Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Feast of the Visitation

And Mary rising up in those days went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Judah. [Lk. 1:39]

How lyrical that is, the opening sentence of St. Luke's description of the Visitation. We can feel the rush of warmth and kindness, the sudden urgency of love that sent that girl hurrying over the hills. "Those days" in which she rose on that impulse were the days in which Christ was being formed in her, the impulse was his impulse.

Many women, if they were expecting a child, would refuse to hurry over the hills on a visit of pure kindness. They would say they had a duty to themselves and to their unborn child which came before anything or anyone else.

The Mother of God considered no such thing. Elizabeth was going to have a child, too, and although Mary's own child was God, she could not forget Elizabeth's need—almost incredible to us, but characteristic of her.

She greeted her cousin Elizabeth, and at the sound of her voice, John quickened in his mother's womb and leapt for joy.

I am come, said Christ, that they may have life and may have it more abundantly. [Jn. 10, 10] Even before He was born His presence gave life.

With what piercing shoots of joy does this story of Christ unfold! First the conception of a child in a child's heart, and then this first salutation, an infant leaping for joy in his mother's womb, knowing the hidden Christ and leaping into life.

How did Elizabeth herself know what had happened to Our Lady? What made her realize that this little cousin who was so familiar to her was the mother of her God?

She knew it by the child within herself, by the quickening into life which was a leap of joy.

If we practice this contemplation taught and shown to us by Our Lady, we will find that our experience is like hers.

If Christ is growing in us, if we are at peace, recollected, because we know that however insignificant our life seems to be, from it He is forming Himself; if we go with eager wills, "in haste," to wherever our circumstances compel us, because we believe that He desires to be in that place, we shall find that we are driven more and more to act on the impulse of His love.

And the answer we shall get from others to those impulses will be an awakening into life, or the leap into joy of the already wakened life within them.

~from The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander.

Mary proclaims the greatness of the Lord working in her soul

~by St. Bede the Venerable

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour. With these words Mary first acknowledges the special gifts she has been given. Then she recalls God’s universal favours, bestowed unceasingly on the human race.

When a man devotes all his thoughts to the praise and service of the Lord, he proclaims God’s greatness. His observance of God’s commands, moreover, shows that he has God’s power and greatness always at heart. His spirit rejoices in God his saviour and delights in the mere recollection of his creator who gives him hope for eternal salvation.

These words are often for all God’s creations, but especially for the Mother of God. She alone was chosen, and she burned with spiritual love for the son she so joyously conceived. Above all other saints, she alone could truly rejoice in Jesus, her saviour, for she knew that he who was the source of eternal salvation would be born in time in her body, in one person both her own son and her Lord.

For the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. Mary attributes nothing to her own merits. She refers all her greatness to the gift of the one whose essence is power and whose nature is greatness, for he fills with greatness and strength the small and the weak who believe in him.

She did well to add: and holy is his name, to warn those who heard, and indeed all who would receive his words, that they must believe and call upon his name. For they too could share in everlasting holiness and true salvation according to the words of the prophet: and it will come to pass, that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. This is the name she spoke of earlier: and my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.

Therefore it is an excellent and fruitful custom of holy Church that we should sing Mary’s hymn at the time of evening prayer. By meditating upon the incarnation, our devotion is kindled, and by remembering the example of God’s Mother, we are encouraged to lead a life of virtue. Such virtues are best achieved in the evening. We are weary after the day’s work and worn out by our distractions. The time for rest is near, and our minds are ready for contemplation.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Excommunication of attempted women's ordination

~from the CDF
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

General Decree
On the delict of attempted sacred ordination of a woman

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in virtue of the special faculty granted to it by the Supreme Authority of the Church (cf. Can. 30, Code of Canon Law), in order to safeguard the nature and validity of the sacrament of Holy Orders, decreed, on the Ordinary Session of December 19, 2007:

In accordance with what is disposed by Can. 1378 of the Code of Canon Law, he who shall have attempted to confer holy orders on a woman, as well as the woman who may have attempted to receive Holy Orders, incurs in a latae sententiae excommunication, reserved to the Apostolic See.

If he who shall have attempted to confer Holy Orders on a woman or if the woman who shall have attempted to received Holy Orders is a faithful bound to the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches, he is to be punished with the major excommunication, whose remission remains reserved to the Apostolic See, in accordance with can. 1443 of the same Code (cf. can. 1423, Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches).

The present decree enters in force immediately after its publication in L’Osservatore Romano.

William Cardinal Levada
Angelo Amato, s.d.b.
Titular Archbishop of Sila

Consecration to the Sacred Heart

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, to Thee I consecrate and offer up my person and my life, my actions, trials, and sufferings, that my entire being may henceforth only be employed in loving, honoring and glorifying Thee. This is my irrevocable will, to belong entirely to Thee, and to do all for Thy love, renouncing with my whole heart all that can displease Thee.

I take Thee, O Sacred Heart, for the sole object of my love, the protection of my life, the pledge of my salvation, the remedy of my frailty and insconstancy, the reparation for all the defects of my life, and my secure refuge at the hour of my death. Be Thou, O Most Merciful Heart, my justification before God Thy Father, and screen me from His anger which I have so justly merited. I fear all from my own weakness and malice, but placing my entire confidence in Thee, O Heart of Love, I hope all from Thine infinite Goodness. Annihilate in me all that can displease or resist Thee. Imprint Thy pure love so deeply in my heart that I may never forget Thee or be separated from Thee.

I beseech Thee, through Thine infinite Goodness, grant that my name be engraved upon Thy Heart, for in this I place all my happiness and all my glory, to live and to die as one of Thy devoted servants.


Devotion to the Sacred Heart

"And He showed me that it was His great desire of being loved by men and of withdrawing them from the path of ruin into which Satan hurls such crowds of them, that made Him form the design of manifesting His Heart to men, with all the treasures of love, of mercy, of grace, of sanctification and salvation which it contains, in order that those who desire to render Him and procure for Him all the honor and love possible, might themselves be abundantly enriched with those divine treasures of which this Heart is the source.

He should be honored under the figure of this Heart of flesh, and its image should be exposed...He promised me that wherever this image should be exposed with a view to showing it special honor, He would pour forth His blessings and graces. This devotion was the last effort of His love that He would grant to men in these latter ages, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan which He desired to destroy, and thus to introduce them into the sweet liberty of the rule of His love, which He wished to restore in the hearts of all those who should embrace this devotion."..... "The devotion is so pleasing to Him that He can refuse nothing to those who practice it."

~from Revelations of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

With you is the source of life

~by St. Bonaventure

Take thought now, redeemed man, and consider how great and worthy is he who hangs on the cross for you. His death brings the dead to life, but at his passing heaven and earth are plunged into mourning and hard rocks are split asunder.

It was a divine decree that permitted one of the soldiers to open his sacred side with a lance. This was done so that the Church might be formed from the side of Christ as he slept the sleep of death on the cross, and so that the Scripture might be fulfilled: ‘They shall look on him whom they pierced’. The blood and water which poured out at that moment were the price of our salvation. Flowing from the secret abyss of our Lord’s heart as from a fountain, this stream gave the sacraments of the Church the power to confer the life of grace, while for those already living in Christ it became a spring of living water welling up to life everlasting.

Arise, then, beloved of Christ! Imitate the dove ‘that nests in a hole in the cliff’, keeping watch at the entrance ‘like the sparrow that finds a home’. There like the turtledove hide your little ones, the fruit of your chaste love. Press your lips to the fountain, ‘draw water from the wells of your Saviour; for this is the spring flowing out of the middle of paradise, dividing into four rivers’, inundating devout hearts, watering the whole earth and making it fertile.

Run with eager desire to this source of life and light, all you who are vowed to God’s service. Come, whoever you may be, and cry out to him with all the strength of your heart. “O indescribable beauty of the most high God and purest radiance of eternal light! Life that gives all life, light that is the source of every other light, preserving in everlasting splendour the myriad flames that have shone before the throne of your divinity from the dawn of time! Eternal and inaccessible fountain, clear and sweet stream flowing from a hidden spring, unseen by mortal eye! None can fathom your depths nor survey your boundaries, none can measure your breadth, nothing can sully your purity. From you flows ‘the river which gladdens the city of God’ and makes us cry out with joy and thanksgiving in hymns of praise to you, for we know by our own experience that ‘with you is the source of life, and in your light we see light’.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Story of Redemption

...for children and set to Psalm tones and other well-known chants such as Conditor alme siderum. Save a copy to your hard drive. Hat tip to TNLM. The entire book is found at the Musica Sacra website. Here's a screen shot of one of the pages.

I love the introduction to the book explaining what the book is all about.

The law of the Lord is manifold

~by Pope St. Gregory

If only God would show you how manifold is his law. How must we interpret this law of God? How, if not by love? The love that stamps the precepts of right-living on the mind and bids us put them into practice. Listen to Truth speaking of this law: This is my commandment, that you love one another. Listen to Paul: The whole law, he declares, is summed up in love; and again: Help one another in your troubles, and you will fulfil the law of Christ. The law of Christ – does anything other than love more fittingly describe it? Truly we are keeping this law when, out of love, we go to the help of a brother in trouble.

But we are told that this law is manifold. Why? Because love’s lively concern for others is reflected in all the virtues. It begins with two commands, but it soon embraces many more. Paul gives a good summary of its various aspects. Love is patient, he says, and kind; it is never jealous or conceited; its conduct is blameless; it is not ambitious, not selfish, not quick to take offence; it harbours no evil thoughts, does not gloat over other people’s sins, but is gladdened by an upright life.

The man ruled by this love shows his patience by bearing wrongs with equanimity; his kindness by generously repaying good for evil. Jealousy is foreign to him. It is impossible to envy worldly success when he has no worldly desires. He is not conceited. The prizes he covets lie within; outward blessings do not elate him. His conduct is blameless, for he cannot do wrong in devoting himself entirely to love of God and his neighbour. He is not ambitious. The welfare of his own soul is what he cares about. Apart from that he seeks nothing. He is not selfish. Unable to keep anything he has in this world, he is as indifferent to it as if it were another’s. Indeed, in his eyes nothing is his own but what will be so always. He is not quick to take offence. Even under provocation, thought of revenge never crosses his mind. The reward he seeks hereafter will be greater in proportion to his endurance. He harbours no evil thoughts. Hatred is utterly rooted out of a heart whose only love is goodness. Thoughts that defile a man can find no entry. He does not gloat over other people’s sins. No; an enemy’s fall affords him no delight, for loving all men, he longs for their salvation.

On the other hand, he is gladdened by an upright life. Since he loves others as himself, he takes as much pleasure in whatever good he sees in them as if the progress were his own. That is why this law of God is manifold.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

St. Joan Scream

The Curt Jester's visual commentary on the St. Joan parish mess of a liturgy for Palm to make sport of the ridiculous:

Barbarians at the gate

~Anthony Esolen writes in Mere Comments about barbarians of old and of our own time.
Here, then, is the first mark of the barbarian: the inability to appreciate the beautiful, the noble, or the grand. Dante says that when the barbarians invaded Rome during the fifth century and caught sight of the church of Saint John Lateran, they went dumb with wonder. Livy says that when the first Gauls invaded Rome and saw the streets empty and the great houses empty -- empty, that is, except for stern old men here and there within, dressed in the senatorial togas, awaiting their death -- they too were for a time stupefied. Those barbarians at least had sense enough to be impressed, before they began their sprees of destruction. In general, the barbarian, whether on the steppes of Asia or of the Capitol, has had a life ground down to mud by physical necessities or, perhaps, by stultifying indolence, and can manage only to be impressed by what is big or flashy or brazen, the subtle traceries of beauty escaping him altogether.

So in Kalamazoo the barbarians congregated to have a pseudo-learned blast laughing and sneering at what they could not understand, or what they had not even the self-awareness and humility to confess that they could not understand. The age that stippled the continent of Europe with buildings of incomparable beauty, massive and soaring and delicate all at once, that invented the university, and far-flung capitalism, and the chivalric romance; that gave us the great and wise Dante and the greater and wiser addle-pated Francis, that age had to be "honored" with papers on "fecopoetics" and "menstruating male mystics" and Xena, Warrior Princess. If only a fireman from Ray Bradbury's incisive dystopia would show up, to put us all out of our jobs and our misery. "Geoffrey Chaucer, eh?" he chuckles in his cockney patois. "Lots of bleedin' potty trainin' in there. No use. Burn the dirty bugger." It would be a better fate for that old customs officer, wouldn't it? As it would be a better fate for the Nike of Samothrace to be ground at once to marble powder than to be made a mockery of, defaced and dissolved by barbarians passing by with their outlandish credentials, using it as a convenient post to relieve themselves upon.
A brand-new academic discipline called "fecopoetics" invented by a woman whose son was going through potty-training. Sigh! Recycling the Literary Decadent Movement...Who are the barbarians here? Some people have waaay too much time on their hands. Stultifying indolence, indeed!

Encyclicals in miniature

~More on the book by Giuseppi De Carli, Benedictus: Servus Servorum Dei from Zenit
Benedict XVI is an effective communicator, not just because every talk he gives is like an "encyclical in miniature," but because there is a secret to his efficacy, affirmed the author of a biography of the Pope.

That secret, says Giuseppe De Carli, is the beauty "that convinces almost more than rational arguments: love, friendship with God, the joy of being Christian. ... Tell me that this is not a Pope who is happy to be Christian."...

...De Carli described the present Pontiff as the "father of the Church of our time, a great catechist, a theologian-pastor or a pastor-theologian."

"We have gone from the communicative and charismatic eruption of John Paul II to a kind of effective communicative minimalism with Pope Ratzinger," the author proposed. "It is effective because it is not supported by the physicality of gestures."

Every talk given by Benedict XVI is an "encyclical in miniature," De Carli said. The Pope's intellectual profile "is that of one who knows how to teach," and "his public, in its many-sidedness, would be surprised by an advertiser."

De Carli suggested: "Pope Wojtyla's style was centrifugal -- he obliged the media to abandon all logic and follow him toward everything and everyone. Benedict XVI's style is centripetal -- he obliges the media to turn toward the mystery that the Church represents with its liturgical tradition.

"From that which has been seen so far, it is a pontificate of concentration and deepening. [...] The fulcrum of the Christian faith is charity, love, it is the only thing that can give a prospect of hope and then rationality and the beauty of the faith.

"I believe that he is a pastor who says much to the people of our time, those who believe and also those who don't believe."

Papal Photo of the Day

...where Pope Benedict XVI demonstrates how he is atune to the world...behold, his shoulder satellite dish.

REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

General Audience: On Pope St. Gregory the Great

Pope Benedict XVI waves as he arrives to lead his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican May 28, 2008. REUTERS/Dario Pignatelli (VATICAN)

~translation via Papa Ratzinger Forum

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last Wednesday I spoke of a Father of The Church who is little known in the West, Romanus the Melodist. Today, I wish to present the figure of one of the greatest Fathers in the history of the Church, one of the four Doctors of the West, Pope St. Gregory, who was Bishop of Rome from 590-604, and who has earned the traditional title of Magnus or Great.

Gregory was truly a great Pope and a great Doctor of the Church. Born in Rome around 540 to a rich patrician family of the Anicia clan, which had distinguished itself not only by noble blood, but also for its dedication to the Christian faith and for services rendered to the Apostolic See.

The family also gave the Church two other Popes, Felix III (483-492), great great grand-uncle of Gregory, and Agapitus (535-536.

The house where Gregory grew was on the Clivus Scauri, surrounded by solemn edifices that testified to the grandeur of ancient Rome and the spiritual force of Christianity.

Inspiring him to elevated Christian sentiments were the examples of his parents Gordianus and Silvia, both of them also venerated as saints, and those of his two paternal aunts, Emiliana and Tarsilia, who lived at home as consecrated virgins in a life of prayer and asceticism.

Gregory entered early into an administrative career, following his father, and culminating in becoming Prefect of Rome in 572. This office, complicated by the sadness of the times, allowed him to apply himself to a vast range of administrative problems, bringing light to them for his future tasks.

In particular, a profound sense of order and discipline remained with him. As Pope, he suggested to the bishops to model themselves in the management of church affairs after the diligence and respect for law shown by civilian functionaries.

But this life must not have satisfied him, because much later, he decided to leave every civilian responsibility to retire and start a monastic life, transforming the family home into the monastery of St. Andrew in Celio.

This period of monastic life, a life of permanent dialog with the Lord and listening to his Word, left him with a perennial nostalgia which always and ever more became apparent in his homilies. In the middle of nagging pastoral worries and concerns, he would recall it many times in his writings as a happy time spent in contemplation of God, dedicated to prayer and serene immersion in study. That is how he was able to acquire a profound knowledge of Sacred Scriptures and the Fathers of the Church which served him later in his own works.

But Gregory's cloistered retreat did not last long. The invaluable experience that matured in civilian administration during a time of serious problems, the relationships he had developed with the Byzantine world while in office, the universal esteem that he had earned, led Pope Pelagius to name him a deacon and send him to Constantinople as his 'apocrisarius' [ambassador to the imperial court], which we would call Apostolic Nuncio today, in order to help over come the last after-effects of the monophysite controversy [controversy between the Church of Alexandria and the Church of Antioch, each of which tended to emphasize only one aspect of Christ's nature - either the divine or the human], and above all, to get the Byzantine emperor's support in Roman efforts to contain the pressure from Longobard (Lombard) invaders. [The Longobards were a Germanic people originally from Northern Europe who settled in the valley of the Danube and from there invaded Byzantine Italy in 568.]

His stay in Constantinople, where he resumed the monastic life with a group of monks, was most important for Gregory, because it gave him direct experience in the Byzantine world, as well as with facing the Longobard problem, which would later severely test his ability and energies during his Pontificate.

After several years, he was recalled to Rome by the Pope, who named him his secretary. Those were difficult years: continuous rains, flooding and famine afflicted many areas of Italy and Rome itself. Towards the end, there was an eruption of plague which took numerous victims, among them Pope Pelagius II himself.

The clergy, the people and the Senate were unanimous in choosing Gregory himself to be his successor on Peter's Chair. He tried to resist this, even attempting to flee, but he had no choice: In the end, he had to yield. It was the year 590.

Recognizing that this was the will of God, the new Pope immediately set to work apace. From the beginning, he showed a singularly lucid vision of the reality against which he had to measure himself, an extraordinary capacity for work in both ecclesiastical and civilian affairs, a constant equilibrium in the decisions, often courageous, that the office imposed on him.

There exists ample documentation of his governance, thanks to a registry of his letters (almost 800), in which he reflected on his daily confrontation with the complex questions that came to his desk - questions that came from bishops, abbots, priests, and even civilian authorities of every order and rank.

Among the problems that afflicted Italy and Rome in those days was one which was particularly outstanding in both the civilian and ecclesiastical fields: the Lombard question, to which the Pope dedicated every possible energy towards a truly peacemaking solution.

In contrast to the Byzantine Emperor who started from the premise that the Longobards were simply crude predators to be defeated or exterminated, St. Gregory saw them with the eyes of a good pastor, concerned with announcing to them the word of salvation and establishing fraternal relationships with them for a future peace founded on reciprocal respect and peaceful coexistence among Italians, the subjects of empire and the Lombards themselves.

He concerned himself with the conversion of the new peoples in Italy and the new civilian order in Europe. The Visigoths in Spain, the Franks, the Saxons, the immigrants to Britain and the Lombards were the priority objects of his evangelizing mission.

Yesterday, we observed the liturgical commemoration of St. Augustine of Canterbury, the head of a group of monks tasked by Gregory to go to Britain to evangelize that land.

To obtain peace from the barbarian incursions in Rome and Italy, the Pope committed himself thoroughly - he was a true peacemaker - undertaking detailed negotiations with the Lombard king Agilulfo. These negotiations led to a truce that lasted three years (598-601), after which it became possible to stipulate a more stable armistice in 603.

This positive outcome was also helped by parallel contacts which, in the meantime, the Pope had with Queen Theodolinda, a Bavarian princess, who unlike the heads of other Germanic peoples [who invaded Italy] , was Catholic, profoundly Catholic. A series of letters of Pope Gregory to that queen has been conserved, which reveals his esteem and friendship for her. Theodolinda managed gradually to lead the king himself to Catholicism, thus paving the way for peace.

The Pope also took upon himself to send the queen relics for the Basilica of St. John the Baptist which she had ordered built in Monza [northern Italy, near Milan, capital of what became the Lombardy region], and he did not fail to send his best wishes and precious gifts for this Basilica on the occasion of the birth and baptism of Theodolinda's son Adaloaldo. The episode of Queen Theodolinda constitutes a beautiful testimony of the importance of women in the history of the Church.

Basically, the three objectives that Pope Gregory aimed for constantly were: to contain the expansion of the Lombards in Italy; to take away Theodolinda from the influence of schismatics and to reinforce her Catholic faith; and to mediate between the Lombards and the Byzantines towards an agreement that would guarantee peace in the Italian peninsula and at the same time allow evangelical activity to be undertaken among the Lombards.

Therefore, he had a constant two-sided orientation in these complex events: to promote his objectives on the he political and diplomatic levels; and to to spread the proclamation of the true faith among the people.

Besides his spiritual and pastoral activities, Pope Gregory was also an active protagonist in many forms of social work. With the income from the conspicuous patrimony that the Roman See possessed in Italy, especially in Sicily, he bought and distributed grains, assisted those who were in need, helped priests, monks and nuns who lived in indigence, ransomed citizens who were captured by the Lombards, negotiated armistices and truces.

Besides this, he carried out in Rome and other parts of Italy a careful administrative reorganization, with precise instructions that the goods of the Church necessary for its subsistence and evangelizing work should be managed with absolute rectitude and according to the rules of justice and mercy.

He demanded that the people be protected from the deceptions of the concessionaires of Church properties, and that in case of fraud, they should be promptly restituted so that the face of Christ's Bride would not be smirched by dishonest profits.

Gregory carried out these intense activities despite ill health which often forced him to stay in bed for many days. The fasts he observed during his monastic years had resulted in serious disturbances to his digestive system. His voice was so weakened that he often had to entrust his deacon with reading his homilies so that the faithful in the Roman basilicas could hear them.

But he did everything possible to celebrate the Missarum sollemnia, the Solemn Mass, himself on religious feast days, during which he personally encountered the People of God, for whom he felt great affection, because he saw them as the authoritative reference point from which to draw certitude. There is reason he was soon being called consul Dei.

Notwithstanding the most difficult circumstances in which he had to operate, he succeeded - thanks to the sanctity of his life and his rich humanity - in winning the confidence of the faithful, achieving for his time and for the future results that were truly grandiose.

He was a man immersed in god. The desire for God was always very vivid in him, and because of this, he was very close to his fellowmen, to the needs of the people of his time.

In a disastrous and desperate time, he knew how to create peace and hope. This man of God shows us where the true springs of peace are, from where true hope comes, and is thus a leader and guide even for us today.

All my hope lies in your great mercy

~from St. Augustine's Confessions

Where did I find you in order to make your acquaintance in the first place? You could not have been in my memory before I learned to know you. Where then could I have found you in order to learn of you, if not in yourself, far above me? “Place” has here no meaning: further away from you or toward you we may travel, but place there is none. O Truth, you hold sovereign sway over all who turn to you for counsel, and to all of them you respond at the same time, however diverse their pleas.

Clear is your response, but not all hear it clearly. They all appeal to you about what they want, but do not always hear what they want to hear. Your best servant is the one who is less intent on hearing from you what accords with his own will, and more on embracing with his will what he has heard from you.

Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.

When at last I cling to you with my whole being there will be no more anguish or labour for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you. But now it is very different. Anyone whom you fill you also uplift; but I am not full of you, and so I am a burden to myself. Joys over which I ought to weep do battle with sorrows that should be matter for joy, and I do not know which will be victorious. But I also see griefs that are evil at war in me with joys that are good, and I do not know which will win the day. This is agony, Lord, have pity on me! It is agony! See, I do not hide my wounds; you are the physician and I am sick; you are merciful, I in need of mercy.

Is not human life on earth a time of testing? Who would choose troubles and hardships? You command us to endure them, but not to love them. No-one loves what he has to endure, even if he loves the endurance, for although he may rejoice in his power to endure, he would prefer to have nothing that demands endurance. In adverse circumstances I long for prosperity, and in times of prosperity I dread adversity. What middle ground is there, between these two, where human life might be free from trial? Woe betide worldly prosperity, and woe again, from fear of disaster and evanescent joy! But woe, woe, and woe again upon worldly adversity, from envy of better fortune, the hardship of adversity itself, and the fear that endurance may falter. Is not human life on earth a time of testing without respite?
On your exceedingly great mercy, and on that alone, rests all my hope.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seeing anew

Daily living inures us to the simple beauty in nature. Living in Suburbia where manicured lawns and rigorously-planned garden beds tended by day laborers may give the person driving by a sense of orderedness and for one fleeting moment, the arrow of beauty pierces the eye. But life is too hurried and harried to enjoy it. The business of earning our keep so that the gardens may be tended keeps us in that surface, superficial relationship to nature.

This is one of the reasons why an annual retreat to the mountains is so necessary for recovering a sense of the sacred. Today's hike brought us to the middle of the deep woods, an icy-cold mountain stream gurgled by, the stones smoothed by years and years of watery assault and then we saw: bank upon bank of mountain laurel, pristine white and pale pink bell-like blossoms weighed down by last night's rain. It was a breath-taking scene in that early morning pale light where shadows were still long and colors were softly hued. The birds' calling pierced the air with their morning greeting, and the scent of wild honeysuckle hung like a gentle cloud. Eliade called moments like these as hierophanies...and when I allowed for the scales of my life-wearied eyes to see, here was the sacred written in nature, all time stopped....God whispered and I could hear faintly: All shall be well, you shall see for yourself that all manner of things shall be well (see Julian of Norwich, also Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot).

Bragging rights

...a bumpersticker seen on a car today:
My child is an honors student in the state correctional facility.
Almost as funny as a church sign that read thus:
Some minds are like cement, all mixed up.

The Evangelizing Power of Beauty

~Here's an excerpt from GodSpy on Beauty by John Murphy. He retells the story of Joshua Bell, the world-class violin virtuoso's experience of playing the the Washington DC's L'Enfant Metro Station during rush hour. Who stopped to listen and who didn't stop to listen? Did anyone care about transcendence? Will Beauty save the world or are we relegated instead to a world of banality? I was thinking a great deal about this sitting in the little country church last Sunday. In the midst of the fields of corn, wheat, and cotton, this little country church managed to retain that vision of beauty with its native stone walls and timbered ceiling, and the tabernacle in front under a beautiful carved crucifix and all 'round were the carved wooden Stations of the Cross.
The folksy liturgy is supposed to appeal to the younger generation. It’s supposed to make the mass “more accessible.” This is condescending to kids who know better. Recall that the only people who stopped to listen to Joshua Bell play classical music were under the age of ten, and then ask yourself who has the more sophisticated taste. Going to church must offer us something that we do not get from the wider culture or else what’s the point? It’s the sacred liturgy. Treating it as a diluted rock concert is silly, for the simple reason that somewhere else in town (or even at home on a pair of headphones) any kid can experience a better rock concert.

The mass is intrinsically true and good and would be so under any conditions, but the faithful ignore beauty at their own peril. As humans, we are attracted to beauty. Or as Aquinas put it, “Grace builds on Nature.” We experience life through our senses. Beauty, therefore, can make a more effective tool of evangelization than an appeal to the intellect (truth) or an appeal to the conscience (goodness), both of which are innate in Catholic teaching and will inevitably follow the initial encounter. A perfect example is St. Augustine, whose conversion was prompted by the music of the sacred liturgy: “How I wept, deeply moved by your hymns, songs, and the voices that echoed through your Church! What emotion I experienced in them! Those sounds flowed into my ears, distilling the truth in my heart.” Would St. Augustine ever have experienced his conversion sitting in a pew being subjected to an off-key rendering of “On Eagle’s Wings”?

Another example is the Romantic writer, Chateaubriand, who longed for a Catholic renewal in France after the revolution’s stripping of the altars. Sitting in a bare Protestant church, Chateaubriand dreamed of “chants, pictures, ornaments, silk veils, draperies, laces, gold, silver, lamps, flowers, and incense of the altars.” That may seem like a litany of artificiality, but it speaks to a profound truth—the Catholic mass satisfies a fundamental human longing for beauty, a beauty that indexes the greater, more powerful beauty of God.

Artists throughout the ages have been inspired by their faith to produce works of abiding, enduring beauty. A catalogue of Christianity’s contribution to cultural beauty could fill the Alexandrian library..... living works of art, beautiful prayers to God.

...There is a mistaken assumption that faith is limiting, a pre-established frame that artists must squeeze their work into. Flannery O’Connor wrote in her essay collection, Mystery and Manners, “When people have told me that because I am a Catholic, I cannot be an artist, I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am a Catholic, I cannot afford to be less than an artist.’” Why? Because the creative act echoes the initial act of creation: God bringing the world into being, much as a painter labors over his canvas or a composer her symphony. God loves what He created, and Christ’s Passion proves His willingness to die for His work of art. Christ’s death on the Cross was a revelation in artistic as well as salvific terms—the powerful, haunting beauty of suffering even unto death when love is the motivating force.

The fact of Original Sin makes ignoring humanity’s fallen state impossible for the artist, which is why the Christian mode of beauty can have a sublime terror or despair, as in Michelangelo’s Last Judgment or Górecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. With reference to the unblinking naturalism of O’Connor’s prose, the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote, “The tightrope that the Catholic writer must walk is to forget or ignore nothing of the visually, morally, humanly sordid world, making nothing easy for the reader, while doing so in the name of a radical conviction that depends on that world being interrupted and transfigured by revelation.” Thus, Christian faith does not limit but rather expands an artist’s sensibility for the simple reason that Christianity is all-inclusive of joy and suffering, hope and despair, sin and redemption. As JRR Tolkien put it, “there is no story without the fall.”

By becoming “subcreators” with God of authentically beautiful art that is both of its time and suffused with perennial truth, artists can participate in a new kind of evangelization. In the words of Image journal editor Gregory Wolfe, “Beauty is making a comeback.” (His own journal testifies to this). Ron Hansen’s slim, haunting novel, Mariette in Ecstasy, published in 1992, belongs on a shortlist of the great Catholic novels. Another recent example was the remarkable success of The Passion of the Christ, with its Caravaggio-inspired visual scheme. More telling, perhaps, is the spate of secular art that taps into the deep vein of Christian philosophy—the bruising beauty and life-affirming message of Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men, the sophisticated albums of singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, the near-biblical pitch of Cormac McCarthy’s prose, or the Christ-infused finale of the Harry Potter series. The experience of great art, whether religious or secular, nearly always has a spiritual dimension—an interstice in daily life where the luminous eternal breaks through.

The luminous eternal is truth, goodness, and beauty. Of the three, beauty may be the best proselytizing force because we respond to it willingly, happily. Whether the object of our attention is a striking painting, a lyrical prose passage, or a glorious piece of music, humans are hardwired to delight in beautiful things. To adopt Oscar Wilde’s formula, Beauty is higher than Genius because it needs no explanation. It simply is. That is why modern art relies so much on theory.

Beauty is not just icing on the cake; beauty is substantial, essential. In his introduction to the Glory of the Lord, the great theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar addressed the mystery of beauty and its utter necessity. I leave him with the final, eloquent word:

“Beauty is the disinterested one, without which the ancient world refused to understand itself, a word which both imperceptibly and yet unmistakably has bid farewell to our new world, a world of interests, leaving it to its own avarice and sadness. No longer loved or fostered by religion, beauty is lifted from its face as a mask, and its absence exposes features on that face which threaten to become incomprehensible to man. We no longer dare to believe in beauty and we make of it a mere appearance in order the more easily to dispose of it. Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past – whether he admits it or not – can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”

Monday, May 26, 2008

Archbishop Naumann answers questions

~Archbishop Naumann's call to Kansas Governor Sebelius to repent of her pro-abort stand generated much discussion among Catholics and in the media. Here's Abp. Naumann answering some of the questions posed to him following his exhortation to Gov. Sebelius. I like his unequivocal style.
Q. What is meant when it is said that Gov. Sebelius’ actions were scandalous?

A. To answer this question, I again refer to “Happy Are Those Who Are Called to His Supper,” which references the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “To give scandal means more than to cause other people to be shocked or upset by what one does. Rather, one’s action leads someone else to sin. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. To lead others into sin is indeed a very serious matter. Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged” (no. 4).
Governor Sebelius’ public support for legalized abortion, as a Catholic, naturally leads others to question the moral gravity of abortion. In effect, her actions and advocacy for legalized abortion, coupled with her reception of holy Communion, have said to other Catholics: “I am a good Catholic and I support legalized abortion. You can be a good Catholic and support legalized abortion.”

Q. How can the church require the governor to fail to uphold her oath of office to enforce the laws and court decisions of the state and federal government?

A. No one has asked the governor not to uphold her oath of office. However, the governor does have an obligation, as a Catholic, to express her opposition to laws and judicial decisions that fail to protect the lives of the innocent and to do all in her power to work to change the law. She has a responsibility to use her exceptional leadership abilities to extend the maximum protection possible under the current limitations imposed by the Supreme Court.

Q. The governor claims that the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act that she vetoed was unconstitutional and would jeopardize the privacy rights of women. Is it fair for the church to attempt to force her to sign bad laws by requesting she not receive Communion?

A. My initial request for the governor not to present herself for Communion was before her veto of the Comprehensive Abortion Reform Act. I challenged the governor to produce a single instance in her legislative or executive career where she has supported any effort to limit abortions. In the 1980s and 1990s, as a state representative, she voted to weaken or eliminate even such modest measures as parental notification for teens, waiting periods, or informed consent protections for women before an abortion. When Gov. Sebelius was running for reelection in 2006, she was profiled on Emily’s List Web site and quoted as saying: “I have always led the fight to ensure that abortion is safe, legal and rare.” Emily’s List is a political action committee that only supports women candidates who support legalized abortion. On that same Web site it stated: “As governor she (Kathleen Sebelius) has vetoed legislation to severely limit women’s choices.” My request for the governor not to present herself for Communion, was not about any one action, but a 30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.

Q. Is it not wrong for the church to attempt to impose its religious beliefs on others?

A. While one can be a faithful Catholic and support a wide diversity of strategies on the vast majority of issues, it is not possible to compromise on the sanctity of human life.
For the Catholic in public life, the unequivocal defense of such a fundamental human right is not imposing one’s Catholic faith upon others. The fact that the church addresses the morality of such a basic right does not make this an exclusively religious issue. Just as supporting public policies that prohibit stealing, racism, or murder — moral issues also very clearly addressed by the church — is not an imposition of Catholic doctrine, neither is advocating for policies that protect human life in its earliest stages.

Q. Governor Sebelius says that she is personally opposed to abortion, but she supports the law protecting the right of others to choose an abortion. Why is this not a morally acceptable position?

A. Freedom of choice is not an absolute value. All of our laws limit our choices. I am not free to drive while intoxicated or to take another’s property or to assault someone else. My freedom ends when I infringe on the more basic rights of another. On a similarly grave moral issue 150 years ago, Stephen Douglas, in his famous debates with the future President Abraham Lincoln, attempted to craft his position as not favoring slavery but of the right of people in new states and territories, such as Kansas, to choose to sanction slavery. Being pro-choice on a fundamental matter of human rights was not a morally coherent argument in the 1850s, nor is it today. No one has the right to choose to enslave another human being, just as no one has the right to kill another human being. No law or public policy has the authority to give legal protection to such an injustice.

Q. Is it not wrong for the church to deny Communion to someone because they support the law of the land?

A. First of all, it is important to recall our own history. We do not have permissive abortion public policies in our country because of a vote of the people. In fact, the 1973 Supreme Court decisions struck down all state laws prohibiting and/or restricting abortion. It is the court that has imposed its doctrine on the entire nation, prohibiting the people or their elective representatives from meaningfully limiting abortion. The recent decision of the California Supreme Court striking down the state ban on same-sex marriages is yet another illustration of the arrogance of the courts. Those who suggest that the church should alter its teaching and discipline on the issue of abortion because of our current public policy, in effect, want to extend the court’s authority to alter also the doctrine of church.

Q. The law does not force anyone to have an abortion. Why not just try to convince people not to have an abortion rather than work to change the law?

A. We must do both. We should do everything possible to persuade and influence others not to have an abortion. We must support crisis pregnancy centers that assist those experiencing an untimely pregnancy. However, the law does not just permit abortion, it “teaches” abortion. Our laws do not permit us, in any other instance, to take the life of an innocent person. The fact that the law permits abortion communicates, especially to the young, that abortion does not really destroy another human life. The number of abortions dramatically increased after the court struck down the state laws restricting abortions. One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to protect the innocent and the vulnerable.

Always rejoice in the Lord

~by St. Augustine

The Apostle commands us to rejoice, but in the Lord, not in the world. For, you see, as Scripture says, whoever wishes to be a friend of this world will be counted as God’s enemy. Just as a man cannot serve two masters, so too no-one can rejoice both in the world and in the Lord.

Let joy in the Lord win and go on winning, until people take no more joy in the world. Let joy in the Lord always go on growing, and joy in the world always go on shrinking until it is reduced to nothing. I do not mean that we should not rejoice as long as we are in this world, but that even while we do find ourselves in this world, we should already be rejoicing in the Lord.

Someone may argue, “I am in the world; so obviously, if I rejoice, I rejoice where I am”. What of it? Because you are in the world, does it mean that you are not in the Lord? Listen to the same Apostle in the Acts of the Apostles, speaking to the Athenians, and saying about God and about the Lord, our Creator, In him we live, and move, and are. Since he is everywhere, there is nowhere that he is not. Is it not precisely this that he is emphasising to encourage us? The Lord is very near; do not be anxious about anything.

This is something tremendous, that he ascended above all the heavens but is still very near to those who dwell on earth, wherever they may be. Who can this be that is both far away and close at hand, except the one who became our near neighbour out of mercy?

The whole of the human race, you see, is that man who was lying in the road, left there by robbers, half dead, who was ignored by the passing priest and Levite, while the passing Samaritan stopped by him to take care of him and help him; and when the Immortal, the Just, was far away from us mortals and sinners, he came down to us to become – that far distant being – our near neighbour.

He has not treated us according to our sins. For we are his children. How do we prove this? The only Son died for us so that he would not remain the only child. He did not want to be alone, who died alone. The only Son of God made many children for God. He bought himself brothers and sisters with his blood; rejected, he accepted us; sold, he bought us back; dishonoured, he honoured us; killed, he brought us life.

So then, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world; that is, rejoice in faithfulness and not in iniquity; rejoice in the hope of eternity and not the brief flower of vanity. Rejoice thus, and wherever you are here, as long as you are here, the Lord is very near: do not be anxious about anything.

St. Philip Neri

This gracious, cheerful saint was Rome's apostle of the sixteenth century (1515-1595). A peculiar charism was his burning love of God, a love that imperceptibly communicated itself to all about him. So ardently did this fire of divine love affect him during the octave of Pentecost in his twenty-ninth year that the beating of his heart broke two ribs. It was a wound that never healed.

For fifty years the saint lived on in the intensity of that love which was more at home in heaven than on earth. Through those fifty years his was an apostolate to renew the religious and ecclesiastical spirit of the Eternal City, a task he brought to a happy conclusion. It is to his credit that the practice of frequent holy Communion, long neglected in Rome and throughout the Catholic world, was again revived. He became one of Rome's patron saints, even one of the most popular.

Philip Neri loved the young, and they responded by crowding about him. As a confessor he was in great demand; among his penitents was St. Ignatius. To perpetuate his life's work, St. Philip founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a society of secular clergy without religious vows. The purpose of his foundation was to enkindle piety among the faithful by means of social gatherings which afforded not only entertainment but religious instruction as well. Joy and gaiety were so much a part of his normal disposition that Goethe, who esteemed him highly, called him the "humorous saint." It was his gay, blithe spirit that opened for him the hearts of children. "Philip Neri, learned and wise, by sharing the pranks of children himself became a child again" (epitaph).

As a youth Philip Neri often visited the seven principal churches of Rome. He spent entire nights at the catacombs, near the tombs of the martyrs, meditating on heavenly things. The liturgy was the wellspring of his apostolic spirit; it should likewise motivate us to Catholic Action.

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

Sunday, May 25, 2008

First Australian Bishopess

And now, the Australian Anglicans have consecrated their first bishopess. Hey, Ma, look, one handed Elevation! And huge host, too.

But why are they wearing copes during Consecration?


~So, did you hear the Sequence today at Mass? Here 'tis!

We were at a little country church in the middle of a cornfield. I didn't expect much, but liturgy was celebrated reverently and the homily was centered on the Institution of the Eucharist. No, there was no Sequence...when the OCP Music Issue is what's in the pews, chances are very high that the Sequence is omitted (call me biased, but personal experience bears it out)....though I checked the missalette and the instructions specified an English vernacular setting of the Sequence to be found in p. 214 to my best recollection.

An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil.

~by St. Gregory the Great

Some people are so simple that they do not know what uprightness is. Theirs is not the true simplicity of the innocent: they are as far from that as they are far from rising to the virtue of uprightness. As long as they do not know how to guard their steps by walking in uprightness, they can never remain innocent merely by walking in simplicity. This is why St Paul warns his disciples I hope that you are also wise in what is good, and innocent of what is bad but also Brothers, you are not to be childish in your outlook, though you can be babies as far as wickedness is concerned. Thus Christ our Truth enjoins his disciples with the words Be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. In giving them this admonition, he had to join the two together, so that both the simplicity of the dove might be instructed by the craftiness of the serpent, and the craftiness of the serpent might be attempered by the simplicity of the dove.

That is why the Holy Spirit has manifested his presence to mankind, not only in the form of a dove but also in the form of fire. For by the dove simplicity is indicated, and by fire, zeal. So he is manifested in a dove and in fire, because those who are full of the Spirit have the mildness of simplicity, but catch fire with zeal of uprightness against the offences of sinners.

An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil. Undoubtedly whoever longs for the eternal country lives sincerely and uprightly: perfect in practice, and right in faith, sincere in the good that he does in this lower state, right in the high truths which he minds in his inner self.

For there are some who are not sincere in the good actions that they do, looking not to be rewarded within themselves but to win favour from others. Hence it is well said by a certain wise man, Woe to the sinner who follows two ways. A sinner goes two ways when an action he performs belongs to God but what he aims at in his thought belongs to the world.

It is well said, who feared God and shunned evil, for the holy Church of the elect starts on the path of simplicity and of uprightness from fear but completes that path in charity. When, from the love of God, she feels an unwillingness to sin, then she may shun evil. But when she is still doing good deeds from fear then she is not entirely shunning evil: the fact is that she would have sinned if she could have sinned without being punished.

So then: when Job is said to have feared God, it is rightly related that he also shunned evil. Fear comes first and charity follows later; and when that has happened, the offence which is left behind in the mind is trodden underfoot by the desires of the heart.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

To show your PODness

A man holds a plastic figure depicting Pope Benedict XVI at the 97th German Katholikentag, or Catholic Church assembly, in Osnabrueck, northern Germany, on Friday, May 23, 2008. The figures are meant to be fixed in the car. The traditional gathering of German Catholics that takes place every two years in different cities is expected to attract some 34,000 people. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

I would love to have one of these to hang from my rearview mirror. What's hanging from your rearview mirror? I have a rosary made for me by a Third Order Carmelite that I use to pray while driving long distances. I'm thinking of a way to hang a holy card of Our Lady of Perpetual Help given by Fr. B to mark his ordination. And then there's this tiny Vladimir Madonna icon bought at a gift shop in the Vatican. I'm also looking for a good spray bottle to put holy water in.

World Day of Prayer for Chinese Catholics

~from Asia News
The first gathering of Chinese Catholics in Italy received the greetings and blessing of the Pope through Card Ivan Dias, prefect for Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples. The occasion was the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, which the Pope set for the day Chinese Catholics celebrate Mary, Help for Christians, who is venerated at the Sheshan shrine, near Shanghai.

Cardinal Dias led the Mass in Rome’s Saint Mary Major Basilica along with hundreds of priests from the official and unofficial Church, as well as from other nationalities. He stressed that the unity expressed today by the Chinese is an important fruit of Benedict XVI’s work.

Often, under the pressure of the regime’s propaganda, Catholics from the official Church are afraid to publicly show their attachment to the Pope, concerned they might be accused of being anti-patriotic. By contrast underground Catholics tend to be intransigent towards official Catholics. But for the cardinal “in heaven there will be no official or underground Catholics because we shall all be children of God. And for the Pope this unity should also be seen on this earth.”

The prelate referred to the “suffering of the past”, calling on everyone to forgive past wrongs. He also highlighted recent signs of thawing relations between China and the Vatican like the 7 May concert by the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra which “offered by government authorities to the Holy Father” as well as the Pontiff’s appeal and prayers for the victims and survivors of the Sichuan earthquake.

Conducted with solemnity, the ceremony included songs in Chinese and prayers in Italian and Chinese. The presence of hundreds of Catholics friends of China and overseas Chinese, including some from Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan, marked the religious and non-political nature of the event.

Groups of Chinese immigrants came by bus or train from Milan, Treviso, Prato, Florence and Naples. Upon their arrival in Rome at dawn some visited St Peter’s Basilica and the Colosseum to remember Christian martyrs of every epoch, including those of China.

In the universal prayer during the Eucharist, prayers were recited for the Pope and Chinese authorities, but it was decided that no prayers should be said for the faithful in prison.

During the canon the “martyrs, especially those of China” were remembered.

At the end of the service the assembly recited the prayer Benedict XVI wrote for our Lady of Sheshan. Cardinal Dias reminded everyone present that today in all the churches of the world these words were recited in prayer, urging them to be united and undertake the evangelisation of China and of Chinese immigrant communities in Italy.
Fr. Z has links to various language sound clips of Pope Benedict's prayer.


~an excerpt from Zenit on Pope Benedict at the occasion of the book launch of Benedictus. Via Papa Ratzinger Forum
"The key to the person and the ministry of Benedict XVI is the love of God," the cardinal [Jose Saraiva Martins] said, affirming that the Pontiff's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, "represents the particularity of this Pontiff."

But the cardinal clarified what that love of God means: "Love is not a static attitude," but "a dynamism that, by definition, is something that spreads.

"It tends to continuously bring into play new energies," he affirmed. "Thus, love provokes the great questions, and therefore engenders philosophy and theology."

According to Cardinal Saraiva Martins, Benedictus documents "the development of the presence of Benedict XVI on the international scene of the third millennium, and shows how, step by step, the Pope is entering, with his reserved, stately style, into the hearts of the people."

The cardinal added that without leaving aside his intellectual depth, the Holy Father is "becoming the Pope of the people, because the people clearly perceive his message, even when it is full of uncomfortable truths, that is, demanding [truths] that call for a commitment."

The prelate continued: "He is always guided by a fatherly love that does not resign itself to seeing his children drown in mediocrity.

"And what, if not love, is his constant urging to combat the dictatorship of relativism, so thoroughly saturating our society?"

Regarding his presence on the international scene, the Holy Father's "role is not along the lines of appearing, but of being," Cardinal Saraiva Martins contended. "His very presence, even before his teaching, is for everyone a constant calling to live in love and in the search for truth."

His way of presenting himself "to the Church and the world is never invasive: his tone of voice lacks the slightest element of arrogance, his discreet, humble, cordial approach manages to open the hearts of many to his proposals."

Highway driving

~It's that time of the year for our annual retreat in the Cumberlands. Driving through the state of North Carolina last night was fascinating in that people were driving more slowly, under the speed limit of 70 speed demons. Also, traffic was lighter than usual for a Memorial holiday. Perhaps the nearly $4.00/gallon gas prices have kept people home.

Come to the Lord and receive enlightenment

~by St. Gregory of Agrigentum

Light is sweet, says Ecclesiastes, at the sight of the sun the eyes are glad. Take away light, and the world is without beauty. Take away light, and life itself is without life. Moses, a man who saw God, says God saw the light and said it was good. So it is right for us to contemplate the great, the true, the eternal light that enlightens every man that comes into the world – that is, Christ the saviour and redeemer of the world, who was made man and lived the human condition to its very end. Of him the prophet David says in the Psalms,
Sing to the Lord and celebrate his name!
Make a road for him who rides upon the clouds –
“The Lord” is his name.
Rejoice in his sight!
He called the light sweet and foretold that it would be good to see with his own eyes the Sun of glory, he who as God-in-man said I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will not be walking in the dark: he will have the light of life. And again: This is the judgement, that light has come into the world. In this way he used the light of the sun, which we perceive with our eyes, as a prefiguration of the coming of the Sun of justice. That Sun was sweet indeed for those who were found worthy to be taught by him and to see him with their own eyes just like any other man. He was not just any man, he was also the true God, and this is why he made the blind see, the lame walk and the deaf hear, this is why he cleansed people afflicted with leprosy and by his sole command called the dead back to life.

Moreover, even now , in the present, it is a most sweet activity to look on him with the eyes of the spirit, to contemplate his divine beauty and ponder it in our hearts. Thus through communion and togetherness we are enlightened and adorned, our spirits filled with sweetness and we ourselves wrapped in holiness as in a cloak. We attain understanding and finally we are filled with exultation in God which will last all the days of this our present life. As the wise preacher Ecclesiastes said, However great the number of years that a man may live, let him enjoy them all. Obviously the Sun of justice makes all who gaze on him rejoice. As the prophet David says:
The righteous are glad and exult in God’s sight;
they rejoice in their gladness.

Rejoice in the Lord, you just: it is good for the upright to praise him.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Just a gesture

~hat tip to Fr. Z, a report from CNS: Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling may not be permanent change. Why do I get the distinct feeling that people in certain quarters were scrambling to get clarification muy pronto?
The four dozen people who received Communion from Pope Benedict XVI on the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ received the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling.

Vatican officials said the gesture at the May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran does not mark a permanent change in papal liturgies, but highlighted the solemnity of the feast and a connection to Mass practices in the past.

As the pope prepared to distribute Communion, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar on the basilica steps. The chosen communicants -- laypeople, nuns, seminarians, priests and boys and girls who had received their first Communion in their parishes in May -- all knelt and received on the tongue.

Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand. The majority choose to receive on the tongue, but some reverently extend cradled hands to receive the Eucharist.

In a brief e-mail to Catholic News Service May 23, Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies, said the decision "was a solution adopted for (the feast of) Corpus Domini," but as for the future, "we'll see."

Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don, secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told CNS "there is no discussion" in the Vatican about insisting that those who receive Communion from the pope do so kneeling or that they receive it on the tongue rather than in their hands.

In addition, he said, "there are no new norms coming" that would change the Vatican's 1969 decision that local bishops could allow their faithful to receive the Eucharist in their hands while standing.

"But the gesture of the Holy Father" at the May 22 Mass "is to be appreciated. It brings out in a better way the fact that we adore the Lord whom we receive" in the Eucharist, Archbishop Ranjith said.

"It was a special occasion" because the feast focuses on Jesus truly present in the Eucharist, he said. "I hope this practice spreads."

In a preface to a January book about the beauty of receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling, Archbishop Ranjith had said he thought it was time for the Catholic Church to reconsider its decision to allow the faithful to receive Communion in the hand.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, assistant director of the Vatican press office, said he did not think the May 22 Mass marked a permanent change; "according to current norms the faithful may receive in the hand while standing," he said.

However, he said, the practice chosen for the special feast day was another example of what Msgr. Marini has said would be the practice at papal Masses, "alternating the old and new to indicate continuity with the past."

In his homily at the Mass, Pope Benedict spoke about the importance of "kneeling before the Lord, adoration that begins at the Mass itself and accompanies the entire (Corpus Christi) procession" through the streets of Rome.

"To adore the body of Christ means to believe that there, in that piece of bread, there really is Christ who gives meaning to our lives," the pope said in his homily.
What the heck is so scary about receiving on the tongue and kneeling? I mean, why is there such a mad rush squelching this show of devotion? OH, silly me, wrong ecclesiology! That's right, there's no need for that anymore.

I was in a group discussion once and a person said rather sneeringly, knowing that I receive on the tongue, "People who receive on their tongue think they're more holy than anyone else. And all those who kneel during Mass think they're more Catholic than the Church." (In reference to our diocesan norms of remaining standing after the Agnus Dei and after reception of Holy Communion). He was looking directly at me while he spoke.

What Kind of Thinker are You?

~swiped from Utter Muttering

Your Thinking is Abstract and Sequential

You like to do research and collect lots of information.
The more facts you have, the easier it is for you to learn.

You need to figure things out for yourself and consider all possibilities.
You tend to become an expert in the subjects that you study.

It's difficult for you to work with people who know less than you do.
You aren't a very patient teacher, and you don't like convincing people that you're right.

My husband will disagree with the last part...he'll say that I relish convincing people that I'm right, especially him.

Bringing order into Babel of post-Vatican II

~Here's a piece in Tempi written by Gianni Baget Bozzo on Pope Benedict's catechesis...the restoration happening under Pope Benedict's guidance. Found at Papa Ratzinger Forum. He began with a brief nod to the present political landscape and then confessed that is not what he's interested in:
I prefer instead to occupy myself with a reality that gives me great joy: Pope Benedict XVI's discourses on the Fathers of the Church.

That is, on Tradition (with a capital T), that long chain of truth and authority that makes of Peter's Church the mystical Body of Christ, from which we receive Scripture as well as Tradition.

Wheover, like me, who lived the years after Vatican-II as the Church's worst attempt at self-destruction, now takes part with great joy, as we see once again, in this Pope's words and actions, the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church - living tradition as well as mystical sacrament.

Make no mistake! Still pervasive, especially among progressivist theologians and liturgists, is the Protestant influence according to which only Scripture is the source of Revelation, and that Tradition is very much subordinate.

But Papa Ratzinger is here now, and he gives voice as Pope to that long line of holy men who have evolved the language of the Church, expressing our beliefs as well as our capacity to approach God's Mystery with words.

If the Magisterium were to be only Scripture, then it would mean that Christians can have access to the divine only through the words of others long gone, those who experienced the divine and expressed that experience in the Scriptures. As though the experience that made possible the Church had ended with its founding, that the Holy Spirit no longer works in men and remains enclosed in the pages of a book and perhaps in the words of preachers constrained by the injunction 'sola Scriptura'.

But the Catholic Church announces that Pentecost is a continuing event, that the Holy Spirit continues to speak to Christians and allows them in their own way to experience the faith that animated the Church from its beginnings.

That is why the life of the Church has the breath of the eternal, in the certainty that words spoken centuries ago are timeless and beyond time: and that every Christian in his own time can truly participate in the experience that the apostles lived. And so, the Mystery of divine life, which was conveyed on that first Pentecost to those who had witnessed the passion and the Resurrection of Christ, lives on in every believer.

Whoever, like me, lived the Babel-like years after Vatican-II of discordant polyphony in which every theologian was a judge and every exegete a Biblical authority, now feels intensely how this Pontiff sees the Church as the Mother-Teacher who gives every Christian the possibility of living the divine Mystery that it announces.

We have a great historical event happening under our eyes: the Church, one in time and space, within which the Pope of Rome shows with authority that it is indeed the Mystical Body of Christ.

It was a special joy to hear the papal commentary on Dionysius the Areopagite, who showed the ineffability of the divine mystery which is above and beyond reason, but which can be reached by the experience of faith fully lived in the concreteness of day-to-day human life.

This, to me, is true history, and only one who has suffered through how much was lacking all these years can appreciate what is happening as nothing less than divine intervention.

Many Christians had been awaiting this with little confidence but with great hope: A truth that is not confusing, and infused into us by the Holy Spirit in that charity that makes us all one.

My soul, rejoice in the Lord!

~by St. Gregory of Agrigentum

Come, eat your bread with joy and drink your wine with a glad heart; for what you do, God has approved beforehand.

This exhortation of Ecclesiastes is very proper if you take its words in their ordinary everyday sense. If we embrace a simple rule of life and let our beliefs be inspired by a sincere faith in God, we should eat our bread with joy and drink our wine with a glad heart. We should not fall into slanderous speech or devote ourselves to devious stratagems; rather, we should direct our thoughts on straight paths and (as far as is practicable) help the poor and destitute with compassion and generosity – that is, dedicate ourselves to the activities that please God himself.
But the same text can be given a spiritual meaning that leads us to higher thoughts. It speaks of the heavenly and mystical bread, which has come down from heaven, bringing life to the world, and to drink a spiritual wine with a cheerful heart, that wine which flowed from the side of the True Vine at the moment of his saving passion. Of this, the Gospel of our salvation says: When Jesus had taken bread and blessed it, he said to his holy disciples and apostles, Take, eat; this is my body which is being broken for you for the forgiveness of sins. In the same way he took the cup and said, Drink from this, all of you: this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which will be shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. For whoever eats this bread and drinks this mystical wine enjoys true happiness and rejoices, exclaiming: You have put joy into our hearts.

Moreover, I think this is the bread and this is the wine that is referred to in the book of Proverbs by God’s self-subsistent Wisdom (that is, Christ our Saviour): Come, eat my bread and drink the wine I have mixed for you. Thus he refers to our mystical sharing in the Word. For those worthy to receive this are forever clothed in garments (that is, the works of light) shining as bright as light itself. As the Lord says in the Gospel, Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. And, indeed, oil will be seen flowing eternally over their heads – the oil that is the Spirit of truth, guarding and preserving them from all the harm of sin.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pange Lingua Gloriosi

~Pope Benedict has now donned his cope and is kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament. The various groups are preparing for the Procession. The choir is chanting Pange Lingua gloriosi. Brigittine sighting! I wonder if I can spot Fr. B among the clergy in choir dress.

Pange, lingua, gloriosi
Corporis mysterium,
Sanguinisque pretiosi,
quem in mundi pretium
fructus ventris generosi
Rex effudit Gentium.

Nobis datus, nobis natus
ex intacta Virgine,
et in mundo conversatus,
sparso verbi semine,
sui moras incolatus
miro clausit ordine.

In supremae nocte coenae
recumbens cum fratribus
observata lege plene
cibis in legalibus,
cibum turbae duodenae
se dat suis manibus.

Verbum caro, panem verum
verbo carnem efficit:
fitque sanguis Christi merum,
et si sensus deficit,
ad firmandum cor sincerum
sola fides sufficit.

Tantum ergo Sacramentum
veneremur cernui:
et antiquum documentum
novo cedat ritui:
praestet fides supplementum
sensuum defectui.

Genitori, Genitoque
laus et jubilatio,
salus, honor, virtus quoque
sit et benedictio:
procedenti ab utroque
compar sit laudatio.

Amen. Alleluia.

Update: The choir has finished singing Ave Verum some synthesis with the plainchant verses inserted. I was not familiar with it. The recitation of the meditations have begun.

Cool! the ombrellino has been opened.

Also, tonsure sighted on a Dominican friar.

The monstrance has been mounted on the prayer kneeler on a canopied carriage that will carry Papa who is now ascending the steps. Carriage is moving.

Update: Woooo! The Irish College seminarians will be walking with the Pope in commemoration of the Irish earls who carried the canopy for the Pope four hundred years ago. The Earls are buried in the Roman church of San Pietro Montorio.

Update: Great view of the obelisk that is still encased. Restoration work is constant in Rome. The carriage is now on Via Merulana after circling the Piazza. Maybe we'll see San Clemente on the way.

Anima Christi

Adoration has begun with Anima Christi being sung.

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
O bone Iesu, exaudi me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
Et iube me venire ad te,
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te
in saecula saeculorum.


Kneeling to Receive

Holy Communion now...people are kneeling to receive from Pope Benedict. There is a kneeler and it looks everyone is receiving on the tongue. Beautiful! Some young people are receiving First Communion from Papa.

The choir is same as always.

Corpus Domini in Rome

~Watching EWTN Live. Choir is now chanting the Sequence Lauda Sion

Lauda Sion Salvatórem
Lauda ducem et pastórem
In hymnis et cánticis.

Quantum potes, tantum aude:
Quia major omni laude,
Nec laudáre súfficis.

Laudis thema speciális,
Panis vivus et vitális,
Hódie propónitur.

Quem in sacræ mensa cœnæ,
Turbæ fratrum duodénæ
Datum non ambígitur.

Sit laus plena, sit sonóra,
Sit jucúnda, sit decóra
Mentis jubilátio.

Dies enim solémnis ágitur,
In qua mensæ prima recólitur
Hujus institútio.

In hac mensa novi Regis,
Novum Pascha novæ legis,
Phase vetus términat.

Vetustátem nóvitas,
Umbram fugat véritas,
Noctem lux elíminat.

Quod in cœna Christus gessit,
Faciéndum hoc expréssit
In sui memóriam.

Docti sacris institútis,
Panem, vinum, in salútis
Consecrámus hóstiam.

Dogma datur Christiánis,
Quod in carnem transit panis,
Et vinum in sánguinem.

Quod non capis, quod non vides,
Animósa firmat fides,
Præter rerum ordinem.

Sub divérsis speciébus,
Signis tantum, et non rebus,
Latent res exímiæ.

Caro cibus, sanguis potus:
Manet tamen Christus totus,
Sub utráque spécie.

A suménte non concísus,
Non confráctus, non divísus:
Integer accípitur.

Sumit unus, sumunt mille:
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consúmitur.

Sumunt boni, sumunt mali:
Sorte tamen inæquáli,
Vitæ vel intéritus.

Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide paris sumptiónis
Quam sit dispar éxitus.

Fracto demum Sacraménto,
Ne vacílles, sed memento,
Tantum esse sub fragménto,
Quantum toto tégitur.

Nulla rei fit scissúra:
Signi tantum fit fractúra:
Qua nec status nec statúra
Signáti minúitur.

Ecce panis Angelórum,
Factus cibus viatórum:
Vere panis fíliórum,
Non mittendus cánibus.

In figúris præsignátur,
Cum Isaac immolátur:
Agnus paschæ deputátur
Datur manna pátribus.

Bone pastor, panis vere,
Jesu, nostri miserére:
Tu nos pasce, nos tuére:
Tu nos bona fac vidére
In terra vivéntium.

Tu, qui cuncta scis et vales:
Qui nos pascis hic mortales:
Tuos ibi commensáles,
Cohærédes et sodales,
Fac sanctórum cívium.
Amen. Allelúia.

O sacrum convivium

O Sacrum Convivium is the antiphon for the Feast of Corpus Christi. Here are the words written by St. Thomas Aquinas. To listen to a setting by Olivier Messiaen, click here.

O sacrum convivium!
in quo Christus sumitur:
recolitur memoria passionis ejus:
mens impletur gratia:
et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

O sacred banquet!
in which Christ is received,
the memory of his Passion is renewed,
the mind is filled with grace,
and a pledge of future glory to us is given.

And now for something sublime

~Here is the St. Gregory Society's page with some online recordings from the Solemn Mass for Corpus Christi. It includes Josquin Desprez' Missa pange lingue (my favorite) along with his Ave Maria, Virgo serena. Bookmark their website!

Return of the Easter Island figures

...accompanied by a menagerie. From the infamous St. Joan of Arc parish in Minneapolis (hat tip, I think, to Fr. Finigan). I think we can safely say that this is a glaring example of the rupture in the hermeneutic of continuity. Oh, by the way, it's Palm Sunday that they're, erm, celebrating. Don't watch until you've put down any beverage that you might be drinking.

Corpus Domini

Today, in Rome, Corpus Domini will be celebrated by the Pope at the Basilica of St. John Lateran and afterwards, will lead the faithful in a procession up Via Merulana to the Basilica of St. Mary Major where he will bless the faithful in the Benediction.

Watch EWTN live at 1 PM.

The photo above is from last year's procession which we were privileged to attend. Quantitative Metathesis was there with us. Finding her among all those present was a small miracle in itself. There is nothing like being there in the midst of a sea of priests, religious, seminarians, and the faithful processing behind our Universal Shepherd, chanting and listening to meditations along Via Merulana. Locals line up along the sides of the street or poke their heads out their windows to watch.

O precious and wonderful banquet!

~by St. Thomas Aquinas

Since it was the will of God’s only-begotten Son that men should share in his divinity, he assumed our nature in order that by becoming man he might make men gods. Moreover, when he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. He offered his body to God the Father on the altar of the cross as a sacrifice for our reconciliation. He shed his blood for our ransom and purification, so that we might be redeemed from our wretched state of bondage and cleansed from all sin. But to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine.

O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift.

It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.

It was to impress the vastness of this love more firmly upon the hearts of the faithful that our Lord instituted this sacrament at the Last Supper. As he was on the point of leaving the world to go to the Father, after celebrating the Passover with his disciples, he left it as a perpetual memorial of his passion. It was the fulfilment of ancient figures and the greatest of all his miracles, while for those who were to experience the sorrow of his departure, it was destined to be a unique and abiding consolation.