Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Sarum Rite I: A Brief History

Nave of Salisbury Cathedral, taken by the author.
"Henry VIII, we must remember, was a Roman Catholic." These uncomfortable words a tour guide uttered at an audience in St. Peter da Vincula in the Tower of London four years ago. At the time, I was reading Church History at university and enamored with the decentralized view of Christianity 19th century Tractarians offered. The guide's words tore that veil in two. He continued, "We must remember that in Henry's time, there was no Church of England, only the Church in England."

While the branding of all Western Christendom as "Roman Catholicism" was not yet accomplished in the 16th century, any pre-Reformation historian would be sorely tempted to call England the most "Roman" of all Catholic European nations. Both in the age of Henry VIII and before Hastings England situated herself spiritually very close to the Mother Church in central Italy. This is essential to understanding the origins of the Sarum rite, or usage, a variation of the pre-Tridentine liturgy that was in fact a three fold synthesis of the ancient Roman liturgy, the Norman liturgy, and the monastic liturgy. It is to the second Sarum owes its grandeur, the third to which she owes part of her ritual and architecture, but to the first she owes her birth.

As a province of the Roman Empire, Britannia presumably practiced the Christian faith in some capacity after the Edict of Milan in 313. Nearly three centuries later, St. Gregory the Great saw a man with pallor in a Roman square and inquired if he was an angel. A man replied to the pope "Non angelus, sed anglus." The Roman bishop then dispatched St. Augustine to the fallen away isle, where he planted the Church at Canterbury and became the first of many bishops in that see.

The Roman Church's liberation from Imperial persecution was followed by the collapse of the Eternal City and her Western Empire a century later, leaving the faith like water spilled on the floor, running over every smooth surface. Without considerable compulsion, churches throughout Europe deigned to imitate the practices of the Roman Church in their local settings. Of particular interest were the liturgies of the Lateran Cathedral and of St. Peter's Basilica, the former because it is the Papal cathedral and the latter because it was the most prominent destination for pilgrimages in Europe in the first millennium. Romanization was so prevalent that Msgr. Pierre Batiffol hypothesized that Europe would still have adopted the Roman tradition, albeit at a later time, if not for the efforts of Alcuin and Charlemagne. England itself engage in proactive Romanization. St. Bede the Venerable recounts that his mentor, Benedict Biscop, found a Benedictine abbot named John in Roman and brought him to Britain with the permission of Pope Agatho so that "at Wearmouth he might teach the monks in [Biscop's] monastery to sing the office as it was sung at St. Peter's in Rome."

Meanwhile, Pepin and the Frankish court requested of the pope a copy of the Roman Sacramentary for the celebration of Mass according to the Roman tradition as well as the Antiphonaries and Responsories for the celebration of the Office. In 809, Charlemagne made his friend, Amalarius, the Archbishop of Treves. Amalarius visited Pope Leo III in Rome in 795 and would visit Gregory IV in 831. Amalarius recounts various discrepancies in both text and music between the several editions of the Roman Office possessed by his clergy. Initially one is tempted to blame textual corruption, but further consideration adds multiplicity of sources, too. St. Peter's, the Lateran, the Papal Court, and the monasteries of Rome would all have sung the Office with some degree of variation just as the Frankish recipients of those Antiphonal and Responsorial books would have done. 

In the late first millennium the Roman liturgy was governed by a strong traditional taxis without the force of positive law or ritual ornament. While textually the books that traveled to Britain and the Frankish court were identical to those used by the Roman Church, the physical interpretation varied tremendously. The Roman liturgy was a communal affair by a self-consciously ancient and holy city wherein each person had his proper role. The responsorial psalm, which has little to do with its ill-named descendant in the Pauline Mass, was sung alternatively by the district subdeacons who ran a given parish church; the priests existed for sacramental expediency and the deacons handled administration in the Papal court. In northern Europe there was no ancient city, there were no district subdeacons, and there was no papal court. In turn, those in monastic orders or those studying for ecclesiastical life substitute their role with monastic choir ritual. In a like manner, the minimalist use of incense, the eschatological elements of the Papal rites, and the communal processions on great feasts were either done away with or interpreted according to local use. Europe, through Africa, learned to appreciate the use of incense in the manner of the Greek Church. Local churches of note substituted for the Roman stational churches on feasts, vigils, and the days of Lent. Everything un-written Roman element either fell away or was retained in a re-imagined local setting. While this sounds off putting, it means that the spirit of the ancient Roman rite, if not its words, diffused throughout northern Europe and remained alive there long after the Minorites succeeded in suppressing the grand rites of Roman in favor of the reduced Curial books. One could say that the Sarum use was just as Roman as St Pius V's Tridentine Missal and Breviary.

Tomb of St. Osmund, taken myself in 2011
After William the Conqueror won his victory at Hastings, he proceeded to replace, at the behest of Pope Alexander II, the corrupted Saxon clergy with his own Norman clerics (a successful, if inaccurate, attempt was made to explore this in the movie Becket). They brought their exuberant liturgical customs to a British Church which had long been practicing a version of the Roman rite. Among these clerics was a nobleman named Osmund, who, under St. Gregory VII, was appointed and consecrated the first bishop of the new and condensed diocese of Salisbury, where he was buried in the cathedral. St. Osmund's first cathedral, in the defunct city of Old Sarum, had six altars that reflect medieval devotion—the high altar of the church, one for St. Stephen, St. Martin, St. Nicholas, the Holy Cross, and All Saints—and hint at the origin of the processions before Mass codified in the Sarum Missal. A cloister adjoined both the Old Sarum and the Salisbury cathedrals through which processions typically passed.

It was in this environment that the Sarum liturgy grew until the Reformation. At the time of "the king's great matter" Sarum and its brother liturgy in York had become so deeply ingrained in the English Church's mind that they would not pass into memory until after the death of Elizabeth I. The Pilgrimage of Grace, when they had Mass available to them, would have heard Mass in the Sarum rite, refusing Prayer Book services. Decades later the Northumberland uprising of 1570 revived use of the Sarum rite as a spiritual element of a plot to depose Elizabeth and replace her with a faithful queen. After the death of Edward VI churches in London spontaneously began celebrating Mass, theoretically a forgotten ritual, according to the Sarum liturgy, temporarily given an official return to prominence during the brief reign of Queen Mary. Priests who wished to continue the old ways often continued to celebrate low Mass in their rectories according to the Sarum books. Missionaries who were not trained by the Jesuits were known to celebrate the Sarum Mass during Recusant days. Sarum was even considered for revival during the re-establishment of diocesan structure in the 19th century. Eventually, Sarum was passed on in favor of the Roman liturgy without adhering to the canonical norms of Quo primum tempore of St. Pius V, which requires both the approval of the bishop and the unanimous consent of the chapter of canons to jettison the local use for Roman books. Relics of Sarum can still be found in the Book of Common Prayer, which numbers its Sundays after Trinity, retains many readings and collects, and keeps some of the ritual in more "high church" settings. 

The loss of the Sarum rite to the Catholic Church is one of the great liturgical tragedies of the Counter-Reformation that has nothing to do with Ultramontanism, positive law, or minimalism. The loss of Sarum was Henry and Elizabeth's theft of England's great treasure, a theft beyond any form of taxation. It is my goal in this series to explore the Mass, Office, readings, feasts, and seasons of the liturgy of the Sarum church, to deepen our appreciation of the Church's patrimony, and to take these lessons, in some measure, to our own parishes.

St. Jerome: Moralistic Quibbler

(Francisco de Zurbarán)
My dear Amandus,

I find joined to your letter of inquiries a short paper containing the following words: “ask him, (that is me,) whether a woman who has left her husband on the ground that he is an adulterer and sodomite and has found herself compelled to take another may in the lifetime of him whom she first left be in communion with the church without doing penance for her fault.”

As I read the case put I recall the verse “they make excuses for their sins.” We are all human and all indulgent to our own faults; and what our own will leads us to do we attribute to a necessity of nature. It is as though a young man were to say, “I am over-borne by my body, the glow of nature kindles my passions, the structure of my frame and its reproductive organs call for sexual intercourse.” Or again a murderer might say, “I was in want, I stood in need of food, I had nothing to cover me. If I shed the blood of another, it was to save myself from dying of cold and hunger.”

Tell the sister, therefore, who thus enquires of me concerning her condition, not my sentence but that of the apostle. “Do you not know, brethren (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman which has an husband is bound by the law to her husband, so long as he lives; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if, while her husband lives, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress.” And in another place: “the wife is bound by the law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord.” The apostle has thus cut away every plea and has clearly declared that, if a woman marries again while her husband is living, she is an adulteress.

You must not speak to me of the violence of a ravisher, a mother’s pleading, a father’s bidding, the influence of relatives, the insolence and the intrigues of servants, household losses. A husband may be an adulterer or a sodomite, he may be stained with every crime and may have been left by his wife because of his sins; yet he is still her husband and, so long as he lives, she may not marry another.

The apostle does not promulgate this decree on his own authority but on that of Christ who speaks in him. For he has followed the words of Christ in the gospel: “whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced, commits adultery.” Mark what he says: “whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery.” Whether she has put away her husband or her husband her, the man who marries her is still an adulterer. Wherefore the apostles seeing how heavy the yoke of marriage was thus made said to Him: “if the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry,” and the Lord replied, “he that is able to receive it, let him receive it.” And immediately by the instance of the three eunuchs he shows the blessedness of virginity which is bound by no carnal tie.

I have not been able quite to determine what it is that she means by the words “has found herself compelled” to marry again. What is this compulsion of which she speaks? Was she overborne by a crowd and ravished against her will? If so, why has she not, thus victimized, subsequently put away her ravisher?

Let her read the books of Moses and she will find that if violence is offered to a betrothed virgin in a city and she does not cry out, she is punished as an adulteress: but if she is forced in the field, she is innocent of sin and her ravisher alone is amenable to the laws. Therefore if your sister, who, as she says, has been forced into a second union, wishes to receive the body of Christ and not to be accounted an adulteress, let her do penance; so far at least as from the time she begins to repent to have no farther intercourse with that second husband who ought to be called not a husband but an adulterer.

If this seems hard to her and if she cannot leave one whom she has once loved and will not prefer the Lord to sensual pleasure, let her hear the declaration of the apostle: “ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils,” and in another place: “what communion has light with darkness? And what concord has Christ with Belial?”...

Wherefore, I beseech you, do your best to comfort her and to urge her to seek salvation. Diseased flesh calls for the knife and the searing-iron. The wound is to blame and not the healing art, if with a cruelty that is really kindness a physician to spare does not spare, and to be merciful is cruel.

Your affectionate sourpuss,

(From Letter 55 of St. Hieronymus, Presbyteris Confessoris et Ecclesiae Doctoris)

(Leonello Spada)

Josephology Sidebar: St Joseph Assumed Into Heaven, Substitute for Holy Spirit

Some will recall this preacher, Fr Paul Nicholson, who quite inexplicably postulated that a Mass celebrated by the priests of the Fraternity of St Pius X is a greater evil than the Satanic Black Mass for which it made reparation. Well, he's back, and he is preaching St Joseph assumed into heaven, even going as far as to say that Joseph, as Mary's spouse, took the place of the Holy Spirit here on earth.

If you want to hear more, you can book a cruise with Fr Paul and chat him up on the promenade deck or at the ballroom bar.

St Joseph, whose identity crisis is all our fault, pray for us!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


In commemoration of the dedication of a Roman basilica to St. Michael, September 29 is kept in honor of the Archangel who the Prophet Daniel describes as “the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.”

The Mattins of the day include a sermon from St. Gregory the Great:
They who go on the lesser messages are called Angels they who go on the greater Archangels. Hence it is that unto the Virgin Mary was sent no common Angel, but the Archangel Gabriel. For the delivery of this, the highest message, it was meet that there should be sent the highest Angel. Their individual names also are so given as to signify the kind of ministry wherein each is powerful. Michael signifieth: Who-is-like-unto-God? Gabriel, the Strength-of-God, and Raphael, the Medicine-of-God. 
As often as anything very mighty is to be done, we see that Michael is sent, that by that very thing, and by his name, we may remember that none is able to do as God doeth. Hence that old enemy whose pride hath puffed him up to be fain to be like unto God, even he who said, I will ascend unto heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will be like the Most High, this old enemy, when at the end of the world he is about to perish in the last death, having no strength but his own, is shown unto us a-fighting with Michael the Archangel, even as saith John: There was war in heaven Michael and his Angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.
In Lauds the pious belief that Michael will lead the souls of men to judgment after death is repeated in antiphon: “Michael Mine Archangel, I have appointed thee for a prince over the ingathering of souls.”

Customarily, Michaelmas is celebrated with a feast of goose and apples. Blackberry cobbler is also popular in some parts of Christendom, because of the belief that St. Michael cast Satan out of Heaven into a blackberry bush. Some bloggers try to convince the world that carrots are proper for this feast, but they are clearly operating out of a corrupted tradition.

The Michaelmas Daisy is a late-blooming flower best used for systematically discerning romantic interest via plucking the petals.


Monday, September 28, 2015

Is Self-Expression Catholic?—or: How to Act Hipster without Really Trying

source: the self
"There are four steps to small talk as a graduate student at a small university. What was your name, again?"


"Listen up, Phil," I continued. "There are four steps to making small talk at these clique-ish grad student parties."

Phil, all five and a half stout feet of him—clad in some ghastly kind of plaid, stared eagerly through his horn rimmed spectacles, awaiting what kernels of wisdom I might impart to him. Phil, as is often the case when I meet people, remembered my name, my alma mater, and my profession from our previous encounter whereas I remembered as much about him as I do my breakfast on December 3, 1998. I am not indifferent to other people, just bad with names and faces.

"They are as follows. First, 'So, how's the thesis going?' Second, 'Who is your adviser, again?' Third, 'Ah, I see. What are you writing about?' And last, 'Good luck. Let's drink some absinthe.'"

"Wow! You're right! You're making me feel bad, like I'm wasting my time here."

"Well, I am wasting my time inside, here, listening to these four steps relentlessly. They march through them like the Red Army, only more aptly."

We moved the conservation out to the terrace, where we met some familiars and some strangers capable of discussing new things. In the middle of a discussion about medieval liturgical drama and the withdrawal of curtains in the churches at the Exsultet on Holy Saturday, we were acosted by a lanky hipster clothed in black and crowned by a wool fedora, which covered his long and unkempt hair.

"Oh, hey Marshall," one person essayed to greet him. "Whatcha doing these days?"

"Ooooooooh uh, just working on the thesis, ya know?"

"How's the thesis going?"

More Cointreau! I thought.

"Oooooooh uh, it's, uh, good, ya know? I'm, uh mmmmmmhm, concentrating in Modern Art."

No. No, no, no.

"Really?" 'Marshall' had intrigued one devotee. "What are you studying in Modern Art?"

"I'm studying, uh mmmmmmmhm, the origins of abstract art.... Why did it come about when it did.... Why did it these artists feel that this was the only way they could express themselves.... And, uh mmmmmmhm....."

The man they called Marshall went on to explain the reflections of a critique whose work occupied much of his reading. "Whenever you become too comfortable with a style or a medium you have to move on. It means that you're holding back, that you're no longer really creating."

Finally, I interjected: "Good thing Bernini and da Vinci never thought that way. Isn't artistic creativity something of a novel idea?"

The coterie stared at me as though I had insulted Putin in an Orthodox cathedral.

"Well, it is, isn't it? Isn't the idea of the artist as someone who expresses himself new, too?"

"Oooooooh, uh, what?"

"Art forms—painting, sculpture, writing—were trades, forms of work in previous times, not their own past times. There is certainly more soul in art than in money lending or racking grain, but these people were eventually trying to make a living, weren't they? They learned and nurtured a skill set, then worked according to a commission they received from a patron. Right?"

"Oooooooh, uh, well, that's all true, but they were creative. Their patrons were people who saw the value—oooooooh, capitalist word—in their artists' creativity and paid for it."

"Paul III didn't think so when he hired Michelangelo to paint the Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel. I'm not denying that there is some creativity in art, historically, but it was an accretion for each artist, wasn't it? Each had his own version of the Crucifixion or Annunciation. Each had his own way of doing a portrait. In literature, the Tudor era plays were all based on contemporary histories and ancient tragedies. No one was revered for creating something new, and certainly not for 'expressing himself.' He was revered and people paid to see his plays performed if he could weave a fresh interpretation of the existing cultural texts. He was adding, not creating ex nihilo."

"Well, mmmmmmmhm, what about the Romantics and abstract art?"

"What about it? The Romantics were reactionaries who were looking for meaning in a de-Christianizing world. They took methods and styles from the Christian age and used them to capture nature. Some people bought it, some didn't. The industrialists won out in the end. The sun went down on the Romantics and we were left with abstruse, or 'abstract,' art. It's really tells us quite a bit about abstruse artists that they see their job as creativity and self-expression. The most beautiful art depicted holy things, human things, historical things, or dreamed of things. What does the abstruse artist express?"

"His soul," retorted Marshall. "The abstract artist expresses his soul and the complex nuances within."

"Complex? No. The former idea of art conceded that God created everything; we were only allowed to add to it. Modern art demands new creativity; lo and behold, we aren't quite as good at it as God is. Instead of looking at God's working, the modern artist looks at his own soul and finds it isn't very interesting."

I went inside for a much needed refill and returned to the terrace only to find it taken over by suspender wearing pipe smokers. Would it be avant guarde to leave early?

"How goes the party?" a man next to me asked.

"I'm thinking of leaving. What was the host's name?"


Emails from the Abyss

Trying to avoid the swarm of bicyclists at Café Preténse, I waited until the afternoon to hunt for a cappuccino. A few dozen college students had the same idea. I managed to toss my things onto an unoccupied table without anyone noticing before I stepped in line.

“Cappuccino again?” asked the prismatically-coiffed baristi.

“And a croissant.”

“Warmed up?”

“Whatever tastes best.”

“One microwaved croissant for Jay!”

I sat and began waiting for my order to arrive. I was fiddling with some lace-ridden thing meant to be sold in the Liturgical Boutique when His Traddiness walked in. I waved him over.

“Any sign of our devilish friend today, Mr. Grump?”

“Not today,” I said. “It’s mostly the young and chatty this afternoon.”

After putting in his order for a cup of tea and a cupcake, His Radness sat down and opened his laptop.

“So, what came through with the emails?” I could barely contain my excitement. “Anything juicy about how they plan to subvert us from within, exploiting our minor faults in order to keep us distracted from correcting our major sins?”

“It’s rather more banal than that.” He opened his laptop and began clicking away.


“There are a lot of spreadsheets, memos, and reports. A lot of numbers and foreign terminology I didn’t understand. Some of it’s written in English, some in Latin, most in the Black Speech, I think.”


“I didn’t see much that looked like correspondence, either. I don’t think Wormwood is receiving any kind of regular advice from a higher-up demon, anymore.”

“That is disappointing. There’s nothing I like more than a bit of devilish correspondence.”

“Well, there is— oh, hold on. Here are our drinks.”

The cappuccino was frothy and sweet. The croissant was dry and crispy. His Traddiness informed me that the tea was standard and the cupcake superb. A large table of college kids dressed as hipsters emptied, and we took their spot. As I washed down the last shards of the croissant, I remembered that my companion had something to add.

“Oh yes. There were a couple of epistles worth reading. I had to run them through Google Translator to get most of the meaning, but I think I managed to salvage something useful out of them.”

He turned his laptop around, and I gazed hungrily into the screen. What I read there was only a drop to quench my thirst of curiosity.
My dearest Wormwood, 
What is this dreck you have sent me to drink? When my warden Boarbristle dredged me up out of the Styx to tell me I had received a package from my young nephew, I was excited. Ecstatic, even! “What small token of comfort has my dear, beloved nephew Wormwood seen fit to send me, his poor, unjustly imprisoned uncle in his time of need?” Such did I say to myself. 
There was a bottle within, and a note. Both had been opened, of course. Boarbristle spat into the river and said, “Quite a poor sampling, if you ask me.” I picked it up and saw our family label—oh, what an illustrious product our family distillery has distributed over the centuries—but then I saw that it was such a briefly-matured line! All your note had to tell me was that this liquor was produced from recent acquisitions. 
The smell: atrocious; sour and strong, with no hint of subtlety. The taste: drowning in sweetness in an attempt to overwhelm the bitterness. A hint of despair, laced with wrath, unbalanced with too much passive aggression, watered down with indecision. Are you bottling suburbanites
I anticipated more from you. I will drink this as slowly as I can, but only to delay my inevitable submersion. I expect your next bottle to be of better quality. 
Your affectionate uncle,
[Forwarded and censored as needed by Swinetooth]
“Not quite what I was expecting.” I suddenly realized that my cappuccino was getting cold, and proceeded to sip it.

“There’s another interesting one“—His Traddiness rotated his laptop, clicked a few things, and spun it back—“here.”

I put my espresso down and began to read.
My loyal Crumplehead, 
I trust that production is increasing for the family label, but especially for the Wormwood’s Abyss line. I know that quality has not improved lately, but we do the best we can with the quality of human souls we receive. Gone are the days when we could fill our cups from the outpourings of the trampled grapes of wrath. 
You have qualms about this, I know. But what is a producer to do in times like these? The quality labels have all but vanished because of the scarcity of those souls. We must make the best out of this bloat of tasteless quantity. 
We might start some casks smoked with the insane, for their hallucinogenic properties. I can foresee a time when all of Hell is tipsy with the fumes of perverted banality. We will exchange our stately drinking halls for the craggy wastes, and forget the glorious flavors of yesteryear. Better to be drunk on vapidity than to weep for the subtle vintages of old. 
Still, be certain to store our best, rare souls carefully. There may come a time when we have a large enough hoard that we can produce a truly great spirit fit even for Our Father Below. 
Your wistful taskmaster,
“It seems that the devils are in a poor state,” I concluded.

“But not dying of thirst. It must be hard for them to lower their expectations. Good taste is hard to come by, up here and down there.”

“Speaking of which, I have a bottle of port recommended by M—. Shall we return to your place and partake after a couple of cigars?”

“We shall. Don’t forget that Cubans will be legal soon!”

“Maybe the pope can speed things along. We will smoke the first acquisitions in honor of Franciscus.”

We finished our caffeinated cups and absconded to more stately environs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Josephology Part 14: Peter and Joseph

But what, one might ask, of all the popes who have spoken about the virtues and glories of St. Joseph? Surely their support of Josephite devotion must lend some credence to the developments in the post-Tridentine era. It is true that more than a few popes since the nineteenth century have spoken very favorably of this devotional turn, but that is not necessarily a good reason to swallow it whole. The peculiarly Josephite doctrines—his sanctification in the womb, his sinlessness, his lifelong celibacy, his bodily assumption, his coronation as (I can only suppose) Prince of Heaven—these are the specific doctrines worth considering in regards to papal pronouncements.

(I am indebted to the Oblates of St. Joseph website for their collection of papal documents.)

Papa Giovanni Maria Mastai-Ferretti (Pius IX)

Sixteen years after defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, Pius IX issued Quemadmodum Deus in 1870, wherein it notably and incorrectly states that “the Church has always most highly honored and praised blessed Joseph next to his spouse, the Virgin Mother of God.” He closes the decree with the following liturgical and devotional reforms:
Accordingly, it has now pleased our Most Holy Sovereign, Pope Pius IX, in order to entrust himself and all the faithful to the Patriarch St. Joseph’s most powerful patronage, has chosen to comply with the prelates’ desire and has solemnly declared him Patron of the Catholic Church
He has also ordered that his feast on March 19th by henceforth celebrated as a double of the first class, without any Octave, however, because of Lent. He arranged, moreover, that a declaration to this effect be promulgated through the present decree of The Sacred Congregation of Rites on this day sacred to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, the most chaste Joseph’s Spouse. All things to the contrary notwithstanding. [emphasis added]
He followed up this document with Inclytum Patriarcham, concerning the adjustment of the liturgical feasts and texts for St. Joseph. To wit:
We, confirming and also amplifying with Our present letter the aforesaid regulation of that decree, do command and enjoin the following: 
We desire that the Creed be always added in the mass on the natal feast of St. Joseph as well as on the feast of his patronage, even though these feasts should occur on some day other than Sunday. Moreover, we desire that in the oration A Cunctis, whenever it is to be recited, the commemoration of St. Joseph shall be added in the following words, “with blessed Joseph,” which words are to be introduced after the invocation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and before all other patron saints, with the exception of the angels and of St. John the Baptist. Finally, we desire that, while this order is to be observed in the suffrages of the saints whenever they are prescribed by the rubrics, the following commemoration should be added in honor of St. Joseph: 
The Antiphon at Vespers: Behold the faithful and prudent servant whom the Lord has set over his household. V. Glory and riches are in his house. R. And his justice remains for ever. 
The Antiphon at Lauds: Jesus himself, when he began his work, was about thirty years of age, being as was supposed the son of Joseph. V. The mouth of the just man shall meditate wisdom. R. And his tongue shall speak judgment. 
The Oration: O God, who in your ineffable providence was pleased to choose blessed Joseph as the spouse of your most holy mother, grant, we beseech you, that we may be made worthy to have him for our intercessor in heaven whom we venerate as our protector on earth.… [emphases added]
No peculiarly Josephite doctrine was defined by Pius IX.

Papa Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci (Leo XIII)

In 1889, Pope Leo wrote the encyclical Quamquam pluries, on devotion to St. Joseph. He begins by deploring the sorry state of the spiritual life in the world—“we see charity growing cold; the young generation daily growing in depravity of morals and views; the Church of Jesus Christ attacked on every side by open force or by craft”—and urges the faithful to develop Josephite devotion as a remedy for this state.

He repeats the basic outline of Josephite devotionals: that Joseph received great dignity by virtue of his nuptial bond to Mary, that he nourished and guarded the Holy Family, that the Christ Child was subject to his paternal authority, that he was prefigured in the ancient patriarch Joseph of Egypt, that he is a model of virginal integrity, and that he was noble of birth but humble of labor.

He closes the short encyclical with the following devotional prescriptions:
We prescribe that during the whole month of October, at the recitation of the Rosary, for which We have already legislated, a prayer to St. Joseph be added, the formula of which will be sent with this letter, and that this custom should be repeated every year. To those who recite this prayer, We grant for each time an indulgence of seven years and seven Lents. It is a salutary practice and very praiseworthy, already established in some countries, to consecrate the month of March to the honour of the holy Patriarch by daily exercises of piety. Where this custom cannot be easily established, it is as least desirable, that before the feast-day, in the principal church of each parish, a triduo of prayer be celebrated. In those lands where the 19th of March – the Feast of St. Joseph – is not a Festival of Obligation, We exhort the faithful to sanctify it as far as possible by private pious practices, in honour of their heavenly patron, as though it were a day of Obligation. [emphases added]
No peculiarly Josephite doctrine was defined by Leo XIII. However, he does give credence to the belief in Joseph’s perpetual virginity.

Papa Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli (John XXIII)

During the preparations for the second Vatican Council, on March 19, 1961 Pope John issued a letter naming St. Joseph the patron saint of the upcoming council. In this letter (Le Voci), John discusses at some length the growth of Josephite devotion over the previous century, writing of the popes already discussed, as well as Pius X (“He also added to the treasure of indulgences attached to reciting the litanies that are so dear to Us and so comforting to say”), Benedict XV (“It is to him that we owe the introduction of two new prefaces into the Canon of the Mass; the preface of St. Joseph and the one for Masses for the Dead”), Pius XI (who “took the opportunity to exalt the many glories that shone forth from the spiritual image of the Guardian of Jesus”), and Pius XII (“in 1955... he announced that the annual feast of St. Joseph the Worker had been instituted”).

Pope John closes the letter with a prayer:
O St. Joseph! Here, here is where you belong as Protector Universalis Ecclesiae! Our intention was to use the words and the documents of Our immediate predecessors over the last century — from Pius IX to Pius XII — to offer you a garland of honor, which would crystallize the expressions of affection and veneration that are now rising everywhere — from Catholic nations and in mission regions. 
Always be our protector. May thy inner spirit of peace, of silence, of good work, and of prayer for the cause of Holy Church always be an inspiration to us and bring us joy in union with thy blessed spouse, our most sweet and gentle and Immaculate Mother, and in the strong yet tender love of Jesus, the glorious and immortal King of all ages and peoples. Amen.
John XXIII was a Josephite pope through and through. He considered taking the name Joseph upon being elevated to the papacy, but demurred because it was a name without papal precedence, and perhaps also because it was one of his given names. Every year on the first of May, Pope John would address the Christian Associations of Italian Workers, speaking about St. Joseph and composing prayers to him. In July 1960 he elevated the Feast of the Holy Family to a second-class rank. His updated 1962 Missal included the addition of St. Joseph into the canon of the Mass.

In a homily on the Ascension given on May 26, 1960, John gave permission to those who wished to believe in a bodily assumption for Sts. Joseph and John the Baptist:
We name two of the most intimate persons in Christ’s life: John the Baptist – the Precursor, and Joseph of Nazareth – his putative father and custodian. It corresponds to them – we may piously believe – the honor and the privilege of Jesus allowing them to admirably accompany him on the path to Heaven (on the day of his Ascension) and to sing the first notes of the never ending hymn, “Te Deum.” [emphasis added]
No peculiarly Josephite doctrine was defined by John XXIII. However, he does offer his support for those who believe in Joseph’s assumption.

Papa Karol Józef Wojtyla (John Paul II)

Never content with brevity when lengthiness was an option, John Paul’s apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“Guardian of the Redeemer”) reads like a short book. Written in collaboration with Tarcisio Giuseppe Stramare of the Oblates of St. Joseph, there is not much in here that one won’t find in similar devotional works. Probably the most interesting part is where they quote Paul VI’s 1970 discourse to the “Equipes Notre-Dame” Movement:
In this great undertaking which is the renewal of all things in Christ, marriage—it too purified and renewed—becomes a new reality, a sacrament of the New Covenant. We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary are the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family—that sanctuary of love and cradle of life. (RC 7, emphasis added)
What a bizarre overturning of the ancient, patristic recognition of Jesus and Mary as the new counterparts to the first Adam and Eve! To replace Christ himself with St. Joseph as the New Adam surely drives home the point that excessive Josephite devotion requires a total amnesia of traditional Catholic belief.

No peculiarly Josephite doctrine was defined by John Paul II (nor by Paul VI, for that matter).

Papa Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Francis)

In his 2013 decree Paternas vices, Franciscus inserted the name of St. Joseph into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV of the Novus Ordo Missae, because “the faithful in the Catholic Church have shown continuous devotion to Saint Joseph and have solemnly and constantly honored his memory as the most chaste spouse of the Mother of God and as the heavenly Patron of the universal Church.”

In this year’s encyclical Laudato Si, he invoked St. Joseph as a custodian of the natural environment. This had a precursor in the pope’s inaugural humility of March 19, 2013: “In [Joseph], dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly...! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!”

No peculiarly Josephite doctrine has yet been defined by Francis.

In Closing

Those who wish to invoke papal authority in favor of Josephite devotion must acknowledge that no papal definitions of Josephite doctrine have ever been promulgated, even though some popes appear to have hoped that belief in his place as the second-greatest of all saints would eventually become universally acknowledged. Pius XI thought that the centuries of silence on St. Joseph “was bound to be succeeded by a long, loud cry of acclaim and glory through the ages.”

Perhaps time will tell, but thus far it must be admitted that the Catholic faithful have not yet taken to Josephite devotion except in small pockets. Every time a pope asserts the wonders of St. Joseph, even proclaiming him Patron of the Universal Church, the laity seem to take brief or little notice. His feasts, octaves, and devotionals seem to appear and disappear regularly like the waves of the sea. He retains some popularity among Catholic families as a member of the Holy Family, but most laymen are shocked to hear that anyone could believe in his sinlessness or bodily assumption. If the sensus fidelium speaks with any authority, it thus far finds only a moderate and humble place for the old carpenter from Nazareth.

St. Joseph, wondering how he’s going to afford this wedding, pray for us!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Divine Office in Augustine

I am embarking on my annual reading of the Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo. In book nine, which recounts his immersion in the regenerative waters of Baptism and his early days as a Catholic, he describes what is most likely the origin of the Ambrosian Office:
"And how I cried out to you, my God, when I read the Psalms of David, those songs of faith, whose pious music will not admit the haughty spirit, while yet untutored in your true love and a catechumen...." (9.4.8)
"Nor, during those days, could I be satiated with the wondrous sweetness of contemplating the depth of your counsel for the salvation of mankind. How  wept at the hymns and sacred songs of your Church, how moved was I at its tuneful voices! Those voices flowed in through my ears, and the truth, pressed and trained out of them, entered my heart and from my heart a pious longing came boiling up and overflowed. My tears ran; I wept, and it was well with me.
" It was not long since the Church at Milan had instituted this manner of strengthening and encouraging themselves, with brothers thronging together, full of zeal, singing with voices and hearts in harmony. There was a year, not much more, during which Justina, mother of the boy king Valentinian, was persecuting Ambrose, the man of God, in the interests of her own heresy; she had been seduced by the Arians. The devout populace mounted watch in the church, ready to die with their bishop, your servant. My mother, your handmaid, was there, and took her stand as one of the foremost in those anxious vigils, living on prayers. I too, though as yet unwarmed by the heat of your Spirit, was none the less excited by the consternation and uproar in the city. It was then that the custom was established of singing hymns and psalms after the Eastern fashion, to keep the people from growing weary and faint-hearted; and the custom then established has been maintained, and many if not all your flocks throughout the rest of the world have imitated it." (9.6.14-9.7.15)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Scourge of Celebrity

In his recent appearance on a late-night talk show, comedian James Gaffigan joked about his ever-growing family and his "Shiite Catholic" wife (she's really not), while announcing that he would be performing a show for Pope Francis during His Holiness's upcoming visit to Philadelphia.

His host Conan O'Brien is a Catholic, as well. I am unaware of just how much of a practicing Catholic he is, but his Irish-Catholic legacy is a frequent topic of humor on his show(s).

Meanwhile, Stephen Colbert has been exploiting the Faith for years. He has cozied up to William Donahue of the Catholic League to straighten up his image, and more recently he has been preparing for his new talk show by presenting the Faith to the world with a much more liberal bent.

None of which compares to his softball interview with the pseudo-Catholic Vice President in a recent show.

In some respects it's hard to dislike these celebrities. They appear to be genuinely nice men who did their best job staying Catholic in a time of liturgical and doctrinal tumult. (Compare them to talk show host James Fallon, who apostatized after losing the old Latin Mass.) One could share the proverbial beer with them, and even have a good time swapping stories about silly priests and serving at Mass.

Still, their undermining of Catholic morals and doctrine is only going to increase as time goes on. Much like JFK, with his assurances to the American public that he would never allow the Vatican to dictate the formation of his conscience, so do these Catholic celebrities surround themselves with quasi-celebrity priests and bishops who soothe them with soft words of encouragement and never deign to offer a word of chastisement or correction.

Celebrity itself is a scourge. What kind of man can push against the temptation to celebrity with real humility? After all, why not make the compromises that they know the networks will demand in order to remain on the air? Why not be welcoming to all orientations? Why not publicly excuse abortionists from their moral horrors? Why not present yourself as the most reasonable golden mean between two unreasonable pseudo-Catholic extremes? Those who have the potential talent to make it big in the entertainment factories will find it difficult to save their souls.

It is also a scourge to the faithful. We are lulled into moral complacency through laughter and through the surface appearance of orthodoxy and piety. We are assured they are "one of us," and even our non-Catholic friends seem to find their version of Catholicism attractive. Shouldn't we exploit that attraction for the good of our friends? Isn't an imperfectly motivated attraction better than no attraction at all?

As long as a celebrity Catholic feels the need to placate the world in the public sphere, as long as he holds a position of fame or influence that could be lost if the advertisers are twitchy about bigotry, he will be sorely tempted to do whatever it takes to remain in that position. If he can calm his conscience with flattering clerics, so much the better.

Don't we all gravitate towards the confessors we know will be soft on our sins?

The Flatterers, by Gustave Doré

Monday, September 14, 2015

Josephology Sidebar: The Holy Kinship

(Jan Baegert)
“Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high: who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.” (Ps. 112)
The “Holy Kinship” is a strange example of a short-lived iconographic theme. The earliest examples in art seem to have sprung up in the late 1400s, only to peter out in the 1600s. However, the idea itself comes from the Golden Legend of the mid-1200s, which theorizes on the extended family (and “brethren”) of Our Lord in the entry about the Nativity of the Virgin. The West having long rejected the earlier marriage of Joseph, thanks to Jerome, Jacobus de Voragine theorizes that St. Anne was actually married three times, bore three daughters named Mary, and was the grandmother of many personages in the Gospels:
Joachim spoused Anne, which had a sister named Hismeria, and Hismeria had two daughters, named Elizabeth, and Elind. Elizabeth was mother to John Baptist, and Eliud engendered Eminen. And of Eminen came Saint Servatius, whose body lieth in Maastricht, upon the river of the Meuse, in the bishopric of Liège. 
(Jean Fouquet) 
And Anne had three husbands, Joachim, Cleophas, and Salome; and of the first she had a daughter named Mary, the Mother of God, the which was given to Joseph in marriage, and she childed our Lord Jesu Christ. 
And when Joachim was dead, she took Cleophas, the brother of Joseph, and had by him another daughter named Mary also, and she was married to Alpheus. And Alpheus her husband had by her four sons, that was James the Less, Joseph the Just, otherwise named Barsabee, Simon, and Jude. 
Then the second husband being dead, Anne married the third named Salome, and had by him another daughter which yet also was called Mary, and she was married to Zebedee. And this Mary had of Zebedee two sons, that is to wit, James the More, and John the Evangelist. (source)
Anne and her sister bore quite a clan, it seems! The Holy Kinship theme was apparently most popular in the Germanic countries, but wasn’t unknown even in Spain, where it was ruthlessly expunged by the Counter Reformation in favor of the Holy Family. When Anne was deemed fit to exist as a real historical personage, it was deemed unfit that the mother of Our Lady would be so tied to the flesh as to marry three times.

Molanus and his disciples could have criticized the Holy Kinship on the basis of it contradicting the oldest traditions of the “Brethren of the Lord,” but that would have admitted too much concerning the supposed invalidity of apocryphal writings. He wished to be rid of de Voragine’s work entirely, but even that work had discarded earlier stories.

(from the Nuremberg Chronicles)
I don’t know when the Holy Kinship was first illustrated, and can only assume that some artist was perusing his copy of the Golden Legend one day and decided that this small section would make for an interesting picture. Apparently it was very popular for a brief while before it was overtaken by the Holy Family devotion. The drastic change from a large clan to a small “nuclear” family must have caused a dissonant shift in the popular Catholic idea of families.

(Derick Baegert)
Of course, the genealogies of the major and minor personages of the Gospels have been the cause of debate ever since the patristic era. Are the genealogies of Christ in Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels both of Joseph, both of Mary, or one of each? Are the “Brethren of the Lord” just cousins or the children of Joseph? How many Jameses were there? How many Judes? What relation do they all share, if any? The Evangelists did not see fit to be precise, either assuming that their readers would know perfectly well who they were talking about, or thinking these matters to be the subject of undue curiosity.

Either way, the Holy Kinship was an interesting attempt at sorting out these matters, and it generated a good deal of lovely art before it expired. If the Holy Family devotion hadn’t been propagated with such intensity, the Kinship might have survived to this day.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Vocation of Eastern Churches in America

Outside the United States, no one would need to ask if the Eastern Churches have a vocation. Their call, like that of the Latin Church, is to administer the Sacraments and pass on the teachings of the Church to their faithful wherever they are found. The United States, however, has that ignominious distinction of being a "cultural melting pot", wherein everything is thrown into the furnace together and the resulting metal will have a few streaks of its component parts. Eastern Churches in the diaspora face confusion as to where they belong in American Catholicism. Should they "belong"? I posit that they should not "belong" or consider themselves as possessing a "vocation" in any unique sense, that their real vocation and contribution might be to uphold as natural a state of ecclesiastical affairs as possible.

My father was born in 1941, months before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and was married in 1962, months before John XXIII called Pius XII's Council. He had no idea that there even were Eastern Catholics until a few years ago. Previously, he had assumed that Episcopalians, if they ever stopped ordaining women, "would be the closest thing to us" and that Eastern Orthodoxy was nothing more than Slavs belching guttural noises as discordantly as possible. His rearing in 1950s Catholicism was as common as can be imagined, which is quite telling. Eastern Catholics, usually Slavs or Italo-Greeks, kept quiet as the exception in a Protestant and Roman Catholic country. They sent their children to Roman Catholic parochial schools. Many, where Eastern parishes were not available, attended Roman parishes and raised their children on Roman Sacraments. As adults some of these children continued to live as Roman Catholics, imagining their parents' lineage to be an old world curio or an embarrassing piece of cultural baggage. Then there were a few now and then who would leave for the Orthodox milieu, either because they met a modern day John Ireland or because they wanted to live out the great historical drama of Byzantium more fully. Then immigration slowed, attendance dropped, people died, and the Eastern parishes were left to think about their place.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the original intent of the Eastern Churches—to reconvert the Orthodox and retain the proper traditions of those peoples—became obscured. The Pope agreed to stop converting the Orthodox in the old world and years of "Uniate" guilt set in until they could aspire to be nothing more than "Orthodox in Communion with Rome." Occasionally this has been true. The Melkite Church was the Church of Antioch, which re-entered communion with Rome until Patriarch Cyril VI Tanas until the Greeks erected their own Antiochian Orthodox Church, effectively splitting the original Petrine See into two equally sized parts. Then came Orientale Lumen, and the Eastern Churches were now to "[encourage] an atmosphere of brotherhood" with the Latin Church (OL 26).

The author of Orientale
Orientale Lumen is not a bad document. Indeed, very little of Robert Taft's writing is bad as long as he steers clear of Latin liturgical commentary. It does, however, take for granted that Eastern Churches are a side piece in the greater Church Catholic without mandating any clear steps towards fixing that. A prior Latin bishop visited my former Melkite pastor and mandated that he force the Roman Catholics at that parish to cease attending and instead go to Roman parishes. The pastor replied that he would with great haste, only if the bishop directed all Byzantine Catholics towards his church. It is an amusing anecdote of something that would have had great effect if done two generations ago. That cannot be done now. What can be done?

The future of Eastern Christianity in America, Catholic or Orthodox, is not in immigration from Eastern Europe or even the Middle East. It is from homegrown Americans looking for a deeper Christian experience. The two strongest factors in favor of the Eastern churches are their liturgies and their parishes. Their liturgy appeals to people looking for reverence, for depth, for a robust tradition unfettered by effete committees, and for those seeking a place where traditionally sung prayers are normal; these people are not necessarily vagrant traditionalists (although there were many in the 1990s) or boutique liturgical fetishists. They are simply people who want strong prayer without attachments. Parishes similarly sell themselves on visitors looking for a community without strings. While every Eastern parish is bound to have a considerable number of people from the old countries or who attend for cultural purposes, the churches are generally friendly to those want to belong to a welcoming parish where one can become intimately acquainted with the other congregants, to have fellowship, and to pray for one another's problems. Smaller churches, regardless of rite, tend to have this appeal, bu not always as strongly as Eastern bodies. One Slavic priest said to myself and a few other 20 and 30-somethings, "You're the future of this church, not the people from Crimea."

Archbishop Tawil
Entering the Byzantine tradition years ago helped me shed political concerns about the Church and to look at her prayers as actual prayers, not talking points about Vatican II. I think a great many other people find similar comfort in Eastern parishes, albeit it for different reasons. The concerns of Eastern Churches in America, at least in the past, will carry less weight going forward. Years ago Archbishop Joseph Tawil, the Eparch of Newton, said "We must have the courage to be ourselves." This remark, aimed inevitably at a de-Latinizing mentality, can be applied more broadly. Eastern Churches must not be self-referential churches ("We are Orthodox in Communion with Rome", "We are Uniates", "We don't do St. Augustine", "Everything Eastern is original and everything Latin is new and dubious"). There is a tendency to gloat and self-aggrandize about one's church among Eastern Christians, but this tendency is certainly on the decline. Summorum gave the disaffected traditionalists a path out of the East and the Western romance with Byzantium ended in the 1990s. Eastern Churches offer a tremendous opportunity for American Catholicism at the local level, especially as church attendance in this country continues to decline and stronger communities outshine those in decay. 

Byzantine Christianity will never be dominant in America, but it can be strong and nourish the spiritual needs of those searching for Christ. This is their vocation, both in America and in the old world, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages....

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Wormwood Proposes a Toast; or, Abyssus Absinthium Invocat

It was another sunny Texas Sunday morning when I last made my way into Café Preténse. The parking lot was far from being full, but a swarm of bicyclists had overrun the sidewalk, and a line of them stretched from the counter almost to the front door. They were talking excitedly from the adrenaline, and overwhelming the café’s usual espresso scent with their own.

By the time I made it to the counter I had almost decided to leave for a Starbucks. Where would I even sit?

“What can I getcha?” asked a college girl with too many colors in her hair.

“Cappuccino, please.”

“For here?”

“Better make it to go,” I said, looking around the building. “Just in case.”



“Jay? Jay What?”

“‘J’ as in Joseph.”

“One cappuccino for Joseph.”


She ran my card, and I wondered if the couches in the back area might have an empty cushion or two.

“Hey, your card says John Grump, not Joseph.”

I took my receipt and pushed my way through spandexed bikers to the back area. It was low-lit and close to the unisex bathrooms, but one teenage girl sat on each of the three couches, all of them talking animatedly. I considered sitting down beside one of the infantile women to make a point, but then I recalled that I actually wanted to read.

This place is getting on my last nerve, I texted to His Traddiness.

Ditch the burnt coffee scene and join me for another glass of Chartreuse, he retorted.

Yellow or green?

Green. I am convinced that this yellow monstrosity was invented by the Franciscans.

After I’m properly caffeinated. We’ll see if I get a seat. Still cranky from the sermon this morning.

Leaving the couches behind, I made my way up front. Every table had an occupant, every padded chair comfortably employed. If nothing cleared before my name was called I would leave and shake the coffee grounds from my sandals. My eyes wandered to and fro, and finally met with those of another customer looking up from his laptop while taking a sip from his mug. He was a devil of one of the lesser orders, and he nodded to indicate I should walk over. I did.

“You looking for a seat?” he said.

“Yes, thanks. You heading out?”

“Not for a while, but I have some space if you want to take the other chair.” There was indeed enough space for my books, my drink, and my self. “I don’t mind sharing a table with a fellow coffee aficionado.” He looked and dressed like Matthew Goode (circa 2008), except for the horns. I decided he was less likely than most of the people in this café to steal my books if I stepped away for a phone call.

“Sure thing. My name’s J.”


“Cappuccino for Jay Grump!” the baristi with the technicolor dreamhair bellowed.

“Be right back.”

When I returned to the table, Wormwood was reading the back matter of my book.

“Occult symbolism in modern poetry? Tsk, tsk. That’s dangerous stuff.”


“Thinking of joining our lower ranks?”

“No, just interested in being able to spot this sort of thing when it appears. I’ve suspected many of these authors of occultism before, but this just confirms it.”

“Hmm, it’s all true enough. We didn’t catch all of them in the end, but plenty have long been drained dry by Our Father Below. Victor’s fateful séance was a real show to remember.”

I took a sip and decided to change the subject. He was beginning to look nostalgic.

“So are you the Wormwood? Of C. S. L— fame?”

He tossed the book in front of me with a flourish. “Guilty as charged! I tell you, the doors that book has opened for me! Slubgob leaked my uncle’s letters to the human world after the two of them had a falling out, and got poor Uncle Screwtape tossed into the Styx for about a century without parole. For my part, I was released from my uncle’s dungeon and allowed back into the Tempter Rolls. If all goes well, I’ll be teaching in the Tempters Training College in no time.”

“You must be busy these days. The world does seem to be falling apart.”

“And isn’t that just delightful? Don’t you just experience a wonderful, sick thrill at the thought of it? Don’t it just make you smile on the inside?”

I glared at him and sipped my drink. It would have been better in a mug than in this waxed paper cup.

“I am busy,” he continued. “I’m part of a team working on your parish. A lot of the usual temptations: sexual deviancies are easy to encourage”—he made an obscene gesture—“as are anger and certain forms of despair. But let me tell you, the best thing to do is to widen divisions and encourage fathers to provoke their children to indignation. Bitterness is rich soil for despondency, rebellion, and apostasy. Tie heavy burdens on the shoulders of the faithful, force them to march through a slough, and then chastise them harshly for complaining. I swear, if I can turn even a third of your waters into wormwood, I will destroy your parish beyond recognition.”

He sat back with a contented look and breathed out a series of perfectly shaped smoke rings, even though he had been puffing on no tobacco. My phone buzzed, and I welcomed the distraction.

Just realized that wormwood is a major ingredient in absinthe, texted His Traddiness. We should try mixing it with more sulfur to see if it brings out that hellish flavour.

“Well, Mr. Wormwood, this has been enlightening.” I replaced the lid on my cup and tried not to look in his eyes. “I should probably head out. I don’t think I’m going to be able to read much with all this commotion.”

“It is downright pandemonious, isn’t it?” He sat up straight. “My goodness, I need to learn to not monologue when I’m talking to prey. I just enjoy the look in their eyes when they see me coming for them, you know? Oh, and do you mind watching my things while I use the facilities?”

I nodded my assent without making eye contact, and he clomped off, his tail trailing just above the ground. Once he was behind locked doors I shifted over to his chair and began skimming through his emails. It was a simple enough matter to set a forwarding email address to all his messages. By the time he returned I was back on my side of the table, stuffing my receipt into the book and skittishly sipping my drink.

“Certain things just take longer when the waters are bitter.” He laughed, and I pretended to laugh with him. He raised his mug. “Well, my amphibious friend, let us toast before you move on to your day’s business.”

“Toast to what?”

“To the elimination of lukewarmness. May the undersexed morons who blunder into online pornography shops be turned into insatiable, defiant adulterers! May the self-hating drunkards who slur the name of The Enemy be turned into inflamed, rebellious, and sober blasphemers! May the flabby video gamers drive their cars over real pedestrians!”

“He that is filthy, let him be filthy still.”

We each took a sip of our now-tepid drinks.

“Catch you next time, Mr. Grump.”

“Until then.”

Back in the car I put the remainder of my mediocre cappuccino in the cup holder and sent His Traddiness one last text before driving:

Much to discuss. Keep an eye on your email. Chartreuse at my place, I’ll buy the cigars.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Nativity of Mary in the Proto-Gospel of James

(Vittore Carpaccio)
This is a feast day shared by all the churches on 8 September, nine months after the feast of the Immaculate Conception. What follows is the oldest written account of her Conception and Nativity, from the Proto-Gospel of James:
And gazing towards the heaven, [Anna] saw a sparrow's nest in the laurel, and made a lamentation in herself, saying: “Alas! Who begot me? And what womb produced me? Because I have become a curse in the presence of the sons of Israel, and I have been reproached, and they have driven me in derision out of the temple of the Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like these waters, because even these waters are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! To what have I been likened? I am not like this earth, because even the earth brings forth its fruits in season, and blesses You, O Lord.”
And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by, saying: “Anna, Anna, the Lord has heard your prayer, and you shall conceive, and shall bring forth; and your seed shall be spoken of in all the world.” And Anna said: “As the Lord my God lives, if I beget either male or female, I will bring it as a gift to the Lord my God; and it shall minister to Him in holy things all the days of its life.”
And, behold, two angels came, saying to her: “Behold, Joachim your husband is coming with his flocks.” For an angel of the Lord went down to him, saying: “Joachim, Joachim, the Lord God has heard your prayer. Go down hence; for, behold, your wife Anna shall conceive.” And Joachim went down and called his shepherds, saying: “Bring me hither ten she-lambs without spot or blemish, and they shall be for the Lord my God; and bring me twelve tender calves, and they shall be for the priests and the elders; and a hundred goats for all the people.”
And, behold, Joachim came with his flocks; and Anna stood by the gate, and saw Joachim coming, and she ran and hung upon his neck, saying: “Now I know that the Lord God has blessed me exceedingly; for, behold the widow no longer a widow, and I the childless shall conceive.” And Joachim rested the first day in his house.
And on the following day he brought his offerings, saying in himself: “If the Lord God has been rendered gracious to me, the plate on the priest's forehead will make it manifest to me.” And Joachim brought his offerings, and observed attentively the priest's plate when he went up to the altar of the Lord, and he saw no sin in himself. And Joachim said: “Now I know that the Lord has been gracious unto me, and has remitted all my sins.” 
And he went down from the temple of the Lord justified, and departed to his own house. And her months were fulfilled, and in the ninth month Anna brought forth. And she said to the midwife: “What have I brought forth?” And she said: “A girl.” And said Anna: “My soul has been magnified this day.” And she laid her down. And the days having been fulfilled, Anna was purified, and gave the breast to the child, and called her name Mary.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Did Pews Bring About the Pauline Mass?

Could the change in liturgical life brought about by the innovation of pews have contributed in no small part to the eventual introduction of the Mass of Paul VI? The basis was that the faithful in the pews were spectators, disengaged and thumbing through their rosaries, except during the sermon, and only communicating during Paschaltide. Participatio actuosa was necessary on the part of the congregants.

Why, we may ask five decades later, were they reduced to spectators at the act of baroque theater that had become of Mass—the "opera of the poor," as Voltaire put it? Yes, medieval English, French, and Italian were closer to Latin, but not so much closer that the faithful were so drastically less capable of comprehending the liturgy just a few centuries later. Consider what the faithful did during Mass in the first millennium: on great feasts there would be a night-long vigil, beginning outside the church. The pope or local ordinary would arrive for the Office and a procession would follow into the church proper. Then Mass would be celebrated. In the middle ages, there would be prayers and hymns around the church to the local saints, a procession would follow around the church and arrive at the rood screen, where prayers for the church were made in the vernacular, and then Mass would follow. In both cases the faithful stood unimpeded and were free to move about as the Spirit or their bodies compelled them. Those tired could take a break. Those wishing to pray quietly could disappear to a side chapel. Those especially moved could stand closer to the front. The call to Communion would been the movement of a crowd towards Christ, not unlike those who sought to hear Him preach on the coast on atop the Mount. Communion was not a linear parade.

How different was Mass with pews? First, the ritual itself was highly reduced: no processions, no night watches, no rites for the local saints. Just one or three clerics performing the Mass itself in a simple fashion. Then there was the pew. The faithful could not move, could not process, could not go somewhere to pray, could not do anything but sit still and watch for an hour. The only "break" in action was the possibility of a sermon. Gone were the rood screens and the air of mystery. Instead, an elevated altar behind a rail was viewed by a layman sitting on a bench. There was the mystery, to be watched by a remover spectator in plain sight.

As low Mass replaced high Mass as the norm, people were naturally further disengaged. Even in languages closer to Latin than our English—French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese—the faithful could not really do anything other than find means of diversion, means of entertainment.

If anyone doubts this thesis, and you are open to doing so, consider the 1955 Holy Week. Eight years before Sacrosanctum Concilium put "active participation" into our liturgical vocabulary and fourteen years before the new Mass ritual, Pius XII introduced a series of rites which have, as one of their stated goals the "living participation of he sacred ceremonies." Churchmen in 1955 understood "living participation" differently than churchmen in 1455 did. They wanted the priest to talk to the congregants and for the congregants to talk back to them, and what better way of doing that than facing them? Pius's Holy Week includes Palm Sunday (now "Second Sunday in Passiontide") and Holy Saturday (now "Easter Vigil") rites conducted at length atop a table versus populum in front of the actual altar. Ritually, it was likely an experiment to test how the faithful would receive it and to tweak the ceremonies for when the complete reform was ready for release.

Mass facing the people, what Geoffrey Hull called the "great narcissism," became a matter of fact in almost every parish by 1965.

Pews were not the immediate cause of the new liturgy, but they were a necessary cause.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Josephology Part 13: The Propaganda Machine

(Bartolomé Esteban Murillo)
Late Medieval Sources

Before I detail the uses made of St. Joseph in the Counter Reformation period, I want to look back briefly at the pre-Tridentine attempts to kick-start Josephite devotion. The following quotations are from Charlene Villaseñor Black’s Creating the Cult of St. Joseph: Art and Gender in the Spanish Empire (Princeton University Press, 2006), which I will also be referencing somewhat obliquely throughout this post.
After centuries of such obscurity, the cult of St. Joseph rose to prominence in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. In Italy, St. Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444) preached sermons praising Joseph’s special privileges (derived from having lived with Jesus and Mary) and asserted that Joseph was next to the Virgin in importance in the pantheon of saints. Perhaps the most significant figure to promote devotion to Joseph was Jean Gerson [died 1429], chancellor of Notre Dame and the University of Paris. At the Council of Constance in 1416, Gerson urged the institution of a feast day honoring the Betrothal of Mary and Joseph, for which he wrote an office. In a sermon delivered on the birthday of the Virgin Mary, he extolled Joseph as Christ’s earthly father. His three thousand-line Latin poem, the Josephina, laid the foundations of modern Josephine theology.... 
Whereas Joseph had previously been regarded as a subsidiary figure, old and unimportant, they asserted that, as the head of the Holy Family, the saint had to have been young and robust in order to support, protect, and exercise authority over Mary and Jesus. Gerson further proposed that, like the Virgin, Joseph was assumed into heaven after his death. (23-24)
As far as I know, Bernardino and Gerson are the first theologians to posit Joseph’s bodily assumption. In 1522, shortly before the Council of Trent, the Milanese Dominican Isidoro de Isolani wrote his Summa de donis sancti Joseph (Summa of the Gifts of St. Joseph), which had a strong Gersonian influence, also positing an assumption among other things. After the quasi-iconoclastic movements of the Counter Reformation wiped the slate clean on Josephite hagiography, Bernardino and Gerson were dusted off and further exploited by the Molanusian reformers.

The other great promoter of Josephite devotion was St. Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582), who was healed of paralysis by St. Joseph’s intercession. Her influence on the Carmelite order ensured that the new Josephite devotion would be spread wherever Carmelites held sway; most especially in the Hispanic world, but also through evangelist-saints like Francis de Sales (1567-1622) who found inspiration in Teresa’s writings.

Propaganda for the Family

(Bartolomé Esteban Murillo)
How did the new version of St. Joseph find such purchase in the Catholic world? Largely because of the rising devotion to the Holy Family, and its ties to preaching about the importance of family life. Treated often as second-class citizens in a kingdom ruled by eunuchs, the married laity of Catholic Europe were happy to see an emphasis placed on the Holy Family. The Tridentine Fathers understood that marriage was in a particular crisis, so in addition to requiring an ecclesiastical witness to all ceremonies, the Council’s reformers preached heavily on the exaltation of the sacramental married state.

(Philippe de Champagne)
Rather than pulling from the examples of married saints from Scripture and Tradition (many of whom found their cults demoted if not demolished by the Counter Reformation), the Holy Family devotion was developed as a teaching tool for the married, with St. Joseph as its newly-reimagined moral and spiritual leader. Artists were encouraged to paint the Betrothal of the Virgin to St. Joseph; depictions of the everyday life of the Holy Family, especially in Joseph’s workshop, became popular; and the traditional images of Christ Enthroned on Mary were quietly being replaced with paintings of Joseph holding and playing with the Christ Child.

(Jeroni Jacint Espinosa)
Joseph was portrayed as the perfect model for husbands and fathers: young, hard-working, chaste, paternal, affectionate to his wife and child, and faithful. Surely young men in the married state need such examples, and Joseph was reinvented to suit that need. Mary’s wifely role was emphasized, as well: maternal, chaste, obedient, supportive, and prayerful. Even Jesus’ role as a good child was elaborated: obedient, hard-working, submissive to his elders, and playful.

Most of these things may have been true about the household in Nazareth, but there is no doubt that the newer elaborations are imaginative and based on no traditions. Indeed, what few ancient traditions there are about the Holy Family suggest an imperfect harmony at best. The Holy Family of popular devotion was carefully crafted by the Counter Reformers to suit a particular need, and artistic depictions were often stringently censored to that end.

(Mafra National Palace, Portugal)
It was important to show Joseph at his workbench, usually teaching the young Jesus how to work wood at the same time. The Spanish Empire reportedly had a difficult time dealing with a lazy populace, and promoting St. Joseph the Worker helped encourage men stuck in low-class labor to see work as a form a prayer. This aspect of Josephite devotion finds modern perpetuation in the teachings of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer through Opus Dei, and it was also exploited by Pius XII by instituting the May 1 feast.

(Gaspar Miguel de Berrío)
The royal lineage of Joseph, as a descendant of King David, was frequently brought to mind as a way of exalting his worth. He was a patriarch, a prince, heir to the throne of David. Some new devotionals suggested that the Holy Family lived in intentional poverty, since Joseph had given all of his royal inheritance to the poor. The Coronation of St. Joseph was a popular artistic theme in Spain and Mexico, mirroring very closely the Coronation of Mary.

(José Cortés de Alcocer)
More questionable than Joseph’s royalty was the emerging iconographic subgenre of the Earthly Trinity, which mirrored the three members of the Holy Family with representations of the Trinity in Heaven. Even the Spanish Inquisition found this subgenre semi-blasphemous, but surely it was the fullest expression of this unjustified exaltation of the spouse of Mary, and what artist could resist painting a mirror image of threes? It lent itself to a kind of symmetry rarely seen since the old iconography died away.

Effects of Fabricated Devotion

(artist unknown)
The rise of devotional propaganda was serving a real need in the Church. Family life was in chaos, and pastors wanted a focused example for preaching and commissioning art, something that could appeal to the poor as well as the rich. It must have seemed like a useful shortcut to have one condensed example of familial piety with the Holy Family, and clerics everywhere attempted to spread this devotion among the families they were trying to save.

Meanwhile, the old cults were shrinking and dying, often with the assistance of newly-scrupulous clergy who wanted nothing that smelled of fiction or imagination in Catholic devotion. John the Baptist, previously invoked in defense of marriage, was forgotten as Joseph took his place as the highest saint below Mary. The parents of the Virgin, Sts. Joachim and Anne, were diminishing as theologians questioned their historicity. Many of the saints once invoked against unhappy marriages—Monica, Helena, Henry and Cunegundes, Gengulphus, Rita—were falling by the wayside.

It’s an unfortunate fact that shortcuts lead to problems down the road. A hastily-built house may fall apart one day because of the shortcuts taken by the builders. A concocted devotion founded on speculative fabrications will not inspire a lasting change in the Church. The more St. Joseph is forced into a superhuman mold, the more it feels like fantasy, and one even more fantastic than the golden legends of old. We shouldn’t reshape saints simply based on a perceived need in the life of the Church.

And really, doesn’t the more ancient belief in Joseph’s pre-Marian marriage with children make him more relatable to married men today? A neat and tidy household with only one child seems more like the marriages of the workaholic, compulsive, fecundophobic neo-pagans of today, and less like the messy, crowded families traditionally promoted by the Church.

Next time, we will move further into modern times, and look at recent papal writings and proclamations about St. Joseph.

St. Joseph, lover of large families, pray for us!