Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tridentine Community News

Kneeling for Holy Communion

Pope Benedict XVI has recently established a new norm that all who receive Holy Communion from him must do so kneeling and on the tongue. Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments Archbishop Albert Malcom Ranjith Patabendige Don has stated that he will follow the Holy Father's lead and also distribute Communion in this manner.

By doing so, our Holy Father is calling attention to the fact that receiving Holy Communion while standing, and receiving in the hand, are indults, that is, exceptions to the norm established by the Vatican. The mainstream Catholic press, including our local Michigan Catholic newspaper, have published articles on this development.

The posture of kneeling has developed a certain meaning of respect in our Western culture. Arguments for modern liturgical practices seem to either needlessly force antiquity upon us ("this is how the first Christians did this") or impose entirely new practices out of nowhere ("the new Eucharistic Prayers for Children add so much more richness to the liturgy"). Holy Mother Church, however, has long advocated slow, organic growth to the Mass. The evolution of kneeling as the norm in the West befits a culture where kneeling expresses something.

On a practical level, objections against the traditional posture hold little water. It takes no longer to distribute Holy Communion at the Rail than it does standing in a procession. Receiving on the hand is no more unsanitary than distributing into unwashed hands that most recently have been touching pews, books, and so forth. And distributing on the tongue is also no more unsanitary than distributing the Precious Blood from cups. Most importantly, distributing on the tongue is far less prone to sacrilege than in the hand. Consider that if a host is dropped onto a paten or Communion Rail, it is easily noticed by the communicant, priest, or altar server. If it is dropped onto the floor as part of a standing procession, not only is it less likely to be noticed -- not in the least because patens are rarely used when Communion is distributed standing -- but the Host may well be trampled upon by the parade of communicants.

Consider how the university professor who recently intentionally committed an act of sacrilege against the Blessed Sacrament obtained the Host. It would be far easier to sneak off with a Host placed into one's hands, than it would if the Host were placed on one's tongue, alongside others observing the process. One could make an argument for reestablishing the universal practice of kneeling for Communion simply because it reduces the ease of committing both major sacrilege of this type, as well as minor sacrilege caused by careless or uniformed behavior.

We have to consider a fundamental point: If we Catholics really believe that the Host truly is our Lord Jesus Christ made present, why would we not kneel in adoration before receiving Him? We stand when greeting a friend, we bow when meeting the Queen of England, we kiss the ring of a bishop; would we not kneel in front of God, Him Whom we adore with all our being?

By implementing this new standard, our Holy Father is hopefully demonstrating to the world the sheer common sense of this traditional Catholic practice.

Pittsburgh Mass Broadcast Live

Once again, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Tridentine Mass Community at St. Boniface Church is breaking multi-media ground by being, perhaps the first Tridentine Mass in North America to be broadcast live on the radio, every Sunday at 6:00 PM on Pittsburgh's WKHB, 620 AM.

Longtime readers of this column will recall that our friends in Pittsburgh long ago used billboards and signs on buses to get the word out about their Mass. Today they vie with St. Frances de Sales in St. Louis, Missouri for the highest attendance of any Tridentine Mass in North America. We're still waiting for the Super Bowl ads, but for now, we're mightily impressed with the continued publicity initiatives taken by this group. Hopefully their attendance increases yet more as a result.

Tridentine Mass Webcasts

The radio station broadcasting the Pittsburgh Mass is not (yet) offering a live feed on the Internet, but fortunately, at least one other Extraordinary Form Mass site is. St. Martin of tours Church in Louisville, Kentucky has offered a webcam broadcast of their Tridentine Mass at 12:30 PM every Sunday wince 1999. Visit If you are aware of any other webcasts presently operating, please e-mail the address at the bottom of this page with details so we may make mention of them.

Lest anyone think that a simple camera and microphone are all that are needed, consider the various acoustic challenges of recording the choir, celebrant, and congregation. Volume levels have to be carefully balanced. This is not a simple task.

Closer to home, we would be remiss without mentioning that recorded snippets of both the Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat Tridentine Masses have been posted on YouTube by our web gurus Aaron Scherle and Chris Stuckey, respectively.
[Acknowledgements: the foregoing is reproduced by permission the author from the Tridentine Community News bulletin insert from August 24, 2008, at St. Josaphat Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan. Hat tip to A.B.]

So Brother Roger of Taize was a Catholic convert after all?

In a recent post, "Catholic and Calvinist?" (August 25, 2008), we discussed the ambiguities surrounding the statements of Cardinal Kasper concerning the ecclesial status of Brother Roger, as reported by Sandro Magister (www.chiesa) and Rorate Caeli.

A new post at Rorate Caeli, "The Conversion of Brother Roger of Taize?" (RC, August 29, 2008), now appears to confirm that Brother Roger, one of the founders of the Taize Community in Switzerland, was indeed received into the Catholic Church in 1972 (via a profession of the Catholic Faith), but that his alleged conversion remained wrapped in secrecy until his death.

Rorate Caeli's latest post is based on an article written by Yves Chiron, translated by Michael Matt, and carried in the Remnant in 2006. The matter is still complicated, though perhaps not as problematic as initially supposed by some. While Roger Schutz did claim that he never ruptured communion with anyone, he apparently stopped functioning as a Calvinist pastor and no longer presided over Protestant services. Among the weightier questions that remain, Rorate Caeli suggests the following: Why did Cardinal Kasper refuse to define Brother Roger's conversion as that: a conversion? And why was this conversion wrapped in secrecy? Surely a true convert to Catholicism should not be ashamed to confess his faith? One can only imagine the great numbers of converts who would have been led to the faith by Brother Roger's example, had it not been hidden.

As to the latter question, perhaps I may be able to shed some light. I know that the option of being received into the Church in secrecy is available, because it was offered to me, though I declined it. Apparently it is offered in circumstances where it is supposed that an open profession of Catholic Faith might significantly jeopardize or compromise the life, familial situation, or social or professional position of the convert. I decline to speculate on what Brother Roger's circumstances were. Whatever such considerations may be, they may seem shallow and self-serving to some, especially in the face of martyrs who have given their lives for professing the Catholic Faith. My hunch is, however, that the Church would ask us not to rush to judgment concerning the personal circumstances of individuals concerning which we are not privy. At the very least, perhaps this may help to reveal something about the sort of rationale at work behind such proceedings.

I conclude with one quote from the article by Yves Chiron:
It is true that this secrecy of his conversion has not the limpidity and the solemnity of an abjuration. But who dares to doubt his sincerity? Cardinal Ratzinger, in giving him Communion in April 2005, certainly acted with full knowledge of the facts. And it is bad form to accuse him still today of “having given communion to a Protestant.”

Website listing MEF Mass schedules worldwide

This word from our friend, Sid Cundiff: there is now a website listing -- and ideal for listing -- MEF Mass Schedules (MEF = Mass in the Extraordinary Form) throughout the world. This is, like all Wiki sites, a website that anyone can edit, for better or worse. Mr. Cundiff has undertaken to keep updated the page for the Diocese of Charlotte and, under the direction of Fr. Paul Parkerson, that of the Diocese of Raleigh, adding that the webpage also lists SSPX churches within the Raleigh area -- information he is not at liberty to edit. See: "WikkiMissa: CarolineDuNord." Readers will quickly see how easy it is to navigate to any country in the world and see what is going on in various cities.

[Hat tip to Mr. Sid Cundiff.]

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Liberal critics lay into Obama's speech

Sarah Palin

One of my sons sent me the following this morning, commenting on McCain's VP nominee:
Yesterday, John McCain chose Sarah Palin . . . a Feminist-for-Life mother of five (one Downes Syndrome, whom she refused to abort); she's a 2-term mayor of Wasilia, AK and ran on a campaign of reform for governor, where she went head to head with corrupt Alaskan Republicans and "Big Oil" and has an 80-90% approval rating. She sold her predecessor's private jet (which he purchased using a state credit card) on E-Bay because it was "government waste." Her husband is part Eskimo; one of their sons joined the army on 9/11 and is currently serving in Iraq. She hunts and fishes and is a lifelong member of the NRA, and knows how to handle a machine gun.

Barack Obama picked Joe Biden.
[See our ealier post, "A governor whose pro-life witness is more than words" (Musings, April 27, 2008).]

  • “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling,” said Camille Paglia, the cultural critic. “That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. Palin is as tough as nails.” (TimesOnline, August 31, 2008).

  • "... even though the Clinton aides could barely conceal their satisfaction when she was chosen, the woman who Palin upstages most of all is Hillary. If Obama wins the election, Hillary will have to wait until 2016 to stand again. And if he loses, Palin will be first in line to become America’s first woman president." (Sarah Baxter, TimesOnline, August 31, 2008).

Friday, August 29, 2008

How do you solve a problem like Pelosi?

Rachel Zoll, "Pelosi gets unwanted lesson in Catholic theology" (, August 28, 2008):
Politics can be treacherous. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi walked on even riskier ground in a recent TV interview when she attempted a theological defense of her support for abortion rights.

Roman Catholic bishops consider her arguments on St. Augustine and free will so far out of line with church teaching that they have issued a steady stream of statements to correct her.

The latest came Wednesday from Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik, who said Pelosi, D-Calif., "stepped out of her political role and completely misrepresented the teaching of the Catholic Church in regard to abortion."

It has been a harsh week of rebuke for the Democratic congresswoman, a Catholic school graduate who repeatedly has expressed pride in and love for her religious heritage.

Cardinals and archbishops in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Denver are among those who have criticized her remarks. Archbishop George Niederauer, in Pelosi's hometown of San Francisco, will take up the issue in the Sept. 5 edition of the archdiocesan newspaper, his spokesman said.
One reader's email directed me to one of the more scathing fiskings of Pelosi I've seen, which comes from Rush Limbaugh, "The Arrogance of Nancy Pelosi" (August 5, 2008):
RUSH: Let's go to Pelosi. This was on Meet the Press yesterday. I want you to hear this, and we'll comment after it. Tom Brokaw said, "Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his 'pay grade,' when whether you're looking at it 'scientifically or theologically,' if he were to come and say, 'Help me out here Madam Speaker,' what would you tell him?"

PELOSI: As an ardent practicing Catholic, uh, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition, and, uh, Senator -- uh, I'm -- Senator -- Uh, St. Augustin' (sic) said at three months. We don't know. The point is is that it shouldn't have an impact on a woman's right to choose. Roe v. Wade talks about very clear definitions of when the child -- uh, eh, er, first trimester, certain considerations second trimester, not so third trimester. The -- the -- there's very clear distinctions.

RUSH: You know, folks, this is just embarrassing. As I've often wondered, is she genuinely this uneducated, uninformed, silly, stupid, whatever -- and I've concluded there isn't a word to describe the status of her brain. The Catholic Church doesn't know? The Catholic Church hasn't stipulated? The "doctors" at the Catholic Church? You mean the pope goes and consults the doctors to find out when life begins? Really? The doctors have more to say than God-d? I mean, Nancy, cite anybody. Don't cite the Catholic Church. You're putting them in an untenable position. You're fixing it so every priest, no matter how wacko left the priest might be, cannot support you. Good grief, ladies and gentlemen! Life begins at conception. Where else can it begin?

Peggy Noonan had a great way -- I'm going to have to paraphrase what she wrote -- of reducing this to its most simple, its most elemental. If life doesn't begin at conception, then why the hell wear a condom? If life doesn't begin at conception, then why the hell take the pill? Well, the church doesn't allow the pill. I know the church doesn't allow the pill because life begins at conception -- and the church is not cool on condoms, either, logoed or otherwise. But that's the point. This is not something that we've been arguing about for centuries. St. Augustine said life begins at three months? St. Augustine knew that Roe v. Wade was going to come along and basically say the same thing? Ed Morrissey, writing at the Hot Air blog, has done yeoman's research into this.

He writes today: "The notion that the Catholic Church declared abortion a sin at the same time as the Pill is patently absurd, and shows that Pelosi has either lied about studying the issue in terms of Church history or lied about what she found. Church writings specifically naming abortion as murder appear as early as 70 AD in the Didache, the first written catechism of the Christian church: ... 'Tertullian, sometimes known as the Father of the Latin Church, wrote with equal clarity and force: "In our case, a murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from the other parts of the body for its sustenance.'" This is AD 179, the year 179, following year 70. "The Catholic catechism is extremely clear on the nature of its position on human life, and has been remarkably consistent on this point for almost 2,000 years, and it finds that position in the Old Testament. Human life begins at conception, not at birth, and not at some point consistent with Roe for convenience.

"In Psalm 51, David refers to his sinfulness beginning at the moment of conception, and sinfulness requires physical life and a soul to exist." So there you have it in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church has not thrown the Old Testament under the bus, the last time I looked. This is a giant embarrassment, or ought to be. Where's Brokaw? Where is the media on this? She got away with this kind of inane, insane rambling, trying to fit one of the most sacred religious beliefs held by Catholics all over the world into a political issue that would conform with a rogue Supreme Court decision called Roe v. Wade in 1973. Now, that is hubris. That is arrogance like I cannot believe. She has placed herself above the doctors of the church, above "St. Augustin," as she said. She has placed herself above the pope and everything the Catholic Church has ever said about this. And of course Brokaw just sits there, "Heh, heh, heh. Oh. Good." Well, that's not entirely true. Brokaw did challenge her on this. I have to be honest. It's with the natural gas business that he just sat there. He said, "But wait a minute, the Catholic Church at the moment feels strongly that life begins at the point of conception."

PELOSI: (mumbling) And this is, like, 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history, uh, of the church, this is an issue of, uh, controversy.

RUSH: No, it's not an issue of controversy in the church. It's an issue of controversy with the followers, with the parishioners, with the flock like you. Note the 50 years. I've always said, "A person's historical perspective begins with the day they were born." So her use of 50 years there, "Well, it's been a bone of contention, a controversy in the church for 50 years," meaning her adult life. That's what she is relating it all to. Th-th-th-- (sigh) I'm sorry to stutter, folks. I'm in stunned bewilderment and disbelief over what I consider to be not just stupidity and silliness but arrogance and hubris, and the ignorance that these people have over how this kind of comment is going to come back and bite her presidential nominee. I guess she thinks that she has to provide some sort of Democrat Party interpretation of Catholicism that permits Obama to get away with his infanticide belief.
[Hat tip to T.K.C.]

An Interview With a Carmelite

Dale Vree

We recently had a chance to talk with Brother Simon Mary of the Cross, a monk at the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Clark, Wyoming. Fr. Daniel Mary of Jesus Crucified, the Prior of the monastery, offered us this rare occasion to speak with Br. Simon Mary, in the hope that the story of his vocation would help other young men in their discernment, and inspire the prayers and generosity of our readers to preserve this monastic way of life and provide for the young men God is calling. Br. Simon Mary took us from his early, formative years through to the realization of his vocation as a Carmelite monk. The Carmelite monastery in Wyoming is one of the most exciting new elements in the Church in America, and has proven -- in just a few short years -- to be fecund ground for vocations to the consecrated life.

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NOR: Greetings, Brother Simon Mary.

Br. Simon Mary: Praised be Jesus Christ!

NOR: Tell us a little bit about your background.

Br. Simon Mary: I was born in 1984. I grew up in Cambridge, a small rural town in New York on the Vermont border.

NOR: Only 24 years old -- you're still a young fellow! Tell us about your home life growing up.

Br. Simon Mary: I come from a faithful Catholic family; I'm the oldest of three children. I had a normal, peaceful childhood. My grandparents had a dairy farm in Cambridge, a portion of which they deeded to my parents. It was a great blessing to grow up in a small, rural town such as Cambridge.My mother was a devout Catholic, as were some of the older members of my family, especially my grandmother. They faithfully attended the devotions, Stations of the Cross, adoration, and Rosaries at the local parish, and always took us kids along with them. Being in a church, to me, was just a natural part of my childhood. And there were always holy pictures and crucifixes in both my parents' and grandparents' houses.

NOR: So these physical manifestations of the faith -- holy pictures, crucifixes -- and devotional practices were helpful in the formation of your faith?
Br. Simon Mary: Yes, absolutely.

NOR: Did you go to Catholic or public schools?

Br. Simon Mary: I went to a public school in Cambridge.

NOR: Looking back, who were some of the early influences who helped in your religious formation?

Br. Simon Mary: Apart from my mother and grandmother, I would definitely say the Augustinian Fathers. In Cambridge, when I was growing up, some priests from the Augustinian order staffed some of the parishes in rural New England. I first became aware of them at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and was blessed to have them for CCD classes as well, starting when I was six years old. These men were very impressive to me; they were men of deep prayer -- very disciplined, very devoted to our Lady. Their teachings were very orthodox.In my hometown, the population was roughly half Catholic and half Protestant, so to see these men in their black cassocks was a powerful witness to our Catholic faith. I realize now what a great visible witness they gave just by their presence.

NOR: Was there one person in particular whom you consider a significant early influence leading you to the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. His name was Fr. Joseph Getz and, as you can imagine, he was one of the Augustinian Fathers. He married my parents, and he taught me and my brother how to serve at the altar during Holy Mass. What I remember most about him is his great devotion to the Blessed Mother -- Father always prayed the Rosary in the first pew before vesting for Mass. Watching him exercise his priestly office close-up during Mass was a very powerful experience for me as a young boy. His strong priestly character certainly demanded respect and admiration. He was a true spiritual father to me, and his reverence when saying Mass and his love for the Church and the Blessed Mother was inspiring.

NOR: With such an influence as Fr. Getz, did you entertain thoughts of becoming a priest?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. Many people -- family, friends, people at Mass -- would tell me or my parents after I served Mass that I should consider the priesthood, that I would make a good priest. I would say that this encouragement at the time made me think of one day perhaps becoming a priest.

NOR: What would you consider the earliest influence that led you to consider the monastic, rather than the priestly, life?

Br. Simon Mary: That influence, coincidentally, was also Fr. Getz. As mentioned, I attended the public school in my hometown. The Augustinian Fathers would take us out of school during the middle of the day for catechism classes -- I can't fathom how they managed to do that, given the hostility of most public schools these days toward anything religious! In one of the CCD classes, when I was around nine years old, Fr. Getz showed us a children's video about St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was my first encounter with the cloistered monastic life. I don't recall the details of the video, but only wondering, "What is this?" I had never heard of anybody voluntarily living such a life -- a life behind walls and grilles. I was definitely intrigued. I didn't pursue it at the time; it wasn't until much later that I came to realize who this great saint was. But here the seed was planted.

NOR: So there were really two seeds planted in your heart and mind: the priesthood and the monastic life. How did this play out in your early life?

Br. Simon Mary: My hometown was part of the Diocese of Albany. At some point during my junior-high years, our parish became part of a "cluster" of three parishes that shared two diocesan priests. Ours was the parish without a regular priest. As part of this re-formation, the Augustinian Fathers were replaced by diocesan priests. When I found out that Fr. Getz would be leaving, I wrote him a letter. At the end of the letter I suggested to him that I too might become a priest.But when Fr. Getz and the Augustinians left town, that influence essentially left my life. Parish life changed drastically -- there wasn't the same strong Catholic identity or even the same activities for kids. I stopped serving at Mass. The priests who came from the surrounding parishes to say Mass were good men, but their presence wasn't as profound -- in part because they just weren't around very much.

NOR: So you entered your teenage years in a sense untethered from the profound influence of the Augustinian Fathers. How did your life change?

Br. Simon Mary: I would characterize my teen years as very normal. I still attended Sunday Mass and took diocesan CCD classes, but that was pretty much the extent of my involvement in the parish. I did well academically in school, played sports, and joined in the usual activities. I had a lot of friends. Looking back, it was a great grace, being able to try out so many different things, to see what the world has to offer.

NOR: During this time, did you still have a sense of a calling to the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: By my junior year in high school I started to feel a pull between the life of faith and the worldly life at school. I had the sense that maybe I was trying to "run away" from my vocation.

NOR: How did you respond to that pull?

Br. Simon Mary: Like a lot of people, I guess. I decided that maybe I just needed to get away. Get away from the small-town life.

NOR: Did you?

Br. Simon Mary: My folks were of modest means; there wasn't much opportunity for travel simply because there just wasn't money for it. One trip I do recall making was with my family on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Cape, a Marian shrine in Three Rivers, Quebec. I recall evening processions and a large convent of cloistered nuns on the shrine grounds. I remember asking my grandmother what they do in there. She replied, "They're praying for all of us." We went inside to hear the nuns chanting the Divine Office and I was captivated by what I saw through the screen: the traditional habits and veils. I remember thinking, "Wow, here's a group of cloistered nuns who never leave the building. They constantly offer prayers for the pilgrims." The power of prayer really hit home for me.But back to my junior year: My parents didn't have enough money for me to travel, so I applied for a scholarship to study abroad for a year in Germany as part of an exchange program between the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. The application process was grueling and involved six months worth of essays and interviews. There were thousands of applicants and I knew I would need a miracle to make it.On an inspiration of grace, I decided to pray the Rosary every day at the parish church on my way home from school, for the Virgin Mary's intercession for my scholarship application. I'll never forget one day -- one fateful day -- I prayed to the Blessed Mother, "If I can get this scholarship, I will maybe -- maybe -- think about becoming a priest again."

NOR: So you undertook some serious bargaining for this scholarship.

Br. Simon Mary: Indeed! But the prayer was so simple, so childlike. Yet I knew that I'd made a promise that I couldn't go back on.

NOR: What happened next?

Br. Simon Mary: Here's where it gets really interesting. The next day, like every day, I went back to the parish church. There in the vestibule was a table with newsletters and magazines and the like that I'd never bothered to look at before. A certain magazine caught my eye called Vision that described all the different forms of religious life, all the religious orders and their charisms. At the bottom it read, "If interested, call us." Then it suddenly dawned on me: This was a sign from the Blessed Mother! "Oh no," I thought. "What have I gotten myself into?" I quickly stuffed the magazine into my backpack, thinking to myself, "Don't let anybody know about this!"

NOR: What did you do next?

Br. Simon Mary: I took the magazine home, but I couldn't bring myself to look at it for a few days. Then, late one night, I finally got the courage to crack it open. I learned all about the different kinds of religious orders.

NOR: Did any particular one stand out?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, absolutely. The Carmelite order really captivated me: a life so completely consecrated, so completely given to God. I then recalled the video on St. Thérèse that I had seen so many years back in Fr. Getz's CCD class, and how fascinating the whole idea of the cloistered life was.

NOR: What happened with your scholarship?

Br. Simon Mary: Wouldn't you know it, I got the scholarship! It was a complete miracle.

NOR: So now the cards are all on the table.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, and I began seriously contemplating the religious life. At the same time, I began receiving information from colleges and universities. And now I had a year in Germany ahead of me. My head was spinning; I didn't know what was going to happen.One particular episode sticks out from that time. I was invited to board with a Protestant family in Germany, but there was one catch: I had to go to a Protestant church with them every Sunday. I contacted them and asked if I could go to Mass. Maybe, was the reply, but not every Sunday, because I had to go with them to the Protestant church.

NOR: That's quite a dilemma for a young man discerning a vocation. What did you do?

Br. Simon Mary: I wrote back saying that I wasn't willing to have them as my host family.

NOR: That took some guts! What was the reaction?

Br. Simon Mary: Let's just say it didn't go over very well! I upset a lot of people because the whole idea of the program was to foster understanding between the cultures. But there was no way I was going to miss Mass. By the grace of God, a devout Catholic family was finally found.

NOR: So here you are, now discerning a vocation, but preparing to ship off to Germany for a year.

Br. Simon Mary: It was an interesting time. I was visiting universities as well. I wrote around for information from a few different religious communities. I was looking for a community that had an intense contemplative life, with a devotion to St. Thérèse, and preferably with no exterior apostolate; the community had to be orthodox and faithful to the Magisterium. Through the Vision magazine I found a community of Franciscans in Boston, the Little Brothers of St. Francis, that had a strong life of prayer and a devotion to the Carmelite saints. We traded correspondence and I decided to visit them while looking at colleges in the area.

NOR: What did your family think about you corresponding with a contemplative religious community?

Br. Simon Mary: They didn't know! I was trying to keep it a secret. I didn't want any outside influence or pressure in any direction; I wasn't sure if my vocation was truly from God. But I'm sure they had some inkling of what was going on.

NOR: What about your friends -- did you tell any of them? Were there others you knew who were also contemplating the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: I tried to keep it from everybody. None of my friends -- that I know of -- was discerning a vocation. But maybe they were trying to keep it a secret as well!But the attitude among my peers was pretty much to just prepare for college. College was really seen as the obvious "next step" in life by everybody I knew.

NOR: But first, for you, there was a trip abroad. Did your time away help or hinder your discernment?

Br. Simon Mary: I went with some trepidation, but my time in Germany was a wonderful experience. What's funny is that people there would ask me, "What are you going to do when you get back to the States?" My answer was, "Maybe I'll enter this Franciscan order in Boston." I really came to know there that I had a calling to the religious life.

NOR: When you got back, what was your sense of your calling?

Br. Simon Mary: I knew that if I were to do this, I would want to do it whole and entire. It would have to be a radical departure from everyday life. If I am called, then why not try to live the life of the saints -- exteriorly and, more importantly, interiorly? But, ultimately, I only sought, begged, and prayed for God's will to become clear.

NOR: So now it's decision time: college or community? Or maybe both?

Br. Simon Mary: I knew that, because my parents were poor, going to college would entail great cost and student loans and heavy debt. I realized that this would only delay my entering the religious life, possibly for years, if not forever.

NOR: Did you pursue the Franciscans in Boston?

Br. Simon Mary: I did. After visiting and talking with the Superior, I decided to join the community on probationary terms, first as an observer (a three-month period), followed by postulancy (a six-month period). What appealed to me was that they were not ashamed to be religious. They wore their habits at all times. When they went out to minister to the poor on the streets of Boston, they were a visible witness to the religious life and Holy Mother Church in a very secular place.In their spare time, the friars would often visit a cloistered monastery of discalced Carmelite nuns nearby. I was asked to serve at Holy Mass on the Feast of St. Thérèse at the convent. Again, I found myself intrigued by their life. It kept hitting me that all our work with the poor would bear no fruit if it weren't for the constant prayers of these cloistered nuns. The Franciscans have a very strong prayer life, but when it was time to go out among the poor, I found myself always wanting to stay behind to pray, to "practice the presence of God," as Br. Lawrence of the Resurrection put it. Br. Lawrence was an influential figure for me; here was a discalced Carmelite who was also a man. Then it dawned on me that that was what I longed for: A cloistered Carmelite community for men. The only problem was that there was none that I knew of.

NOR: So you came to realize that the Franciscan community was not for you.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. It was a very sad, very painful decision to leave the Franciscan community. Many prayers and many tears accompanied my decision.

NOR: Once you left Boston, what did you do? What was your state of mind?

Br. Simon Mary: Well, my family was happy to have me home again. But for me it was really a time of confusion. I thought that since the Franciscan experience didn't work out, perhaps I was called to the married state. I really didn't know what was going to happen to me or what I should do. I knew the Lord had put a desire in my heart for the cloistered Carmelite life, but to my knowledge there was no such community in the entire world.

NOR: What did you end up doing?

Br. Simon Mary: I ended up, of all things, as a paralegal in Vermont, working under an attorney and studying to take the state bar exam. I worked there for a year and a half, living in an apartment in a country farmhouse.

NOR: How did you like that work?

Br. Simon Mary: The attorney was a kind man, and took me under his wing like a son. But I found that when I went to bed at night, I was very unsatisfied. The religious life was constantly on my mind. It soon became very obvious to me -- and I'm sure to everyone around me -- that I had a calling to the contemplative life. While doing some research, I came across an order of Carmelite hermits in Christoval, Texas. I had earned one week of vacation at my job, so I decided to go to Texas to visit.

NOR: Did you like what you saw?

Br. Simon Mary: As I told the prior, Fr. Fabian Maria, "I love your life, but I'm not called to be a hermit." I had finally found a community of Carmelite men living a cloistered way of life, but I knew that I was not ready for the solitude required of a hermit. I asked the Prior if there were any monasteries in the discalced Carmelite tradition for men. He said there weren't -- our monastery in Wyoming hadn't been founded yet. At the end of my retreat, the question remained: "Where can I find a monastic, manly way of life in community with all the devotions of the Carmelites?"

NOR: Did you find that community?

Br. Simon Mary: Amazingly, I did. I was looking on the Internet one day and I googled "new Carmelite monks." An article from the Casper Star-Tribune came up that reported on a new, strictly cloistered monastic community in rural Wyoming. I stopped reading and said, "Wait! That's the life of St. Thérèse!"

NOR: That sounds like a shot out of the blue.

Br. Simon Mary: It sure was. It's funny to think that you can find your calling to a cloistered community on the Internet. So I talked to my spiritual director, a young, humble priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Vermont, who suggested I write to the Father Prior in Wyoming, which I did.It was a long, long time before I heard back. I had made the mistake writing just before the Easter Triduum -- a very busy time at the monastery! In his letter, Father Prior explained to me quite clearly what life at the Carmel in Wyoming was like. He explained that the monks always wear the traditional habits, are faithful to the Pope and the Magisterium of the Church and will have nothing to do with theological dissent, and that they only celebrate the Traditional liturgy.

NOR: What was your reaction to that?

Br. Simon Mary: Well, the part about their habits and faithfulness to the Magisterium was everything that I sought. But I'd never been to a Traditional Mass before. But it was easy for me to see that a Carmel with the traditions, customs, and discipline of the saints would also need the reverence, beauty, and awe of the Traditional Mass if it were to endure. Plus, the Carmelite Rite has the approval of the local Ordinary, Bishop David Ricken of Cheyenne, who founded our monastery in 2003.

NOR: So your vocation was really nurtured in the New Mass?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, thanks to the very reverent and beautiful liturgies celebrated by the Augustinian Fathers in my hometown.

NOR: But now you are part of an order that celebrates the Traditional Mass.

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, but a distinction must be made: We celebrate the traditional Carmelite Rite of the Mass, which is very similar to, but distinct from, the Tridentine Mass. In the great tradition and richness of the Church, many ancient religious orders were honored to have their own distinct rites of the Mass. The Carmelite Rite is the great inheritance of a Carmelite, being imbued with so many feasts, chants, and rubrics proper to the spirituality of Carmel. Our community is dedicated whole and entire to preserving the fullness of the Carmelite liturgical life -- the Carmelite Rite is at the very core of our monastic existence and gives life and strength to our ancient and venerable tradition.

NOR: Tell us about the charisms of your monastic community.

Br. Simon Mary: Carmelite monks are consecrated to God through the vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty. Our time is spent in prayer and penance for the salvation of souls, interceding for the Church and the world, as well as in the study of Scripture and the fathers and doctors of the Church.Our Carmelite community has four pillars: The first is filial devotion to the Blessed Mother. Second is the Holy Rule of St. Albert, also known as the Carmelite Rule, in its original observance. Third is the Carmelite Rite of the Mass, the liturgy in use until the Second Vatican Council. And fourth, the discalced Carmelite charism: the spirituality, customs, and way of life as lived by St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa of Ávila, which entails a strict constitutional enclosure -- our monks don't leave the monastery at all, except for doctor appointments when no doctor is available to come to the monastery, or other emergencies, with permission from the Bishop.The structure and discipline of the Carmelite Rule protects our monks from modern, worldly temptations. That protection is very important -- you can't allow new things in, because then discipline breaks down. Modesty and chastity must be protected and our Carmelite way of life preserved for the young men who come after us. There is structure and objectivity to our life. The rules are kept closely; there's no guess work about what we're supposed to be doing. We strive to do what the saints have always done. The goal of our Carmel is to transform men into saints -- and not just our monks, but all the men united with our monastery. The Carmelite life is at once ancient and new. Nuns have had it for a long time, but it's new for men. The word "Carmel" means "the garden of God" in Hebrew. Here we know the power and beauty of living outside of time, living our lives completely for the sake of Jesus and Mary.

NOR: One could easily get the impression that cloistered monks are so far removed from the world that they have no concept of current events and the challenges facing the Church in the modern world, and that therefore their prayers can't be directed to specific problems. Is this true?

Br. Simon Mary: No. We get news of the outside world from visits and correspondence with our family, friends, and benefactors. We have a good idea of what's going on in the world, but we're spared the gory details. As far as current events, the sins of the world aren't new.

NOR: Are you allowed to read newspapers and magazines?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes. We are allowed orthodox Catholic publications in our library. But Father Prior looks over all material that comes in, to make sure that there is nothing that would offend against modesty and chastity. Our library also stocks a wonderful array of works by the Doctors of the Church and on the lives of the saints.

NOR: How does the monastery survive in such a remote area?

Br. Simon Mary: Wyoming is only marginally Catholic, so we need to be self-supporting. We follow the dictum of St. Paul: He who doesn't work shall not eat. One of the hallmarks of the monastery is manliness: we work with our hands, doing our own maintenance and upkeep of the building and the grounds. In the monastic tradition of small cottage communities, we roast Mystic Monk Coffee here at the monastery. [See the advertisement on p. 15 of this issue -- Ed.] Aside from that, we are dependent on alms. Our monastery was founded on the principle of poverty.

NOR: How do you get food to eat?

Br. Simon Mary: Obviously, we can't go to the store and buy groceries. Most of our food comes from our neighbors in the area who donate food to us as acts of charity. By the grace of God, we have never gone hungry! But we hope in the future to have some farmland within the monastery grounds, and a milk cow and some chickens.

NOR: What is your daily life like?

Br. Simon Mary: Most of our day is spent in prayer. We pray the entire Divine Office, which consists of eight canonical hours of prayer, starting at 4:10 in the morning. We spend two hours in mental prayer each day, one hour in the chapel and one hour in our cells in solitude. Two hours are given over to contemplative prayer. And, of course, we pray the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass each day.The rest of our time is taken up with daily labor. We have a brother cook, a brother cobbler, a brother tailor, and so on. There are household chores to be done, cooking, correspondence, answering the phone, etc.We are also allowed one hour of recreation each day. This is an extremely joyful time to relax as a community, share a good laugh, or get some exercise -- we'll get a football game going, or hike around the monastery grounds. I would say that monastic joy and fraternal charity are hallmarks of our community.

NOR: Do you observe a vow of silence?

Br. Simon Mary: No, but we refrain from unnecessary conversation outside of recreation, preferring rather to foster that interior conversation between the soul and God.

NOR: Was the lack of ongoing conversation a big adjustment for you?

Br. Simon Mary: Yes, but by fostering an interior life, one practices the presence of God. Prayer becomes more interior, more silent. Prayer really involves many acts of the will, not many words. In the contemplative life we don't get to see the visible fruits of our labors; those fruits are given over to God in prayer.

NOR: What were the hardest adjustments you had to make?

Br. Simon Mary: There were a few adjustments, but none was insurmountable. From the outside, one might say oh, there's no TV, no radio, none of those modern conveniences. But I really don't miss them. Probably the biggest adjustment was my unfamiliarity with the Carmelite way of life -- it's at the same time ancient yet unknown. It hasn't been widely studied or promoted in our times.I'd say the hardest thing here is that as a contemplative monk, you are constantly faced with yourself -- your humanness, your sinfulness, your struggles and failures to grow in the imitation of Christ. In the world there are so many distractions --TV, radio, and computer, for instance -- but here you are confronted with yourself, you find yourself, see who you truly are. And only by seeing our weaknesses can we make progress in the spiritual life. The monastic life is so completely contrary to modern life.

NOR: Are visitors allowed?

Br. Simon Mary: In the Carmelite tradition, we welcome visitors who come to the monastery each day during visiting hours. For the monks whose families are local, they are allowed visits once a month. For the rest, we are allowed phone calls and letters once a month. My family comes out about two times a year.

NOR: Do you miss your family?

Br. Simon Mary: You know, joining a monastery is easier for the monk than for his family. When I announced that I was joining the Carmelite Order, my family struggled deeply with my vocation to the contemplative life. But they have since found consolation in the prayers of the monastery.

NOR: What would you say to those who think that the monastic life is "boring"?

Br. Simon Mary: Life here is anything but boring! Life as a monk is filled with great peace and joy. Here we are in the ante-chamber of Heaven -- our lives are given over completely to the love of God. The life of a monk is a life of great peace.When I left New England, some of my extended family members said, "Oh, he's dead to us now." But our life here is a life of such great joy. It's not boring or like a prison at all. Here one comes to understand that the power of prayer opens up channels of grace for the active members of the Church's apostolates. The religious life is so different from people's preconceived notions of old, lonely men wandering in solitude around empty halls. All the monks here are in their twenties and thirties. It's a vibrant community.

NOR: Where are you in the process of your vocation?

Br. Simon Mary: I have professed temporary vows. The first year in the order is called the postulancy. That's followed by a two-year novitiate. And then temporary vows are professed for a period of three years. Finally, perpetual vows are professed, and those are for life. I have two years left before I profess perpetual vows.

NOR: How many monks are there at the monastery?

Br. Simon Mary: There are ten of us now. There are an additional forty men who are in the process of discernment. Discernment is a very strict process. We are very strict about not allowing in any homosexuals or drug or alcohol abusers, only men who are truly dedicated to serving Holy Mother Church. By year's end, it seems we will have between fifteen and twenty monks.

NOR: Such growth is almost unheard of these days. Can the monastery accommodate all these young men?

Br. Simon Mary: We have been blessed by rapid growth, but we are in great need of housing for these exceptional young men. Our monastery has located an ideal, remote setting on 500 acres in Wyoming's Rockies, where our life might be taken up in the fullness of its splendor and power. This property would allow us to realize our vision of strict enclosure and the fullness of the eremitical life. In God's Providence, this mountain setting already has an existing lodge, guesthouse, and caretaker's house, which are suitable for our immediate growth and would allow us to start offering retreats. All the same, our monastery is truly founded in poverty and in need of a miracle if this property, known as Irma Lake, is to be secured as the New Mount Carmel here in the U.S. We must find individuals capable of helping us acquire this setting for the honor of the Immaculate Mother and the glory of Almighty God. Please pray for God's blessing in this time of great necessity. As monks, we humbly place our trust in the Infant of Prague, the Virgin Mother, and our good father, St. Joseph.

NOR: What advice would you give to a young man who's considering the religious life?

Br. Simon Mary: For the young man -- for everybody, really -- it is important to develop a prayer life. Without prayer and the reception of the Sacraments, discernment is just not possible. You must develop a love for the saints, especially the Blessed Mother. Without devotion to the Blessed Mother, you won't make it. The Blessed Mother leads us to Christ.It's also important to have an orthodox spiritual director to whom you can confide your soul. He can help you properly discern the events and the course of your life.But the best advice I can give someone is to be bold. Don't accept the status quo in life; don't presume that going to college is the obvious next step after high school just because everybody else is doing it. Don't presume that you are automatically called to the married state just because all those around you have taken it for granted. Start instead by thinking that God might be calling you to be completely consecrated to Him, and that you were made for His glory. The first priority in your life should be to do God's will, and to do that you must discern His will in your life. Just think: What will I have lost by trying out the religious life for just one year? We are living in difficult times; now is the time to become great saints.

NOR: But how does one develop a prayer life when most young people have received such poor catechesis?

Br. Simon Mary: Start by praying the Rosary. It's easy to learn and easy to pray. Meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary opens up one's heart to God. Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Spend time in Eucharist Adoration. These profound acts of prayer don't require great learning or in-depth instruction. But to really develop a potent prayer life, you must first root out sin from your life. Not coincidentally, prayer is one of the best aids in doing that. Also, it's important to read the lives of the saints. Anybody can do this. You will become a witness to their heroic virtues. You will see the simple ways they approach God and bare their souls to Him.I can't stress enough, though, how vital a prayer life is. It helps us grow in our relationship with God. He's there waiting for us; He will help us reach Him, if we are willing. We are all -- each one of us -- called to union with God.

NOR: Any final thoughts?

Br. Simon Mary: The contemplative life is necessary for the strength and well-being of the Church. This must be understood by all Catholics, especially the young. The Church's timeless teaching on prayer is really gone now, replaced by such oddities as centering prayer and yoga. These are not traditional; these don't build up the Church. The life of prayer must be instilled in the home, because -- and this is the thought I'd like to leave you with -- without prayer we can do nothing.

NOR: Thank you, Brother Simon Mary, for sharing your insights and your story with us.

Br. Simon Mary: At your service. May Our Lady of Mount Carmel lead your readers ever nearer to her Divine Son and protect them under her pure white mantle of maternal tenderness. Your readers are certainly in our prayers as together we work for Christ and His Holy Church.

+ + +

Those interested in learning more about the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary may write to: Carmelite Monastery, 35 Road AFW, Powell WY 82435, or phone: 307-645-3310. The monastery can be found on the Internet at (the monks do not have e-mail).

[The forgoing article was originally published as a New Oxford Note, "An Interview With a Carmelite," New Oxford Review (July-August, 2008), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

Thursday, August 28, 2008

From the outhouse to the White House to Mt. Olympus

DENVER - Democrats will kneel before the "Temple of Obama" tonight.

As if a Rocky Mountain coronation were not lofty enough, Barack Obama will aim for Mount Olympus when he accepts his party's nomination atop an enormous, Greek-columned stage - built by the same cheesy set team that put together Britney Spears' last tour.

. . . Some Republicans have dubbed it the "Barackopolis," while others suggested the delegates should wear togas to fit in among the same Doric columns the ancient Greeks believed would stroke the egos of Zeus and Athena.

"It's only appropriate that Barack Obama would descend down from the heavens and spend a little time with us mere mortals when accepting the Democratic nomination," said Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz.

. . . We would have expected to read something like this in The Onion. Fortunately for us, it's true. Unfortunately for Obama, it's true," a McCain adviser told The Post.

But the set is designed to evoke the White House and the Lincoln Memorial, not the Acropolis, said staging supervisor Bobby Allen, a Spears set vet.
"We've done Britney's sets and a whole bunch of rock shows, but this was far more elaborate and complicated and we had to do it in far less time," said Allen, of RDA Entertainment.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Nice decent folk just don't like thinking about this

What's this? Evil. Cloaked and hidden behind euphemisms and behind manicured flower beds. Like at Auschwitz, where the Nazis prison administrators had tidy, well-maintained homes outside the prison walls. Like in Germany, where work-a-day citizens avoided asking too many questions when they heard about trains of Jews being sent to Dachau, Buchenwald, etc. There is one story in particular I find gut-wrenching, about a church somewhere in Germany besides a railroad line, where the gathered worshippers on Sundays, to their shame, sang hymns loudly to drown out the screams of Jews in the cattle cars being trundled off to their deaths.

Hannah Arendt spoke of the "banality of evil" -- of how evil is cloaked by the banality behind which it can be hidden, maintaining a veil and illusion of ordinariness and decency. Another atrocity that has been compared to the Jewish Holocaust, and one that nice decent folk equally don't like thinking about, because it can be so easily "contained" by keeping it behind the tidy landscaping of clean, well-lit, welcoming clinics, is abortion. Around 4000 babies a day. That's what they say is the average per day in the United States alone: 4000 aborted babies. But of course this is merely one of those many "single issues" obsessed upon by "single-issue voters" that can easily be swept aside as we focus on more urgent matters like mortgages and stock markets and the price of oil.

So all of you good, fine and decent folk who plan to vote for the terminally-nice Mr. Obama this year, just a word of advice: try to avoid thinking about all this negativism. Like those good German parishioners who sung more loudly to drown out the screaming, avoid this at all costs. I'm warning you: do not, for example, see this video: "Kill and Destroy." Like I said: don't even think about it. Let life just go on. It will: for you. Not much may significantly change. For a while. You'll enjoy Mr. Obama's winning energy and smile. For a while. But trust me: the worship or Moloch has its price. Judgment will come. Whatever you do, don't read Walker Percy's Thanatos Syndrome.

I think, too, of Pascal's words in his Pensees, where he wrote that human beings, finding themselves unable to cure death, ignorance and wretchedness, "have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things." Maybe this is why political discourse no longer seems capable of seriously engaging real, political issues, instead contenting itself with image and spin and opinion polls.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Newman 'gay'? Give it a rest, 'girls'!

Robert Verkaik, "Plan to exhume cardinal is 'homophobic'" (The Independent UK, August 25, 2008).

I will not dignify this screed with a detailed account. It is the same lurid piffle we used to hear in these parts by a certain dissident Irish clerical interloper some of you may recall. The short of it is that the Venerable John Henry Newman will be Beatified. He was not only a beautiful, sensitive soul, as well as a magnificent theologian, but he was straight. Ambrose St. John, beside whom he is buried in the Oratorian cemetary at Rednall, outside Birmingham (I have visited the site), was among his closest confidants and probably his dearest friend; but they were never "gay lovers," as some overheated drag queens would like us to believe. Please. Pace!

Catholic and Calvinist?

This story has been making its rounds and I first ran into it in Sandro Magister's post on it. But most recently found it summarized in a post entitled "Both Catholic and Calvinist?" (Rorate Caeli, August 25, 2008):
Sandro Magister's newest column features the L'Osservatore Romano's interview with Cardinal Kasper regarding the standing of the late Brother Roger of Taize (+2005) in relation to the Catholic Church. It provocatively begins with the words:
Was the Founder of Taizé Protestant, or Catholic? A Cardinal Solves the Riddle.

Fr. Roger Schutz was both. He adhered to the Church of Rome while remaining a Calvinist pastor. Wojtyla and Ratzinger gave him communion. Cardinal Kasper explains how, and why.
Read the article in its entirety; but here's how Kasper, according to Magister, summarizes the situation:
But how does Kasper solve the riddle? He denies that Fr. Schutz "formally" adhered to the Catholic Church. And much less did he abandon the Protestantism into which he was born. He affirms, instead, that he gradually "enriched" his faith with the pillars of the Catholic faith, particularly the role of Mary in salvation history, the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the "the ministry of unity exercised by the bishop of Rome." In response to this, the Catholic Church allowed him to receive Eucharistic communion.

According to Kasper, it is as if there had been an unwritten agreement between Schutz and the Church of Rome, "crossing certain confessional" and canonical limits.
As Rorate Caeli concludes: "The pastoral and theological effects of this admission are only about to unravel. One thinks of how some Anglo-Catholics and High Church Lutherans will view this and ask: 'if Brother Roger could, why not us?'"

The political uses of religion

Cynics say that all sides "use" religion to their advantage, and I suppose in some sense that is true. What is really bizarre, however -- so bizarre as to be almost reminiscent of George Orwell's pigs walking on their hind legs in his distopian novel about Marxist revolution, Animal Farm -- is when liberal Democrats attempt to do so. First of all, check out this piece by AP religion writer, Eric Gorski, "Democrats open faith-filled covention with prayer" (Yahoo! News, August 24, 2008). Now faith can mean different things. A faith of which there is an abundant kind in the Democratic National Convention is faith in the Anointed Child from Chicago who comes to bear witness to the truth so that the world might believe through him (cf. also "Is Obama the Messiah?"). That is not the faith, however, that's being used in the convention. Gorski's article opens with this:
DENVER - At the first official event Sunday of the Democratic National Convention, a choir belted out a gospel song and was followed by a rabbi reciting a Torah reading about forgiveness and the future.
Now compare that to the excerpt from the piece by Leonard Pitts, Jr. "It's a shameful thing, Mayor Kilpatrick" (Detroit Free Press, April 8, 2008), which we excerpted in a post back on April 9, 2008. Pitts wrote:
So it's a black thing? Not a sleaze thing, not a betrayal of the public trust thing, not a breaking the law thing? Just a black thing?

This would seem to be the message of the recent rally thrown for you at a black church in Detroit. It was, to judge from media reports, quite the shindig. Standing room only; gospel choirs doing that gospel choir thing; posters in red, black and green; chants of "I can make it through the storm!"

The church's Cardinal Ronald Hewitt seems to have caught the spirit of the event when he declared, "Kwame Kilpatrick just happens to be the symbol of bold, uncompromising black power in this city. We're not giving him to you.
Mmmm ... hmmmm ... You know what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tridentine Community News

The Sanctus Candle

[On August 17, 2008, St. Josaphat introduced] a new practice at the Tridentine Mass, the Sanctus Candle. An old tradition permitted as an option in the 1962 Missal, this is an extra, short candle place on the Epistle (right) side of the altar. It is lit at the Sanctus -- hence the name -- and extinguished after Holy Communion.

The Sanctus Candle draws attention to our Lord's Real Presence on the Altar during that portion of the Holy Mass. This is the same purpose served by the torches that are employed when [there are] sufficient altar servers. When [torches are used], the Sanctus Candle [is not used]. On a practical level, it is also unlikely that the Sanctus Candle will be used at a Low Mass when [there is] only one altar server, as that one server has other, mandatory duties.

The Rubrics allow the Sanctus Candle during a Low Mass, but not during a Solemn High Mass, because at least two torchbearers are required to befit the additional ceremonial of the latter. A Missa Cantata -- Mass sung by a priest without deacon or subdeacon -- is technically a Low Mass per the Rubrics, thus [a] Sanctus Candle [is used] at our sunday sung Masses.

While visually similar, the Sanctus Candle is not the same things as the Bugia, the hand-candle held next to Pontifical (book) and Missal during a Mass said by a bishop. Unlike a Bugia, a Sanctus Candle does not necessarily have a handle by which it is held. Both candles symbolize the Light of Christ, but the Bugia had actual practical value in the days before electric light, as the bishop needed to read vesting prayers from the Pontifical before Mass and after Mass, away from the illuminated altar.

The New Papal Altar Arrangement

Pope Benedict XVI has recently begun arranging the altars on which he celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a more traditional manner. Even when he says Mass versus populum (facing the people), he maintains six tall candlesticks on the altar, spaced out as they would be on an altar arranged for a sung Tridentine Mass.

In the center of the altar, he places a crucifix. In his writings, and now in practice, our Holy Father has stated that when ad orientem celebration (in the Novus Ordo) is not possible, the celebrant should have something on which to focus his attention during the Mass, so that he does not become distracted by the congregation or focused on pleasing the crowd. In continuity with Tridentine norms, Pope Benedict suggests that a central crucifix serve as that focal point.

In the Extraordinary Form, a crucifix is indeed required on or above the altar. The celebrant incenses the crucifix at the beginning of the Mass and at the Offertory. As he begins the Collect and Postcommunion prayers, while saying Oremus, he bows to the crucifix. Note that he is not bowing to the tabernacle. The Rubrics do not require there to be a tabernacle at the center of the altar. While that is desirable for a number of reasons, it is nevertheless the crucifix, and not the tabernacle, that is specified as the object of veneration.

Posted by Picasa

In the [immediately preceding] photo, you will notice that our Holy Father has also begun placing a seventh candle on the altar. This is not a Sanctus Candle -- such a thing does not exist in the Ordinary Form Rubrics -- but rather a candle used when the Ordinary of the Diocese or the Pope, the Universal Ordinary, celebrates Mass. It serves as a reminder that the bishop or Pope there present stands in the place of Christ.

Call for Even Ideas and Volunteers

We are blessed to have some talented and well-connected people in the congregations of Assumption-Windsor, St. Josaphat, and our sister parishes. We also have access to five of the most beautiful historic churches in North America -- Assumption, St. Josaphat, St. Joseph, Sweetest Heart of Mary, and St. Albertus -- nearby one another yet curiously in two countries.

As the next stage in the evolution of our Tridentine communities, it would make sense to organize some events involving one or more of our churches. Those events could range from the simple (bringing in guest speakers well-known in Tridentine circles) to the grandiose (hosting a Latin Liturgy Association convention with events spread across multiple churches). 2007's Gregorian Chant Workshop at St. Josaphat and this year's Tridentine Mass Seminar at Assumption were examples of simple events that proved quite popular. Beyond that, architecturally and liturgically, Detroit can now vie with Chicago, St. Louis, and New York City as a site for major gatherings.

Do you have any suggestions for events we could hold? Please be specific: Name the speakers you have in mind, and mention any pertinent details you can think of. If you have a direct or indirect connection to potential speaker(s), please explain. E-mail the address at the bottom of this page ....

Even more important than ideas is time -- your time. In order to put on a special event, we will need volunteers to plan the event, submit advertising, arrange for and transport the guests, prepare and serve refreshments, clean up afterwards, and so forth. The simplest event will need around seven volunteers. A Latin Liturgy Association Convention would require around thirty. Each event will also need a principle organizer to take charge of it. Let's put on our thinking caps and see what we might be able to do with the "extraordinary" people and facilities we are blessed to enjoy.
[Please e-mail tridnews[at]stjosaphat[dot]org. The foregoing column was adapted with permission from the Tridentine Community News, August 17, 2008 bulletin insert for St. Josaphat Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan.]

Liturgy and Hope: Why liturgical form isn't simply a matter of taste

As Josef Pieper noticed, Hope is "the forgotten virtue" for moderns. It seems we know the importance of Faith: "without Faith it is impossible to please God." Charity, "the greatest of these" three theological virtues, indeed the only one that passes over into the life to come, remaining specifically what it is, provides the subject of many a sermon. But Hope is often lost sight of. Surely this must be one reason why Pope Benedict XVI decided to give the Church and the world an encyclical on Hope.

The liturgy of the Mass, too, is a source and school of Hope, in two senses. In itself, as Eucharistic sacrifice and banquet, it emanates from and makes present to us the hope of all the nations, Jesus Christ the Lord, Who never ceases to teach and sanctify us through His sacramental actions. But in its due mode as sacred and solemn, traditional liturgy is a special cause of Hope in the midst of a world of innovation, irreverence, and banality, all of which aggressively undermine the otherworldly, supernatural character of Christian Hope. This is why the battle over the liturgy is not, in the final analysis, about personal tastes or preferences; it is about the Theological virtues, the Four Last Things, and the attainment of Heaven. What is at stake is nothing less than "setting our minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth," because our life is "hid with Christ in God." The Apostle spoke to the Colossians of the mystery that defined his entire existence; the Church's Tradition has jealously preserved this mystery and transmitted it to every age; the Church's liturgy devoutly celebrates it and perpetuates it for all time. That is why the struggle for the traditional Mass has universal, cosmic, eschatological dimensions: it is not about us, it is about the everywhere and forever; it has only one purpose, to commingle our bodies and souls with the living, life-giving humanity and divinity of the Incarnate Word, Savior of mankind, Judge of the living and the dead. The stakes of the "inculturation wars" that characterize Roman Catholic liturgical history in the postconciliar period are higher than most people realize: the sanctification or desacralization, and so, the salvation or perdition, of souls. The City of God and the city of man. The resurrection to life and the resurrection to judgment. Kyrie eleison.
[Excerpted from Peter A. Kwasniewski, "The Wedding of the Lamb" Latin Mass magazine (Summer 2008), p. 17.]

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Fake sushi? Is nothing sacred anymore?

John Schwartz, "Fish tale has DNA hook: Students find bad labels" (Harold Tribune, August 22, 2008):
Many New York sushi restaurants and seafood markets are playing a game of bait and switch, say two high school students turned high-tech sleuths.

In a tale of teenagers, sushi and science, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss, who graduated this year from the Trinity School in New York, took on a freelance science project in which they checked 60 samples of seafood using a simplified genetic fingerprinting technique to see whether the fish New Yorkers buy is what they think they are getting.

They found that one-fourth of the fish samples with identifiable DNA were mislabeled. A piece of sushi sold as the luxury treat white tuna turned out to be Mozambique tilapia, a much cheaper fish that is often raised by farming. Roe supposedly from flying fish was actually from smelt. Seven of nine samples that were called red snapper were mislabeled, and they turned out to be anything from Atlantic cod to Acadian redfish, an endangered species.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Revisiting Pope Benedict on Ecumenism & Ecclesiology

The following is a highly illuminating passage from an out-of-print book by Joseph Ratzinger, Theological Highlights of Vatican II (New York: Paulist Press Deus Books, 1966), taken from Sec. 3 of a chapter on The Question of Ecumenism:
To get to the heart of the ecumenical problem, I will begin with the comments of Professor Edmund Schlink of Heidelberg to the press on October 23, 1963. Speaking in Rome, he presented his views on the status of the ecumenical problem as reflected in the texts of the Council. . . .

Professor Schlink started with the premise that the “Roman Church” (he preferred not to say “Roman Catholic”) identified itself in an exclusive manner with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. Whenever Rome recognized a bond between individual non-Catholic Christians and the Church, this implied that these Christians considered themselves united with the Roman Church. Schlink, however, insisted that these Christians saw themselves as receiving grace and salvation as members of their own Churches and not as members of the Roman Church. Not only did the Catholic position misinterpret the self-awareness of the non-Catholic Christians; it was also out of line with the New Testament. Finally it followed with unavoidable logic from this position that non-Roman Christians were required to “leave their Churches and be incorporated into the Roman Church.” These observations led Professor Schlink to ask: “What is the meaning then of Roman Catholic ecumenism? What is the meaning of the new way of addressing non-Roman Christians as ‘separated brethren’ instead of as ‘heretics’ and ‘schismatics’ as in the past? What is the meaning of the praise given to the ‘spiritual fruits’ to be found in non-Roman Churches, and what is meant by ‘accepting the witness of their devotion . . . and their theological insights’? Is not all this an effort aimed at absorption? Is not this kind of ecumenism, as some Protestant Christians suspect, merely a continuation of the Counter-Reformation with other, more accommodating methods?”

To this Professor Schlink opposed a completely different concept of the ecumenical movement. Such a movement, in his view, should lead to community among the separated Churches ant not to their absorption by one of the Churches. It is important to note that Professor Schlink deliberately formulated the latter part of his discussion in the form of questions and not of assertions. Therefore, these questions obviously constitute an invitation addressed to Catholic theologians to engage in discussion. In the same spirit of positive effort toward mutual understanding, I will try here to respond to this invitation.

It is difficult to answer both briefly and suitably. In any case the answer cannot pretend to be more than an attempt. A starting point is provided by Professor Schlink’s view that the ecumenical movement is not supposed to be an effort of absorption of the separated Churches (as in the view of the Catholic Church). This view evidently reflects the conviction that none of the “existing Churches” is the Church of Jesus Christ but rather that they are various concretizations of the one Church which does not exist as such. None therefore can claim to be the Church. It is certain, however, that a Catholic cannot share Schlink’s conviction. Ever since the days of primitive Catholicism which reaches back to the time of the New Testament, it has been considered essential to believe that the Church really exists, although with shortcomings, and that this has been reflected concretely in the visible Church which celebrates the liturgy. The Catholic is convinced that the visible existence of the Church is not merely an organizational cover for the real Church hidden behind it, but on the contrary that, for all its humanity and insufficiency, the visible Church is the actual dwelling place of God among men, that it is the Church itself. To that extent Professor Schlink’s contention that there exists an identification of the Catholic Church with the Church of Jesus Christ is valid.

Catholic theology, too, recognizes a plurality of Churches. It has, however, a different meaning from the plurality of Professor Schlink. What Catholics mean is that a multiplicity of Churches exists within the framework of the one and visible Church of God, each of which represents the totality of the Church. In close communion with one another they help build up, within the framework of a unity born of vigorous multiplicity, the one Church of God. There exists a Church of God in Athens, in Corinth, in Rome. It exists likewise in Trier, Mainz and Cologne. Each local community assembled with its bishop around the table of the Lord listening to the Word of the Lord, partakes of the essence of the Church and may therefore be called a “Church.” To be a Church, however, it must not exist in isolation but must be in communion with the other Churches which, together with it, make up the one Church.

This consideration permits the following additional comments:

(a) The New Testament recognizes a plurality of Churches only in the above-mentioned sense. By this plurality the New Testament (whose historical setting is admittedly quite different from ours) does not mean separated denominational communities, but rather the many worshiping communities which all are nonetheless one. This unity does not arise from some common aspiration, but rather from the concreteness of the joint sharing in the Word and body of Jesus Christ.

(b) Catholic theology has always accepted the possibility of the plurality of Churches. It should however immediately be added:

(c) This plurality of Churches has in fact increasingly receded in favor of a centralized system; in this process the local Church of Rome has, so to speak, absorbed all the other local Churches. In this way unity was curtailed in favor of uniformity. This state of affairs which the Council has attempted to correct, was a cause for the separation among the Churches. Yet it also provided a positive ecumenical point of departure for the Catholic Church. The ecumenical movement grew out of a situation unknown to the New Testament and for which the New Testament can therefore offer no guidelines. The plurality of Churches, which should have had a legitimate existence within the Church, had receded increasingly into the background. This explains why this plurality, for which there was not room within the Church, was developed outside of it in the form of autonomous separate Churches. The Council’s recognition of this is tantamount to its seeing that uniformity and unity are not identical. Above all, it means that a real multiplicity of Churches must be made alive again within the framework of Catholic unity.

These considerations may open the way to answer the question raised by Professor Schlink. Does Catholic ecumenism not ultimately amount to the absorption of the other Churches? Is it not therefore the Counter-Reformation in a different form? As long as unity was identified with uniformity, the Catholic goal could not help but appear to non-Catholic Christians as complete absorption into the present form of the Church. However, the recognition of a plurality of Churches within the Church implies two lines of change.

(a) The Catholic has to recognize that his own Church is not yet prepared to accept the phenomenon of multiplicity in unity; he must orient himself toward this reality. He must also recognize the need for a thorough Catholic renewal, something not to be accomplished in a day. This requires a process of opening up, which takes time. Meantime the Catholic Church has no right to absorb the other Churches. The Church has not yet prepared for them a place of their own, but his they are legitimately entitled to.

(b) A basic unity – of Churches that remain Churches, yet become one Church – must replace the idea of conversion, even though conversion retains its meaningfulness for those in conscience motivated to seek it.

To remove all misunderstanding, I must add that the above idea still differs from the ecumenical movement as seen by Professor Schlink, despite all the areas of agreement. His notion of the ecumenical movement stems from a different view of the Churches’ visibility and unity. As he sees it, all separated Churches are equally legitimate manifestations of the Church. None of them constitutes the Church. For Catholics, however, there is the Church, which they identify with the historic continuity of the Catholic Church. Therefore, the Catholic cannot demand that all the other Churches are disbanded and their members be individually incorporated into Catholicism. However, he can hope that the hour will come when “the Churches” that exist outside “the Church” will enter into its unity. But they must remain in existence as Churches, with only those modifications which such a unity necessarily requires.

Accordingly, two observations can be made:

(a) It is true that the Catholic Church cannot simply adopt Professor Schlink’s view, based on the idea that all existing Churches have practically equal rights. This is tantamount to asking that the Catholic Church convert to Protestantism, since this view corresponds to the Protestant concept of the Church. This makes as little sense as the opposite.

(b) Although the Catholic Church considers itself as the Church of Christ, it nonetheless recognizes its historic deficiency. It recognizes the fact that the plurality of “Churches,” which should exist within it, exists today outside it, and perhaps could only exist outside.
[Hat tip to Prof. E.E.]

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Scratching at a few actual issues here

"Obama, McCain talk issues at pastor's forum" (, August 17, 2008).

In the copy-out sweepstakes, "Asked at what point a baby gets 'human rights,' Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: '... whether you’re looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity ... is above my pay grade" ("Tales from the Trail," Reuters, August 16, 2008).

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Urban success stories ... and Detroit

The shorter original story may have first appeared in Fortune Magazine. It can be found online here: "Back from the Dead" (, March 26, 2008). I first had the version with the appended ending about Detroit referred to me by a friend in an email, but with no Internet URL. Then I found it at (August 13, 2008), and that's the version that interests me here. Anyway, here it is:
1). Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

This former steel city is remodeling itself into a high-tech player. Manufacturing giant Bethlehem Steel, once one of the largest steel producers in the U.S., employed as many as 167,000 people in its heyday. By the mid-`80s that number had plummeted to 35,000 as the cost of doing business and competition from foreign producers took their toll. The company shut down its Bethlehem plant in 1995 and closed for good in 2003.

The town has since transitioned to a tech-based economy, nurtured by the presence of major hospitals and colleges. The state aggressively courts new businesses via programs like Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which helps start-ups find funding and qualified staff. Meanwhile, the old Bethlehem Steel property is being converted into a luxury entertainment complex that will feature shopping, dining, a hotel and casino.

2). Worcester, Mass.

New England's second-largest city, Worcester was known in its previous economic incarnation as a manufacturing powerhouse, producing everything from textiles to machine parts. Although the city has made an effort to preserve its manufacturing capabilities, it's best known now as a hub of biotechnology.

The founding of the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Park in 1985 by the city's development corporation and the presence of 15 area colleges and universities fostered this new industry; Worcester is now home to more than a hundred biotech companies. The city strives to blend the green space and affordable housing options of a small town with the arts and culture of a big city: Worcester's well-known museums and libraries include the Higgins Armory Museum and the American Antiquarian Society.

3). Bend, Oregon

Situated among central Oregon's lush forests, lakes, rivers, and mountains, Bend's economy thrives on outdoor recreation. Bend was once a logging town, but decades of unsustainable harvesting eventually depleted the timberland, driving the lumber companies out of business. Brooks-Scanlon, at one time a major employer, closed its doors in 1994.

Since then, the city has become a tourist town, although smaller mills continue to produce some wood products. Mt. Bachelor, a popular ski destination, is Bend's second-largest employer. Tourists and the rapidly growing local population also enjoy kayaking, hiking, fishing, and rock climbing.

4). Manchester, N.H.

The largest city in New Hampshire, Manchester was a pioneer in the Industrial Revolution, home to Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, at one time the world's largest textile manufacturer. Other factories in town produced a variety of goods such as cigars, sewing machines, and rifles.

As cheaper foreign goods became more readily available in the `60s and `70s, the city's manufacturing industry declined - replaced by high-tech fields such as telecommunications and software development. Verizon is one of the city's largest employers, but small businesses make their homes here, too. While property taxes are high, there's no income tax and no sales tax; affordable real estate options range from modern lofts to elegant Victorians. Locals enjoy close proximity to ski trails, beaches, and nearby Boston.

5). Durham, N.C.

Once a robust tobacco town, Durham's economic outlook began to decline as people started smoking less. At the height of its popularity in 1947, local companies produced 50 million pounds of tobacco; in 1986, the number decreased to just 4 million.

To fill the void, the city, along with its neighbors Raleigh and Chapel Hill, established Research Triangle Park, a commercial complex that now houses more than 130 tech and healthcare businesses. Nearby universities share resources and provide a highly educated workforce. Downtown Durham boasts a growing entertainment district. The historic American Tobacco factory, which closed in 1987, has been converted into luxury housing, restaurants, and retail stores, sandwiched between a new performing arts center and the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

6). Winston-Salem, N.C.

Faced with a declining tobacco market, Winston-Salem, like Durham, made a deliberate effort to cultivate tech industries such as biotech and software development. RJ Reynolds, the country's second-largest tobacco company, is still headquartered in Winston-Salem, but it's no longer the city's leading employer: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center now occupies that role.

In the early 1990s, the Chamber of Commerce's Technology Council spearheaded the foundation of Piedmont Triad Research Park to encourage the development of high-tech businesses, drawing on the well-educated labor pool generated by nearby colleges and universities.

[Here is where the original article apparently ends, and someone added the following, edited here for content and relative brevity.]

7). Detroit

Once the automobile capital of the world, this city drew population (once numbering 2.4 million strong) from throughout the United States and led the nation into prosperity. With the decline in manufaturing occurring over the last 3 decades, Detroit was hard hit.

Through the ingenuity of Detroit Mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick (son of State Representative Carolyn Kilpatrick), the hard working City Council, and various and sundry other educational, gambling and other sanctified greed lobbies, the work was completed of replacing the city's former manufacturing glory with a new culture of nepotism, crime, poverty, drugs, learned helplessness, law suits and other new whitewashed municipal adventures in venture capital. Thanks to their hard work, the city has been stripped bare, like a car stripped to its chassis and abandoned to rust by the side of the road. Welcome to new Defreckin'troit.... Detroit has MANY beautiful neighborhoods. This really concentrates on the bad parts -- and there are bad parts. But first, here's the Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick's Chamber of Commerce wants you to see, the pleasant skyline of the Paris of the Midwest as seen from across the Detroit River in Windsor, Ontario. It almost looks like a real city:

Then there's this:

For those of you that think these pictures are just of selected areas, guess again. This is what the great majority of Detroit is. There a few areas (very few) that are not like this. Notice all the empty space where there at one time was solid houses. [I will add that on several occasions I have taken the back streets across this urban blight of Detroit and have been utterly devastated by the unspeakable vastness of it. It is mile upon mile of urban wreckage, caved in upon itself with human beings eeking out an existence amidst drug deals and prostitution and children playing in the abandoned buildings. It is almost physically painful to behold. "How can this happen in America?" I ask myself. Newt Gingrich is right: Detroit should be, though it will not be, a major political talking point of this Fall's presidential campaign. It is emblematic of what is wrong with the country at its core.]

Now below is a picture of Bagdad , Iraq after 4 years of war... a little ragged, but not nearly as bad as Detroit ......

Of related interest:
  • E. Michael Jones, The Slaughter of Cities: Urban Renewal As Ethnic Cleansing (St. Augustine's Press, 2003), 700 pages -- a massive tome with a controversial and fascinating thesis, a book certain to provoke, and from which you're certain to learn a great deal of American history (recommended by a reader).
[Acknowledgement: I have had to change all of the pictures of Detroit from the originals since those from the received email would not work online. Some of the images I found were the same, and the overall impression, certainly, is overwhelmingly identical.]