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    The Italian city of Siena is currently hosting a wonderful show of works by one of her great native sons, the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1290-1348). The younger brother of another very talented painter, Pietro, we know fairly little about Ambrogio’s life. Active from around 1319 until his death, he spent a fair amount of time in Florence, then a bitter rival of Siena for prominence among the independent cities of Tuscany. His style blends the best of the Florentine interest in realism with the Sienese taste for extremely fine and beautiful decoration; in this sense, he develops what is best about the works of earlier Sienese painters like Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, and his brother. His most famous and important work by far is the fresco cycle in the Palazzo Pubblico (city hall) of Siena, known as the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. It is generally believed that he died in the great outbreak of the black plague which devastated the city in 1348.

    The current show makes it possible to see several of his large body of work in various forms, gathered together from many different places and displayed in the large complex of Santa Maria della Scala, right across the street from the cathedral. Other works are included as part of the same show at the churches of St Francis and St Augustine.

    Here is just a selection of some of the pieces included at Santa Maria della Scala; the exhibition continues until January 28th. A second part will be posted tomorrow.

    A detached piece of a fresco showing a group of Poor Clares, from the chapter hall of the church of St Francis in Siena, 1320-25 ca.
    King Solomon, detached fresco, some provenance as above.
    Painted Crucifix, from the parish of St Lucy at Montenero d’Orcia. 1320-25 ca.
    Painted crucifix, 1324-7.
    A detail of the background; this is the kind of highly elaborate and elegant work for which Sienese painters were so much admired and sought after in the 14th century.
    Altarpiece of the church of St Proculus in Florence, 1332, with the Madonna and Child, St Nicholas and St Proculus; in the pinnacles, Christ, St John the Evangelist (left) and St John the Baptist (right.)
    Detail of St Nicholas
    Also from the church of St Proculus in Florence, two panels of the life of St Nicholas. Here, the gift of the dowries and his ordination; below, the raising of a dead child killed by a devil, and the miraculous saving of grain ships from destruction.

    Altarpiece with central panel missing; on the left, Ss Benedict and Catherine of Alexandria, on the right, Ss Mary Magdalene and Francis. From the cathedral museum of Siena, ca. 1335.
    Crucifixion with the Virgin Mary and St John, 1317-19 ca. 
    Madonna and Child, from the church in the hermitage of San Salvatore in Lecceto, ca, 1325. The first words of the Ave Maria (“Ave Maria, gratia plena, benedicta”) are written in her halo.

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    Every two years, over 25,000 young people attend the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), which for the past three years has been held in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Convention Center. This year there will be a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form offered at NCYC. Two years ago, a Missa Cantata was celebrated at the conference, and it drew such a large crowd that there were more people overflowing outside of the small chapel than inside the chapel itself.

    The Mass has been moved to a larger room this year, and a portable reredos and communion rail are being built for the chapel. Please spread the word to those you know who might be attending NCYC; this will be a great opportunity for young people to experience the Traditional Rite of the Mass at such a large gathering. The Mass will be held in the NCYC Adoration Chapel in the Indianapolis Convention Center on Friday, November 17th at 11:30am.

    Missa cantata at the previous NCYC

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    On October 14th, His Excellency Arthur Serratelli, bishop of Paterson, New Jersey, celebrated a solemn Pontifical Mass in the Extraordinary Form in the cathedral of St John the Baptist. I must confess that these photos were sent to me a while ago, and slipped through the cracks in the midst of a rather busy month; for the delay in posting them. Our thanks to Bishop Serratelli for his support of the traditional rite in his diocese!

    Tradition is for the young!

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    Following up on a post from yesterday, here is some more of the splendid work of the painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti (ca. 1290-1348), currently being shown at an exhibition in his native city of Siena.
    Altarpiece with Madonna and Child, Angels, Saints and Prophets (often called in Italian a ‘Maestà - Majesty’), from the church of San Pietro in Orto, Massa Maritima; ca. 1335. Here the Sienese love for detail and decoration is particularly evident.
    Detail of the Virgin Mary’s throne, the base of which is formed from the three Theological virtues (in ascending order), Faith, Hope and Charity.
    Altarpiece of St Michael the Archangel, also known as the Rofena Abbey Polyptych, with the Madonna and Child above; on the left, St Bartholomew, with St John the Evangelist in the pinnacle; on the right, St Benedict, with St Louis of Toulouse in the pinnacle. ca 1337. 
    Madonna and Child, from the parish of San Lorenzo alle Serre di Rapolano, ca. 1342-44 
    Dismembered altarpiece with the Virgin and Child, Ss Martha and Mary Magdalene, Ss John the Evangelist and Baptist; below, the Lamentation over the Dead Christ, with Ss Augustine and Anthony Abbot.
    Detail of St John the Evangelist
    St Marthe; here again, the Sienese love for decoration is put to very good effect with the flowers she holds.
    Madonna and Child with two Angels, Ss Dorothy, Catherine of Alexandria, Nicholas, Martin, and Popes Clement I and Gregory I. ca. 1342-44. Two panels on the sides showing St Nicholas gift of the dowries and St Martin sharing his cloak with the beggar are preserved, but now separated from the main panel.
    The Annunciation. From the angel’s mouth come the words “Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum”; in the halo of the Virgin, “Non est impossibile apud Deum omne verbum”; from the Virgin’s towards God the Father in the cuspid, “Ecce ancilla Domini.” The inscription below dates the painting, December 17, 1344.

    Stained Glass of St Michael slaying the devil, 1325-30 ca.
    A crucifix by Ambrogio’s older brother Pietro, from the diocesan museum of Cortona, 1315-20 ca. 

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  • 11/17/17--08:25: St Gregory the Wonderworker
  • On the calendar of the Extraordinary Form, today is the feast of St Gregory the Wonderworker, bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, his native city, the modern Niksar in north-central Turkey. Born around 215 AD, he and his brother Athenodorus, who also later became a bishop, intended to study law at a famous school in Beirut. Their brother-in-law was appointed as an official of the Roman government of Palestine; the brothers therefore accompanied their sister to the city of Caesarea in that province. (Many cities in the East were called “Caesarea”; the one in Palestine is different from the city where St Basil the Great later served as bishop, also in Turkey.) At the time, the famous scholar Origen had taken up residence in Caesarea; on meeting and conversing with him, the two brothers gave up their plans to study law, and devoted themselves to studying with the great master.

    A 14th century Greek icon of St Gregory the Wonderworker. (public domain image from Wikipedia.)
    Among St Gregory’s surviving works is a Panegyric to Origen, preached upon the completion of his studies, before taking leave of his teacher and departing for home. In it, he states that Origen led and encouraged his students to virtue by personal example no less than by exhortation and teaching. Most importantly, he describes how he taught them to distinguish what was true and useful in pagan philosophy and poetry for knowledge of the true God from what was erroneous. A letter of Origen to Gregory also survives, in which he describes how the Christian may make use of what he learns from the pagan world.

    “I am anxious that you should devote all the strength of your natural good parts to Christianity for your end; and in order to this, I wish to ask you to extract from the philosophy of the Greeks what may serve as a course of study or a preparation for Christianity, and from geometry and astronomy what will serve to explain the sacred Scriptures, in order that all that the sons of the philosophers are wont to say about geometry and music, grammar, rhetoric, and astronomy, as fellow-helpers to philosophy, we may say about philosophy itself, in relation to Christianity.

    Perhaps something of this kind is foreshadowed in what is written in Exodus from the mouth of God, that the children of Israel were commanded to ask from their neighbors, and those who dwelt with them, vessels of silver and gold, and raiment, in order that, by spoiling the Egyptians, they might have material for the preparation of the things which pertained to the service of God.”

    Shortly after returning to Neo-Caesarea, St Gregory was appointed bishop of the tiny Christian community there, said to have only seventeen members at the time. His conversion of the city began with his very first sermon, preached in the house of an important fellow-citizen who hosted him, and followed immediately by numerous miraculous cures of the sick. This was the beginning of a long career of impressive miracles, many of which are recounted by St Basil the Great and his younger brother, St Gregory of Nyssa; by these, he converted so many people that on his deathbed, when he asked how many pagans were left in the city, the answer was “seventeen.” The most famous of these was the moving of a mountain in order to make a convenient space for the building of a church, which had become necessary with the rapid growth of the community, in fulfillment of the Lord’s words which are read in the Gospel for his feast day.

    “Have the faith of God. Amen I say to you, that whosoever shall say to this mountain, ‘Be thou lifted up and cast into the sea’, and shall not hesitate in his heart, but believe, that whatsoever he saith shall be done, it shall be done unto him. Therefore I say unto you, all things, whatsoever you ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come unto you.” (St Mark, 11, 22-24)

    Ss Basil and Gregory of Nyssa learned what they knew of St Gregory the Wonderworker from one of his personal disciples, their grandmother, St Macrina the Elder. (St Macrina the Younger is their older sister.) It is through her and her spiritual father that much of Origen’s theological teaching was transmitted to the Cappadocian Fathers, and through them, enters the great tradition of Eastern theology. It is also recounted that before his episcopal consecration, Gregory went on a retreat in the wilderness, during which he was vouchsafed an apparition of the Virgin Mary and St John the Evangelist, who dictated a creed to him. The text of this survives, and the original manuscript of it was still preserved at Neocaesarea in St Basil’s day. The Canon for his feast in the Byzantine Rite refers to the story as follows: “Guided by God, as one who had sought for Him with longing, you obtained as your teachers Mary, the pure Mother of God, and the son of thunder, who taught you the splendor of the Trinity, as one who spoke from God.” Of particular interest is the last article of this short Creed, which speaks of a fully orthodox doctrine of the Trinity more than half a century before the Council of Nicea.

    “There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abideth ever.”

    The Apparition of the Virgin Mary and St John to St Gregory the Wonderworker, by the Giuseppe Cesari (1568-1640), more commonly known as the Cavaliere d’Arpino. From the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, ca. 1612.
    Prior to the Tridentine reform, there does not appear to be any devotion to St Gregory in the West. His feast appears, however, in the very first edition of the very first liturgical book of that reform, the Roman Breviary issued by St Pius V in 1568, two years before the Tridentine Missal; it is assigned to November 17, his day in the Byzantine Rite. This is a very unusual change for a reform which is in almost every respect extremely conservative, and which changed the calendar of Saints mostly by removing or downgrading those whose lives were thought to be historically unreliable.

    This change, like several others, should be seen as part of the Church’s response to the novelties of the Protestant reformers.

    Five hundred years after the 95 Theses, it is perhaps hard for us to properly grasp how radical a break with the whole of Christianity’s first millennium and a half was set in motion by Luther, and how much of the Church’s universally received tradition was lightly set aside as thing of little or no value. In regards to the study of philosophy, there have always been heretics and cranks who rejected it as worthless. One of the very first and most notable of these in antiquity was a Syrian disciple of St Justin Martyr called Tatian (ca. 120-180), who turned heretic, and wrote a very funny, but ultimately absurd, attack on the pagan philosophers and the whole intellectual tradition of the classical world. The vast bulk of Christian tradition, however, stands squarely with Origen in this regard, and with his disciple, St Gregory the Wonderworker, receiving philosophy as the “handmaid of theology”; this is the teaching which they then passed on to the Cappadocian Fathers, whose influence in the Byzantine East can never be overcalculated.

    This tradition is fundamental to the writings of the great majority of the Fathers, including those in whom the reformers claimed to find justification for their teachings. And yet, after Augustine, Boethius, Anselm, Thomas and countless others, and particularly after the great scholastic conquest of the writings of Aristotle, Luther, with his usual lack of temperance and decorum, sought to cast philosophy, and indeed reason itself, out of the Church as “the Devil’s greatest whore… who ought to be trodden under foot and destroyed, she and her wisdom…” And likewise, “Aristotle is the godless bulwark of the papists. He is to theology what darkness is to light. His ethics is the worst enemy of grace. He is a rank philosopher, … the most artful corrupter of minds. If he had not lived in flesh and bones, I should not scruple to take him for a devil.” As for St. Thomas, “he never understood a chapter of the Gospel or Aristotle … In short, it is impossible to reform the Church if Scholastic theology and philosophy are not torn out by the roots with Canon Law.”

    St Gregory the Wonderworker therefore serves as an example of the Church’s true tradition, which makes good uses philosophy as a necessary tool for the properly understanding of the Faith. He further witnesses, through his association with the Cappadocian Fathers, to the universality of that tradition in both East and West.
    St Gregory the Wonderworker, from Menologion of Basil II (11th century - public domain image from Wikipedia.)
    In the post-Conciliar reform, St Gregory was removed from the general calendar as “not of truly universal importance,” a decision which does speak particularly well of the reformers’ ability to determine which Saints were of truly universal importance. A similar mistake was made with St Catherine of Alexandria, whose life also bears witness to the importance of philosophy in the Christian intellectual tradition. This mistake was happily corrected by yet another Saint who also took a good deal of interest in philosophy, Pope John Paul II, and we may hope that a similar correction will someday take place with St Gregory.

    In 1738, Pope Clement XII Corsini (1730-40) decided to add the feast of St Gertrude the Great, who died on November 17, ca. 1302, to the general calendar. Believing that a Saint who moved a mountain should not himself be moved, even by a Pope, her feast was assigned to the 15th. Almost two centuries later, however, she was moved to the 16th, to make way for another giant in the tradition of Christian philosophers, St Albert the Great.

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    The General Introduction to the Lectionary (GIL) has this to say about lectio brevior, or short forms of readings:
    In the case of certain rather long texts, longer and shorter versions are provided to suit different situations. The editing of the shorter version has been carried out with great caution. (GIL 75)
    This would seem to imply that short forms of readings are a rarity in the reformed lectionary, as there are not that many “rather long texts”. The Gospel readings for the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent in Year A spring to mind, as do the Passion narratives for each year in the Sunday cycle on Palm Sunday. [1] To take the Gospel reading on the 3rd Sunday of Lent in Year A as an example (Jn. 4:5-42), the short form of the reading (Jn. 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42) does preserve the main elements of the narrative.

    However, across the three-year cycle, there are a total of 49 occasions where at least one short form of a reading exists. [2] In general, between 20-28% of Masses on Sundays and Solemnities in any given liturgical year will have optional short forms. (The range exists primarily because certain Sundays year to year will be supplanted by Trinity Sunday, Pentecost, etc.). On the majority of these occasions (over two-thirds), it is the Gospel reading that can be shortened, and the rest of the time it is nearly always the second reading from the NT; outside of the Easter Vigil, there is only one short form of a first OT reading (3rd Sunday of Lent [B]).

    Given what the GIL says, this figure is a lot more than one would expect, and is not consistent with the magna cautela (“great caution”) claimed by the GIL. Indeed, it is true to say that in the case of certain rather short readings, even shorter forms are provided. The Gospel for the 17th Sunday per annum in Year A (Mt. 13:44-52) is not exactly long, yet a shorter form (vv. 44-46) is provided by the reformed lectionary! And, on occasion, the shortening of the reading has compromised the pericope to such an extent that one wonders how on earth the short form wasn’t eliminated by the 1981 second typical edition of the lectionary, let alone nearly 50 years later.

    At the time of writing, one such occasion is coming up this Sunday, the 33rd per annum in Year A. The Gospel reading is the Parable of the Talents (Mt. 25:14-30). It is a little longer than average, but the first and second readings are fairly short, and the Parable itself surely couldn’t be shortened without doing damage to it. Could it? Well, inexplicably there is an optional short form (Mt. 25:14-15, 19-21). Here is the pericope, with the verses that can be omitted in bold:
    At that time: Jesus spoke this parable to his disciples: “A man going on a journey called his servants and entrusted to them his property; to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them; and he made five talents more. So also, he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not winnow; so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sowed, and gather where I have not winnowed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to every one who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” (RSV2CE)
    The above ought to speak for itself, but I will point out a couple of things.

    First, whereas other short forms of the Gospel readings in Year A omit other parables, or the explanation of parables, [3] this short form omits large parts of the parable itself. We have previously seen this happen a few weeks ago, on the 28th Sunday per annum (A), where the end of the Parable of the Marriage Feast can be omitted, but not quite to this extent. If the short form of the Parable of the Talents is used, the parable itself barely makes any sense! It is emptied of a huge portion of its meaning, and the violence done to this text in its short form is almost without precedent in the reformed lectionary. [4]

    Secondly, thanks to the generosity of Blackfriars Library in Oxford, UK, and Rev Fr Luke Melcher at the ICEL Secretariat in Washington, DC, I have been able to establish that there was no short form of this Gospel pericope on this Sunday in any of the Consilium’s draft lectionaries before the final version submitted to Pope Paul VI in May 1969. Indeed, if one compares Group XI’s 1967 draft Ordo lectionum pro dominicis, feriis, et festis sanctorum [5] with the promulgated 1969 Ordo lectionum Missae, there are far fewer short forms in the draft: in tempus per annum, for example, there is only one short form, on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost in Year A (Mt. 15:1, 7-20 à 15:1, 7-11, 15-20). Something happened between 1967 and 1969 that resulted in an immense multiplication of optional short forms. I would submit that, if there is to be a third edition of the Ordo lectionum Missae in the future, any rationale for these lectiones breviores needs to be examined in detail, and preferably eliminated in line with the desire of the Council Fathers for the “treasures of the Bible to be opened up more lavishly” to the faithful (SC 51).

    * * * * *

    I end with a plea to Bishops and Priests celebrating Ordinary Form Masses this weekend. Fathers, please ensure the long form of this Gospel is read! Do not rob the faithful of the words and teaching of Our Lord in order to save barely a minute of time! There can “be no justification for depriving the faithful of the spiritual riches of certain texts on the grounds of difficulty if its source is the inadequacy either of the religious education that every Christian should have or of the biblical formation that every pastor should have” (GIL 76).

    * * * * *


    [1] Please note that, for the purposes of this article, whether such shorter forms (particularly for the Passion narratives) should exist in the first place for these “rather long texts” is an entirely separate question.

    [2] This figure counts the Easter Vigil, the Vigil of Christmas, Christmas Day (Mass during the Day), 2nd Sunday after Christmas, and Palm Sunday three times (as they will occur each year); the days that have more than one optional short form (Easter Vigil, 19th Sunday per annum [B]) are counted only once. The two occasions (Holy Family [ABC], 2nd reading; 21st Sunday per annum [B], 2nd reading) where short forms of readings exist in the English language lectionaries but not in the 1981 Latin editio typica altera are not counted here.

    [3] E.g. 16th Sunday per annum (Mt. 13:24-43 à 13:24-30); 17th Sunday per annum (Mt. 13:44-52 à Mt. 13:44-46).

    [4] However, the short forms of the Gospel reading for the feast of the Holy Family in Year B (Lk. 2:22-40 à 2:39-40) and the second reading for the 3rd Sunday per annum in Year C (1 Cor. 12:12-30 à 12:12-14, 27) are other examples of highly egregious short forms.

    [5] Schemata 233 (De Missali 39). This was published pro manuscripto and a copy sent for consultation to each Bishops’ Conference, every participant in the first Synod of Bishops (1967) and around 800 periti nominated by the conferences of Bishops: cf. A. Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), pp. 419-420. Bugnini mentions that 460 responses were received.

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    On Wednesday, November 22, the ninth annual traditional Latin Mass will be held at the tomb of the Servant of God Father Magin Catala O.F.M., known as “The Holy Man of Santa Clara”, in Mission Santa Clara, California, on the anniversary of his death. He is famous for his miracles, both before and after his death. and his prophecies; above the altar is a miraculous crucifix “where Fr Catala spent many hours in prayer and contemplation, often through the night. Witnesses testified to seeing this holy missionary raised from the floor while he was praying before this crucifix and that, while so elevated, Christ embraced him.” (From the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco.) Mission Santa Clara is located on the Santa Clara University campus, 500 El Camino Real.

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    In Henri de Lubac’s Vatican Council Notebooks — a resource already put to good use here at New Liturgical Movement in discussions of splendor and Latin— we find the following summary of a speech by Cardinal William Godfrey, archbishop of Westminster, on Friday, November 9, 1962, during the debate over the Divine Office:
    Some people exaggerate the onus sacerdotum in opere pastorali [the burden of priests in pastoral work]. I have been a parish priest; I see a large number of priests; I have never met any who have told me that they no longer have time for the breviary. Do not legislate universally for a few exceptional cases. Be careful of the haeresis bonorum operum [the heresy of good works]. Work must be subordinate to prayer. The breviary has already been made lighter. It must remain the essentiale nutrimentum nostri laboris [the essential nourishment of our work]. … In our cathedral, the office is recited or chanted every day; our work is not neglected because of that.[1]
    On Saturday, November 10, Bishop Martin Jaime Flores of Barbastro, Spain, made the rather obvious but important point that “Oratio est labor pastoralis”—prayer is, in a way, a pastoral work: it is something that benefits the people more than any other work.[2] Later that day, Bishop Luigi Carli of Segni spoke out against what he called “activismus exaggeratus,” an exaggerated activism, and said that the reduction of the breviary would be “shocking, a scandal to the whole Christian people.”[3]

    Bishop John Ireland, father of Americanism
    To find the roots of this “exaggerated activism” — which Fr. Jordan Aumann, O.P., went so far as to call a “heresy”[4] — we need to go back to the Americanist controversy of the late nineteenth century. Fr. Walter Elliott’s 1891 biography of Fr. Isaac Hecker, founder of the Paulists, appeared in a French translation in 1897. This translation included the controversial Introduction by Bishop John Ireland of St. Paul, which was to occasion Leo XIII’s letter Testem Benevolentiae of 1899, addressed to Cardinal Gibbons and the American bishops. As related in the 1976 book Histoire des crises du clergé français contemporain by Paul Vigneron, the biography of Hecker became a bestseller among the French clergy then under siege from an anticlerical government. Soon there was a turning away from the interior life towards activism, or, as we might nowadays call it, “being pastoral.” Vocations to the diocesan priesthood plunged. Only the publication of Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard’s book L’Ame de Tout Apostolat [The Soul of the Apostolate] (1907, 1909, 1913) would reverse the trend. Vocations flourished until 1946, by which time over 250,000 copies of Chautard’s book had been sold. Then, Fr. Marie-Dominique Chenu, national chaplain of the worker priests, publicly attacked L’Ame de Tout Apostolat as outdated: the conditions under which Dom Chautard wrote no longer exist. Vocations to the diocesan priesthood plunged, never to recover.[5]

    Marie-Dominique Chenu, opponent of Dom Chautard
    Thus, by the time of the meeting of the Second Vatican Council in 1962, the battle lines were fairly well drawn up between those who, in accord with Catholic tradition as enunciated by Chautard, saw the inherent priority of prayer and contemplation over works of the active life, and those who, following the modern trend from Ireland to Chenu, wished to lessen the “burden” of prayer in favor of pastoral efficiency.

    There is no doubt about which side won in practice: all of the liturgies of the Roman Catholic Church, from the sacramental rites to the Divine Office to the blessings, were greatly shortened, simplified, and streamlined; the people were given much to “do,” and the celebrant was given the more “active” roles of interlocutor, animator, commentator, improviser. Religious life was redefined in terms of social apostolate. Contemplatives, in particular, felt they had to justify their existence by pointing to concrete benefits they conferred on society. As vocations to the diocesan priesthood plummeted, so too, and for much the same reason, religious vocations plummeted, never to recover in the mainstream Church.[6]

    Today, many decades into the weary aftermath, the costly “collateral damage,” of all this frenzied activism, we are in a position to see more clearly than ever the wisdom of Godfrey, Flores, and Carli, the wisdom of Leo XIII, Chautard, and Aumann. No less a figure than Joseph Ratzinger frequently and perceptively writes about the problem of activism, which he considered sympomatic of a loss of confidence in the reality of Jesus Christ and the primacy of His kingdom. In a poignant section of The Ratzinger Report, he speaks of the loss of the dimension of feminine receptivity in the Church:
    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 basis 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.[7]
    In a lecture he gave on “The New Evangelization” in the year 2000, Ratzinger, like Chautard, pointed to the necessary foundation of apostolate in prayer:
    “Jesus preached by day, by night he prayed.” With these few words, he [Don Didimo] wished to say: Jesus had to acquire the disciples from God. The same is always true. We ourselves cannot gather men. We must acquire them by God for God. All methods are empty without the foundation of prayer. The word of the announcement must always be drenched in an intense life of prayer. … Theocentrism is fundamental in the message of Jesus and must also be at the heart of new evangelization. … To proclaim God is to introduce [others] to a relation with God: to teach how to pray. Prayer is faith in action. And only by experiencing life with God does the evidence of his existence appear.[8]
    Pope Benedict XVI returns to this theme in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, of 2005:
    Prayer, as a means of drawing ever new strength from Christ, is concretely and urgently needed. People who pray are not wasting their time, even though the situation appears desperate and seems to call for action alone. Piety does not undermine the struggle against the poverty of our neighbors, however extreme. … It is time to reaffirm the importance of prayer in the face of the activism and the growing secularism of many Christians engaged in charitable work. Clearly, the Christian who prays does not claim to be able to change God’s plans or correct what he has foreseen. Rather, he seeks an encounter with the Father of Jesus Christ, asking God to be present with the consolation of the Spirit to him and his work. … Our crying out [to the Father] is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power.[9]
    Vermeer's Christ in the House of Martha and Mary (1655)
    One of the most developed treatments of this theme is found in Benedict XVI’s General Audience of April 25, 2012, explaining the Apostles’ decision to ordain deacons to assist them. The pope sees in the Apostles’ focus on the Word and the deacons’ handling of the poor a reflection of the distinction between Mary and Martha of Bethany, and notes that each aspect supports the other: prayerful meditation on the Word leads to its convincing proclamation, and, at the same time, the men to be chosen for works of mercy must be imbued with the Holy Spirit, not mere social workers. He then comes to his central point, which deserves to be read with the “burden” of the recitation or chanting of the Divine Office in mind:
    We must not lose ourselves in pure activism but always let ourselves also be penetrated in our activities by the light of the word of God and thereby learn true charity, true service to others, which does not need many things — it certainly needs the necessary things, but needs above all our heartfelt affection and the light of God.
              In commenting on the episode of Martha and Mary, St. Ambrose urges his faithful and us too: “Let us too seek to have what cannot be taken from us, dedicating diligent, not distracted, attention to the Lord’s word. The seeds of the heavenly word are blown away, if they are sown along the roadside. May the wish to know be an incentive to you too, as it was to Mary; this is the greatest and most perfect act.” And he added that “attention to the ministry must not distract from knowledge of the heavenly word” through prayer (Expositio Evangelii secundunm Lucam, VII, 85; PL 15: 1720).
              St. Bernard, who is a model of harmony between contemplation and hard work, in his book De consideratione, addressed to Pope Innocent II to offer him some reflections on his ministry, insists precisely on the importance of inner recollection, of prayer to defend oneself from the dangers of being hyper-active, whatever our condition and whatever the task to be carried out. St Bernard says that all too often, too much work and a frenetic life-style end by hardening the heart and causing the spirit to suffer (cf.II, 3).
              His words are a precious reminder to us today, used as we are to evaluating everything with the criterion of productivity and efficiency. ... Without daily prayer lived with fidelity, our acts are empty, they lose their profound soul, and are reduced to being mere activism which in the end leaves us dissatisfied. … For pastors, this is the first and most valuable form of service for the flock entrusted to them. If the lungs of prayer and of the word of God do not nourish the breath of our spiritual life, we risk being overwhelmed by countless everyday things: prayer is the breath of the soul and of life.[10]
    Looking back over these valuable texts from Ratzinger (and there are many more like them), we cannot avoid posing some uncomfortable questions for ourselves—for clergy, religious, and laity who are striving for holiness, which we know is not a product of our actions but a gift given to those who ask for it in prayer, who seek, who knock.

    Do we actually believe in God? If we do, we will believe in His lordship, His primacy, His precedence over all created things, material or spiritual, visible or invisible—such that He always deserves priority in our daily life, the best of our time, energy, attention. That goes for liturgical prayer as well as private prayer.

    Do we believe Our Lord’s word when He openly says: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33), or when He says: “Without Me, you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5)? If so, we will reject at its very root the secular Pelagian mentality that has crept into and corrupted so many “good works” sponsored by the Church or practiced in the name of Christianity.

    Do we believe that Our Lord receives more honor and glory when we put on our lips and fix in our hearts the words of the very Psalms He inspired for Himself to recite as man on earth, as the Church bids us do in the Divine Office? If we do, our thinking about the “burden” of the Office will change; we will consider taking up some form of the preconciliar breviary, be it Roman or monastic; we will not seek shortness, speed, and efficiency; nor, if we are praying in Latin already, will we cut corners by a thoughtless rapidity of recitation.

    Do we believe that the same Lord Jesus Christ is really, metaphysically, bodily, personally present to us at Mass? If we do, it should be obvious in the way we are worshiping, and the place that worship occupies in our daily life.

    Ultimately, do we believe in the power and mystery of prayer? That is the question Cardinal Godfrey’s words, spoken 55 years ago, should prompt in us today.


    [1] Henri de Lubac, Vatican Council Notebooks (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015), 1:258–59. The Latin is not italicized in the book.
    [2] Ibid., 266.
    [3] Ibid., 268–69.
    [4] Jordan Aumann, O.P., “The Heresy of Action,” in Cross and Crown, vol. 3 (1951), pp. 25–45.
    [5] I owe this information to Anthony Sistrom. Vigneron cites more than 300 biographies and memoires of French priests in establishing his narrative.
    [6] See Hilary White’s fine article "What is the Catholic Religion Actually For? A Monastic Answer."
    [7] The Ratzinger Report (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 103.
    [8] Available here.
    [9] Deus Caritas Est, nn. 36-38.
    [10] Available here.

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    Tomorrow is the commemoration of St Cecilia, one of the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon. Although she was martyred in the 3rd century AD, and devotion to her remained continuous from that time, the imagery of her that comes to mind mostly from the baroque paintings that highlight her role as patron of sacred music.
    Here is one painted by Simone Vouet, painted in 1626. St Cecilia is commonly associated with the pipe organ.

    In the same period Guido Reni (1606) shows her with with a stringed instrument, rather than organ.

    The form of the devotion that associates her with music is relatively recent; earlier images focused more on her martyrdom and her chastity. These aspects of her life were not ignored by later artists, as this famous baroque sculpture entitled The Martyrdom of St Cecilia shows, by Italian-Swiss sculptor Stefano Maderno. It is in the church in Rome which is dedicated to her and has been on this site since the time of her death. (Tradition has it that it is built on the site of her house).
    Here is an example in mosaic from Sant’Apollinare in Ravenna, Italy, in the iconographic style, dating from the 6th century, showing her with the palms of martyrdom.

    Readers, may be interested, as I was, in the context of this holy image. She is one of a large group of virgin martyrs shown processing down the left hand side of the church, and led by the Magi. (Click to enlarge.)

    Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons by Chester M. Wood - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

    In the detail above you can see that the artist has faithfully given us her name, on the right, so that it is worthy of veneration. 

    This suggests another way of portraying the Saints of the Roman Canon in churches today, so that they can be venerated on their feast day in the context of the Mass. If the Saints are shown, as here, processing towards the altar, then during the entrance or recession the Saint of the day could be solemnly incensed while a hymn to her is sung (before the Introit if during the entrance procession). Might this work? Liturgical experts please feel free to comment!

    This is one of a series of articles written to highlight the great feasts and the Saints of the Roman Canon. All are connected to a single opening essay, in which I set out principles by which we might create a canon of art for Roman Rite churches, and a schema that would guide the placement of such images in a church. (Read it here.) In these, I plan to cover the key elements of images of the Saints of the Roman Canon - Eucharistic Prayer I - and the major feasts of the year. I have created the tag Canon of Art for Roman Rite to group these together, should any be interested in seeing these articles as they accumulate. For the fullest presentation of the principles of sacred art for the liturgy, take the Master’s of Sacred Arts, www.Pontifex.University.

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  • 11/21/17--13:00: The Difficult Life of the MC
  • We have posted a number of videos from the old newsreel maker British Pathé from 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and especially those of Papal events from that era. I would say that this one, a small part of Pope Pius XII’s coronation on the balcony of St Peter’s Basilica, March 12, 1939, is quite unique; pay attention to the Master of Ceremonies immediately to the Pope’s left, starting at 0:47.

    Some of the chaos of a ceremony like this is inevitable, given that at this point, they hadn’t had one for 17 years; Pius XI was crowned in February of 1922. Pius XII, of course, remains completely dignified and unflappable, even as the MC gesticulates wildly almost in his face. “May his prayers for peace and goodwill be answered.” Amen! (h/t to long-time reader and commenter Mr Basil Damukaitis.)

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    The organisers of the Populus Summorum Pontificum pilgrimage have announced the dates of next year’s pilgrimage to Rome, October 26-28, 2018, and that it will be led by His Excellency Czeslaw Kozon, bishop of Copenhagen, Denmark. In relation to that, here is a video with excerpts from an EF Solemn Pontifical Mass at the throne which Bishop Kozon celebrated for the feast of the Assumption this year to mark the 10th anniversary of Summorum Pontificum.

    Mgr. Kozon has been supportive of the Extraordinary Form since taking office in 1995, and especially since Summorum Pontificum; this was the third such Pontifical Mass which he has celebrated in his diocese. He has also celebrated a few in connection with visits abroad, along with diaconal ordinations for the FSSP. The Extraordinary Form is currently celebrated on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays of each month in Copenhagen, and occasionally in Aarhus, the second city of the country. It is somewhat dependent on visiting priests, but a few younger priests and seminarians are showing interest. The reader who sent this information asks for prayers for the continued growth of the EF apostolate in Denmark.

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    Just as a quick follow up to last week’s post about the rebuilding of the St Paul Catholic Student Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Matthew Alderman has shared with us some pictures of the steeple being raised last Thursday. (We may be able to update the post later with a video or two as well.)

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    Like many of the old Roman basilicas, the church of St Cecilia in Trastevere brings out some very nice decorations for its patronal feast day. The church had a lot of visitors this evening leading up to Vespers and the main Mass, including a large group of American college students.

    The vase in the lower right of this photo is actually the summit of a fountain in the courtyard in front of the church. As is the case with so many of the city’s ancient churches, various parts of St Cecilia were built in several different eras; here we see the 12th century portico and bell-tower with the 18th century façade.
     The baldachin by Arnolfo di Cambio, signed and dated 1293.
    The famous statue of St Cecilia by Stefano Maderno, representing her as she was found when her tomb was opened in 1599, an occasion for which Maderno himself was present.
    The red and white flowers mixed together represent the crowns of flowers, “bright with roses and shining with lilies”, with which St Cecilia and her betrothed Valerian, whom she had led to the Faith, were crowned by an Angel, according to the traditional story of her martyrdom. Valerian in his turn converted his brother Tiburtius, who was martyred with him; their feast is traditionally kept on April 14th.
    A closer view of the altar and its richly decorated antependium. Several other altars of the church are similarly covered for the feast day, as can be seen below.

    The apsidal mosaic was executed in the reign of Pope St Paschal I (817-24). The hand of God the Father crowns Christ in the middle as he descends to earth on a staircase of colored clouds. Closest to Christ stand Ss Peter and Paul, with St Cecilia next to Paul and Valerian next to Peter. Pope Paschal himself is on the left, offering the church to Christ and St Cecilia; the square blue halo indicates that he is alive at the time the mosaic is made. To right of Valerian is St Agatha, who balances the composition. Over Pope Paschal’s shoulder, a phoenix, the symbol of the Resurrection, stands in a palm tree. In the band beneath, the Lamb of God stands on a hill from which flow the four rivers of Paradise, and twelve lambs representing the Apostles come towards Him. - The motif is copied from the 6th century apse of the church of Ss Cosmas and Damian near the Forum, but the workmanship is much less fine. How little it was esteemed already by the end of the 13th century can be judged by the position of the baldachin. 

    Off the right side of the church is a chapel which incorporates part of an ancient Roman structure, said to be the bath of St Cecilia’s house, into which she was locked in an attempt to steam her to death during her passion. The structure on the right includes a very ancient water pipe which was part of the bath.
    The altar of this chapel.


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    On Sunday, November 26, the Solemnity of Christ the King, the St Ann Choir will sing an Ordinary Form Latin Mass with Gregorian chant and the Missa Nisi Dominus by Ludwig Senfl (1485-1543 ca). at St Thomas Aquinas Church in Palo Alto, California. The Mass will begin at noon; the church is located at 751 Waverly Street.

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    Another great discovery on Youtube, a documentary filmed in the Charterhouse of Vedana in northern Italy (close to Belluno, in the province of the Veneto) by Italian television in 1972. The narration is too long to give a translation, but even if you don’t speak any Italian, it gives a lot of very nice images of the Carthusian life, including a chapter, (ca 10:30) with the general confession of faults (12:00), and a part of the Office towards the end (ca. 22:00).

    The soundtrack music is very typical of the era, and perhaps more than a little distracting; it makes me appreciate even more how appropriate it was to have no soundtrack for so much of The Great Silence. At 5:30, it is stated that there were 12 priests (only 1 of whom was Italian) and 10 conversi, of whom 9 were Italian, in this house in 1972. Unfortunately, there are no monks there today, although plans have been discussed to install another community in the complex.

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    St Joseph Parish and the Latin Mass Community of Toledo, Ohio, have organized a diocesan celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum at the request of His Excellency Daniel Thomas, the Bishop of Toledo. A Solemn Mass in the Presence of a Greater Prelate will be celebrated on November 26, the Last Sunday after Pentecost, starting at 9:00am; Bishop Thomas will deliver the homily. St Joseph Parish is located at 628 Locust St in Toledo.

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    We have recently received two photo submissions from Cebu City in the Philippine Islands, the first being of the funeral rites of Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who passed away on October 18th, and the second of solemn Mass for EF Christ the King. Our thanks, as always, to those who sent them in - evangelize through beauty!

    At the Cathedral of St Vitalis and the Guardian Angels
    The Archdiocese of Cebu recently mourned the passing of its Archbishop Emeritus, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, who died on October 18th. He was ordained a priest on March 17, 1956, by the Servant of God Bishop Alfredo Maria Obviar, and served as Archbishop of Cebu for 29 years, from 1982 to 2011. His body was laid in state at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, then placed at the side altar of St Vitalis, the patron saint of the Cathedral.

    On October 21, the Cardinal’s remains were brought to the shrine of the martyr St Pedro Calungsod. Cardinal Vidal was instrumental in the cause for canonization of the young Filipino martyr, which took place on October 21, 2012.
    He was laid to rest on October 26, following a Requiem Mass in the Ordinary Form celebrated by his successor, Archbishop Jose S. Palma.
    The three remaining Filipino Cardinals: Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, and Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato.

    The funeral procession; the carriage used to carry the casket was built in 1872 by order of the Juan Gorordo, the first bishop of Cebu.

    At Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish
    The Cebuano Summorum Pontificum Society celebrated the feast of Christ the King with a Missa Cantata offered by Msgr. Joseph Tan, media liaison of the archdiocese, and assisted by the Schola Gregoriana of Cebu; before the Mass, Rosary was said, and afterwards, the Act of Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Latin.

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    Let Holy Mother the Church gladly receive the glorious solemnity of the Virgin Saint Catherine. Hail, o virgin, worthy of God, hail, sweet and kindly one, obtain for us the joy which you possess with glory. (The antiphon at the Magnificat for First Vespers of the proper Office of St Catherine.)
    St Catherine of Alexandria, by Caravaggio, ca. 1598
    Aña Inclyta sanctae * Vírginis Catharínæ solemnia suscipiat alácriter pia mater Ecclesia. Ave Virgo Deo digna, ave dulcis et benigna: óbtine nobis gaudia, quæ póssides cum gloria. 

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    As we approach the Advent and Christmas seasons, we remind New Liturgical Movement readers of the CD Lux Fulgebit: The Mass at Dawn of Christmas Day. Produced by the Schola Cantorum of St Mary’s Church in Norwalk, Connecticut, it offers a little-known Mass setting, Christe Jesu, by William Raser; this is possibly the only recording of the 16th Century work, and has with it motets by Ferrabosco, Byrd, and Lambe.
    Done in context from the opening bell, the recording includes the Gregorian propers, as well as the lessons of the Mass, Collects, and Preface. The CD includes liner notes explaining the music and the composers; until November 28, it is on sale for only $15, and may be ordered on-line at

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    Kevin Williamson sums up very nicely the spirit in which the feast of Christ the King was instituted in 1925; click here to read the whole article at National Review Online.

    To the encroaching and arrogant spirit of communism and fascism the Vicar of Christ said: “No. You are not the beginning and the end. You are not the dispositive power in this universe. You are not the final judge. There is something above you and beyond you and infinitely greater than you. You, with all your bombs and bayonets and prisons, may command all the known world to kneel at your feet, but we have seen pharaohs before, and emperors and god-kings, too, and we have in the end stood over their graves, and thought on the grave that is empty.”

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