Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Painted Churches of Texas I: St. Mary of the Assumption

Ecce quam et quam iucundum habitare fratres in unum!

This past weekend a group of friends, His All Traddiness included, ventured down to something called Austin, TX, a town famous for drunk escapades on 6th street, Whole Foods, and for fifteen years the home of Rick Perry. Its rural surroundings—possibly the only hills in the barren state of Texas—quietly hold a treasure of delectable barbecues and painted churches.

Readers will recall J's post on St. Peter's, the "painted" church of Lindsay, TX. Painted churches are not an historical anomaly in central Texas, which saw a remarkable settlement of Slavic and German migrants from central and Eastern Europe. They built modestly sized parishes and furnished them in baroque fashion to the best of their ability. Statues and ornate reredros graze the sanctuaries, but when of the ceilings, walls, cornices, and other crevices that would be gilt and covered in 18th century masterpieces in the old world? These immigrants took brushes to the plain Texan wood and created something quite extraordinary in these little low Mass chapels.

The first church in this series is St. Mary of the Assumption in Flatonia, TX. The community dates to 1865, but the current edifice is a few decades newer. As with all the painted churches we saw, there is an adjacent cemetery; one would be baptized, married, communicated, and buried in the same tradition and among the same people, a contrast to our mobile society not lost on my cadre.

A side altar. St. Joseph has some grey streaks. The Infant of Prague reflect the Czech origin of the parish.

The high altar. The periodic statues of the Sacred Heart and Immaculate Heart have aged very well
compared to others. Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Greek missionaries to Latin lands, are visible on
the Epistle side. The Paul VI forward altar matches the existing design of the church. We did
not notice it until getting closer.

The Baptismal font, capped by the Forerunner baptizing Our Lord in the Jordan, is preserved in
it original place and has withstood the Pacellian and Pauline novelties. The Bapistry is still
a gated, fenced area of this modestly sized church, which could hold perhaps 70 souls.

The parish doors look to be candidates for "renewal."

A perspective on just how modest the parish is. For an immigrant built built by a few dozen poor,
farming families they certainly accomplished something more attractive and lasting than
modern church architects or traditionalists have managed in recent times.

The pulpit has a sounding board to carry the echo.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Te lucis ante terminum

Through the miracle of time I have rediscovered the office of Compline. Although it was the first hour I really learned to say on my own accord I fell out of the practice of saying it in the years since finishing school and finding my life regulated by the daily and monthly pulse of American corporate finance, month end close, and quarterly reports to the Street. I began Vespers several years ago and anticipate Mattins and Lauds for Sundays and major feasts, but the non-major hours (horae minores are during the day???) rarely appear in my life, save Sundays and long vacations.

I was introduced to the old Latin liturgy long ago in the form of the "Traditional Latin Mass," but did not discover the Divine Office until 2011, when I went to Oxford and found the Office to be the pulse of St. Aldate Street. The Dominicans said the full Liturgy of the Hours in English daily while the Oratorians, where my shadow haunted for latria, used the 1962 Vespers for Sundays and the eve of major feasts. At some level I grew to love the Office more than the Mass if only because the Mass is required out of obligation, whereas a layman only attends the Hours out of devotion. Upon return to the States I began saying Compline according to the Tridentine form before going to bed. For a tired mind looking for an evening blessing, Compline is more focused than "Bless mommy, bless daddy, good night, Lord."

Compline is an altogether different sort of Office, both in structure and purpose, from the rest of the hours in the Roman breviary. The major hours (Vespers, Mattins, Lauds) descend from the vigil of psalms and readings that took place at night before the Eucharistic sacrifice in ancient days and which solidified in their extant, pre-1911 form by the age of St. Benedict, if not earlier. The daytime hours (Terce, Sext, None) grew out of non-cleric devotion in the major Roman basilicas by those who wished to pray and sanctify the entire day; because those who sang it were commoners unable to print book on demand, the psalter remained fixed for these hours. Prime and Compline have their origin in the monasteries around Jerusalem and functioned as "fillers" for gaps in the day when a monk might lapse in his prayer. St. John Cassian remarked during his 382 AD visit to Bethlehem that Prime had not yet been adopted everywhere in the East. Similarly, he knows nothing of the tradition already practiced by St. Basil of reciting psalm 90 (Qui habitat in adiutorio) before bed. When Benedict left Rome and brought the basilica psalter with him, he may have brought a newly settled custom of praying other psalms with psalm 90 before sleep.

Compline's distinction in structure and repetition in text makes it an easy hour to commit to memory and hence very suitable for those tiresome moments before bed when creative thought and reflection fail. The words themselves carry a weight of reassurance and tenderness:
Procul recedant somnia,
Et noctium phantasmata;
Hostemque nostrum comprime,
Ne polluantur corpora.
For a brief while I attempted the Divino Afflatu rendition of this hour, but found the variable psalms and antiphons antithetical to the very purpose of this Office. Indeed, Compline helped me realize that Pius X and Paul VI's overhaul of the Roman Office was far more radical than what the latter did to the Missal.

Compline represents a marvelous entry point into the Roman Office and deeper liturgical prayer. This prayer for a safe rest under Our Lord's watch, like an "apple to His eye", is approachable in its brevity and constancy while being less mundane than the horae minores of the day: a Confession, a few psalms, a short hymn, a canticle, and a prayer to Our Lady; most remarkable to me, at least in the Tridentine Office, is that the last words on the Christian's lips before sleep are the Pater, the Ave, and the Apostles' Creed. Seven Office sanctify the day, but only one the night!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

St. Joseph the Burly

The following photo (not for the faint of heart) appeared recently on Christopher West's Facebook page, with the author's usual semi-disturbing commentary. Mr. Grump thinks that Joseph looks more like a blacksmith than a Roman occupation-era carpenter, or like I imagine Beorn from The Hobbit, but that's what happens when I am not consulted on these matters. I suppose we can thank our lucky stars that the art student did not also see fit to make the Virgin look like an American pop star.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Waiting for the Call

A recent visit to Café Preténse with the Little Lady was punctuated by a visit with an old friend who had recently been tossed back into the world by a small-minded women’s religious order. In the course of our conversation, she let slip that another mutual friend of ours—currently married and mother of a cheery little tyke—had undergone months of scruples related to the religious life when she and her then-boyfriend had asked their pastor for advice about proceeding towards marriage. This sorely misguided priest started the process of marriage discernment by asking them both if they had fully discerned against the religious life, rather than getting to know them in their own situations and individual histories. Our mutual friend spent almost half a year tormenting herself about whether or not she had a religious vocation (not for the first time) while her longsuffering man looked on, until she finally allowed him to propose marriage.

The “process of discernment” is a semi-mystical mental torture device that could only exist in a first-world land where youths are encouraged to spend years deciding between too many professional choices instead of taking up the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood at a young age. Young Catholics are told to pray and listen quietly for God’s “calling” to their individual souls, to try and sort out what the Spirit is telling them to do with their lives. The priesthood, socially active religious life, contemplative orders, the married state, and “singleness” are all said to be valid “callings” for the young Catholic.

Baloney, says Mr. J. Grump. Being raised Evangelical Protestant (as I never tire of reminding our longsuffering readers), I was presented with a similar choice by a well-meaning youth pastor in my pre-college years: between a life of “ministry” and mere church-going. The “ministry” was divided into various parts, such as missionary work, pastoral positions, song and dance, and evangelism, although the married life was expected as the norm. I decided early on that I had no interest in a life of “ministry,” since I didn’t want the failure of other people’s spiritual lives to hang on my poor advice.

The American Catholic approach is more sinister, although I could not quite put my finger on the nature of the problem until reading Richard Butler, O.P.’s Religious Vocation: An Unnecessary Mystery (1961). Fr. Butler also had no patience for the baloney of vocational discernment as it exists in common parish life.
The mind of man, however, tends to multiply mysteries unnecessarily. Given the light, he often prefers darkness. Perhaps it is just a natural tendency to intellectual sloth: whatever is difficult to grasp I will dismiss as mystery; a mystery is inexplicable and therefore does not require, since it cannot achieve, thorough understanding…. Religious vocation—the call to follow Christ by observing His counsels [poverty, chastity, and obedience] as well as His commands—is a matter of public revelation. The human response to this divine invitation is a matter of public history. And yet an aura of mystery has beclouded this simple invitation in the popular mind to the point of complication and confusion for both the observer of and the participant in religious life—an established state in which one can achieve, more safely and securely, the common Christian goal of perfection in charity….
The specific crime is that of relegating religious vocation to the realm of Gnosticism, making of it an esoteric private inspiration. At least that is the unmistakable tone of their conversation and propaganda on the subject…. Religious life is not an extra, not a luxury, not a peculiar path for exceptional souls in the pursuit of Christian perfection. It is necessary for the apostolic work of the Church and for the personal salvation of some of its members….
We have to sympathize with the perplexed young soul, pondering an eternal future and seeking a safer route, who is vaguely instructed: “My dear friend, in your heart of hearts, ask yourself if God is not calling you.” The anxious reader of such advice is sent out on a scavenger hunt for a divine communication. His search is bound to be futile. He is not sure, and neither am I, exactly what one’s “heart of hearts” is. He does not know where to look, or, for that matter, what to look for. What is this “call?” How do you get it? And how do you know when you have it? (4-5, 7, 8)
Butler’s observation on the degradation of spiritual advice in these matters eventually delves deeper into St. Thomas Aquinas and the Church Fathers, and there is a great deal of eye-rolling at the scrupulosity of spiritual directors who demand that young people spend months or years asking God and themselves if they “have a vocation.” The solution is actually quite simple: we are all called (vocare) to observe the counsels, but all required to observe the commands. A calling is not a command, and never can be. Not all can make themselves eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom. Not all can live without the marriage bed. Not all can submit their will entirely to another. The desire to live the religious life of the three counsels is not one to be excessively deliberated over—“In fact, [St. Thomas] says, don’t seek advice except from those who will encourage you!” (26)—and one desirous of this life should simply seek out the nearest monastery and begin to live the counsels as much as possible until he is accepted into an order. Those who know their own weakness, whether by birth or because of the long-term effects of past sin, should not scruple about marrying or otherwise finding an alternative to a life dedicated solely to the good of the Church.

The term “vocation” in ecclesiastical usage “more directly and properly applies to the divine selection of candidates to the priesthood,” but only in the sense that the candidate for ordination is called by the bishop, “for there is no directly revealed call [from God] to certain individuals to the priesthood, except in extraordinary cases like that of St. Paul” (155).

For my own part, I lost interest in the priesthood during the abuse scandal revelations, and in the religious life after my first exposure to the rapping Franciscans (I imagine this was similar to a person forever swearing off marriage after accidentally seeing his grandparents engage in adult activities). There is little to love in the religious life as it is lived today, aside from the occasional pockets of stubborn traditionalism, and the priesthood is faring much worse. We are ripe for a modern-day Rabelais to satirize our ecclesiastical state.

Mr. Grump and his Little Lady left the Café with concern for our newly-secularized friend, but with some hope that she would still pursue the counsels. The poor judgment of postulant directors notwithstanding, the practice of the counsels is not meant to be easily abandoned by those who earnestly desire it. As Fr. Butler writes elsewhere in his book,
The only impediment to entering religious life considered by St. Jerome was the physical obstacle of a father lying prostrate across the threshold to prevent a child from entering the cloister; and in this case, St. Jerome advised stepping over him to fulfill this holy resolve and get to the convent. (26)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

American Righteousness: Reinventing History

"He won't vote for my bill, so I'm thinking of blackmailing him," said my friend. "I have concrete evidence he's an active gay."
"He's a family values Republican, isn't he?" I guessed.
"Yes, of course."

So went a discussion with a friend and career lobbyist who travels the country to get bills for his causes through various state and federal channels. This exchange would have been archived in my mind if not for a related exchange at the office yesterday while my coworkers and I watched Donald Trump's presidential inauguration on YouTube during lunch.

You see, readers abroad, Evangelical Christians (hereafter 'Vangies) became a force in American politics in the 1980s when a chap named Falwell endorsed Ronald Reagan and drove Southern religionists to the polls en masse on the basis of their Bible faith. They wanted America to be Reagan and Winthrop's "city on a hill", a moral example for the rest of the world. After their influence in culture brought about a new age of prudishness in the '90s to counteract the Wall Street excesses and cocaine vibe of the '80s, they got their own president in George W. Bush in 2000. After the 2004 re-election of the personable and likable, but indecisive and occasionally inept, Bush, their power waned as the Republican party put forth two dullish candidates. But last year they became relevant again, as billionaire playboy Donald Trump staged a hostile takeover of the Republican party with the support of celebrity pastors and preachers throughout the Bible Belt. The 'Vangies voted for the thrice married playboy over the ostentatiously religious Ben Carson and Lyin' Ted Cruz for a host of reasons that can be covered by other writers. The 'Vangies voted in numbers like it was 1984 again. And yet a significant number of the 'Vangies refused to vote for Trump, who claims to want to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which disempowered religious groups from making political endorsements while keeping their tax exempt status. The reason why some 'Vangies, at least the ones I call coworkers, refused to vote for the man "with synthetic hair" (cf. Jeremy Clarkson) has to do with the recent re-invention of American history by the Religious Right and its projection of its own values into other people's past.

Frederick Jackson Turner called the "frontier" the essence of the American story, the constant search for the new by rugged individuals shunning accepted society and means. As far as geography and ingenuity go, Turner was right. The essence of early American politics is different, though. America's first president was a Deist who frequented Anglican services; the second was a Unitarian, hence not a Christian by any post-Reformation standard; the third was something between a Deist and an atheist who detested the Catholic Church; the sixth was agnostic and swore his oath of office on a stack of legal papers, hardly the makings of a righteous governor. Early American leaders were children of the Enlightenment without the brutal rearing of the French Revolution. They took Christianity for granted as the religion of the masses and occasionally partook of it themselves in moments of need, but it was something of a foible to them, a security blanket for Turner's frontiersmen. Two centuries later came the idea that America was founded as a fundamentally Christian country, when in fact the Puritans who settled Massachusetts were expelled by Anglicans because they were stark raving mad spiritual terrorists. 

How does this figure into the copious number of 'Vangies who went #NeverTrump and who derided the bombastic billionaire as he took power? Our favorite sociologist, Robert Nisbet, made two startling observations about the role of protestant theology in religious culture. First, that "Three principle elements of Christianity were left in Protestant theology: the lone individual, an omnipotent, distant God, and divine grace." Second, that "In Protestantism there has been a persistent belief that to externalize religion is to degrade it. Only in the privacy of the individual soul can religion remain pure. There has been little sympathy for the communal, sacramental, and disciplinary aspects of religion." Attending services and living a Christian life is not enough to be a good Christian by this scheme of things. If one is really saved, a la Calvin, one should behave like one who is saved. While this sounds like it should elicit behavior in the protestant akin to a Catholic who attends Mass and Confession, it is not. While the admonition not to judge another's soul still holds, external displays of belief (the Sacraments, pilgrimage, penance, liturgy) are unavailable in a privatized religion, so what is private must be displayed in public for all to see.

For four decades now the Religious Right has sought leaders who will both advance their agenda and display their own virtues as a form of cultural evangelism. As a businessman, many 'Vangies were able to embrace Trump for the first reason, yet many refused him because he fails miserably on the latter. 

"I was reading a blog about what happens when you don't elect righteous leaders."
"He never said he was sorry for all the things he did, how mean he is."
"He has no repentance."
"He isn't really Christian."
"No way, no how."

As I rolled my eyes I was asked why the Catholic Church does not have special services for the Fourth of July and other American holidays. I attempted to explain that there will often be Masses said for the welfare of the country on that day, but that services geared specifically towards gratitude for the nation, as if it were of Divine Right, would be inappropriate. "You know," one lectured, "most patriotic songs are about what? They are about God!" There was no point in telling her that the Church does not worship countries, much less countries that never officially held the faith in the first place.

"No one is a better Christian than I am,
folks, no one."
This issue may well become a moot point in the rapidly secularizing American society. President Trump himself seems to lack any religious scruples, which is fitting since the first president lacked them, too. The real thing to be grasped is a lesson rather than a problem. A large, possibly deteriorating force in American politics is still grasping for the outwardly pious family values Republicans of the '90s and in doing so ensure their own irrelevance.

A devout Catholic with any knowledge of history can still be patriotic, serve in the armed forces in good conscience, and be an upstanding member of the community. What he cannot do is pretend that America was created to be God's paradise on earth or Winthrop's City on a Hill. I would be more sympathetic if people simply expressed a desire for a leader worthy of admiration, which is unlikely, but more possible in our age than a "righteous" one.

In the words of Geoffrey Hull, "In the American philosophy man's highest purpose is to assert his 'inalienable right' to 'Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness' on earth. Eternal life is an optional extra for those who choose to believe in it" (238). 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Here at the End of All Things

With the centennial of the appearance of the Virgin Mary at Fatima rapidly approaching, a fresh round of eschatological predictions have begun in the traddosphere and beyond. While I’m a bit of a wet blanket on the Fatima Parade, I can’t ignore the historical significance of the Mother of God initiating a major celestial sign seen even by blasphemers and unbelievers. The hundredth anniversary of her appearances would not be an unreasonable time for her to reappear and remind us of our duties towards God.

I grew up in an atmosphere of calm, Protestant assurance that the End Times, they were a-comin’. My family’s bookshelves were filled with prophetic insights into the events of the 1970s and 80s, with authors like Hal Lindsey, Salem Kirban, and Jack Chick forming the apocalyptic imagination of my childhood. The creation of the modern state of Israel in 1948 was considered a special sign that God was preparing to wrap things up in a big way, and all that was left was to get a few other political powers in place. Dispensationalist Zionism survives into the new millennium in large part because of the shockingly successful Left Behind series of novels, but also because world events continue to provide raw material for terrifying speculations.

We Catholics have our own forms of eschatological speculation, although there are so many schools of thought that a newcomer can scarcely make heads or tails of them. Aside from a few clear doctrines like the Resurrection of the Dead and the Final Judgment, most of the details are up for grabs. There will be a great apostasy towards the end, and the Antichrist is likely to be a final individual opponent of Christ and his Church. Some of the other beliefs—the three days of darkness, the coming chastisement, the great monarch—are all fascinating but far less certain.

When I came into the Church, I intentionally ignored the internal eschatological speculations as much as possible, having decided that I had had my fill of those in my younger years. But an intense interest in the Second Coming is not necessarily intellectual restlessness; it is a yearning for the hope of our deliverance from this world of death and defeat. The world is a burden to us, even though it is often joyful and enlightening. Too much does this world drag us down, too much are we disillusioned by Church politics and world politics, too much are we exhausted from fighting our own concupiscence. We hear so many stories of our brethren in other parts of the world suffering and dying for the Faith, and we greatly desire the hope of Christ’s return to put an end to the futility of this life. It is a virtuous desire to see ultimate Justice have its Day.
And when he broke the fifth seal, I saw there, beneath the altar, the souls of all who had been slain for love of God’s word and of the truth they held, crying out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, the holy, the true, how long now before thou wilt sit in judgement, and exact vengeance for our blood from all those who dwell on earth?” (Apoc. 6)
I do not know if the formulations of eschatological timelines is wisdom or mere idleness, but the fulfillment of Our Lady’s warnings of war should be enough for us to take her seriously. The fact that the centennial of her appearance coincides with the 500-year anniversary of Fr. Luther’s reformation should also give us pause, as should the Holy Father’s celebration of this event. We do not know what events are already in motion, whether in preparation for the end of all things, or for a temporal judgment against “those who have mastery of the world in these dark days” (Eph. 6).

The end times will not be lovely, and they will not be pleasant to live through, but our desire must always be set towards them. The final prayer of Holy Writ—“Come, Lord Jesus”—should be our constant prayer, as well. Come now in our souls, and come again to end this world.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A Reading from the Book of Numbers (against the Variable Lectionary) UPDATED

I read them the Numbers....
source: Cornell Catholic Community's Facebook page
"Oh, Rad Trad! How are you today, Rad Trad?"

A doey, dopey eyed student asked me as I walked into the chapel for a weekday Mass during my student days. This shorts-wearing man was the perfect JP2 Catholic: young, pro-life, liturgically liberal, Ultramontane in all matters, and he read the new Catechism every night before going to sleep. A kind, simple soul of exceptional devotion whose capacity for creative thought had been circumscribed by too many sports related concussions.

"Would you like to prepare a reading today, Rad Trad?"
"If it will make you feel better, alright," I acquiesced.

I reviewed the material in the lectionary for any Hebraic words or turns of phrase that might rattle my dyslexic eyes and found none. After the Collect Opening Prayer I assumed my place at the ambo and began with the immemorial words, "A reading from the book of Numbers."

A rare thought, gentle and fleeting, like a dandelion petal, that comes to a man only a few times in his life if he is careful enough to nurture it, came to me: "What the hell am I doing?"

The year was 2011, the apogee of Benedict XVI's pontificate, which in retrospect shared much with Pius XII's in looking much better on the outside than on the inside. We were reviving the "never abrogated" 1962 Missal and calling it the "extraordinary form," sticking the Big Six on the altar of Pauline Masses, and telling ourselves that the average parish Mass is not how Paul VI really wanted it. Liturgical conferences with Scott Alcuin Reid abounded and "mutual enrichment" was the defining phrase of obedient clergy. The new Mass could learn much from the old form's prolix reverence, mystery, orientation, and sense of the sacred. But, so the other side of the enrichment went, the old Mass could be inferior to the new in any number of ways, not least of which was the expanded lectionary. As I read figures for building dimensions and storage capacity to the JP2 generation and some paid staff, I concluded the benefits of the expanded lectionary were doubtful.

Peter Kwasniewski rightly points out that the expanded lectionary has allowed grave passages of Holy Writ to be omitted or relegated to obscure times of the year so that they do not appear whenever the church is full; most infamously, St. Paul's admonition against unworthy participation in the Lord's Supper never made it into the lectionary of Paul VI. Dr. K likens the new lectionary to a Cliff Notes version of Shakespeare that includes a large quantity of material, but which censors any passages unsavory to modern ears and modern morals. Quantity over quality.

Another, less often considered problem of the new lectionary is that it drowns any sense of rhythm and thematic continuity with its "Scripture for Scripture's sake" methodology. Keeping with the motif of the Bard, Shakespeare's sonnets are best understood when read aloud so that the pattern of speech and repeated images may mature line to line. The old lectionary used a few sonnets in whole; the new lectionary reads them all in sequence, but never more than five or six of the fourteen lines at a time.

Criticism of the older lectionary and support for the pedantic three year cycle of Paul VI rest on the ahistorical assumption that the Eucharistic sacrifice is the appropriate place for ad libitum readings of Scripture. The original setting for Scriptural lessons, East and West, was the Mattins of the all-night vigil, from which only the Roman rite retained consistent readings; the Byzantine rite does maintain extensive pericopes during Vespers of Great Lent and major feasts. As with the Mass, Romans initially observed the vigil only for Sundays and great feasts, which is reflected in the coherence of the passages for the most ancient feasts (Pascha, Pentecost, Theophany, Christmas, Peter & Paul, Andrew, John the Baptist, and the like). Rome eventually followed the Constantinopolitan custom of observing the vigil every night and began to read Scriptures sequentially through different books each month. Mass, with its instructive lessons geared toward the solemnization of a particular mystery celebrated on a given day, remained unique to feasts, Sundays, and days of penance; there was no daily Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, but there was a daily Office. Local churches had particular Masses for saints more often than the Roman Church, which contented itself with Common Mass formularies for martyrs, bishops, and virgins; by the time of St. Pius V's Missal, half the days of the year were still of either Simplex of Ferial rank, so the repetition of the numerous Commons was hardly as dull and numbing as it was by the time of Papa Sarto's reforms and the rite of Iste Confessor. The considerable number of Ferial and Simplex days also permitted votive Masses of Saints and of Requiem when appropriate, providing a variety of Mass options with unified Scriptural lessons concerning the saint or mystery observed. All of this would gradually change, and perspective with it, in the years after Trent.

The Tridentine Council required the Breviary of every ordained cleric in the Latin Church. Pius V's breviary lessons are similar to those in medieval books, but subsequent popes shortened many readings to lessen priests' burden; contrary to the curt Roman Office, Cluny covered such extensive passages of Holy Writ that a monk with a bat would roam the choir during Mattins to tap anyone who had fallen asleep during the daily reading of many chapters. Mass replaced the Office as the daily observance of parishes and cathedrals, especially Mass in the spoken form, wherein words are less audible to the faithful, faithful who were often speakers of Romance tongues descended from Latin. Similarly, the number of saints multiplied and their feasts were almost always assigned a Duplex rank with a Common Mass, compelling priests to recite the same Masses week after week. By the time of Vatican I one could hardly go a week without a Mass or two that began Os iusti. Vatican I considered a two year lectionary, yet nothing came of it. The 19th and early 20th century Liturgical Movement and Ressourcement revived chatter about the limited use of Scripture in the Roman liturgy, especially when contrasted with the supposedly more Biblical protestant churches. A more tempered perspective might have led these reform-minded gentlemen to realize the Roman liturgy utilized Scripture very effectively in its structures, just not in its contemporary incarnation.

There are a few possible solutions for the limited use of Scripture in the old liturgy, at least in its various forms since the 20th century began. First and foremost would be to reduce the rank of feasts so as to allow the Ferial Mass to be repeated or a votive Mass to be said; the occurring Scripture, at least in the genuine old rite, could also be said in the Office under this scheme. Second, if Ferial Masses can be repeated provide alternative, cogent readings on the same mystery or event from other parts of Scripture, as was the Norman praxis in the middle ages; were the Roman rite to revive the octaves Pacelli removed, different readings pertaining to the feast could also be read during the eight days. Third and finally, Mattins needs to return to cathedrals, collegiate churches, and parishes, even in a reduced form for non-obligatory settings that would permit just one nocturne with the assigned readings; the rhythm of the liturgy is not in the Mass, it is in the Office, which Byzantine churches have managed to keep while Roman counterparts have to bribe the faithful with Communion to get anyone interested in a service.

One must also consider that a practicing Roman Catholic need only attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days. Not even the most devout are able to attend Mass on a daily basis. The average Roman Christian who does what is required of him will likely hear different lessons at each Mass. Just before Pius X's changes about half of "green Sundays" would have been exceeded by feasts, often from Commons, but not the same Commons. From 1911-1955 feasts of Our Lady, St. Lawrence, the parish patron, and the Apostles could still be celebrated on Sundays, but in practice this only happened a few times a year. Since 1962 only half a dozen feasts can replace the Sunday Mass and none of them probably use Commons. The issue of a limited lectionary was belonged to a narrow segment of the Mass going population from the beginning.

If a Catholic wants to hear a variety of Scripture in a Church, would he not have been better off attending the Office all along?

Update: I seem to have neglected one other possibility for expanded, reasonable use of Scripture at Mass. What of the unique Masses for dioceses and congregations for Counter-Reformation saints that did not make it into the Roman Missal after the saints' canonization? And what of the unique Masses for pope saints suppressed by Papa Pacelli in 1942? Both could be revived without disturbing ancient texts (in the former case) and would even revive some (in the latter case).

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Josephology Appendix 3: Artistic Portrayals of the Nativity

While the figure of St. Joseph is not ubiquitous in artistic portrayals of the Nativity, he has never been entirely alien to the subject. There are various forms of Nativity-related iconography, including the Adoration of the Shepherds, the Adoration of the Magi, the Cave and the Stable, the Eucharistic Child (where the ox and the ass nibble on the Christ Child), and scenes of the Midwives. Often these forms are collapsed together in various combinations, depending on how much of the Gospel and apocryphal narratives the artist or patron wished to include.

Even though Joseph is often absent in earlier depictions, he does seem to make an appearance on this early 4th-century Roman sarcophagus at the bottom-left (most of the early Nativities on sarcophagi depict the Virgin alone):

He is present in some panels of this 6th-century cover of the Armenian Echmiadzin Gospel, though noticeably absent from the Cave and Stable panel:

This Palestinian painted box from the 6th century shows Joseph, Mary, and Christ in iconographic positions that would remain standard in the West for many centuries, and in the East until the present day. All three figures are positioned physically apart, with Joseph contemplating the scene as one not directly involved with the mystery. The Virgin appears to be pointing the Christ Child out to Joseph or to the Christian viewing the icon.

Giotto’s fresco of the Nativity in the early 14th century still has a discernible connection to the earlier iconographic tradition. Although Mary is now holding the Christ Child, St. Joseph still sits apart, with a look either contemplative or sullen.

The medieval books of hours often included an illustration of the Nativity. This book of the Use of Rome from Paris, France (late 14th or early 15th century) shows St. Joseph huddled up against the cold next to the Virgin’s bed, without even a glimpse of his face:

The late 14th-century mystical visions of St. Brigit of Sweden instigated a major change in the depiction of the Adoration of the Christ Child. This passage especially marks a change in how Joseph is imagined in the Nativity scene:
When these things therefore were accomplished, the old man entered; and prostrating on the earth, he adored him on bended knee and wept for joy. Not even at the birth was that Virgin changed in color or by infirmity. Nor was there in her any such failure of bodily strength as usually happens in other women giving birth, except that her swollen womb retracted to the prior state in which it had been before she conceived the boy. Then, however, she arose, holding the boy in her arms; and together both of them, namely, she and Joseph, put him in the manger, and on bended knee they continued to adore him with gladness and immense joy. (source)
This painting by Niccolò di Tommaso (ca. 1372) is the first known representation of St. Brigit’s vision, in this regard. For the first time Joseph and Mary are mirrored in their placement and action.

Another example from a late 15th-century book of hours from France:

There are exceptions. The 16th-century Hours of Joanna the Mad, commissioned from the Flemish Gerard Horenbout, unusually depicts a stable-based Adoration without Joseph anywhere present:

The new iconography became standardized in the West, but with eventual modifications. For instance, St. Joseph is sometimes shown standing behind the kneeling or seated Virgin, perhaps to stand on guard or to better facilitate the sudden influx of visitors to the stable. St. Brigit’s vision of the Mother and Step-Father of Christ adoring in unison was becoming less ubiquitous, but Joseph in return became a more imposing figure.

Charles Le Brun’s 17th-century painting shows the Nativity scene as it had eventually become more frequently commissioned:

Today’s more popular crèche scenes of miniature statuary are usually patterned either after the Brigitean double-adoration…

…or the later “Joseph at the Ready” version:

The subject of the Nativity has lost some of its fashion in favor of images of the Holy Family, but it remains at least a seasonally prominent subject.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Francis the White

"So you have come, Gandalf," he said to me gravely; but in his eyes there seemed to be a white light, as if a cold laughter was in his heart.

"Yes, I have come," I said. "I have come for your aid, Saruman the White." And that title seemed to anger him.

"Have you indeed, Gandalf the Grey!" he scoffed.... "For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!"

I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.

"I liked white better," I said.

"White!" he sneered. "It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken."

"In which case it is no longer white," said I. "And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom."...

"I have not brought you hither to be instructed by you, but to give you a choice.... We must have power, power to order all things as we will, for that good which only the Wise can see.... We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order.... There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means."

"Saruman," I said, "I have heard speeches of this kind before, but only in the mouths of emissaries sent from Mordor to deceive the ignorant. I cannot think that you brought me so far only to weary my ears."

[From The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien]

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Abrogation & Obedience

Upon Rorate's predictably sensationalistic report from Sandro Magister that Papa Peron will consider the "correction" of Summorum Pontificum and the 1962 liturgy, I thought immediately of a passing reference Fr. John Hunwicke made today to "Duffy's Parson Trichay" who "clung on" to older ways during the Edwardian and Elizabethian ages.

A suppression or limitation of the 1962 liturgy would cast a dubious shadow over much of the Church, at least in America, outside of parishes exclusively dedicated to the Rite of Econe. Supposedly there are 500 Pian-Johannine Masses, or Mass locations, in the United States every Sunday, the vast majority of them not under the Fraternity of St. Peter or the Institute of Christ the King; the text quotes figures for diocesan presence, so one may doubt the Fraternity of St. Pius X's considerable number of priories are included.

What would happen if Bishop Fellay signed the dotted line, Rome gave the Fraternity a personal prelature with immunity in their current locations, and Francis reconfigured Summorum back to Ecclesia Dei levels, when occasional Masses were permitted only with the expressed consent of the bishop? Surely the FSSP, FSSPX, Institute of Christ the King, and monasteries dedicated to the '62 rite would be left alone, but the majority of Masses would forcibly vanish. If a devout Catholic learned anything during the 1950s and 1960s he learned that the average cleric sees obedience to immediate, visible authority as the equivalent of right and wrong, even if the authority deems wrong what had once been right. Obedience is a means of preserving faith, not the actual faith.

Enter "Duffy's Parson Trichay," whose name was Sir Christopher Trychay (rhymes with "Dickey"). Sir Christopher—named when priests were called Sir or Mister—was ordained in 1515 and served the parish of St. George in Morebath, Devon from that year until his death in 1574. Early in priesthood, Trichay added statues and shrines to saints of popular devotion; Sir Christopher prayed frequently to St. Sidwell, a 6th century virgin martyred in the same county. The medievals sought the intercession of the saints for their common problems; their faith was casual, but that does not mean it was shallow or superficial. Townsfolk donated money at the shrines and bought candles from the St. George's to burn perpetually before the statues and icons of their favorite saints. Sir Christopher used the money from the "stores" to fund the parish's charitable functions, including the laudable participation of five men in the 1549 Prayer Book Rebellion. In 1538, amid Henry's dissolution and thievery among the English monasteries, Trychay gave his Missal, the relics of saints, holy images, and candles to various faithful so that when the authorities came to confiscate his Papist paraphernalia he could hold his hands up in innocence, all the while hoping he might one day call upon his parishioners to use the sacred objects and say the Mass again. In the mean time he used the Prayer Book and a wooden table and did not promote the veneration of saints. His patience was rewarded two years later when Mary assumed the throne and churches resumed the old ways. It was to be short lived. Mary died before the end of the decade with a considerable number of vacant episcopal sees for "Henry Tudor's bastard daughter" to fill. Sir Christopher again hid his Missal, relics, and images with the faithful and resumed the Prayer Book in hopes of another return to Catholicism. Alas, his patience protestantism would not be rewarded this time and the Mass never returned. Sir Christopher Trychay was buried under where the Catholic altar once stood.

He died obedient.

500 Mass locations is a drop in the water compared to the 18,000 (and shrinking) parishes in the United States, yet the opportunity to celebrate the odd 1962 Mass is a treat to most priests condemned to mundane parish life. Will they push back or be obedient as Sir Christopher if that day comes?

One remembers that after the introduction of the completely revamped liturgy in 1970 many priests chose retirement over the "Novus Ordo." Should their dichotomy have been "Will I say the new order or retire" or "Should I say the new order or refuse"? Many would-be opponents, like Cardinal Siri or the priests of the archdiocese of Baltimore, obeyed and left the few dissidents in a liturgical and spiritual ghetto where the FSSP and FSSPX now live. One wonders if Lefebvre would have gone as far as he did if a cardinal or archbishop somewhere not nearing retirement age had the fortitude to say "Not just no, but hell no" independently of the Gallican missionary.

In the mean time, Pre-Pius XII never looked so attractive, or at least so mute a point of contention by its opponents! Buy now while you have the chance!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Contentions via the Holy Family

Joseph and his brethren, the iconic unhappy family.
A recent sermon at Tradistan was cause for some unfortunate Joseph-related debate. Speaking on the occasion of the feast of the Holy Family (instituted in 1893), the priest talked about Catholic family life from the perspective of the Household of Nazareth. The sermon was decent enough, and the lessons drawn for Catholic family life were not unreasonable, but the priest’s opinion of St. Joseph’s virginity and confirmation in grace after his marriage to the Virgin sparked some previously calm disagreement between friends into dissension.

My own opinions on St. Joseph are well known among my close friends, not only by His Traddiness and my bride. Recently it has become a point of contention in a larger group of friends, drawing a line between those with a devotion to Young St. Joseph and those who prefer Old St. Joseph. The Tradistani sermon further sparked a flurry of text messages, arguments in the parish hall, and emails to the priest, most of which I successfully avoided until later in the day. By the time I was able to catch up on this activity, the various parties had more or less sullenly retreated to their own corners, still certain of their own opinions and no longer willing to engage in debate.

Thankfully, my wife is on my side on this matter, as she is with so many things. I have no doubt we will be putting up an image of Young St. Joseph somewhere in the home, if only because it was a gift from a friend or family member. Such are the small compromises that one makes for the sake of a happy family and social life. She has suggested I compile and edit all of my original Josephology series into a book format and think about publishing it, although I cannot think of any Catholic publisher—traddy or neo-conservative—who would be interested in printing such a volume. Even the now-defunct Thomas A. Nelson publishing house would never print something so traditional. Nonetheless, while agreement on things like St. Joseph’s age and marital history might be objectively minor, such an harmony of thought can be a major step towards long-term familial happiness.

Among friends, disagreements on minor matters can be a cause for good-humored ribbing, intensely engaging debate, or miserable complaints. It’s a pity when the latter ends up being the case. Damage control is always tedious work, especially when most of the damage is self-inflicted. Those who are unwilling to put in the work to research a topic are too often the loudest at expressing their opinion, and do not know how to react to an intellectual argument except for a quick retreat paired with an unimpressive Parthian shot.

When the priest in question finally responded to my friend’s email, he admitted that he was unsure if Joseph had been married before the Annunciation, but doubted it. The casual misuse of words, like “virginity” when “chastity” is meant, can cause great problems, it would seem. Ideas have consequences, and so do intellectual mistakes. St. Jerome’s fabulation of a vowed-to-virginity St. Joseph certainly has had consequences some 1600 years later, including the occasional haze of stubbornness and hurt feelings. I remember a similar argument with a good friend that ended in him spitefully shutting it down when he thought it absurd that the perpetual virginity of Mary had anything whatsoever to do with physical integrity, in spite of the theology of the Church Fathers. The cause of his reaction was a simple-minded emotionalism about certain aspects of womanhood (especially not wishing women to feel bad about certain… incidents) and an assumption that the Patristic position was due to their sexual naïveté. That friendship survived, but in a noticeably altered form after I refused to back down.

Emotion sometimes gets the better of the intellectual life, and devotionalism often has an emotional spillage that goes to great lengths to protect the object of devotion. Such was Jerome’s zeal to protect the belief in Mary’s perpetual virginity that he created for her a celibate warrior-bodyguard from whom she need never fear any lusty rudeness. But truth can not allow its terms to be dictated by emotion, no matter how well-placed they may be. The heart must learn what is lovable from the head, or else the soul ends up like the old image of Phyllis riding on Aristotle’s back: reason subjected to desire, in a kind of inversion of the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.

Be like Joseph, instead.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Careerists: Caretakers & Undertakers

In the heart of Hartford, Connecticut is a large, red house with brown lattice woodwork and colorful windows. Inside, the years have imbued a dignity that comes with age upon this large bungalow full of Italian mementos, statuettes of cats, and books. The house belonged to Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain. Down the road is a big, ugly cement airplane hanger called St. Joseph's Cathedral.

The Archdiocese of Hartford is rarely bestowed prime quality bishops. It has been a consolation see for several prelates who were deprived of the cardinal-archbishopric of New York City after laboring in the vineyard of ecclesiastical obedience for so many years. My former home is on its third consecutive "caretaker" archbishop, someone whose job it is to curtail years of financial mismanagement and population implosion. There are very orthodox bishops and very heretical ones, very holy ones and very worldly ones; but there seem to be none who are zealous or visionary, and that has taken its toll in the archdiocese of contented caretakers.

The week of Christmas the Archdiocese announced a plan to close or cluster 100 of its 212 parishes throughout the three Connecticut counties it encompasses. As the article states, Mass attendance has dropped 70% among self-identified Catholics from 1965 and the number of Catholics has dropped a quarter, although the state population, while stagnant, is 40% higher than it was when Vatican II ended. The number of priests is down 65% in that same period and 22% will be 75 within five years. While the state of Connecticut remains uninspiring, the archdiocese of Hartford is resolutely mediocre.

St. Aedan's
My father was baptized in 1941, just after his birth, at St. Aedan's in New Haven. In 1950 he was confirmed by Msgr. Henry J. O'Brien, the last archbishop of Hartford born in Connecticut. That same year St. Aedan's opened a school, the apogee of every pre-Vatican II American parish. In 2012 my father and I heard a Saturday night Mass there: the priest neglected the chasuble, omitted a reading, read the pseudo-Hippolytan anaphora, and gave a sermon about sharing to a congregation of 40 white headed persons.

While Archbishop O'Brien should not be singularly credited with the growth of the archdiocese after World War II—an era in which the Polish, Italian, and Irish communities were becoming more perfectly Americanized and protestants were converting in noticeable numbers—he does deserve his due as a native who knew his own flock and managed to meet their needs without saddling parishes and schools in debt. His replacements, Whealon, Cronin, Mansell, and now Blair, cannot seem to be interested in anything other than a well managed declined.

Are these churchmen conservative by instinct because they are caught in their childhood vision of the Church? A four hymn sandwich Mass, a communitarian schedule run by people in black suits, schools, and a sodality or two? Or could it be the familiar career progression, almost a treadmill? Daniel Cronin served in the Vatican Secretariat of State and made monsignor within ten years of ordination; despite gaining the episcopacy six years later he never went much further. Henry Mansell was a priest of the archdiocese of New York, a monsignor, and vice-Chancellor of New York. Msgr. Blair held administrative positions in Detroit, a professorship at a seminary, and served as a secretary to a cardinal who ran a Roman dicastery. All went to a Roman seminary. All met a minimal need to display orthodoxy without upsetting the established order too severely. Cronin mildly rebuked Ted Kennedy for his weak opposition to abortion and Blair did the same to the "nuns of the bus" and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. What of pastoral experience?

In the past priests perceived to be worthy of violet cloth were given a few stitches early on as a test run and as a reward for good behavior, at least in America. "Monsignor" ("My lord") originated as an Italian address for higher clergy and clergy of noble heritage. The honor continued to be used in such a manner in Europe. In America it became a way of playing favorites. Today priests make a salary of around $40,000 a year; fifty years ago they kept the Christmas collection as their salary. Monsignori with "plumb parishes" and congregants in the thousands generously willing to pay their Nativity tithe did much better than those priests in backwater towns and a hundred poor Micks who knew what the bishop thought about them.

Ecclesiastical vocations tend to attract the intelligent believer, the unintelligent believer, and the unintelligent disbeliever in our time with a strong preference for the second and third of these. Our current age of renewal and consolidating ("synergies", as we call them in corporate finance) can be read in the spirit of orthodoxy or novelty, but it cannot be read in the spirit of non-contradiction with the past, a fact most stubborn to career churchmen. After years of lay "ministries" churchmen are getting what they wished for only to find laymen are incapable of confecting the Eucharist or giving Absolution.

There are alternatives to the slow bleed more forward minded bishops could embrace. There is the Lincoln solution of radical modern orthodoxy which allows priests to do as they will in the most conservative way, replete with pro-life ministries and Latin Masses. There is also the Oratorian solution advocated here, here, and here, which this author believes the most feasible way of both reinvigorating parish life and meeting Catholics where they are, uninitiated with Latin, in questionable marriages, and poorly taught. And then there is the solution of monasticism, of bringing the liturgical heart of the Church back into rural and cathedral life. New traditional monasteries open constantly in France and fill up immediately; while hardly a solution to parish problems, monasticism does revive the pulse of the Church and provide a spiritual heart beat.

Career clergymen are rarely visionaries or even pastorally adept. In their eagerness to check off their boxes on their way to the elusive red hat they neglected their duties, assuming the churches are as enduring as the marble they were once built with. Without care, marble cracks and fades.

One wonders if rather than caretakers, these gentlemen would have been better off picking careers as undertakers?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Epiphany and Esotericism

“Clouds and darkness are round about him.” (Ps. 96)
Little is known about the three Magi who visited the Christ Child in Bethlehem. The Western tradition names them Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. Some traditions hold that St. Thomas the Apostle baptized the Magi in his oriental journeys, and that they were made bishops of the Catholic Faith. Western iconography eventually began to depict the Magi as being of three different races (European, Asian, and African) to symbolize the three continents, and of three ages (young, middle aged, and elderly) to symbolize the fullness of man’s life; in this respect, the Magi are a synecdoche of man in his natural, pre-Christian state.

The Magi were likely priests of, or otherwise heavily involved in, the religion of Zarathustra, although in spite of their name they may not have been practitioners of magic or sorcery. Certainly they were astrologers in the sense of astronomical philosophers and speculators. The use of the lights of heavens as signs goes all the way back to the Hebrew creation account (Gen. 1.14), pagans though they were. The details of the ancient Chaldean religions are vague and perhaps tainted by the research of much later speculative philosophers, but it bears superficial similarities to many later heresies like Manichæism.

John Senior describes the aspects of Chaldean astrology in The Way Down and Out: “The cosmology of the sacerdotal schools fits the theological order exactly [That is, of the universe as an emanation of the Divine rather than a creation. –J.], the world in fact being a replica of heaven so that everything which happens in the one is reflected in the other. This accounts for the efficacy of astrology and allied forms of divination and of magic” (11). This doctrine of correspondence between Heaven and Earth, and of Man as an image of the universe, is the popular basis of belief in Man as Divine.

“The heavens declared his justice: and all people saw his glory.” (Ps. 96)
The religions of Babylon and Egypt would eventually be sprinkled with Hindoo doctrines and find a nesting place in Greece (through the Orphic mysteries) and later in Rome (in the rites of Mithras), but would also influence various Neoplatonist movements. In a sense, the world has never been rid of Chaldean errors. The theological dualism of Zarathustra provides a theodicy for the emotional insecure and simple-minded. The implied divinity of Man excuses all manner of vices, especially vainglory and lust, for it makes sexual union into a quasi-divine and magical act.

Still, the stink of Babylon lingers, and likely will until the end of time. Its practitioners call theirs the “esoteric” religion, mocking the public, Catholic religion as “exoteric.” The hidden (“occult”) religion is meant for the enlightened few, the public religion for the simple masses. This pride has diminished over time. Senior notes that the esoteric religion exists in the modern day, but not as the fruits of an unbroken tradition:
Because in the West there has been no “tradition” since the Renaissance, the symbolist doctrine has been in the hands of individuals rather than schools, amateurs rather than professionals; and this has led to a kind of esoteric protestantism, to the formation of individual sects, some wise, many foolish. (xiv)
The conversion of the Magi was not a deathblow to what Dr. Senior would later call the “Perennial Heresy,” but it did open an alternative to the temptation of vain curiosity. What the Magi sought were wisdom and enlightenment, and they were true lovers of wisdom (philo-sophia) in ways that those with itching ears are not. The doctrine of correspondence between Heaven and Earth, of Man holding within himself the Divine, came true in the humble city of Bethlehem of Judea. It came true in a way that the Magi could never have predicted, in a way that they would certainly spend their entire lives attempting to understand.

The esoteric had become exoteric—“the light shineth in darkness.” Lovers of obscurity hate the light and “do not comprehend it,” preferring the darkness of the occult. At best they are alchemists intent on improving their own souls; at worst they are sorcerers and worshippers of angels. The esoteric religion remains to be discovered by men restless and intelligent, like a chunk of arctic ice housing a deadly bacteria long thought to be extinct.

Jesus spoke in parables to darken the eyes and block the ears of grievously sinful men, not to prevent the humble and unlearned from entering in to the Kingdom. Some remain blind and deaf, in spite of the epiphaneia of the Gospel. Some wish to remain unenlightened.

“Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart.” (Ps. 96)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

For Auld Lang Syne: Ordo 2017

I recently began re-reading JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which I last pursued in 2003 as a freshman in high school amid the film installments that brought nerds interested in Elvish minutiae out of the woodwork. To this author Tolkien's work is, at least in part, a take on other epic adventure stories and hearkens back to a different social structure when entertainment took place in the form of stories and songs. When I read Lord of the Rings I make up melodies for the [gratuitous] songs in my mind (Bilbo really needs to stop). Christmas may well be the only time of the year when the general populace can be counted on to know a traditional song, something that does not have a studio original that charted in the last ten years; even at that, most can only muster the first verse of Hark! The Herald Angels. At a charming New Year's Eve gathering last night I attempted to start Auld Lang Syne after the clock struck midnight. Most knew the tune, but absolutely no one knew the words. Not one.

Auld Lang Syne is something out of auld lang syne, that is, days long ago. Should its acquaintance be forgot? Certainly not, nor should many older and venerable things from days gone by which are as ingrained in our senses as ever, even if they are scrubbed out of our active consciences. Take the Roman liturgy for example. There is an enduring simplicity and power in its words not latent in the elaborate ceremonies of the Greeks, the communitarian rites of the Reformers, or reduced forms of Summorum Pontificum. But we do not live in auld lang syne; we live in the now but are burdened with the past, for we possess nothing certain if not experience.

For those devotees, clerics, laymen, students, and plain Catholics looking to preserve the auld lang rite for the present, I recommend they buy the St. Lawrence Press's Ordo Recitandi Offici Divini Sacrique Peragendi here. As the name betrays, it is an ordo recitandi for the daily Office and Mass in the Roman rite before Pius XII and his epigoni (Bugnini, Bea, and others with Italian names) laid their hands on the liturgy and gradual evolved into the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of the Novus Ordo (the Paul VI and 1962 rites respectively). The Ordo contains information on every imaginable rubric that should put the uninitiated at ease and provide detail for full liturgical service options throughout the year, including:

  • public and private, said and sung votive Masses, including those of Nuptial and Requiem
  • commemorations
  • Forty Hours devotions
  • external solemnities
  • proper Last Gospels
  • colors and prefaces within octaves
  • movable feasts
  • the patronal feast of a church
  • doxologies at the end of hymns
What's that? The 1962 police are after you? I assure you they are not! We do not live under auld lang syne and the halcyon days of Benedict XVI, but under the light yoke of Papa Peron Bergoglio, who is aggressively disinterested in liturgical form. Why not sentire cum Papa and just do the real thing? Why not celebrate St. Joseph's patronage of the Universal Church, or Pip'n'Jim on May 1, or the octave days of the comites Christi this week? The Roman rite reflects centuries of prayer, reform, preservation, and crystallization in the liturgy. Would it not be preferable to do the pre-Pius XII rite not because we can construe a legal argument for it, but simply because it is the right rite thing to do for "sake of auld lang syne"?

If you are a priest and do not exercise your ministry in an environment conducive to doing the old old rite, then the Ordo 2017 is still useful to you. You can add the suffrage of Saints and preces to your Office on days that the old liturgy prescribes them, append commemorations (like Fidelium on the first Monday of the month) to the collects as they would have been, use the preface of the Nativity during the octave of Corpus Christi, dismiss the faithful with Benedicamus Domino when the Gloria is not sung, or say a votive Office of the Dead on the first free day of each week during Lent and Advent.

Are you a priest who celebrates the Mass of Paul VI on a daily basis? With a little imagination you may be in considerably better position to use the Ordo than those in 1962 communities. No one will stop you from using the old Office and the new Mass is surprisingly malleable in certain parts: unlike the saint-laden 1962 kalendar, the Ordinary form of the Novus Ordo has a number of ferial days comparable to the Tridentine kalendar, meaning one could use votive Masses to resurrect the octaves a certain Italian nobleman sent to the chopping block in 1955. The rubrics for Holy Week are also not as strict as in the extraordinary form of the Novus Ordo, so why not have a double-genuflection during the veneration of the cross on Good Friday? 

So, venerable Fathers, it is 2017: buy an Ordo, reserve a set of folded chasubles at Gammarelli, find an old breviary, and start incorporating the traditional Roman liturgy into your church for "sake of auld lang syne."