Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Lesser Known Fathers VIII: St. Vincent of Lerins & the Importance of Antiquity

Precious little do we know about St. Vincent of Lerins. Many biographies of the Saint muse, rightly, that if not for his surviving work, the Commonitory, none would remember him. Writing in early fifth century Gaul St. Vincent seeks to "commit to writing such things as I have faithfully received them from the holy fathers." In St. Vincent's time "holy father" did not mean the Pope in Rome, but one's immediate spiritual father, the person who taught one the faith, which prompts Vincent to emphasize that he received things from them with fidelity.

If one receives something, another must pass it. The Latin word for "to pass" is tradere, which gives us our word "tradition." Tradition and antiquity make the faith trustworthy. Far from being corruptions, antiquity places belief nigh its source, with the Apostles and ultimately Our Lord Himself. Given St. Vincent's era, when even Our Lord's divinity was in question, the author of the Commonitory held tradition in the highest esteem. Vincent derives a test for examining the novel doctrines of his own time and ours:
"Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense Catholic, which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent." (Chapter III)
As an example St. Vincent adduces the case of the re-baptism of heretics so common in earlier centuries. Agrippinus and St. Cyprian of Carthage insisted on the re-baptism of those who had fallen from the faith, either by heresy or, most often, by apostasy under the threat of death. They had visibly left the Body of Christ. Did they require another baptism to re-admit them? Logic may say yes, but tradition said no. St. Stephen, "prelate of the Apostolic See," condemned the novel practice as a deviation from what had been handed to the Church by the holy fathers.

We must be vigilant of any deviation from the Gospel of Christ as the Church has received it. Vincent quotes St. Paul: "As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema" (Galatians 1:9). St. Paul did not intend to isolate this warning to the Galatians. This danger shadows over all men of great intellect in danger of falling victim to their minds, as did Origen. It hovers over those of ego and greed, like Nestorius and Donatus, who leveraged their novel doctrines to gain clout in the political sphere.

Why, then, if it is Divine Law, does God permit heretics to run about the Church so freely? Contemporary Catholics, particularly those of a more traditional persuasion, have asked this question unrelentingly for decades. St. Vincent asked the same question fifteen centuries earlier and surmised that, as was the case with Moses in the Desert, God permits conveyors of novelty to demonstrate their prophecies, their ideas, and their concepts before the Church so that the Church may in time pass judgment upon them. Vincent of course presumes that these innovations end in chaos and disorder. Without exception, history has proven him correct.

Vincent then condemns the wickedness of Nestorius, Apollinarius, and Donatus for twisting the Scriptures, the Word of God, and using them to inculcate strange ideas disconnected from the received wisdom of the Church concerning the nature of Jesus. He defends the Trinity against the blasphemous concept that Christ only acted as a Savior and suffered Crucifixion, asking how would sins be forgiven through the supplication of a feigned act? No, the supplication must be performed by an actual person with both human and divine nature.

However, one condemnation clearly troubles St. Vincent, that of Origen. With Origen came Christian philosophy and what people now call theology. The same Vincent who condemns Origen in the same chapter asks, "Who would not rather be wrong with Origen than right with anyone else?" Origen, whose intellectual lineage includes many great saints, drew the just ire of the first millennium Church because of one remarkably wrong idea: that the soul pre-exists the body. In Origen's system of thought God creates the soul before the body and at the end of time will revive and save all souls, including that of the Devil and his fallen angels. While many saints believed in a refashioning and renewal of creation and many believe(d) in universal salvation, Origen somehow managed to create the most demented combination of the two. The Alexandrian was not without learning. None were more learned. Yet Origen was still a man with a mortal mind, a mind which subordinated part of God's revelation in favor of his own private philosophy:
Hence it came to pass, that this Origen, such and so great as he was, wantonly abusing the grace of God, rashly following the bent of his own genius, and placing overmuch confidence in himself, making light account of the ancient simplicity of the Christian religion, presuming that he knew more than all the world besides, despising the traditions of the Church and the determinations of the ancients, and interpreting certain passages of Scripture in a novel way, deserved for himself the warning given to the Church of God, as applicable in his case as in that of others, If there arise a prophet in the midst of you,... you shall not hearken to the words of that prophet,...because the Lord your God does make trial of you, whether you love Him or not.
The errors of men like Origen and Nestorius then, or Rahner and Kung today, are trials for the Catholic Church and for its faithful. For this trial St. Vincent creates a test, revealed early in the Commonitory, for examining new ideas in Christianity: for something to be Catholic is must be "believed always, everywhere, and by everybody." In other words, there was never a time when the faithful did not, in some way, believe in a doctrine. What of schism then? The Church has endured many schisms over the centuries since the deaths of the Apostles. Is the Church split then? Does she now hold multiple variations of a doctrine? Not so, says St. Vincent. Once a part of the body tears itself off, it is no longer a member or limb and the Church is better for it.

In Chapter 23 St. Vincent writes the most enduring lines in the entire Commonitory, words raised to even greater stature by the First Vatican Council:
"But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and in the same meaning."
In short, if it ain't like your Mama's catechism don't listen to it!

St. Vincent concludes in re-iterating his criteria for the heart and mind of the Church: antiquity, universality, and consent. If a new idea barren of ancient origin and in conflict with the universal opinion of the ancient Church should arise then it is to be consigned to the dustbin without hesitation. Let your criteria be the same!

Aside: I used this edition of the Commonitory because I cannot stand to read regular text on an internet page. I need at least the semblance of a book a pdf provides. The introduction, interesting for its historical context, is a neurotic bit of mid-19th century Anglicanism. At the time many Anglicans were presenting their community as the via media between the "Roman" Church and "protestantism," understandably drawing attention from the hierarchy, who were surprised to find themselves no longer protestants. There are epigraphs from Thomas Cranmer and a passage from John Jebb of Limerick, condemning the "Romish" and "Popish" errors to have crept into Catholicism since the 5th century. I suspect that the purpose of these quotations are to convince less "high" Anglicans that a saint could indeed be safe reading and that Vincent was not solely the domain of "Roman" Catholicism. For those of you who fancy 19th century Anglophonic religious history, take a peak!

1965 Missal (Again)

Why are the Reformers of the Reform talking about it again!?!?—as though it was anything other than a transitional rite. After 1962izing 1970, they wish (and are unlikely to succeed) to continue by 1970izing 1962. It is as though "the liturgy" is just a play thing for some people and they will never be satisfied with it until it conforms in just the right way to their agenda. While favoring [much] older forms of the Roman rite myself, I realize that unilaterally going back to 1570 would be a complete disaster in practice. I favor organic growth based on the original product, not one adjusted just enough to balance political causes.

Perhaps I am complaining too much. Your thoughts?

Mass according to the 1965 Missal: the un-reforming of the reform?

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Eastern Un-Orthodox?

Generally the Eastern Churches out of union with the Apostolic See in Rome are orthodox, given that the meaning of "orthodox" is "right praise" and not acceptance of doctrinal precepts. Most all rites used outside of union with Rome are also used in union with Rome, so there is no point in calling the Greek Orthodox Liturgy schismatic.

However, not all Orthodox are orthodox, especially in the United States, where a quiet liberalism has festered for some time, although it is checked by the hardliners such as ROCOR. Above is an example of oriental liturgical liberalism which, honestly, strikes me as very much what the Roman liturgy looked like during the transitional years of the 1960s: theoretically the old, but with much new  material integrated, new material that pointed to a new direction. The readings are spoken rather than sung, the sermon is cut short so that a Churching of a Mother and Child may be done (supposed to be done outside Divine Liturgy, preferably after Orthros), and a "sign of peace"—complete with a priest waddling down the aisle looking for handshakes—is interpolated before the [spoken] Creed around the 49:00 mark.

While they are not Catholic, we ought not wish upon the Orthodox, or anyone else, what happened to us in the 1960s. And may God grant that this parish's praxis not influence future clergy.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Men and Confession

Hours did I spend in this Confessional.... without the tree
Often have I been thinking about Confession in these recent days, both because I realize how often I need it and how annoying the wait is at the local parish. Generally I find that there are two kinds of parishes with regard to Confession:
  1. Parishes that have Confession for about an hour on a Saturday afternoon prior to the "vigil" (and it is not) Mass of Sunday. These places invariably have open rooms for Confession with two chairs, a table, and some tissues.
  2. Parishes that have Confession on a daily basis, usually prior to the Mass of the day. These places often, but not always, have intact Confessionals.
Why bring this up? I notice that the demographic of people going to Confession varies between these two types of settings. In the former the penitents are usually women middle aged or older, often married. In the second setting I notice that half, or more, of the penitents are men and that age, particularly among men, is diverse. So why the difference?

I write about this observation because at the local parish, which falls into the first category, I had to wait the better part of an hour for the eight or so ladies ahead of me in line, whereas when going to parishes in the second category I see a dozen people absolved in half an hour.

At parishes where the ladies are the main penitents the priests tend to be very chatty and interested in a prolonged discussion, either by nature or through cultivated habit. The arrangement of the chairs, the face-to-face set up, and the tendency of ladies to discuss whatever is on their minds with prolixity rubs off on the priest. There is nothing wrong with a woman talking to her priest about a serious matter at length, but in my mind this in some way drives away the men. How?

Gentlemen, let us be honest: we are biologically programmed towards outward strength and hubris which is essential to surviving in our originally brutal, tribal environment as did the Israelites and the descendants of Abraham. Getting on our knees and accusing ourselves of deep, distressing faults is difficult for us and turning that vulnerability into a therapy session dissuades us from returning. We tend to want to minimize the pain and [self-]embarrassment of calling ourselves sinners, which is I think why we prefer more expedient priests and conventional Confessionals. Sins, penance, absolution, done.

The best confessor I ever had used to speak at length in the Confessional with me, from the other side of the veiled grille, but about things strictly relevant to the matter at hand: Have I returned to old habits? How have I been praying recently? Have I considered that God may want me to do something differently than I am? He would dig far deeper into me than the average priest, certainly, but he talked, he never chatted. I find men do not mind priests who talk, but we do mind priests who chat. I know some ladies do as well, but every parish seems to have a few ladies who tie up the priest for quite a while and put him in a chatty mood.

Am I just ranting or am I on to something?

I think men like to Confess on weekdays because parishes that have daily Confession usually schedule it around lunch hour. This means expediency, but also a focused priest. Again, I may be wrong....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Patriarchal Divine Liturgy

Above is a Divine Liturgy celebrated several years back in Rome by Gregory III, Patriarch of the Melkite Catholic Church (ancient Church of Antioch founded by St. Peter c.44AD). The hymn sung in Arabic at the beginning is the Great Doxology ("Glory to You Who shows forth the light, glory be to God in the highest!") of which the Gloria in the Roman rite is a snippet. The long hats with tails are worn by celibate priests and deacons while the shorter hats go to married clergy (two of the three priests at my former parish were married). At the 5:10 mark a concelebrant opens the Liturgy with the words:

-Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever. Amen
-In peace let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For peace from on high and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For peace in the whole world, the well-being of the holy churches of God, and the union of all, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For this house and for those who enter it with faith, reverence, and fear of God, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For our father and bishop N. for his honorable presbyterate, the diaconate in Christ, and for all the clergy and the people, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For our government and the armed forces, that they may be upheld in every good deed, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For our city and every city and country place and the faithful living in them, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For favorable weather, an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for peaceful times, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For the travelers by sea, air, and land, for the sick, the suffering, for the captives, and for their salvation, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-For our deliverance from all affliction, wrath, danger, and need, let us pray to the Lord. Kyrie eleison!
-Help us, save us, have mercy on us, and protect us, O God, by your grace. Kyrie eleison!
-Let us remember our all-holy, spotless, most highly blessed and glorious Lady, the Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, with all the saints and commend ourselves and one another and our whole life to Christ our God. Si, Kyrie!
-For all glory, honor, and worship are your due, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen!
While I am learning to like the Slavic way of praying the Divine Liturgy something about the Middle Eastern style overwhelms me. The fire and spirit in the melodies inspire the heart and the head to rise and praise God in the firmament of His power and might!

For those interested, below is the Great Doxology as sung in English (Melkites do not do choral music like the Slavs). While the singer is just a parish cantor I think it an interesting example of how a properly translated text can be sung in a style based on the original music. I do not endorse vernacular necessarily for the Roman rite, but this sort of example is food for thought.

What Name Would You Pick?

When I am elected Pope I intend to be called Sixtus VI for obvious reasons. What would be your reigning name?

Thanks for Feedback

Thank you everyone for the feedback, which I take seriously. Keep it coming!

I have been lax in posting in the last few days because of some important job interviews (do say a prayer for me once in a while!).

Soon I hope to have a post about St. Vincent of Lerins' Commonitory, which discusses the purpose antiquity and tradition. I will also post a reply to a query about why I elect to attend a Byzantine rite parish.

Also, as during Advent, I will be praying for the deceased for Lent (probably Vespers/Lauds of the Dead rather than the entire Office—Mattins is long) so look for a tab in the next day or two where you can post your intentions.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Readers: is there anything you particularly enjoying reading on this blog? Anything you would like covered? Anything you would like done differently? Any stylistic recommendations?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Local Byzantine Parish

The Rad Trad will remain in Byzantium for the foreseeable future. A Slavic Byzantine parish is located a mere two miles from the Rad Trad's current residence and, a major factor, does not require his Traddiness to take the Dallas Tollway.

The parish is old, but the physical plant is new (former Baptist community). The iconostasis was done by an Eastern Orthodox iconographer. Somehow he was willing to write an icon of St. Josaphat, the bishop who favored unity between the Slavic Byzantine Churches and the Roman Church.

The parish, which will remain anonymous, gathers about 70-80 people at a Sunday Divine Liturgy, a far cry from the thousands who pack the protestant megachurches in the area, but also an improvement from the 49 averaged last year.

The priest is young, vibrant, and an excellent sermonist. Today he preached about the Parable of the Prodigal Son. He concentrated not on the Prodigal, who was dead and returned to life in his father's house, but on the ungrateful son who stayed and asked why he did not receive special treatment—an insight relevant to us believers.

De-Latinization seems to be a work in progress, but a definite progress. The Stations of the Cross, not a part of the Byzantine tradition, have been relocated from the sides of the nave to the back wall and replaced with icons. Children of all ages communicate. There are still a few hymns sung, but traditional Slavic hymns and a preference for the psalms is apparent; the arrival of a cantor would probably accelerate the process. Most interesting is the service book below.

And just for your own amusement the Rad Trad has included a short video
of the typical megachurch experience in the area (thanks Mark of the Vineyard).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Random Thought on Lent & Confession

In a recent meditation on the 'gesima season before Lent we discussed illumination in Christ and Baptism, the end of Lent for catechumens and in some sense for all the faithful. When going to Confession today I had occasion to consider what the architecture of the Church says about Confession and Baptism.

In the parish where I confess, near to my temporary housing, the confessionals are in the back of the chapel near the door. Many churches built centuries ago placed the confessionals toward the back, although less considerate architecture also placed confessionals in the side aisles of the nave and in the transepts. Personally I find the back of the church, or even in the narthex, the appropriate place for Confession for the same reason the back of the church, or a separate room off the nave, is appropriate for Baptism: the church represents heaven, the New Jerusalem, and progression toward the altar is progression toward the Divine. The back of the church, or even the narthex, is earth or close to it. It is where those new to God stand. Approaching the altar is approaching God and leaving it is distance from God. When someone is baptized he is plunged into Christ and made pure, perhaps purer than any other man in the parish at that moment. During the Paschal and Pentecost Vigils this point is made especially clear as the neophytes approach the front of the church after their Baptisms with the Church and Saints praying for them, a point muddled erased in the Pian rites. Is Confession not the same thing?

The Confessional is in the rear of the church because the sinner ought to take a spiritual bath before approaching the Divine in the Sanctuary. Many line up at the rear and pray at the rear of the church before approaching the Sanctuary. Much like Baptism we plunged into darkness and emerge in light. Water is like darkness, as St. Augustine says at length in the last book of his Confessions, in that it is uncontrollable, chaotic, and in need of "form," that is Divinely assigned meaning and purpose. Water is creation. When water is blessed it becomes a new creation. When one is baptized (baptizo = "immerse") one enters a new and renewed creation, the creation renewed in Christ's Resurrection. Our immersion in the darkness of Confession follows the same pattern and, unlike in Baptism, we can directly confront our demons and vices. In Baptism the Lord immerses us in His mercy while in Confession He speaks it. At the end of both we may approach the Sanctuary and altar with confidence and in purity.

Not quite on message.

Curious Translation

The Rad Trad confessed today at a parish with a very large Hispanic congregation. Indeed there is a free standing chapel dedicated to ministry with the Hispanic community in the area. While waiting I read the Spanish missalette in the pew in front of me. A few things stood out as odd:
  • The translation is generally superior to the previous English translation, getting all the responses right and conveying the Ordo Missae accurately
  • Our Lord is addressed in the informal singular tense! "Señor ten piedad" for the Kyrie rather than  "Señor, tenga piedad." God, maker of heaven and earth, is addressed informally in a language possessing a formal tense, Usted/Ustedes. [edit: smn has a point. I guess this stood out to me because in other languages archaic vestiges are retained at times in order to emphasize some formality in addressing the Divine, like Thee and Thou in English]
  • The translation employs "Vosotros" for second person plural throughout. "Vosotros" in Spanish is "You" plural. Why is his all Traddiness bringing up this point? Because "vosotros" is used more or less exclusively in Spain, although speakers in Latin America will understand it. But why should they only understand it if it is vernacular? If the translation is in vernacular why not use the vernacular of the congregation rather than the vernacular of people 5,000 miles away?
While I defend the viability of vernacular in and of itself, the translations given to the faithful have been atrocious. 

Solution for Sedevacantists!

Today while driving I pondered about the [probable] apostasy and repentance of St Marcellinus and the Honorius affair, then once again began to wonder what was the end game for sedevacantists. A little less than a year ago I was myself a sedevacantist, as was everyone, but then came the white smoke and we stopped. For some though it will not be so simple.

My most viewed ever post gave a very light reflection on some of the issues surrounding sedevacantism, although the only people I know involved with sedevacantism no longer hold the position (most went back to the mainstream and the other went Eastern Orthodox). I suspect the post made such a splash because the issue is taboo. The FSSPX/FSSP group worry about pushing their faithful over the edge, the ICRSS and diocesan crowd have a different set of priorities, and the rest of the Catholic world just sees it as a very strange and minute topic. Still, Fr. Anthony Cekada's writings have garnered the interest of canonical clergy and writers like Msgr. Wadsworth, Deacon Alcuin Reid, and Dr Geoffrey Hull.

On an unrelated note Fr. Anthony Cekada reports that the "pre-1955" Missal is coming back into print (thanks for the hint, Alan). Good news!

The situation begs the solemn question: why not elect a papal claimant? In my post I noted that according to sedevacantist ecclesiology episcopal authority in the Church is gone. This means no College of Cardinals and no Ecumenical Council to elect a claimant. Were this the case one could, I think, safely assume that the Code of Canon Law and the existing rules on election would be quite irrelevant. But, I mentioned, there could be one way to elect a claimant, a way derived from precedent: popular acclamation by the people of Rome.

From the second century until the ninth or there about the Pope was elected by the Catholic laity of the city of Rome. In later days the Cardinals, the clergy of Rome, handled the nomination process and, during a two century period, the Byzantine emperor would stamp his seal of approval on the Pope-elect. Surely there are some sedevacantists in Rome and given that in their ecclesiology they are most certainly true Catholics, while the other Christians of Rome would be dubiously Catholic, could not Roman sedevacantists elect someone who could then petition a Thucite bishop (or whoever else is wandering with Holy Orders) for consecration? Voila!

Since the lack of a Pope and the heresy of the validly consecrated bishops of the world in the 1960s eliminated episcopal authority would not a Roman sedevacantist election create the alleged Pope who could restore order? Pius XII, oddly claimed to be the last "true" pope (I'll take John XXIII any day), did claim that all episcopal authority derives from the Papacy (Ad Apostolorum Principis 39). A claimant would mean dioceses, parishes, and, above all, a solution!

So why not? It could be done tomorrow morning! Despite my tongue-in-cheek tone I am entirely serious.

Friday, February 14, 2014

1964 & 1965 Missal

As many now know the process of change in the 1960s was chaotic, altering different parts of the Mass and Office with no discernible pattern to the flux. The "1965 Missal" some like Fr Kocik of New Liturgical Movement and the blogger over at Southern Orders tout actually came about, more or less, with Inter Oecumenici in 1964. During my university days our library had a "1962 editio typica" printed in 1964 with all manner of alterations: vernacular at the strangest points, rubrics for combining orations, optional prayers before the altar, instructions for lay readers, the new Communion rite, and no Johannine prologue. Far from being the "Traditional Latin Mass" with some vernacular, the 1962 Missal 2.0 that was 1964 is very clunky and lacking in elegance. The changes were formalized with a new typical edition in 1965.

However it seems that the 1962 2.0 rite was celebrated very briefly with the same amount of vernacular as the 1965. Here is an old article from a paper called Catholic Northwest Progress detailing the vernacularization of the extant liturgy. The title given to the rites for receiving Holy Communion, "Eucharistic Banquet," hardly confirms the Reform of the Reform thesis that the change process did not need to go as far as it did. By this time many if not most clergy were celebrating versus populum and many had begun giving Communion in the hand. A few extreme elements concocted their own anaphoras and introduced female altar boys.

Most interesting to the Rad Trad is that permission to pray the Office in vernacular had to be obtained from the local bishop, but celebrations involving the laity imparted automatic permission. Ironically the easier standards for praying the Divine Office in vernacular coincided with a decline in the Office's popular celebration. In major cities most large churches would still pray Vespers on Sundays. In a few years nearly none would. The vernacularization meant no tones or melodies for singing the 1960/1964 Office and the Liturgia Horarum is almost entirely un-singable, with its large blocks of text meant to be read and its lack of antiphonal musics. Vernacular killed the Divine Office. Section II of the article linked above calls vernacular the "greatest possibility of scandal." There is nothing wrong with vernacular in the liturgy in the Rad Trad's opinion, but it was rare in the Roman tradition, disturbed many people, and was executed in the absolute worst way possible.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Liturgy and Preparing for Lent

Christmastide came to a close two weeks ago with the feast of the Purification of Our Lady, Candlemas, on February 2nd. We are now approaching the 'gesima season during which we prepare for the exercises and endurance race that is Lent. My singing voice leaves something to be desired, but during Vespers this Saturday night I will sing the dismissal with the double Alleluia and the Deo gratias with the double Alleluia, my last bit of liturgical joy for the next month and a half.

In past times, and in some places now, the coming of Lent was a process of transition. The Roman tradition anticipates Lent by introducing a penitential spirit in the liturgy: violet vestments, the "burial" of the Alleluia (in the Middle Ages it was literally buried), the excision of the Gloria from the Mass on the Lord's day, and the dismissal Benedicamus Domino which we use on days of penance, almost to say Serviamus Domino. The Roman Divine Office becomes very brutal during Lent. The Office of the Dead is prayed on Mondays of Simple rank, which will be every Monday this year. As we run our course in the faith we must recall and pray for our friends who did the same with divers degrees of success. Vespers loses the Suffrages of the Saints and replaces them with what is likely the detritus of an Office for the Dead of past time, a series of intercessory prays followed by the Miserere, psalm 50.

As stated earlier, it is my private belief that the season of Advent, replete with apocalyptic tones and an emphasis on the Coming, is most appropriate to consider sin and judgment. For the non-catechumen Lent is a different story. The Masses of the 'gesima season introduce us to what we should consider during Lent. The first Sunday, Septuagesima Sunday, prescribes for the Gospel the parable of a landowner hiring servants at the various hours of the days. The jealous men who worked the entire day caterwaul at the wages of those who worked less than they. The master of the house reminds the greedy workers that he can pay them as he wishes, the "first shall be last and the last shall be first." Above all, the message is that the Kingdom of God is available to all who seek it, although many turn away: "Many are called, but few are chosen." For those who follow the Byzantine tradition this sermon will form the foundation of the greatest sermon ever given, St. John Chrysostom's Paschal sermon which is read at Mattins. The following week's Gospel pericope presents us with the parable of a sower whose seed takes root and grows according to the environment in which it is planted. And the last Sunday tells us of a blind man whose cries to Our Lord "Son of David, have pity on me" stir His compassion; Our Lord gives the man his sight and tells him "Your faith has saved you." The three considerations the Church gives us for Lent then are:
  1. We are all called to eternal life with God and regardless of when we accept Him and repent of our sins we are assured of the same reward as those who lived their entire lives in holiness. The stories of saints are the stories of sinners.
  2. The gifts of God, faith the first of them, grow and sanctify the soul according to their nurturing. Do we pray? Do we serve others? Do we help others mechanically or are acts of random kindness still a part of our lives? Mechanical prayer can be useful in keeping the mind disciplined, but the sinner must mean the prayer at some point in order to let the Holy Spirit work within the soul. Kindly the Roman liturgy varies greatly during Lent: different readings at every single Mass, different psalms at the major hours daily owing to the absence of feasts, and different collects. The Church gives the man of prayer a tool to sow his seeds in the most fecund places.
  3. Faith saves us and even illuminates us. The blind man must have been blinded by light when he first recovered his vision after being lost in the throes of darkness for the duration of his life. Is sin not the same thing? Conversion, in an instant or in a progression, illuminates the sinner and basks him in the light of Christ. Peter, James, and John found this light profoundly blinding when they ascended Mount Tabor with Our Lord and yet the light they saw was only a hint of the light that is Christ's Divine essence. The Hesychast Byzantine tradition calls the light of Transfiguration the "uncreated energies." The Byzantine tradition even refers to Baptism as the "Mystery of Illumination." Fittingly the last Gospel before Lent is about illumination and the last act of Lent is the Baptism of converts to Christ.
Fasting dampens the noise of earthly distractions and attunes the soul to what the Church asks us to consider during Lent. Severe penance? No. Self-inflicted brutality? No. Fasting helps us to think and pray about the three simple topics above: calling, fostering, and seeing in the faith.

Lent. It is coming.

Update on Bragan Blog

Ave, Rex noster before the crucifix from the Bragan Palm Sunday
source: New Liturgical Movement
"Mark of the Vineyard," a friend of this blog, now runs his own informative blog on the rite of Braga, a use of the Roman rite once prevalent in Portugal and still used by a priest in Rhode Island. The blog will soon examine the Bragan Holy Week and currently sports the Bragan kalendar and a link to a history of the Bragan liturgy. Both are worth checking out. If you do not know Portuguese, but do know Latin or a Romance language you will be able to read Mark's posts with no trouble. Even Google Translate produces a comprehensible result here. Give it a look!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Benedict XVI's Liturgical Legacy

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of Benedict XVI's historic resignation of the Roman pontificate. I remember waking up unusually early that morning and deciding to check the Drudge Report on my iPhone before returning to sleep. When the first item was a picture of Benedict I read the headline "Pope Steps Aside" and jumped out of my bed.

Josef Ratzinger is a case study in Hegelian philosophy: he is the synthesis of many unusual contradictions. He rejects the concept of fabricated liturgy in favor of organic development, and yet always favored the entirely reformed liturgy on the grounds that it contributed to the Church as a whole. He advised Sigrid Spath against conversion, but made an exceptional vehicle for Anglicans to enter the Church with no questions. He insisted that the old liturgy was for the entire Church's use, but called it a pastoral accommodation in his book-length interview with Peter Seewald, Light of the World. He favored a "hermeneutic of continuity" between the "pre-Conciliar" and "Conciliar" Catholic Church, and yet never took any concrete steps to demonstrating this continuity; liberals, traditionalists, and practical people never signed on to this outlook, but many drew the ire of Ultramontanists who enforced it as an orthodoxy. Perhaps oddest is his Assisi gathering—admittedly far more tame than the previous two—after his predecessor's events in St. Francis' town irked him near resignation.

Much like his 1988 counter-part, Marcel Lefebvre, Benedict XVI is a quilt of unusual tiles which form a whole difficult to discern.

Offering the 1962 rite in Weimar.
Much like Lefebvre he revived use of the 1962 Missal, although, again like Lefebvre, he missed an opportunity to resuscitate a liturgy more reflective of the Roman tradition. Many traditionalists fawned over Benedict's acceptance of the FSSPX thesis that the "Traditional Latin Mass" was "never abrogated." As I have stated elsewhere here, it was never abrogated in the strict sense, but 1962 was certainly not usable after 1964. The result of Summorum Pontificum was two competing conservative elements, the "neo-conservative" Ultramontanists and the Traditionalists with some variation of the FSSPX agenda. The first group wanted to make 1969 and 2009 the same thing while the other wanted to banish anything beyond the halcyon year of 1962.

Still Summorum has its benefits. While SP proliferated occasional celebrations of the rite of Econe it also caused some circle to begin a serious re-evaluation of the liturgical trends of the last century. More priests celebrated the pre-Pius XII Holy Week last year than when Summorum came out of Rome in 2007. Gregory diPippo of New Liturgical Movement and Rubricarius of the St. Lawrence Press have contributed to the popular education of many in the liturgical reform process and, more importantly, in what treasures have been lost over the years. In a recent post Fr Richard Cipolla gloats over Fr Thomas Kocik's capitulation from "reform of the reform" to the "Traditional Latin Mass," assuming it must be the starting point of liturgical reform. Cipolla may think Kocik has had a breakthrough while I think he has only scratched the surface.

Years must pass before we can evaluate whether or not Summorum Pontificum was a net sum positive for the Catholic Church, and it may well be, but we could certainly say at this point that it did not succeed in meeting Pope Benedict's expectations. Personally I think Benedict wanted the revival of the 1962 rite to accomplish two objectives:
  1. to create liturgical continuity between the immediately pre-Conciliar praxis and the current praxis
  2. to offer a bridge for the Society of St Pius X to return to canonical standing
The continuity objective, the interest of a very narrow group of theologians heavily invested in the changes of the 1960s, ended the moment Ratzinger resigned. The second flopped when talks broke down in 2011, partly because of Rome's constantly changing criteria for re-integration and partly because the extreme elements of the FSSPX caused internal dissidence.

Pope Benedict looking very shiny.
More relevant to the average Church-goer are Benedict's efforts with the Pauline liturgy. This, more than anything else, illustrates his entire papacy: trying to lead by a few public and inconsistent examples and unwilling to back these efforts with legislation. Early in his papacy there had been some chatter of substantial changes to the Pauline Mass concerning the Offertory, the Sign of Peace, and the number of Eucharistic Prayers. In the end all we got was a new translation in one language. His second Master of Ceremonies, Msgr. Guido Marini, found some very shiny old vestments and paired them with enormous baroque mitres. They even put some extra candles on the altar and celebrated ad orientem in the Sistine Chapel once a year.

These gestures, particularly the ad orientem celebrations, garnered international and mainstream interest, but Benedict never took them any further. At his Masses in the Roman basilicas he still sat in a chair in front of the altar, closing it off from the circle of communication for the first half of Mass. He never celebrated ad orientem at World Youth Day or other major events and so people never became accustomed to it. The Sistine Masses encouraged some fellow reformers of the reform, but few else. The Pauline Mass, as practiced in 95% of parishes today, is the same in 2014 and it was in 1984. Even if legislation mandating ad orientem, Communion on the tongue, or the use of the Roman Canon had been ignored, it would still be on the books for a successor to enforce. Benedict made no such moves. Perhaps most maddening is that Benedict's continuity efforts focused on assimilating the 1962 aesthetic with the modern reality, not on assimilating the Roman tradition and the modern reality. Candles and vestments have a point, but would not a choir arrangement during Vespers send a stronger message than a Roman cope? Would not a real Kiss of Peace be more forceful than a fiddleback chasuble?

As the pope of my youth I will always have a soft spot for Benedict XVI. I attended my first papal audience and first Mass in St. Peter's during his pontificate and became familiar with the Roman liturgical tradition as a result of his work. And yet I cannot help but think that, like Marcel Lefebvre, he did some good yet missed the opportunity to do much.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Another Thought on Tolkien

The Rad Trad earlier posted his utter disbelief at the sight of a FSSP priest attacking the literary output of one of the most prolific Catholics of our time. After listening to part of the second sermon (around the 32:00 mark) against the Oxonian professor the Rad Trad began to wonder if the priest has really considered the extent of what he says.

The priest condemns the climax of the story, when Frodo enters the chasm of Mount Doom, where the antagonist forged the Ring, to destroy it. The Ring eventually seduces Frodo, who puts it on, but by chance or fate the creature Gollum attacks Frodo to reacquire the Ring for himself. A fight ensues in which Gollum bites off Frodo's finger—Ring and all—and falls into the volcano, destroying the Ring. What is so troublesome about this? According to the sermonist, an evil creature did good and the Christ-like Frodo was seduced by evil! A perversion of doctrine! The Rad Trad says hogwash!

First of all Frodo is not the only Christ-like figure. Tolkien began drafting the Lord of the Rings as an adventure story, unwittingly installing a Catholic aesthetic and outlook within the plot and characters. During his many revisions Tolkien made the Catholic elements more profound. Lord of the Rings is not a parallel, epic re-telling of the Bible. It is an adventure story based on the epic style which integrates a linguistic experiment on the author's part. Three of the characters have Christ-like features—as do all the Saints—but none of them are meant to be Christ. Frodo's selflessness and willingness to suffer everyone else's burden, of which he owns no responsibility, reflects Jesus' acceptance of the Cross. Aragorn is the king of men who will redeem a people paying for the sins of a king of ages past, paralleling Our Lord and Adam. And lastly, Sam whose good, pure and incorruptible spirit sustains the journey. Tolkien, if anything, avoided making any character into a Jesus figure, which would be the height of literary trouble.

Another point is that while evil cannot do good, God can use or re-direct evil so as to accomplish something good. The Jews' rejection of Jesus and Pilate's politically motivated cowardice were clearly evil, rejecting the God-Man in favor of a revolutionary murderer. What greater sin could there be? And yet did not the Father and His Only Begotten Son know this would happen? And did Our Lord not proceed to Golgotha with His Cross to redeem us after this rejection? Similarly Gollum did not destroy the Ring per se. Both he and the Ring were consumed in their own greed and evil, which backfired on both of them. Providence within the story allowed good to come from choices made favoring evil. Yet, did not Frodo and Sam's journey to Mount Doom make the destruction of the Ring possible?

The Rad Trad is not a Tolkienophile, but he sees no reason why a good writer and devout Catholic's books should be questioned, particularly in the way that this priest and the Rorate Caeli bloggers question his work.

Pray Now!

I just returned to my residence in Frisco, TX after a 100 minute drive from Fort Worth, normally 45 minutes. We received a very light dusting of snow mixed with rain. The temperature dropped to 29 degrees Fahrenheit, freezing much of the highway system here. No one in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex has snow tires, and why would they? On my drive I traveled 30mph in a 70mph zone. Most cars around me did 50mph. I counted no fewer than 20 accidents on my way home, most of them multi-car. The majority of accidents were minor fender benders resulting from spinning, but not a few looked quite serious. Say a prayer for those who had accidents. I suspect there were not a few injuries. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sad End at Le Chamblac

I have mentioned in a few places the story of Fr. Quintin Montgomery-Wright, the convert priest who celebrated the old rite with Norman influences until his death in 1996. He attempted to arrange the FSSPX to take his church after his death, but disputes with the diocese of Evreux (which gave Abbe Michel so much grief) resulted in the closure of the church. From an old Google Group you can read the appeal of one of the parishioners of Le Chamblac here. He sounds quite irate:
Coincidentally, on May 10th, many parishoners from the three parishes received a letter from Mgr. David. He assured them that they were all Catholics; that their needs would be ministered to; and that "together we shall build the church". That the Old Mass was not available was clear; that the traditional Sacraments were not available was clear; that there would be no resident priest was clear. In other words, Mgr. David was once again failing to practise his beloved "dialogue" and was forcing himself and his views on "the People of God"!!
Unfortunately for Mgr. David, the faithful of Le Chamblac are not the feeble-minded peasants that he hoped they were. They are not impressed by a bishop who mutters about friendship and dialogue, but only deals out actions aimed at extinguishing the Catholic life of Le Chamblac. On May 16th, despite a police presence, the faithful managed by legal means to open the church and celebrate Holy Mass. The church was packed tight. People from the community who had not been to church for years had come to show their support in the clearest possible way. They may not practise, but they know how important Le Chamblac's church is to their community and way of life.

The stage is now set for confrontation week after week because of the shortsightedness and stupidity of Mgr. David. Instead of bringing peace, he has declared war on fellow Catholics, on the most successful parishes in the diocese. Only an idiot can seriously believe that the faithful are going to obey the order to go away and die. 

One wonders if this fellow would have gotten further with some manners....

The parish has been re-opened and "improved" under the aegis of the diocese. The parish went from this....

source: Getty Images (free preview)
and this....
source: Getty Images (free preview)
to this.

At least they re-cycled the tabernacle and put a few Latin words on the altar....

EDIT: Thanks to Mr Alan Robinson we now know that the above altar was at some point installed by Fr Montgomery-Wright and not by the current authorities. The Rad Trad had read elsewhere, perhaps on Fr Chadwick's blog, that Fr M-W moved an existing altar.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Have We Been Wrong?

Have we been wrong about the liturgy and Vatican II's Sacrosanctum Concilium? I have tried on this blog to dispel the myth that the liturgical overhaul of the 20th century descended from the Council or even from the same people who acted as the main players at the Council. The trend towards change began earlier during the days of Jansen and during the 19th century Liturgical Movement. For various reasons those forces merged with Modernism in the early 20th century after Pascendi Dominici Gregis drove that movement underground in the academies and forced it to study seemingly benign subjects like liturgy (ironic that the Pope who issued Pascendi blew the first salvo against the old rite).

My thesis until recently has been that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the document on liturgy written by Msgr. Annibale Bugnini either during the waning years of Pius XII—who began the study groups for an Ecumenical Council—or early days of John XXIII—who called Pope Pius' Council, was meant as a pretext for greater changes. The vague instructions on the place of Latin, of chant, and the variety of readings could justify the 1962, 1965, and 1969 Ordines Missae. The document was a stepping stone, not an end. Indeed, I would side with the "neo-cons" in saying that the document was never implemented. Where their position fails is in claiming that the document was mis-interpreted, as though the man who wrote it did not know his own intentions.

What has caused me to revise my views slightly is a book called From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours by Stanislaus Campbell, a thorough account of the re-structuring of the already altered Divine Office which took place between 1964 and 1971. The book traces the process using the records and meeting notes from the various study groups within Consilium, the commission Pope Paul established to circumvent the impossibly baroque SCR. The suggestions and discussions are frighteningly irreverent to the past, to patrimony, and the common worshipper—despite the prevalence of the word "pastoral." Study group 9's records reveal the memorandum: "Today, Lauds and Vespers are not popular, and they require a radical restoration." I now think that Sacrosanctum Concilium and the Council were actually a slight moderating influence on the Consilium and the new liturgy. How?

Some of the most radical moves, such as the de facto abolition of the minor hours, came from the top. The death of Prime/Terce/Sext/None and the creation of an optional series of hours descended from the mind of Papa Montini himself. Pope Paul even thought the novel cycle for Lauds and four week cycle for the rest of the hours too cumbersome for pastoral reasons. He favored an alternation between psalms and readings. Another example would be the endless options in the Pauline liturgy. There could have been even more profound differences in the options. At one point Consilium wanted a three psalm scheme for the major hours when celebrated with laity present and a five psalm scheme for private recitation. The three psalm scheme seems absurd to those who favor the older liturgy, but would it not be even more absurd to have two Divine Offices: one for the parish and one for the priest at his desk? The Consilium even describes Sacrosanctum Concilium 89 as "dangerous" because it could elicit repetition among the psalms during the little hours, as was done from the start of the little hours until 1911.

As troubled as the reform was, it seems the Council and particularly Sacrosanctum Concilium prevented the finished product from being an even greater departure from the traditional liturgy than it already was.

P/S - the book is available for purchase on Google Books for $15, a reasonable price in contrast to the $1,085 for a copy on Abe Books.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Reading and Re-Reading

Regardless of what I read, I notice two books—aside from Scripture and the Divine Office—that I re-read every year: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh and Confessions by St. Augustine of Hippo. 

What does this say about me? I do not know. A friend of mine began reading Confessions for a class and attempted to dissect the book into a Trinitarian structure through which he could deduce a neo-Platonic Christian message. I told him he had missed the point. Under the polemics against the Manichean heresy, and it is a polemic in some places, Confessions is the story of a soul, of a man whose life can be summed up in those words from psalm 50: "I am well aware of my iniquity and my sin is before me always." Augustine turned away from sin after a long captivity within its snares and entered the Church through Baptism. And yet his conversion did not stop there. His focus shifts from sin to Truth, to Christ in the last books of Confessions. We all must turn away from evil, but we still not see anything if we keep our eyes closed before Christ.

The other book, which I reviewed here, is Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. Rubricarius tells me there is an extraordinary form of Brideshead, which was never abrogated and was good reading then and good reading now. I shall have to track it down one day. The abridged and standard version is still fantastic reading. Waugh's descriptions excite an aesthetic sensation similar to mixing a recording of Victoria's Tenebrae responsories with good wine. Above all I love the characters of Brideshead because I know some of them and I am some of them. The way in which God works among the characters aptly reflects how He works in most of our lives, letting us go in sin to the ends of the world only to be brought back to Him by a "twitch upon a thread." I also recommend the 1981 serialization of Brideshead staring Anthony Andrews and Jeremy Irons, which is usually available for instant viewing on Netflix. An hour of free time could be worse spent.

What do you re-read?

Let There Be the Te Deum

From today's Papal audience:

It's also "important that children are well prepared for first Communion because ... after baptism and confirmation it is the first step toward belonging strongly, really strongly, to Jesus Christ," he said Wednesday at his weekly general audience. source 
Tradition, you are affirmed!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

You Must Be Joking

"I will crush the Index!"

JRR Tolkien, the Roman Catholic layman whose day job as a linguistics lecturer at Oxford was overshadowed by his brilliant books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, was not sufficiently Catholic in his writings according to a few absurd traditionalists (here and here). Tolkien—who shouted Et cum spiritu tuo after the local bishops conferences translated the Roman Mass into vernacular—is apparently analogous to those teachers of false doctrine against whom St. Paul warns us in his first epistle to St. Timothy. Does anyone think Tolkien proffered a real pagan alternative to Christianity? Does anyone think the Fantasy genre (and Tolkien ought not be confined to it) is real? If Paul read and quoted pagan writers in the Scripture he wrote why can we not read the fiction of an entirely orthodox Catholic?

The Rad Trad suspects the dangers of emotionalism and brashness forewarned in these lectures are actually the Catholic spirit and religious instinct, not the preferred manual-based formal theology. Honestly, if a 5th century believer read Return of the King and Ludwig Ott's manual on dogma which would he find more Catholic in its totality, not just in what it says its outlook and how it speaks?

As an aside I met Tolkien's daughter Priscilla once in Oxford. She was leaving the Sheldonian with a friend of mine one night during Trinity term after a performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. I greeted my friend, with no idea who the lady to his left was. He said, "Oh! [Rad Trad], this is Priscilla Tolkien!" We chatted for only a quick moment and my friend and I went on our way. My friend nearly died during the encounter. Why, you might ask? She is on the petite side and he could only think of hobbits....

Monday, February 3, 2014

Big Money Religion, Ex-Catholics, and the Eucharist

In New England there are three major religious groups: Catholics, non-practicing Catholics (either cultural Catholics, lapsed, apostates, or just plain inactive), and the irreligious. Texas, I have found, is something entirely different.

Jerry Falwell gets dunked
Religion here is an industry, and a big one at that. During drives through Frisco and Irving I passed half a dozen or so megachurches in each town. A megachurch, for my international readers, is a uniquely American bit of Protestantism wherein a team of pastors raises a congregation numbering in the high four or low five digits and builds an entertainment facility to use as a house of worship. It is, as one Evangelical put it, like going to the movies. I attended a Evangelical service once as a social courtesy and did not participate in the actual service. Initially I thought the service would offend me, but time and patience revealed pity and not antipathy to be the proper disposition towards these folks: no Sacraments, no Holy Spirit, no Fathers, no liturgy. These people are not little Luthers. They are Luther's victims. But like Luther they have capitalized on their Protestantism and translated their authority into political capital.

Apparently one Democrat candidate for governor in Texas intends to run entirely on a pro-abortion platform. Her money, obviously, comes from outside the state. Regardless Texas will prove a challenge for her. The money behind these megachurches warrants awe and the pastors do not shy from encouraging their congregants from "voting according to [their] Sunday beliefs." No wonder Jerry Falwell's "Moral Majority" was able to raise Ronald Reagan to the Presidency.

But is this religion? Is this Christianity?

The Roman martyred our Fathers among the Saints for not being Roman enough, for being the "other." Had the Christians been enemies of the Empire or its friend they would have received predictable treatment. The Roman subjugated many enemies, such as the Jews, and then re-appropriated their political systems to their own ends. Given the Church's entirely other worldly view this was not possible and many God glorified many of the Church with martyrdom, not with political coalitions.

A more Catholic outlook on how the Bible
is the "Word of God"
The multimedia empires of megachurch Protestantism really have no place among Christianity as I recognize it. The Catholic, and Orthodox, Church always try to maintain positive relationships with monarchies and local governments in order to assure her own rights and freedom to operate. The state and local authorities usually complied because 99% of people were Catholic. When that was not the case a pluralism was accepted, but the Church still kept her outlook practical and her goals militant, not commercial. Even the Anglican Church, which I have criticized on this blog, can be said to follow the traditional pattern more than megachurchdom. 

Many Catholics, or ex-Catholics, seem to have purchased one edition or another of this American product called the megachurch. Today at a business event I found two instances of ex-Catholics. One was an Evangelical who married a Catholic woman in a Catholic parish—despite his disdain for the gay priest—because the faith was important to her. She now attends his church.... Another fellow was raised Catholic, but left the Church, married, and continues in ignorance. The first fellow attends a more "moderate" brand of megachurch wherein they admit the Bible ain't really the "Word of God" while the other fellow seems to possess a more fundamentalist focus. Despite all this, the second man's wife insists that they attend midnight Mass every Christmas. Why? "She likes Communion and thinks it's important."

Those two exchanges revealed something important to the Rad Trad. The Catholic Church is still recognizable to these people, but, as she was in her early Roman days, she is still the other. Megachurches rarely if ever do "communion" so where would she get the idea that it matters? Why go to a church that does "communion" on a night that is, to Americans, the most important of the year? In the former case the man might have done well to realize that the Church does not believe the Bible is the Word of God in the same way Protestants do. Protestants tend to view the Bible as Muslims view the Koran: God dictated and someone wrote the literal meaning. The Church has a more mature view of the Bible as a whole (she assembled it after all) and in parts (formed by the Fathers, use of those languages, a chain of interpretation, and the Holy Spirit).

Much like the early Romans many American Protestants of various denominations swing between places of worship, be it Bacchus or Baptist, seeking what they know to be missing and they continue to miss it because they are looking in the wrong places. As the Romans discovered, and as these souls hopefully will discover, no Roman or American product solves spiritual woes. They real solution is the "other," the Catholic Church. They are not unlike the women at the tomb on the morning of the Resurrection. They sought one thing and found, or did not find, something entirely different (they probably did not understand even the physical event for days): 
The radiant angel standing within the tomb, cried out to the Myrrh-bearers: Why O women Disciples, do you mingle myrrh with your tears of pity? Look upon the tomb and rejoice, for the Savior has risen from the dead.
Blessed are You , O Lord, teach me your statutes.
Very early in the morning, the myrrh-bearers ran lamenting to your tomb. But the angel stood by them and said: Do not weep, the time of lamenting has passed. Announce the Resurrection to the Apostles.
Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me your statutes.
The myrrh-bearing women came with myrrh to your tomb, O Savior, and heard the angel say to them: Why do you think that the Living One is among the dead, for as God He has risen from the dead.
Let us pray to St. Monica for these souls and souls like them, that they may one day return to Christ's fold.

God bless you all!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Poor

I have always found the poor difficult. Today I visited Fort Worth, TX and had to refuse two homeless people who approached me. Admittedly I refused the first one because I thought he looked a bit off kilter. After confessing at the cathedral I refused yet another from behind the wheel of my accidentally pretentious car. What do we do with the poor?

Logically I know that the poor of modern America are a different matter from the poor of 1st century Jerusalem. Those poor lived in an intractable socio-economic system worsened by compounding taxes and Roman domination. The poor of Boston and Brooklyn are less often families burdened by debt collectors and more people with mental problems or addictions. Surely this does not discount our duties as Catholics and servants of Christ to do something for these children of God, but giving them alms solves nothing. What will an alcoholic do with $5? Buy a shot-sized bottle of Smirnoff?

A few years ago I took on the policy of not giving the poor money. Judgmental as I sound, I do not trust the average beggar with $1 or $5. I will buy them food, whether they ask for it or not. Never groceries that can be traded, just one warm and hearty meal. Is this enough? Is this helping one's brother? Something I think it comes up short: me determining what someone else needs or is fit to have. Do I have another choice?

As I drove away from that third poor man I felt a sharp cut in my heart, wounding my soul a bit as I rationalized my three refusals. Yes, they logically make sense. Yes, many of us intend to do the right thing. Does this part of Our Lord's charge simply not fit into the modern American economic situation? The Pope clearly wants us to do something to engage the poor, but how? As one blogger said—and the press buried him for it—"The poor are messy." I knew a priest who would give beggars food or a small quantity of cash, but only if they said a prayer for him to his face.