Friday, November 30, 2007

Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle



Andrew, Peter's brother, and John were the first disciples to follow the Lord. With tender delicacy the Gospel (John 1:35-42) describes their first meeting with Jesus. Andrew did not belong to the inner circle of the apostles, Peter, James and John, and the evangelists narrate nothing extraordinary about him (John 6:8); but tradition (resting on apocrpyhal Acts) extols his great love of the Cross and of the Savior; and the Church distinguishes him both in the Mass (his name occurs in the Canon and in the Libera since the time of Pope St. Gregory I who had a special devotion to him) and in the Breviary.

The story of his martyrdom rests on the apocryphal Acts which lack historical foundation. The pagan judge exhorted him to sacrifice to the gods. Andrew replied: "I sacrifice daily to almighty God, the one and true God. Not the flesh of oxen and the blood of goats do I offer, but the unspotted Lamb upon the altar. All the faithful partake of His flesh, yet the Lamb remains unharmed and living." Angered by the reply, Aegeas commanded him to be thrown into prison. With little difficulty the people would have freed him, but Andrew personally calmed the mob and earnestly entreated them to desist, as he was hastening toward an ardently desired crown of martyrdom.

When Andrew was led to the place of martyrdom, on beholding the cross from a distance he cried out: "O good Cross, so long desired and now set up for my longing soul I confident and rejoicing come to you; exultingly receive me, a disciple of Him who hung on you." Forthwith he was nailed to the cross. For two days he hung there alive, unceasingly proclaiming the doctrine of Christ until he passed on to Him whose likeness in death he had so vehemently desired. --The legendary account of our saint's martyrdom has this value: it presents to us the mysticism of the Cross of later times.

~from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

We have found the Messiah



~by St. John Chrysostom

After Andrew had stayed with Jesus and had learned much from him, he did not keep this treasure to himself, but hastened to share it with his brother. Notice what Andrew said to him: We have found the Messiah, that is to say, the Christ. Notice how his words reveal what he has learned in so short a time. They show the power of the master who has convinced them of this truth. They reveal the zeal and concern of men preoccupied with this question from the very beginning.

Andrew’s words reveal a soul waiting with the utmost longing for the coming of the Messiah, looking forward to his appearing from heaven, rejoicing when he does appear, and hastening to announce so great an event to others. To support one another in the things of the spirit is the true sign of good will between brothers, of loving kinship and sincere affection.

Notice, too, how, even from the beginning, Peter is docile and receptive in spirit. He hastens to Jesus without delay. He brought him to Jesus, says the evangelist. But Peter must not be condemned for his readiness to accept Andrew’s word without much weighing of it. It is probable that his brother had given him, and many others, a careful account of the event; the evangelists, in the interest of brevity, regularly summarise a lengthy narrative. Saint John does not say that Peter believed immediately, but that he brought him to Jesus. Andrew was to hand him over to Jesus, to learn everything for himself. There was also another disciple present, and he hastened with them for the same purpose.

When John the Baptist said: This is the Lamb, and he baptizes in the Spirit, he left the deeper understanding of these things to be received from Christ. All the more so would Andrew act in the same way, since he did not think himself able to give a complete explanation. He brought his brother to the very source of light, and Peter was so joyful and eager that he would not delay even for a moment.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dies Irae

The Beauty of Tradition

~a breath of fresh air for your busy day.....

News from Eire

~from Irish Independent
Muslims now make up the third-largest religious group in Ireland, according to figures published today by the Central Statistics Office.

The CSO says more than 32,000 people said their religion was Islam in the last census.

More than half of Muslims are either Asian or African nationals, while one-third have Irish nationality.

Catholics still make up the largest religious group in the country, following by members of the Church of Ireland.


~from CWN
Catholic proportion of Irish population falling

The Catholic proportion of Ireland's population is dropping, according to a November 28 report in the Irish Times.

In 1991 Catholics accounted for 91% of the Irish population, the Times reports, citing Central Statistics Office figures; last year that figure had fallen to 87%.

The Times attributes the decline to two factors: the immigration of non-Catholics and a distinct rise in the number of people who classify themselves as "not religious." The latter figure rose from 4% to 6% in the same 15-year period.

~from The Irish Independent
THE first Papal visit for almost 30 years was looking increasingly likely last night after Pope Benedict XVI said he hopes to visit Ireland.

The Pontiff conveyed his wishes personally to Ireland's new Cardinal, Sean Brady, at a private audience in the auditorium of the Paul VI hall in the Vatican, where the two men embraced warmly.

Cardinal Brady took the opportunity to renew the invite which he first made in October last year on behalf of the Irish Hierarchy.

Pope Benedict's immediate confirmation that he would like to come to Ireland despite his limited foreign travel schedule was a clear signal that a visit is being seriously considered by the 80-year-old Pope.

Speaking to the Irish Independent immediately after his audience, Cardinal Brady said: "I took the opportunity of our brief meeting to renew the invitation on behalf of the Irish Episcopal Conference."

Asked what Pope Benedict's response was, Cardinal Brady revealed that the Holy Father said: "I hope so".

If we are sheep, we overcome; if wolves, we are overcome

~by St. John Chrysostom

As long as we are sheep, we overcome and, though surrounded by countless wolves, we emerge victorious; but if we turn into wolves, we are overcome, for we love the shepherd’s help. He, after all, feeds the sheep not wolves, and will abandon you if you do not let him show his power in you.

What he says is this: “Do not be upset that, as I send you out among the wolves, I bid you be as sheep and doves. I could have managed things quite differently and sent you, not to suffer evil nor to yield like sheep to the wolves, but to be fiercer than lions. But the way I have chosen is right. It will bring you greater praise and at the same time manifest my power”. That is what he told Paul: My grace is enough for you, for in weakness my power is made perfect. “I intend”, he says, “to deal in the same way with you”. For, when he says, I am sending you out like sheep, he implies: “But do not therefore lose heart, for I know and am certain that no one will be able to overcome you”.

The Lord, however, does want them to contribute something, lest everything seem to be the work of grace, and they seem to win their reward without deserving it. Therefore he adds: You must be clever as snakes and innocent as doves. But, they may object, what good is our cleverness amid so many dangers? How can we be clever when tossed about by so many waves?

However great the cleverness of the sheep as he stands among the wolves – so many wolves! – what can it accomplish?However great the innocence of the dove, what good does it do him,with so many hawks swooping upon him? To all this I say: Cleverness and innocence admittedly do these irrational creatures no good, but they can help you greatly.

What cleverness is the Lord requiring here? The cleverness of a snake. A snake will surrender everything and will put up no great resistance even if its body is being cut in pieces, provided it can save its head. So you, the Lord is saying, must surrender everything but your faith: money, body, even life itself. For faith is the head and the root; keep that, and though you lose all else, you will get it back in abundance. The Lord therefore counselled the disciples to be not simply clever or innocent; rather he joined the two qualities so that they become a genuine virtue. He insisted on the cleverness of the snake so that deadly wounds might be avoided, and he insisted on the innocence of the dove so that revenge might not be taken on those who injure or lay traps for you. Cleverness is useless without innocence.

Do not believe that this precept is beyond your power. More than anyone else, the Lord knows the true natures of created things; he knows that moderation, not a fierce defence, beats back a fierce attack.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cardinal Pell Pontifical Mass at the Throne

Pope Benedict on St. Ephrem

~from Pope Benedict's catechesis on St. Ephrem (via Papa Ratzinger Forum).

St. Ephrem has left us a great theological legacy. His considerable output can be grouped in four categories: works written in ordinary prose (his polemical works and Biblical commentaries); works in poetic prose; homilies in verse; and finally, the hymns, surely Ephrem's most extensive work.

He is a rich and interesting author in many ways, but especially in his theological profile. The specificity of his work is that theology and poetry encounter each other.

In approaching his doctrine, we must insist from the beginning on this: that he cast theology in poetic form. Poetry allowed him to deepen theological reflection through paradoxes and images. So at the same time, his theology becomes liturgy, it becomes music. He was, in fact, a great composer, a musician.

Theology, reflection on the faith, poetry, song, and praise of God all go together; and divine truth appears precisely in the liturgical character of Ephrem's theology. In his quest for God, in his theology, he followed the way of paradox and symbol. He largely favored contrasting images because they serve to underline the mystery of God.

I cannot now present very much of his work, if only because poetry is not easily translatable, but to give at least an idea of his poetic theology, I would like to cite parts of some hymns. Above all, especially in view of the coming Advent, here are some splendid images from the hymn on the nativity of Christ.

Before the Virgin, Eophrem manifests his wonder in inspired words:


"The Lord came to you
to become a servant.
The Word came to you
to be still in your womb.
Lightning came to you
without making any noise.
The Shepherd came to you -
and becomes the newborn Lamb
with his submissive plaint.

The womb of Mary
has changed the roles:
He who created all things
took possession in poverty.
The Highest came to you (Mary)
but he entered with humility.
Splendor came to you,
but dressed in humble rags.
He who makes all things grow
knew hunger.
He who waters everything
knew thirst.
Bare and stripped, he came from you,
he who clothes everything in beauty."
(Hymn "De Nativitate"11, 6-8).

To express the mystery of Christ, Ephrem used a great diversity of expressions and images. In one of his hymns, he effectively links Adam in Paradise with Christ in the Eucharist:

"It was the cherubin's spade
that closed the path
to the Tree of LIfe.
But for the people,
the Lord of this tree
gave himself as food -
he himself as offering (Eucharistic).

The trees of Eden
were given as food
to the first Adam.
For us, the Gardener in person
has made himself food for our souls.

Indeed we all left Paradise with Adam,
who left it all behind.
Now that the sword has been taken away,
there (on the Cross), we find it again
in the lance that pierced.
(Hymn, 49,9-11).

To speak of the Eucharist, Ephrem used two images: the ember or burning coal, and the pearl. The ember comes from Isaiah (6.6), in the image of the seraphim who picks up an ember with tongs and simply brushes it across the lips of the prophet in order to purify it. The Christian, on the other hand, takes and swallows the Ember, who is Christ himself.

"In your Bread is hidden the Spirit
which cannot be consumed.
In your wine is the fire
which cannot be drunk.
The Spirit in the bread,
the fire in your wine:
behold the wonder
that we welcome to our lips.

The seraphim could not, with his fingers, touch the ember
which he could only bring close to Isaiah's mouth.
The fingers did not hold it, nor did the mouth ingest it.
But the Lord has conceded both to us.

Fire descends with ire to destroy sinners
but the fire of grace descends on the bread and stays.
Instead of the fire which destroyed people,
we have eaten the fire in the bread
and we have been revived.
(Hymn "De Fide"10,8-10).

Finally, a last example of St. Ephrem's hymns, where he describes the pearl as a symbol of the richness and beauty of the faith:

"I place the pearl, my brothers,
in the palm of my hand to examine it.
I look at it from one side, then the other -
and it looks the same from every side.

So it is with our search
for the inscrutable Son -
because he is all light.

In its limpidity, I see the Limpid
which does not become opaque.
In its purity, I see the symbol
of the pure Body of our Lord.
And in its indivisibility, I see
the truth which is indivisible.
(Hymn "Sulla Perla" 1, 2-3).

The figure of Ephrem is still fully relevant in the life of the various Christian churches. We discover him, first of all, as a theologian who, starting from Sacred Scripture, reflects poetically on the mystery of the redemption of man by Christ, the Word of God incarnate.

His is a theological reflection with images and symbols taken from nature, from daily life and from the Bible. Ephrem confers a didactic and theological character on poetry and hymns for liturgy, Ephrem used these hymns to spread, on liturgical occasions, the doctrine of the Church. And in those times, they proved to be extremely effective as a catechetical means for the Christian community.

Ephrem's reflections on the theme of God the Creator are important: Nothing in the world is isolated, and the world, alongside Sacred Scripture, is the Bible of God, but using his freedom in the wrong
way, man overturns the order of the cosmos.

The role of women was very relevant to Ephrem. The way in which he spoke about women was always inspired by sensitivity and respect: Jesus dwelling in the womb of Mary had raised the dignity of all women. For Ephrem, just as there is no Redemption without Jesus, there could be no Incarnation without Mary.

The divine and human dimensions of the mystery of our Redemption are found in the texts of Ephrem: poetically and with fundamentally Scriptural images, he anticipated the theological background and in some way, the language itself, of the great Christologic definitions made by the Councils of the fifth century.

Ephrem, honored by Christian tradition with the title 'Scepter of the Holy Spirit', remained a deacon of the church all his life. It was a decisive and emblematic choice: he was a deacon, therefore, a servant, both in the liturgical ministry as, more radically, he was a servant of the love of Christ, which he sung in unparalleled way, and in his charity towards his brothers, whom he introduced with rare mastery to a knowledge of divine revelation.

End is Near

~from Paul Nichols

On celebrating the traditional rite

~Much of the blogosphere has been abuzz over Fr. Michael Kerper,S.J.'s article on his celebrating his first EF. Fr. Z posted his thoughts and invited priests to comment. Please read the discussion thread as it is enlightening to see the fruits of Summorum Pontificum....and it's a joy to see the flowering of Pope Benedict's master vision of re-establishing a Catholic identity via a hermeneutic of continuity.
Fr. Z says:

First, many opponents of the older Mass claim that its spirituality is contrary to, or at least out of keeping with, the spirituality of Vatican II.

Second, in Holy Mass (and elsewhere), because of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is alter Christus. When he says Mass, he is both acting in the person of Christ (in persona Christi) as Priest and Victim.

Third, sacramental reality is not less real than tangible reality we perceive with our senses. The sacred mysteries of Holy Mass make present the very events they portray: the Last Supper, the Sacrifice of Calvary. By our baptism we participate in these sacred mysteries.

Fourth, one of the most important elements of a proper ars celebrandi described by His Holiness in Sacramentum caritatis is that the priest must be "transparent" (my word). It is an abuse to impose your personality unduly on the liturgy. By staying out of the way of the true Actor in Mass, Christ the High Priest, the priest is a greater bearer of the person of Christ in a special way in the liturgy. That is an act of charity: sacrificial love, sacrifice of self for the good of others. That is service.

One of the things that I was very struck by was the writer’s comment that during the Canon (which makes Calvary present) the priest felt loneliness.
Read the discussion thread.

General Audience: St. Ephrem of Syria


Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd during his weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)


Pupils from an Italian school attend Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)


Mexican faithful attend Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican November 28, 2007. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

~from Asia News (I'll post the full text of catechesis after the translation is released.)

[T]oday the Pope traced the figure of Ephrem the Syrian, a IV century theologian. The Pope underlined that his catechesis followed on from last week’s dedicated to Aphraates “the wise”, a Syrian “master” also from the VI century.

Ephrem, defined as “the most important representative if Christianity in the Syrian tongue” of that “cultural diversity”. Thus in this Syrian master “poetry and theology meet, reflections on the faith that become liturgy and music”. Ephrem’s theology is “mostly presented in poetical form, which allows him to use paradoxes and imagery” and at the same time his theology becomes liturgy and music so much so “that he was honoured in tradition with the name zither of the Holy Spirit”. Concluding Benedict XVI recalled that he was the author of prayers in which “the liturgical character exalts Divine Truth in all of its beauty”.

Woe to the souls where Christ does not dwell!



~attributed to St. Macarius

When God was displeased with the Jews, he delivered Jerusalem to the enemy, and they were conquered by those who hated them; there were no more sacrifices or feasts. Likewise angered at a soul who had broken his commands, God handed it over to its enemies, who corrupted and totally dishonoured it. When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.

Woe to the path that is not walked on, or along which the voices of men are not heard, for then it becomes the haunt of wild animals. Woe to the soul if the Lord does not walk within it to banish with his voice the spiritual beasts of sin. Woe to the house where no master dwells, to the field where no farmer works, to the pilotless ship, storm-tossed and sinking. Woe to the soul without Christ as its true pilot; drifting in the darkness, buffeted by the waves of passion, storm-tossed at the mercy of evil spirits, its end is destruction. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ to cultivate it with care to produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Left to itself, it is choked with thorns and thistles; instead of fruit it produces only what is fit for burning. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ dwelling in it; deserted and foul with the filth of the passions, it becomes a haven for all the vices. When a farmer prepares to till the soil he must put on clothing and use tools that are suitable. So Christ, our heavenly king, came to till the soil of mankind devastated by sin. He assumed a body and, using the cross as his ploughshare, cultivated the barren soul of man. He removed the thorns and thistles which are the evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin. Into the fire he cast the straw of wickedness. And when he had ploughed the soul with the wood of the cross, he planted in it a most lovely garden of the Spirit, that could produce for its Lord and God the sweetest and most pleasant fruit of every kind.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Unraveling Russia's Last Royal Mystery



~from the New York Times about the final resting places of the Czar and his family.

Eleven people were said to have been killed that day in July 1918 on Lenin’s orders. Just nine sets of remains were dug up here and then authenticated using DNA. The remains of the czar’s son, Aleksei, and one daughter, whose identity is still not absolutely clear, were missing. Did their bones lie elsewhere, or could it actually be that they had escaped execution, as rumor had it for so long?

Only in the past few months have these questions dating from the Russian revolution apparently been resolved here, and only by a group of amateur sleuths who spent their weekends plumbing the case. In fact, it appears that the clues to what happened to the two children were always there, waiting to be found. All that was needed was to listen closely to the boastful voices of the killers.

Their accounts are in secret reports in Soviet-era archives, one of which offered the most tantalizing hint: a single phrase in the recollection of the chief killer that seemed to suggest where the two bodies might have been deposited.

“All of them wanted to leave a trace in history, for they considered that this was a kind of heroic deed,” said Vitaly Shitov, who lives in the area and undertook a review of the testimony to hunt for the remains. “They wanted to promote their roles.”

Following that wisp of a clue this summer, Mr. Shitov and other amateur investigators went to where the other remains had been found — and they kept walking. Away from the road, about 70 yards from the first burial ground, is a slightly elevated area among the trees.

It is there that the bodies of Aleksei, 13, and his sister were apparently consigned.

The amateurs found the bones, many of them charred by fire, scattered among bullets and pieces of jars that held acid used to disfigure the bodies. These fragments appeared similar to those from the first grave.

So it seems that for all the years since the first discovery, even as people made pilgrimages to the site and wondered what had happened to Aleksei and his sister, their remains were only a short stroll away.

Read More

Before and After

~a fun post from The Curt Jester:

Before with Marini I



+ + +

After with Marini II

Persecuted for the Faith

~from Asia News: Priest sentenced to three years imprisonment for inaugurating a church

Rome (AsiaNews) – Fr Wang Zhong, from the diocese of Xiwanze (Hebei), was sentenced to three years in prison for organising the celebrations of the consecration of a church in Guyuan. AsiaNews received a copy of an unofficial transcript of the trial. It indicates that a valid building permit was issued by the Religious Affairs Bureau for the construction of church. But it also says that Father Wang was an underground priest, unaffiliated with the state-sanctioned China Catholic Patriotic Association (CCAP).

The diocese of Xiwanzi (Hebei) is part of the underground Church. It has about 15,000 members and is located some 260 km north of Beijing, not far from the border with Inner Mongolia.

In this area for months the police have waged a campaign against priests and bishops from the underground Church, on the instigation of the CCAP.

The diocese’s auxiliary bishop, Mgr Yao Liang, disappeared into police custody on 30 July 2006; another 20 faithful and 2 priests are also in prison.

Father Wang was arrested on July 24, 2007 and taken away along with two other priests who had found shelter at the residence of a Catholic family in Xilinguole (Inner Mongolia).

After his arrest he was kept in total isolation with no visitation rights.

His trial opened on 29 October 2007 in Kangbao, Zhangjiakou district (Hebei).

Catholic faithful who attended the proceedings in the courtroom said that Father Wang, 41, was “in good physical conditions despite his long beard. He seemed a bit weak though but faced the ordeal with courage and a smile on his face.”

Charges against him were finally made public at the trial.

He is accused of organising an unlawful meeting (celebrating the consecration of the Guyuan church which is devoted to the Holy heart), and using the official seal of the parish (which in China is legally equated with a valid signature) without the permission of state authorities.

The facts are that the church in Guyuan was built with the right permit and paid for by the faithful themselves who raised the money over a two-year period. Those who could not make a financial contribution offered their own labour.

Some 7,000 people, including underground 21 priests and a bishop took part in the 18 July 2006 ceremony of consecration.

Father Wang’s defence attorney at the trial noted that “the new church and its consecration where approved by Zhangjiakou authorities. The permit issued by them was presented as an exhibit at the trial. The local Religious Affairs Bureau and United Front Work Department even contributed about 1000 yuan (US$ 140) to the construction. All of this evidence is in the parish registry.” Hence in the lawyer’s opinion, there is sufficient evidence to show that the “meeting was not illegal.”

As for the seal used, he noted that it “as parish church property (its top read ‘Parish Church Affairs’), it was an internal Church matter and was not an official seal. At the centre it sports a sign of the cross rather the five-pointed star which symbolises the Chinese government.”

An eyewitness even testified that the “seal was made with the permission of the deputy director of the Civil Affairs Bureau, which comes under the Religious and National Affairs Bureau. Thus Father Wang could not be guilty.”

However, the prosecution called a policeman to the stand to say that consecration celebrations had caused local traffic problems.

But according to the unofficial transcript, “everyone knows that the church is located in an isolated area, far from the main road, and that it has a big parking area.”

In his final plea, Father Wang’s defence attorney said that the charges were unfair and baseless, founded on “false testimonies.”

Before sentencing the judge suspended the trial in order to confer with the authorities.

After two days of discussion involving the political commissar (an influential member of the Communist Party) and representatives of the United Front and the Religious Affairs Bureau, no decision was taken. The judge turned instead to higher authorities for advice.

The trial was resumed on November 14. More than 200 of Father Wang’s parishioners were present. But the session lasted only 10 minutes during which the judge sentenced the priest to three years in prison for organising an unlawful meeting.

The defence attorney protested at the decision and said he would appeal.

Parishioners tried to get close to the priest, but police agents removed him from the courtroom right away and took him away by car.

The unofficial transcript made by some of the faithful present at the trial ends on some thoughts. It says that “this unjust sentence shows that there is no justice in China. On the one hand, they say there is religious freedom; on the other, Church members are arrested or done away with.”

“This unlawful sentence is a slap in the face of [President Hu Jintao’s] much-vaunted ‘harmonious society.’ Father Wang is but a helpless lamb that can be easily slaughtered, whilst the real criminals get away with facing the law.”

In the end what happened to Father Wang seems to confirm the idea that the Religious Affairs Bureau is engaged in a full-blown “normalisation” campaign against underground Churches in order to force them to register with the CCAP as the only way to carry out their ministry.

But as Benedict XVI pointed out in his Letter to Chinese Catholics the CCAP is an entity “incompatible with Catholic doctrine.”

New Papal MC speaks about Consistory



~via Papa Ratzinger Forum, here's a translation of the interview with Mons. Guido Marini about Saturday's Consistory.

A rite rich in symbolic significance to express continuity between past, present and future. That is how Mons. Guido Marino, master of Pontifical Liturgical Celebrations, describes the celebrative aspects of the Ordinary Public Consistory to create 23 new cardinals, presided by Pope benedict XVI in St. Peter's basilica yesterday


The first striking liturgical element was the placement of the Crucifix in the center of the Assembly.

The Crucifix placed at the foot of the Altar of Confession faces the faithful to express the desire that everyone present should be oriented towards it. It is a sign of continuity between the present and the past in a liturgical tradition which also looks ahead.


What about the vestments wore by Benedict XVI?


This continuity between past, present and future is also made visible in the vestments. The cope is in gold silk trimmed with a stole coming from a far older vestment (perhaps from the 15th century), with images from the lives of the saints, including Peter and Paul. The miter belonged to Pius IX.

The fact that the Pope used a cope - which hasn't been worn for this occasion in recent times - underscores that the Consistory takes place in a liturgical context. [Note by forum editor: In consistories in the past few decades, including Benedict's first, the Pope wore choir dress with a ceremonial mozzetta and stole, as he wears for civil functions in which he acts as head of state.]

Particularly suggestive was the entrance procession in which the Pope - unlike in previous consistories - was accompanied by the new cardinals.


The Consistory over time had been situated within a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word. Therefore the introital procession with the Pope - preceded by the cardinals - underlines the liturgical aspect already highlighted by the vestments used.

Who assisted the Pope in the rite?


Two assistant deacons (José Miguel Ramón Fuentes and Biagio Saiano), as tradition has it.

What about the chair from which Benedict XVI led the celebrations?


It was the chair of Leo XIII* which has been used other times by the Pope but not during a liturgical celebration. It is the first time, therefore - at least in recent times - that it is used liturgically as the chair of the Roman Pontiff.

You will come to the spring and see light itself

~by St. Augustine

We Christians are the light, at least by comparison with unbelievers. Thus the Apostle says: Once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk then as sons of the light. And elsewhere he says: The night is far spent, the day is drawing near. Let us therefore lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us walk uprightly as in the day.

Nevertheless, since the days in which we are now living are still dark compared to the light which we shall see, hear what the apostle Peter says. He speaks of a voice that came from the Supreme Glory and said to the Lord Jesus Christ: You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. This voice, he says, we heard coming from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain. Because we ourselves were not present there and did not hear that voice from heaven, Peter says to us: And we possess a more certain prophetic word to which you do well to attend, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

When, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ comes and, as the apostle Paul says, brings to light things hidden in darkness and makes plain the secrets of the heart, so that everyone may receive his commendation from God, then lamps will no longer be needed. When that day is at hand, the prophet will not be read to us, the book of the Apostle will not be opened, we shall not require the testimony of John, we shall have no need of the Gospel itself. Therefore all Scriptures will be taken away from us, those Scriptures which in the night of this world burned like lamps so that we might not remain in darkness.

When all these things are removed as no longer necessary for our illumination, and when the men of God by whom they were ministered to us shall themselves together with us behold the true and dear light without such aids, what shall we see? With what shall our minds be nourished? What will give joy to our gaze? Where will that gladness come from, which eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, which has not even been conceived by the heart of man? What shall we see?

I implore you to love with me and, by believing, to run with me; let us long for our heavenly country, let us sigh for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers. What shall we then see? Let the gospel tell us: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You will come to the fountain, with whose dew you have already been sprinkled. Instead of the ray of light which was sent through slanting and winding ways into the heart of your darkness, you will see the light itself in all its purity and brightness.

It is to see and experience this light that you are now being cleansed. Dearly beloved, John himself says, we are the sons of God, and it has not yet been disclosed what we shall be; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

I feel that your spirits are being raised up with mine to the heavens above; but the body which is corruptible weighs down the soul, and this earthly tent burdens the thoughtful mind. I am about to lay aside this book, and you are soon going away, each to his own business. It has been good for us to share the common light, good to have enjoyed ourselves, good to have been glad together. When we part from one another, let us not depart from him.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cardinal urged Blair not to make conversion public

~from The Telegraph Online

Tony Blair was on the brink of announcing his conversion to Catholicism on a visit to the Pope until a last-ditch intervention by Britain's Roman Catholic leader.

The former Prime Minister was planning to make the historic statement on a trip to the Vatican, but was persuaded not to at the 11th hour.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, advised Mr Blair that it would be unwise and inappropriate to use such a high-profile occasion for such an important private event, particularly coming just days before he was due to leave Downing Street.

He was preparing to make a declaration about his faith as one of his last acts as Prime Minister. But the cardinal recommended that it would be better to wait until he had left Number 10, amid fears that the announcement could cause a political storm.

It is understood that he has received instruction from Fr John Walsh, a chaplain at RAF Cranwell, and Fr Mark O'Toole, the cardinal's secretary, in preparation for conversion.

He had already told aides that he intended to convert to Catholicism and was believed to have been planning the visit to the Vatican in June as the perfect opportunity to announce the momentous step of becoming the country's first Catholic Prime Minister.

However, The Sunday Telegraph has also learnt that he has since put his plans on hold, despite leaving office, because of fears that it could jeopardise his work as an envoy in the Middle East.

There had been speculation that he would formalise his Catholic beliefs in the next few days, but it is understood that it is likely that he will not convert until next year, probably at Easter.

A source close to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said the Archbishop had advised Mr Blair that any statement on his conversion "should be done reflectively".

"There was a question over whether this was the time to make such an announcement," the source said. "The cardinal's concern for Mr Blair was pastoral and he told him not to do it then, but to wait for a more private occasion."

The cardinal was called to the papal study in the Vatican for a private meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and the former Prime Minister, which lasted around 10 minutes.

"For him to be invited to the audience [with the Pope] is significant," said a Vatican insider. "It is unusual for a representative of a local Church to be present at an audience between the Pope and a prime minister."

Read More

Nashville Dominicans to open Virginia school

~from Washington Post

People wait an hour in line to talk with her, pack standing room only into a bar to hear her, and some even squeal when they see her, this woman in a sister's habit.

She is Sister Mary Jordan Hoover, principal of Northern Virginia's first new Catholic high school in two decades, a $60 million state-of-the-art project that will open in Dumfries next fall. At a time when it's possible to count on one hand the number of Catholic secondary schools that open each year in the nation, her arrival in Virginia represents good news for supporters of Catholic schools.

But the cheery 42-year-old brings another major layer of buzz to the Arlington Diocese because she is a member of the Nashville Dominicans, rock stars in the world of Catholic religious orders. Although the number of religious sisters in the United States has plunged since the 1960s, resulting in an average age of about 70, there has been an increase in recent years among traditional, habit-wearing orders, including the Nashville-based Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, which has 226 members and a median age of 35. It recently raised $46 million to expand its chapel because the sisters were spilling into the hall.

In her floor-length white habit with black veil and a rosary around her waist, Hoover is the picture of affirmation for traditional dioceses, including Arlington's.

And that makes her a hot property. With a stated mission of teaching, the Nashville Dominicans get letters and phone calls almost daily from dioceses across the country, asking that they send their youthful -- and overtly devout -- vibe to one school or another.

"The bishops are circling Nashville," said Timothy McNiff, schools superintendent in the Arlington Diocese, who introduced Hoover at an open house in Woodbridge this month for the new school, which will be called Pope John Paul the Great Catholic High School. Officials have a target enrollment of 475 next fall for the four-year school.

More than 150 people came to what was about the 20th such event in the past couple of months, including one in a packed Irish pub in Alexandria. McNiff himself has been to Nashville six times.

There is little detailed research on women who join Catholic religious orders -- called "women religious," "sisters" or often "nuns," although technically that means a woman who is cloistered. Although traditional orders make up a small slice of the pie, they are where the growth is.

"This generation is more conventional in their outlook and more traditional in values," said Brother Paul Bednarczyk, executive director of the National Religious Vocations Conference. "Given the relativity of our culture, they really want to know what it means to be Catholic, and symbols -- like habits -- speak to them deeply. They want people to know they have made this radical choice."

Read More

Each man's reward will be suited to what he does



~by Pope St. Leo the Great

The Lord says: Unless your justice exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. How indeed can justice exceed, unless compassion rises above judgement? What is as right or as worthy as a creature, fashioned in the image and likeness of God, imitating his Creator who, by the remission of sins, brought about the reparation and sanctification of believers? With strict vengeance removed and the cessation of all punishment, the guilty man was restored to innocence, and the end of wickedness became the beginning of virtue. Can anything be more just than this?

This is how Christian justice can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, not by cancelling out the law but by rejecting earthly wisdom. This is why, in giving his disciples a rule for fasting, the Lord said: Whenever you fast do not become sad like the hypocrites. For they disfigure their faces in order to seem to be fasting. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. What reward but that of human praise? Such a desire often puts on a mask of justice, for where there is no concern for conscience, untruthful reputation gives pleasure. The result is that concealed injustice enjoys a false reputation.

For the man who loves God it is sufficient to please the one he loves; and there is no greater recompense to be sought than the loving itself; for love is from God by the very fact that God himself is love. The good and chaste soul is so happy to be filled with him that it desires to take delight in nothing else. For what the Lord says is very true: Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. What is a man’s treasure but the heaping up of profits and the fruit of his toil? For as a man sows, so will he reap, and each man’s gain matches his toil; and where delight and enjoyment are found, there the heart’s desire is attached. Now there are many kinds of wealth and a variety of grounds for rejoicing; every man’s treasure is that which he desires. If it is based on earthly ambitions, its acquisition makes men not blessed but wretched.

But those who enjoy the things that are above and eternal rather than earthly and perishable, possess an incorruptible, hidden store of which the prophet speaks: Our treasure and salvation have come, wisdom and instruction and piety from the Lord: these are the treasures of justice. Through these, with the help of God’s grace, even earthly possessions are transformed into heavenly blessings; it is a fact that many people use the wealth which is either rightfully left to them or otherwise acquired, as a tool of devotion. By distributing what might be superfluous to support the poor, they are amassing imperishable riches, so that what they have discreetly given cannot be subject to loss. They have properly placed those riches where their heart is; it is a most blessed thing to work to increase such riches rather than to fear that they may pass away.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Give Your Life for the Church



~from Asia News, some excerpts from Pope Benedict's homily at today's Ring Mass
The prayer for peace and Christian unity are the “first and main mission” for the new cardinals as it is for the entire Church both of which are called to be in its service.

This was the central concept on which Benedict XVI based the homily he delivered during the Mass concelebrated with the 23 new cardinals he created yesterday.

More than a hundred other cardinals, hundreds of bishops, priests and faithful, mostly from the new cardinals’ dioceses, attended the Mass.

The Pope reminded the cardinals that the “throne” of Christ is the Cross and the “entire hierarchy of the Church, each charisma and ministry, everything and everyone are in the service of His Lordship.”

To those who now belong to the Church’s “Senate,” the Pope talked about the crucifixion that is represented on their ring.

“This for you, dear new Brother Cardinals, will always be a reminder of the King you serve,” he said, “on what throne He has been elevated and how faithful he has been till the end when he defeated sin and death with the strength of divine mercy. Mother Church, Christ’s bride, gives you this insignia as a memento of Her Husband as Christ loved the church and handed Himself over for her (cf Eph 5:25). Thus, wearing the cardinal's ring, you shall constantly be reminded to give your life to the Church.”

Taking off from today’s liturgical feast of Christ the King and from the 'Christological hymn' from the Paul's Epistle to the Colossians, the Pontiff said that “this text of the Apostle expresses a synthesis of truth and faith that is so powerful that we cannot but admire it deeply."

"The Church is the repository of Christ’s mystery. It is so with humility and no trace of pride or arrogance because it is the highest gift that it was given, with no merit in getting it, but which it is called to offer freely to humanity in every age as a horizon of meaning and salvation.

"It is not philosophy, nor gnosis, even though it includes wisdom and knowledge. It is the mystery of Christ, Christ Himself, Logos incarnate, who died and has risen, becoming the King of the universe.

"How can we not feel a wave of enthusiasm filled with gratitude to be allowed to contemplate the splendour of this revelation? How at the same time can we not feel the joy and sense of responsibility to serve this King, bear witness with one’s life and words to His Lordship? This, in particular, is our task, my venerated Brother Cardinals, namely to announce to the world Christ’s truth, hope for every man and for the entire human family.”

A reminder of the King you serve

At the Ring Mass this morning Pope Benedict placed a gold ring on the finger of each new Cardinal as symbol of their link to the papacy and a willingness to give their lives for the Catholic Church. Each ring is embossed with the image of the Crucifixion of Christ.


REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi


REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi


AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito


Cardinal Foley and Cardinal Delly exchange the Peace.

Consistory 2007

"Usque ad Sanguinis Effusionem"

For an eyewitness account, please read my friend Zadok's post. He also attended this morning's Mass of the Rings. Here are my favorite images.


Pope Benedict XVI, wearing the Mitra of late Pope Pius IX, waves to faithful and pilgrims while arriving inside St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Saturday, Nov. 24, 2007. The pontiff celebrated a Consistory in which he elevated to the rank of Cardinal 23 churchmen from around the world, telling them they must be willing to shed their blood to spread the Christian faith. AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito


REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN)


REUTERS/Tony Gentile (VATICAN)


With Cardinal Bagnasco. AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito


With Cardinal Patriarch Delly. REUTERS/Tony Gentile (ITALY)


REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi (VATICAN)

On Christ The King



~excerpted from Pope Pius XI's encyclical, Quas Primas, December 11, 1925.

12. It was surely right, then, in view of the common teaching of the sacred books, that the Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her Author and Founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings. And, in fact, she used these titles, giving expression with wonderful variety of language to one and the same concept, both in ancient psalmody and in the Sacramentaries. She uses them daily now in the prayers publicly offered to God, and in offering the Immaculate Victim. The perfect harmony of the Eastern liturgies with our own in this continual praise of Christ the King shows once more the truth of the axiom: Legem credendi lex statuit supplicandi. The rule of faith is indicated by the law of our worship.

13. The foundation of this power and dignity of Our Lord is rightly indicated by Cyril of Alexandria. "Christ," he says, "has dominion over all creatures, a dominion not seized by violence nor usurped, but his by essence and by nature." His kingship is founded upon the ineffable hypostatic union. From this it follows not only that Christ is to be adored by angels and men, but that to him as man angels and men are subject, and must recognize his empire; by reason of the hypostatic union Christ has power over all creatures. But a thought that must give us even greater joy and consolation is this that Christ is our King by acquired, as well as by natural right, for he is our Redeemer. Would that they who forget what they have cost their Savior might recall the words: "You were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb unspotted and undefiled." We are no longer our own property, for Christ has purchased us "with a great price"; our very bodies are the "members of Christ."

14. Let Us explain briefly the nature and meaning of this lordship of Christ. It consists, We need scarcely say, in a threefold power which is essential to lordship. This is sufficiently clear from the scriptural testimony already adduced concerning the universal dominion of our Redeemer, and moreover it is a dogma of faith that Jesus Christ was given to man, not only as our Redeemer, but also as a law-giver, to whom obedience is due. Not only do the gospels tell us that he made laws, but they present him to us in the act of making them. Those who keep them show their love for their Divine Master, and he promises that they shall remain in his love. He claimed judicial power as received from his Father, when the Jews accused him of breaking the Sabbath by the miraculous cure of a sick man. "For neither doth the Father judge any man; but hath given all judgment to the Son." In this power is included the right of rewarding and punishing all men living, for this right is inseparable from that of judging. Executive power, too, belongs to Christ, for all must obey his commands; none may escape them, nor the sanctions he has imposed.

15. This kingdom is spiritual and is concerned with spiritual things. That this is so the above quotations from Scripture amply prove, and Christ by his own action confirms it. On many occasions, when the Jews and even the Apostles wrongly supposed that the Messiah would restore the liberties and the kingdom of Israel, he repelled and denied such a suggestion. When the populace thronged around him in admiration and would have acclaimed him King, he shrank from the honor and sought safety in flight. Before the Roman magistrate he declared that his kingdom was not of this world. The gospels present this kingdom as one which men prepare to enter by penance, and cannot actually enter except by faith and by baptism, which, though an external rite, signifies and produces an interior regeneration. This kingdom is opposed to none other than to that of Satan and to the power of darkness. It demands of its subjects a spirit of detachment from riches and earthly things, and a spirit of gentleness. They must hunger and thirst after justice, and more than this, they must deny themselves and carry the cross.

16. Christ as our Redeemer purchased the Church at the price of his own blood; as priest he offered himself, and continues to offer himself as a victim for our sins. Is it not evident, then, that his kingly dignity partakes in a manner of both these offices?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Give Thanks to the Lord

St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr


Cecilia was so highly venerated by the ancient Roman Church that her name was placed in the Canon of the Mass. Already in the fourth century there was a church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, erected on the site where her home had stood. Her martyrdom probably occurred during the reign of Emperor Alexander Severus, about the year 230. In 1599 her grave was opened and her body found in a coffin of cypress wood. It lay incorrupt, as if she had just breathed forth her soul. Stephen Maderna, who often saw the body, chiseled a statue that resembled the body as closely as possible. Since the Middle Ages, Cecilia has been honored as patroness of Church music, a practice having its source in a false application of a passage from the Office (cantantibus organis).

Apart from the fact of her martyrdom, we know practically nothing about her that is historically genuine. Among other details the breviary offers the following:

Cecilia led a life of prayer and meditation and had vowed lifelong virginity, but a youth by the name of Valerian, relying upon the approval of her parents, hoped to marry her. When the wedding night arrived, she confided to Valerian, "There is a secret, Valerian, I wish to tell you. I have as a lover an angel of God who jealously guards my body." Valerian promised to believe in Christ if he would be enabled to see that angel. Cecilia explained how such was impossible without baptism, and Valerian consented to be baptized. After he was baptized by Pope Urban and had returned "He found Cecilia in her little room lost in prayer, and next to her the angel of the Lord was standing. When Valerian saw the angel, he was seized with great terror." The angel handed to them a bouquet of fiery red roses and snow-white lilies as a reward for Cecilia's love of chastity, a bouquet that would not wither, yet would be visible only to those who love chastity. As a further favor Valerian besought the conversion of his brother Tiburtius.

Upon arriving to congratulate the newlyweds, Tiburtius was astounded by the unspeakably beautiful roses and lilies. As soon as he was informed regarding their origin, he too asked for the waters of baptism. "St. Cecilia said to Tiburtius: Today I acknowledge you as a brother-in-law, because the love of God has made you despise the idols. Just as the love of God gave me your brother as a spouse, so it has given you to me as a brother in-law." When Almachius, the prefect, heard of the conversions, he ordered Maximus, his officer, to arrest and imprison all of them. Before being put to death, they instructed Maximus and his family, and baptized them during the night preceding execution.

At dawn Cecilia roused the two brothers to struggle heroically for Christ, as the glow of morning disappeared, Cecilia called: "Arise, soldiers of Christ, throw away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light." Cecilia pursued her victory as the soldiers willingly listened, "We believe that Christ is the true Son of God, who has chosen such a servant." Led before the prefect, she professed her faith in Christ, "We profess His holy Name and we will not deny Him."

In order to avoid further show, the prefect commanded her to be suffocated in the baths. She remained unharmed and prayed, "I thank You, Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, that through Your Son the fire was extinguished at my side." Beheading was next in order. The executioner made three attempts (the law prohibited more) and let her lie in her blood. She lived for three days, encouraging the poor and dedicating her home into a church.

~from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch

Sing to God in jubilation




~by St. Augustine

Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song. Rid yourself of what is old and worn out, for you know a new song. A new man, a new covenant; a new song. This new song does not belong to the old man. Only the new man learns it: the man restored from his fallen condition through the grace of God, and now sharing in the new covenant, that is, the kingdom of heaven. To it all our love now aspires and sings a new song. Let us sing a new song not with our lips but with our lives.

Sing to him a new song, sing to him with joyful melody. Every one of us tries to discover how to sing to God. You must sing to him, but you must sing well. He does not want your voice to come harshly to his ears, so sing well, brothers!

If you were asked, “Sing to please this musician”, you would not like to do so without having taken some instruction in music, because you would not like to offend an expert in the art. An untrained listener does not notice the faults a musician would point out to you. Who, then, will offer to sing well for God, the great artist whose discrimination is faultless, whose attention is on the minutest detail, whose ear nothing escapes? When will you be able to offer him a perfect performance that you will in no way displease such a supremely discerning listener?

See how he himself provides you with a way of singing. Do not search for words, as if you could find a lyric which would give God pleasure. Sing to him “with songs of joy”. This is singing well to God, just singing with songs of joy.

But how is this done? You must first understand that words cannot express the things that are sung by the heart. Take the case of people singing while harvesting in the fields or in the vineyards or when any other strenuous work is in progress. Although they begin by giving expression to their happiness in sung words, yet shortly there is a change. As if so happy that words can no longer express what they feel, they discard the restricting syllables. They burst out into a simple sound of joy, of jubilation. Such a cry of joy is a sound signifying that the heart is bringing to birth what it cannot utter in words.

Now, who is more worthy of such a cry of jubilation than God himself, whom all words fail to describe? If words will not serve, and yet you must not remain silent, what else can you do but cry out for joy? Your heart must rejoice beyond words, soaring into an immensity of gladness, unrestrained by syllabic bonds. Sing to him with jubilation.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More from Interview with Archbishop Ranjith on Liturgy

~via Papa Ratzinger Forum

"We are called on to be faithful to something which is not ours but which has been given to us," Mons. Ranjith says. "We should be faithful to the seriousness with which sacraments ought to be celebrated. Why do we need to issue page upon page of instructions if everyone feels free to do as he pleases?"

The prelate says that a confrontation between 'traditionalists' and 'innovators' makes 'no sense'. "There was not and there isn't any break between a 'before' and 'after' in the Church, but a continuous line."

"With respect to the traditional Mass," he went on, "there had been a growing demand over time, which also became more organized little by little. At the same time, faithfulness to the standards of celebrating the sacraments was falling. The more such faithfulness diminished, along with the beauty and wonder of liturgy, the more some Catholics looked back to the tradtional Mass."

"For years, the liturgy has undergone so many abuses, and so many bishops have simply ignored them. Pope John Paul II made a heartfelt appeal in Ecclesia Dei afflicta, which called on the Church to be more serious about the liturgy. And he did it again in the Instruction Redemptoris sacramentum. But many liturgists and diocesan offices of liturgy criticized the Papal documents.

"The problem then is not so much about the traditional Mass, but an almost unlimited abuse of the nobility and dignity of the Eucharistic celebration. And this was something about which Pope Benedict could not be silent, as we saw in his explanatory letter to the bishops and in his many speeches. He feels a great sense of pastoral responsibility.

"Therefore, this document [Sunmmorum Pontificum], beyond being an attempt to bring back the Society of St. Pius X into the Church, is also a gesture, a strong call from the universal Pastor to a sense of seriousness about the liturgy."

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary



Mary’s presentation was celebrated in Jerusalem in the sixth century. A church was built there in honor of this mystery. The Eastern Church was more interested in the feast, but it does appear in the West in the 11th century. Although the feast at times disappeared from the calendar, in the 16th century it became a feast of the universal Church.

As with Mary’s birth, we read of Mary’s presentation in the temple only in apocryphal literature. In what is recognized as an unhistorical account, the Protoevangelium of James tells us that Anna and Joachim offered Mary to God in the Temple when she was three years old. This was to carry out a promise made to God when Anna was still childless.

Though unhistorical, Mary’s presentation has an important theological purpose. It continues the impact of the feasts of the Immaculate Conception and of the birth of Mary. It emphasizes that the holiness conferred on Mary from the beginning of her life on earth continued through her early childhood and beyond.

Comment:

It is sometimes difficult for modern Westerners to appreciate a feast like this. The Eastern Church, however, was quite open to this feast and even somewhat insistent about celebrating it. Even though the feast has no basis in history, it stresses an important truth about Mary: From the beginning of her life, she was dedicated to God. She herself became a greater temple than any made by hands. God came to dwell in her in a marvelous manner and sanctified her for her unique role in God's saving work. At the same time, the magnificence of Mary redounds upon her children. They, too, are temples of God and sanctified in order that they might enjoy and share in God's saving work.

Quote:
"Hail, holy throne of God, divine sanctuary, house of glory, jewel most fair, chosen treasure house, and mercy seat for the whole world, heaven showing forth the glory of God. Purest Virgin, worthy of all praise, sanctuary dedicated to God and raised above all human condition, virgin soil, unplowed field, flourishing vine, fountain pouring out waters, virgin bearing a child, mother without knowing man, hidden treasure of innocence, ornament of sanctity, by your most acceptable prayers, strong with the authority of motherhood, to our Lord and God, Creator of all, your Son who was born of you without a father, steer the ship of the Church and bring it to a quiet harbor" (adapted from a homily by St. Germanus on the Presentation of the Mother of God).

~from Saint of the Day

By faith she believed; by faith, conceived



Stretching out his hand over his disciples, the Lord Christ declared: Here are my mother and my brothers; anyone who does the will of my Father who sent me is my brother and sister and my mother. I would urge you to ponder these words. Did the Virgin Mary, who believed by faith and conceived by faith, who was the chosen one from whom our Saviour was born among men, who was created by Christ before Christ was created in her – did she not do the will of the Father? Indeed the blessed Mary certainly did the Father’s will, and so it was for her a greater thing to have been Christ’s disciple than to have been his mother, and she was more blessed in her discipleship than in her motherhood. Hers was the happiness of first bearing in her womb him whom she would obey as her master.

Now listen and see if the words of Scripture do not agree with what I have said. The Lord was passing by and crowds were following him. His miracles gave proof of divine power. and a woman cried out: Happy is the womb that bore you, blessed is that womb! But the Lord, not wishing people to seek happiness in a purely physical relationship, replied: More blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it. Mary heard God’s word and kept it, and so she is blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind, a nobler thing than carrying his body in her womb. The truth and the body were both Christ: he was kept in Mary’s mind insofar as he is truth, he was carried in her womb insofar as he is man; but what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.

The Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, and yet the Church is greater than she. Mary is a part of the Church, a member of the Church, a holy, an eminent – the most eminent – member, but still only a member of the entire body. The body undoubtedly is greater than she, one of its members. This body has the Lord for its head, and head and body together make up the whole Christ. In other words, our head is divine – our head is God.

Now, beloved, give me your whole attention, for you also are members of Christ; you also are the body of Christ. Consider how you yourselves can be among those of whom the Lord said: Here are my mother and my brothers. Do you wonder how you can be the mother of Christ? He himself said: Whoever hears and fulfils the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and my sister and my mother. As for our being the brothers and sisters of Christ, we can understand this because although there is only one inheritance and Christ is the only Son, his mercy would not allow him to remain alone. It was his wish that we too should be heirs of the Father, and co-heirs with himself.

Now having said that all of you are brothers of Christ, shall I not dare to call you his mother? Much less would I dare to deny his own words. Tell me how Mary became the mother of Christ, if it was not by giving birth to the members of Christ? You, to whom I am speaking, are the members of Christ. Of whom were you born? “Of Mother Church”, I hear the reply of your hearts. You became sons of this mother at your baptism, you came to birth then as members of Christ. Now you in your turn must draw to the font of baptism as many as you possibly can. You became sons when you were born there yourselves, and now by bringing others to birth in the same way, you have it in your power to become the mothers of Christ.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chabanel Psalm Project Revisited


~With the new liturgical year coming up, don't forget the Chabanel Psalm Project. This is a comprehensive resource for those working within the Ordinary Form but with a desire for continuity with our musical and liturgical patrimony.

Click here for Year A. Organist and vocalist parts are included. Start encouraging your music ministry to give these a try. Get away from the insipid and trite musical-style psalms that invade us week-by-week. The Chabanel Psalms have been given as a gift to the Church, for the glory of God and the edification of the Church. Visit the website and print a sample or two to give to your musical director. It's in modern notation and the chants and refrains are simple enough.

Many thanks go to Jeff Ostrowski who composed the refrains for all the psalms. What a herculean effort.

Sancta Missa Tutorial


Check out Sancta Missa, the tutorial from St. John Cantius Society teaching the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. A whole lot more content has been added since we posted about it here, including mp3 files for the different sections of the Mass. It's not just for priests, but also for altar servers. And for the faithful, too, as studying it deepens our understanding of the Mass and helps us pray with more devotion and apprciate the Mass of the Ages.

Behold, your king is coming to you, the Holy One, the Savior


~by St Andrew of Crete

Let us say to Christ: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel. Let us hold before him like palm branches those final words inscribed above the cross. Let us show him honour, not with olive branches but with the splendour of merciful deeds to one another. Let us spread the thoughts and desires of our hearts under his feet like garments, so that entering us with the whole of his being, he may draw the whole of our being into himself and place the whole of his in us. Let us say to Zion in the words of the prophet: Have courage, daughter of Zion, do not be afraid. Behold, your king comes to you, humble and mounted on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.

He is coming who is everywhere present and pervades all things; he is coming to achieve in you his work of universal salvation. He is coming who came to call to repentance not the righteous but sinners, coming to recall those who have strayed into sin. Do not be afraid, then: God is in the midst of you, and you shall not be shaken.

Receive him with open, outstretched hands, for it was on his own hands that he sketched you. Receive him who laid your foundations on the palms of his hands. Receive him, for he took upon himself all that belongs to us except sin, to consume what is ours in what is his. Be glad, city of Zion, our mother, and fear not. Celebrate your feasts. Glorify him for his mercy, who has come to us in you. Rejoice exceedingly, daughter of Jerusalem, sing and leap for joy. Be enlightened, be enlightened, we cry to you, as holy Isaiah trumpeted, for the light has come to you and the glory of the Lord has risen over you.

What kind of light is this? It is that which enlightens every man coming into the world. It is the everlasting light, the timeless light revealed in time, the light manifested in the flesh although hidden by nature, the light that shone round the shepherds and guided the Magi. It is the light that was in the world from the beginning, through which the world was made, yet the world did not know it. It is that light which came to its own, and its own people did not receive it.

And what is this glory of the Lord? Clearly it is the cross on which Christ was glorified, he, the radiance of the Father’s glory, even as he said when he faced his passion: Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him, and will glorify him at once. The glory of which he speaks here is his lifting up on the cross, for Christ’s glory is his cross and his exultation upon it, as he plainly says: When I have been lifted up, I will draw all men to myself.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bishop Serratelli's Letter to Paterson Priests on Fidelity to Liturgical Norms

~Here is a gem of a letter from Bishop Serratelli to his diocesan priests. Bishop Serrattelli is the new USCCB chairman of Liturgy.
My dear brothers in the priesthood,

Today the Church celebrates the life and work of the third evangelist. In his work, St. Luke paints for us the portrait of Christ the compassionate Savior whose life is the climax of Israel’s redemptive history that continues in the Church. Today’s feast glorifies the Holy Spirit who, in every age, raises up individuals and gifts them with the grace and charisms needed to continue the work of Christ.

With St. Luke, we priests share the privilege of spreading the Gospel. The Holy Spirit has graced us in a special way for this work. Through our ordination, we have been configured to Christ the High Priest who uses weak instruments such as us to accomplish His saving work.

On this feast day, I want to take the opportunity to thank you for accepting the vocation to be a priest. I am grateful for your apostolic zeal in serving God’s people with dedication and self-giving and for your love of the Church whose ministers we are. I would also like to address with you what is so central to our priesthood and so vital for the life of the Church.

St. Luke ends his gospel with the Emmaus story in which the two disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread (Lk 24:30-32). He begins Acts of the Apostles with this picture of the infant Church: “These remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles, to the brotherhood, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). Clearly for the evangelist, the Eucharist is the Presence of the Risen Lord building up the Church in the unity of faith and love.

The Eucharist is the Crucified Jesus uniting us to Himself, sharing with us His divine life and making the Church truly one so that she can be the effective Sacrament of salvation in every age and in every place. The Eucharist is at the heart of the mystery of the Church. This great sacrifice of the Lord’s Body and Blood is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (Lumen Gentium, 11). The Eucharist contains the entire wealth of the Church. Each day the Church draws her life from this gift given to her by the Lord at the Last Supper.

To every priest is given the great privilege of celebrating the Eucharist by virtue of his ordination. The priest presides at the Eucharist in persona Christi. The priest is the servant of the Liturgy. He is the steward entrusted with a gift that is not his own.

Therefore, every priest has the obligation to celebrate the Liturgy in such a way that he provides a witness of faith to the sacredness of the gift given to the Church by her Lord. He is to be faithful to the Church’s norms for the Liturgy so as to be at the service of communion, not only for the community directly taking part in the celebration, but also for the whole Church. The Mystery of the Eucharist “is too great for anyone to permit himself to treat it according to his own whim, so that its sacredness and its universal ordering would be obscured” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

In each particular Church, the diocesan bishop has a most serious responsibility before God for the faithful celebration of the liturgy. He is the first steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to him. He is the moderator, promoter and guardian of her whole liturgical life (Christus Dominus, 28; Sacrosanctum Concilium, 41; Code of Canon Law, can. 387 and can. 835.1). Recognizing this serious duty placed upon me, I ask every priest in this diocese to follow The General Instruction of the Roman Missal as well as Redemptionis Sacramentum, issued in 2004 by the mandate of Pope John Paul II. A careful reading and attention to these instructions can only increase the individual priest’s appreciation of the Eucharist and his own special role within the Church. The Eucharist “is too great a gift to tolerate ambiguity or depreciation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 10).

Since the people of God have the right to the Liturgy as the Church has established, both instructions are to be followed in their entirety. Priests, as well as deacons, are not free to change the rubrics or substitute their own words for the prescribed texts. Such fidelity expresses true love for the people we serve. I call your special attention to the items that follow. The Church’s instructions use strong language to indicate the seriousness with which the Church safeguards reverence for the Eucharist.

Concerning the altar.

Out of reverence for the celebration of the memorial of the Lord and for the banquet in which the Body and Blood of the Lord are offered on an altar where this memorial is celebrated, there should be at least one white cloth, its shape, size, and decoration in keeping with the altar’s design (GIRM, 304).

Concerning the proclamation of the gospel and preaching.

Within the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, the reading of the Gospel, which is “the high point of the Liturgy of the Word,” is reserved by the Church’s tradition to an ordained minister. Thus it is not permitted for a layperson, even a religious, to proclaim the Gospel reading in the celebration of Holy Mass, nor in other cases in which the norms do not explicitly permit it (SR, 63).

The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.” (SR, 64)

The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants;” nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association (SR, 66).
(To safeguard the primacy of the homily and the connection of Word and Sacrifice in the celebration of the Eucharist, any reflection offered by laypeople should be given after the Prayer after Communion.)

Concerning the distribution of Holy Communion.

It is the Priest celebrant’s responsibility to minister Communion, perhaps assisted by other Priests or Deacons; and he should not resume the Mass until after the Communion of the faithful is concluded. Only when there is a necessity may extraordinary ministers assist the Priest celebrant in accordance with the norm of law (SR, 88).

If there is usually present a sufficient number of sacred ministers for the distribution of Holy Communion, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion may not be appointed. Indeed, in such circumstances, those who may have already been appointed to this ministry should not exercise it. The practice of those Priests is reprobated who, even though present at the celebration, abstain from distributing Communion and hand this function over to laypersons (SR, 157)

It is not licit to deny Holy Communion to any of Christ’s faithful solely on the grounds, for example, that the person wishes to receive the Eucharist kneeling or standing (SR, 91).

Concerning the use of vestments.

“The vestment proper to the Priest celebrant at Mass, and in other sacred actions directly connected with Mass unless otherwise indicated, is the chasuble, worn over the alb and stole” (GIRM, 299).

The abuse is reprobated whereby the sacred ministers celebrate Holy Mass or other rites without sacred vestments or with only a stole over the monastic cowl or the common habit of religious or ordinary clothes (SR, 126).

Concerning the proper vessels for the Eucharist.

Sacred vessels for containing the Body and Blood of the Lord must be made in strict conformity with the norms of tradition and of the liturgical books. It is strictly required, however, that [they] be truly noble in the common estimation within a given region, so that honor will be given to the Lord by their use, and all risk of diminishing the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharistic species in the eyes of the faithful will be avoided. Reprobated, therefore, is any practice of using for the celebration of Mass common vessels, or others lacking in quality, or devoid of all artistic merit or which are mere containers, as also other vessels made from glass, earthenware, clay, or other materials that break easily. This norm is to be applied even as regards metals and other materials that easily rust or deteriorate. (SR, 117)

The sacred vessels are purified by the priest, the deacon, or an instituted acolyte after Communion or after Mass, insofar as possible at the credence table. The purification of the chalice is done with water alone or with wine and water, which is then drunk by whoever does the purification. The paten is usually wiped clean with the purificator (GIRM, 279).

Following the instructions that the Church lays down for the proper celebration of the Eucharist is not a burden, but a joy. For it enables us to enter into the spirit of the Liturgy with greater freedom and less distraction. It may take a child-like humility to do as the Church asks in the celebration of the Liturgy. However, true love is never proud. “Priests who faithfully celebrate Mass according to the liturgical norms, and communities which conform to these norms, quietly but eloquently demonstrate their love for the Church” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 52).

I thank all of you for your love of God’s people and your desire to be good and faithful “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor 1:4).

May the Eucharist, daily and faithfully celebrated, truly be a gift of life and growth for the Church of Paterson.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Arthur J. Serratelli, S.T.D., S.S.L., D.D.
Bishop of Paterson

Whoever conquers will not be harmed by the second death



~by St. Fulgentius of Ruspe

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye as the final trumpet sounds, for the trumpet shall indeed sound, the dead shall rise incorruptible and we shall be changed. In saying “we”, Paul is indicating that the gift of that future change will also be given to those who during their time on earth are united to him and his companions by upright lives within the communion of the Church. He hints at the nature of the change when he says: This corruptible body must put on incorruptibility, this mortal body immortality. In order, then, that men may obtain the transformation which is the reward of the just, they must first undergo here on earth a change which is God’s free gift. Those who in this life have been changed from evil to good are promised that future change as a reward.

Through justification and the spiritual resurrection, grace now effects in them an initial change that is God’s gift. Later on, through the bodily resurrection, the transformation of the just will be brought to completion, and they will experience a perfect, abiding, unchangeable glorification. The purpose of this change wrought in them by the gifts of both justification and glorification is that they may abide in an eternal, changeless state of joy.

Here on earth they are changed by the first resurrection, in which they are enlightened and converted, thus passing from death to life, sinfulness to holiness, unbelief to faith, and evil actions to holy life. For this reason the second death has no power over them. It is of such men that the Book of Revelation says: Happy the man who shares in the first resurrection; over such as he the second death has no power. Elsewhere the same book says: He who overcomes shall not be harmed by the second death. As the first resurrection consists of the conversion of the heart, the second death consists of unending torment.

Let everyone, therefore, who does not wish to be condemned to the endless punishment of the second death now hasten to share in the first resurrection. For if any during this life are changed out of fear of God and pass from an evil life to a good one, they pass from death to life and later they shall be transformed from a shameful state to a glorious one.