Sunday, August 31, 2008

16th after Pentecost

Justin has been back here on loan from Melbourne, working away at the altar for St Anne's, Belmont, all this week; he flies back East this afternoon. (When shall we finally move in there? Who knows! Justin returns in early November for another week's work, but the altar still needs to be installed, to say nothing of the altar rails, the high pulpit, and so forth. Fr Rowe thinks we may be moved in by Christmas.)

In any case, Justin conducted the choir this morning, to great effect. Andrew, unfortunately unwell, still played the organ with aplomb. It was good to get back to singing the Propers again, and we also tried out a new Mass Ordinary for us, Mass XII, Pater cuncta, as well as Credo I. (Hymns: "On this day the first of days" for the processional, Jesu dulcis memoria after Communion, and "O breathe on me, Breath of God" for the recessional.) Hopefully Pater cuncta will get a guernsey again soon...

The Offertory, Domine in auxilium meum respice (Ps 39:14, 15), has that interesting and late feature, a repetition of its first phrase - both words and music - at its conclusion. A number of Offertories do this; I don't know why.

Fr Rowe drew a large number of morals for us all out of to-day's Gospel of the healing of the dropsical man: I must certainly heed at least one of them, viz. that when correcting someone, it must be done with all indulgence and meekness, not to shame or upset the other, and never ought it be done in an access of anger, nor in perverse enjoyment. Yes, I have a sharp temper, but that's no excuse: Irascimini et nolite peccare (Ps 4:5a).


BTW, having been busy all week with a number of dinner engagements, and having Internet connexion difficulties, I haven't blogged much; hopefully I will do more this week.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

News from Wyoming

From a correspondent, regarding my mate Pete from Bunbury, who has joined the Carmelite Monks in Wyoming:

Peter is enjoying Carmel very much - sung Mass every day, the silence (believe it or not!), and the prayer times.  He is still joking around a lot though, and frequently bursts into laughter at lunch during the readings of holy texts!  He has taught them "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport" and is now working on "Said Hanrahan". He has also got them all playing cricket.

He asked me to send his fraternal love to several people, including yourself, and to remind you that he is praying for you.

God bless Pete, and also Br Luke, my friend and Cistercian monk, who just sent me a very holy letter!


It's been a very busy week for me so far...  best wishes for Monday's feast of St Louis, King of France, for Wednesday's of St Monica, and for today, the feast of the incomparable St Augustine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Today's Gospel being the account of the raising to life of the only son of the widow of Naim, Fr Rowe took this as a cue to preach on death - for, just as that youth was struck down in the prime of life, at some unknown day and hour we too shall die: but, unlike him, it is most unlikely we shall be miraculously resuscitated.

Therefore, we ought focus on death, our ineluctable fate.

Fr observed that the sight of a hearse or coffin or funeral or burial ought move us to pray for the deceased.  Just as it is a corporal work of mercy to bury the dead, so it is a spiritual work of mercy to pray for the dead: thus we should assist at funerals when possible.

To better instruct us, he detailed parts of the funeral liturgy and their significance.

At the news of death, and at the time of a funeral, the church bell rings out the solemn death knell: by which the faithful are bidden to pray for the holy souls in Purgatory, and to assemble for the obsequies.

The priest and people go to meet the body, and it is borne to church, with Psalms 129 and 50 - the De profundis and Miserere - chanted.  While priest and people will be in black, the colour of mourning, we ought not bewail like the pagans who have no hope (cf. I Thess. iv, 13b), nor indulge in melodramatic ululations, nor perpetuate suchlike follies.  The early Christians rather rejoiced at the passage of their brethren into eternal life, but, given the manifold dangers of the world, and our awareness of the less-than-perfect lives of even believers to-day, the Church calls us to a moderate and rational grief, mingled with prayer for deliverance from Purgatory for the departed soul.

Before the body is carried the crucifix and candles, representing unto us that Christ's all-meritorious death is our only hope of salvation, and reminding us that once the faithful had perforce furtively to bury the Christian dead by torchlight in the catacombs, whilst furious persecution raged against ours, the only true religion.

Several times in the funeral rites, the corpse is aspersed and thurified: this signifies that prayer for the dead tempers the fires of purgatory and pleases the Almighty (as well as reminding us that the Christian departed was baptized and therefore made holy and fit for heaven, tho' required to live justly, soberly and piously). 

 The body of a layman is placed with the head altarward, for God shall judge his soul; but that of a priest is laid with head toward the congregation, for the priest shall be judged not only by the Lord, but, as it were, by his flock, for he must answer for all his ministrations toward them.*  

[*UPDATE: Did I get this mixed up in my hazy memory?  A correspondent tells me the bodies actually go the other way round!  Whoops.]

Since, as once with the only son of the widow of Naim, in olden days bodies were brought into church exposed on a bier, a black pall is cast over the body so as not to affright the people in church, even though nowadays a closed coffin is employed.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is next offered up for the eternal repose of the faithful departed, in presence of the corpse - or, if need be, a catafalque representing the body is erected.  (This was done for the memorial Mass of a friend of mine, Brett O'Meara - God rest his soul - who died on the 12th of May 2003.  I attended his actual funeral in country Victoria, but, since he had preference for the Latin Mass, arrangements were made to have a second memorial Mass, a Missa cantata, in Melbourne at the end of May that year.)

After Mass, the coffin is carried forth for burial, with the chanting of the Benedictus, and final prayers at the graveside.  The body is buried into the earth, since the earth has it were rights over the body, being made from the earth as Genesis avers, and as we are reminded each Ash Wednesday.  The priest and all present pour handfuls of earth onto the coffin.  Pagans being enamoured of cremation, the early Christians had a horror of it - hence burial in the earth.

Die we must: pray for a good and happy death, asking the prayers of St Joseph, patron thereof.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Refuge of Sinners

Apparently some Catholic with a quirky sense of humour put a sign outside his home: Refuge of Sinners...

Be that as it may, to celebrate the liturgical solemnity of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart, there was a Holy Hour at the Pro., followed by Mass at 6.30pm.  I arrived in due time to kneel before Our Lord exposed in the monstrance, to say some Office, and to pray Vespers from the Breviary.  Fr Rowe read a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Mary, and then gave Benediction, after which we sang the Lourdes Hymn.

Having been suddenly inspired, I enquired in the sacristy to ask if Fr wanted a sung Mass?  The answer being in the affirmative, we all bustled about, and got underway slightly late: I sang the Rossini propers (Gregorian propers solo being beyond me), and together with the faithful we used the popular favourites of Missa de Angelis, Credo III, Salve Regina in the simple tone (at Offertory), Ave verum (at Communion) and, for vernacular hymns at the start and end, "O purest of creatures" and "Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all", seeing as how these allude to Mary's most pure heart.  It was a very simple and rough musical contribution, but shews that it is perfectly possible to have sung Mass easily; I know that if he could, Fr would have sung Mass every day.

As for me, it was moving to sing and reflect on the words of the Alleluia verse and the Offertory: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour..."  (Which words were nicely complemented by the Gradual, quoting Psalms 12:6; 44:18 to form a dialogue - Mary's heart rejoicing and singing unto God the Giver of all good gifts, and all peoples praising her down the ages - itself alluding to the whole of the Magnificat).

I was very pleased - being a sermon junkie - that Fr chose to preach, and preach he did, on the Immaculate Heart of Mary as the Refuge of Sinners.  I will try and recall salient points, bringing in my own.  ("They that explain me, shall have life everlasting." - last verse of the beaut lesson appointed for the Epistle, Ecclesiasticus xxiv, 23-31.)  Relying on the truth shewn us in the Holy Gospel sung at Mass to-day (St John xix, 25-27), that Our Lord, crucified, gave us all to His Mother as her children in the person of St John (a truth the text of the Communion repeated), he went on to illustrate the consequences of this donation, using the figure of the woman of Thecua (II Kings xiv, 4-11):

...when the woman of Thecua was come in to the king, she fell before him upon the ground, and worshipped, and said: Save me, O king. 
And the king said to her: What is the matter with thee? She answered: Alas, I am a widow woman: for my husband is dead.
And thy handmaid had two sons: and they quarrelled with each other in the field, and there was none to part them: and the one struck the other, and slew him.
And behold the whole kindred rising against thy handmaid, saith: Deliver him that hath slain his brother, that we may kill him for the life of his brother, whom he slew, and that we may destroy the heir: and they seek to quench my spark which is left, and will leave my husband no name, nor remainder upon the earth. 
And the king said to the woman: Go to thy house, and I will give charge concerning thee. 
And the woman of Thecua said to the king: Upon me, my lord, be the iniquity, and upon the house of my father: but may the king and his throne be guiltless. 
And the king said: If any one shall say ought against thee, bring him to me, and be shall not touch thee any more.
And she said: Let the king remember the Lord his God, that the next of kin be not multiplied to take revenge, and that they may not kill my son. And he said: As the Lord liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth. 

How could a mother, seeing the death of one son, not desire her other son, even though the guilty party, to be spared death?  Just as the woman of Thecua interceded with King David for her remaining, sinful son, that he not be put to death for the murder of his brother, so Our Lady intercedes with God for all wretched sinners, who by their sins have crucified her Only Son, that they not be cast into perdition, but spared and saved.  For, being a loving mother, she has an especial tender concern for sinners, especially the most vile and degraded, since she sees their great danger of being damned to hell, and ceases not to pray for them.    If the prayer of a righteous man availeth much (St James v, 16), and how much greater the power of an angel's prayer, or that of a saint in heaven, what can be said of the efficacy with God of Mary's prayer, she upon whom the Divine ever gazed with infinite complacency?  

Our Lady's Immaculate Heart is truly then the Refuge of Sinners; and she is such particularly at the dread moment of our death (for her protection at which time we all pray continually in the Hail Mary).  It is then that, "knowing that he hath but a short time", "the devil [will] come down unto you, having great wrath" (Apoc. xii, 12): then, more and more furiously will the inhuman enemies of our salvation strive to tear us from God; then, the soul being in fearful agony, the need for that precious and unmeritable grace of final perseverance shall be manifest.

Therefore, at death's hour, we must flee unto Mary and her Heart of refuge and peace, for she will interpose herself as our gentle Mediatrix with her Son and God, reminding him "that he hath paid the price of our iniquity".   As the Church sings in the Introit, applying the text to Mary, "Let us go with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid" - for she says, as it were (continuing with the Introit verse), "My heart hath uttered a good word: I will speak my works to the king."  Glory be to the Trinity, for having vouchsafed us the Heart of Mary!

It is as happened to the young St Francis de Sales; though but a youth of seventeen, and not in fact struck down by death, yet he suffered a terrible time of temptation (a figure of death), when Satan put it into his heart that he was among the eternally reprobate, as if God had decreed him from all eternity to not be among the elect saved: being filled with fear and nigh unto despair, this faithful young man, ever devout client of Our Lady, threw himself before her altar and prayed her that he might at the least serve her Son lovingly in this life, if (so to speak) he were not to serve Him in the next.  At the very moment of his confused petition, he felt a great peace descend upon him, and was no more troubled with fear of reprobation: this grace was obtained from the Lord by the maternal Heart of Mary.

As with St Francis, so with us all, after the model of holy Job: the Lord God permits times of special temptation to befall us, and at these times we ought in particular adhere to Mary and pray her to get help for us from God our Saviour.  When all earthly helps are lacking, Mary will not fail us.  For this very reason, in the midst of the most cruel combat of the Second World War, Pope Pius XII established this feast on this day, beseeching God to heed the Virgin's prayer for peace: and as all men know, the war was ended the next year, on the very day commemorating her Assumption into heaven.  The Virgin at Fatima had spoken of this devotion to her Immaculate Heart, as a sure way to secure salvation and peace, and for utterly the same reason Russia has been consecrated to her Heart, with ongoing results that, please God, shall more and more conform that great though sinwracked nation to its most high calling, to be Holy Russia as of old.

I always like to attend to the orations of the Mass, and the focus of them was instructive: in the Collect, we are pray that we, devoutly celebrating Our Lady's Heart, may live after the pattern of God's own Heart - for such was Mary's Heart, conformed unto the Divine, because prepared by the Almighty as a dwellingplace of the Holy Ghost (and therefore most obviously we must beg God to grant us a like supernatural grace).  Interestingly, rather than alluding to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the collect bids us pray to imitate the Heart of God, which of course is not a physical organ, but a figure of the lovingkindness and stedfast mercies of our God.

The Secret, likewise, focusses our attention in the first place upon the Act being performed - the offering up of the spotless Lamb of God, making present Christ's voluntary sacrifice in sacramental guise - and in the second place asks for a specific, apposite grace: that the divine fire (surely the Holy Ghost dwelling therein) that inflamed Mary's Heart should come down and burn brightly within us, thereby likewise conforming us to the Divine by imparting lifegiving supernatural charity.

The Postcommunion by its very nature first refers to the dogmatic truth of our refreshment by the divine things received, and then asks for appropriate graces consequent upon this Communion, through Our Lady's intercession (God delighting in acting through secondary causes): that we be freed from present perils, and brought in due course to the joys of life eternal.  This reflects, of course, the themes of the sermon and the very Gospel: that Christ, dying in sacrifice for us, disdained not to grant us in Him the secondary assistance of His Blessed Mother, as an essential part of our Christian life and passage from this world to heaven.

After Mass, and a few prayers of course, I ended up having dinner with Fr and with Michael, one of the guys serving, normally based down in Bunbury but staying here in Perth for a while, whom I've known since I met him in Melbourne some years back.  Rather than buy some fish 'n' chips, Michael offered to cook some...  Hours later (very late, we were all exhausted!), having finally found some half-suitable ingredients at various supermarkets, we partook of a slightly unusual meal...  We did enjoy a bottle of good dark ale, Canadian Unibroue "Terrible", which I'd bought at the bottleshop while Michael was trying to find some fish to buy.

I also made a great find en route: six bottles of a good drop from South Australia, Barossa Valley Kalleske Wines 2007 "Clarry's", at 33% off.  It is a very rich and tasty drop (65% grenache, 35% shiraz) that I've enjoyed before and have been anxious to buy again.  Tonight, or soon enough, I will be enjoying it before the fire while reading Lovecraft's stories...

"Where Catholics are found in every clime, 
There's plenty of laughter and good red wine;
The Lord Himself hath made it so - 
Benedicamus Domino."  (Hilaire Belloc)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Geopolitical Opinions

While I have mainly restricted myself to religious thoughts on this blog, I have been concerned by the unfortunate events in Georgia (საქრთველო) of late.  Now, it was in the immediate aftermath of the breakup of the evil USSR that Georgia itself underwent fragmentation, not without violence, whereby Abkhazia and South Ossetia in the main attained de facto independence (subsidized and supported ever since by Russia, even to the extent of granting Russian passports to the majority in each rebel area), but few seem to recall with anything but indifference that this occurred at the cost of expelling many Georgians from these regions, persons who had every right to abide there.

To think that all this occurs in a country only slightly larger than my home State of Tasmania!  Georgia stands to lose about 20% of her territory...

While significant parts of South Ossetia remained ethnically Georgian and under Georgian control, presumably until the present disastrous war, the victorous separatists in Abkhazia expelled 200,000 or so Georgians (strictly speaking, Mingrelians, bilingual in Georgian and their own closely-allied tongue), in a feat of ethnic cleansing - insane sinister term! - that made that autonomous republic majority-Abkhaz for the first time: this immoral fait accompli is behind the failure of all conciliation with Georgia, for Abkhazia has no desire to permit the return of so many refugees, refugees who if returned would swing the population and votes in Abkhazia back to reunion with Georgia, refugees who, denied their moral right of return to their homes, have dwelt in appalling slums in Tbilisi ever since.

It seems all too obvious that, given the incredible foolishness of the Georgian government in trying to seize back control of the South Ossetian separatist areas without realizing the likely Russian response, the dismal process of ethnic cleansing is becoming a fait accompli in all of South Ossetia too.  Given the estimated 160,000 refugees from the conflict displaced within Georgia, the vast majority being Georgians, it appears that the end result of the foolhardy adventure has been the driving out of most remaining Georgians and central government control from all of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Whether or not Russia now or later recognizes Abkhazia or South Ossetia, or even annexes them, they are now more than ever what they have been in truth for more than a decade: Russian protectorates, divorced from Georgia, and cleansed of Georgians.  The Russian military will doubtless retain stronger footholds in both henceforth.

So, what of all this?  The Georgian government has in essence to accept the unacceptable.

It seems to me that the best that could be hoped is for the situation to be regularized: that is, for Georgia to petition for the retrocession to itself of majority-Georgian border areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in return for recognition of both as independent from Georgia, with guarantees of non-intervention in both.  For in fact this is what the situation has been virtually from the first years of Georgian independence.  It can only be hoped that such limited border readjustments may permit some of the many hundred thousand Georgian refugees to return 'home'.

What more to ask?  A shrewd move would be to offer to recognize South Ossetia as independent - but to recognize it as independent in union with North Ossetia.  Better a puppet state straddling the Caucasus between Russia and Georgia - an attractive albeit foredoomed scenario - than the worst-case of Russian annexation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the semipermanent occupation of adjacent areas of Georgia itself, à la Czechoslovakia 1938.

(And just to bring in further worrisome facts: one of the southern regions of Georgia is majority-Armenian, and another has a plurality of Azeris - consider the actions against prostrate and fissioning Czechoslovakia of Hungary, Poland and the USSR after the Munich agreement...)

Perhaps saddest is the way the Russian media coverage has been so slewed towards its own government's propaganda as to persuade the Russian populace that their armed forces have acted in defence of persecuted minorities against a criminal regime, whereas the truth is almost the opposite.  (Certainly Ossetians were killed in the initial, so-stupid Georgian advance: but the Georgians have since paid a far higher price.)  The governments of both states have only recently been elected in democratic elections - but that in Georgia was certainly a freer and fairer poll than that in Russia, where military-fascist and authoritarian traits are all too discernible in its leadership and political apparatus, just as throughout Russian history.

I note that the Catholicos-Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church has been striving to intervene in the cause of peace and humanitarian relief; but I suspect the Cæsaropapist tendencies of the Russian Orthodox Church have been to the fore as usual, anointing Russian aggression mislabelled as liberation just as in the past.  Thus two nominally Orthodox peoples war with each other; the Georgians doubtless remember how for a century their own autocephalous Church had been suppressed by the Russians, and even their liturgy celebrated in Russian.

I can only pray to St George, St Nino Equal-to-the-Apostles and Evangelist of Georgia, and the Most Holy Mother of God, that they obtain of God mercy for all the peoples caught in this unhappy and fratricidal conflict. 

Northwest Passage Opens

For only the second time in recorded history, the fabled Northwest Passage is open and clear of ice - check out the map at Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis.  (I refer, of course, to the deep-water Parry Channel, between the southern part of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and the Queen Elizabeth Islands to their north.)  

There are some very interesting accounts (here, here and on pages 18-22 here) of the first commercial testing of shipping through the Northwest Passage - back in 1969, when the U.S.S. Manhattan, an icebreaking oiltanker, made the trip, though it had to abandon its summer attack on the McClure Strait at the end of the Parry Channel, since it was fast with ice 100 feet thick where now there is open water!

I tend to accept the evidence for a warming climate, linked to man's activities - though of course, as sensible folk would, I hope that this is wrong, still one mustn't stick one's head in the sand.  

In any case, should Western Australia run out of water, get insupportably hot, and otherwise become uncomfortable, my initial plan is to return to Tasmania, but my long-term plan is to migrate to northern Canada: by my calculations, it should be balmy by the time I get to retirement.  ;-)

A Pleasant Evening

Having heard Mass and made my Communion on the way home, I made some dinner (finishing off the last of the shiraz-viognier in the sauce and in a glass) and lit the fire, then settled back to read, with some tokay...  Michael got home after that, and ate the rest of the pasta; we had a beer...  I read some bits out of my book, Dom Ernest Graf's Anscar Vonier: Abbot of Buckfast...  James came home... the fire was dying, and it struck 11pm, by the time Stephen returned.  So, having finished reading over the memoir of Dom Anscar, I'm off to bed.

Unfortunately, Graf didn't provide the sought-for bibliography of Vonier's œuvre, so I will have to do some hunting about in libraries sometime soon.

Last but not least, a lordly benefactor has sent me a wonderful gift, which arrived to-day:

Augustus Welby Pugin, The Present State of Ecclesiastical Architecture in England and Some Remarks Relative to Ecclesiastical Architecture and Decoration, Leominster: Gracewing, 2004 (1st published 1843 and 1850 respectively);

Augustus Welby Pugin, A Treatise on Chancel Screens and Rood Lofts: Their Antiquity, Use and Symbolic Signification, Leominster: Gracewing, 2005 (1st published 1851).

(Tasmania, my home State, has a rich Pugin heritage, in surviving vestments, sacred vessels, and extant churches built to his designs - two with rood screens still intact! - owing to his friendship with the first Bishop of Hobart Town.)

Retribuere, dignare, Domine, omnibus nobis bona facientibus, proper Nomen tuum, vitam æternam.  Amen.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Happy Feast

Happy Feast of St Bernard, Our Lady's Champion, Last of the Fathers, Glory of Clairvaux, Doctor Mellifluus, Abbot and Doctor of the Church!

Please pray today for all Christians, that we may profit by his life, teachings and prayers; and for all Cistercians, that they may particularly emulate his spirit - pray please especially for Br Luke, a friend of mine, who is a monk-in-formation at the Abbey of Our Lady of Tarrawarra, in Victoria.

V/.  Pray for us, St Bernard.

R/.  That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What are Emulations?

Low Mass this Sunday...  a sermon on the vanity and ultimate uselessness of the service paid to the world, versus the peace and true reward that comes from the service of God; while the former appears easier than the latter, the reverse is the case...  feelings of depression at my own failure to serve the Lord, my too eager pursuit of mundane things...  I was struck by the echo of the Gospel in the Communion verse: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all shall be added unto you, saith the Lord (St Matt. vi, 33)...  a confession afterward.  

Father answered a question that has troubled me: what is a firm purpose of amendment? if I fall back into the same old sins, was any purpose of amendment lacking?  He responded by saying that of course people tend to fall prey to the same sins, but this is not evidence of lack of purpose of amendment: a firm purpose of amendment is what you must have at your confession, together with trust in God's grace (and prudent cooperation therewith).  So he relieved my conscience, and bade me say five Ave's to know my predominant fault and for the grace to overcome it.


Fr Rowe had a few days earlier raised the amusing question, What are emulations?  (We had been teasing him about reading out translations of the Epistle and Gospel from a version that didn't exactly elucidate and enlighten!)  Here is the relevant passage from to-day's Epistle, taken from St Paul to the Galatians (v, 16-24):

Brethren: Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh: for the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh: for these are contrary one to another: so that you do not the things that you would.  But if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.  Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry [literally "service of idols"], witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.  But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity. Against such there is no law.  And they that are Christ's, have crucified their flesh, with the vices and concupiscences. 

[It would seem appropriate to add the next verse (v, 25) in private, since it closes the chiasmus established in the first verse of the pericope (v, 16): If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.]

Now, to establish what exactly are emulations, I have recourse to the Greek New Testament (in the worlds of Mgr Knox, "a useful crib to the Latin Vulgate") - here are the "works of the flesh" as it gives them (Gal. v, 19b-21a):

...πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, [the Vulgate adds another synonym for these: luxuria,εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθείαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, [some MSS add: φόνοι,] μέθαι, κῶμοι, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις...

According to my dictionary, these translate somewhat as follows:

...sexual immorality, impurity, indecency, idol-worship, witchcraft*, hatreds, strife†, jealousy, rages, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions‡, envies, drunknennesses, [murders,] carousings, and similar things...

So æmulationes ("emulations") means "jealousies"; while in English to emulate someone means to (with zeal) imitate them, in Latin their is a definite bad connotation - the deponent verb æmulari means to envy, not to imitate, and one's æmula is one's rival, but if one is an æmulator, one is a zealous (as opposed to jealous) imitator.  Since in English "jealousy" and "zeal" derive from the same root, one can see how the two concepts have become distinct.

[* Bizarrely, our words pharmacy and pharmacist derive from the Greek for witchcraft and sorcerer!  Magic, or a magic potion, was φάρμακον, and from this comes the eventual idea of non-magical healing remedies...

[† Eris, of course, is the Greek goddess of discord - hence appropriately enough this is the proper name now given to the dwarf planet discovered to be larger and more distant than Pluto, which occasioned the demotion of the latter amidst much strife between astronomers!

[‡ Here we see the earlier meaning of "heresy": an opinion, and by metonymy a faction adhering thereto; the Latin renders this very well as "sects" (sectæ).]

Now I must walk in the Spirit and bear His fruits, trusting in the Lord:

Custodi Domine, quaesumus, Ecclesiam tuam propitiatione perpetua: et quia sine te labitur humana mortalitas, tuis semper auxiliis et abstrahatur a noxiis, et ad salutaria dirigatur. Per...

Keep, Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy Church in Thy perpetual mercy: and because without Thee human mortality fails, always by Thine assistances both draw it away from things hurtful, and direct it to all things profitable to our salvation. Thro'...

What a Beaut and Catholic Custom

The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer have just held a triduum in honour of Our Lady's Assumption - or, rather, of her death, repose in the tomb, and subsequent taking up into heaven - in accordance with the Redemptorist traditions and the teachings of St Alphonsus: all of which, coming from southern Italy, seem redolent of Greek influences.  The Eastern term Pascha of the Theotokos comes irresistibly to mind!  

On the 13th, they erected a magnificent and festive catafalque in their chapel, complete with statue of Our Lady "fallen asleep in the Lord" (cf. the Epitaphion of the Theotokos), gathered about her in imitation of the Apostles, and had Mass in honour of Our Lady Refuge of Sinners; on the 14th, they meditated on her repose in the tomb, and celebrated the Vigil Mass of the Assumption (in violet vestments, of course), followed by Benediction; and on the triumphant 15th, her image removed from the catafalque now dressed with countless flowers, they celebrated her bodily resurrection and passage into heavenly glory with a splendid High Mass.  

I had read that like triduums of Masses had been held of old in some places in Italy, but never realized that these wonderful and very Eastern customs are still kept up.  All praise to these zealous religious!

Caption Competition

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dormitionists - II

Catholics need to be balanced in their devotions, lest they become deviations; here is a link to a previous posting about a peculiar Order, whose feast day falls on this great feast.

Ave Regina Cælorum - II

Here is a link to a previous posting about the Marian anthem Ave Regina cælorum, which was originally composed for the feast of the Assumption - hence this notice.

Who is She Ascends So High?

I hope that readers may know, and mayhap even sing, some fine hymns in honour of Our Blessed Lady's triumphant assumption into heaven - such as a favourite of mine, "Who is she ascends so high?"; for, after her dormition, her falling asleep in the Lord, He would not suffer her, the Immaculate Theotokos, to suffer corruption, and so resurrected and assumed her into his heaven, she, who in her virginal conception became in her very body and soul the living corporeal heaven of heavens for the Word enfleshed.

Has this struck others?  It seems some illumination to me: that as her flesh and blood became heaven, for the Child conceived within her, so it was supremely fitting that that same flesh and blood should be taken into the highest heaven, as the only proper place for the Living Ark of the New and Eternal Covenant (cf. Apoc. xi, 19).

While only her bodily assumption is a defined dogma, it is clearly the common opinion, and sententia certa, that Our Lady truly died - for that is what the older term "Dormition" (κοίμησις) signifies: "falling asleep" [in the Lord], a New Testament expression for dying in Christ, that is, in the state of grace.  The Dominican Rite collect Veneranda, of very old provenance, and formerly very widely used throughout the West, tells as much.  Indeed, the greater number of the Liturgies of the Church testify to her death; only a few very late Latin theologians considered her as directly assumed without death intervening, and it would seem rather odd for Holy Mary not to imitate her Son in death, as she sedulously followed Him in all things.

Here, then, the collect and secret from the Dominican Rite, quite explicit in their teaching that Our Lady truly died and thereafter passed to heaven:

Veneranda nobis, Domine, hujus diei festivitas opem conferat salutem; in qua sancta Dei genitrix mortem subiit temporalem, nec tamen mortis nexibus deprimi potuit, quæ Filium tuum Dominum nostrum de se genuit incarnatum.  Qui tecum vivit...

(May the venerable feast of this day confer upon us salvation, Lord; on which the holy mother of God underwent temporal death, yet could not be held in deathbonds, who had brought forth from herself Thine incarnate Son our Lord: Who with Thee liveth...)

Subveniat, Domine, plebi tuæ Dei genitricis oratio, quam etsi pro conditione carnis migrasse cognoscimus, in cælesti gloria apud te pro nobis intercedere sentiamus.  Per eumdem...

(May the prayer of the Mother of God, Lord, bear up Thy people, whom though we know to have passed away on account of the condition of the flesh, we may feel her to intercede for us with Thee in heavenly glory.  Through the same...)

As well as the Orthodox and the Oriental dissidents, the Church Catholic glories in praise of the Virgo Assumpta, and Traditional Lutherans and High Church Anglicans acknowledge her departure to Christ, though with reservations as to knowing if this were in the flesh or out of it (cf. II Cor. xii, 2f).  Apparently the early Anglican divines held to the Assumption, the good and pious Thomas Ken (1637-1711) among them, as his hymn "Her Virgin eyes saw God incarnate born" shews.

Why bodily assumed?  Because, Christ being the First-fruits of the Resurrection, after Him come all in proper order, and His Mother first among the redeemed.  While before His Passion he had raised several of the dead to life, among them Lazarus, and at His Rising many of the fathers had returned to life (cf. St Matthew xxvii, 52f), these were restored for a time to earthly, mortal life; but now, having gone before us all to prepare a place for us in heaven, Our Lord commands His Mother to join Him (cf. St John xiv, 3), perfected in body and soul, to be the eschatological icon and exemplar of His Bride, the Church.

(The Orthodox very aptly also name this solemnity "the Pascha of the Theotokos" - for it is in truth her passing over, her transitus, in and through Christ the True Passover, from death to life in Him.)

My regards to fellow bloggers Herr Schütz and Pr Weedon for their own sage and most rightly ecumenical, irenic and godly remarks upon this happy topic!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

St Cassian

In the Trad. calendar, today is the commemoration of SS Hippolytus and Cassian, Martyrs; while in the new it is the Optional Memorial of St Pontian, Pope, and St Hippolytus, Martyrs. Poor old St Cassian gets dumped!

So I decided, as is licit, to celebrate St Cassian of Imola today, using the Common of One Martyr. (GILH, no. 244.) However, as I think is also allowed, I will also take a passage concerning him - in fact, a sermon on St Cassian, from St Peter Damian (found in Migne's Patrologia Latina, and the source of the lessons for his ancient proper Office at Imola) - for the second reading (cf. GILH, no. 250). (I have been reading the psalms of the day in English, and the rest in Latin from my Latin edition of the modern Divine Office.)

St Cassian, to give the gist of his martyrdom, was a schoolmaster at the Forum of Sylla (modernday Imola) who, upon bravely confessing Christ, was condemned by the Roman persecutor to be stabbed to death by the styli (metal pens) of his pagan pupils: Prudentius is the main source for all this. All the Martyrologies, and his portion of the former 3rd Lesson, agree that, as his murderers were so weak, therefore his martyrdom was all the more dire and excruciating, being so long drawn out. His relics, according to very early tradition, repose under the high altar of the Cathedral of Imola, of which he is the titular; in 2003, his relics were solemnly exposed in honour of the 1700th anniversary of his martyrdom, and Italian scientists determined him to have been about 30 years old, with wounds to his skull consistent with the traditional account of his death. There is much more I could say, but time and tiredness prevent me.

Here is St Peter Damian's Sermon XXXIX “De sancto Cassiano martyre”, P.L. CXLIV, coll. 710-717 (relevant extracts only, with omitted passages noted):

[The introduction praises the feasts of martyrs, and lauds today’s feast of SS Hippolytus and Cassian, before focussing upon the latter:]

Enimvero Cassianus, cui potissimum famulaturus est sermo, diu quidem latuit, sed cum ad certamen perventum est, quid acrimoniæ, quid saporis, quid fortitudinis granum sinapis occultaret, aperuit. Imo, juxta nominis sui præsagium, cum in passionis pila persecutorum manibus tundi cœpit et atteri, mox fragrantiam odoriferæ suavitatis, quæ in se latebat, aspersit. Casia siquidem species est aromatica, quæ integra quidem nullius esse videtur odoris; trita autem naturalis vim suavitatis emittit.

Beatus itaque Cassianus, ut gestorum illius testatur historia, dum scholarum doctor existeret, brevibusque notis verba comprehendere pueros erudiret, pro fide Christi ad quæstionem deductus est. Cumque zelo succensus fidei judicum decreta contemneret, et sacrificia profana calcaret, discipulorum manibus ad cruciandum traditus est; ut illis versa vice pœnas exsolveret, quos ipse dudum sub disciplinæ ferula terruisset. Mox itaque indumentis exutus, manibus post terga ligatur, armato stylis et tabulis puerorum furentium agmine circumfunditur; qui undique compunctus atque discerptus, toto corpore laceratur. Novum plane et inusitatum genus martyrii insignem Deo martyrem consecravit. Videtur autem hæc martyrii species ad similitudinem comparandam, nulli melius posse congruere quam ipsi regi martyrum Domino Salvatori. Nam et ille a suis fidelibus occisus est, Judæis videlicet, quibus precepta Decalogi proprio digito descripta tradiderat, quos cæremoniis suis sacrificiorumque ritibus instruxerat; quos certe ad omnem vivendi rectitudinem, tanquam teneros sub disciplina pueros, informaverat. Sicut ipse per Isaiam dicit: « Filios enutrivi et exaltavi, ipsi autem spreverunt me (Is 1,2b). » Nam et illi carnales Israelitæ puerorum nomine digni fuerant, qui mandata legis prophetarumque mysteria non senili gravitate pensabant, sed omnia superficietenus ac pueriliter intelligebant…

[Here follows a long mystical exegesis of Elijah’s taunting by children, and his calling forth two she-bears to rend them limb from limb (4 (2) Kings 2:23-24) – this being interpreted as presaging the crucifixion of Christ at the behest of the Jews, and the subsequent destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and Vespasian.]

Per pueros ergo significati sunt qui Dominus crucifixerunt; pueri quoque sunt qui Beatum Cassianum martyrem occiderunt. Utraque scilicet non innocens pueritia, sed artifex et venenosa malitia. Occisus est Christus pro Cassiano, occisus est Cassianus pro Christo; Dominus pro servo, servus pro Domino; dicebat enim: « Qui retribuam Domino pro omnibus, quæ retribuit mihi? Calicem salutaris accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo (Ps 115,12-13). » Sed ille mori dignatus est, ut hunc de sub jugo ferreæ servitutis educeret; isti mori donatum est, ut ad hæreditatem filiorum, cui ascriptus erat, cum gloria perveniret. Ille suscepit mortem, ut mortem in sua carne destrueret; isti mori non timuit, ut ad auctorem vitæ triumphi sui victor insignia reportaret. Ille persecutores habuit, quos creaverat, iste eos carnifices pertulit quos docebat. Sed Christus in martyre suo pugnabat, qui pugnandi vires administrabat; in eo solus ipse vincebat qui illum inter certamina roborabat. Nam et tota universalis Ecclesia, virtutum armis accincta, contra diabolum per totum mortalis vitæ hujus excursum in Christo dimicat, in Christo semper non sua, sed ejus virtute triumphat. Hanc plane ex antiquo hoste victoriam, quia noluit Synagoga, suscepit Ecclesia.

[Here follows another long mystical exegesis, this time of Deborah, who judged Israel, sending forth Barak to slay Sisera, who, she prophesies, shall nonetheless be slain by a woman, Jahel (Judges 4:4-9,17-21) – all this foreshadowing that not Israel but the Church shall have the victory over Satan.]

Hinc est quod et hic invictissimus Christi miles Beatus Cassianus inter gravissima pœnarum suarum tormenta superari non potuit, quia non eum ferrea lorica circumdedit, non galea cristata protexit, sed lignum tantummodo crucis armavit. Nam qui ligni hujus vexillo munitur, spiritualis nequitiæ conflictum securus aggreditur.

[Here follow a third long set of mystical exegeses, concerning the cross of Christ as sealed upon the Christian, that he be invincible in combat against evil.]

Quam inviolabile firmumque signaculum Beatus martyr Cassianus in pectore suo posuerat Christum, qui in tantæ fidei constantia immobilis permanebat! illiduntur plagæ verberum, infliguntur vulnera punctionum, intorquentur irrisionum jacula, vincula manibus innectuntur. Accedit et nuditas corporis, sed et spectaculum circumlatrantium undique derisorum. Inter hos procellarum sævientium turbines, inter istas denique crebrescentium grandinum tempestates, stat firma columna Dei prorsus immobilis. Non concutitur, non quassatur; sed lapidi, super quem fundata est, recta semper et firma constanter innititur. Dicebat enim: « Quis me separabit a charitate Christi? tribulatio? an angustia? an persecutio? an fames? an nuditas? an periculum? an gladius? » (Rom 8,35.) Illi frendebant dentibus; iste mitis Agni mundi peccata tollentis patientiam cogitabat. Carnifices inferendo supplicia satiabant cruentam sui pectoris rabiem; iste jam securus in mente versabat cœlestis gloriæ dignitatem. Atque, ut ita dixerim, cautus ac prudens iste negotiator, fratres mei, quam felices cum remuneratore certantium Christi nundinas contrahebat! Deponebat siquidem sarcinam carnis, atque ad stolam festinabat angelicæ claritatis. Deferebat ferulam crudelium puerorum, ut sanctorum fieret socius angelorum. Postponebat magisterium litteras edocendi, atque ad illud unum alacriter properabat Verbum, cui militant cuncta per orbem volumina litterarum. Christum Dominum nostrum nostrum, qui cum Deo Patre in unitate Spiritus sancti vivit et regnat in sæcula sæculorum. Amen.

A lesser poet than Prudentius also wrote in St Cassian's honour: Flodoard, Canon of Rheims (894-966), in his De Christi Triumphis apud Italiam, Lib. XIV, Caput VIII, ‘De sancto Cassiano martyre’ (Migne, P.L. CXXXV, coll. 857-858 D):

De sancto Cassiano martyre.

Syllæ forum qua Cassianus gloria
Illustrat, edit, concrepante carmine
Clemens palæstram disserens Aurelius,
Pictoris arte se docente et hospite.
Altor sc[h]olari hic præstitutus agmini,
Spernensque sacris supplicare formulis,
Impube vulgus erudire ut panditur,
Ludum jubetur morte ephebis præbeat
Quos supprimendo seriis offenderat,

Datusque sævis dissipandus parvulis,
Sumit severa mille vinctus vulnera.
Crescente pœna dum fatiscit carnifex,
Pueris magistri per cutem ludentibus,
Quas ipse durus doctor ediderat notis,
Tandem moras luctantis olim spiritus
Miserans latebris mandat absolvi Deus
A tam cruento lancinatorum grege
Ad angelorum blanda tollens culmina.

Here too is the ancient proper Mass for St Cassian, as used at Imola presumably, which was found in an online 1862 copy of the Roman Missal - note the references, now discredited, to him being a bishop, which arose when he was confused with another saint of the same name:

Festa Augusti (13.) pro aliqu. locis.

Die xiii.
S. Cassiani, Episcopi et Martyris.

Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, diem festum celebrantes sub honore sancti Cassiani Martyris, de cujus passione gaudent Angeli, et collaudant Filium Dei. Ps. 32. Exultate justi Domino: rectos decet collaudatio. V/. Gloria Patri.

{“Festal” Introit – cf. Feast of St Agatha, etc., changing the name only}

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui hodierna die beatum Cassianum Pontificem tuum martyrii corona decorasti: concede propitius; ut cujus solemnia colimus, ejus patrocinia sentiamus. Per Dominum.

{Proper; cf. Or. S. Anastasia: ut… solemnia colimus, ejus… patrocinia sentiamus}

{Almighty everlasting God, who this day didst adorn blessed Cassian with the crown of martyrdom: grant graciously, that we may feel his patronage, whose solemnity we celebrate. Through…}

Pro Octava S. Laurentii Mart.
Pro S. Hippolyto Martyre.
Oratio. [=Oratio de Hipp. & Cass., excl. Cassiano]
Da quæsumus omnípotens Deus: ut beati Hippolyti Martyris tui veneranda solemnitas, et devotiónem nobis augeat, et salútem. Per Dóminum.

Lectio Actuum Apostolorum.
cap. 17. {13-18}
In diebus illis: Cum cognovissent in Thessalonica Judæi, quia et Berœæ prædicatum est a Paulo verbum Dei, venerunt et illuc commoventes, et turbantes multitudinem. Statimque tunc Paulum dimiserunt fratres, ut iret usque ad mare. Silas autem et Timotheus remanserunt ibi. Qui autem deducebant Paulum, perduxerunt eum usque Athenas, et accepto mandato ab eo ad Silam et Timotheum, ut quam celeriter venirent ad illum, profecti sunt. Paulus autem cum Athenis eos exspectaret, incitabatur spiritus ejus in ipso, videns idololatriæ deditam civitatem. Disputabat igitur in synagoga cum Judæis, et colentibus, et in foro, per omnes dies ad eos, qui aderant. Quidam autem Epicurei, et Stoici philosophi disserebant cum eo, et quidam dicebant: Quid vult seminiverbius hic dicere? Alii vero: Novorum dæmoniorum videtur annuntiator esse: quia Jesum, et resurrectionem annuntiabat eis.

{Proper, but why? maybe as it alludes to coming to a new city and being accused of teaching some new religion}

Graduale. Ps. 36. {24.} Justus, cum ceciderit, non collidetur: quia Dominus supponit manum suam. V/. {36. 26} Tota die miseretur et commodat, et semen ejus in benedictione erit. {Common of a Martyr not a Bishop, 2nd Mass Lætabitur}
Alleluja, alleluja.
V/. Sanctus Pontifex Cassianus animarum salutem sitiens, ad fontem vivum, qui Christus est, omnes evocare non desinebat. Alleluja.

{Saint Cassian, thirsting for the salvation of souls, did not cease to call forth everyone to the living fountain, who is Christ.}

Evangelium. Cum persequentur [vos in civitate ista, fugite in aliam]. ut in Festo S. Athanasii. fol. 437. {Matth., c. 10, vv. 23-28}
{Probably chosen because of the apocryphal idea that Cassian was a bishop driven from his see}

Offertorium. Ps. 88. {25.} Veritas mea, et misericordia mea cum ipso: et in nomine meo exaltabitur cornu ejus. {Common of a Martyr Bishop, 1st Mass Statuit}

Sacrificia, Domine, quæ in honorem sancti Cassiani Martyris tui atque Pontificis, tuæ offerimus majestati, nobis sint ad salutem efficacia, et tuæ placita pietati. Per Dominum.

{Proper. Apparently reused in Novus Ordo: Sacrificia, Domine, quae in hac festivitate beati N. tuae offerimus maiestati, nobis sint ad salutem efficacia, et tuae placita pietati.}

{May the sacrifices, Lord, which in honour of Saint Cassian thy martyr we offer to thy majesty, be to us efficacious unto salvation, and acceptable unto thy loving kindness.}

Pro S. Laurentio Martyre. Secreta.
[Pro S.] Hippolyto Martyre. Secreta.
Secreta. [=Secreta de Hipp. & Cass.]

[Commu]nio. Ps. 20. {4.} Posuisti, … [Domine] in capite ejus coro-[na] [de] lapide pretioso.
{Common of a Martyr Bishop, 2nd Mass Sacerdotes Dei}

… [Deus?] omnium impertitor … [bon-?] –orum, qui hunc diem … [beati?] [C]assiani Martyris tui [et?] [Po]ntificis, veneranda so-[lemn-?] –e lætificas: ejus, quæ-[sumus,] … gloriosis precibus, fac … [nos?] [a?] terrenis transferri ad …[???] beatorum. Per Dominum.

{O God, the bestower of all good things, who givest joy to this day by the worshipful solemnity of blessed Cassian thy Martyr: we beseech thee, by his glorious prayers, to make us pass from earthly things to the [joy?] of the blessed. Through…}

[Pro S.] Laurentio Martyre.
[Pro S.] Hippolyto Martyre.
[P]ostcommunio. [=Postcommunio de Hipp. & Cass.]

Here are my own ideas for suitable chants for a proper Mass for St Cassian, if I may be so bold:

Introit [Praise of St Cassian: his fateful career] (Is 33:17-18; Ps 33:12)

Regem in decore suo videbunt oculi ejus, cernent terram de longe. Cor tuum meditabitur timorem. Ubi est litteratus? ubi legis verba ponderans? ubi doctor parvulorum?
Ps. Venite, filii, audite me: timorem Domini docebo vos.
Gloria Patri… Sicut erat…
Regem in decore suo…

(His eyes shall see the king in his beauty, they shall see the land far off. Thy heart shall meditate fear: where is the learned? where is he that pondereth the words of the law? where is the teacher of little ones?
Ps. Come, children, hear me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord.)

Gradual [A judgement against the unjust judge and the murderous pupils. Rebuke of the unjust judge, who corrupted children into murderers] (cf. Mal 2:11a,12a; Osee 5:2)

Abominatio facta est: disperdet Dominus virum qui fecerit hoc, magistrum et discipul[os].
V/. Victimas declinastis in profundum: et ego eruditor omnium eorum.

(Abomination hath been committed: the Lord will cut off the man that hath done this, both the master, and the scholar[s]. V/. You have turned aside victims into the depth: and I am the teacher of them all.)

Alleluia verse [Cassian despised by those he had taught] (Is 1:2b)

V/. Filios enutrivi et exaltavi, ipsi autem spreverunt me.

(I have brought up children and exalted them: but they have despised me.)

Offertory [Rebuke of the unjust judge, corrupter of children into murderers] (Luke 17: 1b-2)

Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala: vae autem illi per quem veniunt. Utilius est illi si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum ejus, et projiciatur in mare: quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis.

(It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones.)

Communion [St Cassian’s presumable dying prayer] (2nd ½ of the Communion verse for St Stephen (cf. Acts 7:58,59))

Domine Jesu, accipe spiritum meum, et ne statuas illis hoc peccatum, quia nesciunt quid faciunt.

(Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, and lay not this sin to their charge, for they know not what they do.)

In the reported words of St Peter Chrysologus, Archbishop of Ravenna, Doctor of the Church, and native of Imola, which he spoke as he lay dying in the Cathedral of St Cassian whither he had returned to breathe his last:

Deprecor te, beate Cassiane, intercede pro me! - I beg thee, blessed Cassian, intercede for me!

Sickness and Lovecraft

Unfortunately, feeling unwell, I missed Holy Hour and Mass for St Philomena; Fr Rowe was a bit disappointed (he told us yestereven) by the absence of many, particularly as he preached a long sermon on aids to chastity after the example of the virginal martyress. Yesterday I got through work, and got to Confession, which is always a boon. The Redemptorist behind the grille reminded me that occasions of sin are like a firey cauldron: advice sobering and true, which I have tried to take to heart and act upon. I said the Rosary afterward before the altar and image of Perpetual Succour, with a degree more fervour than usual!

Last night, despite being offcolour, I made it to Fr Rowe's farewell dinner for one of the FSSP seminarians, who's departing for the States shortly, to begin his studies in Nebraska. Aaron and two of my housemates also came, and we were certainly well-fed!

However, ever since returning from WYD I've not been back to complete good health I think, and today I again woke sick and unwell, and called in sick, which my doctor confirmed later. Having not had as much energy lately, since the end of July I've been reduced to the modern Office again, fearing to tire myself out on that work of supererogation the Breviary when I must needs put my duties at work first. The Office is familiar to me, having used it for so long, but getting through it each day has been difficult and fitful, and I feel I haven't really prayed.

While prayer has not been as I would like it to be, on the natural level it has been nice to do some secular, fictional reading. Fr Bernard, a Dominican sometime stationed in Providence, Rhode Island, some years back introduced me to the wierd work of H.P. Lovecraft. and I've been enjoying reading his eldritch stories. For some odd reason, while in the past I disliked and but rarely enjoyed horror (excepting only a few of the classic vampire tales), I find Lovecraft congenial, despite his atheism and (worse?!) 'cosmicism', that nightmare vision of man in a cosmos uncaring, where his cherished morality and beliefs are meaningless, and sinister inhuman forces are real and strong, stronger than he.

(I wonder idly if existentialism would have been Lovecraft's cup of tea? or would de Beauvoir, Sartre and Camus have seen themselves in his tales? No; as another Frenchman said archly, "Whatever would the devil do in Paris? He would find men as diabolical as he, and himself dismissed as a naïve provincial." But I digress; I detest existentialism.)

Months ago I recorded buying two volumes of Lovecraft's stories: these I've finally finished reading, and now have acquired two more volumes in the Penguin Modern Classics edition (The Call of Cthulhu and Other Wierd Stories and The Dreams in the Witch House and Other Wierd Stories), which I have just started into. There are some duplicated stories, but these latest additions are annotated, which I like. So thanks, Fr Bernard, for your introduction to Lovecraft, via that screening of an adaptation of "The Call of Cthulhu" - a DVD I'm now ordering...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

St Philomena

Tomorrow is the commemoration of the early martyrs SS Tiburtius and Susanna, but at the Pro. we will instead be using, as a Votive, one of the Masses pro aliquibus locis, in honour of St Philomena, Virgin and Martyr.

While her cult has undergone vicissitudes over the past decades, she is still licitly invoked by her devout clients, and, just like last year (when I was also in attendance) there will be not only Mass (at 6.30pm) but a Holy Hour and Benediction (beforehand, starting at 5.30pm).

The Mass of St Philomena (BTW, this link has some textual corruptions: the Epistle is from Ecclesiasticus li, 1-8. 12, and the Gradual from Ps 44:8), which we will be celebrating tomorrow (with commemoration of SS Tiburtius and Susanna), is taken wholly from the Common of Virgins - the first Mass, Loquebar, for one both Virgin and Martyr.

Penola Pilgrimage - I

Fr Rowe (whom I spoke to after the 11.15am Low Mass today) has just returned from leading a pilgrimage in honour of Bl Mary MacKillop, Australia's only beata. He has agreed to supply me with details and photos in due course, for to post them online (which I will do in due course).

In any case, the bare bones of the trip was as follows: some 21 pilgrims met Fr Rowe in Adelaide, and made a bus trip out to Penola, S.A., and back, visiting various places associated with Bl Mary MacKillop, who, though born in Melbourne in 1846, and eventually dying in Sydney on the 8th of August, 1909, founded the Josephites (Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart) in Penola, a country town in southeast South Australia about 390km from Adelaide, not far from the Victorian border, back in 1866. Penola nowadays features a museum in her honour, and there are various places there associated with her and with her co-founder, Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

Each day of the pilgrimage there was sung Mass (Fr tells me they used Orbis factor, Cum jubilo, De angelis and Cunctipotens, I think), and knowing Fr Rowe I daresay many Rosaries and yet other devotions were also prayed...

As a special privilege (one shared years before by a priest I know, see below), Fr Rowe was able to say Mass at the church at Penola using the chalice that once belonged to Fr Julian Tenison Woods. Apparently it was quite cold during the pilgrimage - Fr said that when he was singing the Mass, he could see the condensation in his breath!

He told me that his group were the only pilgrims in Penola for the Feast (!), and that the local festivities consisted of a special Mass for the schoolchildren, with but sandwiches afterward (!), while the town itself did absolutely nothing. No wonder religion is at such a low ebb: I hold (as readers of this blog may have guessed) that devotion to the saints - that is, to the perfected members of the Body of Christ, whose sanctity we must imitate by grace lest we be found unworthy of Him - is the measure of Catholicism. How can we expect to save our souls if we never strive to measure up to those who have gone before us and saved theirs by their stedfast adhesion to the Saviour? Too many are but ignorant worldlings, caring nothing for heaven and being but practical atheists, not even bothering to cry Lord, Lord, let alone strive to follow the narrow path that alone leads to Life.

Next year will be the 100th anniversary of the death, or rather birth into eternal life, of Bl Mary, and Fr intends on holding a grander pilgrimage. Oh, and he plans to offer an extension for a few days, to allow the pilgrims to visit the many excellent wineries nearby in the Coonawarra, a famous grapegrowing district with excellent terra rossa soils. I've been there myself, and it is indeed excellent. (I made a pilgrimage to Penola back in 1999, driving from Melbourne with others and a priest, and staying overnight in two Victorian country towns, one on the way to Penola, and one on the way back. Maybe I will travel there again next year...)

Meanwhile, another of our far-travelling parishioners, Rosemary, has been over in Sydney again (for a conference) and was planning on visiting Bl Mary's tomb, at her shrine in North Sydney.

Blessed Mary of the Cross, pray for us.

St Ambrose on St Lawrence

Unfortunately - so to speak! - this year the Feast of St Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, falls on a Sunday, and so is not celebrated. Originally, there were three Masses for the Feast: a Vigil Mass (on the 9th, which may still be said in the '62 Missal), a Midnight Mass (later transferred to the 17th, the Octave Day, which may again be optionally said), and a Day Mass on the 10th itself. (I think it wise to meditate on these texts - for the two unlinked Mass propers, see below.)

Of course, Lawrence is so great a Martyr - that is, a witness to Christ unto death - and Deacon - that is, a true Minister of Christ, after Him Who came not to be served, but to serve - that he almost ranks with the Apostles, and, as to the prayers of the dying Stephen is attributed the conversion of St Paul and his consequent preaching unto conversion of the nations, so too to the meritorious sufferings of Lawrence, slow-charred upon the infamous griddle sanctified by his immolation thereon to become a sacred gridiron, is attributed the conversion of Rome, from being the temple of devils and seat of Satan's empire, to become the capital of Christendom, and throne of Christ's own Vicar. For where sin abounded, grace did more abound, through Jesus Christ our Lord (cf. Rom. v, 20-21); and by our own sufferings we make up what is wanting in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church (cf. Col. i, 24).

The Church loves to sing of the miracles of St Lawrence: "The Levite Lawrence hath wrought a good work, who by the Sign of the Cross gave sight to the blind" (used as a versicle, as an antiphon, and as the Alleluia verse) - and she adds, whenas she sings her Magnificant, "and the treasures of the Church he gave to the poor". Famously, Lawrence rather gave away the treasures of the Church to the poor, her true treasures, rather than yield them up to the injustice of the pagan persecutor: "He hath dispersed abroad, He hath given to the poor: His justice remaineth forever" (II Cor. ix, 9 - quoting Psalm 111:8). Having been grievously parted from his spiritual father, Pope Sixtus, who preceded him to martyrdom, he faithfully carried out the Pontiff's charge to succour the needy and in so doing prevent the goods of the Church availing any but Christ's poor. Heeding Lawrence's desire of martyrdom, very soon the Lord was pleased to permit him to be made a holocaust, and Lawrence rejoiced rather than agonized in his trial, for by death he found undying life, being found a just man, living by faith, and free of dross, of the stubble of sin, as gold is tested by fire: "Thou hast proved my heart, O Lord, and visited it by night. Thou hast tried me by fire, and iniquity hath not been found in me." (Psalm 16:3) The Matins antiphons and responsories for the feast are also very fine in their expression of all this.

As one of the three great deacons - with SS Stephen and Vincent, he forms the triumvirate of the Laurelled, the Crowned, and the Victorious - he is ranked in the Litanies of the Saints, and at the altars every day for over 1600 years the Church joins with him, commemorates him, venerates him, and asks for the help of his prayers in the Canon of the Mass, in the Communicantes. In the prayers after Mass, the prayers of St Lawrence are proposed as a great remedy against the spirit of uncleanness, by the inclusion of the collect of his feast. As the Leonine Sacramentary taught men of old to pray, Gratias tibi, Domine, quoniam sanctum Laurentinum Martyrem tuum, te inspirante diligimus: "We give thanks to Thee, O Lord, that, by Thy inspiration, we love Thy holy martyr Lawrence."

(The trial of Saint Lawrence, as envisioned by Fra Angelico.)

But let us attend to what St Ambrose tells, in his treatise On the Duties of the Clergy (Book I, Chapter 41, 214-216; Book II, Chapter 28, 140-141):

Book I, Chapter 41

214. And let us not pass by St. Lawrence, who, seeing Xystus his bishop led to martyrdom, began to weep, not at his sufferings but at the fact that he himself was to remain behind. With these words he began to address him: "Whither, father, goest thou without your son? Whither, holy priest, are you hastening without your deacon? Never were you wont to offer sacrifice without an attendant. What are thou displeased at in me, my father? Have you found me unworthy? Prove, then, whether you have chosen a fitting servant. To him to whom you have entrusted the consecration of the Saviour's blood, to whom you have granted fellowship in partaking of the Sacraments, to him do you refuse a part in your death? Beware lest your good judgment be endangered, while your fortitude receives its praise. The rejection of a pupil is the loss of the teacher; or how is it that noble and illustrious men gain the victory in the contests of their scholars rather than in their own? Abraham offered his son, Peter sent Stephen on before him! Do thou, father, show forth your courage in your son. Offer me whom you have trained, that you, confident in your choice of me, may reach the crown in worthy company."

215. Then Xystus said: "I leave you not nor forsake you. Greater struggles yet await you. We as old men have to undergo an easier fight; a more glorious triumph over the tyrant awaits you, a young man. Soon shall you come. Cease weeping; after three days you shall follow me. This interval must come between the priest and his levite. It was not for you to conquer under the eye of your master, as though you needed a helper. Why do you seek to share in my death? I leave to you its full inheritance. Why do you need my presence? Let the weak disciples go before their master, let the brave follow him, that they may conquer without him. For they no longer need his guidance. So Elijah left Elisha. To you I entrust the full succession to my own courage."

216. Such was their contention, and surely a worthy one, wherein priest and attendant strove as to who should be the first to suffer for the name of Christ. When that tragic piece is played, it is said there is great applause in the theatre as Pylades says he is Orestes, while Orestes declares that he is really himself. The former acted as he did, that he might die for Orestes, and Orestes, that he might not allow Pylades to be slain instead of himself. But it was not right that they should live, for each of them was guilty of parricide, the one because he had committed the crime, the other because he had helped in its commission. But here there was nothing to call holy Lawrence to act thus but his love and devotion. However, after three days he was placed upon the gridiron by the tyrant whom he mocked, and was burnt. He said: "The flesh is roasted, turn it and eat." So by the courage of his mind he overcame the power of fire.

Book II, Chapter 28,

140. Such gold the holy martyr Lawrence preserved for the Lord. For when the treasures of the Church were demanded from him, he promised that he would show them. On the following day he brought the poor together. When asked where the treasures were which he had promised, he pointed to the poor, saying: "These are the treasures of the Church." And truly they were treasures, in whom Christ lives, in whom there is faith in Him. So, too, the Apostle says: "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." [2 Corinthians 4:7] What greater treasures has Christ than those in whom He says He Himself lives? For thus it is written: "I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in." [Matthew 25:35] And again: "What you did to one of these, you did it unto Me." [Matthew 25:40] What better treasures has Jesus than those in which He loves to be seen?

141. These treasures Lawrence pointed out, and prevailed, for the persecutors could not take them away. Jehoiachim, who preserved his gold during the siege and spent it not in providing food, saw his gold carried off, and himself led into captivity. Lawrence, who preferred to spend the gold of the Church on the poor, rather than to keep it in hand for the persecutor, received the sacred crown of martyrdom for the unique and deep-sighted vigour of his meaning. ...

Here (as stated above) are the texts of the old Vigil Mass of St Lawrence, and also his Octave Day Mass, originally said at Midnight on his feast:

IN VIGILIA S. LAURENTII Martyris (9 Augusti)

Introitus Ps. 111, 9

Dispersit, dedit paupéribus: justítia ejus manet in saéculum saéculi: cornu ejus exaltábitur in glória. Ps. ibid., 1 Beátus vir, qui timet Dóminum: in mandátis ejus cupit nimis. V/. Glória Patri.

Non dicitur Glória in excélsis.


Adesto, Dómine, supplicatiónibus nostris: et intercessióne beáti Lauréntii Mártyris tui, cujus praevenímus festivitátem; perpétuam nobis misericórdiam benígnus impénde. Per Dóminum.

Léctio libri Sapiéntiae. Eccli. 51, 1-8 et 12

Confitebor tibi, Dómine rex, et collaudábo te Deum salvatórem meum. Confitébor nómini tuo: quóniam adjútor, et protéctor factus es mihi, et liberásti corpus meum a perditióne, a láqueo linguae iníquae, et a lábiis operántium mendácium, et in conspéctu astántium factus es mihi adjútor. Et liberásti me secúndum multitúdinem misericórdiae nóminis tui a rugiéntibus, praeparátis ad escam, de mánibus quaeréntium ánimam meam, et de portis tribulatiónum, quae circumdedérunt me: a pressúra flammae, quae circúmdedit me, et in médio ignis non sum aestuátus: de altitúdine ventris ínferi, et a lingua coinquináta, et a verbo mendácii, a rege iníquo, et a lingua injústa: laudábit usque ad mortem ánima mea Dóminum: quóniam éruis sustinéntes te, et líberas eos de mánibus géntium, Dómine Deus noster.

Graduale Ps. 111, 9 et 2

Dispérsit, dedit paupéribus: justítia ejus manet in saéculum saéculi. V/. Potens in terra erit semen ejus: generátio rectórum benedicétur.

+ Sequéntia sancti Evangélii secúndum Matthaéum. Matth. 16, 24-27

In illo témpore: Dixit Jesus discípulis suis: Si quis vult post me veníre, ábneget semetípsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequátur me. Qui enim volúerit ánimam suam salvam fácere, perdet eam: qui autem perdíderit ánimam suam propter me, invéniet eam. Quid enim prodest hómini, si mundum univérsum lucrétur, ánimae vero suae detriméntum patiátur? Aut quam dabit homo commutatiónem pro ánima sua? Fílius enim hóminis ventúrus est in glória Patris sui cum Angelis suis: et tunc reddet unicuíque secúndum ópera ejus.

Offertorium Job 16, 20

Orátio mea munda est: et ídeo peto, ut detur locus voci meae in caelo: qu ia ibi est judex meus, et cónscius meus in excélsis: ascéndat ad Dóminum deprecátio mea.


Hostias, Dómine, quas tibi offérimus, propítius súscipe: et, intercedénte beáto Lauréntio Mártyre tuo, víncula peccatórum nostrórum absólve. Per Dóminum.

Communio Matth. 16, 24

Qui vult veníre post me, ábneget semetípsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequátur me.


Da, quaésumus, Dómine Deus noster: ut, sicut beáti Lauréntii Mártyris tui commemoratióne, temporáli gratulámur offício; ita perpétuo laetémur aspéctu. Per Dóminum.

Pro die Octava S. LAURENTII Martyris (17 Augusti)

Introitus Ps. 16, 3

Probasti, Dómine, cor meum, et visitásti nocte: igne me examinásti, et non est invénta in me iníquitas. Ps. ibid., 1 Exáudi, Dómine, justítiam meam: inténde deprecatiónem meam. V/. Glória Patri.


Excita, Dómine, in Ecclésia tua Spíritum, cui beátus Lauréntius Levíta servívit: ut, eódem nos repléti, studeámus amáre quod amávit, et ópere exercére quod dócuit. Per Dóminum in unitáte ejúsdem.

Léctio Epístolae beáti Pauli Apóstoli ad Corínthios. [same as for the Feast] 2 Cor. 9, 6-10

Fratres: Qui parce séminat, parce et metet: et qui séminat in benedictiónibus, de benedictiónibus et metet. Unusquísque prout destinávit in corde suo, non ex tristítia, aut ex necessitáte: hílarem enim datórem díligit Deus. Potens est autem Deus omnem grátiam abundáre fácere in vobis, ut in ómnibus semper omnem sufficiéntiam habéntes, abundétis in omne opus bonum, sicut scriptum est: Dispérsit, dedit paupéribus: justítia ejus manet in saéculum saéculi. Qui autem adminístrat semen seminánti: et panem ad manducándum praestábit, et multiplicábit semen vestrum, et augébit increménta frugum justítiae vestrae.

Graduale Ps. 8, 6-7 [from the Common of Martyrs]

Glória et honóre coronásti eum, Dómine. V/. Et constituísti eum super ópera mánuum tuárum.
Allelúja, allelúja. V/. Levíta Lauréntius bonum opus operátus est: qui per signum Crucis caecos illuminávit. Allelúja. [same as for the Feast]

+ Sequéntia sancti Evangélii secúndum Joánnem. [same as for the Feast] Joann. 12, 24-26

In illo témpore: Dixit Jesus discípulis suis: Amen, amen dico vobis, nisi granum fruménti cadens in terram, mórtuum fúerit, ipsum solum manet: si autem mórtuum fúerit, multum fructum affert. Qui amat ánimam suam, perdet eam: et qui odit ánimam suam in hoc mundo, in vitam aetérnam custódit eam. Si quis mihi minístrat, me sequátur: et ubi sum ego, illic et miníster meus erit. Si quis mihi ministráverit, honorificábit eum Pater meus.

Offertorium Ps. 20, 2-3 [from the Common of Confessors]

In virtúte tua, Dómine, laetábitur justus, et super salutáre tuum exsultábit veheménter: desidérium ánimae ejus tribuísti ei.


Sacrificium nostrum tibi, Dómine, quaésumus, beáti Lauréntii precátio sancta concíliet: ut, in cujus honóre solémniter exhibétur, ejus méritis efficiátur accéptum. Per Dóminum.

Communio Matth. 16, 24 [same as for the Vigil]

Qui vult veníre post me, ábneget semetípsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequátur me.


Supplices te rogámus, omnípotens Deus: ut, quos donis caeléstibus satiásti, intercedénte beáto Lauréntio Mártyre tuo, perpétua protectióne custódias. Per Dóminum.

Blessed Lawrence, Martyr of Christ, intercede for us.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dom Anscar Vonier, Opera Omnia

As I have previously mentioned (see my posting of his essay on the Liturgy, and my own essay on Angels largely based on his works), the works of the Right Reverend Dom Anscar Vonier, O.S.B., Abbot of Buckfast (1875-1938) I consider very worthy of attention, being at once excellent spiritual reading and very accessible doctrinal theology, and over the past year especially I have been acquiring copies of them, having previously read his so-called Collected Works (in 3 volumes), which turned out to contain only 10 of his 15 books, to say nothing of treatises and articles. It has frustrated me that I haven't yet found a comprehensive bibliography of his published writings, but (with the exception of one book - see below*) I have now acquired all his works. (While in his Collected Works a prefatory note states that they have been lightly edited and abridged, I have not considered it worthwhile to buy individual copies of the ten works included.)

Collected Works Volume 1: The Incarnation and Redemption (contains The Christian Mind (1920), The Personality of Christ (1914), The Victory of Christ (1934) and The Divine Motherhood(1921));
Collected Works Volume 2: The Church and the Sacraments (contains The Spirit and the Bride (1935), The People of God (1937) and A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist, his most famous and influential work);
Collected Works Volume 3: The Soul and the Spiritual Life (contains The Human Soul and its Relations with Other Spirits (1920, 2nd ed.), Christianus (1933) and The Life of the World to Come (1926));
The Angels (1928);
Christ the King of Glory (1932);
Death and Judgement (1930);
The Art of Christ: Retreat Conferences (1927);
Sketches and Studies in Theology (1940) - a collection made by Vonier, but only published posthumously, of some of his articles.

I have also ordered Ernest Graf's Anscar Vonier, Abbot of Buckfast... (1957).

* The New and Eternal Covenant (1930) - this is the only work of his I have been unable to obtain, but I know a library (in Melbourne) that has a copy...

Viva il Papa!

His Holiness, Captain of the Barque of Peter.

To paraphrase Blaise Pascal: How great it is to ride out the stormy waves, knowing one is secure on the unsinkable barque of St Peter...

(With thanks to the photographer.)

Interview with a Trad

I have recently interviewed a fellow Trad Catholic, who has just set up his own blog (Facing the Altar). Here, then, is the transcript, together with my subsequent reflexions:

1. "How did you come to, and what drew you to come to the Latin Mass; did it in any way repulse you at first, or mystify, and yet still drew you in, and in what ways over time?"

"I was drawn to the Latin Mass through an online Catholic mailing list in 1995. It was a combination of the intellectual depth, historical beauty, and conservative beliefs reminiscent of the faith of my youth. However, I was living in the sticks at the time and was unable to attend my first Latin Mass until the next year.

"When I found my first Latin Mass, it was a latin novus ordo but I was fortunate because it emphasized the beauty of Gregorian chant and had a highly qualified and effective choir director. That church led me to the traditional, or extraordinary, form because it was managed by the same choir director. No, I was not repulsed at first, just slightly bored at the longer high Masses. Over time it has been the community that has made the most difference, and I dare say the traditional community is what I find most compelling about the Latin Mass."

[I will second my friend's comment about coming to the Latin Mass through the influence of online Catholic mailing list, since when I was first at University, that was how I was influenced in that direction also. I cannot remember the name of the long-defunct mailing list, but I think it was run by a Mr Joseph Buehler, if I manage to spell his name right.

[Furthermore, his comment about the community of friends one finds cementing one to the Latin Mass is true: for all research shews that it is precisely in a community rightly oriented to worship of Almighty God that the members thereof truly come to support and befriend one another, whereas the converse is not true: only from the vertical dimension of worship comes the horizontal dimension of charity, since the crossbeam of the Cross is supported by the vertical beam, and not otherwise!]

2. "How would you say attending the Latin Mass has influenced you in your life of Faith and in your daily living as a Catholic?"

"While attending the Latin Mass has brought much more silence and prayerful contemplation at Mass, it has been the priests and other faithful who have shown me what it is to be a holy man, and I think that is what has had the most impact on my faith on a day-to-day basis. Right now it's very difficult to attend daily Mass, but that is always my goal."

[I too agree heartily: the spiritual fatherhood of so many good priests has been a very powerful influence for virtue in my life also, and I concur with what is said about the goal, not always achievable, of hearing daily Mass.]

3. "Please describe, in as much detail as you may wish, the Latin Mass community you belong to, service times, church, its 'feel'; and some of the other Latin Masses you know of in your area of California and beyond."

"There are too many Latin Masses in my area to document thoroughly, so I'll focus on the churches I've attended regularly. I usually attend Mass at Our Mother of Perpetual Help Oratory in Santa Clara, run by Fr. Weiner of the ICRSP, but I also attend Mass at Fr. Weiner's other parish, St. Margaret Mary Church, in Oakland. A bit further away is Fr. Berg's old parish, St. Stephen the First Martyr, in Sacramento. There is a first Friday Latin Mass in the San Francisco Archdiocese (the diocese where my job is located), but I seem to always be traveling on my Fridays and have missed it consistently as of late."

[I have added in the relevant links, and note that the parish of St Stephen the First Martyr (my own confirmation saint) is run by the FSSP.]

4. "How do you see the future for the Latin Mass apostolate in your area; do you see it attracting young people, and aiding in their sanctification?"

"There have been so many new Latin Masses since Summorum Pontificum that I'm still trying to visit them all. There are independent chapels and a traditional elementary school that want to be part of the diocese, and a new elementary school at St. Stephen's in Sacramento. That is where the sanctification of the young is really happening."

[Very happy news, and even more than the multiplication of Masses what moves me is the good news that people are being reconciled to the Church. Proper schooling certainly will help in sanctifying the next generation.]

Special thanks to my first interviewee. Oremus pro invicem!