31 May 2011

Feast of the Queenship of Mary

Today is the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, fittingly timed with the coming end of Eastertide, the Feast of the Ascension, Pentecost, and the approach of the great feasts of our Lord-- Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart.

May Mary continue to watch over, guide, correct, pray for, and protect us!

O Most Holy Virgin who wast pleasing to God and didst become His Mother. Immaculate in your body, in your soul, in your faith and in your love, we beseech thee to look graciously upon the wretched who implore thy powerful protection. The wicked serpent, against whom the primal curse was hurled, continues nonetheless to wage war and to lay snares for the unhappy children of Eve. Ah, do thou, our blessed Mother, our Queen and Advocate, who from the first instant of thy conception didst crush the head of our enemy, receive the prayers that we unite single-heartedly to thine and conjure thee to offer at the throne of God, that we may never fall into the snares that are laid for us, in such wise that we may all come to the haven of salvation; and in the midst of so many dangers may holy Church and the fellowship of Christians everywhere sing once more the hymn of deliverance, victory and peace. Amen.

30 May 2011

Cause of Schism: "those who assert that Vatican II founded a new Church with a new theology and new sacraments."

Rorate Caeli has posted an English translation of a Die Welt interview by Paul Badde with Martin Mosebach, author of the seminal lay apology for the traditional Mass, The Heresy of Formlessness.  Mosebach, with his usual insight and ability to get to the crux of an issue quickly, discusses the new instruction on the Extraordinary Form, Universae Ecclesiae.

I want to post the entirety of the Rorate post below, with my emphases in green:

The Church Must Endure this Anger
Freedom is restored to the Old Rite: Martin Mosebach on the recent papal letter on the Latin liturgy
By Paul Badde
(Die Welt, May 23, 2011)
Four years ago, Pope Benedict XVI, against the opposition of the great majority in the Catholic Church, restored the old Latin liturgy to equality with the new vernacular form of the celebration of the mass, which had been mandated since 1969. (The Latin liturgy substantially dates back to Gregory the Great (540-604) and was finally authoritatively fixed by the Council of Trent (1545-1563).) A week ago, the Vatican, in a papal letter, reaffirmed its determination of 2007 and clarified some disputed questions regarding its practical application. Martin Mosebach, the recipient of the Büchner prize, is one of the most fervent admirers and defenders of the old Liturgy.
Die Welt: In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, in a special motu proprio (an apostolic letter), freed the ancient Gregorian liturgy for the Catholic Church. Why does the Vatican publish instructions four years later on how the will of the pope is to be implemented?
Martin Mosebach: The enemies of the great liturgical tradition of the Roman Church in many cases have not accepted the permission given to the Old Rite. They often tried to ignore the pope’s motu proprio and sought to maintain obstacles. They tried with bureaucratic methods to render ineffective the pope’s generosity. Therefore, the Vatican had to be clearer if it wanted to maintain the motu proprio.
Die Welt: The Instruction speaks of “two usages of the one Roman rite.” Doesn’t this open the door to a creeping new schism?
Martin Mosebach: There’s already a schism, not between supporters of the new and old rites, but between those Catholics who adhere to the old sacramental theology of the Church as was solemnly confirmed by Vatican II, and those who assert that Vatican II founded a new Church with a new theology and new sacraments. This latter doctrine has been diffused wholesale and against the better knowledge of its promoters, in the seminaries, universities and Catholic academies. This is what has fostered the danger of a schism.
Die Welt: “What was sacred for prior generations remains sacred and great also for us as well; it cannot be suddenly prohibited altogether or even judged harmful.” The Instruction cites here the pope. But wasn’t this the intention of the overwhelming majority of the Catholic bishops in the last 40 years?
Martin Mosebach: Yes, it is regrettably true that a not small part of the Catholic bishops, in a suicidal frenzy, attempted to separate from the Catholic Tradition and to cut the Church off from the source of her vitality. In the sentence you have cited, the pope has given them some tutoring in ecclesiology.
Die Welt: How can the Roman liturgy in the “usus antiquior “ be offered today “to all the faithful “ if only a fraction of the faithful understand Latin?
Martin Mosebach: At all times only a few Catholics have been able to follow the Latin Mass word for word. Europe looks back on well over a thousand years of glorious Catholic culture without the people being able to understand Latin. They understand something more important: that in the rite the Parousia – the mystic presence – of the Lord takes place. Without this understanding, a person has understood nothing of the Mass, even if he thinks he understands every word. Moreover, for a long time there have been wonderful bilingual missals with which we can pray the mass with the priest. But it is indeed correct: the Old Rite requires a certain effort, a readiness to learn.
Die Welt: And how will precisely the promotion of the “older” rite further “reconciliation within the Church” after it has led to so much conflict until now?
Martin Mosebach: The conflict essentially is due to the misunderstanding, so perilous for the Church, that Vatican II established a new Church. The struggle surrounding this misunderstanding must be endured to the end. Covering it up with peaceful phrases doesn’t help the Church.
Die Welt: Pastors are invited to show “a spirit of generous welcome” to groups of faithful who would like to celebrate the Old Mass in Latin. Isn’t this naïve after the last few decades, in which such faithful were considered hopelessly old-fashioned and retrograde?
Martin Mosebach: Indeed, the faithful, who have adhered to the Old Rite or have discovered it just recently, were reviled in manner that, I hope, is not revealing of the spiritual worth of the reform. Karl Rahner’s words have not been forgotten: the opponents of the reform of the mass are “tragicomic fringe elements, frustrated by humaneness .” Today, however, one surprisingly finds a great deal of understanding for the cause of Tradition among younger priests.
Die Welt: That the pope personally changed the old Good Friday petition for the Jews satisfied hardly a single critic or opponent. Doesn’t the new Instruction stir up the fire once more?
Martin Mosebach: The critics of the Good Friday prayer perceive the insistence of the Church that Christ is “the Truth” as creating scandal. But the Church must endure this anger. She cannot deviate from this conviction.
Die Welt: Now priests can once more celebrate mass by themselves (or with the assistance of a single server). Isn’t that a leap back into the age when the concept of “communio” had only a shadowy existence in the Catholic Church?
Martin Mosebach: The concept of “communio” never had only a shadowy existence in the Church. The “communion of Saints” is , after all, even an article of faith. The community of which the Church speaks, however, is much more than the people actually present. It is a community with the dead and with the angels – but it is especially a community with Jesus Christ. Experience teaches that this community can be intensively experienced in the old form of the mass and even especially in the low mass – in any case, for many people better than in the post-conciliar form, characterized by incessant talking and the singing of questionable songs.
Die Welt: The training of priests is supposed again to “offer the opportunity of learning the extraordinary form of the rite” to theology students. But who will teach it? There are, after all, almost no teachers left.
Martin Mosebach: There are a number of Traditional priestly societies which view as their mission the imparting of the old liturgy to young priests. One only has to turn to these priestly societies and ask. They are happy to provide information, but until now have been impeded by many bishops.
Die Welt: What surprised you the most in the new Instruction?
Martin Mosebach: What surprised me is how determined the pope is in the question of liturgy. In any case, he has created the legal prerequisites for returning the Old Rite to complete freedom. No bishop who would like to impede the Old Rite can cite legal reasons any more.
Die Welt: And what disappointed you the most?
Martin Mosebach: It was disappointing for me that the great rite of the old ordination ceremony can from now on only be celebrated in Traditional monasteries and priestly societies. It is a pity that this spiritual treasure, which defines the priesthood so exactly, is to be lost to the universal Church – at least for the time being.
Die Welt: How do you respond to the criticism that the debate over liturgy overlooks the plight of the Church and the world?
Martin Mosebach: The plight of the Church is precisely that she has forgotten where her center lies. Her mission is to proclaim the living Christ and the living Christ appears in the liturgy. If the liturgy is made subject to the fashions of the day, the living Christ becomes invisible. Then the Church is truly in a crisis.
© Paul Badde

29 May 2011

OSV Article on Homeschooling and the False Dilemma

Evann at the Homeschool Goodies blog links to an article in Our Sunday Visitor about how the homeschooling movement is not always welcomed by Catholic dioceses.  I enjoy articles like these; if I ever forget why we are homeschooling, these types of articles remind me pretty quickly.

Here is the relevant excerpt from the article:

Question of commitment 

According to the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education (Gravissimum Educationis), parents are the primary educators of their children, and Catholic home-schoolers take that commitment seriously. For them, their homes are places where authentic Catholic education occurs, and many members of the clergy and hierarchy agree with them. Several dioceses explicitly recognize home schooling as a valid option for Catholic education. 
But not all priests and bishops agree. At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops wrote that parents have an obligation to send their children to parochial schools, and some clergy members today say Catholic home-schoolers abrogate that responsibility. 
The latest skirmish flared earlier this year when the Holy Family Homeschoolers Associationinvited Austin Bishop Joe Vásquez to celebrate a blessing Mass at the beginning of the next school year. The response came not from the bishop’s office but from the Catholic schools superintendent, Ned Vanders, who wrote
“Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass. Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. “Bishop’s presence at the home-schooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.
Sincerely in Christ, Ned F. Vanders, Ed.D.” 
A spokesman from the Diocese of Austin declined interview requests for Vanders and Bishop Vásquez. 

In defense of schools 

But if Vanders’ letter reflects Bishop Vasquez’s thoughts on home schooling, he is not alone. 
Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, has become something of a bete noire for the Catholic home-schooling community, championing the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools.  
There are several reasons to prefer Catholic schools, Father Stravinskas told Our Sunday Visitor, including that the Church Fathers made clear that catechesis is the job of the whole Church, with the main responsibility resting on the shoulders of the pastor, not the parents. 
And Catholic parents who choose to home-school when there is a Catholic school available at least implicitly send the message that they do not trust the Church to educate their children properly, and the children get that message. 
“On the same property where they go to church on Sunday is a school where the parents don’t wish to send them,” he said. 
That leads to a subtle anti-clericalism, he said, because the children learn that priests cannot be counted on to hand on the faith. It shows in what he sees as a dearth of vocations from home-school families. “Why would you want to join the club if its members can’t be trusted to their jobs?” he said. 
He also believes it is psychologically unhealthy for mothers to spend 24 hours a day with their children as they get older, and it’s academically nearly impossible for one person to teach all that is included in a modern high school curriculum. 
What’s more, he said, some home-school families say they have no issues with the faculty or teaching at their local Catholic schools, but they don’t want their children exposed to others whose families might not have the same values as theirs. 
“That sets up an elite, a church within a church, and that is to be avoided,” he said.
As a traditionally-minded Catholic, I guess I am guilty of clericalism and anti-clericalism at the same time!  

Let's start with Fr. Stravinskas, whose opinions have on the subject have been published in OSV in the past.  Fr. Stravinskas has no clue about the Catholic homeschooling movement, if he really thinks there is a dearth of vocations from homeschooled families.  Seriously?  Do I need to point out the error in this claim?

And anti-clericalism?  Seriously?  Do you really think homeschoolers are more worried that priests can't teach their children the faith, or is it rather that they won't?  I say "won't", because in nearly all parochial schools the priests don't teach religion classes.  Aren't the teachers usually laymen who are the victims of post-Vatican II non-catechesis just like the bulk of us?  Why would a hired layman teach my child religion better than I would?  Moreover, I can only imagine that Father Stravinskas has not read the most popular religion textbooks used in Catholic schools--because if he did, then he wouldn't write what he did.

I am no psychologist, but as unhealthy as it is for children to spend time with their mothers, fathers, and siblings, I would think that spending time with programs like "Talking about Touching" and similar "safe-environment" garbage is more dangerous.  What do the children learn about Catholicism, about morality, about history-- these are relevant questions that will enable parents to decide what type of schooling is psychologically, and more importantly, spiritually, superior.

Father Stravinskas, the article says, champions "the idea that Catholic children should be educated in Catholic schools."    I agree; that is why we homeschool.

With regard to Ned Flanders' excuses for the Bishop quoted at the first part of the article, I can say that not every Bishop feels the same way, thank God.  It would be wrong for a diocese to be more concerned with propping up a school system that doesn't impart the faith by attacking those parents who are sincerely trying to impart the faith at home.  I would propose that Catholic homeschoolers ought to stand as a positive challenge to the parochial schools to get back to what made them great in the first place.  Children do not exist to prop up the schools; the schools exist to provide truly Catholic education to the children.

Oh Boy.

While waiting for my lovely bride to finish getting ready for Mass, I flipped on the TV (first mistake) and saw the beginning of the "Faith 'Church'  St. Louis" program (second mistake).  Can anybody really fall for that stuff? 

Wait.  Don't answer that.  

28 May 2011

Four New Priests for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis

His Grace Archbishop Robert Carlson ordained four new priests for the Archdiocese today, Father Timothy Foy, Father Anthony Gerber, Father Michael Grosch, and Father Henry Purcell.

The St. Louis Review has the story and a multimedia presentation here.

Congratulations to them, and to all of us.  They will have need of our prayers as they live out their vocations.

27 May 2011

Complete Traditional Breviary for iPhone!!

If you have been waiting (im)patiently for the new Latin-English Breviary from Baronius Press, then I have good news for you.  The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, a wonderful order of traditionally-minded Franciscans, have made available a FREE iphone app of the full breviary, 1962 edition.

It allows Latin only, or a parallel Latin-English layout.

Click here for information, or go to the app store for download "brevarium meum".

h/t to Fr. Z

Into the Weekend

Sorry I have been light blogging the last couple of days.  I plan to blog more often over the weekend, as I will be at or near home.  God bless all of you, have a great weekend, and be safe.

Headline Says It All

The headline is from the Drudge Report, and links to a story about the recent extension of the so-called Patriot Act:


When did the Constitution die?  I forgot to send flowers.

26 May 2011

Remember, the Terrorists Hate Us for Our Freedoms

The push for national socialism continues on I-70.  I've said it before and I'll say it again:  the easiest way to improve quality of life is to cut the police budget and the public school budget by 50% in every jurisdiction.

25 May 2011

Holy Cross Weather Blessing

Each year the Canons of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest give a blessing, using a relic of the True Cross, against lightning and storms.  This blessing is given after low Masses from May 3 (Feast of the Finding of the Cross) to September 14 (Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross).  Just another good reason to hit 8 a.m. Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory.

Considering the violent storms that have been ravaging St. Louis, Joplin and many other parts of the Southwest and Midwest, I thought it might be useful to post it here.  It can be prayed as a private or family prayer as well.

Holy Cross Weather Blessing

V. A fúlgure, grádine et tempestáte.
R. Líbera nos, Dómine Jesu Christe.

V. Osténde nobis, Dómine, misericórdiam tuam.
R. Et salutáre tuum da nobis.

V. Dómine exáudi oratiónem meam.
R. Et clamor meus ad te véniat.

V. Dóminus vobíscum.
R. Et cum spíritu tuo.

Orémus.  Quaesumus, omnípotens Deus, ut, intercessióne Sanctae Dei Genetrícis Maríae, sanctórum Angelórum, Patriarchárum, Prophetárum, Apostolórum, Mártyrum, Confessórum, Vírginum, Viduárum, et ómnium Sanctórum tuórum, contínuum nobis praestes subsídium, tranquíllam auram permíttas, atque contra fúlgura et tempestátes désuper nobis indígnis tuam salútem effúndas de caelis, et géneri húmano semper aemulas, déxtera poténtiae tuae, aéreas cónteras potestátes.  Per eúndem Christum Dóminum nostrum.

R. Amen.

V. Sit nomen Dómini benedíctum.

R. Ex hoc nunc et usque in saeculum.

V. Adjutórium nostrum in nómine Dómini.
R. Qui fecit caelum et terram.

V. Benedíctio Dei omnipoténtis, Patris + et Fílii, et Spíritus Sancti, descéndat super vos, locum istum et fructus terrae et máneat semper.

R. Amen.


V. From lightning strikes, hail, and violent storms.
R. Deliver us, O Lord Jesus Christ.

V. Show us, O Lord, Thy mercy.
R. And grant us Thy salvation.

V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

V. The Lord be with you.
R. And with thy spirit.

Let us pray.  We beseech Thee, O Almighty God, through the intercession of Holy Mary, the Mother of God, of the holy angels, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, widows, and of all Thy saints, that Thou show us Thy continuing protection, permit tranquil winds, and also pour out to us, Thy unworthy servants, Thy safety from heaven above against lightning strikes and violent storms, and that Thou remain always protective of the human race and crush down the aerial powers by the right hand of Thy power.  Through the same Christ our Lord.

R. Amen

V. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.
R. Now and forever.

V. Our help is in the Name of the Lord.
R. Who made heaven and earth.

V. May the blessing of Almighty God, the Father, + the Son, and the Holy Ghost, descend upon you, this place, and the fruits of the earth and remain forever.

R. Amen.

That's an Ecumenical Effort I Can Get Behind

News comes today from J.P. Sonnen that Pope Benedict XVI was given a new Papal Tiara by a group of Catholics and Orthodox Christians at Wednesday's General Audience.

It looks great, Your Holiness.  Now.... just... take it... and... put it on!

Police Officers Kill American Marine Protecting His Family; Shot at 71 Times

Nothing to see here.

Again, Not What He Said-- But a Nice Article in Favor of Veiling

Francis Phillips of the Catholic Herald has written a nice article in support of the immemorial custom of women covering their heads at Mass, basing her case upon the virtues of respect and modesty.  In the course of the piece, she refers to the private correspondence of Cardinal Burke and its misinterpretation by Fr. Z (and Ed Peters and Jimmy Akin) for the proposition that head covering is no longer required under law. 

This is why the making public of His Eminence's letter as well as the quick and dramatically unthinking spin on it was such a disaster.  Words mean things, and when people with influence fail to conduct even the most rudimentary analysis of the actual words and context of such private correspondence before using it to score a public point it does real damage to the cause of Catholic restoration.

I have beaten this horse before, but let me try one more analogy. 

Recall that Cardinal Burke is one of the foremost experts in Canon law in the entire world.  He has a subtle mind.  When he writes private correspondence, it is not meant to be public, yet he knows that someone might decide to make it so.  Hence, His Eminence would likely choose his words with care. 

Consider an analogy: a company writes a job description that requires the employee filling the position to drive to work in his own car.  This same job description is published every time the position must be filled, over a period of many years.  Once, due to lack of space in the newspaper, the line about driving one's own car to work is omitted.  This confuses a job applicant, who had known about the company's longstanding requirement.  But she knows one of the Directors of the Board for the company, and writes to him:  "Does the job require that I drive a Mercedes to work?"  The Director answers, "Nice to hear from you.  No, you need not drive a Mercedes to work."  If that letter were made widely known, would that stand for the proposition that one needn't drive their own car to work?  Or just that it needn't be a Mercedes?

His Eminence's response to the writer was that, though it was the expectation in the Extraordinary Form, it was not "a sin" to participate in the Extraordinary Form "without a veil."  To paraphrase St. Peter: "Are there Canon lawyers among you? For His Eminence is also a Canon lawyer.  Then let them read."  Veiling is not the universe of possible head coverings.  What about hats?  Or even, dare I say it, snoods? Are head coverings addressed in the letter, or just veils?

If you think that is too much of a strained reading, I ask you to pick one option, because those who are so desperate to conclude that head coverings are no longer required clearly want to have it both ways.  Simultaneously, they wish to extol the obvious excellence and reputation of Cardinal Burke as a Canon lawyer for the proposition that we should adhere to what (they claim) His Excellence says, yet at the same time they will not give him the credit for drafting a letter well, as a Canon lawyer would do, choosing his words carefully and using them exactly.  No, don't read the letter as though a Canon lawyer wrote it-- we all know what he means.  Right? 

So, the private, informal correspondence of a great Canon Lawyer is to be published, apparently without his permission, read as though he weren't a great Canon lawyer and yet the conclusion that does not strictly follow from the letter is trumpeted as though it were a binding legal decree.  All to win the internet equivalent of a bar bet.  And now the question is unnecessarily further obscured.

By the way, here is the article in the Catholic Herald.

24 May 2011

If Only They Would Outlaw Drugs, These Things Wouldn't Happen

Oh wait, that's guns, right?

Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak--Just What a Blogger Needs to Hear

By popular demand, Canon Aaron Huberfeld of the Institute of Christ the King was forced to pass along his sermon from Sunday for the benefit of SLC readers:

Fourth Sunday after Easter 2011
Let every man be swift to hear, but slow to speak and slow to anger. For the anger of man worketh not the justice of God.

I quoted today’s epistle several weeks ago for the sermon on the deadly sin of wrath. I confess I thought about using the same sermon today, to see if anyone thought it sounded familiar. We all can use reminders when it comes to anger. As I told you on that Sunday, anger is a movement of man’s soul, a passion, and like all the passions, anger is neither good nor bad. It is when we allow our actions to be controlled by anger rather than right reason that sin enters in. And the way sin most commonly enters in is by sins of the tongue. Again, as St. Francis de Sales tells us, “It is a matter of great importance to make our conversation agreeable. To do so it is necessary to appear humble, patient, respectful, cordial, yielding in all lawful things to all. Above all, we must avoid contradicting the opinion of anyone, unless there is an evident necessity for it. In that case, it should be done with all possible mildness, and with the greatest tact, without in the least outraging the feelings of the other party. In this way we shall avoid contests which produce only bitterness and which ordinarily spring rather from attachment to our own opinion than from love of truth.”

But it is the Holy Ghost Himself who admonishes us in the most forceful terms on this subject. The Church begins on this Sunday in Eastertide to read from the Epistle of St. James. And the passage we read today from the first chapter is followed in chapter 3 by this stern warning on sins of the tongue:

James 3: If any man offend not in word, he is a perfect man. He is able to lead about the whole body with a bridle. For if we put bits into the mouths of horses that they may obey us, we guide their whole bodies. Behold also ships, whereas they are great, and are driven by strong winds, yet they are turned about with a small rudder, wherever the will of the pilot directs. Even so the tongue is indeed a little member, and boasts of great things. Behold how great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire. And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, defiling the whole body, setting aflame the wheel of existence, itself set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of creeping things and fishes can be tamed and has been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.

But very often we must talk to people, and this is not a necessary evil; it is a great good. But we must always keep in mind the words of the Scriptures, that in much speaking sin will not be absent; and that Our Lord told us we will have to give an account for every idle word that we have uttered. How do we use our gift of speech for good, and avoid sin?

First, make daily effort to speak a little bit less than you would like. Before weighing the options of what to say, consider the option of saying nothing. At the end of the day, in your evening prayers, in your examination of conscience, ask yourself before God: did I make a sincere effort today to say a little bit less than I wanted to? And begin each day with the same resolution. Sins of pride and anger will begin to vanish from your life.

Second, as often as you can, engage others in conversation by seeking their thoughts instead of immediately expressing your own. There was a television anchorman who used to say, “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.” But the ancients said, “Nature has given to men one tongue, but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak.”

Finally, learn to love silence for its own sake.  Again the wisdom of the ancients tell us, “I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence.” But it is only with the coming of Christ that man has been able to esteem the truly divine quality of silence. St. John of the Cross says: “From all eternity God spoke but one Word, His only begotten Son, and He spoke this Word in silence, and it is in silence that we hear It.” And St. Faustina says, “Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A chattering soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking in regard as to whether it is God's will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.”

But we are not Carthusians; we’re Salesians. Even when we have to speak, we can maintain a great interior silence by speaking a little less than we are inclined and refraining from saying anything which will disturb this silence of the soul. As the Apostle counsels us today: wherefore, brethren, putting away all uncleanness and abundance of malice, with meekness receive the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls. Amen.

23 May 2011

Well Said

The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes;
she is tolerant in practice because she loves.

The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe;
they are intolerant in practice because they do not love.

--Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange O.P

The Dangers of "Clericalism"-- or, More of the Same from the Cafeteria

Some weeks back I posted about the trend of some persons to criticize Catholic priests who look and act like Catholic priests because they look and act like Catholic priests.  They incorrectly call this "clericalism", and in that sense I posted an essay titled "A Call for Clericalism?". 

Well, it seems that The Tablet, which states that it is a Catholic publication, is warning that the ancient Mass is being allowed out of an implicit desire to reinstitute clericalism, and of course that leads straight to dissent (!) and pedophilia.  Fr. Z posted on this with his comments, and I think he nails it pretty well.  But I wanted to highlight a few paragraphs of the editorial in light of my previous post. 

The editorial begins by mis-defining clericalism as the "excessive emphasis on the role of the clergy in the Church's internal affairs."  Let that one sink in.  I suppose it depends on the meaning of "excessive."  But I get the feeling that the editorial writer thinks the unique calling of the ordained priesthood, giving those men the power to forgive sins and to confect the Eucharist, would form a part of that excessive emphasis.  After all, the Church needs priests for at least 5 of the 7 sacraments.  And we are a sacramental Church with a sacrificial priesthood.  But why quibble?  Says the editorial:

Clericalism was dealt a heavy blow by the emphasis in the teaching of Vatican II on the priesthood of all believers and on common baptism. But there is evidence of a clericalist backlash among some of those undergoing training for the priesthood or recently ordained. In dress and attitude, some of them appear to hanker – almost narcissistically – after a restoration of the priest’s elevated status that characterised parish life in the 1950s. A softer form of clericalism is still apparent in diocesan structures and in the Vatican itself, where few lay people are to be found, and usually in relatively junior positions. And clericalism automatically marginalises or excludes women.

It is also sometimes implicit in the motivation of those who are pushing for the return of the Tridentine Rite to general use. While the post-Vatican II new-rite Mass emphasises the Eucharist as an activity shared by the whole community, the Mass named after the Council of Trent puts more weight on the separation of roles, with the priest active and the congregation passively watching.

The Vatican is continuing to put ammunition in the hands the pro-Tridentine lobby in the Church, as in the latest instruction, Universae Ecclesiae, issued by the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei. Does it not realise how much this will encourage divisive tensions in the Church and a spirit of reactionary rebellion against local episcopal authority, not to mention the revival of a misogynistic and elitist clericalism?

I love it when liberals warn against clericalism. But don't look for any signs of self-awareness there.  They hate the cassock, but that is just a symptom-- they hate the priesthood.  At least, they hate that we need one.

The same people who have done much to try to destroy the Church, who have fomented dissent and disobedience to lawful authority, who have emasculated the teachings of the Church, now worry that the ancient Mass will weaken episcopal authority.  Rich, yes, but also unwittingly insightful.  They have taken over so many sees, so many diocesan bureaucracies, so many seminaries, so many orders, that of course they would now like to quash any "dissent" (i.e., a movement toward restoration of the faith).  This editorial, unfortunately, could be mistaken as a word-for-word editorial from many official Catholic publications in this country. 

I cannot begin to tell you how many times, over the years, so many angry "liberals" who post comments and send emails are absolutely fixated on the attire of priests.  They can't stand when a priest dresses like a priest, during the Mass or outside the Mass.  Anti-cassock comments, anti-lace comments, anti-finery comments.  It is a fixation with some.

The description of the two forms of Mass is typical, but again, revealing.  The Ordinary Form is an "activity" "shared by the whole community", while in the Extraordinary Form the priest acts while the "congregation" (not community here) passively watches.  Yep, that is about as deep an understanding of two thousand years of organic development and tradition handed down as you can expect to read in The Tablet.  I have news for them, though.  In both forms, the priest is the one who acts in consecrating the Eucharist.  Not you or me.  Using The Tablet's own caricature of the Mass, let me say it this way:  in the newer form, there is more busy work to distract the "community" so they are spared the discomfort of "passively watching."  After all, moments of silence could lead one to wonder whether the typical Mass at the typical parish could possibly have been intended by the Church.

And soooooo misogynistic-- women can't be priests, and that just isn't fair!  So, if you are feeling disempowered by this reality, you have two ways to attack it.  The priesthood has to be demeaned, or else the laity have to be made into little priests.  In neither of these approaches do the dissenters really respect the priesthood of the laity, because if they did respect it, they would not discount the dignity of that priesthood by wanting laymen to be little priests.  If the ordained priesthood isn't such a big deal, why do all these disaffected laymen want to be ordained priests, or at least to do everything the priest does?

But remember, standing for the truth, for Catholic doctrine, for respect for the Bishops and priests at the service of the bride-- that is divisive.  Not caving in to every outrageous novelty is divisive.  Actually being Catholic-- very divisive.

So, by all means, let us avoid this type of clericalism.  Things are so much better when we water down the faith and banalize the Church.  The evidence is all around us.

Signs of the Times

When a middle of the road (theologically-speaking) Catholic publication like Crisis Magazine picks up on this story, it ought to be a heads-up for you.  Religion and politics are two different things entirely, and Catholics resist easy political classification.  But Crisis does tend to garner many neo-conservative (politically) and conservative novus ordo (liturgically) Catholics as readers.  So, when Crisis publishes an article that favorably cites Ron Paul and Gerald Celente, predicts a currency collapse and urges ownership of commodities and land, I thought it was noteworthy.

From the full article:

The Late Great American Dollar

by Alex Newman

The economic crisis that hit the developed world a few years ago was devastating. Millions lost their jobs, their homes, an their retirements. But the next catastrophe — which could be coming soon — will make the recent recession feel like a boom time.

Imagine gasoline prices really skyrocketing and the cost of food and other essentials going through the roof — when they can be acquired at all. Think Social Security checks that don’t buy much of anything, and life savings wiped out in days. It has happened before in other countries, at other times — the Weimar Republic, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe, to name a few. Nations have risen and fallen throughout history, and there’s no reason to believe that couldn’t happen with the United States.


Financial analyst and former Wall Street currency trader John Rubino has also been ahead of the curve. In 2003, he wrote How to Profit from the Coming Real Estate Bust. Four years later, he came out with The Collapse of the Dollar and How to Profit From It.

In an interview with Crisis, Rubino said America is past the point of no return — there is “absolutely nothing” that can be done to prevent a collapse of the dollar. “We’ve already borrowed enough money to destroy the U.S. financial system, so a crisis of some sort is baked in the cake.” The debate over cutting “miniscule bits” from the government budget is a “wasted effort.”

“Historians will date the beginning of the dollar’s death spiral at 1971, when Richard Nixon closed the gold window. Since then the dollar has been gradually losing purchasing power. But the ‘crisis’ phase is just beginning,” he explained. “Now that we’re running trillion dollar deficits and basically printing the money to cover our debts, it won’t be long before the world figures out that the dollar is being inflated away and acts accordingly.”

He sees two possible outcomes. One would be a depression resulting from an economic collapse under all of the debt. The other: inflation and a currency collapse, caused by policymakers’ attempts to inflate the debt away. “We’ve never been here before, with this much debt on one hand and central banks with printing presses on the other,” he said. “Historic, but not fun, times!”


Editor Bob Chapman of The International Forecaster, a former stock broker who has been in economics and finance for more than 50 years, is likewise pessimistic. “The dollar-based international monetary system is being deliberately destroyed to bring in a global fiat currency and to bring the U.S. and Europe financially and economically to their knees,” he told Crisis. He predicts “inflation and hyperinflation, which will be followed by deflationary depression.”


While a money meltdown might be inevitable, we have no way of knowing what will initiate it. It could be a spike in interest rates, a total withdrawal of foreign creditors from the bond market, or an increase in the velocity of the newly created money, causing massive and sudden price increases. A global sell-off of U.S. Treasury securities or American dollars could do the trick as well — as could a rapid increase in the value of China’s currency.

Prudent Americans should start preparing now. Schiff offered his own recommendation: “Don’t own dollars!” He suggested foreign currencies and commodities as two potential assets worth considering. Schiff believes much of the rest of the world will probably benefit once American consumers and the U.S. government are no longer able to borrow and print money to consume so many of the world’s goods and services.

John Rubino, who authored the book about the looming dollar crisis and how to profit from it, had different advice. “Shift out of dollars — and other fiat currencies like euros and yen — and into hard assets like gold, silver, oil, and agricultural commodities,” he suggested. “Avoid debt unless you’re guaranteed to be able to pay it off even if you lose your job. Diversify geographically by owning assets in several different countries.”

Gloomier advisors suggest people invest in rural property, non-perishable food, and ammunition.

Knowledge of Purgatory

Well, maybe not, but last night's "sleep" was pretty horrific, though I am feeling better today.  I feel like someone erased the middle of me and left only the outlines...

20 May 2011

"A Nearly 50-Year Trend of Self-Centered Liturgy"

That is the description given by His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke to the process of liturgical destruction witnessed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.  From EWTN News:

Cardinal Burke says liturgy must shift focus away from self and back to God

By Conor Gilliland

Cardinal Raymond L. Burke delivered a lecture on what he calls a nearly 50-year trend of self-centered liturgy last week at the Thomistic Institute in Washington, D.C.

“In the time since the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, but certainly not because of the teaching of the council, there has been exaggerated attention on the human aspect of the sacred liturgy,” said the high ranking Vatican official in his May 11 address.

Cardinal Burke acknowledged upfront that the topic could seem redundant because the liturgy is, by its very essence, God-given and God-directed.

“Is not the Church by its very nature divine? That is, called into being and sustained in being by God, and therefore centered in God. Are not the Church herself and her worship by definition directed toward God?” he asked.

But, the American cardinal said, in the last 50 years undue attention has been given to the “human aspect of the sacred liturgy, which has overlooked the essence of the sacred liturgy as the encounter of God with us by means of sacramental signs. That is, as the direct action of the glorious Christ in the Church, to give to us the grace of the Holy Spirit.”

The over-emphasis on the human dimension, said Cardinal Burke, has raised the need to discuss this important topic.

Cardinal Burke drew on Old and New Testament scripture passages to demonstrate that God is the first and last object of worship in liturgy.

“He founded the covenant of faithful and enduring love between himself and his people on the Decalogue – the Ten Commandments.”

The Vatican-based cardinal said that the first three of the Ten Commandments establish the jus divinum – or “the divine right of God to be worshiped by us, in the manner in which he wishes to be worshiped.”

Cardinal Burke continued, saying that the first three commandments establish God as the only rightful recipient of worship. Following these first three commandments are the regulations about making sacrifices at the altar. About these regulations, Cardinal Burke reiterated that they were not man-made, but rather “the gift of God to man, in which God makes it possible for man to offer the sacrifice of communion with him.”

He went on to draw several parallels between Old Testament worship and the New Testament, where God's unique right to be worshiped finds its ultimate fulfillment.

“In the Sermon on the Mount, in which our Lord Jesus communicates the law of the New Covenant – the fulfillment of the covenant on Mt. Sinai – the first beatitude is poverty of spirit, which recognizes the Lord as the source of our being itself and of every good.”

In Jesus' affirmation that he came to fulfill the Old Testament law, rather than abolish it, Cardinal Burke said, “The words of the Lord confirm the fundamental service of the law, which is to honor and to safe-guard the jus divinum, the divine right, and thereby to honor and safeguard the order written by God in his creation.”

The cardinal argued that the Old Testament sacrificial code commanded by God is fulfilled in Christ's commandment at the Last Supper - “Do this in remembrance of me.” This command, he said, brings the rightful worship of God full circle in the Eucharist we celebrate today.

He also asserted that it is clear from Jesus' teaching that “faith in him as messiah, as God the son … is expressed first of all, and most perfectly, in the worship owed to God.”

Cardinal Burke summarized his talk by saying: “All of the norms of the Law are directed to the just relationship between God and his people upon which depends the salvation of the world. And thus they must be respected as the commandment of God and not the invention of man.”

19 May 2011

"All children take their home and their father for granted."

The Church to me is all important things everywhere. It is authority and guidance. It is love and inspiration. It is hope and assurance. It is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It is our Lady and St. Joseph. It is St. Peter and Pius XII. It is the bishop and the pastor. It is the catechism and it is our mother leaning over the crib teaching us our evening prayers. It is the cathedral at Chartres and the cross-tipped hut on Ulithi. It is the martyrs in the Colosseum and the martyrs in Uganda, the martyrs at Tyburn and the martyrs at Nagasaki. It is the wrinkled old nun and the eager-eyed postulant. It is the radiant face of the young priest saying his first Mass, and the sleepy boy acolyte with his soiled white sneakers showing under his black cassock.

It is the spire glimpsed from a train window and the cruciform miniature of a church seen far below on the earth from an airplane. It is six o'clock Mass with its handful of unknown saints at the communion rail in the gray dark and it is pontifical High Mass with its crowds and glowing grandeur in St. Peter's. It is the candle-starred procession after evening Benediction in St. Patrick's and the rosary, the night before the burial, at a stuccoed funeral parlor in Los Angeles. It is El Greco's soaring Assumption in Toledo and it is the primitive pink and blue angels on a mission altar in Peru. It is the Sistine Choir and it is the May procession of Chinese children singing the Regina Coeli in Peking.

It is the Carthusian at prime on Monte Allegro and the Jesuit teaching epistemology in Tokyo. It is the Scheutveld Father fighting sleeping sickness in the Congo and the Redemptorist fighting prejudice in Vermont. It is the Benedictine, the Augustinian, the Passionist, the Dominican, the Franciscan. It is all religious and especially the great unnamed Order of the Parish Priest.

It is the Carmelite Sister lighting the tapers for vespers in the drear cold of Iceland and the Sister of Notre Dame de Namur making veils for First Communion in Kwango. It is the Vincentian Sister nursing a Negro Baptist dying of cancer in Alabama and the Maryknoll Sister facing a Communist commissar in Manchuria. It is the White Sister teaching the Arabs carpetmaking in the Sahara and the Good Shepherd Sister in St. Louis giving sanctuary to a derelict child, a home to a lamb who was lost. It is the Little Sister of the Poor salving the sores of a forgotten old man in Marseilles, the Grey Sister serving the destitute in Haiti, the Blessed Sacrament Sister helping a young Negro write poetry in New Orleans. It is the Sister of Charity... It is all the Sisters everywhere.

It is the crippled woman who keeps fresh flowers before our Lady's altar and the young woman catechist who teaches the barefooted neophytes in the distant hills. It is the girl who gives up her bridge to drive the Sisters to the prisons and the homes of the poor, and it is the woman who goes from door to door begging for help for the orphanage. It is the proud mother of the priest and the heartbroken mother of the criminal. It is all mothers and sisters everywhere who weep and suffer and pray that sons and brothers may keep the Faith.

It is the youth climbing the September hill to the seminary, his heart sure of Him calling, and it is the lost priest stumbling, groping, seeking vainly afar the God he can hold in his hands, a stranger among men always and everywhere. It is the bad sermon and the good, the false vocation and the true. It is the tall young man who says the Stations of the Cross every evening and it is the father of ten who wheels the sick to Mass every Sunday morning at the County Hospital.

It is St. Martin and Martin de Porres, St. Augustine and St. Phocas, Gregory the Great and Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Ambrose and Charles de Foucauld, St. Ignatius and Ignatius the Martyr, St. Thomas More and St. Barnabas. It is St. Teresa and St. Philomena, Joan of Arc and St. Winefride, St. Agnes and St. Mary Euphrasia. It is all the saints, ancient and new, named and unnamed, and all the sinners.

It is the stained-glass window with the ragged hole from a boy's baseball, and the small red sanctuary lamp sputtering in a dark and empty church. It is the bursting out of the Gloria on Holy Saturday and the dim crib at dawn Mass on Christmas. It is the rose vestments on Laetare Sunday and the blue overalls of the priest working with the laborers in a mine in the Ruhr.

It is the shiny, new shoes and shiny, reverent faces of the June bride and groom kneeling before the white-flowered altar at nuptial Mass, and it is the pale, troubled young mother at the baptismal font, her joy mingled with distress as she watches her first-born wail its protest against the sacramental water. It is the long, shadowy, uneven line of penitents waiting outside the confessional in the dusk of a wintry afternoon, each separate and solemnly alone with his sins, and it is the stooped figure of a priest, silhouetted against the headlights of a police car in the darkness of the highway as he says the last prayers over a broken body lying on the pavement beside a shattered automobile.

It is the Magnificat and it is grace before meals. It is the worn missal and the chipped statue of St. Anthony, the poor box and the cracked church bell. It is peace and truth and salvation. It is the Door through which I entered into the Faith and the Door through which I shall leave, please God, for eternity.

------------- from Dan England and the Noonday Devil, by Myles Connolly, 1951.

One of the most beautiful and poetic descriptions of the Church I have read.  This picture of the Church, dating from the 1950s, isn't just nostalgia, but a call to restoration and renewal. The essentials remain. Some of the orders mentioned could use restoration and renewal. But, then, so could the lay faithful.

Dan took a sip of his wine, smiled at Doris. "Catholics take their Church for granted," he explained. "We even take our Lord in the tabernacle for granted. But you mustn't be too hard on us. All children take their home and their father for granted. We are spoiled children."

Maria, Mater Ecclesiae, ora pro nobis!

St. Dismas and the Immaculate Conception: What I Didn't Know about the Virgin of the Rocks

The above paintings (click to enlarge) are two versions of the painting known as The Virgin of the Rocks, or alternatively, Madonna of the Rocks, by Leonardo da Vinci.  Though the paintings are very similar, there are notable differences.

Also, unless you lived under a rock last decade, you will recall the execrable work of Dan Brown called The Da Vinci Code.  In this book, the two versions of The Virgin of the Rocks were claimed to prove super-de-duper secrets about the falsehood of Christianity and the two-millenia-old "cover-up".

One version of the common description of the painting comes from the National Gallery website:

An elaborate sculpted altar was commissioned by the Milanese Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception for their oratory in San Francesco in 1480. A new contract was drawn up in 1483 with Leonardo and the de Predis brothers: a central panel was to be painted by Leonardo alone, and there were to be two side panels showing angels singing and playing musical instruments. [...]

'The Virgin of the Rocks' seems not to refer to the mystery of the Immaculate Conception, but depicts the type of subject that Leonardo might have painted in his native Florence where legends concerning the young St. John the Baptist were popular.


Legendary tales of a childhood meeting between Jesus and his cousin Saint John the Baptist first became popular in the 14th century. It was claimed that when King Herod ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, the Holy Family fled to Egypt and on their way met Saint John, who also escaped the massacre.

Dan Brown has a more fanciful explanation of the paintings, briefly described in the Wikipedia entry on the paintings:

[I]t is claimed the earlier Louvre version contained hidden symbolism which contradicted orthodox Christian belief, notably the fact that Jesus is shown praying to John rather than the other way round (the novel implies that the baby at the left must be Jesus rather than John, because he is with the Madonna). It is also claimed that the Virgin appears to be holding an invisible head and that Gabriel appears to be "slicing the neck" with his finger. For this reason the painting was rejected by the Church, and a second, more orthodox, version was painted.

However, historical evidence shows that these claims are completely unfounded. (I include this sentence in case anyone needs the reminder). 

In one of those wonderful learning-by-teaching moments homeschooling parents sometimes experience, I learned that both interpretations are likely wrong.  The confusion stems from a misidentification of the infant boy on Mary's right. This infant is none other than St. Dismas, the Good Thief, and the painting is, indeed, one of the most sublime representations of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the art appreciation text Art Through Faith 8 by Mary Lynch,  published by Seton Press, there is a beautiful essay explaining the paintings.  I cannot find it online, nor can I find any other online site that describes the story (though one site lists the painting as a painting "of St. Dismas"), so I cannot provide an easy link.  Therefore, I must post this (rather long, but beautiful) excerpt from the piece here:

Look again at the two paintings.  Art historians believe the child on the left to be St. John the Baptist.  The attention of the Blessed Virgin, the angel, and the Christ Child are all directed toward this child.  Why would their focus be directed to a child if the theme of this picture is the Immaculate Conception?  Historically, whenever the Christ Child and another child are depicted, it is assumed that the other little boy is His cousin, John the Baptist.  However, perhaps da Vinci has created a visual riddle and chosen another, less obvious, identity for the second boy.

There is an ancient tradition that during the Holy Family's flight to Egypt, they paused to rest in a cave belonging to a thief and his family.  The robber and his wife had an infant son who was the same age as the Infant Jesus.  Sadly, the little baby had leprosy.  The Blessed Mother took pity on the poor child and his mother.  In gratitude for the shelter and food the robber's family had provided, Mary performed a wonderful miracle.

Our Lady told the mother to place her son in the bath water that had been used to wash the Christ Child.  As soon as the robber's son was bathed in the water, his sores were healed.  His skin was completely restored and renewed.

Many years passed and the two infant boys grew to manhood.  While the Christ Child "grew in age, wisdom and grace," the cured little boy grew into the trade of his father and became a thief.  One fateful and terrible day, the two men met again.  This time it was not in a cave, but on a hill.  The leprous baby boy was now the thief who hung on the cross to the right side of Jesus and said, "Lord, remember me when You enter Your Kingdom."  His mother's kind deed of long ago had won the thief the grace of faith and repentance.  On Calvary, Dismas (the Good Thief) was assured salvation with Christ's promise, "This day, thou shalt be with Me in paradise."

The story of St. Dismas was well known during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.  Da Vinci would have been very familiar with the account.

The genius of da Vinci continues to challenge his viewers.  More than five hundred years have passed since he painted the Mona Lisa, and numerous experts have studied the painting carefully over the course of the centuries.  Yet no one can say with certainty what hides behind her enigmatic smile or even if she is smiling.  With this in mind, let us return to the twin pictures of The Virgin of the Rocks.  The setting is a rocky cave.  In the background, there is a pool of water.  In the National Gallery version, the copy, the little boy on Our Lady's right, holds a cross-- a foreshadowing of his end.  Jesus blesses him bodily, and more importantly, spiritually.

Studying the Louvre version, we see that the little boy genuflects and his hands are folded in prayer.  Yet, there is a duality to his posture because this is also the position of someone who is about to dive into a pool, the pool of water before him.  Our Lady holds the boy in a protective, solicitous manner.  Could this not be the setting in the robber's den and the story of St. Dismas?  Placed in this context, suddenly the theme of the Immaculate Conception becomes apparent.  Da Vinci shows by this tender account, how the Virgin Mary, even during the trials of fleeing to save the life of her own Son, was ever ready to mediate between God and man.

Why, though, does the copy contain details not found in the original?  Da Vinci, a master of subtlety, was not one to overstate the obvious.  He left plenty of clues to show the child was St. Dismas: the frontal pool of water, the diving position, the Christ Child blessing before the other child dives, and most significantly, the angel's pointing finger as he looks at us.  He is telling us where to look.  Leonardo, known for his wit and innovation (and a rather trying temperament), expects the viewer to put a little effort into discovering the message and mystery of his work.

The second version, although begun by the Master, was completed by the de Predi brothers.  Perhaps the de Predi brothers were the first ones to misunderstand the subtlety of the painting.  Or, perhaps da Vinci's assistants thought signs of a more obvious nature were needed for the viewer to discern its content.  Halos were added.  A more distinct set of wings identified the angel.  The pointed hand, which served to direct the viewer to where he should look, was removed.  The pool was eliminated and thereby the duality of the child's position is no longer recognized.  Finally, a cross was inserted for little Dismas to hold.  It is not known for certain, but experts believe that the cross was added at a much later date.  And so, rather than serve to clarify the figure of Dismas, the addition of the cross became a source of confusion.  St. Dismas is mistaken for St. John the Baptist, and a cloud of perplexity has been cast over the entire scene, leaving everyone to wonder how the painting could possibly be a depiction of the Immaculate Conception.

An argument may still be made that the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, meaning that Mary was immaculate from the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Anne, is still not shown in either painting.  Indeed, this is true; there is no representation of Our Lady's formation.  However, the infallible doctrine also teaches that because of her Immaculate Conception, because of her exalted position as the Mother of God, she possesses the fullness of sanctifying grace, all the infused virtues, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Leonardo chose to exhibit her attributes rather than the moment of her own conception.

In both paintings, the position of the Blessed Virgin is highly significant.  Her hand comforts, but it also directs little Dismas.  As she was instrumental in bringing about his bodily cure in infancy, she would later serve to bring about his spiritual cure, his repentance.  On Calvary, the Blessed Mother, her heart pierced with a sword of sorrow, stood at the foot of the Cross of her Divine Son, but she also stood at the foot of the cross of Dismas.  The Immaculate Conception, in spite of her grief, and through the strength of her presence and prayers, was a source of comfort and guidance to Dismas in his last agony.

I don't know about you, but I found this account beautifully compelling.  There is more to the essay, but this excerpt is already far too long for a blog post.  Perhaps The Virgin of the Rocks should be the "official" painting of the movement to declare the fifth Marian dogma:  Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of all Graces, and Advocate. 

O Mary, conceived without original sin, pray for us sinners who have recourse to thee!