Monday, February 28, 2011

NC Register blog poses Q: Which is better: Latin Mass or Novus Ordo?

There is nothing wrong with the question posed by Matthew Warner (Feb. 26, 2011), as such. The discussion quickly migrates, however, both in his post and the following comments, to the far different and much less profitable question: "Which do you like better?" The former question calls for arguments based on objective facts about historical development, theology, etc.; whereas the latter becomes a fruitless quarrel over personal picture preferences, the upshot of which is de gustibus non est disputandum.

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homosexual protesters swarm Chicago Cathedral, police do nothing

CHICAGO, February 25, 2011 ( – The city of Chicago ordered its police force not to enforce the law against a mob of homosexualist activists who disrupted Mass at the Holy Name Cathedral to protest “anti-gay bigots” who support the Church’s teaching on marriage.

Latin is out?

One has to chuckle. Fr. Z notes that "unless you are a cleric or religious with the obligation to pray the Church’s official prayer, which is in Latin, you don’t have to pray in Latin." (emphasis added)

Say WHAT?? ...

“But Father! But Father!”, some priests and religious may be saying. “We don’t have to pray the office in Latin! We had Vatican II!”


Sacrosanctum Concilium:
101. 1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.
That's what the Conciliar document says, isn't it? So why does he say he's "just being difficult" because he gets irritated with "people who invoke Vatican II for all sorts of things, but neglect things like this"? So is he "just being difficult," or is he letting his readers off too easily?

My, oh, my! How far we have drifted!


"Concerning ashes" (WDTPRS, February 21, 2011):
Today is Sexagesimus Sunday. Ash Wednesday is but a week and a half away.

“Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.”

I am sure you are making your plans for your Lenten practices. No, really… I’m sure you are....

The Divine Office – Part 7 Terce from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Tridentine Community News (February 27, 2011):
Last week we printed the Hour of Terce (mid-morning prayer) from the (full) 1962 Divine Office. Today we present Terce from the shorter Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Terce in this Little Office is the same every day, with only minor seasonal variations.
V. O God come to my assistance;
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.

Remember, O creator Lord,
That in the Virgin's sacred womb
Thou wast conceived, and of her flesh
Didst our mortality assume.

Mother of grace, O Mary blest,
To thee, sweet fount of love, we fly;
Shield us through life, and take us hence
To thy dear bosom when we die.

O Jesu, born of Virgin bright,
Immortal glory be to Thee;
Praise to the Father infinite,
And Holy Ghost eternally.

Ant. The Virgin Mary * hath been taken into the chamber on high, * where the King of kings sitteth on a throne amid the stars.
Psalm 119 [1]
119:1 In my trouble I cried to the Lord: * and he heard me.
119:2 O Lord, deliver my soul from wicked lips, and a deceitful tongue.
119:3 What shall be given to thee, or what shall be added to thee, * to a deceitful tongue.
119:4 The sharp arrows of the mighty, * with coals that lay waste.
119:5 Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged! I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar: * my soul hath been long a sojourner.
119:6 With them that hate peace I was peaceable: when I spoke to them they fought against me without cause.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 120 [2]
120:1 I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, * from whence help shall come to me.
120:2 My help is from the Lord, * Who made heaven and earth.
120:3 May he not suffer thy foot to be moved: * neither let him slumber that keepeth thee.
120:4 Behold he shall neither slumber nor sleep, * that keepeth Israel.
120:5 The Lord is thy keeper, the Lord is thy protection * upon thy right hand.
120:6 The sun shall not burn thee by day: * nor the moon by night.
120:7 The Lord keepeth thee from all evil: * may the Lord keep thy soul.
120:8 May the Lord keep thy coming in and thy going out; * from henceforth now and for ever.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 121 [3]
121:1 I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: * we shall go into the house of the Lord.
121:2 Our feet were standing * in thy courts, O Jerusalem.
121:3 Jerusalem, which is built as a city, * which is compact together.
121:4 For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: * the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.
121:5 Because their seats have sat in judgment, * seats upon the house of David.
121:6 Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: * and abundance for them that love thee.
121:7 Let peace be in thy strength: * and abundance in thy towers.
121:8 For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbors, * I spoke peace of thee.
121:9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, * I have sought good things for thee.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Ant. The Virgin Mary * hath been taken into the chamber on high, * where the King of kings sitteth on a throne amid the stars.

Little Chapter
Ecclesiasticus 24:15
And so I was established in Zion, and likewise in the holy city was I given to rest, and in Jerusalem was my power.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. Grace is poured into thy lips.
R. Therefore God hath blessed thee for ever.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God, Who, by the fruitful virginity of the Blessed Mary, hast given unto mankind the rewards of everlasting life; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may continually feel the might of her intercession through whom we have worthily received the Author of our life, our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son: Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
R. Amen.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.
On-line Petition for the Holy Father

Over the past two weeks, news reports have been published stating that the long-awaited Clarification (Instruction) on the Motu Proprio Summórum Pontíficum is about to be published. A number of credible sources, including liturgical scholar Dr. Alcuin Reid, have expressed concern that rather than continuing in the liberalizing philosophy of the original document, the draft text of this Instruction places restrictions on certain uses of the Traditional Liturgy. An on-line petition to the Holy Father has been created at

asking His Holiness to intervene in the situation and remove the restrictions. Over [11,000] individuals have signed it so far. While one can never be sure how much influence such petitions have, we ask you to consider signing it and to pray for the Holy Father. If you do not have access to a computer, please consider giving another person permission to sign it on your behalf. Note that there is no need to make a donation at the end of the survey, as is suggested when you complete the form. Any donations made go to the web site operator and not to the petition organizers.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 02/28 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria)

Tue. 03/01 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Requiem)
[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 February 27, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Septuagesima: The Time that Land Forgot

By Michael P. Foley

When we go to Mass, be it in the new form or the old, we generally react to what is immediately transpiring before us, be it for the better or for the worse. We respond to the reverence or irreverence, piety or impiety, beauty or ugliness of the words and deeds we see and hear. These reactions are what remain fixed in our memories and go on to inform our liturgical opinions.

Harder to discern is the effect that a calendar has on our souls, since not every feast or Sunday comes with vivid memories in the making. A case in point is the liturgical season of pre-Lent or Septuagesima, an easily overlooked interlude between the Time after Epiphany and Lent. While the liturgies of Septuagesima are fairly low key, the impact that this small season has had on individuals and even on Western civilization is entirely disproportionate to its size. Septuagesima consists of three of some of the most interesting and influential weeks of the liturgical year.


Septuagesimatide, or pre-Lent, is the name given to the three consecutive Sundays preceding Ash Wednesday. It is named after the first of these, Septuagesima Sunday, which occurs roughly seventy days before Easter (septuagesima is Latin for “seventieth”). Sexagesima (“sixtieth”) Sunday comes next, followed by Quinquagesima (“fiftieth”) Sunday on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. In order to effect a gradual transition between the joy of Christmastide and the stringency of Lent, the season of Septuagesima takes on some of the sobriety of the latter but without its harshness. In the Roman Breviary, the penitential circuit of psalms is used (“Lauds II”), and at Mass the Gloria in excelsis is suppressed and the Gradual replaced with a Tract. Flowers on the altar are forbidden, and violet is the liturgical color of the vestments.

Each Sunday of Septuagesimatide also focuses on a different Old Testament figure as a way of leading us up to the Paschal mystery of Good Friday and Easter. Septuagesima Sunday—and this is particularly obvious in the Breviary—recalls Adam, Sexagesima Sunday Noah, and Quinquagesima Sunday Abraham. (This pattern is continued into Lent: the Second Sunday of Lent recalls Jacob, the Third Sunday Joseph, and the Fourth Sunday Moses.) The purpose of this instruction is to help the faithful see the reasons for the scandal of the Cross, the culmination of Lent. The Matin readings on Adam give us the doctrine of original sin, the passages on the Flood highlight the wickedness of mankind, and the sacrifices of Abraham and Melchisedech foreshadow the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

The Sundays of Septuagesima were also shaped by a series of calamities besieging the city of Rome in the sixth century. The theme of misery and desolation in the Introit of Septuagesima Sunday, for instance, comes from these troubled times. Such historical influences on the liturgical year are an excellent example of what Pope Benedict XVI meant when he referred to the Extraordinary Form as bearing “the whole weight of history within itself, and yet, at the same time, [being] much more than the product of human history.”1 In any event, Septuagesima was a well-established liturgical season in the Roman rite by 541 A.D.

Laying to Rest the Alleluia

Perhaps the most peculiar mark of Septuagesima’s liturgies is the suppression of the word “Alleluia,” which in the Novus Ordo does not occur until Ash Wednesday. Why deprive ourselves of this glorious word for an extra two and a half weeks, especially when it is so powerful? St. Paul of the Cross, for instance, advised members of his order to cry out “Alleluia” when assaulted by the devil, for “the devil is afraid of the Alleluia; it is a word that comes from Paradise.”2

St. Paul’s reasoning about Paradise gives us a clue into the answer we seek. “Alleluia,” which in Hebrew means “Praise be to the Lord,” is traditionally known as the “song of the Lord.” It is what St. John heard in Heaven during his vision of the Apocalypse. It is the joyous cry of those who are truly home.

But Septuagesima and Lent are periods not of homecoming but of pilgrimage and exile. Indeed, just as the forty days of Lent commemorate the forty years of the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness and the forty days of Jesus fasting in the desert, Septuagesima recalls the roughly seventy years of the Babylonian Exile (605-538 BC), that period, second in importance only to the Exodus out of Egypt, when the people of Judah were deported to Babylon.3 As the haunting Psalm 136(137) attests, God’s Chosen People did not deem it fit to sing their joyous songs on foreign soil:
Upon the rivers of Babylon, there we sat and wept, when we remembered Sion.
On the willows in the midst thereof we hung up our [musical] instruments.
For there, they that led us into captivity required of us the words of songs. And they that carried us away, said: “Sing ye to us a hymn of the songs of Sion.”
How shall we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten.
Let my tongue cleave to my jaws, if I do not remember thee (verses 1-6).
The Jews would not sing their native song of joy during their exile, and neither do Catholics during theirs. As Bishop William Durandus (1237-1296) puts it: “We part from the Alleluia as from a beloved friend, whom we embrace many times and kiss on mouth, head, and hand, before we leave him.”4 The jubilant “Alleluia” is thus laid to rest for seventy days in the traditional Roman rite until it rises again in the Easter Vigil, and in so doing Catholics recapitulate for their spiritual benefit a cardinal moment in sacred history.

And when I say “laid to rest,” I mean that literally. Perhaps the most charming para-liturgical custom to come from Septuagesima is the depositio, or setting aside, of the Alleluia. On the Saturday afternoon before Septuagesima Sunday, medieval communities would stage an elaborate procession with a plaque or banner, often in the shape of a coffin, bearing the word “Alleluia.” The coffin would then be solemnly buried somewhere on church grounds. In parts of France, a straw man inscribed with the word “Alleluia” in gold letters was burned in effigy in the churchyard! Thanks to the liturgical movement of the 20th century, several of these customs were revived by some American parishes prior to the Second Vatican Council.

A standard part of these sacred send-offs was the singing of a song entitled Alleluia, Dulce Carmen, which artfully links the suppression of the Alleluia with the Babylonian Exile and Psalm 136. Here is J.M. Neale’s translation of the tenth-century hymn:
Alleluia! song of gladness,
Voice of joy that cannot die;
Alleluia is the anthem
Ever dear to choirs on high;
In the house of God abiding
Thus they sing eternally.

Alleluia thou resoundest,
True Jerusalem and free;
Alleluia joyful mother,
All thy children sing with thee;
But by Babylon’s sad waters
Mourning exiles now are we.

Alleluia cannot always
Be our song while here below;
Alleluia our transgressions
Make us for a while forego;
For the solemn time is coming
When our tears for sin must flow.

Therefore in our hymns we pray Thee,
Grant us blessed Trinity,
At the last to keep Thine Easter
In our home beyond the sky;
There to Thee for ever singing
Alleluia joyfully.
As the lyrics make clear, Septuagesima can teach us many valuable lessons: that Lent should not be begun abruptly or thoughtlessly but preceded by a period of adjustment; that uttering sacred words is a privilege which should not be taken for granted; that sin puts us in exile from our True Home; and that the Old Testament, with its many significant events, is perpetually relevant to the lives of Christians. Lastly, suppressing the Alleluia seventy days before Easter, and singling this fact out in a special way, heightens our joy when Alleluia triumphantly returns to our lips with the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday.

Sexagesima and Quinquagesima

The second Sunday of Septuagesimatide, Sexagesima, continues to sound the exilic note of Babylon, but with a touch of joy. Both the Collect and the Epistle commemorate the apostolate of St. Paul, the feast of whose conversion on January 25 occurs around this time.5 Quinquagesima, on the other hand, is preoccupied with the impending Great Fast of Lent. Its Epistle from 1 Corinthians 13 on charity is the perfect preface to a season of mortification and almsgiving, for without charity, these noble acts profit us nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). Indeed, all of Septuagesimatide is an ideal primer on how to approach the purgative period of Lent in the right spirit.

Ciao to Chow

Septuagesima season also marks the time when the faithful begin to fast voluntarily, in anticipation of the mandatory fast of Lent. As early as 465 A.D., St. Maximus, Bishop of Turin, was recommending a fast of devotion before Lent. In the Byzantine rite, the faithful would begin abstaining from meat on the penultimate Sunday before Lent and from dairy products on the Sunday immediately before Lent: hence the Byzantine name for Sexagesima is “Meatfare” Sunday and their name for Quinquagesima “Cheesefare” Sunday.6 In the Roman rite, the Sunday to begin abstaining from meat was Quinquagesima, and so it also came to be known as Dominica Carnevala, carnevala coming from the Latin for “removal” (levare) of “meat” (caro/carnis). It is from this name that our word “carnival” originates.

And Septuagesimatide is not just behind the word carnival: it is also behind the activity. Prior to the age of refrigeration, Christians needed to get rid of all the foods they would not be allowed to consume during Lent, which centuries ago was quite a long list; as we mentioned above, not only flesh meat but all dairy products were forbidden. And the closer Lent approached, the more urgently they needed to be consumed. Ironically, the pre-Lenten excesses and glittering pageantry we associate with Mardi Gras in New Orleans or the carnevales in Brazil and Venice, Italy can be traced to the voluntary increase of pious asceticism.

These sybaritic celebrations, in turn, have had a notable impact on Western culture. “Carnival music,” which is a colorful combination of Spanish, Portuguese, Native American, African, and even Chinese musical strains, is generally associated with Trinidad and Barbados, as well as other parts of the Caribbean and Brazil. Though it varies from country to country, Carnival music has a common origin in bidding a fond farewell to fun before the forty-day fast of Lent. And it has gone on to shape other genres of music, such as Latin jazz, the Conga and Conjunto, and the Samba.7

Septuagesima Foods

Pre-Lenten observances also led to the invention or promotion of several food dishes. There are many culinary candidates worthy of mention. Where would Cajun cooking be without Mardi Gras, or “Fat Tuesday”? Northern England traditionally observes Collop Monday two days before Ash Wednesday (a collop is made of sliced meat and eggs fried in butter), while the rest of the country enjoys Shrove Tuesday pancakes the day before Ash Wednesday. In the U.S. before Vatican II, pancake breakfasts sponsored by American parishes on Quinquagesima Sunday were not uncommon.

Thanks to its Polish immigrants, America is also able to hear its arteries harden each year with pączki, a rich pastry similar to a jelly donut that is traditionally eaten during Septuagesimatide. Pączki (pronounced paunch-key) is a particularly interesting food because it has a vocal and zealous group of devotees, including its own lobby, the National Pączki Promotional Board.8

Regardless of their country of origin, all of these foods are the product of the same basic logic, to make good use of all perishable comestibles in one’s home before the beginning of Lent.


Not all Christian customs of Septuagesima, however, revel in merriment and feasting. While the Latin countries had Carnival, the countries of northern Europe had Shrovetide. The verb “to shrive” is old English for a priest’s hearing confession; hence, Shrovetide was a time for the faithful to go to confession and be “shriven” in preparation for Lent. While this period originally encompassed the entire week preceding Lent, it is more common to hear reference to Shrove Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, the three days prior to Ash Wednesday. Needless to say, this remains an excellent way to prepare for Lent.

Of course, not even the sternest of northern believers could resist every impulse to blow off a little steam. While “to shrive” might refer to sacramental absolution, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “to shrove” as “to keep Shrove-tide; to make merry.”9 Large sporting events were popular during Shrovetide (according to legend, the world’s first soccer match took place on a Shrove Tuesday between the Britons and the Romans), and in Ireland getting married during Shrovetide was considered good luck, perhaps because weddings during Lent were forbidden.

As for the southern countries, not everyone was pleased with the rising tide of carnival celebrations that began in the fourteenth century. In 1747 Pope Benedict XIV issued the aptly named Super Bacchanalibus in which a plenary indulgence was granted to those who participated in the “Forty Hours of Carnival.” This devotion, which was held in those areas prone to indulgence of a different kind, consisted of Exposition and Benediction on Shrove Monday and Tuesday. The purpose of the devotion was to draw the faithful away from “dangerous occasions of sin” and to atone for excesses committed.10

Modern Times

Septuagesima was dropped from the calendar in 1970, replaced by “Ordinary Time.” According to Fr. Pierre Jounel, a professor of liturgy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and one of the architects of the new calendar, it was excised because “Nobody knew what it meant or where it came from.”11

That’s funny: the literal meaning of septuagesima is as close as the nearest Latin dictionary, and most Catholics, because of the greater cultural impact of Septuagesima we have just described, had a passable idea of what the season meant. There are beautiful explanations of it in the St. Andrew’s Missal and in Fr. Francis X. Weiser’s popular Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, both of which were available ten years before Fr. Jounel’s pronouncement. The Von Trapp family describes Septuagesima as a “most necessary time for the individual as well as for families and communities”:12 their chapter on the season the meaning of which they weren’t supposed to know is entitled, “A Time to Dance.”

Millions of Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic believers also understand it, as they have a similar season based on the same principles. (Having dropped Septuagesima, we Catholics now have one less thing in common with what Pope John Paul II called the other lung of Christendom.) Even some Anglicans and Lutherans continue to keep Septuagesima. More importantly, with the loss of Septuagesima we have no liturgical preparation for the holy season of Lent, no transition between the glow of Epiphany and the gloom of Ash Wednesday. In the meantime, the cultural observances of Mardi Gras and so forth continue unabated, loosed from their religious moorings.


In his magnificent Confessions, St. Augustine allegorically interprets the creation of the dry land in Genesis 1 as the gathering of the redeemed souls that thirst for God and are plucked from the bitter sea of the infidels.13 The “land” that Augustine espied was a Church zealous for the nourishment of grace so “that they might bring forth works of mercy unto You, distributing their earthly goods to the poor to acquire heavenly.”14 How fitting, then, that the terra firma that is the Church should not only use Lent as a preparation for Easter, but that she should prepare herself for Lent as well, the season in which she increases her corporal works of mercy.15 Because of the 1970 calendar, Septuagesima is a time that the Land has lamentably forgotten, but let us who keep to the calendar of our ancestors wisely use this season to remember and attune ourselves to the awesome trial that is Lent.

And maybe to shrove it up a bit while we still can.


  1. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977,trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1998), p. 20. [back]

  2. Quoted by Gueranger in The Liturgical Year,vol. 8, p. 366. [back]

  3. See Jeremiah 25:9-12; 29:10. Some Biblical historians calculate the Babylonian Exile or Captivity to be exactly seventy years by beginning with the defeat of the Assyrian Empire in 609 BC and ending with the defeat of the Babylonian Empire in 539 BC; others set the dates at 586 and 516, the destruction of Jerusalem and the dedication of the rebuilt Temple, respectively. [back]

  4. Rationale Divinorum Officiorum 6.24.18, translated by Francis X. Weiser. [back]

  5. One of the charms of the traditional calendar is that it allows its Temporal Cycle, its rotation of seasons, to be colored by its Sanctoral Cycle, its saints’ feast days. [back]

  6. Similarly, in Russia and other Slavic countries the week before Lent is called “Butter Week”; in Poland it is called “Fat Days.” [back]

  7. See Michael P. Foley, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday?(Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), p. 59. [back]

  8. Bryan Gruley, “Who Put the Paunch In Paczki and Droves In Shrove Tuesday?” Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition, 3/01/2000, vol. 235, issue 43, p. A1. [back]

  9. “Shrove, v.” Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989. [back]

  10. Herbert Thurston, “Shrovetide,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 13 (Robert Appleton Company, 1912). [back]

  11. Alfred Friendly, Jr., “200 Catholic Saints Lose Their Feast Days,” NYT, May 10, 1969, p. 10. [back]

  12. Maria Augusta Trapp, Around the Year with the Trapp Family(NY: Pantheon Books, 1955), p. 86. [back]

  13. Confessions 13.17.20. [back]

  14. Confessions 13.34.49, translated by F.J. Sheed. [back]

  15. See the Collect for the First Sunday of Lent: “O God, who by the yearly Lenten observance dost purify Thy Church, grant to Thy household that what they strive to obtain from Thee by abstinence, they may achieve by good works.” [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, "Septuagesima: The Time that Land Forgot," Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition Vol. 19, No. 3 (Winter 2011), is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author, and is archived at "Septuagesima: The Time that Land Forgot" Scripture and Catholic Tradition (February 25, 2011).

Of related interest
I highly recommend Dr. Michael P. Foley's annotated edition of the Confessions of Augustine,in the surpassingly elegant translation by Frank J. Sheed (Hackett Publishing Co., 2007). The notes by Dr. Foley shed light on all sorts of delightful details of Augustine's Confessions that quite often pass unnoticed by readers in any translation, and at the price of $6.25 (brand new) with free shipping from Amazon Prime, it's a steal! I use this edition with my students at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, and it is consistently one of their favorite texts in the historical sequence of courses.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Obama Administration cancels conscience protections for health care workers

Under the news you may have missed:
So much for common ground.

Do you remember Pres. Obama saying that his administration would protect the conscience of health-care workers when it came to actions which are morally repugnant?
It's all there in the public record. As some have learned, however, the bigger the lies, the sooner they are forgotten or pass unnoticed.

Fr. Z on why trads find Instruction rumors disturbing

As indicated by our post of February 18, there has been what Fr. Z calls some "hand-wringing" about rumored possible restrictions in the forthcoming Instruction on Summorum Pontificum. These rumors are very likely unfounded, as Fr. Z suggests in his post about "news from and Italian source" (WDTPRS, February 19, 2011) on the question. Nevertheless, writes, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf:
I can understand why people would be upset at the reports about the Instruction. So many who mourned the loss of the older forms of worship have been mistreated by the Church’s shepherds. Many who knew the older forms back when, and younger people who prefer them now, are still being treated like second-class trash who get to sit in the back of the bus. And there only grudgingly. [Strong words. Evocative of a possible new use for the 'N'-word! -- P.P.] You can understand why they would be anxious about this Instruction, given how many positions of power are still in the hands of enemies of the Holy Father’s vision and provisions.
In the meantime, read Fr. Z's details from his Italian source that categorically states that these rumors are without foundation, and consider also Fr. Z's advice:
Given that we don’t know many of the actual details of the text, I can only recommend that people who are deeply concerned get on their knees and pray that Pope Benedict be strengthened in his mandate as Vicar of Christ and that his enemies – far from him and close to him – be weakened and confounded.

Do what a committed Catholic warrior would do for a cause that is dear.

I have started a month long “novena”, a Spiritual Bouquet for Pope Benedict to end on 19 March, which is the Holy Father’s “name day”, the Feast of St. Joseph.

Please participate in this Spiritual Bouquet.

In the meantime, drink some Mystic Monk coffee and, if you want to sign something, go to this site and put your signature to a kind of open-letter or petition.

Also, in the next days and weeks consider that the Holy Father is unlikely to put his signature to something which would so undermine his position and authority.
Finally, from the Enchiridion of Indulgences (#25), he adds a duly approved, indulgenced prayer for the Supreme Pontiff.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Against dumbing down religion

Something I like about the Catholic Faith is that it is simple enough to be embraced and loved by a child, yet deep enough to defy the efforts of the most erudite intellectual to fathom its depths. This is altogether fitting, in that Jesus welcomed the children to come to Him, and yet St. Paul, the protégé of the great Rabbi Gamaliel and the best-schooled follower of Christ in apostolic times, couldn't begin to fathom the mysteries of redemption, and at times almost seemed tongue-tied when trying to describe the "depths," "riches," and "glories" of the "unfathomable mysteries" of God's love.

My purpose in this post is not to question the simplicity of the Faith on one level, or its unfathomable profundity on another level, but to question the wisdom of those who, without denying its profundity, suggest that the whole mystery of the Faith should be reducible to simplicity and transparency. Some of my examples will be taken from liturgy, but the issue is much larger than this. It concerns our religion itself.

One complaint I sometimes hear about the Traditional Latin Mass is that it's inaccessible, in Latin, incomprehensible, and that it just strikes those unfamiliar with it as, at best, unfashionably strange. "People just don't want that anymore," said one priest. "I don't want to hear Latin when I go to Mass," said an acquaintance. "I want to hear English." Thus, four decades after the introduction of the new Mass, the old one strikes most people as utterly alien. (In fact, most people probably wouldn't find it much less alienating if the new Mass were celebrated in Latin with the priest facing ad orientem, the way it was first prescribed, but that's another story.)

What about this? How could it possibly be right for worship to involve a "learning curve"?! Why shouldn't we be free to worship the Lord out-of-doors, St. Francis-like, spontaneously as our heart leads us? Shouldn't worship be something straightforward and obvious? Shouldn't liturgy be "accessible," or made "more accessible" if it's not? Shouldn't we expect true religion itself to be something intuitively transparent and easily understandable?

The first thing that strikes me about this sort of response is how much it resembles the secular agnostic complaints about the Christian faith. "I have no problem with people wanting spirituality," they'll say, "but who on earth would want any part of organized religion?" Religion strikes most non-joiners as so much incomprehensible nonsense -- silly dogmas for credulous, tender-minded souls, and silly authoritarian taboos with no prima facie rhyme or reason to support them. Why shouldn't people just accept the empirical facts and forget all this groundless and repressive metaphysical mumbo-jumbo? Why waste time trying to understand it? There's nothing to understand.

The second thing that strikes me, as a former Protestant, is how similar this sort of response is to that of most Protestants when confronted with a defection from their ranks to the Catholic Church. Why would a person with any common sense want to convert to THAT religion? It's so "medieval," "authoritarian," and "superstitious"! And what's with this genuflecting and bowing and scraping in front of a wafer, for crying out loud! What could be more preposterous: God in a Ritz Cracker? Gimme a break! Spending a "holy hour" in front of an ornate Tabernacle containing a wafer, or bowing piously before a wafer carried aloft by a priest in a Monstrance! What is this but the crudest form of superstition, idolatry, and bread worship! And we haven't even mentioned all these ridiculous beliefs about contraception, celibacy, divorce, Lenten fasts, Our Lady of Fatima and the Infant of Prague! Jeepers-creepers! Become a Catholic and you have to throw your brain out the window!

The first thing any Christian believer realizes when confronted by the skepticism and ridicule of an unbelieving agnostic is that there is much about the Christian Faith that is simply incomprehensible from the outside. Things are not as they seem to be on the surface. There is a deeper interiority or inscape to the believer's perspective that simply escapes the skeptic's eye. It's not that the skeptic or the agnostic lacks intelligence. It is simply that they lack the pre-requisite eyes of faith to see what the Christian sees.

The philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein addressed this conundrum in another context by means of an illustration he called the "duck-rabbit." Seen from one perspective, the same drawing can appear to be a duck; from another perspective, a rabbit. By the same token, we may say that the Christian and skeptical agnostic confront the same data but interpret them in radically different ways. Thus, Yuri Gagarin, the Soviet cosmonaut who garnered world fame for being the first man in space in 1961, came back to earth and declared that he did not see God anywhere. The next day, Billy Graham was reported in the newspapers as responding that, on the contrary, he had just talked to God "this morning." The same data, different understandings. They cannot both be right, of course, but how is the partisan of one interpretation going to convince the other?

The first thing a practicing Catholic realizes when confronted by the skepticism and ridicule of a hostile Protestant is that there is much about the Catholic Faith that is simply incomprehensible from the outside. Things are not as they seem to be on the surface. There is a deeper interior aspect to the Catholic perspective that simply eludes the skeptical Protestant's eye. It is not that the Protestant lacks intelligence. It is simply that he lacks the pre-requisite of faith in the Church and her authority to see what the practicing Catholic sees.

Much of what the believing Catholic holds to be true takes a great deal of hard work to understand, even for the Catholic -- such as the sinfulness of contraception, homosexuality, or divorce and remarriage; the desirability of an all-male priesthood; the goodness of such things as priestly celibacy and consecrated poverty, chastity and obedience; the indefectable authority of the Church, or the profound trustworthiness of all that the Church formally holds and teaches. But for those who are willing to sincerely seek out the answers, there are very good ones. Solid, satisfying ones; yet not ones that you would always call immediately transparent and obvious. Finding the truth often takes some work and effort.

Does this mean that a child cannot understand or love Jesus, or pray spontaneously from the heart while surrounded, St. Francis-like, by the glorious songbirds of spring? Obviously not. God can reveal Himself to the simplest child without a need for long and arduous learning and theological instruction. Does this mean that some of the most basic truths about the way to salvation cannot be summarized simply in, say, "four spiritual laws," as some Protestants (and even some Catholic priests) have done? Obviously not (although such summaries may often contain misleading omissions or distortions).

On the other hand, does this mean that the fullness of the Catholic Faith can be reduced to a personal experience of God's love, personal Bible interpretation, extemporaneous prayer, or that liturgy is at best a secondary and relatively unimportant matter? Not at all. Such a view would represent, at best, a radical rupture with Catholic tradition in its understanding of the Faith. As much as we wish to communicate the Faith to others in its essential simplicity, the fullness of this Faith is something profound and challenging, even to the finest intellects and holiest of souls. We can no more jettison two millennia of doctrinal development in Church history than we should imagine we can reject two millennia of liturgical tradition.

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity was only defined dogmatically beginning with the Council of Nicea in AD 325. All the books of canonical Scripture were officially listed only sometime around the time of St. Athanasius' Easter encyclical of AD 367. The doctrine of transubstantiation was only defined dogmatically at the 4th Lateran Council of AD 1215. These truths, even if they existed in seed form since apostolic times, were not fully realized until the seeds grew, in the course of time, into the great oak trees of Church tradition.

The same is no less true of liturgy. There have been some renegade attempts to strip down the liturgy and make it something completely transparent, one-dimensional, and merely human, particularly in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. But like the doctrines of our Faith, the liturgy is something we receive, not something we cobble together. Like Scripture itself, it is part of what has been "handed down" (Gk. paradosis, Lat. tratitio). The tradition of Gregorian chant, as Fr. Fessio once discovered from a Jewish rabbi in New York, was something we Catholics inherited in a pre-Christian form from them. Neither our doctrines nor our forms of worship can be understood accurately as "banal, on-the-spot products" of committees of technical experts. They have been historically received from Catholic tradition with such reverence as from God Himself. The Eastern churches seem to have preserved more of a sense of this, at times, than we have in the West.

According to Catholic tradition, God is not transparent to our human minds, but incomprehensible. St. Thomas Aquinas states that no human concept is adequate to comprehend the mystery of God. We can know what God is like. We can know what He is not. But we have no human way of apprehending what He is. This is something that both Protestants and Catholics have historically accepted and understood about the Christian Faith: God is, strictly speaking, "incomprehensible." Does this mean that we can't love God or trust Him or have some personal relationship with Him by faith? Absolutely not. It does mean, however, that we can't begin to fathom the depths of His divine nature.

Is there a learning curve in coming to know the Christian Faith? Absolutely. Is there a learning curve in coming to understand the Catholic Faith? Yes, even more so! Is there a learning curve in coming to understand the traditional liturgy of the Catholic Church? Most certainly. There is much about our Faith and our liturgy, particularly in its traditional Latin form, that is anything but simple or transparent or easily accessible from the outside.

Is this a bad thing? No. A challenging thing, maybe; but not a bad thing. As Blessed John Henry Newman once noted, "to go deep into history is to cease to be Protestant." By the same token, to go deep into the Catholic Faith is to cease to be superficial. By conforming our beliefs to the rich resources for faith and morals in Catholic tradition, we enrich our lives beyond telling. By slowly and painstakingly submitting ourselves to the discipline of the sacred liturgy, by making its forms and prayers our own, we enrich our lives unspeakably. Our souls are conformed to Christ more fully, and we are not thrown back, like orphans, on whatever poor resources we may have to muster from the shallow puddle of our own experiences.

Green farming in urban Detroit

"Brother Nature Farm in Corktown, Detroit" (YouTube, December 10, 2010). Corktown is just West beyond the M-10 overpass on Michigan Avenue, an easy walking distance from anywhere in downtown Detroit.

[Hat tip to C.B.]

The Divine Office – Part 6 – Terce

Tridentine Community News (February 20, 2011):
To acquaint you with the Hours of the Extraordinary Form Breviary, below we print Terce, mid-morning prayer, for February 17, 2011. Other Hours have similar structure and flow.

V. O God come to my assistance;
R. O Lord, make haste to help me.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Come Holy Ghost Who ever One
Art with the Father and the Son,
It is the hour, our souls possess
With Thy full flood of holiness.

Let flesh and heart and lips and mind
Sound forth our witness to mankind;
And love light up our mortal frame,
Till others catch the living flame.

Almighty Father, hear our cry,
Through Jesus Christ, our Lord most High,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.

Psalms (from the Psalter for the day of the week)
Ant. How good is God * to Israel, to them that are of a right heart!
Psalm 72(1-9) [1]
72:1 How good is God to Israel, to them that are of a right heart!
72:2 But my feet were almost moved; * my steps had well-nigh slipped.
72:3 Because I had a zeal on occasion of the wicked, * seeing the prosperity of sinners.
72:4 For there is no regard to their death, * nor is there strength in their stripes.
72:5 They are not in the labor of men: * neither shall they be scourged like other men.
72:6 Therefore pride hath held them fast: * they are covered with their iniquity and their wickedness.
72:7 Their iniquity hath come forth, as it were from fatness: * they have passed into the affection of the heart.
72:8 They have thought and spoken wickedness: * they have spoken iniquity on high.
72:9 They have set their mouth against heaven: * and their tongue hath passed through the earth.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 72(10-17) [2]
72:10 Therefore will my people return here * and full days shall be found in them.
72:11 And they said: How doth God know? * and is there knowledge in the most High?
72:12 Behold these are sinners; and yet abounding in the world * they have obtained riches.
72:13 And I said: Then have I in vain justified my heart, * and washed my hands among the innocent.
72:14 And I have been scourged all the day; * and my chastisement hath been in the mornings.
72:15 If I said: I will speak thus; * behold I should condemn the generation of Thy children.
72:16 I studied that I might know this thing, * it is a labor in my sight:
72:17 Until I go into the sanctuary of God, * and understand concerning their last ends.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Psalm 72(18-28) [3]
72:18 But indeed for deceits Thou hast put it to them: * when they were when they were lifted up Thou hast cast them down.
72:19 How are they brought to desolation? they have suddenly ceased to be: * they have perished by reason of their iniquity.
72:20 As the dream of them that awake, O Lord; * so in Thy city Thou shalt bring their image to nothing.
72:21 For my heart hath been inflamed, and my reins have been changed: * and I am brought to nothing, and I knew not.
72:22 I am become as a beast before Thee: * and I am always with Thee.
72:23 Thou hast held me by my right hand; and by Thy will Thou hast conducted me, * and with Thy glory Thou hast received me.
72:24 For what have I in heaven? * and besides Thee what do I desire upon earth?
72:25 For Thee my flesh and my heart hath fainted away: * Thou art the God of my heart, and the God that is my portion for ever.
72:26 For behold they that go far from Thee shall perish: * Thou hast destroyed all them that are disloyal to Thee.
72:27 But it is good for me to adhere to my God, * to put my hope in the Lord God:
72:28 That I may declare all Thy praises, * in the gates of the daughter of Sion.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. As it was in the beginning, is now, * and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Ant. How good is God * to Israel, to them that are of a right heart!

Chapter Responsory Versicle (from the Proper of Saints)
1 Pet 4:13
Brethren: If you partake of the sufferings of Christ, rejoice that when His glory shall be revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
R. Thanks be to God. The Lord loved him, and beautified him.
R. The Lord loved him, and beautified him.
V. He clothed him with a robe of glory.
R. And beautified him.
V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
R. The Lord loved him, and beautified him.

V. The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom.
R. And his tongue talketh judgment.

Prayer (from the Proper of Saints)
V. O Lord, hear my prayer
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus Christ, Who, that Thou mightest recall to mind the woes of Thy most holy Mother, didst through the Seven blessed Fathers make Thy Church herself the mother of a new household of her servants, grant unto us in mercy that we may so share their tears as to share their blessedness also.
Who livest and reignest with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end.
R. Amen.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
V. Let us bless the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. May the souls of the faithful, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 02/21 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria)

Tue. 02/22 7:00 PM: High Mass at both Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat (Chair of St. Peter)
Tue. 02/24 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Matthias, 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 February 20, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, February 18, 2011

International appeal in defense of Summorum Pontificum

Word just in of a joint international appeal by Catholics of like mind in response to sources confirming that there is a very real possibility for concern as relates to potentially restrictive elements in the forthcoming instruction on Summorum Pontificum. It is well-known that the Holy Father is under tremendous pressure from retrograde reactionaries in high places who wish to turn back the clock and keep it at 1969, with tie-died vestments and Joan Baez-style gathering hymns forever.

Whether or not you are a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas [link], if you share a concern for preserving and promoting the well-established, time-tested, centuries-old Gregorian (Tridentine) liturgy, you may wish to join in signing the following international appeal:
"Appeal to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, Pertaining to the Instruction/Clarification of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum" (, February 18, 2011).
As our source stated in the notice sent to us this morning: "The appeal does not presume to know or state what the actual contents of this proposed instruction are, however, in the light of the aforementioned reports, and given credible confirmations that there is reason for concern, it simply wishes to calmly and respectfully share our concern with the Holy Father about this potentiality, asking that, whatever is finally released, that the integrity of the letter and the spirit of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum be preserved."

Related:[Hat tip to N.C.]

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Newsweek pontificates on what Bible "really says" about sex

... and gets it all wrong again. Newsweek's religion editor and resident Popette, Lisa Miller, wrote an article entitled “What the Bible Really Says About Sex.” She bases her report on two recent books — God and Sex: What the Bible Really Says by the Jesuit-trained liberal dissident, Michael Coogan, and Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire, by the American Baptist pastorette and Bible-demythologizer, Jennifer Wright Knust. Nothing new here: the usual suspects.

But it's nice to see a good Baptist correct a bad one, as well as a dissident "Jesuit" (one has to use such terms rather loosely), in an article by President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "What the Bible Really Says About Sex... Really?" (, February 9, 2011). Good, "Bible-only" Baptists don't usually realize that the Bible is part of Tradition, and they may be misinformed or ignorant about a lot of very important Catholic truths, but they're often very good in Bible basics, and this is a case in point -- Gimli to the defense of the Fellowship of the Ring with his trusty ax!

[Hat tip to J.M.]

Flannery O'Connor on the meaning of the Eucharist

"Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable." -- Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Agnostic aphorisms

Does the state of one's soul matter at the moment of one's death? Catholic tradition certainly suggests so. Being in a state of grace or in a state of mortal sin may make the difference between one of two eternal destinies.

Scott Hahn tells the story of Mafia mobsters who would give a victim (if they liked him) the chance to confess his sins to a priest in a car before sending him to swim with the fishes, or (if they didn't like him), arranging to have him machine gunned in bed with a prostitute to ensure his infernal destiny in the next life. How twisted is that!

I was recently in conversation with a lapsed Catholic about the significance of a person's moral state before God at the moment of death. It was interesting, because the reaction was immediate and visceral. Here are some of the responses I received:
  • Excising the notion of God is a good thing. He's just dead. Life is precious because it ends.
  • People are precious because they are fragile, brief, and beautiful.
  • Christians labor within mind-forged manacles.
  • I wish that everyone were mature enough to know that they don't need to be supernaturally policed to do unto each other correctly.
  • If I kept my thought in a cage, it would throw itself from a bridge.
While such sentiments are highly vulnerable to richly-deserved ridicule, my purpose here is not to discuss the obvious sorts of replies one may make. Many of the really good, hard-core responses are so devastating, they aren't really effective anyway, since they leave the other person resenting you.

Rather, I'm simply intrigued to be exposed again to individuals who say such things. When I taught at Lenoir-Rhyne University, this sort of thing was the regular fare of classroom discussion. Now that I'm teaching in a diocesan seminary, it's become virtually nonexistent. Perhaps it's helpful, if a trifle depressing, to be reminded occasionally of what people actually say they believe and think they actually believe. Even those who were once practicing Catholics. I offer the qualifiers ("... think they actually believe") since I'm convinced that I have yet to meet a person who would qualify as a bona fide atheist or unconditional agnostic. (Romans 1:18-24)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

At Mass, Actions Speak Louder Than Words


By Michael A. Beauregard

I have taught in Catholic schools for many years. For the past ten, I have had the pleasure of teaching sixth-grade religion classes in a school that is unwaveringly faithful to the Magisterium. The religious curriculum in the sixth grade includes the sacraments, the theology of the Mass, and Church history. In previous grades, the students thoroughly study the faith with the help of textbooks that are faithful to the Church, and teachers who are devout, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.

Nevertheless, year after year I am surprised by what my students know — and do not know — at the beginning of their sixth-grade year. Students are typically baffled and sometimes even stunned to learn that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ physically [sic]1 present in His body, blood, soul, and divinity, and not just in a spiritual or symbolic sense. More often than not, these students have incorrectly acquired the notion that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is just a Communion service memorializing the Last Supper with the priest acting as presider. They are fascinated to learn about the sacrificial aspects of the Mass and the priesthood, and the tremendous graces received from the Mass. Why are all these students, who have no less than five years of solid catechetical training, entering the sixth grade with an almost Protestant view of Catholic liturgy and the sacraments?

One might question the content, quality, and overall effectiveness of the religion program. But after years of observing, monitoring, and, most importantly, probing the students, I have come to a clear assessment of this peculiar situation. Irrespective of what is being taught, if the Mass and liturgies do not reflect the realities and truths of our Catholic faith, the teachings of the Church will be taught in vain. It is of the utmost importance that the Holy Mass model and emphasize what we want our students (and adults) to understand and embrace. The rubrics, gestures, and symbols that are employed serve a fundamental and very useful purpose in that they reveal and give witness to the faith we profess.

To illustrate a common example, I ask students at the beginning of their sixth-grade year what they genuflect toward inside a church. At least ninety percent say the crucifix or the spiritual omnipresence of Christ. After receiving a thorough explanation that genuflection is an act of adoration toward the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the students invariably have a number of questions, a typical one being: “If we believe that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself truly and really present among us, then shouldn’t we show greater respect and reverence at Mass?” The crux of the problem is that students cannot retain the truths they are taught if these truths are not manifested on a regular basis in our liturgical language, songs, gestures, and symbols.

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, many expressive gestures and symbols in the Mass were not necessarily suppressed, but were set aside in favor of an emphasis on simplicity. This has resulted in a watering down of the truths of the Mass, which has itself led to a lack of reverence during the Mass.

One of the greatest tragedies of the post-conciliar New Mass is that the spirit of informality has displaced our duty of reverence and respect. For example, in the pre-conciliar Tridentine Mass, only the priest was allowed to touch the sacred Species. During and after the consecration, he was required to keep his thumb and index finger joined in order not to spread the particles of the sacred Host. It was only at the final ablution that he was able to separate his finger from his thumb. This simple yet powerful rubric sent a clear message about what we as Catholics believe about the Eucharist.

During reception of Holy Communion, an altar server held a paten under the Host to ensure that Christ would not accidentally drop to the floor. The use of patens in the New Mass has been requested in the Vatican’s 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, but they are absent from the average Catholic parish. In most Masses today, the sacred Species might be handled with care at best, but not with the ineffable care they were once given. And they are handled by virtually everyone. What does this teach our children? Furthermore, what example is given to reaffirm mature, faithful Catholics in their beliefs? The strict rubrics in the pre-conciliar Mass were established for a firm purpose: to foster a greater reverence for the Eucharist and to prevent avoidable accidents.

One of the great and unexpected phenomena of our day is the number of young Catholics who are attracted to the Tridentine Mass. Many critics of the “extraordinary form of the Mass,” as it is now called, have stated that its appeal is largely nostalgic. However, the younger generations of Catholics did not grow up with the extraordinary form and, therefore, it cannot be a nostalgic experience for them. I require my students to attend the Tridentine Mass periodically, and they often comment on how much more reverent it is than the typical New Mass. Many respond that they prefer the Tridentine Mass because it gives authentic expression to their faith in a way that is both prayerful and contemplative. This is not to say that the New Mass cannot be reverent too, but because of the rubrics and gestures employed and indeed required, the Tridentine Mass shows greater honor toward and adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

Our Holy Father has written extensively about and encouraged two liturgical practices that were at one time common in every parish: priests facing ad orientem, toward the East, and communicants receiving the sacred Host on the tongue, while kneeling. Both of these practices have been encouraged for two main reasons: to give glory and reverence to God and to reinforce our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These two practices express our beliefs through action and raise awareness of the sacredness of the Mass. Even smaller actions that appear at first to be trivial can have a similar effect, such as making use of chalice veils (as recommended in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and patens, and keeping silence in the church before and after Mass. There are a multitude of lessons we can learn about the symbolism of such acts and how this conveys and expresses our faith in the real presence. These small details, which many take for granted or ignore altogether, can make the difference between giving the appearance, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that the Mass is either something extraordinary and mystical or something ordinary and secular.

The hymns that are selected should be given due consideration as well. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really pays attention to the words that are sung. Are they consistent with the theology of the Mass and what we as Catholics believe? If the lyrics were recited and not sung, would they be appropriate prayers to God?

Recently, when I was teaching fifth-grade boys some of the refinements of serving at Mass, one of them did not know exactly what I meant when I mentioned “the altar.” He mistakenly thought that the altar was the general area around the altar of sacrifice — the sanctuary. After I corrected him briefly, the young student responded, “Oh, you mean the Communion table.” I then saw that it was necessary to give him a fuller explanation of the sacrificial nature of the Mass and what distinguishes the altar of sacrifice from an ordinary table. But the next day at Mass, the offertory hymn included such lines as “Come to the table of plenty” and “O come and sit at my table, where saints and sinners are friends.” That hymn served to reinforce the incorrect perception not only about the altar but about the nature of the Mass. I realized that despite the faithful, correct instruction we give, we are fighting a losing battle when the externals of the Mass do not accurately reflect what we teach.

The Church has witnessed some positive and fruitful developments over the past twenty years. I can remember a time when the ringing of the bells at the elevations had become a rarity. This very important element, which has been reintroduced in many parishes, can act as a great teaching tool to both Catholics and non-Catholics. For example, a co-worker of mine, a Lutheran, attended Mass at our school during her first week of employment. Afterward, she inquired about the ringing of the bells at the epiclesis (unbeknownst to many, this is encouraged in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and the elevations. It was a great opportunity not only to explain the symbolism of the actions but to talk about the Mass and how it differs from Protestant services.

Another positive development that has been occurring over the past decade is the placement — or relocation — of tabernacles in many churches to their proper place of honor. Even in many of the cathedrals in the U.S. that were modernized in the 1970s the tabernacles are beginning to be returned to prominent areas in order to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Likewise, a momentous event soon to unfold is the revised English translation of the Order of Mass. This single event will not only bring the wording of the Mass back to its Latin origins, it will also provide a richer, more compelling and beautiful translation that will uplift the faithful. [For a look at the new missal translation, see Rosemary Lunardini’s article “A Defining Step Toward Authentic Liturgical Reform,” Nov. 2010 — Ed.]

Perhaps one of the greatest changes we have seen over the past twenty years is a renewed interest in and devotion to eucharistic adoration. A majority of parishes now participates in some regular form of eucharistic adoration. This is incredible and miraculous, not only because this practice became almost extinct nearly thirty years ago, but because it occurred without any mandates or widespread movements. It was one of those things that suddenly happened everywhere, an occurrence of such great magnitude over such a short time that it can only give witness to the workings of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church today.

It is imperative for all parishes and schools to closely examine the Church’s authoritative writings on matters liturgical, such as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Redemptionis Sacramentum. Employing the rubrics they call for, and in addition those that are given as options, will bring about a greater sense of mystery and sacredness to the Mass.

Beyond just reading these documents, their contents need to be incorporated into a liturgical catechesis. This could be accomplished by printing short columns in Sunday bulletins about different aspects of the Mass, or by offering workshops and classes in order to better educate the faithful in the rubrics and gestures. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the ‘sacraments’ to the ‘mysteries’” (no. 1075).

Many parishes, schools, and dioceses have taken tremendous steps toward ensuring faithful catechetical training. This is a great turnaround from the watered-down instruction largely given in the 1970s and 1980s. However, if what we teach about the Mass and the Eucharist is not expressed in our actions and daily examples, even when good catechetical instruction is offered, we are inadvertently leading the faithful away from the fullness of truth about the most sublime and beautiful event this side of Heaven — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with all the graces it contains.

Michael A. Beauregard is Headmaster of St. Michael’s School in West Memphis, Arkansas. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Memphis and has written extensively on the classical curriculum in elementary schools. This column originally appeared New Oxford Review (January-February 2011). It is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.


  1. I am not the author of this posted article and am therefore not at liberty to change or delete the word "physical" here, which readers literate in the scholastic philosophy will find offensively imprecise and misleading. I am at liberty, however, to refer the reader to the discussion in the comment box attendant to this post (below), which offers a wide-ranging treatment of the differences involved between precise Thomistic language concerning the Real Presence and the fluid semantic range of meanings found in the untutored vernacular. [back]

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Divine Office – Part 5

Tridentine Community News (February 13, 2011):
Additional Little Offices

Last week we described the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, an abbreviated version of the Divine Office that has been popular among laymen and religious orders alike. The Church enriches the recitation of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin with a Partial Indulgence. It is logical to conclude that one may earn an Indulgence by praying any hour in the Little Office. Interestingly, the 2006 Manual of Indulgences offers no similar Indulgence for the praying of the full Office. It is possible that since the Divine Office is an official prayer of the Church, like the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it would be overstating the obvious to enrich the full Office with an Indulgence.

The Church also grants a Partial Indulgence for the recitation of any “approved” Little Office, and specifies four additional ones as examples, which are interesting prayers in their own right.

Actual and Downloadable Books

A relatively new phenomenon on the Internet is the appearance of downloadable books. These are either new books that are specifically intended to be downloaded as PDF files and printed, or out-of-print books that have been scanned in. These are relevant to our discussion because so many of the Little Office books are out of print. Some scans are better than others, and some, especially many done by Google Books, are even searchable by text. If you access the PDF version of this column at the web site at the bottom of this page, you can click on the below links to save yourself the trouble of typing in the web addresses.

A good source for the English texts of these Little Offices – and a remarkably beautiful scan job, as you can see from the below image – is Fr. F.X. Lasance’s 1914 Prayer Book For Religious, available [here].

One book that is both downloadable and in-print is Fr. F.X. Lasance’s Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook, available from and [here].

Four Additional Indulgenced Little Offices

Little Office of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ: A version of this Little Office is on page 761 of the Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook, however it appears that this is not the version of this Little Office which is indulgenced. That version only appeared in a 1953 book entitled Little Office of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which is neither downloadable nor available used, nor available on-line. One cannot consider any other version of the Little Office of the Passion to be an approved one, though there are certainly graces to be had by reciting such sound prayers.

Little Office of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: The English text is on page 761 of the Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook and on page 652 of the Prayer Book For Religious. The Latin and English texts are available [here].

Little Office of the Immaculate Conception: This Little Office is shorter than the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A booklet may be purchased from The English text begins on page 771 of the Blessed Sacrament Prayerbook and on page 735 of the Prayer Book For Religious. The Latin and English texts are available [here].

Little Office of St. Joseph: No books are still in print. The Latin text begins on page 195 of the 1782 Parvum Cœléste Palmétum, available on Google Books [here]. The English text begins on page 591 of the Prayer Book For Religious. A web page with the text is available [here].

Like the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the other Little Offices have not been revised post-Vatican II, thus only the existing (Extraordinary Form) versions are licit to use for public prayer. It is rare indeed that the pre-Summórum Pontíficum Manual of Indulgences makes reference to a pre-Vatican II prayer.

There are yet more Little Offices, though only those which have received ecclesiastical approval are explicitly enriched with Indulgences. Some which might have been approved at some point are the Little Offices of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, of the Blessed Sacrament, and of the Angels.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 02/14 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Low Requiem Mass)

Tue. 02/15 7:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor (High Requiem Mass for Fr. Ulysse Lefaive)
[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 February 13, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, February 11, 2011

Great Catholic education

Peter Kreeft, who teaches at Boston College, draws a wry distinction: "There are Jesuit schools," he says, "and then there are Catholic schools." Granted, it's a bit unfair to the two or three good Jesuit schools out there, but you get the point. Then, again, there are Catholic schools, and there are Catholic schools.

Once again, the point may seem a bit subtler, but I think just about everyone knows what we mean. Some parochial schools seem so intent on being all things to all people that they end up being almost nothing to anybody. By seeking to be mainstream, they end up becoming nondescript. Sometimes they seem almost embarrassed that the Church has religious beliefs; as if it were impolite, or as if the Good News were really the Bad News.

By contrast, Spiritus Sanctus Academies are anything but nondescript or embarrassed about being Catholic. Run by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a burgeoning young order of women religious, these independent K-8 Grade Catholic schools located in Ann Arbor and Plymouth, MI, unapologetically put the Catholic Faith front and center in all they do -- with enthusiasm and joy. One cannot repress the memory, here, of G. K. Chesterton's bracing remark: "There never was anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy."

You see the difference the moment you set foot in their buildings. Every school day begins with Mass, with Eucharistic Adoration on First Fridays. Religious instruction is foundational to forming the spirit, and, by the same token, to forming the mind academically. You can immediately see the difference it makes by walking the halls, reading the essays posted on the bulletin boards, and talking to the students. They are enthusiastic and energetic but also respectful, articulate and intelligent. Academically they are second to none.

Part of their success is certainly due in no small part to the family-friendly environment and intense parental involvement that is everywhere in evidence, not only in helping kids with homework, but in helping serve lunch at school, providing faculty with snacks during their mid-morning break, sharing ideas over coffee and donuts with Sr. Maria Guadalupe, the energetic principal at the Plymouth school, helping out with transportation on field trips or with sporting activities after hours.

I can remember while I was growing up in Japan, my mother began teaching me to read English after I would come home from Japanese public school, when I was in the first grade. She used materials from the Calvert Correspondence Course based in Baltimore, MD. I don't know that I was particularly slow, but and I can remember learning my first words, which were about a boy named Dick, a girl named Jane, and their pet dog named Spot. As I say, this was in the first grade. Our daughter is currently attending Kindergarten at the Spiritus Sanctus Academy in Plymouth. I don't know that she's exceptionally bright, but half-way through her first year of kindergarten she's reading book-after-book on her own; and, just yesterday, I noted that one word she read without skipping a beat was "certainly." Not bad. Her teacher, Sr. Teresa Paul, must be doing something right. I have no doubts about her potential for academic achievement at Spiritus Sanctus Academy.

Even more than her academic advancement, however, I have been noticing something that brings me great joy. When I am driving with her in the car, our daughter will spontaneously begin singing religious hymns and songs she has picked up at school. Hearing her sing these songs -- Eucharistic hymns, Marian hymns (some of them with words in Latin), songs of gratitude for God's grace and mercy -- I cannot help but be profoundly grateful to the Lord for these little seeds and habits of faith planted so early in her heart and mind; and I have no doubt she is in the right place. She is in good hands. She is in the Lord's hands here.

Two Locations:
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Principal - Sr. John Dominic O.P.
4101 East Joy Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
(734) 996-3855

Plymouth, Michigan
Principal - Sr. Maria Guadalupe O.P.
10450 Joy Road
Plymouth, MI 48170
(734) 414-8430
Plymouth Location: Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 8:00-10:30am & 6:00-7:30pm