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    On the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, His Excellency Glen Provost, bishop of Lake Charles, Louisiana, celebrated a Pontifical Mass in the traditional rite in the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Even though this was two months ago, I am very happy to share these photos, because they show once again that it is especially the young who are working so diligently to preserve and promote our Catholic liturgical tradition. (The complete set can be seen at this link:  The 2nd MC is the same Fr Jacob Conner whose parish was featured in the first article in the “Tradition is for the Young” series last November.)
    Thy sons round about thy table.

    Dr Barbara Wyman, who sent in the photos, writes “If a passerby, anxious to escape the Louisiana heat for a moment, had slipped into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, he would have immediately known that something extraordinary was occurring. What he would have seen is truly the most beautiful thing this side of Heaven. On this particular day, the occasion was the Solemn Pontifical Mass for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, celebrated by His Excellency, The Most Reverend Glen John Provost, (the 13th since his consecration as Bishop, and the 6th at his own cathedra).
    One of the hallmarks of the usus antiquior, or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is the continuity it gives us to the Saints who have gone before. It is quite moving to think of St Thomas Aquinas, St Francis De Sales, Blessed John Henry Newman, St Josemaria Escrivá, St Catherine of Siena, St Padre Pio, alongside St Therese of Liseux … all these Saints, from throughout time, if they were to suddenly slip in the side door, they would feel right at home, and their voices would blend with the schola, chanting the Mass, for these Saints would know the Latin words. And there was much cause for rejoicing this particular night! Not only is this the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, but also the 10th anniversary of His Excellency’s consecration and installation as third Bishop of Lake Charles, and the 42nd anniversary of his ordination to the sacred priesthood.

    It is altogether fitting that at this particular Mass, newly ordained Samuel Orsot served as the deacon, since he had grown up in the Tridentine Mass celebrated for many years in this diocese under the Ecclesia Dei indult of St John Paul II. We must be ever thankful to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for the motu proprio. Cardinal Sarah, writing on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum, recalls the words of the great German liturgist Msgr. Klaus Gamber (1919-1989) who ‘used the word Heimat to designate this common home or ‘little homeland’ of Catholics gathered around the altar of the Holy Sacrifice. The sense of the sacred that imbues and irrigates the rites of the Church is the inseparable correlative of the liturgy.’ And so, our imaginary passerby, who stumbled out of the heat and out of time, along with all present on that night, were given a glimpse of the heavenly city. ”

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    (Cross-posted from the Society of St. Hugh of Cluny.)

    Starting September 5th, at St. Mary’s Church the daily morning Mass will be a Traditional low Mass. The time will be changed to 7:30 am, Monday to Friday. Deo gratias! This is the kind of thing we need to see happening everywhere, so that authentic liturgical renewal may flourish (dare one say, irreversibly?)

    Father Richard Cipolla announced the change today on the St. Mary’s website:

    The Traditional Roman Rite of the Mass lies at the very heart of Saint Mary’s parish. Since Father Markey introduced it in the parish some seven years ago, it has become integral to the very existence of this parish both in spiritual ways and in eminently practical ways. The Solemn Mass on Sunday has brought so many new people to the parish and continues to be a source of inspiration and genuine prayerful worship to all who assist at the Mass. The Traditional Mass, also known as the Extraordinary Form, is a gift from God via Pope Benedict to St. Mary’s.
    When God gives someone a gift He expects it to be used for His glory and to be part of the missionary effort of the Church to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world. In our case, I have decided that this gift needs to be used even more deeply in the parish than up to this point. After much thought and prayer, I have decided that the daily morning Mass will be celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. The time of the Mass will be moved to 7:30 a.m. to allow more people who go to work early to attend Mass. The readings will be in English. The quiet simplicity of the Low Mass will enrich us all. Cardinal Sarah’s book on Silence specifically mentions the silence of the Canon in the Extraordinary Form as something very good for the worshipping community. Most of our parishioners will notice little change, since we celebrate the daily Novus Ordo Mass in continuity with the form of the Traditional Mass. This change will also enable more of our parishioners to experience the beauty of the Extraordinary Form and enrich their understanding of the worship of the Church in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    In no way should this change to the daily celebration of the Extraordinary Form be interpreted as a “return to the past”. As Pope Benedict said: “What was sacred then is sacred now.” We live in the now, not in the past. And we look to the future with confidence that the presence of the Extraordinary Form at St. Mary’s will be a force within the Church to worship God in the Spirit, the God of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. The return to the Tradition of the Church is absolutely necessary in an age of spiritual amnesia within the Church that has sapped her strength to be who she is: the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

    Your support, as always, is very important to me. Let us pray for each other and our beloved parish church dedicated to Mary most Holy.

    Father Richard Gennaro Cipolla
    St. Mary’s is truly one of the gems of the East Coast

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    The National Catholic Register recently published a good article by Trent Beattie on the ever growing trend back towards more traditional and more beautiful designs in churches, and some of the firms that are helping to bring this about. I was particularly struck by this line from David Riccio, who works for John Canning Studios, a firm that did some of the work on the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

    “...beautiful churches usually cost no more than mediocre or ugly ones. ‘Mediocre or bad church designs can cost just as much as good ones, and the durability is not usually there, so you can easily end up paying even more over the years for a mediocre or bad design than a good one,’ Riccio said.”

    (This reminds me of an occasion many years ago, when I was walking with a priest friend through the Roman streets near the Pantheon where many of the shops are that sell vestments and other church goods. In my youth an naiveté, I was surprised to notice that a polyester chasuble with a nightmarish design was more than three times as expensive as a chasuble and all of the additions, including the maniple, in the window of a more reputable firm down the street. To this, my priest said, “Oh yes, poverty is terribly expensive!”)

    The article also mentions the church of St Pius X in Granger, Indiana, a new construction which replaced a far less attractive church from the 1970s, and the restoration of the St Turibius Chapel at the Pontifical Seminary Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, both of which we have recently covered here. Here are photos of the latter as it looked before wreckovation, the results of the wreckovation, and the recent undoing of it.

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    The liturgical function of this piece of furniture can be perfectly described with exactly two words; if only one of those words is given, that is insufficient for the answer to be deemed correct. Please leave your answer in the combox, but do also feel free to add any details or explanations you think pertinent. As always, to keep it more interesting, please leave your answer before reading the other comments. We are always pleased to hear humorous answers as well.

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    My favorite book of spiritual reading, hands down, has become In Sinu Jesu: The Journal of a Priest at Prayer (Angelico Press, 2016). Although NLM has not run a proper review of the book (see here, meanwhile, for a good review by Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.), it would not surprise me if a good many of our readers had already heard of it and possibly already own it and use it. I simply cannot recommend it too highly, for laity and religious, but above all, for priests. Here are a few passages I copied down recently and would like to share.

    It is through My silent life in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar that I teach My priests how to be priests at every moment and not only when, vested in the insignia of their sacerdotal dignity, they stand before the altar to celebrate the Holy Mysteries. The life of the priest is My life in heaven: ceaseless attention to the Father and uninterrupted intercession, thanksgiving, reparation, and praise on behalf of all men.
    A holy priest is quite simply one who allows Me to live in him as in a supplementary humanity. In every priest I would speak and act, delivering souls from the powers of darkness and healing the sick—but most of all, I desire to offer myself in every priest and to assume every priest into My own offering to the Father. This I would do at the altar in the celebration of My Holy Sacrifice, but not only there; the life of a priest united to Me is a ceaseless oblation and he, like Me, is a hostia perpetua. You cannot imagine the fruitfulness of such a union, and this is the fruitfulness that I desire for My Father’s glory and for the joy of My Bride, the Church.
    Have I not told you before that the priesthood is, above all else and before anything else, a relationship of intimate friendship with Me? The priests who do not understand this have no notion of what their priesthood means to Me and to My Father in heaven. This is one of the great sorrows of My Sacred Heart: that priests do not approach Me as a friend, that they fail to seek My company, to abide in the radiance of My Face, and to rest close to My Heart.
              Seminarians are taught many things, some useful, and others less so, but are they taught to love Me, to give Me their hearts, to remain in My presence, to seek My Face, and to listen to My voice? If they are not taught these things, they will have learned nothing useful, and all their efforts will remain shallow and sterile. Why are the seminaries of My Church not schools of love, and furnaces of divine charity wherein the dross is burned away and the pure gold of holiness is produced, a gold capable of reflecting the glory of My divinity and the splendour of My truth in a world plunged into darkness?
              Woe to those who allow men to pass through their institutions without teaching them the one thing necessary! Will I be obliged to say on the last day to those whom I have chosen, “You have not yet come to know Me, and though I know you through and through, I find in you coldness and resistance to My grace”?
              Pray, then, not only for My priests, your brothers, but also for the men whom I have called to be My priests, that they may learn to love Me before investing their talents and their energies in a multitude of other things that are perishable and have no value except in the hands and in the mind of one wholly converted to the love of My Heart. 
    This is the root of the evil that eats away at the priesthood from within: a lack of experiential knowledge of My friendship and love. My priests are not mere functionaries; they are My chosen ones, the friends whom I chose for myself to live in such communion of mind and heart with Me that they prolong My presence in the world. Each priest is called to love My Church with all the tender passion of a bridegroom, but to do this, he must spend time in My presence.
    I long for the adoration of My priests. I see other adorers before My Face and I rejoice in their presence, and I bless them with all the tenderness of My Eucharistic Heart. But I look for My priests. Where are they? Why are they not the first to seek Me out in the Sacrament of My love and the last to leave Me at the close of the day? Even in the night I wait for them. In the night hours it is possible to have an intimacy with Me that one cannot experience at other times. I wait for My priests. I look for the friends chosen by My Sacred Heart and anointed to continue My victimal priesthood in the world. I want My priests to come to Me, and I will draw them, one by one, into the radiance of My Eucharistic Face. There I will refresh them. There I will heal them. There I will restore them and give them the choicest gifts of My Heart.

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    The English iconographer, Aidan Hart, has completed a series of wonderful mosaics for St George's Orthodox Church in Houston Texas. I have just read this long article in the Orthodox Arts Journal about it.

    Aidan describes the process by which he made the mosaics, right down to creating the tesserae out of glass. He writes with care and attendtion to detail and it is beautifully illustrated. The article is so thorough, that one wonders if this is going to appear as an additional chapter in his book the method of egg tempera and wall painting (a book that might be already the best art instruction book that I have read).

    Aidan is primarily a painter and so his success in mosaic demonstrates a point for anyone interested in being an artist. The fundamental skills of art are those aspects other than the mastery of the medium - drawing and then the use of colour, tone and line; and compositional design. Once these have been mastered then they can be applied in any medium.

    It is better to learn to be an artist while becoming a master in one medium only, for example egg tempera painting. Once this has been mastered, then applyng those skills in a new medium becomes relatively easy. It is a mistake, I believe, to focus on too many media in the training stage as learning each new medium becomes a distraction from focussing on the underlying skills of creativity in visual art.

    This is quite an old article (it is dated May 4th) although it's content is timeless). I became aware of it because it rose to the top of one of the categories in the newly packaged website. Read the full article here.

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    The subject of our most recent quiz was a portable chapel from the Casa Rocca Piccola in the city of Valletta, Malta. The house, which is still privately owned by an old family of Maltese nobility, the de Piros, also contains a full chapel, and some other interesting religious objects. Unfortunately, my SD card was having a bit of problem, so my only picture of the whole room is rather fuzzy.
    The altar retains both altar cards and relics, as well as the Latin propers for the Saints kept by the Knights of Malta.
    I am not quite sure what a small private chapel would need a Tenebrae hearse for; it seems difficult to imagine they would have their own private Tenebrae services.
    A glass case for the chalices, plates, statues, ex votos, and other precious objects. The family has been in Malta since the 17th century, and has accumulated rather a lot of these things over the years.

    A statue of the Virgin in the salon from which one enters the chapel.
    On the opposite wall there are four of these exquisitely tiny marble carvings.

    A wooden statue of St Paul in the family archive. As may be imagined from the fact that St Paul was shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 28, 1-11), devotion to him is pretty much omnipresent there.
    The year after the famous siege of 1565, the fortress city of Valletta was founded. The walls of the city were laid out first, then the very regular grid of streets set down within them. (Most of them are named for Saints, Paul, Ursula, Barbara, Lucy etc.) In this devotional image made for the 4th centenary of the city’s founding, the street grid appears as part of the Virgin Mary’s garment. The visit I took was led by the Marchioness de Piro, who has a very nice way of telling stories and a good sense of humor. She remarked that people often say that Valletta is laid out like Manhattan, to which she replies, “Well really, Manhattan is laid out like Valletta.”
    Two Roman Missals and an Italian Bible in the archive...
     ...and a rather older Breviary.

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    On Sunday, August 20th, 2017, at St. James Catholic Church in St. Joseph, Missouri, six women were invested with the holy habit of St. Benedict and two sisters made their simple professions at the hands of the Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr., Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph. The sisters belong to the flourishing community of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. The Solemn High Mass in the presence of a prelate at the throne was celebrated by Rev. Mark Bachman, O.S.B., of Clear Creek Monastery, assisted by Fr. Peter Bauknecht, FSSP and Fr. Lawrence Carney, with recently-ordained Fr. Alex Stewart, FSSP, as the Master of Ceremonies, with many clergy, monks, nuns, and lay people in attendance. Never having been to a traditional Roman investiture and profession of nuns before, I found it to be one of the most sublime liturgies I have ever had the privilege of attending.

    His Excellency Bishop Johnston graciously shared with me his splendid homily, and the photographer sent me exquisite photos, which have been interspersed into the homily. May readers spread these images far and wide, so that everyone, especially young Catholic women discerning their vocations, may see visible signs of the beauty of a life of consecrated self-sacrifice to which the Lord Jesus Christ, Bridegroom of the Church, is inviting many souls — today, as always. Without this life fully embraced and radically lived, the Church only limps along, half-dead. With it, she can run in the way of God's commandments.

    Homily of Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
    Profession and Investiture for Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles
    St. James Church, St. Joseph, Missouri
    August 20, 2017    
    Reverend Fathers, Mother Cecilia, dear Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles, other Women and Men Religious, Family members, Friends in Christ one and all; it is good to be with you for this Mass of First Profession and Initiation into the Novitiate of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles.  The Church joins the Sisters today in thanksgiving for the gift of vocation and consecrated religious life, as this Community of the Priory of Our Lady of Ephesus celebrates the Religious Profession and the Investiture of so many sisters!

    The sisters before the ceremony

    Our gratitude is first to God who gives the growth, and then gratitude to the families of the sisters who provided the “good soil” for the seeds of faith to grow.

    In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read: “In the consecrated life, Christ’s faithful, moved by the Holy Spirit propose to follow Christ more nearly, to give themselves to God who is loved above all and, pursuing the perfection of charity in service of the kingdom, to signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come.” (916) What a beautiful path for a person to take in life:
    • To follow Christ more nearly
    • To give oneself to God who is loved above all
    • To pursue charity in service of the Kingdom
    • To signify and proclaim in the Church the glory of the world to come
    If you think about this list, all of us are supposed to do these things, not just the Sisters in the monastery; this is the way we are all called to live because of our Baptism into Christ. The difference is that the religious sister gives herself entirely over to this within a community, while the other members of the Church must also attend to other obligations that flow from their vocations. And so, this is one of the great blessings of consecrated religious life in the Church: consecrated religious stand before us as living reminders of what we are all called to pursue in our own particular way.

    The bishop summons the two sisters who are making profession

    The first sister reads her "chart of profession," written in her own hand...
    ...then she signs it on the altar of sacrifice...

    ...and shows it to the Prioress

    Several years ago, in one of his homilies, Pope Benedict XVI recalled a short story of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. In the story a severe king asks his priests and wise men to show him God. They are unable to do so. A shepherd coming in from the fields steps forward to take on the task. He tells the king that his eyes are not good enough to see God, but the king persists in wanting to know at least what God does. “Then we must exchange our clothes,” says the shepherd. The king, reluctant but curious, consents. He gives his royal robes to the shepherd and has himself dressed in the poor man’s simple garments. “This is what God does,” says the shepherd.

    Indeed, as St. Paul tells us in his Epistle to the Philippians, Christ, the Son of God, did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness; and being found in human form he humbled himself, even to death on a cross (cf. Phil 2:5-8). This sacred exchange between God and ourselves has been pondered by the saints and Fathers of the Church ever since. God took on what was ours, so that we might receive what was God’s and become like God.

    In this exchange, Mary served as the gateway, as she would throughout her life.

    Beginning to chant the "Suscipe"

    "Abyssus abyssum invocat..."

    The professed sister's white (novice) veil is replaced by the black one

    The Sacrifice of the Mass continues with the Offertory

    Today, these young women who will make profession and be invested in the holy habit will take a step of faith and love in their response to the Holy Spirit’s action in their lives. Like Mary, they have been called to give themselves to God’s design. And, like Christ, her Son, they are imitating Him by making a holy exchange, giving up what is theirs to take on what belongs to Him—to make a sacrifice of love. This will be evident in the rite, at times very powerfully, as when those who are invested make an outward sign of their sacrifice by giving up their natural “crown” — their hair, and then receiving the habit.

    Dear Sisters, by entering religious life, you are embarking on a way of life that emulates the Blessed Mother and her Son along the way marked out by St. Benedict and the charisms of your monastic community. All of this is a response to grace at work in your lives, much along the lines that grace was at work in the life of the deaf and mute man in the Gospel account today.

    After Holy Communion, the novices come forward for the ceremony of clothing

    Calling the bride of Christ to place herself under His sweet yoke

    Loosening the hair to be cut off

    Divested of her "crown"

    Reflecting on this reading, we might say that it is about a “grand opening.” It’s likely that all of us have attended some kind of “grand opening” at one time or another.  A new store . . . a school . . . a bridge. We cut ribbons, we read proclamations, we have dedications and blessings. I have done this several times in the past few weeks in opening two new Catholic Schools in our diocese. And, perhaps in the near future we will have a kind of grand opening with the consecration of a new church in Gower! Right, Mother?

    In this Gospel reading for today’s Mass we have an event that describes a healing that is only recorded in St. Mark’s Gospel. Having healed and fed their fellow Jews, Jesus and his disciples spent time in Gentile territory. During a previous visit there (Mk 5:1-20), Jesus had freed a man from demonic possession and did so in a memorable way when he sent the unclean spirits into a heard of pigs that went rushing into the sea. Although the people had begged Jesus to leave on that visit, they bring him a deaf and mute man when he returns.

    The healing is very vivid. And, the one word that grabs our attention is the Semitic word, Ephpheta. This is the one-word prayer that Jesus uses and it means, “be opened!” Certainly, for this deaf and mute man, his encounter with Christ was a “grand opening.” His healing was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: “Hear is your God, he comes with vindication; With divine recompense he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; Then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the dumb will sing” (Is 35:4-7).

    Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecy. And “Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever” (Heb 13:8), so He brings about grand openings for us too. We may not be physically blind, deaf or lame, but there is likely something in our lives that needs to be opened . . . something that is closed that we have not the power to open by ourselves. Perhaps we have closed ourselves to forgiveness, either refusing to accept it or maybe by refusing to give it to others. Perhaps we are closed to a certain person we do not like or who has offended us. Perhaps we are closed to the truth, to some difficult teaching of the Church or commandment of Christ in the Gospel. Perhaps there are certain people in the Church or the priory or our family whom we have closed ourselves off to for whatever reason. We can be closed to grace, to God, to other people and we need Christ to pray over us, “Ephpheta, be opened!”

    Having exchanged wedding gowns for the habit, the sisters return to receive scapulars and veils

    In some ways, this prayer of Jesus encapsulates the entire Christian life.  Sin closed our life off from God, and Christ has opened the way for God’s grace to return to our souls. Of all our Lord’s grand openings, perhaps the greatest is the Resurrection. At the Resurrection, not only was Christ’s tomb opened to His glorified and risen body, but also heaven was opened for mankind again. And, our graves were opened. In essence, this is what St. Paul proclaimed as the central core of the Christian message in the Second Reading today from his first epistle to the Corinthians: “I delivered unto you first of all, which I also received, how Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures . . .”.

    Another detail in the Gospel worth noting is that before Jesus brought about the healing of the deaf and mute man, he took him off by himself, away from the multitudes.  This is an action seen not only here.  Jesus takes his disciples away from the multitudes to pray with them and to teach them, even to rest with them.  When he healed the little daughter of the synagogue official, he put the noisy crowd out, and took only his disciples and the girl’s parents.

    Sisters, in your life in the monastery, through prayer and work under the guidance of the Rule of St. Benedict, you encounter Christ apart from the multitudes that you may, day by day, be converted, and “Christ be formed in you” (Gal 4:19). But, even though you will live your life apart from the world, it does not mean that you are disengaged from the world. Far from it. In fact, your life of prayer, poverty, chastity and obedience will affect the world and the Church more powerfully, as St. Benedict and his followers did originally, when the world of his day was collapsing at the end of the Roman Empire.

    In this Gospel account Jesus brought about the healing with very physical signs, putting his fingers in the man’s ears, spitting and touching his tongue, looking up to heaven and groaning—all of these, sacramental in nature.  Now we are all able to be touched and filled by Christ through the sacraments, the means of grace that He entrusted to us, and most of all, the Holy Eucharist, the very gift of Himself.

    As we celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the Mass today, and as we celebrate this day of profession and investiture, let us be ever grateful that our Lord remains with us, healing, opening, and restoring us to our status as sons and daughters of God.

    May, Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us. Amen.

    Praised by Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.

    The entire community of the Benedictines of Mary

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    We never let August 30th pass without remembering the Blessed Cardinal Alfredo Ildefonso Schuster, who went to his eternal reward on this day in 1954, after serving as Archbishop of Milan for just over a quarter of a century. We have written about him many times on NLM, partly in connection with our interest in the Ambrosian liturgy, of which he was a great promoter, but also as one of the most notable scholars of the original Liturgical Movement. His famous work Liber Sacramentorum, known in its English translation as The Sacramentary, was written while he was still a Benedictine monk of the Roman Rite, and although inevitably dated in some respects, it remains an invaluable reference point for liturgical scholarship.
    Upon his transfer to Milan, he embraced the Ambrosian liturgy wholeheartedly, and as the ex-officio head of the Congregation for the Ambrosian Rite, strongly defended the authentic uses of the Milanese tradition. He also oversaw important new editions of the Ambrosian musical books, which are still used in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form of the Rite to this day. Our dear friend Monsignor Amodeo, a canon of the Duomo of Milan who was ordained a subdeacon by the Blessed Schuster, told us many stories about him over the years, among which one has always stood out in my mind in particular; in his lifetime, even the communist newspapers noted his continual presence in the Duomo at all of the most important functions of the liturgical year. Nicola de’ Grandi, our Ambrosian writer, once showed me a video of Cardinal Schuster giving Benediction from the façade of the Duomo, to a crowd that completely filled the huge piazza in front of the church. (Thanks to Nicola for these photos.)
    Pontifical Mass on the feast of St Charles; the mitred canons sitting on the steps of the altar are the deacons and subdeacons who serve the Mass, apart from those at the throne.
    Preaching from the great tribune pulpit of the Duomo.
    Lighting the faro on the feast of St Sebastian.
    During the difficult years of his episcopacy, the years of Italian Fascism and World War II, during which Milan was one of the hardest hit cities in Italy, the Bl. Schuster showed himself in every way a worthy successor of St Charles Borromeo, shepherding his flock in much the same way, visiting every parish of the diocese five times (occasionally riding on a donkey to some of the more remote locations), holding several diocesan synods, and writing innumerable pastoral letters.
    Pastoral visit to the village of Valsolda.
    Praying at the tomb of Card. Andrea Ferrari, archbishop of Milan from 1894-1921. Card. Ferrari was beatified on May 10, 1987; his relics are now in an altar in the right aisle of the Duomo, right next to that which contain the relics of Bl. Schuster. 
    A diocesan synod.
    Card. Schuster, accompanied by three mitred canons of the cathedral chapter, assists from the throne at the Pontifical Mass celebrated by the Archpriest of the same chapter, during the traditional presentation of candles in the “Tempio Civico” (civil temple) of St Sebastian on the patronal feast. The mayor of the city and other dignitaries are also present; the official banner of the city, with a famous image of St Ambrose, is seen on the right. The Tempio Civico was built by the city of Milan in 1576 as an ex voto for the end of a particular severe outbreak of the plague, one in which St Charles famously ministered to the sick and dying with his own hands. Candles are presented to the church by the city as part of the annual commemoration of the end of the plague; the devotional life of Italy is still to this day rich with such festivities.
    His body lying in state.
    The funeral procession.
    When his tomb was opened in 1985, his mortal remains were found to be intact; he was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1996, and his body was exposed for the veneration of the faithful in one of the side-altars of the Duomo.
    My first experience of the Ambrosian liturgy was a votive Mass in the traditional rite held in his honor in 1998, at which Monsignor Amodeo and another canon sang the Ambrosian propers of a Confessor Bishop; after Mass, we processed from the altar of the left transept around the church to the altar, and sang the Ambrosian litany of the Saints at his tomb. The Ambrosian manner is for the cantors to sing the name of the Saint (“Sancte Ambrosi”) as in the Roman Rite; the choir responds by repeating it, and adding “pray for us.”

    Beate Ildephonse. Beate Ildephonse, ora pro nobis!

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    On Friday, September 8th, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass will be celebrated in the Dominican Rite at the Church of St Vincent Ferrer in New York City, starting at 7 pm. The gentlemen of the Schola Cantorum will sing Maurice Duruflé’s Messe cum jubilo, Andrea Gabrieli’s Nativitas tua Dei Genitrix á 7, and Vincenzo Bertolusi’s Ego flos campi. The church is located at 869 Lexington Avenue.

    On Monday, September 11th, in commemoration of the 16th Anniversary of 9/11, the New York Purgatorial Society will sponsor a Dominican Rite Requiem Mass at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, starting at 7 pm.
    On Thursday, September 14th, for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, there will be a special Solemn Mass in the Ordinary Form at the Church of St Catherine of Siena at 6:30 pm. The Schola Cantorum will sing Sebastián de Vivanco’s Missa Crux fidelis, Jacob Handl’s Adoramus te á 6, and Pierre de Manchicourt’s O crux splendidiorNobile lignum exaltatum. Exposition will immediately follow Mass and an All Night Watch before the Blessed Sacrament will be kept until Benediction and Low Mass the next morning, Friday, September 15th, at 7:00 am, for the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The church is located at 411 East 68th Street.

    The parish entity which comprises these two churches will also hold a study course this fall entitled “The Arts as Paths to God: Secular and Sacred Art and the Spiritual Life,” each Tuesday evening in the parish hall of St Vincent Ferrer. Details in the poster below.

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    Our thanks to one of our most diligent guest contributors, Mr Zachary Thomas, for this interesting account of the 6th Italian National Eucharistic Congress, which was held in the Lombard city of Bergamo in 1920, a signal event in the life and career of the future Pope St John XXIII.

    In the north transept of the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro in Bergamo, at the base of the right column there is a Latin inscription commemorating the 6th National Eucharistic Congress, which took place there in September of 1920. It was a momentous year for the Italian people, who were suffering through the “Biennio Rosso”, the Two Red Years of violent socialist agitations—strikes, factory takeovers, mass unemployment—and counter-revolutionary measures by the Italian state leading eventually to the Fascist reaction.

    It was in this nervous climate that the Congress met, its participants journeying from all across Italy to join in three days of spiritual retreat and Eucharistic adoration. The ninth of September also turned out to be momentous for an obscure priest from that area, Fr Angelo Roncalli, who gave a galvanizing speech that attracted the attention of the Italian hierarchy and soon propelled him on to higher responsibilities.
    Fr Angelo Roncalli in his youth.
    The inscription, and some excerpts of Roncalli’s speech, are worth recalling in our times of trouble. They show how even in the worst times Catholics found hope in Christ and his Eucharistic priesthood, and went on building the city of God even as the city of man once more turned against them. Unfortunately, this is only a partial rendering of the inscription, taken from my hasty notes, so please pardon any errors. (I think the Latin is rather problematic in some places as well.)






    “In this great cathedral of Bergamo there was an extraordinary spectacle of religion and liturgies of dazzling splendor. Such a multitude of citizens and visitors from all over Italy had never before been seen.

    The most holy body of Our Lord Jesus Christ was exposed continually and adored day and night. Priests worked at the altar unceasingly from the middle of the night, and the holy assembly was reverently celebrated by the people who were fittingly delivered from their sins.

    On Sunday, the last day of the congress, George Cardinal Gusmini the Archbishop of Bologna celebrated a solemn Mass with a sermon at the High Altar of the church, surrounded by a splendid crown of prelates and in the presence of all the town’s corporations and pilgrims from every nation.

    In the afternoon the procession set out hence with a magnificence that knew no bounds. The August Sacrament was led in a triumphal chariot down through the walls and the suburbs to Sant’Alessandro in Colonna amidst immense festivity, the intense ardor of the faithful, and the unrestrained voices of the huge crowds packing the streets.

    How envious our example of piety should be to future generations! How joyful those days spent at Bergamo in Eucharistic devotion! The men in charge of the festivities, desiring to establish a perpetual memorial of such a great event here for the people, have engraved it on this white stone.”

    Envious indeed. Roncalli’s oration—according to Peter Hebblethwaite’s book John XXIII: Pope of the Century (London: Continuum Publishing, 2000.), from which all the excerpts are taken—was entitled “The Eucharist and Our Lady.” The Acts of the Congress describe the enthusiasm with which it was received.

    “The Rubini Theatre was more crowded even than the day before. Not a single corner was free. The stage itself was packed with bishops and notables. The scene cannot be described: hearts are full of joy; enthusiasm, restrained by reverence, shines out on all faces. The eucharistic hymn is sung, the president recites the prayers and sums up the work done during the morning. Then Professor Don Roncalli begins to speak . . . His speech is many times interrupted by applause, and at the end the audience, deeply moved and enthusiastic, gave him a standing ovation.”

    In his speech, Roncalli defended Catholic Action and spoke of the political future of Italy. As Hebblethwaite summarizes: “Catholic Action is a populist cause and this ‘vast and powerful organisation is merely the spontaneous emanation of the religious feeling of the people.’ It’s purpose was to bring to bear the principles of Catholic social doctrine, ‘derived from the Gospels’, on all the contemporary questions: unemployment, poverty, class-war, labour unrest, inflation. (ibid.)

    Roncalli’s peroration ends invoking the Eucharist as the “sacred pledge of civilisation”: “While we are gathered here for this Congress, our Italy is going through one of its blackest and most terrible hours. New barbarians are standing at the gates of our city. You have seen the red banners, symbols of violence, fluttering in sinister fashion above the factories where the people—sometimes gullible but always good at heart—are waiting for work. What is going to happen? Are we perhaps on the eve of a social revolution?”

    “Our spirits are not apprehensive. Our hearts are firm, even if the revolution should come. In the midst of universal ruin, salvation lies in our hands. Behold, we priests will raise aloft Christ in his sacrament, and will bless the swirling river of humanity. You laypeople will strap upon your backs the image of the Madonna, and will face with sure steps the abyss, the tempest, death itself. God will renew his miracles. We will bring to safety the sacred pledges of civilisation, the Holy Eucharist and the Madonna, the dearest objects of our faith and love, and after the agonising struggle, will lay them on the altar of the fatherland.” 

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  • 09/01/17--11:20: “Irreversible” Round-Up
  • For a variety of reasons, I thought it best to wait a while before saying anything about the now famous (or infamous) “irreversible” speech which the Holy Father recently gave to the participants in the 68th Italian National Liturgical Week. A number of good articles have been published in the week following its publication.

    - Canonist Dr Edward Peters, on his blog In the Light of the Law, addresses the proper object of the magisterial authority which the Pope invoked in declaring that the post-Conciliar liturgical reform is “irreversible.” The sum of it is “… I think it can be confusing to the faithful for any prelate to ‘affirm with certainty’ and/or with ‘magisterial authority’ that liturgical reform is ‘irreversible’ precisely because such language connotes in Catholic minds the exercise of a charism given not to underscore the importance of what is being asserted, but rather, to identify certainly and without error either what is divinely revealed and thus to be believed or what is required to safeguard reverently the deposit of faith and thus to be definitely held.”

    - Fr Zuhlsdorf begins his very useful commentary by stating “Given what I have seen and heard in Italy, my mind reels in dread at the very notion of a room full of Italian liturgists.” This is a completely reasonable reaction; the state of the liturgy in Italy is appalling, with a particular emphasis on very bad music. (For example, it is not an exaggeration to say that most churches sing the sixth mode triple Alleluia at every single Mass outside of Lent.) I especially enjoyed his comments on these words from the Pope’s discourse: “Just as there is no human life without a heartbeat, so too without the beating Heart of Christ there is no liturgical action.”

    “Our heart rates speed up and slow down according to activity, etc. The resting heartbeat is a baseline which is consistent, even, continuous. When our heartbeat is erratic there are problems. An arrhythmia can result in cardiac death. This is probably what happened with the artificial imposition of many liturgical changes after the Council (not actually called for by the Council Fathers in SC): liturgical arrhythmias. … Screw around with the Church’s liturgical heartbeat, and you wind up with what we have seen in the Church for the last 50 years, as virtually every aspect of Catholic life has become enervated, weak, lethargic and even necrotic.”

    - We can always rely on Fr Hunwicke for intelligent commentary on any matter, and particularly on the true scope of Papal authority. (The dashes here are in the original, and do not represent omissions.)

    “...But the liturgical texts and practices established after the Council are themselves not immutable. If a papal instruction, such as that of S Pius V in Quo primum, was in itself subject to change ... and Bergoglio seems to assume that it was changeable ... then clearly what Blessed Paul VI did, and what the current occupant of the Roman See now says ... are themselves changeable; they cannot be set in stone for ever.

    Pope Francis has exactly as much papal authority as S Pius V. He does not have a milligram less.

    And he does not have a milligram more.

    And if it was acceptable (the Holy Father seems to assume that it was) for ‘experts’, in the decades before the Council, to explain at great length what (in their view) was wrong with the Liturgy as it then existed ... ... then it acceptable now for us to explain, at any length we like, what (in our view) is wrong with the Liturgy as it is done now in so many places.”

    - Fr Geoffrey Kirk, an English priest of the Ordinariate who writes a very funny blog called Ignatius His Conclave, gives an excellent example of how liturgical reform was reversed within the Anglican church.

    - I particularly commend to our readers’ attention an article by Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB, on his blog Dominus mihi adjutor. Fr Hugh rightly, in my view, says that the speech itself is really not all that interesting, and in any case, much of what it does say is at best unclear. (The Pope speaks, for example, of “practices that disfigure the liturgy.” It would take no time at all to come up a list of perfectly licit practices of the reformed liturgy which one may reasonably regard as disfigurements; leaving the celebrant to choose the Eucharistic prayer comes immediately to mind.)

    “What is remarkable is the nostalgia that lies so close to the surface in so many commentators in the mainline reform movement. Seeing in the eyes of traditionalists the mote of a nostalgia for a golden age that never was, they fail to see the beam of the same in their own eyes. …

    If ever there was a group stuck in a rut of nostalgia it is the mainline liturgical reformers. They have not seen that the world, and the Church, have moved on from the heady days of hippies, free love, the brotherhood of man and revolution in everything that marked, indeed scarred, the 60s. The mainline liturgical reformers have failed in their express intention of producing a liturgy that engages modern people actively, a failure proved by the precipitous decline in Mass attendance since the reform was introduced.

    Blaming social change and militant secularism is just passing of the buck and does not stand much scrutiny. It was precisely such a changed and more secular society that the reformers sought to accommodate liturgically. … ”

    - Matthew Schmidt published an article yesterday on the Catholic Herald about the continually growing interest in the traditional Rite on the part of the young, with the one title I most wish I had thought of myself, “The Kids Are Old Rite.”

    “Who are these terrifying young traditionalists? Step into a quiet chapel in New York and you will find an answer. There, early each Saturday morning, young worshippers gather in secret. They are divided by sex: women on the left, men on the right. Dressed in denim and Birkenstocks, with the occasional nose piercing, they could be a group of loiterers on any downtown sidewalk. But they have come here with a purpose. As a bell rings, they rise in unison. A hooded priest approaches the altar and begins to say Mass in Latin. During Communion, they kneel on the bare floor where an altar rail should be.

    In a city where discretion is mocked and vice goes on parade, the atmosphere of reverence is startling. ...”

    - Just a few thoughts of my own then, to wrap up.

    The post-Conciliar liturgical reform has been in every way a complete success. The Fathers of Vatican II knew ahead of time that the letter of Sacrosanctum Concilium would be repeatedly disobeyed in the actual execution of the reform, and approved of this, knowing that the same Spirit which inspired such holy foreknowledge within them would lead to greater and better achievements than they themselves could ever have envisioned. The committees that produced the reform acted from only very highest and purest motives; their liturgical scholarship was impeccable in every way, nor has any part of it subsequently been proved wrong or outdated.

    Shortly after the promulgation of Sacrosanctum Concilium, an article in the Osservatore Romano proclaimed that the Council had officially embraced and approved of the goals of the first Liturgical Movement. And indeed, the wildest hopes of Dom Gueranger, the Blessed Schuster, Fr Fortescue and Dom Beauduin have been fulfilled in our times. Liturgical piety now flourishes as never before among the Catholic faithful, who have almost all joyfully embraced the reformed rites.

    Of course, every movement with the Church, be it ever so obviously led and driven by the Spirit, encounters some resistance from reactionaries. “Reactionary” is a word to conjure with, as are the many abstract nouns which are helpfully employed to categorize the unhealthy motives lurking in the dark corners of the reactionary mind. The –isms take the lead here, with “clericalism” as the perennial favorite, alongside “triumphalism” and “formalism”; beyond them wait “rigidity”, “nostalgia”, and a panoply of others. In this most blessed age, however, the reactionaries are so few, their complaints so unreasonable, their challenge so baseless, that there is no need to respond to them at all.

    Indeed, given the perfect triumph of the reform, it is difficult to see why any need was felt at all to assert (whether directly or obliquely) that it cannot be undone. We may even question whether such an assertion is altogether prudent, since it might suggest to some a degree of insecurity about its future, which is of course wholly unwarranted.

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    I had been planning to post this video along with still pictures of the Mass during which it was taken, and the beautiful church of St Dominic in Valletta, Malta, where it was celebrated. Unfortunately, the SD card with those pictures on it had a breakdown, and its ultimate fate remains as yet undetermined. (Prayers, please!) In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this recording of Andrea Gabrieli’s Caro mea, sung by our good friends of the Schola Sainte Cécile, conducted by Henri Adam de Villiers. This was the Communion motet at the Mass of St Louis IX, king of France, on August 25th, one of several liturgies celebrated during the Schola’s recent pilgrimage to Malta. (There will be more pictures coming up soon, from a replacement card.)

    Caro Caro mea vere est cibus, et sanguis meus vere est potus: qui mandúcat meam carnem et bibit meum sánguinem, in me manet et ego in eo. - My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink; he that eateth My flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and I in him.

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  • 09/03/17--11:30: Relics of Pope St Pius X
  • Today is the EF feast day of Pope St Pius X, who died on August 20, the feast of St Bernard of Clairvaux, in 1914. When he was canonized in 1954, his feast was assigned to September 3rd, the first free day in the calendar after the day of his death; the reshuffling of several Saints in the post-Conciliar reform permitted him to be reassigned to August 21st in the new rite.

    Fr Adrian Hilton of the newly established Cincinnati Oratory was kind enough to send in several photos of relics of Pope St Pius X from his private collection, which will be donated to the Oratory. (We previously showed a relic of St Camillus de Lellis from his collection.)

    A zucchetto worn by the Pope on the feast of Ss Peter and Paul, with its original authenticate card, and a charming letter written by the private chamberlain who obtained it.

    Portions of the Pope’s clothing items: buttons and a full sleeve from his cassock, and a piece of a red cloak.

    A papal blessing in a nice presentation frame.
    A formal letter issued while Pope to Canon Joseph Lemann, the director of a house which cared for blind girls, in which he expresses gratitude for a gift which they had made and sent to him.

    A calling card from his days as Patriarch of Venice.

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  • 09/04/17--11:32: On Liturgical Memory
  • As priests know better than anyone else, the smooth celebration of the usus antiquior requires the memorization of a significant number of prayers ahead of time, so that one need not be festooned with cards, surrounded by a cadre of servers with cheat-sheets, or embarrassed by long delays while one looks for the elusive page in the altar Missal. These prayers may include (depending on the design of the altar cards):
    • Psalm 42
    • Confiteor
    • absolution and short dialogue
    • Aufer a nobis and Oramus te
    • blessing of incense
    • Munda cor meum and Jube Domine
    • Per evangelica dicta
    • Orate fratres
    • Supplices te rogamus
    • Ecce Agnus Dei
    • formula for communion
    • Benedicat vos
    This requirement of memorization, far from being a mere guarantee of efficiency, has its own profound value: it is one more way in which the ancient liturgy demands that the celebrant “put on the mind of Christ” — or better, enter His Heart — by means of “knowing by heart” certain prayers of the Church that mold him into the image of their sentiments.

    Prayers run the risk of remaining external to the celebrant as long as they are merely written in the Missal, because their location is an external book. Memorized prayers, on the other hand, are already internal(ized) and, as such, are more available as a wellspring of piety within. The heart has become the book, the living book from which the Mass is celebrated.

    In one of the many letters that J. R. R. Tolkien wrote to his son Christopher Tolkien when the latter was in the Royal Air Force during World War II, we read:
    If you don’t do so already, make a habit of the ‘praises’. I use them much (in Latin): the Gloria Patri, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Laudate Dominum; the Laudate Pueri Dominum (of which I am specially fond), one of the Sunday psalms; and the Magnificat; also the Litany of Loretto (with the prayer Sub tuum praesidium). If you have these by heart you never need for words of joy. It is also a good and admirable thing to know by heart the Canon of the Mass, for you can say this in your heart if ever hard circumstances keep you from hearing Mass. . . . Less doth yearning trouble him who knoweth many songs, or with his hands can touch the harp: his possession is his gift of ‘glee’ which God gave him.[1]
    In the famous book He Leadeth Me, Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., describes what he did to avoid going insane in his solitary confinement: “After breakfast, I would say Mass by heart — that is, I would say all the prayers, for of course I had no way actually to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice.”[2] Elsewhere he recounts how he and his fellow missionaries had prepared themselves in a lumber camp in the Urals for the hardships to come: “Over and over again in the evenings, when others were chatting or reading or playing cards, we would repeat to each other the prayers of the Mass until we had learned them by heart.”[3]

    The culture to which J. R. R. Tolkien and Fr. Ciszek bear witness is a culture of sacred text, stability, repetition, memory, and inexhaustible meaning, even in the midst of the most barbaric conditions of war or imprisonment.

    Fast forward to the optimistic post-War world of the 1960s, where sacred and secular are running together, where stability is mistaken for fossilization, memory is written off as nostalgia, morals are loosening, and the givenness of tradition — in reality, a weight of glory — is felt as a chafing burden.

    With its programmatic variability, large number of texts, and paucity of obligatory prayers in the Mass ordinary, the reformed Missal strikes at the root of this age-old disciplining, stocking, and shaping of memory (and therefore of man’s mind and heart) by fixed liturgical formulas. Its novel instruction to speak “these or similar words” interferes with the ritual subjugation of the individual ego to the common voice of the Church. The fact that certain words are not fixed — not deemed worthy of being fixed, and worthy of being committed to memory forever — shows that the real appeal is not to memory but to imagination, the power of constructing rather than the power of conserving and contemplating.

    When a priest knows and says the same thing at certain moments in the liturgy, he unites in this act with all the other worshipers who know (or can easily know) the same prayer. They are brought together even if the priest is praying silently and not facing them. Paradoxically, if a priest instead uses his imagination to say out loud a new formulation of words, this content from his mind is necessarily going to be different from what might be in your mind. Thus, when the priest “uses similar words,” he becomes, by that very fact, dissimilar from you, and so, over against you in his distinctiveness, rather than together with you in a common discipleship to the given liturgy. Memory and fixed forms draw us together and make of us one body with a shared past and a shared future. Imagination and loose liturgical forms assemble us temporarily into a sui generis body that links up with no past and no heritage, which intends no future and no permanence. It is like the difference between carving stone or wood, and drawing pictures in the sand.

    Our identity comes from our “collective memory,” that is to say, the continually renewed remembrance of who and what we have been, and all the cultural forms that embody it. This remembrance is not primarily conceptual or intellectual but dwells in concrete, visible, audible, tangible expressions that serve as prompts for significant feelings and actions.

    I once read an author who described how every traditional culture has a literary canon of some kind, often made up of myths told in epic and lyric form, histories of heroes, and law codes. The artists of this culture do not see the all-pervasive presence of the canon as a burdensome limitation to their creativity but as the necessary condition for their own fruitfulness, a perpetual source of inspiration and direction that channels and intensifies their powers. They so internalize the canon that it becomes less like an object external to them and more like their own eyes and hands, through which they see and feel the world. The canon equips them with tools that nature could not have supplied, a vast vocabulary that surpasses what any individual could arrive at.[4]

    The traditional Roman liturgy was just such a literary canon for the clergy, for intellectuals and artists, for the pious folk who flocked to it and were shaped by it, century after century, father to son, mother to daughter. It was the internal linguistic form of the Western Church that gave her her very identity; it was the eyes and hands through which she saw and felt creation. The liturgy was the core of the Church’s collective memory, since it was the one reality that concerned everyone, all the time, drawing the many parts into unity, and imparting a definite character to the whole. All this happens when there is a stable sacred text of inexhaustible meaning that permeates the memory of man. It still happens wherever the traditional Roman liturgy lives on.

    I think here of my experience learning the server’s responses at Mass as a young adult. I printed a tiny card for myself with the responses from the prayers at the foot of the altar and so forth, and used to keep it tucked into my shirtsleeve when serving. After a time, I had internalized the prayers so that the card wasn’t needed. This felt like a new step into freedom: the prayers of Mass are now completely within me. One night, when I had trouble falling asleep, I found myself running through the prayers at the foot of the altar, reciting all of Psalm 42, and the subsequent prayers. It draped a wonderful peace over my soul. When my mind is racing or I am suffering from stress, I begin to recite Psalm 42 slowly, and, comforted by its words, I become calm.

    Disciplined internalization of traditional ecclesial prayer leads to freedom, peace, and joy. For the one who attends to what he is doing, it opens ever more layers of meaning and levels of self-surrender. For the entire Church, it provides the inspiring example of the fusion of a person and his office, or better, the submersion of a person in his office, and weans us from the distinctively modern temptation of originality, a quality that is proper to God alone. To Him be all glory and honor, now and for ever, Amen.


    [1] The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. Humphrey Carpenter (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981), 66; dated 8 January 1944. The last line is J. R. R.’s translation of Anglo-Saxon verses from the Exeter Book, which he had just quoted in their original form.

    [2] Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J., with Fr. Daniel Flaherty, S.J., He Leadeth Me (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 54.

    [3] He Leadeth Me, 124.

    [4] It is for this reason, of course, that we should have a venerable translation of Scripture, one that preserves a sacral register and culturally weighty phrasings. Such a translation is more memorable precisely because it is poetic, striking, and resonant. This is why the New American Bible — written in “Nabbish,” a “bumping boxcar language,” as Anthon Esolen dryly calls it — is a translation that is built to fail and will never be the inspiration for any high culture. Moreover, the changing translations of Scripture and liturgical texts, such as the psalms and hymns, make it more difficult for the sacred formulas to find a place in the heart. The text of the Gloria in Latin — that marvelous hymn that has been set to great music countless times, in chant, in polyphony, in homophony, in every style — has not changed since the fourth century (!). Meanwhile, the vernacular translations of it will never be stable for long, and their musical settings are appropriately transitory. If we value divine, eternal, essential truth, as we claim to do in our Catechism, then we ought to take more seriously the potent counter-message that is being uttered by our liturgical habits.

    Photo courtesy of Corpus Christi Watershed. All rights reserved.

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    Here is an exciting and innovative approach to financing original works of sacred art, which comes from the recently formed John Paul II Foundation for Sacred Arts.

    It is a free market approach by which artists are motivated to create work of sufficient quality that it will fulfil its whole purpose, namely, to connect with congregations in their worship. If an artist’s fulfils this criterion, through this system, he will generate enough return that he will have more than a living wage.

    Instead of a traditional endowment or commission model, the Foundation partners with artists in an entrepreneurial venture to fund a given project at cost. This format makes funding sacred art financially accessible to donors of all levels. Grants are crowd-funded and paid in installments throughout the creative process to cover the artist’s material costs and living expenses. Upon its completion, the artist retains primary ownership of the work, while the Foundation enjoys a share in the proceeds of any sale of the work, associated prints, or revenues from its display.

    The great strength of this model is that once the artist is selected for crowd-funding, he is still not guaranteed success. The funding will only come if the crowds are interested, so to speak. In other words, it must appeal to large numbers of ordinary, non-elites as well.

    This is the ultimate test of beauty, whether it appeals to conoscenti and hoi polloi alike. As Pope Benedict XVI said in A New Song to the Lord (p. 123), “It is precisely the test of true creativity that the artist steps out of the esoteric and knows how to form his or her intuition in such a way that the other - the many - may perceive what the artist has perceived.”

    This is saying that while all that is popular is not beautiful, all that is beautiful will be popular, provided enough people are exposed to it. Therefore, the judges who consider its appropriateness for sacred art must consider also whether this is likely to connect with congregations. If they get it wrong and no one wants to fund it, they won’t make the same mistake twice! It is, in part at least, self-selecting.

    Some artists may still argue that they won’t be able to access this funding unless they can first jump through the hoop of judges’ selection. This is true. But if that happens to you...start your own crowd-funding foundation! The best will rise to the surface and the crowds will decide which judges they trust, and whose art they want to back.

    The Foundation is inspired by the personal experience of its founder, Fr Michael Burbeck, who had a profound conversion sparked by the transcendent beauty he found in the great churches of Europe. This encounter with beauty set him on a path to the Catholic faith and, ultimately, the priesthood.

    He told me:
    As then-Cardinal Ratzinger wrote, “The encounter with the beautiful can become the wound of the arrow that strikes the heart and in this way opens our eyes.” Similarly, because of beauty, I found the Catholic Church, fell in love with her, and was convinced of the truth of her teachings. That is the power of sacred art.”
    The art I encountered was the fruit not only of a culture of faith, but of a system of patronage where art and artists were promoted and financially sustained. That system no longer exists, and yet, as Pope St John Paul II says so plainly in his Letter to Artists, “the Church needs art.” The John Paul II Foundation for the Sacred Arts exists to help meet that need — to promote sacred art by partnering with artists who share our belief in the evangelical power of beauty.
    The Foundation is currently funding its first work, a painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe by Cameron Smith - a full-scale re-presentation that the artist describes as “faithful to the message and spirit of the original mystical image … simultaneously familiar and strikingly new.” It is our hope that this work of authentic beauty will bring the image and message of Our Lady of Guadalupe to a new generation.
    This is so different from the most common model of organizations founded to promote beautiful art in the Church. The standard format that I have seen is to call for artists, organize an exhibition, and then have an event with prominent speakers to draw people in to see it. The weakness of this model lies in the assumption that the artists are already out there and all we need to do is publicize their work. What happens in practice is that the exhibition is forced to lower standards in order to have enough art to show. People listen to the high ideals of the rhetoric, and they can see that the art doesn’t match up to it; as a result, very little happens except that the message is undermined.

    Every time such an event is organised, I always hope I will be proved wrong, and perhaps things have improved enough now so that such events will be successful. If so, terrific! Regardless, the John Paul II Foundation at least provides an approach that can be responsive, and allow the style that connects with congregations today to emerge organically and naturally, if such a style isn’t there initially. This need not be an alternative - it is method that could be added to existing initatives as well.

    For more information, or to make a donation, visit their website:, or contact

    For more information on Cameron Smith and his work, visit Two examples of his work are shown below.

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    St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Allentown, New Jersey, will hold a sacred music workshop this coming Saturday, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the instruction Musicam Sacram. The church is located at 1282 Yardville Road; for more information, see the poster below and the church’s website. Peter Carter, the presenter of the workshop, has also participated in the Pro Civitate Dei conferences given by the Fraternity of St Joseph the Guardian, which I have been blessed to attend twice; I can tell you from my own experience that he is a superb singer, and has an excellent knowledge of the Church’s tradition of liturgical music. If you are able to attend, you will certainly find it a good experience.

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    In the traditional form of the Divine Office, the Matins readings for the first two weeks of September are taken from the book of Job. The system of Scriptural readings assigned to the Office goes back to the 6th century; it originated in the ancient Roman basilicas, but we know nothing about how it was devised. When it was extensively revised in the Tridentine reform, the basic pattern of readings (Isaiah in Advent, St Paul after Christmas, Genesis in Septuagesima etc.) was not changed, but completed and expanded.

    The readings of the first two chapters, which are assigned to the first three days of this week, contain a famously curious use of the expression “to bless God.” Job offers sacrifice daily for his children “Lest perhaps my children have sinned, and blessed God in their hearts.” (1, 5) When Satan challenges God by saying that Job only honors Him because of the material blessings he has received, he says “touch (i.e. destroy) all that he hath, and see if he blesseth Thee not to Thy face.” In the second chapter, Satan repeats this challenge in the same terms, after which he afflicts Job bodily “with a very grievous ulcer, from the sole of the foot even to the top of his head.” Job’s wife then says to him, “Dost thou still continue in thy simplicity? bless God and die.” (2, 9)
    The Patient Job, by Gerard Seghers (1625-50)
    Taken literally, the expression “bless God” makes no sense in this context, since when Job loses his children and all his possessions, he says “ ‘Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord.’ ” The Biblical author praises Job for this, saying “In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish thing against God.” (1, 21-22)

    In point of fact, the expression “bless God” is here written as a euphemism for “curse God”, which was apparently felt to be too offensive for public reading of the Scriptures. A similar case is found in 3 Kings 21, 10, when a man called Naboth is falsely accused of “blessing” God, that is, cursing Him, so that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel can have him killed and steal his property. In his commentary on the book of Job, St Thomas Aquinas notes this, saying “The crime of blasphemy is so horrible that pious mouths shudder to call it by its proper name, but signify it though its opposite.” (chapter 1)

    The Septuagint translation of Job paraphrases the Hebrew words of Job’s wife “bless God” with “speak a word against the Lord.” The Greek text of this verse (2, 9) also contains a long and quite beautiful interpolation; only the parts underlined here are in the original Hebrew.

    “And when much time had passed, his wife said to him, ‘How long wilt thou hold out, saying, “Behold, I wait yet a little while, expecting the hope of my deliverance?” For, behold, thy memorial is abolished from the earth, (thy) sons and daughters, the pangs and pains of my womb which I bore in vain with sorrows. And thou thyself among the corruption of worms sittest down to spend the nights in the open air, and I am a wanderer and a servant, beleaguered from place to place and house to house, waiting for the setting of the sun, that I may rest from my labors and my pangs which now beset me: but say some word against the Lord, and die.”

    In the Byzantine Rite, this passage (Job 2, 1-10) is read at the Vespers of the Presanctified Gifts on Spy Wednesday, the first chapter being read at the same ceremony on Monday and Tuesday. At the Divine Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper, which is joined to Vespers, the Lord’s first speech to Job is read from chapter 38, along with the beginning of chapter 42, which concludes the story. At Vespers of Good Friday, the rest of chapter 42 is read, with another interpolation at the end. After the last words of the Biblical text, “and he died an old man, and full of days.”, are added the following.

    “and it is written that he will rise again with those whom the Lord raises up. This man is described in the Syriac book as living in the land of Ausis (Hus), on the borders of Idumea (Edom) and Arabia, and his name was previously Jobab; and having taken an Arabian wife, he begot a son whose name was Enon. And he himself was (the son) of his father Zare, one of the sons of Esau, and of his mother Bosorrha, so that he was the fifth from Abraham.”

    The reading of Job on Good Friday (preceded by a reading from Exodus 33, followed by Isaiah 53) from a Greek Triodion printed in 1586.
    The liturgical reading on Good Friday ends here, but the Septuagint also adds the following to the end.

    “And these were the kings who reigned in Edom, which country he also ruled over: first, Balac, the son of Beor, and the name of his city was Dennaba: but after Baac, Jobab, who is called Job, and after him Asom, who was governor out of the country of Thaeman: and after him Adad, the son of Barad, who destroyed Madiam in the plain of Moab; and the name of his city was Gethaim. And [his] friends who came to him were Eliphaz, of the children of Esau, king of the Thaemanites, Baldad son of the Sauchaeans, Sophar king of the Kinaeans.”

    Lastly, we may note that in the Syriac Bible, to which the Greek text refers above, the book of Job is placed after the Pentateuch, according to a tradition that Moses himself was either its author, or translated it from Arabic into Hebrew.

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  • 09/06/17--05:00: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures
  • Here is something that can be an inspiration for artists today: exquisite miniature 15th century carvings, which would have been used as personal devotional holy images.
    The scenes inside are the Entrance into Jerusalem and Christ Carrying His Cross.
    This one shows the Carrying of the Cross and the Crucifixion.
    While they are fascinating to see, and one cannot help marvel at the skill of the wood carvers who created such objects, they can also be something that we could have today. We are used to miniature crucifixes, but why not a personal pocket icon corner or reredos to inspire us as we pray the Liturgy of the Hours on the hoof?
    These are in an exhibition of micro boxwood carvings of devotional art that is touring the country, and is currently at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, see here. The exhibition will travel to both New York and Amsterdam after the Toronto stop; you can see more of these prayer beads at the site advertising the exhibition.

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    St Mary, Help of Christians Catholic Church in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota, will have an EF Missa cantata on September 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, which is also the 10th anniversary of the motu proprio becoming legally active. The Mass will starting at 7pm, and be followed by the veneration of a relic of the True Cross. The church is located at 636 First Avenue North.

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