Sunday, July 31, 2011


Don't you wonder what Johannes Gutenberg must be thinking?

And why you just gotta love Fr. Z: "The Debt Crisis: Washington’s Kabuki Dance and “NO!” Play" (July 29, 2011).
Official: Whew -- we will not default now! Unofficial: but we will default with massively devalued currency. Some years ago I drove through the Holland Tunnel into Manhattan: it cost $4.00; last week I drove through the Tunnel and it cost $8.00 Twice as much? No, the currency is worth half of what it was then.

On RC-Protestant disconnect

The reader who sent me this link pointed out that this fine post (with smart comments by the author in the comment box) "Makes me recall again Maisie Ward's comment that if Protestants understood that when we are saying the Rosary we are essentially 'pleading the blood,' we'd make a whole lot of converts."

"Say something about Jesus" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, July 20, 2011). Excerpts:
I read this very interesting article [well worth reading] over at Catholic Lane about a Catholic man who seems to have been somewhat shaky in his faith. Some Protestant family members picked up on his apparent ignorance of the principles of Catholicism and moved in on him like sharks at the smell of blood. They asked him, "If you died and stood before the Lord and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?" Well of course the Lord doesn't let us into heaven based on whether or not we answer some questions correctly; the purpose is a Protestant ruse in order to find out where the Catholic puts his trust.

Well, the Catholic gentleman in question failed the test. When asked why he had confidence in his salvation, he replied, "I just ask the Virgin Mary to pray for me.”

This answer, while not wrong if expressed to another Catholic who understands the tremendous graces that come to us through our Lady's intercession, it is nevertheless problematic in this context for two reasons.

First and foremost, when a Protestant asks you this question, beyond testing you to find out where you place your trust, he is implicitly seeking to either confirm or debunk the myth that Catholics do not know our Lord.

... [Second,] He wants to know the efficient cause, the cause from whence all these other secondary causes derive their efficacy. For the answer to this question, there can be no other answer other than the redemptive death of Jesus Christ. This is the only appropriate answer to this question.

A call for fairness and accuracy . . . and other news

Tridentine Community News (July 30, 2011):
James Murphy Accepted at St. Peter’s Seminary

Windsor’s Tridentine Mass Community at Assumption Church is proud to announce another vocation: Mr. James Murphy, a member of our altar serving team, has been accepted at London’s St. Peter’s Seminary. We ask for your prayers for James as he embarks upon studies for the Holy Priesthood. James’ last day with us before departing for the seminary will be August 14.

James joins Brother John Berchmanns Tonkin and Joe Tuskiewicz as the third man currently enrolled in a seminary from the Assumption and St. Josaphat Tridentine Mass Communities.

Laymen Lectors and Subdeacons

A reader raised the question of who could serve as a Lector or Subdeacon at a Tridentine Mass. Practices vary around North America, and even around metro Detroit. The current regulations in force by Rome are as follows:

The Epistle may be read in English by a Lector while the celebrant reads it in Latin. This Lector must have at a minimum either received Tonsure according to the Extraordinary Form, or been instituted by a bishop to the Ministry of Lector according to the Ordinary Form. Such a Lector may also chant the Epistle in Latin at a sung Mass.

A layman may also fulfill the role of Subdeacon in a Solemn High Mass if he has at a minimum been instituted by a bishop to the Ministry of Acolyte according to the Ordinary Form, or ordained to the Subdiaconate according to the Extraordinary Form. “Acolyte” is a formal ministry and does not mean an altar server.

A Call for Fairness and Accuracy

It is becoming increasingly anachronistic as well as annoying to read comments from proponents of the Ordinary Form that either patronize the Extraordinary Form or pretend it doesn’t exist. Much of this kind of text emanates from the professional publishing companies that produce missalettes and support materials for the Ordinary Form. As an example, the below quote is excerpted from a syndicated column about The Prayer Over the Gifts issued by publisher J.S. Paluch Co., and published in certain parish bulletins on July 17, 2011. The emphases are our own:
“In the liturgy of the 1570 Missal, this prayer was called the ‘secret’ prayer. It was ‘secret’ not because its content was mysterious, but because it was prayed in silence by the priest, who only recited the conclusion aloud: . . . per omnia saecula saeculorum. With the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, we again hear these rich prayers spoken aloud. They remind us to prepare ourselves for what is to happen in the Eucharistic Prayer, for it is not only the bread and wine that will be transformed.”
Let’s take each highlighted set of words on its own.
  1. “1570 Missal”: Arguably the Missal used for the Extraordinary Form today is the 2008 Missal, the most recent change being the Good Friday prayer modified by Pope Benedict XVI.

  2. “was called”: The Extraordinary Form is a living form of the Roman Rite, not an archaeological piece. This prayer is called the Secret.

  3. “With the reforms of the Second Vatican Council”: The Council did called for certain reforms, but the loud voice pronunciation of the Secret prayer was not one of them. That was imposed in 1969, well after the conclusion of the Council.
While we certainly respect an author’s right to express a viewpoint, in this case the inference that loud recitation is preferable, it is questionable what good is being done for the Catholic faithful when incomplete facts are presented as support material. While there are certainly those on the side of the Tridentine Mass who espouse extreme viewpoints, it is highly unlikely that advocates of the Extraordinary Form in the mainstream press would ever portray the Ordinary Form in a comparable fashion. Imagine: “In the 1969 Missal, the Secret was called the Prayer Over the Gifts...With the 2007 reforms of Pope Benedict XVI, the faithful are once again able to worship with inner active participation, without the distractions of the celebrant talking out loud as the offerings are presented to God.” Such a statement would be condescending and misleading.

Parish bulletin editors only have so much time to fill their pages each week. Syndicated columns provide a valuable service that alleviates every parish having to compose content themselves. At the same time, the large publishing enterprises have a vested interest in change. The profits to be made from the new Ordinary Form missal translation alone are significant. The Extraordinary Form represents something unchanging, with far less of a continual need to create new support materials. One could thus argue that it would be a conflict of interest for these organizations to promote the other living form of the Roman Rite. However, it is entirely reasonable to request that syndicated columns present a more up-to-date picture of Catholic teaching. A 1970s, or even a 2006, perspective does not reflect current realities; one can no more deny the existence of Summórum Pontíficum than one can deny the forthcoming new missal translation.

More broadly speaking, proponents of either form of Holy Mass will have more credibility when they write more fairly and with greater accuracy when covering the form that is not their preferred one. If you believe your form is better, tell us why you think so. Accentuate the positive, minimize the negative. And tell us how your reasoning fits within the authentic mind of the Church.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 08/01 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria [Celebrant may choose a Votive Mass])

Tue. 08/02 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop, Confessor, & Doctor)

Sat. 08/06 Noon: High Mass at St. Josaphat (Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ)
[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 July 30, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ireland "most anti-Catholic country in West"

"Erin Go Bonkers" (NRO, July 29, 2011):
While America’s attention has been absorbed in recent weeks by domestic affairs, something quite remarkable has become unmistakably clear across the Atlantic: Ireland — where the constitution begins, “In the name of the Most Holy Trinity” — has become the most stridently anti-Catholic country in the Western world."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Old 1969 Missal's "Bumping Boxcar Language"

I never fail to enjoy an article by an articulate, well-read logophile, as those who majored in (or taught) English sometimes used to be and occasionally still are.

This is perhaps one of the reasons why I always relish reading anything by Anthony Esolen, among other reasons (I usually also find myself in sympathy with his sentiments).

Just last night, I ran across this gem of an article by Esolen entitled "A Bumping Boxcar Language" (First Things, June/July, 2011), pp. 15-17, which leaps off the page like a 100 yard sprinter at the crack of the starter pistol:
I await with great delight the first translation of the Novus Ordo Mass into English. The bland, Scripture-muffling, colorless, odorless, gaseous paraphrase American Catholics have had for forty years often was not a translation at all, nor even a paraphrase into English. It was a paraphrase into Nabbish, the secret official language of the New American Bible.
(How can you possibly NOT read an article with such an opening? You're already in hyperspace before you've taken your first sip of morning coffee. Sort of makes you wonder whether Esolen has been reading Roister-Doister, doesn't it?)

Esolen arranges his article around three principles of Nabbish: 1) Prefer the general to the specific, the abstract to the concrete, the vague to the exact; 2) Prefer the neuter, the indefinite, and the impersonal; and 3) Prefer the office memorandum to the poem. But contenting yourself with these three Nabbish principles in the abstract without examining their instantiations, is like going to an art gallery and looking at only the printed descriptions beneath the paintings, or being invited to a seven-star restaurant and leaving after only savoring the menu.

Taste and see, taste and see ... and laugh your buttocks off.

Global warming researcher investigated, placed on leave

An Alaska researcher who documented the purported demise of polar bears in the Arctic is under investigation (AP NewsBreak, July 28, 2011).

According to the AP article, just five years ago, Charles Monnett was of the scientists who helped galvanize the global warming movement by his observation that several polar bears had drowned in the Arctic Ocean. Now he has been placed on administrative leave and is facing accusations of scientific misconduct.

In this connection, an interesting (and bound-to-be-controversial) article is the one in the most recent issue of First Things written by the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University, Dr. William Happer, entitled "The Truth About Greenhouse Gases" (First Things, June/July, 2011), pp. 33-38. Just a few "sound bites":
I am a strong supporter of a clean environment. We need to be vigilant to keep our land, air, and waters free of real pollution, particulates, heavy metals, and pathogens, but carbon dioxide (CO2 ) is not one of these pollutants. Carbon is the stuff of life. Our bodies are made of carbon. A normal human exhales around 1 kg of CO2 (the simplest chemically stable molecule of carbon in the earth’s atmosphere) per day. Before the industrial period, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 270 ppm. At the present time, the concentration is about 390 ppm, 0.039 percent of all atmospheric molecules and less than 1 percent of that in our breath. About fifty million years ago, a brief moment in the long history of life on earth, geological evidence indicates, CO2 levels were several thousand ppm, much higher than now. And life flourished abundantly.

... Both the United States Navy (for submariners) and NASA (for astronauts) have performed extensive studies of human tolerance to CO2. As a result of these studies, the Navy recommends an upper limit of about 8000 ppm for cruises of ninety days, and NASA recommends an upper limit of 5000 ppm for missions of one thousand days, both assuming a total pressure of one atmosphere. Higher levels are acceptable for missions of only a few days.

We conclude that atmospheric CO2 levels should be above 150 ppm to avoid harming green plants and below about 5000 ppm to avoid harming people. That is a very wide range, and our atmosphere is much closer to the lower end than to the upper end. The current rate of burning fossil fuels adds about 2 ppm per year to the atmosphere, so that getting from the current level to 1000 ppm would take about 300 years—and 1000 ppm is still less than what most plants would prefer, and much less than either the NASA or the Navy limit for human beings.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

First diocesan Solemn High Mass in Charlotte since the liturgical revolution

As reported by Chris Lauer of the Diocese of Charlotte, NC, in Rorate Caeli (July 26, 2011). Group pictured above with Bishop Peter Jugis of Charlotte, at the Parish of Saint Ann's after the Mass in honor of the Feast of Saint Anne. The Mass was celebrated according to the 1962 Missale Romanum. Huzzah!

Priest beaten up in front of his mother for celebrating the Traditional Mass

The news item was published today in the Giornale della Toscana, reported in Il sito di Firenze, and related by Rorate Caeli (July 26, 2011).

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Blessing of Rosaries

Tridentine Community News (July 24, 2011):
As a follow-up to our coverage two weeks ago of the Prayer of Enrollment in the Brown Scapular, we continue to present more of the treasures of prayers contained in the 1961 Colléctio Rítuum, the subset of the Extraordinary Form Ritual book used in North America.

One of the most frequently asked-for blessings after Mass is the Blessing of a Rosary. Until 1964, this blessing was reserved to the priests of the Dominican order. Now, any priest may perform this blessing. Since this blessing, like many, must be prayed by the priest in Latin, it is informative to see the entire text in Latin and English:

℣. Adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini.
℟. Qui fecit cælum et terram.
℣. Dóminus vobíscum.
℟. Et cum spíritu tuo.


Omnípotens et miséricors Deus, qui proper exímiam caritátem tuam, qua dilexísti nos, Fílium tuum unigénitum, Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum, de cælis in terram descéndere, et de beatíssimæ Vírginis Maríæ Dóminæ nostræ útero sacratíssimo, Ángelo nuntiánte, carnem suscípere, crucémque ac mortem subíre, et tértia die glorióse a mórtuis resúrgere voluísti, ut nos eríperes de potestáte diáboli: obsecrámus imménsam cleméntiam tuam; ut hæc signa Rosárii, in honórem et laudem ejúsdem Genetrícis Fílii tui ab Ecclésia tua fidéli dicáta, benedícas, et sanctífices, eísque tantam infúndas virtútem Spíritus  Sancti, ut, quicúmque horum quódlibet secum portáverit, atque in domo sua reverénter tenúerit, et in eis ad te, secúndum hujus sanctæ Societátis institúta, divína contemplándo mystéria devóte oráverit, salúbri et perseveránti devotióne abúndet, sitque consors et párticeps ómnium gratiárum, privilegiórum et indulgentiárum, quæ eídem Societáti per sanctam Sedem Apostólicam concéssa fuérunt, ab omni hoste visíbili et invisíbili semper et ubíque in hoc saéculo liberétur, et in éxitu suo ab ipsa beatíssima Vírgine María Dei Genetríce tibi plenus bonis opéribus præsentári mereátur. Per eúmdem Dóminum nostrum Jesum Christum Fílium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitáte ejúsdem Spíritus Sancti Deus, per ómnia saécula sæculórum.

℟. Amen.


[The priest, vested in white stole, says:]

℣. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
℟. Who made heaven and earth.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.

Almighty and merciful God! On account of Thy boundless love for us, Thou hast willed that Thy Sole-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, should come down from heaven upon earth, taking flesh at the Angel’s message in the sacred womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Queen, submitting to death on the Cross, and on the third day rising gloriously from the dead, in order that He might snatch us from Satan’s tyranny. Wherefore, we humbly beg Thee of Thine immeasurable goodness to bless  and to sanctify  these rosaries, which Thy faithful Church has consecrated in honor and praise of the Mother of Thy Son. And let them be endowed with such power of the Holy  Spirit, that whosoever carries one on his person or treasures it with reverence in his home or uses it for pious prayer, the while he meditates on the divine mysteries, according to the rules of this holy society, may be imbued with salutary and abiding devotion. May he, moreover, fully participate in all the graces, privileges, and indulgences which the Holy See has granted to this society; may he be delivered from all enemies, visible and invisible, in all places and at all times in this world, and at the hour of his death may it be his happiness to be presented to Thee by the same Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, laden with good works. Through the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, God, world without end.

℟. Amen.

[He sprinkles the Rosaries with holy water.]
While we are on the topic of the Holy Rosary, it is appropriate to remind our readers that Holy Mother Church grants the great gift of a Plenary Indulgence on any day of the year to those who pray the Rosary in a church, publicly or privately, under the usual conditions of Confession within 20 days, reception of Holy Communion, prayer for the Holy Father’s intentions, and freedom from attachment to sin. The Rosary is prayed before Sunday Mass at both St. Josaphat and Assumption Churches.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 07/25 7:00 PM: High Mass at St. Josaphat (St. James, Apostle)

Tue. 07/26 7:00 PM: High Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Ste. Anne)
[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 July 24, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ironies of politics

A reader sent the following to me with the comment, "I am not necessarily a Bachmann fan... I don't follow politics closely enough. Although typically I like whomever is being hated at the moment!"

"But this is very succinct: Matthew Archbold, "If Only Bachmann Ran A Sex Change Clinic" (NCR, July 17, 2011).

The Catholic is put in a bind by contemporary political developments. The best candidates, like Rick Santorum, are probably the least electable. The most electable come with all sorts of "baggage." I heard Ron Paul recently say some very intelligent things about the economy and foreign policty, criticizing both the left (on the economy) and the right (on foreign policy). But classic libertarianism is a problem for any historically-informed Catholic. As are many party regulars, like Mit Romney, who come with all sorts of baggage (and I don't mean merely his Mormonism). Politics is a matter of prudential judgments, so the best that Catholics can do is to make sure they are as informed as possible (not merely by contemporary media, which is often at best a hall of smoke and mirrors, but also by history and Catholic tradition), and make a prayerful decision. Tough call.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On the new archbishop of Philadelphia

"A Bishop who is not open to intellectual prostitution" (Rorate Caeli, July 18, 20100).

Prayer requests

Please pray for ...
  • a childhood friend of mine, born in China the same year as myself, who is undergoing a surgery to repair part of her pancreas (name: Julia)
  • a young member of our seminary staff, just married, now diagnosed with pancreatic cancer (name: Elizabeth)
  • a couple of friends struggling in their marital relationships (unnamed)
  • a few friends struggling with various addictions (unnamed)
  • all lapsed or unbelieving family members
  • a Muslim couple's nominally Christian daughter who impulsively married into a very bad situation (unnamed)
  • Fr. Z's ongoing and urgent request for prayer for two particular intentions
  • Traveling mercies for all those traveling during the summer.
“Be sober, be watchful! For your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.” 1 Peter 5: 8-9

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tridentine Community News

Tridentine Community News (July 17, 2011):
External Solemnity of Ste. Anne Next Sunday

Earlier this year, the Vatican designated Ste. Anne, the mother of Our Lady, as the patroness of the Archdiocese of Detroit. This is fitting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because the oldest parish in the Archdiocese was named in her honor. Ste. Anne de Detroit Parish survives to this day: Run by the Basilian Fathers, it is located at the Detroit end of the Ambassador Bridge and is the sister parish to the similarly Basilian-run Assumption Church at the Windsor end of the bridge.

Ste. Anne’s Feast Day this year in both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms is Tuesday, July 26. On that Tuesday, a High Mass for the Feast of Ste. Anne will be celebrated at Windsor’s Assumption Church at the usual time of 7:00 PM.In Detroit, however, St. Josaphat Church will be taking advantage of a provision in the rubrics for External Solemnities. St. Josaphat’s 9:30 AM Mass on Sunday, July 24 will be for the External Solemnity of Ste. Anne. Tridentine rubrics allow the Feast of the patron saint of a diocese to be moved to the nearest Sunday. As far as we know, St. Josaphat will be the only Tridentine Mass in the Archdiocese of Detroit to celebrate the Mass of Ste. Anne on the Sunday. Veneration of the relic of Ste. Anne will follow the Mass, and a reception will be held in the Parish Hall afterwards.

New Handbell Set Donated

St. Josaphat has a new set of Sanctus Bells to be used at the altar. Many thanks to Kay Welllington, who made the donation in memory of Richard Wellington. This set is more visually appealing than our older set, and its louder sound is more easily audible in the back of the church.

Altar Rails Making a Comeback

The National Catholic Register newspaper published an article on June 2, 2011 concerning the return of Communion Rails to Catholic churches, in both new construction and renovations. Citing both the Holy Father’s example in only distributing Holy Communion to the faithful while kneeling, as well as the resurgence in popularity of the Tridentine Mass since the Holy Father’s 2007 Motu Proprio, Summórum Pontíficum, the article quotes a number of pastors who have added altar rails in recent years. Mundelein (Illinois) Seminary Professor of Architecture Denis McNamara offers the following thought: “...there is a theology of the rail, one which sees it as more than a fence, but as a marker where heaven and earth meet, where the priest, acting in persona Christi, reaches across from heaven to earth to give the Eucharist as the gift of divine life.” The full article may be read at:

It is no longer reasonable – or rational – for diocesan building authorities to prohibit the construction of such liturgical elements, given the rulings, speeches, and examples coming from Rome. It is clear that current legislation supports priests’ right to celebrate the Extraordinary Form, and that right, in turn, conveys a subordinate right to outfit a church appropriately for this liturgy.

Corrections and Clarifications

In our February 6, 2011 column, it was mentioned that the post-Vatican II version of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary edited by Fr. John Rotelle and available from Catholic Book Publishing had not received Vatican approval and thus could not be used for public celebrations. A reader referred us to a page on the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on which it is stated that this book “is approved for use in the dioceses of the United States of America.”

Regarding beeswax candles, books for the Extraordinary Form say that for regular, non-Requiem Masses, candles made of a majority of beeswax are to be used. Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described says that these candles should be 65% beeswax. In today’s marketplace, 65% beeswax candles are not available; the standard has become 51% beeswax, which certainly qualifies as majority beeswax. This is an example of how we need to be realistic when it comes to liturgical standards.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 07/18 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Camillus de Lellis, Confessor)

Tue. 07/19 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. Vincent de Paul, Confessor)
[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 July 17, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Great School of Spirituality: Learning to Love the Divine Office

Dominican Vespers photo by Lawrence OP

By Michael P. Foley

During a recent Angelus address, the Holy Father referred to the liturgy as “a great school of spirituality.” By that the Pope meant not simply the Mass but the Divine Office. Together these two sacrifices—one of the altar, the other of praise—school the believer in the divine mysteries, shaping his sensibilities, honing his judgment, and conditioning his heart to a life of holiness. The Divine Office is also a key to unlocking the great secrets of the Catholic liturgical year: its prayers and readings perfectly complement the propers of the Mass.

Today, however, the Divine Office remains relatively unknown or unused by lay Catholics, even by those who otherwise savor every morsel of our grand and sacred tradition. To address this situation, we offer a brief overview of the Divine Office and discuss some available “back-to-school supplies.”

What It Is

The Divine Office consists of the hours of Matins (originally 12:00 a.m.) and Lauds (3 a.m.), Prime (6 a.m.), Terce (9 a.m.), Sext (12:00 p.m.), None (3 p.m.), Vespers (6 p.m.), and Compline (9 p.m.). Most of these predate Christianity by several centuries. Lauds and Vespers, for instance, are heirs to the grand morning and evening liturgies before the Ark of the Covenant ordered by King David, liturgies in which over a hundred Levites would chant the Psalms.1 Since their institution on Mount Zion, these services have never been discontinued: Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish Diaspora, and now the Church have kept up the daily praise of God in this form.2

The so-called “Little Hours” of Terce, Sext, and None, on the other hand, arose from the Jewish custom of going to the Temple for private prayer at the third (tertia), sixth (sexta), and ninth (nona) hours of the day (Sts. Peter and John were observing this custom when they cured the man lame since birth).3 Finally, Matins, Prime, and Compline were added in the early centuries of Christianity: Matins began as an anticipation of the Second Coming and a commemoration of the Resurrection, while Prime and Compline are the products of early monasticism.

Together, these eight daily sacrifices of praise fulfill Psalm 118:62 and 164 -- “I rose at midnight to give praise to Thee” and “seven times a day I have given praise to Thee.” Moreover, they punctuate the day, helping to keep the soul from becoming overwhelmed by worldly concerns, and they consecrate time itself with the fragrant incense of prayer.

* * * * * * *
Since their institution on Mount Zion, these services have never been discontinued: Solomon’s Temple, the Jewish Diaspora, and now the Church have kept up the daily praise of
God in this form.

* * * * * * *

God’s Prayer Book

The format of each Hour varies, but at their center is the chanting or reciting of the Psalms. As the only book of prayer written by God, the Psalms hold a unique place in the devout life. In the eloquent words of St. Augustine (354-430): “That God may be praised well by man, God Himself has praised Himself; and since He has been pleased to praise Himself, man has found the way to praise Him.”4 St. Basil (330-379) called the Psalter the natural voice of the Church,5 and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-274) goes so far as to say that the Psalms contain the whole of theology.6 No wonder that St. John Chrysostom (347-407) wrote that the Christians of his time used the Psalms more than any other part of the Old or New Testament.7

Special mention must also be made of the Latin hymns in the Breviary (the name of the book that contains the Divine Office). Penned by saints as early as the fourth century, these hymns are, in the words of the great liturgist Fr. Adrian Fortescue, “immeasurably more beautiful than any others ever composed. Other religious bodies take all their best hymns from us. It would be a disgrace if we Catholics were the only people who did not appreciate what is our property.”8

Later History

The Divine Office essentially received its current configuration from Pope St. Gregory the Great, though it continued to develop long after and in somewhat diverging directions. The multiplication of saints’ days, for instance, ended up superseding the weekly rotation of the Psalms, with the result that the whole Psalter was no longer being recited within the year, let alone in a week, as intended by St. Gregory.9 The Council of Trent (1545-1563) was forced to deal with this problem, and calls for radical reform were legion. As Vilma Little, writing in 1957, notes with eerie relevance to our own times: “As so often happens in times of general abuses calling for redress, the suggested remedies would have been worse than the disease. Ruthless plans of wholesale alterations were put forward by certain French and German theorists.”10

Fortunately, Little continues, “the saner views of the more level-headed bishops prevailed.”11 Trent outlined a moderate plan for revising the Breviary, which was enacted by Pope St. Pius V. The Sunday and weekday offices were restored while not upsetting the arrangement as a whole.

Not all changes to the Breviary during the Tridentine period, however, were for the better. In 1632 Pope Urban VIII allowed the spirit of Renaissance humanism to affect the hymns of the Breviary, revising almost all of them so that they would conform to the rules of classical prosody. The original verses of St. Ambrose and the like were butchered on the grounds that they were not “good Latin,” yet the new versions were hardly improvements.

Speaking of the four Jesuits commissioned with revising these hymns, Fortescue writes: “They slashed and tinkered, they re-wrote lines and altered words, they changed the sense and finally produced the poor imitations that we still have in place of the hymns our fathers sang for over a thousand years. Indeed their confidence in themselves is amazing.”12 Fortunately, there is a note in the 1912 Antiphonale stating that the old hymns can be used where they are permissible “by law, custom, or indult.” It is difficult to say what this would mean after Vatican II, but it is my personal opinion that a certain latitude can be applied in good conscience.13

* * * * * * *
“As so often happens in times of general abuses calling for redress, the suggested remedies would have been worse than the disease. Ruthless plans of wholesale alterations were put forward by certain French and German theorists.”

* * * * * * *

But while the modifications made by Trent were sensible, they were not complete; it was left to Pope St. Pius X to enact further reforms. The Pope redistributed the entire Psalter, again with the goal of ensuring its recital within a single week. Further changes were made in 1956 and again in 1960 which simplified certain aspects of the Hours and accorded greater dignity to the Sunday Office.

Around the same time, some editions of the Breviary began to use the Psalterium Novum or Pius XII Psalter,14 which was an unfortunate repeat of the same classicist hubris that marred the hymns in 1632 now applied to the Psalms themselves.15 Fortunately, these Ciceronianized Psalms were made optional but never mandated.

Happily, all of the books considered in this article use only the traditional Vulgate Psalter. The Fraternity of St. Peter has published an impressive, new, two-volume edition of the Breviarium Romanum with the Vulgate and in accord with the rubrics of 1962, and so has Angelus Press. Both of these publications reflect the loving care that went into them: their only drawback, from a typical layman’s perspective, is that they are in Latin only. Baronius Press promises to remedy this with a new, three-volume version in English and Latin based on the popular Collegeville Breviary from 1963, which will be out in August. For bilingual alternatives currently in print, we must turn to the different variations of the Breviary.16


The celebration of the Divine Office has always admitted of greater variety than that of the Mass. To begin with, the Office used by the secular clergy and others (the “Roman Breviary”) was different from the Office used by various monastic orders (the “Monastic Breviary”). And even within this division there were further subdivisions. The Carmelites, Dominicans, Franciscans all had their own versions of the Roman Breviary, to say nothing of different regions and dioceses; and the Benedictines, Carthusians, and Cistercians all had their own versions of the Monastic Breviary.

One of these versions now back in print is St. Michael’s Abbey Press’s The Monastic Diurnal, Or the Day Hours of the Monastic Breviary.17 A diurnal is an abridged monastic Breviary containing only the “day Hours,” that is, every canonical hour except Matins. Diurnals were originally designed to be a handy single volume for monks and nuns to use when they were away from the cloister during the day, but they can also be used by laymen. This edition, originally compiled by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota and published between 1948 and 1963, has been lovingly reproduced according to the highest standards. Bound in Moroccan leather with gilt edges and six cloth marker ribbons, The Monastic Diurnal is a visual treasure. In addition to all of the Psalms one needs for the week, it contains all of the relevant propers for the entire liturgical year in both Latin and English.

Another variation to the Divine Office were the breviaria parva, or “little Breviaries,” abridged editions tailored to specific uses or devotions. The best known of these is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was especially popular with the laity and with religious communities with active apostolates and not a great deal of time for communal or private prayer. A beautiful edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary has been reprinted by Baronius Press featuring a blue leather cover, gilt edges, all of the prayers in both Latin and English, and much helpful information. The Little Office is an exquisite prayer to our Lady: its only drawback is that it does not include the calendar’s various saints of the day and some of its seasons.

Another abridged Breviary, which has been specially published by Angelus Press for use by the laity, is Divine Office: Officium Divinum. This handsome, leather-bound volume contains, in both Latin and English, Sunday Lauds, Prime, Sext, Vespers, and Compline, as well as Prime, Sext, and Compline for the entire week. Each Office and Psalm are prefaced by brief and enlightening excerpts from Fr. Pius Parsch’s The Breviary Explained, the first book of its kind when it was published in the early 1950s. The Divine Office also includes musical notation for much of the chant. Like the Little Office and the other breviaria parva, its only drawback is the absence of feast days.

Not Just For Clerics

A common misconception is that the Divine Office is only for the clergy. It is true that clerics are required to say the Divine Office: indeed, priests and seminarians sometimes joke about this requirement by calling the Office the onus Dei (burden of God) instead of its more poetic title, opus Dei (the work of God).

However, this does not mean that the Church wants the clergy to have a monopoly on the Office. St. Augustine tells us that his mother St. Monica went twice a day to church for Lauds and Vespers in addition to daily Mass,18 and the crusader king St. Louis of France, a man with eleven children and a country to rule, is said to have grieved more about the loss of his Breviary than being taken captive by the Saracens. In addition to hearing Mass twice a day, St. Louis also rose at midnight for Matins and said Prime when he woke in the morning. More recently, the Dominican spiritual master Fr. A.G. Sertillanges recommended Prime to the layman first thing in the morning, for “there are no prayers more beautiful, more efficacious, more inspiring.”19

Solemn Vespers on the Lord’s Day was once so well known among the faithful that Sunday dinner was known in some parts of Europe as the Vespers meal. St. Alphonsus Liguori assumed Sunday Vespers would be available at most parishes when he wrote: “Although there is no express commandment which makes it a mortal sin to be absent from Vespers, yet every good Catholic will make it his duty to attend when he can, and see that his family are present also. We are commanded to sanctify the Lord’s day, and the other Holy days of obligation; but if a Catholic neglects the public service of the Church on Sunday afternoons, without any reasonable excuse, how can it be expected that he will apply himself to sanctity in other ways?”20

Vespers by Karl Brulloff

* * * * * * *
Making the effort to understand the Psalms is well worth it. With their exultations of joy or their impassioned pleas for mercy, help, and even vengeance, the Psalms speak from the heart.

* * * * * * *


The best way to learn any method of prayer is directly from an experienced practitioner. For those who do not have access to such a person, there are several useful resources available. Both Preserving Christian Publications (PCP) and the Fraternity of St. Peter offer reprints of Cardinal Cicognani’s Rubrics of the Roman Breviary and Missal, translated by Leonard Doyle. This booklet contains the English translation of the sections in the Rubricae Generales of the 1962 Missale Romanum and Breviarium Romanum, as well as the motu proprio of Pope John XXIII introducing the changes made to the liturgy in 1960. It explains both the Breviary and Mass in minute detail and contains all of the textual changes of 1960 so that one may use this book in tandem with an older edition of the Missal or Breviary and still stay current. The PCP reprint is more handsome and durable than its FSSP counterpart (which has a comb binding), and subsequently it costs a little more: $15 for the former, $10 for the latter.

PCP has also reprinted Bernard A. Hausman’s Learning the New Breviary, “new” referring to the changes of 1960. Hausman’s little book, which retails for $14, is an excellent introduction to the mechanics of reciting the hours and following the calendar: it is written in clear, accessible prose and follows a “user-friendly” order. In 2008, the Fraternity, on the other hand, came out with its own aptly named Pocket Guide for the Recitation of the Divine Office According to the 1962 Edition of the Breviarium Romanum. This tiny, 21-page booklet is a compendium of all you need to remember about the Breviary once you have already learned it from a more thorough source. It also has a helpful section titled, “Frequently Asked Questions about Reciting the 1962 Breviary.” The Pocket Guide sells for a mere $1.50.

Seeking Understanding

At first, praying the Divine Office can be confusing, but like any other form of prayer, once it becomes familiar, its value becomes apparent. The most valuable part of the Office, however, is also one of its lingering challenges: the Psalms. The Psalms are unquestionably beautiful, but they are often difficult to understand, since we are often ignorant of the context out of which they arose. It is not unusual to recite a Psalm verse and to find oneself asking: “What on earth does that mean?” Yet making the effort to understand the Psalms is well worth it. With their exultations of joy or their impassioned pleas for mercy, help, and even vengeance, the Psalms speak from the heart.

Fortunately, there are several fine aids to assist our efforts. Thomas Merton, before he went a bit screwy in the late 60s, wrote a lovely little book on the Psalms in general entitled Praying the Psalms. A more detailed alternative is St. Robert Bellarmine’s (1542-1621) A Commentary on the Book of Psalms, translated by John O’Sullivan and reprinted by PCP. This well-made, single volume is able to contain Bellarmine’s commentary on every Psalm because it omits some of his more arcane analyses of the Hebrew wording. The result is a readable commentary which, at $56, is an excellent value.

* * * * * * *
The Divine Office essentially received its current configuration from Pope St. Gregory the Great

* * * * * * *

There are also aids to understanding the hymns. Fr. Joseph Connelly’s 1957 Hymns of the Roman Liturgy explains the meaning and history of the 154 hymns of the Roman Breviary, as does Dom Matthew Britt’s 1922 Hymns of the Breviary and Missal. Both are still in print.

For those who pray the Office in Latin, Dom Britt’s A Dictionary of the Psalter is an essential resource. This meticulously researched volume, again reprinted by PCP, provides vital information about the peculiar Latin of the Vulgate not found in typical Latin dictionaries. To give but one example: years ago I used to recite Friday Vespers with my mentor, a priest who had suffered a stroke and was no longer able to read. When we came to Psalm 138:3, funiculum meum investigasti, he would sometimes ask, “What’s a funiculus?” I looked it up in a conventional Latin dictionary and discovered that it meant a thin cord or rope. Hence the verse literally says, “you have investigated my little rope” (the Douay Rheims renders it, “my line thou hast searched out”). That made us even more confused.

Had I only had Britt’s Dictionary, I could have learned that funiculus also signifies a measuring cord, and thus by way of metonymy it refers to one’s estate or inheritance, the portion of land measured out by surveyors’ lines. The verse, then, is stating that God has marked out my inheritance for me; God is not portrayed here not as a glorified string-inspector but a benevolent probate judge. Clearing up that ambiguity alone was worth the price of the book.

As for the Office itself, the text of Parsch’s The Breviary Explained is available online at;21 excerpts from it are also used in Baronius Press’s forthcoming Breviary and in Angelus Press’s abridged Divine Office. Votaries of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, on the other hand, have at their disposal Angelus Press’s reprint of Sr. Marianna Gildea’s 1955 Living the Little Office: Reflections on the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.This accessible book guides the reader through the prayers of the Office as it follows their order. Sr. Marianna’s commentary is insightful but not overbearing.


“It is good to give praise to the Lord,” the psalmist sings, “and to sing to Thy name, O most High: to shew forth Thy mercy in the morning, and Thy truth in the night” (Ps. 91:2-3). How true that is, as those who mold their daily lives to the rhythm of the canonical Hours know so well.

Resources Notes
  1. See 1 Paralip. 15 and 16. [back]
  2. The fact that incense may only be used at Lauds and Vespers hearkens to this Davidic tradition. [back]
  3. Acts 3:1-8. [back]
  4. In Ps. Cxliv, 1. [back]
  5. Homil. In Ps. I, 2. [back]
  6. Postilla super Psalmos, prologue. [back]
  7. Homily 6 on penitence. [back]
  8. Adrian Fortescue, quoted in Michael Davies, The Wisdom of Adrian Fortescue (Roman Catholic Books, 1999), p. 45. [back]
  9. Gregory, in turn, took this arrangement from St. Benedict, the founder of Western monasticism. [back]
  10. Vilma G. Little, The Sacrifice of Praise: An Introduction to the Meaning and Use of the Divine Office (P.J. Kennedy & Sons, 1957), pp. 17-18. [back]
  11. Little, p. 18. [back]
  12. Davies, pp. 30-31. As the old saying has it, Accessit latinitas, recessit pietas: When Latinity came in, piety went out. [back]
  13. It should also be mentioned that the changes of 1632 only affected the Roman Breviary, not the Monastic Breviary. [back]
  14. It is also called the Bea Psalter after its main author, the Jesuit priest Augustin Bea, Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute and confessor of Pius XII who was later made a cardinal by Pope John XXIII. [back]
  15. To be fair, these retranslations were often more accurate renderings of the Hebrew. [back]
  16. Online, however, the impressive contains the entire Breviary in both Latin and English. has a downloadable book of the Diurnale as well as other resources. [back]
  17. The FSSP and PCP also sell an all-Latin Diurnale Romanum. [back]
  18. Confessions 5.9.17. [back]
  19. A.G. Sertillanges, O.P., The Intellectual Life, trans. Mary Ryan (CUA Press, 1998), p. 89. [back]
  20. St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Mission Book: A Manual of Instructions and Prayers Adapted to Preserve the Fruits of the Mission, Drawn chiefly from the works of St. Alphonsus Liguori (NY: D & J Sadlier & Co., 1853), p. 67. [back]
  21. Unfortunately, the rest of the website is a sedevacantist mishmash. [back]
Michael P. Foley is an associate professor of Patristics at Baylor University. He 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, "The Great School of Spirituality: Learning to Love the Divine Office," Latin Mass: The Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring 2011), is reproduced here by kind permission of Latin Mass, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author.

NB: This post is archived at Scripture and Catholic Tradition (July 14, 2011).

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"You can't make things up fast enough ...

... to keep up with reality," as Fr. Z. says.

Make sure to read the fine print (the music choices are especially interesting). St. James Cathedral, of course, is one of Chicago's oldest Episcopal churches. Does it go without saying that this could never happen at a Catholic cathedral?

Update: Just the latest examples:[Hat tip to J.M.]

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Naughty but funny ...

But then, I must have a warped sense of humor ...

Like the author of Rorate Caeli, who today posted this: "Traditional Mass rubrics are nothing...":
...compared to the different versions of the New Mass's "General Instruction of the Roman Missal", and additional documents. It seems there is not only one version per language, or even one per country, but one for each publishing house, and one for each missalette. Perhaps this is what is meant by active participation in the "Ordinary form": things are just so different, from country to country, from diocese to diocese, from parish to parish, between priests in the same parish, or even between masses of the same priest (depending on the "audience"), that one is forced to participate even if only to grasp what local "rite" is actually being celebrated... And this only in English!

They should just leave the name Roman to the "Extraordinary people", and call it the Babel Missal.
[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli]

"The Devil Knows Latin"

Don't you just love that quote from Monsignor Ronald Knox? You know, the one made famous by E. Christian Kopff in his delightful book, The Devil Knows Latin: Why America Needs the Classical Tradition(2001):
Ronald Knox, a wise and witty Catholic priest, when asked to perform a baptism in the vernacular, responded with what his biographer Evelyn Waugh described as “uncharacteristic acerbity”: “The baby does not understand English and the Devil knows Latin” (Kopff xv).
The background story, of course, is that a minor exorcism is part of the traditional Catholic baptismal ritual, involving not only holy water, but exorcised salt and holy chrism oil. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. AD 313 – 386) gives a detailed description of baptismal exorcism (in Procatechesis 14). Hence Msgr. Knox's statement: "The Devil Knows Latin."

Most of Kopff's message about the joys of Latin and importance of classical education in this book will be greeted by your average American run-of-the-shopping-mall philistines with about as much joy as an invitation to attend the Traditional Latin Mass. But never mind the philistines, what matters is whether the claim is true. I remember reading some biographies of 19th-century and early 20th-century British writers about ten years after I began teaching college, and feeling sorely deprived educationally, even with a doctorate in hand. These guys were studying Greek and Latin and reading Virgil's Aeneid and Plutarch's Lives in the original when they were junior high school age.

It may well be true that we don't need to know Latin or have a classical education to be saints; but it may not only help us stave off the barbarous philistinism of our blithely high-tech yet historically oblivious new dark age, but may even help us along the path to sanctity if it happened to help us discover the abundant legacy of the Church's saints, resources for growth in holiness, and rich spiritual heritage of Mater Ecclesia. I would even argue that a classical education has considerable value in itself as a protoevangelium or praeparatio evangelium. Certainly St. Augustine found it so, who, in his Confessions, attests to the help provided him by the Neo-Platonists in overcoming the obstacles to faith produced by his earlier Manichaeism. Further still, Plato's dialogues provide some of the finest rebuttals of the kind of sophomoric relativism that thrives in the postmodernist environments around most contemporary universities. You can't be a relativist and be open to the Gospel.

The Prayer of Enrollment in the Brown Scapular

Tridentine Community News (July 10, 2011):
Each year on the Sunday closest to July 16, the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, both Assumption-Windsor and St. Josaphat Churches bless and distribute Brown Scapulars and enroll those who have not yet been enrolled in the scapular. Enrollment is a form of blessing that is only to be done once in a person’s life. As the enrollment prayer must be prayed in Latin and is rarely printed for the faithful to read, today we are printing the rite in both Latin and English. The text is from the Extraordinary Form Rituále Románum, the Church’s book of rites and blessings. The version for enrolling multiple people is presented, as we ordinarily use on this occasion.


. Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam.
. Et salutáre tuum da nobis.
. Dómine, exáudi oratiónem meam.
. Et clamor meus ad te véniat.
. Dóminus vobíscum.
. Et cum spíritu tuo.

Dómine Jesu Christe, humáni géneris Salvátor, hunc hábitum, quem propter tuum tuaéque Genitrícis Vírginis Maríæ de Monte Carmélo amórem servi tui devóte sunt est delatúri déxtera tua sanctí+fica, ut eádem Genitríce tua intercedénte, ab hoste malígno defénsi in tua grátia usque ad mortem persevérent: Qui vivis et regnas in saécula sæculórum.
. Amen.

Áccipe hunc hábitum benedíctum, precans sanctíssimam Vírginem, ut ejus méritis illum pérferas sine mácula, et te ab omni adversitáte deféndat, atque ad vitam perdúcat ætérnam.
. Amen.

Ego, ex potestáte mihi concéssa, recípio vos ad participatiónem ómnium bonórum spirituálium, quae, cooperánte misericórdia Jesu Christi, a Religiósis de Monte Carmélo peragúntur. In nómine Patris, et Filii, + et Spíritus Sancti.
. Amen.

Bene+dícat vos Cónditor cæli et terræ, Deus omnípotens, qui vos cooptáre dignátus est in Confraternitátem beátæ Maríæ Vírginis de Monte Carmélo; quam exorámus, ut in hora óbitus vestri cónterat caput serpéntis antíqui, atque palmam et corónam sempitérnæ hereditátis tandem consequámini. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
. Amen.


[The candidate for the scapular is kneeling. The priest, vested in surplice and white stole, or at least the latter, says:]

. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
. And grant us Thy salvation.
. O Lord, hear my prayer.
. And let my cry come unto Thee.
. The Lord be with you.
. And with your spirit.

Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of mankind, sanctify + by Thy right hand this habit, to be worn with devotion by Thy servants out of love for Thee and Thy Blessed Mother, our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through her intercession, may they be defended from the hostile foe and persevere in Thy grace until death. Who livrest and reignest forever and ever.
. Amen.

[The priest sprinkles the garment with holy water, and invests the candidate, saying to each one:]

Receive this blessed habit, and call upon the most holy Virgin, that by her merits thou mayest wear it without stain, and be protected by her from all adversity and brought unto life everlasting.
. Amen.

[He continues:]

By the power granted to me, I receive you as a partaker of all the spiritual favors which, by the merciful help of Jesus Christ, are acquired by the religious of the Order of Carmelites. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
. Amen.

May almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth, bless + you – He Who has deigned to choose you for the confraternity of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. And we intercede with our Lady that, in the hour of your death, she will crush the head of the ancient serpent, so that you can finally come into the possession of the crown and palm of the eternal inheritance. Through Christ our Lord.
. Amen.

[He sprinkles the person with holy water.

If only the habit is to be blessed, the blessing begins with the versicle “Show unto us, O Lord”, and concludes with the prayer “O Lord Jesus Christ.”]

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Mon. 07/11 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (Feria [Celebrant may choose a Votive Mass])

Tue. 07/12 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Assumption-Windsor (St. John Gualbert, Abbot)

Sun. 07/17 Noon: High Mass at St. Albertus (Fifth Sunday After Pentecost)
[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 July 10, 2011. Hat tip to A.B.]

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Card. Levada opines about the upcoming Assisi meeting

As Fr. Z notes, ZENIT carried this report today, in which Cardinal Levada endeavors to allay misgivings and correct "misinterpretations" of the Vatican's intentions in the forthcoming Assisi meeting between the Pope and leaders of other world religions.

As in the preceding article (about changes in the music rubrics for the New Novus Ordo Missal), there are some great theoretical clarifications, but it's hard to be confident about how much difference these will make on the ground where the rubber meets the road.

According to ZENIT's summary, Cardinal Levada's statement about the forthcoming Assisi meeting, implies that it's "not a question of hiding the faith for the sake of a superficial unity, but of confessing — as John Paul II and the Ecumenical Patriarch then did — that Christ is our peace"; that "all men are called to union with Christ," (quoting Lumen Gentium, 3), and that "the Church must be leaven of this unity." Furthermore, that the title for this October's conference, "Pilgrims of Truth, Pilgrims of Peace," shows, it claims, that truth is being made a criterion for the building of peace and unity. "Peace without truth is not possible," stated the Cardinal.

All well and good. But then there is the following to consider: Pope Clement XIII writes, in In Dominico Agro:
The faithful -- especially those who are simple or uncultivated -- should be kept away from dangerous and narrow paths upon which they can hardly set foot without faltering. The sheep should not be led to pasture through trackless places. Nor should peculiar ideas -- even those of Catholic scholars -- be proposed to them. Rather, only those ideas should be communicated which are definitely marked as Catholic truth by their universality ...

... Therefore, in case the Church should be deceived and wander after the flocks of the companions who are themselves wanderers and unsettled with no certainty of truth, who are always learning but never arriving at the knowledge of truth, they proposed that only what is necessary and very useful for salvation be clearly and plainly explained in the Roman Catechism and communicated to the faithful.

... [I]t is of the utmost importance that you choose for the office of communicating Christian teaching to the faithful not only men endowed with theological knowledge, but more importantly, men who manifest humility, enthusiasm for sanctifying souls, and charity. The totality of Christian practice does not consist in abundance of words nor in skill of debating nor in the search from praise and glory but in true and voluntary humility. There are those whom a greater wisdom raises up but also separates from the society of other people. The more they know, the more they dislike the virtue of harmony. (Emphasis added)
Clarity is such a simple thing, really, clarity such as could allay all doubts. Let the Pope proclaim at Assisi the simple words of Jesus: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli and WDTPRS]

Dramatic theoretical changes in N.O. music rubrics

Jeffrey A. Tucker has a good article, entitled "Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal" (The Chant Cafe, July 8, 2011). He refers to the "dramatic changes" coming with the New Missal -- which they are, in principle. I say that these changes are dramatic "theoretically," because I am not very sanguine that the stipulated changes will make any substantial difference in most suburban AmChurch parishes. While I know that in God's providence anything is possible, I also think that too many people just don't really care what Rome says anymore. Miserere, Domine.

[Hat tip to Fr. Z.]

Latin will always be the ideal liturgical language

Peter Kwasniewski

Many convincing arguments can be and have been given in favor of preserving the Latin language in the rites of the Roman Catholic Church—as even the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (1963) stated that it should be, following close on the heels of John XXIII’s remarkable Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientiae of 1962.1 As we all know, Pope John XXIII’s and the Council’s reaffirmations of Latin in the liturgy were more or less cancelled out completely by the ill-considered decisions of Pope Paul VI, who once more demonstrated to the world that if the pope enjoys the charism of infallibility when teaching the truths of faith and morals, he enjoys no such gift in regard to particular prudential judgments, including the dispositions of the liturgy in its changeable elements.2 In any case, my purpose in this article is not to catalog and review the many arguments in favor of Latin, a task that has already been well explored by traditionalist authors, but merely to speak of some of my own personal experiences of where and when the impressive unity of Latin would have made so much more sense in real life than the Babel of vernacular languages.

My wife and I lived in Austria for seven and a half years. Being in Europe convinced me past all doubt, if I had any doubts, that the switch after the Council to an exclusive use of the vernacular for the Mass was the dumbest change that could have been made. Not to mince words: the switch to vernacular is the utmost example of postconciliar near-sightedness. Instead of making the Mass more deeply accessible, it localizes, particularizes, and relativizes it, shutting off everyone who does not speak the local tongue; traveling or immigrant Catholics are thrust into a foreign environment that alienates them far more than the solemn Latin liturgy ever alienated the simplest peasant. In fact, due to its pervasive aura of sacredness and its perceptible focus on the mystery of the Eucharist, the traditional liturgy, even when the words are not fully understood, shapes the soul better than the new liturgy when cerebrally understood.

The irony can be seen on many levels.

* * * * * * *
Latin is universal and is not the daily language of any modern nation or people. There is no cultural imperialism in the use of Latin, but rather a visible sign of the Church of Christ reaching out to all nations, leading them back to unity in one faith, one communion, one worship of God.

* * * * * * *

First, Latin is universal and is not the daily language of any modern nation or people. There is no cultural imperialism in the use of Latin, but rather a visible sign of the Church of Christ reaching out to all nations, leading them back to unity in one faith, one communion, one worship of God. If the use of Latin were argued to be a form of cultural imperialism, we would have to go further and say that proclaiming and preaching the Trinity or the Incarnation is a form of theological imperialism destructive of pagan African, Asian, and European cultures and religions, or that the very use of the same Mass, the same missal (in however many vernacular tongues), is a form of liturgical imperialism destructive of the peculiar ways that an Aborigine might choose to worship Christ. There is no escaping this logic: if you deny the fittingness of a universal presence of Latin, a universality insisted on by none other than Blessed John XXIII, you are on the road to denying the universality of Christian doctrine and worship.

Second, modern Europeans in general are strongly multilingual,3 which makes Latin easy enough for them to get used to, as indeed they once were, not many decades ago. There has never been an age where Latin would be more accessible than now, precisely on account of the “globalization” taking place. If men of Switzerland or Denmark can and often must speak several languages, what would be the difficulty of liturgy in Latin? It would be a source of international unity among believers, far more than idiosyncratic local liturgies could ever be. In those years in Europe, I participated in many liturgies that would have gone far more smoothly had they simply been in Latin. On my sole visit to Lourdes, I attended a Mass in which the languages were being shifted constantly to accommodate the international congregation, a kind of elaborate show of linguistic gymnastics that I found highly distracting, almost impossible to pray with. The already overly verbal and self-involved character of the new liturgy was heightened all the more by this preoccupation with proportional coverage of language groups.

Third, and building on the last point, because literacy has spread everywhere, large numbers of people are in a position to follow along with a hand missal or a booklet that reproduces the Ordinary of the Mass. Even the illiterate, who often enjoy (in compensation, as it were) a rich oral culture and a high level of intuitive understanding, will benefit from sermons in their own tongue that explain the Mass, as Romano Guardini explained it to his German congregations. Moreover, as Jacques Maritain says in Peasant of the Garonne, the believer who, by simply kneeling at Mass and letting his mind be drawn to heavenly things, is caught up in silent worship of God, does not need words, missals, long readings and sermons; it is enough for him to be there. As the peasant of Ars put it: “He looks at me and I look at Him.” When the liturgy breaks this immediate spiritual contact in favor of the specious immediacy of verbal didacticism, it does the ultimate disservice to the spiritual lives of believers.

Fourth, the longed-for fraternity of nations and peace on earth — what could serve this aspiration better than a liturgy everywhere the same? An American traveling in France, a German traveling in Spain, an Italian traveling in Denmark, indeed an Asian in Africa or an Indian in Australia, all of them would find themselves “back home” in the local parish church. And given the importance G. K. Chesterton and Gabriel Marcel rightly place on this deep and inexpressibly consoling feeling of “being at home,” should not the Church do everything in her power to make the liturgy the very place where one can always be “at home,” no matter where one is? Not, of course, by making the liturgy chummy and casual, but by ensuring that it remains deeply familiar in its identity, coherence, consistency, and stability.

* * * * * * *
The believer who, by simply kneeling at Mass and letting his mind be drawn to heavenly things, is caught up in silent worship of God, does not need words, missals, long readings and sermons; it is enough for him to be there. As the peasant of Ars put it: “He looks at me and I look at Him.”

* * * * * * *

We are living in the age of travel, the age of the “global village.” At least in the Western world, almost everyone travels now at some point or another; there has never been a time in the entire history of the world when so vast a number of people take trips within their country as well as to foreign countries. How foolish it was to break down the universal mode of worship just when it has become more pertinent than ever! The ancient Roman rite emphatically illustrates and admirably furthers the purpose of human brotherhood — and, as Henri de Lubac observes, there is definitive brotherhood only in a common adoration of God. In the realm of the Novus Ordo, however, the liturgical celebrations illustrate a diversity or plurality that is not traced back to unity and universality, as is painfully evident to a traveler who speaks few or no other languages than his own. Once upon a time, parishes and chapels across the entire globe testified to the profound inner unity of the Catholic (that is, universal) Church; now there is only the tired Protestant phenomenon of localization.

This last point deserves a bit of development. The era of the old liturgy in fact left much room for inculturation or local adaptation, whether in the design of churches, in the style of vestments, in the layout and decoration of sanctuaries, or in popular hymns, carols, and processions. Nevertheless, the one constant axis was the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which remained the same from the rising of the sun to its setting, and testified in its very language to an unbroken unity with Rome, the mystical-historical seat of the Church founded by Christ. The incarnational scandal of the particular was never sacrificed in view of temporary and superficial gains; Christ was never declared to be an African or an Asian, a female or a hermaphrodite, in order to win converts from paganism, feminism, gnosticism, etc. The Faith is founded on the rock of Peter, by providence Bishop of Rome, and this utmost particularity will remain until the end of time, as an image of the even greater scandal of the particularity of Christ, a Jewish man born in Nazareth during the heyday of the Roman Empire. The Chinese Catholic, as a man and as Chinese, worships God in communion with Rome. This is what the old liturgy proclaimed, in blissful and holy ignorance of the shallow charge of “cultural imperialism,” which of course the proclamation of truth can never be, even though the Gospel was given to mankind through the most particular of all particular circumstances.

The Baptism of Christ by the Master of the Saint Bartholomew Altar

Some years ago, I was taken aback when a friend forwarded me a discussion by a conservative Catholic apologist who had come out in full arms and armor to defend the vernacularization of the Mass after the Council. My first impression was that his panoply of arguments, though reasonable-sounding, had already been rehearsed by the promoters of the Consilium’s “reform” back in the 1960s, and had not gained in truth or persuasiveness with the intervening decades. My second impression was that I was looking at a case of old-fashioned dissent. Pope John XXIII in his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientiae, solemnly signed in St. Peter’s Basilica on the very eve of the Second Vatican Council, declares Latin to be the language of the Church’s worship, explains why it is the superior language for liturgy, and resolutely concludes that no other language could serve as well. This Constitution has been contradicted a million times over since its promulgation, but it has never been rescinded nor its contents abrogated. It may be that a future pope will be able to take it up again with praise when the full effects of Summorum Pontificum have permeated the Church.

In any case, the apologist argued that Latin was the common language of ancient Rome, and so we ought to be using the common language of our day and age. Well, Latin certainly was the common language of many members of the Catholic Church once upon a time, in the declining Roman Empire, but already in the early Middle Ages, with the invasions of barbarian tribes speaking a plethora of languages, Latin became more and more a monastic and academic tongue, and at the popular level morphed into early forms of the Romance languages, such as the Italian dialect in which Dante wrote his Divine Comedy, or the Neapolitan dialect St. Thomas Aquinas used when preaching in his native territory. Thus, we may safely say that for over a thousand years the Catholic Church was worshiping in a language that had become a fixed, formal, sacred language, just as Hindus use Sanskrit, Jews Hebrew, Moslems Arabic, and so on.

* * * * * * *
I was looking at a case of old-fashioned dissent. Pope John XXIII in his Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientiae, solemnly signed in St. Peter’s Basilica on the very eve of the Second Vatican Council, declares Latin to be the language of the Church’s worship, explains why it is the superior language for liturgy, and resolutely concludes that no other language could serve as well. This Constitution has been contradicted a million times over since its promulgation, but it has never been rescinded nor its contents abrogated.

* * * * * * *

It was also plain silly for this apologist to assert that most people in the old days didn’t understand what was going on at Mass. From what I can tell, it seems fair to say that far more people in the old days knew what was going on at Mass — essentially — and why it was important, than people know nowadays, even though the Mass is in their own language! Now, I don’t blame the language for this, I blame the clergy, as well as the mendacious translation that was foisted by the original ICEL on the English-speaking world. Still, the tectonic shift in language signified in the popular mind a shift in the very meaning of what was taking place in church, and hence, over time, a further deviation in the faith of the people regarding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Will it ever be possible to calculate the damage done to the Church by the banishment of Latin from her public worship? I think not. We have little conception of the true extent of the harm, just as we have trouble imagining the size of the earth, the solar system, or the galaxy we are in. By the sudden cessation and replacement of the solemn sacred language that for nearly 2,000 years had been the tongue, the voice, part of the inmost character, of the Western Church, the false attitude and opinion already circulating at the time of the Council that the past is utterly meaningless to the present and the present must be liberated from the past, must ignore the past, was confirmed and, as it were, forever institutionalized. In the very fact of vernacular worship is embodied the hermeneutic of discontinuity, a feeling of superior enlightenment and superior mission, as though now we finally understand, now we finally know what we are to do in the modern world. “Fools, for they have not far-reaching minds,” as Empedocles once said. What we ought to do in the modern world is nothing other than precisely what we have always been doing in every age. The mistake was made in thinking that we could do better. For our punishment, we have been permitted not only to do much worse, but to burn many of the bridges that lead back to doing better.

* * * * * * *
Will it ever be possible to calculate the damage done to the Church by the banishment of Latin from her public worship? I think not. We have little conception of the true extent of the harm, just as we have trouble imagining the size of the earth, the solar system,
or the galaxy we are in.

* * * * * * *

Although he hated many features of the Catholic liturgy after his break from Rome, Martin Luther retained respect for the Latin tongue that he was compelled to use when addressing intellectuals. Actually, the case is even more embarrassing for today’s Latin-loathing Catholics, inasmuch as Luther had the basic psychological insight to realize that Latin adds something to the liturgy and that it should not simply be thrown out, as can be seen in his preservation of the Latin language in Lutheran worship—a custom that lasted well into the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose more compact settings of the Gloria and Sanctus are not crypto-Catholic oddities but perfectly useful Lutheran church music. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are pockets of conservative Lutherans out there who still sing in Latin, when their Catholic neighbors have long since forgotten even how to pronounce, let alone sing, “Agnus Dei.” Is it not long past the time when the Pope and the appropriate dicasteries at the Vatican should do something about this travesty, this amnesia of our own identity, history, culture, and mother tongue of worship?

Maybe someday historians will be able to look back and see that Summorum Pontificum marked a decisive shift in the “language wars” — a phrase by which I advert not to the more pedestrian, albeit still important, question of whether the ordinary form is well translated, but rather, to the more intriguing and more consequential question of whether a liturgy that has been cut off from its age-old roots in the Latin language and the piety of the Latin rite can survive in the long run. Maybe the motu proprio marks the beginning of a movement that will culminate, decades or centuries later, in the rightful triumph of the Roman liturgy, the Mass of our forefathers, the Mass of the ages. For this quixotic but, with God’s power, manifestly achievable goal, we should certainly not fail to get on our knees to pray: Miserere nobis, Domine.

  1. Vatican II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, states: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (36.1); “steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them” (54); “In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office” (101.1). Even Annibale Bugnini writes in his memoirs: “The conclusion reached in this debate [between partisans of Latin and partisans of the vernacular] was ultimately set forth in Chapter I of the Constitution on the Liturgy, where the question is answered in a way that reconciles the rights of Latin and the need of the vernaculars in celebrations with the people” (The Reform of the Liturgy [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1990], 25). Would that the rights of Latin had been respected by Paul VI. [back]

  2. Although I sympathize with many arguments given by the “reform of the reform” people, I cannot agree with their contention that Latin has always remained the language of the liturgy. It is, of course, the language of the editio typica on which translations are based, but the Vatican has done next to nothing in the past forty years to ensure that Latin remain the language of the Novus Ordo Mass anywhere. Already when Paul VI introduced the new missal, he lamented the loss of Latin it would bring, and said it was a valid sacrifice because of how greatly the vernacular would serve the contemporary needs of the Church. Whenever John Paul II mentioned Latin, he reserved for it a small place, not the dominant place given it by John XXIII and Vatican II. It is not clear to me that Pope Benedict XVI has made great efforts yet to see that the Ordinary Form be celebrated far and wide using the Latin typical edition; rather, he has encouraged the use of the Extraordinary Form, which, Deo gratias, remains in the Church’s mother tongue. [back]

  3. The time is not far distant when Americans will have to get used to being bilingual, so the points I make in this paragraph will be relevant to our English-Spanish situation. [back]

[Dr. Peter A. Kwasniewski is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College. The present article, "Latin Will Always Be the Ideal Liturgical Language," was originally published in The Latin Mass: A Journal of Catholic Culture and Tradition, Vol. 20, No. 2 (Spring 2011), pp. 6-9, and is reprinted here by kind permission of Latin Mass Magazine, 391 E. Virginia Terrace, Santa Paula, CA 93060, and the author. This article is permanently archived at Scripture and Catholic Tradition.]