Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Legend of the Leonine Prayers

It is a strange thing, the myth of Pope Leo XIII going into a trance, hearing God and the Devil having a chat, the latter being permitted to have his way with the twentieth century by the former (!), and then the Pope, recovered, going off to write the famous prayer to St Michael: for this legend turns out to have no substance.  I have tracked it back to accounts in two Italian sources in 1946 and 1947; while Jungmann mentions it in his Missarum Solemnia, which he was a-writing during World War II, as a weird story – not to be credited – already doing the rounds in the 1930's.

There is absolutely no contemporary evidence from the days of Leo XIII to shew that this story was current then; I have consulted clerical journals of the time which explain the new direction to read certain prayers after Mass, without breathing one word of any extraordinary events behind their sudden imposition; and it seems bizarre to think that the alleged incident, involving as different versions have it such affecting details as the Pope going into an insensible state in presence of sundry Cardinals, either while saying or hearing Mass, was somehow covered up till long after all those present were dead...

So, whence came this tale (which, as a staple of Traditionalist piety, I unhesitating accepted until I uncovered the lack of evidence for it)?  I believe it is a classic case of reification: making something abstract something concrete.  For Leo XIII, quoting the New Testament, certainly affirmed to a visiting bishop (I forget the name, alas) that he and the Church were not so much battling human foes, mere flesh and blood, as combatting the spiritual hosts of wickedness; and it is but a short step from such sober truth to such overblown lurid notions as the Pope going into a coma and overhearing a conversation between the Lord and Satan.

Of course we ought pray against demonic malice!  Of course the Devil and his fallen angels are real and out to get us!  Of course anyone could work out that the twentieth century was very much diabolically afflicted, given the lamentable catalogue of horrendous crimes committed!  Of course invoking St Michael Archangel is a very wise thing to do in the face of these sad truths!  But we need not bolster our devotions with legends without foundation.  I would be very surprised if any history or biography of Pope Leo XIII corroborates the widely-disseminated tale of his authoring his prayer to St Michael on account of any vision or locution.  As soon as I began searching out accounts of this putative event, I found that different versions didn't even agree on the date when it was said to have occurred.

Popes live quite public lives, and it seems incredible that Leo could have had visions and the like in such circumstances without them being reported till seventy years had passed.  On the contrary, the mere fact that such tales first appear once everyone who could have been present were dead (even a young priest in the mid-1880's would have been in his late nineties by the 1930's, and I expect that all who had worked at the Vatican in the 1880's were therefore dead by the thirties), must give rise to the suspicion that they were later inventions.

Note I am no Modernist denying the truth – on the contrary, I want to believe what is true, and I think it a disservice to Christians to turn a blind eye to what is not true, however diverting a tale.  If the Pope really had such a revelation, well and good; but so far as I can ascertain, he didn't – the myth of how he came to write his famous prayer to St Michael is rather a good example of Chinese whispers, or of folk etymology, or of a "Just So" story.  Produce proof – NOT curious accounts from odd Internet sites, as I quote further down – and I will of course be glad to accept this to be true.  But where are the official Vatican documents attesting to all this?

Herewith, the beautiful, richly Scriptural, and highly-recommended prayer to St Michael:
Sancte Míchaël Archángele, defénde nos in prœlio;
contra nequítiam et insídias diáboli esto præsídium.
Imperet illi Deus, súpplices deprecámur,
tuque, Princeps milítiæ cæléstis,
Sátanam aliósque spíritus malígnos,
qui ad perditiónem animárum pervagántur in mundo,
divína virtúte in inférnum detrúde. Amen. 

Saint Michael the Archangel (cf. Jude 9), defend us in battle (cf. Rev 12:7);
be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil (cf. Eph 6:11).
May God rebuke him (cf. Jude 9), we humbly pray,
and do thou, O prince of the heavenly host, (cf. Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1; Josh 5:14; Lk 2:13)
by the power of God thrust into hell (cf. 2 Pet 2:4)
Satan (cf. Rev 20:1-3a) and all the other evil spirits,
who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls (cf. Job 2:2; 1 Pet 5:8b). Amen.
And here are the fruits of my researches about the Leonine Legend:

The Legend of the Leonine Prayers and the Vision of Leo XIII

Father Rama Coomaraswamy, The Destruction of the Christian Tradition, Chapter IX, Part 1 The Post Conciliar ‘Popes’ – from (accessed 6/10/05):
The story is told that the following events took place in 1884, just after Leo XIII (Pope between 1873 and 1903) finished saying Mass at St. Peter’s.  As he turned away from the high altar he heard voices speaking to one another.  One voice was deep and guttural, the other gentle and mild.  The first to speak was the guttural voice which said: ‘I can destroy your Church.’  the gentle voice replied: ‘You can?  Then go ahead and do so.’  Satan then said: ‘I need more time and more power.’  The gentle voice asked: ‘How much time?  How much power?’ 
The answer was: ‘75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.’  The gentle voice replied, ‘You have the time, you will have the power, do with them what you will.’  It was after this event that the Pope established the so-called ‘Leonine Prayers’ said at the foot of the altar after Mass - prayers which included the one to St. Michael (‘St. Michael […], defend us in the day of battle, […] Cast into hell Satan and all his evil angels who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls...’).
Note that this version of the legend has the Pope celebrating Mass at the high altar of St Peter’s – but if so, it would have been a high Mass, and the Pope would have been borne away on his throne, not turning aside to walk back to the sacristy as an ordinary priest would.  Neither could so extraordinary an event have been somehow ignored by reputable writers.

From Peter A. Kwasniewski, The Leonine Prayers After Mass’, Catholic Faith September/October 2001 (
But how did we end up with this particular prayer, prescribed to be said after every low Mass?  One day in 1884, Pope Leo XIII, having just finished celebrating Mass, was leaving the tabernacle when he suddenly collapsed.  The cardinals present rushed to him and took his pulse, fearing he was dead.  Some moments later, the Pope regained consciousness, and then related what he had experienced.  In front of the tabernacle, he had heard a confrontation between Jesus and Satan.  Satan boasted that if he had enough time and enough power, he could destroy the Church.  Jesus asked him: “How much time, and how much power?”  Satan replied that he would need but a century and greater influence over men who would give themselves to him.  Jesus said, “So be it.”  The twentieth century is the century given to Satan to do his best to destroy the Church.
Apparently, Leo was then permitted a horrible vision of the attacks that would be waged by evil spirits against souls and the Church, as well as a consoling vision of the Archangel Michael thrusting Satan and his legions back down into the abyss of hell.  The Pope was naturally shaken up by the experience.  After having spoken of it to those around him, he went to his room to compose a prayer of exorcism against the devil.  It is a shortened version of this prayer that has become familiar to us as the prayer Pope Leo XIII himself prescribed in the same year for recitation, along with the Marian prayers, after every low Mass throughout the Latin-rite Church.
Note the differences in the story, and the affecting details of the Pope as if dead, the Cardinals taking his pulse (what rubbish!): again, if this really occurred, it would be a matter of public record, noted in biographies of Leo XIII by reputable historians of his reign.  It amazes me how this inherently most implausible story is repeated so uncritically.  Compare it to the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, which was witnessed by tens of thousands and reported even in secular newspapers!  I have no hesitation in affirming that supernatural manifestation, but the evidence for Leo XIII's vision seems to be based on everybody quoting everybody else, with no reference to primary documents.

Here is the sober comment of Pope John Paul II ( (accessed 6/10/05)):
May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we are told about in the Letter to the Ephesians, “Draw strength from the Lord and from his mighty power” (Eph 6 10).  The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle recalling before our eyes the image of St. Michael the Archangel (Rev. 12:7).  Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to St Michael throughout the Church. “St Michael the Archangel defend us in battle, be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”  Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.  [Pope John Paul II, Regina Caeli, 24 April 1994]
All that the late Pope says is that “Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid recollection of this scene” of battle between St Michael and the devil – not that he had some vision.  This, I think, is the truth of the matter.

Leo XIII - a Vision of a Looming Crisis...
On October 13, 1884 Leo XIII had just completed a celebration of Mass in one of the Vatican’s private chapels.  Standing at the foot of the altar, he suddenly turned ashen and collapsed to the floor, apparently the victim of a stroke or heart attack.  However, neither malady was the cause of his collapse.  For he had just been given a vision of the future of the Church he loved so much.  After a few minutes spent in what seemed like a coma, he revived and remarked to those around him, “Oh, what a horrible picture I was permitted to see!”
What Leo XIII apparently saw, as described later by those who talked to him at the time of his vision, was a period of about one hundred years when the power of Satan would reach its zenith.  That period was to be the twentieth century.  Leo was so shaken by the spectre of the destruction of moral and spiritual values both inside and outside the Church, that he composed a prayer which was to be said at the end of each Mass celebrated anywhere in the Catholic Church. This prayer to Michael the Archangel was said continuously until the Mass was restructured in the Second Vatican council.  The prayer is as follows:
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do you, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.” 
While this prayer may now seem quaint and mildly embarassing to the modern reader with its reference to Satan and evil spirits, it should be noted that virtually all measures of social pathology and moral decline (things like the crime rate, percentage of unwed mothers, abortion rate, divorce rate, etc.) each started to rise sharply as the 1960’s ended... a few years after this prayer had ceased being used in Church liturgies.  Regardless, while the precise details of Leo’s visions are not known, it would certainly appear that his concern about the coming difficulties in his Church and the world in which it found itself were well founded.
This version of the legend gives a precise date for the vision, and a more sober account of it.  But note that it has the vision occurring in a private chapel, not at the high altar of St Peter's...

The Vision Of Pope Leo XIII
October 13, 1884
Exactly 33 years to the day prior to the great Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, that is, on October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a remarkable vision.  When the aged Pontiff had finished celebrating Mass in his private Vatican Chapel, attended by a few Cardinals and members of the Vatican staff, he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar.  He stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white.  Then, going immediately from the Chapel to his office, he composed the prayer to St. Michael, with instructions it be said after all Low Masses everywhere.  When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices – two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh.  They seemed to come from near the tabernacle.  As he listened, he heard the following conversation: 
The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: 
“I can destroy your Church.” 
The gentle voice of Our Lord: 
“You can?  Then go ahead and do so.” 
“To do so, I need more time and more power.” 
Our Lord: 
“How much time?  How much power?”
“75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those 
who will give themselves over to my service.”
Our Lord: 
“You have the time, you will have the power. 
Do with them what you will.”
Another more detailed version.  I wonder who was able to provide the ipsissima verba of both Our Lord and Satan?  It sounds contrived.  If all this were true, why are there no Vatican documents giving the official version of all this?  The 3rd Secret of Fatima is kept in the Vatican archives; yet I have never seen reference to the Vatican holding contemporary documentation of this surely more astonishing vision of Leo XIII!

It is said that after he had celebrated Mass in the presence of some Cardinals and members of the Vatican staff on October 13th, 1884, Pope Leo experienced a vision of the future concerning the Church in which the power of Satan would be unleashed for a period of 100 years.  He was so shaken by the spectre of the destruction of moral and spiritual values both inside and outside the Church that he composed a prayer to St Michael the Archangel which he ordered to be said at the end of each Mass throughout the Catholic Church.  This is the prayer – 
St Michael the Archangel defend us in the day of battle. Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.  May God restrain him, we humbly pray, and do thou, the prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.  Amen.
The prayer to St Michael was said consistently thereafter throughout the Church at the end of Low Mass (in the Tridentine rite) until the Mass was revised in the Novus Ordo at the end of the 1960s.  The prayer has continued, however, wherever Mass has been celebrated in the Tridentine rite.  Once more it is receiving popular support. 
The One Hundred Years 
No Catholic is bound to hold as true what has been privately revealed to an individual by God, even to a Pope.  The content of the Catholic faith is set forth by Holy Mother Church drawn from Revelation and Tradition. It is sufficient for our salvation.
Throughout the ages there have been so called 'private' revelations, some of which have been recognised by the authority of the Church.  They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.  Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, n.67
No one is bound to believe, then, that Satan would have, or has had, power over the Church to harm it as is said to have been revealed to Pope Leo XIII.  Yet who could study the history of the Church during the course of the Twentieth Century and beyond and not wonder whether the vision had not been a true one?  Or not see in it some consolation for us who, as members of God’s Holy Church, have suffered with her for so long over the negligences, the derelictions of duty of those appointed as shepherds, of the loss of faith amongst her members and of the loss of standing of the Church in the world? 
To abstract from the appalling moral and physical evils which beset the Church in every country throughout the world today and look only at the state of Catholic belief, what impresses is the extent of the influence of the heresy of Modernism – the movement to conform the teaching of the Church to the standards of the atheistic and secular world.  This heresy is universal, a universality only matched by the extent to which its existence is denied or ignored amongst the faithful.  There is no mention of the heresy or of the encyclical which condemned it, Pascendi Dominici Gregis (September 8th 1907), in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.  There is no mention there either of the Pope who condemned the heresy, the only Pope to be canonised in 400 years, St Pius X.
In the course of a homily on the Solemnity of Sts Peter and Paul, in St Peter's, on 29th June 1972, Pope Paul VI remarked – I have the feeling that the smoke of Satan has penetrated the Temple of God through some crack or other.  How much worse has the situation in the Church become in the thirty years since he spoke! 
Assuming the truth of what was said to have been revealed to Pope Leo, then, the question arises: when did the 100 years begin?  When will they end?  God knows, and He alone.  As a working hypothesis, however, one might regard the death of the great Pope in 1903 as the beginning of the period.  If so, we may hope that the power of the Devil would begin to be diminished by the end of 2003.
In anticipation that this might prove to be the case and that we might cooperate with Almighty God in the overthrow of Satan's power in the Church, this web site has been set up.  In the words of yet another prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII we pray –
O God, our refuge and our strength, look down with mercy on Thy people who cry to Thee. Through the intercession of the glorious and immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of St Joseph, her spouse, and of all the saints in mercy and goodness hear our prayers for the conversion of sinners and for the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother, the Church through Christ Our Lord. Amen.
Michael Baker 
Need I say more?

The Prayer to the Archangel Michael was composed by Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) after he had a vision of the battle between the "Woman clothed with the sun" and the great dragon who tried to devour her child at birth, in the Book of Revelation 12:1-4.
A much more sober version!  This could simply amount to the Pope reading the New Testament, as one assumes Popes do, and visualizing the events – which are indeed true representations of the spiritual combat between Our Lady and Satan.

This is remarkable in juxtaposition with a vision that Pope Leo had on October 13, 1884, in which he supposedly saw demons and heard the atrocious, guttural voice of Satan boasting to God that he could destroy the Church and drag the world to hell if he were given sufficient time and power.  According to the pontiff, Satan asked for between 75 and 100 years of enhanced worldly influence and it was granted.  Leo was further given to understand that if the devil didn't accomplish his purpose in the allotted time, he would suffer a crushing and humiliating defeat.  It was after this alleged vision that Leo penned the famous prayer to the Archangel Michael.
It is reported that this prayer was inspired by a vision regarding demons which Leo XIII experienced in the 1880s.  A journal from Rome published in 1947 contains the account of a priest who worked at the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII, Domenico Pechenino, who stated that while the Pope was attending Mass, he began to look upwards and displayed an unusual expression on his face.  He left Mass and went to his private office, and a short time later called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites, handing him a document.  This document contained the prayer to St. Michael.  The Pontiff requested that the prayer be disseminated to all Catholic ordinaries throughout the world to be recited, and that the congregation kneel when praying it.
The truth of this account is not fully known, but the prayer was indeed to sent to the ordinaries in 1886.  Moreover, in 1946 a cardinal reported that Pope Leo XIII truly experienced the vision and spoke about it with his private secretary Rinaldo Angeli.
Here two sources are given: a 1947 Roman journal (unspecified) with an account from a priest, Domenico Pechenino, who had been working in the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII (i.e. over 40 years earlier); and a Cardinal (unnamed) who reported that Leo XIII told the vision to his private secretary Rinaldo Angeli.  Both sources seem dubious – especially because the legend of the vision was already circulating in the early 1930’s.  "The truth of this account [of the vision] is not fully known" indeed – where is the official evidence?

This prayer was composed by Pope Leo XIII after he experienced a horrifying vision.  On October 13, 1884, while consulting with his cardinals after Mass, Pope Leo XIII paused at the foot of the altar and lapsed into what looked like a coma.  After a little while the Pope recovered himself and related the terrifying vision he had of the battle between the Church and Satan.  Afterwards, Pope Leo went to his office and composed this now famous prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and assigned it to be recited after Low Mass, a position it occupied until Vatican II. 
Another version of events.  Is there any historical evidence of Pope Leo XIII lapsing into a coma?  Or is the same "traditional tale" simply being retold again and again?

Transcribimos lo publicado por la revista Ephemerides Liturgicae en 1955 (pp. 58-59).
El padre Domenico Pechenino escribe: "No recuerdo el año exacto. Una mañana el Sumo Pontífice León XIII había celebrado la santa misa y estaba asistiendo a otra de agradecimiento, como era habitual. De pronto, le vi levantar enérgicamente la cabeza y luego mirar algo por encima del celebrante. Miraba fijamente, sin parpadear, pero con un aire de terror y de maravilla, demudado. Algo extraño, grande, le ocurría.
Finalmente, como volviendo en sí, con un ligero pero enérgico ademán, se levanta. Se le ve encaminarse hacia un despacho privado. Los familiares le siguen con premura y ansiedad. Le dicen en voz baja: "Santo Padre, ¿no se siente bien? ¿Necesita algo?" Responde: "Nada, nada". Al cabo de media hora hace llamar al secretario de la Congregación de Ritos y, dándole un folio, le manda imprimirlo y enviarlo a todos los obispos diocesanos del mundo. ¿Qué contenía? La oración que rezamos al final de la misa junto con el pueblo, con la súplica a María y la encendida invocación al príncipe de las milicias celestiales, implorando a Dios que vuelva a lanzar a Satanás al infierno".
En aquel escrito se ordenaba también rezar esas oraciones de rodillas. Lo antes escrito, que también había sido publicado en el periódico La settimana del clero el 30 de marzo de 1947, no cita las fuentes de las que se tomó la noticia. Pero de ello resulta el modo insólito en que se ordenó rezar esa plegaria, que fue expedida a los obispos diocesanos en 1886. Como confirmación de la que escribió el padre Pechenino tenemos el autorizado testimonio del cardenal Nasalli Rocca que, en su carta pastoral para la cuaresma, publicada en Bolonia en 1946, escribe:
"León XIII escribió él mismo esa oración. La frase [los demonios] "que vagan por el mundo para perdición de las almas" tiene una explicación histórica, que nos fue referida varias veces por su secretario particular, monseñor Rinaldo Angeli. León XIII experimentó verdaderamente la visión de los espíritus infernales que se concentraban sobre la Ciudad Eterna (Roma); de esa experiencia surgió la oración que quiso hacer rezar en toda la Iglesia. El la rezaba con voz vibrante y potente: la oímos muchas veces en la basílica vaticana. No sólo esto, sino que escribió de su puño y letra un exorcismo especial contenido en el Ritual romano (edición de 1954, tít. XII, c. III, pp. 863 y ss.). El recomendaba a los obispos y los sacerdotes que rezaran a menudo ese exorcismo en sus diócesis parroquiales. El, por su parte, lo rezaba con mucha frecuencia a lo largo del día".
We transcribed that published by the magazine Ephemerides Liturgicae in 1955 (pp. 58-59).
Father Domenico Pechenino writes: “I do not remember the exact year.  One morning Supreme Pontiff Leo XIII had celebrated holy mass and was attending another one of thanksgiving, as was habitual.  Suddenly, I saw him raise his head energetically and seem to watch something above the celebrant.  He watched fixedly, without blinking, but with an air of terror and wonder, altered.  Something strange, great, happened to him.
"Finally, as if returning to himself, with a slight but energetic gesture, he rises.  He was seen to direct himself towards a private office.  The relatives follow to him with prewalls and anxiety.  They say to him in low voice: 'Does the Holy Father not feel well?  Does he need something?'  He responds: 'Nothing, nothing'.  After half an hour he makes a call to the secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, giving a folio to him, he commands him to print it and to send it to all the diocesan bishops of the world.  What did it contain?  The prayer which we along with the people say at the end of the mass, with the plea to Mary and the fervent invocation to the prince of the celestial host, imploring God that he come to send Satan to hell”.
In that writing it was also ordered to say those prayers kneeling.  What is written above, which also had been published in the newspaper La settimana del clero 30th March 1947, does not mention the sources from which the news was taken.  But it mentions the unusual way in which it was ordered to say that prayer, which was sent to the diocesan bishops in 1886.  In confirmation of which Father Pechenino wrote we have the authorized testimony of Nasalli Cardinal Rocca who, in his pastoral letter for Lent, published in Bologna in 1946, writes:
“Leo XIII wrote himself that oration.  The phrase [the demons] “who wander through the world for perdition of the souls” has an historical explanation, that was referred to several times by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli.  Leo XIII truly experienced a vision of the infernal spirits who concentrated themselves on the Eternal City (Rome); from that experience the prayer arose that he wanted to make us say in all the Church.  He said it with a vibrant and powerful voice: we often heard it in the Vatican basilica.  Not only this, but that he wrote by his own hand and letter a special exorcism contained in the Roman Ritual (1954 edition, tít. XII, c. III, pp. 863 and ss.).  He recommended to the bishops and the priests who often said that exorcism in their parishes and dioceses.  On the other hand, he very frequently said it throughout the day”.
More facts at last!  An account by was published in the newspaper La settimana del clero 30 of March of 1947, and another account appeared in the Lenten pastoral letter of Cardinal Nasalli Rocca (Giovanni Battista Cardinal Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano – born 1872; ordained priest 1895 for Rome; bishop of Gubbio 1907-1916; curial official 1916-1921; Archbishop of Bologna 1921-1952; appointed Cardinal 1923) published in Bologna in 1946.

"What is written above... does not mention the sources from which the news was taken" – one wonders what the sources for this may actually be.

But again, on closer examination the tale is controverted: Cardinal Rocca knows well that Leo XIII wrote the famous prayer to St Michael, but "experienc[ing] a vision of the infernal spirits who concentrated themselves on the Eternal City" may, or may not, imply that the Pope had a supernatural experience, and in any case does not confirm the full, most lurid legend of Leo falling into a trance at Mass, let alone a coma, while anxious Cardinals felt for his pulse!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Leaven in the Lump

I don't often quote in extenso from other blogs, but what the good pastor over at Valle Adurni relays (himself quoting from Fr Z, ultimately referencing Samuel Gregg at the Acton Institute) is so very true: that Pope Benedict's charter for our times is for we Catholics to be a creative minority: for "the Church of the future will be smaller, but more fervent," as he said while still a Cardinal.  As Toynbee opined, civilizations and societies are not so much overwhelmed from outside as eaten out from within: they die by their own hand.  To be a creative minority is to prop up the tottering edifice – did not Christians transform the Roman Empire by making it the seed of Christendom?  On the contrary, the fated-to-fail, failed and failing project of liberal Catholicism "has no seed" – it is intellectually and spiritually sterile, and is doomed and dying just as is liberal, mainstream Protestantism.  See now the ultimate project of Anglicanorm cœtibus?  It is to preserve a creative minority of all that is good, true and beautiful in Anglicanism, in its true home, in union with the Church of Rome as the remaining bastion of Catholic truth.  But where to start? as Fr Z would say, Save the liturgy, save the world.

Footy Grand Final - IT'S A DRAW

We've got the TV on, and the national anthem is being sung: "Advance Australia fair".  The M.C.G. is packed – fully 100,000 there to see the match.  In a minute, the Grand Final will begin: Collingwood versus St Kilda.  Carn the Saints!


They've bounced the ball.

The Pies have their first goal almost immediately!


End of the first quarter: Magpies 26 to Saints 20.


A pet peeve: footballers – indeed anyone – with tattoos.  It should be banned.  Such atavism!  The same goes for weird piercings hither and thither.  Are we to regress to the state of cavemen and primitives, painted blue with bones through our noses?


Half time: Collingwood 50 to St Kilda 26.

The half-time break: time to eat the obligatory meat pie.


Third quarter: Collingwood still in front, 55 to 47.


Less than ten minutes to go and St Kilda has caught up: Collingwood is only one point ahead, 61 to 60 - the game has warmed up!

Seven minutes left, and the scores are tied!

St Kilda's ahead by a goal!

No, Collingwood's back in the lead by one point!  Three minutes to go...

The scores are level again at 68 all, with only a minute left...

24 seconds left...

7 seconds...



Just as with the General Election, the result is – no result.

Everyone is absolutely stunned and amazed.

Next week, they will have to play again: a second Grand Final!

(Both back in 1948, and in 1977, a draw occurred, and so the game was replayed, as will happen now in 2010.)

As a final indignity, for reasons as yet unknown the teams' changing rooms have been flooded out, and as everyone reels in shock, the players have had to retire to the other set of changing rooms...


Prime Minister Gillard turns out to be a Cassandra: as she said at the Grand Final Breakfast this morning, as I heard it on the radio:
"Please, please, we cannot have a draw."
"A week without a premiership football team - I'm not sure our nation's strong enough to take it."
Oh Julia, what have you done?

Channeling Fr Z

I cannot arrive at work without first stopping for a proper takeaway coffee beforehand at my favourite café – perhaps (with or without a hazelnut flavour shot) a latte, a flat white, or just lately a cappucchino – and I often stop at another favoured coffee outlet after my labours of the day.  Thanks be to God for the inventor of the espresso machine!  Imagine, then, my gladness when on Monday, both at one café and the other I ended up with a free coffee, courtesy of my loyalty cards (every tenth cup is free).

But it doesn't stop there: last night, some really beautiful Tasmanian salmon steaks; this morning (as well as some good coffee bought from the local café) I brought home some ciabatta bread and a jar of Seville marmalade, for a really decent breakfast.  Then I read The Australian for a while.  (It goes without saying I'd been to confession earlier, after a sleep-in.)

Spring has sprung: everywhere trees in blossom, and flowers out in garden and park.  My favourite season, this.  Glory be to God for all good things. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Morning Prayer: Judith

Thinking to pray with and for those Anglicans and Catholics (in both senses) who, God willing, will decide to enter the Ordinariates soon to be set up, I read Morning Prayer from my copy of the Book of Divine Worship, which is the already-existing first draft of the Anglican Use.  In its lectionary, I noted that there are alternative readings for this, the week of the Sunday closest to the 21st of September: either from Esther, or Judith.  Going on a hunch, remembering that to-day the 24th is kept in memory of Our Lady of Ransom, I chose Judith as an apt type of Our Lady: for in hewing off Holofernes' head, she foreshadowed Holy Mary treading Satan underfoot, as the Protoëvangelium long ago first predicted.

How to deal with unwelcome brutes

Herewith, the first lesson: Judith 13:1-20 (the whole chapter), which is the climax of the book, as herein shrewd Judith, having rendered Holofernes dead drunk, now strikes him dead with his own sword, and returns in triumph to her people, the Israelites beseiged at Bethulia, whereupon she wins their highest praise for saving them all (I quote from the R.S.V., which is what I use with the B.D.W., as closest to the K.J.V. and also being approved for Catholic use):
When evening came, his [Holofernes'] slaves quickly withdrew, and Bagoas closed the tent from outside and shut out the attendants from his master's presence; and they went to bed, for they all were weary because the banquet had lasted long. So Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holofernes stretched out on his bed, for he was overcome with wine. 
Now Judith had told her maid to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as she did every day; for she said she would be going out for her prayers. And she had said the same thing to Bagoas. So every one went out, and no one, either small or great, was left in the bedchamber. Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart, "O Lord God of all might, look in this hour upon the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help thy inheritance, and to carry out my undertaking for the destruction of the enemies who have risen up against us." 
She went up to the post at the end of the bed, above Holofernes' head, and took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, "Give me strength this day, O Lord God of Israel!" And she struck his neck twice with all her might, and severed it from his body. Then she tumbled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the posts; after a moment she went out, and gave Holofernes' head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.
Then the two of them went out together, as they were accustomed to go for prayer; and they passed through the camp and circled around the valley and went up the mountain to Bethulia and came to its gates. Judith called out from afar to the watchmen at the gates, "Open, open the gate! God, our God, is still with us, to show his power in Israel, and his strength against our enemies, even as he has done this day!"
When the men of her city heard her voice, they hurried down to the city gate and called together the elders of the city. They all ran together, both small and great, for it was unbelievable that she had returned; they opened the gate and admitted them, and they kindled a fire for light, and gathered around them. Then she said to them with a loud voice, "Praise God, O praise him! Praise God, who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel, but has destroyed our enemies by my hand this very night!"
Then she took the head out of the bag and showed it to them, and said, "See, here is the head of Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, and here is the canopy beneath which he lay in his drunken stupor. The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has protected me in the way I went, it was my face that tricked him to his destruction, and yet he committed no act of sin with me, to defile and shame me."
All the people were greatly astonished, and bowed down and worshiped God, and said with one accord, "Blessed art thou, our God, who hast brought into contempt this day the enemies of thy people."
And Uzziah said to her, "O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth, who has guided you to strike the head of the leader of our enemies. Your hope will never depart from the hearts of men, as they remember the power of God. May God grant this to be a perpetual honor to you, and may he visit you with blessings, because you did not spare your own life when our nation was brought low, but have avenged our ruin, walking in the straight path before our God." And all the people said, "So be it, so be it!"
(Comparing the K.J.V. rendering, I find the R.S.V. to be just that, a revision; the only interesting textual difference is in verse 11, where the K.J.V. has "Jerusalem", not "Israel".  Two other differences are merely interesting: instead of the common word "sword", "fauchion" - more commonly, "falchion" - which is a curved broadsword, similar to a scimitar; and Uzziah is instead called Ozias.

(By comparison, the Douay has more phrasal differences, albeit none of any great consequence, encompassing the same tale in 26 verses.)

May the Anglicans coming into full communion with the Church, the new Jerusalem, likewise prove not to have been shamed by their dallying with Holofernes (or Henry VIII) - but rather to have taken up the sword of the spirit, the word of God, and with it confounded the enemy who entrapped them, before hieing themselves back to the camp of the true Israel.  Amen, amen.

Our Lady of Ransom

Yes, to-day is Ember Friday – but don't forget to pray to Our Lady of Ransom for the conversion of England, and, in a special sense, for the UK Anglicans who are holding meetings yester-day, to-day and to-morrow in order to decide on whether to enter the Ordinariate proposed by good Pope Benedict.

Pray, too, for the similar groups of Anglicans in Canada, the U.S.A., and here in Australia.

Pray for them, O Holy Mother of God,
That they may be one in the Church of thy Son.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SS Maurice and Companions

From the old Dominican Martyrology for the 22nd of September:
At Sitten in Gaul, at Saint-Maurice, the holy Theban martyrs Maurice, Exuperius, Candidus, Victor, Innocent, and Vitalis, with their companions of the same Legion. In the reign of Maximian, they were slain for Christ, thus enlightening the world by their martyrdom. 
The Theban Legion!  To-day, Holy Church keeps the memory (at least in the traditional Dominican Rite) of those intrepid soldiers who died for their true champion, Christ the King of Martyrs, rather than obey impious and inhuman commands.  In late days of pagan Rome, at Agaunum (now Saint-Maurice-en-Valais in Switzerland), many Christian soldiers were put to death; in due time their cultus was solemnized in that place, as attested by a letter of one Eucherius, bishop of Lyon (c. 434–450), who explains therein that it was only in the episcopate of Theodore of Octodurum (369-391), a long time after the occurrence, that a basilica there was built in veneration of these intrepid milites Christi.  The paucity of the evidence, and the difficulties involved in the claim that the whole Legion was Christian, subjected to two decimations and then wholesale massacre, has given some pause; but, as with other examples of the cultus of early martyrs, it may be affirmed that certainly some men, those six whose names have come down to us, suffered death on account of the Holy Faith, and these men's courage and witness to the Truth deserve eternal memory.  May these saints of long ago pray for us sinners now shuffling along this mortal coil, that when our turn has passed and the world has forgotten us, we may be ever precious in the sight and knowledge of God.

Their Collect - remembering that for the saints, their natal day is their day of death, or rather of birth into immortal glory, passing from this world to the Father:
Annue, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus: ut sanctorum Martyrum tuorum Mauritii, Exsuperii, Candidi, Vitalis, Innocentii ac Sociorum eorumdem nos laetificet festiva solemnitas, ut, quorum suffragiis nitimur, eorum natalitiis gloriemur.  Per...
(We beseech, almighty God: that as this annual festive solemnity of Thy holy Martyrs Maurice, Exsuperius, Candidus, Vitalis, Innocent and their Companions may rejoice us, so we, enlightened by their suffrages, may glory in their natal day.  Through...)
(The Neo-Gallican Paris Missal of 1738 also included this collect, only slightly modified by omitting the names of St Maurice's companions.)

As an interesting sidelight, the Abbey later founded at Agaunum by St Sigismund, first Catholic king of the Burgundians, and himself martyred by his godless relatives, has a special claim to fame: for, as St Avitus remarked in his still-extant sermon preached at its opening, the monastery would be devoted to such assiduous psalmody (the modern term is laus perennis) that the chanting of the psalms would never cease – it is thought that, as well as all the monks singing the canonical Hours together, they were divided into groups, each of which took responsibility for maintaining the praise of God in choir in between one pair of Hours.

In later years, St Maurice (after whom St Moritz and other spots were later named) came to be special patron of the Holy Roman Emperors, and relics of his military equipage became part of the imperial regalia - his relics were translated to Magdeburg about a thousand years ago.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Newman Beatified

The choir have just finished the Introit; now the Pope is about to begin Mass, once the welcoming words of Archbishop Bernard of Birmingham (in a reflective light tenor voice) are done.

The Penitential Rite now – the Confiteor and Misereatur.  The Kyrie starts...

After the Kyrie, the Rite of Beatification: the Archbishop will petition the Pope to beatify Newman; the Vice-Postulator will read a short biography of him; the Holy Father will then beatify him by his apostolic authority, appointing his feast day to be the 9th of October, the anniversary of his conversion in 1845; an image and relics of Newman will be placed beside the altar; the people will sing "Praise to the Holiest in the height" in acclamation; the Archbishop thank him again; and then all will sing Gloria in excelsis Deo, giving thanks to God Who made John Henry a model of Christian grace.

Only a few minutes to go!


Other beati in Newman's life: Bl Dominic of the Mother of God, who received him into the Church; Bl Pius IX, who encouraged him to be a priest and found the Oratory in England.

It is done!


The Dream of Gerontius and the Ordo Commendationis Animæ

These extracts from the first section of Newman's The Dream of Gerontius are very close paraphrases of the various prayers of the Ordo Commendationis Animæ (which Newman daily prayed for his own soul, that it find mercy in the day of the Lord); the short aspirations uttered by the dying Gerontius, the Litanies and the Suscipe Domine of the assistants, and the Proficiscere of the priest (but strangely, the last, though almost word-for-word, omits the Blessed Virgin and St Joseph):


(Jesu, have mercy! Mary, pray for me!)
(Be with me, Lord, in my extremity!)    
(Lover of souls! great God! I look to Thee,)
(Help, loving Lord! Thou my sole Refuge, Thou,)


Kyrie eleïson, Christe eleïson, Kyrie eleïson.
Holy Mary, pray for him.
All holy Angels, pray for him.
Choirs of the righteous, pray for him.
Holy Abraham, pray for him.
St. John Baptist, St. Joseph, pray for him.
St. Peter, St. Paul, St Andrew, St. John,
All Apostles, all Evangelists, pray for him.
All holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for him.
All holy Innocents, pray for him.
All holy Martyrs, all holy Confessors,
All holy Hermits, all holy Virgins,
Be merciful, be gracious; spare him, Lord.
Be merciful, be gracious; Lord, deliver him.
From the sins that are past;
   From Thy frown and Thine ire;
     From the perils of dying;
     From any complying
     With sin, or denying
     His God, or relying
On self, at the last;
   From the nethermost fire;
From all that is evil;
From power of the devil;
Thy servant deliver,
For once and for ever.
By Thy birth, and by Thy Cross,
Rescue him from endless loss;
By Thy death and burial,
Save him from a final fall;
By Thy rising from the tomb,
   By Thy mounting up above,
   By the Spirit's gracious love,
Save him in the day of doom.


O Jesu, help! pray for me, Mary, pray!
Some Angel, Jesu! such as came to Thee
In Thine own agony …
Mary, pray for me. Joseph, pray for me. Mary,
pray for me.


Rescue him, O Lord, in this his evil hour,
As of old so many by Thy gracious power:—
Enoch and Elias from the common doom; (Amen.)
Noe from the waters in a saving home; (Amen.)
Abraham from th' abounding guilt of Heathenesse;
Job from all his multiform and fell distress;
Isaac, when his father's knife was raised to slay;
Lot from burning Sodom on its judgment-day;
Moses from the land of bondage and despair;
Daniel from the hungry lions in their lair;
And the Children Three amid the furnace-flame;
Chaste Susanna from the slander and the shame;
David from Golia and the wrath of Saul;
And the two Apostles from their prison-thrall;
Thecla from her torments; (Amen:)
                               —so to show Thy power,
Rescue this Thy servant in his evil hour.


... Into Thy hands,
O Lord, into Thy hands ...

The Priest:

Proficiscere, anima Christiana, de hoc mundo!
Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul!
Go from this world! Go, in the Name of God
The Omnipotent Father, who created thee!
Go, in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord,
Son of the living God, who bled for thee!
Go, in the Name of the Holy Spirit, who
Hath been pour'd out on thee! Go, in the name
Of Angels and Archangels; in the name
Of Thrones and Dominations; in the name
Of Princedoms and of Powers; and in the name
Of Cherubim and Seraphim, go forth!
Go, in the name of Patriarchs and Prophets;
And of Apostles and Evangelists,
Of Martyrs and Confessors; in the name
Of holy Monks and Hermits; in the name
Of Holy Virgins; and all Saints of God,
Both men and women, go! Go on thy course;
And may thy place today be found in peace,
And may thy dwelling be the Holy Mount
Of Sion:—through the Same, through Christ, our Lord.

Newman Sunday

According to my trusty companion to the altar (Juergens, My Daily Missal, 1963), this is the 17th Sunday after Pentecost, ... apparently the parish was keeping, not so much the relevant Sunday in Ordinary Time (I don't know what number, I remain wisely ignorant of that), as the Beatification of John Henry Newman: hooray!

The processional hymn, therefore, was "Firmly I believe and truly", and the recessional, "Praise to the Holiest in the height" – both penned by the Beatus-elect, as part of his great poem The Dream of Gerontius, wherein these stanzas, amongst others, express the faith and trust and hope of the dying "old man" of the title: surely a figure of Everyman.  Likewise, the latter part of the sermon, as also more than a page of the parish bulletin, was all about about-to-be-Blessed John Henry.

Regarding that great poem, it is surely a very deep expression of Newman's profoundly Godward outlook, rightly Oriented toward the true East (as Donne said) – for this was a saint who daily, as well as praying the prayers of preparation for and thanksgiving after Mass in the Breviary or Missal, also recited the prayers for the dying, the Ordo commendationis animæ, which he prayed for his own and all mortal souls: 
  • the brief Litanies for the dying – quoted in Newman's Dream of Gerontius;
  • the prayer Proficiscere, anima christiana ("Go forth, Christian soul") – versified in Newman's Dream of Gerontius ("Go forth upon thy journey, Christian soul");
  • the prayer Deus misericors ("Merciful God");
  • the prayer Commendo te omnipotenti Deo ("I commend thee to almighty God");
  • the prayer Suscipe, Domine, servum tuum ("Receive, Lord, Thy servant"), set out as versicles and responses – versified in Newman's Dream of Gerontius ("Rescue him, O Lord, in this his evil hour");
  • the prayer Commendamus tibi ("We commend unto Thee");
  • the prayer Delicta juventutis... ne memineris ("Remember not the sins of his youth");
  • the prayer Clementissima Virgo ("Most clement Virgin");
  • the prayer Ad te confugio sancte Joseph ("To thee I fly, Saint Joseph");
  • and also, perhaps, the suggested aspirations in expiratione, at the time of expiring: Jesu, Jesu, Jesu... In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum... Jesu, Maria, Joseph...

The eight long prayers in particular are most worthy meditations for all, the Cardinal evidently believed, as he taught by his own example.

Did he nightly say even the responsory Subvenite, with preces and collect, for his own soul?  A worthy devotion.

How many of us will have the chance of a deathbed as was the ideal of old, with priest and family gathered to pray as we pass on?  Perhaps our best chance is to pray these prayers now.

In particular, I recall the most saluary prayer, the Hail Mary: every time we say it, we supplicate her to "pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death".  A great consolation!

As for "Firmly I believe and truly", here are the seldom-sung first and last, Latin, verses thereof:

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Parce mihi, Domine.

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Mortis in discrimine.


For those curious, I like to read in my Trad. Missal as much of the Proper and Ordinary as possible, while still attending to the Mass going on – so for instance, singing the English paraphrase of the Gloria while reading the Latin, and ditto while saying the Creed.  Some prayers, such as the Domine non sum dignus, I always say in Latin, albeit softly enough for those around not to notice this singularity, I trust.  Using my hand-missal in this way helps me to deal with having perforce to attend the Novus Ordo, when I would far rather go to the Traditional Mass always, but cannot since it is not available here.

Listening to Bruckner in the car to and from Mass also helps – "Locus iste", "Ecce sacerdos magnus", and "Christus factus est", as sung just yester-day at the Pope's Mass in London.

The key to the modern Mass, I find, is attending one offered by a devout priest – some priests by their antics can make it a torture.  Yet, as a friend of mine put it, and he lives in a parish with a vile misbeliever, "Jesus has to come to Mass – so why don't you?".  Too true!  Offering oneself up as a victim soul helps in such circumstances; but when I've had to be at a service that was a congeries of liturgical abuses, I did become horribly upset – I suppose it gives me some tiny inkling of what people suffer when they are the innocent helpless targets of evildoers.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Papal Mass at Westminster Cathedral (Votive of the Precious Blood)

This is live-blogged, more or less… I wrote this as it happened, and now post it.

I checkt the time in London, and then the Papal programme of events – the Pope would be saying Mass!  So I switched to the live webcast, and tuned in during the silent pause evidently after the homily.  The Pope at length arose from his throne, and intoned the Credo in plainchant, which all took up with a great roar.

That done, a lady read the prayers of the faithful – I mean, really! that’s a deacon’s job!  The English made their quaint response, “Lord, graciously hear us”.

At the Offertory, the famous Westminster Cathedral choir sang a moving motet: Christus factus est (Bruckner?), then the organ took over until the “Pray brethren” and the Prayer over the Gifts (in English).  Then it was time for the glorious age-old chant of the Sursum corda and Preface in Latin.  The choir sang a polyphonic Sanctus [the Mass setting is Byrd's, for five voices]: indescribably good.

Te igitur… aloud – beautiful! the Holy Father reads beautifully the Latin… one of the principal concelebrants (the Archbishop of Westminster?) read his part in a slightly faltering English accent, then an Italian bishop did the same.

I missed the expected “mysterium fidei” in the consecration of the chalice!  (I forget that this isn't the old Mass.)

No here it is – Mysterium fidei chanted by the Pope, and the great congregation responding with Mortem tuam in plainchant.

(The sound on my link dropt out for a bit alas, only returning for the full-throated chanted Amen at the end of the Canon.)

Now all are chanting the Lord’s Prayer… (sound dropt again)

The choir sings the Agnus Dei in polyphony…

The Pope invites the faithful forward to receive their Lord, and all respond, from Supreme Pontiff down to the humblest, “Lord, I am not worthy…”

The choir is chanting in Latin, and the Pope is giving Holy Communion on the tongue to those - choristers and lay faithful – coming up to kneel at a prie-dieu before him.  What piety and devotion!

Now the choir begins another polyphonic masterwork [Hassler's O sacrum convivium], ending with a multifold Alleluia.

Footage outside shews happy crowds in attendance outside; within, the Byzantinesque interior of the cathedral is ablaze with lamps, and a vast congregation now receiving their Eucharistic Saviour.

The organ sounds!  It is St Alphonsus Liguori’s beloved hymn, “O Bread of heaven, beneath this veil, thou dost my very God conceal: my Jesus, dearest Treasure, hail! I love Thee and, adoring, kneel” – so true, so true.

Silence… nothing but a few coughs, and the soft clicking of cameras throughout the basilica…

At length, all arise for the Prayer after Communion in English.  The blessing, though, is sung in Latin.  Can the blessing be received over the Internet?  I pray so. Certainly I united myself to the offering up of the Sacrifice and prayed in worship of Jesus at the Elevation after the Consecration – for, while I viewed a representation of the event, in spirit I prayed I was there; and of course God is always everywhere.

A Deacon sings the Ite missa est from the Missa de Angelis, to which a hearty Deo gratias is returned by all.

The organ and trumpets play, as the procession forms up before the altar.  The hymn I can’t quite catch, but it’s something very stirring about Our Lord… [it's "Love Divine, all loves excelling"]

The sea of concelebrant bishops and priests in bright red chasubles make a sight indeed, as if the Precious Blood were spilling forth and running down the aisle.

The Pope stops first to greet the ecumenical representatives – various Oriental ecclesiarchs all in black, some Byzantine in tall hats (I forget the name), some non-Chalcedonian in turbans, plus the silly old A.B. of C. (looking very motley in Parker’s rags).

The congregation applaud His Holiness as he now leaves the chancel and passes down the nave.  The organ thunders the while.


As he comes forth from the doors of the Cathedral, the crowds outside applaud and cry out in adulation.  Now, a chair is brought, and an address began (the sound just dropt out again) – I think this is when the Pope will bless the latest new mosaic to be installed at the Cathedral, representing St David of Wales.  Now is it the turn of the Welsh to acclaim Peter’s Successor?

No, he rather greeted the wildly enthusiastic crowds – lots of eager young people – and blessed them.  Reëntering the Cathedral, the choir sings Bruckner’s Ecce sacerdos magnus – Behold a great priest.

Now comes the blessing of the mosaic of St David, and of a beautiful statue of the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Cardigan.

The Pope is again seated, and receives the gracious greetings of the Catholics of Wales, and of Wales itself, from the Catholic Archbishop thereof, speaking in rich rolling English and Welsh.  No wonder Tolkien loved the sonorous Welsh tongue so much.

All good things come to an end: the Pope, after giving a miniature catechesis about St David, greets dignitaries and then returns to the sacristy while the organ plays.  In a nice last scene, the television coverage shews him shaking hands with all the choristers, thanking them for their soaring music.


(I suppose the Pope read several of the prayers in English because chanting them in an unfamiliar tongue would be difficult for him.  But why wasn’t the response to the petitions of the Bidding Prayers sung, as is commonly done at the Cathedral in Melbourne?)

Mucking Out

I now know how Hercules felt about the Augean stables – I had to get up on a teetering ladder, itself atop a balcony about two storeys in the air, in order to clear out the spouting, full of stinky foul leaves and twigs from the adjacent jacaranda tree.  The down pipe itself was blocked up, and so the spouting had a most putrid odour, no doubt produced by a slimy microbial slurry infesting the watery mess.  There were even two full-grown weeds growing hydroponically!

After scooping out three buckets' worth of slops, I managed at last to get a hose up from the garden below, and blast out the remaining direful detritus, unblocking the downpipe.  All that remained to do was to go down to the drain underneath, unblock that too (providing the garden bed with rich fertiliser indeed, not dissimilar from ordure by smell at least), and then have a good shower and scrub, leaving my clothes in the laundry for a thorough washing.  Only after scrubbing my hands with several different solutions did the appalling whiff of horse-dung finally seem to depart.

This was the sort of unlovely job that Dad always did, but he's far too far gone to do anything anymore.

Earlier to-day, the extended family had all gone out to visit my aged father for his 84th birthday at the nursing home.  Poor Dad! he was hardly able to speak, smile, eat, drink, or even just keep awake.  Parkinsons disease is vile.  Please pray for him in his misery.

For tea to-night I consoled myself with a pot of paté spread on bread.  I think I'll now go grab a beer too...

Much earlier, this morning, I had been at Mass at the Church of the Apostles, and then went to Confession afterwards as is my Saturday custom.  It was nice to hear Mass in honour of Our Lady on Saturday; the celebrant was notably pious, and even used the Roman Canon.  I feel so much better for having also been to Mass yester-day (when I brought along my old Missal, and read the prayers of the Mass of the Stigmata of St Francis).  

Receiving Holy Communion daily is an inestimable blessing, even the greatest benefit I reckon.  I recall one convert explaining that he had read in the Acts of the Apostles that the first Christians met daily for "the breaking of bread", and that he therefore sought out whatsoever church still did so – hence his becoming a Catholic.

Just some random thoughts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Changes to the Sacred Heart Litany - in response to Clerical Sexual Abuse?

At the Papal Vigil for John Henry Newman's Beatification, the Litany of the Sacred Heart will be recited before the Blessed Sacrament exposed.  However, leaving aside the particular translation used, I was intrigued to note that half a dozen or so of the traditional invocations have been omitted, and likewise new ones inserted.  Herewith, the changes:

1.  After "Heart of Jesus, well-spring of all virtue" (in the Latin original, Cor Jesu, virtutum omnium abyssus), the next seven invocations are left out – so no "most worthy of all praise... king and centre of all hearts... in which are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge... in which dwelleth all the fulness of the divinity... in which the Father is well pleased... of whose fulness we have all received... desire of the eternal hills";

2.  After "Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness" (Cor Jesu, fons vitæ et sanctitatis), nine new invocations are inserted:
  • Heart of Jesus, source of healing,
  • Heart of Jesus, sharer in our sorrow,
  • Heart of Jesus, safe-guarder of the vulnerable,
  • Heart of Jesus, friend of the betrayed,
  • Heart of Jesus, companion of the ignored,
  • Heart of Jesus, face of the misjudged,
  • Heart of Jesus, wounded by our failings,
  • Heart of Jesus, bearer of our sufferings,
  • Heart of Jesus, acquainted with grief,
(then the expected invocation, "Heart of Jesus, atonement for our sins", in Latin, Cor Jesu, propitiatio pro peccatis nostris, and so through to the end).

These inserted phrases sound to me awfully like allusions to the sufferings of those members of Christ subjected to clerical sexual abuse, and therefore as implicit supplications to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord to grant healing to those poor victims so shamefully and evilly mistreated, then rejected and ignored for too long...

Lutherans and Praying for the Dead

Rudolf Otto, in the liturgy for Holy Communion that he used as a Lutheran pastor, publicly prayed for the dead alongside his congregation, as, for example, in these petitions:
Remember, O Lord, in mercy our brethren N.N., whom thou hast called to thyself before thy throne —
* Lift up thy countenance upon them and be gracious unto them.
Remember, O Lord, our sisters N.N., who have returned to their heavenly home —
* May they rest in peace, and may light perpetual shine upon them.
Remember, O Lord, the souls of our children N.N., whom thou hast so soon bid return unto thee —
* Grant them in thy light to see light and comfort them that mourn their loss.  Amen.
(Quoted from his Religious essays: A supplement to The Idea of the Holy, p. 64f.  The asterisks mark the congregation's responses to the pastor's prayers; a footnote explains that the first of these petitions commemorates those who have died since the last celebration.  Pretty obviously, the congregational responses allude to, respectively: the latter part of the Aaronic blessing – very dear to Lutherans – in Numbers vi, 24-26; the usual Catholic prayer for the dead Requiem æternam and Requiescant in pace; and to both Psalm 35(36):10(9) and St Matthew v, 5 – one of the Beatitudes.  It is pathetic in the true sense to see the need then felt, even in a First World country, to have special commemoration made of the many who died as children.) 

Now Otto (1869-1937) was no oddity, but a famous theologian in his day, most well-known for his book The Idea of the Holy (first published in German in 1917, and in English in 1923); while I was in Tanunda, I perused, but didn't buy, an edition of his essays, including the form he used when celebrating the Lutheran Communion service (Religious essays: A supplement to The Idea of the Holy, London 1931).  A quick consultation of Google Books turned up the above quotations, thus saving me having to go back and buy it!

So, what of all this?  Well, I mentioned in an earlier post that a Lutheran pastor explained to me that, while Lutherans do not in general pray for the dead, the practice (as opposed to, say, a very overtly Roman Catholic view of purgatory with all that entails in the way of indulgences, etc.) is not outlawed by the Lutheran confessions, as contained in The Book of Concord: for while the documents contained therein certainly inveigh against the offering up the Mass as a sacrifice for the faithful departed, very notably it is stated that the Lutherans do not fall into the error of Arius, for "Epiphanius writes, that Arius maintained that prayer for the dead is useless.  Now, we do not speak of prayer, but of the Supper of Christ, whether this is an offering, ex opere operato, benefiting the dead." (Apology to [sic; lege of] the Augsburg Confession, XII.)

Luther himself, in his usual racy style (did he have Tourette's?), wrote that:
As for the dead, since Scripture gives us no information on the subject, I regard it as no sin to pray with free devotion in this or some similar fashion: 'Dear God, if this soul is in a condition accessible to mercy, be thou gracious to it.' And when this has been done once or twice, let it suffice. For vigils and requiem masses and yearly celebrations of requiems are useless, and merely the devil's annual fair.
—Martin Luther, "Confession Concerning Christ's Supper" (1528), in Luther's Works, vol. 37, p. 369.

(Of course, Scripture does give us information on this subject:  Catholics know that II Machabees is truly among the inspired books, and it tells us "It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins" – II Mach. xii, 46; Luther, following the Jews, dismissed this book, alas.  In any case, St Paul prays for Onesiphorus, writing "The Lord grant unto him to find mercy of the Lord in that day" – II Tim. i, 18a – and it is most strongly implied that Onesiphorus was dead, seeing as, in verse 16, St Paul prays for God's mercy for "the house of Onesiphorus", that is, for his family, and goes on to speak of all Onesiphorus did for him in the past tense throughout.  The Nonjurors, to refer to my favourite Continuing Anglicans of yester-year, certainly believed in prayer for the dead and justified it by reference to this text of the Apostle.)

Hence, it would appear that, while Lutherans are not generally engaged in praying for the dead, to do so would not be, strictly speaking, against their doctrines; and indeed, while in Australia such prayers are not used in public worship, they were in Germany, and by a noted Lutheran theologian, too.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SS Cornelius and Cyprian

Forget not, as the Holy Father this day prepares to offer Mass in honour of St Ninian, that the wider Church celebrates instead SS Cornelius and Cyprian, Martyrs.  In the days when I read the Office in English, I could never finish the second reading, taken from the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Cyprian, without tears.  I think I'll go look it up now...

Here at least is the Collect of these Martyrs, from the Dominican Breviary:
Infirmitatem nostram, quæsumus, Domine, propitius respice: et mala omnia, quæ juste meremur, sanctorum Martyrum tuorum atque Pontificem Cornelii et Cypriani intercessione averte.  Per...
Our infirmity, we beg, Lord, graciously regard: and all evils, which we justly deserve, by the intercession of Thy holy Martyrs and Pontiffs Cornelius and Cyprian, avert.  Through...
Indeed we do, we must recognize, not foolishly hugging ourselves, most justly deserve the threatening dangers that overhang us: we, poor sinful men, miserable sinners – all creation is rightly armed against us.  This is the unpalatable truth.  (It would help more Christians to learn this if they humbly and not arrogantly read the New Testament.)  The madness of modern man is that he has no idea of his sins, let alone of how awful sin is, how deserving of all retribution and, yes, reprobation now and forever.

Through Christ, through His bitter sufferings and all-atoning sacrifice on the Cross, God has won for us deliverance from sin, Satan, death and hell – but it is for us to accept this free offer of salvation.  The saints have done so, and in them grace has triumphed: hence they sit with the Lamb and the Eternal upon the heavenly throne, suffused with the Holy Ghost Who deifies them as holy.  At the intercession of those who followed the Lamb even unto death, and thus most perfectly imitated His life and death and Sacrifice, we cry out to be delivered, always and only in Christ, from what we otherwise deserve.  The Universe without God is no friend to man.

God is wholly Other: "My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts, saith the Lord Almighty".  We are most foolish and self-centred if we imagine God as a rather nicer version of some human, humane person.  We are doubly foolish if we most impertinently presume to sit in judgement of God against His revelation of Himself, and think that so nice a deity could scarcely condemn anyone to Hell.  (Has anyone considered the appalling infernal wickedness of Hitler, Stalin, or Mao lately – or recalled that the third-named slew more than the others?  How about all the other monstrous Cains down all the ages, who have particularly infested the twentieth century just past?  I forbear to even mention other categories of heinous, unrepentant, unbelieving sinners, for whose hopes of salvation I tremble.)

God in Christ came to reconcile the world to Himself – for the world had fallen very far from right relationship with God.  Ever since His saving work, Our Lord has been pouring out grace and ever proffering forgiveness and reconciliation; yet, as He told St Margaret Mary centuries ago, the hearts of men have not merely been indifferent, but have grown cold.  What terrible truth!  No wonder we ought hie ourselves to the fountain of Divine Mercy, springing ever fresh from the Five Wounds of Our Jesus.

The saints did this, and they were saved.  Do we wish to be saved?


St Cornelius, Pope and Martyr, pray for us, and for your successor.
St Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr, pray for us, and for North Africa.