Sunday, November 29, 2015

Salve crux, quae in corpore Christi dedicata es

The Apostle Andrew was born at Bethsaida, a town of Galilee, and was the brother of Peter. He was a disciple of John the Baptist, and heard him say of Christ, Behold the Lamb of God, whereupon he immediately followed Jesus, bringing his brother also with him. Some while after, they were both fishing in the Sea of Galilee, and the Lord Christ, going by, called them both, before any other of the Apostles, in the words, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. They made no delay, but left their nets, and followed Him. After the death and Resurrection of Christ, Andrew was allotted Scythia as the province of his preaching, and, after labouring there, he went through Epirus and Thrace, where he turned vast multitudes to Christ by his teaching and miracles. Finally he went to Patras in Achaia, and there also he brought many to the knowledge of Gospel truth. Aegeas the Pro-consul resisted the preaching of the Gospel, and the Apostle freely rebuked him, bidding him know that while he held himself a judge of his fellow men, he was himself hindered by devils from knowing Christ our God, the Judge of all.

Then Egeas, being angry, answered him, Boast no more of this thy Christ. He spake words even such as thine, but they availed Him not, and He was crucified by the Jews. Whereto Andrew boldly answered that Christ had given Himself up to die for man's salvation; but the Pro-consul blasphemously interrupted him, and bade him look to himself, and sacrifice to the gods. Then said Andrew, We have an altar, whereon day by day I offer up to God, the Almighty, the One, and the True, not the flesh of bulls nor the blood of goats, but a Lamb without spot and when all they that believe have eaten of the Flesh Thereof, the Lamb That was slain abideth whole and liveth. Then Aegeas being filled with wrath, bound the Apostle in prison. Now, the people would have delivered him, but he himself calmed the multitude, and earnestly besought them not to take away from him the crown of martyrdom, for which he longed and which was now drawing near.

Come a short while after, he was brought before the judgment-seat, where he extolled the mystery of the cross, and rebuked Aegeas for his ungodliness. Then Aegeas could bear with him no longer, but commanded him to be crucified, in imitation of Christ. Andrew, then, was led to the place of martyrdom, and, as soon as he came in sight of the cross, he cried out, O precious cross, which the Members of my Lord have made so goodly, how long have I desired thee! how warmly have I loved thee! how constantly have I sought thee! And, now that thou art come to me, how is my soul drawn to thee! Welcome me from among men, and join me again to my Master, that as by thee He redeemed me, so by thee also He may take me unto Himself. So he was fastened to the cross, whereon he hung living for two days, during which time he ceased not to preach the faith of Christ, and, finally, passed into the Presence of Him the likeness of Whose death he had loved so well. All the above particulars of his last sufferings were written by the Priests and Deacons of Achaia, who bear witness to them of their own knowledge. Under the Emperor Constantine the bones of the Apostle were first taken to Constantinople, whence they were afterwards brought to Amalfi. In the Pontificate of Pope Pius II his head was carried to Rome, where it is kept in the Basilica of St Peter.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Who Was Papa Sarto?

Looking toward the future
Hammer of the modernists. A great liturgical reformer. A stodgy dinosaur. A chain cigarette smoker. A pastoral pope with the mind of a parish priest. Pope Pius X, who occupied the Petrine See from 1903 until his death in 1914, has been called all of these things by various factions. All these labels bear a small amount of truth to them, but ignore the fact that precious little is actually remembered about the man. Traditionalists have made him into their favorite pope—although all rad trads know Gregory the Great owns the top place, that is, until the election of Sixtus VI—without much consideration of his real legacy and the Vatican that created it.

J's latest offering on modern Catholic blogosphere vocabulary has generated copious comments on the liturgical changes that Pius X put into force, changes which were just as radical as those effected by Pius XII to Holy Week and Paul VI to the Ordo of Mass, although they were less distasteful in their result. This same who tossed out the psalter used by the ancient Church of Rome since probably the fourth century and which St. Benedict of Nursia proactively sought to imitate in his Rule also went on a zealous hunt against theological and disciplinary dissidents in an effort to preserve what I have termed the "Perfect Society" model of the Church. What could be more modernistic than discarding a fifteen century old liturgical tradition?

Guiseppe Sarto was not the College of Cardinals' first choice for the Apostolic See. An often reliable and much condemned correspondent for National Review, Mary Ball-Martinez, wrote in her Undermining of the Catholic Church that Mariano Cardinal Rampolla del Tindaro, Secretariat of State, was originally elected only to be vetoed by the Archbishop of Krakow on charges of Freemasonry. Mainstream thought, whenever it heard this far-fetched claim, quickly dismissed it. Recent research and leaked papers from the 1903 conclave now validate at least part of Martinez's claim. Sarto assigned the dubious Rampolla to the Holy Office and gave the Secretariat of State to the conclave secretary, Msgr. Merry del Val. A parish priest and unlikely patriarch now found himself at the center of a political institution that had hardly moved since the the Peace of Westphalia.

What differentiates the pontificates of Pius X and Pius XII, at least in this observer's view, is that Pius XII displayed a unified program of policies which he indefatigably followed. Consider, for example, the concerted effort to save Jewish lives during the Second World War, the various offices involved in implementing the new Holy Week, the general concordance of his encyclicals, and the movement towards new methods of communication. Pacelli's Vatican modernized and dealt with the prevailing issues of the time with a somewhat uniform mind, athwart the baroque remnants of prior pontiffs. Pius X's Vatican seems much less unified. Rampolla promoted the careers of his three prized students (della Chiesa, Gasparri, and Pacelli). Benigni hunted dissidents with his own home-grown intelligence network and ghost wrote official documents. Liturgical reformers reformed the Divine Office along the lines of the Jansenist breviaries on vogue in France. Everyone seemingly followed his own desires and none the pope's, which early in his papacy were a return to chant and more frequent Communion.

Was Pius X in complete control of his Vatican or was he, like Leo XIII at the end of his life, a functionary for the larger factions? His inexperience in playing politics and possibly apolitical nature (coming from peasant stock, not a noble) could very well have disincentivized Sarto from favoring or suppressing the urges of any one group. He let them do as they please, or by consent or by surrender. Pius XII had firm control. Did Pius X? If not, it would be difficult to ascribe to him any specific legacy, much less the proto-Lefebvrian image so many assign the parish priest turned pope.

Sarto and his second successor, Pius XI, may have been relatively inactive personally as pontiffs because they were compromise candidates between the reactionary political forces, liberal reformers, and the Rampolla clique, the most powerful of them all. The Rampolla clique eventually got their own Pope in Benedict XV, who died after having expended almost all his effort on preserving the Church through the First World War. Gasparri had already made a bad name for himself and Pacelli was too young to elect in 1922, so another Sarto, another compromise came about in the form of Achille Ratti. The only remaining mystery, if we are right thus far, is why did Pius XII canonize the nominal obstruction of his mentor's program? Was Pius XII above politicking? Was it a humble concession to the miracles attributed to Papa Sarto? Was it a nod to conservative elements in the Curia, to re-boot the liturgical reform program? We may never know. What can be known is this: Pius X, the great reactionary pope of the 20th century, may have been less a reactor than a spectator in his own see.

Passing the baton

Friday, November 27, 2015

I'm Going to Die

As November, a time for prayers for the faithful departed, draws to a close and Advent, a time for consideration of the Second Coming, draws nigh, it benefits us to think more carefully about our own lives, our use of time, and how the good Lord will judge us when our number is called and we cry ne me perdas illa die.

I had the unusual experience of walking through a cemetery near one of my normal haunts, Cafe Pretensé. I had not been in a cemetery in years. The ones I knew in my home area in Connecticut were almost all religious, affixed either to old Congregationalist churches or explicitly Catholic ones. The passing of years imbued the headstones with a mossy dignity befitting of an angel or a crucifix, whatever religious iconography had been selected as a memorial for the departed, so his loved ones could remember him until they finally stopped making their once-a-year visits and all remembrance of that individual had passed to ashes. This graveyard did not evoke the same ethos. Headstones, some looking quite expensive, reminded me of just how much effort people expend on creating meaning in their lives while ignoring the greater meaning.

At least a third of the graves in this cemetery bore Freemasonic imagery, the square and the compass. Others had more entertaining icons of life: guitars, musical notes, a Bible; one entire headstone was a comically proportioned fish flapping about in a sea of stone. These images are not necessarily who these people were, but who they tried to be and who they wanted to be remembered as being.

We are children of God, made in His image and His likeness, possessing a mind and a will, but, like the lower animals, a body as well. Through Adam we are fallen and flawed. Nothing will raise us from that state except the waters of Baptism and the embracing love of Christ. The state of the man outside the Church is not that of Calvinistic wretchedness. Privately I would describe the average man of irreligion to be an unfulfilled person. Many of material success are content, many are not. None, in my experience, are ever very satisfied, even those who get their proverbial kicks by dominating the politics and associations of a work environment. In the lower realms of the socio-economic ladder, fissiparous activities—strange vacations, poor music, substances—perform the same function. Very few of the self-described "spiritual" people of today spend time meditating on the source of their displeasure, merely assuming that it originates in an unmet goal rather than an unmet person, the Life Bestower.

I have always harbored a mild sympathy, but never an affinity, for romantics. Fr Chadwick spends considerable time promoting Romanticism, although I suspect his conception of it and my own differ. The Romantics were soul-searchers who felt that the old social trappings of art and religion had failed them, and who could not accept the modern paradigm of business and material success. Some of them seemingly yearned for a simpler, more adventurous past (considerable American literature in this mode) while others proactively repelled rationalism, all the while too influenced by modernity to embrace the mysticism of the Christian age. There were Christian Romantics; Newman may have been one of them, at least until he went through disillusionment and accepted the reality of the Church. Romanticism was not an explicitly Christian movement, but it may have been the last trend in the West that promoted implicitly Christian ideas about nature, art, literature, morality, and friendship. They were the last genuine soul-searchers before the middle class was born and dissuaded the lost sheep from searching for their Shepherd.

Admirable, but myopic?
I recently finished Hemingway's first bestseller, A Farewell to Arms. At some level I think Hemingway, despite his propensity to philander, was a genuine lost soul who, like those resting in the graveyard down the road from Cafe Pretensé, pursued happiness when he should have pursued satisfaction. Hemingway was involved in both World Wars, in no small part due to boredom, he lived in pre-Castro Cuba where he enjoyed big fishing, and he loved bull fighting. War, taunting raging animals, and oceanic hunting bring one to the point of death where one shivers with life. Had he been born a century earlier and on the other side of the Atlantic, Ernest Hemingway may well have been a Romantic.

The fact is that I am going to die. No, I am not in immediate danger of death, but I will, at some point, be just as dead as those in the cemetery near Cafe Pretensé. Relatives will dote flowers on my grave for a year after my death. Then it will be once a year. The following generation will forget me and any strange sculpture on my headstone. I will be quite dead and quite in the ground. And none of it will matter. At the moment of my death I will stand before the "awesome judgment seat of Christ" and have to answer to the two greatest commandments. Did I love the Lord God with my whole heart and whole soul? And did I love my neighbor as myself? I may turn into a reputable bull fighter, guitarist, or fisherman, but none of it will save me on the last day, nor will it give me satisfaction in this life, only moments of happiness.

When Newman came into the Church he was unwelcomed by the Ultramontanists and never as happy as he was in his naive days as an Anglican, when everything ancient was new. In the Church Newman did find the continuance of the "organ and oracle.... of a supernatural doctrine." He was home. He found happiness with the Oratory and with the Church he found the path to eternal life in the One he sought since childhood.

This reflection may all be for naught. My last visit to a night club convinced me that there are still some lost souls in the world, but the great majority have been conditioned to dissolution, [un-]comfortably numb to greater realities. Eventually all of us will die and move to what comes next. Happiness on earth derives from things on earth. Satisfaction on earth descends from heaven.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Modern Usage for Catholic Writers

To the Reader: In an age like ours, words are coined and defined and redefined at an ever-accelerating rate. It is important to keep up with the most current usage so as not to be left using outmoded definitions. To that end, The Rad Trad blog is happy to provide the Internet with a handy reference guide.

barron. A type of online personality who gains notoriety via vlogging and keeps up the pretense of orthodoxy while entertaining Balthasarian blasphemies.

blogger. One who opines online in public without the benefit of an editorial edifice and usually without the benefit of immediate doctrinal and moral guidance.

clericalist. One who selectively defends men that have received Holy Orders in spite of their grievous errors and public sins. For example, the clericalist will defend a priest he loves against any abuse allegations, even obstructing investigations, until the priest admits to a lifetime of pederasty, and then will fall silent and refuse to apologize for any abuse leveled against his opponents. He will appeal to the dignity of priests' office to place them beyond criticism, but this will not stop him from attacking priests he does not like. See also ultramontanist.

conservative. As variously applied to Catholics by Catholics: (i) A Catholic who votes Republican. (ii) A Catholic who votes Democrat, but feels really bad about abortion. (iii) Applied by liberals to anyone to the ecclesiastical right of Rev. Robert Barron.

extraordinary form. A term coined by P. Benedict XVI in 2007 to refer to the 1962 form of the Roman Rite in Summorum Pontificum. This term has not passed into common usage among traditionalists except as an ironic compliment, but it is commonly used among neo-conservatives who are also ultramontanists.

liberal. A Catholic who dissents against "official" Church doctrine on some matter, often regarding sexual matters. The liberal will also have an "emotional attachment" to the Novus Ordo revision of the Roman Rite.

neo-conservative (or neo-con). Coined by Christopher Ferrara and and Thomas Woods in The Great Façade, the derogation "neo-con" is frequently applied by traditionalists to anyone to the ecclesiastical left of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. Generally speaking, a neo-con is a Catholic who lives in a state of cognitive dissonance, constantly defending the orthodox Faith whilst also defending the same episcopacy which is actively undermining it.

novus ordo. The term "Novus Ordo Missae" was coined by P. Paul VI in 1969 to describe his near-total revision of the Roman Rite. This may or may not have linguistic connections to the Masonic phrase "Novus ordo seclorum." While not originally a derogatory term, it is frequently used as such by traditionalists. See also Ordinary Form.

ordinary form. A term coined by P. Benedict XVI in 2007 to refer to the Novus Ordo form of the Roman Rite in Summorum Pontificum. Used as a derogation by traditionalists to emphasize the banality of the Novus Ordo.

orthodox. When not applied to the separated Eastern churches, an orthodox Catholic refers to a conservative or traditionalist Catholic who assents to all defined doctrine.

orthopraxis, orthopraxy, and orthopractitioner. Theologically these terms are contested, but are generally said to mean that a certain liturgical practice is in proper keeping with the broader and ancient liturgical traditions of the Church. Catholics who follow the liturgical norms of the Church claim to be working within the bounds of orthopraxy: a neo-conservative will apply this to himself if he follows all the rubrics for the Novus Ordo Missae; a traditionalist will apply it to himself if he follows the rubrics of one or more of the pre-1969 versions of the Roman Rite. One sometimes wonders how accurate these assessments truly are.

pope emeritus. New term coined by P. Benedict XVI in 2013 to describe the rare phenomenon of a retired Bishop of Rome. As practiced by the current Pope Emeritus, he is to wear white vestments, thus fueling all manner of speculation by Fatima devotees. A love for cats is considered by most canonists to be optional.

radical traditionalist (or rad-trad). Derogatory term used by Catholics against any other Catholic deemed too extreme in their attachment to some older form of the Roman Rite, or to supposedly outdated moral norms. Definition is more flexible than traditionalist, so there is no established usage.

sedevacantist. One who believes that the Seat of Peter is currently vacant, in spite of one or more public claimants to the throne. The beginning of this period of evacuation is a matter of some speculation, but the most popular belief is that P. Pius XII was the last true pope. Other contenders include Pius IX, John Paul I, and Benedict XVI. Most sedevacantists also assert that the continuation of Holy Orders ceased with the revision of the relevant rites shortly after Vatican II, so that the true episcopacy and priesthood exists only as a small remnant scattered throughout the world.

traditionalist. As variously applied to Catholics by Catholics: (i) One who wishes to include an occasional smattering of Latin within the Novus Ordo Mass. (ii) One who has an "emotional attachment" to any form of the Roman Rite as used in 1962 or earlier. (iii) One who prefers the liturgies—sacramental and of the Divine Office—in use prior to P. Pius X. (iv) One who demands the restoration of pre-Tridentine Roman usages.

ultramontanist. Literally meaning "beyond the mountains," ultramontanism refers to an appeal to the pope's authority over and above that of the local bishop or patriarch. Strictly speaking, this can be in keeping with the definition of papal authority at the first Vatican Council. However, the term also applies to the kind of clericalist who is overly pious and defensive towards the office (and often to the person) of the pope. Heterodox and liberal Catholics are ultramontanist only when popes are agreeable to them (such as when the pope approves of sinful communions); orthodox and conservative Catholics may be ultramontanist with popes of any kind, because of an excessive piety towards the papal office (see also Voris).

uniate. Derogatory term applied to Eastern Catholic communities who have left the Orthodox churches to be in full communion with the Holy See in Rome, and financially sustain themselves by throwing cultural festivals.

voris. Vortical commentator whose position on many matters is protean yet ultramontanist and generally neo-conservative. Is perfectly ready to delete vlogs without explicitly retracting any past commentary that may contradict his current commentary. Expresses a voracious desire to shut down all online Catholic commentary but his own. Occasionally can be seen carrying a vorpal blade.

zuhlsdorf. A type of Internet clerical commentator with a penchant for publishing meal photographs and republishing the articles of others with constant interruptions in bright red type. Best referenced in abbreviated form (e.g., "There is no scandal, there is only Zuhl").

Monday, November 23, 2015

On Bears and Bloggers

Over the weekend I shared a lunch with The Bear. For those who do not know, he is a beast who, over a thousand years ago, was compelled into menial service by St. Corbinian (d. 730) after killing the bishop's pack horse. While bears tend to be capricious and territorial, I found this Bear to be quite well mannered and cultured, as I would like to believe all bear-bloggers to be. He consumed a few salmon while I ate my pastrami sandwich, and a pleasant time was had by all.

I certainly recommend that all of our readers peruse The Bear's website. His autobiography is well worth the time, and so is his recent "Blogged to Death" essay (Part I, Part II). Anything The Bear writes about Michael Voris is entertaining, at the very least. Perhaps one day he will reveal to me the secret of typing with paws.

St. Corbinian, pray for us!

From The Bear's Agitprop! page.
Coat of Arms of the Pope Emeritus.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Liturgical Reform in the Orthodox Church

Left to right: Robert Taft SJ, Met. Kallistos Ware, and Vassa Larin
What is the most expensive war in human history? No, it was not the weapons race of the Cold War, which in some ways paid for itself by producing technological shocks that could be exported to private industry. No, it was not World War II, which, until quite late, relied on mass production on conventional weapons like guns, tanks, planes and battleships. And, no, it was a war of any of the empires of history, which, again, were fought with traditional, low cost weapons and paid for themselves by opening trade routes. The most expensive, and maybe least fruitful, war in history in the American War on Poverty, inaugurated by Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" program. Trillions of dollars have been spent on the welfare state to aid impoverished groups, usually racial minorities, in the United States. Today, the average black is really no better off than he was in 1965; perhaps he is worse off, when considering the dissolution of the family that followed the Great Society. A direct transfer of wealth from the top earners to the lowest earners would have accomplished more than this malaise, a malaise created by scholars.

John F. Kennedy insisted on hiring the "best and brightest" when he became president, a departure from the career politicians and political aristocracy of prior administrations. My father personally worked for one of Kennedy's economic advisers, who also held key positions at several international banks, affording a unique view of what transpired. Kennedy's "best and brightest" of academia created the Great Society, but the Bostonian lacked the political capital to implement it. His successor, Johnson, lacked scruples, but not political leverage. And so the most pathetic war in history, one created a priori by postmodern scholars, was put into place.

The other day, His Traddiness was listening to a lecture by Sr. Vassa Larin, a Russian Orthodox liturgiologist trained under Robert Taft, SJ. Sr. Vassa came by way of recommendation from an Orthodox friend. Her daily "Coffee with Vassa" podcasts are light and edifying presentations on basic Christian matters. Her lectures, however, leave much to be desired and much to be concerned about.

Her mentor, Robert Taft, was reared in the Society of Jesus during the liturgical revolt of the 1950s and 1960s, which he acknowledges was "an overwhelming success." Today, Sr. Vassa takes great strides to establish the necessity of scholars—liturgical specialists by any other name—in order to understand the Byzantine liturgy with an eye towards reforming it.

Much of the Byzantine liturgy, Vassa maintains, is "incomprehensible" without a scholarly background. Indeed, some parts of the liturgy have no real meaning, she expounds. One example the nun gives is the moment when the deacon waves his orarion (deacon's stole) towards the people and finishes the priest's prayer with "And unto the ages of ages" before the Trisagion. Commonly, people bow in reverence. Vassa thinks this silly; this gesture is meaningless and originated as a signal to the choir in the Hagia Sophia to begin the Thrice Holy Hymn. She also has an issue with the accusative case replacing the nominative declension in "Mercy of peace, a sacrifice of praise" before the anaphora.

The liturgy is arrantly symbolic and symbols cannot be understood through veils, barriers, arbitrary customs, sacred languages and strange translations, or silent prayers. Everything, including the anaphora, should be done as it was in the primitive Church: aloud and in the vernacular. Vassa dilates at length about her concern for the disinterest of younger Orthodox faithful, who lose their intention to attend the Liturgy on Sundays when reaching their teenage years. The Liturgy is not catechetical enough, too immersed in customs that detract from focus on Christ, such as women wearing veils. "This is the state we find ourselves in," she says.

Sr. Vassa could be just one liturgiologist with views tending toward unstable reforms if not for Taft. Vassa, Taft says in his introduction, is one of the few students he met in his 46 years teaching who could be a truly great scholar. Both of them are positively exuberant that discussion of liturgical reform, impossible a century ago because uneducated people craved stability, is now possible in the Orthodox Churches. Taft himself related an invitation to a conference on reform hosted by the Greek Church. Vassa herself has lately been taking her lecture on liturgical history and the problematic nature of the Divine Liturgy on tour. Why?

Vassa recalls that a poll of Orthodox Christians in the United States revealed most believers want more money in their parishes' coffers; desire for liturgical reform only garnered 10%, to the nun's confusion. Orthodox Christians are leaving Orthodoxy just as fast as white American Catholics lapse when graduating high school. Can anyone really claim the Divine Liturgy's supposed textual inconsistencies are to blame? I have never heard of an Orthodox Christian leaving his church because he sees the priest prostrate during the anaphora without hearing the epiclesis. The Orthodox Churches are national religions removed from their home countries. Young men and women are tempted to look at their churches as ethnic associations their parents frequented and which they have outgrown. They cease to be Orthodox because they want to be modern, not because "Mercy, peace...." has mutated into "Mercy of peace...."

As attendance drops, both in the old world and in the Orthodox "diaspora", the leaders of that communion may be drawn towards the apparent fix of liturgical reform, which intellectual and spiritual successors of Taft will be eager to eventuate. Orthodox Christians should be very cautious of this, given that the first suggestion of a reform is never the last.

The early Liturgical Movement in France did not seek to replace the existing Roman rite, but to practice the existing rite to its full potential. France saw a resurgence in high Mass, public celebrations of the Divine Office, and the innovation of readings in the vernacular. The 20th century liturgical reforms found no stronger opposition than in France, which produced the Fraternity of St. Pius X, Opus Sacerdotale, and one-off dissidents like Quintin Montgomery-Wright. The early Liturgical Movement's legacy is more honestly found in St. Nicolas du Chardonnet than in the average parish, which is the point. True reforms do not restore the liturgy to an imaginary state of pristine order or refashion it according to contemporary needs. It cleans the liturgical lens so that people may peer more easily at God through it.

Does the Byzantine liturgy need an overhaul? Perhaps a scrub, but not a general reform. The Greek rite does not know rubrics in the Latin sense, which might be a good thing, but some unified guidelines would be helpful. A suggestion for a unified Slavic or Greek ritual would not harm the Eastern Orthodox, but this small reform group does not stop there. There is the ringing insistence that the liturgy has textual problems that only they, as scholars, recognize, which is disconcerting.

Do not believe for a minute that Vassa Larin, or those who think like her, is a "modernist" who knows better and who is hell bent on destroying the Byzantine tradition. If a reform movement accumulates, it will be because specialists with little to no parochial experience have convinced the hierarchy that amending perceived defects is the last option to restore church attendance and usher in a revival of Eastern Christian practice. Scholars rarely see past their own desks, and those bowing at the deacon's orarion should keep their heads low, lest well intentioned reformers accidently sever them when trimming excesses.

Ethnocentricism, political relations, a skewed view of the Latin Church's history, and poor catechesis are all legitimate criticisms of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Divine Liturgy is one thing is clearly not wrong in the Orthodox Church.

Friday, November 20, 2015

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."

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sympathy for the Devil

“You drank the port?” His Traddiness’ eyes widened as the truth sank in. “All of it?”

“I didn’t think you’d miss it,” was my reply. “You entirely forgot about the bottle of F—.”

“You drank that? I’m never leaving a bottle at your house again!”

“Fine, I’ll buy the next bottle of Chartreuse.”

“Darn straight you will!”

“It will be the yellow one, though.”

"What?" His Traddiness snapped.

The little lady sniffed at us and rolled her eyes. The three of us were sitting on the outside patio of Café Preténse, enjoying the last warm spurts of autumn before Texas decided to welcome Old Man Winter.

“You know, Rad,” she said, “you could just buy cheaper wine.”

We both watched as His Traddiness’ face turned a few shades of wine-dark, and laughed through a brief chill wind. I turned towards her and admired the frothy latte that sat so smugly superior to the tea on the other side of the table. I decided to defuse the situation with another bomb.

“Did you hear the most recent about Fr. Facile?”

“No, what did that little pipsqueak do now?”

“Apparently he’s been doubling down on his pseudo-mercy talk. He’s gone almost Full Kasper in his Sunday sermons. The Church is changing, didn’t you know? We are now welcoming the perverts and the homewreckers without exception. Anyone who’s not on board is going to fall behind the March of History.”

“Oh, joy.”

“I wonder how soon before he comes out?”

“Of which closet?”

“Hard to say. Heaven save us from the wicked clerics. You know, I was accosted by a fellow parishioner at Tradistan the other day about needing to pray for our wicked leaders.”

“Not a bad idea,” chimed in the little lady.

“Sure. But mostly I pray for their destruction. That seems like a worthy cause.”

“Not their conversion?” she asked sweetly.

“I suppose I must,” I admitted. “But I draw the line at praying for the repose of the souls of those who died as public enemies of all that is good and holy. This is November, the month we’re supposed to pray for the faithful departed. I don’t feel the need to pray for the faithless.”

“What’s got that bugaboo up your posterior?” asked His Traddiness.

“The lady and I knew a fellow who went to a local Catholic university. By all accounts he was quite the academic and literary modernist, although I know nothing in particular about his spiritual life. He had a young wife, a very young daughter, and another child on the way. He murdered himself in the middle of the night about a year ago.”


“The worst of it, though, is the sympathy and nostalgia surrounding the whole ordeal. All of his close friends are heartbroken, of course, but they insist on not thinking badly of him. It took me weeks of sorting through Facebook comments to even get a hint that he had taken his own life.”

“To do that to a wife and child!”

“Exactly the point. I don’t deny that he may have had some psychological problems, but surely they cannot have rendered him invincible to the demands of familial justice, nor to the tugging on the heart by the ladies in his life. All his friends say that he doted on his daughter, but I suppose not enough.”

“Remember what Pius the Third said in response to a request that a Requiem Mass be said for the repose of his predecessor, Alexander the Sixth?”

“What’s that?”

“‘It is blasphemous to pray for the damned.’”

Just then a familiar vintner of damned souls walked out of the front door, saw us, and waved.

“How goes the quest to eliminate lukewarmness?” the devil asked, with a tip of his hat to the lady. His horns showed for a moment.

“Making progress one good drink at a time.” I raised mine. “To your utter failure.”

He smiled toothily and walked to his car. I was disappointed to see that it did not sport a darkly humorous customized license plate.

“That wormy bastard wouldn’t know good taste if it hit him in the face,” mused His Traddiness. “Based on the financials going back and forth in his emails, he could easily afford a Rolls but, like most evil men, prefers a Mercedes.” The devil put-putted away in a cloud of noxious green exhaust.

“I wonder sometimes if I should pray for all my ancestors who died outside of the Church,” I said once the fumes had cleared. “A lot of them were Protestants who hated Catholicism. Quite a few others were staunchly non-religious their whole lives. The New-Springtimers say that charity demands prayers for all the dead, except at their funeral Masses, but I have to wonder. Isn’t it reasonable just to assume that those who die in manifest sin are damned, and to cover your bases by praying regularly for all the poor souls? At least that way everyone who can be covered is covered.”

“Wouldn’t you want someone to pray for your soul in particular,” asked the lady, “even if you seemed to die in evil circumstances?”

“It would be nice, but at the expense of public scandal? Perhaps not! In that case I might have to satisfy myself with the scraps that are tossed out commonly to all the purging souls. Better to be in Purgatory and buried in unconsecrated ground than in Hell and buried behind the rectory. In any case, I’ll be planning in my will for private Masses to be said for my soul by some helpful religious orders.”

“You’d better hope those orders hold up their end of the bargain,” she said. “Lots of them are simply dropping all the old charges they held for praying for the dead.”

“That’s a sobering thought. I’d better die in some saintly way! Perhaps the martyrdoms will begin soon, and I can get that done and over with.” She sniffed again at that.

His Traddiness sipped the rest of his tea and began to recite from memory, “In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem.”

“And may the devil get his due,” I added.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

REPOST: 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