Friday, December 31, 2010

Pope at year's end: the future of world at stake

The recent Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of Christmas Greetings to the Roman Curia (December 20, 2010) contained some astonishing remarks, embedded unobtrusively in this small and seemingly insignificant speech, remarks almost entirely overlooked in the mainstream media: "The very future of the world is at stake."

The context of the Pope's remarks was the near total collapse in the western world of any moral consensus rooted in Christian worldview. The Pope declared: "... an eclipse of reason has taken place ... man no longer uses his intellect in search of God ... but is driven by his passions and desire for self-gratification." He began his comments by comparing the current state of affairs with the collapse of the Roman Empire. "The disintegration of the key principles of law and of the fundamental moral attitudes underpinning them burst open the dams which until that time had protected peaceful coexistence among peoples. The sun was setting over an entire world."

The pope also revisited the present pervasive blight of sexual depravity: "No pleasure is ever enough, and the excess of deceiving intoxication becomes a violence that tears whole regions apart – and all this in the name of a fatal misunderstanding of freedom which actually undermines man’s freedom and ultimately destroys it."

Related:[Hat tip to E.E.]

Summorum Pontificum on Vatican website available only in Hungarian & Latin

As noted in Fr. Z's blog (December 30, 2010), the Supreme Pontiff’s Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum is still provided only in Latin and Hungarian on the Vatican website:

Languages equally comprehensible to liberals.

Does this seem right to you?

This is an important document of a Pope’s pontificate.

Shouldn’t it be in the main languages in which the Holy See released documents including, say, English?

Do the people who run that website, or oversee those who do, not think the Holy Father’s documents are important?
What does this do but provide a convenient excuse to those bishops who wish to ignore the Motu Proprio and do nothing to help the Holy Father implement his stated objectives in Summorum Pontificum and accompanying Letter to the Bishops.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fish on Friday: The One That Got Away

Still Life with Fish by Edouard Manet

By Michael P. Foley

One of the most recognizable markers of Catholic identity used to be the practice of abstaining from meat on Friday. A Protestant colleague of mine speaks admiringly of how in his youth he would hang out, Happy Days style, at a burger joint on Friday night. When the clock struck twelve, the Catholic teens who were there would let loose a cry that echoed through the parking lot: “Ham-burger!”

What those teenagers didn’t know was that they were honoring a discipline probably as old as Christianity itself. Abstaining on Friday from “flesh meat,” the meat of a warm-blooded animal, is potentially older than some books of the New Testament.1 Be it with fasting (having little or no food) or abstaining (refraining from food of a particular kind), the Church has always observed Friday with some sort of restriction on comestibles.

Broader Impact

Friday abstinence has also had a ripple effect going far beyond its primary aim of personal sanctification. Contrary to wild theories about medieval fishermen lobbying the Church to create Friday abstinence, it was Friday abstinence that helped create the medieval fishing industry.2 Professor Brian Fagan claims that the Church’s Friday discipline may have even led to the discovery of the New World, spurring Atlantic fishermen to push further westward in search of better waters and providing navigational precedents for Christopher Columbus.3 By pushing the borders of the known world, Friday abstinence not only put fishing on the map, it helped make the map itself. Friday and Lenten abstinence prompted medieval monasteries to pioneer new techniques in pisciculture, including artificial fish ponds and artificial fertilization.4 It was a Catholic nun who wrote the first fishing manual in English and a Catholic priest who invented the first spinning reel.5

Nor has only distant history been affected by this ancient custom. Restaurants typically have a Friday seafood special of the day or a soup du jour such as clam chowder because of the power that Catholics once wielded as a united front. Even titans of global uniformity like McDonald’s were forced to take notice. The Filet-o-Fish sandwich was added to its menus in 1962 after Louis Groen, owner of the chain’s Cincinnati franchises, noticed that his restaurants experienced a sharp drop in sales every Friday. Even today, of the 300 million Filets-o-Fish sold annually, 25% of those sales come from the forty days of Lent.

* * * * * * *
So strong was the American association of Catholics with fish on Friday that “mackerel snapper” was once a common epithet for papists.

* * * * * * *
Everyday language has been affected as well. So strong was the American association of Catholics with fish on Friday that “mackerel snapper” was once a common epithet for papists. “Meager” refers to something that has little flesh, and so the word came to be applied to days of total or partial abstinence in the Church calendar. A soup-maigre or “meager soup” was one that was not made from flesh meat or meat broth and was consequently suitable for “meager days,” while to “make meager” meant eating food appropriate for meager days.6

Of course, one of the curious things about all of these effects is that Catholics don’t have to eat fish on Fridays. This is a point impishly brought home in an essay by Fr. Leonard Feeney.7 “I am one of those moderately good Catholics,” Feeney writes, “in whom the persuasive power of Canon Law has not developed a taste for fish either on Friday or any other day, and stands no chance of doing so.”8 For Feeney, the reputation of Catholics as a queer sort of “Sixth Day Adventists” is a badge of honor to be worn in cheerful defiance of Protestant America.

Another mackerel snapper, renowned anthropologist Mary Douglas, agrees. Douglas sees in the rule of Friday abstinence “allegiance to a humble home in Ireland and to a glorious tradition in Rome.”9 These allegiances, she continues, are particularly important for a humiliated class. “At its lowest,” Douglas writes, Friday abstinence for a “bog Irishman” meant “what haggis and the pipes mean to Scots,” and at its most, “it means what abstaining from pork meant to the venerable Eleazar as narrated in 2 Maccabees.”10 One wonders if the Church in Ireland and America today, which in both countries is being humiliated by the savagery of the press and the corruption of some of its clergy, is not in need of a similar morale-boosting sign of allegiance.

Exceptions Curious and Quaint

Fr. Feeney also remarks: “if we dared tell non-Catholics the number of reasons which will legitimately permit us to eat meat on Friday, they would be scandalized.”11 There were numerous variations of the Friday rule based on local usage and the judgment of “intelligent and conscientious Christians.”12 Holy days such as Christmas trumped Friday abstinence, and Pope Pius XII, in order to relieve their overburdened refrigerators, allowed U.S. Catholics to eat meat the day after Thanksgiving. Special groups, such as travelers and soldiers, were occasionally exempted, and so were areas that either already had a seafood-rich diet or were smitten by epidemic or famine.

And sometimes whole peoples got a free pass. In 1089 Spanish counts were granted a dispensation from the Friday rule by Pope Urban II for their role in the Crusades; after the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, Pope St. Pius V extended the dispensation to the entire Spanish dominion, including her colonies in the New World. Mexico, for example, was not instructed by the Holy See to observe Friday abstinence until 1950, and the following year bishops in New Mexico and Texas informed their flock that this applied to them as well.13

And then there are the curious local substitutes. During Lent the people of Venezuela can eat capybaras, the world’s largest rodent, a fact that has inspired the following doggerel:
You’ll enjoy capybaras to eat;
Venezuelans proclaim them a treat.
Those of Catholic bent
May consume them for Lent
If a fine rodent burger’s their meat.
Writing about the year 1188, Giraldus Cambrensis remarks that in “Germany and the arctic regions,” beavers’ tails are eaten during times of fast by “great and religious persons” because of their resemblance to fish meat.14 This practice was carried to parts of the New World, especially Canada. Jesuit missionaries wrote to Rome to verify that the custom was permissible. Rome replied that not only were beavers allowable but so were most amphibious animals and even some species of wild duck.15

* * * * * * *

... some Michiganders have the dubious privilege of dining on muskrat for their Friday and Lenten observances. ... the bishop added: “Anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints.”

* * * * * * *

In the United States, some Michiganders have the dubious privilege of dining on muskrat for their Friday and Lenten observances. Several Catholic communities in the Wolverine State have claimed a dispensation to eat the aquatic rodent since the days of the French trappers. In 1987, Bishop Kenneth Povish of Lansing wrote that although such a permission could not be found in the Church’s records, the practice had been around for so long that it could continue as an “immemorial custom.” And there was another reason to allow it, the bishop added: “Anyone who could eat muskrat was doing penance worthy of the greatest of the saints.”16

The Law No One Knows

After Vatican II Pope Paul VI took up the question of Friday abstinence in his 1966 Apostolic Constitution Paenitimini. The document masterfully reaffirms the traditional theology of penance and abstinence, and it resolves a longstanding inconsistency about which feast days should supersede Friday abstinence.17 But Paenitimini also announces the Pope’s goal of reorganizing “penitential discipline with practices more suited to our times.”18 Even so, Friday abstinence was explicitly reaffirmed.19

In November of the same year, the U.S. bishops responded to the call for reorganization with a “Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence.”20 Whereas American Catholics were hereby released from a strict obligation under pain of sin to keep Friday abstinence, the bishops emphasized that Friday was still a mandatory day of penance: indeed, they wrote eloquently of Friday as a mini-Lent in the same way that Sunday is a “weekly Easter.”21 And they made it clear: “We give first place to abstinence from flesh meat. We do so in the hope that the Catholic community will ordinarily continue to abstain from meat by free choice as formerly we did in obedience to Church law.”22 The 1983 Code of Canon Law would later codify this teaching by stating that: Friday is an obligatory day of penance and abstinence is the standard form of Friday penance, although other forms may be done instead.23

Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

* * * * * * *

Restaurants typically have a Friday seafood special of the day or a soupdu jour such as clam chowder because of the power that Catholics once wielded as a united front.

* * * * * * *

If this is the position of the Magisterium, then why has it failed so miserably, with the majority of the world’s Catholics ignorant of any obligation to do anything special on Friday? Certainly, the media’s mishandling of the 1966 news (which made glib remarks like “you won’t go to hell anymore for eating a hamburger on Friday” instead of reporting all the facts), the minimalist mindset of the faithful who were happy to be free of one less duty, and the failure of the clergy to catechize on the subject all played a part in the overnight disappearance of Friday abstinence.

But there may also be a more fundamental reason. The removal of a symbol, or in this case the removal of a law protecting a symbol, can give the impression that the reality to which the symbol points is likewise being rejected. “To take away one symbol that meant something,” notes Mary Douglas,
is no guarantee that the spirit of charity will flow in its place….We have seen that those who are responsible for ecclesiastical decisions are only too likely to have been made, by the manner of their education, insensitive to non-verbal signals and dull to their meaning. This is central to the difficulties of Christianity today. It is as if the liturgical signal boxes were manned by colour-blind signalmen.24
And there are other complications. Paenitimini and Canon 1253, which allow an episcopal conference to designate other forms of penance such as works of charity for Friday, divorce for the first time in Church history Friday penance from food abstinence. Yet even this latitude is honored more in the breach than in the observance, for few episcopal conferences have made any decision about what form of Friday penance its flock may follow. The signalmen, it appears, have fallen asleep at the switch.

Confusion reigns even in the capitol of Christendom. When my father-in-law, who is a member of a pontifical academy, was invited to dine at the Vatican’s Casina Pio IV on a Friday night several years ago, he and the other guests were served horse meat!

* * * * * * *

Pope Pius XII, in order to relieve their overburdened refrigerators, allowed U.S. Catholics to eat meat the day after Thanksgiving.

* * * * * * *

Abstaining from the Alternatives

Regardless of the available options, there are at least seven reasons to keep the traditional sixth-day penance:
  1. It is corporate. Having everyone do his own form of penance lacks the marvelous unity of almost the entire Catholic world performing the same act on the same day. This is not only spiritually constructive, it is socially edifying, building up solidarity and deepening our awareness of joint membership in the mystical Body of Christ.

  2. It is ancient. A single practice unites all the living, but when it is ancient it also unites them to their forebears. If tradition is, as Chesterton put it, the democracy of the dead, then Friday abstinence is the veritable apple pie of Catholic life. In the words of the American bishops in 1966: We show “out of love for Christ Crucified…our solidarity with the generations of believers to whom this practice frequently became, especially in times of persecution and of great poverty, no mean evidence of fidelity to Christ and His Church.”25

  3. It is testimonial. Friday abstinence bears powerful witness to the distinctiveness of the Church. My Protestant friend whom I mentioned earlier knew little about Catholics when he was young, but he knew they stood for something when he watched his papist peers exercise self-discipline even away from the watchful eyes of their parents.

  4. Abstinence is efficacious. Ancient authors taught that abstinence from food and drink was useful in dampening “the ardor of lust.”26 Bodily passions are not bad per se, but left untrained they can become the occasion of sin. Trimming the body’s food intake, as modern studies have confirmed, can lower lustful proclivities.27

  5. Abstinence is appropriate. The Church still teaches that every human being is required to do penance by virtue of divine law (Can. 1249), and Friday abstinence is an especially appropriate way to do this. It was on a Friday in Eden that Adam and Eve transgressed the first law of abstinence.28 And, of course, it was on a Friday that our Lord was crucified in order to undo the effects of that transgression. It is therefore appropriate to make abstinence our Friday penance, in sober memory of the Fall and “in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ.”29

  6. Abstinence from meat is particularly appropriate. Catholicism ingeniously teaches both through presence and through absence. Usually, the Church employs physical signs to convey invisible realities; but sometimes, she temporarily withdraws something as a way of arresting our attention and heightening our awareness of what is missing.

    Hence, the suppression of the Alleluia during Septuagesima and Lent effectively demonstrates that we are in exile from our true Home, where the angels sing Alleluia without ceasing. Veiling sacred images in church during Passiontide — when we would most expect to gaze upon a crucifix — paradoxically heightens our awe of Christ’s Passion. And prohibiting the sacrifice of the altar on Good Friday draws us in an inverted way to the sacrifice of the cross made that day.

    Similarly, when we “make meager,” we withdraw from our table the flesh of an animal whose blood was shed for us on the day in which the Blood of the God-man was shed for us.30 The absence of the former paradoxically reminds us of the latter; not having a bloody victual backhandedly alerts us to the Bloody Victim.

  7. It is Christ-like. Jesus Christ consumed nothing on Good Friday except the gall He tasted shortly before His death. With fasting or abstinence on the day of the Crucifixion, Catholics in some small way “suffer with Christ that they may one day be glorified with Him. This is the heart of the tradition of abstinence from meat on Friday.”31

How the Church can best recover its former Friday integrity remains an open question.32 In the meantime, there is ample reason to fulfill Paul VI’s and the American bishops’ 1966 wish that what was once done in obedience be now done by free choice. The weekly abstinence from flesh meat is rich in history and meaning, bringing us closer to God and to each other. Living the Catholic tradition, even on days of deprivation, is anything but a meager existence.

Postscript: Since Ireland has been a leitmotif in this article, it is fitting to add that in response to the horrific abuse scandals decimating the Catholic Church in that country, Pope Benedict XVI has asked its faithful to offer their Friday penance from now until Good Friday 2011 for God’s mercy.33 Those of us who owe our blood or our faith to the sons and daughters of St. Patrick might wish to do the same.


  1. The custom of fasting on Friday is mentioned in Didache 9, a book believed to have been written around A.D. 75. [back]

  2. Brian Fagan, Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World (Basic Books, 2007), pp. 25ff. [back]

  3. Ibid. [back]

  4. Michael P. Foley, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 111. [back]

  5. See Foley, pp. 46, 69, and 109, resp. [back]

  6. Meagre/Meager, adj. and n.," Oxford English Dictionary, A.3. and B.2. [back]

  7. Leonard Feeney, S.J. "Fish on Friday," in Fish on Friday and Other Sketches (Sheed & Ward, 1934), pp. 3-16. [back]

  8. Ibid., p. 3. [back]

  9. Mary Douglas, Natural Symbols: Explorations in Cosmology (Routledge, 1996), p. 37. [back]

  10. Ibid., pp. 37-38. [back]

  11. Feeney, p. 6. [back]

  12. J.D. O'Neill, "Abstinence," Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907. [back]

  13. See "Friday Abstinence," in the Religion section of Time Magazine, June 18, 1951. [back]

  14. The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales, 2.3. [back]

  15. Daniel Wilson, "Early Notices of the Beaver in Europe and North America," in the Canadian Journal of Industry, Science, and Art (1849-1914), Vol. 4, p. 386. The scoter, for example, was consumed on Friday in parts of France (see Alexander Wilson and Charles Lucian Bonaparte, American Ornithology, Vol. 3 [Constable and Col, 1831], pp. 212-13). [back]

  16. Kristin Lukowski, "Muskrat love: A Lenten Friday delight for some Michiganders," CNS News, March 8, 2007. [back]

  17. Prior to Vatican II, only holy days of obligation suspended abstinence from flesh meat on Friday. The problem with this arrangement was that different nations had different days of obligation. The difficulty was resolved by giving all [first class] solemnities in the universal calendar priority over Friday penance. [back]

  18. III.C. [back]

  19. Chapter 3, II.2. [back]

  20. National Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence," November 18, 1966. This is an outstanding document. [back]

  21. Ibid., 23. [back]

  22. Ibid., 24. [back]

  23. See Canons 1251-1253. [back]

  24. Douglas, p. 42. [back]

  25. "Pastoral Statement," 24a. [back]

  26. See Saint Jerome, Against Jovinian 2.6; Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae II-II.147.1. [back]

  27. Flesh meat, for instance, is high in zinc, which raises testosterone levels. For a summary of modern dietary research, see Theresa M. Shaw, Burden of the Flesh (Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1998), pp. 126-27. [back]

  28. Adam and Eve sinned on the same day they were created when they ate the fruit from which they were commanded to abstain. Dante gives the First Couple about six hours in Paradise before they were expelled. [back]

  29. "Pastoral Statement," 23. [back]

  30. Cold-blooded animals such as fish and amphibians also "shed their blood for us" when we use them as food, but because of the similarity of our physiology to that of other warm-blooded animals, our symbolic association with the latter is greater. [back]

  31. "Pastoral Statement," 18. [back]

  32. For an interesting discussion on this, see Father John Zuhlsdorf's blog for April 23, 2009, at [back]

  33. Pope Benedict XVI, "Pastoral Letter of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of Ireland," no. 14, March 19, 2010. [back]

Michael P. Foley, an associate professor of Patristics at Baylor University, is author of Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?: The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) and Wedding Rites: A Complete Guide to Traditional Vows, Music, Ceremonies, Blessings, and Interfaith Services(Eerdmans, 2008). Dr. Foley's article, "Fish on Friday: The One That Got Away," Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition Vol. 19, No. 3 (Summer/Fall 2010), pp. 42-46, is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author.

[N.B. -- This post is permanently archived at "Fish on Friday: The One That Got Away" (Scripture and Catholic Tradition, December 30, 2010).]

Monday, December 27, 2010

"The right to bear arms ... and fill the freezer"

Fr. Zuhlsdorff, of all people, posted the following today:
Even if Admiral Yamamoto didn’t actually say this, it is nevertheless true. Se non è vero, è ben trovato:
You cannot invade the mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind every blade of grass.
I received this amusing piece via e-mail:
The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed. That’s great. There were over 600,000 hunters. Allow me to restate that number. Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay. But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week. Michigan ‘s 700,000 hunters have now returned home. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia, and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world. America will forever be safe from foreign invasion of troops with that kind of home-grown firepower.

Hunting – it’s not just a way to fill the freezer. It’s a matter of national security!

Geography teacher in Spain sued by Moslem for mentioning ham in class

Soeren Kern, "The Spanish Ham Lawsuit and Other Muslim Problems Hitting Iberia" (Hudson New York, December 23, 2010).

And Spanish ham -- the Jamón serrano they serve in tapas bars from Santiago de Compostela to Cadiz -- is almost as exquisite as Spanish flamenco in Andalusia.

One may offend public sensibilities by using a male pronoun instead of the now politically correct and grammatically hideous "they" or "them"; by eating pork rinds or mentioning "Jesus" in polite company; by quoting Leviticus 18:22 in public in Canada; and now ... by referring to HAM in Spain.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fallout over condom debate

Christopher Blosser, "Pope Benedict, Fr. Rhonheimer, Janet Smith and Stephen Long -- the 'Condom Conundrum' Continues" (The Benedict Blog, December 20, 2010).

[Note: While these participants in the debate seem to be all pretty much agreed on what the Holy Father was (and, just as importantly, was not) saying about condoms in his book, their own highly-nuanced discussion of the ethical issues goes well beyond the interpretation of the Pope's own words to a treatment of their own respective positions on condoms and contraception and their moral evaluation of the issues involved.]

[Hat tip to C.B.]

"Papist Parody: Pope said I can have condom?" (Musings, January 1, 2011).

Detroit/Windsor Tridentine community: 2010 In Review

Tridentine Community News (December 26, 2010):
Another year has rushed by, and it is appropriate to reflect on the significant events that have taken place.

The major happening in 2010 was, of course, the Latin Liturgy Association National Convention. People from across the English-speaking world traveled to Detroit to participate in the talks and special liturgies held at St. Joseph, St. Josaphat, St. Albertus, Assumption-Windsor, and Sweetest Heart of Mary. A bus tour of historic churches was held, which incidentally will be repeated at another event in 2011. Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry celebrated the first Solemn Pontifical Mass held in this region in over 40 years, attracting a congregation of over 400.

Our region gained two dedicated celebrants of the Extraordinary Form with the ordination in May of Fr. Patrick Bénéteau for the Diocese of London, and with Fr. Robert Marczewski of Orchard Lake’s Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary having learned to celebrate the Mass.

The Archdiocese of Detroit displayed its support for the Latin Mass tradition in the St. Josaphat cluster by appointing experienced Tridentine celebrant Fr. Paul Czarnota as pastor.

Numerous new altar servers have joined our teams at Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat. Several have expressed interest in a vocation to the priesthood. One of our longtime servers, Joe Tuskiewicz, entered Blessed John XXIII Seminary near Boston as a second-career seminarian for the Archdiocese of Detroit. Joe was recently instituted as an Acolyte, allowing him to serve as Subdeacon at Solemn High Tridentine Masses. Joe did this for the first time on Christmas Day at Assumption Church.

The first weekday Tridentine Mass in Windsor debuted at St. Theresa Church in January. When pastor Fr. John Johnson was transferred to a parish in Thamesville, the Mass quite logically moved to Assumption Church, home of the weekly Sunday Mass.

St. Paul on the Lake Church in Grosse Pointe Farms held its first Tridentine Mass in over 40 years, for a funeral. The beautifully restored church proved a perfect setting for the traditional liturgy.

The All Souls Day Masses held at the side altars and high altar of Windsor’s Assumption Church attracted a record attendance of over 350 souls to the Windsor Tridentine Mass.

The Diocese of London created the Assumption Heritage Trust Foundation, an entity to raise the funds for and administer the $9,800,000 restoration of Windsor’s Assumption Church. Tridentine Mass Community member Jason Grossi was named lead architect for the project.

Jason and Dr. Steven Ball discovered and restored an historic 18th century bell in the tower of Assumption Church. The original swinging mechanism of the larger, main bell was restored. The story of this discovery gained front page coverage in the Windsor Star newspaper and national CBC Television coverage.

Following upon the success of its quarterly Tridentine Masses, St. Albertus Church made the decision to double the frequency of those Masses to eight times per year in 2011.

Diocese of Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea established the Blessed John XXIII Community at Lansing’s St. Mary Cathedral. It is the first Tridentine Mass Community in our region that has been given the possibility of evolving into a full parish. Bishop Boyea also encouraged Ann Arbor’s Old St. Patrick Parish to commence regular Extraordinary Form Masses. His Excellency celebrated a Pontifical Low Mass at All Saints Church in Flint, after which he delivered a speech explaining his support for Summórum Pontíficum and his vision for establishing multiple strong Tridentine Mass Communities throughout his diocese.

Multiple weddings and baptisms have been held in the Extraordinary Form in our various churches. What was once a newsworthy event has become, thanks be to God, a common occurrence.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 12/27 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (St. John, Apostle & Evangelist)

Tue. 12/28 7:00 PM: High Mass at both Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat (Holy Innocents)

Sat. 01/01 2:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Octave of Christmas)
[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 December 26, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Oh, no: Mr. Bean goes to Bethlehem

Courtesy of The Deacon's Bench.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

What makes good preaching?

I remember thinking about this question back when I was in graduate school and not yet a Catholic. I had heard hour-long sermons that seemed like ten minutes, and ten minute homilies that seemed like an hour; sermons so rich in content that one would take out a pad of paper and take notes, and sermons that were so forgettable one couldn't say what they were about five minutes afterward.

The first thing one has to ask is: What is a homily for? What is it's purpose? It's not primarily entertainment, although it helps if it's engaging. It's not primarily education, although it helps if it's edifying. It's not primarily therapy, although it helps if it's personally illuminating. It's not primarily moral exhortation, although it helps if it's morally challenging. A homily is the voice of the Good Shepherd telling us what we need to hear, not necessarily what we want to hear -- guiding us toward the safety of our heavenly fold.

A good homily builds a bridge from Jesus to ourselves. It bridges the historical chasm separating Palestine 2000 years ago and ourselves living where we are today in the 21st Century. It takes a theme or text from the Bible, like the story about the Prodigal Son, and draws an application. This is where the rubber meets to road. It has to engage us here and now in our own lives. We have to encounter the living God, Christ as our own Contemporary, and hear His call to repentance, to contrition, to acceptance of the Father's mercy, to holiness. This is what it means when a homily "touches" us.

Fr. John Ricardo is a priest from Our Lady of Good Council, a parish in Plymouth, MI, a suburb of Detroit. He is a good communicator, who makes good preaching look natural and easy. I wish we had more Catholic priests like him.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas reflection

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another,
Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pas, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (The Gospel According to Luke, Chapter Two, Verses 13-20)

Here we are again, on the first day of the Christmas season. It has become something of a Christmas tradition for me to engage the following text from C.S. Lewis in connection with the above quoted Scriptures. The reason will be obvious.

Nearly every Christmas, it seems, NEWSWEEK or TIME or some television special will featre the "latest scholarship" concerning the "authenticity" of the Christmas story. The scholarly authorities cited are consistently and incorrigibly one-sided, usually including scholars like John Dominic Crossan who dissent from Church teaching, or more ostensibly mainline scholars like Raymond E. Brown (now deceased) who have been quite thoroughly corrupted by the Humean philosophical presuppositions of the historical-criticism of the biblical narrative. Three years ago we saw the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, call the Christmas story a 'legend' ("Archbishop says nativity 'a legend,'" London Telegraph, December 12, 2007). And this year I've notice that, a site which Internet browsers frequent to learn "the facts" about this or that, has taken up this partisan skeptical slant in Austin Cline's article, "Nativity vs Gospels: Are the Gospels Reliable About Jesus' Birth?" (, suggesting that all the key ingredients of the Nativity story in the Gospels were concocted fictions of various kinds.

The lack of critical circumspection in all of this would be amusing if it were not so destructive. The upshot is always the same: that the Gospel writers are unreliable and not to be trusted, and certainly not to be taken at face value. Just how ludicrous this all is, however, can be seen by anyone with a bit of intelligence and familiarity with literature, mythology, and history. One of the best examples of a powerful antedote to this kind of foolishness -- and one I keep using because it is simple -- is a little essay by C.S. Lewis entitled "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism," which is available in a collection of essays by Lewis entitled Christian Reflections (1967; reprinted by Eerdmans, 1994). The following are some excerpts from Lewis' essay, which begins on p. 152 and contains four objections (or "bleats") about modern New Testament scholarship:
1. [If a scholar] tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour...

I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one [of the stories in the Gospel of John, for example] is like this... Either this is reportage - though it may no doubt contain errors - pretty close up to the facts; nearly as close as Boswell. Or else, some unknown writer in the second century, without known predecessors or successors, suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern, novelistic, realistic narrative...

2. All theology of the liberal type involves at some point - and often involves throughout - the claim that the real behaviour and purpose and teaching of Christ came very rapidly to be misunderstood and misrepresented by his followers, and has been recovered or exhumed only by modern scholars... The idea that any... writer should be opaque to those who lived in the same culture, spoke the same language, shared the same habitual imagery and unconscious assumptions, and yet be transparent to those who have none of these advantages, is in my opinion preposterous. There is an a priori improbability in it which almost no argument and no evidence could counterbalance.

3. Thirdly, I find in these theologians a constant use of the principle that the miraculous does not occur... This is a purely philosophical question. Scholars, as scholars, speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon 'if miraculous, unhistorical' is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing.

4. My fourth bleat is my loudest and longest. Reviewers [of my own books, and of books by friends whose real history I knew] both friendly and hostile... will tell you what public events had directed the author's mind to this or that, what other authors influenced him, what his over-all intention was, what sort of audience he principally addressed, why - and when - he did everything... My impression is that in the whole of my experience not one of these guesses has on any one point been right; the method shows a record of 100 per cent failure.

The 'assured results of modern scholarship', as to the way in which an old book was written, are 'assured', we may conclude, only because those who knew the facts are dead and can't blow the gaff... The Biblical critics, whatever reconstructions they devise, can never be crudely proved wrong. St. Mark is dead. When they meet St. Peter there will be more pressing matters to discuss.

However... we are not fundamentalists... Of course we agree that passages almost verbally identical cannot be independent. It is as we glide away from this into reconstructions of a subtler and more ambitious kind that our faith in the method wavers... The sort of statement that arouses our deepest scepticism is the statement that something in a Gospel cannot be historical because it shows a theology or an ecclesiology too developed for so early a date...

Such are the reactions of one bleating layman... Once the layman was anxious to hide the fact that he believed so much less than the Vicar; he now tends to hide the fact that he believes so much more...
For further reading:Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joe Tuskiewicz to serve as subdeacon at Windsor Christmas Mass

We announced on Dec. 14 that our own Joe Tuskiewicz, formerly of Sacred Heart Major Seminary, was installed to the Ministry of Acolyte at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts, on Dec. 8th. We also noted that according to the ruling of the Pontifical Commission Ecclésia Dei, this is the equivalent step in the Ordinary Form system to the Extraordinary Form’s ordination as Subdeacon.

For those interested, Joe's first Solemn High Mass as Subdeacon will be on Christmas Day at Assumption-Windsor at 2:00 PM. Fr. Peter will be the celebrant, and Fr. Patrick Beneteau will be Deacon.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Equal rights for dogs with five legs

Abraham Lincoln reputedly once asked "If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?"

Just moments ago, legislation was signed into law by the usual suspects, granting equal rights to five-legged dogs serving in the US K-9 Corps. Said legislation brought to an end years of repressive discrimination excluding five-legged dogs from openly identifying their uniquely gifted status and allowing them now, for the first time in American history, to serve openly with pride. Five-legged partners of five-legged service dogs will now be able to apply for full spousal benefits (veterinary insurance coverage, etc.) previously available only to four-legged dogs with tails. This is the dawn of a new day in K-9 civil rights that should make the hearts of red-blooded Americans swell with pride. Woof-woof!

Never mind the small detail of Lincoln's totally bigoted remark: "Calling a dog's tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."

DiNoia to celebrate Tridentine Mass at DC Shrine

As Rorate Caeli reports, our good friend, Archbishop Joseph Augustine DiNoia, O.P, will be celebrating a Pontifical Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form at the High Altar of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, on Saturday April 9, 2011. His Excellency is Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, second only to the Prefect, His Eminence Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera (who personally suggested His Excellency for this Mass).

The Mass will celebrate the 6th anniversary of the inauguration of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, which is April 24, 2011 (Easter Sunday).

(We first made the acquaintance of Fr. DiNoia long before he was elevated to his present position, when he was invited on two separate occasions to speak at the Aquinas-Luther Conference at Lenoir-Rhyune University in NC. Subsequently, I visited Fr. DiNoia in Washington, DC, together with one of my sons who was interested in pursuing graduate studies in patristics, and he recommended CUA over Notre Dame, where he had also been accepted with a full ride. After my son's graduate studies at CUA, he assisted in the planning and implimentation of the Apostolic Visitation of U.S. seminaries in 2005, working out of the USCCB offices adjacent to the Dominican House of Studies, where Fr. DiNoia lived. Small world.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

On the Pope's new book ...

Damian Thompson, "Benedict XVI has put the Church's penance for sex abuse at the heart of his pontificate" (The Telagraph, December 1, 2010)
"There are startling moments of aggiornamento, such as the apparent clarification of the morality of using condoms to prevent disease; but the changes to Catholic teaching on birth control, homosexuality and women’s ordination that were so plausible to liberals in the 1970s now seem unthinkable. Also, this Pope understands that he doesn’t have the authority to change his own authority, as it were."
And much, much more.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

See Christopher Blosser, "Pope Benedict, Fr. Rhonheimer, Janet Smith and Stephen Long -- the 'Condom Conundrum' Continues" (The Benedict Blog, December 20, 2010). [Note: While the participants in this debate seem to be all pretty much agreed on what the Holy Father was (and was not) saying in his book, their own highly-nuanced discussion of the issues goes well beyond the interpretation of the Pope's own words to a treatment of their own respective positions on condoms and contraception and their moral evaluation of the issues involved.]

Survey Says: Local Tridentine Masses Appealing

Tridentine Community News (December 19, 2010):

A few years ago, this writer attended a symposium at which Francis Cardinal Arinze spoke about the importance of adherence to the rubrics of the Ordinary Form Missal. A couple seated nearby began talking about their frustration with their suburban parish. They were almost in tears as they described how they longed for solemn liturgy, Latin, and Gregorian Chant. It was clear that their parish was going in the opposite direction liturgically.

It didn’t take long for this writer to tout the Tridentine Mass at St. Josaphat Church. They lived a scant 20 minutes away via I-75. “Hop in the car and drive down some Sunday for the 9:30 AM Mass – it has what you are looking for.” All of a sudden, their faces turned rather dour. “Oh, no, we can’t do that. We won’t drive downtown. Mass has to be nearby.”

This couple is not alone in their sentiment. In June of this year, a survey of 800 Catholics in the U.K. was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the French organization Paix Liturgie. The questions were designed to determine awareness of the Motu Proprio, Summórum Pontíficum, and interest in attending Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. While only 39.4% were aware of our Holy Father’s letter, an impressive 83.6% of those surveyed stated that they would attend the Tridentine Mass at least occasionally if it were offered in their parish.

Far fewer than 83% of Catholics are attending the Latin Mass today, even if only on occasion. Lack of awareness is part of the problem; people cannot be expected to seek out something they don’t know is available. Lack of convenience is the other challenge; just as some folks won’t drive beyond a five mile radius of their homes for most aspects of their lives, so will some not venture beyond their local parish for worship opportunities.

If you required surgery, and the best place to have that surgery was a one-hour drive from your home, would you settle for a less competent physician who happened to be five minutes away? Probably not. The good of one’s soul is of even greater importance than the health of one’s body, and so in this era when most local parishes do not offer the Extraordinary Form, it is an act of Christian charity to invite ... and even offer to drive down ... to our churches friends and family who might be edified by the Traditional Mass. The Masses of Christmas in particular provide an opportunity for us to expose those who may not otherwise have occasion to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form to do so via exceptional liturgy and sacred music.

Christmas Tridentine Mass Schedule

As in previous years, three Masses in the Extraordinary Form will be celebrated, at three different times, at three different churches, to accommodate everyone’s schedule and preferences. Each Mass will feature a full choir and chamber orchestra.

Sat. 12/25 Midnight: High Mass at St. Joseph
Sat. 12/25 9:30 AM: High Mass at St. Josaphat
Sat. 12/25 2:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor

Random Interesting Musical News

At the Mass of ordination to the Permanent Diaconate on October 2, musicians at Detroit’s Blessed Sacrament Cathedral played parts of Gregorian Mass VIII – the Missa de Ángelis, not heard there before in recent memory.

During a recent weekend event for prospective seminarians at Sacred Heart Seminary, a schola provided Latin chant for part of a Mass. One can thus conclude that the use of Latin was considered a selling point.

At the recent Christmas Concert at Sacred Heart Seminary, Gregorian Chant and Latin polyphony comprised approximately 20% of the program, far more than would have been imaginable just a decade ago.

Recently at Walt Disney World, one of the selections played in rotation as background music in the parks, along with Jingle Bells and Let It Snow was an instrumental version of ... O Sanctíssima.

Web Site Developer Steps Forward

Thanks go to Mike Dunne, who has volunteered to take over the development and maintenance of the St. Josaphat Church web site. Mike is preparing a new design for the site, which will debut shortly. The content will remain the same for now. If you have any suggestions or subject matter that might improve the usefulness of the site, please e-mail Mike at:

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 12/20 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria of Advent)
Tue. 12/21 7:00 PM: High Mass at both Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat (St. Thomas, Apostle)
[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 December 19, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Larry & Sarah debate new Missal translation

Michael Venditti, "If you're a Roman Catholic, you'd better watch this. [HQ]" (Video):
Larry and Sarah debate the pros and cons of the new translation of the Mass of the Roman Rite. An original production
Well, it's a spoof, and very funny in parts. Given the premises that define the limits of the dialog, it gets most everything right.

[Hat tip to Roger Lessa]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Bishop Hurley Visits Sacred Heart – Grand Rapids

Tridentine Community News (December 12, 2010):
It’s not often that we have news to report about our sister Extraordinary Form Community on the west side of Michigan. Today we are pleased to report that Diocese of Grand Rapids Bishop Walter Hurley attended Sacred Heart Church’s Tridentine Mass on Sunday, November 21 at 12:30 PM. His Excellency sat in choir to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Grand Rapids Tridentine Community.

Bishop Sample Celebrates Pontifical Low Mass

Continuing with the outstate news, Diocese of Marquette Bishop Alexander Sample celebrated a Pontifical Low Mass in the Extraordinary Form at Marquette’s St. Peter Cathedral this past Sunday, December 5. We believe this is the first time that His Excellency has celebrated a Tridentine Mass. The event marked the inauguration of a weekly Tridentine Mass at the Cathedral.

Of even more interest, Assistant Pastor Fr. John Boyle reports that Bishop Sample hopes to celebrate the Extraordinary Form there approximately once per month from now on. If the plan pans out, Bishop Sample might very well become the most frequent Episcopal celebrant of the classic Roman Liturgy in North America.

St. Joseph Tridentine Mass Time Change

The monthly Extraordinary Form Mass held at St. Joseph Church on Fourth Sundays will henceforth be held at 10:30 AM instead of noon. The change was made to standardize the parish’s Latin Masses, Ordinary and Extraordinary Form, at a consistent time, following the elimination of the monthly German Mass that had been celebrated at 10:30 on Fourth Sundays.

St. Albertus Increases Frequency of Tridentine Masses

Many of our readers know that St. Albertus Church has been holding Tridentine Masses once per quarter. We are pleased to announce that because of the popularity of the Extraordinary Form, St. Albertus will be increasing its frequency to once every month or two, as logistics and celebrant availability allow. As always, dates will be posted here. Masses will continue to be held at noon on Sundays, providing a convenient alternative time between St. Josaphat’s 9:30 AM Mass and Assumption-Windsor’s 2:00 PM Mass.

Christmas Tridentine Mass Schedule

As in previous years, three Masses in the Extraordinary Form will be celebrated, at three different times, at three different churches, to accommodate everyone’s schedule and preferences. Each Mass will feature a full choir and chamber orchestra.

Sat. 12/25 Midnight: High Mass at St. Joseph

Sat. 12/25 9:30 AM: High Mass at St. Josaphat

Sat. 12/25 2:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor

Joe Tuskiewicz Installed as Acolyte

This past Wednesday, December 8, seminarian and former St. Josaphat and Assumption-Windsor altar server Joe Tuskiewicz was installed to the Ministry of Acolyte at Blessed John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts. The Pontifical Commission Ecclésia Dei has ruled that this is the equivalent step in the Ordinary Form system to the Extraordinary Form’s ordination as Subdeacon. As a result, when Joe returns to visit us over the Christmas break, he will be able to serve as Subdeacon at Solemn High Masses, which we hope to arrange on both sides of the river. We congratulate Joe and ask that you pray for him as he progresses towards the holy priesthood.

Fun vs. Enjoyment vs. Edification

Circa 1978, a memorable talk was given by the late Detroit area music instructor and harmonization expert Dr. Maurice White on the difference between “fun” and “enjoyment”. As we look forward to the solemn Masses of Christmas during the liturgically restrained season of Advent, his main points bear repeating today.

“Fun” can be broadly defined as entertainment of a fleeting, rather shallow sort. Riding a roller coaster, watching a NASCAR race, and going to a comedy show are three examples of activities that could be classified as fun by those who like such things. Fun experiences do not develop our intellect; they are mere recreation.

“Enjoyment”, on the other hand, has more depth to it. Great music, Dr. White argued, was to be enjoyed; it was not fun. Attending a concert of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, watching a documentary on the History Channel, or developing one’s woodworking skills are examples of enjoyable pursuits. They enrich us and expand our horizons.

It is appropriate to extend this distinction into the realm of the Sacred Liturgy. Many of our readers possess a great dedication to, and enthusiasm for, the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass. As much as we may love the Mass, assisting at Mass is not “fun.” It is not even fitting to say that we “enjoy” the Mass, as that term seems superficial when discussing the Sacred Mysteries.

A term more appropriate to explain one’s love of Holy Mass is that it is “edifying.” Assisting at the Mass is more than entertainment, more than education. It breathes life into our soul and brings us closer to God. It is one of the highest pursuits in which mankind can participate, with spiritual, intellectual, and aesthetic fruits and appeal.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Regular Sunday Masses are not included.

Mon. 12/13 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Lucy, Virgin & Martyr)

Tue. 12/14 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Feria of Advent)
[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 December 12, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Fear, Euro collapse & power grab

[Hat tip to Creative Minority Report, via C.B., "Preach it, Nigel!" Against the Grain, November 29, 2010].

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Day of fasting in memory of the Chaldean martyrs

A website run by Iraqi Christians has published an article entitled "Churches organise day of fasting on 9 December to remember the martyrs of Baghdad’s cathedral" (Ankawa, December 3, 2010).

A Chaldean seminarian writes: "I'd like to invite you all join this fast in solidarity with the churches in Iraq if you feel the call to do so, whether it be through not eating meat, not listening to the radio, or some other way."

While this post appears here somewhat belatedly, I'm sure any remembrance, prayer, or act of sacrifice on behalf of our fellow Christians in Iraqi would find a ready reception by our Heavenly Father: "And your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." (Mt 6:4b)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Seminarians create metaphysics video

Sacred Heart's Got Talent!

Two very resourceful students in my Metaphysics course created a video I would like to share with you. I'd like to see Josephinum or Mundelein top this! Yes, folks, now you can safely say you've seen it all!

It all started with an off-hand remark I made at the beginning of the semester this fall while talking about the challenges of reading Aristotle and St. Thomas. Students today might find it preferable, I joked lamely, if somebody could come up with a different medium for communicating metaphysics, like, say, a MUSIC VIDEO!

The students politely laughed. But two of them approached me after class with the idea of undertaking precisely such a project. For a moment, I wasn't sure whether they were joking or serious. They were serious.

Well, it's done, and here it is. Whether professors of metaphysics at Catholic seminaries across the country will be assigning the video as a prerequisite for their Metaphysics 101 courses any time soon, or whether they may think Aristotle and St. Thomas are turning over in their graves, I am not sure; but I think most of you will agree that we have some pretty impressive talent and creativity here at Sacred Heart Major Seminary -- with plenty more to spare from where that came from.

So enjoy! And see what you think.

Credits: Michael Weisbeck and Brian Meldrum produced the video, with a little help from their friends, Patrick Setto and Mario Amore (vocals); and James Houbeck and John Vatter (the hip hop eye candy). Brian was the primary agent responsible for composing the lyrics and the "mash-up" of two popular songs/melodies. Michael was the principal editor of the video. Brian appears as alongside Mario and Patrick in the vocal trio. Michael appears as a Catholic metaphysical incarnation of rapper Eminem.

The rap lyrics carry most of the metaphysical load of the video, although several themes are woven together around the meta-theme of Detroit as a city and the metaphysics of municipal identity, change, essence, unity, and hope for a brighter civic tomorrow. I suppose many people who see the video without a heads-up might miss the academic themes altogether, at least at first, while just enjoying the excellent musical performance; and that's okay.

But who knew?!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Cardinal Newman: The Urban Legend

by Michael Rose

We’re sure you’ve heard the term “urban legend” — that genre of folklore that gets told and retold as an account of actual incidents and that comes to be believed simply by virtue of its dissemination and perpetuation. Stories of alligators living in the sewers of New York City and ghost hitchhikers haunting the highways are some of the classics of the twentieth century. In recent years, urban legends have gained steam and amplification through news stories and the Internet, despite their apocryphal origins. One particularly scurrilous urban legend of the day involves Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman and the particularities of his burial.

According to the legend, Newman requested that he be buried next to fellow Oratorian Fr. Ambrose St. John because he was his homosexual lover — or “boyfriend,” if you will. That might sound like pure rot to your ears — because it is — but the legend has gained traction among those who want to believe that Newman, arguably the most brilliant and erudite of all Anglican converts, clung to sexual peccadilloes until and even after his death. Gay activists, for example, are enraptured by the opportunity to either point a finger at an ostensibly holy man and say: hypocrite, he! or elevate him to the status of a gay icon.

As you might guess, the September 19 beatification of John Henry Newman by Pope Benedict XVI occasioned the perpetuation of this myth — not only through whispers from ear to ear, but also by certain less-than-scrupulous media outlets.

Fr. Dermot Fenlon, an Oratorian formerly of New­man’s home Oratory in Birmingham, England, has spelled out the facts in an effort to debunk the burgeoning myth. In an article in the September issue of Standpoint magazine, titled “Friends & Saints: Newman’s Last Mystery,” Fr. Fenlon explains that Cardinal Newman left specific instructions that he be buried near Birmingham in ground reserved for the priests and brothers of his Oratory. In a specific and strongly worded request in his will, dated July 23, 1876, Newman wrote, “I wish with all my heart to be buried in Father Ambrose St John’s grave — and I give this as my last, imperative will.”

That part of the legend is true. Cardinal Newman did indeed make such a request. He even added a postscript to his will in 1881, reiterating in even stronger language his seemingly peculiar request. Without any further knowledge of the facts surrounding the request, one could easily jump to untoward conclusions — but those conclusions would be both hasty and wrong. The request needs to be put into context — the context of the time, and the context of Newman’s life and his personality. And that’s exactly what Fr. Fenlon does.

Just as the faithful of early Rome wanted to be buried near the saints in the consecrated ground of the catacombs outside the city, Newman wanted to be buried near the man he looked to in his day as the one priest who most fully lived a life of heroic virtue — defending the Catholic faith against the hostilities of nineteenth-century England. Newman had a keen understanding of the role of the saints in the Church and a “deep sensitivity to the spirit of a place, its genius loci,” particularly of the cemetery where the Oratorian fathers were buried. According to Fr. Fenlon, just as St. Gregory, out of devotion to St. Benignus, wanted to be buried ad sanctos, near that saint, so too Newman wanted to be buried near a saint: “He believed not only that Father Ambrose St. John was a saint, but that he had become a saint and given his life through the stress of overwork.” Further, Newman felt that it was Fr. St. John who helped him in his intellectual life and ministry to put to rest “fears and suspicions rooted in centuries of bitter mutual recrimination between Protestants and Catholics.” Between 1850 and 1853, Newman had helped to protect the Catholic Church in England from a potentially destructive resurgence of anti-popery. Newman felt that without the labors of Fr. St. John, his own work would not have been possible. In Fr. Fenlon’s words, “Newman wanted permanently to leave a sign, redressing the balance, pointing away from himself, towards his community and under the one Cross.”

These are most obviously not the sentiments of an old man who had a homosexual funny bone for a confrere. Nevertheless, many modern folk are simply not spiritually equipped to understand the bond of true fraternal Christian love, whether it be between those of the same or the opposite sex. They view the world — and especially Christians — with a suspicious eye, rejecting even the possibility that a man or a woman could be a saint, could have lived a life of heroic virtue, and could serve effectively as a model of the Christian life for our day as well as for future generations.

Nevertheless, with the Pope’s beatification ceremony in September, the Church has, to the consternation of many, given Newman her seal of approval. Next step: canonization.

[Michael Rose is Associate Editor of New Oxford Review. The foregoing article, "Cardinal Newman: The Urban Legend" was originally published as a New Oxford Note in New Oxford Review (November 2010), and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.]

See the video trailer linked in the foregoing post (below), "Newman film coming in 2011" (Musings, December 5, 2010), which indicates that the forthcoming film on Newman, The Unseen World, addresses the slanderous character defamation of Newman referenced in the present post.

Newman film coming in 2011

"Newman film focuses on priesthood" (, November 27, 2010):
Italian writer and director, Liana Marabini, brings us The Unseen World, which she says is the story of chastity and spirituality, highlighting the role of Newman as a model priest. It's also a story that attracted actor F. Murray Abraham, who won an Oscar for his role in the 1984 film Amadeus. It's also a story that focuses on the trials of the priesthood. The title, "The Unseen World" is meant to represent the metaphysical state of contact between man and God, something that Newman often referred to in his writings. Marabini suggests that film is an ideal medium for evangelizing the contemporary world. "We need God in our lives in order to live better ... to be happier," she says. The Unseen World is being filmed in Rome and England, and is scheduled for release in June 2011. The musical score makes generous use of Albinoni and Vivaldi, and if there is any actor who can make the routine habits and bookish life of Cardinal Newman come alive on screen, it is surely Murray Abraham.
Video Trailer (13 minutes)

[Hat tip to C.B.]

How To Determine a Saint’s Feast Day

Tridentine Community News (December 5, 2010):
A reader asked a question that deserves a detailed answer: How can one determine the day on which a particular saint’s feast falls?

The first point to be mentioned is that there can be differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Form calendars. The Feast of St. Stephen, for example, falls on December 26 in both calendars. However, the Feast of St. John I, Pope & Martyr falls on May 18 in the Novus Ordo and on May 27 in the Tridentine.

While it may seem desirable at first glance to unify the two calendars, a more thorough analysis shows that this is not quite so simple. The Tridentine Calendar places an emphasis on unified Propers: Readings, Antiphons, and Orations (prayers) are all built around the theme of the Feast. They sometimes share content; for example the Communion Antiphon might be a portion of the Gospel reading. The Ordinary Form Calendar, in contrast, places priority on getting through the three-year Sunday reading cycle and the two-year weekday reading cycle. The varying readings are less intertwined with the unvarying Orations and Antiphons, which become the primary means of conveying the Feast’s theme. Because of this difference in philosophy, we expect the two calendars to persist for the foreseeable future.

From this point forward, we will confine ourselves to the Extraordinary Form. The Roman Missal is divided into three sections, found in Altar Missals as well as in the Hand Missals used by the faithful:

1. The main body of the missal contains the Feasts of the Liturgical Year as celebrated throughout the universal Church.

2. The second section contains Feasts Celebrated In Particular Places (pro Aliqibus Locis) and Certain Religious Congregations. Here we find, for example, that April 8 is celebrated by the Sisters of Notre Dame as the Feast of St. Julie Billiart, the foundress of the Institute of the Sisters of Notre Dame.

3. The third section contains the saints whose feasts are regularly celebrated only in certain countries. There is a section for the United States, and another for England & Wales. (We have not yet seen a section for, or a missal specifically for, Canada; has any reader seen one?) Of course, no one missal could contain the regional feasts of all countries.

Certain saints are listed as secondary saints on a day primarily dedicated to another Feast. Such secondary saints are assigned “Commemorations”, a second Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion prayer to be said at Holy Mass after the primary Feast’s Orations. You may have noticed that Hand Missals and Altar Missals list the Propers for a Mass of the secondary saint immediately after the Mass of the primary saint with Commemorations of the secondary saint. This is because it is possible to celebrate the Mass of a secondary saint as the primary Feast of the day: In a church dedicated to such a saint, the Feast Day of the patron of the parish is a First Class Feast; the secondary saint’s Mass would override the primary saint’s. In addition, on Fourth Class Ferias, a celebrant may choose to celebrate the Mass of any saint as a Votive Mass, so definitive Mass Propers are needed.

Thousands of saints have been canonized throughout the years, and many have been assigned a Feast Day. Likewise, many titles of our Blessed Mother have been given Feast Days. Not all of these are popular enough to warrant listing in every Hand Missal. One example that pertains to us locally is Our Lady of Czestochowa, the name of a famous icon in Poland. St. Josaphat Church possesses a painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa above its high altar, one that has been touched to the original painting and is thus a Third Class Relic. Fittingly, on August 26 St. Josaphat Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa as the second patron of the parish. This particular Feast of our Blessed Mother is not contained in most missals, as it is considered a Feast of local interest in Poland. When putting together the first Tridentine Mass to celebrate this Feast, we had to consult a Polish Hand Missal to obtain the Propers for this Mass.

As far as we have been able to determine, the most comprehensive source to determine the Feast Day of a saint not locatable in a 1962 missal is the unabridged edition of Fr. Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints. The complete 1866 12-volume Butler is now available on-line. Because of its age, Butler’s listing does not reflect the correct dates for the handful of Feasts whose dates were changed between 1866 and 1962, nor does it include new saints canonized during those years.

Questions For Our Readers

Is anyone aware of an authoritative, comprehensive listing of Feast Days that were in force in 1962? Perhaps an updated edition of the complete Butler? Such a listing would be a definitive and convenient single-source answer to our reader’s question. It is not the entire answer one needs, however, because in order to celebrate a Mass for that saint, a set of Propers is required. If the saint was assigned specific Propers, where are they? Without specific Propers, one must default to using the Propers from the Common of the Saints, e.g. the “Mass of a Holy Woman Not a Martyr.”

By the way, the saint whose feast our reader was seeking was St. Arnold of Soissons, the patron saint of brewers. His Feast day in the Tridentine Calendar is listed in Butler as August 15, but in later publications as August 14. Perhaps the Feast was advanced one day so as not to be obscured by the Feast of the Assumption on August 15. This is a perfect example of why a central, 1962 reference would be beneficial.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
Mon. 12/06 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Nicholas, Bishop & Confessor)

Tue. 12/07 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Ambrose, Bishop, Confessor, & Doctor)

Wed. 12/08 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Immaculate Conception – a Holy Day of Obligation in the U.S.)
[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 December 5, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, December 04, 2010

An Architectural One-of-a-Kind: Detroit’s St. Aloysius Church

Tridentine Community News (November 28, 2010):
The boom years of 1870 – 1929 saw tremendous growth in downtown Detroit and Windsor as the nascent automotive industry attracted population to our region. Office buildings, grand retail stores, and factories were sprouting left and right. Entertainment, too: This was the era of the downtown movie palace. Detroit’s Fox, State/Fillmore, Gem, Opera House, Music Hall, and Orchestra Hall; and Windsor’s Capitol are living testimonies to the vitality of theatres during the golden age of cinema. Before television captivated society’s attention, the theatre was where people went to be entertained. Indeed, Detroit is blessed with so many historic theatres that, as in New York, Los Angeles, and London, tours are regularly offered, a fascinating way to spend a Saturday.

These were also the boom years of church construction. Most of our beautiful historic churches date from this period. In a unique case of life imitating art, one of our local churches departed from the usual Gothic and Romanesque styles to adopt a design rarely if ever seen elsewhere: that of a theatre.

Built in 1930, St. Aloysius Church is located on Washington Boulevard, adjacent to the Archdiocese of Detroit Chancery and Catholic Bookstore. In its heyday, Washington Boulevard was a busy retail district. The recently-reopened Book Cadillac Hotel sits at the southern end, while just north of St. Aloysius sits the Himelhoch Building. Originally the flagship of a local chain of women’s fashion stores, Himelhoch’s has been converted into an apartment building. Its lobby has been restored to its opulent original condition as a reminder of its retail glory years.

In such a setting, it seems as though St. Aloysius was built to cater to the demand for weekday Masses from downtown office and retail workers. Even in the parish’s early days, little housing would have been in close proximity to the church, making Sunday Mass less of a draw. The diocese was faced with the challenge of building a structure that could accommodate both a relatively small number of worshippers on most weekdays, as well as a vastly larger number on major feasts and Holy Days of Obligation. An allied concern was the then-high cost of real estate in a thriving downtown district; the building footprint had to be kept to a minimum. The solution to both challenges: A three-story structure resembling the theatres Detroiters knew well.

On the main floor, a sanctuary is built inside a stage-like proscenium arch. For the majority of weekday Masses, the ground level provides more than adequate seating. To address overflow crowds, a U-shaped balcony was constructed, similar to the wrap-around balcony at the Masonic Temple Theatre. The organ and its console share space with pews in this balcony.

Most interesting of all is the cutout in the main floor, resembling the Conféssio in front of the Papal Altar at Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica. A Communion Rail, used up through the 1980s, surrounds this cutout. Walk up to the rail, and you will see the real prize: In the lower level, there is a perfectly-preserved marble sanctuary, complete with unmodified High Altar and Communion Rail. The lower level can thus be used for two purposes: It can supplement the balcony to hold overflow crowds, as it has done on Ash Wednesday, for example. Because of the cutout, the faithful seated in the lower level can look upwards and follow Holy Mass being celebrated at the main altar.

The lower level can also be used as a separate, independent church. This would have accommodated simultaneous Low Masses, during which music from one floor’s Mass would not disturb the Mass on the other level. Dare we state the obvious: The sheer beauty of the untouched, immaculately preserved lower level would make it an ideal location for a special-event Tridentine Mass.

Since 1992, St. Aloysius has been administered by the Franciscan Friars and serves a multicultural parish membership. The parish runs an Outreach Center, in keeping with the Franciscans’ tradition of feeding and clothing the poor. [Photo from balcony by Michael Hodges/The Detroit News; Photo of downstairs sanctuary by Sean Doerr/SNWEB.ORG Photography, all rights reserved. Additional photos are available 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 November 28, 2010. Hat tip to A.B.]


In response to a number of solicitations for clarification, I have added an Addendum to "Liturgical validity and authenticity" (Musings, November 23, 2010) offering some clarifications and illustrations of Hull's distinction between text and context, validity and authenticity, right belief and right worship.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

"Why Are the Media Fixated on Condoms?"

As one reader writes, "flippin' excellent"! This article by Dr. Janet E. Smith just appeared in ZENIT:
DETROIT, Michigan, DEC. 1, 2010 ( Most people remember their grandmothers at some point telling them that pointing a finger at someone means that three fingers are pointing back at you. The media are obsessed with the issue of the Catholic Church and condoms because they seem to believe that condoms are the solution to preventing the transmission of the HIV. Might it be time they began to think about other organizations, such as themselves, that might bear some responsibility?

Who can deny that if people were living by the Church's teaching on sexuality, if people were having only married heterosexual sex, there would be no problem with the HIV (and a host of other problems)? Certainly, in this fallen world, that is not going to happen everywhere. But why doesn't it happen more often? Why does it seem that so many people think sex outside of marriage and homosexual sex is perfectly acceptable? That people should be allowed to have whatever kind of sex they want to have? Benedict XVI calls this the "banalization of sexuality."

I have been teaching on sexuality for many decades. When I started, nearly three decades ago, even though promiscuity was in full swing even then, I could generally count on young people agreeing with me that sexual intercourse was meant to be an expression of love. In fact, "making love" was a euphemism for "having sex," but who says that anymore? When I would speak about "sex" they would naturally think of an act performed by spouses. Some argued that if you were in love and intending to get married, it could be moral to have sex before marriage. Even so, there was also fairly widespread agreement, that if you weren't ready for babies, you weren't ready for sex. Few were arguing that it was moral to have any kind of sex.

How things have changed since then! Now, when I speak of "sex" people think of a profoundly pleasurable sexual act that has no connection to love, commitment or babies. Young people are a bit surprised when I maintain there is a natural connection between sex, love, commitment and babies.

Why has this change come about? Well, as I have argued incessantly for years, the introduction of the contraceptive pill changed everything. Suddenly people thought removing the baby making power of the sexual act meant they were free to engage in sex without a second thought about any new life that might be conceived. And then we all went wild. As a result, 41% of babies are now born out of wedlock; one of four pregnancies is aborted; and nearly 70% of all children in the United States grow up in households affected by divorce or unwed pregnancy. Worldwide, millions of people are dying of the HIV. And the media continue to fixate on condoms as a solution to all these problems?

TV morality

I blame the media, and to a great extent, the entertainment world. It is a rare parent who doesn't find the media to be tremendous threats to forming their children well, especially when it comes to sexual morality. All of us are bombarded daily with seductive sexual imagery and the glorification of sexual immorality, from advertisements to nearly every TV show and any nonanimated film. Some films do show the terrible life consequences of irresponsible sexuality, but most entertainment presents irresponsible sexuality as normative and falsifies the all-too-common consequences.

Why don't reporters harass script writers and producers and others responsible for what appears in the media, instead of further harassing the Holy Father? Why don't they ask questions such as, "Aren't you concerned that the way you portray casual sex as exhilarating and satisfying will lead young people to engage in sex recklessly?" "Don't you feel responsible to some extent for all the unwed pregnancies, abortions, sexually transmitted infections, broken hearts and broken lives?" This would focus our public debate on how those who create our cultural icons are tearing down family values brick by vital brick.

There is also a dearth of reporting about the consequences of unwed pregnancy for the people involved, for the economy and the culture. There is a lack of reporting about the reality of the homosexual lifestyle; the number of lifetime partners, of anonymous sex, of shortened lifespans. Without full information, people can't make good choices.

If any food or drug led to the amount of disease, poverty, and general human unhappiness that is caused by reckless sexuality, there would be a full-fledged media campaign attempting to alert people to the danger. Is global warming a worse danger than reckless sexuality, which may be said to create an imbalance in our personal and culture moral "ecosystem"? Is overeating a worse danger than reckless sexuality, resulting as it does in a warped and cynical self-image? Is lack of recycling or oil spills worse than reckless sexuality, which trains us to disrespect and ignore our bodily dignity?

Why can't the media see what is in truth one of the worse threats to human happiness that lurks right under our noses? Why do they continue to fixate on the Pope and condoms, when the world needs to hear about sexual responsibility? Why?

* * *

Janet E. Smith is the Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan. She is the author of "Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later" and "The Right to Privacy," and editor of "Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader."
Not to be crass, but why is it, as Peter Kreeft once maintained, always the "pelvic issues" that blind sight our culture? People today are downright moralistic and authoritarian about everything from global warming to animal rights, but positively amoral when it comes to condoms and recreational sex.

Related: For a comprehensive digest of the news concerning this media event, as well as the "media hyperventilation" over it, see Christopher Blosser, "Pope Benedict XVI and the Great Condom Conundrum of 2010" (The Benedict Blog, November 20, 2010).

Update (12-4-2010):
A reader sent me the following digest:

Another example of the constant tension I feel as I watch the Church.

On the on hand, there is pessimism and a wondering why things have to appear so out of joint. Why is James Martin so consistently the voice of reasoned Catholicism. Why doesn't the Pope fire the editor of LR who leaked the condom crud? Why are we doing prophylactic talking points in the first place? Is this a scenario stage by Fr. O'Leary? And I could go on, and on, as you know I have.

This piece was written in 2002, and reading it now I would almost despair... Talk about shattering clarity.

But then, out of the blue, I am reminded of how much grace and truth is still alive, and I am grateful for being a Catholic.

All the noise in the world can suffocate the truth. This may not be shattering, but it is one hundred percent clear, and rallying. Which is what we need.

I think Benedict had a Frank Wolf moment... or vice versa!
[Hat tip to J.M.]