Friday, October 30, 2009

Moyra Doorly and Aidan Nichols on the Novus Ordo

Following an earlier exchange in July, author Moyra Doorly and Aidan Nichols discuss the merits of post-Vatican II liturgical reform in "Is the SSPX right about the liturgy?" (The Catholic Herald, October 30, 2009):
Dear Fr Aidan,

In your kind reply to my first letter you made the point that I was drawing "unnecessarily sharp" contrasts between a theology of "propitiation and supplication" on one hand, and teachings on the "fruits of Communion" on the other. But what I was trying to demonstrate is that the pre-Conciliar sources give ample teaching on both, whereas the documents of Vatican II ignore the theology of propitiation and supplication.

Now, to me this represents a doctrinal discontinuity of the first order, and may explain my long-held suspicion that the Church since Vatican II seems intent on bypassing Golgotha and heading straight for Pentecost. And yet we are told repeatedly that no such discontinuity exists. What's more, even the suggestion that it might will be met from many quarters with threats of exile in the gulag along with the Society of St Pius X which holds the view, as expressed in the November 2006 newsletter of their Holy Cross Seminary, Australia, that "the New Mass is a grave danger to the Catholic Faith... it lacks the integral profession of Faith that is essential to the Sacred Liturgy".

It may be possible to explain the contrast between the appearances of the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms - how they look, sound, and are experienced - by pointing to the Council's desire for the active participation of the laity as announced by the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (CSL) (para 14): "In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy the full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else." But then another discontinuity becomes apparent, since according to Pope Pius XII's 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei (paras 23, 24): "The Worship rendered by the Church to God must be, in its entirety, interior as well as exterior... But the chief element of divine worship must be interior."

Alternatively, the finger may be pointed at over-enthusiastic modernisers who have taken the liturgy in directions previously undreamed of. But according to the CSL (para 37): "Even in the liturgy the Church does not wish to impose a rigid conformity in matters which do not involve the faith or the good of the whole community." And (para 40): "In some places and circumstances, however, an even more radical adaptation of the liturgy is needed."

What puzzles me is that, despite the extent of the current crisis in the Church, no one seems prepared to question Vatican II itself. Instead, the insistence is upon liturgical changes not mandated by the Council and less than adequate catechetics. Although defined as pastoral and not dogmatic, Vatican II is considered to be beyond criticism.

Except by the SSPX, whose founder Archbishop Lefebvre wrote in A Bishop Speaks: Writings and Addresses 1963-1976 (Angelus Press): "The sacrifice of the Mass is the heart, the soul, and the mystical wellspring of the Church... Do not the ills of the Church, the weakening of faith, the dwindling number of vocations, the destruction of religious communities... spring from the doing away with altars and their replacement by the tables of the Eucharistic meal?"

Could it possibly be that the Council sidelined certain teachings in order to achieve the aim, professed in the CSL (para 4), that the liturgy be revised "to meet present-day circumstances and needs"? Is this why we never hear the traditional teaching that while Christ redeemed the human race, salvation requires the sacrifice of the altar for the remission of the sins we daily commit and the individual's cooperation with grace? And why the impression now given is that Christ's death on the Cross was a once and for all sacrifice by which all are saved, and that the Eucharist is spiritual food for those guaranteed a place in heaven through faith? Is this easier, softer way intended to be more in tune with the modern age which exalts man and rejects sacrifice?

Could it be that the reforms inspired by the documents of Vatican II have resulted in a liturgy which is inherently incapable of expressing the true sacrificial character of the Mass? If I am hammering a point previously made, here is Archbishop Lefebvre again: "There is no longer a Catholic Church if there is no longer a sacrifice of the Mass. There is no longer a Catholic Church if there is no longer a priest endowed with a character for the offering of the holy sacrifice."

At any rate, if the holy sacrifice of the Mass has become a memorial meal, a fraternal banquet, a community gathering, then many features of the reformed liturgy are explained. It is natural at a memorial meal for the priest to face the people who "gather round" an altar which has become a table. It makes sense that the people take an active part in simplified rites celebrated in the vernacular.

Although not actually mandating Mass facing the people, the CSL (para 128) opened the door for it by announcing the abolition of laws governing the design of churches, the shape and construction of altars and the placing of the tabernacle "which seem less suited to the reformed liturgy". Similarly, while permitting the vernacular with the proviso that "care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may also be able to say or sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them", the CSL (para 54) also anticipated situations in which "a more extended use of the vernacular in the Mass seems desirable".

In this context, the scope given for liturgical variations and innovations also seems natural, although this too represents a discontinuity according to the series "SiSi NoNo" published in the SSPX's Angelus magazine, March 2003, which claims that "Vatican II promoted the adaptation of worship to secular culture, to the different traditions and temperaments of people, to their language, music, and art, through creativity and liturgical experimentation and through simplification of the rite itself. This was against the constant teaching of the Magisterium according to which it was the peoples' cultures that must adapt to the exigencies of the Catholic rite, with nothing ever having been conceded to creativity or experimentation or to any idea of men's temperaments in any given time in history."

A proposal currently gaining ground is that the Ordinary Form be re-sacralised, implying that the liturgical tendencies of the past 40 years are a matter of appearances only. But is the Ordinary Form a true sacrificial rite? Not according to the SSPX study The Problem of the Liturgical Reform, which claims that the reforms have diminished the traditional link between the Mass and the Cross in favour of the Last Supper.

To this end, the traditional Prayers at the Foot of the Altar have been replaced with simple Introductory Rites. The traditional Offertory with its unstinting emphasis on propitiatory sacrifice has become the Presentation of the Gifts which emphasises the peoples' offering of bread and wine which will become "the bread of life" and "our spiritual drink". The Last Gospel has been dropped, as have the traditional anthems to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Furthermore, the presence of Christ in Scripture is made equivalent to His True Presence on the altar. For example the CSL (para 48) states that the people, "should be instructed by God's word, and be nourished at the table of the Lord's Body". And that the people (para 106), "should listen to the word of God and take part in the Eucharist". So marked is the emphasis on Scripture in the Ordinary Form, that the Liturgy of the Eucharist can sometimes seem like an adjunct to the main proceedings, with every prayer spoken out loud contributing to the relentless din of amplified voices.

The study also claims that the gestures showing the respect intrinsic to a truly sacrificial rite have also been reduced in number or suppressed. For example, "of the 14 genuflections in the traditional missal, three alone have been kept". And, "of the 26 signs of the cross over the oblations in the canon of the traditional missal, one alone remains in each of the Eucharistic prayers". And so on.

Is it enough, then, to re-sacralise the Ordinary Form, to adjust its appearance without addressing its underlying form and structure as a memorial meal? Should it not, instead, be re-sacrificialised? Or in the words of Archbishop Lefebvre: "Perhaps there has been too much talk of the Eucharist, Communion, and not enough of the sacrifice of the Mass. I believe we should go back to the fundamental ideas, to that fundamental idea which has been that of the whole tradition of the Church, the Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the heart of the Church. Communion is but the fruit, the fruit of the sacrifice."

Kindest regards,


Dear Moyra,

Thank you for your recent letter, in which you ask for further clarification about the sacrificial nature of the Mass and add some pointed remarks about certain weaknesses in the Rite of Paul VI, the Eucharistic Liturgy most of us in the West experience weekly or even daily - with a familiarity which justifies that rather banal expression the "Ordinary Form". (Not that, to normal users of English, "Extraordinary" sounds any better!) You are not a disloyal Catholic by dint of holding that a number of the measures the Council Fathers called for by way of liturgical revision offended against prudence. Naturally, a judgment of that kind is easier to make with the benefit of hindsight, but warning lights should surely have flashed when a blank cheque was offered to national episcopal conferences and the Roman dicasteries to make radical changes in the name of cultural adaptation in Sacrosanctum Concilium 40 - though the word "radical", I hasten to add, appears only in English translation, the Latin having "deeper and more difficult". Prudential judgments about what practical steps to take so as best to realise goals indicated by the teaching of the Church about faith and morals are not covered, unfortunately, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.

Again, you are not a "dissenter" simply by criticising incomplete or unbalanced formulations in the language of the Conciliar texts. That is wholly different from the claim that the Council fathers formally committed the Church to doctrinal error.

And that brings me to the substance of your remarks. Reading through the sections of the Liturgy Constitution that concern the Mass, I am inclined to agree with you that an opportunity was missed to spell out the "ends" - the purposes - of the Mass considered as Sacrifice. Not that Sacrosanctum Concilium fails to make plain the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist. In language which would be anathema to the Protestant Reformers it declares flatly that "our Saviour instituted the Eucharistic Sacrifice of his Body and Blood ... in order to perpetuate the Sacrifice of the Cross throughout the centuries until he should come again" (para 47), and adds a few sentences later that "offering the Immaculate Victim... [Christ's faithful] should learn to offer themselves too" (para 48). I can hardly underline too strongly how distasteful these expressions are to well-informed and committed Lutherans, Calvinists, and Evangelicals generally. Nevertheless, more could have been said along the lines that you (and the Society of St Pius X) desiderate.

For some centuries it has been the common teaching of theologians, widely publicised in catechisms, that the Mass, viewed as Sacrifice, has a quartet of purposes. It is a Sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving, propitiation and supplication. The grounds for making this claim are that these are the very aims of our Lord's own giving of himself at the first Easter. His death was an offering whereby he glorified the Father (thanksgiving and praise) in such a way as to secure pardon (propitiation) and help (supplication) for humankind. Precisely because the Mass-Sacrifice is, as Vatican II maintains, the perpetuation of the Sacrifice of the Cross, it can have no other ends than had the act performed on the Tree.

Appreciating that fact should discourage us from racing over what we might consider the "soft" and Protestantism-compatible theme of praise and thanksgiving in order to get as quickly as possible to the 'tough' and more distinctively Tridentine-sounding motifs of propitiation and supplication. Our doctrine is not that the Holy Eucharist is a "sacrifice of praise" in some vague sense equally applicable to any other worshipping activity and so perfectly acceptable to Reformation Christians. The Mass is a "sacrifice of praise" first and foremost in the sense in which Calvary was and because Calvary was.

A good theology will seek to inter-relate the four ends of the Mass, as likewise the ends of the Atonement, in an integrated doctrine, and I doubt if a better one can be found than that for which the Sacrifice of the Lord is a "latreutic" Sacrifice, a Sacrifice of adoration in which the Son, invested with our nature, glorifies the Father in the Holy Spirit. It is through being its own unique offering of praise and thanksgiving, in the unmeasured donation of his dying, that the Son's Oblation as man wins for the human race super-abundant pardon and help. The proof that a theology of glorification provides the best way to inter-relate the ends of the Mass lies in the nature of the pardon and help we are to receive through the offering of this Sacrifice. We are to become not just reconciled sinners, in receipt of spiritual (and sometimes temporal) assistance. More than that, we are to become those who, in the words of the Vulgate translation of the Letter to the Ephesians (1:12) live for "the praise of his glory".

I would judge, Moyra, that the subject of the Mass as a propitiatory Sacrifice is your principal concern. Even for "post-Conciliar" Catholics, the Mass as a Sacrifice of supplication is not so difficult an idea. Among those assisting at the rite of Paul VI, not many worshippers can be unaware that in the Holy Eucharist petition is made, in our Redeemer's name, for the bestowal of spiritual and temporal good - though, I would emphasise, such "supplication" should always be understood in a Calvary-oriented way, as mercies flowing from the Throne of grace established on the Cross.

Propitiation, however, is a different kettle of fish. Your anxiety is that, in the reformed rite, insufficient attention is paid to our need for remission of sins - sins that, rightly, have offended God's burning justice - through, precisely, the offering of this Sacrifice.

As a well-instructed Catholic, you'll know that the chief sacramental means provided for the forgiveness of sins are the Sacrament of Baptism for original sin as well as the personal sins of adults approaching Christian initiation, and, for post-baptismal sin, the Sacrament of Penance.

Extra-sacramentally, sin can only be given through perfect contrition - sorrow for sin for the sake of the sheer loveability of God. When we say the Mass is a Sacrifice of propitiation we are not saying that the offering of the Mass forgives mortal (grave) sin directly, though we may hold that a good Communion covers minor slackenings (venial sins) in the Christian life. We are saying that the Holy Sacrifice wins for us - and for all for whom it is offered, including, most especially indeed, the souls in Purgatory - those graces which render repentance, contrition, full conversion, not only possible but even easy. It would take a detailed analysis of the Proper prayers of the Missal of Paul VI to justify the claim, but my estimate is you would find that expectation represented there, though by no means as insistently as in the earlier history of the rites.

That said, I would agree with you that we need to "re-sacrificialise", in your invented but useful word, our common or garden usage of the rite of Paul VI - if not, in some respects, the rite itself. But to my mind the single greatest contribution we can make to that end is to press - judiciously and with respect - for the celebration of the Mass versus orientem, the Liturgy "turned towards the Lord". The celebrant stands ministerially in the place of Christ the High Priest. Appropriately, since our Great High Priest is Mediator between God and men, the Church's priest, during the Liturgy of the Sacrifice - after, that is, the litany-like moment of the Bidding Prayers - turns at key moments to the body of the faithful, engaging their response ("active" participation means engaged participation, not jumping up and down) to the sacred action of which he is protagonist. Essentially, however, in the celebration of the Sacrifice the ministerial priest is turned - always in spiritual attitude if, in our current practice, seldom in empirical fact - not to face the people but, with the beloved Son, to face the Father, to whom the Oblation of praise and thanksgiving, propitiation and supplication is addressed. Your desire for a clearer indication of the change in level as we move from the Liturgy of the Word to the Liturgy of the Sacrifice would be well met by the change of direction whereby the priest at that shift in gear turns from facing the people to facing the Father. A strengthening of the Offertory rite would appropriately accompany that change.

Your other complaints I find rather a mixed bag. The suppression of the multiple signs of the Cross is a loss for the personal piety of the celebrant rather than the people to whom - with an oriented Liturgy - they would not be so apparent. I personally regret the suppression of the Last Gospel because I don't think people can hear often enough the Johannine Prologue which is almost always the form that Gospel takes (though you became a Catholic too late to witness the disedifying scurrying out of church by half the parish congregation as it was read). I don't think there has been any significant reduction in Marian references from one Missal to the other, for the simple reason that the Roman Liturgy, unlike the Byzantine, has always been sparing of reference to the Mother of God except on her feasts and commemorations.

Not that, dear Moyra, I wish to make light of your plea. All is not well in our worship, and you are right to be concerned. Concerned - but not alarmist. This or that version of the Church's official worship may have, compared with some other, ritual deficiencies which should be rectified as soon as the competent authority is convinced of the case. Meanwhile, we can rest assured that where the Holy Spirit does guide the Church is in ensuring that in her approach to the mystery of Christ she can never nullify the stream of grace not only continually but continuously poured from his opened Heart.

Yours very sincerely

in Him,

Aidan Nichols
[Hat tip to P.B.]

Rome puts smackdown on foofoo Anglicanism

"Roundup: Canadian paper lashes out at Vatican; Father Rutler sees ‘slap-down of liberal Anglicanism’" (, October 21, 2009):
The editors of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s second most popular newspaper, have lashed out at the Vatican’s decision to permit Anglican communities to join the Catholic Church as communities.

“The Vatican's welcome of some Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church is a Trojan horse,” the editors write. “In the face of an inflexible hierarchy, liberal Catholic voices have had little effect; the grudging loyalty of those who remain is in jeopardy. The Vatican announcement will make the Catholic Church more conservative and the Anglican church more liberal. Is that what ecumenism is meant to accomplish?”

Similar criticisms were made by one New York Times commentator, who charged the Pope with fostering “cafeteria Catholicism.” Other writers, however-- such as John Allen and Collen Carrroll Campbell in The New York Times, and Father Raymond J. de Souza in the National Post,-- offered commentary that was more balanced and less shrill.

Source(s): these links will take you to other sites, in a new window.
[Hat tip to J.M.]

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Case Against Liturgical Antiquarianism

by Harold B. McKale

Virtually every Catholic has been at Mass and heard the phrase, "In the early Church...." Often this phrase is followed by some deviance from the norms of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. To wit: A seminarian once told me how his pastor decided to say Mass like they did in the early Church — at least his version of it. He came out of the sacristy in blue jeans and a T-shirt; what followed was an abomination. The thinking is that what the Church prescribes in the present is somehow deficient and the individual must heed the call to return to some former practice that either was abolished or fell into disuse.

This kind of liturgical antiquarianism, which seeks to reinstitute practices of old without proper Church authority, is explicitly condemned by Pope Pius XII in his 1947 encyclical Mediator Dei. Pope Pius did not prohibit alterations of the Mass; indeed, he himself modified the rites of Holy Week. Nonetheless, Pius asserted definitively that the Church has jurisdiction over her liturgical rites.

Mediator Dei begins with praise for those who study the past forms of the liturgy and sacraments of the Church, and with an immediate assertion that these rites belong to the Church: "This Apostolic See has always made careful provision for the schooling of the people committed to its charge in the correct spirit and practice of the liturgy; has been no less careful to insist that the sacred rites should be performed with due external dignity" (#6).

In many parishes, some older Catholics still pray the rosary during Mass or engage in some other personal devotion closely related to the Holy Sacrifice. Mediator Dei specifically states that interior participation remains more important than external participation:
When devotional exercises, and pious practices in general, not strictly connected with the sacred liturgy, confine themselves to merely human acts, with the express purpose of directing these latter to the Father in heaven, of rousing people to repentance and holy fear of God, of weaning them from the seductions of the world and its vice, and leading them back to the difficult path of perfection, then certainly such practices are not only highly praiseworthy but absolutely indispensable, because they expose the dangers threatening the spiritual life; because they promote the acquisition of virtue.... (#32)
Prayerful meditation, the rosary, and other devotional exercises that assist a person in drawing nearer to God during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should not be prohibited. All the liturgies of the Church, and those things that surround them, need to be focused on the Almighty.

Emphasizing the hierarchical nature of the Church, Pius reminds the faithful that liturgical rites fall under the purview of Church authority: "Since, therefore, it is the priest chiefly who performs the sacred liturgy in the name of the Church, its organization, regulation and details cannot but be subject to Church authority" (#43). The immemorial saying lex orandi, lex credendi reflects this reality as the Church enshrines and emphasizes her teachings through her liturgical rites while at the same time giving God worship. For example, as the reality of Jesus' presence in His body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Most Blessed Sacrament has been denied throughout history, the rites of Holy Mass emphasize this reality with genuflections, elevations, incense, and bells. Even the restriction of the chalice to the priest resulted from a denial of our Lord's presence under both species. This is not found in the liturgical rites of the East because this reality was never denied.

Historical circumstances can have a profound effect on the nature of liturgical rites. Persecution during the first three centuries of Christianity forced Christians to worship in the catacombs and in private homes, yet no one would think of re-instituting that because it would be an antiquarian practice with little or no benefit to the faithful. This is why in the liturgical rite of the western Church we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran: Not only is it the cathedral of Rome, home to the papal throne, but it was the first public building used for offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass following the end of the Roman persecutions.

As Pius XII points out, the gradual addition of the practices and pieties of various groups throughout history are human elements that may be changed — and have been changed — throughout the 2,000-year history of the Church, which flows out of Jewish worship in the synagogue and temple. The development of the synagogue grew out of the inability of Jews to go to the temple during the Babylonian exile. This organic development of Jewish worship remained even after the exile ended because it deepened the Jews' understanding of the Word of God and was a clear benefit to the Jewish faithful. The institution of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was a development of the Passover meal. No evidence exists that suggests that early Christians celebrated Mass the exact way Jesus did in the upper room, nor would the Church attempt such a feat.

Where does that leave us today? Nathan D. Mitchell, writing in the November 2007 issue of Worship, suggests that Popes Pius V and Paul VI both acted in accordance with tradition "by excluding previous missals and mandating new ones." Pius V's apostolic constitution Quo Primum, authorizing his 1570 missal, "shows that an apparent rupture (that is, a significant change) in ritual practice does not cancel continuity but, on the contrary, makes it possible." But what are we to make of Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict XVI's 2007 motu proprio that allowed for a wider availability of the extraordinary form of the Roman rite?

Mitchell points out that before Summorum Pontificum the laity had never had the power to petition a priest for a particular form of the Mass, and that this reflects a fundamental split in the Church over community and transcendence. Overtly recruiting people to the extraordinary form (the Tridentine Latin Mass) and referring to it as "more sacral" than the ordinary form (the Novus Ordo Mass), he says, is in fact discontinuous with tradition and encourages a type of consumerism with regard to worship.

The answer to Mitchell's objections can be found in the highest law of the Church, which Pius XII cites in Mediator Dei: The Church has the authority to regulate liturgical rites for the good of souls. In his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Benedict cites the "deformations of [the ordinary form of] the liturgy which were hard to bear" as one of the reasons for his permitting a wider use of the extraordinary form of the Mass. Doctrinal purity and obedience to the spirit and regulations of the liturgy were concerns of both Pius XII and Benedict XVI.

Ormond Rush, an Australian theologian, claims that the Church cannot have a macro-rupture but can and does have micro-ruptures. A macro-rupture would concern matters of dogma; micro-ruptures concern such matters as liturgical practice, relations with the Jews, and the explanation of religious freedom. If one considers a micro-rupture as a change in the praxis of the Church, then it can be seen as harmonious with a guiding principle of Mediator Dei:
As circumstances and the needs of Christians warrant, public worship is organized, developed and enriched by new rites, ceremonies, and regulations, always with a single end in view, "that we may use these external signs to keep us alert, learn from them what distance we have come along the road, and by them be heartened to go on further with more eager step...". (#22)
It stands to reason that a particular practice that no longer has meaning to the faithful or has led to a misunderstanding of Jesus Christ may be discontinued for a time. Should circumstances change in the future, a discontinued practice may be favorably restored by ecclesiastical authority. Another practical example of a change in practice is the Church's more liberal approval of burial rites for Catholics who commit suicide, based on a deeper understanding of human psychology. [For a discussion of this topic, see canon lawyer Edward Peters's guest column, "State-Sanctioned Suicide & Ecclesiastical Funeral Rites," June — Ed.]

With regard to the Divine Office, Pius XII mentions that it was the norm for both Jews and Christians to pray at various hours throughout the day, as testified to in the Acts of the Apostles. This ancient practice continues in the present, albeit in slightly different form: "Thanks to the work of the monks and those who practice asceticism, these various prayers in the course of time became ever more perfected and by the authority of the Church are gradually incorporated into the sacred liturgy" (#141). The Breviary and all its predecessors grew from the Jewish patterns of prayer and organically developed into what is now referred to as the Divine Office. To give in to antiquarians and limit the Church to the Psalms or other prayers would be to the Church's detriment, for she would lose the beautiful offices of the saints, such as Thomas Aquinas's Adoro Te Devote or the Dies Irae from the Office of the Dead. What a tragedy to poetry, musical tradition, and the spiritual good of souls.

In Summorum Pontificum, Pope Benedict likewise emphasizes continuity. As Fr. Richard John Neuhaus observed in the October 2007 issue of First Things, Bene­dict's motu proprio is "of a piece with...[his] long-standing campaign against the idea that there is a ‘pre-Vatican II church' and a ‘post-Vatican II church.'" Benedict has strengthened "the continuity of Catholic tradition in matters pertaining to lex orandi, as John Paul II's hermeneutic of the Second Vatican Council strengthened that continuity in matters pertaining to lex credendi." In his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum, Benedict pointed out that "there have been exaggerations and at times social aspects unduly linked to the attitude of the faithful attached to the ancient Latin liturgical tradition." He calls for charity, the highest of the virtues, in dealing with those who request the extraordinary form, which remains an important part of the West's liturgical heritage. The Pope also recognizes the organic development of the liturgy throughout the Church's history: "In the history of the liturgy, there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful." In essence, Benedict's assertion that the extraordinary form of the Roman rite be widely permitted is rooted in the Church's solicitude for the salvation of souls who, for whatever reason, find great attachment to this earlier form of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. For those who worry over a bifurcation of the Roman rite, Fr. Adrian Fortescue pointed out that "uniformity in liturgy throughout the Church has never been a Catholic ideal" (The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy, 1930).

Benedict's Summorum Pontificum goes hand in hand with Pius's Mediator Dei. The latter states, "Obviously unwise and mistaken is the zeal of one who would go back to the rites and usage of antiquity, discarding the new patterns introduced by the disposition of divine Providence to meet the changes of circumstances and situation" (#63). Thus, the reintroduction of the extraordinary form is not an exercise in antiquarianism but is an attempt to meet the change in circumstances in which the Church finds herself without diminishing in any way the legitimate reforms of Vatican II. Comparing Mediator Dei (MD) with Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the Council's "Constitution on Sacred Liturgy," Fr. Aidan Nichols posits:
The renaissance to which we look forward will include, I venture to suggest, the recovery of liturgical objectivity married with devotionalism of MD but also SC's looking beyond the Church here and now to the final Church arrayed in the glorious garments of the redeemed when Christ comes with all his saints. (A Pope and a Council on the Sacred Liturgy, 2002)
Pope Benedict has deftly charted a course respecting the norms of Mediator Dei and Vatican II, a Council that theologians continue to dissect and analyze. The priesthood of Jesus Christ is a "living and continuous reality through all ages until the end of time" (MD, #22), and this priesthood is exercised in and through the mediation of Holy Mother Church. We should therefore expect liturgical rites wherein that priestly office is most clearly expressed as a living and continuous reality and not a static object in a museum display.

[Harold B. McKale, ordained a transitional deacon for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on May 9, 2009, is currently assigned to Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Secane, Pennsylvania. The foregoing article by Harold B. McKale, "The Case Against Liturgical Antiquarianism," was originally published in New Oxford Review (October 2009), pp. 22-26, and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

TLM and Womenpriests

We were in Windsor for Mass last Sunday at the historic Our Lady of the Assumption Church, where the Tridentine Mass was transportingly sublime, as always -- when a question occurred to me. As I watched the drama of Redemption unfold in this weekly extraordinary form of the traditional Roman Rite, I found myself trying to distance myself from my own active participation momentarily to grasp something.

What I was looking at was the priest and servers at that early point in the Mass called the Confiteor. Facing ad orientem, and with deep bows, they made their acts of confession, striking their breast: "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa ..." Their attention was clearly not on who was in the pews at that moment. That thought probably did not even cross their minds. Their attention, their outward demeanor, the direction they were facing (toward God) -- everything, in other words -- was focused on a sort of "dialogue" being carried on between themselves and God.

And the thought came to me: I wonder whether any activist members of Catholic Womenpriests or the Women's Ordination Conference seeking ordination for themselves have ever desired to become priests serving in this classical form of the liturgy. It's hard to imagine.

The following video clip, features the Confiteor from a Tridentine Missa Contata at Assumption Church in Windsor celebrated on Feb 9, 2008 for the cause of Vn. John Henry Cardinal Newman. The priest, the team of servers, and the choir were virtually identical to those I witnessed last Sunday. I know these guys. The chief male voice you hear singing the propers is the great cantor, Wassim Sarweh. But my point is this: would those dissident women seeking ordination want to be priests if this is what was expected of them? Take a look:

You don't see the priest's face hardly at all; and when you do, he doesn't make eye contact with the congregation, at least if he knows his rubrics. He's not there to have a conversation with you. He's not there to share his personality with you. He's not there, like Leisure Suit Larry, to do a one man comic act: "Hey there, where y'all from? What's your name?" He's there to do his job, to perform the Sacrifice. Evelyn Waugh's observation, shortly after his conversion around 1930, comes to mind:
Of the extraneous attractions of the Church which most drew me was the spectacle of the priest and his server at a low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do.
Indeed, Waugh loathed all that came to replace such standards of liturgical craftsmanship -- the dumbing down of the liturgy and a false bonhomie that characterized even the revisions of the 1960s that preceded the new Mass (Waugh, who died in 1966, did not live to see the Novus Ordo, which was promulgated in 1969). Concerning the pre-Vatican II revisions and innovations, Waugh was already saying things like: "The Mass is no longer the Holy Sacrifice but the Meal at which the priest is the waiter. The bishop, I suppose, is the head waiter."

Not one word here is said out of irreverence or disrespect for the Mass as it is meant to be celebrated. Indeed, it is precisely a devotion and deep respect and adoration for the surpassing holiness of those Sacred Mysteries that animated Waugh's concern as well as our own here.

What can go wrong is perhaps easiest to see, as Plato would say, where things are "writ large" -- where things have gone awry in extreme and aberrant ways. An example of such, in a French Mass gone terribly wrong, was called to our attention by a reader in a recent comment box discussion. The concelebrating priests at a Mass following the pilgrimage of young Catholics (ages 14-17) from Strasbourg to the church of Notre Dame du Chêne, in Plobsheim (France) doubtless thought they were assisting their youthful 'audience' in their 'active participation' in their liturgy. The effect, however, is obviously the opposite. ["The horror ... the horror ..."]

The immediate effect of this embarrassing spectacle is to throw up an obstacle precisely against the authentic active participation of the faithful in the Mass, which -- as Popes from Pius X to Benedict XVI have maintained -- is not a matter of outward enthusiasm or clericalizing the role of the laity by bringing them up into the sanctuary, but an inward spiritual disposition of the worshiping heart. The result of this spectacle, by contrast, is the creation of a diversion from the proper focus of any liturgy: the self-oblation of our Savior as Sacrificial Victim on our behalf. Instead we are served up the ghastly sight of clerically-vested middle-aged men making a miserable run at trying to look hip. Is our mind drawn to God amidst this disaster? If so, it can only be in a bowel-wrenching prayer for deliverance.

This does not mean that our worship cannot be suffused with profound joy, but it must be a joy that takes seriously what the Mass is. Our Savior is not the Buddy Christ, but the Pierced One, the Crucified One.

So, I wonder, do any Womenpriest activists exist who want to be ordained so that they can serve in the traditional Tridentine form of the Roman Rite? It would be interesting to know.

[Hat tip to S.V.]

Monday, October 26, 2009

Providence in the battlefield of prayer

When I requested your prayers on July 3rd, little did I know what the outcome would be of what I then called a matter "of serious personal consequence." Many of you responded to that petition, and still many others did so, I believe, in heaven and on earth whose intercession I solicited. While discretion prevents the sharing of details concerning the matter itself, the following are some of my thoughts during what has been for me one of the most formidable and harrowing challenges of my life.

It is humbling to realize that such ordeals may not be at all unique or rare, but common; that families and individuals with whom one rubs shoulders every day may carry unspoken burdens in silence, behind taciturn or even cheerful demeanors. Those who bear such burdens may seem to many on the 'outside' to be at a distinct disadvantage when they quietly and prayerfully resign themselves to God's will, inasmuch as the options of dulling the pain through alcohol or self-indulgent escapism are not available to them, and they are compelled to face their grief or horror head-on, with heightened spiritual sensitivity to what is at stake and, therefore, a lower threshold of sensitivity and a greater likelihood of suffering. By the same token, from the 'inside' they are at a distinct advantage in that they have recourse, if they are properly informed, to a treasury of resources, consolations and graces buried deep within the heart of Catholic tradition, concerning which those inclined to fly from pain by anesthetizing themselves are likely to have little if any first-hand acquaintance.

This, then, is an ad hoc tapestry of some of those resources, consolations, and graces that blessed my way through the valley as it led through some very dark weeks and months.

The first, and surprising, discovery is that suffering -- whether it is sorrow, grief, or a sickening, gnawing fear of the worst that could still happen when you're in the midst of some ordeal with no end in sight -- can assume the form of an unexpected grace and blessing, when it brings one to his knees and draws him deeper into the Sacred Heart. And that is what it definitely tends to do when one is thrown back on his last resorts (which ought to have been his first), echoing the pleas of the Psalmist (Ps 73:25), "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth that I desire besides Thee" -- no one else to seek or trust in, none to protect him from the unseen Enemy, but God alone.

"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear," wrote C.S. Lewiswhen his wife lay dying of cancer, in an ordeal that looked at times like it might cost him his faith (at one point, in a crie de coeur at the end of his tether, he calls God "a cosmic sadist"). For me it was the opposite: no one told me that fear could feel so like grief, heavy with gnawing with suffocating stress. Nor did I anticipate how God's deliverance could come -- and it did come -- so unexpectedly and quietly, not with a bang or flare of trumpets, but like soft kitten feet, in the still small turns of conversation over an appetizer in a pub, an unanticipated shift in a phone conversation, a signature on a page made with a ballpoint pen.

How long will it take to learn to relax again, to sleep soundly, to face each day without seemingly endless convulsive sighs? I do not know. What I do know is how utterly unprepared I was for this trial. The road to hell is paved, they say, with good intentions. That is true in more ways than I ever realized; as good and sincere intentions provide no protection against naïveté, which can lead to a kind of living hell even for the person who undertakes to live a life of fidelity to Christ, His Church, and all that he loves and holds dear.
"My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation [n. or 'trials']. Set your heart right and be steadfast ... Cleave to [God] and do not depart, that you may be honored at the end of your life. Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation. Trust in Him, and He will help you: make your ways straight, and hope in Him." -- Sirach 2:1-6
One of my most difficult challenges, and one to which I never felt equal, was the simple act of trusting God to provide the outcome for which I prayed, and for which it was my duty and privilege to pray. Intellectual assent to the truths of our Faith are one thing. Yes, I believed in God's providence, His faithfulness, His love, His mercy, etc. When faced with a challenge that could turn my life upside down along with the life of my whole family, however, could I trust God to deliver?

It's funny what you remember from childhood. A verse from the Bible came to mind that I remember reading in the story of Robinson Crusoe in one of those Classic comic books I had as a kid. Crusoe was reading from Ps 50:15 -- "... and call upon me in the day of trouble; and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Nice thought. But was it true? Why did I keep remembering examples of desperate prayers by friends and acquaintances that seemed to go unanswered -- at least as perceived from the limitations of our human horizon? The Devil, doubtless, was in the details. I must admit to having been weak and frequently entertained doubts. I felt like St. Peter must have when he stepped out of his boat to walk to Jesus on the water, and immediately cried for help when he saw the waves, his nerve failed, and he began to sink. Yet again, I felt like the doubting father of the possessed child in Mark 9:24, who, after being told that all things are possible to him who believes, cried out to Jesus: "I believe; help Thou my unbelief!"

Yet even the Agnostic's Prayer is one that may be answered: "Oh God ... if there is a God, have mercy on my soul ... if I have a soul." And as Thomas Merton once wrote, even if I do not know where I am going, and do not see the road ahead, the fact that I desire to please God must itself be pleasing to Him; so that if I have this desire, I may trust that He will lead me by the right road even if I know nothing about it, and though I seem to be lost and in the shadow of death, I may trust that He will never leave me to face my perils alone. Yet again, the words of my own patron also come to mind: "Lead, kindly Light, amid th'encircling gloom, lead thou me on! ... Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me."

What were some of the resources that I found helpful? First were all the obvious Bible texts that would come to mind for many of us; and these surprised me by their undiminished power to communicate God's steadfast love and providence, even after years of familiarity. If anything, they were driven home through repeated readings and recitation with a renewed sense of God communicating His mercy and grace in the present moment. Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd ...") became my constant companion, along with several other passages. This Psalm juxtaposes walking through a dark "valley of the shadow of death" with the comfort of God's protective presence. Why does the Psalmist say "I shall fear no evil"? Because "Thou art with me. Thy rod and Thy staff, the comfort me," and "Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil. My cup runneth over." Thus even in the midst of one's darkest valley, the Lord assures us that "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwellin the house of the Lord forever." Not a bad hope, that.

So, too, with Ps 121 ("I lift my eyes unto the hills ..."). The Psalmist asks: "From whence does my help come?" And he answers: "My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth ... He will not let thy foot be moved, he who keeps thee shall not slumber.... The Lord will keep thee from all evil; he will keep thy life...."

So, too with text from Ps 50:15 ("... and call upon me in the day of trouble"), that I mentioned having remembered from the Robinson Crusoe comic book I read as a child ("... and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me"), and also the text from Sirach 2:1-6 ("My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.... For gold is tested in the fire .... Trust in Him, and He will help you ... hope in Him").

Then there was Ps 68 (Exsurgat Deus) -- a Psalm about the God of Hosts (Armies) rising to our defense against our mortal Foe and his legions ("God arises, His enemeis are scattered ..."; the first part of which is incorporated into the magnificent Leonine Exorcism).

Then, again, there was the gunpowder language of that Leonine Exorcism itself, which, I must say, made good bedtime reading: "Most cunning serpent, you shall no more dare to deceive the human race, persecute the Church, torment God's elect and sift them as wheat. + The Most High God commands you. + He with whom, in your great insolence, you still claim to be equal .... Thus, cursed dragon, and you, diabolical legions ... stop deceiving human creatures and pouring out to them the poison of eternal damnation ... Begone, Satan, inventor and master of all deceit, enemy of man's salvation. Give place to Christ ... give place to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church acquired by Christ at the price of His blood. Stoop beneath the all-powerful Hand of God; tremble and flee when we invoke the Holy and terrible Name of Jesus, this Name which causes hell to tremble, this Name to which the Virtues, Powers and Dominations of heaven are humbly submissive, this Name which the Cherubim and Seraphim praise unceasingly repeating: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord, the God of Armies ...." Napalm in the morning, Napalm in the evening.

In a particularly dark and desolate frame of mind, I came across a wrinkled prayer card with the following Prayer to St. Anthony on the back, whose words were just what I needed:
O Holy St. Anthony, reach down from
heaven and take hold of my hand.

Assure me that I am not alone.
You are known to possess miraculous
powers and to be ever ready to speak
for those in trouble.

Loving and Gentle St. Anthony, reach
down from heaven I implore you and
assist me in my hour of need. Obtain
for me (mention your request here).

Dearest St. Anthony, reach down
from heaven and guide me with
thy strength. Plead for me in my
needs. And teach me to be humbly
thankful as you were for all the
bountiful blessings I am to receive.

Another saint about whom I knew little, became especially meaningful to me, initially through a prayer card, and later through a wonderful Italian film of her life, which I happily recommend. The print on this prayer card was so small, I couldn't read it each morning without my glasses on, but the Prayer to Saint Rita,Saint of the Impossible, goes like this:
O HOLY PATRONESS of those in need, St. Rita, whose pleadings before thy Divine Lord are almost irresistible, who for thy lavishness in granting favors hast been called the Advocate of the Hopeless and even of the Impossible; St. Rita, so humble, so pure, so mortified, so patient and of such compassionate love for thy Crucified Jesus that thou couldst obtain from Him whatsoever thou askest, on account of which all confidently have recourse to thee, expecting, if not always relief, at least comfort; be propitious to our petition, showing thy power with God on behalf of thy suppliant; be lavish to us, as thou has been i so many wonderful cases, for the greater glory of God, for the spreading of thine own devotion, and for the consolation of those who trust in thee. We promise, if our petition is granted, to glorify thee by making known thy favor, to bless and sing thy praises forever. Relying then upon thy merits and power before the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we pray
(here mention your request).
Obtain for us our request
By the singular merits of thy childhood,
By thy perfect union with the Divine Will,
By thy heroic sufferings during thy married life,
By the consolation thou didst experience at the conversion of thy husband,
By the sacrifice of thy children rather than see them grievously offend God,
By thy miraculous entrance into the convent,
By thy severe penances and thrice daily bloody scourgings,
By the suffering caused by the wound thou didst receive from the thorn of thy Crucified Saviour,
By the divine love which consumed thy heart,
By that remarkable devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, on which alone thou didst exist for four years,
By the happiness with which thou didst part from thy trials to join thy Devine Spouse,
By the perfect example thou gavest to people of every state of life.
Pray for us, O holy St. Rita, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
A nun in California who has corresponded with me and kept me in her prayers for the past sixteen years sent me a holy card with a picture of Jesus with St. Joseph in his carpenter's shop with the following inscription on the back, in her handwriting:
"When the treasures of God were unsheltered on earth,
Safe-keeping was found for them both in thy worth!
There's no saint in heaven
St. Joseph like thee!
Sweet spouse of our Lady
We lean safe on thee!"

(from the old St. Gregory Hymnal) [emphasis hers]
Then we come to Our Lady herself, and to two devotions that have been close to my heart for some years, The Morning Offering to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, and The Seven Dolors of Our Blessed Mother. Some of these card are not always produced with the closest attention to grammar or form (such as spelling "altars" as "alters," or omitting commas or misplacing them), although there is a certain charm even in the sheer humanness of such errors, to which I myself am prone.

The Morning Offering:
O my God, in union with the Immaculate Heart of Mary (here kiss your Scapular as a sign of your consecration; partial indulgence also), I offer the precious Blood of Jesus from all the altars throughout the world, joining it with the offering of my every thought, word and action of this day. O my Jesus, I desire today to gain every indulgence and merit I can and I offer them, altogether with myself, to Mary Immaculate, that She may best apply them in the interests of Thy Most Sacred Heart. Precious Blood of Jesus, save us!
Typically, when reciting the prayers of The Seven Dolors of Our Blessed Mother, since there are seven promises as well as Dolors, I like to state them together as couplets. I have no idea whether this is part of the tradition. It's simply what I have always done. Thus, after stating the first Dolor, The Prophecy of Simeon, I state the first promise: "I will grant peace to their families," followed by the Hail Mary; and so forth. On the particular prayer card sent to me by the Californian nun during the past summer, however, was an image of Our Lady of Quito with the following version of The Seven Sorrows of Mary:
The prophecy of Simeon
The flight into Egypt
The three-day loss of Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem
The meeting with her Son on the way to Calvary
Mary standing at the foot of the Cross
The burial of her Divine Son
O Desolate Mother, who can know the tender affection of thy broken heart that was laid in the sepulchre with the body of thy Divine Son? He was thy all, He still is thy all, for dejection has no claim upon thee. Teach me, Mother of Sorrows, to place my hope in Him, that the false security of the world may never seduce me. Amen.
Our Father, Hail Mary,
O Mary Conceived, etc.
My greatest discovery, however, was a prayer card bearing the image of The Infant of Prague on its face and a "Powerful Novena of Childlike Confidence" on the back. When we were in Prague several years ago, we purchased a small porcelain statue of the Infant of Prague, the original of which is housed in Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, which previously used to be a Lutheran church (a rare reversal of what one finds in places like the UK where all the beautiful old churches built by the previous Catholic civilization are now 'occupied' by Protestant state churches).

While I cannot say I know very much about the original story of the Infant of Prague, what totally captivated me was the synthesis of Biblical texts (Mt 21:22; Jn 14:13; Mt 24:35) that comprise the novena. The texts I was familiar with from my childhood, and I remember being intrigued by the straightforward bluntness of Christ's promises when I first became familiar with them as a child. At first I didn't know the novena was to be prayed at the same time every hour for nine consecutive hours -- just one day, so I was reciting the prayer once every day. But when I discovered my oversight, I found that this prayer quickly became my bread and butter as I made the novena repeatedly each day for a number of very intense weeks. Here it is -- the Novena to the Infant of Prague -- with corrected punctuation:
O Jesus, Who hast said, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you, through the intercession of Mary, Thy Most Holy Mother, I knock, I seek, I ask that my prayer be granted.
(Make your request)

O Jesus, Who hast said, all that you ask of the Father in My Name, He will grant you, through the intercession of Mary, Thy Most Holy Mother, I humbly and urgently ask Thy Father in Thy Name that my prayer be granted.
(Make your request)

O Jesus, Who has said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass," through the intercession of Mary, Thy Most Holy Mother, I feel confident that my prayer will be granted.
(Make your request)
I recently discovered that the Holy Father also has an appreciation of the Infant of Prague, when I when I read his address during his visit to the Infant of Prague at Our Lady of Victory on September 6, 2009.

I offer these Scripture texts and prayers, in part, as my thank offering to the Lord, His angels and His saints on whose intercession I leaned heavily throughout my ordeal, and in partial fulfillment for my duty to make known the grace of petitions answered. In the words of the prayer to St. Rita: "We promise, if our petition is granted, to glorify thee by making known thy favor, to bless and sing thy praises forever." My prayers have been abundantly answered indeed, much to my own shameful surprise; and I am grateful to all in heaven and on earth -- those named here and unnamed -- whose intercessions at the throne of God have borne this fruit of grace for His unworthy and doubting servant.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CDF -- SSPX talks begin

Tomorrow morning, October 26 -- today for some -- representatives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will begin theological talks on the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) with representatives of the Society of St. Pius X. These talks will center on issues at the heart of controversies concerning the Vatican II that have polarized progressive and traditional Catholics for nearly half-a-century.

For anyone who does not know how to pray for these deliberations, I suggest that you pray for the intentions of the Holy Father. If you don't understand the importance of praying for these deliberations, then I suggest you consult Pope Benedict's declarations on the matter over the course of the past few years, particularly since his July 2007 motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum and his accompanying letter to bishops and revisit the controversy centering on his lifting of the excommunications on Feb. 4, 2009, of the four bishops illicitly consecrated by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre -- and especially his letter to Catholic bishops of March 12, 2009, responding to the hail of criticism that descended upon him over the denial by one of these bishops of the generally-accepted facts concerning the Nazi Holocaust.

Pray we must.

St. Josaphat Side Altar Tabernacle Restoration Continues

Tridentine Community News (October 25, 2009):
Readers may recall that in 2008, a locksmith was called in to pick the locks of and re-key the long-unused tabernacles on the side altars of St. Josaphat Church. One of those tabernacles was in good condition and was found to contain a beautiful reliquary. The other three, however, were in various stages of disrepair. Two were filled with soot and unusable.

In the second phase of the tabernacle restoration, an intrepid volunteer has recently cleaned out, caulked, primed, and painted the interiors of the three tabernacles still in need of refurbishment. You may have noticed the tabernacle doors open over the past few weeks to permit the primer and paint to dry. Cloth-covered foam-board bases have been constructed as appropriate resting spots for the ciboria that may be placed there. This work has been done in preparation for a liturgical event, explained below.

All Souls Day Masses

As was done last year, this All Souls Day, Monday, November 2, will be a special day of prayer for the Souls of the Faithful Departed at St. Josaphat Church.

Starting at 6:00 PM, Tridentine Low Masses will be celebrated at the side altars of the church. In 2008 two side altars were in use. This year, Frs. Mark Borkowski, Peter Hrytsyk, John Johnson, and Louis Madey will be present to celebrate Masses at all four of the side altars. This may very well be the first time in decades that all of the side altars of one of our local historic Catholic churches are being used for Holy Mass simultaneously.

Following the Low Masses, at 7:00 PM a Solemn High Mass will be celebrated at the high altar. The Dies Irae will be sung. At the end of that Mass, the ceremony of Absolution will be conducted at the catafalque, the wooden platform which represents a casket for the departed souls.

The Church provides three separate sets of Mass Propers for All Souls Day, as there has been a longstanding tradition of priests celebrating multiple Masses on this day. The Church wishes to stress the need for prayer for the Souls in Purgatory, as once is in Purgatory, it can no longer pray for itself. That soul depends on the prayers and Masses offered by those still on Earth for its relief and ultimate release from Purgatory.

The accompanying photos show St. Josaphat’s four side altars: From top down are the altars which are clockwise from the left if you are standing in the church: The St. Anthony of Padua Altar, our Blessed Mother’s altar, the St. Joseph Altar, and the St. Francis of Assisi Altar.

NLM Covers Assumption’s Anniversary Mass

Last week’s Solemn High Mass at Assumption Church for the 18th Anniversary of the Windsor Tridentine Mass Community attracted the attention of the widely-read New Liturgical Movement blog. A story and photos, published on Monday, October 19, discussed how first-time Extraordinary Form celebrant Fr. John Johnson prepared for the Mass, and how the lessons he learned affect how he now approaches celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Faithful from across the region turned out; it was the best attended Tridentine Mass in the Windsor Community’s history. Read the whole story at
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for October 25, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Related: Look to Exsultate Iusti in Domino for beautiful online photographs of these and other events at St. Josaphat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

All Hallows' Eve (October 31)

"One may not think of the month of daylight savings time, breast cancer awareness, and Oktoberfest as particularly controversial, but beneath the surface of several Catholic holidays in October are truths and memories that bring a maelstrom of protest from the modern world," writes Michael P. Foley in "The Controversial Holidays of October" (Latin Mass magazine, Summer 2009).

The first of those we reviewed in "The Controversial Founding of Columbus Day" (Musings, October 11, 2009). Here we resume the rest of Foley's article on the holiday popularly known as "Halloween."
Controversy also surrounds another well-known American holiday, with various voices denouncing or defending it as darkly pagan, harmlessly secular, liturgically Catholic, or historically anti-Catholic. In a sense, they are all right, for Halloween is a fascinating combination of all of the above.

Halloween began as the Celtic festival of Samhain,the Lord of the dead in Celtic mythology. It was believed that on the night before the feast, the gates of the underworld were opened and that ghosts, demons, and witches were allowed to roam freely. In response to this otherworldly menace, the Celts followed the principle "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and disguised themselves as various kinds of ghouls to escape harm. (From this practice comes our custom of Halloween masquerading.) And in addition to blending in with the infernal, the Celts also tried to appease evil spirits by offering them food and wine.

The Catholic Takeover

After the Catholic Faith came to Celtic lands, the old Druidic festival came to be associated with the night before All Saints' Day and was thus called All Hallows' Eve (a name that gives us the modern appellation of Halloween), even though the institution of All Saints' Day on November 1st was a complete coincidence. Church officials were gradually able to wean the Celts from their sacrifices, replacing the food offerings to the gods with "soul cakes" that would be made on Halloween and offered to the poor in memory of the faithful departed. This was centuries before the Western Church instituted November 2nd as All Souls' Day, the day commemorating the souls suffering in Purgatory.

The original intention of distributing soul cakes was doubly charitable, ensuring that the poor would be fed on this day, in exchange for which they would pray for the doner's dead. But eventually, "souling," as it was called, became more frolicsome as groups of young men and boys began going from house to house and demanding food, money, or ale instead of cakes. The Church, incidentally, also transformed the nature of masquerading during this time from the evasion of evil spirits to the emulation of Christian saints. Large processions in honor of all the saints were held in England and Ireland on the Vigil of the Feast, with participants either carrying relics or dressing up as angels and saints.

The Irish put an additional spin on the feast with their story about a deceased scamp named Jack. Jack had been kicked out of heaven because he was not good enough and out of hell because he kept playing tricks on the devil. It was thus arranged that Jack would roam the earth with only a lantern to guide him until the Last Judgment, when God would finally decide what to do with him. Hence the ubiquitous Halloween jack-o'-lantern, which in Ireland is made out of the potato and in America out of the more commodious pumpkin.

Modern Changes

The Reformation all but eliminated Halloween, since most Protestant ecclesial communities removed the Feast of All Saints from their calendar. In England, however, many of the old Catholic customs were transferred to Guy Fawkes Day six days later. Guy Fawkes Day commemorates a failed plot by several English Catholics to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605. After the plot was foiled, the British government declared November 5 "a holiday for ever in ... detestation of the Papists.1 In the United States, the anniversary was known as Pope's Day, and despite George Washington's admonitions, it continued to be celebrated in some parts of the country well into the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Of the customs that were transferred, the principal one concerns door-to-door begging. Instead of souling, boys in England and later America would solicit lumps of coal on the night before the holiday in order to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes or the pope. After the Irish emigrated to the United States in the nineteenth century, bringing with them their old Halloween customs, the coal-begging of Guy Fawkes Day gradually elided back into the souling of October 31. It is from this combination of Irish Catholic and British anti-Catholic observances that our modern custom of trick-or-treating has emerged.2

What to Do

Halloween today can be celebrated in any number of ways, from innocent costumes and customs (such as bobbing for apples) to teenage vandalism to truly satanic cultic practices. It is because of this checkered past and present that many traditional Catholics prefer to host more explicitly religious events in addition to Halloween or not to observe the standard American Halloween at all. Adapting the old tradition of All Saints' masquerading, they host costume parties in which children dress as saints and in which games and contests are held and prizes rewarded.

Others infuse the old Christian meaning back into the holiday. Since it precedes the first class solemnity of All Saints' Day, October 31 was once a day of fasting and abstinence. One family we know teaches their children to think of trick-or-treating as a kind of harvest gathering for the real holiday of All Saints' and indeed for the entire first week of November. This not only keeps them from gorging themselves on their sweet plunder in a single night, it yokes their harmless fun to a deeper spiritual meaning. In former ages, All Saints' Day was celebrated for eight days, and though this octave was removed from the calendar by the time of the 1962 Missal, paraliturgical traditions continue to thrive in connection with All Souls' Day on November 2. Plenary indulgences, for example, are still offered from November 1 through 8 for visiting a cemetery and praying for the dead; and several Catholic cultures have long had special funereal foods and customs for this week. American Catholics of Western European descent have never had a robust "week of the dead" unlike, say, the Mexican people; and so saving Halloween candy for the saints and the poor souls in purgatory could be a way to fill this void and correct the abuses of Halloween to boot. One thing is certain: if the Church can snatch Halloween away from the Druids, she can certainly take it back from secular America.

  1. George William Douglas, The American Book Of Days,revised by Helen Douglas Compton (New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1948), p. 584. [back]

  2. Lesley Pratt Bannatyne, Halloween: An American Holiday, an American History(Gretna, Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, 1998), pp. 2-4, 9-11, 15-16, 142-143. [back]

[Michael P. Foley is associate professor of patristics at Baylor University. He is author of Wedding Rites: A Complete Guide to Traditional Vows, Music, Ceremonies, Blessings, and Interfaith Services(Eerdmans, 2008) and Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything(Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). Our present post was excerpted from Dr. Foley's article, "The Controversial Holidays of October," Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition Vol. 18, No. 3 (Summer 2009), pp. 36-39, and is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060.]

Monday, October 19, 2009


Call To Holiness Conference Report

Tridentine Community News (October 18, 2009):
The Call To Holiness conference held last Saturday, October 10 at the National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak turned out somewhat different than expected. Several of the speakers gave significant emphasis to the appeal of the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass. This focus was not evident in the marketing materials used to promote the conference.

Dr. Michael Foley delivered a thought-provoking opening talk entitled “How the Mass Shaped the Western World.” After pointing out that many aspects of modern society were inspired by the Mass (e.g.: The layout of a courtroom resembles that of a church. Once someone has “passed the bar” [Communion Rail analogy] and may practice law, he is permitted to enter the front “sanctuary” of the courtroom, where only “ordained” attorneys may go.). Dr. Foley further proposed that it was the Extraordinary Form’s structure that caused the Mass to have such influence, and questioned whether the Ordinary Form would have been compelling enough to affect society so pervasively.

Fr. Eduard Perrone presented PowerPoint slides comparing the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Mass side by side (just as this column did in January, 2008). He pointed out the value of veiling the sacred (just as this column did in February, 2006) via the Communion Rail, chalice veils, and the like. Various “hmmms” and “aaahs” of realization were heard from some of those present who may not have pondered these matters before.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, a member of the same Canons Regular of the Holy Cross to which our own Fr. Wolfgang Seitz belongs, spoke about the importance of realizing what, and Who, the Holy Eucharist is. Following the theme of his recently published book, “Dóminus Est – It is the Lord!: Reflections of a Bishop of Central Asia on Holy Communion”, he logically developed that argument that if we believe that the Eucharist is the Real Presence of our Lord, then we should not be so casual in permitting the Eucharist to be handled by laypeople or received in the hand, which can lead to all sorts of desecrations, both inadvertent and intentional.

Priest blogger extraordinaire Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of What Does the Prayer Really Say ( spoke about the necessity and benefits of reverent worship in today’s society.

Sacred Heart Seminary Director of Music Dr. Ronald Prowse led a time-constrained seminar on Gregorian Chant. He provided an introduction to reading chant notation, and showed how English propers can be set to chant tones. A schola comprised of seminarians was present to sing the 4:30 PM Mass.

The corridor leading up to the Shrine church was filled with vendors offering a variety of religious materials for sale, as was the school gymnasium across the street where lunch was served.

Call To Holiness has always featured orthodox speakers, however this was the first time that the Traditional Latin Mass was a primary theme. It would not be unreasonable to speculate that at least half of the people in attendance are not presently regular Tridentine Mass attendees. However, most were likely conservative Catholics, and among them surely were some who simply had never had the Traditional Mass explained to them.

The morning and afternoon Masses at Shrine were of the typical suburban parish variety. These were parish Masses and not conference Masses per se, so this was understandable, yet it also brought home the fact that we have a long way to go to re-educate most Catholics about proper structure and form in the liturgy.

The rise of EWTN and Catholic radio; a spate of new, orthodox Catholic publications and web sites; and the Internet’s role in spreading news quickly has made people aware of the appeal of traditional worship. Yet liturgy by-the-books is a topic that is virtually never brought up at most Catholic parishes. Likewise, the metro Detroit and Windsor Catholic media seems so heavily focused on pro-life and Marian topics that the sacred liturgy is rarely addressed. This is not to disparage those topics, as they are vital indeed, but to discuss them to the virtual exclusion of the liturgy results in Catholics’ general unawareness of a significant part of their faith. Indeed, how can one even credibly argue against the Latin Mass if one is unfamiliar with it?

Nevertheless, this Call To Holiness conference demonstrated yet further proof that the pendulum is swinging back towards recovering our liturgical heritage. Who could have ever imagined in the late 1990s, or even five years ago, that Call To Holiness would focus on the Tridentine Mass?

Appropriate Attire in the Sanctuary

At virtually every Tridentine Mass location, everyone in the sanctuary wears liturgical attire during Mass. The celebrant, of course, is fully vested. Altar servers, as well as clergy and choir members who may be present, traditionally wear cassock and surplice. This creates an atmosphere of decorum fitting for the sacred actions taking place. Conversely, inappropriate or excessively informal attire in the sanctuary can be a source of distraction and can make a statement that what goes on at Mass is not really that special at all. In essence, it can have the opposite effect of a Communion Rail; it can “unveil” the sacred.

It may not be realistic for lay lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist to be vested. By the same token, however, by virtue of the gravity of their responsibilities in handling the Holy Eucharist, it seems out of place for Extraordinary Ministers to be dressed in, for example, jeans and sweatshirts. As Bishop Schneider argued, we Catholics either believe or we do not in the Real Presence. If we do believe, should Extraordinary Ministers not give our Lord at least the same respect via their attire that they would give a fine restaurant?

The Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass avoids these potential dichotomies by excluding the possibility of lay lectors and by restricting the distribution of Holy Communion to priests and deacons, both of whom must be vested while performing their duties.
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat bulletin insert for October 18, 2009. Hat tip to A.B.]

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Rite of Exorcism

"As a layperson, the first thing that surprised me about exorcism was that not many priests knew anything about it, especially not American priests."

-- Matt Baglio, Journalist

In the fall of 2005, Matt Baglio, the author of The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist(New York: Doubleday, 2009), was a journalist associated with the Rome bureau of the Associated Press living in Italy when he heard that a Vatican-affiliated university was offering a course entitled "Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation." He thought it might be a PR stunt. "Did the Church still believe in exorcism?" he asked himself. Not knowing what to expect, he decided to go to the class, viewing it as a rare opportunity: "I thought there was at least an article in it." Little did he know that the envisioned article would turn into a book.

The first day of the course, changed all of his preconceptions about exorcism, largely formed by sensationalist Hollywood depictions. "Not only was the ultramodern classroom an odd setting to see priests, Franciscan friars, and nuns of various orders listening to lectures on the powers of Satan, but, to my surprise, I found the students themselves to be anything but the 'superstitious' or puritanical priests portrayed in popular culture." (p. 235)

One of the most unexpected things about exorcisms as described here is that they aren't typically a one-time deal. More often than not, they resemble a periodic scheduled visit to one's therapist, with the exorcist scheduling their next visit in his appointment book at the conclusion of a session. The vast majority of exorcisms might strike an observer as monotonous affairs. This isn't to say that there aren't occasionally the unexpectedly violent and convulsive confrontations one might expect, but that these are not typically conclusive. A well-known case in Rome reportedly took over 40 years.

Another surprising thing is the disparity in the number of exorcists and workload profiles between various countries. As of the writing of this book, Germany reportedly has no exorcists, the United States 14, and Italy somewhere upwards of 400. "According to the Association of Italian Catholic Psychiatrists and Psychologists, in Italy alone, more than 500,000 people see an exorcist annually." (p. 6)

The author writes:
As a layperson, the first thing that surprised me about exorcism was that not many priests knew anything about it, especially not American priests....

My first behind-the-scenes look at exorcism occurred when I began to interview the various exorcists on their "home turf." Here and there I would catch a glimpse of what existed on the other side -- a group of people hounding Father Tommaso outside the sacristy of the Scala Santa; Father Bamonte wiping a puddle of holy water off a chair so that I could sit down for an interview; sitting in Father Carmine's waiting room while a woman screamed and banged around in his office. Perhaps most surprising was that far from being carried out in some hilltop monastery, many of the exorcisms were performed in churches located right in the heart of Rome. In fact, it was common to be talking to an exorcist while groups of tourists paraded around taking photos of religious iconography. One bizarre aspect of researching this book was this juxtaposition of two worlds -- talking to a victim of demonic possession or hearing an exorcism and then emerging into the bright sunshine and chaotic streets of Rome.

Each exorcist I interviewed was compelling in his own right.... I also found their candor to be refreshing. Many of the books I'd read had ordered everything into neat little boxes, yet here were exorcists with years of experience telling me that there were still things that couldn't be known.

Then there were the victims. Like Father Gary, not only did I find their apparent normalcy surprising, but I also found them credible, even likable people These were not people who struck me a trying to pull a fast one; they were sincere, heartfelt individuals who were struggling with something even they seemed at a loss to understand. Later, when I participated in exorcisms, this impression was only reinforced.

Many people assume that an exorcist is out to prove that people are possessed; however, with each of the Italian exorcists I talked to, I found the opposite to be true. It is also wrong, I think, to assume that the Church is on one side promoting the belief in spirits while the secular world is on the other, trying to debunk such notions. Stroll down to the local New Age bookshop to see the tremendous popularity of angels, "channeling," and "astral travel," not to mention thenumber of "ghost whisperers" and therapists who practice "spirit releasement." (pp. 236-238)
The Italian exorcists interviewed in Baglio's book are at pains to rule out psychological disorders before proceeding with exorcisms. Following suit, Fr. Gary Thomas, the American priest from San Francisco whose training in Rome is the principal subject of Baglio's book, promotes the importance of erring on the side of caution by assembling teams of medical doctors and psychologists or psychiatrists who could fully vet potential "patients" before proceeding to exorcism, and recommends making this a matter of standard national policy once the USCCB can be made to take the issue seriously enough to address it. (pp. 211ff.)

[Hat tip to N.B.]