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    From the church of St John the Baptist in Allentown, Pennsylvania - with our thanks!

    “Here lies the Alleluia” - a very nice touch.

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    Last Friday, a solemn votive Mass for Vocations was offered at the Pantheon; this event was organized by Tridentini, a newly formed group of students from the Roman Pontifical University who gather each month at a different church to offer a Mass for Vocations under the auspices of Don Matthieu Raffray, IBP. Here are some photos, courtesy of Mr Marc Williams.

    A fresco of the Annunciation by Melozzo da Forlì, ca. 1480, in one of the side chapels.
    A particular good shot of the famous oculus, the large hole it the middle of the Pantheon’s dome. Crux stat!


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    In the world of the usus antiquior, we find certain disagreements. Here are some examples:
    • whether orchestral Masses (e.g., Mozart’s) should be performed, or whether they run contrary to the spirit of the liturgy;
    • whether to follow exactly the Solesmes rhythmic markings or to incorporate the findings of chant paleography;
    • whether the people should sing the Mass Ordinary together with the choir;
    • whether a Gothic chasuble is better, worse, or equal to, a Roman fiddleback;
    • whether to remove the chasuble before preaching, or only the maniple;
    • whether buckled shoes are worth reviving or may be considered an affectation;
    • whether this much lace is too much lace.
    Such disagreements, I think all would agree, are about relatively minor matters, in the grand scheme of things. At their fiercest, such disputes might be compared to boxing or wrestling; at their mildest, to chess or culinary tastes. Everyone agrees about the essentials: the Mass is a true and proper sacrifice; the universal tradition of ad orientem worship and the Western tradition of the Latin language are ever to be retained; the Ordinary and Propers of the Mass are always to be recited or sung, and if sung, normatively in Gregorian chant; the Roman Canon is the heart of our central act of worship, and like the heart’s beating, it takes place in silence, hidden within; the sanctuary, which represents the holy of holies and the court of heaven gained by Christ the High Priest, is off limits to all but ordained ministers and the men or boys who are deputed to substitute for them; the awesome mystery of the Holy Eucharist is to be received kneeling, on the tongue, in an attitude of utmost humility and adoration, from hands specially anointed for the purpose of consecrating, carrying, and giving the Lord.

    We might compare such differences as there are to the performance of a stately piece of Baroque music, where musicians ornament the music in various ways, but according to the conventions of the period and the indications of the figured bass. Two performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion or Handel’s Messiah may vary in many details, but it is still obviously the same music, with the same words, in the same order, and with largely the same impact.

    In the world of the Novus Ordo, we also find disagreements—indeed, quite a number of them. Here are examples:
    • whether the Mass is primarily to be understood and enacted as a sacrifice or as a meal;
    • whether the language used should be the age-old Latin, a “sacral” vernacular, or a contemporary vernacular;
    • whether traditional sacred music should be employed a lot, a little, or never, with modern popular styles in its place;
    • whether the priest in accord with bimillenial tradition should offer the Mass facing eastwards, or rather facing the people;
    • whether the priest should pray the only traditional Roman anaphora, the Roman Canon, or choose another one from the menu;
    • whether Mass should be recognizably the same throughout the world or radically inculturated;
    • whether women should serve in as many liturgical ministries as possible, or the tradition of men only in the sanctuary should be retained;
    • whether lay people should handle the true Body and Blood of Christ, or whether, in keeping with the entire Catholic tradition, only bishops, priests, and deacons should do so;
    • whether this sacrosanct, august Mystery of the Flesh and Blood of God should be placed on the tongues of kneeling faithful, or into the hands of people standing in line.
    It is not difficult to see that the number, nature, and magnitude of disagreements in this realm vastly exceed those found in the traditional realm. These disagreements, let us be honest about it, are more like warfare between countries. The sides are embedded in their trenches; they fire away with belligerence and take no hostages. Indeed, if someone in 1950 had been given a list of the disputed points above, he would have reasonably assumed that it was an accurate statement of disagreements separating Catholics from Protestants, or believers from modernists.

    This monumental contrast between the two worlds should give us pause and prompt serious reflection. How does this welter of deep disagreements across the board about the lex orandi of Paul VI (and, therefore, inevitably, about the lex credendi of the People of God) square with the consistent teaching and practice of Paul VI’s namesake?

    The Apostle Paul placed much emphasis on unity, not only in matters of doctrine but also in matters of practice, where he urged conformity with tradition: “The things which you have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, these do ye, and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil 4:9). “We charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us” (2 Thes 3:6). “Fulfill ye my joy, that you may be of one mind, having the same charity, being of one accord, agreeing in sentiment” (Phil 2:2). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you; but that you be perfect in the same mind, and in the same judgment [in eodem sensu, et in eadem sententia]” (1 Cor 1:10). Or, in the words of St. John: “Remember then what you received and heard; keep that, and repent” (Rev 3:3).

    Which of the two worlds we have discussed better embodies the apostolic advice to receive the tradition gratefully and wholly, and thereby be at peace; to withdraw from the disorderly who walk not according to tradition; to have one mind, in one accord speaking the same thing, walking by the same judgments?

    The same teaching is consistently given from the early Fathers through the Middle Ages down to the modern period. The Council of Trent says much the same:
    This holy Synod with true fatherly affection admonishes, exhorts, begs, and beseeches, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, that all and each of those who bear the Christian name would now at length agree and be of one mind in this sign of unity, in this bond of charity, in this symbol of concord; and that mindful of the so great majesty, and the so exceeding love of our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own beloved soul as the price of our salvation, and gave us His own flesh to eat, they would believe and venerate these sacred mysteries of His body and blood with such constancy and firmness of faith, with such devotion of soul, with such piety and worship as to be able frequently to receive that supersubstantial bread... (Session XIII, ch. 8)
    In the culminating lines of Pope Pius XII’s famous encyclical on the liturgy, Mediator Dei—which makes for eye-opening reading, as one sees how brazenly the teaching on almost every page has been contradicted by the course of events—the pontiff declares:
    May God, whom we worship, and who is “not the God of dissension but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33) graciously grant to us all that during our earthly exile we may with one mind and one heart participate in the sacred liturgy which is, as it were, a preparation and a token of that heavenly liturgy in which we hope one day to sing together with the most glorious Mother of God and our most loving Mother, “To Him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, benediction and honor, and glory and power for ever and ever” (Apoc. 5:13). (Mediator Dei, n. 209)
    This is from 1947, one year before Annibale Bugnini, joining the Vatican’s commission for liturgical reform, began his slow ambitious climb to prominence and ultimate hegemony over the Hamletesque Montini.

    A reader once wrote to me:
    People wedded to the new liturgy have narratives and they become invested in them, especially as they get older. To concede the superiority of the traditional liturgy would mean having to rethink more aspects of that narrative than they are ready to do, especially as it would involve admitting to being wrong for a long time about things of great importance. It is a shame, because the traditional Roman Rite is fully the heritage of every Catholic, yet so few avail themselves of it. 
    When all is said and done, the only narrative that can make sense for a Catholic is continuity with his own heritage, with stronger allegiance to that which has been of longer use. Received forms and practices have intrinsic value, according to the mind of Christ and the Church; they enjoy the privilege of seniority, settled reception, and proven efficacy. So, while one might be wrong in one’s “take” on this or that aspect of one’s heritage (the disputed questions listed at the top of this article), one will never be mistaken in principle for adhering to tradition. Whereas the moment one abandons this compass, one is in a ship afloat at sea, with no established route and no guarantee of arrival, confined with passengers who are confused, restive, and strongly at odds about what to do next. I prefer being a passenger on the ship that knows whence it comes and whither it goes, and has all the means for a safe and speedy journey—with the guarantee of fraternal harmony and amicable differences along the way.

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    Yesterday was the feast of another Saint of the Roman Canon about whom we know very little, beyond the fact of her existence and her martyrdom. Nevertheless, St Agatha is one of the most highly venerated virgin martyrs.

    According to tradition, she suffered cruel torture in the persecution of Decius in 251 AD; her breasts were pierced with pincers, but she was healed by St Peter who appeared to her while she was kept in prison. She was then subjected to torture with hot coals and shards of glass until this was interrupted by an eruption of Mt Etna; finally, she was sent back to prison, where she died of starvation.

    Her traditional iconography reminds us of this gruesome death and the grace with which she faced it. She is shown as a young woman, who carries her severed breasts on a plate, or has pincers in her hand. She sometimes displays a candle or flame, a symbol of her power against fire; a unicorn’s horn, a symbol of her virginity; or a palm branch or cross, symbols of martyrdom. Many of the images from the Renaissance and Baroque periods graphically focus on some of these details in ways that might not appeal to modern sensibilities (or mine at any rate!).

    Franisco d’Osona, ca. 1505
    Piero della Francesca, ca 1460-70. This is in my opinion a very poor woork, but it heartens me to know that even an artist as great as he was can have an off day!
    Francisco de Zurbarán, 1630-33
    This early Baroque painting, from 1614 by Giovanni Lanfranco is more tasteful, I feel, showing St Peter healing her injuries.
    In the Eastern Church, she is known as St Agatha of Palermo and icons of her tend to show the generic symbols of martyrdom, the palm branch or cross.

    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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    As we reported last May, the chapel of St Turibius at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, recently underwent a very significant restoration and de-wreckovation. Our previous post showed the work-in-progress of the installation of several new fixtures, including a new and much main altar, as well as the repainting of the mural at the back of the church. Thanks to our friend Jordan Hainsey, a seminarian of the Diocese of Covington Kentucky, for sending us these photos which show us more of the final result, a chapel which is in every way more suitable for the formation of men in the spiritual life.

    For comparison, the chapel before and after the work done in 1989.
    The new mural is not an exact copy of the original by Gerjard Lamers (ca. 1936), but retains its general outlay and much of the original program. Of particular interest are the squares with red backgrounds in the second rank from the bottom, each of which contains a symbol of the steps to priestly ordination, starting with the tonsure. (Further details shown below.)
    In the ordination of Porters, they are led by the ordaining bishop to ring one of the church bells.

     Relics enclosed in the new altar.

     The college’s patron, St Joseph.
    St Vincent de Paul
    St Catherine of Siena
    Some of the Angels from the second rank of the mural.

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    The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales will be holding a residential training conference for priests, deacons, seminarians and laymen wishing to learn to celebrate or serve Mass in the Extraordinary Form. It will be held at Prior Park College near Bath, England, from Monday, April 9th to Thursday, April 12th.
    Requiem Mass during 2016 Training Conference
    Training will be in small groups. For clergy and seminarians, this will be provided by priests experienced in the Extraordinary Form; for servers this will be provided by laymen with years of experience in the Extraordinary Form.
    Training group at the high altar.
    Training group at a side-altar
    Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Solemn Mass will be covered, although participants will be expected to be proficient at Low Mass before progressing to the more complicated forms. No previous experience is necessary, and participants will be divided into groups, according to their abilities. There will be daily Mass and other liturgies intended to be an example of best practice.

    The fee for attending is: £120.00
    Full-time students: £60
    Seminarians: FREE OF CHARGE

    The conference will start after lunch on the Monday and conclude before lunch on the Thursday. Lunch on the Monday and the Thursday can be booked at extra cost, £5 per lunch for all participants. A booking form and payment facility can be found on the Latin Mass Society’s website:

    The main liturgies, all of which will take place in the school chapel, will be open for anyone to attend:

    Monday, April 9th (Annunciation):
    5pm High Mass
    9pm Compline

    Tuesday, April 10th:
    11am High Mass
    5pm Vespers and Benediction

    Wednesday, April 11th (St Leo):
    11am High Mass

    Thursday, April 12th: 11am High Mass


    Prior Park, which currently houses an independent Catholic school, is set in 28 acres of parkland, and was built in the 1730s as a country mansion for a local quarry owner named Ralph Allen. Its architect, John Wood, used Bath stone from Allen’s quarries to create a building in the Paladian style on a hillside site that overlooks the city. The grounds contain several impressive features, including an ornamental bridge, also in the Paladian style, over an artificial lake.
    The original mansion
    After Allen’s death, the property passed through a number of owners, and in 1828 was purchased by Bishop Baines, the Vicar Apostolic for the Western District. His intention was to establish a seminary on the site, which he eventually did, along with a school. It was also his intention to build a cathedral at Prior Park, but this never happened, due to the ever-present shortage of money. However, he did manage to build a very fine chapel.
    The chapel
    The seminary closed in 1856, when the students transferred to Oscott College. The school continued until the buildings were occupied by troops during the First World War. A fresh attempt was made to establish a boy’s boarding school at Prior Park in 1925, which is the fore-runner of the present school.

    Prior Park College is very suitable for the needs of the LMS training conference. There is plenty of sleeping accommodation in single rooms (not ensuite), and common rooms will be available for relaxation at the end of each day. Also, Prior Park has a reputation for serving excellent food. The chapel is particularly beautiful, and retains its original High Altar and reredos in a spacious sanctuary very suitable for the traditional liturgy. It also has four side altars, which will be used for the training by the smaller groups.

    Prior Park is located on a hill about a mile from the centre of the City of Bath, which has many Roman remains. Bath is about 100 miles to the west of London, and there has a good train service connecting Bath with London and other parts of England.

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  • 02/07/18--09:00: The Feast of St Romuald
  • The incorrupt body of St Romuald was transferred to the church of St Blaise in the Italian city of Fabriano on February 7, 1481. Pope Clement VIII added his feast to the general calendar in 1595, in the second edition of the Breviary of St Pius V; it was assigned to the anniversary of the translation, since the day of his death, June 19th, had been from very ancient times the feast of the Milanese martyrs Ss Gervase and Protase; on the calendar of the Ordinary Form, he is kept on the latter date.

    Born in the mid-10th century, an age in which religious life had in many places fallen into terrible decadence, Romuald became one of the great monastic reformers in an age of great reformers. The pattern of Benedictine monasticism which he created was formed by bringing together two different ways of life. The first of these was the traditional communal life, as practiced at the monastery of Sant’Apollinare in Classe near Ravenna, in accord with the Cluniac reform. To this day, there stands right in the middle of the church’s nave the altar where St Romuald was praying, when Apollinaris, an early martyr buried therein, appeared to him in a vision, and confirmed his monastic vocation.

    The second was the eremitical life, a tradition more focused on personal austerity, which he learned under a spiritual master named Marinus; Romuald’s biographer, St Peter Damian, describes Marinus as “a man of simple spirit...driven to the eremitical life only by the impulse of his good will,” while referring also to his “severity lacking in judgment.” The monastery founded by Romuald at Camaldoli near Arezzo would thus become the model for a rather loosely organized order, formerly divided into five separate congregations, in which the cenobitic and eremitical life were united.

    In the year 1365, the Florentine painter Nardo di Cione executed an altarpiece for the chapel of St Romuald in the Camaldolese house in Florence, St Mary of the Angels. (He is better known today as the first painter of Dante’s Divine Comedy. including what was once an exceptionally vivid, though now much-ruined vision of Hell, in the Strozzi Chapel at Santa Maria Novella.) The central panel shows the Trinity, in the form known as the Mercy Seat, with St Romuald on the left, and St John the Evangelist on the right.

    The Lamb of God, as described in the fifth and sixth chapters of the Apocalypse of St John, is represented at top, on the book with the seven seals.
    In the predella on the left is shown the appearance of Saint Apollinaris to Romuald.   
    On the left part of the middle panel, Marinus is shown disciplining Romuald by hitting him in the face with a stick; St Peter Damian tells us that after enduring many such blows, Romuald humbly asked that Marinus might beat him on the right side of his face, since he was starting to loose his hearing on the left side. (Hence the reference to “severity lacking in judgment.”) On the right, Romuald overcomes the assaults of demons, like many great monks before him, such as St Anthony.
    On the right panel, the famous vision of St Romuald is depicted, in which he beholds a ladder by which monks in the white Camaldolese habit ascend to heaven, “in the likeness of the Patriarch Jacob”, as the Roman Breviary says.

    This is a revised version of an article originally published in 2015.

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    Once again, we are very happy to share a guest article by Veronica Arntz with our readers. Veronica earned her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Arts from Wyoming Catholic College, and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Theology at the Augustine Institute.

    And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only-begotten Son from the Father.” In the fullness of time, the Son of God took on human flesh and became one of us in all things but sin. Christ, the Word of God, walked on this earth, talked with men, performed miracles, and gave us the teachings of the New Covenant. As the Second Vatican Council’s document Dei Verbum comments,
    This plan of revelation [of God] is realized by deeds and words having an inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation, then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation (art. 2).
    As such, it would be impossible to accuse the Catholic Church of being a religion either entirely of words or entirely of symbols (as revealed in deeds or actions). Rather, because of the Incarnation, the Catholic faith is a religion of both word and symbol, which is particularly expressed in her sacred liturgy—both in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Divine Office.

    Candlemas celebrated this past Friday by His Excellency Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin. (Courtesy of the Tridentine Mass Society of Madison.)
    How is the Catholic Faith a religion of the word? This is realized in the fact that the Word of God, Christ, became flesh. Christ himself is the wisdom that fashioned the universe (Wisdom 7:22); he spoke, and the whole world came to be in an instance. It is for this reason that John’s prologue begins with the following, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-3). The Gospel writer recalls the opening words of Genesis 1:1, and he unites God the Creator and the Word of God—they are indeed one. Thus, as Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI frequently wrote, the world came to be through creative Reason. As he states in Verbum Domini,
    Creation is born of the Logos and indelibly bears the mark of the creative Reason which orders and directs it; with joy-filled certainty the psalms sing, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6); and again, “he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth” (Ps 33:9) (art. 8).
    The Word spoke, and all things in creation are like his words, revealing the mystery of the Creator through their diversity.

    Furthermore, we can understand “word” in a more literal sense; indeed, the above passage will support what we mean when we say that the Catholic faith is also a religion of symbol. Christ spoke words to his disciples, mostly through parables and recounting the words of the Old Covenant, so that they might come to deeper knowledge of himself and his teachings. As He himself says, “I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.…He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day. For I have spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life.” (John 12:46, 48-50)

    In other words, those who do not listen to the words that Christ has spoken will be their own judge, because through his words, Christ is proclaiming eternal life and the way to attain that life. Christ, as the Word, is the source of all other words—he is the source of all Truth, which is why the Scriptures are composed of divinely inspired words. The disciples transmitted Christ’s teachings through words, first through oral tradition, and then through words written down in the Scriptures. Therefore, the words of the Catholic faith are essential for understanding what the Apostles taught, which was given to them by Christ himself.

    The Catholic Church continues to use words as she defines dogmas, which are already contained within the words of Scripture. While it is true that words, being mere convention, do not fully convey the reality of a thing, and in some sense fall short of the reality, they are still necessary in order to give thought and shape to the truth. Indeed, some words are closer to the truth of reality than others are, which is why the Church is careful and precise when she defines dogma. For example, one thinks of the early Christological debate involving the words, homoousios (same substance) and homoiousios (similar substance). At first glance, these words might not seem to be so different, but when describing the one substance of the Father and the Son of God, the extra letter makes all the difference. Moreover, she uses words in her liturgies, to pray to God and give him thanksgiving and praise for all he has done for us.

    The singing of the Gospel during a solemn Mass in the Ambrosian Rite, part of last year’s Sacra Liturgia conference in Milan. (© Sacra Liturgia)
    As we have already hinted, the Catholic faith is not simply about words—it is not simply a rationalist religion. Rather, it is rich in symbols and in typology, revealed through Christ’s action and fulfillment of the Old Covenant. Yet the words and the symbols are directly related; in the Church today, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski writes that we are experiencing “spiritual illiteracy.” “Once the language of symbols is abolished [as occurred with the iconoclasm following the Second Vatican Council], the people cannot read the symbols any more, and are therefore cut off in principle from access to the riches of the Church.” Here he speaks of understanding symbols in literary language: the symbols of the Church are to be read, and thereby understood. In other words, symbols are rich in meaning, which means that we can “read” multiple layers of significance in them. As he continues, “Up until quite recently, Catholics grew up with the language of the Church—her pageantry of symbols, her liturgical rites and special music and cycle of feasts and fasts, her catechism.” Dr. Kwasniewski laments that these symbols are foreign to many Catholics, because they have not been fully initiated into the use and understanding of them.

    What, then, is a symbol? A symbol is a sign that points beyond itself to a greater meaning. Within the Sacred Scriptures, we find many symbols that point forward to the coming of Christ. For example, Moses is a symbol, or a type, of Jesus Christ, because he is the giver of the law to the people of Israel. Moreover, he speaks with God face-to-face, as with a friend (Exod 30:11). Moses, therefore, is a type of Christ, because Christ is the giver of the New Law of the New Covenant, and in Christ, we behold the face of God. Since Christ became incarnate, God now has a human face, and we can speak to him as Moses did with God on the mountain. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). The Crucifix is also a symbol for the Catholic faith, a sign of Christ’s sacrifice for the redemption of mankind; every time we see one, we are reminded of Christ’s sacrifice, and our sinful human nature.

    In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, symbol and word are united. In the Asperges me, the choir chants the words of the hymn that describe our cleansing from sin: “Thou shalt sprinkle me, O Lord, with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed; Thou shalt wash me, and I shall become whiter than snow. Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy.” Meanwhile, the priest sprinkles the people with baptismal water, a rewashing in the waters of baptism to be cleansed from sin. The incensing of the altar symbolizes the Offertory itself; the incense rises like a prayer to the heavens, the prayerful act of the faithful and the priest that God might bestow his mercy on them and on the whole world. The Mass ends with the Last Gospel, the Prologue of the Gospel of John, which reminds the faithful to give praise and thanksgiving to the Incarnate Word, who by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection brought salvation to all who would choose to follow him.

    Moreover, the vestments, the polyphony, the architecture—all of these symbols are meant to point to Christ, the Word Incarnate. In so many of our modern churches, we see what Kwasniewski writes of in the article cited above: a removal of so many of the Church’s beautiful symbols, to the point that very few people can recognize them anymore or their significance. Altar rails, ornate statues, baldacchinos, among many other things, were removed from the churches shortly after the Second Vatican Council. This meant that they were absent from the consciousness of the people, and have been so for a whole generation or more. These traditions of the Church, all of which were oriented toward giving glory to God, were replaced with postmodern pseudo-decorations, which did not point the worshipper to Christ, but rather, back to himself. The idea was to make everything within the Church more comprehensible by modern man, but by making everything so understandable, the worshipper has since lost interest, because he is surrounded by those things he encounters on a daily basis. Rather than being elevated to the sublime, the modern worshipper encounters only those things he sees in his daily life at the office and in the world. Thus, when the Church fully unites her tradition of symbols and her tradition of words in the Mass, she is able to speak to man’s deepest longing to be united with God, who transcends him and his mundane activities.

    What does this mean for the Church in the postmodern world? The Church ought to embrace the fullness of her traditions, both in her words and in her symbols. Because of Christ’s Incarnation, she is able to speak through both words and symbols—Christ gives meaning to both of them. The Church can do a great service to the people if she returns to the fullness of words and symbols, for the people are starved for meaning in their churches and their liturgies. Rather than catering to the needs of “modern man”, the Church can give him the richness and deepness of her traditions, most especially realized in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

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    Schola Cantus Angelorum is pleased to announce the sixth annual Sacred Liturgy Conference that registration is now open for its sixth annual Sacred Liturgy Conference, to be held July 27-30, 2018, in Salem, Oregon at St Joseph Catholic Church and the Salem Convention Center.

    The theme of the conference is “Transfiguration in the Eucharist” and will focus on the Eucharist as the way of beholding Jesus in His glory. Special guest speakers will include Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan, Rev. Cassian Folsom, OSB from Norcia, Italy, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, the head of ICEL, Msgr. Andrew R. Wadsworth and many other distinguished presenters. In addition, Alex Begin will conduct workshops for priests, deacons and seminarians on celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and Nicholas Lemme will lead workshops on the basics of Gregorian chant.

    From its modest beginnings in 2013, this conference has grown into a premiere annual event with participants coming from throughout the United States and beyond. The mission however remains the same: to educate and inspire the faithful about the life-changing realities of the Holy Mass, to encourage dignity and beauty in the celebration of the sacred liturgy and to promote the use of sacred music according to the mind of the Church.

    The conference will include an opening night reception, twelve important and informative lectures, four Mass and chant workshops, four beautifully celebrated liturgies in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, as well as the Dominican rite, two lunches, an evening banquet, priests regularly available for confession and plenty of time for fellowship.

    Additional faculty will include: Archbishop Alexander K. Sample, who will celebrate the opening Mass, Msgr. Gerard O’Connor, Rev. Gerard Saguto, FSSP, Msgr. John Cihak, Canon Lawyer Magdalen Ross, Msgr. Richard Huneger, Rev. Gabriel Thomas Mosher, OP, and Rev. Theodore Lange.

    The Sacred Liturgy Conference is open to anyone interested in the treasures of the Catholic liturgy and promises to be intellectually, liturgically and spiritually enriching. Come join us as we deepen our understanding and love for the Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

    Registrations will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis; Early Bird Registration Special ends on March 1, 2018. For more information and to register please visit:

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    In April, the United States Bishops publish the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in Spanish. To encourage congregations and choir directors to learn the music within the “priest’s book” and join in the integral parts of the sung Mass, the Zipoli Institute of the Institute of the Incarnate Word offers a one-day conference in Spanish Sacred Music, open to all.

    The day will begin with Holy Mass and continue with breakfast, a cultural presentation by Dr. Heitor Caballero, and practical music workshops. Learn to sing the Mass while discovering the strong musical heritage of Spanish-speaking cultures.

    Música del Misal Romano - Spanish Sacred Music Conference  

    Learn the chants of new Misal Romano 
    - Spanish Music cultural presentation
    - Sung Mass in Spanish
    - Resources for Sacred Music in Spanish 
    Saturday, April 28th 
    St. John de la Salle Parish in Chillum, Maryland

    All workshops and presentations will be in Spanish and English and are open to everyone. No musical experience is necessary for this free event. Breakfast is included in the morning.


    A second conference for seminarians and clergy will also take place one day earlier at the Ven. Fulton Sheen House of Formation Institute of the Incarnate Word Seminary (5

    706 Sargent Road, Chillum, MD).

    Spanish Sacred Music Conference for Seminarians and Clergy

    “Spanish Chant in Pastoral Ministry”

    Friday, April 27th, 3-7pm

    The day includes talks, workshops, sung vespers, and fellowship.


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    We received almost twice as many submissions for this year’s Candlemas photopost as we did for last year’s, in part, I suppose, because last year it was in the middle of the week; we will therefore have a second post tomorrow. This set includes a Pontifical Mass, celebrated by His Excellency Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin, as well as a video of an interesting feature of the Ambrosian Rite.

    As always, we are very grateful to all of our readers who contributed; know that you are doing important work to inspire and enourage others to better and more beautiful celebrations of the sacred liturgy. As one of our contributors wrote, “the photoposts that NLM has done within the past few years have inspired me and our little group to improve our liturgies as best we can (within a shoestring budget.)” This is something you have done, so thank you, and continue to evangelize through beauty!

    Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini - Rome, Italy (FSSP)

    The procession took a quite long route this year, from the church down to the via dei Giubbonari...
    ...through the Campo dei Fiori, the only major piazza in Rome without a church...
    ...and the Piazza Farnese, past the Palazzo Spada, and back to the church. (The Palazzo Farnese, seen here, is now the French embassy to Italy.)
    Because of the long route, in addition to the normal processional antiphons, the choir led the faithful in singing the Litany of Loreto and the Ave Maris Stella, and the pastor led the recitation of the fourth mystery of the Rosary. During the procession, the altar was changed to white.
    The celebrant and faithful hold candles for the singing of the Gospel.
    The faithful holding candles during the Canon. 
    St Peter Eastern Catholic Church - Ukiah, California

    St Vincent Seminary - Latrobe, Pennsylvania

    Annunciation Catholic Church - Houston, Texas

    Santissima Trinità - Pordenone, Italy

    Santa Maria della Consolazione - Milan, Italy
    The celebrant, Mons. Luigi Mangnini, as archpriest emeritus of the Duomo and member of the chapter, uses the ferula as a bishop uses a crook, but during the procession, it is carried by an acolyte, seen here to the right. The MC is, of course, our own Nicola de’ Grandi.

    This video shows a processional rite which is done at every solemn or sung in the Ambrosian Rite. including Candlemas. The processional cross stops at the entrance to the sanctuary, and the bearer turns to face the celebrant; the clergy and servers stand in two lines facing each other. Twelve Kyries are sung, six low and six high, followed by a chant called a psallenda. At the Gloria Patri, all bow to the cross, at Sicut erat, to the celebrant; the psallenda is then repeated, and the procession enters the sanctuary.

    Bishop O’Connor Center - Madison, Wisconsin
    Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Excellency Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison Wisconsin. Courtesy of the MC, Fr Zuhlsdorf, and the Tridentine Mass Society of Madison.

    St Dominic - Youngstown, Ohio (Dominican Rite)

    St Stephen - Exeter, Nebraska

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    On Thursday, February 22, the feast of St Peter’s Chair, Bishop Athanasius Schneider will celebrate a Low Mass at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory, at Five Wounds Portuguese National Church, 1375 Santa Clara St., San Jose, California. All are welcome.

    On February 24, Bishop Schneider will be the featured speaker at the Latin Mass Magazine / Keep the Faith conference at the Monterey Tides hotel; the theme of his talk is “The Relationship Between Tradition and Liturgy.” Also speaking will be Fr Joseph Illo, pastor of Star of the Sea parish in San Francisco, California; Father Brian Harrison, O.S., chaplain of St Mary of Victories Chapel in downtown St. Louis, Missouri; Christopher Ferrara, President of the American Catholic Lawyers Association. Additional speical guests are Fr Kenneth Baker, S.J., editor emeritus of the Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and Fr Gerard Saguto, American district superior of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter. For more information, see:

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    Once again, we thank you, our readers, for sending in these photos of your Candlemas liturgies. This one is a bit longer than part one, since we received three late submissions (not a problem, of course!) Our next photopost will be for Ash Wednesday; an announcement will be posted next week. Evangelize though beauty!

    Mater Ecclesiae - Berlin, New Jersey

    Holy Name of Jesus - Brooklyn, New York

    St Mary - Kalamazoo, Michigan

    The blessing of throats in honor of St Blase, done on Feb. 4, the Fifth Sunday on Ordinary Time in the OF, Sexagesima Sunday in the EF.

    Mary Immaculate of Lourdes - Newton, Massachusetts

    Cathedral of St Eugene - Santa Rosa, California

    Monastery of the Holy Cross - Chicago, Illinois

    St James the Less - LaCrosse, Wisconsin

    St Louis - Tallahassee, Florida

    St Anne - Berlin, New Hampshire

    St Mary, Star of the Sea - Jackson, Michigan
    St Joseph Oratory - Detroit, Michigan

    St Stephen - Exeter, Nebraska 

    Chapel of Saint Andrew’s School - La Huerta, Parañaque City, Philippines

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    Last month, the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in Toronto, Ontario, welcomed Dr Daniel Galadza for a presentation of his book “Liturgy and Byzantinization in Jerusalem”, recently published by Oxford Univ. Press in the Oxford Early Christian Studies series. Dr Galadza is Canadian-American himself; after obtaining his doctorate at the Pontifical Oriental Institute in Rome, he is currently teaching and researching at the University of Vienna, Austria. His book examines how the original liturgy of Jerusalem, often referred to as the Hagiopolitan Rite, was gradually replaced by that of Constantinople, while leaving numerous traces of itself in the Byzantine Rite, particularly over the course of the 7th-12th centuries; the process of Byzantinization in this important period has not been examined in detail hitherto.

    The presentation is aimed at a general audience, so despite its specialized subject matter, it is given in such a way that no one should find it difficult to follow. Of particular interest is Dr Galadza’s account of the fairly recent discovery of a new cache of manuscripts in the library of the Monastery of St Catherine on Mt Sinai in Egypt; this discovery is very important for his topic, but also provided the first written of evidence of a language previously known to exist, but unattested in any written source. He also explains a bit about one of the more interesting phenomena in the history of ancient and medieval writing, the making of palimpsests. This term derives from two Greek words that mean “scrape (or) wipe again”; an older manuscript would be scraped as clean as possible of ink, and the parchment recycles by writing a new text over it. In many cases, modern technology has made it possible to recover traces of the original writing, and some very important discoveries have come out of this process.

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  • 02/12/18--05:04: Quinquagesima Sunday 2018
  • Since we are about to undertake the holy fast of Quinquagesima, as is the custom, we should know that what soap gives to the body, fasting confers on the mind of a Christian. It purifies the filth of the senses, washes away the offenses of the spirit, dissolves the crimes of the heart, takes away its blemishes, and with marvelous splendor brings the whole man back to the brightness of purity. And just as spring checks and represses all the tumults of stormy weather, calms the face of heaven, gives peace to the earth, and calls all the body of the world that was buried in the death of winter and raises it to the strength of life; so does fasting assuage all conflicts, return peace to the members (of the body), enkindle minds that were unconscious and dead with the chill of negligence, and inspiring them to virtue with all zeal. Fasting, my brethren, is the rudder of human life, it rules the whole ship of our body, it raises high the heart... (St Peter Chrysologus, bishop of Ravenna from 433-ca 450, First Sermon on Quinquagesima. This is one of the earliest attestations of the development of Fore-lent in the Western church.)

    Ss Peter Chrysologus, Romuald and Peter Damian, by Giuseppe Milani, from the Duomo of Ravenna 1767. (Image from Wikimedia Commons by José Ruiz)

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    In our times we have seen the important work of Pope John Paul II on the “theology of the body” misunderstood and applied in a superficial and, at times, morally problematic way. One example is a claim I once heard, namely, that the very bodies of spouses are causes of grace, such that when they come together in the marital act, and assuming no moral impediment such as contraception, an increase of sanctifying grace is bestowed on each or both spouses. This claim, as it stands, is false—although something like it is true.

    The only signs that effect or bring about the sanctifying grace they signify are the seven Sacraments of the New Law. In this sense, it is impossible that the spouse’s bodies, as such, should be causes of grace in a proper sense, such that when the cause (bodily action) is posited, the effect (increase of grace) follows. Rather, the bodily mutual self-giving, open to new life, is the outward sign of the Sacrament of Matrimony itself, which, present and operative in a mysterious way in the souls of the spouses, is the cause of an increase in sanctifying grace. Put more simply, the efficacious sign is not the bodily action but the sacramental union and state, which is represented and furthered by the bodily action.

    On the other hand, any bodily act done out of charity is a cause of grace in the sense of being a moral cause of meriting an increase of such grace. In this way, the nuptial act is like an act of almsgiving, or clothing the poor, or instructing the ignorant—all of these are acts of a will animated by charity, performed with the help of the body and meriting an increase of grace.

    We find many profound and inspiring passages in the writings of Pope John Paul II on these matters, such as the following, from the encyclical letter Evangelium Vitae:
    Within this same [contemporary] cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other’s richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child “at all costs,” and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents. (n. 23)
    The Pope chooses his words with care: the body is a “sign,” a sign of self-giving, a “place” and a “language,” but in and of itself it does not expressly signify sanctifying grace, nor directly confer it. This is what the Sacrament of Marriage or Matrimony is and does. If the spouse’s body were a cause of grace just by being what it is, namely, a sign of self-giving, it would follow that the body or the nuptial act is an eighth sacrament, a claim certainly contrary to the dogma of the Faith. I know a priest (he was married as an Anglican curate and was later ordained a Catholic priest) who refers to this kind of loose talk as “gamolatry,” that is, a sort of worship of things pertaining to marriage.

    In our times, so given to vapid pseudo-mysticism, we do well to remember that Our Lord instituted the seven sacraments as the ordinary means of conferring His supernatural life and charity upon us. It is through the sacraments that we become “sons in the Son” and receive all that we need to grow in our sonship until the day of glory. (I do not engage here in the centuries-old debate over what precisely it means to say that Jesus Himself instituted all and each of the seven sacraments; various more or less convincing hypotheses have been proffered. In any case, Catholics are obliged to believe that which the Council of Trent defined as de fide dogma, namely, that Christ Himself instituted the seven sacraments of the New Law.)

    Thus, even that which theologians have taken to calling the “primordial sacrament,” the very humanity of Christ, is effective among us in this world precisely through the seven Sacraments of the Church, and not somehow over and above and apart from them, as if it were an eighth sacrament that could be numbered alongside the other seven. The Church, too, may be called a “sacrament,” but in an analogous sense—for she, too, is built up from the seven sacraments, from which she derives her very existence and activity, as the Second Vatican Council teaches. The Eucharist, especially, is the root and the constant origin of the Church in this world. Without the Eucharistic Body, there would be no Mystical Body. This is why St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the “reality” of the sacrament of the Eucharist is nothing other than the unity, or charity, of the Mystical Body itself (cf. Summa theologiae III, q. 61, a. 2).

    How beautiful it is that spouses receive in marriage a new participation in the love of God and the Passion of Christ, as well as a new power to participate in creation and redemption by begetting children and offering them to God in baptism! The quasi-character imprinted in their souls by the marriage vows remains throughout their life as a constant claim before God of all the graces each needs to fulfil the duties of his or her state in life; it is a permanent mark of their mutual surrender to and “ownership” of one another; it is a likeness of the relationship that unites Christ to His Bride, and the Church in turn to her Bridegroom, in an unbreakable union of eternal fecundity.

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    The following is an essay written by one of the sisters of a community in Santa Rosa, California, called the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. She is a seamstress for the community, and part of her work is making their habits. I asked her to describe why she felt this work was important, before going on to describe (in the next essay) how this informs her work in making the habits for the other Sisters. (This was for her degree studies at Pontifex University.)

    The essay is entitled A Visible Witness; what struck me about it particularly were her anecdotes of personal reactions to the habit. She writes that it was seeing nuns wearing habits when she was a little girl that spoke to her of this “alternative” lifestyle, if I can use that phrase! I found her accounts of the positive responses of ordinary people to her when they see the habit especially charming. For ease of reading, I have removed the footnotes and references from the original essay. The photograph below is taken from the community’s website.

    She writes:

    Early in the Church, those who dedicated their lives to God wore some form of identifiable clothing that distinguished them from the world. The purpose was to visibly set them apart from the world for God’s service. Through the centuries this type of clothing, namely the religious habit, has taken many shapes and forms in the diverse communities that God has called into being. During the past sixty years, the value, relevance, and need of the habit has been disputed. However, many young people with vocations to religious life are being drawn to communities that do wear the habit. It is my opinion that in our world today, this visible witness of the religious habit is still needed to silently but eloquently proclaim the reality, presence, and primacy of God.

    One of the first references of any sort of garb for those who gave their lives to God is in the writings of St Pachomius, who founded the cenobitic way of life in the fourth century. In his Rule, he requires all those who pass the initial tests for entrance into the monastery to be stripped of their secular clothing and be clothed in the monastic habit. St Benedict and St John Cassian also prescribe the clothing in the habit in their Rules. St Augustine also refers to a plain and simple habit for both men and women religious. This new and different clothing was a symbol of renunciation of the world, and the simplicity and poverty of religious life. No monk was to have anything different than another so that there could be no cause for contention over material things. For women, the veil was also given as a special sign of consecration to Christ, their Divine Bridegroom. Since the time of St. Ambrose, there has been a special ceremony of conferring a veil on a virgin. The veil is also a public symbol of the nuptial union of Christ and His Church.

    The religious habit was valued as the strong visible witness of a life given to God, and so continued as part of religious life. Religious habits remained simple, often in black, to signify the death to the world and to self that the religious life entails. Various parts of the habit, such as the scapular, were added as time went on, but the essentials of the tunic, belt, and veil, for women, remained consistent. St Benedict in his Rule refers to the scapular as being a garment worn for work. The scapular is a garment made of two long pieces of fabric, roughly the width of the person and the length of their height, joined together at the shoulders so that one piece falls in front and one in the back of the person. It was originally used as an apron, protecting the tunic while working. St Simon Stock and St Dominic were both given the scapular directly from Our Lady to become a regular part of the habit of their respective orders. At the end of the twelfth century, St Dominic saw a vision in which Mary held a scapular which was to be part of the Dominican habit. Around the same time, St Simon Stock received the Brown Scapular as a pledge of salvation for all who wear it and it has become a sign of Her protection of the soul. The scapular, as well as each part of the religious habit, took on a special meaning as the privilege of wearing the habit was better understood.

    As different orders started in response to God’s call, each one assumed a distinctive habit that would distinguish the different orders from one another. Benedictines were known by their black habits, Dominicans wore white tunics and scapulars symbolizing purity, and Franciscans were recognized by their brown or gray robes for poverty. For women, the black veil was often a sign of profession, succeeding the white veil of a novice, usually worn over a white wimple which covered the head and neck of the sister. As more orders of sisters were founded, many interesting and distinctive forms of the habit, especially the veil, came into use. The front of the veil could be rounded or square, fit closely over the face, or widely fall over the shoulders. There were veils that had frills around the face, a box-like shape, or even a starched bow under the chin. Different colors were sometimes used, such as blue in honor of Our Lady. While retaining the essence of a garb set apart for God, each different community could be known by the sister’s particular habit.

    In the 1950s, it was recognized that some of the parts of the religious habit, especially for women, had become overly complicated or impractical. Some communities used many yards of material in the tunic alone. The amount of material made it hard to wash frequently and expensive to make. Another example is the veils which came so far around the face that it eliminated the sisters’ peripheral vision. For sisters learning to drive a car, this would be dangerous. Pope Pius XII in 1951 commented on the need for a modification of the habit to suit the present needs.

    Shortly after the Second Vatican Council, the topic of modifying the habit again was addressed and communities, in obedience to the Church, considered revising this aspect of their religious life. With all the other social issues going on in America, such as the radical feminist movement and concern for social justice, it seems that many American sisters interpreted the call for modification as permission to cease wearing the habit altogether. From my perspective, they thought in goodwill that for the sake of “equality” and “the liberation of women”, sisters now were not forced to wear such restrictive clothes that were remnants from unenlightened and past times. In some communities, this erroneous interpretation was held by sisters in authoritative positions, and so entire communities were deprived of the habit. This was not the case for all communities. Many did follow what the Church truly desired in simply modifying their habit in such a way that it retained its character as a clear, visible witness of Christ. In addition to these faithful communities, many new communities who wear the habit were started in America. The growing communities of sisters are those who do wear the habit because young women who hear the call to religious life recognize the need for it more than ever in our world today.

    In the past 60 years, the Church has given much instruction on religious life, including the topic of the religious habit and its value. In the Code of Canon Law, it states that “Religious are to wear the habit of the institute, made according to the norm of proper law, as a sign of their consecration and as a witness of poverty” (669, §1). Pope St John Paul II explains the reason for this in his apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata.

    “The Church must always seek to make her presence visible in everyday life, especially in contemporary culture, which is often very secularized and yet sensitive to the language of signs. In this regard, the Church has a right to expect a significant contribution from consecrated persons, called as they are in every situation to bear clear witness that they belong to Christ.

    Since the habit is a sign of consecration, poverty, and membership in a particular Religious family, I join the Fathers of the Synod in strongly recommending to men and women religious that they wear their proper habit, suitably adapted to the conditions of time and place” (25).

    Other Church documents, including the Decree Perfectae Caritatis, reference the necessity of the habit and how it should be modified according to current needs. The Church recognizes and articulates that the habit is important. It provides the visible witness that Christ is first in our lives and that a religious strives to live completely in that reality. Wearing the habit exclusively declares that the religious do not worry about material things, and relies on God for all temporal needs. The simplicity and poverty of the religious life is manifested by having only one thing to wear, for everyday work as well as the most formal occasions. Even if a community’s habit needs to be modified for practical reasons or for the particular apostolate, it is still to be a clear sign of consecration to all, including the religious herself. The habit bears witness both to the reality of God, and that we are to be living and working solely for Him.

    The habit is very connected to my vocation to the religious life. In the diocese of Santa Rosa where I grew up, there were a few sisters from three different communities ministering in the schools and the hospital. However, if I had not been told, I would not have known they were sisters because they did not wear a recognizable garb other than professional-looking clothes, a lapel pin, or cross necklace. Besides the saints who were religious, the other community of sisters I was most familiar with was the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration on EWTN. Wearing the full habit, they were an unmistakable witness of religious life. At age six or seven, I thought I was going to be a nun, which in my mind meant going to Alabama to that community. My sister and I would play that we were nuns and always wore fabric on our heads for a veil since we knew that was part of being a nun. Even at that young age, I had an intuitive sense that being a sister involved wearing a habit. The thought never even crossed my mind to be like the sisters in my diocese, since I just thought they were a different kind of sister and not the kind that I would want to join. After high school, when I was seriously discerning the religious life, the habit was a necessary component of any community I considered. If God was calling me to be a sister, I desired to look like one. The Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, who had just come to the diocese, wore a beautiful habit of white and blue. There was no question of who they were since their clothes proclaimed that they belonged to God.

    Since receiving the habit of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa, I am so grateful each morning to dress in this habit. The habit provides a freedom that to the world seems like a restriction. I am free from the worry of what to wear if it will be appropriate for the occasion, if the color suits me, or if it is modest enough. It takes much less time to get ready for the day when putting on the habit since there is no deliberation involved. When wearing secular clothes, one outfit is tried on, and then removed to try another, until, after much time and effort, a set of clothes is decided upon. Now, my time is used to beautify my soul for the reception of my Spouse in Holy Communion later that day. To the world, only having one choice might be seen as a lack of creative freedom to express my personality by what I wear. In my experience, never having other options of what to wear frees me from thinking so much about myself to think about the more important things in life. While donning the holy habit, I am praying, asking God for the strength for what I am to face that day, and clothing myself in His grace. Creativity is not suppressed but redirected away from myself to invent new ways of giving glory to God and showing love to Him and those around me. My personality, instead of being stifled by the habit, is revealed even more clearly through my actions and words because my clothes are not a distraction. Wearing the habit, I am free and even expected to pray in public, and to say “God bless you” to everyone because I am what I look like: totally dedicated to God.

    When any of the sisters walk or go anywhere, we receive attention because of the habit. Some people spontaneously ask for prayers, intuitively trusting in our intercessory power with God. Others will relate stories of being educated by nuns, or share fond memories of an aunt who was a nun. Many comment on the beauty of the habit, happily surprised to see it after thinking it was a thing of the past. These are some of the responses we receive from those who come up to talk to us, but many more see us and are affected by the presence of God apparent in us, even from a distance. To travel to my apostolate, I walk for ten minutes along one of the busiest streets in the city. Hundreds of cars pass me each morning as I pray my Rosary. One day recently, I received the comment, “I saw you on the street corner, and thought how beautiful your outfit, or whatever you wear, is!”. It is not uncommon for a generous soul to anonymously pay for our meal, or grocery purchase, not because they have talked to us, but because they know who we are by the habit. Though we might never interact with those who see us, we pray that we are a channel of grace to bring them closer to God.

    The habit, while being a sign of God’s Presence in the world, is also a reminder to the religious herself of who she is. In my experience, the habit aids recollection and prayer in times of formal prayer, as well as when going about my duties. The sides of our veil, coming over our shoulders, act as slight blinders to our peripheral vision, directing our focus straight ahead to God. Our habit is long, obliging us to move with care and Mary-like grace. When I am struggling, or need assistance with anything, I find my hand reaching up to clasp Our Lady on my Miraculous Medal. As a professed sister, I wear a ring, reminding me that I am Christ’s Bride before any role or duty I have in the apostolate. I know, whenever I am acting, that I act not as an individual, but as a representative of Christ, His Church, and our community. The respect or attention I receive from others is not for me as an individual, but on account of the habit, it is for Christ, whose bride I am and whom I reflect to the world.

    The religious habit is the beautiful sign of consecration to God since the early Church. All who see it are reminded that there is a higher purpose in this life than the concerns of this world, that there is some reason, namely the love of God, that religious would dress in this way. The habit declares without words that this person has a strong relationship and intercessory power with God. The value of the witness of the habit is proved by its resurgence in the Church and will continue to be a clear manifestation of God to the world.

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    Our next photopost will be for tomorrow’s celebration of Ash Wednesday; please send your photos (whether of the Ordinary or Extraordinary Form,) to for inclusion. We are always glad to include photographs of Lenten celebrations in the Eastern rites, such as the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts or the Great Canon of St Andrew. Please be sure to include the name and location of the church, and always feel free to add any other information you think important. Evangelize through beauty!

    From last year’s Ash Wednesday photopost, Mass at the Collegiate Church of St Just, the Fraternity of St Peter’s church in Lyon, France, celebrated in ash-colored vestments (couleur cendrée), a classically medieval custom of the ancient use of Lyon.

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    As we begin the Roman Lent, we are happy to share with our readers this guest article by Mr Philip Gilbert on the first ceremony of Lent in the Byzantine Rite, Vespers on the Sunday of the Expulsion of Adam from Paradise, also known as Forgiveness Sunday. We recently published photographs and a video of Mr Gilbert’s subdiaconal ordination, which took place on December 31st at his home parish, St Peter Eastern Catholic Church in Ukiah, California, also the setting of the photo and the three videos below.

    In the Byzantine tradition, the Great Fast begins on a Monday, two days before the Ash Wednesday of the Latin tradition. Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord, which have granted us salvation. However, in order to fully enter into the events of Holy Week and Pascha, man must be restored to communion with God through repentance. Through sin Adam was barred from Eden, and by sin each of us joins him in his exile. In the liturgical books, the Sunday before Lent is known as “The Expulsion of Adam from the Paradise of Bliss”, but also called the Sunday of Forgiveness. Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) writes in his introduction to the Lenten Triodion, “Lent is a time when we weep with Adam and Eve before the closed gate of Eden, repenting with them for the sins that have deprived us of our free communion with God. But Lent is also a time when we are preparing to celebrate the saving event of Christ’s death and rising, which has reopened Paradise to us once more. So sorrow for our exile in sin is tempered by hope of our re-entry into Paradise.”

    A Russian icon of the 16th century, representing the Holy Trinity, the expulsion from Paradise, and monks contemplating mortality as they see an open coffin with a half-decayed corpse in it.
    Fallen and exiled man can only find God and be united with Him—re-enter paradise—after leaving behind those things that pull him away from God. Man needs cleansing and repentance. This aim of Lent is indicated by the popular name of the first day of the Fast, “Clean Monday.” The hymnography of the first half of the Fast contains very little mention of Our Lord’s crucifixion and death on the Cross, and instead focuses on our being cleansed from sin and from the passions that lead us there. The first four days of Lent feature the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete, which is a unique, beautiful, and incredibly long work of hymnography, sung with the refrain “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!” This canon is split into four parts and sung at Great Compline on the first four days of Great Lent, and again in its entirety on Thursday of the fifth week. For the sake of example, some troparia from the portion of the canon sung on Clean Monday:

    Adam was justly banished from Eden because he disobeyed one commandment of Thine, O Saviour. What then shall I suffer, for I am always rejecting Thy words of life? (from the 1st Ode)
    When Saul once lost his father’s asses, in searching for them he found himself proclaimed as king. But watch, my soul, lest unknown to thyself thou prefer thine animal appetites to the Kingdom of Christ. (7th Ode)
    Riding in the chariot of the virtues, Elijah was lifted up to heaven, high above earthly things. Reflect, O my soul, on his ascent. (8th Ode)
    I have put before thee, my soul, Moses’ account of the creation of the world, and after that all the recognized Scriptures that tell thee the story of the righteous and the wicked. But thou, my soul hast followed the second of these, not the first, and hast sinned against God. (9th Ode)

    Yet before we set out on the journey of the Fast and fully enter the time of purification and repentance, there is the Sunday of Forgiveness. The season of the Great Fast begins liturgically on Sunday evening, at what is known as “Forgiveness Vespers.” This service begins with bright (festive) vestments and altar cloths, but halfway through, these are exchanged for dark-colored Lenten ones. The altar is vested, but otherwise left bare until the Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday, for it too is fasting. At this point the music also changes to the more somber music of the season.

    The most notable feature of the service is the asking of forgiveness. At the end of Vespers, all of those present, starting with the priest and clergy, approach every other person and ask forgiveness. The two people prostrate themselves, and the first asks, “(name), forgive me a sinner.” The second person then responds, “May God forgive us both,” and they exchange the kiss of peace. (The form of this varies from place to place.)

    God is ready and willing to forgive sinners, but we sinners must be ready and willing to be forgiven. For the Lenten journey to be of any effect, we must be open to be forgiveness; if we cannot forgive others nor admit our faults and be forgiven by those we have offended, there is no room within us for God’s mercy. Father Alexander Schmemann writes in his book Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, “the triumph of sin, the main sign of its rule over the word, is division, opposition, separation, hatred. Therefore, the first break through this fortress of sin is forgiveness: the return to unity, solidarity, love. To forgive is to put between me and my “enemy” the radiant forgiveness of God Himself. . . . Forgiveness is truly a ‘breakthrough’ of the Kingdom into this sinful and fallen word.”  God’s forgiveness is given to us via others, not alone; thus it is through mutual forgiveness that we truly begin the journey to the Resurrection. This is especially evident at Forgiveness Vespers, for the Typicon prescribes that as the faithful exchange forgiveness, the cantors sing portions the matins of Pascha.

    We begin Great Lent with our eyes on the goal, singing “This is the day of Resurrection, let us be illumined by the feast! Let us embrace each other! Let us call brothers even those that hate us, and forgive all by the Resurrection. And so, let us cry, Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”

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    The church of the Holy Rosary in the Bronx, New York, will have an EF Missa Cantata on February 25th for the Second Sunday of Lent, beginning at 1pm. The church is located 1510 Adee Avenue; see for more information.

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