Category Archives: liturgy

Let’s Re-Ignite the Ember Days!

This is required reading for all SACC readers!   From the venerable Rorate Caeli:

Time for Worldwide Sacrifice: Ember Week in September

The equinox is coming. The Roman Church will once again remind us of the cycle of the seasons in this Ember Week in September.
We re-post, for those who are not aware of it, this article first posted by us in 2008, and reposted often since. May you all have a fruitful week of sacrifice.
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THE GLOW
OF THE EMBER DAYS
By Michael P. Foley



A potential danger of traditionalism is the stubborn defense of something about which one knows little. I once asked a priest who had just finished beautifully celebrating an Ember Saturday Mass about the meaning of the Ember days. He replied (with an impish twinkle in his eye) that he hadn’t a clue, but he was furious they had been suppressed.

Traditionalists, however, are not entirely to blame for their unfamiliarity with this important part of their patrimony. Most only have the privilege of assisting at a Sunday Tridentine Mass, and hence the Ember days—which occur on a weekday or Saturday—slip by unnoticed. And long before the opening session of the Second Vatican Council, the popularity of these observances had atrophied.

 
So why care about them now? To answer this question, we must first determine what they are.
 
The Four Seasons
 
The Ember days, which fall on a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the same week, occur in conjunction with the four natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September Embertide, also called the Michaelmas Embertide because of their proximity to the Feast of St. Michael on September 29.1 Winter, on the other hand, brings the December Embertide during the third week of Advent, and spring brings the Lenten Embertide after the first Sunday of Lent. Finally, summer heralds the Whitsun Embertide, which takes place within the Octave of Pentecost.
 
In the 1962 Missal the Ember days are ranked as ferias of the second class, weekdays of special importance that even supersede certain saints’ feasts. Each day has its own proper Mass, all of which are quite old. One proof of their antiquity is that they are one of the few days in the Gregorian rite (as the ’62 Missal is now being called) which has as many as five lessons from the Old Testament in addition to the Epistle reading, an ancient arrangement indeed.
 
Fasting and partial abstinence during the Ember days were also enjoined on the faithful from time immemorial until the 1960s. It is the association of fasting and penance with the Embertides that led some to think that their peculiar name has something to do with smoldering ash, or embers. But the English name is probably derived from their Latin title, the Quatuor Tempora or “Four Seasons.”2


 
Apostolic and Universal
 
The history of the Ember days brings us to the very origins of Christianity. The Old Testament prescribes a fourfold fast as part of its ongoing consecration of the year to God (Zech. 8:19). In addition to these seasonal observances, pious Jews in Palestine at the time of Jesus fasted every Monday and Thursday—hence the Pharisee’s boast about fasting twice weekly in the parable involving him and the publican (Lk. 18:12).
 
Early Christians amended both of these customs. The Didache, a work so old that it may actually predate some books of the New Testament, tells us that Palestinian Christians in the first century A.D. fasted every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed and Friday because it is the day He was crucified.3 The Wednesday and Friday fast were so much a part of Christian life that in Gaelic one word for Thursday, Didaoirn, literally means “the day between the fasts.”
In the third century, Christians in Rome began to designate some of these days for seasonal prayer, partly in imitation of the Hebrew custom and partly in response to pagan festivals occurring around the same time.4 Thus, the Ember days were born. And after the weekly fast became less prevalent, it was the Ember days which remained as a conspicuous testimony to a custom stretching back to the Apostles themselves.5 Moreover, by modifying the two Jewish fasts, the Ember days embody Christ’s statement that He came not to abolish the Law but fulfill it (Mt. 5:17).6

Usefully Natural

This fulfillment of the Law is crucial because it teaches us something fundamental about God, His redemptive plan for us, and the nature of the universe. In the case of both the Hebrew seasonal fasts and the Christian Ember days, we are invited to consider the wonder of the natural seasons and their relation to their Creator. The four seasons, for example, can be said to intimate individually the bliss of Heaven, where there is “the beauty of spring, the brightness of summer, the plenty of autumn, the rest of winter.”7



This is significant, for the Ember days are the only time in the Church calendar where nature qua nature is singled out and acknowledged. Certainly the liturgical year as a whole presupposes nature’s annual rhythm (Easter coincides with the vernal equinox, Christmas with the winter solstice, etc.), yet here we celebrate not the natural phenomena per se but the supernatural mysteries which they evoke. The Rogation days commemorate nature, but mostly in light of its agricultural significance (that is, vis-à-vis its cultivation by man), not on its own terms, so to speak.8

The Ember days, then, stand out as the only days in the supernatural seasons of the Church that commemorate the natural seasons of the earth. This is appropriate, for since the liturgical year annually renews our initiation into the mystery of redemption, it should have some special mention of the very thing which grace perfects.

Uniquely Roman

But what about Saturday? The Roman appropriation of the weekly fast involved adding Saturday as an extension of the Friday fast. And during Embertide, a special Mass and procession to St. Peter’s was held, with the congregation being invited to “keep vigil with Peter.” Saturday is an appropriate day not only for a vigil, but as a day of penance, when our Lord “lay in the sepulchre, and the Apostles were sore of heart and in great sorrow.”9 It is this Roman custom, incidentally, which gave rise to the proverb, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” According to the story, when Sts. Augustine and Monica asked St. Ambrose of Milan whether they should follow the weekly fasts of either Rome or of Milan (which did not include Saturdays), Ambrose replied: “When I am here, I do not fast on Saturday; when I am in Rome, I do.”10

Solidarity of Laity and Clergy

Another Roman custom, instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 494, is to use Ember Saturdays as the day to confer Holy Orders. Apostolic tradition prescribed that ordinations be preceded by fast and prayer (see Acts 13:3), and so it was quite reasonable to place ordinations at the end of this fast period. This allows the entire community to join the candidates in fasting and in praying for God’s blessing upon their vocation, and not just the community in this or that diocese, but all over the world.

Personally Prayerful

In addition to commemorating the seasons of nature, each of the four Embertides takes on the character of the liturgical season in which it is located. The Advent Ember days, for example, celebrate the Annunciation and the Visitation, the only times during Advent in the 1962 Missal when this is explicitly done. The Lenten Embertide allows us to link the season of spring, when the seed must die to produce new life, to the Lenten mortification of our flesh. The Whitsun Embertides, curiously, have us fasting within the octave of Pentecost, teaching us that there is such a thing as a “joyful fast.”11 The Fall Embertide is the only time that the Roman calendar echoes the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles and the Day of Atonement, the two holidays that teach us so much about our earthly pilgrimage and about Christ’s high priesthood.12

The Ember days also afford the occasion for a quarterly check-up of the soul. Blessed Jacopo de Voragine (d. 1298) lists eight reasons why we should fast during the Ember days, most of them concerning our personal war against vice. Summer, for example, which is hot and dry, is analogous to “the burning and ardour of avarice,” while autumn is cold and dry, like pride. Jacopo also does a delightful job coordinating the Embertides with the four temperaments: springtime is sanguine, summer is choleric, autumn is melancholic, and winter is phlegmatic.13 It is little wonder that the Ember days became times of spiritual exercises (not unlike our modern retreats), and that folklore in Europe grew up around them affirming their special character.14


Even the Far East was affected by the Ember days. In the sixteenth century, when Spanish and Portuguese missionaries settled in Nagasaki, Japan, they sought ways of making tasty meatless meals for Embertide and started deep-frying shrimp. The idea caught on with the Japanese, who applied the process to a number of different sea foods and vegetables. They called this delicious food—have you guessed it yet?—“tempura,” again from Quatuor Tempora.


Dying Embers

While the Ember days remained fixed in the universal calendar as obligatory (along with the injunction to fast), their radiating influence on other areas of life eventually waned. By the twentieth century, ordinations were no longer exclusively scheduled on Ember Saturdays and their role as “spiritual checkups” was gradually forgotten. The writings of Vatican II could have done much to rejuvenate the Ember days. The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy decrees that liturgical elements “which have suffered injury through accidents of history are now to be restored to the vigor which they had in the days of the holy Fathers” (50).

But what came instead was the Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship’s 1969 General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, where we read:

On rogation and ember days the practice of the Church is to offer prayers to the Lord for the needs of all people, especially for the productivity of the earth and for human labor, and to give him public thanks (45).
In order to adapt the rogation and ember days to various regions…the conferences of bishops should arrange the time and plan for their celebration (46).
Happily, the Ember days were not to be removed from the calendar but tweaked by national bishops’ conferences. There were, however, several shortcomings with this arrangement. First, the SCDW treats Rogation and Ember days as synonymous, which—as we saw in a previous article15—they are not. The Ember days do not, for example, pray for “the productivity of the earth and for human labor” in the dead of winter.

Second, by calling for an adaptation to various regions, the SCDW allowed the Ember days to take on an indeterminate number of meanings that have nothing to do with nature, such as “peace, the unity of the Church, the spread of the faith, etc.”16 Unlike the organic development of the Ember days, which preserved its basic meaning while taking on others, the 1969 directive has no safeguards to keep newly assigned meanings from displacing the Embertides’ more fundamental purpose.

Third, the national bishops’ conferences were supposed to fix the dates of the Ember days, but none, as far as I can tell, ever did.

Dead Embers & Lively Debates

In the wake of this ambiguity and indirection, the Ember days disappeared from the celebration of the Novus Ordo, and at one of the worst possible times. For just as the Church was letting its liturgical celebration of the natural slip into oblivion, the West was going berserk over nature.

Ever since the publication of Machiavelli’s Prince in the sixteenth century, modern society has been predicated on a technological war against nature in order to increase man’s dominion and power. Nature was no longer a lady to be wooed (as she had been for the Greeks, Romans, and medieval Christians); she was now to be raped, beaten into submission through evermore impressive technological advances17 that would render mankind, in Freud’s chilling words, “a prosthetic god.”

While there were some strong reactions against this new attitude, the modern hostility to the God-given only expanded as time went on, growing from a war on nature to a war on human nature. Our current preoccupations with genetic engineering, sex “changes,” and same-sex “marriage”—all of which are attempts to redefine or reconfigure the natural—are examples of this ongoing escalation.
 
The environmental movement that began in the 1960s has helped bring to light the wages of ruthlessly exploiting nature, and thus today we have a renewed appreciation for the virtues of responsible stewardship and for the marvels of God’s green but fragile earth. Yet this same movement, which has served in many ways as a healthy reawakening, is peppered with absurdities. Often the same activists who defend endangered tadpoles go on to champion the annihilation of unborn babies. Recently, after liberalizing their abortion laws, Spain’s socialist government introduced legislation to grant chimpanzees legal rights in order “to preserve the species from extinction”—this in a land with no native ape population.18

Contemporary environmentalism is also sometimes pantheistic in its assumptions, the result being that for many it has become a religion unto itself. This new religion comes complete with its own priests (climatologists), its own gospels (sacrosanct data about rising temperatures and shrinking glaciers), its own prophets (Al Gore, who unfortunately remains welcome in his own country), and, most of all, its own apocalypticism, with the four horsemen of deforestation, global warming, ozone depletion, and fossil fuels all leading us to an ecological Doomsday more terrifying to the secular mind than the Four Last Things.19

Conclusion

My point is not to deny the validity of these anxieties, but to lament the neo-pagan framework into which they are more often than not put. Modern man is such a mess that when he finally recovers a love of nature, he does so in a most unnatural manner. Both the early modern antipathy to nature and the late modern idolatry of it stand in dire need of correction, a correction that the Church is well poised to provide. As Chesterton quipped, Christians can truly love nature because they will not worship her. The Church proclaims nature’s goodness because it was created by a good and loving God and because it sacramentally reflects the grandeur of God’s goodness and love.

The Church does this liturgically with its observance of the “Four Seasons,” the Embertides. Celebrating the Ember days does not, of course, provide ready solutions to the world’s complicated ecological difficulties, but it is a good refresher course in basic first principles. The Ember days offer an intelligent alternative to pantheist environmentalism, and they do so without being contrived or pandering, as a new Catholic “Earth Day” or some such thing would undoubtedly be.

It is a shame that the Church unwittingly let the glow of Embertide die at the precise moment in history when their witness was needed the most, but it is a great boon that Summorum Pontificum makes their celebration universally accessible once again. What remains is for a new generation to take up their practice with a reinvigorated appreciation of what they mean. At least then we’ll know why we are so furious.

Call to Prayer and Fasting
This year, the Autumn Ember days are on September 21 [Feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle], 23, and 24. They follow the Feast of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14), the [fourth] anniversary since  the motu proprio took effect. Let all traditional Catholics unite to observe the traditional Ember fast on these three days: 1) to pray for the Holy Father’s welfare, 2) to thank Almighty God for the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, and 3) to pray for its full implementation in every parish around the world.
Michael P. Foley is an associate professor of patristics at Baylor University. He is the author of Wedding Rites: A Complete Guide to Traditional Music, Vows, Ceremonies, Blessings, and Interfaith Services (Eerdmans) and Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything (Palgrave Macmillan).


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NOTES:
This article appears in the Fall 2008 issue of The Latin Mass Magazine, vol. 17:4; web publication at RORATE CÆLI authorized by author and periodical. Images related to the First and Second Lessons and to the Gospel of Ember Saturday in September: in the first image, Aaron and Moses offer a holocaust to the Lord.
1.Officially, they fall on the first [full] week after the Feast of the Holy Cross (September 14).
2. Another theory is that “Ember” comes from the Old English, ymbren, meaning time or season.
3. The one reason stated by the Didache is more polemical: Christians fast on different days in order to be different from the “hypocrites,” i.e., the Pharisees (8.1).
4.Cf. Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: Harcourt, 1958), 31-32.
5.Weiser does claim, however, that voluntarily fasting or abstaining on Wednesdays was still alive in some areas when he was writing (1958). Of course, the other remnant of the weekly fast is Friday abstinence from flesh meat.
6.Technically, neither Jewish fast was part of the Mosaic Law, though both were, I would argue, part of the Mosaic way of life.
7.From a prayer by St. Thomas Aquinas.
8.Cf. my article, “The Rogationtide,” TLM 17:2 (Spring 2008), pp. 36-39.
9.Jacopo de Voragine, “The Ember days,” in The Golden Legend.
10.Cf. Michael P. Foley, Why Do Catholics Eat Fish on Friday? The Catholic Origin to Just About Everything (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 148-49.
11.The medievals called this the jejunium exultationis—the fast of exultation.
12.There are relevant readings from the Old Testament and from the Letter to the Hebrews that are used throughout the year in both the 1962 and 1970 lectionaries, but the September Embertide is the only time that these readings are used in order to coincide with the autumn festivals of Sukkot and Yom Kippur. Again we see the principle of fulfillment rather than abolition liturgically enacted.
13.Cf. The Golden Legend, Volume 1, “The Ember Days.”
14.In the Middle Ages, the Ember days were kept as holydays of obligation, with rest from work and special acts of charity for the poor, such as feeding and bathing them. There was also an old superstition that the souls in Purgatory were temporarily released from their plight in order to thank their relatives for their prayers and beg for more.
15.Cf. my article, “The Rogationtide,” TLM 17:2 (Spring 2008), pp. 36-39.
16.Response to the query “How should rogation days and ember days be celebrated?” (http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=5932, retrieved 2/20/08).
17.Cf. The Prince, ch. 25.
18.“Spain to Recognize Rights of Apes?” Catholic World News, 6/27/08, http://www.cwnews.com/news/viewstory.cfm?recnum=59360.
19.This is not a parody. Cf. Peter Montague, “The Four Horsemen—Part 1,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly, #471, 12/7/95 (http://www.ejnet.org/rachel/rehw471.htm).

Something to Celebrate!

From Father Z’s Blog

14 Sept: 11th Anniversary of Summorum Pontificum – Thank you, Benedict XVI!

Spars are carried away and sails shred.  Lines lash in the winds and crack like whips in the tempest. It’s nevertheless all hands on deck as the Barque of Peter takes on water and flies before the storm.

As The Present Crisis continues to build and to build and to build, I am mindful that today, 14 September, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, is the 11th anniversary of the moment that that great charter for ecclesial reform, Summorum Pontificum, went into force.

As I have written before, I write now again to Benedict:

Your Holiness, thank you for Summorum Pontificum.

Since the late 80’s I had the pleasure of speaking with you about these matters, and I think I know your mind on them and motives.

You gave us a great and timely gift.

Today, on this 11th anniversary of the implementation of your Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, I offer my Holy Mass for your intention.

I will try to carry forward your vision and hopes.

Ad multos annos.

I’m NOT Uncomfortable With This…Should I Be?

A view of the SSPX – from the Occidental Observer – this will frighten some, annoy many and cause many more to – at least – raise their eyebrows:

An Appraisal of the SSPX from the Viewpoint of White Advocacy

Karl Nemmersdorf

The Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) is a priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who was one of the very few bishops to oppose the modern innovations imposed on the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council (1962–65). The SSPX does not have a sanctioned, official position within the Church, but it vehemently opposes any attempt to characterize it as “schismatic,” or opposed to basic and lawful Church authority. Its self-imposed mission is to preserve the kernel of the Church free from corruption, specifically the Latin Mass and the ordination of priests, and thus keep alive the old paths that produced millions of holy men and women.

The SSPX knows that enemies have infiltrated the Church—modernists, Jews, freemasons, and homosexuals—and have accomplished a profound and tragic transformation of the old Faith (see “The role of Jewish converts to Catholicism in changing traditional Catholic teachings on Jews“). Pope Francis with his leftist activism is not an isolated phenomenon, but simply the culmination of this maleficent penetration of the Church. It is crucial to understand that the Church we see today—wimpy and liberal—is emphatically not the Church of old. That Church is long gone, but a remnant perpetuates the old no-nonsense, masculine traditions. The SSPX is that remnant, along with patches of conservatism here and there in the New Church.

We must distinguish between the SSPX and its followers. The SSPX, strictly speaking, consists only of the priests and its few bishops. These priests offer Mass for many faithful (“traditional Catholics”), who are often mistaken for “members” of the SSPX. In this essay I will, however, sometimes lump priests and laity together under that term, or simply, “the Society.”

The SSPX is a very positive movement for Whites for several reasons. Perhaps the most important is that Society families produce White children at a rate virtually unknown anywhere in the contemporary West. The SSPX and its faithful make up one of the very few vital bodies in the entire West. By “vital,” I mean a body that is full of life and energy, from the Latin vita, “life.” And isn’t that what Whites need above all else? Life? Descendants? White children? What other group in America is “vital” in this sense? What other group in the U.S., apart from Mormons, and Mennonites, is producing large numbers of White children?

Another major service provided by the Society is standing firm against the agenda of Pope Francis. This includes his scandalous love affair with “migrant” Muslims (who would like nothing more than to execute him and turn St. Peters into a mosque), his espousal of the global warming agenda—and thus the globalist agenda—and his tragic failure to uphold sexual morality. In the latter sphere, he has left the Church fatally vulnerable to the LGBT agenda and (with his document Amoris Laetitia), those who attack the institution of marriage. Since the Church was the last real bulwark against the disastrous reign of loose morals, this leaves the West even further lacking in the sorts of social supports needed for a healthy, productive society.[1] The SSPX by its mere existence represents a standing rebuke to the agenda of Pope Francis, and stands almost alone in the Catholic world working to counteract the mad program of Francis. This alone should earn the gratitude of those who love the West.

In the U.S., there are only about 20,000 people who attend SSPX Masses; traditional Catholics are not numerous. Yet, the SSPX is much more important than its numbers might indicate, for the simple reason that it carries on the traditions of the ancient Western cult. The Catholic faith was the original cultus of our High Culture and “has had a vital role in the development of the West.” The Catholic Church was not a wimpy or egalitarian social force. It was a muscular entity that united everyone under a reassuring canopy of dogma and sacrament; it had a major role in holding the West together in the face of the Muslim onslaught. Often it was the only entity that considered Europe as a whole, the only force rising above the often petty contentions of individual princedoms. The Catholic West conducted many wars against Islam, and all of them were summoned by the Popes. The Church became a handmaid of the Left only in the past fifty years.

I know the SSPX well; I have attended SSPX masses for almost twenty years. I returned to the Church when I was in my mid-thirties, when I thought I was well on my way to eternal bachelorhood. But then I fell in love with a young Catholic girl, and we proceeded to marry and have six children, and may have more. I and my family now live in one of the biggest SSPX parishes in the world, with over thirty-seven hundred souls. I must say, the Faith has been a boon to me in affording me the chance at marriage and a family, but it also rescued me from behavior that would have introduced me to an early grave. Religious faith has many benefits.

Before I discuss race, some prefatory comments are in order. My personal view is that all men are descended from a common ancestor, and are thus brothers. All possess certain innate rights and are due proper justice and respect. My thoughts here coincide with, and are informed by, Catholic teaching. It seems to me we can all agree on these basic points. I do not view White nationalism as incompatible with Catholic charity or justice whatsoever, at least if one defines White nationalism as implying that races naturally come into too much conflict when mixed and would thrive from division into separate nation-states.

The idea that “charity begins at home” also does not conflict with Catholic teaching. We naturally love what is closer to us, family, then neighbors, and less so as one moves outward (also Catholic doctrine). Whites certainly can—and should—assist other Whites or fellow citizens before helping outsiders. This does not rule out charity for other nations or races, but it does place the emphasis squarely on helping those who are closer. (“America First!”) The “pathological altruism” of the modern West stems from suicidal liberalism, not Catholic teaching: “Christianity has not had a consistent message of ethnic suicide or moral universalism.”

The Catholic position on human “equality” also deserves a few words, since it is a central political and social concern. Many believe that “Christian” egalitarianism has been a major cause of the decline of the West. Catholic teaching, however, holds that men are equal only in that they have a common human nature (body and soul) and a common end (fulfillment in God). This concept of equality is largely spiritual; when men operate in society, inequality of ability and achievement quickly becomes evident. Catholic teaching always understood and accepted this. Pope Leo XIII wrote,

There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such inequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community. Social and public life can only be maintained by means of various kinds of capacity … (from the papal encyclical Rerum Novarum)

Pope St. Pius X stated,

Human society as God established it, is composed of unequal elements . . . to make them all equal is impossible, and would be the destruction of society itself  . . . Consequently it is conformable to the order established by God, that in human society there should be princes and subjects, masters and [workmen], rich and poor, learned and ignorant, nobles and plebeians . . . (E. Cahill, The Framework of a Christian State, p. 289)

It is Communism and its evil twin, the liberal democratic/globalist regime, that have strived to crush and level Western man, not the Catholic Church. The Church always upheld social and political hierarchy.

With these fundamental questions addressed, we proceed. Racially, the SSPX faithful in the U.S. are overwhelmingly White. There is a sizeable number of Hispanics, and a few blacks and Asians, but the Whites must amount to about ninety percent of the whole, if not more. Being Catholic, the Society is cosmopolitan (it has churches worldwide) and there is admittedly some race mixing. I have seen a handful of White-Filipino or White-Asian marriages, and a few White-black. The mixing is on a small scale, but the Society (like the old Church) is amenable to it. White Nationalists might sneer at these facts, but intermarriage will remain a minor matter in the SSPX. It does nothing to alter the fact that the SSPX brings large numbers of White children into the world. Intermarriage, I think, hits a raw nerve today largely because of the race crisis brought on by mass immigration. Absent this dangerous situation, we might look upon the occasional interracial marriage as a curious novelty, not as a pang to the heart and a loss of precious genes. We might.

The state of marriages and families among the SSPX faithful is—make no mistake—sometimes less than ideal. The faithful exist in various stages of conforming to the Catholic faith, and there is much ignorance. There are some broken marriages and badly raised children. The faithful (many of whom are converts) have had to go through the process of tearing themselves away from extreme feminism, hedonism, and other mindsets of the modern and postmodern world. It is an extremely difficult process, and many are only in the early stages of making the break.

Yet fruitful marriages abound. The portion of SSPX faithful who marry is far above the present rate in the U.S. Only fifty percent of adults in the United States are married, as opposed to seventy-two percent in 1960, a drastic decline of over thirty percent. The rate among Society faithful, I think, meets or exceeds the 1960 U.S. rate. Very few become priests or nuns; the great majority “commit matrimony,” as the priests jest. And once married, something magical happens. These couples are open to having as many children as possible. It is a remarkable phenomenon. The women willingly accept this calling, and they do so with pride. When SSPX couples meet, one of the first questions is always, “how many children do you have?” The happiness of the parents is evident.

There is also a very low rate of illegitimacy, almost certainly less than three percent, when the White rate in America is now approaching thirty percent. This protects children (and mothers) from a wide range of bad social outcomes.

In my large parish, families of ten or twelve children are common. There are at least two families with eighteen kids. The birth rate in the Society is about three times greater than in the U.S. as a whole. (Using some rough calculations, I estimated the birth rate—births per 1,000 women of childbearing age—in the Society at about 170, while the U.S. White birth rate is 60. That would make it 2.83 times greater, but I have a hard time believing the number is not closer to 4.) Whatever it may be, the begetting of the next generation is the sine qua non of the race, and traditional Catholics are tackling the job splendidly. I would challenge you, dear reader: how many children have you given the White race?

The crucial bottleneck here is finding women willing to contract permanent marriages and have children. It is hard enough to find a woman willing to get married and have any children. That is the great value of the SSPX. In the Society there are many young White women eager to marry and have as many children as they can. Try finding that anywhere else. They are willing to marry outside the faith, too, as long as their partner converts. Say it with me, “Whites need to have more children.” With the Catholic solution to fertility introduced here, I might ask, is the survival of the race worth going to Mass? It might come down to that.

Then there is the training of children. People in the SSPX know that children need to be trained, guided, formed. This awareness seems to be utterly lacking in the U.S. as a whole. The mere sight of modern children makes it painfully obvious that their parents have never given a thought to their training. Look at the children you see in public. They yell, throw themselves around, and make yowling demands upon their parents, demands that are usually met with parental submission. This is not normal, my friends. SSPX parents rarely permit their kids to grow up with such a sense of entitlement. Self-control is a byword for traditional Catholics, and much thought is given to child-rearing.

This training in self-discipline is absolutely crucial. No one who lacks self-control can accomplish anything of importance. Thus, traditional Catholic parents not only have the children, they are also raising them to be productive members of society.

SPXX families also raise their children almost wholly shielded from the worst monstrosities of the modern world, such as promoting homosexuality, transgenderism, and feminism. Parents foster good moral health. For Catholics, homosexuality has always been a horror, “the sin that dare not speak its name”; enough said about it. Traditional gender roles are emphasized quite thoroughly, both in the home and in the schools. There is a real emphasis on giving boys free rein for their natural masculinity, and they glory in it. Traditional girls’ roles are a bit harder to inculcate (although some families excel at it). Women are less enthusiastic and less knowledgeable about this type of training. Extreme forms of feminism have so permeated modern society that many men and women of the Society are not aware that they hold such views. Nevertheless, this does not prevent the women from fulfilling their roles as mothers of large families. And really, who cares what they think if they fulfil this duty?

Families, schools, and priests in the Society all foster an appreciation for Western Culture. The traditions of the West in music, art, literature, and philosophy are valued, taught, and assimilated. How many schools or colleges in America can say that? This emphasis on Western culture is not necessarily conscious, but it exists. And that is enough. When was the creation of the great works ever completely conscious?

The Society teaches the duty of patriotism. Traditional Catholics are truly patriotic and many serve in the military. In general they participate dutifully in the political process and stay informed on the issues. (They work with the democratic process, which in my youthful rage I spurned; who was right?) Many men in the Society see the world in ways similar to the viewpoint of White Nationalism, especially concerning the immivasion crisis and the dominance of the hostile elite.

At a time when the public schools operate as a vast, sinister project indoctrinating students in all the current paths of social dissolution favored by the hostile elite, at least some fraction of young men and women will be able to begin their adult lives free from this complex of depravities. Thanks to the SSPX.

There is much evidence that the practice of religion benefits individuals and society. By raising young adults in a religious tradition, the SSPX benefits society as a whole.

Politically, the SSPX knows as well as anyone in the modern West the danger posed by the Jewish influence and the Islamic invasion. The Catholic Church was the only solid defense the West ever enjoyed against Jewish influence.“With the political success of the Church, society as a whole became organized around a monolithic, hegemonic, and collectivist social institution defined by its opposition to Judaism.”  In 1910, during the papacy of Pius X, the Catholic Encyclopedia described the causes of anti-Semitism as follows:

 

  • The deep and wide racial difference between Jews and Christians which was, moreover, emphasized by the ritual and dietary laws of Talmudic Judaism;
  • the mutual religious antipathy which prompted the Jewish masses to look upon the Christians as idolaters, and the Christians to regard the Jews as the murderers of the Divine Saviour of mankind, and to believe readily the accusation of the use of Christian blood in the celebration of the Jewish Passover, the desecration of the Holy Eucharist, etc.;
  • the trade rivalry which caused Christians to accuse the Jews of sharp practice, and to resent their clipping of the coinage, their usury, etc.;
  • the patriotic susceptibilities of the particular nations in the midst of which the Jews have usually formed a foreign element, and to the respective interests of which their devotion has not always been beyond suspicion. (See “The Church and anti-Semitism—Again.”)

 

The Church often kept strict controls upon the Jews. However, as a result of the Enlightenment and liberal ideas, the nations awarded the Jews a citizenship and political equality. This opened wide the social and political spheres to the Jews, and they rushed in and got to work. This happened only in the states that had thrown out the Catholic Church. On this topic, one of the innovations of the New Church the Society rejects is Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II statement that retreated significantly from the old militant Catholic view of the Jews. (This document also features this gem: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems.”) The SSPX preserves this old wisdom, with the result that it features prominently on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website. A badge of honor.

To sum up, the Society of St. Pius X will never be a frank ally of White Nationalism. The Church shies away, in charity, from probing too deeply into the race question; after all, its kingdom is not of this world. However, despite whatever reservations one may have about the Catholic faith or teachings, traditional Catholics are doing the arduous work that Whites all across the West (and White Nationalists) should be doing, but all too often are not: begetting and training the next generation of Whites. For that, the SSPX deserves gratitude and respect.

Brought to you by Allan Gillis

Divergent Political Models in the Two “Forms” of the Roman Rite

…a delicious morsel found by Allan Gillis while perusing the New Liturgical Movement blogsite!

Isn’t it wonderful to find an article that so profoundly communicates exactly what one feels and has hitherto never been able to articulate?!

Divergent Political Models in the Two “Forms” of the Roman Rite

Peter Kwasniewski

 

A reviewer of my book Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness (Angelico, 2017) made a point that got me thinking. He said that while he agreed with my critique of the Novus Ordo and himself preferred the traditional rite, he thought I should have wrestled more with the fact that there are flourishing religious congregations exclusively reliant on the Novus Ordo. He cited the Missionaries of Charity and the Nashville Dominicans as examples. Clearly, these communities are full of fervent disciples of the Lord who are nourished from the liturgy of Paul VI, so it cannot be the case that this liturgy is “all bad,” so to speak.

Now, apart from the fact that I have never argued and never would argue that the Novus Ordo is “all bad” (something that would be metaphysically impossible, in any case), I welcome this observation as an opportunity to think more closely about how exactly this phenomenon may be explained.

Such religious communities are bringing to the liturgy a spiritual disposition that enables them to benefit from the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Eucharist — a disposition they are not necessarily developing from the liturgy as such. The Novus Ordo can be fruitful for those who already have a fervent and well-ordered interior life, built up by other means; but for those who do not, it will offer few pegs on which to climb up. In this respect it is unlike the traditional liturgy, which has within itself enormous resources for enkindling and expanding the interior life.

One might make a political comparison to elucidate this point. The basic philosophical problem with the American regime is not that a good use cannot be made of its political institutions, but that they presuppose a virtuous citizenry in order to work at all. Time and time again, the American Founding Fathers say things like: “As long as the people are virtuous, they can govern themselves with these mechanisms.” But the aims of government do not include producing a virtuous citizenry; this is seen as above and beyond the government’s limited scope. Government is supposed to act like a police officer who regulates the flow of traffic; it is assumed that people know how to drive and basically drive well.

The traditional view, as we find it for instance in Pope Leo XIII’s social encyclicals, is that government has a God-given responsibility for the moral and spiritual welfare of the people, and must lead them to the observance of the natural law and dispose them as well as possible to the observance of the divine law. In this model, the government is more like a parent, teacher, and counselor who knows what the human good is and actively fosters the attainment of it by as many citizens as possible. This is why, for Leo XIII, a good government will necessarily involve the Catholic Church in educating the citizens of the regime, so that they may have the best possibility of developing virtues. Virtue does not develop spontaneously or accidentally.

The liturgical parallel is not hard to see. The Novus Ordo is like the American government. It is an orderly structure or framework within which free activity can take place, but it does not specify or dictate in a rigorous way how that activity ought to be pursued. It is like the benign and neutral policeman — a certain precondition for peace, but not the representative and spokesman of peace. The minimal rubrics function like boundaries on a sports field. The people who attend are assumed to know how to pray, how to “participate actively” (as if this is at all evident!), and how to be holy. They come to display and demonstrate what is already within them.

The traditional liturgy, in contrast, forthrightly adopts the attitude of parent, teacher, and counselor. It assumes that you are in a dependent position and must be shaped in your spirituality, molded in your thoughts, educated in your piety. Its rubrics are numerous and detailed. The liturgy knows exactly what you need in terms of silence, chant, prayers, antiphons, and it delivers them authoritatively, in a way that emphasizes the liturgy’s own perfection and your receptivity. The traditional liturgy establishes a standard of virtue and makes the worshiper conform to it. It does not presuppose that you are virtuous.

This helps to explain the intentionally Protean adaptability of the modern liturgical rites, in their optionitis and spectrum of artes celebrandi. Moderns don’t really think there can be a fixed and virtuous liturgy that should form them into its image. As heirs of the Enlightenment that enthroned human reason as king and assumed a supposedly rational control over all aspects of society, moderns feel they need to be in some way in charge of the liturgy. It has to have options to accommodate us in our pluralism.

In this way the Novus Ordo betrays its provenance in a democratic and relativistic age, in stark contrast with the traditional liturgy that was born and developed entirely in monarchical and aristocratic eras (and this, of course, by Divine Providence, since God knew best what human beings needed, and ensured that the rites would embody it). Even if one wished to say, for the sake of argument, that secular society is better off democratized — a claim that would seem counterintuitive, to say the least, especially if one could canvas the opinions of the countless millions of victims of abortion murdered under the free regimes of the Western world — one must nevertheless maintain as a matter of principle that the divine liturgy, being from and for the King of kings and Lord of lords, cannot be democratized without ceasing to exist. It must remain monarchical and aristocratic in order to remain divine liturgy, as opposed to a self-derived human patriotism.

If you are that fortunate person who has a robustly developed life of faith, whether from a Protestant upbringing prior to your conversion, or frequent attendance at adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, or a constant and childlike Marian devotion, you bring all of this fullness with you when you attend the Novus Ordo, and you fill the relative emptiness of the liturgical form with that fullness. In this case, your fullness (so to speak) meets Christ’s fullness in the Eucharist, and there is a meeting of minds and a marriage of souls. This, it seems to me, could be what is happening with those aforementioned religious communities that are flourishing in spite of the defects of the Novus Ordo as a lex orandi, in its anthropological assumptions, theological content, and aesthetic form.

With the traditional Mass, it is different. It produces an awareness of the interior life that is the first step to a more profound interior conversion. It contains ample Eucharistic adoration within it, and so, it feeds this hunger of the soul and intensifies it to the point that it overflows beyond the confines of the liturgy. Its spirituality is Marian through and through, so it tends to lead souls to Our Lady, who is waiting for them there. In every way, this Mass is actively calling into being a mind for worship and a heart for prayer; it carves out a space in the soul to fill it full of Christ. It does not presuppose that you are at that point, but pulls and draws you there, due to its confident possession of the truth about God and man. It is not leaning on you to supply it with force or relevance; it is not waiting for you to be the active party. It is inherently full and ready to act upon you, to supply you with your meaning. And paradoxically, it does all this through not being focused on you, your problems, your potentialities. It works because it is so resolutely and bafflingly focused on the Lord.

There is an irony here, inasmuch as the didacticism of the Novus Ordo seems to be aimed at explaining and eliciting certain acts of religion, while the usus antiquior seems to take for granted that one knows what to do. But in reality, the new rite’s didacticism interferes with the free exercise of these acts of religion, and the usus antiquior‘s “indifference” to the attendees more subtly challenges them to build new interior habits proportioned to the earnestness and intensity of the liturgical action. By attempting to provide for the worshiper everything he “needs,” the modern rite fails to provide the one thing needful: an unmistakeable sense of encounter with the ineffable mystery of God, whom no words of ours can encompass, whom no actions of ours can domesticate. The usus antiquior knows better, and therefore strives to do both less and more — less, by not leading children by the apron strings of a school teacher; more, in terms of calling into being new ascetical-mystical capacities that depend radically on a fixed and dense “regimen” of prayer, chant, and bodily gestures. “I have run the way of thy commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart” (Ps 118:32). In this domain, the old rite shows us that (if we may paraphrase a contemporary author) space is greater than time. Having a capacious and symbolically dense space within which to “play” is of greater benefit, in the long run, than spending an hour doing verbal exercises in the confines of a modern classroom.

These differences, which play out in ways both subtle and obvious, cannot fail to have an impact on priestly and religious vocations and on the manner in which various communities understand their relationship to worship and contemplation.

The Pontifical Solemn Mass at the National Shrine in Washington DC April 28

By Augustinus

I attended this past Saturday (April 28) the Pontifical Solemn Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington DC. It was a very moving and glorious event. It began with intense and very loud organ music that was a cross between horror- movie type organ music and traditional church music. It was simultaneously frightening and solemn-an apt beginning to the sacrifice of the mass. Very hard to describe but it was very beautiful. Its intensity made the opening procession of all who would serve at the altar all the more solemn and reverent. It was a long procession. It was lead by a Knight in full costume (looked like Knight of Columbus) followed by monks in full monkish outfits and robes, followed by priests of various kinds, then the choral group in robes who would sing the Gregorian chants during the mass, then the altar servers including altar boys and then came the priests who would serve Archbishop Sample who came last and would actually say the mass (in Latin of course).

Before the mass people in the pews (and the pews were filled) were treated to some very beautiful choral music. The acoustics in this magnificent basilica were amazing! Try to imagine feasting your eyes on the great art (statues, niches, stained glass, marble altars, etc etc) that populates the sanctuary and the soaring dome overhead all while listening to beautiful medieval/renaissance chants, motets, and other choral pieces sung by superb vocalists and choral groups. There was even a live brass ensemble that played quietly and reverently along with some of the pieces.

Then the mass started. Two choral groups of monks and others sat at opposite ends of the altar chanting back and forth to one another-almost like a call and response pattern…all the while the priests chanted the mass up at the altar…

Archbishop Sample (of Portland OR) gave a very fine sermon and talk on the need for the church to allow both forms of the mass….each does not make full sense without the other, he claimed.

The entire mass was a total aesthetic experience-a religious experience in the best sense of the term. The surrounding art, the music, the solemn passionate chanting of the Latin mass, the perfectly choreographed ritual gestures by the priests up at the altar; the incense, the beautiful robes they were all wearing, the intensity of the religious fervor of the people in the pwes….it was an unforgettable experience! I thank God (and Pope Benedict) that we have not yet lost this great treasure of the Latin West. We should also thank the Paulus Institute for organizing the whole event!

This is BIG NEWS locally here in Bostoniensis!

From Father Z’s Blog:

D. Worcester – Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary granted canonical status

My friend Fr. Jay Finelli let me know a while ago that Bishop of Worcester has granted canonical status to the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Still River, MA. He has this on his site:

Congratulations to my dear friends, The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Still River, Massachusetts. On 27 October, the Most Rev. Robert J. McManus granted them canonical status as a Public Association of the Faithful.

This is big news!   I want to get to the bottom of what really happened to Father Leonard Feeney.   Chicanery at the highest levels I suspect!   There is something rotten in the city of Brighton! (now Braintree – if ya catch my drift!)

Glad-Handing at Holy Mass?

Allan Gillis brings you this from The Remnant:

On the Sign of Peace

  Written by  Michael Warren Davis

A right-minded friend recently told me about a campaign of (shall we say?) nonviolent resistance undertaken by an Anglophone remnant following Vatican II: after the priest intoned, ‘The Lord be with you,’ they would shout, ‘Et cum spiritu tuo!

I’m all for cheeky traditionalism. In fact, we need much more of it. Think of the thousands upon thousands of souls who’ve been formed by great Catholic wits – be it the levitous Chesterton, the acidic Waugh, or the droll Newman. Ours is an uncontrollably joyful faith. Yet we know that underneath it all is a deadly seriousness, too. Think of Saint Lawrence, who mocked his torturers as they roasted him on a spit. ‘Turn me over,’ he teased; ‘This side’s done.’ That’s our greatest example. In the fight to restore the fulness of Faith, we must be solemn, but never dour – humble, not shy.


By my reckoning, the most dangerous inversion of the traditional Mass is the so-called Sign of Peace. It marks the post-VII Church’s most aggressive rejection of the Early Fathers. We gather to witness the sacrifice of Our Lord on the altar, falling on our knees as the priest calls God Himself down from Heaven. This happens every hour of every day, as it has done for millennia. Without exaggeration, it’s the single most important event in the history of the world.

Maybe after 2,000 years we’ve come to take it for granted, because the Peace in the new Roman Rite amounts to nothing but a distraction. Instead of being engrossed by the miracle of transubstantiation – humbled and awed by the love of a God who died the cross to redeem our sins and feed our souls with His own precious body – we mill around the pews making pleasantries.

Dei gratia, those of us who live near a parish that uses the traditional form are spared this rude interruption. But what about those who don’t? Or if we want to attend a weekday Mass, which are rarely said in Latin? And what if we’re invited to a Novus Ordo funeral, wedding, baptism, first communion, or confirmation? My suggestion – and it’s only a suggestion – is this: when you kneel at the beginning of the consecration, resolve in your own mind not to stand until it’s time to approach the altar and receive the Sacrament.

Now, there are certainly reasons why this could prove dangerous. It might foster feelings of spiritual pride. It may sow malicious disobedience to Mother Church. And then there’s the fact that it’s just plain embarrassing. But the sad irony is that traditionalists reject the Novus Peace precisely because it lays out all these spiritual perils. It diverts our focus from the altar. It trivialises the great gift given to the Church by her Bridegroom: the power to summon Him in sacred matter. And it draws our attention back to ourselves, the people – attention that should be given solely and completely to the Lord of Hosts. What could be unseemlier?

Yet it can be overcome. Just be cognizant of the risk, and remember why you’re undertaking them. Shut your eyes tight and bow your head. Meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation. Pray ‘O sacrament most holy…’ Adore Christ, who offers Himself as our spiritual food. And, for God’s sake, smile! If you look down (or, I suppose, up) your nose at those turning to offer you the Peace, grumbling and frowning, that profits neither you nor them. Besides, this your salvation we’re talking about. Where can a man find true, soul-shuddering delight if not here?

The Early Fathers, in their wisdom, asked us for this one brief moment to turn our hearts and minds completely toward the Altar, at the moment Heaven and Earth intersect. Waugh himself wrote in The Catholic Herald that what most affected his conversion was:

the spectacle of the priest and his server at low Mass, stumping up to the altar without a glance to discover how many or how few he had in his congregation; a craftsman and his apprentice; a man with a job which he alone was qualified to do.

‘Waugh’s love of the Tridentine rite was not a matter of loving the solemn splendour of a high Mass,’ writes Francis Phillips, also in the Herald; ‘it was simply the priest’s humble absorption in the rite of a low Mass.’ Low or high, modest or majestic, that ‘humble absorption’ is the quintessence of the traditional form. And it should be true of the laity as well as the clergy. What could be more inappropriate to that end than this mini-coffee hour wedged into the middle of the Liturgy of the Eucharist?

Heaven knows this is nothing against the Peace in itself. But throughout the pre-VII history of the Roman Rite, it was only offered among the clergy. Even in the Ambrosian Rite, it’s given immediately after the Liturgy of the Word. Placing it mid-consecration was unprecedented, and evident of some overtly Protestant influence. It reduces the Eucharist to a meal – a ‘memorial supper’ as Zwingli taught. That’s the same corrupt understanding that leads to female ‘Extraordinary Ministers’ in tank-tops and jeans dropping the Host in people’s hands, which they peel off their sweaty palms and pop in their mouths like potato chips. (God help us.)

But, just as we’re always free to receive the Eucharist from a priest on the tongue, so too are we free to remain immersed in the holy mystery throughout. And by staying loyal to the example set by the Fathers, we can share their example with others. Even in the midst of a Novus Mass, we can encourage others in a deeper and more ancient understanding of the Pascha. It’s as simple as it is luminous: frankly, the Mass isn’t about you.

It is, however, for you. It was instituted by Christ Himself, for your good and for the good of all His holy Church. That’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s nothing to be prideful of. It’s something to be observed with solemnity, humility, good humour, and – above all – unspeakable joy.

– Michael Warren Davis is a Boston-based columnist.

Why Liturgical Lessons Aren’t Being Learned

(an older article from New Oxford Review – winter 2011 – still most relevant!)

At Mass, Actions Speak Louder Than WordsBy Michael A. Beauregard

Michael A. Beauregard is Headmaster of St. Michael’s School in West Memphis, Arkansas. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Memphis and has written extensively on the classical curriculum in elementary schools.

I have taught in Catholic schools for many years. For the past ten, I have had the pleasure of teaching sixth-grade religion classes in a school that is unwaveringly faithful to the Magisterium. The religious curriculum in the sixth grade includes the sacraments, the theology of the Mass, and Church history. In previous grades, the students thoroughly study the faith with the help of textbooks that are faithful to the Church, and teachers who are devout, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable.

Nevertheless, year after year I am surprised by what my students know — and do not know — at the beginning of their sixth-grade year. Students are typically baffled and sometimes even stunned to learn that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ physically present in His body, blood, soul, and divinity, and not just in a spiritual or symbolic sense. More often than not, these students have incorrectly acquired the notion that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is just a Communion service memorializing the Last Supper with the priest acting as presider. They are fascinated to learn about the sacrificial aspects of the Mass and the priesthood, and the tremendous graces received from the Mass. Why are all these students, who have no less than five years of solid catechetical training, entering the sixth grade with an almost Protestant view of Catholic liturgy and the sacraments?

One might question the content, quality, and overall effectiveness of the religion program. But after years of observing, monitoring, and, most importantly, probing the students, I have come to a clear assessment of this peculiar situation. Irrespective of what is being taught, if the Mass and liturgies do not reflect the realities and truths of our Catholic faith, the teachings of the Church will be taught in vain. It is of the utmost importance that the Holy Mass model and emphasize what we want our students (and adults) to understand and embrace. The rubrics, gestures, and symbols that are employed serve a fundamental and very useful purpose in that they reveal and give witness to the faith we profess.

To illustrate a common example, I ask students at the beginning of their sixth-grade year what they genuflect toward inside a church. At least ninety percent say the crucifix or the spiritual omnipresence of Christ. After receiving a thorough explanation that genuflection is an act of adoration toward the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, the students invariably have a number of questions, a typical one being: “If we believe that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself truly and really present among us, then shouldn’t we show greater respect and reverence at Mass?” The crux of the problem is that students cannot retain the truths they are taught if these truths are not manifested on a regular basis in our liturgical language, songs, gestures, and symbols.

In the wake of the Second Vatican Council, many expressive gestures and symbols in the Mass were not necessarily suppressed, but were set aside in favor of an emphasis on simplicity. This has resulted in a watering down of the truths of the Mass, which has itself led to a lack of reverence during the Mass.

One of the greatest tragedies of the post-conciliar New Mass is that the spirit of informality has displaced our duty of reverence and respect. For example, in the pre-conciliar Tridentine Mass, only the priest was allowed to touch the sacred Species. During and after the consecration, he was required to keep his thumb and index finger joined in order not to spread the particles of the sacred Host. It was only at the final ablution that he was able to separate his finger from his thumb. This simple yet powerful rubric sent a clear message about what we as Catholics believe about the Eucharist.

During reception of Holy Communion, an altar server held a paten under the Host to ensure that Christ would not accidentally drop to the floor. The use of patens in the New Mass has been requested in the Vatican’s 2004 instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum, but they are absent from the average Catholic parish. In most Masses today, the sacred Species might be handled with care at best, but not with the ineffable care they were once given. And they are handled by virtually everyone. What does this teach our children? Furthermore, what example is given to reaffirm mature, faithful Catholics in their beliefs? The strict rubrics in the pre-conciliar Mass were established for a firm purpose: to foster a greater reverence for the Eucharist and to prevent avoidable accidents.

One of the great and unexpected phenomena of our day is the number of young Catholics who are attracted to the Tridentine Mass. Many critics of the “extraordinary form of the Mass,” as it is now called, have stated that its appeal is largely nostalgic. However, the younger generations of Catholics did not grow up with the extraordinary form and, therefore, it cannot be a nostalgic experience for them. I require my students to attend the Tridentine Mass periodically, and they often comment on how much more reverent it is than the typical New Mass. Many respond that they prefer the Tridentine Mass because it gives authentic expression to their faith in a way that is both prayerful and contemplative. This is not to say that the New Mass cannot be reverent too, but because of the rubrics and gestures employed and indeed required, the Tridentine Mass shows greater honor toward and adoration of the Holy Eucharist.

Our Holy Father has written extensively about and encouraged two liturgical practices that were at one time common in every parish: priests facing ad orientem, toward the East, and communicants receiving the sacred Host on the tongue, while kneeling. Both of these practices have been encouraged for two main reasons: to give glory and reverence to God and to reinforce our belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. These two practices express our beliefs through action and raise awareness of the sacredness of the Mass. Even smaller actions that appear at first to be trivial can have a similar effect, such as making use of chalice veils (as recommended in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and patens, and keeping silence in the church before and after Mass. There are a multitude of lessons we can learn about the symbolism of such acts and how this conveys and expresses our faith in the real presence. These small details, which many take for granted or ignore altogether, can make the difference between giving the appearance, to Catholics and non-Catholics alike, that the Mass is either something extraordinary and mystical or something ordinary and secular.

The hymns that are selected should be given due consideration as well. Sometimes I wonder if anyone really pays attention to the words that are sung. Are they consistent with the theology of the Mass and what we as Catholics believe? If the lyrics were recited and not sung, would they be appropriate prayers to God?

Recently, when I was teaching fifth-grade boys some of the refinements of serving at Mass, one of them did not know exactly what I meant when I mentioned “the altar.” He mistakenly thought that the altar was the general area around the altar of sacrifice — the sanctuary. After I corrected him briefly, the young student responded, “Oh, you mean the Communion table.” I then saw that it was necessary to give him a fuller explanation of the sacrificial nature of the Mass and what distinguishes the altar of sacrifice from an ordinary table. But the next day at Mass, the offertory hymn included such lines as “Come to the table of plenty” and “O come and sit at my table, where saints and sinners are friends.” That hymn served to reinforce the incorrect perception not only about the altar but about the nature of the Mass. I realized that despite the faithful, correct instruction we give, we are fighting a losing battle when the externals of the Mass do not accurately reflect what we teach.

The Church has witnessed some positive and fruitful developments over the past twenty years. I can remember a time when the ringing of the bells at the elevations had become a rarity. This very important element, which has been reintroduced in many parishes, can act as a great teaching tool to both Catholics and non-Catholics. For example, a co-worker of mine, a Lutheran, attended Mass at our school during her first week of employment. Afterward, she inquired about the ringing of the bells at the epiclesis (unbeknownst to many, this is encouraged in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal) and the elevations. It was a great opportunity not only to explain the symbolism of the actions but to talk about the Mass and how it differs from Protestant services.

Another positive development that has been occurring over the past decade is the placement — or relocation — of tabernacles in many churches to their proper place of honor. Even in many of the cathedrals in the U.S. that were modernized in the 1970s the tabernacles are beginning to be returned to prominent areas in order to foster devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Likewise, a momentous event soon to unfold is the revised English translation of the Order of Mass. This single event will not only bring the wording of the Mass back to its Latin origins, it will also provide a richer, more compelling and beautiful translation that will uplift the faithful. [For a look at the new missal translation, see Rosemary Lunardini’s article “A Defining Step Toward Authentic Liturgical Reform,” Nov. 2010 — Ed.]

Perhaps one of the greatest changes we have seen over the past twenty years is a renewed interest in and devotion to eucharistic adoration. A majority of parishes now participates in some regular form of eucharistic adoration. This is incredible and miraculous, not only because this practice became almost extinct nearly thirty years ago, but because it occurred without any mandates or widespread movements. It was one of those things that suddenly happened everywhere, an occurrence of such great magnitude over such a short time that it can only give witness to the workings of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church today.

It is imperative for all parishes and schools to closely examine the Church’s authoritative writings on matters liturgical, such as the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and Redemptionis Sacramentum. Employing the rubrics they call for, and in addition those that are given as options, will bring about a greater sense of mystery and sacredness to the Mass.

Beyond just reading these documents, their contents need to be incorporated into a liturgical catechesis. This could be accomplished by printing short columns in Sunday bulletins about different aspects of the Mass, or by offering workshops and classes in order to better educate the faithful in the rubrics and gestures. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “liturgical catechesis aims to initiate people into the mystery of Christ by proceeding from the visible to the invisible, from the sign to the thing signified, from the ‘sacraments’ to the ‘mysteries’” (no. 1075).

Many parishes, schools, and dioceses have taken tremendous steps toward ensuring faithful catechetical training. This is a great turnaround from the watered-down instruction largely given in the 1970s and 1980s. However, if what we teach about the Mass and the Eucharist is not expressed in our actions and daily examples, even when good catechetical instruction is offered, we are inadvertently leading the faithful away from the fullness of truth about the most sublime and beautiful event this side of Heaven — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, with all the graces it contains.

 

 

If I Had A Hammer…

I’d cave some liturgical music reformer’s skulls in!    There!  I said it.

Father John Zuhlsdorf brought this article from CRISIS to our attention:

Abandoning Latin Changed Liturgical Music … for the Worse

After 35 years as a liturgical musician, it’s amazing how little I really know about the liturgical music of the Roman Rite.

Then again, what should I expect when my earliest memories of music at Mass tend to involve now-forgotten attempts to make Ray Repp tunes, guitar-group versions of Beatles songs, social-justice-pop-folk songs, and patently juvenile compositions like “Sons of God” and “Here We Are” seem at home in the most august Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?

When it comes to the “hermeneutic of discontinuity,” I lived the experience. Yet, despite the poverty of my personal liturgical roots, I’m convinced that things aren’t really as bad as some people today might think, in terms of the pre-Vatican II vs. post-Vatican II liturgical-music landscapes.

No. They’re actually worse.

Why? Because the narrative is not really as simple as saying “we really had our liturgical-music act together before the Council, and after the Council everything collapsed.”

Rather, the more historically accurate narrative sounds like: “we really had only taken the first few baby-steps toward getting our liturgical-music act together in the decades before the Council, and then after the Council everything collapsed.”

It might be fairer to say that after the Council everything certainly changed, if not collapsed. Or at least that one specific change caused one particular collapse. I’m referring to the seismic shift in liturgical music that arose from the largely unrestrained embrace of the “vernacular” in the liturgy.

Chant’s Second Chance
A little context is in order before addressing the “vernacular” issue more directly.

A century ago, Pope St. Pius X took on the reform of liturgical music in a big way. Late nineteenth-century liturgical music had largely pushed Gregorian chant aside, and the patrimony of the Roman Rite’s most distinctive musical form was in danger of fading away. His 1903 motu proprio on sacred music “Tra Le Sollecitudini” sought to reclaim chant and minimize the damage that had been done by the “theatrical” or “concert” music that had made its way into liturgy via composers of secular classical music who also wrote beautiful performance works with religious content—Masses, oratorios, and the like—that were never appropriate for liturgy but had infiltrated it nonetheless.

The long-term project was to rediscover and reclaim the authentic root of chant, which had become covered in the overgrowth of centuries of adaptation and neglect. Thankfully, this pursuit was undertaken wholeheartedly by several key groups, and real progress was being made in allowing the Roman Rite to, once again, rely on its distinctive musical form in twentieth-century liturgy.

However, this all-important step was really only tenuously connected to another all-important question related to liturgical music: how might the recovery of chant impact the existing state of congregational singing at Mass?

Some Assembly Required
To my surprise, I’ve only recently come to learn that the Roman Rite has had a bit of an on-again/off-again relationship with the whole notion of liturgical singing done by anyone other than the clergy (remember, pre-Vatican II “clergy” included those in minor orders) or established choirs of the day. The people in the pews were not at all central to the notion of “liturgical” music, any more than they were at all central to providing the liturgical responses at Low Mass or High Mass (“Sung” or “Solemn”).

Yet the twentieth-century Magisterium did come down in favor of giving formation to the faithful such that they could at least minimally learn and participate in the chant that was being rediscovered. Granted, congregational singing of vernacular hymns was happening, but this was seen as distinct from the ceremonial-liturgical music that existed exclusively in Latin, not the vernacular.

Indeed, the real irony was that it was quite typically only in Masses that were not sung by the priest—that is, the completely unsung, recited Low Mass—that the more congregation-friendly vernacular hymns were permitted for use, as long as the unsung, recited Latin liturgical texts were delivered intact by server, choir, or even congregation. High Mass—necessarily sung by the priest and other “sacred ministers” (deacon, subdeacon) employing Gregorian chant, required chanted responses and prohibited any singing in the vernacular.

Precisely because everyone else in the liturgy besides the assembly—minor clergy, servers, choirs—had been trained to provide not only the sung chant but also all the appropriate Latin spoken responses, the people in the pews remained largely unexposed to the kind of education in chant envisioned in the first decades of the twentieth century.

Not only that, but it’s worth wondering—how many priests of that time were themselves well-trained to sing the Mass—that is, celebrate High Mass with all priestly parts necessitating expertise in Gregorian chant? I’m sure some could, and I hope many did, but I can’t help but imagine that recited Low Masses were much more prevalent in the average parishes, meaning that congregations were really focused not on the distinctive music of the Roman Rite, but really on hymns in the vernacular, if they did any singing at Mass at all. The patrimony of “real” liturgical music—that is, chant and polyphony in Latin—still rested largely in the hands and voices of clergy, choirs, and servers.

Mass Movement—From “Hearing” to “Praying”
Fast-forward to the era immediately preceding the Second Vatican Council, with the “Liturgical Movement” of that time focusing on getting people to move past the realm of “hearing” Mass amid favored private devotions prayed during it toward “praying the Mass” by at least following along with personal missals in the vernacular that could help a Catholic understand the spoken Latin. However, the reform of the liturgy took a turn headlong in the direction of accessibility—despite the Council’s insistence, in its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, that “The use of Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites” (36), and that Gregorian Chant “should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (116).

If any single thing could essentially derail the century-long project of reclaiming the Roman Rite’s chant and finally getting it into the pews, the unrestrained plunge into the vernacular could, and did, in my view. It’s pretty simple. If priest and assembly are no longer bound by a requirement to learn and use Latin in liturgy, and if liberation from Latin takes the shape of a tsunami throughout the Church, from priest to pewsitter, access to the patrimony of Latin-text music—both chant and polyphony—becomes utterly short-circuited.

Furthermore, that huge, whooshing, sucking sound we all heard by the mid-1960s was the immense vacuum created by the absence of any music in the vernacular that could really fill the void created by severing the connection to both the Church’s universal language and its universal music. It was also, in my view, the death rattle for the ambitious decades-long effort to restore and reconnect not only clergy and choirs but congregations to Gregorian chant.

Now, I’m sure there were exceptions found in many places—people in the pew who really did “get” the liturgy and its music in Latin. Perhaps some parishes sought to preserve the precious steps taken before the Council to give chant real pride of place even in the congregation’s singing. Even so, history seems clear—the swift and monumental movement from Latin to vernacular (in the US, to English) set the stage for a pretty immediate need for vernacular liturgical music—and a vernacular chant was just not waiting in the wings during this time. Not only that, but the existing vernacular Catholic hymns were never intended to do the work of Latin liturgical music, and were largely themed toward devotions rather than Mass.

“Attention, All Personnel….!!”
Thus, the Church in the US was treated to the musical “M*A*S*H” unit that was first to arrive on the scene, offering not “meatball surgery” but offering “meatball liturgy.” And it wasn’t very life-saving—at all. As the Mass hemorrhaged its Latin, the wound, scarcely cleaned, received the Bandaid of the banal texts and melodies that at least initially came largely from the pop-folk era previously inaugurated by the 1957-1958 Kingston Trio smash hit “Tom Dooley.” By the mid-1960s, the exuberant and carefree folk revival had given way to protest music and politics, and that volatile mix of elements gave us that visceral novelty of “now” liturgical music (so called) in the vernacular—guitars and even banjos mercilessly subjecting the faithful to everything from “Sounds of Silence” to “Let It Be” to Catholic “youth” music like “Wake Up, My People,” “Till All My People Are One,” “Allelu,” “To Be Alive,” and “Joy Is Like the Rain.”

Now, fifty years later, the discontinuity does indeed seem staggering. It leaves liturgical music in a sort of limbo. The legitimacy of the pre-conciliar effort to restore chant must be reconnected with the legitimacy of the post-conciliar openness to organically growing new liturgical music from that root.

How much different would things have been if there had been real continuity? Well, I’m pretty sure a young believer like me, destined to be a liturgical musician for more than 30 years, would have benefitted greatly from hearing way more Latin, more chant, more Latin polyphony—anything that would have made it clear to me that these are truly the hallmarks of our Roman-Rite tradition. In my view, it’s not merely a missed opportunity for the Mass itself, but it’s a missed opportunity for me as a Catholic.

Mass is not supposed to make me musically comfortable—it’s supposed to make me more holy.

Some may say that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but I’m here to tell you: singing “If I Had a Hammer,” “Get Together,” and “Day by Day” at Mass never, not once, made me feel stronger—or holier. Let’s reclaim our rightful patrimony and try to rediscover—yet again—the liturgical music roots of the Roman Rite.

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Well-said Mr. Russell!  “He who sings; prays twice – especially Latin Chant”!   Ok, well maybe St. Augustine (this saying might be attributed to St. Gregory) didn’t mention the Latin Chant part…   but, then again, he wouldn’t have had to!   All I know is – that the music at most Novus Ordo masses makes my teeth hurt!

-Allan Gillis

Should there be separation of church and state?

By Augustinus

Across most of history religion was integral to the polis; to what we call today “political affairs”. It is only in the protestant west during the last 2 or 3 hundred years that protestant intellectuals have advocated separation of church and “state”. During the founding of the USA there were huge debates about “disestablishment” or whether each state would choose its own “established” church/religion. Inspired by the atheism of the French revolution Jeffersonian radicals in the USA won the debate over religion in the public sphere and so “separation of church and state” became settled constitutional doctrine in the USA.

The separation doctrine has never really worked that well because human beings are largely religious creatures. They don’t like leaving their religion behind when they enter the public sphere. The history of political conflicts within the USA since the founding has largely been fueled by intrusions of religion into politics. there would have been no civil war and no abolition of slavery without the abolitionist religious fanatics to cite just one example.

The only reason why the separation has SEEMED to work well for the USA in the last 200 years is because the only religions the state has had to deal with are the emasculated form of Christianity (i.e. protestantism); and a protestantizing form of catholicism (the “Americanist” heresy gained allegiance from most of the catholic bishops throughout the 20th century. Americanism was given new life by Vatican II and by similar anti-catholic trends in Europe in the 20th century.

These two forms of Christianity do not threaten the state as they are inherently statist themselves. When a religion casts away its identity markers such as distinctive dress, distinctive liturgical ceremonies, public processions, a distinctive calendar of commemorative days, religiously homogenous ghettos, neighborhoods or communities and so on …in short when a religion forfeits culture to the state the state has won and the religion will accommodate to the state’s liturgical feasts, the states commemorative calendar, the state’s values etc.

The separation doctrine, however, is on its last legs. It cannot survive the 21st century. Unlike the emasculated forms of Christianity that have existed in America until now Islam cannot and will not be assimilated into the modern state. Similarly the the left wing of the Catholic church which is the main supporter of the Americanist heresy is on its way out seeing its last gasp in the papacy of Pope Francis. In Europe and in Russia orthodox brands of religion are on the rise. You do not need whole populations to adopt orthodoxy for the orthodox to win. You only need a dedicated few like St Francis of Assisi who along with St Dominic largely saved the church in the 12 century just as St Ignatius and the jesuits saved the church after the reformation nearly destroyed it in the 16th and 17th centuries and St Benedict did after the fall of Rome and the dawn of the dark ages. It is the saints who save the church but saints who are also leaders who can organize and inspire other men with zeal.