31 December 2008

Feast of Pope St. Sylvester

Today's feast of St. Sylvester brings the secular year to a close. It is entirely fitting that this great saint's day should mark the occasion. St. Sylvester was the 31st Pope, following 30 martyred ones. In his time, Constantine was converted to, and legalized, the Faith.

Pope St. Sylvester confirmed the Council of Nicea which condemned the Arian heresy. He oversaw the construction of the mother Church of Christendom-- the Basilica of Our Saviour, otherwise known as St. John Lateran. He governed the Church immediately following that period of severe persecution, lasting three hundred years, by the Roman empire.

As Dom Prosper Gueranger wrote:

So that Sylvester is messenger of the Peace which Christ came to give to the world, of which the Angels sang on Christmas night. He is the friend of Constantine; he confirms the Council of Nicea; he organizes the discipline of the Church for the new era on which she is now entering: the era of Peace. His predecessors in the See of Peter imaged Jesus in his sufferings; Sylvester represented Jesus in his triumph. His appearance during this Octave reminds us that the Divine Child who lies wrapped in swaddling-clothes, and is the object of Herod's persecution, is, notwithstanding all these humiliations, the Prince of Peace, the Father of the world to come.

Pontiff of Peace! from the abode of rest where now thou dwellest, look down upon the Church of God, surrounded as she is by implacable enemies, and beseech Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to hasten her triumph. Cast thine eye on that Rome which is so dear to thee, and which is so faithful in her love of thee. Protect and defend her Father, King and Pontiff. May she triumph over the wiles of political intrigue, the violence of tyranny, the craft of heretics, the perfidy of schismatics, the apathy of worldlings, and the cowardice of her own children. May she be honoured, loved and obeyed. May the sublime dignity of the Priesthood be recognized. May the spiritual power enjoy freedom of action. May the civil authority work hand in hand with the Church. May the Kingdom of God now come, and be received throughout the whole world, and may there be but one Fold and one Shepherd. Amen.


I can never mark this feast day without thinking of the final conclave and last Sovereign Pontiff in The Lord of the World, by Robert Hugh Benson. It is a good reminder to always trust in God's Providence in the face of the worst of worldly situations.

30 December 2008

Update: Upcoming Liturgical Schedule at the Oratory

From the Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, Canon Michael Wiener, comes a complete schedule of liturgies for the coming days.  It is nice to be able to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus on Sunday, and then the great Feast of the Epiphany of Our Lord on its proper day of January 6.  

Here is the schedule of the days ahead of us. I would ask you to invite people to come to the Masses and liturgical functions of this time of the year, we all have a little bit more time and it seems very important to welcome the new year in the spirit of a deep confidence in Divine Providence.



Wednesday, December 31,

8:00 am low Mass (7th Day in the Octave of Christmas)

5:00 pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Solemn Te Deum, Benediction


Thursday, January 1st,

8:00 am Mass with organ (Octave Day of Christmas)

10:00 am Solemn High Mass (Octave Day of Christmas)

5:00-6:00 pm Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Benediction


Friday, January 2nd,

8:00 am low Mass (Sacred Heart of Jesus)

6:30 pm Solemn High Mass (Sacred Heart of Jesus); Benediction


Saturday, January 3rd,

8:00 am low Mass (Immaculate Heart of Mary)


Sunday, January 4th,

8:00 am low Mass with organ (Most Holy Name of Jesus)

10:00 am Solemn High Mass (Most holy Name of Jesus)


Monday, January 5th,

8:00 am low Mass (St. John Neumann)


Tuesday, January 6th,

8:00 am low Mass with organ (Epiphany of the Lord)

12:10 pm low Mass (Epiphany of the Lord)

6:30 pm Solemn High Mass (Epiphany)


Sunday, January 11th,

8:00 am low Mass with organ (Holy Family)

10:00 am Solemn high Mass (Holy Family)

Call to Label Vendee Massacre as First Genocide of Modern History

From the UK Telegraph, a story that draws attention to one of the sorriest incidents in the history of guilty man-- the massacre of the defenders of the Catholic Church and Catholic Monarchy in the Vendee:

John-Paul Forget Requiem

I am sorry I didn't post this story sooner-- I had some unexpected work.  This story from STLToday puts the capstone on the John-Paul Forget story.  The photo is by Laurie Skrivan of the P-D.  God has a plan that we do not always understand.  Pray for the soul of this young man who touched the lives of so many people :

John Paul Forget remembered as son, friend and devoted Catholic

WILDWOOD — More than 600 people filled a church here Saturday morning to remember John Paul Forget, a big-hearted college student, a fervent Catholic and the eldest son of 13 siblings. 

Forget, 20, has been missing almost two weeks, after falling into the Missouri River after an accident on Interstate 70 as he headed home with college friends for Christmas break.

Saturday, friends and family revisited both his life and his presumed death.

Forget (pronounced for-JAY) attended Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., after high school mostly at the Catholic Gateway Academy in Chesterfield and a semester at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary. 
Forget's roommate, Mike Lober, 20, of Troy, Mo., was driving Forget and three female classmates to Lake Saint Louis on Dec. 16.

Lober said it had been snowing that day, but roads were mostly clear, until they got to the I-70 bridge over the Missouri River, about 15 miles west of Columbia. 
Then, he said, a small bump and a patch of black ice in the bridge's roadway started a chain reaction: 

The car began to spin, and struck the concrete bridge railing on the right. A tractor-trailer then hit the car's front corner, sending it — with Forget praying aloud inside — into the divider again.

About halfway across the bridge, the car came to a stop, facing traffic.

Two more sets of headlights were bearing down on them. "Everyone says, 'Get out! Get out!'" Lober said. "But the bridge is so narrow, there's nowhere to go."

Mary Agnew, of Appleton, Wis., stayed inside the car. Laura and Rachel G'Sell, 18-year-old twins from Lake Saint Louis, got out and huddled against the railing.

Lober jumped over it, grasped the concrete bridge rail and hung by his hands over the river.

At that point, another truck hit Lober's Jeep. 

Lober pulled himself back up. The girls, he said, were against the railing, looking down into the river.

And they were screaming. Lober ran over. From far below, they could hear Forget.

"We heard him," Rachel said. "In the water."

Authorities searched for Forget for four days, until the river iced, said Michael Forget, John Paul's father.

Family and faith, Michael said, are now his comfort. 

Both were present Saturday morning. Mourners lined the sanctuary walls and spilled into the foyer at St. Alban Roe Catholic Church. 

More than a dozen priests arrived to support the family. 

Administrators, teachers and students drove in from Benedictine. 

Nearly two dozen seminarians from Kenrick-Glennon sat in white robes.

Friends told tales of a young man willing to stay up late into the night talking, and of a friend willing to give up his time to help baby-sit for others.

Family described a son who calmly brothered his siblings, who cooked family dinners — even for 30 — and who adventured with them on Sunday outings into the Missouri woods.

And they all spoke of his faith. 

His college friends said he still attended Mass nearly daily. His uncle read of Forget's devotion from the young man's own journal. And his sister said that, though her brother wrestled with his life and vocation, he had few doubts about God. 

A faith, friends remarked, that stayed true to the end.

Te Deum at St. Francis de Sales Oratory, December 31

Te Deum at St. Francis de Sales Oratory on December 31st at 5:00 PM:

We will expose the Blessed Sacrament solemnly tomorrow at 5:00 pm and sing the “Te Deum”. A plenary indulgence is made available for all who will attend this public act of thanksgiving under the usual conditions (
To acquire a plenary indulgence it is necessary to perform the work to which the indulgence is attached and to fulfill the following three conditions: 1. sacramental confession, 2. Eucharistic Communion, 3. prayer for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff. It is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent. If the latter disposition is in any way less than perfect or if the prescribed three conditions are not fulfilled, the indulgence will be partial only.

The English translation of the Te Deum:

O God, we praise you, and acknowledge you to be the supreme Lord.
Everlasting Father, all the earth worships you.

All the Angels, the heavens and all angelic powers,
All the Cherubim and Seraphim, continuously cry to you:

Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of your glory.

The glorious choir of the Apostles,
The wonderful company of Prophets,
The white-robed army of Martyrs, praise you.
Holy Church throughout the world acknowledges you:
The Father of infinite Majesty;
Your adorable, true and only Son;
Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

O Christ, you are the King of glory!
You are the everlasting Son of the Father.

When you took it upon yourself to deliver man,
You did not disdain the Virgin's womb.

Having overcome the sting of death,
you opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
You sit at the right hand of God in the glory of the Father.

We believe that you will come to be our Judge.
We, therefore, beg you to help your servants whom you have
redeemed with your Precious Blood.

Let them be numbered with your Saints in everlasting glory.
Save your people, O Lord, and bless your inheritance!
Govern them, and raise them up forever.
Every day we thank you.
And we praise your Name forever;
yes, forever and ever.
O Lord, deign to keep us from sin this day.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us.
Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, for we have hoped in you.O Lord, in you I have put my trust; let me never be put to shame.

Illinois Scandal Sells Furniture

From the Gateway Pundit, this is an actual ad for a Chicago furniture store.

Non Te Terremus, Qui Nec Timemus

A day late, but hopefully not a dollar short-- I wanted to share some reflections on the martyrdom of St. Thomas a Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry II of England. He was murdered in the Cathedral by agents of the King on December 29, 1170.

The following brief excerpts come from the entry for St. Thomas in The Liturgical Year, by Dom Prosper Gueranger, which my lovely wife was kind enough to give me for Christmas and which I cannot recommend highly enough. The whole article merits close reading, but the following excerpts I find highly relevant to situations of note in our Archdiocese, our country, and the universal Church:

"...This glorious Martyr did not shed his blood for the faith; he was not dragged before the tribunals of pagans or heretics, there to confess the truths revealed by Christ and taught by the Church. He was slain by Christian hands; it was a Catholic King that condemned him to death; it was by the majority of his own brethren, and they his countrymen, that he was abandoned and blamed. How then, could he be a Martyr?... He was the Martyr for the liberty of the Church."

"Every Christian is obliged to lay down his life rather than deny any of the articles of our holy Faith; it was the debt we contracted with Jesus Christ when he adopted us in Baptism as His brethren. All are not called to the honour of Martyrdom... but all must so love their Faith as to be ready to die rather than deny it, under pain of incurring the eternal death from which the grace of our Redeemer has already delivered us. The same obligation lies still more heavily on the Pastors of the Church..."

"...beyond this, Pastors have another debt to pay, which is that of defending the liberty of the Church. To Kings and Rulers, and, in general to all diplomatists and politicians, there are few expressions so unwelcome as this of the liberty of the Church; with them it is a sort of conspiracy. The world talks of it as an unfortunate scandal, originating in priestly ambition. Timid temporizing Catholics regret that it can elicit anyone's zeal, and will endeavour to persuade us that we have no need to fear anything so long as our Faith is not attacked. Notwithstanding all this, the Church has put upon her altars the glorious St. Thomas of Canterbury, who was slain in his Cathedral in the twelfth century because he resisted a King's infringements on the extrinsic rights of the Church. ... the very same doctrine she would have taught by St. Gregory VII, in the eleventh century: The Church, the spotless Spouse of Jesus Christ the immaculate Lamb, is by God's appointment FREE, and subject to no earthly power."

"Such is the Liberty of the Church. It is the bulwark of the Sanctuary. Every breach there imperils the Hierarchy, and even the very Faith. A Bishop may not flee, as the hireling, nor hold his peace... He is the Watchman of Israel: he is a traitor if he first lets the enemy enter the citadel, and then, but only then, gives the alarm and risks his person and his life. The obligation of laying down his life for his flock begins to be in force at the enemy's first attack upon the very outposts of the City, which is only safe when they are strongly guarded."

"...Hence it was that St. Thomas, and the rest of the martyrs for ecclesiastical liberty, never once stopped to consider how it was possible, with such weak means as were at their disposal, to oppose the invaders of the rights of the Church. One great element of Martyrdom is simplicity united with courage... God has put into the heart of a Christian a capability of humble and inflexible resistance which makes every opposition give way."

"Fortitude, as the world understands it, is undertaking great things; according to the Church, it goes not beyond suffering every sort of trial, and there it stops.... [St. Paul] does not say, 'You have not attacked your enemies and shed their blood;" but, "Your resistance to your enemies has not yet cost you your blood.'"

"[St. Thomas] can in all truth say to Henry, King of England, what Tertullian said in the name of the whole Church to a magistrate of the Roman Empire, who was a cruel persecutor of the Church: We neither frighten thee nor fear thee: we Christians are neither dangerous men, nor cowards; not dangerous, because we cannot cabal, and not cowards, because we fear not the sword."

"... The tomb of the Saint will become an altar; and at the foot of that altar, there will one day kneel a penitent King, humbly praying for pardon and blessing. What has wrought this change? Has the death of Thomas of Canterbury stirred up the people to revolt? Has his martyrdom found its avengers? No. It is the blood of one who died for Christ producing such fruit. The world is hard to teach, else it would have long since learned this truth, that a Christian people can never see with indifference a pastor put to death for fidelity to his charge; and that a government that dares to make a martyr will pay dearly for the crime. Modern diplomacy has learned the secret; experience has given it the instinctive craft of waging war against the liberty of the Church with less violence and more intrigue-- the intrigue of enslaving her by political administration. It was this crafty diplomacy which forged the chains wherewith so many churches are now shackled, and which, be they ever so gilded, are insupportable. There is one way to unlink such fetters-- to break them. He that breaks them will be a martyr: he will not have to fight with the sword, or be a political agitator, but simply to resist the plotters against the liberty of the Spouse of Christ, and suffer patiently whatever may be said or done against him."

"... how truly [the Church] may say with the Apostle: When I am weak, then am I powerful..."

St. Thomas a Becket, Bishop of Canterbury and glorious Martyr, pray for us!

29 December 2008

A New Look at the Old Mass

With a tip to the Remnant, here is a very nice article by Fr. Kenneth Myers at 4marks about the traditional Latin Mass.  It is good from time to time to read such a review and analysis about some of the many wonderful qualities of the Extraordinary Form, and to answer some common objections or misunderstandings.  The article is a little long, but an interesting and informative read of the take of one priest who celebrates the Form.  I add a few comments in orange and emphases in green.

A new look at the old Mass

It is time for a renewal of Catholic Faith and a complete understanding of the Mass and the sacramental priesthood. 

During my years in the seminary (1972-1980), the Traditional Latin Mass became a kind of lightning rod for Catholics who stood in opposition to the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath. Notable figures like Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre were publicly condemned by Pope Paul VI and by many bishops for their attachment to the pre-conciliar rite of Mass. But there were many other less known, ordinary lay people who maintained a struggle over the years to preserve the Traditional Latin Mass and with it the "Catholic way of life" that they and their families had known for many years. As a result, the traditional rite of Mass itself became identified with disobedience to Pope and Council, with a rejection of the noble "spirit" of Vatican II, and with a failure to be open to the future and a moribund clinging to the past. This caricature has slowly been changing since Pope John Paul's dramatic re-introduction of the old rite into the life of the Church, first with a somewhat limited indult of 1984 (Tres abhinc annos) (SLC note:  sic in original-- the first "indult" was issued with Quattuor abhinc annos) and then with the much wider and more widely received permission of 1988 (Ecclesia Dei adflicta). We have begun to experience a rebirth of the traditional Mass and of tradition itself within the life of the Church. 

This article is not intended to be a scholarly liturgical investigation into the old rite of Mass. I am not a liturgist. I am a diocesan priest whose privilege it is to offer this rite of Mass and minister to the large community attached to this Mass in our diocese. So I write from a pastoral perspective and from my own observations about Catholic faith and spirituality. Many people like to refer to the Traditional Latin Mass as the "Tridentine Mass." That's because Pope St. Pius V set up a liturgical commission after the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century to codify and clarify the various rites of Mass that were in use throughout the western Church at that time. But the trouble with that terminology the - "Tridentine Mass" - is that it gives people the impression that this rite of Mass was constructed by a committee following the Council of Trent and that it was imposed upon the Church of that era from above. This, of course, is precisely what did NOT happen under St. Pius V. 

The so-called Tridentine rite of Mass was in fact an organic development and evolution of the liturgical life of the Church for centuries and centuries prior to Trent. There was nothing new or novel in this rite of Mass. Sometime ago I heard a Cardinal dismiss the differences between the new rite of Mass and the old rite by maintaining that the introduction of the rite of Paul VI was done in the same manner as the rite of Mass following the Council of Trent. He should know better. That's why I refer to the old rite as the "Traditional Latin Mass," because it is the fullest expression of the liturgical life of the Church from the earliest centuries, not a composition invented by a group of liturgists in a particular era and forever labeled by that moment in history when it was manufactured. There are elements of the Traditional Mass which provide some people with material to complain about it. It's in Latin, and the notion is presented that this strange tongue places an obstacle between the priest and the people in the celebration of the Eucharist. There's so much silence, especially at a Low Mass, when everything is recited by the celebrant and altar boys. And the priest stands "with his back to the people," another obstacle between priest and people. The truth is, of course, that the Sacrifice of the Mass is not a dialogue between priest and people, but a dialogue between God and his people. And the priest is there as a mediator in this dialogue, not as the Mediator. The complaint is often made that Vatican II called for "active" participation in the sacred liturgy, but in truth, the Latin word used in the Council document (actuosa), calls for actual participation in Mass, and that's something that begins in the mind and heart through faith and understanding long before it gets to the  lips. The observation has been made that in days gone by people did not understand the words of the Mass but at least they knew clearly what was happening on the altar before them, and now, with the new rite of Mass in the vernacular, people can understand the words, but seem to have no idea of what is actually happening at Mass. If surveys about the percentage of Catholics who do not believe in the Real Presence are at all accurate, they witness to the truth of this last observation.

The use of Latin for Mass is so valuable in our world today, where the English language has become so profane and vulgar. Latin removes the Mass from the realm of everyday life. It sets the Mass apart from the world, so that when we come to church our minds and hearts are called upon to leave the world behind and enter into the realm of the sacred. Latin helps us to make this transition from the worldly to the sacred. In this way, Latin becomes the language by which we speak to God, separating what is profane from what is sacred. Indeed, the great Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand said that modern liturgists have "replaced holy intimacy with Christ by an unbecoming familiarity." He meant that the replacement of Latin with the vernacular at Mass has actually placed a distance between the Lord and People,in contradiction to what is popularly believed. Latin addresses God at Mass, but our common speech is directed to man. The use of Latin at Mass does not create an artificial barrier between God and man, but rather enables us to address God with a gracious elegance that befits the prayer of the creature offered to his Creator. However, someone may say that all we need do is sprinkle the new rite of Mass with a little Latin and all will be well. Not so fast, I'm afraid. The use of Latin in the liturgy has another important purpose. The use of Latin also enshrines the rituals, ceremonies, and carefully articulated prayers of the old rite of Mass. There are no "options" by which the celebrant of the Mass-or a "liturgy commit-tee"-can make the mistake of thinking the Mass is his own creation. No matter what the popular modern song says, we aren't at Mass to "tell our story." We're at Mass to participate in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered on the cross to his Father for the forgiveness of our sins. Latin in the Mass ensures that what we're getting is the authentic liturgy of the Church without anyone's own opinions or personal agenda getting in the way. If someone wants to "tell his story," he should go to Confession. 

Over the last several years of his pontificate, Pope John Paul often mentioned the need for a meditative silence during the Mass. And one does sometimes attend new rite Masses that employ periods of silence-most often after the homily or Communion. The problem is, however, that in the new rite of Mass one has to actually STOP the action in order to be silent. In the Traditional Latin Mass, the silence is "built-in." The Low Mass is prized by numerous people who are attached to the traditional Mass precisely because it is so quiet-a real oasis of quiet in the midst of a hectic and noisy week for so many, many people. But even the High Mass, with its chant and polyphony and comings and goings of the celebrant and altar boys, provides silence for the faithful so that the "actual" participation so prized by Vatican II is available to all those who are willing to enter into interior silence and commune with the Lord. 

And this is, perhaps, the crux of the issue about the problem of silence at Mass. It is difficult for modern man to endure silence because we are surrounded by noise that is ever louder and louder. We fear silence because it may force us in unguarded moments to introspection and self-examination. The noise with which we have surrounded ourselves hides us from ourselves. Silence in the Mass is perhaps the greatest need of modern man because we so desperately need to peer into our souls, to enter into our own hearts, and to see there what God himself sees. In the silence of the Traditional Latin Mass we can listen to God's voice within us. 

The silence of the Traditional
Latin Mass reveals so clearly that the Mass is NOT the work of the congregation, a performance which we manufacture in order to make God happy with us. Rather, the Mass is the work of God-it is Christ's Own work of redemption carried out in our midst, on our altar. The Mass is not fabricated by man, it must be received in faith, and silence enables us to do just that: just as we do not "take" Holy Communion, but rather "receive" the Lord in the Sacrament, so do we receive Christ's redemption in the Mass. 

The silence of the traditional Mass affects our whole week as well. It provides the basis for what is called the "interior life." This is a heartfelt communication with God in faith and love. Silence draws us into a spirit of prayer and adoration which teaches us how to pray, how to offer a genuine preparation for Holy Communion and a thanksgiving that extends for days, and makes us long for Eucharistic adoration, since the Word of God himself dwells in the Blessed Sacrament in silence. May I venture to say that the traditional rite of Mass is very attuned to the needs of modern men and women because its long periods of silence are great blessings in our noisy and profane world. We may truly say they are "Heaven-sent." 

A careful look at the rubrics for the Mass of Pope Paul VI reveals an interesting fact:it was designed to continue the practice of the priest facing the altar during the Offertory and Canon of the Mass. Look at the "Pray, brethren" and the "This is the Lamb of God," in your altar missal. The priest is directed to turn towards the people. It was only bishops' conferences and liturgists who promoted-and enforced-the notion that Mass HAD to be offered facing the people. In doing so the continuous liturgical tradition of the Church was cast aside so that the priest could no longer face the east (ad orientem) in celebrating the Eucharistic Sacrifice. Whatever the motives of those who imposed this new practice on priests and faithful, one may readily see the results: the notion that the Mass is only a meal shared between the priest and the people on an altar now become a table, the idea that the priest is a liturgical choreographer for extraordinary ministers and lectors, the promotion of the priest as the "star" of the show. It is my opinion that the practice of the celebrant facing the people has turned the appearance of the Mass in peoples' minds from being Christ's Sacrifice to merely our banquet. When the celebrant can maintain his posture of facing east with the people he stands as a leader and pastor awaiting the coming of the Lord. When the celebrant is forced to face the people, emphasis is laid on him and his personal qualities-or lack of-them and not on the Lord. A young priest friend of mine related the story that when he was visiting a parish in the western United States, a large mirror had been erected in front of the altar so that the people could see themselves during Mass. It is the difference between a God-centered and a man-centered liturgy. 

In his book, The Reform of the Roman Liturgy, Msgr. Klaus Gamber offers a thorough and compelling argument for the maintenance of the tradition of the altar facing the Lord, with priest and people standing before it. This book is a fine introduction to an understanding of the Traditional Latin Mass. 

But the issue of the priest's posture at the altar in the traditional Mass says as much about the priesthood itself as it does about the Mass. And this is part of the genius of the traditional rite of Mass:it teaches with great clarity the truth of the priest as a representative of the Lord, a shepherd to his people, a manly leader whom others can trust to lead them to Christ, a mediator in Christ who offers and perpetuates the Sacrifice of our redemption. All of these truths are observable at the traditional Mass. I see firsthand every time I offer this rite of Mass the impact it has on the altar boys. Surely this is the very reason why so many Latin Mass communities across the country are producing numerous vocations to the priesthood. We have five young men from our community in seminaries right now and a number more have expressed their interest in the priesthood. Look at how many seminarians the traditional communities like the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and the Institute of Christ the King have. It is not at all uncommon for a small Latin Mass community to have more candidates for the priesthood than any other parish in the diocese. 

There are numerous acts of reverence that are shown to the priest in the course of the traditional rite of Mass which are never to be mistaken as being directed to the man himself, but to the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Traditional Latin Mass speaks eloquently of what the holy priesthood truly is. It identifies the priest with Christ, and, I might add, makes it very clear to the priest celebrant that he is present at Mass as another Christ. There is no confusing the role of the priest at the traditional Mass with the idea of him being a liturgical choreographer. 

Another common criticism of the Traditional Latin Mass is what some refer to as its "redundancies." For example, at the beginning of the traditional rite of Mass the priest says the Confiteor and then the altar boys repeat it. And, in some locales, the Confiteor is even repeated yet again prior to Holy Communion. The priest prays frequently throughout the Mass for the forgiveness of his sins and he acknowledges the unworthiness of his ministry. At other times he says two or even three prayers in preparation for Holy Communion and in thanksgiving afterward. The priest is incensed multiple times in the course of the Mass. Another criticism, similar to this one,is the notion that some of the prayers "anticipate" what is really yet to come, the most obvious example of this being the Offertory Prayers, which refer to the offerings of bread and wine as if the Consecration has already taken place. The Offertory of the traditional rite is sometimes criticized as being a "mini-Canon." The problem with these criticisms is that the traditional Mass is not and was never intended to be a perfectly organized, sleek liturgy put together by a committee. Rather, the rite of Mass as it was handed down to us over many, many centuries is a collection of rites and prayers precious to generation after generation. And it is all assembled in a manner so true to human life. We do repeat things again and again. We look back to where we started before we go further and sometimes it almost seems we even start over again at the beginning. Other times we look forward to events with such a sense of anticipation that we almost act as if they have already come to pass. The truth is that the psychology of the Traditional Latin Mass really matches human psychology much better than a rite that was developed in committee. 

Yet another complaint lodged against the Traditional Latin Mass is its dearth of Scripture texts in comparison with the new rite. I have been celebrating the ancient rite of Mass for fourteen years now so I have some experience with its lectionary and Scripture passages. The desire of the Vatican II decree on the Liturgy concerning the broader use of Bible texts could easily have been fulfilled without disrupting the lectionary that was already in use for many centuries. Additions can be made without destroying the past. (I think that the criticism about the amount of scriptural texts is a facile and misleading criticism for a few reasons: 1. the one-year cycle so perfectly attuned to the rich calendar of saints' feasts provides a regular touchstone with the scriptures that becomes part of one's soul; 2. the Mass is not intended to be a didactic moment-- even the readings are directed to the worship of God and not, in the first place, to our academic study; and 3. the readings that are included are more relevant and meaningful than the new rite.  After all, what connection is there to the reading from Leviticus and the year A, cycle B Wednesday of the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary time?  None, unless it is accidental.) And it is a fair enough observation to point out that the vast array of Scripture texts in use in the new rite of Mass can even overwhelm the faithful who may be "scripturally challenged." One thinks of the Old Testament passage where a father vows to offer a sacrifice to God of the first person he sees-who turns out to be his daughter-and he keeps his vow. A homily at that Mass can never very well ignore an explanation of this passage leaving no opportunity to explain anything else. I must say that I have never experienced an inability to find worthy topics of preaching in the traditional Mass lectionary. It provides ample opportunity to preach about the teachings of the Faith, as well as to simply provide a homily. 

In fact, my understanding of Scripture and delving into its meaning has never been as keen as it has become through studying the Scripture texts of the Traditional Latin Mass. I might add that the traditional Mass provides a wealth of passages from the Bible in its Introit, Offertory, and Communion antiphons, as well as its Tracts, Graduals, and Alleluias. These deserve study and prayerful reflection and are almost entirely missing from the new rite of Mass. 

We should examine the one notion that is really at the heart of the criticism of the Traditional Latin Mass: namely, those who are devoted to it stand in opposition to the new liturgy and reject Vatican Council II. It is so easy to make this charge and, unfortunately, one can find plenty of evidence to defend the idea. There are groups and publications by the score who attack the Pope and bishops with a relish and virulence that is hard to believe. I have seen cartoons published by these groups that would rival the Know-Nothings' cartoons of the nineteenth century in virulent anti-Catholicism. Some claim that the Pope is a heretic and the see of Peter has been vacant since John XXIII. Others have an obsession with Opus Dei and rejected John Paul when he canonized St. Josemaria. Still others will try to bait their priests and bishops - the very ones who provide them with the traditional Mass - waiting for mistakes or shortcomings they can turn against the clergy with venom. Believe me, I could fill an entire article with experiences I've had trying to deal with individuals such as these, people who are certain every word that comes out of my mouth is a lie and every action is destined to overturn traditional Catholicism. Indeed, people of this mentality will often refer to themselves as "Traditionalists" instead of traditional Catholics. Like heretics and schismatics of years gone by, they take one article of the Faith, magnify it out of all context with the rest of the Faith, create grand conspiracies in their minds, and set themselves up as a new magisterium. But let's not pretend that such people as these represent all of us who are devoted to the traditional rite of Mass. Let's not use this as an excuse to condemn everyone who loves the old Mass. Everyone who is attached to the traditional Mass is not a member of some wacky schismatic group. 

Permit me to speak of my own experience as a parish priest permitted by my bishop to offer this rite of Mass and serve a community of over 800 people who are devoted to the Traditional Latin Mass. We are Catholics who love the Faith and seek to pass it on to future generations. Our families are large (with seven and even more children). Most of our members are younger than 50 and we have many college students and young professionals who are rediscovering Catholic faith and tradition. We love the Pope, we are grateful to our bishop, and the people show a constant and tender affection for their priest. Since we aren't allowed to have the traditional Mass most weekdays, those who go to daily Mass attend the new rite but would rather that we have our own Mass every day. We are referred to as the "Latin Community" and the other parishioners who attend the new rite of Mass are called the "regular parishioners." On the diocesan flow chart we are set at the very end of all diocesan organizations and groups, with the ethnic communities. We have to "set up" and "tear down" before and after each Mass (and that causes numerous servers and sacristans to be scrambling all over the sanctuary while the people are trying to pray). We are treated as second-class citizens even though we provide a very generous financial basis to the parish-to the point that it could not continue to exist without us. This is the story of countless Latin Mass communities all over the country. 

I don't think faithful and obedient Catholics - and that is what we are - deserve to be treated like this. The fact that our people are coming to Mass in a church which is in communion with the local bishop seems to be ignored. If we weren't concerned about that we could all  go elsewhere. The people who come to this church for the Traditional Latin Mass are doing so not only for the sake of the Mass but also because they value being in communion with the bishop, and through him, with the Pope. In the diocese neighboring us a group of people anxious to have the traditional Mass available to them approached their bishop, along with three priests of that diocese, and together these people and priests asked the bishop for permission to have the old Mass. He refused, saying there aren't enough priests (three were sitting in front of him)and that there are no seminarians coming along to provide more priests for the future (many Latin Mass communities have several seminarians). As a result of this bishop's unwillingness to offer pastoral care to these people, three illicit communities have formed in his diocese where the traditional Mass is provided by "independent" priests. Whose fault is that? 

Some people reading this article may make the accusation that traditional-minded Catholics are attacking the new rite of Mass. I tried for the longest time never to say anything negative about the Mass of Pope Paul VI. In fact, I offer it almost every day because I can-not offer the traditional Mass. I never doubt its validity and I always offer it with as much devotion as I can muster. However, I am not blind. I can make comparisons between the new and the old, and I can see the theological and spiritual shortcomings of the new rite: it's failure to express the fullness of Catholic Faith about the Eucharist and the priesthood, its inability to raise up heart and mind from the profane to the supernatural, its confusion on the role of the priest, and its unfaithful and banal translations of the original Latin text. How do we hold on to what we believe in without making these negative comparisons? It is a difficult task. 

The disturbances of the Faith during the decades after the Second Vatican Council have produced a sorrow words cannot describe in the hearts of many people, both lay and clerical. There is a sorrow and dismay that things are not what we hoped they would be and, in fact, those we trusted to make them right have often neglected their own responsibility. I was ordained in 1980 and found myself sorely disappointed by developments in the Church over the next years. Finally,in 1992, I was first permitted to offer the traditional Mass, and then in 2001 I became the third chaplain of our Latin Mass community. Discovering the traditional Mass, not just as a liturgical artifact of ages gone by, but as a real and lived celebration of the Eucharist offered by me and attended with faith by hundreds of devout Catholics, has renewed my spirit of priestly ministry many times over. I believe it is wise to point out that none of what I have written here is based on a spirit of "nostalgia." That charge has all too often been made about those who are devoted to the traditional Mass. We aren't looking for a rosy refuge from a world and a Church which are not the way they used to be in our childhood. We're looking for real and powerful Catholic Faith and we want to express that Faith in full continuity with the centuries past. It's not about what we think we remember the Faith was like in 1950, it's about what the Faith has been in every century. 

There are many letters I receive from parishioners explaining their love of the Traditional Latin Mass. One from parents of a First Communion student says how much their little girl loves the old rite of Mass: "Helen has been affected to an extraordinary degree by the Latin Mass . . . We see a marked increase in her fervor - and in ours, for that matter   - from this Mass. She is praying intently for a daily Mass." When the controversy was swirling about "The DaVinci Code," this little girl said forthrightly, "I love our Lord Jesus Christ and I reject The DaVinci Code!" Here is a letter from a young woman I received into the Church, the child of fallen-away Catholics. She speaks of her first traditional Mass: "When Mass began, I was in such awe . . . Without a complete understanding of what I was witnessing, I could tell there was something very different at the Latin Mass. It was something that I had never experienced before. I could feel there was a truth and deep, holy tradition in this Mass. It was the day that I felt this is where I belong . . . I opened my heart to God and He returned His love to me. I have never felt such peace before in my life. God is good, God is merciful. I am very excited to begin raising our family in the Traditional Latin Mass!" 

And just one more letter from a young man who will be married this September: "The Latin Mass, more than any other Mass, has challenged me to go deeper into the Catholic Faith. The solemnness of the Mass, with nothing to distract the mind,focused my mind and heart on the amazing reality of Christ present in the Eucharist. The holiness of the other parishioners challenged me to greater holiness in my own life . . . The historical continuity with the Church through the centuries that the Latin Mass reflects gives me a greater appreciation for the splendor and majesty of Christ's Body here on earth." 

One of our members is even the first cousin of Madonna. He told me that he discovered the Traditional Mass by accident at a time in his life when he was desperate. One Sunday he discovered the Mass in a church as he walked down the street. He never knew that something so beautiful existed, he told me. He fell on his knees in the back of the church and was converted to a deep faith on the spot. Such accounts as these could go on for some time. These are ordinary Catholics, too young to remember the pre-conciliar days, men and women who have no agenda other than to seek Christ: to know him,love him, and serve him. They aren't motivated by nostalgia. They simply want to find the Lord and are overwhelmed as they discover, perhaps for the first time, the Traditional Latin Mass. 

Recently, a young priest from another diocese told me that a bishop insisted to him that the traditional Mass is "divisive." It seems clear to me that when we hear statements made like this, we are in fact observing the blind refusal of Church bureaucrats to admit that the so-called liturgical renewal of the last forty years has been a dismal failure. There may indeed be more people running around in the sanctuary but there are far fewer people in the pews-and far fewer priests. Forty years of unremitting liturgical abuses, weak and unconcerned bishops, and the production of a man-centered liturgy, have wreaked destruction on the faith of several generations of Catholic lay people-and priests. Yet those in positions to do something about this rarely voice any misgiving. It's as if we dare not admit the colossal mistakes we have made. In truth, the emperor is wearing no clothes. Perhaps this is an example of what C. S. Lewis called, "chronological snobbery," the idea that everything new is great and everything old is awful. 

The recent controversy about the possibility of a "universal indult" for the Traditional Latin Mass and a reconciliation of the Society of St. Pius X with Rome, along with the liturgical battles being fought by the American bishops over a proposed new-and somewhat more faithful-translation of the new rite of Mass, reveal the pressing need we have in the Church today to move forward with genuine renewal. The premise that renewal and reform are to be found in changing rituals and externals of our common worship from centuries and centuries past is a profound error. True renewal must be interior: the human heart must be changed so that faithful Catholics may be open to a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. Recent circumstances in the life of the Church, thanks to Pope Benedict XVI,have put the liturgical questions I deal with in this article on the front burner. It is time for a genuine renewal of faith, a heartfelt return to the fullness of the Catholic Faith, and a complete understanding of the sacramental priesthood. These, and much, much more, are all found in the Traditional Latin Mass.

You can view Father Myers 4marks Folio at: http://www.4marks.com/FrKennethMyers 

Reverend Kenneth Myers was ordained for the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1980. He earned a master's degree in theology from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York, and a master's in education from Duquesne University. In 1992 he began to celebrate the traditional rite of Mass and in 2001 he was appointed chaplain of the Pittsburgh Latin Mass Community, the largest diocesan Latin Mass community in the United States.

Twelve Days of Christmas for the Large Family

This is nice nugget circulating on the chain emails. Very funny, especially if you have more than three children and go to the grocery store.

28 December 2008

Feast of the Holy Innocents; Sunday within the Octave of Christmas

Effuderunt sanguinem Sanctorum velut aquam in circuitu Ierusalem.

V: Et non erat qui sepeliret.

V:Vindica, Domine, sanguinem Sanctorum tuorum, qui effusus est super terram.

27 December 2008

Puer Natus Nobis Est

Here's a Surprise

The ultra-lefty National Coalition of American Nuns gives its full support to disgraced priest Roy Bourgeois, who attended a women's sorta-nation ceremony and refused calls from the Church to repent.  Yes, that's him, a Roman Catholic priest, pictured at left.  He faces excommunication, but the angry gray line loves him.  I couldn't resist a few edits for accuracy's sake, in green, below.

(Some) Nuns back priest in ordination flap
  • Advocate River parishes bureau
  • Published: Dec 27, 2008 - UPDATED: 12:05 a.m.

A Lutcher-born Catholic priest facing excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church for his public stance advocating ordination of women priests has recently received the support of 113 nuns.

In a Dec. 12 letter written to the Vatican, the Detroit-based National Coalition of American Nuns criticized the threatened discipline of the Rev. Roy Bourgeois, a Maryknoll priest, saying it “has diminished our Church (in our minds).”

The letter continues: “Roy is now a prophetic voice (code word for espousing heterodox or heretical, non-Catholic beliefs) in our church because of his support for women’s equality in all Church ministries. Excommunications depend not on edicts or laws, but on compliance.

“We do not believe Roy is outside the community, and we embrace him wholeheartedly.  We also believe robots are stealing our luggage.

Bourgeois told The Advocate in early November that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Oct. 21 gave him 30 days to recant his belief and public statements or be excommunicated, or banished from the church.

However, Bourgeois said, he would remain steadfast in his convictions and would not back down from his public statements.

The controversy began in early August when Bourgeois attended a(n) pretend ordination service  for a woman pretending to become a priest and  preached a homily.  Of course, the controversy's roots in the lack of formation this priest received in his training and ministry will not be covered by this news outlet.

Vatican officials have not announced any official steps taken against Bourgeois.

Bourgeois could not be reached this week by phone at his office in Columbus, Ga.

Church leaders like Jesus Christ, St. Peter, an unbroken succession of Popes for two millenia, as well as the constant Sacred Tradition, the Church Fathers, and evidence from Scripture maintain that the priesthood is reserved for men, and, in May, the Vatican insisted that it is properly following Christian tradition by excluding women from the priesthood.  See, when we use words like "maintain" and "insist", it makes these "leaders" seem pretty arbitrary.

As a result, the Vatican issued a new warning that church members taking part in ordinations of women would be excommunicated.

In a news release discussing the National Coalition of American Nuns’ letter defending Bourgeois, Dominican Sister Donna Quinn, one of the coordinators (see, no hierarchical structure here, just coordinators, like any socialist entity), said the proposed punishment of the priest is not in line with the modern church.  Boy, is she right about that.

“The medieval punishment (anti-Catholic style book, point 8:  using the term medieval makes them look bad!) of excommunication serves only to embarrass our Church in the eyes of the world (Obama for Pope!) and fuels further anger and resentment among the U.S. faithful,” Quinn  said.  This statement amounts to a rare admission by heterodox nuns that they are the party of anger and resentment.  Why hate, Sister?

Bourgeois, a priest for 36 years, graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and served as a U.S. Navy officer for four years — two years at sea, one year at a NATO station in Europe, and one year of shore duty in Vietnam, receiving the Purple Heart.  He is therefore to be considered morally superior to the medievalists at the Vatican.

After military service, he entered the seminary of the Maryknoll Missionary Order.

He is best known for founding SOA Watch, an organization that seeks to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, at Fort Benning, Ga.  See, it's all political!  Just because Karl Marx is a more important figure to this crowd than the Savior of the World, the Church wants to persecute him.

According to the SOA’s Web site, Bourgeois has spent more than four years in federal prisons in the United States since 1990 on convictions for nonviolent protests against the U.S. military’s policy of training Latin American armed forces members.  Maybe it was prison that warped him.  We just don't know.