Saturday, November 29, 2014


With first Vespers tonight, Advent is upon us, the richest season of the Roman liturgical year. Above is the stunning hymn for Vespers.

Please take a moment to notice the tab for the Office of the Dead above. A friend of mine was kind enough to create a bilingual version of the Office and upload it for our use. Post your intentions in the comment box of the page!

UPDATE: Again, please put your prayer intentions in the comment box for the Office of the Dead page, accessible by the tab atop the website. The Office itself has been updated. It was brought to our attention that the responsories at the end of the third nocturne at Mattins differs depending on whether one or three nocturnes have been said. And please, do consider praying the Office, or one of its hours, for your deceased family and friends as well as the gone loved ones of your fellow readers.

Celestial Word, to this our earth

Sent down from God's eternal clime,
To save mankind by mortal birth 
Into a world of change and time;

Enlighten our hearts; vain hopes destroy;
And in thy love's consuming fire 
Fill all the soul with heavenly joy, 
And melt the dross of low desire.

So when the Judge of quick and dead
Shall bid his awful summons come,
To whelm the guilty soul with dread,
And call the blessed to their home.

Saved from the whirling, black abyss,
Forevermore to us be given 
To share the feast of saintly bliss, 
And see the face of God in heaven.

To God the Father and the Son 
Our songs with one accord we raise;
And to the Holy Spirit, One 
With them, be ever equal praise

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Liturgy & Tradition: Sensus Fidelium

"When the Church is self-referential, inadvertently, she believes she has her own light," Cardinal Bergoglio said to the College of Cardinals before the Conclave that elevated him to the Petrine See. Bergoglio's message continued the engagement with existential modernity begun by other dubious figures like Henri de Lubac, Karl Rahner, and Rudolf Steiner decades earlier, but this isolated statement reveals a rare moment of clarity from the modern Roman See. When the Church is self-referential, she disables herself from spreading the Gospel because she does not know what she is or what she does. 

Such is the contemporary state of the Roman liturgy. Many readers have asked over the last two years what the point of the liturgy is. They are being cynical. The question carries the utmost gravity. Is it a divinely imparted ritual with its own powers? Is it a set of didactic actions that ornament the more important mechanical acts of transmitting grace? What is it? If we do not know what the liturgy is, then we are truly lost. The liturgy, in my own private opinion, is the sensus fidelium of the Church expressed according to separate, non-contradicting traditions and lived out in the Church universal. There is no citation for this definition in an ecumenical council—nor is there a definition of the Resurrection. Previous generations needed no definitions or binding statements to understand the relationship between the liturgy and the faith. If they believed it, they prayed it. They did not leave what they believed out of their worship, nor did they believe in novelties unfounded in the traditions of the Church. Liturgy does not merely teach belief and transmit grace. It revives and renews the sacred mysteries of Christ in time for the faithful. In doing so, one encounters Christ, the angels and saints, and glimpses into the greater spiritual reality of the Lord while remaining on earth, blurring the lines which separate the eternal and the temporal. One leaves the liturgy and the "mystical supper" of Christ not only having learned what to believe, but also how to believe when he returns to the world outside the temple.

Christ taught simply. His teachings tell the listener as much about how to engage Him as much as they do what to think of Him. Chesterton wrote that when he first read the Gospel, contrary to everything he was told about a kind rabbi divinized by his followers, Jesus spoke authoritatively as God. As God, He commanded love, fidelity, and trust in Him as well as care and attention towards one's neighbor. Above all, He taught the forgiveness of sins and the metanoia of the sinner. The last part concerns us. How does one orient one's self to God and away from sin? How does one see the world and God as He wishes? In conjunction with being the setting for the Sacraments, where the Holy Spirit acts and makes the work of Christ immediately accessible to the believer, the liturgy shows us this. It only makes sense. When a friend asks about the Catholic faith, one does not give him a catechism. One takes him to Mass or the Divine Liturgy.

"I have passed on to you what I have received," St. Paul wrote to the Church in Corinth some time in the 50s, merely a generation after the Passion of the Lord. The Apostle to the Gentiles passed on to the Corinthians both the tradition of the Lord's work and the tradition of what He commanded His followers to do. The two were inseparable. Belief and the primitive liturgy were received by believers simultaneously. They did not remain static, however. Passing on something does not preclude its development, its clearer enunciation, its deepening. Chapter 23 of St. Vincent of Lerins' Commonitorium applies to the liturgy as much as to doctrine:

"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."

Local churches developed their liturgical rites around their own settings, needs, and cultural tendencies. The Roman rite is, to say the least, highly efficient. More so than the Eastern rites, replete with hymns and elaborate gestures, the Roman rite uses the words of Holy Writ as its almost exclusive textual basis for the propers and many of the prayers, reflective of the Roman legal tradition's emphasis on the binding power of authoritative words. The more philosophical Greeks had a mystical and excessive liturgy consonant with its philosophical tradition. And the various far Eastern rites too reveal their origins. The Roman Patriarchate tolerated variation more than any other patriarchate until Trent, permitting, often begrudgingly, "dialects" of the Roman rite like the French, English, and Portuguese uses as well as further departures like Toledo, Milan, and L'Aquila. The multiplicity of uses in the Latin Church multiplied the spiritual wealth of the Western Church and gave her saints and thinkers recognized across national borders. Uses were often suppressed, but local variety was accepted as the norm with Rome as the original, the standard, the canon. One can trim the branches of a tree, but not the trunk.

"That we may receive the King of All, invisibly
escorted by angelic hosts."
These various dialects teach the Christian to perceive the world in a divine language. Language, Noam Chomsky begrudgingly admits, is something for which human beings seem uniquely wired. Language creates learning, interaction, and introspection. The liturgy, in a very real way, makes all these things possible with the Holy Trinity. The liturgy of the Church, Alexander Schmemann taught, is the continued presence of the Lord in the world and in time. Laurence Hemming develops this idea and notes the medieval concept of the liturgy as the opus Dei, the work of God which man engages and shares. In prior times, the bells of monasteries and cathedrals signaled the various canonical hours and stages of the Mass in town. The liturgy was the pulse of the community, not a feature of it. Schmemann's interpretation of the entirety of the liturgy of the Church as Christ's continued presence is not verified by baroque and modern writers, but by the liturgy itself. In it, the Christian meets God as He is, not as He is imagined to be or desired. The understanding of God in the liturgy may be deepened or hallowed by previous generations, but the sensus cannot be changed. The literal encounter with God liturgically, but not exclusively in the Sacraments, finds confirmation in the oldest texts of the Church. On Holy Saturday the deacon, in the blessing of the Paschal candle, sings of "this night," not "a night we remember," as the night of the passage to salvation. Then the cynosures of pre-Incarnational salvation history are recounted by the lectors, the story of the fall of both Man and creation. Then, water, a symbol of creation and the fundamental element of creation itself, is blessed and made into the matter of our salvation in Christ, Who Himself first made it holy in creating it and then re-sanctified it by seeking St. John's baptism in the Jordan. He brought the world back into Himself in that act and segmented a new creation that the baptized join. So water is blessed and sprinkled on the faithful. Catechumens join that new creation in Baptism themselves. This transcends decoration around simple Sacraments of Baptism and Communion. Indeed, it is this liturgical context that those Sacraments make sense. The re-visitation of the divine mysteries continues in the morning with the Mass, "I am risen and am still with you." The Church uses the psalm in the present tense and does not adapt it to a commemorative tone. Similarly, the collect of Pascha refers to the Resurrection as having transpired hodierna. The Byzantine rite also speaks of the Resurrection as a current reality, singing countless times "Christ is risen from the dead...." On Holy Saturday, Pascha, and the other Sundays, ferial days, and feasts of the year, the faithful see the Trinity, the Sacraments, and the Saints as they really are and are united to heaven in the sacred rites, when God comes down from heaven and gives the Christian a glimpse above in a heavenly tongue.

"All of Paradise is close to the altar when I celebrate Mass. The angels
attend my Mass in legions. The Virgin assists me."

To those who think this "high" interpretation inappropriate or misguided, the author poses the question: why consecrate a church? The objection to interpreting the liturgy as a very real thing which imbues the sensus fidelium by bringing the faithful to the sacred acts of Christ usually rests on the misguided belief that a religious act is either real or symbolic, but never both. Yet Baptism is both real and symbolic. It symbolizes creation, restoration, the eighth day, the Divine Adoption, and the cleansing of spiritual dirt. And still, it actually accomplishes all these things and incorporates a person into the Body of Christ, the Church. The Cathedral of Our Savior at the Lateran palace in Rome was the first church ever to be consecrated in the sense that churches are consecrated. It is not a Sacrament and the rejection of a high view of the liturgy would necessarily elicit one to interpret the actions as a series of exorcisms and drawn-out, pious actions of instruction. Does the church then become a house of God? Can there be such a thing as a house of God in a post-Mosaic Law Church without the authority of the Church to develop and deepen its tradition to allow for such an act of consecration? The Church does indeed symbolize the Temple of Jerusalem and the future New Jerusalem of heaven, but it is actually a very real house of God where, as in heaven, God lives and dwells and, for a few hours a week, acts. If the liturgy is anything less, then it is just bad literature.

The purpose of the liturgy, especially during the great periods of the year, is to unite the faithful to God so that they might know Him and save their souls. He gathers them to Himself and to His new Jerusalem, the Church, and to His Body, again, the Church. The belief and the sensus fidelium of the Church is diffused among the various rites and usages the Church enjoins and has practiced through out the ages. Christ's Body, the Church on earth, is much like His physical body when He was present among us in flesh in that it is organic and prone to growth. I recall years ago reading interviews with both a prominent sedevacantist and a priest of the FSSPX. Both were asked if a pope could create a new rite of Mass and both answered "In theory, yes, but the New Mas is bad, so we reject it." I think a more prudent reply excludes the possibility that the pope, or any bishop, can create a new liturgy or discard large portions of the old liturgy. Many of the additions to the Roman rite over the years—introductory rites in the Office, hymns, prayers before the altar, the offertory, the monastic choir ceremonies, the Eastern feasts imported etc—were just that, additions, neither replacements nor fabrications. If we concede this point, then we lose part of the sensus fidelium and instead embrace the inner-mind of some dodgy bishop. Worse yet, we lose the greater meaning of the mysteries and lessen the Sacraments, turning them into transmission channels for grace and nothing more. To retain the sensus fidelium and keep the faith, we ought to guard the liturgy of the Church with Davidic fortitude lest we embrace Christ as we want Him to be and not as He actually is.

My fellow Americans: Happy Thanksgiving. Fast tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Modern Church in 1318

One bad priest can irreparably destroy a community and the parish. We have been witnessing this first hand for the past several decades. Every other week, one article appears about a felonious priest who wrought misdeeds or taught heterodoxy decades ago only to be saved by his bishop; only now do the accusations come to light. Out of politeness and piety we smile, say it was an isolated shame, and pretend that the damage does not endure. It does. Perhaps we would do well to consider an example from history that parallels our modern travails quite well.

In the early 14th century, an abbot-turned-bishop in Pamiers, Jacques Fournier, was eager to root out remnants of the Cathar heresy in his diocese in southern France near the Spanish border in the Midi-Pyrénées, a region so separate from the rest of France that its native tongue was Occitan. He was given a tip about a potentially heterodox conversation involving the parish priest of Montaillou, Pierre Clergue. Bishop Jacques launched an inquisition into Montaillou and discovered that virtually the entire town had slipped into either heresy or apostasy. While the rest of southern France had left Catharism and returned to the true faith, either by compulsion or, in fewer cases, with the help of Dominican preaching, this small town held firm to the ascetic religion which denied many fundamental doctrines of the Church, held the physical world to be evil and scorned, and which held their perfecti as the models and exemplars of human behavior. Worse yet, After years of investigation, Fourner found that Clergue himself was the root of the problem. Simultaneously, he lived off the Church and celebrated the Sacraments while giving private instruction in Catharistic ideas. Unlike mainstream Cathars, who in their scorn of the body denied pro-creative relations, Clergue and his brother were willing to have sex anywhere at any time. He leveraged his authority, his false teachings, and his lust over the women of Montaillou. Beatrix de Planissoles recounted that Clergue first approached her sexually while he was hearing Confessions behind the altar of St. Mary Magdalen in the village chapel of St. Peter. He told her that the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist are meaningless, that the body is evil and hence God would not deign to enter it and that Confession does nothing, only Confession to God is meaningful. On these grounds, he continued his priestly ministry, saying Mass and granting absolutions, because he needed ecclesiastical revenues to support his lifestyle, but he did not believe it one bit. One villager openly professed that Christ did not pre-exist time, God did not make the world, and that Jesus came into the world by "screwing," as did everyone else. Clergue enjoyed a year and a half of sexual encounters with Beatrix and many other women in the village, staging liaisons in barns, his rectory, and even in the chapel itself. He kept them quiet by maintaining good relations with the diocesan office and threatening to report the more active Cathars for heresy. As the informant, he would enjoy credibility with the inquisition. It was not to be. Fournier threw Clergue into prison, where he rotted until drawing his last breath. Most of the town surrendered their Cathar beliefs and accepted various kinds of public penance such as wearing a yellow cross. Five remained in open, obdurate apostasy and were burned at the stake. Sixteen years later bishop Jacques was elected pope. 

There will be no rescue by the institutional Church, no grand restoration that will put our many modern Pierre Clergues in prison and bereft them of their pensions. We overestimate our woes though if we assume that the modern debacle is without precedent. It happened in France in 1318. The difference is that back then, those looking from the outside inward knew something was amiss.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

500th Post: Confession with the Mafia

First, a grim note. Many Americans will be familiar with the name of Fulton Sheen, the monsignor who taught in Washington DC before becoming auxiliary bishop of New York City and last the ordinary of Rochester, NY. His television show, Life is Worth Living, was an early and popular kind of apologetics. He may well be the only cleric ever to win an Emmy Award. Sheen was a linchpin of pre-Vatican II American Catholicism. His gentle demeanor, instinct for drama, arrant anti-Communism, and precocious ability to make the triumphalism of the Church accessible to the average man won many converts, including celebrities. After Vatican II, Sheen faded into obscurity, in part because Cardinal Spellman ensured Sheen would not succeed him as Archbishop of New York. Our friend M.J. recently found out just what happened to Sheen. His end, which you can read here, is quite upsetting. His tergiversation perfectly reflects what happened to other prelates in his era.

Now, on to lighter material. This is the Rad Trad's 500th post. I will start the series on the early Traditionalists next week, God willing, and produce a bilingual complete Officium Defunctorum for our Advent group. The finished product will be English/Latin and reflect the Office before the 1911 deforms. 

I would like to share with you my own experience going to Mass on Pascha at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Buffalo, NY five years ago. My girlfriend, an un-baptized Armenian, accompanied me to Buffalo to spend the holy weekend with a friend who happens to be a lapsed Catholic. Despite no longer having faith, he still has a vociferous Italianate demeanor. Let us peer into the conversation after Mass.

Girlfriend: Rad Trad, I felt verrrrry uncomfortable during dat Mass. I vas da only one who did not go to Communion!
Rad Trad: But my dear, you are un-baptized! You cannot go to Communion! Besides, there was an entire row of people behind you who did not go to Communion either!
Girlfriend: Oh, yeah! Dat vas veird. Vhy didn't dey go?
Rad Trad looks over to his friend
Rad Trad: Six heavy men, pinstriped suits, greased back hair, and pinky-finger rings.
Friend: Ah, what you mean is that you were sitting with the successful Italian businessmen.
Rad Trad: Exactly.
Girlfriend: Who are da "successful Italian businessmen?"
Rad Trad: Competitors to the successful Russian businessmen you knew back in the old country.... Really? They're the mafia, darling.
Girlfriend: Oh how very nice. In da eyes of God, I am on da same level as da mob.
Friend: Now Rad Trad, if you are in the Confession line and they want to go first, you let them. They've got a lot more to say and if they take a while, just leave them alone.
Girlfriend: Vhat would a mob man say in Cone-fession?
Rad Trad: I imagine something like this:
Successful Italian Businessman: Bless me a Fadder, for I have a sinned.
Priest: And how long since your last Confession, my son?
SIB: It's been a three days, Fadder.
Priest sighs
Priest: And what do you wish to bring before the Good Lord today?
SIB: Well Fadder, it's my line of work. You see, I get into.... how should I a say it.... I get into a arguments. I deal with some a cranky people and maybe we a fight a bit.
Priest: Well, there's nothing wrong about that! Do you work in retail?
SIB: Only on Fridays and Saturdays, Fadder.
Priest: Huh?
SIB: F'get about it, Fadder. Oh, and I a known a couple o' girls in my time....
Priest: It's been three days.
SIB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Don't a the pope say "Who am I to do a the judging?" Eh!
Priest: I guess you're right.
SIB: Oh yeah, and before I forget, one last thing. You know that book you guys got?
Priest: You mean the Bible?
SIB: Bible! I knew there was a word for it. Well, I done all a the stuff in there, too.
Priest: You killed a man by driving a tent peg through his head in the middle of the night?
SIB: This is New York state. Gun control laws and all of that.
Long silence
Priest: Well, I guess you're sorry and contrite, aren't you my lad? How 'bout you make an Act of Contrition and say a Rosary for penance?
SIB: Hrrrrrrrr.... Could I just do one decade? I got a meeting in a warehouse in an hour.

All must hew to the Church. Christ will not let us off the hook for being less bad. He expects us to be good. During the last Sunday after Pentecost and during Advent, let us think long and hard about how we want Christ to find us. We must navigate through the various shades of moral grey in this world with the Church and her Sacraments as our lens. Only Our Lord can finally separate the black and white clearly for us.

Feast of St Felix

Today. in the kingdom of the Rad Trad, we celebrate with great solemnity the feast of our patron, St. Felix of Valois. We observe him as a Double I class, of course. Please consider praying the below prayer from the Office for both myself and for the needs of the readers of this blog:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant; * thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.
V. The Lord guided the just in right paths.
R. And showed him the kingdom of God.
Let pray:
O God, Who by a sign from heaven didst call thy blessed Confessor Felix out of the desert to become a redeemer of bondsmen, grant, we beseech thee, unto his prayers, that thy grace may deliver us from the bondage of sin, and bring us home unto our very fatherland, which is in heaven. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God unto ages of ages. Amen.

If you are unfamiliar with St. Felix, here are the lessons from the second nocturne of Mattins for the feast:

"Felix de Valois, who afterwards took the name of Felix, was born (in the year 1127) of the same family of the de Valois which in after times became Kingly. From his earliest childhood he gave tokens, especially by his pity toward the poor, of the holiness of his coming life. When he was still a little lad he distributed money to the poor with his own hand, with the seriousness of an old man. When he was a little bigger he used to send them dishes from the table, and took especial delight in treating poor children with the most toothsome of the sweetmeats. As a boy he took clothes off his own back more than once, to cover the naked. He begged and obtained from his uncle Theobald, Earl of Champagne and Blois, the life of a felon condemned to death, foretelling to him that this blackguard cut-throat would yet become a man of most holy life which did indeed come to pass as he had said.
"After a praiseworthy boyhood, he began to think of withdrawing from the world in order to be alone with heavenly thoughts. But he first wished to take orders, to the end that he might clear himself of all expectation of succeeding to the crown, to which, in consequence of the Salic Law, he was somewhat near. He became a Priest, and said his first Mass with deep devotion. Then, in a little while, he withdrew himself into the wilderness, where he lived in extreme abstinence, fed by heavenly grace. Thither, by the inspiration of God, came the holy Doctor John de la Mata of Paris, and found him, and they led an holy life together for several years, until they were both warned of an Angel to go to Rome and seek a special Rule of life from the Pope. Pope Innocent III. while he was solemnly celebrating the Liturgy received in a vision the revelation of the Order and Institute for the redemption of bondsmen, and he forthwith clad Felix and John in white garments marked with a cross of red and blue, made after the likeness of the raiment wherein the Angel had appeared. This Pope also willed that the new Order should bear, as well as the habit of three colours, the name of the Most Holy Trinity.
"When they had received the confirmation of their rule from Pope Innocent, John and Felix enlarged the first house of their Order, which they had built a little while before at Cerfroi, in the diocese of Meaux, in France. There Felix wonderfully devoted himself to the promotion of Regular Observance and of the Institute for the redemption of bondsmen, and thence he busily spread the same by sending forth his disciples into other provinces. Here it was that he received an extraordinary favour from the blessed Maiden-Mother. On the night of the Nativity of the Mother of God, the brethren lay all asleep, and by the Providence of God woke not to say Mattins. But Felix was watching, as his custom was, and came betimes into the Choir. There he found the Blessed Virgin in the midst of the Choir, clad in raiment marked with the Cross of his Order, the Cross of red and blue; and with her a company of the heavenly host in like garments. And Felix was mingled among them. And the Mother of God began to sing, and they all sang with her and praised God; and Felix sang with them; and so they finished the Office. So now that he seemed to have been already called away from glorifying God on earth, to glorify Him in heaven, an Angel told Felix that the hour of his death was at hand. When therefore he had exhorted his children to be tender to the poor and to slaves, he gave up his soul to God (upon the 4th day of November) in the year of Christ 1212, in the time of the same Pope Innocent III., being four-score-and-five years old, and full of good works."

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tradistan, Neo-Con Whackos & the East

With Geoffrey Hull, I believe that while they are not currently allies, Roman traditionalists and Eastern Catholics ought to be more closely aligned. They share more common spillover at American parishes than most think. Both theoretically put a handed down liturgy at the center of Christian life rather than something concocted in a conference room. And above all, both share a very realistic view of the papacy grounded in reality and the historical experience through which we must read the Church's teachings on the papacy. The pope cannot be something other than what his predecessors show him to be.

In an interview with progressive blogger Anthony Ruff OSB, Robert Taft SJ branded all who disfavor the Spirit of Vatican II "neo-con whackos." A more realistic approach reveals that there are the Tradistanis and then the genuine "continuity" neo-conservatives on the "right wing" of the Roman Church. The Tradistanis, much like their Greek Catholic counter-parts, are unafraid of opposing or ignoring the pope when he is flagrantly wrong about something or damages the Church's praxis—not that the opposition mattered a tinker's bell in the 20th century. Many of them, like Msgr. Lefebvre before 1988, wanted to be Ultramontanists a la Pio Nono, but were at some point accosted by real life.* Others, like myself, view the pope as the center point of the Church's Communion and the custodian of the Roman tradition. This is a view amenable to Eastern Christians, too. Yet all these viewpoints and experiences contrast remarkably to the neo-conservatives, who will often admit to the on-going troubles in the Church and many, like the fellow in the video below, will go after the bishops for their mistakes, but never the pope.

I have said all I have to say about the Synod on the Family and I would rather not examine the video below on the merits of the host's views of Francis, but I would like to comment on his attitude, an attitude which reflects the neo-conservative view like still water. Mr. Voris quite openly attacks bishops, often by name, in his videos, earning him the understandable indignation of some, but does not go after the pope. Ever. Why? He admits freely that the vast majority of what the pope says and does has no doctrinal guarantee whatsoever and that those things are open to debate. Why, then, can we not debate them? An American priest whose name begins with the last letter of the English alphabet posted this video the other day, advertising it as a sort of key to a good attitude about the current papacy. This is essentially a via media approach to a problematic pontificate which acknowledges the bad and does not assign the blame for it out of piety and good manners. The host accuses Tradistanis of name-calling and nastily insulting the pope. Rorate Caeli no longer allows comments, so I am not sure what Mr. Voris has been reading. There is also the nonsensical moment at 3:00 when he assails the Tradistanis for wishing to uphold traditional teachings and practices, and then proceeds to compare the those people with the progressives who wish for a change in teaching, as if an equivalency exists betwixt the two. The message seems to be "The pope might theoretically be wrong, but in faith we must always pretend he is right. Nothing could be his fault." What. The. Heck.

Those who know history rarely adopt this high-Ultramontane view point. What is quite irksome is the occasional neo-conservative who does know history, but who has also grown up in the JP2 era and chooses to disregard the past. Yes Vigilius and Honorius were heterodox, yes John XII toasted the Devil, yes Benedict IX sold the papacy to chase a woman, yes Alexander VI killed a lot people, but that was then and the Holy Spirit guides the papacy, so it would never happen now; we have had St. John Paul the Great, after all! A friend, who I love dearly, told me "Ya gotta love Francis," to which I rebutted, "Why?" I was told, "He's the pope." I retorted, "That is not an argument, good or bad. It is just a fact." Much like at Vatican I—the council to define Infallibility, at the Synod the Holy Spirit acted through those who opposed the pope to preserve the Church's teaching and, ironically, the pope's own doctrinal infallibility. To the high-Ultramontanist, this is implausible. Say what you will about him, Benedict XVI seemed to be dismantling the mythology around the papacy while restoring its external dignity. I am afraid that is gone and we are, as we were in 1978, left with a cult of personality. 

Tradistanis and Eastern Christians in Communion with the Apostolic See have slowly learned to worry about their local communities, both because of their isolation and because they depend on strong local churches to survive, and to keep a distant, atavistic eye on Rome. We do not ignore Rome. We love Rome, the city of the two greatest Apostles, the martyrs, our liturgical tradition, and the center of the Christian world. But we also realize Rome will always have her politics, her power struggles, her good popes, her bad popes, and her ugly popes. We delude ourselves if we think this was untrue in any era after St. Peter's crucifixion. Pray for Rome. Love Rome. Concentrate on the local church though. Christ had twelve Apostles, after all, and they traversed the known world. They did not issue online encyclicals. Our local churches have been devastated in the modern era and are in need of care. The Vatican will still be there.

Let the "neo-con whackos" worry about the rest!

* = Of course this is untrue of sedevacantists, who disregard the modern popes precisely because they maintain a high Ultramontane view. I am sure they have their own historical foundations for their opinions.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

St. Joseph the Elderly

Elsewhere we have talked about the the strange turn in devotion to St Joseph that planted seeds in the Renaissance and which sprang to life during the 19th century. Statues and devotional art now often depict St. Joseph as an effete, lanky 25 year old man with a pre-maturely receding hairline and a flower (or working tools for Giuseppe Comunista). Tradition attests that he was an older man, widowed, and already with children when he took Our Lady into his abode and became Our Lord's earthly guardian. The above is a mosaic saved from the original St. Peter's Basilica. It resided on the wall of the Marian chapel built in the back of the nave by Pope John VII c.700. The image is consistent with the Eastern traditions, the proto-gospel of James, and the Latin tradition.

St. Joseph, patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

Dedication of St. Peter's Basilica

Here is some older material combined into one post on the original St. Peter's Basilica built by the emperor Constantine and which stood until the current building was commenced in the 16th century.

In a previous post we looked at the first millennium Roman liturgy from a textual and historical perspective, at how the traditional liturgy as we have it today evolved from a remarkably similar Mass around the year 800 AD. Today I just want to "throw" some material at you for your own edification once again, this time pertaining to the setting of the first millennium and medieval Roman liturgy, namely the original St. Peter's basilica. Most of what I have below is republished from last year, but with many improvements.
The original St. Peter's basilica was begun by Emperor Constantine over a shrine on Vatican Hill here Christians had venerated what tradition tells us was the place of St. Peter's burial since the first century—St. Peter's bones were not actually discovered until the reign of Pius XII. The basilica was completed in 360, but constantly remodeled. Originally the tomb of the first Pope of Rome was in the apse of the basilica, behind the altar. Tidal flow of pilgrims necessitated switching these two. A more elaborate throne for the Pope was constructed, as consecration of the Bishop of Rome became more usual at St. Peter's. The proliferation of Papal burials at St. Peter's and a series of ninth century invasions by Saracens necessitated further renovations. One such remodel, around the time of Leo IV, led to an altar embroidered in precious stones, ambos and doors of silver, and mosaics taken from the finest Eastern churches. Like most Roman basilicas, there was a group of canons attached to the church.

A cloister preceded the entrance. I cannot help but think of Dr. Laurence Hemming's theory of the Catholic churches as temples, as fulfillment of the Temple of Jerusalem. The cloister here is more of an enclosed sacred courtyard than anything monastic. It functioned as a gathering place for people to prepare for Mass, an eschaton—a place between the world and eternity. A pineapple, which I believe predates the Christian era, sat at the center of the cloister. The faithful, as late as the eighth century, washed their hands for Communion at the fountains in this area—although reception on the hand differed drastically from the modern practice. In all, it is like the courtyards of the Temples of Solomon and Herod: a gateway through which the faithful would leave the world and prepare for the Divine. Sort of the story of salvation, eh?
Drawing of how the mosaics on the façade of the basilica,
as restored by Innocent III, would have been arranged.

The inside was very much that of a Roman basilica which, before the Christian age, just meant an indoor public gathering place for Romans. The nave would be lined with colonnade, but statuary and imagery was sparse and likely introduced in the early second millennium. The primary source of color would have been through patterns and mosaics on the ceiling, particularly in the apse. While Byzantine churches tend to either depict Christ as a child in our Lady's arms or Christ the Pantocrator in the apse, Roman churches vary more, and St. Peter's would have been no exception. St. Mary Major's apse bears Christ and our Lady seats in power, while the Lateran depicts Him ascended above all the saints—and above us, lest we forget, and St. Paul outside the Wall depicts Him in blessing but with a book of judgment. St. Peter's might have also had some variation of Christ in the apse, above the stationary Papal throne.

The altar was both ad orientem and versus populum, a rarity outside of Rome. During the Canon the faithful would go into the transepts and the aisles of the nave and face eastward with the priest, meaning they did not "see" the change on the altar. Curtains may have been drawn regardless, guaranteeing people did not see the consecration until the Middle Ages at least.

The populistic arrangement, of the Pope facing the people, gives us a clear indication of where the reformers discovered their "Mass as assembly" idea, but neglects the very hierarchical arrangement, which the Bishop of Rome elevated, surrounded by his counsel and the servants of the faithful in Holy Orders. Certainly a more popularly accessible structure than a Tridentine pontifical Mass from the throne, but not remotely as democratic as the reformers would have us believe. Papal Mass continued their arrangement through 1964, the year of the last Papal Mass.

St. Peter's basilica around the year 1450
(taken from wikipedia)

Neglect during the Avignon papacy left the Roman basilicas in ruins, St. Peter's included. The roof of the basilica and its re-enforcement were both wood, which had long rotted. Instability eventually caused the walls and foundations to crack and, although many maintained the basilica was still usable, the decision was made to replace it in 1505 by Pope Julius II. The decision rightly sent Romans into uproar, as the old church had been used by the City and by saints for twelve centuries.

Inside the old St. Peter's notice the elevated altar surrounded by the twisting
arches. St. Peter's tomb was below. Above is the fatal ceiling.
(image taken from
The fate of much of the original basilica is unknown. Elements of the portico survived, as did the Papal tombs. St. Peter's tomb received its own chapel, named for the Pope who built it. The high altar was retained and en-capsuled in the new altar. The altar sanctuary had been walled from the nave by winding pillars, supposedly taken from the Temple of Solomon. They were destroyed, although their design is retained in the new basilica's baldacchino.

Below is a reconstruction of how the sanctuary would have looked during the Middle Ages. Note the wall and doors, much like an iconostasis, betwixt the sanctuary and nave. The semi-circular benches around the Papal throne were for the canons of the basilica, the seven deacons of Rome, the archpriest, and the cardinals. The doors on the sides might have been either for the deacons, for those administering Holy Communion to the people in the transepts, or for those visiting the tomb below the sanctuary.

From New Liturgical Movement
Note the side altars, where the Roman low Mass as we know it was formed. Also, the entrance to St. Peter's tomb from doors under the stairs.
The reconstruction below, however, seems to aim at imitating a medieval version of St. Peter's basilica. The above image, of the basilica in the first millennium, shows a church which has not yet undergone various renovations consequent to medieval piety and style: the barrier above is more of a railing than a wall, there are side-chapels below but not above, and curtains around the altar—emphasizing the mystery of it all, and colonnade around the Papal throne—pointing to the unique place in the sanctuary of the chair of Peter. The walls are also sparser in the pre-Middle Ages image above. I suspect the person who created these images is of the Byzantine tradition, as he has put icons above the altars as decoration rather than more Romanesque mosaics and paintings. Still, quite an effort.

Below is a video from the same source showing a detailed view of the old basilica. I always found the old pineapple funny. It is a pagan bronze work dating to the first century and which resided in the Vatican square for no reason other than its pre-dating the basilica. The video is well worth your time and hopefully will engender some appreciation for the scale and Romanitas of the original church. Of course the details of the inside are mostly lost and would have taken the video's maker an eternity to construct.

Here is an account of the demolition of the original church:

From Idle Speculations:

"At the beginning of Paul V.'s pontificate, there still stood untouched a considerable portion of the nave of the Constantinian basilica. It was separated from the new church by a wall put up by Paul III.
There likewise remained the extensive buildings situate in front of the basilica. The forecourt, flanked on the right by the house of the archpriest and on the right by the benediction loggia of three bays and the old belfry, formed an oblong square which had originally been surrounded by porticoes of Corinthian columns.
The lateral porticos, however, had had to make room for other buildings—those on the left for the oratory of the confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament built under Gregory XIII., and the house of the Cappella Giulia and the lower ministers of the church, and those on the right for the spacious palace of Innocent VIII.
In the middle of this square, at a small distance from the facade of the present basilica, stood the fountain (cantharus) erected either by Constantine or by his son Constantius, under a small dome supported by eight columns and surmounted by a colossal bronze cone which was believed to have been taken from the mausoleum of Hadrian.
From this court the eye contemplated the facade of old St. Peter's, resplendent with gold and vivid colours and completely covered with mosaics which had been restored in the sixteenth century, and crowned, in the centre, by a figure of Christ enthroned and giving His blessing.
To this image millions of devout pilgrims had gazed up during the centuries.
Internally the five-aisled basilica, with its forest of precious columns, was adorned with a wealth of altars, shrines and monuments of Popes and other ecclesiastical and secular dignitaries of every century. The roof consisted of open woodwork. The walls of the central nave, from the architrave upwards, displayed both in colour and in mosaic, scenes from Holy Scripture and the portraits of all the Popes.
It is easy to understand Paul V.'s hesitation to lay hands on a basilica so venerable by reason of the memories of a history of more than a thousand years, and endowed with so immense a wealth of sacred shrines and precious monuments.
On the other hand, the juxtaposition of two utterly heterogeneous buildings, the curious effect of which may be observed in the sketches of Marten van Heemskerk, could not be tolerated for ever. To this must be added the ruinous condition, already ascertained at the time of Nicholas V and Julius V., of the fourth century basilica a condition of which Paul V. himself speaks in some of his inscriptions as a notorious fact.
A most trustworthy contemporary, Jacopo Grimaldi, attests that the paintings on the South wall were almost unrecognizable owing to the crust of dust which stuck to them, whilst the opposite wall was leaning inwards.
Elsewhere also, even in the woodwork of the open roof, many damaged places were apparent. An earthquake could not have failed to turn the whole church into a heap of ruins.
An alarming occurrence came as a further warning to make haste. During a severe storm, in September, 1605, a huge marble block fell from a window near the altar of the Madonna della Colonna. Mass was being said at that altar at the time so that it seemed a miracle that no one was hurt.
Cardinal Pallotta, the archpriest of St. Peter's, pointed to this occurrence in the consistory of September 26th, 1605, in which he reported on the dilapidated condition of the basilica, basing himself on the reports of the experts.
As a sequel to a decision by the cardinalitial commission of September 17th, the Pope resolved to demolish the remaining part of the old basilica. At the same time he decreed that the various monuments and the relics of the Saints should be removed and preserved with the greatest care.' These injunctions were no doubt prompted by the strong opposition raised by the learned historian of the Church, Cardinal Baronius, against the demolition of a building which enshrined so many sacred and inspiring monuments of the history of the papacy. To Cardinal Pallotta was allotted the task of superintending the work of demolition.
Sestilio Mazucca, bishop of Alessano and Paolo Bizoni, both canons of St. Peter's, received pressing recommendations from Paul V. to watch over the monuments of the venerable sanctuary and to see to it that everything was accurately preserved for posterity by means of pictures and written accounts, especially the Lady Chapel of John VII., at the entrance to the basilica, which was entirely covered with mosaics, the ciborium with Veronica's handkerchief, the mosaics of Gregory XI on the facade and other ancient monuments. On the occasion of the translation of the sacred bodies and relics of Saints, protocols were to be drawn up and graves were only to be opened in presence of the clergy of the basilica. The bishop of Alessano was charged to superintend everything.
It must be regarded as a piece of particularly good fortune that in Jacopo Grimaldi (died January 7th, 1623) canon and keeper of the archives of the Chapter of St. Peter's, a man was found who thoroughly understood the past and who also possessed extensive technical knowledge. He made accurate drawings and sketches of the various monuments doomed to destruction.
The plan of the work of demolition, as drawn up in the architect's office, probably under Maderno's direction, comprised three tasks : viz. the opening of the Popes' graves and other sepulchral monuments as well as the reliquaries, and the translation of their contents ; then the demolition itself, in which every precaution was to be taken against a possible catastrophe ; thirdly, the preservation of all those objects which, out of reverence, were to be housed in the crypt—the so-called Vatican Grottos—or which were to be utilized in one way or another in the new structure.
As soon as the demolition had been decided upon, the work began.
On September 28th, Cardinal Pallotta transferred the Blessed Sacrament in solemn procession, accompanied by all the clergy of the basilica, into the new building where it was placed in the Cappella Gregoriana. Next the altar of the Apostles SS. Simon and Jude was deprived of its consecration with the ceremonies prescribed by the ritual ; the relics it had contained were translated into the new church, after which the altar was taken down. On October 11th, the tomb of Boniface VIII. was opened and on the 20th that of Boniface IV., close to the adjoining altar.
The following day witnessed the taking up of the bodies of SS. Processus and Martinianus. On October 30th, Paul V. inspected the work of demolition of the altars and ordered the erection of new ones so that the number of the seven privileged altars might be preserved.
On December 29th, 1605, the mortal remains of St. Gregory the Great were taken up with special solemnity, and on January 8th, 1606, they were translated into the Cappella Clementina. The same month also witnessed the demolition of the altar under which rested the bones of Leo IX., and that of the altar of the Holy Cross under which Paul I. had laid the body of St. Petronilla, in the year 757. Great pomp marked the translation of all these relics ; similar solemnity was observed on January 26th, at the translation of Veronica's handkerchief, the head of St. Andrew and the holy lance. These relics were temporarily kept, for greater safety, in the last room of the Chapter archives.
So many graves had now been opened in the floor that it became necessary to remove the earth to the rapidly growing rubbish heap near the Porta Angelica.
On February 8th, 1606, the dismantling of the roof began and on February 16th the great marble cross of the facade was taken down. Work proceeded with the utmost speed ; the Pope came down in person to urge the workmen to make haste. These visits convinced him of the decay of the venerable old basilica whose collapse had been predicted for the year 1609. The work proceeded with feverish rapidity—the labourers toiled even at night, by candle light.

The demolition of the walls began on March 29th ; their utter dilapidation now became apparent. The cause of this condition was subsequently ascertained ; the South wall and the columns that supported it, had been erected on the remains of Nero's race-course which were unable to bear indefinitely so heavy a weight.
In July, 1606, a committee was appointed which also included Jacopo Grimaldi. It was charged by the cardinalitial commission with the task of seeing to the preservation of the monuments of the Popes situate in the lateral aisles and in the central nave of the basilica. The grave of Innocent VIII. was opened on September 5th, after which the bones of Nicholas V., Urban VI., Innocent VII. and IX., Marcellus II. and Hadrian IV. were similarly raised and translated.
In May, 1607, the body of Leo the Great was found. Subsequently the remains of the second, third and fourth Leos were likewise found ; they were all enclosed in a magnificent marble sarcophagus. Paul V. came down on May 30th to venerate the relics of his holy predecessors
Meanwhile the discussions of the commission of Cardinals on the completion of the new building had also been concluded. They had lasted nearly two years"
[Pastor History of the Popes Volume 26 (trans Dom Ernest Graf OSB) (1937; London) pages 378-385]
The loss of the original St. Peter's Basilica is a long forgotten misfortune for the Church. The current basilica is very impressive in all regards, and yet when he visited it (a day after seeing the Lateran and two days after seeing St. Mary Major) the Rad Trad found the current structure lacking in only one element: continuity with the past. The previous basilicas were truly Roman. And yet they have been updated with gothic flooring, Renaissance ceilings and paintings, baroque altars and décor, and even modern Holy Doors. The newer St. Peter's seems very much a standalone, quite apart from the other Papal churches in the City.
St. Peter's fell into neglect during the Avignon Papacy, when earthquakes could have their way with the Basilica and no Papal coffers proffered repair money. The wooden roof was similarly neglected. Upon return to Rome the Popes moved their major liturgical functions elsewhere and the deterioration worsened.
Perhaps some future oratory or cathedral, looking to maximize return without spending a load of money or choosing a brutally modern look, could go with the Roman basilica arrangement using St. Peter's as a model.

Some didactic abstracts from a conference on the old basilica three years ago.

Lastly, here are some photographs I took while visiting the Petrine basilica three years ago:

Today is the feast of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Ss. Peter and Paul, two of the four patriarchal basilicas of the Roman Church. The current buildings are fairly recent (St. Peter's is a 16th century replacement of a 4th century basilica and St. Paul's is a 19th century reconstruction of the original, which burned and imploded). The Rad Trad did not get to St. Paul outside the Wall during his visit to Rome, but did manage to spend a full day in St. Peter's Basilica. The current building has very little to do with the one which preceded it, other than that it too houses the relics of the Prince of the Apostles.

I have re-posted some older material, a photo tour of the current basilica, for readers' edification. As stated on our previous post for the feast of the Dedication of the Lateran, these photos are perhaps better than what one will find online because they were taken during a progression through the church and hence give a clearer impression of the arrangement, scale, and style of the place. Some photos towards the end show the Rad Trad in personal horror (not a fan of heights).

The second lesson in the second nocturne of Mattins today seems to be based upon the fictitious Donation of Constantine (did Benedict XIV not want to rid us of this sort of thing?), but concludes with the interesting, and more historically feasible, statement that the consecration of a stone altar by St. Sylvester, Pope at the time, marked an official point of transition from wood to purely stone altars.

Happy feast!

Approach from the square

Sneak by the Swiss Guards

Our Lord watches this place

Where we hear "Habemus Papam"

Friends of the Rad Trad awaiting entry into the nave

First altar on the right is graced by the Pieta

Peering through the right-side door

A rather ugly statue of Pope Pius XII, among many statues of saints and popes

Looking back from the first chapel. This place is big! The current basilica
was built over the previous one, which too was the largest church in the world at
one point. The basilica's interior is a sixth of a mile long. I have sailed on large cruise ships
which would fit within this edifice comfortably.

A shot across to the altar of the Presentation

The baptismal font is enormous. Scale dominates this place

The dome over the baptistery

The coffered ceiling

Tomb of St. Pius X

The domes under the side chapels are quite colorful

The chapel of the choir, south of the high altar, which contains relics of St. John Chrysostom

Tomb of St. Gregory the Great. The Pope once vested for Solemn Mass here
while the schola sang terce

Apse of a transept

The baldacchino over the high altar is over 70 feet in height,
the largest piece of bronze work in the world

St. Andrew. There are many statues in the nave, but none of Apostles or Our Lady.
Those of the Apostles are to be found around the (ill-defined) sanctuary.

The entrance to the tomb of St. Peter and the Clementine chapel

St. Peter presiding at the basilica. A line of people wait to kiss his foot.

Confession in 22 languages from 7AM to 7PM

Looking from the altar to the nave

A friend of mine, who is over six feet tall, for size comparison

St. Gregory the Illuminator, disciple to Armenia

"I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple...."

The altar at the Petrine Throne with the Holy Ghost descending upon it.
It makes much more sense to see this during a Mass, which we did.

Saints watch and keep vigil

As we depart....

Later that day the Rad Trad visited the dome

The Rad Trad does not like heights

The Rad Trad really does not like heights.
Grabbing the cornice for dear life!

The Four Evangelists at the corners of the sanctuary

The inside of the dome

That ant below is a person! We were well over 200 feet above the floor

Friends delighting in the Rad Trad's fears

One last shot of the altar