Monday, April 01, 2013

Cantalamessa: "the residues of ceremonials" must be "knocked down"

This is really the story of two myths; but first, the one referenced by Candalamessa here: It is the one referenced also by von Balthasar in his famous title made popular by a textbook used in many seminary classes, Razing the Bastions: On the Church in This Age, which views the Church of the past as having erected barriers between clergy and laity making the Church a colossal failure. (Anyone who believes that should check what Joseph Pearce says about the "burgeoning Catholic revival" and "unprecedented heyday of notable conversions" in the generations preceding Vatican II.)

In any case, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFMCap, the Preacher of the Pontifical Household, preached in the Vatican Basilica on Good Friday what was formally a homily but what Rorate Caeli calls truly "a panegyric to the new pontiff with an embedded program of great ambition." The post is entitled "Cantalamessa's Panegyric: 'a new time is opening for the Church', 'partitions, staircases, rooms and closets' and 'the residues of ceremonials' must be 'knocked down'" (Rorate Caeli, April 1, 2013).

Here are the key excerpts (emphasis added by RC):
We know what the impediments are that can restrain the messenger: dividing walls, starting with those that separate the various Christian churches from one another, the excess of bureaucracy, the residue of past ceremonials, laws and disputes, now only debris....

As happens with certain old buildings. Over the centuries, to adapt to the needs of the moment, they become filled with partitions, staircases, rooms and closets. The time comes when we realize that all these adjustments no longer meet the current needs, but rather are an obstacle, so we must have the courage to knock them down and return the building to the simplicity and linearity of its origins. This was the mission that was received one day by a man who prayed before the Crucifix of San Damiano: "Go, Francis, and repair my Church"....

May the Holy Spirit, in this moment in which a new time is opening for the Church, full of hope, reawaken in men who are at the window the expectancy of the message, and in the messengers the will to make it reach them, even at the cost of their life.
In short, the message is that we must heed the call of the Holy Spirit, and knock down the residues of traditional ceremonials that stand in the way of the Gospel.

This is a very inviting and common-sensical to many today, particularly those in the Evangelical Catholic community and those in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. What counts is the "spirit" of the law, not the "letter." The forms of liturgy, memorized 'set' prayers, Q & A (Baltimore) catechism styles all strike them as rigid, empty, lifeless "forms" that should, at best, be viewed as something like "training wheels" for mere beginners who haven't yet learned to fly.

(Here I can't help remembering Peter Kreeft's story about how he came to the rectory and told the Irish priest, while in grad school, that he wanted to convert, and the priest asked, "Who's the girl?" When Kreeft persisted with serious theological questions from the Summa of St. Thomas, the good priest handed him a copy of an elementary catechism entitled, Fr. Smith Instructs Jackson, and told him: "Walk before you fly, son. Walk before you fly!" But this, of course, is indeed another story.)

As to this first myth about knocking down traditions and razing bastions, however, Sandro Magister recently recalled, as noted in Rorate Caeli, one possible response that may be made:

In the pseudo-Franciscan and pauperist mythology that in these days so many are applying to the new pope, imagination runs to a Church that would renounce power, structures, and wealth and make itself purely spiritual.

But it is not for this that the saint of Assisi lived. In the dream of Pope Innocent III painted by Giotto, Francis is not demolishing the Church, but carrying it on his shoulders. And it is the Church of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, at that time recently restored and decorated lavishly, but made ugly by the sins of its men, who had to be purified. It was a few followers of Francis who fell into spiritualism and heresy.
The second myth is referenced somewhere by Peter Kreeft, but I think comes originally from G. K. Chersterton who once said "Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up." That, too, is a kind of common sense, at least to many people it would be so. It is elaborated upon in a book by Kreeft entitled The Best Things in Life, one of his playful dialogues between an imaginary Socrates and imaginary contemporary characters. But here again, it's hard to say where the ideas originate. Others out there write in a similar voice these days, as does Bruce Herman in the following quote:
Taboos fence in a particular experience -- and what is fenced in also fences other things out. Case in point: sexuality. The fence around sexuality is there to protect something that is very vulnerable and precious. If you knock the fence down, you no longer have the sense of preciousness, and eventually all sensitivity is lost.
I have addressed this issue before and some time ago in connection with litugical ceremonials ("'Making it Real' - Part II: The Sacrament of the Altar," Musings, March 9, 2007). The point would be, essentially, that these forms that hedge about the sacred mysteries, far from being "empty forms" or "senseless taboos," or "mere letters of the law" that serve to impede evangelization, in fact serve to preserve and protect that which is most precious and central to the heart of the Catholic Faith, apart from which the living faith of the people would wither and die.

There is another writer who puts the two myths in still other terms. The writer is Thomas Howard. The book is An Antique Drum, which was re-published by Ignatius Press under the unfortunate title of Chance, or the Dance? The first myth is that nothing means anything. In this instance, forms, rituals, gestures, vestments -- all these things are essentially meaningless externals in themselves, the operative word being meaningless. The second myth is that everything means something. In this instance, the altar boys bowing their faces to the floor during the Confiteor, the faithful receiving the sacrificial victim on their tongue rather than taking Him in their fingers, genuflecting at the et incarnatus est in the Credo and at the verbum caro factum est in the Last Gospel -- all of these things point beyond themselves, such that they are tiny instances of the way things are in the universe as a whole. It's always the little things.

I don't know that I can prove or disprove one or the other of these two myths. I can certainly testify to the existence of these two competing myths in the Catholic world today. Readers will have to put two-and-two together for themselves and see what makes sense from their vantage points. Certainly I believe in the Holy Ghost. Certainly I believe also in the Magisterium. I do not see them as working at cross purposes. Never have.

[Hat tip to L.S.]


I am not Spartacus said...

Bishop Jerome Racozonus of Venice at the Council of Trent:

Since such is the nature of man that he cannot easily without external means be raised to meditation on divine things, on that account holy Mother Church has instituted certain rites, namely that certain things be pronounced in a subdued tone (canon and words of consecration) and others in a louder tone; she has likewise made use of ceremonies such as mystical blessings, lights, incense, vestments, and many other things of this kind in accordance with apostolic teaching and tradition, whereby both the majesty of so great a sacrifice might be commended, and the minds of the faithful excited by these visible signs of religion and piety to the contemplation of the most sublime matters which are hidden in this sacrifice.

Well, then, has the nature of man changed?


And so what does it mean for Catholic man to have a Bishop of Rome who will institute a mean minimalism in worship?

The results will be obvious - an ever-decreasing appreciation of The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and an ever-decreasing appreciation of the Holy Eucharist as the Real Presence of Jesus and, further, there will be an ever-decreasing appreciation of our Sacramental System as our Bishop of Rome will be speaking about the poor in a materialist manner and not in a spiritual manner.

Service and Ecumenism has supplanted Sin and Salvation in the new dispensation that was the still birth of Vatican Two.

As the inertia into Indifference intensifies, I half expect the Bishop of Rome to be standing in front of a huge red kettle in Saint Peter's Square during Advent, ringing his little bell and talking about Tiny Tim.

Apparently, we are headed for a poor minimalist materialistic Church with a poor minimalist Mass offered by a Bishop of Rome wearing poor vestments.

Even he who was involved in the Concilium of the execrable Annibale Bugnini, Fr. Joseph A. Jungmann, S.J. knew the mystical value of beautiful vestments.

Here he is on page 280 of his first volume, The Mass of the Roman Rite describing The Mass Ceremonies in Detail when he pens this most beautiful description of the Vestments worn at Mass:

Actually of course, there is a certain symbolism in the liturgical vestments. The fact that the priest wears garments that are not only better but really quite special, distinct from the garments of ordinary civil life, enhanced where possible by the preciousness of the material and by decoration - all this can have only one meaning; that the priest in a sense leaves this earth and enters another world, the shimmer of which is mirrored in his vesture.

In the past, in better days, we had Popes frequently identifying the primary purpose of the Catholic Church; here is the great Pope Leo XIII in his opening sentence of an Encyclical devoted to the Christian Constitution of States:



To Our Venerable Brethren the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Ordinaries in Peace and Communion with the Apostolic See.

The Catholic Church, that imperishable handiwork of our all-merciful God, has for her immediate and natural purpose the saving of souls and securing our happiness in heaven.

When was the last time you heard a Pope or Prelate state that ineluctable truth?

You can not remember; admit it

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Rightly or wrongly, St Francis of Assisi was one of the chief inspirational models of the "spirit of V2" dances of death which took place in the sixties. His is an antinomian, corrosive, levelling spirit which can only exist within an earthly institution, an ecclesium, under very specific circumstances. To turn this spirit loose upon the Church, to make it a model for all to emulate, is an act of pure institutional negation. To say or imply that the spirit of St Francis is the true spirit of the Catholic Church is to raze the bastions, consume the insides with chemical fire, and sow the surrounding fields with salt. Obviously, there are people inside the Church, and many more outside of it, who would be delighted to see this happen.

It is not a mere coincidence that no pope before Bergoglio ever chose the name of this great saint to express the spirit of his papacy.

Anyway, that is my opinion on what is coming. Cantalamessa is one of the lesser salt-sowers, a rooster who feels in his bones the coming bleak sunrise.

If you think the foregoing is pure claptrap, think back to the halcyon days of "spirit of V2" inebriation. If you have trouble doing that, may I suggest that you read two small books by James Hitchcock, an historian/sociologist at St Louis University (and the husband of Helen Hull Hitchcock):

"The Decline & Fall of Radical Catholicism," 1971

"The Recovery of the Sacred," 1973

The latter deals mostly with the then-new NO anti-liturgy, the former with the evisceration of the Catholic priesthood, which followed hard upon the first conciliar blast of laicism and clerical antinomianism. Lord knows I have my share of bones to pick with the Hitchcocks (starting with the first paragraph of Ch. 1 of "Decline"). But these books are invaluable because they are CONTEMPORARY testaments. They were written in the midst of these depredations, not forty years afterward, and they show us the real, boots on the ground consequences of the corn liquor rhetoric of the council fathers once the council was over and it was time to boogie.

The stuff in these books is the stuff for which Papa Ratzinger spent many sleepless nights contriving obscurantist bagatelles like "hermeneutic of rupture vs. hermeneutic of tradition."

You really should read them. You will have to find used copies: for some reason, Catholic book publishers such as Ignatius, Paulist, Orbis, etc, are not terribly interested in keeping them in print. But it is easy to find used copies of just about anything on Amazon -- this morning I found used copies of the hard cover editions of these books available for a buck apiece.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

ecclesia, feminine noun, oy

I am not Spartacus said...

Recovery of the sacred here:

Anonymous said...

I am reading Martin Mosebach's The Heresy of Formlessness, and on this question it offers detail after detail to show that nothing in the traditional liturgy is meaningless, all of it relates to a bedrock statement about sacrifice. Sacrifice. The offering of our bloodless sacrifice. The linens on the altar soaked up blood before Christ laid down His body. They are always wiggling around trying to escape from it, the mass is a sacrifice. So primitive but so right, the offering of God to God (that's how our SSPX pastor put it on Good Friday).

I came over to visit to say that I am researching flights to Budapest and am trying to get the nerve to go and learn and offer a little support. This good blog has sent me many visitors,lots have gone and signed the petition to support Hungary, I'm so glad. If anyone thinks of any persons (not high ups--I have no such connections--I guess I mean types of persons)I ought to interview, and questions I should ask, come over and leave a comment. I think I can handle the sightseeing part on my own. Plan to rent a bike. Budapest in the spring? Doesn't everyone, dahling? To support a new pro-life constitution?

JM said...

Very depressing insights that sound alarmingly on point. But...
Perhaps this unpleasant judgement is also the very unpleasant initial Rx for the situation described in the link to liccione at bottom, one PP also alluded to in a link to Vorris a while back:

As I said, it depresses me, but the clerical and parish rot is so thick, so many traditionalists sound more commited to culture than to Christ [judging from the absurdly acidic proliferation of internet diatribes that too often omit any reference to Christ], that maybe, just maybe only such a drastic pruning will work.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ralph,
St. Francis of Assisi is one of my favorite saints so I would like to comment on your latest post. I believe that when Pope Innocent III approved of his (Francis’) order he (the Pope) did say something to the effect that this rule was not for everyone. I’m going by memory here so that isn’t a quote. In fact Francis himself told at least one man that he was not Franciscan material. I have the Omnibus of St. Francis and read most of it. I read nothing that would indicate that he was anything other than a very holy, moral man. IMHO much of what was written about him was perhaps legend like my favorite the story of the wolf of Gubbio. I acknowledge that many people in the ‘60’s generation commandeered the memory of poor Francis and sold the world a bill of good about his being sort of an earth worshiping, tree hugging, animal loving hippie but he praised God for the sun and the moon etc. he did not worship them.

Like IANS, I think that you are an extraordinary writer. I look forward to reading your posts but your latest one bothered me a bit. I would like to ask you what evidence you have that his is an “antinomian” spirit. I don’t think that we can blame St. Francis for how his history is being used by some people any more than we can blame the Catholic Church for the use of saints’ statues in Santeria.


Anonymous said...

All this is very interesting, but I think I'm just about done with the Church. I'm sick to death of the constant, unnecessary changes, which depend on who happens to be in power at any one time. There's no timelessness left and no proper worship. What's the point?

John Hissong said...

G.K. Chesterton's 1930 book, The Thing or Why I am a Catholic, contains a passage which expresses the sentiment which you ascribed to Peter Kreeft. He doesn't use the exact phrasing you quoted here, so perhaps Dr. Kreeft is referring to Chesterton. Check out Wikiquote. There is also a nice discussion here.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Anonymous. The point is Salvation. Outside of the Catholic Church there is no Salvation.

When the going gets tough the faithful get stubborn; go ahead, make my day tougher.

I am on a revolving Novena to Pope Saint Pius X. As soon as I finish one Novena, I start in again the next day;

Try it, He is as much a part of the Catholic Church - Church Militant, Church Suffering, Church Triumphant, - as Father Fanny Fancier at your local faith community.

Novena to St. Pius X

Glorious pope of the Eucharist, St. Pius X, you sought “to restore all things in Christ.” Obtain for me a true love of Jesus so that I may live only for Him. Help me to acquire a lively fervor and a sincere will to strive for sanctity of life and that I may avail myself of the riches of the Holy Eucharist, which is sacrifice and sacrament. By your love for Mary, mother and queen, inflame my heart with tender devotion to her.

Blessed model of the priesthood, obtain for us holy, dedicated priests, an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

Dispel confusion, hatred, and anxiety. Incline our hearts to peace so that all nations will place themselves under the reign of Christ. Amen.

St. Pius X, pray for me.
(Here mention your request)

Anonymous said...


Thanks for what you said and for the reference to the Novena to St. Pius X. Salvation is the key.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

Here is the problem with St Francis, which is really more of a problem with Pope Francis, and the council which made him possible:

The problem with saying to 50 ordinary Catholics, “forget all else, simply go forth and live your life in imitation of St Francis: imitate him in his humility, his piety, his single mindedness, and his zeal, and do not let yourself be dissuaded by anyone!”, is that you will get fifty different versions of egotism as opposed to humility, fifty different versions of self-regard as opposed to piety, fifty different versions of obsession with who knows what, as opposed to single minded and zealous pursuit of heaven, in fifty different apostates.

Vatican II pocket pietists to the contrary, saintliness does not grow on trees, does not run on batteries, and does not spring from within like a belch after a good meal!

Forget about being St Francis, and keep the %#@$ commandments!

Sheldon said...


Very wise on Novena to Pius X.


Good thoughts on St. Francis.

Thanks to you both. Everyone, including myself, needs reminding.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ralph,

There was a time when I referred to myself as a “Traditionalist”. I haven’t for years. Sometimes I even thump my bible and this is one of those times 1st Corinthians 13 to you.

It is clear to me that you know nothing about St. Francis. I asked you what evidence you have that his is an “antinomian” spirit. You have so far presented nothing. You write “Forget about being St Francis, and keep the %#@$ commandments!” I wonder where THAT came from. I could be sarcastic and ask you if IANS should forget about being St. Pius X but I won’t. Instead I want to thank him for posting the beautiful novena.

You seem interested in admonishing me to keep the commandments. I thank you sir. Among the commandments I try live up to is the 9th commandment. Judging from a story or two about St. Francis in that very big omnibus that I mentioned in another post, I’d say it was very high on the list of the commandments he tried to keep.

You have been given an extraordinary gift. But, like all the gifts we have been given it can be used for good purposes or bad. This sir, IMHO, is not your finest hour.


I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Ralph. Your last sentence is funny as hell and , also, quite wise.

When men not only try to understand the essence and mission of the Seraphic Saint, (truly Sui generis) but also when they try to imitate him, there is the danger that some end-up not imitating him at all, they end-up wandering off into heresy - like The Fraticelli did.

Keep the %#@$ commandments are words I can almost hear Saint Jerome saying though.

I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Donna. I think it is much safer to try and follow Jesus through the example set by Pope Saint Pius X rather than to try and imitate Jesus through the example set by Saint Francis.

Pope Saint Pius X kept following in the Catholic Traditional path of countless others before him but he did it exceptionally well whereas Saint Francis is really quite unique in Catholic Tradition and a much more dangerous (which does not mean "bad") man to try and imitate.

Frankly, I am WAY to weak to try and follow the Seraphic Saint even though I love him.

On the other hand, who could go wrong following Pope Saint Pius X - other than the SSPX that is :)

As an aside, I wonder if I am the only man who thinks that Pope Saint Pius X and Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val are the two greatest men of the XXth century.

Anonymous said...

Dear IANS. I don’t know too much about Saint Pius X’s spirituality. I do however know quite a bit about St. Francis’. I’ll admit that if most people judge his life based on their experiences walking this vale of tears they would probably think his self imposed penance was a bit over the top me included. But there is precious little danger of my receiving the stigmata. I think maybe he was called to walk a more difficult road than me, at least so far. I have decided not to judge his walk nor will I judge someone who may have a calling to follow in his footsteps.

I agree that Saint Pius X followed a Catholic Traditional path of countless others but Catholic Tradition is rich in diversity. I’m not so sure that St. Francis is terribly unique when we remember this. I’m thinking of the monks of the Isle of Iona and the Desert Fathers in Egypt and others. I believe that if I followed their lead, it would be spiritually dangerous for me but I believe that there are to this day monks who live very much in the spirit of those people.

You say that you are way too weak to follow the Seraphic Saint, so am I. I wonder if others are not. We all must do penance. In that respect I don’t believe that it is dangerous to try to imitate him to a degree as we are led on our own journey.

Judging by the stories that I have read about St. Francis, whatever he did he threw his heart and soul into it. He loved the written word of God so much that if he found a piece of paper with a verse on it he would pick it up and treat it like gold and I am persuaded that he would not instruct me to keep the %#@$ commandments.


I am not Spartacus said...

Dear Donna. I generally agree with what you have written but with the exception that I think Saint Francis is sui generis but our disagreement over that may just be due to our own prejudices and preferences projected onto the Seraphic Saint.

It sounds to me as though you know quite a bit about that amasing Saint and that amount of knowledge is a thing we can all appreciate and aspire to.

And, so , know that you have inspired to me to know him, as Lincoln said, Mo'better.

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Hi IANS. You say that St. Francis is “sui generis” (I had to look that up) :). Maybe so I don’t know. There were many men who followed him. There are quite a few Franciscan saints my favorite being St. Francis de Sales.

I think that we all can agree that St. Francis of Assisi was more than a little eccentric but he really loved God, he was devoted to the Eucharist. I do know quite a bit about him. He and I have in common the love of the Eucharist but the similarities ends there. I think if you are interested in reading a bit about him you might look into G. K. Chesterton’s ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI. I read that book many years ago but I seem to remember that Chesterton attempted to explain St. Francis’ behavior by juxtaposing his life with a man who has found his true love. I mean remember Gene Kelly’s character dancing down the street in the rain in Singin’ in the Rain? :). At any rate I’ll bet your wife does.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

". . . and I am persuaded that he would not instruct me to keep the %#@$ commandments."

Maybe he wouldn't, but Christ would, and did. Perhaps you should look for the piece of paper with Matt 19:17 on it.

Anonymous said...

Which version of the Bible includes the adjective "%#@$" Ralph?


Ralph Loutus-Vulgarius said...

Oh, I see. This is where the male Neo-Cath soda jerk offers a mewling apology for his indiscriminate use of typographical symbols. Sorry kid, wrong movie. Please take your imposing knowledge of St Francis to the hirsute fellow reading the newspaper and smoking either a cigar or a pretzel rod. He seems to be a patient sort. At least for the time being (:D).