a dead man, and accomplished numberless other wonders, in all ways unto the glory of God and the Savior, o holy one; wherefore, Benedict, we celebrate your holy memory with love. (3rd Sticheron for Vespers)

    The little entrance with the Gospel book. Normally, this is done with only the thurible, but on major feasts, an Epistle and Gospel may be added to the Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts, in which case the Gospel book is carried as is normally done at the Divine Liturgy.
    After the Little Entrance, there are two readings from the Old Testament, Genesis and Proverbs in Lent, Exodus and Job in Holy Week. The altar is then incensed from all sides, as the priest and choir sing part of Psalm 140, with the refrain “Let my prayer rise before Thee as incense, the lifting up of my hands as and evening sacrifice.”, accompanied with a series of full prostrations.

    The deacon sings the Gospel from the pulpit.

    If you click on this picture to magnify it, you can see a metal Eucharistic tabernacle in the form of a dove suspended from the middle of the baldachin.
    One of the chapels within the college.

    The bell-tower of the Church of St Athanaius, seen from inside the college.
    Another icon of St Benedict, here given the epithet “the Cenobiarch”, which means “one who rules over monks who live in common.” The very first section of the Rule of St Benedict, On the various kinds of monks, states “...there are four kinds of monks. The first kind are the Cenobites, those who live in monasteries and serve under a rule and an Abbot. ... Passing (the other kinds) over, therefore, let us proceed, with God’s help, to lay down a rule for the strongest kind of monks, the Cenobites.”

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  • 03/15/17--14:54: The Feast of St Longinus
  • On March 15th, the Roman Martyrology commemorates St Longinus, who is traditionally said to be the soldier who pierced the Lord’s side with a lance on the Cross (John 19, 34), as well as the centurion who said “Truly, this man was the Son of God.” (Matthew 27, 54) His legend states that he suffered from a malady of the eyes, which was healed when the some of the blood that came forth from the Savior’s side touched him. The apocryphal “Letters between Pilate and Herod” also claim that he was one of the guards at Christ’s tomb, and not only witnessed the Resurrection, but spoke with the Lord Himself shortly afterwards. After preaching the Gospel and living a monastic life near Caesarea of Cappadocia (later the see of St Basil the Great), he was martyred by beheading.

    An illustration from a Syriac Gospel book now kept at the Laurentian Library in Florence, known from the name of the scribe as the Rabula Gospels, dated 586 A.D. The name “Longinos” is written in Greek over the soldier on the left with the lance, but this may be an addition by a later hand. 
    There are a great many variants to the story, which cannot be regarded as a reliable hagiography. The city of Lanciano in the Italian region of the Abruzzi claims him as a native son, and that his martyrdom took place there instead. The city of Mantua in Lombardy, birthplace of the poet Virgil, claims that he preached in that region, and was martyred there, and furthermore, that he brought to that city relics of the Lord’s Precious Blood, and the sponge which was used to give Him vinegar during the Passion. These are now kept in the crypt of the basilica of St Andrew, which was begun by the famous Renaissance architect Leon Battista Alberti in 1472, but only completed in 1732. Our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi recently visited the city, and took these photos of the basilica.

    The chapel of St Longinus. The tomb on the left contains his relics, that on the right, some of the relics of St Gregory Nazianzen, given to Mantua by Matilda of Canossa. (Detailed photos below)
    The story is told that the relics of Christ’s Blood brought to Mantua by St Longinus were hidden for safekeeping by Longinus himself, and discovered in 804 when St Andrew the Apostle appeared to someone to reveal their location. (Similar stories are told about many of the famous and more improbable relics of the Middle Ages.) The rediscovery of the relics is here depicted by Giulio Romano, a disciple of Raphael who did an enormous amount of work in Mantua under the Gonzaga dukes; the Crucifixion scene below is also his.
    “The bones of Longinus, him that pierced the side of Christ.”
    “This stone keeps the bones of Gregory of Nazianzen.”
    This spot in the pavement over the crypt marks the place where the relics of Christ’s Blood are kept. “Procumbe, viator, pretium tuae redemptionis adora. - Fall down, thou who pass, adore the price of thy redemption.”
    The relics are kept in a safebox which requires twelve keys to open, and is only brought out for an exposition once a year on Good Friday; custody of the keys is divided between the basilica, the bishop of Mantua, the chapter, and the civil prefect of the city. The reliquaries seen here on top of the box are copies of the originals inside it.

    The martyrdom of Saint Andrew in the apsidal fresco.
    The cupola
    The central nave seen from the back of the church. (Sadly, the main sanctuary has been horribly defaced by the addition of a painfully white cathedra and forward-facing altar.)
    The nave seen from closer to the sanctuary.

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    Dominican Liturgy Publications is pleased to announce the republication of the Forumularium Absolutionum et Benedictionum ad Usum Ordininis Praedicatorum, which contains dozens of blesssings, absolutions, and other prayer formula of the traditional Dominican Rite.  Those who write me wanting to find, for example, the Dominican Blessing for Rosaries, or that for the Angelic Warfare Cord, may find these, along with blessing of meals, in this volume.

    This volume is available in two versions. One version, is a 6 x 9 inch hardback version with red rubrics;  theother version, is a smaller, inexpensive, pocket book paperback that you can carry with you.

    We invite readers to visit Dominican Liturgy Publications and see all our other publications!

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    Call for Papers
    The Liturgy and Post-Modernity
    2017 Annual Conference of the Society for Catholic Liturgy

    The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
    and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    September 28-30, 2017

    With post-modernity, reality and truth, beyond individual preference, do not have a defining source. In fact, relativism and individualism are radicalized to the point of enshrining plurality, diversity and tolerance. The celebration of the sacred liturgy as the primary expression of God’s truth and revelation for reflection and living the Christian life must negotiate post-modernity without forfeiting its nature and purpose. The 2017 Conference of the Society for Catholic Liturgy will occasion academic and pastoral presentations on the topic of the liturgy and post-modernity.

    You are invited to submit a paper proposal for a presentation at the 2017 Annual Conference on the topic of the Liturgy and Post-Modernity in terms of:
    • an understanding of the sacred liturgy itself, 
    • the celebration of the sacred liturgy, 
    • instruction on the sacred liturgy, 
    • participation in the sacred liturgy, 
    • preaching during the sacred liturgy, 
    • the celebration of the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, 
    • the Liturgy of the Hours and liturgical prayer, 
    • liturgical time and the memory of Mary and the saints, 
    • liturgical music, 
    • liturgical art and architecture, 
    • the sacred liturgy and the Christian life, 
    • the sacred liturgy and tradition, 
    • the sacred liturgy and ecumenism. 
    Other proposals will be considered, but primary consideration will be given to proposals that are related to the theme, liturgy and post-modernity.

    Paper proposals of approximately 250 words should be emailed to or mailed to Reverend Gerald Dennis Gill, SCL Conference Coordinator, Office for Divine Worship, 222 North Seventeenth Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103. Proposals must be received by Friday, May 5, 2017.

    Presentations will be 45 minutes in length, followed by 15 minutes of discussion. Papers presented will be considered for publication in Antiphon. Presenters must register for the full conference and will be responsible for their own expenses.

    Photo of the Stanford Memorial Church by Trey Ratcliff.

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    Thanks to Matthew Swaim of the Coming Home Network for bringing to our attention this video of a very interesting lecture by the late Helen Hull Hitchcock on “Catholic Life in the Colonies.” It was given at their 2007 Deep in History Conference, and includes some neat liturgical tidbits, such as the difficulty of celebrating Catholic Mass in the New World due to restrictions on alcohol, and the lack of beeswax for candles.

    Helen Hitchcock, who passed away in October of 2014, was the editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, the monthly publication of the Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, which she cofounded in 1995 with Fathers Joseph Fessio, S.J. and Jerry Pokorski. She was also the founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices, and published many articles and essays in a variety of Catholic journals, as well as The Politics of Prayer: Feminist Language and the Worship of God (Ignatius Press, 1992), a collection of essays on issues in liturgical translation.

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    Yesterday, Catholic World Report published an interview with Dom Alcuin Reid on this year’s Sacra Liturgia Conference, which will take place in Milan from June 6-9, and include a number of celebrations in both Forms of the Ambrosian Rite. Dom Reid outlines the conference’s liturgical program, and some of the topics which the invited speakers will address, among them Card. Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, and Cardinal Raymond Burke, and comments on the reception of Card. Sarah’s call at last year’s conference for a broad return to ad orientem worship. Here are a few keys excerpts.

    CWR: So Sacra Liturgia Milan will feature the Ambrosian rite liturgy?

    Dom Alcuin Reid: Yes, as at all our conferences the celebration of the liturgy is at the heart of what we do and because we shall be in Milan those celebrations, naturally, will be in the Ambrosian rite. The opening Solemn Vespers will be celebrated in the historic Basilica of Saint Ambrose; His Eminence, Cardinal Tettamanzi, has kindly agreed to celebrate for us.

    So too, one of the conference Masses will be celebrated there in the modern Ambrosian rite by its Bishop-Abbot, Bishop DeScalzi, who has been very welcoming to us. His Eminence, Cardinal Scola, has facilitated our use of the beautiful church of St Alessandro for our celebration of Holy Mass in the ancient Ambrosian rite, and the conference will conclude in the Metropolitan Cathedral with Solemn Vespers, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and a statio at the altar of Blessed Ildephonse Schuster, the famous liturgist and Archbishop of Milan from 1929-1954. The Archpriest of the Duomo, who has also been very welcoming, will celebrate Vespers for us. ...

    CWR: Robert Cardinal Sarah is once again a presenter; what will he be speaking on? Will his talk touch on the some of the matters he discusses in his new book, The Power of Silence?

    Dom Alcuin Reid: His Eminence is speaking on “The Sacred Liturgy—Our Encounter With God: A Christological and Ecclesiological Perspective.” I cannot imagine that he would speak of our encounter with Almighty God without reflecting on the necessity of a fruitful silence and receptivity on the part of the Church and of each of us as we contemplate God’s saving action in the liturgy. But we shall have to wait and see what he says. Certainly the question of liturgy and ecclesiology is an important one and has been discussed quite a bit in recent years.

    CWR: Another well-known cardinal, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, will be presenting as well. What is the focus of his address?

    Dom Alcuin Reid: Cardinal Burke is speaking, ten years after its promulgation, about Pope Benedict XVI’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum and is presenting an assessment of those ten years as well as a prospective view of the future of the usus antiquior, the more ancient form, of the Roman rite. It promises to be an important address both in its analysis and in its vision for the years to come. ...

    CWR: In his address at Sacra Liturgia London last summer (link in original), Cardinal Sarah suggested that Catholics consider a return to worship ad orientem. Overall, in hindsight, what sort of response was there to those remarks? What did those responses indicate to you, as someone who has been studying liturgical reform for many years?

    Dom Alcuin Reid: Well, as we know, the responses were many and varied. Some—including responses from people in authority—were incredible in their naivety and lack of understanding of what the Cardinal actually said and indeed of the relevant ecclesiastical regulations. Nevertheless his message was not drowned by the noise created by its ill-informed critics. It reached the ears of those whose ears were indeed prepared to listen.

    I understand that Cardinal Sarah has received many, many messages of support from around the world and that these far outnumber any criticisms he has received. And one continues to hear of more priests and parishes adopting his proposal to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy ad orientem; I have even seen reports of priests commencing this at the beginning of Lent because they judged it necessary to take a longer period to provide the catechesis necessary in their parish. This seems very wise and prudent.

    In spite of the “dictatorship of noise” that attempts to rule liturgical discourse at times, His Eminence’s calm and considered message has in fact reached many people who are quietly getting on with the business of enriching the liturgical life of the Church according to a hermeneutic of continuity and not of rupture. His “still small voice” (cf. 1 Kings 19:12) rings true in the hearts and souls of many, and in time it will bear more fruit.

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    Since it is the ancient custom of the Byzantine Rite to refrain from celebrating the Divine Liturgy on the weekdays of Lent, many Byzantine churches dedicate a lot more time to the Office in this period. A reader sent me a notice that the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of St John the Baptist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is now live-streaming the celebration of the Office via its Facebook page; the videos can also be watched after the live-steam is over. The schedule is posted on the parish website.

    Vespers of the Presentation of the Lord, from our 2015 Candlemas Photopost.
    The Cathedral of St John the Baptist in Parma, Ohio, located at 1900 Carlton Road, will celebrate Matins with the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete on Wednesday, March 29, starting at 6 pm. The Canon of St Andrew is an extraordinarily beautiful series of meditations on sin and exhortations to repentance, filled with typological and mystical explanations of Scripture, drawn from both Testaments. Just to give one example of a tropar from the beginning: “Having rivaled Adam, the first-created, by my transgression, I realize that I am stripped naked of God and of the everlasting kingdom and the joy thereof, through my sins.” The life of St Mary of Egypt, one of the great penitent Saints, is read as part of this ceremony, and a relic of her will be offered for the veneration of the faithful; Confessions will also be heard. (A commemoration of St Mary is made on the following Sunday in the Byzantine Rite, the Fifth of Lent.)

    From the cathedral’s Facebook page.
    The Canon is a literary form that lends itself to prolixity, and the Great Canon is the longest of any in the repertoire. On the first four days of Lent, it is split into four parts, and added to the celebration of Great Compline; on Thursday of the Fifth Week of Lent, it is sung in full at Matins, which are commonly anticipated to the previous evening. It is customary to do a full prostration, touching the floor with one’s forehead, after each of the many tropars within the Canon, but of course, with classic Byzantine common-sense, each person may do these as best they can, and no one should feel obligated if they are physically unable.

    The website of the women’s monastery of Christ the Bridegroom, also in Parma, has a notice that“A simple Lenten meal will be served 5:00-5:45 p.m., and the Canon will begin at 6:00 p.m. All are invited to come for part or all of the Canon, even if you are not physically able to participate in the prostrations. The duration of the Canon is approximately 3.5 hours. Please RSVP by Friday, March 24, to 440-834-0290 or so the nuns know how much food and how many booklets to prepare.”

    (Readers may remember that in December 2015, we posted videos of a priestly ordination in the cathedral of Parma and the first Mass of the ordinand, Fr Andrew Summerson.)

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    The seven Penitential Psalms are a standard part of the liturgical material incorporated into Books of Hours, along with the Little Office of the Virgin Mary, the Office of the Dead, and the Litany of the Saints. Of course, many Books of Hours are filled with beautiful illustrations, and as a follow-up to last week’s post about the Penitential Psalms in the liturgy of Lent, here is a selection of some of the images commonly chosen to go with them.

    From the Maastricht Hours, 14th century (Stowe ms. 17, British Library): Mary Magdalene, the penitent Saint par excellence, meets the risen Christ in the Garden; a woman kneels before her confessor, as the hand of God absolves her from above. The bishop on the right is probably meant to signify that the priest can absolve sins only on the bishop’s authority.

    The Maastricht Hours are famous for their repertoire of strange and whimsical marginal images, most of which have no relationship to the text and are not religious in character. Here is an exception, a black bird accompanying the words of Psalm 101, “I am like a night raven in the house.”

    Book of Hours according to the Use of Ghent, 14th century. (Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, 565, Bibliothèque nationale de France.) Christ in Judgment at the end of the world, with the dead rising from the earth, and a figure representing the mouth of Hell.

    Book of Hours according to the Use of Paris, late 14th - early 15th century. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 18014.) The Trinity in Majesty, with the symbols of the Four Evanglists. Below, David, the author of the Psalms, in combat with Goliath, a popular subject with the Penitential Psalms.

    The Hours of Brière de Surgy, 14th century. (Bibliotheque Municipale de la Ville de Laon, ms. 243q.) King David as an elderly man in prayer.

    The Hours of Chrétienne de France, 1470-75 (Use of Rouen, Latin and French; Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Ms-562 réserve, BnF.) The episode of the census of Israel and the plague which it provokes (2 Kings 24). King David kneels before the prophet Gad, with the Angel of the Lord above, whose sword symbolizes the plague.

    Book of Hours of René of Anjou, King of Sicily 15th century. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 1156 A) The Trinity in Majesty.

    The Hours of Louis of Laval, late 15th century. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 920.) This is one of the most fully illustrated Books of Hours ever produced; every single page has a Biblical scene on it. Here are the two which begin the series that accompanies the Penitential Psalms, the first being David fighting Goliath.

    The later 15th century sees the introduction of a new subject matter for this part of a Book of Hours, David spying on Bathsheba (2 Kings 11), the episode referred to in the title of the most famous of the Penitential Psalms, and the most prominent in the liturgy, the Miserere (Psalm 50.)

    Book of Hours of King Henri II, 16th century, (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 1429). Job reproved by his wife.

    Two more images of the Bathsheba story, first from a Book of Hours according to the Use of Rome, provenance unknown, 1524. (Library of Congress, Rosenwald ms. 10).

    Second, from the Book of Hours of Anne of Austria, 16th century (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, NAL 3090).

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    Thanks once again to our friend Mr John Briody for sending in photos from St Kevin’s Church in Dublin, Ireland, home to the Latin Mass Chaplaincy for the Dublin Archdiocese; this time, they are of Mass for yesterday’s feast of the Patron of Ireland, St Patrick. The celebrant is a new priest of the FSSP, Fr. James Mawdsley, a native of England who, before entering seminary, worked as a human-rights activist; for his work on behalf of democratic rule and against the oppression of ethnic minorities, he spent well over a year in a Burmese jail, and was subjected to beatings and torture. Regina Magazine interviewed him last year about his remarkable experiences; he is now assigned to the FSSP Apostolate at St Mary’s in Warrington, England. Our congratulation to Fr Mawdsley and the FSSP! (A reminder that Mr Briody has a large number of photos, of liturgies and other stuff, on his two flickr accounts.)

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    This week, we have three major features of the liturgical year within a single week - the feasts of St Joseph and the Annunciation, followed immediately by Laetare Sunday. We will be doing at least one photopost for all three of these together, possibly more, depending on how many we receive; please send your photos, whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Forms, to for inclusion. Photos of Vespers and other parts of the Office are always welcome, and for our Byzantine friends, we will be glad to include photos of the Veneration of the Cross on the Third Sunday of Great Lent. 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 Laetare Sunday photopost, taken at the church of St Joseph in Singapore.

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    Over the last few years, quite a number of people have either written to me or left a note in one of the comboxes to say how much they enjoy this series, so I apologize for letting myself get behind with it during this very busy week. It has become kind of a tradition that every year we miss a station or two. Our Roman pilgrim friend Agnese was unwell on Ember Saturday, and so she missed the Station at St Peter’s that day; the station church for the Second Sunday of Lent, Santa Maria in Domnica, is currently closed for restoration, and the stational Mass was therefore celebrated in the unattractive chapel of a nearby hospital. We therefore resume with this post covering Monday to Friday of the Second Week of Lent; the next one will go from yesterday to next Wednesday.

    Monday of the Second Week of Lent - San Clemente
    The procession before the Mass began as usual in the ruins of the ancient basilica below the current one, made its way upstairs and through the large portico, before entering for the Mass. San Clemente has been home to the Irish Dominican friars in Rome since the later 17th century, and we see them participating in the procession. Also notice in the 4th photo the custom of strewing greenery on the floors of churches during the station Masses, as also further down at San Vitale. (Nobody seems to really know where this comes from or why it is done.)
    San Clemente is famously built on three levels; the 12th-century church seen below in pictures 3-5 was built on the ruins of the original basilica from the 4th century, which in turn sits on top of two ancient Roman buildings, one of the late first and another of the mid-2nd century. All three of these levels are accessible to the public. When the second level, the church of the 4th century, was dug out in the middle of the 19th century, no remains of an altar or any part of the sanctuary were found . The archeologists soon realized that in the process of building the newer church on top of the older, the 12th-century builders had dismantled them entirely, moved them upstairs, and reassembled them in their current place. The altar and baldachin seen here were then newly made so that the newly rediscovered spaces of the older church could be used once again for worship.

    Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent - Santa Balbina
    The church of Saint Balbina on the Aventine Hill is very close to the Norbertine College, and each year, members of the latter participate in the stational procession, while the college’s choir sings the liturgy. The second photograph shows members of the clergy before the main door of the college, followed by the procession though the rather narrow streets on the way to Santa Balbina.

    Wednesday of the Second Week - Santa Cecilia in Trastevere

    The church is home to a community of Benedictine nuns.
    In front of the altar is the famous statue of St Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, depicting her as her body was said to have been found when her tomb was opened in 1599.
    Thursday of the Second Week - Santa Maria in Trastevere

    The relic seen at right is of the Holy Cross; the round reliquary next to it in the photo is of Pope St Callixtus I (ca. 218-223), whose traditional legend states that he founded a church on the site where Santa Maria in Trastevere is now, and was martyred nearby by being thrown into a well.
    Friday of the Second Week - San Vitale

    The church of San Vitale was first dedicated in the year 416; modern constructions around it, including the street on which it sits, the via Nazionale, are on a much higher level, and one must now descend a rather large staircase to reach the church, as seen here.

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    The progress of centuries has often returned to the Rule of St. Benedict as a repository of timeless wisdom, capable of guiding any community of God-seekers to peace and holiness. One cannot help but be struck by the way Benedict emphasizes that the young monks’ voices ought to be given a fair hearing. Benedict was not exactly egalitarian (he frequently counsels the beating of the refractory, for example), but he recognized, with St. John Cassian, that age does not automatically equal wisdom and that young people can have the perspective needed by the community at a given moment. 
    “And on no occasion whatsoever should age distinguish the brethren and decide their order [in the monastery]; for Samuel and Daniel, though young, judged the elders” (ch. 63).[1] 
    “As often as any important business has to be done in the monastery, let the abbot call together the whole community and himself set forth the matter. And, having heard the advice of the brethren, let him take counsel with himself and then do what he shall judge to be most expedient. Now the reason why we have said that all should be called to council is that God often reveals what is better to the younger” (ch. 3).[2]
    The saint’s advice seems all the more relevant in today’s Church, when it is clearly the young who are rediscovering Catholic Tradition in all its fullness, and who, at the same time, are bearing the full brunt of the resistance of their elders, who have been “sticks in the mud” when it comes to welcoming this stirring of the Holy Spirit. In this curious way, today’s older generations often seem like the Jews in the Gospels, who cannot receive the newness of Christ and his apostles (cf. Acts 7:51).

    Of course, it need hardly be said that St. Benedict’s advice also applies perfectly to monasteries, convents, and other religious houses, where, let us be frank about it, revival or even bare survival is bound up with a recovery of traditional liturgy, in both the Divine Office and the Mass, and in the chant.[3] It is no longer a secret that the most flourishing communities are the ones that have unashamedly restored the way of life that a foolish generation threw away in the name of aggiornamento. A certain Benedictine monk told me that in the late 1960s, when his monastery switched over to a liturgy entirely in the vernacular, a member of the community actually put all of the copies of the Antiphonale Monasticum into a wheelbarrow, carted them outside, built a bonfire, and burned them. Another monk, horrified, gathered as many copies of the Graduale Romanum as possible and hid them so that they would be spared a similar fate. How many precious volumes, repositories of the wisdom and beauty of ages, were destroyed in this barbaric manner? “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19); one can be certain that those who sinned against Catholic tradition have paid the last penny for it.

    When I was being given a tour this past October of a famous Benedictine monastery near Krakow, the young monk who was my guide stated outright that the younger monks wish to have the tabernacle back in the center, wish to have Mass ad orientem, and wish to receive communion kneeling and on the tongue, while their elders are opposed to all of these things. It is not merely “generational dynamics,” as if we ought to expect the next generation to clamor for the opposite again. No. It is an awakening at last from the Rip van Winkle sleep of progressive liturgism — that weird coma between the ill-informed but thriving conservatism of the preconciliar age and the better-informed though struggling traditionalism of the postconciliar age.

    We have heard and still hear a lot about the “charismatic movement,” but no one can explain how in the world it is supposed to fit in with the Catholic Faith as it has matured and blossomed in the miracle-rich lives of the saints, full of ascetical sobriety and mystical transcendence, which are perfectly mirrored in the liturgical and sacramental rites they knew and loved. Traditionalism is the real charismatic movement in the Church today, and it is high time that we stop thwarting the Spirit. Would that today’s shepherds and sheep would heed Gamaliel’s hard-nosed advice:
    Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what you intend to do, as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theodas, affirming himself to be somebody, to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all that believed him were scattered, and brought to nothing. After this man, rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of the enrolling, and drew away the people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as consented to him, were dispersed. And now, therefore, I say to you, refrain from these men, and let them alone; for if this council or this work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it, lest perhaps you be found even to fight against God. (Act 5:35-39)
    “If it be of God, you cannot overthrow it.” No member of the body of Christ, high or low, can fight against God and win. The traditionalist movement is here to stay and is growing. Its adherents truly believe that the Eucharistic liturgy is the font and apex of life, and act accordingly. Those who oppose this movement are not just setting themselves up for failure, but setting themselves up against the God who has inspired such a deep attachment to the means of sanctification He Himself bestowed on the Church. The sacred liturgy as well as the desire of the people to worship God through it are both of the Holy Spirit. As we know, the sin against the Holy Ghost is the only sin that can never be forgiven, in this world or in the world to come.

    The stakes are high. Choose well. Choose with discretion and courage, as did Samuel and Daniel, who, “though young, judged the elders.”

    St. Benedict, Father of Western Monasticism, Co-Patron of Europe, whose feast we begin to celebrate at First Vespers this evening, pray for us.


    [1] Rule, ch. 63 (McCann ed.), p. 143
    [2] Rule, ch. 3, p. 25.
    [3] See Paul VI’s Sacrificium Laudis.

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    O ! the praiseworthy and glorious merits of Saint Benedict, who, since he spurned his fatherland, and the pomp of the world for Christ’s sake, obtained the fellowship of all the blessed, * and came to share in the eternal rewards. V. Among the choirs of Confessors, he holds a glorious place, and beholds the very font of all good things. And came... (The 5th Responsory of Matins of St Benedict in the Benedictine Office.)
    The Triumphal Way of St Benedict, by Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1722; fresco on the ceiling of Melk Abbey in Austria. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by Uoaei1; click to enlarge.) - The pomp of the world is represented on the left side by a book full of alchemical symbols, two demons, one of which holds a censer, and a figure with a theatrical mask, being speared in the throat by an angel. (The censer refers to the pagan sacrifices which St Benedict found still happening on Monte Cassino when he moved there, and to which he put an end.) On the right, a figure with a Cross and a whip drives away two other female figures, one bare-chested, the other holding rich clothing and a crown; below them, a figure with thorny branches drives away another demon, a reference to St Benedict’s conquest of the vice of lust by rolling around in a bramble. Underneath St Benedict are angels holding a miter and crook, used by the abbot of Melk, a book with the opening words of the Rule, and a glass with serpent emerging from it; the last refers to an attempt by some very bad monks to poison St Benedict, who made the sign of the Cross over the glass, “which broke as if he had thrown a stone.”
    R. O laudanda sancti Benedicti merita gloriosa, qui dum pro Christo patriam mundique sprevit pompam adeptus est omnium contubernium beatorum, * et particeps factus praemiorum aeternorum. V. Inter choros Confessorum splendidum possidet locum, et ipsum fontem omnium intuetur bonorum. Et particeps...

    St Benedict died on March 21 in the year 543 or 547, and this was the date on which his principal feast was traditionally kept, and is still kept by Benedictines; it is sometimes referred to on the calendars of Benedictine liturgical books as the “Transitus - Passing.” There was also a second feast to honor the translation of his relics, which was kept on July 11. The location to which the relics were translated is still a matter of dispute, with the Abbey of Monte Cassino in Italy, founded by the Saint himself, and the French Abbey of Fleury, also known as Saint-Benoît-sur-Loire, both claiming to possess them. This second feast is found in many medieval missals and breviaries, even in places not served by monastic communities. (It was not, however, observed by either the Cistercians or Carthusians.). The second feast was in a certain sense the more solemn in the traditional use of the Benedictines; March 21 always falls in Lent, and the celebration of octaves in Lent was prohibited, but most monastic missals have the July 11 feast with an octave. In the post-Conciliar reform of the Calendar, many Saints, including St Benedict, were moved out of Lent; in his case, to the day of this second feast in the Benedictine Calendar.

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    The Church of St Agnes in New York City, located at 143 East 43rd Street, will have a Solemn High EF Mass this coming Saturday, the feast of the Annunciation, starting at 10:30 a.m.; the St Mary’s Student Schola, directed by Mr David Hughes, will sing Palestrina’s Missa Ave Maria.

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    A young seminarian recently mentioned to me that he had been following with interest the discussions on the proposal that the School of St Albans might be an appropriate style to develop in today’s churches for the Roman Rite. I was pleased that he should say this, of course, and was excited further when he mentioned another 15th-century Welsh church that has wall paintings on a grand scale in this Gothic style.

    What makes this an even better example to study is that it has been renovated to look exactly as it would have in the 1400s, and I think this shows more than ever that this might be a style which is appropriate for the liturgy and would be feasible to create today. It would be simple enough to execute, and naturally lend itself to an adapted form of expression that would connect with people today. You can see many more examples online here.

    I would look for a better quality of draughtsmanship than we see in these drawings. (Remember that it was the artist Matthew Paris who first inspired this idea, and his drawing skill is far higher than that demonstrated by the artist who did paintings). Nevertheless, I would look for the essential qualities to translate into modern form, with the right balance of naturalism and stylization/partial abstraction. These are, once again: form described by a line drawing; a simple color palette and simple washes for coloration, with minimal modelling and tonal work; the incorporation of geometric patterned work. For a canon of imagery and iconography, I would use that of the feasts and mysteries of the Faith as found in the Eastern Church as a core repertoire, with additions and subtractions appropriate to the West when necessary.

    So, at the risk of inducing “St-Alban’s fatigue” in NLM readers, I am going to show these painting this week. These will be last for while...I promise!

    This church was relocated from its original site to one near Cardiff in the 1980s and so is preserved as a museum piece in this form.

    By National Museum Wales - National Museum Wales, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    By dw_ross from Springfield, VA, USA - 20140913_124921, CC BY 2.0,

    By Lesbardd - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    By Dylan Moore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

    Looking at the squint above, I wonder if this was made as a way to view the Blessed Sacarament from the main body of the church. The only other place I have seen something like this was in Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, where the Blessed Sacrament was kept in chapel to the right of the main abbey, built in the 12th century; people in one of the transcepts who were not one of the cloister monks could look at the Blessed Sacrament, or if it was not exposed, the tabernacle.

    By Archangel12 - St Fagans National History Museum, CC BY 2.0,

    By Archangel12 - St Fagans National History Museum, CC BY 2.0,

    By John Cummings - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

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    Here are a couple of recent articles which will certainly be of interest to our readers, and which I think it profitable to read together, as I will explain below. The first is a lengthy piece in First Things by Martin Mosebach, called “The Return to Form”, subtitled “A Call for the Restoration of the Roman Rite.” It is fairly long, but certainly worth reading in its entirety; I was especially struck by his take on the nature of what Pope Benedict did for the liturgy as a whole when he promulgated Summorum Pontificum.

    “When Pope Benedict had the greatness of soul to issue Summorum Pontificum, he not only reintroduced the Roman Rite into the liturgy of the Church but declared that it had never been forbidden, because it could never be forbidden. No pope and no council possess the authority to invalidate, abolish, or forbid a rite that is so deeply rooted in the history of the Church.

    Not only the liberal and Protestant enemies of the Roman Rite but also its defenders, who in a decades-long struggle had begun to give up hope, could barely contain their astonishment. Everyone still had the strict prohibitions of countless bishops echoing in their ears, threats of excommunication and subtle accusations. And one hardly dared draw the conclusion that, in view of Pope Benedict’s correcting of the wrongful suppression of the Roman Rite, Blessed Pope Paul VI had apparently been in error when he expressed his strong conviction that the rite long entrusted to the Church should never again be celebrated anywhere in the world.

    Benedict XVI did even more: He explained that there was only a single Roman Rite which possesses two forms, one ‘ordinary’ and the other ‘extraordinary’— the latter term referring to the traditional rite. In this way, the traditional form was made the standard for the newly revised form. The pope expressed the wish that the two forms should mutually fructify and enrich each other. It is therefore natural to assume that the new rite, with its great flexibility and many possible forms of celebration, must draw near to the older, steady, and fixed form of the Roman Rite, which provides no latitude whatsoever for encroachments or modifications of any kind.

    .... Whenever Pope Benedict spoke of a mutual influence and enrichment between the two forms of the rite, he surely did so with an ulterior motive. He believed in organic development in the area of liturgy. He condemned the revolution in the liturgy that coincided with the revolutionary year 1968, and he saw the connection between the liturgical revolution and the cultural one in world-historical terms, for both contradict the ideal of organic evolution and development. He regarded it as a serious offense against the spirit of the Church that the peremptory order of a pope should be taken as warrant to encroach upon the collective heritage of all preceding generations. After decades of use throughout the world, Benedict not only considered it a practical impossibility simply to prohibit the new rite with its serious flaws, but in all likelihood he also perceived that such an act, even if it had been feasible, would have continued along the erroneous path taken by his predecessor, one of reform by fiat. The correct path would be found, so he hoped, in a gradual growing together of the old and new forms, a process to be encouraged and gently fostered by the pope.”

    And also this passage on this Reform of the Reform.

    “It is with downright incredulity that one reads (the prescriptions of Sacrosanctum Concilium), for their plain sense was given exactly the opposite meaning by the enthusiastic defenders of post-conciliar ‘development.’ One cannot say that Ratzinger’s call for a reform of the reform intended in any way to go back ‘behind the council,’ as the antagonists of Pope Benedict have maintained. As any fair-minded reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium makes clear, the reform of the reform has no goal other than realizing the agenda of the council.”

    The west choir of Bamberg Cathedral, which is still quite splendid despite being vandalized by the King of Bavaria in the 1830s, and again after Vatican II. From an article published in 2009 by Gregor Kollmorgen.
    The website of the Society of St Hugh of Cluny has an article by Stuart Chessman about a “first encounter” with the traditional liturgy which took place over 200 years ago, when a German law student from solidly Protestant Berlin visited the Catholic city of Bamberg, then still “a world of processions, relics and devotions, of overflowing public and popular piety, of splendid masses accompanied by orchestras, gunfire salutes and trumpet blasts!” The student, one Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder, writes as follows of his experiences of the ceremonies which he witnessed, all still untouched by any of the horrors of revolution or enthusiasms of modern reformers.

    “As I entered the venerable church I found it already almost full. I pushed forward up to the main altar and waited now for the solemn scene. Oh! – truly I had not expected very much. Everything was new for me. The ceremonies, which every minute always changed, made an ever stronger and wonderful impression on me the more they were mysterious and unintelligible. I was standing among nothing but Catholics: men, women and children. Some were constantly reading prayer books; others prayed the rosary while standing, yet others reverently knelt right next to me.

    Here I found proved so clearly what Nicolai relates: that fixed raising of the gaze in prayer, which suddenly blazes up to heaven without resting on earthly objects; the making of the sign of the cross in holy zeal; the heartfelt firm striking of the breast which, with expressive glances towards heaven and with deeply felt sighs, shows such special depth of feeling. …One is totally initiated into the Catholic faith here and almost driven to participate in all the ceremonies.”

    Wackenroder would become one of the founders of German Romanticism, and Chessman gives a long quote from one of his books, the title of which almost summarizes the entire movement: “Outpourings from the Heart of an Art-Loving Monk” In it, his experience of Bamberg is transformed into a fictionalized account of a solemn Mass in the Pantheon in Rome, which ends with a conversion experience. “I could not leave the temple after the end of the celebration, I fell down in a corner and wept, and then passed with a contrite heart all the saints, all the paintings – it seemed that only now could I really contemplate and revere them. I could not resist the force within me – dear Sebastian, I have now crossed over to your faith, and my heart feels happy and light. It was art that had all-powerfully drawn me over, and I can say that only now can I understand and grasp art. ”

    In the first article, Mosebach writes, “In a period such as the present, unable to respond to images and forms, incessantly misled by a noisy art market, all experimentation that tampers with the Roman Rite as it has developed through the centuries could only be perilous and potentially fatal. In any case, this tampering is unnecessary. ... The peasant woman who said the rosary during Mass, knowing that she was in the presence of Christ’s sacrifice, understood the rite better than our contemporaries who comprehend every word but fail to engage with such knowledge because the present form of the Mass, drastically altered, no longer allows for its full expression.” Likewise, Chessman concludes his article with the observation that in Wachenroder’s case, “... this Mass, so foreign to him, and that he could not ‘understand,’ had clearly communicated to him the most profound sense of worship and of the Divine. Such is the transformative power, both in 1793 and today, of this Mass – the Mass of Tradition!”

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    This morning, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, presided over the reopening of the shrine over the tomb of Christ within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, after many months of restoration work. (The shrine is known as the Aedicule, from the Latin “aediculum - a small building,” and is contained within a large rotunda which forms the back half of the church.) The Jerusalem Patriarchate has a fairly active Youtube channel, and just posted a video of the ceremony; after about 30 minutes of milling around, there is some nice music, and representatives of the various communities that use the church speak, including the superior (I assume) of the Holy Land Franciscans.

    It is especially appropriate that this should take place this week, right after the Third Sunday of Lent, which the Byzantine Rite dedicates to the Veneration of the Holy and Life-Giving Cross. Here is a much more interesting video, excerpts of the Divine Liturgy celebrated by the Patriarch on Sunday at the Holy Sepulcher, with the participation of some of the other Orthodox churches. (The Gospel is sung in Greek, Old Church Slavonic, and Arabic.) Very splendid, although rather chaotic at times; there are a lot of bells ringing during the Gospel, and at times it seems that there are other liturgies going on in different parts of the building.

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