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    In the mid-15th century, the Italian painter Piero della Francesca (1416-92) did a remarkable series of frecoes in the choir of the Basilica of St Francis in Arezzo, known as The History of the True Cross. Although a few sections of the paintings are completely lost, most of it is in very good condition; the entire cycle was beautifully restored in the 1990s. Arezzo is a lovely city, but it would be worth a visit even if there were nothing else to see there besides these works.

    The cycle includes not only St Helena’s discovery of the Cross, which is traditionally celebrated today, and its recovery in the 7th-century, which is celebrated on September 14th, but also some of the popular stories collectively known as the Legend of the Cross, as recounted in Bl. Jacopo de Voragine’s Golden Legend and elsewhere. It has to be said that some of these stories stretch the bounds of credibility well past the breaking point, a fact of which Bl. Jacopo was quite aware. In his account of today’s feast, he refers several times to conflicting accounts in the histories to which he had access. The stories are not depicted in order within the choir itself; I will give them here in the chronological order of the legend. You can click the images to enlarge them.

    The first panel (right wall at the top) depicts the death of Adam, the elderly man lying on the ground on the right, with Eve supporting him from behind. His son Seth receives from the Archangel Michael a branch from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Paradise, which he plants in his dead father’s mouth (at the bottom, to the left of the tree.) From this branch grows the tree which will become the wood of the Cross. (The depiction of a skull at the base of Christ’s Cross derives from this legend.)
    Second panel, below the first - The tree lives until the time of Solomon, when it is cut down and part of it used to make a bridge. When the Queen of Sheba comes to visit Solomon, she recognizes it as coming from the Tree of Life, and kneels before it. On the right, she meets Solomon and his court, and bows before him. One version of the story adds that she had webbed feet, which were made normal by touching the wood. (Piero della Francesca’s mastery of the art of perspective is seen very nicely in the horse on the far left. His habit of depicting people in unusual hats, which he shares with a number of his Tuscan contemporaries, comes from seeing the delegates of the Eastern churches to the Council of Florence, which concluded shortly before he began this project.)
    The third panel is to the left of the one above, on the back wall; Solomon has the wood from the bridge buried. (Piero does not depict the story of how the wood was then recovered and used to make the Cross of Christ.)
    In the fourth panel just below it, the story moves forward to Constantine; an angel appears to him in a dream as he sleeps in his tent, the night before the great battle which will make him master of the Roman Empire, leading to his conversion. The angel bears a small Cross in his hand, a very subtle depiction of the In hoc signo vinces episode. (Piero has here done a very skillful depiction of a night scene, which most artists of the Renaissance shy away from.)
    Returning to the right wall, to the right of the panel above, Constantine defeats Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, another tour-de-force of perspective, but sadly also the most damaged of the frescoes.
    After the death of Christ, the wood of His Cross is buried again. According to the legend, when St Helena went to find it, some of the Jewish leaders knew where it was, but refused to tell her, so she threatened to have them burned alive. They therefore handed over to her one of their number, a man named Judas, whom she had lowered into a well and left for several days, until he agreed to reveal its location. This scene, to the left of the window at the back wall, shows him being lifted out of the well; his foot on the edge of the well is another example of Piero’s clever mastery of perspective. (This distasteful episode furnished the antiphons for Lauds, Vespers and the minor Hours of the Finding of the Cross in the pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary; the second, for example, reads “Then she ordered them all to be burned, but they, being fearful handed over Judas, alleluja.” These were removed in Clement VIII’s revision of the Tridentine Breviary, and replaced with the antiphons of the Exaltation.)
    St Helena finds the crosses of both Christ and the two thieves by digging up Mt Calvary. The Lord’s is identified by touching all three to a dead man whose funeral procession happens to be passing by; the third one raises the man back to life, at which all present adore the Cross. (Piero is really showing off on the right with the perspective of the Cross. This panel is in the middle of the left wall.)
    The Cross is stolen from the church of the Holy Sepulcher by the Persians when they take the city of Jerusalem in 614 AD. This spectacular chaotic battle scene shows the defeat of the Persian Emperor Chosroes at the hand of the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius, which took place in 627 at Nineveh. Chosroes returns in defeat to his capital, where he is murdered by his elder son and successor Siroes. The latter will sue for peace with Heraclius, who makes the return of the relics of the Cross one of the conditions for the treaty. (This panel is located lowest on the left wall, to mirror the Battle of the Milvian Bridge on the right wall.)
    At the top of the left wall, Heraclius, simply dressed and barefooted, brings the relics of the Cross back into Jerusalem. As described in the Matins lessons for the Exaltation of the Cross, on approaching the city, Heraclius found him unable to pass the gate, held back by a mysterious force. The bishop of Jerusalem then told him to imitate the poverty and humility of the King of kings by laying aside his royal robes, at which he was able to continue his way to the Holy Sepulcher. It may be guessed that this story was particularly appealing to the Franciscans who sang Mass and Office in this choir every day, and was therefore put at the top as the most “exalted” of the scenes. (Here Piero really goes to town with the funny hats!)
    To the left of the window in the back wall, below the scene of Judas being lifted out of the well, is depicted the Annunciation. More than one art historian has failed to realize that this is also, obliquely, part of the Holy Cross cycle, in accord with the ancient tradition, very widely accepted in the Middle Ages and beyond, that the earthly life of Christ was a perfectly circle of years, and that the day of His Incarnation was the same as the day of His death.

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    St Dominic’s Church in Youngstown, Ohio, will have a sung Mass in the traditional Dominican Rite on Thursday, May 17th, the Octave of the Ascension, starting at 7pm. The church is located at 77 E. Lucius Avenue.

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    Time once again to catch up with some more of the ever-popular amice tie designs made by our friends of the Marian Sisters of Santa Rosa. As always, our thanks to their chaplain, Fr Jeffrey Keyes, for sharing these with us.

    February 1st - St Igntaius of Antioch, in reference to his words “I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ.”
    Lent begins with a Cross
    Feb. 22 - St Peter’s Chair; the Church built on the Rock of Peter 
    February 24 - St Matthias. It was inevitable that they would move on to the chasuble ties.
    March 19 - A lily for St Joseph
    March 24 - St Gabriel
    Holy Thursday
    Easter Monday
    Easter Wednesday, inspired by the day's Gospel, when the Apostles go fishing, John 21, 1-14
    Easter Friday, inspired by the day's Gospel of the Great Commission, “Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”, Matthew 28, 19
    Low Sunday - St Thomas touches the wound in Christ’s side.
    April 9th - the Annunciation (dove of the Holy Spirit on the upper left, Jesus in Mary’s womb below.)
    Good Shepherd Sunday
    St Joseph’s staff blossoming into a flower.
    The lion of St Mark, with a cross above its face.
    Our Lady of Good Counsel
    April 28 - St Louis of Montfort
    The chasuble done up on his feast.
    A lily and a crown for St Catherine of Siena
    The Finding of the Cross

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    The Emperor Karl League of Prayer USA and Canada is pleased to announce the newly published official Gebetsliga Prayer Book. Edited by USA and Canadian Delegates Fr. Boniface Hicks, OSB, and Suzanne Pearson, this prayer book contains devotional resources related to Blessed Karl of Austria, including: a history of The Emperor Karl League of Prayer; a novena; devotional prayers; a short biography; important dates and quotes from his life; and liturgical texts for the celebration of Holy Mass and The Liturgy of the Hours on his October 21 Memorial.

    The book was designed and typeset by Mr. Jordan Hainsey, who serves as webmaster and designer for the USA and Canadian League. Constructed to last a lifetime of prayerful use, it features a rich, felted-cotton cover, foil-embossed with the Gebestliga coat of arms.

    Six illustrations were commissioned from our own Matthew Alderman, whose work as a liturgical illustrator and designer has ben featured in several publications, including Sacred Architecture, First Things, Antiphon, and The Living Church. In 2010, he completed 15 full-page illustrations for Liturgy Training Publications’ landmark altar edition of the Revised Roman Missal, and in 2011, he produced over 50 illustrations for HarperCollins UK’s Sunday and Weekday Missals.

    The Gebetsliga Prayer Book illustrations are executed in black and red ink and compliment the text, serving as a catalyst for meditation and prayer. It is perfect companion for all members of The League of Prayer or those just learning about Blessed Karl for the first time. Printed and bound in the U.S.A., the prayer book carries the Imprimatur of Bishop Roger J. Foys, D.D., of the Diocese of Covington, and an accompanying Nihil Obstat.

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    The Maltese town of Birkirkara, the largest on the island, has four parishes, one of which is dedicated to St Helena, the mother of the Emperor Constantine and discoverer of the relics of the True Cross. There is a pious tradition that St Helena stopped in Malta on her way back to Italy after her visit to Jerusalem. In any case, devotion to her is very old there going back to the late Middle Ages, as also in Sardinia, where Byzantine influence was also very strong.

    The Maltese diligently keep their patronal feasts with all the traditional solemnity, as we see very nicely here in the photos of the celebrations for the feast of the Finding of the Cross. The church is officially a collegiate church and basilica, with a college of canons, and two new members of the chapter were officially inducted on the feast as well. (Photos are reproduced by permission from the church’s Facebook page. Thanks to Canon Nicholas Doublet.)

    The new canons receive the mozzetta...
    pectoral cross
    and ring.

    Exchanging the peace with the members of the chapter.
    A relic of the Cross

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    (What follows is a reflection on the Proper of the Mass for the Fifth Sunday after Easter in the usus antiquior, celebrated yesterday morning.)

    Today’s Mass is a marvelous reminder and summons to give to the Lord the glory due His Holy Name. The Introit bids us: “Declare it with the voice of joy, and make this to be heard, alleluia: speak it out even to the ends of the earth.” In its breathless exuberance, the opening command does not define what “it” and “this” is! One is reminded of Mary Magdalen in the garden, so focused on the Lord that she says to the man she takes for the gardener: “Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him” — as if he already knows her inmost thoughts. The Introit then tells us what “it” and “this” is: “The Lord hath delivered His people, alleluia, alleluia.”

    What has He delivered us from? The Lesson speaks of the man who only hears the word and does not do it. This was — this is — the old Adam who hears the Law but does not keep it, the people of Israel who receive the justice of the Law from without, on tables of stone, not yet the mercy of the Law written on their hearts in tongues of fire. We cannot be doers of the word unless the Lord grants us His grace, that “new law” that does not abolish the old law but brings it to completion in our desires and actions. The people of Israel were just like the man who sees himself in a mirror — who knows his true identity as a son of God — but then walks away from the mirror and presently forgets what manner of man he was. The one who has besought and received the grace of Christ, in contrast, “hath looked into the perfect law of liberty and hath continued therein.”

    In the Gospel Our Lord teaches us that we must ask for this gift of grace, if we are to become men whose “religion is not in vain” but “clean and undefiled”: “If you ask the Father anything in My Name, He will give it you.” Jesus tells us precisely how to ask: in His Name. The very pattern of all prayer, the public prayer of the liturgy and our personal prayer in the time between liturgies, is thus established: we are to ask the Father for the grace of sonship, in the Name of Jesus, His beloved only-begotten Son, to whom we are joined in the bond of the Holy Spirit. This is trinitarian prayer, and therefore it is true, pleasing, and efficacious prayer. The liturgy is the most perfect embodiment of this prayer, for it is offered by the whole Mystical Body — by Christ Himself as Head, and His people as His members.

    Liturgical prayer was not something human beings cobbled together on their own; it was and is a gift received from above, coming down from the Father of lights like every good and perfect gift. Our Lord implies this much in the Gospel when He says: “The hour cometh when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will show you plainly of the Father.” All worship before the Sacrifice of the Cross was like a speaking in proverbs — hinting at and pointing towards the grace of Christ, but not containing it and effecting it. In the fullness of time, in the institution of the sacraments and especially of the Mass, and in the organic unfolding of this worship over time, Christ shows us plainly of the Father, revealing His face ever more to us, His children, “for the Father Himself loveth you.”

    Like the Son who “came out from God” — “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world” — so too does the liturgy come forth from the Father into the world, making known His love and making Him known and loved. We are like the disciples who can finally cry out: “Behold, now Thou speakest plainly and speakest no proverb.” In the liturgy, that which was in olden times veiled in riddles is revealed in its saving truth, yet still under the veil of our earthly “rites of tender devotion” (haec piae devotionis officia), as the Secret says, by which we “pass over into heavenly glory” (ad coelestem gloriam transeamus).

    As if to offer us a perfect illustration and actualization of the teaching of the Gospel as well as of the Lesson, the Church places on our lips two exemplary prayers that complement one another magnificently: the Collect and the Postcommunion. In the former, we pray:
    O God, from whom all good things do come [this includes, of course, our good works, and the grace that anticipates, accompanies, and follows them], grant to us, Thy suppliants, that by Thine inspiration we may think what is right, and under Thy guidance perform it. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son…
    To be a doer of the word, there must first be the word, the knowledge, the right thought; so that is the first thing for which we pray: “that we may think what is right.” We ask that our intellects be in conformity with the divine Intellect, for God is the first Truth, the source and measure of all truth, outside of whom there is no truth. So far from truth ever becoming an “idol,” as some have idly suggested, the worship of God and adherence to truth are totally coextensive, practically synonymous, and utterly inseparable. But knowing the truth is not enough; we must actually live by it, or in the semitic expression of St. James, “do” the truth. First, we conform; second, we perform.

    The Postcommunion, for its part, looks not at knowledge but at desire, not at the cognitive and executive power of man, but at the appetitive power, by which we are inclined towards the good, seeking it and holding on to it:
    Grant to us, O Lord, who are filled with strength from this heavenly Table, that we may both desire what is right, and obtain what we desire. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son...
    As St. Augustine cleverly says, the Old Law and the New Law have the same ending but different beginnings: timor and amor. The one stems from fear of punishment, the other from love of God. Christianity is not a religion of the abolition of desire, like Buddhism, but a religion of the intensification of the right desire, the desire for God Himself and for eternal life, that comprises, elevates, and transcends all desires. By the strength of the divine food we have received, we are capable of asking and of receiving right desire, desire of what is righteous, and righteousness itself. We can become, like the prophet Daniel, a “man of desires.”

    Thus, the Collect and the Postcommunion taken together sum up the entire Christian teaching about law and love, good works and grace. Lord, make us think what is right and then do it; make us desire what is right and obtain it. And this, not by our own lights or strength, but by Thine inspiration and Thy guidance, and by the strength of the Holy Eucharist.

    The marvels of the Proper of this Mass are certainly not yet exhausted! For there is an additional dimension to its teaching.

    Earlier we said that the liturgy, like the Son of God whom it brings into our midst, comes forth from God into time and shows us plainly the Father. But exactly how does it do this? Not simply through teaching, for then it would be reduced to a didactic vehicle like the old Law, more of those “proverbs” that Jesus says He will surpass with a more potent gift. No, the great Christian liturgy — all the authentic liturgical rites of Eastern and Western Christendom — proceeds rather by way of fulfilling what the verse of the Introit says (or sings): “shout with joy to God, sing ye a psalm to His Name, give glory to His praise.” We do not merely announce in speech the salvation of God; we chant it; we express it in noble neums and mounting melismas, glorious garments, rich vessels and stately ceremonies. We do not merely praise God; we give glory to His praise. What else does this mean, except that, to the very best of our ability and our resources, we expand and deepen the liturgical praise of God with the glory of the Church’s treasuries that she has placed at our disposal? She has lavishly bequeathed on us the gold and silver mined and refined over millennia, and we, for our part, with all the powers of our souls and bodies, take it up to “give glory to His praise.” In this way we fulfill the injunction of the Offertory antiphon: “O bless the Lord our God, ye nations, and heed carefully the voice of His praise.”

    How insistent is today’s Mass on this point can be seen from the series of imperatives that characterize its Propers. In the Introit: annuntiate (twice!), jubilate, psalmum dicite, date gloriam — declare, jubilate, utter a psalm, give glory! In the Offertory: benedicite, obaudite — bless, listen carefully! In the Communion: Cantate, cantate, benedicite, bene nuntiate — sing, sing, bless, proclaim it well! A veritable shower of imperatives, like rain falling on saplings or milk fed to children, that we may grow up into cedars of Lebanon, into the fullness of the manhood of Christ! And in its paradoxical way, the solemn liturgy has the schola chanting about announcing while the priest whispers about singing, as if we are being summoned to pray in every possible way at the same time, so that no manner of praise be lacking.

    And how well such full and various praise befits an “Easter people”! For “Christ is risen,” as the first Alleluia chants, “and hath shone upon us.” It is through the solemn liturgy that the light of the glorified Christ shines upon us. We are not left in the darkness of proverbs, to wrestle with words alone; the light of the Word Himself shines upon us, the radiance of His glory peers through the splendor of the Church’s liturgical rites, a foretaste of that “heavenly glory” into which we pray to pass over by our “rites of tender devotion.” If the liturgy leads us to the verge of glory, it too must already partake of that glory, as the heliotrope turns to the sun and in its vivid yellow already partakes of the light shining upon it.

    May Christ, who hath redeemed us with His precious Blood (cf. Alleluia), unite us now and forever with His high-priestly prayer, that we may declare with His voice and sing with His lips: “The Lord hath delivered His people, allelulia, alleluia.”

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    Prof. David Fagerberg on Beauty and Asceticism

    Beauty is the apex of an invisible pyramid of virtues; it is the flower on a stalk of living habits, habits which you cannot see, but which are necessary for beauty to exist.

    I recently had the great pleasure of attending the annual conference of the Institute for Religious Life. There were many highlights; all the speakers were excellent, but one in particular stood out for me. Dr David Fagerberg’s lecture entitled Beauty and Asceticism was perhaps the best talk at an event of this type I have ever heard. It was inspiring and enlightening, theoretical and practical, and for all the weightiness of the subject matter, light and entertaining to listen to.

    Drawing on the wisdom of the collection of texts written between the 4th and 15th century called The Philokalia, a Greek word which means “love of beauty”, he spoke of how the beautiful life is one that is transformed supernaturally in Christ. Through the Christian life, we partake of the divine nature, we are reborn and walk the Way of Beauty, a path of virtue and Christian asceticism.

    The audience was largely religious, and so he had that in mind when he gave this talk. As he points out, all of us are called to live an ascetic life to some degree. We might not be called to a life as a hermit in the desert or on a mountain top, but rather to a life where we are in the world, but not of it - an urban anchorite praying to the family icon corner in his suburban skete (an apartment block or cul-de-sac maybe). What Dr. Fagerberg does is point out the special role of the religious in the Church in cultivating this “ascetic aesthetic.”

    He gives us an image of the beautiful life as a flower on a stalk of virtue. This is flower power, but not an imaginary one borne of self-indulgence of the 1960s, but one rooted in the Christian life which has the force of the divine.

    It is the liturgy and the culture that cultivate such a transformation and by which we are deified. That is how we become people whose lives and work speak beautifully of Christ and how we become creative artists of the New Evangelization.

    Dr. Fagerberg, who is a professor in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame was kind enough to send to me the text of his talk, which I give to you here. He writes:

    In the 18th century, two Greek Orthodox scholars named Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain and Makarios of Corinth compiled a collection of writings they found in the libraries of monasteries on Mount Athos. They selected from among texts written between the 4th and 15th century for the guidance and instruction of monks in the contemplative life, and they titled their collection The Philokalia. Probably even our rudimentary Greek recognizes the first half of the word: philia is one of the Greek words for love, alongside eros and agape. The second half of the word is probably less familiar to us: kallos basically means “beauty,” so they were calling this collection The Love of Beauty. What might it be about? What might five volumes on the “love of beauty” contain? What topics would you include? Would a convenient search on Amazon books for “beauty” give us a hint? I find a literature book that explains the lyrical vision of tragic beauty; I find a cookbook by ‘the beauty chef,’ who can tell us about food for radiant well-being; I find a pop psychology book on radical beauty whereby you transform yourself from the inside out; and I find a philosophy book treating beauty in art, nature, and the human form.

    But when we crack open the Philokalia we find some unexpected sentences. Although this is a book about beauty, the first sentence of the first book of the first volume reads “There is among the passions an anger of the intellect, and this anger is in accordance with nature. Without anger a man cannot attain purity: he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy.” The next book is by Evagrius of Pontus, who sketches his topic by saying,

    “Of the demons opposing us in the practice of the ascetic life, there are three groups who fight in the front line: those entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek the esteem of men. (You might recognize the three temptations of Jesus in the wilderness, given in sequence 1, 3, 2.) All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those already wounded by the first three groups.”

    He offers these bits of advice: “Do you desire, then, to embrace this life of solitude, and to seek out the blessings of stillness? If so, abandon the cares of the world… .” “With regard to clothes, be content with what is sufficient for the needs of the body.” “Keep a sparse and plain diet, not seeking a variety of tempting dishes.”

    Flipping back to the table of contents, we see this is not an ordinary book on beauty. John Cassian writes about the eight vices, Mark the Ascetic offers 200 texts on the spiritual law, Hesychios the priest speaks of watchfulness and holiness. Maximus the Confessor takes up the most space in the five volumes, and he begins by saying “Dispassion engenders love, hope in God engenders dispassion, and patience and forbearance engender hope in God; these are the product of complete self-control, which itself springs from fear of God. Fear of God is the result of faith in God.”

    I hope I have startled you into appreciating the juxtaposition in my title: asceticism and beauty. (We might call it an ascetic aesthetic.) The spiritual and monastic tradition of both east and west have united the two, and so Makarios and Nicodemus title their five volumes dealing with fasting, vigils, self-discipline, constant prayer, contemplation, and the struggle between vices and virtues “a love of kallos.” Perhaps that word has a thicker meaning than our simplistic understanding of beauty. A Greek concordance reveals additional dimensions of the word, and, sure enough, kallos can be defined as
    • beautiful to look at, shapely, magnificent
    • good, excellent in nature, well adapted to its ends, pure
    • praiseworthy, morally good, noble, becoming
    • honorable, or conferring honor
    • affecting the mind agreeably, comforting and confirming
    • valuable, virtuous, fair
    Philo-kalia is a love of these goods. And a quick online search shows the appearance of the word in the following Scripture verses, and I think you would agree with the translator’s choice to render kallos as “good”:
    • Matthew 3,10 : that which does not bear good [kalon] fruit is cut down.
    • Matthew 5, 16 : that they may see your good [kala] works and give glory to your Father
    • Mark 9, 5 : Rabbi, it is good [kalon] for us to be here
    • John 2, 10 : everyone serves the good [kalon] wine first, and then the cheaper wine
    • and, indeed, John 10, 11 : I am the good [kalos] shepherd
    My purpose in calling out these examples from Scripture is to make us conscious of an additional meaning resonating in those verses. For example, that which does not bear beautiful fruit is cut down
    • that they may see your beautiful works and glorify your heavenly Father
    • Rabbi, this is a beautiful place to be
    • and Jesus is the Beautiful Shepherd
    Beauty, goodness, morality, nobility, honor, and virtue are inseparable from asceticism. Why would that be? I take this opportunity to try and think that through with you.

    Let’s invite Chesterton to provide us with an opening metaphor...

    To read the article or download a pdf full click this link.

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    As we have mentioned on other occasions, mostly recently on the feast of St Sebastian, the Ambrosian liturgy has a special rite which is observed for the celebration of the feasts of Martyrs in their own churches. A spherical metal frame is covered in a thin layer of cotton, and suspended above the sanctuary, with a crown and palm branches attached to the wire above it. This arangement is called a faro; the cotton is then lit on fire at the beginning of the Mass, as seen in the video below. Unlike the others which we have shown in the past, here the cotton is also decorated with red stars; Nicola tells me this is actually pretty commonly done. The photo and video were taken by him this morning at the basilica of St Victor in Varese, a small city 32 miles to the northwest of Milan, which uses the Ambrosian Rite like the rest of the diocese, and honors St Victor as its Patron.

    In the Canon of the Ambrosian Mass, Ss Victor, Nabor and Felix are named together in the Communicantes. They were Christian soldiers from the Roman province of Africa, who were killed in the first year of the persecution of Diocletian, 303 AD, while serving at Milan under the Emperor Maximian. Nabor and Felix were beheaded in the nearby city of Laus Pompeia, now called Lodi Vecchio, and their feast is on July 12th; St Victor, who was much older than the other two, was martyred later, at Milan itself, and his feast is kept on May 8th in the Ambrosian Calendar. He is often called “Maurus - the Moor” to distinguish him from the innumerable other Saints with the name Victor, which was very common in the Roman world. The two feasts share a beautiful hymn, in which Milan expresses its pride in these “guests upon this soil, of the Moorish nation, strangers in our lands, … (whom she) stole from the camps of the wicked and consecrated to Christ.”
    The Basilica of St Victor in Varese

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    New Liturgical Movement is pleased to share this important news with our readers. Please keep the hermits in your prayers and spread the word to men who might be called to the eremitical life.

    In Cujus Conspectu: A New Contemplative Religious Community of Men
    “Vivit Dominus Deus Israel, in cujus conspectu sto” (3 Kings 17:1). His Excellency, Bishop Ronald Gainer of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has warmly given his blessing to a new religious community of men, the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (, erecting the community as an Association of the Faithful on February 22nd, the 15th anniversary of His Excellency’s episcopal consecration.

    This community observes the eremitical Carmelite charism according to the life of the original community of hermits on Mount Carmel and the primitive Carmelite Rule written for them by St. Albert of Jerusalem in the early 1200s. Strictly following the Rule in its original character of eremitical contemplative religious life, they are reviving the life of those ancient religious, who “in imitation of that holy anchorite the prophet Elijah, led solitary lives” (Jacques de Vitry, Bishop of Acre, History of Jerusalem). “Let each stay in his cell or nearby it, day and night meditating on the law of the Lord and keeping vigil in prayers unless occupied by other just occasions” (Primitive Carmelite Rule of St. Albert).

    Divine Charity in the Heart of the Church

    “Deus caritas est” (1 Jn. 4:16). Without charity the soul dies and the Church withers. St. Thomas Aquinas explains that charity is the life of the soul, even as the soul is the life of the body. The specific end of charity is to be united to God, and thus prayer, which is the raising of the mind and heart to God, is necessary for perfect charity. “Limitless loving devotion to God, and the gift God makes of Himself to you, are the highest elevation of which the heart is capable; it is the highest degree of prayer. The souls that have reached this point are truly the heart of the Church” (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

    To assist the life of the other members of the Mystical Body of Christ, God provides, as the heart of the Church, contemplative religious who are especially dedicated to striving for consummate union with the Redeemer, and to perpetuating the redemptive and sanctifying power of His crucified love through the offering of continual prayer and penance united to the holy Sacrifice of the Mass: “Salve, Salus mundi, Verbum Patris, Hostia sacra, viva Caro, Deitas integra, verus Homo” (Priest’s Prayer Before Communion in the Carmelite Rite). Therefore, clothed in the holy Habit of Our Lady, Mater Pulchrae Dilectionis, the Mother of Fair Love, and in union with Him Whose Heart is Fornax Ardens Caritatis, the Burning Furnace of Charity, the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel immolate themselves for the glory of the one true God, the honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the spiritual benefit of the Church, so that God may be known, adored, loved, and served in every soul.

    To Enkindle Many Hearts for God

    “Zelo zelatus sum pro Domino Deo exercituum” (3 Kings 19:10). The Hermits came to the Diocese of Harrisburg to live an eremitical religious life of prayer and penance. Nicholas, the Prior General of the Carmelite Order (1266-1271) records that the first religious on Mount Carmel “tarried long in the solitude of the desert, conscious of their own imperfection. Sometimes, however, though rarely, they came down from their desert, anxious, so as not to fail in what they regarded as their duty, to be of service to their neighbors, and sowed broadcast of the grain, threshed out in preaching, that they had so sweetly reaped in solitude with the sickle of contemplation.”

    Therefore, in an age when the charity of many has grown cold, the Hermits also labor to help souls to advance in the spiritual life and in perfect charity so as to produce enduring fruits in their proper vocations and states of life. Being located in Fairfield, Pennsylvania makes it possible for the Hermits to help to provide traditional priestly and sacramental services for the holy daughters of St. Teresa in the area, the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in the Carmel of Jesus, Mary & Joseph in Fairfield.

    In addition, once the Hermits receive the necessary resources, they will establish a guest and retreat house available for a prayerful retreat for priests, seminarians, religious, and the lay faithful, or a religious setting for those visiting the area or the beautiful chapel of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns in order to be refreshed and enkindled by the rich liturgical and spiritual life that resounds therein. Committed to a full religious observance, manual labor, and priestly service to souls, the community does not operate any regular business, but subsists on alms and the charity of the faithful.

    The community’s location in Fairfield, is only minutes from Emmitsburg, MD, near Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, and the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and is also within driving range of Harrisburg, Washington DC, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Richmond, and even New Jersey or New York.

    For More Information

    To contact or learn more about the ancient charism, religious observance, and community of the Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, or for vocation inquiries, please visit: or write to:

    Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
    P.O. Box 485
    Fairfield, PA 17320

    “Confidito, Petre; religio enim Carmelitarum in finem usque saeculi est perseveratura; Elias namque ejus Institutor jam olim etiam a Filio meo id impetravit.” “Have confidence, Peter; for the Order of the Carmelites is to persevere until the end of the world; for indeed Elias, its Founder, has already obtained that from my Son.” -- Words of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Peter Thomas in the Carmelite Rite Breviary

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    The great advantage of the blog as a medium is the ease with which one can include pictures, videos and hyperlinks in an article; and a picture, as they say, is worth 1000 words. I am not, however, going to include here any pictures, videos and hyperlinks of the spectacle which recently took place in New York; you can find them easily enough on the internet, along with a variety of articles about it. The funniest take on it I have seen thus far comes from a priest friend who wrote on Facebook that the whole thing looked like a party in District One during the Hunger Games.

    I will, however, hyperlink and quote this superb piece by Ross Douthat, opinion columnist at the New York Times, “Make Catholicism Weird Again.”
    It was the church’s own leadership that decided, in the years following the Second Vatican Council, that the attachment to the church as culture had become an impediment to the mission of preaching the gospel in the modern world. It was the leadership that embraced a different approach, in which Catholic Christianity would seek to enter more fully into modern culture, adopting its styles and habits — modernist and even brutalist church architecture, casual dress, guitar music, a general suburban and Protestant affect, etc. — in order to effectively transform it from within. It was the leadership that decided that much of … Catholicism’s cultural glory — the old Mass above all, but also a host of customs and costumes and rituals — needed to be retired in order to reach people in a more disenchanted age.”
    This reminds me of a video published several years ago by Catholic News Service, an interview with Fr Joseph Kramer FSSP. At 0:35, he notes that “Paul VI talked about the sacrifice that we’d have to make of many things that we love in our own Catholic culture, as part of the process of adapting to the world in the ’60s. Now we’re on fifty years later, we’re realizing that it’s time to recuperate something of our heritage.”

    The peculiar (and, let me say, extremely clever) title of Douthat’s article refers to the fact that our modern reforms effectively removed or downplayed a great deal of what made Catholicism “weird” in the eyes of the world: the use of a sacred language and a sacred form of music, relics, exorcisms, decidedly old-fashioned looking vestments and habits, etc. Ordinary Catholics who watched these reforms take place with trepidation, whether clergy or laity, were solemnly assured that these “sacrifices” would indeed have the most salutary effect of bringing the world back to Christ. Those who dared to pointed out that not only had the world rejected this overture, but Catholics themselves were giving up the practice of the Faith in droves, were solemnly assured that was certainly not happening. Once it became impossible to deny, they were solemnly assured that this was all quite unavoidable in our modern secular world, as if the reforms themselves had not been enacted precsiely on the grounds that they were necessary to evangelize the modern secular world.

    But, as Douthat very rightly points out, it is precisely the “weird” parts of Catholicism, the parts that speak of the mysterious and transcendent, and that were ditched, which have lost none of their fascination for the modern secular world. The costumes at this gala were unquestionably exaggerations, many of them grotesquely so, such that charges of mockery are inevitable, whether mockery was intended or not. But what was exaggerated was all the best of Catholicism, the parts that speak of things which are holy and mysterious: “all the weirder parts of Catholicism that were supposedly a stumbling block to modernity’s conversion.” The worst of modern Catholicism, the ugly, prosaic, banal and boring which we as a Church inflict upon ourselves to no good purpose, was very decidely not on display. A long dress was printed with Michelangelo’s paintings in the Sistine Chapel; there were no printing of the blank retable over the altar of the award-winning Iglesia di Iesu.

    A pop singer was dressed as the Mother of Sorrows (a costume which completely justifies Douthat’s use of the verb “blasphemed”), but she wasn’t dressed like Karl Rahner. Another singer wore a tall mitre made to look like it was covered in diamonds, (perhaps in reference to the title of one of her songs); she did not wear one of the stumpy little polyester boxes on which outlandish sums of money are now spent to achieve the appearance of poverty. Or, as this wag on Twitter put it:

    People instinctively know that beauty is proper to the things of God. If you go to the Gesù in Rome, you can watch all day as tourists and pilgrims alike remain fascinated by this magnificent side altar, which houses the relics of St Ignatius,
    while most of them barely notice (thank God) this horror show.
    The brutalist pulpit and altar of the Gesù, installed a number of years ago, also came with a very slightly less brutal presider’s chair (not pictured.) The mouse-grey platform was installed at the same time - previously, there was a plexiglass table in the real sanctuary. The shwarma under the Paschal candle is more recent.
    It is high time for the Church to take this lesson to heart. Aggiornamento, which had already grown old by the early 1970s, is now in the final stage of its decrepitude, “and that which decayeth and groweth old is near its end.” Ross Douthat concludes his piece by writing that “The path forward for the Catholic Church in the modern world is extraordinarily uncertain. But there is no plausible path that does not involve more of what was displayed and appropriated and blasphemed against in New York City Monday night, more of what once made Catholicism both great and weird, and could yet make it both again.” To deny this is to keep the Church in a state of senile dementia.

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    Thanks to Mr Jacob Bauer for providing these photos and description of a Pontifical Requiem celebrated last month at the Univ. Nebraska-Lincoln Newman Center.

    On April 17 in Lincoln, Nebraska, His Excellency Bishop Robert Finn celebrated a Pontifical Requiem Mass at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Newman Center, for the university’s Venerable Sheen Society, a group of young adult followers of the traditional Latin Mass. Fr. Josef Bisig, founder and first superior general of the Fraternity of St Peter, served as the Assistant Priest. Eight students from UNL learned how to serve Pontifical Mass, while the Knights of the Holy Eucharist, founded by Mother Angelica and originally from Alabama, served as torch-bearers.

    The catafalque was built by two UNL students; the stain and trim were specifically manufactured to match the interior of the chapel.
    For the liturgical music, the schola from the FSSP’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary teamed up with a small group of UNL students for the Mass chants and polyphony. Speaking on behalf of many that were present, the Requiem chants were sung in a particularly beautiful way by the FSSP seminarians; no surprise, given their recent Requiem album, which was released in May 2017, and rode the top of the classical charts for 13 straight weeks.

    Fr Justin Wylie, originally from Johannesburg, South Africa, preached at the Mass; his sermon can be found here. “Indeed, what more efficacious thing can one do for one’s loved ones—and indeed, even for one’s enemies—than to than to lay down one’s life; in this case, the same life-offering of our Savior, Jesus Christ? For that is was is offered to the Father at such a Mass—the irresistible offering, perfect atonement, sufficient satisfaction for any and all the world’s sins. You can do no greater thing for anyone, anywhere, ever, than this.”

    At the absolution.

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  • 05/10/18--16:36: Durandus on the Ascension
  • The following texts are take from William Durandus’ Rationale Divinorum Officium, book 6, chapter 104, in my own translation.

    On the feast of the Lord’s Ascension, which is celebrated on the fortieth day after Easter, since Christ on the fortieth day after the Resurrection ascended into heaven, a solemn procession is held; for the Lord commanded that His disciples go before him to the Mount of Olives, that they might see Him ascend. And they made a procession for Him, and He, lifting up is hands, was born into heaven. … This procession signifies the going from virtue to virtue (or “from strength to strength”) and (during it), a responsory is sung from the Office of the Ascension, that we may be invited to ascend after the Lord.

    The Ascension, by Benvenuto Tisi (1481-1559), generally known as Garofalo.
    Now the Lord ascended from Bethany, which means “obedience”, from place which He led the Apostles out. By this is signified that fact that without obedience, no one can ascend into heaven. For this reason, some churches sing during the procession the responsories which speak about the Lord leading them out. The fact that He ascended from the Mount of Olives signifies that we must ascend by means of the works of mercy. … There follows the Introit “Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to heaven? etc” For they were looking with their eyes fixed, and would have looked even longer, had the Angels not told them to depart, saying, “This Jesus, Who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, as you have seen him going into heaven.” That is, He will so come to judge, in a cloud. The cloud signifies grace, since without the cloud, and without grace, no one can ascend, even Christ, insofar as He is a man, and the cloud in which He ascended signifies this. And because the joy over the Ascension cannot be expressed in speech, therefore there follows the verse “All ye nations, clap your hands.”

    There follows the Epistle “The former treatise” (Acts 1, 1-11) which speaks of the Ascension, then the double Alleluja, since the Lord ascended in a double garment (i.e. in His divinity and His humanity), … the first Alleluja is “God has ascended with rejoicing”, which is to say, with the ineffable joy of the ancient Fathers, who ascended with Him (from the limbo of the Fathers), and the Apostles and Angels, saying “Who is this king of glory?” (Psalm 23, 8) (just as) Isaiah says (63, 1) “Who is this that cometh from Edom?” (From very ancient times, both of these texts were understood by the Fathers as references to the Ascension; see the sermon of St Gregory of Nyssa on the fourth day within the octave of the Ascension in the Breviary of St Pius V.) There follows “And the Lord in the voice of the trumpet”, that is, with the terrible sound, referring to the voice of the Angels; or else, the Lord speaks though the Angels, when he said to the Apostles, “So shall He come.” … There follows the Gospel of Mark (16, 14-20), who roars out (i.e, like a lion, his traditional symbol), “As the eleven disciples were at table”, which continues “He reproved them”; this is the roaring. …

    It should also be said that some of the things which are sung on this day tell the story of the Ascension, such as that which John says after the Passion, (i.e., the antiphon at the Benedictus, “I go up to my Father and yours, my God and yours, alleluia.” from John 20, 17), and the words “God has gone up.” But some of them are the consolatiom of the Bridegroom to the bride, such as “Let your heart not be troubled, nor fearful”, and “It is time that I return”, and “If I do not go, the Paraclete shall not come.” (These are all texts from the responsories of Matins.) Some others are the congratulations of the Bride to the Bridegroom, such as the responsory “Be thou exalted, o Lord” and “Thou makest the cloud.” In the narrative part, hope is conceived, in the part about consolation, it is raised up, in the congratulations is it made certain and declared.

    Likewise, in the day’s Mass, the Ascension is narrated in the Epistle and Gospel, where it is said that the Lord was taken up into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, in equality with the Father. In the Alleluja, “The Lord is on Sinai” the bride congratulates; in the other Alleluja, “I will not leave you”, the bridegroom consoles. In the Offertory, it is narrated that the Ascension was completed, and likewise in the Communion, which says “Sing ye to the Lord, who mounteth above the heaven of heavens to the East, alleluia.” that is, (sing) to the Word, united to Him as one person. It is not said that He has arisen (i.e., in the past), nor that He will arise, but rather, that He is arising, because the Son proceeds eternally from the Father, …

    Icon of the Ascension, by Andreas Ritzos (1421-92). At the very top, the Holy Trinity is represented by showing the three Angels that appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18, 1-10. This follows the standard custom of Byzantine iconography, made particularly famous by the Trinity of Andrej Rubliev.

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    Readers in southeastern New England may want to mark their calendars for this event. A Solemn Mass will be celebrated according to the 1962 Missal at Good Shepherd Parish (St Patrick Church) in Fall River, Massachusetts, on May 23, starting at 10:00 am, and followed by a Marian procession to nearby St Stanislaus Church. The church is located at 1598 South Main St.

    The first Solemn Mass to be offered in this church since the liturgical reform was celebrated on May 26, 2016, the feast of Corpus Christi that year; it attracted several hundreds of the faithful, including Catholic school students, most of whom had never experienced the traditional Mass. It was my pleasure to celebrate the second Solemn Mass, a Votive Mass of Our Lady, on May 17 of last year. Father Andrew Johnson, the pastor, has worked hard to promote our Catholic liturgical, musical and spiritual heritage.

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    The Roman Rite has various ways of arranging the Masses during an octave. That of Easter, for example, has a completely proper Mass for every day, that of Pentecost for every day but Thursday, which was originally an “aliturgical” day; when its Mass was instituted later, it was given proper readings, but everything else is repeated from Sunday. The feast of Ss Peter and Paul is continued with one Mass for the days within the octave, and another for the octave day itself, plus the special Commemoration of St Paul on June 30th. Some others, however, especially the relatively late ones like Corpus Christi and All Saints, simply repeat the Mass of the day throughout the octave.

    A folio of the Echternach Sacramntary, 895 AD, with the last two prayers of the Mass of St Paul, those of Ss Processus and Martinian on July 2, and the first two prayers of the octave of Ss Peter and Paul.
    The feast of the Ascension falls into the latter category, although the Mass of the Sunday within the octave, which is older than the octave itself, is different. Octaves are for the contemplation of mysteries that are too great for a single day, and it is certainly true that “repetita juvant”, a proverb which the Roman Rite, with its habitual conservatism, historically took very much to heart. One might argue, however, that there was some room for expanding the repertoire of readings within this octave in particular, in a way that would have been fully consonant with the tradition of the Rite, and expanded the scope of such contemplation.

    The very oldest lectionary of the Roman Rite, the Comes (the Latin word for “companion”) of Wurzburg, attests to the Roman system of readings as it was in the middle of the 7th century. (The manuscript itself was copied out in roughly 700-750.) Although there are some notable differences, it is unmistakably the same system as that of the Missals of Ss Pius V and John XXIII. Its Gospels for the entire Easter season are almost entirely the same, while those of the second oldest Comes, that of Murbach, are exactly the same. Both of them also attest to a feature which was not included in the late medieval Missal of the Roman Curia, the immediate predecessor of that of St Pius V, namely, a series of ferial readings for the Wednesdays and Fridays throughout the year. In Wurzburg, this feature is very irregular; some weeks have readings for both days, some have one for Saturday as well, but others them have only for one day, and others have none. In Murbach, which is from roughly a century later, it has been completely regularized, and every Wednesday and Friday has readings assigned to it.

    On the Wednesday after the Ascension, the Gospel is the very end of St Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, 49-53. (Ss Matthew and John do not describe the Ascension, although Christ Himself refers to it in the Gospel of St John, 20, 17, in the words that form the antiphon for the Benedictus, “I go up to my Father and yours, my God and yours, alleluia.”) The Roman Rite tends to choose shorter passages than both the Ambrosian and Byzantine Rites, which have a longer selection from this passage, verses 36-53, (everything after the Supper at Emmaus) as the main Gospel of the feast; the Byzantines read the Roman Gospel at Orthros. In the Neo-Gallican Use of Paris, which expanded the Roman corpus of Scriptural readings considerably, while keeping to the traditional structure of the lectionary, verses 44-53 were assigned to the octave day of the Ascension.

    Another passage which is connected to the feast is one of the most beautiful in St John’s Gospel, chapter 17, which Biblical scholars now often call the “priestly prayer.” On the vigil of the Ascension, the Missal of St Pius V has only the first 10 ½ verses, breaking off at vs. 11 “… and I come to thee.” The rest of the chapter is not read in either the temporal or sanctoral cycles, but verses 11-23 are the Gospel of the Votive Mass to remove a schism. In the Murbach lectionary, the rest of passage is read on the Wednesday following the Fourth Sunday after Easter; on the Sunday after the Ascension, the Ambrosian Rite reads the full chapter, while the Byzantine reads the first 13 verses. The revised Parisian Use kept the traditional Roman Gospel for the vigil, then very cleverly divided the rest into two parts. Verses 11b-19, in which Christ prays for the Apostles, is read on the Friday within the octave of the Ascension; the rest of the chapter, in which He prays “also for those who shall believe in Me though their word”, is assigned to Tuesday.

    Two leaves of the Parisian Missal of 1736, with part of the propers for the Mass for the Friday after the octave of the Ascension, and the beginning of the vigil of Pentecost.
    The Parisian Use is in many respects inspired by tradition, as in the examples given above, but did not shy away from innovations, which vary in quality. One of its better innovations, which has no precedent in the ancient Roman lectionaries, is the Gospel chosen for the Friday between the Octave day and the vigil of Pentecost, which is traditionally celebrated as a kind of extension of the octave. (The Roman Missal repeats the Gospel of the Sunday). The liturgy of the Ascension often looks forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, which, as we noted yesterday, Durandus describes as the consolation of Christ the Bridegroom to his Bride the Church. An example is the responsory “If I do not go, the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, will not come.” With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles will go out in the world to preach the Gospel, for which they, and many others after them, will receive the crown of martyrdom. The Parisian Use therefore moves away from St John, who dominates the Easter season, and takes this passage from St Luke, (12, 8-12), which looks forward to the ongoing witness to the life and teachings of Christ in the mission of His Church.

    “At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God. But he that shall deny me before men, shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but to him that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven. And when they shall bring you into the synagogues, and to magistrates and powers, be not solicitous how or what you shall answer, or what you shall say; For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what you must say.”

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    Fr Dunstan from St Mary’s Monastery in Petersham, Massachusetts, a daughter house of Pluscarden Abbey in Scotland, has let me know the dates for the next Monastic Experience Weekend. This is a chance to live in the monastery and job-shadow the monks for 48 hours. These events have been very successful in the past so I am happy to pass on the details once again.

    The dates are June 22-24, at St Mary’s, which is a contemplative Benedictine monastery in Central Massachusetts, 70 miles from Boston. The weekend is for single Catholic men aged 18-40, a chance to experience a full monastic office in Latin and Gregorian chant seven times per day, with English readings, all according to the revised post-Vatican II liturgical books

    It should be noted that outside these structured weekends, there is a guest house for men and women with 18 single rooms; there is no fixed charge, but donations are welcome. The Facebook page is here, and the website is

    If you are interested you can contact them via these links or contact Fr Gregory at:

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    A reviewer of my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness(Angelico, 2017) made a point that got me thinking. He said that while he agreed with my critique of the Novus Ordo and himself preferred the traditional rite, he thought I should have wrestled more with the fact that there are flourishing religious congregations exclusively reliant on the Novus Ordo. He cited the Missionaries of Charity and the Nashville Dominicans as examples. Clearly, these communities are full of fervent disciples of the Lord who are nourished from the liturgy of Paul VI, so it cannot be the case that this liturgy is “all bad,” so to speak.

    Now, apart from the fact that I have never argued and never would argue that the Novus Ordo is “all bad” (something that would be metaphysically impossible, in any case), I welcome this observation as an opportunity to think more closely about how exactly this phenomenon may be explained.

    Such religious communities are bringing to the liturgy a spiritual disposition that enables them to benefit from the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist — a disposition they are not necessarily developing from the liturgy as such. The Novus Ordo can be fruitful for those who already have a fervent and well-ordered interior life, built up by other means; but for those who do not, it will offer few pegs on which to climb up. In this respect it is unlike the traditional liturgy, which has within itself enormous resources for enkindling and expanding the interior life.

    One might make a political comparison to elucidate this point. The basic philosophical problem with the American regime is not that a good use cannot be made of its political institutions, but that they presuppose a virtuous citizenry in order to work at all. Time and time again, the American Founding Fathers say things like: “As long as the people are virtuous, they can govern themselves with these mechanisms.” But the aims of government do not include producing a virtuous citizenry; this is seen as above and beyond the government’s limited scope. Government is supposed to act like a police officer who regulates the flow of traffic; it is assumed that people know how to drive and basically drive well.

    The traditional view, as we find it for instance in Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclicals, is that government has a God-given responsibility for the moral and spiritual welfare of the people, and must lead them to the observance of the natural law and dispose them as well as possible to the observance of the divine law. In this model, the government is more like a parent, teacher, and counselor who knows what the human good is and actively fosters the attainment of it by as many citizens as possible. This is why, for Leo XIII, a good government will necessarily involve the Catholic Church in educating the citizens of the regime, so that they may have the best possibility of developing virtues. Virtue does not develop spontaneously or accidentally.

    The liturgical parallel is not hard to see. The Novus Ordo is like the American government. It is an orderly structure or framework within which free activity can take place, but it does not specify or dictate in a rigorous way how that activity ought to be pursued. It is like the benign and neutral policeman — a certain precondition for peace, but not the representative and spokesman of peace. The minimal rubrics function like boundaries on a sports field. The people who attend are assumed to know how to pray, how to “participate actively” (as if this is at all evident!), and how to be holy. They come to display and demonstrate what is already within them.

    The traditional liturgy, in contrast, forthrightly adopts the attitude of parent, teacher, and counselor. It assumes that you are in a dependent position and must be shaped in your spirituality, molded in your thoughts, educated in your piety. Its rubrics are numerous and detailed. The liturgy knows exactly what you need in terms of silence, chant, prayers, antiphons, and it delivers them authoritatively, in a way that emphasizes the liturgy’s own perfection and your receptivity. The traditional liturgy establishes a standard of virtue and makes the worshiper conform to it. It does not presuppose that you are virtuous.

    This helps to explain the intentionally Protean adaptability of the modern liturgical rites, in their optionitis and spectrum of artes celebrandi. Moderns don’t really think there can be a fixed and virtuous liturgy that should form them into its image. As heirs of the Enlightenment that enthroned human reason as king and assumed a supposedly rational control over all aspects of society, moderns feel they need to be in some way in charge of the liturgy. It has to have options to accommodate us in our pluralism.

    In this way the Novus Ordo betrays its provenance in a democratic and relativistic age, in stark contrast with the traditional liturgy that was born and developed entirely in monarchical and aristocratic eras (and this, of course, by Divine Providence, since God knew best what human beings needed, and ensured that the rites would embody it). Even if one wished to say, for the sake of argument, that secular society is better off democratized — a claim that would seem counterintuitive, to say the least, especially if one could canvas the opinions of the countless millions of victims of abortion murdered under the free regimes of the Western world — one must nevertheless maintain as a matter of principle that the divine liturgy, being from and for the King of kings and Lord of lords, cannot be democratized without ceasing to exist. It must remain monarchical and aristocratic in order to remain divine liturgy, as opposed to a self-derived human patriotism.

    If you are that fortunate person who has a robustly developed life of faith, whether from a Protestant upbringing prior to your conversion, or frequent attendance at adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or a constant and childlike Marian devotion, you bring all of this fullness with you when you attend the Novus Ordo, and you fill the relative emptiness of the liturgical form with that fullness. In this case, your fullness (so to speak) meets Christ’s fullness in the Eucharist, and there is a meeting of minds and a marriage of souls. This, it seems to me, could be what is happening with those aforementioned religious communities that are flourishing in spite of the defects of the Novus Ordo as a lex orandi, in its anthropological assumptions, theological content, and aesthetic form.

    With the traditional Mass, it is different. It produces an awareness of the interior life that is the first step to a more profound interior conversion. It contains ample Eucharistic adoration within it, and so, it feeds this hunger of the soul and intensifies it to the point that it overflows beyond the confines of the liturgy. Its spirituality is Marian through and through, so it tends to lead souls to Our Lady, who is waiting for them there. In every way, this Mass is actively calling into being a mind for worship and a heart for prayer; it carves out a space in the soul to fill it full of Christ. It does not presuppose that you are at that point, but pulls and draws you there, due to its confident possession of the truth about God and man. It is not leaning on you to supply it with force or relevance; it is not waiting for you to be the active party. It is inherently full and ready to act upon you, to supply you with your meaning. And paradoxically, it does all this through not being focused on you, your problems, your potentialities. It works because it is so resolutely and bafflingly focused on the Lord.

    There is an irony here, inasmuch as the didacticism of the Novus Ordo seems to be aimed at explaining and eliciting certain acts of religion, while the usus antiquior seems to take for granted that one knows what to do. But in reality, the new rite's didacticism interferes with the free exercise of these acts of religion, and the usus antiquior's "indifference" to the attendees more subtly challenges them to build new interior habits proportioned to the earnestness and intensity of the liturgical action. By attempting to provide for the worshiper everything he "needs," the modern rite fails to provide the one thing needful: an unmistakeable sense of encounter with the ineffable mystery of God, whom no words of ours can encompass, whom no actions of ours can domesticate. The usus antiquior knows better, and therefore strives to do both less and more — less, by not leading children by the apron strings of a school teacher; more, in terms of calling into being new ascetical-mystical capacities that depend radically on a fixed and dense "regimen" of prayer, chant, and bodily gestures. “I have run the way of thy commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart” (Ps 118:32). In this domain, the old rite shows us that (if we may paraphrase a contemporary author) space is greater than time. Having a capacious and symbolically dense space within which to "play" is of greater benefit, in the long run, than spending an hour doing verbal exercises in the confines of a modern classroom.

    These differences, which play out in ways both subtle and obvious, cannot fail to have an impact on priestly and religious vocations and on the manner in which various communities understand their relationship to worship and contemplation.

    (The argument of this article will be completed next week.)

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    The parish of St Pius X in Fairfield, Connecticut, will sponsor an Extraordinary Form Solemn Mass for the feast of Corpus Christi on Thursday, May 31, at 7 pm. The Mass is the first such celebration at the church in at least 50 years. The church is located at 834 Brookside Drive.

    The Rev. Timothy Iannacone, parochial vicar, will be the celebrant; the Rev. Michael Novajosky, recently named pastor of the linked parish of the Cathedral of St Augustine and St Patrick’s Parish, will be deacon, and the Rev. Donald Kloster, parochial vicar at St Mary’s, Norwalk, will serve as Subdeacon. The Rev. Samuel S. Kachuba, pastor of St. Pius X, will preach. The Mass will be followed by a procession of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. Music and other details will follow.

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    Some NLM readers will be aware of the Neo-Coptic iconography of Dr Stephane Rene. He is one of the main figures in the group of iconographers who are working to maintain the momentum of the revival of the Coptic style of iconography, a student of the man who is generally seen as responsible for reestablishing Coptic iconography in the mid-20th century, the late Dr Isaac Fanous.

    In my opinion, the Coptic revival demonstrates just how a tradition can not only be re-established after a hiatus in practice, but it can be done so in such a way that the new work surpasses the quality of the old. This latter point is just a personal opinion, but I am struck by how powerfully distinctive and instantly recognizable the neo-Coptic style is. It participates in the tradition of Coptic iconography, but at the same time has a wide appeal to contemporary Christians from other rites and churches, as well as, presumably, Coptic Christians. I have seen Stephane’s icons in Catholic churches on a number of occasions, for example.

    Furthermore, (and again, this is just a personal opinion), although the style originates from a very different starting point, they do not look so “un-Roman” as, for example, a Russian icon. I would be interested to know how readers feel about this.

    I wanted to bring his work to your attention again for a couple of reasons. One is that I had occasion to talk to him not long ago, and he sent me examples of recent work.

    The second is that he told me of his concerns about ensuring that the tradition survives, and has started to take on students who are committed to learning and maintaining the tradition. He is in touch with a number of students in the US and Canada whom he tutors via video connection. He told me that he was initially skeptical of the potential for such distance-learning, but has now changed his mind.

    “I now have three promising young Coptic students, two doing a BA in fine art in Canada, and a third from California who already has a BA in painting. I had been following them for the last 2-3 years on Facebook, and they eventually contacted me separately, begging me for some kind of tuition. I accepted and started weekly group video calls on Messenger (for now). It has been quite an interesting experience so far, and I now see that my reservations about teaching iconography online were not warranted. I give them written assignments, exercises and a reading list that includes The Way of Beauty, which I consider a must for any student of Christian sacred art. As you may already know, the very existence of Coptic iconography is now very much in jeopardy and I want to do whatever I can to contribute.”

    In the Roman Church, we are lagging behind the Eastern Churches in this regard. This is going to sound harsh, but in my opinion, we are still looking for our own Fanous who will re-establish the distinctive Catholic traditions of art, such as the Gothic or Baroque, with such great effect. I hope that this story will inspire artists out there to believe that we can have beautiful liturgical art again.

    If anyone wishes to contact him, you can do so via his website:

    Also, here is an excellent interview with Stephane, who is a deacon at the Coptic Church in London where he lives, in the Orthodox Arts Journal.


    For reference, here is a 6th century apse from Bawit, now in the Coptic Museum in Cairo.
    Related image
    And here is an icon by Dr Fanous, circa 1970, from St George Coptic Church in Sporting, Alexandria.
    Early icon of the Virgin by Isaac Fanous, circa 1970.  St George Coptic church, Sporting, Alexandria

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    The end of May will see a number of lectures and Latin liturgies of interest to tradition-loving Catholics in the cities of Ottawa and Winnipeg.


    In celebration of its 50th anniversary, St. Clement Parish presents a lecture by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski: “The Supreme Expression of the Lex Orandi: Twelve Truths of the Faith Transmitted by the Roman Canon.” In this lecture, Kwasniewski will discuss the rich theological content and awesome reverence towards of the sole Eucharistic prayer used in the Roman Rite of the Church for nearly 1,400 years, with its roots going back even further, as well as the problems implicit in having abandoned this tradition in favor of a multiplicity of anaphoras.

    The lecture will take place on Saturday, May 26, at 7:00 pm, at St. Paul’s University, 223 Main Street, Ottawa. Free admission (suggested donation $10). Refreshments and book signing with the lecturer to follow.


    The Society of St. Dominic will be honouring Most Rev. Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, with the Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii award at the Fort Garry Hotel on Wednesday, May 30th, 2018. His Excellency will deliver an address.

    The Society has commissioned New York iconographer Mr. Ken Woo to create the inaugural award, which will be presented by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. The Master of Ceremonies for the evening will be Mr. Alex Begin, Executive Producer and Host of EWTN’s Extraordinary Faith. Music for the evening will be provided by the Rembrandt String Quartet.

    Tickets are $100 per person, payable by cash or cheque. (To minimize transaction costs, we are not accepting credit card payments.) Cheques should be made payable to the SOCIETY OF ST. DOMINIC. NB: Deadline for registration is May 23rd.

    For further inquiries, email or call the Society of St. Dominic:
    Telephone: (431) 800-5803 / Toll Free: (866) 244-7136

    Bishop Schneider will be offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Wednesday, May 30th, and Thursday, May 31st (Corpus Christi), at 9:30 am each day. On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Begin and Dr. Kwasniewski will be speaking at the Canadian Mennonite University.


    Wednesday, May 30, 2018

    9:30–11:00 am   Extraordinary Form Low Mass celebrated by Bishop Schneider
                               (music by a men’s choir under the direction of Dr. Kwasniewski)
                               St Anthony of Padua Church, 250 Burrin Ave.
                               Winnipeg MB R2V 1E5

    6 pm–12 am      Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii Award Dinner
                               Bishop Schneider, Dr. Kwasniewski, Mr. Begin (MC)
                               The Fort Garry Hotel, 222 Broadway
                               Winnipeg, MB R3C 0R3
                               [Registration required]

    Thursday, May 31: Corpus Christi

    9:30–11:00 am   Extraordinary Form Low Mass celebrated by Bishop Schneider
                               (music  by a men’s choir under the direction of Dr. Kwasniewski)
                               St Anthony of Padua Church, 250 Burrin Ave.
                               Winnipeg MB R2V 1E5

    1:30 pm–2 pm    Alex Begin, “The Ancient Mass in the Modern World”
    2 pm–4:30 pm   Peter Kwasniewski, “Sacred Music & Its Architecture
                                Through the Ages” (two conferences, with Q&A and break)
                                Canadian Mennonite University, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.
                                Winnipeg, MB R3P 2N2

    All events are open to the public, except for the Award Dinner which requires preregistration.

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    On Saturday, May 19th, His Excellency Georg Gänswein, titular archbishop of Urbs Salvia and prefect of the papal household, will celebrate Pontifical 1st Vespers of Pentecost at the Fraternity of St Peter’s parish in Rome, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini. The ceremony will be followed by the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation to several parishioners. Vespers will begin at 6 p.m.; the church is located in the Piazza Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, very close to the Ponte Sisto.

    On the morning of the same day, the solemn Mass of the vigil of Pentecost will be celebrated, beginning at 9:30.

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