Sunday, August 23, 2020

The "Latin" Mass

Inaccessibility remains the greatest hurdle of the traditional Roman rite to the faithful of the Latin Church. It is not the priest "facing away" from the people, nor the supposedly ritualized ceremony, nor the quality of the vesture, nor even the music. It is principally the language and the seriousness of the old Mass which shocks people. The older rites intentionally separate the sacred and the profane, simultaneously lifting the profane terrestrial elements of bread, water, wine, and human flesh to the Sacred as Christ Himself did.

In a recent article, Dr. Kwasniewski argued that the Latin language and music form an sonic iconostasis in the old Mass, an expression of the inherent separatedness of God from Man and His lifting of Man up to Himself. This was not meant to keep the people out, only to emphasize the greatness of the mysteries celebrated in past times under a baldachin or behind a rood screen and in modern times beneath a linguistic veil.

Dr. K's observations are in continuity with the Byzantine tradition of viewing the development and enhancement of the liturgy as the work of the Holy Spirit by the means of human accidents rather than as intentional human oddities. Eastern Christians, Catholic or dissident, view their liturgical traditions in their current forms as the work of the Spirit and laden with spiritual meaning. For instance, in prior times the rood screen of the Greek churches separated the people from the sacred action, as in the Latin rite, but during the late Palaiologian empire, the people began to hang their icons on the screen. Although this was an historical curio, the practice stuck and the screen became a solid wall. Far from viewing this change as a corruption or something belonging to the 15th century, they saw this as an elaboration of the old screen's bifurcation of the mystery of the Mass from the world and the obvious presence of the saints at the altar ("invisibly escorted by the angelic hosts").

All this sounds quite good and easily relates to the Byzantine visual veil on the Eucharistic sacrifice, but if this is true it has been true for most of Latin Christendom's history, not all of it. The Latin language was spoken as the vernacular of most of the former-[Western] Roman Empire for centuries after the collapse of Rome under the barbarian invasions of the fifth century. The same language people spoke was the same language as the Roman Mass, however it sounded very different from the Latin one hears at the nearest Traditional Mass today. Indeed, our Latin Masses would have been discernible, if disagreeable, to Cicero and to the Roman Christians of Nero's days. It would not have been too intelligible to sainted popes like Leo and Gregory the Great.

Enter Late Latin and Early Romance by Roger Wright, an influential, but somewhat controversial summary of the evolution of Latin from Cicero through the Middle Ages. The author follows certain changes to pronounced Latin which are visible in misspellings in graffiti at Pompeii or in the journals of contemporaries of the third to sixth centuries. Dipthongs concatenated, words ending in M or T or S started to drop off the last consonant much like how Puerto Ricans speak Spanish, and soft vowels took on longer O sounds. "Multum", for instance, became pronounced "multo", like modern Italian. The more familiar elements of Ecclesiastical Latin, the "ch" sound and modern pronunciation of V, entered the language just after the Julio-Claudian dynasty with the rest coming later.

What's more, Latin, spoken as a vernacular in Iberia, Gaul, some part of Britain and the Germanic lands, and elsewhere, continued to take on characteristics of indigenous languages or the speech patterns of the people in those areas. The result was a Latin not unlike modern English, a language with a written tradition quite different from how it is pronounced today. "How are you?" would phonetically be pronounced "Ho-w ar-eh y-uw" before major changes to our tongue during the Renaissance. Latin underwent a similar change after the Fall of Rome through the age of Charlemagne. There was one written tradition of Latin, universal and unchanging everywhere, pronounced differently almost everywhere, being pronounced as proto-Italian in northern Italy, as proto-French in Gaul, and as proto-Spanish and proto-Portuguese in Iberia. Mass and the Office were likely observed accordingly, with the texts nominally being the same everywhere, but pronounced and sung in a way intelligible only to the people of a given area, a universal language of the liturgy until it was spoken.

Charlemagne desired a revival of classical learning and an accumulation of knowledge, which would require a coherent linguistic tradition among those who were to be educated. His advisor, the deacon Alcuin of York, suggested that the Latin spoken among the educated in England be normalized throughout the lands of the Holy Roman Empire, reaching Rome and becoming the "Church Latin" which today sounds so much like Italian. Wright and other modern Latinists are somewhat derisive of Alcuin's Ecclesiastical pronunciation, believing it artificial. It was in fact the natural evolution of Latin in a particular area which had its own local, Germanic languages, which is why Ecclesiastical Latin sounds closest to Classical Latin which a very few exceptions (Vs, Cs, and dipthongs). The two are mutually intelligible, which cannot be said of either language regarding the proto-Romance languages which evolved elsewhere.

With more provinces of Latin Christendom adopting the Ecclesiastical method, the Mass and Office ceased to be in a spoken vernacular and instead became a semi-intelligible sacred tongue despite the written words remaining entirely unchanged. The resulting situation would have been something very similar to Church Slavonic: something generally intelligible, but entirely so, to Ukrainian and Russian speakers. Speakers of proto-French, proto-Spanish, proto-Italian, and proto-Portuguese certainly would have been able to understand and learn the psalms and ordo Missae over the course of their lifetimes and even understand it, but the variable parts—the readings and orations—would have been lost on them.

As a result, the faithful took on new manners of being occupied during these moments. Educated people often recited the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To the masses, the processions to the altars before Mass, the dramatic events of Holy Week, the blessing of sacramentals, the great feasts of the year, the mystery plays, and the vernacular hymnody associated with these days became their manner of participation in the liturgical life of the Church and remained so in most places until the 20th century.

Even before the "deadening" of Latin by Charlemange and Alcuin, constant abecedarian engagement with the words of the Mass were foreign to the Roman tradition. The Ordines Romani recount that the chants of the Mass were not popularly sung, but delivered by local subdeacons according to seniority. The celebrant dictated how long chants would be sung by signalling when to move to the Gloria Patri. Office and place admitted one to a certain level of participation in the liturgy, not merely language. With the opening of the sanctuaries and simplification of ceremonies after the Reformation the Latin language was the only remaining veil of mystery which surrounded the Mass and the liturgical act for centuries. Latin filled the void of the rood and the sanctuary veil.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Collects for the Assumption

One of the most beautiful Masses in the Roman Missal is that of August 15, the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The Mass is an interesting one textually and musically, beginning with the Gaudeamus omnes introit common to certain saints in the Middle Ages and generally used, along with Salve sancta parens, for Marian feasts.

Festively, the Assumption, or Dormition, originated in Constantinople under the Byzantine Emperor Maurice, who was murdered by the man who re-introduced beards to the East. The feast is not present in the Leonine, or "Verona", Sacramentary, but it is present a few generations later in the Gelasian Sacramentary, an early ninth century Gaulish recension of the Roman Sacramentary from a century earlier. There are two collects given, neither which match the noble Famulorum of the Tridentine Mass nor the Veneranda of the post-Gallican rites but which do seem to have inspired the tone and literary character of both.

The first:
"Deus, qui spe salutis aeternae beatae Mariae virginitatie foecunda humano generi praemia praestitisti, tribue, quaesumus, ut ipsam pro nobis intercedere sentiamis per quam meruimus auctorem vitae nostrae suscipere."

The second:

"Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui terrenis corporibus Verbi tui veritatis Filii unigeniti per venerabilem ac gloriosam semper virginem Mariam ineffabile mysterium coniungere voluisti, petimus immensan clementiam tuam, ut quod in eius veneratione deposcimus, te propitiante consequi mereamur."

Neither collect mentions the miracle of the Assumption, instead drawing attention to Mankind's hope for salvation in the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ. The expectation of intercession in exchange for veneration, what Eamon Duffy called a "transactional" aspect of medieval piety, is apparent in the last words of the second collect and survived in the Veneranda collect used in the Sarum, Dominican, and most other non-Roman, Latin rite Missals:

"Veneranda nobis, Domine, hujus diei festivitas opem conferat sempiternam, in qua sancta Dei genitrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit; quæ Filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum."

One wonders if Veneranda began as the second collect above, Omnipotens, and passed through Byzantine influence. The words "nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit" call to mind the Greek hymn sung on the feast:

"When you gave birth you kept your virginity, when you fell asleep you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. You passed into life, you who are the mother of life, who through your intercessions redeem our souls from death."

 As always, the Roman rite favored the more subtle and restrained text, Famulorum:

"Famulorum tuorum quaesumus Domine, delictis ignosce ut, qui tibi placere de actibus nostris non valemus, Genitricis Filii tui Domini nostri intercessione salvemur."

The Roman collect aligns more clearly with the first prayer from the Gelasian Sacramentary, Deus, qui spe salutis, with its emphasis on Mankind's necessity for Mary's intercession and our general helplessness without it. While certainly medieval, the prayer does not embrace the period piety as strongly as the other [proposed] set of prayers.

Both Famulorum and Veneranda appear in the 10th century Gregorian Sacramentary, although the respective Masses proper to the feast varied locally. Interestingly, neither collect retains the ancient, post-Patristic emphasis on the Incarnation that the Gelasian prayers do, and only Veneranda mentions Our Lady's death and assumption directly. Famulorum, however, is not a generic Marian prayer. Outside of local feasts, the Assumption was the Marian feast in the early Middle Ages—the Annunciation being a commemoration of the Incarnation, not solely in dulia of Maria. As the primary Marian feast, the Assumption was worthy of a more generalized petition in the collect.

Not all Missals, however, split into these two neat camps. For example the surviving Missal from the St. Lucia Monastery in Abruzzo gives an entirely different text. The Lyonese rite, even after the neo-Gallican textual vitiations of the 18th century, retained Veneranda on the feast and Famulorum during the octave. Such is the rich history of this rich feast.

Below is an annual repost of one of the more insightful liturgical articles on this blog.

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Liturgical theology is, according to Aidan Kavanagh, not a theological examination of the liturgy, but theology done by means of the liturgy. Liturgy is the theologia prima of the Church. When someone asks a Catholic how to learn more about the faith, the believer never directs the inquirer to obtain a copy of Denzinger. Invariably, the believer tells the non-Catholic to go to Mass (and hopefully at a carefully selected location). With this in mind, let us [very succinctly] consider what the Church told and taught us about the Assumption of the Mother of God today.

Apse of St. Mary Major with mosaic of Mary as Queen of Heaven,
crowned by and reigning with Christ.
source: Rad Trad's collection
Mattins—or the "vigil," as Dobszay insisted on calling the first major hour—consists of nine psalms and readings divided evenly into three nocturnes. Contrary to the eccentric and rich local traditions of northern Europe, which created special texts for Marian feasts, the Roman rite retains a primitive and sparse text. The psalms and hymns for the feast are typical of any Marian feast prior to the 1860s when Pius IX issued a unique liturgy for the Immaculate Conception. Where the Assumption stands alone is in the Mattins lessons and the text of the Mass. According to Dom Gueranger: 
"the Lord Pope went to St Mary Major, where, surrounded by his court, he celebrated First Vespers. At the beginning of the night the Matins with nine lessons were chanted in the same church.
"Meanwhile an ever-growing crowd gathers on the piazza of the Lateran, awaiting the Pontiff's return.... Around the picture of the Saviour, within the sanctuary, stand twelve bearers who form its perpetual guard, all members of the most illustrious families, and near them are the representatives of the senate and of the Roman people.
"But the signal is given that the papal retinue is redescending the Esquiline. Instantly lighted torches glitter on all sides, either held in the hand, or carried on the brancards of the corporations. Assisted by the deacons, the Cardinals raise on their shoulders the holy image, which advances under a canopy, escorted in perfect order by the immense multitude. Along the illuminated and decorated streets, amid the singing of the psalms and the sound of instruments, the procession reaches the ancient Triumphal Way, winds round the Coliseum, and, passing through the arches of Constantine and Titus, halts for a first Station on the Via Sacra, before the church called St Mary Minor.... In this church, while the second Matins with three lessons are being chanted in honor of the Mother, some priests wash, with scented water in a silver basin, the feet of the her Son, our Lord, and then sprinkle the people with the water thus sanctified. Then the venerable picture sets out once more, crosses the Forum amidst acclamations.... it at least enters the piazza of St Mary Major. Then the delight and the appluse of the crowd are redoubled; all, men and women, great and little, as we read in a document of 1462 (archivio della Compagnia di Sancta Sanctorum), forgetting the fatigue of a whole night spent without sleep, cease not till morning to visit and venerate our Lord and Mary. In this glorious basilica, adorned as a bridge, the glorious Office of Lauds celebrates the meeting of the Son and the Mother and their union for all eternity." (The Liturgical Year, August 15)
All rungs of Roman society paused regular life and joined Christ and Mary in the divine life for a night and an octave, celebrating Mary joining her Son in eternity and anticipating their own union with Christ in eternity. Mary was the first of what Christ wants all Christians to become by the Sacraments, albeit in a lesser degree.

The first three lessons are extracted from chapter 1 of the Song of Songs:
1 Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine,2 Smelling sweet of the best ointments. thy name is as oil poured out: therefore young maidens have loved thee.3 Draw me: we will run after thee to the odour of thy ointments. The king hath brought me into his storerooms: we will be glad and rejoice in thee, remembering thy breasts more than wine: the righteous love thee.4 I am black but beautiful, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon.5 Do not consider me that I am brown, because the sun hath altered my colour: the sons of my mother have fought against me, they have made me the keeper in the vineyards: my vineyard I have not kept.6 Show me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest, where thou liest in the midday, lest I begin to wander after the flocks of thy companions.7 If thou know not thyself, O fairest among women, go forth, and follow after the steps of the flocks, and feed thy kids beside the tents of the shepherds.8 To my company of horsemen, in Pharao's chariots, have I likened thee, O my love.9 Thy cheeks are beautiful as the turtledove's, thy neck as jewels.10 We will make thee chains of gold, inlaid with silver.11 While the king was at his repose, my spikenard sent forth the odour thereof.12 A bundle of myrrh is my beloved to me, he shall abide between my breasts.13 A cluster of cypress my love is to me, in the vineyards of Engaddi.14 Behold thou art fair, O my love, behold thou art fair, thy eyes are as those of doves.15 Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely. Our bed is flourishing.16 The beams of our houses are of cedar, our rafters of cypress trees.

Some of these verses are very sensual and even sexual. Let no one say that the medievals were prudish on matters of intimacy! These verses can be applied both as the Church's acclamation to the Virgin, joyfully exclaiming her maternal nurturing of us Christians working out our salvation in fear and trembling. These words can also, with some care and reservation, be interpreted as a dialogue between Mary and her Creator. The first verse "Let him kiss me with the kiss of his mouth: for thy breasts are better than wine" speaks to Mary on a level of intimacy that no man ever knew, but Christ did. He nursed from her, yes, but He, in the Father, also created her in accordance with His divine plan for mankind. The image of the breast conjures immature sexual ideas today, but previous peoples instantly affiliated it with nurturing and familial ties: the affection of the husband, the nurturing of the children—two kinds of love, the second generated from the first, which reflects the Divine Love. At this level of power and privacy did Mary know God, of course without the sexual element. Should the dialogue interpretation continue, Mary is both removed from conventions "I am black, but I am beautiful" and presented as close with God on the level of bride in the King's chamber, as the versicle before the third nocturne says.

The readings in the second nocturne come from St. John of Damascus' second treatise on the Dormition of the Mother of God. These readings replaced the writings of St. Dionysius of the [pseudo] Areopagite —which would have been the lessons read at St Mary Minor—with the Tridentine reforms. St. John explains the typology of the Virgin, her prefigurement in the Ark of the Covenant, which housed the old promise between God and mankind, and its fulfillment in her, who housed the new and eternal promise between God and mankind. And like Christ, she did not refuse death, but embraced it as a path to life away from the death wrought by Adam:
"From her true life had flowed for all men, and how should she taste of death? But she yielded obedience to the law established by Him to Whom she had given birth, and, as the daughter of the old Adam, underwent the old sentence, which even her Son, Who is the very Life Itself, had not refused; but, as the Mother of the living God, she was worthily taken by Him unto Himself."
In the treatise from which the above passage in extracted, the Damascene saint goes on to teach that Mary's body could only be assumed into heaven because its use by Christ consecrated it as a thing of heaven. The treatise goes on to recount the entire event of the Dormition and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, which ran the course of three days:
"An ancient tradition has been handed down to us, that, at the time of the glorious falling-asleep of the blessed Virgin, all the Apostles, who were wandering throughout the world preaching salvation to the Gentiles, were caught up aloft in the twinkling of an eye, and met together in Jerusalem. And when they were all there, a vision of Angels appeared to them, and the chant of the heavenly powers was heard; and so with divine glory she gave up her soul into the hands of God. But her body, which bore God in an effable manner, being lifted up amid the hymns of Angels and Apostles was laid in a tomb in Gethsemane. There for three whole days the angelic song was heard.
"But after three days, the chant of the Angels ceased, and the Apostles who were present (for Thomas, the only one who had been absent, came after the third day, and wished to adore the body which had borne God) opened the tomb; but they could by no means find her sacred body in any part of it. But when they only found those garments in which she had been buried, and were filled with indescribable fragrance which emanated from them, they closed the tomb. Amazed at this wonderful mystery they could only think that he, who had been pleased to take flesh from the Virgin Mary, to be made man, and to be born though he was God the Word, and the Lord of glory, he who had preserved her virginity without stain after childbirth, should also have been pleased to honor her pure body after her death, keeping it incorrupt, and translating it into Heaven before the general resurrection." 
The best sermon this writer ever heard preached about the Assumption, or "Dormition" given the setting, was that of a Melkite deacon. Paraphrasing and condensing ten minutes into a few sentences, "Heaven and earth were not vast enough to hold Gods' glory, but Mary's womb was. Christ received His Divine nature when He was begotten of the Father in eternity. He received His human nature when He was conceived and born of Mary in time. When her earthly course was run, Mary died and her body was taken into heaven by the One Who created her because it was inconceivable that the womb which ore God-made-Man could decay in the ground. But this does not separate Mary from mankind. God became united to mankind through her. Mary was the first. We will never know God as closely as she did on earth, except perhaps when we receive Holy Communion, but we can pray to know Him in eternity because of her."

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
At the third nocturne we arrive at the Gospel of the day, also used in the Mass of the day. The pericope, Luke 10:38-42, is the same Gospel story applied in the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom in the Greek tradition for this feast, adding verses 11:27-28. The last verses used in the Byzantine liturgy highlight the entire point of the Gospel for this day: "And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it." Is any depiction in pre-modern art more popular than that of the Annunciation? Mary became special because she bore Christ. She is a powerful intercessor with Him, indeed the most powerful intercessor with Him precisely for this reason. But also for this reason Mary is not a lone, solitary figure of power. She matters because wherever she is, Christ is nearby. Practically every depiction of the Virgin before the vulgar kitsche artwork of the 19th century showed Mary and our Lord Jesus together. In the various pieta paintings and sculptures, the great paintings depicting the Crucifixion and Norman rood screens recounting the same event, and first millennium holy images—Eastern and Western alike—Mary is with her Son. So let us agree with the woman in the crowd: blessed is the womb that bore the Lord! And then let us turn our attention from Mary to Christ by hearing the word of God and by keeping it.

Culminating with the Mass, the Introit invites us to enter into the heavenly abode of joy, elevated from the earthly joy and instruction in Mattins and Lauds, as well as the rites local to the diocese of Rome described by Gueranger above. In the Mass God's presence begins as a mystic one and elevates into a literal presence that can be seen and touched, a presence similar to the one Mary knew as Christ's mother. The collect of the Mass is among the best in the Roman tradition:
"Forgive, O Lord, we beseech thee, the sins of thy servants: that we who by our own deeds are unable to please thee, may be saved by the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord."
This collect, as Fr. Hunwicke has stated, is the theology of Mary East and West. What words could better express our Lady's place in the plan of salvation? The Mass became the integral part of the Assumption liturgy and, in time, many stunning settings of the Mass were written by the great polyphonic and choral composers. Palestrina's setting of the Ordinary of Mass is a personal favorite. The below sequence of videos has both the proper chants and Palestrina's setting concatenated, as for a Mass.

Lastly, the feast is an octave. This blog has discussed in other posts the concept of the eighth day and the theology of the Resurrection. Christ rose on the eighth day after He entered Jerusalem and He appeared to the Apostles on the eighth day after that, one octave after another. Moreover, the Resurrection constitutes the eighth day of the week, the new day of Creation, or re-creation. Mary's tomb, like her Son's was found empty. While the myrrh-bearing women and the Apostles Peter and John only found a few burial garments in Christ's tomb, Mary's tomb was found full of flowers and sweet scents. Christ's Resurrection brought mystery only clarified with the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Mary's Assumption was clear and a fruit of Christ's Resurrection. 

Unfortunately, this historic and gladsome liturgy was altered in 1950 after Pius XII's definition of the Assumption—wherein he says nothing new and clears up none of the controversy stemming from the chirpy immortalist crowd, even if the accompanying letter did in fact say she died. The Office readings were altered severely: the first reading is now taken from Genesis chapter 3 and the next two readings from Corinthians (the same passage used in the Requiem Mass). The Pope's encyclical Munificentissimus Deus replaces one of the lessons from St. John of Damascus. The hymns are new and utterly ghastly. And the Mass is entirely new. The Introit is no longer an invitation to joy, but instead an excerpt from Revelation chapter 12. The collect is banal beyond belief and the Gospel is the account of the Annunciation heard at practically every Marian feast now other than the Immaculate Conception. Of all the changes to the feast in 1950, the insertion of Genesis chapter 3 at Mattins and the new Introit of Mass stand out most. Far from according to a "hermeneutic of continuity" with the previous liturgy, these texts exude the images of plaster statues and devotional lithographs so common in the 19th and early 20th century. Who has not seen a plaster statue of the Virgin, clothed in blue, perhaps with a bulbous baroque crown rimmed in twelve stars, standing on a blue globe and crushing the head of a green snake? The problem that arises from this depiction of Mary as crushing sin and standing above the moon, crowned with stars is not so much what it says as much as what it fails to say. The Mary of these images, pieces of art, and, to some extent, devotions is an aggrandized Mary not entirely dependent on Christ for her importance. There is nothing wrong with these texts doctrinally, but they replace other texts that were more coherent, beautiful, and holistically reflective of the Church's understanding of our Lady. The octave was stripped in 1955.

As with Holy Week, the same people who created the Pauline liturgy restored a few small portions of what they vitiated in the 1950s. The old Gaudeamus omnes Introit is made available as an option. The Mass as a whole is just as bad as the Pian Mass though. The readings are respectively Revelation 12 and the 1951-1969 Mattins readings from Corinthians; the Gospel is again the Annunciation. Mattins The Office of Readings gives Ephesians 1:16-2:10 and again Pius XII's encyclical as the lessons. The mystical understanding of Mary in union with Christ, representing the Church, and the link between the God-Man and mankind is obscured or forgotten. Who can deny that even the most pious of Roman Catholics—far better people than the Rad Trad—only know of Mary through the kitsch statue or as the object of the line "Hail, full of grace"? Again, there is nothing strictly heterodox about this folkish interpretation, but it comes at the cost of the stronger, traditional interpretation of the feast.

On a happy note I know of at least one priest who celebrated the old Mass and kept the old Office for August 15 and the octave! This feast, like so many of the most ancient feasts in the Roman rite, brings the faithful deep into the mens of the Church and her theology of the mysteries of God.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Tolerance Is a Virtue

The old lists of "Catholic Necessaries" once found in missals and prayerbooks include such helpful reminders as the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church, various collections of virtues and vices, and, one that I keep returning to, the Spiritual Works of Mercy. A few of these can be twisted into a kind of know-it-all-ism, like instructing the ignorant or admonishing sinners; others are less susceptible to vanity, like forgiving offenses and praying for the living and the dead. One I meditate upon frequently is phrased variously depending on the source: the USCCB has it as "bearing wrongs patiently," another says "be patient with those in error," but my favorite version (found in the Baronius Press missal) is to "bear patiently the troublesome."

Not as the world giveth does the Church give admonition to tolerance.

The unending Season of Covidtide has given Catholics ample opportunity to revisit old grudges and revive familial squabbles. We have bishops publicly announcing private think-tanks for discussing the radicals of the Catholic world and their problematic online presence. We have wannabe-warriors demanding the clergy offer more Masses and fewer facemask requirements. We have eschatological worriers scribbling crypto-chiliastic timelines for our edification. In saner times such persons could be the source of lightly humorous caricature, but we live in times devoid of a sense of humor. We do not think that those who are troublesome to us, inside or outside the Church, are at all funny. Perhaps we should.

To bear patiently the troublesome does not mean to make excuses for their sins nor to always refrain from calling them out, but it does mean to put into practice one aspect of our Lord's admonition, "Let not your heart be troubled." This work of mercy is also distinct from the simpleton's advice to "never lose your peace" (even when engaged in grave sin). It may mean sometimes that you ought to roll your eyes at stupidity and merely leave a conversation with a slightly insulting but insightful comment, but it should definitely mean that you do not decide it is your mission to "fix" all the faults of your neighbors.

Tell your brother he should stop fornicating with a lady friend? Certainly. Cancel him for dressing in tweed and rambling on forever about St. Bellarmine? Perhaps this is a good opportunity to bear a troublesome person patiently and leave it be.

I do not know where all the boundaries lie. Where does one stop bearing patiently and begin the work of instruction and admonition? The application of wisdom often needs to be subtle, differing much by situation. I have seen too many people work themselves into frenzies over things that are morally minor but greatly annoying. They strain out gnats and risk swallowing camels because they have no tolerance for troublesome people.

In times when stress is imposed by national unrest and global pandemics it is good to be reminded of the patience of Christ in the face of so many troublesome people. He not only had to put up with his own murderers but with his Apostles, and with us.