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  • 04/29/17--11:38: A New Gregorian Chant App
  • A reader has written in let us know about a new Gregorian chant app for mobile devices called Square Note, published by the Oblates of St Joseph, and available via iTunes and Googleplay. According to their website, it includes a repertoire of over 600 chants, cataloged for both the OF and EF, including Gregorian Mass propers, the Ordinary, and a variety of supplementary chants. I must admit (and Ben will bear witness to this) that I am pretty useless with technology, and I don’t actually own a device on which I could test this out; perhaps our readers can suggest in the combox whether they have used it and what they think of it.


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    One of the most unusual true stories in the annals of Catholic hagiography is that of Bl. Carino, the assassin of the Saint whose feast is traditionally kept today, Peter the Martyr. Carino was one of the two men hired to kill Peter for his work against the Cathars, as he was traveling in the area of Milan; the other, Albertino, fled in fear at the moment of the attack, and it was Carino who dealt the martyr his death-blow with a knife to the skull, and fatally wounded his companion, brother Dominic. Carino was taken to Milan, where he would certainly have been tried and executed, if not lynched by popular uprising beforehand; the mayor of the city, however, was involved in the plot against St Peter, and arranged for Carino’s escape.

    Intending to make his way to Rome and obtain a Papal pardon, he took gravely ill at Forlì, where he confessed his sin to the local Dominican prior. After recovering, he respected the promise made as part of his penance, to enter a religious house as a “conversus”; he then lived forty years in the Dominican house of Forlì. The totality of his conversion after his terrible deed, and the humility of his life of penance, were popularly recognized after his death in 1293. The story is told that at his own insistence, he was buried in the unconsecrated ground reserved for violent criminals, but the people of Forlì prevailed upon the Dominican Fathers to move him into their church, first in the sacristy, and later in a chapel with two other blesseds of the same house, James Salomoni and Marcolino Amanni.

    In 1879, before the Dominican house of Forlì was confiscated by the Italian state, the relics of Bl. Carino were moved to the cathedral. In 1934, at the behest of the Blessed Ildefonse Schuster, his head and part of his body were translated to the church of St Martin in Balsamo, his native town, to be followed by the rest of the relics thirty years later. However, the treasury of Forlì cathedral retains one of the most particular relics in history, the weapon which he used to kill St Peter.

    The knife which Carino used to kill St Peter the Martyr
    From Italian Wikipedia, two images of the translation of Carino’s relics in 1934, before their transfer, and newly arrived at San Martino in Balsamo.



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    painting by Michael O'Brien
    It may seem paradoxical to assert that the feast of St. Joseph the Worker is not a glorification of work. Whenever we celebrate the saints in glory, we remember their valiant labors on earth, but we celebrate their eternal rest in God and the most intense activity of all, that face-to-face vision of the Most Holy Trinity in which the saints, without ceasing to be enraptured in the First and Last and All, see our needs and intercede for us in union with the High Priest of our confession. As even Aristotle saw, this supreme contemplation cannot be described as work or even as a human occupation at all. That which is highest in man, that towards which we are striving, is the sabbath of resting in God.

    To say this is no pagan exaltation of leisure or Jewish legalism about avoiding labor: it is the clear teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which sums up the newness of Christian revelation better than any other single text in the New Testament. The surmounting of our finite labors in beatific leisure, where God is all in all and we are immersed in His peace, is the end we believe in, hope for, pray for, long for.

    In a magnificent sermon on Ecclesiasticus 24:11, In omnibus requiem quaesivi (“In all things I have sought rest”), Meister Eckhart beautifully unfolded this truth:
    [E]ternal Wisdom says to the soul: ‘In all things I have sought rest’, and the soul replies: “He who created me rested in my tent”. And thirdly Eternal Wisdom says: “My rest is in the holy city”. If I were asked to say to what end the Creator has created all creatures, I would say: rest. If I were asked secondly what the Holy Trinity sought altogether in all its works, I would answer: rest. If I were asked thirdly what the soul sought in all her agitations, I would answer: rest. If I were asked fourthly what all creatures sought in their natural desires and motions, I would answer: rest.
              In the first place let us note and observe how the divine nature makes all the soul’s desires mad and crazy for Him, so as to draw her to him. For the divine nature tastes so well to God and pleases him so much—that is: rest—that He has projected it out of Himself to stir up and draw into Himself the natural desires of all creatures. Not only does the Creator seek his own rest by projecting it and informing all creatures with it, but He seeks to draw all creatures back with Him into their first beginning, which is rest. Also, God loves Himself in all creatures. Thus as He seeks His own love in all creatures, so He seeks His own rest.
              Secondly, the Holy Trinity seeks rest. The Father seeks rest in His Son, in whom He has poured out and formed all creatures, and they both seek rest in the Holy Ghost, who has proceeded from them both as eternal and immeasurable love.
              Thirdly, the soul seeks rest in all her powers and motions, whether a man knows it or not. He never opens or shuts an eye without seeking rest by doing so: either he seeks to reject something that hinders him, or he seeks to draw in something on which to rest. These are the two motives of all human action. I have also said before that a man could never feel love or desire for any creature, unless God’s likeness were in it. My love is placed where I most clearly see God’s likeness, but nothing in all creatures so resembles God as rest. [...]
              In the fourth place, all creatures seek rest by a natural tendency: whether they know it or not, they prove it in their works. A stone is never free of motion as long as it is not on the ground—it always seeks the ground. The same applies to fire: it strives upwards, and every creature seeks its natural place. Thus they confirm the truth of divine rest, which God has injected into all of them.
              That we may thus seek the equality of divine rest, and find it in God, may God help us. Amen.[1]
    If this ultimate and eternal divine rest is not the aim of human work — and it cannot be denied that our culture is programmatically against this transcendent orientation — our work becomes counterproductive and pernicious, a distraction, a snare, an apprenticeship to the busy father of lies rather than a discipline by which to ascend above the stars.

    The modern period has witnessed several waves of greedy iconoclasm against the monastic life, as we see in Henry VIII’s dissolution of religious houses, or the “secularizations” imposed by anticlerical regimes of more recent vintage. Stratford Caldecott saw in this fact an X-ray, as it were, of the bone structure of modernity:
    The destruction of the monasteries is particularly poignant as a symbol of what was taking place. It is as though our modern world was actually built on and presupposed the destruction of contemplation—or at least the destruction of that (largely Benedictine) ideal, the synthesis of contemplation and action that lay at the heart of Christendom.[2]
    Pope Benedict XVI frequently warned against the vice of activism, which he saw as destructive of the spiritual life and therefore of the very mission of the Church in the world:
    Activism, the will to be “productive,” “relevant,” come what may, is the constant temptation of the man, even of the male religious. And this is precisely the basic trend in the ecclesiologies . . . that present the Church as a “People of God” committed to action, busily engaged in translating the Gospel into an action program with social, political, and cultural objectives. But it is no accident if the word “Church” is of feminine gender. In her, in fact, lives the mystery of motherhood, of gratitude, of contemplation, of beauty, of values in short that appear useless in the eyes of the profane world. Without perhaps being fully conscience of the reason, the woman religious feels the deep disquiet of living in a Church where Christianity is reduced to an ideology of doing, according to that strictly masculine ecclesiology which nevertheless is presented—and perhaps believed—as being closer also to women and their “modern” needs. Instead it is the project of a Church in which there is no longer any room for mystical experience, for this pinnacle of religious life which not by chance has been, through the centuries, among the glories and riches offered to all in unbroken constancy and fullness, more by women than by men.[3]
    The separation of active life from contemplative life, which separation had been proceeding slowly for centuries and suddenly took a giant leap forward after the Council, is a fatal separation, like that of nature from grace, reason from faith, science from piety. It has superficialized the Church’s activity, making it a kind of “busy work” rather than the extension of Christ’s saving presence into the world around us. The twin temptations mentioned by Ratzinger — the reductionism of relevance and the preoccupation with productivity — finally found their nesting place in the liturgy, which they colonized and dominated.

    In words that have the passionate clear-eyed intensity of an Old Testament prophet, Cardinal Sarah has been warning us about what happens to the human spirit and to religion itself when silence and meditation dry up, when busyness replaces the contemplative surrender of adoration. In such a world, getting a taste of (and for) contemplation is difficult — and not surprisingly, we hear everywhere the glib sentiment, originating perhaps in an uneasy conscience, that “everything can be a form of contemplation.” It may well be the case that for a man or woman already deeply immersed in the Trinitarian life, let us say Catherine of Siena or Teresa of Jesus, anything they do will be an extension of that burning fire of interior prayer, and they will actually find God in everything. But that is not where we begin; we must take what the Psalmist calls the vias duras, the hard and narrow roads of disciplined personal and liturgical prayer, if we wish to reach the high plateau, the city of Jerusalem, the city of peace, the kingdom of contemplation. Being able to see God in everything and everything in God is the destination, not the point of departure. It is, moreover, a gift, something for which we must beg, not something we can instantly produce.

    This, I believe, is the primary lesson that St. Joseph, the man of silence, the man of prompt obedience to the divine word for which he was intently listening, would wish to teach us today. Perhaps he would say: “Given a choice between another hour at the human office and the recitation of part of the Divine Office, choose the latter. It will be better for you, for your work, for the Church, and for the world.”

    Notes
    [1] Sermon 45. The full text may be found here.
    [2] Not as the World Gives, 231.
    [3] The Ratzinger Report, 103.
    [4] Deus Caritas Est, 37.

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    Thank you to Fr Dunstan and Fr Gregory of St Mary’s Benedictine Monastery in Petersham, Massachussetts, for dropping me a line about their next monastic experience weekend, in which they hope to give people an experience of monastic life, and men the opportunity to explore a vocation to the religious life. I am happy to pass on the information; I was delighted to hear that one of the attendees from the last one is now novice, so let’s hope for more.

    It takes place on the weekend of June 2-4. For further information you can contact Father Gregory at monks@stmarysmonastery.org, or call him at 978–724–3350. For a printable flyer, click here.

     St. Mary’s Monastery is a contemplative Benedictine community of monks in Petersham, in central Massachusetts. They pray the office in Latin and...
    live monastic life as described in the Rule of St. Benedict -- an ancient and proven way still vibrant in today’s world. It is a life of prayer and work within the monastery, radically centered on Christ, and structured around the Seven Hours of the Divine Office. We sing this great prayer in Latin using Gregorian Chant with the nuns of St. Scholastica Priory, our “twin community”. We are inviting single men (18-40 years old) for an opportunity to experience from within the rhythm and balance of Benedictine monastic prayer and community life in a house of Benedictine monks.

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    Once again, I feel I must apologize for the slowness with which our Holy Week photoposts are coming out; we’ve had a lot of other things going on, and I’ve been pretty busy since Easter. Part of the delay also has been the embarrassment of riches; we have received more beautiful photos of liturgies from the Triduum than we can post, and it has been painful to make a selection. I do think you will find this one particularly nice; we have a great selection of churches, a bit of the Byzantine Rite once again, and a few processions. Evangelize through beauty!

    Parish of the Holy Family - Diocese of Cubao, Philippines




    Holy Innocents - New York City









    St Benedict - Chesapeake, Virginia (FSSP)



    Last year we ran an article about this timepiece, which marks the events of the Lord’s Passion.



    St Thomas the Apostle Byzantine Catholic Church - Knoxville, Tennessee




    Shrine of Christ the King - Chicago, Illinois (ICKSP)




    Aberdeen Technical College Chapel - Hong Kong




    St Margaret Mary - Oakland, California



    St Joseph’s Church - Singapore
    Good Friday evening, the unnailing and procession of the dead Christ and His Sorrowful Mother. A floral potpourri, called Bunga Rampai, which consists of sliced screwpine leaves and flowers mixed with a concoction of perfumes, may be seen in some photos. This comes from an old southeast Asian custom whereby the host gives a handful to each guest as a token of appreciation on special occasions like weddings and funerals. These are also placed at the feet of Our Lady and within the bier of the dead Christ.


    St Veronica displays her veil.



    St Francis de Sales - Benedict, Maryland





    St Joseph’s Oratory - Detroit, Michigan (ICKSP)



    St Joseph’s Church - Richmond, Virginia



    St Mary’s - Norwalk, Connecticut







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    On Sunday, May 7 at 3:00 p.m., Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Bally, Pennsylvania will have its first public EF Mass since the post-Conciliar reforms. Founded as a mission outpost in 1741 by the Rev. Theodore Schneider (who called it St Paul’s Chapel), it was the third Catholic church in the colony of Pennsylvania. This original chapel still exists, accessible behind the sacristy of the current church, which was expanded in 1796 and again in 1837 when it was renamed Most Blessed Sacrament. Two years after founding the church, Schneider started a school, the St Aloysius Academy, which persists today at St Francis Academy and is the oldest continuously operated Catholic school in Pennsylvania. The town in which it resides was renamed Bally in honor of the Rev. Augustin Bally, a Belgian Jesuit who ran the parish from 1837 until his death in 1882. The church is located at 610 Pine Street.

    The sanctuary of the church (click to enlarge.)

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    There is no doubt but that this Joseph, to whom the Mother of the Savior was betrothed, was a good and faithful man; a faithful servant, I say, and prudent, whom the Lord made the solace of His Mother, his foster-father according to the flesh, and indeed, the single most trusted helper of His great counsel upon the earth.

    The Holy Family, by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-82), ca. 1650
    To this we add that he was said to be of the house of David. For truly did this man Joseph descend from the house of David and the royal lineage, noble in his origin, but nobler of mind. Clearly a son of David, in no way lesser than his father; wholly, I say, a son of David, not only in the flesh, but in faith, in holiness, in devotion, whom the Lord found like a second David according to His heart, to whom He might safely entrust the most sacred and secret mystery of His heart, and, as to a second David, make known the uncertain and hidden matters of His wisdom, and gave him to know of that mystery which none of the princes of this world recognized. What many kings and prophets wished to see, and did not see, to hear, and they did not hear it, to him at last was it given not only to see and hear, but to carry, to lead, to embrace, to kiss, to raise and to guard. (From a sermon of St Bernard read at Matins during the Octave of St Joseph.)

    The feast of St Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, was originally called “the Patronage of St Joseph,” and fixed to the Third Sunday after Easter. It was kept by a great many dioceses and religious orders, particularly promoted by the Carmelites, before it was extended to the universal Church by Bl. Pope Pius IX in 1847, and later granted an octave. When the custom of fixing feasts to particular Sundays was abolished as part of the Breviary reform of Pope St Pius X, it was anticipated to the previous Wednesday, the day of the week traditionally dedicated to Patron Saints. It was removed from the general Calendar in 1955 and replaced by the feast of St Joseph the Worker; the new feast itself was then downgraded from the highest of three grades (first class) in the 1962 Missal to the lowest of four (optional memorial) in 1970.

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    This article concludes this series on the rites of Good Friday. The previous articles may be read at the following links: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

    In 1956, Fathers Annibale Bugnini and Carlo Braga published in the Ephemerides Liturgicae a commentary on the Holy Week reform which Pope Pius XII had promulgated late in the previous year. Considering that it is supposed to explain changes which were by far the most significant made to the Tridentine Missal since its first publication in 1570, it is weirdly (one might almost say ‘oppressively’) reticent about what exactly was done and why.

    Nowhere is this more the case than where it treats of the last part of the Good Friday liturgy, the so-called “Mass of the Presanctified.” The commentary concerns itself almost entirely with the question of distributing Holy Communion to the faithful, which before 1956 had not been done for centuries. However, even assuming that it was wise, opportune or necessary to restore this, it has nothing to do with the ceremony itself. There is no reason why Communion could not be given on Good Friday within the traditional rite; one could simply consecrate an extra ciborium on Holy Thursday, bring it to the Altar of Repose along with the chalice containing the large celebrant’s Host, and bring it back to the main altar on Good Friday.


    What the commentary does say is that the presence of the fraction rite “seems (my emphasis) to accept the theory of consecration by contact: ‘But the wine that is not consecrated is sanctified by the sanctified bread.’ (Sanctificatur autem vinum non consecratum per sanctificatum panem.)” The words “But the wine…” are given as a quotation; the reason for this will be explained below. Further on, they note that “the rites which form ‘the Mass of the Presanctified’ of the Roman Missal are all found in the ordines written in the 14th century.”

    In 1948, Fr Braga had written a “Memo on liturgical reform” (Memoria sulla riforma liturgica), outlining the many issues which the newly-appointed liturgical commission of Pope Pius XII might discuss. (This was circulated only among a very small number of people, and not published until 2003 in “La riforma liturgica di Pio XII”, Centro Liturgico Veneziano.) In it, he states the same idea about the Mass of the Presanctified more categorically. “Since there existed at the beginning of the Middle Ages the belief that simply putting the consecrated bread in the wine was sufficient to consecrate also the wine itself, this rite (i.e., the fraction and commingling) was introduced; when the Eucharist had been better studied, it was realized that this belief was groundless, but the rite remained.” (p. 65) Later on, Mons. Mario Righetti, who was one of the persons originally privy to the “Memo”, and served as a peritus at Vatican II, expresses the same opinion in the section of his Manual of Liturgical History that deals with the liturgical year. The fraction on Good Friday “harkens back to the Eucharistic doctrine which predominated in the Middle Ages, and already declared in the 9th century by Amalarius and other liturgists, that mere contact with the consecrated Bread was sufficient to consecrate the wine as well.” (vol. II, p. 212, ed. Àncora, Milan, 1969)

    In the “Memo”, Fr Braga also states that the entire matter of reforming the Good Friday rite “should be studied by specialists and discussed by the Commission.” In point of fact, the fraction rite on Good Friday had already been studied exhaustively (and exhaustingly) by Michel Andrieu (1886-1956), in a series of eight articles titled “Immixtio et Consecratio” published in the Revue des Sciences Religieuses. (from vol. 2, no. 4 (1922) to vol. 4 no. 3 (1924))

    The sum of Andrieu’s study as it regards the Mass of the Presanctified is as follows. Originally, the Blessed Sacrament was reserved on Holy Thursday under both species for Communion on Good Friday. By the beginning of the 9th century, this custom had changed, and only the Body was reserved. A description of the ceremony which was already old by that period says that the celebrant performed a fraction while “saying nothing”, into a chalice previously prepared by the subdeacon with “unconsecrated wine.” It is first attested in Codex Sangallensis 614 (ca. 800 A.D.), and subsequently in “innumerable” missals and sacramentaries. But these ordines merely describe the ceremony, without giving any explanation of it, and it is “difficult” for us to know if the explanation later given by Amalarius of Metz corresponds to the ideas that originally inspired the rite. This is a radical understatement on Andrieu’s part; there is no reason whatsoever to believe that Amalarius’ theory had anything to do with the creation of the rite.

    A 12th-century manscript of Amalarius of Metz’ treatise Liber officialis. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Latin 2401. folio 34r) The words “Sanctificatur enim...” are seen in the penultimate line of the main text.
    Amalarius himself, writing in the 9th century, originally believed that in this rite, “the unconsecrated wine is sanctified by the sanctified bread.” (Sanctificatur (enim) vinum non consecratum per sanctificatum panem – citation.) However, he later revised his opinion on the basis of a letter of St Gregory the Great (Ep. XII ad Joannem Syracusan. Ep. PL 77, 956A) which states that the Apostles had effected the consecration of the Mass by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer alone. This convinced Amalarius that the Good Friday ceremony was a relic of this “apostolic consecration.” (Andrieu cites a 12th century missal that also expresses this idea in a rubric before the rite of the Presanctified, “Here follows the Mass of the Apostles.”)

    This notion of “the Mass of the Apostles” was still considered worth discussing by liturgical scholars such as Sicard of Cremona and Durandus centuries later. But regardless of its merits or acceptance, it cannot possibly be an explanation for the origin of the rite; if the bread and wine were consecrated on Good Friday solely by reciting the Lord’s Prayer, there would be no need at all to reserve the Eucharistic species on the previous day, an incongruity which Amalarius himself recognized. “Were it not commanded by the Roman ordo that the Body of the Lord be reserved … there would be no need to reserve it, since the Lord’s Prayer would suffice to consecrate the Body, as it suffices to consecrate the wine and water.” This mistake really should have suggested to modern scholars that Amalarius might also have been wrong in supposing that the Fraction rite originated as a form of “consecration by contact.”

    Despite this change of opinion as to how the rite works, Amalarius’ first notion, that the wine is consecrated by the particle of the Host dropped into it, was widely diffused. His formulation of it is repeated in the same or very similar words in liturgical books though the Middle Ages and into the early years of printing, right up to the 16th century and the Tridentine reform. It is even included, with minor variations, in the Ordo of Pope Innocent III at the beginning of the 13th century, the ancestor of the Missal of St Pius V, and in two of the later Ordines Romani (XIV and XV). This is also the text cited by Frs Braga and Bugnini in their 1956 commentary on the Holy Week reform.

    The rubrics of the Mass of the Presanctified, from the 1502 Missal of Augsburg, Germany. In the left column, immediately after the last black text, is Amalarius’ formula “Santificatur autem vinum...” There follow the words “On this day is recalled the memory of the Apostles, who would say only the Lord’s Prayer over the Body of the Lord and the Blood of the Lord.”
    No one will be surprised to learn that this is not the whole story.

    The sixth article of Andrieu’s “Immixtio et Consecratio” series is entitled “Liturgical books which contradict the theory of consecration by contact.” As a result of the writings of Hugh of St Victor (1096-1141) and Peter Lombard (1100-60), and later theologians informed by them, “from the 12th century, we find missals, ordinaries and pontificals in which the liturgy of the Presanctified is described in terms incompatible with the theory of consecration by contact.” Even in Amalarius’ own city of Metz, a 13th century ordinary of the church of St Arnoul prescribes that the celebrant of the Good Friday liturgy “drink the wine, and not say the prayer May the Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ etc., because although the wine is sanctified by the Body of the Lord put into it, there is no consecration, and it is not the Blood of Christ.”

    The distinction between “sanctify” and “consecrate” in this rubric (which, as Andrieu had documented earlier in his articles, was not a strict one in the writings of the Fathers and the early Middle Ages), is also elaborated by the liturgical writers of this later era. Sicard of Cremona says at the end of the twelfth century “Is the wine consecrated by contact? … Not consecrated, but sanctified, for there is a difference (between them.) ‘To consecrate’ is to transubstantiate the consecration; ‘to sanctify’ is understood in a similar sense, but broadly, for ‘being sanctified’ means being made an object of reverence by contact with a sacred thing.” (Mitrale 6, 13. We may note here in passing his beautiful explanation that the Agnus Dei is omitted “because it is not fitting to call upon one who is seen dying in agony.”)

    About a century later, Durandus writes that after the fraction, “the prayers Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God and Thy Body, o Lord, which I have received are omitted (on Good Friday), because mention of the Blood is made in them.” Here, it must be remembered that Durandus is not just any schoolman expressing a theological opinion; his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum stands in relation to the earlier commentaries on the liturgy as St Thomas’ Summa theologica does to earlier Summae. Furthermore, he created the edition of the Pontifical which ultimately formed the basis of the Pontifical of Clement VIII; it is partly through the diffusion of that work that these words became the rubric which “triumphs definitively” in the liturgical books of the era, “denying any power of consecration to the rite of commingling.” (Andrieu’s sixth part, p. 87)

    Even before Durandus incorporated them into his Pontifical, a slightly different version of the rubric had been included in the Franciscan Missal, the famous missal by which the proper use of the Roman Curia was spread throughout Western Europe: “the prayer Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God being omitting, because it makes mention of the Blood.” This was also included in the original version of the Missal of St Pius V, where it appears as follows: “(After the fraction), omitting the prayer Lord Jesus Christ, who said to Thy Apostles, because it makes mention of the Peace, and the prayer Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, because it makes mention of the Blood, he says only the following prayer, The receiving of Thy body etc.” (Pope Clement VIII’s 1604 edition of the Missal then simplified this rubric to “omitting the first two prayers…”)

    The rubrics of the Mass of the Presanctified, from the Missal of St Pius V. The rubric described in the preceding paragraph begins in the third to last line of the left column with the words “Postmodum, praetermissa oratione...”
    It hardly needs stating that the Missal of St Pius V is a product of the Counter-Reformation. It was published to guarantee that Catholics everywhere would celebrate the Eucharist in accord with the tradition of the Fathers and the Church’s perennial teaching, as reinforced by the decrees of Trent, against the Protestants’ rejection of that tradition. If the fraction rite of Good Friday had been thought to contain even a hint of Eucharistic heresy, it most certainly would have been removed.

    To sum up: while the theory of consecration by contact was known and widely accepted from Amalarius’ time, there is no reason to believe that it is the origin of the fraction rite on Good Friday. The theory itself was repudiated 300 years before the Council of Trent, and this repudiation was definitively accepted. Nevertheless, the fraction rite was retained as the Church’s immemorial custom; clearly, no one thought that in and of itself, it intrinsically expressed the idea of consecration by contact. The editors of the Missal of St Pius V, who would have every reason to remove it if it was perceived in any way to bring the Church’s Eucharist doctrine into disrepute, retained it, and on the same terms in which it had been accepted by the medieval schoolman so hated by the Protestants. And so it remained until 1956.

    One is left wondering, then: why the sudden change in that year? It cannot be supposed that Frs Braga, Bugnini and the others involved with the Holy Week reform were unfamiliar with Andrieu’s work; it is cited in Righetti’s footnotes, and his work on the Pontifical is cited in the 1956 commentary in Ephemerides.

    “Since there existed … the belief that simply putting the consecrated bread in the wine was sufficient to consecrate also the wine itself, this rite (of the fraction and commingling) was introduced; when the Eucharist had been better studied, it was realized that this belief was groundless, but the rite remained.” This asks us to believe that at the very heart of the Church’s liturgy, on one of the most solemn days of the year, there exists a rite which originated with a material heresy, and which endured for centuries solely as the result of a blind and unthinking conservatism. If we accept this idea, would we not logically have to ask ourselves what else might be lurking in the pages of the Missal solely as the result of the same blind and unthinking conservatism?

    “Don’t you worry, we’ll take care of that.”

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    Have you wondered about the Ward Method? Thought it might change the way you teach music with children? For the better? Did you do the basic course and you want to take it further?

    The Church Music Association of America (CMAA) is offering you a chance to find out about Ward and take your practice deeper this summer at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, June 26-30, 2017.

    There will be two courses offered.

    Ward Method I - That All May Sing will be taught by Scott Turkington. Participants will learn the basic principles and the practice of this method developed by Justine Ward in the early 20th century and how it can be used with our 21st century children. Its fundamental principle is that all children can learn to sing, not just those with natural gifts.

    Ward Method II - Intermediate moves beyond the first year. Wilko Brouwers will share his expertise and experience with the method to pass on more advanced techniques. It will expand on the training in Ward Method I.

    Both Scott Turkington and Wilko Brouwers are experienced and gifted teachers, not only of children, but of teachers as well.

    The CMAA is convinced that this method has great value for developing future generations of singers, both those in the choirs and those in the pews. You can be part of that project.

    Participants in CMAA Ward courses will receive a copy of the newest CMAA publication, Now I Walk In Beauty, a new songbook collection by Wilko Brouwers for use with Ward teaching.

    You can learn more details about the courses and register at musica.sacra.com by following this link: CMAA Summer Courses. Help the past and the present build our musical future!

    (Please note that CMAA Ward courses are not affiliated with the Ward Centre.)

    Photos from last year’s courses.





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    Our Holy Week photopost series continues with images of the liturgies of Holy Saturday. Many thanks once again to those who sent them in - Evangelize though beauty!

    St Vincent Ferrer - New York City



    Prince of Peace - Steelton, Pennsylvania



    Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey





    St Theresa’s Home for the Aged - Singapore EF Community


    Immaculate Heart of Mary - Oakland, California (ICKSP)




    St Mary’s Parish - Kalamazoo, Michigan







    St Francis de Sales - Benedict, Maryland





    Cathedral of St Stephen - Owensboro, Kentucky

    St Matthew - Monroe, Louisiana



    Shrine of Christ the King - Chicago, Illinois (ICKSP)








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    This week priests from across the USA and Canada are with the Canons Regular of St John Cantius learning the ceremonies of the Latin Mass. The priests participated in Solemn High Mass for the feast of Mary, Queen of Poland (May 3rd) at Saint John Cantius Church, Chicago IL.

    Since being asked by Cardinal Francis George, O.M.I. in 2007, the Canons Regular have hosted 65 workshops in the Latin Mass in Chicago and locations around the world, helping over 1,000 priests to learn the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

    For more information about these workshops click here.


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    The program for Sacra Liturgia Milan, which will take place from June 6-9, 2017, has just been published on the conference website.

    The program includes one further liturgical celebration to which Sacra Liturgia has been invited. The community who celebrate the older form of the Ambrosian rite have invited those participants who will be in the city before the conference to join them for a Missa Cantata in their beautiful church of S. Maria della Consolazione al Castello on Tuesday, June 6th at 11:30 a.m. Sacra Liturgia is profoundly grateful for their gracious invitation and hospitality. The church is located in Largo Callas 1, very close to the Cairoli/Castello metro stop on line 1.


    Part time registrations for the inaugural session on the afternoon of June 6th, featuring the keynote address of His Eminence, Robert Cardinal Sarah, as well as for individual days of the conference, are now open on the conference website.

    Full-time registrations remain open at this time. Those who wish to register full time are urged to do so as soon as possible to avoid disappointment if some sessions are fully booked. All conference liturgies are open to the public. Seating will be reserved for registered delegates. Booklets containing the liturgical texts in Latin with translations in Italian and English will be distributed to registered delegates only.

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    We have finally made it to the end of the Triduum, and only have Easter Sunday itself left in our most recent series of photoposts. As always, we are grateful to all those who sent these in, continuing the work of evangelizing though beauty!

    Holy Innocents - New York City








    Aberdeen Technical School Chapel - Hong Kong





    St Mary's Cathedral - Peoria, Illinois




    St Monica - Edmond, Oklahoma



    St Mary’s - Norwalk, Connecticut



    Most Holy Redeemer - Diocese of Cubao, Pihilppines







    St Benedict - Chesapeake, Virginia (FSSP)







    St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michigan (ICKSP)




    St Margaret Mary - Oakland, California (ICKSP)







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    We are extremely grateful to Maestro Aurelio Porfiri for sharing with NLM this beautiful tribute to Domenico Cardinal Bartolucci, one of the leading lights of sacred music in the 20th century, on the centenary of his birth.

    The year 2017 has been the occasion of many anniversaries in the Catholic world: the centenary of the apparitions at Fatima, the 90th birthday of Benedict XVI, the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, the 10th of Benedict XVI’s letter to Chinese Catholics, among others.

    Today I would like to recall the one-hundredth year since the birth of the maestro and cardinal Domenico Bartolucci, significant to me not only because he was my teacher, but because I think he was an absolute genius, the greatest composer in the field of sacred music in the 20th century. Sooner or later, I believe this fact will be realized by specialists in musicology. I am writing a book about him using some unpublished material I have been fortunate to discover in various archives.

    His Eminence Domenico Card. Bartolucci conducts the singing of the Creed during a Solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated in St Peter’s Basilica by H.E. Walter Card. Brandmüller on May 15, 2011. Photo courtesy of Orbis Catholicus Secundus.
    Domenico Bartolucci was born in Borgo San Lorenzo, a tiny village near Florence, on May 7th, 1917. His mother was a farmer and his father was a workman, but also sang in church, though not as a professional. At that time, every village, no matter how small, had an extraordinary musical activity, with choirs, bands, lyrical companies, and of course, the musical activities connected with liturgy in the Catholic Church.

    From the days of his youth, Domenico demonstrated a double vocation to music and to priesthood. As a baby he was immersed in the musical world of the Catholic Church, as he recalled in one place:

    “When I was a boy I remember that the people used to sing in church. They sang at Vespers (all from memory: the antiphons, psalms and hymns); they sang at devotional functions (Way of the Cross, Marian devotions, etc.); they sang in processions (the Magnificat, Te Deum, Lauda Sion, and other hymns); they sang even at Solemn Mass sometimes. (When I was a boy, each Sunday at my little church there was a Solemn Mass, and on normal Sundays the people sang by themselves.) I used to sing too, either behind the altar with my father, who was the parish cantor, or with the people in the pews whenever there weren’t cantors behind the altar. The people sang: they sang in a loud voice, a song that centuries and centuries had handed down to them, a lusty song, severe and strong, that the children had learned from their elders, not at school desks or examination rooms but by constant habit, in the continuous practice of the Church. How can I recall without a still-living emotion the participation of all of people at the Liturgy of the Dead, and especially in the Obsequies? Everyone, I mean everyone, belted out the Libera me Domine and then the In Paradisum and then the De Profundis...! Everyone! And the music, that gorgeous music, attained an unmatchable power; the last, deep, hearty farewell to the dead as he left the church where countless times he had sung full-throatedly the praises of God! The people sang!”

    After elementary school, in which he was permitted to skip several years because of the superior preparation he received at home, he entered the seminary of Florence, where he also dedicated himself to music, singing in the seminary’s boys’ choir. There he began his studies with the maestro of the seminary choir, Francesco Bagnoli. Studying the pianoforte in the seminary was not a simple matter: the young student even resorted to making a keyboard out of cardboard on which he could practice. At twelve years old, he composed a Mass and an Ave Verum for two voices. At sixteen he composed another Mass in a more mature style, and with very original musical themes. This Mass, originally for four mixed voices, would be reworked a few years later, expanded to five mixed voices and enriched by an orchestra. It became one of the most imposing of Domenico Bartolucci’s compositions, the Missa Assumptionis. At seventeen he produced one of his most beautiful and dramatic motets, the Super Flumina Babylonis for six mixed voices. He went on to be named organist and then director of the choir of the Duomo at Florence. Many professors of the Florence conservatory of music went to Mass on Sunday at eleven o’clock to hear the young musician improvise on the organ.

    Before finishing his twentieth year, he began composing his most significant symphonic choral works: the Symphony Rustica and the oratorio La Tempesta sul Lago. In 1939, at the age of 22, he received his diploma in composition and orchestral direction with Vito Frazzi at the Florence conservatory. This diploma, too, demonstrated the uncommon gifts of the young maestro. In only two sessions, between July and October, he completed all the principal and complementary subjects to merit the diploma. The normal plan of study foresaw the completion of these subjects in a course of ten years. That same year, he was ordained a priest.

    At the end of 1942, he was sent to Rome to perfect his craft and master the tradition of sacred music. There he became Vice-Maestro of the chapel of the Basilica of St John Lateran, the cathedral of Rome, but the Second World War would necessitate his return to his native village. In this difficult period were born other important works in the genre of choral symphony, such as the oratorio La Passione (1942) and the concerto for pianoforte and orchestra. Right after the war, he returned to Rome and obtained a diploma in specialized composition and choral direction at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia, under the guidance of Ildebrando Pizzetti. He also obtained the diploma in sacred composition at Rome’s Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. In 1947 he became parish priest in a tiny village near Florence, but continued to dedicate himself to composition. The composition of the sacred poem Baptisma, for soloists, female choir and orchestra, dates to this period. In the same year he was recalled to Rome and appointed maestro of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and professor of composition, polyphonic direction and polyphonic music at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music, a position he kept until 1997. In 1952 he was named Vice Maestro of the Sistine Pontifical Chapel, in order to assist the principal director, Lorenzo Perosi, who had already been ill for some time.

    Maestro Bartolucci with the Schola Puerorum, processing through the cloister of St John in the Lateran early 1960s. (Photo from the website of the Fondazione Domenico Bartolucci)
    On the latter’s death in 1956, Pope Pius XII named him Perpetual Maestro Director of the Sistine Chapel, a post he retained until 1997. Domenico Bartolucci dedicated himself to restructuring the Pontifical Chapel, recruiting fresh talent and reorganizing the Schola Puerorum, the boys’ choir of the illustrious institution. This would be a long and laborious work, since he found the Sistine Chapel then in a state of extreme difficulty. Bartolucci obtained for the Chapel, from Pope John XXIII, an economic situation more adequate to sustaining the ancient vocal institution. He brought in treble voices for the high parts, entirely eliminating the falsettos, to the great displeasure of the latter. In the ’60s, the Sistine Chapel passed through a particularly successful period. But the same years would also see the changes introduced in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, changes that were often arbitrary and effectively against the norms of the Council, changes that did not respect a healthy principle of gradualism. It threw out the traditional repertoire to give place for “beat” music, conforming itself to the popular styles that came in vogue. The Maestro would always resist these developments with conviction, always maintaining the guiding role that the great classical repertoires deserved.

    In 1965, Bartolucci was named a member of the Academy of Santa Cecilia, where he found himself in the company of the most important international figures in music. Besides regular liturgical services in the Sistine Chapel, the maestro held numerous concerts in Italy and elsewhere. The Sistine Chapel would also conduct two successful coast-to-coast tours of the United States in the ’70s.

    After his retirement in 1997, the maestro continued a fervid activity as director and composer. In 2010 Benedict XVI, his great admirer, created him Cardinal Deacon of the Most Holy Name of Jesus and Maria in Via Lata. Cardinal Domenico Bartolucci died on November 11th, 2013.

    Cardinal Bartolucci arriving to celebrate Mass at the Fraternity of St Peter’s Roman parish, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 2010.
    His catalogue of compositions is truly outstanding: more than forty books of collections of his compositions, motets, masses, oratorios, organ music, various symphonic choral works and instrumental pieces for the pianoforte, violin and pianoforte and for other instrumental ensembles.

    Sacred music at the Chapel was certainly his most outstanding accomplishment, due to his decades of activity as director in the most prestigious Roman cappelle musicali. In his first book of motets, which comprises his Marian antiphons, we find already in evidence all the elements that characterize him as a composer and form the foundation of his poetic work: modal language, masterful handling of the choir, almost constant use of Gregorian themes, the lyricism of every polyphonic part, rejection of extreme dissonance, careful adherence to texts as they are found in the rite, the exaltation of the text in its most profound spiritual meaning, and the abhorrence of forced sentimental effects, which led to truer and more spiritual significance in his music. It would be difficult to comment here on the great many musical gems that fill his books, the fruit of the daily exercise of disciplined knowledge gain over the course of through decades, and which placed itself on the shoulders of the giants who proceeded him.

    There are a few important characteristics of his production and activity:

    1) A Roman Musician of the Church

    Without hesitation we must say that he was a profoundly Christian musician, and one profoundly involved in the liturgical life of the Roman Catholic Church: “Venerable Maestro, you have always labored to strengthen sacred music and make it a vehicle of evangelization. Through the innumerable concerts it performed in Italy and abroad with the universal language of art, the Pontifical Chapel has, under your guidance, cooperated with the mission of the Popes, which is to spread the Christian message to the world” (Benedict XVI, 2006).

    2) The Sacred Text

    In order to fully understand his music, and for that matter all of Gregorian chant and polyphony, one has to realize the absolute importance that the text has in such music. It is not only something that is set to music, but becomes in a certain sense the very form of the composition. In modern music there are various musical elements that determine the criteria for the use of texts. In the liturgical music we are speaking about, the text is the master of the composition, deciding its points of expansion and rest, establishing the priorities. The text, together with the liturgical context, gives the form, accents, and meter of the composition.

    3) Modality

    The harmonic language Bartolucci chose ran entirely contrary to the artistic tendencies of the period. He chose to express himself in modal language, which is the language that uses the traditional ecclesiastical scales on which Gregorian chant, and thus renaissance polyphony, is based.

    4) Lyricism Bartolucci’s harmonic language does not seek extreme dissonance. Above all it seeks intensity of spiritual emotion through the power of song. This is partly due to the nature of Italian lyricism, which tends to emphasize the expression of the singer as the protagonist, rather than his subordination to the needs of the mass chorus as is more typical in the splendid tradition of the English musical world.

    5) Attention to Tradition

    The Maestro had a deep reverence for tradition, that complex of usages and practices handed down from the past. But what is Tradition (with a big “T”)? More or less everyone claims the word, but I think few could define it if asked. Tradition is “to hand down”, to transmit. It is a bridge between yesterday and today, a gift the past makes to the future. Tradition is a victory over nothingness, the opposite of the annihilation of things and person in the flow of centuries. His concept of tradition is also tied to his concept of musical training, which is nothing other than that of the great Roman school. Music is learned through experience, by doing. Experience, what we call “practice”, is the most basic element of musical formation. Just as the painters labored in the workshop of a master and learned his secrets by working with him side by side, so musicians learned the secrets of the maestros’ arts in the choir loft, not with purely theoretical notions, but acquiring the art in the very act of doing.

    It is precisely this fecundity of Tradition that gives more radiant life to the future.

    The long and fertile artistic life of our author deserves to be more deeply studied and appreciated in the light of the historical and cultural context he lived through. Choirs can greatly benefit from singing his pieces, with have such masterful choral writing; every composer can learn fascinating secrets of polyphonic composition; every director has, in Bartolucci’s music, a certain and efficacious means to encourage in their faithful an intense meditation on the spiritual life.

    - Aurelio Porfiri is an Italian composer, conductor, writer and educator whose music is published in Italy, France, Germany, the USA and China. He has published 23 books, including “I would like to meet a saint: A Spiritual Diary.” Together with Prof. Peter Kwasniewski he promoted the Declaration on Sacred Music on March 5, 2017. He is the chief editor of ALTARE DEI, a magazine on liturgy, sacred music and Catholic culture.

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    The "liturgical study day" in which I took part on Sunday, April 2 in Vienna, was prefaced with a visit to the dome of the Karlskirche and concluded with a glorious Solemn Mass for Passion Sunday, in the Viennese style: the so-called "Fünfherrenamt" (literally, "five lord worship"), which calls for five vested ministers to serve the altar, rather than the usual three. There was a surprising amount of changing of vestments, which I didn't understand, but hope someday to receive an explanation of!

    My hosts told me that this use or custom is uniquely Viennese and that it has unexpectedly survived to the present, in spite of so many pressures, old and new, to abandon it. Before the Council, there were ultramontanists arguing that Vienna should conform to the Roman Rite as celebrated everywhere else; whereas after the Council, the notion of any sort of Tridentine Mass, with one, three, five, or ninety-five ministers, was verboten. Yet the Fünfherrenamt continues to be celebrated several times each year. I cannot comment in detail on the ceremonies but I can at least share some of the splendid pictures taken by Una Voce Austria, as well as a brief video of highlights.

    Beneath these photos, I will place and comment on several close-ups that I took of the dome frescos of the same church, dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo.
















    Now to the dome frescoes. If you look at the Karlskirche, you can see that it features an enormous (indeed, disproportionate) dome:

    The author, with P. Edmund Waldstein and Dr. Timothy Kelly of ITI

    The inside surface of the dome is covered with rich allegorical and biographical frescoes in the early 18th-century Austrian Baroque style in honor of St. Charles Borromeo, the very model of the Tridentine reformer. Normally, these paintings are so far away from the spectator on the floor of the church that one cannot make out the details all that well:


    However, an enterprising Austrian got permission some time ago to install (one hopes temporarily!) an elevator in the Karlskirche and charge people a fee to take it up to the dome, where they can walk around safely on a fenced-in platform and look at a dome that is only a few yards away from eye level. As unsightly as the elevator is, I have to say I was extremely impressed with the frescoes close-up and their wealth of Counter-Reformation symbolism. Consider this report my personal commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

    Here we have an allegory of the Catholic Church, dressed like a consecrated virgin and leaning against a small copy of the Karlskirche itself. St. Michael carries the papal tiara to her right, while other putti carry the double keys to her left. An angel with a flaming sword represents the authentic doctrine of St. Paul, which the Reformers have distorted. Symbols of the episcopacy -- the mitre, the crook, liturgical books -- are strewn about artfully:


    My eye was caught by the pile of books. To my delight, the open book shows us liturgical chant, sending the message that the sacred liturgy is a repository of apostolic tradition, a guarantor of catholicity, and a primary theological source. In other words, the chanted texts handed down by tradition are themselves as much a part of what it is to be Catholic as the episcopacy, the papacy, and magisterial teaching.


    Now we turn to the scary monsters and marauders who represent heresy and schism. Above stands the female allegorical figure of faith, wearing a cope and holding aloft a paten, chalice, and host. A greenish demon, sticking out his tongue and holding a snake, falls back at the light streaming from the Sacrament. Another figure with a mask and a bag of money, reminiscent of Judas's coins, suggests fraud, deceit, simony. An archetypal heretic clutches various error-saturated manuscripts as an angel of God thrusts down a torch to burn them up. This was, of course, a time when the Church was still strongly encouraging the burning of evil books.


    If we look very closely at the open book in flames, we can see that its content is written as unintelligible gibberish -- all except the name Luterum or Luther. (We see here an anticipation by several centuries of the pseudo-Latin, "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet" etc., that publishers started to use in the 1960s when mocking up page layouts!) (As an aside, I would like to recommend warmly to NLM readers a new book from Angelico Press: Luther and His Progeny: 500 Years of Protestantism and Its Consequences for Church, State, and Society. Among books published after the Council, this is certainly the most intelligent anti-Lutheran polemic I have seen.)


    This next photo shows the connection between the triumph of the Church (already discussed) and the exaltation of the Catholic Faith, with death and damnation to its enemies:


    Looking further to the right, one sees a giant bloodstained Cross, symbol of Redemption but more particularly of the realism of the Sacraments which derive their efficacy ex opere operato from the Passion of Christ the Eternal High Priest, as well as of the legitimacy of relics and the veneration of physical objects:


    Turning still further right, we see the heavenly court, where the glorified Christ, no longer suffering on His cross, stands with the Father and the Holy Spirit in a blaze of light (the frescoes are much brighter than my poor photos show), and beneath them, gazing up, Cardinal Borromeo himself, surrounded by signs of his dignity (the red gallero, the processional staff):


    The uncompromising Catholic message of the dome art is echoed throughout the church building in a hundred different ways. Most charming, I thought, was an oil painting in a side chapel dedicated to the Infant of Prague. The painting shows St. Luke making an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who sits enthroned in heaven above his head, while tucked away in the lower right corner -- it's rather difficult to see in the photo -- is a group of people preparing the dead body of Christ for burial:


    The message here is multilayered. God Himself took on flesh from the Virgin Mary, and even when the soul of Christ was in Hades, His flesh, which never ceased to be hypostatically united to the Word, still deserved the latria of worship. If that is how the dead body of the Lord is to be treated, how much more the living Body of the glorified Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, which is confected right here at this altar! Moreover, since the Church has always venerated images, as seen in the tradition that St. Luke was an iconographer, we, too, should make and honor them, thereby gaining the patronage of the saints in heaven, who seek for us only a more intimate union with our Lord. The honor given to the image passes to the archetype. What a marvelous visual representation of the teaching of St. John Damascene and St. Theodore the Studite!

    The time spent in the Karlskirche was all too short, but, as always happens when I get to visit such a place, I felt humbled and proud to be a Roman Catholic in communion with the Church spread across the nations and ages of the world.

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    The Marian Option - God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis by Dr Carrie Gress.

    The theme of a crisis in modern culture seems to be resonating in more than just Christian circles at the moment. Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option book, published this March, is in the New York Times bestseller list, and I saw articles about it this past week in the Spectator in the UK, and the New Yorker magazine. The book was written to capture the spirit of the huge response to an idea that he first aired in a column several years ago; it is interesting, if surprising, that the latest packaging of the idea has caught the imagination of more than just traditionalist Catholics.

    One lesson I take from this wider popularity is that modern secular culture does not satisfy, and now even its adherents are starting to realiae it. What they seek as an answer to how they feel about modern life, it seems, is mysticism, something that speaks of a life beyond this world.

    Until now, this need was being serviced for many by Eastern mysticism packaged in a cellophane-wrapped bundle of New Age syncretism, in which each person selects their own take-home combination of practices from the spiritual buffet on offer in the self-help section of the local bookstore. 

    The fact that now, even the Christian mysticism that Dreher is directing people to, or the idea of it at least, can spark such mainstream interest, suggests that perhaps the false solutions so popular in the past 50 years are beginning to reach their sell-by date. If so, this is heartening! 

    I am a Benedictine Oblate and so very open to the idea of harnessing Benedictine spirituality in lay communities; if it can serve as a force for cultural renewal in the face of a hostile neo-pagan culture, I say whatever works, do it. However, I would rather take a broader view of history in considering what else the past has to tell us about how we might achieve this desired end. My analysis of history says that Christianity can spread spectacularly well in cities and towns and in the face of a hostile culture - such as Roman “paleo-pagan” culture - through parish communities. 

    Therefore, I would like to see ideas that seek to build up parish life pursued at least as energetically as those that seem to advocate a retreat from modern culture, such as Dreher's monastic-community option. This is because I believe that for most Christians, the parish is the natural church community, and that most people have no other option anyway, because they live in cities and towns where only parish churches are available to them. Most people are not free to move so that they live close to a Benedictine monastery.

    Part of the lesson of the success of Rod Dreher’s book is that we should aim to make local parishes centers of Christian mysticism once again. When the local parish is the place to find Christian mysticism, then people will buy what we are selling, so to speak; this, if they can see that it gives joy to those who participate, and is permeated by a spirit of Christian charity, which genuine Christian mysticism always would be. My article about a possible rule of the parish community, An Apostolic Blueprint for Parish Life, was one thought about how this might happen. I am not pessimistic about the power of a genuine Christian culture to attract people, even those initially hostile to the Faith, when it speaks of authentic Christianity; I believe also that it can be established in the midst of society in which an active and hostile culture predominates.  

    A new book by Dr Carrie Gress offers another idea which works in harmony with my own thoughts: the The Marian Option - God’s Solution to a Civilization in Crisis is out on May 22nd. She describes in a fascinating article in the National Catholic Register her thinking behind the writing of it, and how the idea was sparked off directly by reading about Dreher’s idea. In this she says:
    Among the many reviews of Dreher’s work, Maggie Gallagher’s insightful article “What Christians Can Learn (and What They Can’t) from Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option particularly struck me. Gallagher lays out an eye-popping look at how Catholics are well behind Evangelicals and Mormons in terms of political outreach and passing the faith down to the next generation. She suggests that Catholics need to look at the “best practices” for engaging in politics and evangelization. “The stakes,” she says starkly, “are too high for hunches.” 
    This idea of best practices was behind my own thoughts last spring when I started looking at the BenOp. The best practices approach to Christianity, evangelization, and civilizational transformation seemed to be embodied in the person and life of Pope Saint John Paul II. This was a man who lived most of his life under Christian persecution – first with the Nazis, and then with the Soviets. Not only did he function through daily life under such pressure, but he lived his Catholic faith in such a way that it burst forth and transformed the lives and hearts of millions. 
    While I know Gallagher was referring to a more nuts-and-bolts type of practices, there is a strong case to be made for the fact that The Marian Option — allowing Mary and her Son to be at the center of our lives — is the best practice for every struggle we currently face. And in fact, after two thousand years of Christian history, there is overwhelming evidence that The Marian Option works exceedingly well — and not just for Polish popes.
    She describes in this book, in her elegant and readable writing style, how through history, devotion to Mary has played such a large part in cultural regeneration in the past, and she suggests how it could happen again in the future.

    Gress’ book urges us to play our part by going on an interior journey inspired by the spirituality of so many Saints of the past. I like this idea especially because it tells us first to look at ourselves for an answer to our problems. It is through personal transformation that we might see, in turn, a change in parish communities and wider society. 

    A true devotion to Mary, I suggest, is one in which we allow her to direct us to her Son and through Him to the worship of the Father in the Spirit. To my mind this must mean that our Marian devotion has at its heart a the celebration of the Marian feasts in the Church’s year through participation in the Sacred Liturgy - the Mass or Divine Liturgy and the Divine Office. Devotions and personal prayer must play a part too, in such a way that they are harmonized with, derived from, and point to this liturgical piety. I hope that by reading Dr Gress’ book some will be inspired to just that.



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  • 05/09/17--16:07: The Baptistery of Parma

  • The city of Parma in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy has one of the most beautiful baptisteries in the country. Comissioned in 1196 from the architect and sculptor Benedetto Antelami, it was completed according to his design around 1270, about 40 years after his death. Its unusual appearance results from the combination of Romanesque architectural elements, arranged according to the sensibility of the Gothic style, particularly in regard to its height. It also preserves in remarkably good condition a magnificent frescoed cupola of the later 13th century; while the lower part of the interior, arranged in a series of niches, is filled with frescoes of the 13th and 14th century. These pictures were taken by our Ambrosian correspondent Nicola de’ Grandi during a recent visit.

    The ceiling is arranged in six bands. The red circle in the middle is the upper heaven, the band below it, with the blue background and rhombuses with stars in them, the lower heaven. These are followed by the Twelve Apostles and the Four Evangelists; Ss Paul and Barnabas are included among the former, since Matthew and John are with the latter. The fourth band shows a deesis scene, Christ with the Virgin and the Baptist to either side of Him (on the left in the photo below); the remaining 13 spaces are occupied by as many prophets. In the fifth band, the life of St John the Baptist is depicted in the full panels; those which are pierced with windows have two Saints on either side, including the Doctors of the Church. The sixth has episodes from the life of Abraham in the full arches; the alternating arches with have to either side of them Virgin Saints, the four elements, and the four seasons.


    Unlike the cupola, the niches in the lower part of the building are not organized in a unitary program; they were painted at different stages by a variety of artists, many as ex votos. Here we see in the first niche a relief sculpture of an angel, with Ss Peter and Paul to either side, and below, a Madonna and Child with the Archangel and St John the Baptist, who presents to them Card. Gherardo Bianchi (1220-1302) a native of Parma. In the second, a relief of Christ in glory, with Angels and the symbols of the Evangelists, with His Baptism below, and the Virgin and Child with angels below that. In the third niche, a relief of an angel, with Ss Ambrose and Jerome, the Crucifixion, and the Madonna of mercy with Saints, a popular medieval motif. In the fourth niche, a relief of St Michael spearing a dragon, with Christ above him, and the Evangelists and other Saints; below that, a Madonna and Child with a sainted pope and bishop.
    Statues of the months and seasons in the loggia, the work of Antelami and assistants.
    In the niche to the left, St Francis with a Seraph, a relief of an angel, and the animal of Ezehiel’s vision, with a Nativity scene below; in the 2nd niche, a relief of St Gabriel, and two Saints represented while blessing people; below that, the Resurrection, the Baptism of Christ, and the baptism of Constantine.
    In the niche on the left, the Annunciation and Visitation above; a series of votive images below. (The Virgin with the dead Christ; the Crucifixion of Lucca, known as the Volto Santo; St Catherine of Alexandria, St Christopher, etc.) On the right, a relief of St Michael stepping on a dragon, with two Saints; below, St George (attributed to the painter Buffalmacco), the Baptism of Christ, and the Beheading of St John the Baptist.


    The west portal, with the Last Judgment in the lunette and architrave; to the left of the door, six of the seven works of mercy, and the Parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21, 33-46.)
    The north portal. In the lunette, the Virgin and Child, with the Magi and the angel instructing Joseph to flee to Egypt. The arch above it shows twelve prophets holding shields with the faces of the twelve Apostles. In the architrave, the Baptism of Christ, Herod’s banquet, and the decapitation of St John the Baptist. The plaques to either side of the door show the genealogies of Christ (left) and Mary (right).



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  • 05/10/17--07:27: Easter Sunday 2017 Photopost
  • Well, it only took us half-way to Pentecost (exactly) to finally get to the Easter Sunday photopost, the last for this series. Once again, we extend our heartfelt thanks to all those who sent these in, participating in the work of evangelizing though beauty, and celebrating the richness of our Catholic liturgical tradition. Our next photopost will be for Pentecost; a reminder will be posted shortly before the day, which is June 4th this year. May the Easter season continue to bring you every blessing in the Risen Lord!

    Mary, Help of Christians - Hong Kong
    Celebrated by Joseph Cardinal Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. Before the Mass, His Eminence baptized the son of the regular Master of Ceremonies.
    Receive the salt of wisdom!


    Receive the light of Christ!

    Co-Cathedral of St Joseph - Burlington, Vermont

    St Matthew - Monroe, Louisiana
    St Peter - Steubenville, Ohio
    Cathedral of St Eugene - Santa Rosa, California


    St Joseph - Singapore





    Pontifical Shrine of Our Lady of Mount Carmel - New York City




    St Francis de Sales - Benedict, Maryland


    Most Holy Redeemer - Diocese of Cubao, Philippines


    Shrine of Christ the King - Chicago, Illinois (ICKSP)






    St Mary’s Cathedral - Peoria, Illinois


     Oratory of St Joseph - Detroit, Michigan (ICKSP)


    St Margaret Mary - Oakland, California (ICKSP)



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    At the Divine Liturgy of Easter Sunday, the Byzantine Rite does not read one of the various Gospel accounts of the Resurrection, but rather, the Prologue of the Gospel of St John, 1, 1-17. (This is three verses longer than the Roman version read at the day Mass of Christmas, and at the conclusion of almost every Mass.) There are several reason for this choice, which may seem at first rather counter-intuitive.

    Greek Evangeliary, date unspecified; Bibliothèque nationale de France, Supplément grec 27, folio 1r. - St John the Evangelist is shown dictating his Gospel to his amanuensis St Prochoros, who was one of the first seven deacons. As can be seen from the folio number, this is at the very beginning of the manuscript; Byzantine Gospel books are traditionally arranged according to the order of their liturgical use, starting with Easter.
    The most ancient Christian heresies, such as Docetism and Gnosticism, denied that the flesh of man could be saved, raised from corruption and glorified. The major Christological controversies which followed them, and which were very much more present to the East, all center on one fundamental point, namely, that it is God Himself who accomplishes the salvation of man, not a lesser being created by Him for that purpose, as heretics like Arius taught. A commonly used text in the cycle of hymns for Sunday Orthros expresses this very beautifully: “You came forth from a Virgin, not as an ambassador, nor as an Angel, but as the Lord Himself, incarnate, and saved the whole of me, a man.”

    The Resurrection is the culmination of the salvation of the whole of our nature, body and soul together, which are both raised from the dead with Christ. In verse 16, St John says “we have all received of His fullness, and grace for grace”; this fullness is the totality of salvation accomplished in the Resurrection, including the flesh which the Word became, as stated earlier in the Prologue. The last verse, “For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ,” echoes St Paul’s teaching that “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law,” (Galatians 3, 13), a theme which becomes prominent later on in the Easter season in the Byzantine Rite.

    On a practical level, so to speak, the Resurrection is also proclaimed at the Easter vigil, and at Vespers on Easter Sunday. The Gospel of the former is the whole of Matthew 28, where the Roman Rite reads only the first 7 verses. This Gospel begins with the words “But on the evening of the Sabbath”, as the vigil itself was originally celebrated on the evening of Holy Saturday. (In practice, it is often anticipated to the morning.) The first part tells of the women at the tomb meeting the first the angel, then the risen Christ Himself (1-10), followed by the bribing of the soldiers who guarded the tomb (11-15). The final part, the meeting of Christ with the Eleven disciples in Galilee, contains His commission to “teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”, a perfect choice for the baptismal ceremony par excellence.

    At Vespers of Easter Sunday, St John 20, 19-25 is read; this is the first part of the Gospel which is read in full (verses 19-31) on the following Sunday, known in the East as the Sunday of St Thomas. There are several occasions on which the Eucharistic liturgy and Vespers are celebrated together in a single ceremony, (the Easter vigil among them) and therefore a Gospel is read; Easter is the only feast on which a Gospel is read at Vespers apart from the Divine Liturgy. (We may also note here that the Byzantine Rite has a series of eleven Gospels of the Resurrection; these are read in rotation at Orthros of Sunday, and this rotation is hardly ever interrupted.)

    The Gospel on Easter Sunday begins a semi-continuous reading of St John which goes on until Pentecost. I say “semi-continuous” because it is occasionally interrupted; the readings follow the order of the Gospel itself closely, but not exactly, and a few passages which figure prominently elsewhere are omitted. St Thomas Sunday is followed by that of the Myrrh-bearers, on which the Gospel is taken from St Mark, 15, 43 – 16, 8. (Mark 16, 1-7 is the traditional Roman Gospel of Easter Sunday itself; in the post-conciliar lectionary, it is assigned to year B.)

    A 16th century Russian icon of the Myrrh-bearers at the Tomb. A well-known hymn from Orthros of Holy Saturday says “The angel stood by the tomb and cried to the myrrh-bearing women, ‘Myrrh is fitting for the dead, but Christ has been shown free from corruption.’ ” On the Sunday dedicated to them, this is expanded with the addition of the words, ‘But cry out, the Lord is risen, offering great mercy to the world.’
    The period from the Ascension to Pentecost is not counted as part of the Easter season, as it is in the Roman Rite; there are therefore six Sundays of Easter, not seven. The first three being dedicated explicitly to the Resurrection, the three which follow are named for their Gospels, those of the Paralytic (John 5, 1-15), the Samaritan Woman (4, 5-42), and the Blind Man (John 9, 1-38). These three form an interesting trait d’union between the two great baptismal feasts, Easter and Pentecost. All three make prominent references to water: the paralytic is waiting to be healed in the pool of Bethsaida, while Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman of the “living water... springing up into life everlasting”, and sends the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam.

    All three also refer prominently to the Law of Moses, and the transition from it to the Law of Christ. The paralytic is told that he is violating the law of the Sabbath by carrying his bed, to which he replies, “He that made me whole said to me, ‘Take up thy bed, and walk.’ ” From ancient times, the Fathers understood this passage as proof that Christians are not required to observe the Law as the Jews did. The Samaritan woman belongs to a sect with which the Jews would not associate, because of their different interpretation of the Law; nevertheless, they receive the revelation of the prophet foretold by Moses. (In John’s Gospel, the Samaritan woman is the first person to whom Jesus says He is the Messiah, in verses 25-26.) The Pharisees claim that Jesus is “not of God” because He healed the blind man on the Sabbath, again, in violation of the Law of Moses; at the end of the Gospel, when Christ asks the blind man, “Do you believe in the son of God”, he confesses “ ‘I believe, Lord,’ and falling down adored him.” (In the Roman rite, a genuflexion is traditionally made at these words, just as it is made on Epiphany when the gentile Magi “falling down adored him.”)

    A Christian sarcophagus of the 3rd century, in the Pio-Christian collection of the Vatican Museums. The healed paralytic is shown in the middle, carrying his bed. 
    This transition is underscored by the order in which these Gospels are read, with the story of the paralytic in chapter 5 before that of the Samaritan woman from chapter 4.

    The pool of Bethsaida is in Jerusalem, the city made holy by the presence of the temple, the center of the Jewish people’s worship under the Law of Moses. The story of the paralytic begins with Jesus going there for “a festival of the Jews”, which Ss John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexandria both believed was Pentecost, the feast that commemorates the giving of the Law. In the Synoptic Gospels, Christ foretells the destruction of both the Temple and the city; in St John, after the cleansing of the Temple, He proclaims “ ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ … But He spoke of the temple of His body.” (chapter 2, 12-22. In Easter week, this passage is read out of order, on Bright Friday, between parts of chapter 3 on Thursday and Saturday. This is of course one week after Good Friday, the day on which the temple of His body was “destroyed.”)

    In John’s Gospel, Christ’s prediction of the destruction of the temple is made to the Samaritan woman. “The woman saith to him, … ‘ Our fathers adored on this mountain, and you (i.e. the Jews) say, that at Jerusalem is the place where men must adore.’ Jesus saith to her, … ‘the hour cometh, when you shall adore the Father neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem.’ ” The passage ends by saying that many Samaritans believed in Him, a declaration that, with the destruction of the temple, faith in the Jewish Messiah, and hence the worship of God, will pass to the gentile nations that enter the Church.

    The blind man is told to wash in the pool of Siloam, which St John himself explains “is interpreted ‘sent’. ” The Greek word used here for “sent – apestalmenos,” is a participle of verb whose root also makes the word “apostolos – one who is sent.” Although the blind man himself was a Jew, the Fathers understood his blindness to prefigure the blindness of the gentiles, who are illuminated when the Apostles come to them, fulfilling Christ’s commandment to “…teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” In both East and West, but more prominently in the East, “illuminate” and its cognates are very often used to refer to the Sacrament of Baptism.

    Therefore, the three Gospels arranged in this particular sequence demonstrate the passage from the old worship in the Temple under the Law, through the Messiah to the Apostles, and hence to the Church.

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    Fr Ludwig Pichler, S.J., one of the 20th century’s greatest figures in the field of sacred music, passed away earlier this morning in the infirmary of the Jesuit home for retired priests in Rome, at the age of 101. Born in Bosnia on July 5th, 1915, ordained a priest at the church of Sant’Ignazio on July 21st, 1945, Fr Pichler directed the choir of the Russian College in Rome for 61 years, from 1948 until his retirement in 2009. The magnificently beautiful choral tradition of the Russicum, as it usually called, is built upon his extraordinary work, a lifetime dedicated to promoting the finest of Russian and Slavic liturgical music.


    The funeral Divine Liturgy will be held tomorrow at the church of the Russian College, Sant’Antonio all’Esquilino, via Carlo Alberto 2, at 11:30 a.m. Вѣчнаѧ памѧть!

    PLEASE NOTE: The time of the Liturgy has been changed to 11:30.

    Here is a recording of the hymn “It is truly right to bless Thee, o Mother of God” (Ἄξιον ἐστίν: Достóйно éсть) and the Canticle of Simeon (the “Nunc dimittis”) sung by the choir of the Russian College according to Fr Pichler’s arrangements. This was made on November 4, 2015, at a conference held in his honor shortly after his 100th birthday.


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