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- 09/12/18--13:09: _New FSSP Apostolate...
- 09/13/18--06:22: _New Database Monito...
- 09/13/18--10:54: _Solemn Votive Mass ...
- 09/13/18--16:48: _The Fearlessness of...
- 09/14/18--06:47: _The Exaltation of t...
- 09/14/18--22:46: _From the Archives -...
- 09/17/18--23:03: _The Stigmata of Sai...
- 09/18/18--12:32: _Faith and Freedom: ...
- 09/18/18--15:51: _First Ordinariate M...
- 09/19/18--08:18: _By Nothing But Pray...
- 09/19/18--16:06: _A New Hymn in Honor...
- 09/20/18--07:03: _EF Michaelmas in Kn...
- 09/20/18--09:27: _The Gellone Sacrame...
- 09/20/18--14:33: _Exaltation of the C...
- 09/21/18--12:48: _Ordinariate Rite Ma...
- 09/21/18--14:38: _Orcagna's St Matthe...
- 09/22/18--07:11: _The Hymn of the Emb...
- 09/23/18--07:14: _Reprint of Proprium...
- 09/24/18--07:20: _St. Francis of Assi...
- 09/25/18--07:21: _Historical Vestment...
- 09/12/18--13:09: New FSSP Apostolate Begins in Philadelphia
- 09/13/18--16:48: The Fearlessness of St John Chrysostom
- 09/14/18--06:47: The Exaltation of the Cross 2018
- In the 17th century, the Servites introduced as the patronal feast of their order the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady, originally kept on the Third Sunday of September, and extended by Pius VII to the whole Church in 1817. It was raised in rank by St Pius X in 1908, and fixed to September 15 in 1911. The same day sees the commemoration of the martyr St. Nicomedes, who said to his persecutors: “I sacrifice only to the all-powerful God who reigns in heaven.”
- September 16 is the feast of SS. Cornelius and Cyprian. The former opposed the first anti-pope in Church history over, in essence, whether the power of the Cross is strong enough to erase even apostasy, and who translated the relics of SS. Peter and Paul to their places of martyrdom; the latter was an eminent bishop of whose writings St. Jerome says: “It is superfluous to speak of his greatness, for his works are more luminous than the sun.” Both were martyred on September 14. Joining these two (as a commemoration) are SS. Euphemia, Lucy, and Geminianus, for a total of five martyrs, in honor of the five wounds of Christ.
- September 17 is the Impression of the Stigmata upon St. Francis, which occurred on September 14, 1224. Of this I shall speak more anon.
- September 18 celebrates St. Joseph of Cupertino (d. 1663), a Franciscan who emulated his master in being attached to the Cross; indeed, he was given to participate in its exaltation through the gift of levitation (a connection explicitly made in the Collect). The Offertory antiphon of the Mass alludes to his having been misunderstood and calumniated, as well as to his response, which was to embrace further penances.
- September 19 is the feast of St. Januarius and his six companion martyrs. The name Januarius is derived from janus,“gateway,” which reminds us that the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross opened the gates of heaven to sinful mankind, and, moreover, that the Eucharist, which makes really present this same sacrifice, is in a way the font and apex of the other six sacraments.
- September 20 is the feast of SS. Eustace and his three companion martyrs (wife and two children). St. Eustace, one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, bears a double connection with the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. First, when St. Eustace was hunting a huge stag, it turned towards him and a crucifix was seen between its antlers; this precipitated his conversion and that of his family. Second, when returning from a military triumph under Trajan, he refused to thank the pagan gods for his victory, and for this, he and his family were arrested, thrown to the lions, and finally sealed in a red-hot brazen bull. On this day, too, in the unexpurgated old calendar, we find the Vigil of St. Matthew, which has for its Gospel St. Luke’s relation of the calling of Levi the publican.
- Finally, September 21 is the Feast of St. Matthew, with his own narration of his conversion as the Gospel.
- 09/18/18--15:51: First Ordinariate Mass to be Celebrated in Connecticut on Sept. 29
- 09/19/18--08:18: By Nothing But Prayer and Fasting
- 09/19/18--16:06: A New Hymn in Honor of St Januarius
- 09/20/18--07:03: EF Michaelmas in Knoxville, Tennessee
- 09/20/18--09:27: The Gellone Sacramentary
- 09/20/18--14:33: Exaltation of the Cross Photopost 2018
- 09/21/18--12:48: Ordinariate Rite Masses for Our Lady of Walsingham, September 24
- 09/21/18--14:38: Orcagna's St Matthew Triptych
- 09/22/18--07:11: The Hymn of the Ember Saturday Masses
- 09/23/18--07:14: Reprint of Proprium Officiorum Ordinis Praedicatorum (1982)
- 09/24/18--07:20: St. Francis of Assisi: Eucharistic Mystic and Reformer
- 09/25/18--07:21: Historical Vestments from an Exhibition in Vilnius, Lithuania
Our thanks to Mrs Alison Girone for providing us with these photos, and to Mr John Boyden for the write-up.
Faithful Shepherds helps hold American bishops accountable by providing years, sometimes decades, of past tweets, public speeches, sermons, actions, pastoral letters, and diocesan guidelines. Faithful Shepherds currently gives evidence of where U.S. bishops stand on ten issues: Archbishop Vigano’s testimony, Amoris Laetitia, pro-life leadership, homosexuality, abortion politics, contraception, “LGBT” ideology, liturgy, marriage and family life, and education. More will be added as new evidence is gathered.Like many other initiatives in our days, it depends on user-submitted documentation, as there would be no other way for a small organization like LifeSite to collect the data necessary to make this database really useful and comprehensive.
Readers of NLM will be interested in particular in the category of Liturgy:
A return to reverence in the liturgy has been called for by Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The harm of liturgical abuse has destroyed much of the Church. Since liturgy is the primary means of prayer it of primary importance to get it right. A return to Gregorian chant, communion on the tongue while kneeling, and ad orientem Masses are needed. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI issued a document titled Summorum Pontificum, which allowed for a much wider use of the Traditional Latin Liturgy.In these sentences, we see some of the most important issues on the basis of which any Catholic bishop's fidelity and reverence for the Real Presence of Our Lord must be assessed: true sacred music, proper reception of holy communion, eastward orientation, and generous provision of and for the traditional Latin liturgy.
So, please, check out this website and submit such evidence as you can, in the form of tweets, speeches, sermons, actions, pastoral letters, or diocesan guidelines.
 To give an example: Blaise Cupich, when bishop in Rapid City, locked traditional Catholics out of their church so that they would be unable to celebrate Triduum services, which they ended up celebrating outdoors.
|Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s great cathedra in St Peter’s Basilica, in which the throne of Peter is supported by two Latin Doctors, Ambrose and Augustine (with miters), and two Greek Doctors, Athanasius and John Chrysostom.|
The same might well have been applied to John, who unlike Eusebius, died in his exile, both from the rigors of the journey and the terrible ill-treatment meted out to him; the date of his death was September 14, 407. In his case, Caesar’s wrath was provoked against him not by dogmatic issues, but by moral ones. The Empress Eudoxia was the wife of the famously useless Emperor Arcadius, a man wholly under the control of his ministers and court sycophants. Taking personal offense at John’s words against the immorality and extravagances of the nobility, she had already arranged once before for John to be exiled. He was swiftly recalled, partly because of the popular uprising in his favor, partly because a small earthquake in the city was seen as a sign of divine displeasure, especially by the highly superstitious Empress. However, when a silver statue of her was erected on a pillar in front of Hagia Sophia , the dedication of it was celebrated with a series of “games”, as the Romans called them, an immoral spectacle which also disturbed the liturgy. St John had often preached against public license of this very sort, even when a simple priest in Antioch, and did not hesitate to do so on this occasion well.
|A mosaic of St John Chrysostom in Hagia Sophia, ca. 1000. (Public domainimage from Wikipedia.)|
The Facebook page of the Bollandist Society, who have been publishing the Acts of the Saints since the early 17th century (with a notable interruption), today highlighted two paintings of St John preaching before the Empress Eudoxia. Both were done by French artists of the later 19th century, Jean-Paul Laurens (1838-1921) and Joseph Wencker (1848-1919). The commentary referred them both specifically to one of the most important events of the era, the conquest of the Papal State, and the subsequent “exile” of Pope Pius IX, who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kingdom of Italy by setting foot on land which it illegally occupied. This is surely true, but broadly speaking, they may also be referred to the general situation of the Church in that period. Italy’s was not the only government hostile to the Church and seeking to reduce or destroy its influence by diminishing or destroying its institutions; this was also era of the German Kulturkampf, and the infamous French law of Separation of Church and State was soon to follow in 1905.
Laurens’ painting is the smaller of the two, but the more forceful. (See a higher resolution version here.) The Empress looks down with an expressionless face at the Saint, confident in her eventual triumph over him, but at the same time, she is almost lost in the trappings of her position, less distinct than St John in his white robes. (John also appears to be rather older than he should; historically, he was only about 55 at the time.) Both artists seem to accept the idea, common in their time, that churches in this period were “still” very austere; note that all of the decoration in both paintings is centered around the Empress, while the pulpits and the walls are very plain.
|Jean Paul Laurens, 1872|
|Joseph Wencker, ca. 1880|
 Not the church which is seen in Constantinople today, a construction of the 6th century, but the original built by Constantine in the 4th century. At the news of John’s second exile, the city was wracked with riots, during which the first Hagia Sophia was burnt down; nothing now remains of it. Its replacement, dedicated in 415, was also destroyed by riots, a very popular pastime in Constantinople, in 532; the present structure was built very shortly thereafter, by the Emperor Justinian.
 In the original edition of his Lives of the Saints, Alban Butler wrote that “Montfaucon refutes this slander, trumped up by his enemies. The sermon extant under that title is a manifest forgery.” Modern writers, including Butler’s revisers, all seem to accept its authenticity.
Protect Thy people, o Lord, by the sign of the Holy Cross from all the snares of all enemies, that we may offer Thee a pleasing service, and our sacrifice be acceptable, alleluja.
On September 14, 2007, the day that the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum became legally active, Jeffrey Tucker, a long-time contributor to NLM and my predecessor as editor, published this brief essay. I make bold to suggest that it is worth a second read, and holds up quite well after the period of more than a decade that has subsequently passed.
In some ways, Summorum Pontificum extends this model of humility to address what will surely go down in history as one of the most imprudent and ill-conceived actions to follow any Church Council: the suppression of the traditional Roman Missal and the imposition of a new Missal that, in many respects, had not developed from the old, but rather, in crucial ways, represented a new creation entirely. This was most striking in its externals: Latin to the vernacular, strict rubrics to only vague guidelines, required prayers to more options than most people can keep up with. It was imposed without the proper preparations concerning music, rubrics, and other matters.
It came at a time of incredible cultural upheaval, so the dramatic change flung open the doors of sacred space to admit a blizzard of profane actions, words, and music. It was not entirely the fault of the new form, but the conditions under which it came about led millions of Catholics the world over to believe that the Faith had somehow undergone a kind of extreme makeover, and so every old doctrine and moral teaching came into question, unleashing a kind of chaos that persisted for decades. Orders of priests and nuns collapsed. Publishers went bankrupt. Mass attendance plummeted. Confessions fell. Traditional and beautiful churches were gutted to make way for the new. Treasures were thrown out. New forms of architectural outrages were given free reign.
And what of those who long for the Mass of old? In the new sociological environment following the Council, they were made to believe that they were inferior members of the Church, not with the times, rebellious to authority, and hopelessly outdated. They were ridiculed and caricatured, psychologically tormented merely for believing what they had been taught to believe. They were told that there was only one choice: conform to the new or leave. Many left, demoralized and confused. Those who persisted in saying and attending the old Mass occupied a confusing status within the law of the Church, most famously the order of St Pius X. There developed an atmosphere resembling a witch hunt for “traditionalists,” who were told that they must learn to loathe the old and praise the new. Pastors and bishops treated regular Catholics who ask for the old usage as unworthy of serious consideration.
This environment, so clearly untenable and unsustainable in retrospect, lasted nearly forty years, if you date its beginning to the promulgation of the new Mass. Finally this year, Pope Benedict XVI intervened with the only real answer to the problem: not half measures, or vague permissions, but the complete liberalization of the old usage. He gave all priests in the Roman Rite permission to use the old Missal in public and private, with very few qualifiers, and went a step further to clarify that that the ordinary form of the Mass should be regarded as something wholly new, but part of the same Roman Rite of the ages. The decision concerning the form resides at the parish level, consistent with the idea of subsidiarity. This action ended, in one fell swoop, the wholly misconceived error of the suppression of old forms. It was an act of extraordinary humility for a Pope, an admission of error in judgment. In many ways, then, this Pope has picked up on a theme from the last Pope; for this he deserves our deepest gratitude. It is a model we should all follow in our lives.
|Saints following in the wake of the Cross...|
As is always the case with the slowly matured calendar of the Church, over the centuries feasts came to occupy the days in between, with a fittingness guided by Divine Providence.
In this way, as Michael Foley explains so well in his Sacra Liturgia paper “The Reform of the Calendar and the Reduction of Liturgical Recapitulation” , the Church lingers over and deeply enters into the mystery of the Cross throughout this “octave,” allowing its light to play over us and pierce our flesh with its fear through a sequence of great witnesses of the power of this same Cross to convert, cleanse and burn, lift up and save. As is frequently the case with the old calendar, there is a sort of repeating echo of the main feast, as well as a crescendo to the next. One may grant a theoretical appropriateness to such a rhyming and reinforcing order, but when one experiences it by attending daily Mass throughout any of the numerous “octaves” of this kind found in the old calendar, one’s appreciation swells at how powerful a spiritual formation the old liturgy provides to the faithful.
The day before the Feast of the Most Holy Cross, as St. Francis was praying secretly in his cell, an angel of God appeared to him, and spake to him thus from God: “I am come to admonish and encourage thee, that thou prepare thyself to receive in all patience and humility that which God will give and do to thee.”Holy Mother Church took this advice of Brother Illuminato very much to heart, and decided to make known to all of her children the glory of the stigmata of St. Francis by impressing it upon the liturgical calendar, so that whosoever attended Mass on September 17, within the “octave” of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, would be reminded of this singular grace, this revelation of the secret hidden in God, that makes visible the invisible reality of Christian baptism, self-sacrifice, and configuration to Christ: “With Christ I am nailed to the Cross, and I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:19–20).
St. Francis replied: “I am ready to bear patiently whatsoever my Lord shall be pleased to do to me”; and so the angel departed.
On the following day—being the Feast of the Holy Cross—St. Francis was praying before daybreak at the entrance of his cell, and turning his face towards the east, he prayed in these words: “O Lord Jesus Christ, two graces do I ask of Thee before I die; the first, that in my lifetime I may feel, as far as possible, both in my soul and body, that pain which Thou, sweet Lord, didst endure in the hour of Thy most bitter Passion; the second, that I may feel in my heart as much as possible of that excess of love by which Thou, O Son of God, wast inflamed to suffer so cruel a Passion for us sinners.” And continuing a long time in that prayer, he understood that God had heard him, and that, so far as is possible for a mere creature, he should be permitted to feel these things.
Having then received this promise, St. Francis began to contemplate most devoutly the Passion of Jesus Christ and His infinite charity; and so greatly did the fervor of devotion increase within him, that he was all transformed into Jesus by love and compassion. And being thus inflamed in that contemplation, on that same morning he beheld a seraph descending from heaven with six fiery and resplendent wings; and this seraph with rapid flight drew nigh unto St. Francis, so that he could plainly discern Him, and perceive that He bore the image of one crucified; and the wings were so disposed, that two were spread over the head, two were outstretched in flight, and the other two covered the whole body.
And when St. Francis beheld it, he was much afraid, and filled at once with joy and grief and wonder. He felt great joy at the gracious presence of Christ, who appeared to him thus familiarly, and looked upon him thus lovingly, but, on the other hand, beholding Him thus crucified, he felt exceeding grief and compassion. He marveled much at so stupendous and unwonted a vision, knowing well that the infirmity of the Passion accorded ill with the immortality of the seraphic spirit. And in that perplexity of mind it was revealed to him by Him who thus appeared, that by divine providence this vision had been thus shown to him that he might understand that, not by martyrdom of the body, but by a consuming fire of the soul, he was to be transformed into the express image of Christ crucified in that wonderful apparition.
Then did all of Mount Alvernia appear wrapped in intense fire, which illumined all the mountains and valleys around, as it were the sun shining in his strength upon the earth, for which cause the shepherds who were watching their flocks in that country were filled with fear, as they themselves afterwards told the brethren, affirming that this light had been visible on Mount Alvernia for upwards of an hour. And because of the brightness of that light, which shone through the windows of the inn where they were tarrying, some muleteers who were travelling in Romagna arose in haste, supposing that the sun had risen, and saddled and loaded their beasts; but as they journeyed on, they saw that light disappear, and the visible sun arise.
In this seraphical apparition, Christ, who appeared under that form to St. Francis, spoke to him certain high and secret things, which in his lifetime he would never reveal to any person, but after his death he made them known to one of the brethren, and the words were these: “Knowest thou,” said Christ, “what I have done to thee? I have given thee the stigmata which are the insignia of My Passion, that thou mayest be My standard-bearer; and as on the day of My death I descended into limbo, and by virtue of these My stigmata delivered thence all the souls whom I found there, so do I grant to thee that every year on the anniversary of thy death thou mayst go to purgatory, and take with thee to the glory of paradise all the souls of thy three Orders, the Friars Minor, the Sisters, and the Penitents, and likewise all others whom thou shalt find there, who have been especially devout to thee; that so thou mayst be conformed to Me in death, as thou hast been like to Me in life.”
Then, after long and secret conference together, that marvelous vision disappeared, leaving in the heart of St. Francis an excessive fire and ardor of divine love, and on his flesh a wonderful trace and image of the Passion of Christ. For upon his hands and feet began immediately to appear the figures of the nails, as he had seen them on the Body of Christ crucified, who had appeared to him in the likeness of a seraph. And thus the hands and feet appeared pierced through the midst by the nails, the heads whereof were seen outside the flesh in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet, and the points of the nails stood out at the back of the hands and the feet in such wise that they appeared to be twisted and bent back upon themselves, and the portion thereof that was bent back or twisted stood out free from the flesh, so that one could put a finger through the same as through a ring; and the heads of the nails were round and black. In like manner, on the right side appeared the image of an unhealed wound, as if made by a lance, and still red and bleeding, from which drops of blood often flowed from the holy breast of St. Francis, staining his tunic and his drawers.
And because of this his companions, before they knew the truth from himself, perceiving that he would not uncover his hands and his feet, and that he could not set the soles of his feet upon the ground, and finding traces of blood upon his tunic when they washed it, understood of a certainty that he bore in his hands and feet and side the image and similitude of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified.
And although he labored hard to conceal these sacred stigmata holy and glorious, thus clearly impressed upon his flesh, yet finding that he could with difficulty hide them from his familiar companions, and fearing at the same time to reveal the secrets of God, he was in great doubt and trouble of mind whether or not he should make known the seraphical vision and the impression of the sacred, holy stigmata. At last, being pricked in conscience, he called together certain of the brethren, in whom he placed the greatest confidence, and proposing to them his doubt in general terms, asked their counsel on the matter.
Now among these friars there was one of great sanctity, called Brother Illuminato; and he, being truly illuminated by God, understood that St. Francis must have seen something miraculous, and said thus to him: “Know, Brother Francis, that not for thyself alone, but for others, doth God reveal to thee His secrets, and therefore thou hast cause for fear lest thou be worthy of censure if thou conceal that which, for the good of others, has been made known to thee.”
Here is how my trusty old Saint Andrew Daily Missal of 1945 introduces the feast to the laity. This may safely be taken as typical of the simultaneously liturgical and hagiographical piety that the Liturgical Movement in its healthier phase sought to inculcate in the people:
Two years before his death, St. Francis retired to mount Alverno where he began a fast of 40 days in honour of St. Michael the archangel. And lo! in the midst of his meditation he saw a figure like a seraphim with six wings dazzling and burning, whose feet and hands were nailed to a cross. Aware that suffering is incompatible with the immortality of a seraphic spirit, he understood this to mean that he would become more like Jesus and bear his cross after Him, not by physical martyrdom, but by a mystical kindling of divine love. And in order that this crucified love might become an example to us all, five wounds resembling those of Jesus on the cross appeared on his feet, hands, and side. From the latter blood flowed abundantly. The facts were so fully authenticated later, that Benedict XI [re. 1303–1304] ordered them to be commemorated every year, and Paul V [r. 1605–1621] to kindle in the faithful the love of Jesus crucified, extended the feast to the whole Church. (p. 1457)
We know the official answers always given by professional reformers: it is an unnecessary duplication, since there is already a feast of St. Francis on October 4; it should be celebrated only by Franciscans as part of their internal calendar, and not by everyone; there are other stigmatists, so why should we privilege this one?; the calendar is too crowded already and needs breathing space; et cetera.
But as a friend of mine likes to say, “the explanation isn’t the explanation.” There is something more fundamental going on here. I can describe it in three related phrases: contempt for ecclesiastical tradition (in this case, a feast present in the annual liturgical calendar for about 350 years); contempt for devotion (in this case, the popular devotion to the Passion, the Five Wounds, and St. Francis himself); contempt for the supernatural and the miraculous (this is obvious throughout the reform).
Yes, of course there was a time when the calendar did not have this feast. But once the unheard-of miracle had taken place — the miracle that, in a sense, defines the Middle Ages, a miracle that is almost a second Incarnation, or a reduplication of Calvary in our midst — the Church could not react to it with calm indifference or bemused curiosity. This thing had to be recognized, accepted, celebrated, commemorated, permanently etched into her liturgical calendar as the very wounds of Christ had been burned into the flesh of Francis. And while there have been other stigmatists since the time of St. Francis, he was the first stigmatist of “later ages,” that is, long after the Apostle who had mysteriously said: “I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body” (Gal. 6, 17).
There is a tremendous difference between simply lacking a feast and getting rid of a feast that already exists. The kind of skeptical, rationalistic “reformers” who could strike the feast of the Stigmata of St. Francis from the universal calendar once it had found an honorable place therein are enemies of the Catholic Faith, whose machinations must be fought with all our strength. It is hard to escape the conclusion that such reformers do not really believe in the power and mystery and holiness of the liturgy of the Church; for them it has become a sandbox in which to play around, not a Mount Calvary or a Mount Alverno we climb in humility and awe, bearing our cross, and uniting ourselves to His.
This is the sort of change that shows the infinite abyss separating the sensibility of the traditional liturgy from the “reformed” liturgy — a liturgy that with better reason should be called deformed, because it has been denuded of its richness, purged as much as possible of the scandal of the particular. The saints are still there, but they are reduced by the hundreds and pushed into the background by the artificial lectionary that marches on deafly, mechanically, heedless of the bright glory of the saints whose holy death and immortal life is worth more than all the paper of all the lectionaries in the world. It would be no exaggeration to apply to the difference between old and new the words that Abraham speaks to Dives: “between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us” (Luke 16, 26).
 Liturgy in the Twenty-First Century, ed. Alcuin Reid (New York/London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2016), 321–41.
 Quoted from Selections from The Little Flowers of Saint Francis of Assisi, ed. Peter Kwasniewski (Os Justi Press, 2016). This edition, available in paperback here and in hardcover here, contains reproductions of rare color and monochrome German illustrations from 1921, of which the images displayed above in this article are examples.
What is culture?
A culture is the emergent pattern of activity associated with a society of people that manifests and in turn sustains and nurtures the core beliefs, values and priorities of that society.
We can apply it to a society or nation, or to subgroups within in a society: cafe culture, drug culture, youth culture, Christian culture, Western culture, secular culture.
Here are two cafes with very different cultures, the one you would rather have a cup of coffee at says something about you and the culture it represents.
Why do people care about culture?
People care about the culture because they see instinctively that it reflects and influences a worldview. We naturally desire a culture that reflects our own views, and when we see one, we see it as something pleasing, it reassures us, for we feel at home in the world. When, on the other hand, we see a culture that speaks of a worldview that is different from ours, we feel alienated. For the believer, when a culture reflects a pattern of activity that is consistent, generally, with a faith in God, we see it as beautiful.
Culture both reflects and influences a worldview
Culture not only reflects attitudes, it tends to influence people at a deep level too. The more we see it, the more we like it. So when the culture reflects my values, I am reassured not only because it affirms my own beliefs by telling me that others believe it too, it also reassures me that it will be like this in the future, for it reinforces those values in society as a whole.
This is why culture is a battleground - or it ought to be. I say that because although the cultural Marxists are fighting for it, and seem to have successfully occupied the powerful institutions of our country - education, the news media, and especially entertainment - those interested in Faith and Freedom seem to abstain from the fight and have handed the open field over to them.
Culture comes before the law
Political and legal battles are won long before issues get to elections or the courts. Beauty is our secret weapon. It has the potential to sidestep prejudice that would exist if we used reason alone; its tendency, which can be resisted, is to draw people to the Good, those values that we associate with a free and fair society, and ultimately to God. If we want to win the battle against the culture of death, we must fight as well as the battle for the culture of beauty.
More about culture - it is a pattern that emerges as we see the whole, and which might not be apparent in the parts.
Emergence is the principle by which we see a pattern only, or at least most clearly, by looking at the whole, at the wider horizon, which is not apparent when we look at its details or parts. It a paradox that the pattern of the behavior of individuals is not a microcosm of the pattern of the whole society.
To illustrate the point, take a look at the Mona Lisa. Regarding the whole, we discern an image of a lady. However, each microscopic element of pigment in the paint that makes it what it is, is not in and of itself a mini-Mona Lisa. In fact, Leonardo could not begin to tell you anything about the mathematical function that describes the relationships between one particle of pigment and another. Rather, he looks at the whole and manipulates his impression of the whole, and as long as the whole has the desired result, he doesn’t care what’s going on at the level of the particular. In fact, we would probably find that nobody could describe the structure of the Mona Lisa that way.
And when we look at the individual particles and the relationships with the other particles around them, we simply cannot say what sort of picture it is part of. The relationship between the two is not apparent.
Look at this arrangement of Lego bricks, can you tell what it is? Notice how every piece is distinct and if you consider the relationships each one has with the surrounding pieces, each one is unique.
By analogous, in society, the behavior of every person is unique. If he is behaving according to free will, then the pattern that describes his behavior is mathematically random. There is no mathematical order. That is not to say that it isn’t rational - if the person is acting in accord with his ultimate end it is supremely rational - rather, it is simply that mathematics cannot describe the pattern of his reasoning. Yet, for all the mathematical randomness of individual behavior, there is a discernible order that does describe as a whole that society which contains individual people and their behavior.
Some aspects of this order can be described mathematically - that is the basis of the study of trends of behavior that comprise the social sciences and of economics as a science. The Austrian Nobel Prize-winning economist Frederick Hayak noticed this apparent paradox between individual behavior, which is unpredictable, and predictable trends in the whole; he called the pattern of the wider view a ‘spontaneous order’. We all naturally and intuitively discern that order in a different way when we perceive culture. We are noticing a pattern that applies to the whole.
This contrast was thought paradoxical because the assumption of all natural science had been for a long time that the behavior of the parts follows the same pattern as that of the whole. Therefore, it was assumed, we can understand better how a planet behaves if we understand better how a sub-atomic particle within it behaves. This assumption is, in part, the drive for scientific analysis. It is true to a point, but modern science shows us that once you get really deep into the parts, down to the level of sub-atomic particles, even the material world behaves paradoxically too. Sub-atomic particles don’t behave in the same predictable way that the whole which is comprised of those same particles does.
Beauty and Culture
When we see that pattern of the culture around us and we like it, we feel at home in the world - and we call it beautiful. That is no surprise: the word cosmos in Greek means both order and beauty, but it also means the universe, all of what Christians call “Creation.” The Greeks thought that the cosmos was beautiful because it was ordered, and that its order is seen in the apprehension of its beauty.
The point I want to make with this is as follows: once we accept this paradox of the emerging order, there is no contradiction between the existence of personal freedom and a culture of beauty.
In fact, I would go further, that a culture of beauty is a culture that speaks to us of love - an aggregated love of the personal relations of all those people who contribute to it. If it speaks of love, then it also speaks to us of freedom and faith, for there is no love without freedom and love is greatest with faith.
In other words, we cannot create a culture of beauty by trying to manipulate and control people’s behavior, for that diminishes freedom. All we can do is strive to create the conditions that promote loving interaction. That is, a good society gives people the freedom to choose and inspires them to choose well by showing them the beauty of the Faith through the example of our own participation in a culture of Faith. This will then create a culture of beauty.
It is impossible to centrally control this through, say, government because we can neither prescribe or control individual behavior well enough. You can’t force someone to be free!
The more a society is regulated beyond the minimum that is necessary to preserve personal freedom, the more it restricts the flourishing of beauty and the more ugliness we see. This is why post-war Western society is so ugly, I would maintain. Whether the cause is socialism or crony-capitalism or simply a decline in faith (which might otherwise inspire us to choose well) then ugliness abounds.
We in the US are currently in a mixed culture in which different forces are striving for dominance. The future of the country depends on which one persists. I am seeking a society of faith, freedom and beauty. I came to the US because I think that it is the hope for Western civilization in this regard. For all that it is not perfect, in my opinion, it is the place where these values are most likely to flourish in the future and influence powerfully the rest of the world by people being attracted to what it has.
It is the Church, the mystical body of Jesus Christ, fully redeemed that sets out the roadmap for each of us to use our freedom well. There can be no Christian version of ‘sharia law’, even such a thing were conceptually possible, because people must be free to choose, even to choose badly, if they are going to be free at all.
We hope for a society in which the culture’s ordering principle, the form, one might say, is the transfigured Christ. It will never be realized fully in this life, but we can move closer to that ideal in the here and now. Education and other factors are important, of course; I have devoted much of what I do to education, and for just this reason. But once again, the greatest contribution that each of us can make is to play our own part. We can conform more closely to our supernatural end, through grace and participation in the sacramental economy. All other efforts we make arise from this start. When we partake of the divine nature we become pixels of light, individuals photons that contribute to the Light.
|The Transfiguration by Titian|
|The Education of the Virgin by Georges De La Tours|
Our thanks to Sarah Rodeo, music director at St Francis Catholic in New Britain, Connecticut, and a member of the Ordinariate Fellowship of Connecticut, for sharing with us this information about the upcoming first Ordinariate Mass in her state.
A professional SATB quartet and organist will sing and play William Byrd’s Mass for Four Voices (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus), and his Ave Verum Corpus as a communion motet; four traditional English hymns (processional, offertory, communion and recessional - all verses will be sung, of course!); the psalm rendered in four-part Anglican chant; David Burtt’s English plainsong propers (psalm-tone based settings of the introit, gradual, offertory and communion antiphons), and an English translation of Credo III.
The Mass will be fully sung, including the responses, lessons, collects, etc., be celebrated ad orientem, with Communion received kneeling and on the tongue, the Sprinkling Rite at the beginning and the Last Gospel at the end. Of course, there will be no lay Eucharistic ministers, and the altar servers, crucifer and thurifer will all be men. We love these and other Tridentine inflections, especially the Ordinariate’s requirement of the use of the Roman Canon at all High Masses.
The liturgy must be good, true and beautiful, because the God we worship is good, true and beautiful; our Fellowship greatly appreciates the Elizabethan style of the Divine Worship Missal, in which the beauty of the English language is on full display. The King James Bible is one of the great English masterpieces, and together with the Book of Common Prayer, contributed enormously to the development of our literary tradition. We believe that this “heightened” form of English, which is different from our everyday vernacular, provides us with a sacral language (Latin still being our official sacred language) that is appropriate and fitting for the worship of God.
Before the Council of Trent and the promulgation of the Roman Missal of 1570, the Mass took numerous forms; one of these was the English Use of Sarum, which, along with other pre-Reformation English liturgical elements, informs much of the Divine Worship Missal. In our post-Summorum Pontificum age, the Roman Rite takes on various forms, through the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms, and now through the Divine Worship Form. Thus, we see the Divine Worship Mass as yet another local “use” of the same standardized Roman Rite of the universal One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. In Anglicanorum Coetibus, Pope Benedict XVI called the “liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion... a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared” with the rest of the Church. We plan to do exactly this.
We can be reached at OrdinariateCT@gmail.com, and our Facebook group can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1782111635137581/. Please keep us in your prayers, and may God bless you.
The Collect of the 17th Sunday after Pentecost is a very ancient one, found in different places in the various versions of the Gelasian Sacramentary, but already fixed to the 17th Sunday in the Gregorian Sacramentary by the end of the 8th century. “Da quaesumus, Domine, populo tuo diabolica vitare contagia, et te solum Deum pura mente sectari. - Grant to Thy people, o Lord, to shun (or ‘avoid, escape from’) diabolical contamination, and to follow Thee, who alone art God, with a pure mind.”  This is the only Mass Collect of the ecclesiastical year that refers directly to diabolical influence, but the Secret of the 15th Sunday has a similar theme: “May Thy sacraments preserve us, o Lord, and always protect us against diabolical incursions.”
|Folio 115r of the Gellone Sacramentary, a sacramentary of the Gelasian type dated 780-800, with the prayer “Da quaesumus...” assigned to the 20th week after Pentecost. (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Latin 12048)|
“And He asked his father, ‘How long time is it since this hath happened unto him?’ But he said, ‘From his infancy, and oftentimes hath he cast him into the fire and into waters to destroy him. But if thou canst do any thing, help us, having compassion on us.’ And Jesus saith to him, ‘If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.’ And immediately the father of the boy crying out, with tears said, ‘I do believe, Lord: help my unbelief.’ ”
The lower half of Raphael’s Transfiguration, the story which precedes the Gospel of Ember Wednesday. The possessed child’s father, on the right side in green, presents him to the Apostles; in his expression, Raphael beautifully captures the pleading in his facial expression. The brightness of the figure symbolizes his faith, as it does likewise in that of the possessed child, for devils, as St James says, have no doubts about God. (“Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” 2, 19). The brightest figure, the woman kneeling next to the boy and pointing at him, is an allegorical figure of Faith itself; where the light on these figures expresses their belief, the nine Apostles on the left are wrapped in shadow to symbolize the lack of faith that prevented them from casting out the devil.
On Ember Friday, the Gospel is that of the woman who anoints the Lord’s feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee, St Luke 7, 36-50. This is one of the very few examples of a Gospel which is repeated from another part of the temporal cycle; it is also read on the Thursday of Passion week, and again on the feast of St Mary Magdalene, with whom the woman is traditionally identified in the West. This identification is partly reinforced by the words of St Luke which come immediately after it (chapter 8, 1-3), although they are not read in the liturgy.
“And it came to pass afterwards, that He travelled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God; and the twelve with him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, and Joanna the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who ministered unto him of their substance.”
On Saturday, the Gospel is two stories from St Luke, chapter 13, 6-17, the parable of the fig tree, and the healing of the woman “who had a spirit of infirmity… and was bowed together, (nor) could she look upwards at all.” The choice of this Gospel for the Saturday is a very deliberate one, since it takes place in a synagogue, the ruler of which, “being angry that Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, answering, said to the multitude, ‘Six days there are wherein you ought to work. In them therefore come, and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” To this Christ answers, “Ye hypocrites, doth not every one of you, on the Sabbath day, loose his ox or his ass from the manger, and lead them to water? And ought not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?”
|An ancient Christian sarcophagus known as the Sarcophagus of the Two Brothers, made in the second quarter of the 4th century, now in the Vatican Museums. The healing of the crippled woman is depicted in the upper left.|
Likewise, in his second sermon on the Ember Days of September, he refers to Christ’s words about fasting which are read on Wednesday.  “In every contest of the Christian’s struggle, temperance is of the greatest value and utility, to such a degree that the most savage demonic spirits, who are not put to flight from the bodies of the possessed by the commands of any exorcist, are driven out just by the force of fasts and prayers, as the Lord sayeth, ‘This kind of demons is not cast out except by fasting and prayer.’ The prayer of one who fasteth, therefore, is pleasing to God, and terrible to the devil…” (Sermon 87, ibid. 439b)
The collect of the 17th Sunday after Pentecost is one of the more obvious cases of a prayer deemed unsuitable by the post-Conciliar reformers for the ears of Modern Man™, who must never be confronted with any “negative” ideas while at prayer. Despite its antiquity and the universality of its place within the Roman Rite, it was removed altogether from the Missal, along with the Ember Days, most references to fasting, and all references to the devil. In a similar vein, when the pseudo-anaphora of pseudo-Hippolytus was adapted as the Second Eucharistic Prayer, the original version of the section that parallels the Qui pridie, “Who, when he was delivered to voluntary suffering, in order to dissolve death, and break the chains of the devil, and tread down hell, and bring the just to the light, and set the limit, and manifest the resurrection,” was reduced to “At the time He was betrayed and entered willingly into His Passion…”
However, as Fr Zuhlsdorf noted a few days ago, the 2002 revised edition of the Missal contains certain hints of an awareness that the post-Conciliar reform wantonly threw out far too much of the traditional Roman Rite. Among the things which it restored is the traditional prayer of the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, which now appears as an optional collect among the Masses “for any necessity”, raising the total number of references to the devil in the Missal to one.
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal contains an exhortation (and no more than that) to the effect that Rogation Days and Ember Days “should be indicated” (“indicentur”, not “indicandae sunt – must be indicated”) on the local calendars, and a rubric (I.45) that it is the duty (“oportet”) of episcopal conferences to establish both the time and manner of their celebration. Unsurprisingly, this rubric has mostly been ignored. In recent days, however, it has become impossible to ignore the hideous consequences of the almost total abandonment of any kind of ascetic discipline in the life of the Church, and the free reign which this seems to have given to the devil. As a result, some bishops have called for the faithful to fast on the Ember Days this year, among them Robert Morlino of Madison and David Zubik of Pittsburgh, along with a number of Catholic commentators. If the Church does not wish this annus horribilis to become a lasting feature of its life, a permanent and universal restoration of the traditional discipline of fasting, including the Ember Days, would be a small but important step in that direction.
 In many medieval liturgical books, they are placed after the last Mass of the season after Pentecost, as for example in the Sarum Missal.
 The earliest manuscripts read “dominum” instead of “Deum”; the change would have been made since “Domine” is already said at the beginning. Many manuscripts read “puro corde – with a pure heart” instead of “pura mente.”
 It is tempting to think of this as proof that the Roman lectionary tradition, which is first attested in the lectionary of Wurzburg ca. 700 AD, was already set down 250 years earlier in Pope Leo’s time. This is quite possible, of course, but it is equally possible that the unknown compiler of the lectionary was inspired to choose this Gospel by reading Pope Leo’s sermon.
The Martyrdom of St Januarius in the Amphitheatre at Pozzuoli, by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1636-7. Very often during the passions of the martyrs, Nature itself would refuse to cooperate with their persecutors, a fact already noted in the early 2nd century by St Ignatius of Antioch. This painting shows an episode of the Passion of St Januarius to which the hymn also refers, in which the wild beasts in the gladiatorial arena simply came up to him and lay down at his feet. (Public domainimage from Wikipedia.)
your mighty courage, Gennaro?
You shed your blood for Him who died
the dark of sin to nullify.
Your light shone bright to all your flock,
you were their anchor and their rock;
And when to prision you were sent,
your faith, like chains, could not be bent.
In peace you gave your very life,
thrown to the beasts, you took the strife;
But they to you, refused attack,
no prayer, blest Martyr, did you lack.
And when the time for death drew near,
you offered your life without fear,
your blood gushed forth in liquid streams,
and still today, it flows serene.
All praise to You, whom Martyrs sing,
to you be praise, the Martyrs’ King,
and to the Spirit, one in love,
let this our hymn, transcend above. Amen.
The title page (folio 1v): “In the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, here begins the Sacramentary. O the vigil of Christmas, at the hour of None, the station at St Mary Major,” followed by the collect of the vigil of Christmas. In this period, Christmas Eve was considered the beginning of the liturgical year, and Advent comes at the end of the book. The Virgin Mary is shown holding a cross and a thurible.
|Public domainimages from Wikipedia; click to see in high resolution.|
The side panels show four stories from the Saint’s life, running clockwise from the lower left. In the first one, Christ calls him away from the tollhouse, as described by Matthew himself chapter 9 of his own Gospel. The Lord is accompanied by the four Apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John, whose calling has already been described before this point, but the rest, who are named in chapter 10, are not yet with him.
|Detail of a Christian sarcophagus of the Constantinian period (ca. 305-335), known as the Sarcophagus of Adelphia, discovered in the church of St John in Syracuse, Sicily, in 1872. On the far left, the Emperor Nebuchadnezzar points to a bust of himself set on a column, the gesture by which he commands the three children to worship it. Even though the Biblical text states quite unmistakably that Emperor made an enormous “statue”, in early Christian art it is usually represented as a bust on a column, since that it what the Romans used. (On the right side are represented the Miracle at Cana and one of the three Magi. Image from Wikimedia Commons by Davide Mauro; CC BY-SA 4.0)|
Lectio Daniélis Prophétae. In diébus illis: 49 Angelus Dómini descendit cum Azaría et sociis ejus in fornácem: et excussit flammam ignis de fornáce, 50a et fecit medium fornácis quasi ventum roris flantem. 47 Flamma autem effundebátur super fornácem cúbitis quadraginta novem: et erúpit, et incendit, quos répperit juxta fornácem de Chaldáeis, ministros regis, qui eam incendébant. 50b Et non tétigit eos omníno ignis, neque contristávit, nec quidquam molestiae íntulit. 51 Tunc hi tres quasi ex uno ore laudábant, e glorificábant, et benedicébant Deum in fornáce, dicentes:
A reading of the Prophet Daniel. In those day, 49 the angel of the Lord went down with Azarias and his companions into the furnace: and he drove the flame of the fire out of the furnace, 50a And made the midst of the furnace like the blowing of a wind bringing dew. 47 And the flame mounted up above the furnace nine and forty cubits: and it broke forth, and burnt such of the Chaldeans as it found near the furnace, the ministers of the king who were heating it. 50b and the fire touched them not at all, nor troubled them, nor did them any harm. 51 Then these three as with one mouth praised, and glorified, and blessed God in the furnace, saying:
The reading ends abruptly (and should always be chanted without the notes that indicate the conclusion) to segue into the following hymn, the only case where a reading is followed by a hymn instead of a gradual, tract, or alleluia. The text is to closer to that of the Septuagint version, and the Old Latin version which depended upon it, rather than the Vulgate, a fact which also indicates its great antiquity. The words “and praiseworthy and glorious unto the ages” are very cleverly incorporated into the doxology.
On the Ember Saturday of Pentecost, the reading is the same, but the hymn is replaced with an Alleluia, which is then repeated the following day on the feast of the Holy Trinity. “Alleluia. Benedictus es, Dómine, Deus patrum nostrórum. Et laudábilis et gloriósus in sáecula.”
I believe that this book will be of great use for not just Friars, nuns, and sisters, but also for members of the Dominican Laity who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin with Dominican propers and other elements.
Before ordering a copy, you should read the product description carefully so you understand the nature of his reprint. Apparently the original was never put under copyright, so it is public domain.
My fellow NLM contributor, Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., is well known for Francis of Assisi: A New Biography, which a broad spectrum of people (including those who assign books to Franciscans in formation) now consider the definitive biography of the saint in all of his personal complexity, zeal, idealism, and contradictions, set within the fraught context of his age.
One of the most striking elements of this biography is the author’s insistence that the dominant theme in Francis’ spirituality is not poverty or service to the poor, but devotion to the Mass and to the Body of Christ. One of Francis’ few writings is a letter to priests rebuking them for using dirty or unworthy items in the Mass, and his mature letters on the spiritual life also rotate around the Eucharist and the Mass.
For those who have not yet had a chance to read the biography, I will quote the passages that demonstrate this point well, gathering them in one convenient place.
Within a year of his return to Assisi, Francis composed his first extant letter. Something had triggered his decision to go to France, where the Eucharist was venerated properly, and now he was unable to go. Instead, he dispatched this letter, the first of his two “Letters to the Clergy.” Its language is heated, pained, and almost frantic in tone. In it he includes himself among the clergy, a good indication that he had already been ordained to the deaconate. What motivates him is the same passion that sent him on the road to France: his love of the Eucharist. He is outraged at the “great sin and ignorance some have toward the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and his most holy names and words that consecrate his Body.” How that sin expressed itself, and its remedy, he made clear: “Let all those who administer such most holy mysteries, especially those who administer them illicitly, consider how very dirty are the chalices, corporals, and altar linens, on which his Body and Blood are sacrificed. It is placed in many dirty places, carried about unbecomingly, and ministered to others without care. Even his written names and words are at times left to be trampled under foot.” Francis directs that the Host be kept in a “precious place” and locked up, and that scraps of parchment with the words of scripture or the name of God be collected and put in suitable places. Those receiving his letter are to clean their altar linen and polish their chalices without delay.Again:
This theme reappeared regularly in Francis’s writing, but seldom with such passion and anger. Francis returned to the theme of reverence for the Eucharist in other writings about this time. His “First Admonition,” even if influenced by the mystical understanding of the Mass found in Cistercian writers as some suggest, is authentically Francis’s own. For him, the change of the elements from bread and wine to Christ’s Body and Blood was like the Incarnation. Christ gives himself to those viewing the Host or receiving communion as literally as he allowed himself to be seen and touched by the apostles. By this giving, he is with believers until the end of the age. The locus of Francis’s “mysticism,” his belief that he could have direct contact with God, was in the Mass, not in nature or even in service to the poor.
Thus his harsh words for those who ignored the Eucharistic presence are unique: he never used such language about peace breakers or those who oppressed the downtrodden, deeply as those sins pained him. Francis always preferred to speak by actions and gestures rather than words: he expressed his reverence for churches by sweeping and cleaning them. In response to clerical failure to keep the Host in honorable containers, Francis once tried to have his friars bring precious pyxes to all the regions where they were active. He asked that these be used to reserve the Host when other decent containers were lacking. One can imagine the effect of Francis’s poor followers, with their miserable habits, presenting silver pyxes to parish clergy for the reservation of the Sacrament. (Kindle ed., pp. 60–61)
In his “Letter to the Clergy,” Francis spoke warmly of reverence for priests as well as for the Blessed Sacrament. He demonstrated his devotion by kissing the hands of any priest he met: consecrated with sacred chrism, they handled the Host. For the Host itself Francis practiced acts of reverence that, although not uncommon in France, were just becoming popular in Italy. He begged the brothers who met a priest on horseback, especially one carrying the Blessed Sacrament, to kiss the horse’s hooves rather than wait for the priest to dismount. (p. 62)Again:
Beyond its rubrical concerns, Francis’s first letter gives a window into his developing spirituality. His earlier piety had focused on praying before the Crucifix, repairing or cleaning churches, and reverence for priests. All involved symbolic or mystical manifestations of the Crucified Lord: churches as the place where God chose to dwell, and priests because they have the power to draw Christ down from heaven during Mass.Again:
Francis’s piety has now focused on God’s most tangible manifestation in the world: the Host itself. Francis was developing an ever greater sense that God is present to Christians in the Sacrament, and that it was to be reverenced above all other presences. In both the Host and Christ’s words, the work of Calvary is delivered to the believer. The Host is Christ’s real Body, the same one that suffered and died for us. The sacred words that especially concerned Francis are those used in the canon of the Mass and found in the Last Supper narratives of the New Testament. These record his action of offering himself to his disciples “on the night before he suffered.”
Modern observers find Francis’s growing concern about the writing on scraps of parchment somewhat embarrassing or perplexing. Even pious Christians today have lost this sense of the concrete divine presence. In the thirteenth century, however, this attitude was not some oddity that Francis had picked up from Jewish or Muslim practice. For Christians of his age, the words of scripture were not merely didactic reminders of past events or moral norms. As divine words, they were a locus of power. Merely pronouncing them, as when the bishop read the beginning of the four Gospels toward the city gates facing the four points of the compass during springtime Rogation processions, put demonic powers to flight. When used by Brother Silvester over the city of Arezzo, the divine words could, by their very power, end civil strife.
Now, when Francis began to chant from the book of Gospels as a deacon, he himself proclaimed and enacted the words of power. A perplexed brother once asked Francis about his practice of collecting such scraps of parchment, and he replied: “Son, I do this because they have the letters that compose the glorious name of the Lord God, and the good that is found there does not belong to the pagans nor to any human being, but to God alone, to whom every good thing belongs.” This identification between names and the realities they signify was not only a commonplace in medieval sensibility; it spoke to Francis’s profound sense of God’s presence in the concrete here and now, and in the most commonplace of things and events.
For a layman like Francis, only marginally able to write, letters themselves were mysterious and somehow sacred: friars knew well that when Francis made a mistake in writing, he let it stand, rather than “killing the letter” by crossing it out. Before, as a simple cleric singing the Office, he had chanted the psalms of David; now, as a deacon, he read the very words of Christ. At Solemn Mass, he did so facing north—the direction of darkness and, for medieval minds, paganism, and thus putting both to flight. That certain clerics treated these powerful and holy texts with disrespect outraged Francis’s acute spiritual sense. To leave sacred books on the floor or in dishonorable places was, in its own way, as sacrilegious as the desecration of the Host.
Ever more intensely, Francis associated his own experience before the Cross, his transforming encounter with the lepers, and the divine commission to live the Gospel perfectly with the immediate, unmediated presence of Christ given to each Christian in Word and Sacrament. (pp. 62–63)
Not satisfied with writing to priests, Francis also wrote a circular letter to the local superiors in his order, the custodians. In it he made them directly responsible for ensuring that Franciscan communities properly reverenced the Eucharist and had worthy vessels and appointments for Mass. Typical of his unwillingness to place himself (or his brothers) in a position superior to priests, he instructed the custodians, who would often be lay brothers, to “humbly beg the clergy to revere above all else the most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.”Again:
In addition, he returned to a theme first mentioned in the letter to priests from before his departure for the East. He begged recipients to pick up and keep in a place of reverence any piece of parchment on which was written one of the holy names of God (Lord, Jesus, Holy Spirit, etc.) or the words of institution (“This is my Body”; “This is the chalice of my Blood”) used in the consecration at Mass. Here cooperation of the clergy was not needed; any friar could show reverence to the holy words.
Writing as much to nonordained brothers as to priests, Francis expressed in this letter his own spiritual preferences, without concern for clerical tradition. Instead of Pope Honorius III’s bow, Francis insisted: “In every sermon you give, remind people about penance and that no one can be saved unless he receives the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord. When it is sacrificed on the altar by a priest and carried anywhere, let all peoples praise, glorify and honor on bended knee the Lord God, living and true.” This instruction on sermons, whether by ordained or unordained brothers, shows his determination to encourage the more dramatic and humbling act of kneeling before the Sacrament in place of the older bow.
Francis was himself a leader in this new lay style of prayer and reverence. He considered this message so important that within the year he wrote again to the custodians, reminding them of the instructions in his first letter and again reminding them to preach reverence for the Sacrament, whether this was in the piazza before people or in sermons before “podestas, consuls, or other rulers.” That he wrote twice on this topic to those in the best position to make his will known is a window into the founder’s frame of mind at this time.
We have from Francis one other message written in 1220, an appeal to the very rulers to whom his friars were to preach repentance and devotion to the Eucharist. Addressed “to the podestas, consuls, and other rulers” of cities, the letter is short and stern, a reminder of death and judgment: Reflect and see that the day of death is approaching. With all possible respect, therefore, I beg you not to forget the Lord because of the world’s cares and preoccupations and not to turn away from his commandments, for those who leave him in oblivion and turn away from his commandments are cursed and will be left in oblivion by him. When the day of death does come, everything they have will be taken from them. The wiser and more powerful they were in the world, the greater will be the punishment they will endure in Hell. He then turned to his favorite topic in this period, the Eucharist, writing that “therefore” they should receive communion with fervor and foster honor to the Lord among those they rule. “If you do not do this, know that, on the day of judgment, you must render an account before the Lord your God, Jesus Christ.” (pp. 83–84)
He writes: “We must be Catholics. We ought to visit churches frequently and venerate clerics, and revere them, not so much for their own sake, for they may be sinners, but on account of their office and administration of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, which they sacrifice on the altar and receive and minister to others.” The logic, or better poetic associations, in Francis’s thought have taken us full circle. The subordination of the Christian to the Church makes sense only because Christ has chosen to use its clergy, sinners as they are, to make his own self-emptying present to the world through the Mass. To participate worthily in this is, for Francis, what it means “to love God above all things.” (p. 87)Lastly:
His retreat and return are the background to the “Letter to the Entire Order,” which was, in a way, Francis’s public farewell address. The Latin is carefully crafted, although colloquial enough to suggest it is Francis’s own work, not much revised by his secretaries.The issue he found most pressing was not poverty, not obedience, but proper reverence for the Eucharist. Not immigration, starvation, dehydration, disease, global warming, ecology, or engangered species (unless it be the endangered species of bread and wine unworthily treated); not faux obedience to apostolic exhortations, brain-fever fervorinos, or councils of cardinals; but proper reverence for the Lord in His true Body and Blood, expressed through the careful and devout offering of the Mass, the most worthy vessels and vestments one can supply, signs of adoring love, and an unyielding insistence on penance and renunciation of sin prior to communion. This is what St. Francis believed in; this is what he stood for; this is what his order was meant to believe, say, and do.
After a formal greeting in which he kisses the feet of the brothers, Francis arrives at his issues and concerns. The first concern would be familiar to anyone who has read his other letters. All possible reverence is to be had for the Body and Blood of the Lord, and priests who celebrate Mass are to do so with the utmost care. In treating the celebration of Mass, Francis’s tone is urgent, indeed harsh and peremptory. Like the priests of the Old Law who violated the laws of temple sacrifice, priests of the New Covenant who celebrate unworthily are damned and cursed. He elaborates on the priestly office in a long section, extolling its dignity and the exalted nature of the priestly calling. Although not a major theme in early letters, Francis’s well-known reverence for the clergy is reflected in his words. In his final words to his followers, the issue he found most pressing was not poverty, not obedience, but proper reverence for the Eucharist. (pp. 119–20)
So, the next time someone tries to invoke Pope Francis on you to downplay the importance of liturgy, you might want to tell them about the real Francis who apparently inspired the pope with his choice of name. The saint was radically different from the modern sentimentalized and romanticized proto-hippie and peacenik. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that this poor deacon who started the single greatest popular religious movement in the history of the Church would not recognize many of his twentieth-century followers as having anything to do with him, his religion, or his priorities—and the same might be said of others who have taken his name upon themselves, but for the wrong reasons.
|Hippie Francis... step aside.|
|Even hipper Francis... definitely step aside.|