Sunday, June 17, 2018

I Could Attend Masses Forever and Not Be Tired

"The idea of worship is different in the Catholic Church from the idea of it in your Church; for, in truth, the religions are different. Don't deceive yourself, my dear Bateman," he said tenderly, "it is not that ours is your religion carried a little farther,—a little too far, as you would say. No, they differ in kind, not in degree; ours is one religion, yours another. And when the time comes, and come it will, for you, alien as you are now, to submit yourself to the gracious yoke of Christ, then, my dearest Bateman, it will be faith which will enable you to bear the ways and usages of Catholics, which else might perhaps startle you. Else, the habits of years, the associations in your mind of a certain outward behaviour with real inward acts of devotion, might embarrass you, when you had to conform yourself to other habits, and to create for yourself other associations. But this faith, of which I speak, the great gift of God, will enable you in that day to overcome yourself, and to submit, as your judgment, your will, your reason, your affections, so your tastes and likings, to the rule and usage of the Church. Ah, that faith should be necessary in such a matter, and that what is so natural and becoming under the circumstances, should have need of an explanation! I declare, to me," he said, and he clasped his hands on his knees, and looked forward as if soliloquising,—"to me nothing is so consoling, so piercing, so thrilling, so overcoming, as the Mass, said as it is among us. I could attend Masses for ever and not be tired. It is not a mere form of words,—it is a great action, the greatest action that can be on earth. It is, not the invocation merely, but, if I dare use the word, the evocation of the Eternal. He becomes present on the altar in flesh and blood, before whom angels bow and devils tremble. This is that awful event which is the scope, and is the interpretation, of every part of the solemnity. Words are necessary, but as means, not as ends; they are not mere addresses to the throne of grace, they are instruments of what is far higher, of consecration, of sacrifice. They hurry on as if impatient to fulfil their mission. Quickly they go, the whole is quick; for they are all parts of one integral action. Quickly they go; for they are awful words of sacrifice, they are a work too great to delay upon; as when it was said in the beginning: 'What thou doest, do quickly'. Quickly they pass; for the Lord Jesus goes with them, as He passed along the lake in the days of His flesh, quickly calling first one and then another. Quickly they pass; because as the lightning which shineth from one part of heaven unto the other, so is the coming of the Son of Man. Quickly they pass; for they are as the words of Moses, when the Lord came down in the cloud, calling on the Name of the Lord as He passed by, 'the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth'. And as Moses on the mountain, so we too 'make haste and bow our heads to the earth, and adore'. So we, all around, each in his place, look out for the great Advent, 'waiting for the moving of the water'. Each in his place, with his own heart, with his own wants, with his own thoughts, with his own intention, with his own prayers, separate but concordant, watching what is going on, watching its progress, uniting in its consummation;—not painfully and hopelessly following a hard form of prayer from beginning to end, but, like a concert of musical instruments, each different, but concurring in a sweet harmony, we take our part with God's priest, supporting him, yet guided by him. There are little children there, and old men, and simple labourers, and students in seminaries, priests preparing for Mass, priests making their thanksgiving; there are innocent maidens, and there are penitent sinners; but out of these many minds rises one eucharistic hymn, and the great Action is the measure and scope of it. And oh, my dear Bateman," he added, turning to him, "you ask me whether this is not a formal, unreasonable service—it is wonderful!" he cried, rising up, "quite wonderful. When will these dear good people be enlightened? O Sapientia, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia, O Adonai, O Clavis David et Exspectatio gentium, veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster."
From John Henry Newman's Loss and Gain, Part II, Chapter 20 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cor Ad Cor Loquitur

Newman as a young man
source: wikipedia.org
"Newman," a Jesuit once said, "was the first person to have an original thought since Saint Augustine." Newman and his original thoughts earned a renewed vivacity during the middle years of Benedict XVI's pontificate culminating in the cardinal's beatification in 2010. Newman, perhaps not unlike Saint Joseph, became something of a projection board for whatever was one people's minds. Converts rightly looked at Newman's journey from Calvinistic Evangelicalism to the "one fold" of the Church as a blueprint for their own path. Others more active in politics and politicking called Newman's non-Scholastic, near-Patristic outlook the inspiration for the Second Vatican Council. I have even heard a very few, more old fashioned traditionalists wag a disapproving finger at John Henry's memory because he prioritized individual experience over objective reason, anticipating the relativism of the post-War days. Yet Newman endures among those who read him rather than read about him, which alone makes him worth understanding better.

His personal motto, "heart speaks to heart," conveys Newman's thought in his own time so suitably that it should be the lens for interpreting anything he wrote. His Gain and Loss is something of a fictionalized intellectual autobiography, not a straight novelization of his conversion. In Gain his protagonist, the eager to please Charles Reding, studies for the Anglican ministry in mid-19th century Oxford amid the whirling ideological vortex of the day: what to make of Catholic's absolute claims to truth; whether Anglo-Catholicism was a legitimate expression of Anglicanism or a Romish perversion; the rectitude of the Evangelical wing and their fundamentalist concept of faith; and the gradual dying out of via media, old fashioned Anglican clergy like our hero's father. Reding wishes to know the truth of what his co-religionists believe and whether or not even that is true.

In Reding's Oxford, and Newman's, reason simply fails as a singular tool for discerning true religion and salvation. Reason aids in breaking down falsehood, but it also produces some wildly irreligious views of its own. Early on Reding and his fellow students recall Paley's statement that all of Christ's miracles were entirely "reasonable" and that revelation ought not be construed as a "mystery" because He would not reveal anything about Himself that He would not want us to understand. In his own relationships Reding finds faults and inconsistencies both within others' views and within his national Church's as a whole, given that the diversity of the former means there can be no binding doctrine with the latter. In dilating with an Evangelical acquaintance he is told that faith is the instrument of salvation, even if the Prayer Book does not agree with this. Faith produces good works if the faith is true; good works do not improve faith or work with it, as the Romanists say, but rather descend from it. Reding can pick this idea apart from Scripture and from other Anglican sources without finding any resolution. This intellectual and spiritual vagrancy suits his cynical other half, Sheffield, just fine, who comes to similar conclusions than those of Reding without Reding's burning desire for truth. Sheffield is fine signing onto the Thirty-Nine articles and consigning their purpose to creating a consensus. For Reding this just will not do.

The "solution" to the nigh impossible equation of computing salvation is to descend to the heart. Reding, like Newman, never felt inclined toward marriage because from an early age he never found himself alone, but instead always sense the presence of another within him, following him and with him in his every thought and movement. He never wanted to welcome any impediment to this presence which could only be the indwelling of the Trinity after Baptism. Dostoevsky speaks of a similar presence attributable to Jesus Christ Himself just prior to the Grand Inquisitor dialogue in The Brothers Karamazov. Our Lord returns and walks through the streets of late medieval Spain; people acclaim Him and follow Him, dropping whatever they happening to be doing after beholding His countenance and knowing, from within, that this is Christ. It is a similar presence that Newman describes in less verbosity than the Russian. Reding, if he desires to hear anything, desires to hear from those who speak to that presence.

The first definitive attraction to the Church for Reding is that the Catholic Church might well be God's prophet on earth. God spoke through prophets in ancient times and revealing previously unknown truths is a hallmark of real religion. The Catholic Church's absolute claim to truth and his own Church's intellectualized indifference means that Reding, who admittedly knows nothing of the "Church of Rome" or its particular teachings, holds that either the Catholic Church is God's prophet on earth or there is no voice for God on earth. And if the Catholic Church does speak for God then its doctrines are not a set of propositions worthy of consideration; instead the Church is a teacher to whom the faithful should listen as students.

Far from embracing moral relativism Newman saw all too well that excessive intellectualism would lead to religious relativism; only ten years after Newman published Gain and Loss Darwin published his Origin of Species and threw a poorly prepared world into a fit and left little sure other than the heart.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Vatican I: An Eastern Perspective

Adam DeVille wrote The Long Shadows of the First Vatican Council, an insightful article that provides some removed perspective on the centralization following Vatican I which made Vatican II possible. A few observations I hope readers can discuss:

  • Vatican II was a reaction to Vatican I, as Mr. DeVille claims. It was also caused, in part, by Vatican I's channeling all the administrative power in the Latin Church to Rome and neutering bishops of the governance of their dioceses.
  • The aforementioned problem came from the collapse of Catholic culture and Catholic governments during the various mid-19th century nationalistic revolutions. The result is a "secular" Church, a Church that exists in the world but is not fundamental to it.
  • Pursuant to this last point, I re-link to my "The Pre-Conciliar Church," which touches on how the "perfect society" model of the Church developed in the 19th century and informed the popular imagination until Vatican II ripped it up.
  • Mr. DeVille is right in jealously guarding bishops' apostolic rights to govern their dioceses. I once held to the idea that patriarchal and synodal powers ought to have their own say, but a longer historical view reduces patriarchs and synods to practical matter of administration, better suited to administer than Roman congregations but no more or less fundamental to the exercise of Apostolic ministry than those same Roman congregations. The most authentic mode of teaching and government is that of the bishop.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

English Traddie-dom

The state of Traditionalism in the English Church has a few lessons for the wider Church and for those who seek to promote the old rite and its accompanying doctrinal perspective beyond the reaches of small communities. The real state of English Traddie-dom is that, aside from some growth here and there, in larger places it has stagnated. This is not the case globally; the old Mass continues to expand in the United States, Italy, and Africa; but it does carry some meaning for Catholics in thriving places.

What does stagnation look like? It means one could not reasonably split a Mass community up into two separate Masses and justify either service. The tell tale signs of this are 1) constancy in the number of Masses and 2) constancy in the congregations of existing Masses. The 8AM "EF" Mass at the Oxford Oratory still has the same 150-200 people it did seven years ago and probably the same number it did ten years before that, when the bishop asked for a 1962 Mass to assuage potential devotees of the FSSPX. Similarly, I did not notice any difference in the number of Masses offered within the Archdiocese of Westminster from seven years ago. The 9:30AM Mass at Saint James, Spanish Place, boasted the same congregation as the Oratory, although it competes with half a dozen other spoken Masses and a sung Mass at Saint Bede's, Clapham Park.

Catholicism in England itself, like the general English population, has not flourished very much one way or another in the last several decades. One would presume the Traditionalist crowd would get a larger portion of a shrinking pie, like they are in the United States or France, but this is not the case. Instead, Oratories and Oratorian takes on the Pauline Mass are abounding and taking those very slices. The last few years have seen Oratories emerge in Bournemouth, York, and Manchester, which doubles the number of Oratories from just five years ago. Attendance at the Oxford Oratory's 11AM Solemn Latin Novus Ordo has dipped a little; it is no longer standing room only because "Several churches in the diocese are now imitating what we do and people no longer feel compelled to drive two hours to Mass," one priest told me. So why is the Latin Mass of Paul VI, which has never caught on anywhere else in the world, out-doing the flailing Latin Mass of Pius V?

One answer is that people see different things at a 1962 Mass in London than they do at a Brompton high Mass. Someone who has never seen a pre-Conciliar form of the Roman Mass will walk into a church and witness a priest speaking garbled Latin in an echo chamber for 45 minutes, perhaps stopping to give a short sermon and Communion; yes, it is why the church was built, but that does not make it more accessible to the uninitiated of 2018. By contrast, someone who walks into an Oratorian-styled Mass sees something he knows and which happens at a familiar pace, the readings are in his own tongue, and rather than hearing a spoken Mass he hears the finest Renaissance music sung by a professional choir; in short, he sees an inspiring variation on something he already knows and takes it to be something very different. A large percentage of parishioners at these sorts of conservative or traditional settings are converts from Anglicanism who like loud organs, strong hymns, well done services, and the like. The old rite low Mass may be more consonant with Charles Reding's observations in Newman's Loss and Gain about the Catholic Mass being focused on the priest offering Sacrifice, not the congregation, but that may not help get people in the pew.

The other factor may well be the Traditionalists themselves, who have often been their own worst enemies; one thinks of Tracey Rowland's attempt at some Traddie self-criticism back when Rorate Caeli still enabled comments. In England the problem has not been as pronounced as the visceral attitude of '90s American traditionalists, but recusancy does still attract its cranks. The real problem with any spiritual movement that has to fight political battles—and Traditionalists are a prime ecclesiastical example—is that spiritual focus and spiritual values can unintentionally be subverted by an ideological outlook intent on conforming the world to one's views. This, again, may be less prevalent in England since a good portion of the Traditional rite Masses in England are run by diocesan priests who perform older rituals out of pastoral duty and person interest. Then again, the issue may not be with clergy as much as laity, who desire holiness and wisdom, but have historically contented themselves with the promises of the Rosaries and the errors of Vatican II. What emerges then carries the danger of a hypocritical Catholicism, a flock that does the right things but carries little to no sign of sanctity.

This last issue, like the "visceral attitude of '90s American traditionalists", may well be solving itself with age and the gradual replacement with new blood. In 2011 one could still start a conversation at coffee hour after the 8AM Oratory Mass with the words, "The Novus Ordo is a horror show." Today those same people would justly roll their eyes and keep to their own chatter.

If proponents of the old rite wish to see Waugh's "fire burning among the old stones", then, regardless of whether they live in London or Liberia, they must do something to attract those soldiers who are "farther in heart than Acre or Jerusalem."

Sunday, June 3, 2018

The Monastic Office: Early "Renewal"?

Practically every alteration, deformation, and mutation that touched the Roman liturgy in the last century came to the faithful clergy and laity with marketing buzzwords from the Holy See like "renewal", as if the liturgy had died, or "restoration", as if the novel practices now prescribed had existed in this form at some prior point. Papa Sarto spoke of the older Roman Office in very harsh terms while calling his psalter "restitueretur." Pius XII repeated his Venetian predecessor's language after he restored Holy Week by tossing the rites, Offices, and unique ceremonies out the window for new ones. And then, of course, came the paterfamilias of "renewal", the liturgy of Paul VI, which failed to maintain even the form of similarity with the past like Sarto's psalter, which preserved some aspects of the Office for major feasts and the 150 psalm weekly schedule. Everything became new, nothing was different, and all was fixed.

The Roman Breviary went through no less than four sets of revisions in the 20th century, each leaving less the genius of the original Office than the former. What many critics of the liturgical reforms, myself included, often fail to realize is that these changes, like those to the Mass, happened gradually and under the influence of others who belonged to the places and communities where these concepts originated. The psalter of Divino Afflatu looks much more like the "Jansenist" Offices of 18th and 19th century France than it does that of Saint Pius V. In the same vein, the rubrics and schedule of Offices in John XXIII's breviary strangely resemble those of the Monastic Psalter in force three decades earlier. What were those features?

First, and most characteristic of John XXIII's Breviary, the Monastic Office underwent a reduction of supposedly quintessentially Roman feasts, both in number and in kind. Just as the 1960/2 Breviarium Romanum observes one feast of Saint Peter's Chair, so does the Monastic Diurnal of the '30s, although it previously followed the Roman praxis in observing both Rome and Antioch. Some uniquely Benedictine feasts even saw mergers in the case of saints whose historicity was deemed dubious in the early 20th century. A few alterations to the Monastic sanctoral did make clean up certain aspects of the kalendar, like transferring the octaves of Saints Benedict and Scholastica outside of Lent, where they would no longer impede the penitential season.

Second, the days of the kalendar underwent substantial revision of rank and kind. Double feasts previously enjoyed three nocturnes of four lessons each at Mattins throughout the year, except the summer when they had three. The revised kalendar provides three lessons per nocturne throughout the year and only one per nocturne during the summer. Semi-Double feasts were generally made into something equivalent to Third Class feasts in the 1960/2 Roman rite and feasts that were previously Simples found themselves more akin to John XXIII's "Commemoration" rank. The reforms did retain the traditional Semi-Double Offices for days within octaves.

One wonders why these Benedictines required a reduction in their Offices? Perhaps they needed time to buy suits and sit on liturgical reform commissions?

Monday, May 28, 2018

Lady Marchmain Considered

During recent weeks I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with several avid readers who share my interest in Brideshead Revisited, a novel that somehow continues to provide material for reflection. It is unlike Waugh's other works, which are generally dry satires with Hemingway-esque brevity in descriptions and dialogue. Indeed, one conversant who loves Brideshead attempted and failed to delve deeper into Waugh's more typical offerings.

It was during a luncheon and wine splurge that another Waughian reader said, "I don't know what to make of some of the characters. Charles and Sebastian are quite straight forward, but what about the mother?" To which I say Teresa Marchmain and Anthony Blanche are the two most misunderstood characters of Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited and fittingly the latter detests the former, never having met her.

Lady Marchmain is probably the most detestable character in the novel, more so than her eldest son, Bridey, because his aloofness and good nature are almost foibles; he has no ill intentions while his mother seems like she could sneak a dagger through a vertebra and twist it just right. Why does Lady Marchmain hold such a tight grip over her family and why does it make Bridey and Cordelia good Catholics while Julia and Sebastian apostosize, return after her death, and become saintly on their own? Why does she smother Sebastian to the point of alcoholism when all he has some is rabblerouse a little as a student?

Lady Marchmain had three brothers whose short lives, ended by the First World War, informed her view of what a man should aspire to be. "Uncle Ned is the test," said Sebastian. Her second blow during the War to End All Wars was that her husband left for combat and remained on the Continent with an Italian dancer, taking up a life of sin in a Venetian palace. It would not be a stretch to say Lady Marchmain is trying desperately to form her sons into the mold of her chivalrous brothers and to hew them to her, unlike her brothers and husband. Bridey turns out safely, if dull; the same is true of Cordelia; Sebastian and Julia, however, reject the program and flee from their mother's grasp to be their own persons.

She spends time in the chapel. She hires Fr. Phipps to say Mass on Sunday for her family and the villagers. She donates to causes, hosts agricultural events, and provides patronage for intellectual hangers-on. She is a good Catholic, but she is not a saint. "A saint must suffer," said my interlocutor. He is right, and Teresa Marchmain does suffer, but unlike her son, Sebastian, her suffering does not make her holy and does not make her closer to God. Sebastian's drunkenness and disempowerment cause him to take pity on a wounded soldier named Kurt, who he nurses and supports; after Kurt dies in a Nazi camp Sebastian returns to Africa and lives in a monastery, praying at odd hours, sneaking a drink, and doing what he can with his wounded soul. His mother, in stark contrast, becomes distant, emotionally stilted, and unable to love outwardly. Instead, she assumes a mantle of stoicism, genuinely loving her children but not knowing how to love them. As a result her social circle perceive her as a victim of her husband, who must have "stolen her patrimony, flung her out of doors, roasted, stuffed, and eaten her children, and gone frolicking about wreathed in all the flowers of Sodom and Gomorrah."

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Minor Milestone

This blog recently hit its one millionth view. I thank all of you for your dedicated following over the last five years.

Within the Octave of Pentecost: Latin Holy Ghostology

"We aren't very good about the Holy Spirit, we Westerners, we Latins," said the sermonist at the Mass I attended on Pentecost Sunday. "We will pray to God the Father, and the Son, Our Savior, and of course to the Blessed Mother, but we don't really pray to the Holy Spirit."

As jarring as this sounds it is all very true and speaks to the enduring antiquity of both the pre-Conciliar liturgy and the general Latin approach to theology. Prior to the Gallican additions of certain prayers to the Holy Spirit or Trinity (cf. Veni Santificator and Placeat tibi), the Roman Mass has little mention of the Holy Spirit aside from the Gloria Patri, itself an glaring addition to existing psalmody. Without the Gallican emendations one could reasonably imagine the old Roman Mass, textually, being said before the first general council at Nicaea, something that could never be said of the far more advanced Greek liturgy.

Then again the Greeks have a far stronger view of general councils and conciliar decisions than the Latins traditionally have. To the Greek an ecumenical council is almost an act of revelation, an enhancement of the extant deposit of faith that now builds upon the received Tradition and is an event to the celebrated every year with a particular Sunday in the Divine Liturgy. For the Latin the Christian life is the promise of the Temple worship met and fulfilled in the Sacrifice of the Cross, renewed at Mass; it is an extraordinarily primitive, antique mindset compared to the more refined Greek view; under this scheme of things a general council may issue canons or statements on any array of topics, but only what it says de fide is worth remembering and only then as an act of clarification of what had already been held.

"We Westerners, we Latins" do not have the pneumatology developed by the Cappadocian Fathers in the fourth century. We have general works on the Trinity by the likes of Ss. Ambrose and Augustine as well as later writers like Richard of St. Victor. The Holy Spirit and the Holy Trinity seem to be taken for granted in the Roman liturgical and theological tradition and why should that be a bad thing? Would it not speak to our pre-conciliar belief in such things? John Henry Newman wrote in one of his "plain and parochial" sermons that he rarely preached specifically about the Holy Ghost because the cardinal felt He was already and always at work within the Christian populace, moving hearts, directing paths, and forming instincts.

Our sermonist did concede that we Latins sing to the Holy Spirit and about the Holy Spirit quite well. "The Veni Sancte Spiritus is meant to be sung beautifully today, not mumbled at the altar," he told us at the spoken Mass. I was able to hear Veni Creator Spiritus during Vespers at the Brompton Oratory for Pentecost and on [what should have been] the Octave day of the Ascension at Westminster Cathedral's new rite Vespers.

A happy Pentecost to all you Latins who do not deliberate too often on the question of the Holy Spirit because you know He's been with you all along, ever since Baptism.


Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Many Happy Returns: Oxford

I recently returned from a week and a half visiting old acquaintances at Oxford and making some new ones in London, escaping those Excel spreadsheets from the office, and immersing myself in my Office. It was a pleasure to return to Oxford, where I spent some happy time reading medieval history as a student, where I first became interested in the medieval enhancement of the basic Roman liturgy and when my faith genuinely came alive. The city is much the same, but in many ways different from when I lived there seven years ago. What follows are poorly devised observations. Some proper reflections on architecture, the service of Vespers, the significance of symbolism, the "good life", and friendship will come in future weeks.


First, the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin is very much the University church in that it reflects both the interests and the religiosity of the University. A greeting table and several pro-gay banners obstructed the Rood screen. On the other side a minister began a said Eucharist service with one or two lay Anglicans in attendance; Chinese tourists snapped away with their cameras. Both Thomas Cranmer and Saint Edmund Campion were listed among the martyrs of the Reformation on the church wall. Rather than dwell on it I went to the nearest tobacconist, bought a Hoyo de Monterry No. 2, and took a morning constitution through the University Gardens.


Oxford has several gardens and the various colleges each have their own. Most people ambulate through the meadows of Christ Church College because the entrance is free and easy to access off Saint Aldate's Street. Instead I selected the quiet respite of Magdalen's gardens, where the hedge work is less deliberate, the deer are free to roam, and a mile or two path can take one out of radar range of the bustling tourism on the High.

After some time reminiscing a friend at the Ashmoleon arranged for a papal audience with the former Bishop of Rome, Prospero Lambertini.


The Pontifex emeritus and I dilated at length about the state of the liturgy, the resurgence of the old Holy Week, and his current successor. When I asked if we should return to the books in force during the reign of Pius X his holiness retorted "I forbade even Masses of the Sacred Heart. Why should my words carry less weight than those of Sarto?" When I pushed him to comment on the current pontiff he said, "De mortuis nil neque vivis."

A friend and I took leave of the Holy Father and instead opted for a nice luncheon at Le Manoir in Great Milton, about half an hour's drive from Oxford, where a pimply sommelier refused to believe his wine selection for the gazpacho did not work; the rest of the meal was a masterpiece. Le Manoir is almost worth a visit for its own sake, a 15th century manor house-turned-restaurant that grows all its own vegetables on a few acres; the scent of several varieties of thymes, lemongrass, and flowers from the Japanese garden perfume the air around the estate.


Finally, I revisited the Oxford Oratory for the 8AM Mass and sung Latin Vespers in the evening, the first time I have attended Western-rite Vespers since leaving Oxford seven years ago. I revisited also the chapel of Saint Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory and the "Third Apostle" to the City of Rome. Philip, not unlike Francis of Assisi, was perhaps not as crazy as we imagine, but his absolute detachment from the world was certainly jarring and attractive to his followers. In our age material wealth and instant entertainment have made possible what in Philip's day were merely tempestuous thoughts, and yet it is Philip's assimilation of indifference to the world and real love of neighbor that re-converted Rome's heart. I have maintained a devotion to Saint Philip these years and would encourage anyone unfamiliar with his life to acquaint himself. There is a reason new oratories seem to sprout up every year and it is not because people want to wear fiddleback chasubles.

More later. Some random thoughts to finish:

  • there are a lot more German speakers in Oxford than in my day
  • the tabloids loved this Royal wedding as much as the last, but the retailers did not
  • attendance at the 1962 Mass at the Oratory is stagnant; their Solemn Novus Ordo is down a bit owing to other churches in the area imitating the practice (not a bad thing really)
  • during my visit two different people encouraged me to read AN Wilson's Unguarded Hours about "Staggers" in the '70s, which produced some remarkably good and bad Anglican clergy during that decade
  • the number of homeless in Oxford must have doubled and no one seems interested in doing anything about it

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Devotionalism: Its Relation to Religion


Proper devotion, as noted by the Thomistic reference in the previous installment, is tied intrinsically to the practice of religion. While a particular devotion might have grass roots it must have a close relation to the religious practice of the Church if it can be considered a Catholic devotion. There is little necessary in the way of a formal process of ecclesiastical approval; indeed, aside from recognition in the Enchiridion Indulgentiarum or outright condemnation there is little to stand in the way of a devotion from developing however its devotees wish.

In an age when the faithful were more attuned to the movements and rhythms of Tradition, one could more easily trust the common instinct as sensus fidelium. The iconoclastic movement of the Counter-Reformation shifted devotionalism to a clergy-approved process, but the modern age has seen even priests turning skeptic. Devotionals tend to be split between extreme populist practices (consecrations to St. Joseph, various novenas, private revelations) and those safely approved and promulgated (Divine Mercy chaplets, miraculous medals).

The practices of religious orders were the source of most popular devotions. From the formal prayer of the psalter or breviary has sprung the Rosary, books of hours, little offices, parochial vespers, and many more. Every popular form of scapular comes from a religious habit. Consecrations to Christ and Mary take the form of quasi-religious vows. The admonition to have a “rule of life” is a derivation of the strict order of monastic living.

The ancient practice of pilgrimage developed in a multitude of ways from its roots in the Jewish Passover, and devotions like the Stations of the Cross and “round-the-block” processions are simplified extrapolations from its basic principles. So too are derived the various labyrinths of medieval cathedrals.

The kalendar found popular expression in the dedication of months to saints and Christological aspects, usually tied into a particular feast found in that month. The same is often applied to the days of the week, but to far more questionable effect.

When devotions move away from their roots they begin to take on lives of their own. The Rosary gains a fourth set of mysteries and loses all symbolic connection to the 150 psalms. The brown scapular is handed out like candy by everyone but the Carmelites and becomes a garment of superstition. The vigil is disconnected from its complex roots in the Roman Rite and Breviary, and becomes a way to escape going to Mass on Sunday mornings. Unless it maintains strong roots in Tradition, devotionalism slips into rigid atomization and restless novelty.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Devotionalism: An Introduction


It was nearly a year ago, I think, that His Traddiness requested I start a series on devotionalism in the Church, as much for my own edification as for that of our readers. My discomfort with popular devotions began during my early movements toward the Church out of my schismatic beginnings and never entirely disappeared. Even that most benign devotional, the Rosary, was soaked with such an overwhelming perfume of sickly sweetness that it took over a year before I felt comfortable praying it without suspicion.

My background in Neo-Reformed spirituality subsumed the entire spiritual life within the prayerful, careful study of Holy Writ. Exegesis upon the literal meaning of the sacred texts was simultaneously the closest intimacy with the Divine Mind. Sentimentality was rarely permitted except when meditating on the comfort provided by God’s preservation of the elect forever in a state of salvation. Even the traditionally Calvinist hymns were triumphalist and overwhelmed by the awe inspired by divinity. Christ was seen as judge or as a means to the end of justification and atonement, rarely as a person capable of giving or desiring charitable passions.

The effeminate paintings of the Savior that spread like mold across the walls of our parishes only further the divide between the old world and the new. It is difficult to take icons that resemble the “bearded ladies” of outmoded circuses seriously, and pastel-drenched images of the Blessed Virgin and the multitude of saints only compound the difficulties.

Even worse are the devotionals that demand certain emotional outpourings of which not all people are capable—at least not at all times nor on command—and which create scruples when the devotee fails to correctly conjure them up. The texts used for the Stations of the Cross at a local parish during Lent, for example, insist on a very particular emotional state of mind in those reading the responses and add further problems by surprising the laity with statements that, on a literal level, amount to solemn vows.

This demand for emotional conformity has found its way into the liturgy of the New Mass as normally celebrated. Anyone in the pews who does not appear to be emoting in lockstep with the cantor and peace-givers is either shunned or chided from the pulpit. Individuals are commonly offended if you show a disinterest in their peculiar devotions or decline the offer of a plastic sacramental.

My own spirituality has been—understandably, I hope—somewhat reactionary and similar to what it was in my “Young, Restless, and Reformed” days: studious, technically theological, and suspicious of emotionality. It is easy for someone like this to lose track of the liturgical year, to have to be reminded of traditional fasts, feasts, and vigils. (Indeed, when one kalendar is being used by most Catholics, another by most traditionalists, and yet another by a minority of Roman Rite historians, it is difficult to feel vitally connected to a sense of annual ritual.) When I read of the spiritual practices found in ancient Catholic nations, I admire them with a touch of jealousy, but with little sense that I can participate in anything noticeably similar.

But while I have written skeptically about some devotions in the past, I am far from denying their efficacy for many souls, and farther still from suggesting a prohibition on any but those based on pure fabrications (see nearly everything I have written about St. Joseph to date). I also recognize that my spirituality of study is not profitable for all, and that it is wrought with its own dangers. The primal admonition that faith without works is dead rings true as well; one feels a deep need to participate in the pilgrimages, fasts, vespers, and processions of old, even if their forms must be recreated from scratch in the modern world. Something that once would have seemed commonplace, like making and keeping a vow of pilgrimage, is now itself seen as devotional nonsense by church ladies who gush lovingly over images of Divine Mercy Jesus.

“Devotion,” Aquinas writes, “is an act of the will to the effect that man surrenders himself readily to the service of God.” He argues also that devotion is tied intrinsically to the practice of religion, and is not something that normally stands alone as a simple act of charity. The privatization of devotion is a real danger in our increasingly atomistic world, as is the imposition of the devotional whims of the few upon the many.

The intent of this series is to look afresh at devotions in the Catholic life, especially those old and discarded: the pilgrimages, the processions, the sponsorship of mystery plays by guilds, and so forth. Can they be revived? Would the attempt be a foolish bit of antiquarianism? Let us hope not.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Viri Galilaei, Quid Statis Aspicientes in Caelum?


"I may be allowed to say that the disciples' slowness to believe that the Lord had indeed risen from the dead, was not so much their weakness as our strength. In consequence of their doubts, the fact of the Resurrection was demonstrated by many infallible proofs. These proofs we read and acknowledge. What then assureth our faith, if not their doubt? For my part, I put my trust in Thomas, who doubted long, much more than in Mary Magdalene, who believed at once. Through his doubting, he came actually to handle the holes of the Wounds, and thereby closed up any wound of doubt in our hearts." —St. Gregory the Great, 29th sermon on the Gospels

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

A Special Kyrie

Henri du Mont wrote during an unusual time, the period well after the Renaissance, when polyphony and plainsong were common and quite separate, and the pre-Vatican II era, when the high Mass was dominated by noisesome, loud sing-songy tunes in Latin. Du Mont's Messe Royale falls somewhere between plainsong, polyphony, and the pre-Vatican II method. It is not quite plainsong, since it is timed, but follows the notation and pattern. It is not polyphonic properly, since it contains a singular, flowing melody. And it is not of the 1950ish variety due to its time of writing, although it probably has the most in common with these.

Not unlike Josquin de Prez's Missa Pange Linguae, the Messe Royale begins each setting of the Ordinary with the same melody, although unlike Josquin the Messe Royale does not explicitly borrow from an extant Gregorian melody, unless a uniquely Gallican tune escapes me. In fact each part of the Messe Royale begins with the same melody, which over the course of the Mass becomes repetitive.

It is not an especially fine Mass, but the Kyrie for the Messe Royale as interpreted by the choir of Saint Just, the FSSP parish in Lyon, is very special. Saint Just offers a rendition of this Kyrie, intended for the private chapel of Louis XIV, with a mix of Old Roman droning and the French style of organ Mass. Despite mixing the eighth and eighteenth centuries, it works extraordinarily well and is quite moving. The domineering presence of God that this sort of music proclaims mimics the song of the angels (it is the remembrance of Saint Michael's apparition today) and might compel some to put down their hand Missals and just think about God for a moment. I would like to hear a happy Gregorian or polyphonic Gloria after this Kyrie, but this sort of music absolutely has a place and offers ambitious choirs something to aspire to after perfecting the seasonal settings of Mass. One does not need to sing Palestrina for special occasions. This sort of music will do.

On another note, I will be in London and Oxford for the next two weeks and happily away from my computer. J and Fr. Capreolus will keep the posts and comments rolling, so don't stop reading. Please keep me in your kind prayers.


Sunday, May 6, 2018

Who Are the Poor?

What follows is a post originally intended for Lent. Holy Week encroached upon its writing and then I fell very ill for the two weeks after Pascha.

One poor for the Kingdom of Heaven
source: Huffington Post
What is the most haunting, or "challenging" in the modern parlance, passage from the Gospel? The myrrh bearing women coming to an empty tomb at dawn two days after Our Lord's death upon the life giving Cross? Christ's own foretelling of the end of the world, the tribulation of faith, and His own return to pass judgment on the quick and the dead? They call us to attention for our sins and remind us that our deeds and faith will have to measure up to what Christ expects when we meet Him. Do any of them remind us how stringently Christ will judge us, especially we modern Catholics, like the parable of the rich man and Lazarus?

"There's no reason to be poor anymore dude! If you're poor it's all your fault!" exclaimed one excitable fellow during dinner some weeks ago. This crypto-capitalist unfolded the mystery of America's wealth dichotomy, the strange fact that America is the wealthiest and most generous nation the world has ever seen and also one whose Horatio Alger, rags-to-riches mantra could be summarized as "Do it yourself."

"Do it yourself" is an empowering concept that has created considerable wealth and eliminated a great deal of poverty since the Industrial Revolution downsized agrarian life and relocated farmers to cities. "Do it yourself" also assumes quite a great deal. It assumes social mobility, a society that allows anyone to move from his current state, however degraded, to a better one on merit. It assumes the downtrodden are capable and skilled people who can offer something that our consumer-driven, post-industrial, knowledge-based society wants. And above all it assumes that no one needs a second chance, since all opportunity is immanently available.

Is there merit to this logic? Absolutely there is merit. The poor in modern America live in section 8 housing or trailers and collect benefits to use at Walmart or the local corner shop in some crime-infested neighborhood. It may be terrible, but it is not the "leper" society of first century Jerusalem when a mere ailment meant social exile, homelessness, disregard from one's own relatives, and a hungry, lonely death in ritual impurity. Our religious sentiment hopes to assuage genuine poverty in random acts of kindness in encountering a displaced street person, but even they are no longer always what they seem.

There is another sort of poverty that transcends all income levels, that of dis-empowerment, those people who cannot make decisions on their own owing to circumstance. People in this predicament may not live on the street; they may live in a disheveled flat in a bad neighborhood or work away from home for periods of time because their only work prevents them from seeing their families. These poor souls, who cannot make choices with the same levity as most in our post-Industrial, materialist society, are probably the closest we will come to finding traditional poverty.

Poverty, especially of this sort, can be romanticized in literature and devotional writings, not least because for centuries the target audiences for these materials rarely had great means. Dostoevsky almost always has a holy lunatic whose penury frees him or her to embrace a mystical devotion to God. Western spiritual writers seem to think poverty has a merit all its own. This may be true in the case of a devout person, but it cannot be true absolutely. The poverty of dis-empowerment, more than anything, breeds bitterness, resent, quashes dreams, and impinges on one's ability to love others or see beyond the scope of one's own quotidian misery, the latter two being the essence of the Christian life. Far from freeing one of materialistic concerns, this measly state unleashes the worst in our survivalist instincts and when one fails or falls behind, the blame rarely goes to circumstance and almost always to others.

"Blessed are the poor," said Our Lord, but another recounts Him as saying "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Blessed are those who help these poor where ever he finds them. Blessed is he who teaches them to love and to live better. And then will the poor be rich in the kingdom of God.

Friday, May 4, 2018

The Latin Novus Ordo

Pontifical Latin Mass, the new way. Super K sits in choro.
Sunday will end a remarkable Paschaltide week in the old Roman liturgy which began with the ancient feast of Ss. Philip & James and which ends Sunday with a quintessentially Roman feast of Saint John at the Late Gate, which displaces the Sunday. Not only does the Church recall the martyrdom of two Apostles and the near death of another, she contemplates the glory of the Life Giving Cross through the lens of the Resurrection of the Redeemer and calls to mind the "greatest soldier the Catholic faith has known," Athanasius. Adding to the sanctoral in later editions are Monica, who reared the most influential of Western theologians and the greatest convert after Paul, and also Pius V, who codified this very rite. It is a week so joyous, so Paschal in its brightness, and so very Roman in its disposition.

And I cannot help but notice the 1962 rite does not have even half these qualities this week:

  • The seventh century feast of two Apostles is replaced by a mandatory concoction geared towards post-War Communists; this mockery of Saint Joseph was only obligatory on the Roman kalendar for fourteen years
  • St. Athanasius upheld the Incarnation when every bishop other than Hilary and Liberius had explicitly caved, but we could not uphold his feast; Mattins devolves from three nocturnes to one nocturne of nine psalm fragments
  • The Invention of the Holy Cross is scrapped and the mystery of the Crucifixion is not revisited during Paschaltide; by contrast Corpus Christi specifically revisits the institution of the Eucharist outside the more intensive context of Holy Week
  • Since this Saturday is a first Saturday I suspect a good number of '62ists will celebrate the Immaculate Heart of Mary votive Mass rather than the feast of St. Pius V, who guaranteed the liturgy which most traditionalists purport to use
  • St. John at the Latin Gate is gone, not even commemorated with a Mattins reading and a collect and Last Gospel at Mass as he was in the S Pius X rites; this and the abolition of several other uniquely Roman feasts reflects a deleterious tendency in the 1962 and Paul VI rites to remove Roman elements from the Missal in favor of more universal principles, which would be fine if the new Missal were the only rite in the entire Church and permitted no variation, but this is not the case
In contrast to the old rite, the first week of May in 1962 is less "wrong" from an historic perspective than it is just plain old weird.

Similarly, there is nothing technically wrong with practicing the Pauline Mass in Latin—a pet peeve to many a traddie—but they are right in that it is just plain old weird. It is not weird in the way S. Ioseph Opifex is weird, just that the concept behind it is quite awkward and people react to it in various ways because there is no hard and fast rule behind when and how to do it.

I have attended numerous Latin Novus Ordo Masses in my life, which is quite something because they are considerably rarer than the 1962 Mass and may become rarer than the real old Mass if this past Holy Week presages the future. One was in Connecticut, one at the Altar of the Throne at St. Peter's in Rome, and the rest at Oratorian churches in England. All were quite beautiful owing to their setting, the exceptional quality of the music, and that the language removed any spec of personality or innovation from the clergy. The Roman Mass was probably the least "fussy" while the Oratorian Masses were as buttoned-up as a 19th century wingtip collar. The priests of Saint Peter's followed the same ritual as any other Paul VI Mass, just with better music, a different language, and no chatting between parts of the Mass. By contrast the Oratorians were sublimating the ritual, or often directly copying the movements of, the Tridentine liturgy, right down the lined up ministers and Roman vestments. It begs the question, what is a Latin Novus Ordo Mass supposed to be?

That is the $64,000 question.

First, there is the question of how much Latin is to be used. Given that the new liturgy favors an entirely didactic approach to the readings it only makes sense for them to be said in vernacular, although sometimes the Gospel has been read in Latin. One could make the case the orations, being variable, ought to be in vernacular, too. Oratorians do the new Mass entirely in Latin except for the readings and intercessory prayers. Some others adapt a pastiche of back and forth between the old and new tongues. Ss. Cyril and Methodius practiced the Latin rite in Slavonic, but with Latin readings in accordance with Adrian II's "literary principle." There really is no guiding logic in this question.

Then there is a matter of ritual. At Oxford I witnessed what must be one of the rare uses ever of an acolyte in his commissioned place at a new rite Mass, doing everything the subdeacon would in the old Mass. Except they referred to the altar servers as acolytes and the acolyte as a subdeacon. As a remarkable departure from this milieu, a church in this area attempted to do a Latin Novus Ordo Mass on Fridays some years ago, replete with altar girls and Eucharistic ministers; they wondered why there was no demand.

The issue with the Latin Novus Ordo Mass is that it is anachronistic and something of a redundancy on its own. It is the reformed liturgy in another language at heart. Despite what some kind-hearted people wishfully thought under Benedict XVI's reign, a generally vernacular liturgy is what Paul VI intended; he introduced his Mass at a time when Mass had been 100% in vernacular for two years and versus turbam for longer than that. The rare instances where a Latin Novus Ordo has been implemented successfully fall in conservative settings, that is, settings where people were trying to conserve what they had at a time when it was being taken from them. Were a major church in this area to Latinize its primary Sunday Mass the congregation would be confused at the move and older people irritated. In 1969, when the Consilium saw fit to introduce new pains to congregations in frequent intervals, retaining an all-Latin liturgy with excellent music, normal vesture, and a real altar attracted people already familiar with those things. If anything, the Latin Novus Ordo Mass has never been as successful as its prototype, the English Oratorian Mass, which owes its remarkable popularity to the circumstances of its introduction and not entirely its own principle.

Monday, April 30, 2018

"The Jews"

"He's mad about conspiracy theories."

"Too much time on his hands."

"A lack of industry."

"He's probably somewhere on the Spectrum, so go a bit easy on him."

"Full of odd ideas about the Jews controlling the banks."

"Well, they do."

"What?" I inquired amid coffee after the Divine Liturgy, my conversants being visitors from an unnamed setting.

"Really? I had no idea!"

"Yes, they created the Federal Reserve in 1917, or something like that, to control the banks. The Rothschilds control 80% of the world's banks. But the Russians and Putin, who's a great Christian man, threw the Rothschilds out of Russia, so at least there is one Christian nation out there."

"You know," I trolled, "the Rothschilds got the Pacelli family into the Vatican."

They were not phased.

"And the Jews really invented Communism just so they'd have control over both conservative and modern governments. It's really ingenious."

"Who, pray tell," I asked, "are 'The Jews'?"

What followed was indiscernable, "paranoid style" clap trap so very typically of disempowered groups convinced of the self-evident goodness of their own ideas and so who can only explain the failure of those ideas with conspiracy and shadow. Who, I repeat, are "the Jews" in the context of this conversation? Can the Rabbi in Dallas put me in touch with the London or Neapolitan Rothschilds? I would like to join the New World Order; it sounds more lucrative than my current profession.

This sort of ignorant nonsense—Ignorance and Want being Charles Dickens' two great crimes—greatly hinders real and significant engagement that needs to take place with the Jewish diaspora. The systemic attempt by Hitler's Germany to exterminate ethnic Jews remains the most vivid and remarkable cruelty of the media age. Unfortunately, a lingering consequence of the "Final Solution" is that countries and cultures are more disposed to produce policy based on lasting guilt than on prudence.

The creation of a Jewish state had long been considered before World War II and after the War the Allied powers gave the Zionist pipe-dream of occupying the Palestinian coastline an eventuation in reality. Of all Great Britain's mistakes following the collapse of its Empire, and there were many, this was the greatest: to locate an ethnic and religious minority, who had not lived in that land since the days of Tiberius, in a hotbed of religious turmoil just as that place was entering modernity and putting off the hijab. Between the various players in the Middle East this writer is unconvinced there are any good guys, just lesser degrees of bad guys. Would it be terrible still without that 1947 United Nations decision? Yes. Would it be less bad? Absolutely.

James Meyer de Rothschild, Order of St George
And then there is the lasting identity that comes from what transpired in Germany during the Austrian corporal's reign. Jewish culture is not the only one which has made its victimhood from genocide a central element to its modern culture, but it certainly has done so to a point unprecedented by contrast with similarly suffering ethnic parties. No one who doubts what Hitler did will escape the label "Holocaust denier"; such a person can expect to lose his job, his livelihood, and any place in polite society. Meanwhile the European Union did not recognize the Holodomor—Stalin's deliberate starvation of Ukraine which resulted in comparable deaths to the Holocaust—until 2008; the United States has yet to recognize the event officially, although there have been commemorative events. Perhaps most alarmingly governments have been slow to recognize the Armenian genocide outside of Western Europe. Like what transpired in Germany, an ambitious government sought an orderly extermination of what it viewed as a potentially subversive minority; the Turks were just as evil as the Nazis, if less effective. Armenian immigrants in America have made recognition of the deplorable genocide a desiderium that hews them to their native culture. The younger, second generation Armenians are less enamored with the cause and find the cultural identification around genocide understandable if a bit morbid.

Which brings us back to post-Liturgy coffee hour. One could reasonably ascribe some of the Church's current malaise to post-War guilt; one only need listen to the Polish and German popes comments about 1944 Germany and the Vatican's resolute post-Conciliar optimism to see a Church racked with guilt over the idea that they contributed to a world which made the Austrian corporal possible. But if "the Jews" and Rothschilds are wholesale to blame for current woes perhaps such conspiracy theorists would better suited by ignoring the Federal Reserve and instead looking into that loan James Rothschild gave Gregory XVI.

Or maybe we should get out of coffee hour and talk to others about God rather than reflect within our own porous fortress.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Montini's Exile


"It is also well-known that Giovanni Battista Montini was exiled from the Curia to the See of Milan by Pius XII, without being made a Cardinal, the first Archbishop of Milan not be made a Cardinal either upon appointment or shortly thereafter since 1893."
This remark, taken from the comments in a NLM post on Montini's desire for absolution without admission of liturgical guilt, repeats a common myth in traditionalist circles about the relationship between Papa Pacelli and Paulo VI. At face value it certainly follows the popular narrative that portrays Eugenio Pacelli as a charismatic, arch-conservative pope—and occasionally an organic reformer of the liturgy while defending against "antiquarian" archaeology; by contrast, Msgr. Montini is liberal, loose-thinking and given to the whims of the times, and held in suspicion by his employer. It follows that Pius XII, fearing the Secretariat of State's rising influence in the Vatican's liberal faction, exiled him to the industrial city of Milan to prevent him from being made his successor. After all, he deprived Montini of the red hat, did he not?

It all makes sense. Only it doesn't....

Some basic facts debunk the basic theory before the more particular circumstances can be judged. First, Pacelli sent Montini to Milan in 1954. The pope did not hold a consistory after 1952 due to his ailing health. Indeed, the conclave that elected John XXIII had fewer electors (53) than the one which selected his predecessor (62). John held several consistories in his short reign to amend this seeming disparity.

Moreover, Giovanni Battista Montini was never Vatican Secretariat of State. Pius appointed Cardinal Maglione as his Secretariat of State throughout the Second World War, after which the cardinal died and his duties were absorbed directly by the papacy until Papa Pacelli's death in 1958. Msgr. Montini acted as an assistant in fulfilling these duties, wherein he supposedly had furtive negotiations with Communists and incited the pope's ire and condemnation to exile. Does one exile a monsignor from an under-secretary role by making him an archbishop? Does one punish a priest by making him archbishop of the diocese that produced the prior pope? If Pius wanted to exile Montini he could have sent the university chaplain and left-wing agitator to any number of tiny village dioceses in Italy. One does not punish a minor bureaucrat by making him papabile.

At a closer view Pius XII and Paul VI were extraordinarily alike. Both came from influential families—Pius coming from "black nobility" which increased its wealth in banking and Paul coming from Giorgio Montini, a luminary in the Christian Democrats movement. Neither went to a seminary to do anything other than study Canon Law for a few years and fulfill a legal requirement; otherwise their clerical educations were undertaken by their cardinatial mentors (Rampolla and Pacelli respectively). Both worked in the Secretariat of State office, although Pacelli had more significant field work than Montini, who made one embassy to Poland before being recalled to Pius' side. Both displayed an optimistic willingness to cooperate with post-War political institutions erected by democratic powers; Pius XII was called the "chaplain to NATO" more than once while Paul VI told the United Nations that the edifice it built must never fall.

Above all, both embraced liturgical tinkering at an historically unprecedented level. Pius XII hired Annibale Bugnini after reading his reform-minded article in a liturgical journal and gave Bugnini carte blanche to restore Holy Week to a form that never existed, a reform less radical than Paul VI's only in that it ruined only one week of the year. Paul, after gathering university students around his altars and saying Mass in the streets of Rome with progressive students, re-hired Pius's fixer after John XXIII fired him and let him wreak havoc on the other 51 weeks of the year. Other than the scale of destruction, perhaps the only real difference between the two popes is that Paul VI showed severe regret and cognitive dissonance later in life.

What, then, do we make of the 1954 "exile" to Milan? There are several possibilities. Perhaps Pius grew tired of Montini's antics, like saying Mass surrounded by a crowd of teenagers, and wanted him to rethink his ways. Perhaps Pius knew he was getting too old to function and that giving his protege a papabile see would guarantee him the chance to become his eventual successor. Or maybe they butted heads and Pius needed space from his friend all the while remembering that Montini was his friend.

Sometimes becoming a bishop can be demotion. It may well have happened to Robert Barron, who now instead of forming priests in the mold of Cardinal George now gives the odd sermon at someone else's cathedral in Los Angeles. But then again Father Barron was not made an instant candidate for the papacy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Paschaltide Resume

A blessed feast of Saint Mark, founder of the Alexandrian Church, to all. Throughout the year my favorite Mattins is that from the Common of Virgin Martyrs, but the Paschaltide Mattins from the Common of Apostles and Evangelists is a close second.

With the continued proliferation of old rite Holy Week celebrations accelerated by the Ecclesia Dei indult (did everyone with an indult send pictures to New Liturgical Movement or are liberties being taken?) it might be a good time to ask readers or Facebook linkers whether they know of any communities that implemented the old liturgy this year and how it was received. I would be particularly interested if readers could comment on:

  1. How those unfamiliar with the pre-1962 changes were able to adapt to the old rites
  2. Whether they were practiced at the old times, the Paul VI, or the head-scratching 1962 times (Holy Saturday Vespers at 1:30AM on Sunday morning?)
  3. What would have made the implementation easier to facilitate from the perspective of both clergy and laity
Weren't choirs happy to sing Palestrina's Sicut cervus in its proper place?

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ave Verus Sonus

While looking for something else I stumbled upon this little gem, a setting of Ave Verum Corpus by Geoffrey Burgon. It is really little more than a vocal overlay of the hymn's words onto his main theme for the 1981 serialization of Brideshead Revisited, yet it somehow works quite well. I'm not keen to hear this after the elevation at Mass, but it makes a pleasant and thoughtful listen.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Orthodox Orders

"Women....." -St John Chrysostom
"The divine law excluded women from this ministry, but they forcibly push themselves in, and, since they can do nothing personally, they do everything by proxy. They have got such power that they appoint and dismiss priests at will."

So writes Saint John Chrysostom in chapter nine of his third book on the priesthood. The Golden Mouth's books on the priesthood focused a Lenten book reading between myself, another Catholic, and some Orthodox friends with varying views towards Latin Catholicism. Saint John wrote his dialogues, if they can even be called that, on the priesthood after he and his friend, Basil, were elected bishops of their respective cities and John deceived Basil into receiving while fleeing the same fate. After some face-saving protestations, the Saint lays down the timorous duties of a "priest," by which he really means a bishop.

Priest is a word which has numerous meanings in ancient times. The one-time Patriarch of Antioch and Constantinople meant it as a bishop, which the older Pontificale Romanum preserves in calling the episcopacy the "second order of priesthood." In the time of Saint Cyprian of Carthage some meant it merely to denote those who sat on the bishop's council for the administration of the local church, whether that person was ordained or not (cf. Allen Brent's introduction to the S. Vladimir Press books). And, of course, it meant men who were ordained to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice in places where the bishop could not be present, which it almost universally meant by the time of Nicaea and which it still means today.

It was in giving this context to the term "priest" that I adduced the above quote and presumed aloud that we were all in perfect agreement on its meaning. One Orthodox conversant asked how broadly I would like to apply the idea that women cannot enter the priesthood. In turn yours truly suggested that if women cannot inherently enter one stage of Holy Orders then how could they logically enter any. Then the real tumult turned.

"I guess it goes back to the energies versus essence debate."

"No," I replied. "No, it doesn't really."

"I guess if you're going to call them 'Sacraments' instead of 'Mysteries' then you really need to reduce them to something simple that you can count."

"How would you have us understand the effects of Ordination? Is the Church's blessing and laying of hands in any ministry to be understand as a kind of Holy Order?"

"Yes! That is exactly what it is!"

"What of deaconesses?"

"Yes, they're ordained, just like an abbot or abbess, or a male deacon. Their roles are just different."

"But you don't think a woman could become a priest? There have been deaconesses, but the extent of their roles outside of Baptism is highly debated."

"They can be Sacramental deaconesses, but they cannot be bishops. We don't know yet if they cannot be priests. Orthodoxy must not be afraid of this question."

Initially this remark reminded me of Church World Mission by Alexander Schmemann, wherein the priest condones the idea that any encounter with God could be a Sacrament, a holy thing wherein God touches someone by His grace. The problem comes in assuming this must always be the case.

Deaconesses are a tricky matter. They certainly existed in most of Christendom up to and including the fourth century, but they never seem to have been very common in the city of Rome. In northern Italy and places under Byzantine influence they assisted in the full-immersion Baptism of female catechumens; at the Hagia Sophia they were permitted to take Communion at the altar; then again so was the Emperor, who was also allowed to perform certain incensations. In Armenia the order has died and been revived in several stages throughout history, including quite recently; the Armenian Apostolic Church permits them to read the Gospel at Mass, but I do not know if this has always been the case. Wikipedia declares them fully Sacramental and our Orthodox interlocutor declares anything hierarchically blessed a Sacrament, so why can we Latins not simply accept that women once upon a time had a separate-but-equal place in Holy Orders? Should they again?



Then again perhaps a blessing for work and the bestowal of a place doing something for the Apostles' successors is not always the same thing, even if it often is. Separate-but-equal ministries sound fine until you realize that the Church has the power to make or unmake these offices. The priesthood in the modern sense is an extension of the priesthood Christ gave the Apostles to be used only when the Apostles' successors are not presents; this came about some time after the Apostles invented the diaconate before our eyes in Acts. In the lifetime of some readers Paul VI eliminated three traditional Orders in the Latin Church: porter, exorcist, and subdeacon. If the power to create Orders for the Apostles' ministry rests with the Church then the Church has the power to confer them as it sees fit. Women cannot be divinely barred from one step of a created Order while admissible to another. If the Church can give women a fully Sacramental (or "Mysterious", if our book club friend is to be believed) place, why can she not have a higher rung at a later point?

This cannot be chalked up to Church discipline or tradition. There is no inherent reason why a married man with twenty children cannot be a bishop. It is a matter of strongly corroborated tradition and experience that he ought not be, but if he receives the laying of hands then he will become a bishop according to all Churches, East and West. No Apostolic Church, however, believes laying hands on a lady is anything other than an invitation to a bar fight or accusations of "micro aggression." If Providence has decided she cannot take the fullness of the Apostolic role there is no reason to think she could only have a particular part of it, the unique tradition of the Armenians not withstanding.

Then again cosmetic surgical procedures and adoption can aid some in embracing delusions of maternity, but it will not make men into mothers.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Dubious End of the Dubia


The word on the street is that the dubia of Cdls. Brandmüller, Burke, et al. has finally reached its termination with a traditional definition of the immorality of receiving Communion whilst in the midst of adultery by a small, toothless conference in Rome. This “whimper” ending of the dubia process is disappointing but unsurprising. An old mentor of mine once encouraged me to pray for Joseph Ratzinger upon his election to the papacy because he was “more of an academic than a man of action,” and that goes double for Raymond Leo Burke, a man more comfortable in a law library than the public square.

This is not to suggest that the cardinal lacks a spine, merely that he is better at standing still in the midst of a hurricane than he is at wielding a weapon against the enemy. The fruitless exercise of the dubia by the ever-dwindling association of cardinals ended in frustration and confusion, and perhaps it has left the situation worse than when it began.

Meanwhile, the Francismachine continues to bulldoze apace. Cdl. Raymond “Lion” Burke lacks the resolve of his middle-namesake, favoring public respect and a show of obedience to the direct opposition of this Satanic undermining of marital life.
How can any one enter into the house of the strong, and rifle his goods, unless he first bind the strong? and then he will rifle his house. He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.
The Vatican’s offenses against matrimony are accumulative and disastrous for the salvation of men. We traditionalists have been looking to the dubia cardinals as modern-day Bishop Turpins—the celebrated warrior-bishop of La Chanson de Roland—but they are in the final analysis mere clerics in the reductive sense of the word: clerks worried more about an imbalance in the books than about the evil at the root of the problem.

One day we may get the reforming clergy we need, but Brandmüller and Burke have quietly retreated from the field while their soldiers still fight. They may continue to grant interviews until the day they die, but talk is only talk.
From the other part is the Archbishop Turpin,
He pricks his horse and mounts upon a hill;
Calling the Franks, sermon to them begins:
“My lords barons, Charles left us here for this;
He is our King, well may we die for him:
To Christendom good service offering.
Battle you’ll have, you all are bound to it,
For with your eyes you see the Sarrazins.
Pray for God’s grace, confessing Him your sins!
For your souls’ health, I’ll absolution give
So, though you die, blest martyrs shall you live,
Thrones you shall win in the great Paradis.”
The Franks dismount, upon the ground are lit.
That Archbishop God’s Benediction gives,
For their penance, good blows to strike he bids. (lxxxix)

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Ready for Another?

"Nothing gets you over the last one like the next one," or so goes common advice after the termination of a serious relationship. We Americans recently dwindled down our long-term relationship with Iraq and are looking to move into a new Middle Eastern residence. Did we find a new beau in Syria? Or will it just be—I pray—a one night stand.

The joint bombing of Syria has the distinct flavor of Bill Clinton's 1998 bombing of an abandoned factory in Iraq during his impeachment for using his office to cover up his infelicitous soiree with Monica Lewinsky. Or perhaps this is the influence of John Bolton, the UN ambassador under the most recent Bush? Neo-conservatism shares with its socialist ancestor the belief that all contemporary problems could be solved if only other cultures would embrace our post-Roosevelt federal system and be "free." Apparently Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq did not sufficiently convince Western leadership otherwise. It is a long discredited idea, but, like witchcraft and democracy, it tells a comforting lie: that we can do something about everything we do not like.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Liturgy & Bad Language

During the transitory years of youth, which seem to have a languor of isolation and distance from the harshness of parents' bothersome lives, children are rarely distinguished from each other based on ability. That comes with high school or university education. Until then anyone at a school may be much more or less capable than any other pupil. In the menagerie of third grade or eighth grade perhaps a less bookish student calls a more bookish student a "smarty pants" for using a polysyllabic word. In high school well placed use of a verb, other than some conjugation of "to be," is met with a similarly derisive animadversion of "showing off." By college one walks a tight rope between good writing and "purple prose."

The right use of the right words expresses a thought, an idea in dimension and depth that simple descriptions and synonyms cannot relate. It is much the same difference between reading Shakespeare's plays on the page for years and finally finding the time to see Hamlet on stage in a proper theater, when "To be or not to be" ceases to be the words of a student in a tweed jacket and becomes the reflection of a suicidal depressive. The art of real wordsmithing so enchants that imitators come flocking in, hoping to learn the art while replicating the works of the originals like Sorbonne students who copy pieces in the Louvre. The inevitable outcome is something flat, two dimensional. It is better than modern art, or language, to be sure, but it leaves the lingering feeling of fakery, of not quite being the "real deal." Essays in the New Yorker possess greater literary quality than their brotherly hit pieces in the New York Times, but inevitably they are both meant to convey the same narrow, drivel on the left that the Wall Street Journal peddles on the right.

And yet we need good language. Bad language—"they" used to say—reflected a poor education, and it does. Ignored, and more worthy of concern, is the lasting influence of bad language on each succeeding generation. Thoughts come to inquisitive minds only to be thwarted by an inability to get them out, or at least to get them out well, much like a young commis chef in a fine restaurant who knows a sauce is off, but does not know how the sauce is made or how to add acidity. Basic feelings like "good," "bad," "happy," and "angry" become the only expressions of complex personal ideas. Either someone satisfies himself with a lesser word choice or he learns an unspoken lesson not to go down that hole in the future. A good chef would tell his commis what to change; a bad one may just tell him to add some salt and move on.

For all of living memory Christianity's language of liturgy has become every bit as dulled down, minced, and made "bad" as spoken language. Liturgy is the language of Christianity because it is the greatest prayer of Christianity and a Christian, the pagan Romans said, is one who prays. The fullness of the Church's liturgical tradition provides for every breadth of desire of the soul, the need for the Transcendent, the urgency of repentance, the wish to suffer with Christ and rejoice with the Apostles, to ruminate alone, or to make peace with one's neighbor; in a phrase, it moves any which way the Spirit wills.

This year at Tenebrae I remembered something Laszo Dobszay wrote in his Bugnini Liturgy, namely that the traditional Holy Week services did not recall any one point in Christ's Passion, but rather that each day the entire Passion, albeit with different points of emphasis. The Mandatum brings the faithful to the upper room and the Mass, with its interpolations in the Canon, point to the institution of Holy Eucharist as Our Lord entered into His suffering. What is Tenebrae if not a glimpse into Gethsemane?
Amicus meus osculi me trádidit signo: Quem osculátus fúero, ipse est, tenete eum: hoc malum fecit signum, qui per ósculum adimplévit homicidium. Infelix prætermísit prétium sánguinis, et in fine láqueo se suspéndit. Bonum erat ei, si natus non fuísset homo ille. Infelix prætermísit prétium sánguinis, et in fine láqueo se suspéndit.
Losing parts of the liturgy such as this constitute a reduction in liturgical language that exceeds whatever may be recovered in textual restorations. In the case of Tenebrae, the Church visits Christ during His agony in the garden by sharing his impending sense of suffering, by putting words of innocence and accusations of betrayal into the responses, and in leaving the temple in utter blackness. The reduction of this aspect of the Passion, both by moving the time of the service in the 1955 reform and the elimination of the Office altogether the following decade, does not ignore these aspects of the Passion as much as, like reduced language, it fails to articulate them properly. Instead the faithful are treated to a narrated text on Good Friday, read from three separate ambos, that most clueless people in the pews liken to a play that replaces the Gospel.

Likewise, the compression of the Roman liturgy into the Mass and nothing but the texts of Mass assume that people will find all the inspiration they need in the relevant readings from the revised lectionary, lessons that will be read in the course of a minute or two. At some points of the year the dramatic ceremonies imposed on the Mass form a unique spiritual vocabulary for articulating those seasonal mysteries, however, throughout most of the year the Mass serves the purpose of solemnizing a feast. The Mass was never meant to be the solitary means of entering into the Divine mysteries.



In spoken languages certain features or even entire languages themselves obsolesce while new characteristics or families of speech replace them. The withering of Latin, for instance, as a poetic language in post-Renaissance England made room for Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, and the rest of the Anglophonic tradition. The same has held true of the liturgy traditionally: readings, feasts, musical styles, or urban practices fall out of use over the course of centuries because piety has headed in a new direction. What has transpired in the last century is something altogether different. Much like the "bad language" in our vernacular, our prayer language has devolved to the point where we can say very little and think only in the most crude, obvious of terms. The desire for the fuller spiritual language of the past comes with the accompanying "purple prose" stigma of written tongues, yet there is no telling a full story without it. "Chirpy" polyphony from Monteverdi is part of that purple prose, but Victoria's setting of the aforementioned Amicus meus is a weave of language for the spirit akin to what the Bard did for the stage.

Generations of bad language have left us in an atomistic society with little to say about anything save ourselves. It would be hard to deny that the current state of the liturgy is much the same affair. And yet is not the old liturgy the re-education we need?

As an aside, my new laptop has arrived so technology troubles should be over and blogging should return to normal.... I hope.....

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Christ is Risen!


"If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast. If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord. If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; because he shall in nowise be deprived thereof. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness; for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first; he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who has wrought from the first hour.

"And he shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first; and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts. And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention, and honors the acts and praises the offering. Wherefore, enter you all into the joy of your Lord; and receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival. You sober and you heedless, honor the day. Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.

"Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: Receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness. let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it. By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered, when it encountered Thee in the lower regions. It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

"O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory? Christ is risen, and you are overthrown. Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen. Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen, and life reigns. Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen."



A blessed Pascha to all!