Saturday, December 28, 2013


Until the last preconciliar reforms, Mass of the Holy Innocents – Childermas – was said (except if it fell on a Sunday, or was kept as a double of the first class) without Gloria in excelsis, without Alleluia and without Ite missa est: for all these joyful cries were seen as inappropriate to so sad a day. For the same reason, not the red of martyrs but the violet or purple of penance and sadness was worn, with the same exceptions.

Unsurprisingly, this day Fr Paul preached on the evils of abortion and the pro-life cause; Mass was offered up for the protection of human life from conception to natural death. As ever, the culture of life is face to face with the culture of death, as the West embraces societal suicide.

How many little children suffer at the hands of Herods today! And in Belgium we have the gruesome spectacle of euthanasia for children – you'd think the Belgians would have remembered the Nazi regime and all its evil deeds, and not emulated them in pervertedly imagining that there can be "life unworthy of life". How long, O Lord! Such crimes can only cry to heaven for vengeance.

At the end of Mass at Carmel we sang the piteously plaintive Coventry carol: 
Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his owne sight,
All young children to slay. 
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sequence for the Feast of St John Evangelist

A blessed feast to all priests – for this day, being dedicate to St John Evangelist, adopted son of Mary the Virgin, and of all the Apostles the virgin priest, is a feast called in better days "the feast of priests".

Unfortunately, I managed to sleep in, and missed attending Mass… so I'll have to unite myself spiritually to the Sacrifice, and pay my respects to the clergy from afar.

In a very nice book I found secondhand (Jeffrey F. Hamburger, St. John the Divine: The Deified Evangelist in Medieval Art and Theology), I discovered a Dominican Sequence for the feast of St John the Evangelist; it appears in the Gradual of St Katharinensthal (dated about 1312).

This Sequence seems to have been given quite some attention – googling turned up several learned articles and even a book referring to it. Herewith, the Sequence, in charming mediæval style:

Verbum dei, deo natum, / quod nec factum nec creatum, / venit de celestibus
Hoc vidit, hoc attrectavit, / hoc de celo reseravit, / Johannes hominibus
Inter illos primitivos / veros veri fonti rivos / Johannes exilivit;
Toti mundo propinare / nectar illud salutare / quod de throno prodiit.
Celum transit veri rotam / solis ibi vidit totam / mentis figens aciem
Speculator spiritalis / quasi seraphim sub alis / dei videns faciem
Audiit in gyro sedis / quid psallant cum cytharedis / quater seni proceres
De sigillo trinitatis / nostre nummo civitatis / inpressit caracteres.
Celi cui sacrarium / suum Christus lylium / 
filio tonitrui / sub amoris mutui / pace commendavit.
Iste custos virginis / archanum originis /
divine mysterium / scribens evangelium / mundo demonstravit
Haurit virus hic letale / ubi corpus virginale / virtus servat fidei
Pena stupet quod in pena / sit Johannes sine pena / bullientis olei.
Hinc naturis imperat / ut et saxa transferat / indecus gemmarum
Quo iubente riguit / aurum fulvum induit / virgula silvarum.
Hic infernum reserat / morti iubet referat /quos venenum stravit.
Obstruit quod ebyon / cherintus et marcion / perfide latravit.
Volat avis sine meta /quod nec vates nec propheta / evolavit altius
Tam implenda quam impleta, / numquam vidit tot secreta / purus homo purius
Sponsus rubra veste tectus, / visus sed non intellectus / referre mysterium
Aquilam ezechielis / sponse misit que de celis / redit ad palacium.
Dic dilecte de dilecto, / qualis sit ex dilecto, / sponsus sponse nuntia.
Dic quis cibus angelorum / que sint festa supernorum / ut sponse presentia.
Veri panem intellectus, / cenam Christi supra pectus / sumptam nobis resera;
Ut cantemus de patrono, / coram agno coram throno, / laudes super ethera. 

The Word of God, born of God, that was neither made nor created, came from the heavens
This he saw, this he touched, this he, John, unlocked from heaven for mankind.
Among those first true rivulets of the true source, John sprung forth;
To supply the whole world that saving nectar which flowed from the throne.
He transcended heaven, there he saw the wheel of the sun entirely transfixing his piercing mind
A spiritual speculator, like the seraphim seeing the face of God beneath their wings
He hears in their dwelling place what the four times six elders were singing with the harpists
From the seal of the Trinity on the coin of our condition he imprinted the characters.
To whom the shrine of heaven, his lily, Christ, the sun of thunder entrusted in peace.
He, the protector of the Virgin, showed the world the arcane mystery of the divine origins, writing his Gospel 
He drank the deadly poison by which his virginal body maintained the power of faith
Punishment is perplexed, that in punishment John is without pain in the bubbling oil
He commanded the laws of nature, that stones be transformed into beautiful gems.
By which command he stiffened and covered with tawny gold the litle branches of the forest.
He entered hell and commanded death that he give back those he had punished with poison.
He denied what Ebion, Cerinthus and Marcion barked perfidiously.
He flies like a bird without limit, in that neither seer nor prophet ever flew higher
As much what would be fulfilled as what has been, never were so many secrets seen so purely by a pure man
The bridegroom, adorned with a red garment, seen, but not comprehended, has to represent the mystery
He sent the bride the eagle of Ezechiel, which from the heavens returns to its palace.
Speak, O loved one, of the beloved, what his nature is and how he proceeds from the beloved, this the bridegroom announces to the bride.
Tell us about the food of angels, about the feasts of those above, in the presence of the bride.
The bread of true understanding, the feast of Christ, on his breast consumed: reveal yourself to us:
So that we may sing of our patron, before the Lamb, before the throne, praises above the air. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Gap

The Protomartyr in his own person and passion illustrates the gap between proclamation of the saving kerygma and the response of faith in its hearers. Those of the Sanhedrin of old stopped their ears and rushed upon St Stephen, stoning him to death rather than allowing their stony hearts to be converted by the word of salvation so irrefutably preached to them by him; but by an illumination (vouchsafed, we may understand, at the First Martyr's prayers), nay, by the voice of the Word Himself, Saul was later converted on the road to Damascus, closing the gap in his life, faith at last being enkindled where murderous hate had reigned.

All down through history, the response of men has ever been the same: lest they hear, and repent, and be converted, and saved, so perverse is fallen nature, instead outrages have been inflicted by sinners upon God's saints. But every Diocletian has been defeated; and as the Apostate unwillingly confessed, "Thou hast conquered, O Galilean". Fr Paul remarked on all this at Mass this morning – I blend what I remember of his words with ideas of mine own engendered thereby.

He further observed that, when Christ shall come as Judge, to him every knee must bend – either in worship, or in servitude (for even the devils fear and tremble, yet for them there is no salvation). God's Kingdom will come, whether we will or nill; let the Holy Spirit descend and purify us, that we may be worthy of that Kingdom, and not cast out into the infernal darkness, where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

God grant that Holy Church never cease to proclaim His Gospel, and may her members pray for the fruitful reception of that Good News by all, that (by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) more and more may know and believe, love and obey Jesus Christ, that willingly with the saints they may adore the Lord – lest they instead hate and resist, chafing against the bit and in danger of condemnation.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas

"You have begun your Christmas in the best way possible," said Fr Allan at the end of the Vigil Mass, "by welcoming Christ into your hearts at Mass in Holy Communion." Amen to that.

It was a charming Mass, complete with the dear children presenting a nativity play (the actual Gospel was read as normal, separately; and such a play seems innocent enough, an adjunct to the sermon I suppose): the choir turned out to consist of Mary and I, with Janet as organist, so we did our best with Christmas favourites. One amusing problem occurred at the Offertory: Janet transposed "Hark the herald angels sing" not down one note, but up! So the top notes proved quite painful for this bass-baritone...

After the final hymn, we sang "Merry, Merry, Merry Christmas", the last from a cycle of Australian Christmas carols by John Wheeler. Some of the parishioners, being Polish, were heading off straightaway after the Mass (which ended just after 7 pm) since they have their Christmas meal and present-giving party on this, the Eve.

Our family Christmas Eve tradition is to eat fish (cooked in cream, with almonds and breadcrumbs and lots of salt and pepper); so we kept the ancient fast. To partake, we met at my sister's home after Mass.

All this is but the start to Christmas 2013: I have to be at Church of Apostles at 10:45 pm, since I am singing in the choir there as well. Carols begin at 11:15 pm, and Midnight Mass follows. Then I will get up Christmas morning and go to Carmel for their 8:30 Mass, since my old friend Fr Paul, O.P., is visiting. 

Later in the day to-morrow, my aunt and uncle will join us, and it will be present time, followed by a gargantuan Christmas dinner… with luck, I can nap in the afternoon, before waking up for the Queen's Christmas message in the evening.

I do like another Australian Christmas carol: "The north wind is tossing the leaves":

Here in Tasmania it isn't normally scorching hot at yuletide, but on the Mainland it can be – in Perth it usually is, if I remember aright – so this carol strikes the right note for an antipodean Christmas.

Every blessing to all readers at this holy season: may the Christ Child enter into your heart and abide there evermore, joining earth to heaven, restoring all things in Himself.


P.S. Please don't forget the poor and suffering this Christmas, those near at hand and those far away: think of the people of Syria, of South Sudan, of the Philippines...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

O Sapientia

My favourite Baroque composer, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, set all the O Antiphons to music – beautiful texts containing "the very marrow of Advent" to quote Dom Guéranger – together with the O salutaris hostia (one imagines this was sung at Benediction after Vespers on each of the last days of Advent).

Here is part of a recording thereof; the first of these Greater Antiphons, O Sapientia, begins at 2:37.

Vampiric Christians?

I am most amused to note that recent visits to this humble blog have been increased by references from a site to me hitherto unknown, yclept (I hope it's legit, I haven't actually looked at it); doubtless my tangential reference to a penny dreadful in my last post somehow drew the attention thereof.

This has reminded me, moreover, of comments a friend made about the views of a mutual acquaintance from my days in Western Australia: he commented on the struggles some have in living in obedience to the commandments, who through their frailty and temptations fall oft into sin – these, said he, are as it were vampiric Christians! – who need frequent lavings in Christ's Blood, as it were, through the administration to them of the Sacrament of Penance, in addition to frequent suppings of that real Blood when receiving the Most Blessed Eucharist.

I am not at all sure I like the sound of this. Such a strange way of describing affairs may well be offensive to pious ears. As to what it appears meant to signify, speaking only of myself, I find frequent confession and frequent Communion to be the two pillars of the Christian life; I hope that is not too vampiric.

Some indeed lapse and relapse into sin, and must struggle to keep their head above water, as it were, by "spitting the poison out" (as the Imitation of Christ advises) and hieing themselves to the confessional, ere they may partake of the saving Banquet. For while the Eucharist burns away venial sin, and fortifies the soul against sinning, only priestly absolution sacramentally remits mortal sin (though of course an act of perfect contrition, with the resolve to confess in due time, achieves the same, yet it has not the same certainty as sacerdotal absolution, so to speak).

However, backsliders, those chained to sinful habits, and those "bound in sin's own blindness", too unwary of the dangers posed by proximate occasions of sin – for "death cometh up through the windows" and "he who loves the danger will perish in it" are surely not to be considered "vampires",  irreversibly damned through no fault of their own by the attack of another, who thereafter can only maintain the semblance of life by the further commission of murder! That sort of nonsense is clearly opposed to the true doctrines of Christianity. We all of us have free will, and if we sin we can always repent and seek forgiveness, "seventy times seven", for even "the just man falls seven times a day", yet with every temptation the Lord always provides the grace necessary to escape it.

I suspect that the person who described matters in this way was being tempted to despair. It also sounds like he was deluded by the supposed glamour of evil: how falsely "comforting" to fondly regard oneself as a tragic antihero, rather than as a sinner just like anyone else. Please pray for him, and for all in like difficulties, that, even if they feel a heavy burden on their conscience, and feel trapped by their circumstances, they may find the remedy for every distress in humble confession and grateful reception of the Blessed Sacrament, knowing that "In His will is our peace".

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ave, Cruor Christi

Would it be in bad taste to pray, Ave, cruor Christi – in parallel to Ave, caro Christi?

Rather than Corpus (Body), Caro (Flesh) is the Johannine equivalent; so as to keep up the theme of synonyms, would Sanguis (Blood) be appropriately replaced on occasion with Cruor (blood from a wound, hence gore)? It was after all not an incruentum sacrificium, no bloodless sacrifice, but on the Cross a very bloody sacrifice, cruentum sacrificium: Christ Himself, His spotless flesh all torn and wounded, beaten, whipped, pierced through with nails and thorns and lance, weeping tears of blood, blood trickling down from every wound… 

That said, cruor and cruentus are related to crudus (bloody, raw, harsh, cruel…), and I wonder whether, since "Hail, Christ's Gore" really seems too nasty an expression in English, the Latin Ave, cruor Christi would be revolting rather than affecting.

All this comes from my long use of variants of the common mediæval Mass prayers Ave in æternum, sanctissima caro Christi, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, O most holy flesh of Christ, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight) and its parallel Ave in æternum, cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia summa dulcedo (Hail forevermore, heavenly drink, to me before all and above all things the supreme delight). These appear in the Sarum Rite, for instance.

It seemed to me from my first reading of these that "heavenly drink" was too vague an expression (redolent of the second of the berakoth at modern Mass), and a truer parallel would be to name that which is in the Chalice as sanctissime Sanguis Christi, "most holy Blood of Christ" (it would I think lessen the parallel to use pretios[issim]e Sanguis, "[most] precious Blood", though that is the standard epithet). However, further reflection led me to seek a synonym for Blood, just as caro is a synonym for Body.

The '62 Missal and Breviary use cruor in but a few places: in Passiontide at Lauds; on Good Friday; at the Easter Vigil; formerly, during Eastertide, at Vespers; on the feast of the Most Precious Blood, at Lauds; and in the Sequence Stabat Mater for Our Lady of Sorrows. 

Among the Improperia (Reproaches) sung on Good Friday, the fourth part thereof is the Passiontide hymn beginning with Crux fidelis (which supplies a variable refrain) and continuing Pange lingua gloriosi (not the Corpus Christi hymn with the same first line). This hymn (which is also used at Matins and Lauds in Passiontide, split into two parts, only the second of which is relevant) contains two references to cruor: in the seventh stanza, we read spina, clavi, lancea Mite corpus perforarunt, unda manat et cruor (the thorn, the nails, the lance hath pierced the tender Body, whence floweth water and cruor) and in the ninth, Quam sacer cruor perunxit, fusus Agni corpora (Which the sacred cruor hath anointed, poured from the Body of the Lamb).

After the general Communion on Good Friday was restored in the nineteen fifties (yes, it had been a custom in many places both in East and West - interestingly, the Byzantines once had a Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday, but no longer; and in Westphalia for example there was a general Communion at the Roman Missa Præsanctificatorum on Good Friday during the Baroque period), three collects were added at the end of the ceremony (and another at the start – it seems to me unfortunately, since these four wholesome prayers do detract from the sober solemnity by trying to express what was better left unsaid), and the last of these contains the phrase Christus, Filius tuus, per suum cruorem, instituit paschale mysterium (Christ, Thy Son, by His cruor, instituted the paschal mystery).

The famous Exsultet of the Paschal Vigil contains the words Qui pro nobis æterno Patri Adae debi- turn solvit: et veteris piaculi cautionem pio cruore detersit – that is, "Who for us to the eternal Father paid the debt of Adam: and cancelled the ancient guilt by [His] pious cruor."

Furthermore, the Eastertide Vesper hymn Ad cenam Agni providi originally contained the words (sadly altered by classicising revisers in the early 17th C.) cruorem roseum / gustando, Dei vivimus – "and tasting of the roseate gore, we live to God."

At Lauds on the 1st of July, being the Feast of the Most Precious Blood (hmm… to an outsider, this  phrase might sound odd, reminiscent of that Gothic potboiler Varney the Vampire, or, The Feast of Blood), the hymn contains the lines Quot scissa pellis undique / Stillat cruoris guttulas! (In English verse, "From His torn Flesh how red a shower / Did round His sacred Person fall!"

 The Stabat Mater meanwhile contains the verse Fac me plagis vulnerari, / Fac me Cruce inebriari, / Et cruore Filii. (Make me to be wounded with [His] Wounds, Make me to be inebriated with the Cross, And with [Thy] Son's cruor.) This appears in English verse as "Wounded with His every Wound, Steep my soul till it hath swooned In His very Blood away."

An update – having leafed through the relevant pages of Jungmann's Missarum Solemnia, vol. II, I find that the Missal of Troyes (c. 1050) gives the following prayers at reception of the Sacrament: Ecce Jesu benignissime (a rarely used text from the Acts of the Martyrdom of St Agnes), then Ave in ævum sanctissima caro, mea in perpetuum summa dulcedo (ævum being an alternative to æternum, and similarly for the second phrase compared to the text I cited above), Perceptio Corporis (a shortened form of the pre-communion prayer still in the Roman Missal), Ave in æternum cælestis potus, mihi ante omnia et super omnia dulcis (rather than summa dulcedo as above) and finally Cruor ex latere D.N.J.C. mihi indigno maneat ad salutem et proficiat ad remedium animæ meæ in vitam æternum. Amen. This last prayer may be rendered as "Cruor (i.e. Blood from wounds, or, Gore) from the side of Our Lord Jesus Christ for unworthy me abide unto salvation and profit unto a remedy of my soul in life eternal. Amen." So cruor has been used in such a sense in the Liturgy.

It seems to me that Ave, cruor Christi might be acceptable as devout Latin: any comments gratefully received.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Same Collect, Different Collect

Having read the Collect of Advent Sunday quite a number of times in the Breviary this week, I was intrigued to hear it read in English at morning Mass at Carmel today, Friday the 6th (since sadly St Nicholas was not commemorated, his being but an optional celebration in the modern West):
Stir up your power, we pray, O Lord, and come, that with you to protect us, we may find rescue from the pressing dangers of our sins, and with you to set us free, we may be found worthy of salvation. Who live and reign…
This struck me as a very able rendering of the Latin:
Excita, quæsumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: ut ab imminentibus peccatorum periculis, te mereamur protegente eripi, te liberante salvari: Qui vivis et regnas…
However, the traditional Collect of St Nicholas – not reproduced in the Novus Ordo – was evidently a little too strongly worded for sensitive moderns, despite the great need the sinners of this age have of it:
Deus, qui beatum Nicolaum Pontificem innumeris decorasti miraculis: tribue, quæsumus; ut, ejus meritis et precibus, a gehennæ incendiis liberemur. Per…
That is, 
O God, Who didst adorn the blessed pontiff Nicholas with miracles uncountable, grant, we beg, that, by his merits and prayers, we may be delivered from the fires of hell. Through…
It saddens me to find that what our wicked and sinful age stands most in need of – above all, to be spared Hell, and at the intercession of the saints to be saved through Christ at the last – to have been by overly contented "experts" judged too controversial, when, given the slaughters and every vile crime of the past century, one would think there to be abundant motivation to utter such a plea daily.

As usual, Vetus melius est, "The old is better" – and we have the authority of Pope Francis for calling the traditional Roman Rite the Vetus Ordo, and hence my referring this text of the Gospels to the same.

May I extend to the Russian Catholic parish of Holy Trinity – St Nicholas in Melbourne, every good wish for their patronal feast: though, of course, as they keep to the Julian calendar, they will not serve the Divine Liturgy in his honour until the 19th of December according to the Gregorian.

I note that their services contains a similar prayer to St Nicholas (the 2nd troparion after the heirmos of the 2nd Canon of the 4th Ode at Matins):
Standing before the throne of God, cease thou never to make earnest supplication in behalf of all of us, thy faithful servants, O wise and wondrous Nicholas, that we may be delivered from everlasting fire, from the enemy, from the wicked tongue, and from affliction.
May St Nicholas intercede for us with Christ God, that He save our souls.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sixth Anniversary

I began this blog six years ago, on the commemoration of St Sabbas; I then entrusted whatever good may come of this to his intercession, which I feel has not been profitless - thank you, dear saint! Dear readers, forgive any faults I may have committed, and do pray for me.

I have been busy this week with various matters, but foresee many new blessings in 2014. Now, I'd best get to sleep so as to arise in time for early Mass at Carmel.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

First Day of Summer, First Day of the New Year of Grace

A glorious first day of summer in Hobart: after our sung Latin Mass at St Canice for the first Sunday of Advent, we gathered outside for lunch and a meeting, in order to plan for the future of our Latin Mass Community, in response to His Grace's instructions to do so. A committee was formed, and, God willing, arrangements will be made to organise more Latin Masses in the future.

There was a good attendance at our Missa cantata, the servers and I did our best, and the choir sang well: I was especially taken with their rendering of Veni, veni, Emmanuel at the Offertory and the Advent Prose Rorate cæli desuper at Communion.

Of your charity, please pray that, as our limited resources may allow, we may give greater glory to God by our liturgical worship and by our evangelical witness to Christ and His Church, that more and more may come to love and serve the Lord.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A New Dogma with The Times Every Morning

William Ward – he of The Ideal of a Christian Church, a youthful work that so enraged Oxford as to have him stripped of his degrees; he who announced his conversion and his engagement on the same day – was so Ultramontane as to opine that, once Papal Infallibility was declared, he looked forward to reading a new dogmatic definition each morning in The Times. Thankfully, it appears that Pope Francis does not share so sanguine a view of Papal power, but regards such a naive notion as complete overreach:
Nor do I believe that the papal magisterium should be expected to offer a definitive or complete word on every question which affects the Church and the world.
— Evangelii Gaudium, 16.

This is the sort of sentiment held by every sound occupant of the See of Peter, and with which every true Catholic, not to say Traditionalist, should agree. Legal positivism is not a Christian philosophical standpoint, and the Pope is not a machine for the manufacture of dogma: he is to safeguard the deposit of faith, as its servant and not its master, let alone its maker!

Furthermore, the creeping centralisation of all dogmatic authority in Rome is actually a sad reflection on the increasing weakness of the varied episcopal, provincial and synodical authorities over the centuries: these having failed to do their duty, Rome has had to assume them. In Patristics one quotes from many and varied Fathers and councils, many of the former not being Popes, but local bishops, many of the latter being not ecumenical but local synods. Why no more? Is it because of their low quality, not to say tendency to heterodoxy, that we put no great store in the pronouncements of mere bishops, and why provincial synods no longer meet to deal with doctrinal issues, but instead live on in bureaucratic organs called episcopal conferences, which are no more than, indeed perhaps less than, the sum of their parts?

But stay: Pope Francis wants to reinvigorate the ancient and Catholic system, a very manifestation of subsidiary, that Catholic principle beloved of Bl John Paul II:
It is not advisable for the Pope to take the place of local Bishops in the discernment of every issue which arises in their territory. In this sense, I am conscious of the need to promote a sound “decentralization”.
— Evangelii Gaudium, 16.

And furthermore,
The Second Vatican Council stated that, like the ancient patriarchal Churches, episcopal conferences are in a position “to contribute in many and fruitful ways to the concrete realization of the collegial spirit”. Yet this desire has not been fully realized, since a juridical status of episcopal conferences which would see them as subjects of specific attributions, including genuine doctrinal authority, has not yet been sufficiently elaborated. Excessive centralization, rather than proving helpful, complicates the Church’s life and her missionary outreach.
— Evangelii Gaudium, 32.

Certainly the Curia is not known for its promptitude, and decentralization in a true and Catholic spirit of unity in one Faith is much to be desired, cæteris paribus; but I make bold to assert that there is an important difference between a true and proper local synod or council of bishops, and an episcopal conference: the latter is too often sunk in mundane discussions, rather than, say, as the synods and councils of old, trying cases of heresy, issuing doctrinal teachings on issues other than social justice, and promulgating binding canons for the churches (that is, dioceses) concerned.

I am sure that Pope Francis is not here trying to circumvent the rulings of his esteemed predecessor on the nature and scope of the authority of episcopal conferences, but rather is indicating the need to revive the ancient and too-long-neglected forms that worked so well in ages past, while adapting them in prudent fashion, making use of currently-existing forms.

But the real need, of course, is for a new crop of bishops like unto the sainted bishops of old, who were unafraid to believe and teach the Catholic Faith, and did not smilingly wink at dissent and ineluctable decline, but instead went out and converted the nations to Christ. As St Paul remarked, Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Compline and Benediction

Evening devotions and Benediction for the second day in a row – it reminds me of Hobart, or happy days in Melbourne; I could get used to this.

To-night, we had the last celebration for this year for our Gregorian chant choir, which was also a chance to fondly farewell Fr Allan, our devoted and good priest, who first established the choir at St Francis and ever since has nurtured it until now. Fr Allan is retiring in early January; we are quietly confident that the good work he has done in building up our parish, especially as regards the proper celebration of the sacred liturgy and fit music therefor, will continue to flourish and abound, given that our Archbishop is sending us a new priest.

But this evening – before the lengthy fraternal supper afterward – we first practised, then sung Compline, followed by a particularly elaborate Benediction, with the Christus vincit in procession beforehand, and, looking towards Advent, the Rorate cæli at exposition, and also another favourite, Jesu Redemptor omnium (verses extracted from the Christmas Vespers hymn) before reposition. Having left home at twenty past seven, I got back at twenty to eleven! God bless our priest, and our choir.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Rosary and Benediction

To mark the end of the Year of Faith, and to pay special homage to Christ the King – for, both here in Tasmania, and also overseas, the customary Eucharistic devotions of Corpus Christi were and are oft transferred to this time of year, given the weather – one of our priests, Fr Kene, kindly offered to give us Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament after the usual Monday night Rosary.

I was pressed into service as a server for Father, and managed to acquit myself without too much bumbling about (always a problem when serving in an unfamiliar sanctuary). We were and are all very grateful to Fr Kene, and he seemed pleased also. Deo volente, we hope that perhaps the weekly Rosary may occasionally be blessed with Benediction again...

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Second Nocturn

In the late pre-Conciliar period, Sunday Matins had its number of lessons reduced from nine to three; the three Scriptural lessons of the first Nocturn were retained (the third lesson being united to the second), but – foolishly – of the three homiletic lessons of the third Nocturn, commenting upon the Gospel of the day, only the first was retained (and, as it was oft but introductory to the main import of the commentary, this truncated passage is generally uninformative); and, worst of all, the Patristic lessons of the second Nocturn were completely omitted. 

It is doubtless in reaction to this too-radical reduction in the lessons read at Matins that the Council Fathers decreed that "The hour… shall be made up of fewer psalms and longer readings" (Sacrosanctum concilium, 89, c) and likewise ordered that "Readings excerpted from the works of the fathers, doctors, and ecclesiastical writers shall be better selected" (Sacrosanctum concilium, 92, b).

Having said Matins of this, the last Sunday of the Church's year, I thought to see what the former readings of the second Nocturn were; and, turning first to a Monastic Breviary (having the same lessons, though with the first of them divided into two, since in the Benedictine Office Sunday Matins has not nine but twelve readings), then to a handy online translation after I had enjoyed the rich Latin translating the author's Greek, I thought to post this sobering passage, intended since it was written over 1600 years ago to act as an antidote to sin, by turning our thoughts to that most just and strict judgement we all of us shall face, when we depart this world:

Sermo sancti Basilii Magni in Psalmum trigesimum tertium. 
Cum te appetitus invaserit peccandi, velim cogites horribile illud et intolerabile Christi tribunal, in quo præsidebit judex in alto et excelso throno; astabit autem omnis creatura, ad gloriosum illius conspectum contremiscens. Adducendi etiam nos sumus singuli, eorum quae in vita gesserimus rationem reddituri. 
Mox illis, qui multa mala in vita perpetrarint, terribiles quidam et deformes assistent angeli, igneos vultus præ se ferentes atque ignem spirantes, ea re propositi et voluntatis acerbitatem ostendentes, nocti vultu similes, propter mærorem et odium in humanum genus.
Ad hæc cogites profundum barathrum, inextricabiles tenebras, ignem carentem splendore, urendi quidem vim habentem, sed privatum lumine: deinde vermium genus venenum immittens, et carnem vorans, inexplebiliter edens neque umquam saturitatem sentiens, intolerabiles dolores corrosione ipsa infigens: postremo, quod suppliciorum omnium gravissimum est, opprobrium illud et confusionem sempiternam. Hæc time, et hoc timore correptus animam a peccatorum concupiscentia tamquam freno quodam reprime.
Hunc timorem Domini se docturum propheta promisit. Docere autem non simpliciter promisit, sed eos, qui eum audire voluerint: non eos, qui longius prolapsi sunt, sed qui salutem appetentes accurrunt: non alienos a promissionibus, sed ex baptismate filiorum adoptionis verbo ipsi conciliatos atque conjunctos. Propterea, Venite, inquit, hoc est, per bona opera accedite ad me, filii, quippe qui per regenerationem filii lucis effici digni facti estis: audite, qui aures cordis habetis apertas; timorem Domini docebo vos [Ps. 33, 12]: illum scilicet, quem paulo ante oratione nostra descripsimus. 
[From] the Sermon of St Basil the Great, upon the Thirty-third Psalm.
Whenever the desire to sin cometh over thee, I would that thou couldest think of the awful and overwhelming judgment-seat of Christ. There the Judge shall sit upon a throne high and lifted up. Every creature shall stand before Him, quaking because of the glory of His presence. There are we to be led up, one by one, to give account for those things which we have done in life. 
Presently there will be found, by the sides of those who have in life wrought much evil, dreadful and hideous angels with faces of fire, and burning breath, appointed thereto, and showing their evil will, in appearance like the night, in their despair and hatred of mankind. 
Think again of the bottomless pit, the impenetrable darkness, the lightless fire, burning, but not glowing, the poisonous mass of worms, preying upon the flesh, ever feeding, and never filled, causing by their gnawing unbearable agony; lastly, the greatest punishment of all, shame and confusion for ever. Have a dread of these things, and let that dread correct thee, and be as a curb to thy mind to hold it in from the hankering after sin.
This fear of the Lord the Prophet hath promised to teach. But he hath not promised to teach it to all, but only to such as will hear him, not to such as have fallen far away, but to such as run to him, hungry for salvation, not to such as have no part in the promises, but to such as by baptism are born children of adoption, set at peace and oneness with the Word. Come, ye children, saith he, that is to say, Draw nigh unto me by good works, all ye who by the new birth have become the worthy children of light, hearken unto me, all ye who have the ears of your heart opened, I will teach you the fear of the Lord, [Ps 33:12] even the fear of that Being of Whom we have just been speaking.

As the Byzantine Liturgy sings time and again,

Christianum vitæ nostræ finem, sine dolore et dedecore, pacificam, et bonam ante terribile tribunal Christi defensionem [a Domino] petamus. — Concede, Domine.  
For a Christian, painless, unashamed, peaceful end of our life, and for a good defence before the fearsome judgment‐seat of Christ, let us beseech [the Lord]. — Grant this, O Lord. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Visiting Priest

A friend of mine from the Mainland, recently ordained, came and spent a few days here while on holiday; it was great to – finally – receive his first blessing as a new priest, and to attend his Masses here, which he offered at Carmel each morning, kindly allowing the local priests to have a short respite from their usual duties; and I think it gladdened the hearts of many parishioners to see a young priest, especially when last night he joined us for a dinner in honour of our own beloved Fr Allan, who is just about to retire, aged eighty: it is reassuring to see one generation following another. Of your charity, pray for all priests, that they may well and truly serve God and His holy people.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

St Gertrude the Great

St Gertrude, mystic and prophetess, ornament of the Benedictine order, is a favourite saint of mine – would that I had relied more on her powerful prayers. I noticed to-day that her Collect in the Monastic Breviary (which has a whole proper Office for her feast) is subtly different to that in the Roman Breviary:

Deus, qui in purissimo corde beatæ Gertrudis Virginis tuæ jucundam tibi habitationem præparasti: ejus meritis et intercessione cordis nostri maculas clementer absterge; ut digna divinæ majestatis tuæ habitatio effici mereatur. Per...

Deus, qui in corde beatæ Gertrudis Virginis jucundam tibi mansionem præparasti: ipsius meritis et intercessione; cordis nostri maculas clementer absterge, et ejusdem tribue gaudere consortio. Per…

I wonder which is the original, since they are obviously different versions of the same prayer; the Monastic appears to be the longer, but also to have a more unified theme as it were, so perhaps the Roman is a condensed edition.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Back to the Rosary

When I walked my dogs round to visit the pets of some friends of mine, I was invited to come along to the Monday evening Rosary at Apostles (the Church thereof, the original and main church in Launceston) – it seemed impolite to refuse, so I did so on Monday; and, having joined them and found great consolation therein, how I castigate myself for not having come along months ago, when, for the Year of Faith, they and others first revived this weekly devotion.

For how long have I, each morning, donned the scapular and slipped the rosary beads into my pocket, but neglected to say the latter or even think much about the former. How neglectful I have been, in this as in many other respects: thank God some fraternal correction has intervened – what a grace!

It was good to be there: to pray with others (there was a good number, over a dozen I seem to recall), to kneel before the altar, with an icon of Our Lady displayed on a stand flanked by candles, a basket before it into which written petitions could be added: "We fly to thy patronage, O Holy Mother of God…"

All were provided with handsome booklets, and beads were available for those without their own. After the usual prayers to the Holy Ghost (Veni, sancte Spiritus… Emitte Spiritum tuum… Deus, qui corda fidelium… as I know them in Latin)  and the Memorare (a favourite Marian prayer of mine), one of the group led the Rosary (five decades, this week using the Luminous Mysteries, each briefly introduced), then the Litany of Loreto, and we concluded our half hour in common with the prayer to St Michael Archangel.

As before I reproached myself for, until just recently, neglecting daily Mass and the Office, so I must do the same as regards the Rosary; I have resolved to say it after Vespers, and may the Blessed Virgin interceding with her Son gain us such grace that I and many others may both say the Rosary and, meditating on its mysteries, obtain what they promise.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Restore the House of Assembly

Given the expected vote for a change of government when Tasmanians next go to the polls in March 2014, I would propose that the new House of Assembly take up the important matter of electoral reform. 

Now, the Legislative Council has ever fulfilled its role of a properly and admittedly conservative check on the more progressive tendencies of the House; and to this end, each year a few of its fifteen members are chosen anew in local elections, so that all Legislative Councillors serve six year terms; the Council itself cannot be dissolved nor can its veto over legislation be overruled; and, uniquely in Australia, nearly all of its members are independent, and not members of any political party.

Given the fact that it works admirably, and has been but little changed since 1856 (a portrait of the young Queen Victoria still looks down upon the Council), with such minor reforms as the introduction of preferential voting in 1907, the breaking up of its two multi-member electorates in 1946, the gradual expansion of its franchise to full adult suffrage in 1968, and the equalisation of the number of voters in each electorate in 1998 (when also the original number of fifteen members was reinstated, after having slowly grown to nineteen), it seems to require no tampering with, but instead high praise.

However, the same cannot be said of the House of Assembly. This began with thirty members, a number that increased slightly, then was restored to thirty in 1907, albeit with the then-beneficial redivision of the State into five multimember electorates, each returning six members by the Hare-Clark system of proportional representation. Given the fine balance between Labor and Liberal, sometimes causing the House to be divided fifteen-fifteen, the number of members was increased to thirty-five in 1959, with seven elected per division.

But the rise of the Greens, and the consequent fracturing of politics in Tasmania, led to a somewhat cynical reduction in the number of members to twenty-five, with only five elected per division, in 1998, with the hope that minor parties would less likely hold the balance of power – though that has continued to occur, as demonstrated by the current presence of Greens as cabinet ministers. Worse still, in a House with only twenty-five members, the Government members may number thirteen or less (as presently), resulting in a distinct dearth of talent.

The time has come to secure stable, majority government for Tasmania, since minority government, though beloved of minor parties and those elements who vote for them, has proven deleterious to the State - as I would confidently predict the coming landslide victory for the previously not well regarded Liberals will confirm, given public displeasure at the continuing train wreck of a Labor minority Government in a marriage of convenience with the Greens: a Government more concerned with giving civil recognition to unnatural liaisons, and facilitating the murder of the unborn, elderly and ill, than with more mainstream priorities, such as diminishing the number of persons on welfare by in all ways assisting the economy to grow, that the dignity of gainful employment be extended to all (a human right more valuable than a pretended ability to marry oddly or just give up and die). Premier Giddings, after all, is but Gillard writ small (not literally, but figuratively).

I therefore propose - and hope I am not alone in so doing - that the House of Assembly mutatis mutandis return to its state before 1907, and abandon its distinctive but fatally flawed Hare-Clark electoral system (since proportional representation, while fine in theory, has produced weak coalition governments for too long in recent decades).

Instead, let thirty single-member electorates be established: a simple way to do so would be to divide each of the Legislative Council electorates into equal halves, so there will be the same number of electors in each, as near as may be. These would then be used henceforth to elect the House of Assembly at each future general election. This would bring the electoral system of the House into conformity with that in every other State, and the Northern Territory too, leaving only the ACT still beholden to the questionable blessings of proportional representation.

I make no apologies for the fact that this return of the House of Assembly to what was its basic structure for its first fifty years (though using preferential voting as elsewhere in Australia for the lower house of each parliament) would both guarantee a workable majority for the winning party, and eliminate the bad influence of the Greens in State politics. There would ensue the wailing and the gnashing of teeth, no doubt (no teeth? teeth will be provided!).

I can but confess my Schadenfreude at the upset this would deliver to the secularist elite. There is something sanctimonious and irritating about the holier-than-thou attitude of the Greens, redolent of the Pharisees of old: I felt sorry for Prime Minister Gillard having to sit through weekly sermons delivered by Senator Brown, I mean meetings between her and him. No doubt symbolic protests by the self-consciously left-wing and unemployed would be mounted to no effect whatsoever; and the usual suspects would wail and whine in the Fairfax media, while the Murdoch press would gloat: c'est la vie.

Jokes aside, there is every prospect that the Legislative Council would gladly vote in favour of such a reform, as would the Liberals in the House (and maybe even the Labor members too, though I assume they would secretly delight in thus disposing of their parasitic coalition partners, while publicly lamenting such an affront to democracy: it would be a strategy best designed to secure them sympathy and future votes).

Preferential voting would all but guarantee that whichever major party won a majority of the two-party-preferred vote would gain a majority, and a clear one at that, in each future general election for the House: and that both Labor and Liberal would be mighty pleased about. I do hope that common sense prevails and this my speculation comes to pass.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Good News, Tassie Traddies!

The text following was distributed to-day as a printout to those attending our monthly Missa cantata:

Anna Greener and Tony Robbie met with His Grace, Archbishop Porteous[,] on Friday 1 Nov. The following points came out of this meeting:
  • Archbishop Porteous is very supportive of our Community and would like to assist us to become a Parish in our own right. This would then mean that we would be able to celebrate all the Sacraments in the Tridentine Rite[.]
  • This cannot take place until we are able to find a Priest to regularly minister to our Community. His Grace is in the process of attempting to find a Priest for us but would welcome any suggestions of Priests who may be prepared to take on this role. He is very happy for us to have Mass said as often as we can find someone to say it for us.
  • He is happy for the proceeds of our offertory to be used to support the running of our Community, although there are administrative details to be sorted out[.]
  • He gives us his blessing as a Community and assures us that he will actively support us expressing our Faith in the traditional rite[.]
Anna Greener
Tony Robbie

Please join us in giving thanks to God for His Grace's support, and pray that this venture may prove fruitful. It is vital that our financial contributions suffice to support a priest to minister to our Latin Mass Community, so we must henceforth be even more generous…

I understand that to begin with arrangements will be made to have a Latin Mass each fortnight, beginning in December.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

First Sunday Latin Mass

How good to be at the Extraordinary Form two Sundays running… I will soon head south to Hobart, there to take my place as (the world's worst) M.C. at our State's one and only Missa cantata. It's a long weekend, so it will be nice to relax on Monday as well.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cross-Fertilization; or, Hybrid Vigour

According to the Missale Cartusiense (1981), which sets out the modern Carthusian form of the Roman Mass, when those holy religious celebrate Mass, amongst other peculiarities, they normally say the Eucharistic Prayer secretly (unless at a concelebration, for example), and for obvious reasons there are no Memorial Acclamations included in their form of Mass; also, at the end of Mass, the Carthusian priest still says the Placeat (in the form proper to the Order).

Now, in the new form of Mass drawn up for the use of the Ordinariates, a larger array of Traditional elements are now incorporated into this particular form of the modern Roman Rite. Most notably, at the choice of the celebrant, Mass may begin with the old prayers at the foot of the altar (strangely ending with Aures tuæ pietatis in place of Aufer a nobis), the former form of the Offertory may be used, and the Last Gospel may be read. The embolism after the Lord's Prayer follows the immemorial wording, although using the modern doxology; there is a threefold repetition of the Domine, non sum dignus; and the words of administration of the Sacrament closely resemble the traditional formulæ. Furthermore, rubrics direct the making the sign of the Cross at the end of the Gloria in excels is, genuflecting at the mention of the Incarnation in the Creed and making the sign of the Cross at the end of the Creed, and at the Benedictus, genuflecting again at the mention of the enfleshment of the Word in the Last Gospel.

Combining these noteworthy features of both variants, a list of desired options and reforms for implementation at Mass throughout the whole modern Roman Rite can be drawn up: it would constitute a real cross-fertilisation of the Ordinary with the Extraordinary Form, producing a new offspring possessed of hybrid vigour.

Ought not someone draw up a petition, and implore the Vatican to reform the liturgical reform by providing such a supplemented and corrected Order of Mass?

The Royal Office

Why did Pius XI of happy memory appoint the last Sunday of October to be the Feast of the Kingship of Christ? He tells us in his encyclical: it is the Sunday before All Saints day. I recalled this when reading Matins of All Saints this morning, since the Invitatory for All Saints is:
Regem regum Dóminum veníte adorémus: * Quia ipse est coróna Sanctórum ómnium.
(The Lord, the King of kings, come let us worship: * For He is the crown of all the Saints.)
Compare this to the Invitatory of Christus Rex:
Jesum Christum, Regem regum: * Veníte, adorémus.
(Jesus Christ, the King of kings: * Come, let us worship.)
Just so, in the Byzantine Office, likewise inspired by Psalm 94, the cry resounds before reading the Psalter at each Hour:
O come let us worship and bow down to the King our God.
O come let us worship and bow down to Christ the King our God.
O come let us worship and bow down to Christ Himself the King and our God.
Most fittingly, before we celebrate the combined feast of all the triumphant citizens of the heavenly realm, the celestial kingdom, we first worship Our Lord Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords: this seems to be the motive behind Pius XI's choice of the last Sunday in October for the new feast he instituted. 

On all feasts, singing Te Deum we confess that Tu Rex gloriæ, Christe – Thou art the King of glory, O Christ.

From His royal office derives our share therein, as St Leo the Great declaims at Christmas: Agnoscere, o Christiane, dignitatem tuam! – O Christian, know thy dignity! For we are sons and daughters of the Most High King, and have in prospect a heavenly inheritance: once we have conquered, by the grace of His conquest, we shall sit with Him on His and His Father's throne.

Hence the last of the blessings for Matins of nine lessons is:
Ad societatem civium supernorum perducat nos Rex Angelorum. Amen.
(To the company of the citizens above may the King of Angels bring us. Amen.)
Of course, every day in the Roman Breviary, we salute Christ the King at Prime, when praying the following prayer:
Dirigere et sanctificare, regere et gubernare dignáre, Dómine Deus, Rex cæli et terræ, hódie corda et córpora nostra, sensus, sermónes et actus nostros in lege tua, et in opéribus mandatórum tuórum: ut hic et in ætérnum, te auxiliante, salvi et liberi esse mereámur, Salvátor mundi: Qui vivis et regnas in sǽcula sæculórum. Amen. 
(Deign to direct and sanctify, rule and govern, Lord God, King of heaven and earth, today our hearts and bodies, our senses, words and actions, in Thy law and in the works of Thy commandments: that here and in eternity, Thou assisting, we may merit to be saved and set free, O Saviour of the world: Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.)
This short prayer to do God's will, addressed to the royal Son of God, is as it were a daily reconsecration of our selves, our souls and bodies, to Christ the King.

The transfer of this feast in the modern Roman Rite to the last Sunday before Advent has had the unfortunate effect of spiritualising away the social reign of Christ, making it but a private devotion to an eschatological hope – whereas it ought be a foretaste here and now of, and a spur to work to bring about imperfectly here below, what is ever perfect: since as every Collect sings, with His Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, He liveth and reigneth world without end.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

So slack and lazy

Mea culpa: having, finally, taken the beam out of my eye, I see clearly how slack and lazy I've been about my spiritual life. For, while the Holy Mass and Divine Office are my two great devotions, I have been remiss about going to the former (except on Sundays of course!) and about reciting the latter.

Ever since moving back to Tasmania, I have found it difficult to get to daily Mass – firstly, because I'd become so used to going to the Extraordinary Form (my definite and settled preference, for so many clear and cogent reasons) that I found return to the Novus Ordo very trying; but, secondly, since the only daily Mass that fits my work schedule is the early Mass at Carmel, and I prefer sleeping in, quite frankly.

Now Mass is Mass, the same Christ our God is offered and received as our all-prevailing Sacrifice and lasting Peace; and the presence of the holy nuns at Carmel puts priests on their best behaviour (so one who slumps in a chair and confects the Eucharist on a coffee table in his own parish tries to celebrate properly, not sloppily, in the nuns' chapel), so, while ideally I'd prefer Introibo ad altare Dei, I can cope, and fondly imagine an ad orientem liturgy; and the new translation renders the Latin well, so I don't need to bring along Fr Z's translations any more, nor read along in the Latin of the Ordinary.

But how slumber makes one forgetful of one's higher calling! Yet, as an Old Believer Canon of Preparation for Holy Communion sings (in Ode 3, troparion 3), "The preacher crieth out and commandeth us always to come to the House of God; let us not be lazy, but let us hasten now, for the time is at hand." Yes, in the words of that golden book, The Imitation of Christ, I will confess myself "So wakeful for tales, so drowsy at the sacred vigils" (Book IV, chapter 7): over the past years, I have in the main risen for work at seven or later, too late to get to Mass; and thus I've become disengaged from what ought be my priority.

As I wrote in my missal in a first flush of piety when at University, "I will always be thankful for the Mass, and put the Mass first in my life". What a shame to repeat these words and consider how I have neglected them! From being a daily or near-daily Mass-goer, for the past five years I've rarely gone to daily Mass, except while on holiday, strangely enough, and for a period last year, I think, when I got back into the habit - and then gave it away.

Now I am fearful that, having just resumed getting up at six and going to daily Mass, I will soon slacken off and reject the offer of grace again. As St Philip Neri taught his followers to say, "Do not trust me, Lord, for this day I will betray thee". Judas has more followers.

How did I manage to make a sudden, and, I beg and pray, a lasting change (as time will tell)? - by going on the Christus Rex Pilgrimage, and returning to my senses. On pilgrimage, I got up at five thirty every morning, in order to be ready for our early start each day: and the mornings are beautiful. I resolved – God grant I keep it – to get up with the dawn and go to Mass. Nowadays, when I open my curtains just after six, the sky is bright and soon the sun rises to the south-east, casting a beautiful glow over all things.

The second item so needful to me and yet so neglected has been the Breviary. Again, I must accept the rebuke of Thomas à Kempis, upbraiding me from beyond the grave with being "So negligent in saying thy office" (Im. Christi, IV, 7). I said the modern Divine Office for years; when in Perth, I switched to the Breviary – and since moving back to godless Tasmania, I've slipped further and further away from both. At one stage, I used the Little Office; but even that I gave up.

Any more slackness and I wouldn't have remembered God at all. As it was, I have become disengaged from the liturgical year, the true Year of the Lord, the year of salvation, with feasts even of apostles and evangelists slipping by unnoticed, seeing a reference to sundry celebrations even of the Lord and His Mother only by reference to reading blogs online after they had passed, and the words of the Venite being proven all too true: "if to-day you should hear His voice, harden not your hearts".

Oh, so the Divine Office is too long? I said it daily for years, and it takes less than half an hour. Oh, so the Breviary is a burden insuperable? Yet I said the Hours thereof while working full-time when in Perth, I said it while on pilgrimage this weekend past, and now am again fitting it into my schedule (I said Matins and Lauds before Mass this morning and the morning before quite easily).

I am angry at myself for listening to the siren voice of laziness and slackness, which is really the flesh, not to mention the world and the Devil, luring one down to Hell: a most beguiling journey. And it is entirely unsurprising that, daily Mass and Breviary gone, even the Angelus unsaid, and my other prayers neglected, or haphazardly said sometimes but less and less frequently, I find myself more sinful, judgemental, selfish, slack, nastier, coarser, and worse off. The Devil laughs to lead us astray, promising nothing in return.

As St Augustine taught, if we do not make continual progress in the spiritual life, then we begin to go backwards. My backsliding has been most wretched. At least I have kept going to confession, else God knows how practically atheistic I would have become. But frankly my love of what is holy is so caught up with receiving our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and singing God's praises in the psalms, that if I but weekly (yes, weakly) partake of the one, and less and less (indeed, hardly ever) of the other, then I turn from the Divinity towards the wretchedness of secularity.

A wise Dominican, Fr Gregory, told me that the last thing to do if one loses one's faith is to stop praying and stop going to Mass, since that is when one needs most of all to say one's prayers and go to Mass! But all unawares I have been praying less and less, and going to Mass less and less – tempting me to live a less and less Catholic life, tempting God, in fact, by spurning the great helps He provides by prayer and the sacraments, rejecting His graces, and preparing my soul to lose the little it has.

Now, thanks be to God that I have always had a strong Faith, ever since I received the grace of a real conversion of heart while a young man at University, and I cannot but believe (though, Christ absolve me, sometimes I have dared wish I didn't) – but I tremble when I think of how throughout my adolescence I hardly went to church, never went to confession, and held many erroneous notions, issuing in despairing thoughts. It was God's grace that delivered me then, lead me into the goodness and truth of orthodoxy, and spurred me on; but the old man is not dead, and my spiritual life has not been in a good way for a long time.

Dear readers, please pray for me, a sinner, that these good resolutions I have made, and the baby steps I have taken, may please God form again the good habits I have lost, to my enduring benefit. I hope this public rebuke of myself may remain fresh in my mind, and force me not to shame myself by going back on my word.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A New Priest, Deo gratias

Excellent news just to hand: while, sadly, our esteemed parish priest, Fr Allan Hartcher, OFM, is about to retire to Sydney at the end of this year (he is now eighty), our new Archbishop has persuaded Cardinal Pell to release a Sydney priest, Fr Martin Aye Ngwe, to come south and become the new priest administrator of West Tamar parish – so the church won't close as we feared it would, Deo gratias!

Internet searches reveal that Fr Martin is a learned and orthodox priest, proof of which, if aught were needed, is the way the notoriously dreadful Bishop of Broken Bay, of whom I have heard so much that is unpleasant and uncatholic, treated him so badly as to drive him to transfer to Sydney, a part of the Church more happily united to Rome in one faith than the former. (In a better world, Walker would have been deposed just as Morris was, but his time is almost up in any case.)

I am indebted to Jadwiga, a stalwart of the parish, who suggested we make a novena to St Francis to obtain a new parish priest: it's certainly worked, all thanks to "Holy Uncle Frank"! I just said the Te Deum in thanksgiving, and invite all readers to do the same, and to offer up prayers that Fr Martin will prove an ornament to our parish, and a wise shepherd of souls, as I fully expect he will be. Priests who have suffered are always holier and kindlier than those who have not; and no good priest even gets ordained without enduring many crosses.

Pilgrimage Mementos

Three special blessings of this year's Christus Rex Pilgrimage: the first blessings of two new priests – that of Bendigo's Fr Ashley Caldow on Friday (who was ordained on the 14th of September) and that of Ballarat's Fr James Kerr on Saturday (ordained on the 6th of September) – and the chance to attend what must be a first for this pilgrimage, the wedding on the Monday morning after (that is, yester-day the 28th of October) of two pilgrims, Jacob and Esther.

I say ad multis annos to all of them, and wish for them what my old parish priest, Bp Jarrett, told me ages ago: that happily married couples are the best role models and supports to the vocation of priests, and holy priests happy in their vocation are likewise the best examples and helps to husband and wife.

The two new priests kindly distributed holy cards as mementos of their ordination, seeking prayers; it strikes me that perhaps married couples ought do the same thing, and not merely provide a booklet for the wedding – for prayer is the great underpinning of all.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Returning crowned with triumph from the fray

A pilgrimage is symbolic of life's journey, that hard march we pray may lead from earth to heaven by God's grace, won for us by Christ on Calvary, Who promises immarcescible crowns to those who, taking up their crosses and following Him, Who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, are proven faithful to Him Who is always faithful, persevering by grace until the end, and who shall be found in Him at the last.

In the scheme of things, the merely natural achievement of walking a certain distance is a minor matter; but, supernaturally speaking (for even to pick up a pin for the love of God is a great act), to join in prayer and penance, to rejoice in and to proclaim the Catholic Faith, to be instructed by sermons and sanctified by the sacraments – all of which blessings the Christus Rex Pilgrimage makes available – is beneficial indeed.

I stole the title of this post from an beautiful Eucharistic hymn, translated by Caswall from the 1686 Cluniac Breviary's Hoste dum victo triumphans: 'tis the Patriarch Abraham, our father in faith, who was returning after defeating kings in battle; and was met by the Priest-King Melchisedech, prefiguring the supreme and eternal High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ the King.

But I dare to apply the words to all the Christus Rex pilgrims, hopefully now nearly all back to their homes (as I am to mine, having returned a few hours ago): for, if not slaying enemy potentates, we certainly conquered the long miles from Ballarat to Bendigo, whether we walked every step or not, and shared in the triumphant celebration of the feast of the Kingship of Christ, Who lives and reigns world without end; and whatever hardships – lack of sleep, hard ground, blisters, the sun, the wind, the rain, long stretches of roadside to tread – we accepted in penance, we pray may avail somewhat for the remission of the punishment due to sins, and also avail as suffrages to help expiate the sins of others: and we met our Eucharistic Lord, in the Communion, in the Sacrifice, and in the person of His priests, the ministers of His that do His will.

This pilgrimage, I think I especially felt the importance of the support of the priests who supported us along the way (ten in all, plus the Bishops of Ballarat and Bendigo who blessed the beginning and completion of our way, and Bishop Elliot, who sang the Pontifical High Mass on Sunday). Fr Mannes, O.P., whom I've known for years, and of course Fr Rowe, my parish priest when I lived in Western Australia, not to mention all the others by name, from whose kindness and wise words I derived no little profit, were very good to see again – and I took the opportunity to serve Fr Rowe's Low Masses each day of the pilgrimage, as well as to have him hear my confession; on the Sunday, I even had the privilege of serving Fr Arthur's Low Mass as well. 

(As an aside, since I've M.C.'d Missæ cantatæ each month for ages, but haven't had the chance to serve at Low Mass for ages, for the first two such I unthinkingly knelt on the same side as the Missal, forgetting that at Low Mass the rule is always to be on the opposite side, while when M.C. at sung Mass one stands by the Missal in order to assist the priest. Ah well.)

Since I did spend more time than heretofore acting as a server, I didn't walk every stage of each day; which worked out well, since on Friday afternoon my good walking shoes, just repaired in order to employ them on the pilgrimage, were soaked by a downpour, which meant I had to switch to my too-tight reserve pair from then on (which made my little toes blister), and also I suffered the ill effects of a slightly upset stomach...

However, I increasingly recognize that everyone plays their part and rightly so: do not the volunteers who cook, clean, drive cars towing portaloos and do all else not merit quite as much as the walkers? and do not those who form the choir that sang so marvellously both chant and polyphony at our daily High Masses (the music was sublime: Palestrina's Sicut cervus featured both on Sunday and at this morning's Mass, and it was most moving), and those who practised, prepared and then served at those solemn rites, not likewise gain great reward for all their pains?

This has been my fifth pilgrimage; I spoke with two seasoned pilgrims who participated in the first, and I am committed to every year returning till I too have done twenty or more! It really is the spiritual (and also social) highlight of the year, I feel: a sort of retreat on the move; but also a time of good cheer (and beer: I did enjoy the usual refreshments at the Newstead pub on the Saturday night, chatting with Tony, Vicki, Lyle, Nicholas my very distant relative, and so on and so forth). So many good people I know come along, and who live scattered across Australia and beyond, whom I rarely see otherwise; catching up with them is great.

This pilgrimage, also, having not walked every step, I had the leftover energy to do what I fear I have too long neglected, and that is to return to the Roman Breviary, and read the full Office each day, including today (I must turn to Vespers soon), and I pray hereafter... I also have resolved to go to daily Mass again, something that, because of the need to arise and hear Mass at an early hour before work, I have fallen away from, yet which I know I need to sustain me. Do pray I may keep this year's Christus Rex resolutions!

A beautiful and unexpected coda to the pilgrimage was the revelation that Monday's High Mass at Bendigo Cathedral was to be a nuptial Mass – for two of the pilgrims, Jacob and Esther, having courted and become engaged beforehand, had arranged to celebrate their wedding on the day after the feast of Christ the King: and what a delight I felt, along with all the other pilgrims who attended, to join with their family and friends in celebrating their holy union.

As always, the five days (including travelling to Ballarat on Thursday, registering as a pilgrim, and then unexpectedly having dinner with my old friends Anna and Anthony, together with Simon and Anna and their girls) have passed too quickly, but as McAuley's hymn puts it, "to that world we must return, / sharing in its hope and labour, / bringing to it Christ's concern / for our neighbour".

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

To-morrow, free from work (Adam's curse), I head off to Ballarat to join those longing to go on pilgrimage: just after six o'clock on Friday morning, we will gather together, assemble in the Cathedral to be blessed, then march off, the Church militant in miniature... God willing, weary miles later, we will reach Bendigo, and its Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, mid-afternoon on Sunday, where His Lordship Bishop Elliot will sing Pontifical Mass at the faldstool in honour of Christ the King.

Please pray for all those participating, and join with our prayers and penances for the greater glory of God, the salvation of souls, the liberty and exaltation of our Holy Mother the Church and the extension to all hearts and lands of the reign of Christ the King, the Prince of Peace. In particular, pray for the curbing of the recent devastating bushfires, for those cruelly afflicted thereby, and for those fighting them; and for the effectual suppression of the wickedness of those dupes of Satan currently promoting immoral laws for unnatural unions, various forms of murder, and the like; and that those who would fain compass their own and society's destruction be brought to a better mind, converted and saved.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bushfires Scar New South Wales

Unseasonably early – some localities in the Blue Mountains had snow this time last year – the scourge of bushfire has struck New South Wales, with hundreds of homes already incinerated, and fears of still worse fire weather to come, as the bushfires rage on: of your charity, please pray:

Hear our prayers, O God, for the efforts to quench the fires that rage in our land; and, sustaining our spirits, keep us graciously from all harm and give success to the work of our hands. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Roman Missal, Masses and Prayers for Various Needs and Occasions, 37/1 (in Australia)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Evolution of a Collect

On Thursday, I head off to join the Christus Rex Pilgrimage; Thursday, "Birthday of the Chalice", is the Day of the Institution of the Eucharist and the Priesthood – and reminds us that Christ is Priest as well as King: the One Eternal High Priest, and the King of the Universe.

While it was Pius XI who had a Votive Mass of Christ the Priest drawn up and inserted into the Roman Missal in 1935, and in many places (mainly Hispanophone) a Feast of Christ the Priest on the Thursday after Pentecost has been inserted into the modern Roman Calendar, with a revised proper most recently confirmed under Benedict XVI in 2012, this celebration of the Priesthood of Christ has a prehistory – for it is found as far back as 1686 in France, and featured prominently in the many different Neo-Gallican Breviaries and Missals.

The French Feast of the Priesthood of Our Lord Jesus Christ was, of course, not assigned to the Thursday after Pentecost, because in those happier days that was part of the Octave of Pentecost (though the Mass of Whit Thursday largely repeated that of Whitsunday, unlike the other days in the Octave): instead, it was assigned to the Octave Day of Corpus Christi, quite sensibly.  (In a few French dioceses, however, Christ the Priest was celebrated on the 2nd or 3rd Sunday of October – in one case, that of the diocese of Tréguier in Brittany, with an Octave.)

The Collect of the modern Feast of Christ the Priest (not that of the Votive in the Roman Missal, which is disfigured with a different and rather generic petition) is almost identical to the Collect of the 1935 Votive, but for the addition of three words (Spiritu Sancto largiente) and the omission of eumdem in the conclusion.

However, this Collect has its own prehistory: for it can be found in various stages of development in old French Breviaries – rather as fossils may tell a tale (please, no digs at evolutionary theories, that's so Protestant) – and it also illustrates the Neo-Gallican tendency to produce orations out of snippets of Holy Scripture (in this case, mainly from Hebrews, though the modern festal collect quotes instead from 1 Cor. iv, 1-2: "ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei... ut fidelis quis inveniatur"). 

Here are a succession of collects demonstrating their development, with new phrases in each stage underlined; I supply a painfully literal translation of my own poor devising for each prayer:

Form 2D (2012 Feast (OF))
Collect [=EF, with one addition, and deletion of eumdem]
Deus, qui ad majestatis tuæ gloriam et generis humani salutem, Unigenitum tuum Summum atque Æternum constituisti Sacerdotem, præsta, ut, Spiritu Sancto largiente, quos ministros et mysteriorum surorum dispensatores elegit, in accepto ministerio adimplendo fideles inveniantur. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum, qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia sæcula sæculorum.

(O God, Who to the glory of Thy Majesty and for the salvation of the human race didst constitute Thine Only-Begotten supreme and eternal Priest: grant, by the bountiful Holy Spirit, that those whom He hath chosen as ministers and stewards of His mysteries be found faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Through...)

Form 2C (1962 = 1935 Votive (EF))
Deus, qui ad majestatis tuæ gloriam et generis humani salutem, Unigenitum tuum summum atque æternum constituisti Sacerdotem: præsta; ut quos ministros et mysteriorum suorum dispensatores elegit in accepto ministerio adimplendo fideles inveniantur. Per eumdem...

(O God, Who to the glory of Thy Majesty and for the salvation of the human race didst constitute Thine Only-Begotten supreme and eternal Priest: grant; that those whom He hath chosen as ministers and stewards of His mysteries be found faithful in fulfilling the ministry they have received. Through the same...)

Form 2B (1770 Prop. Trecorensis)
Deus, qui ad majestatis tuæ gloriam et generis humani salutem unigenitum tuum summum constituisti sacerdotem: præsta ut quos mysteriorum suorum elegit cooperatores et dispensatores, ministerium quod acceperunt fideliter impleant. Per eumdem.

(O God, Who to the glory of Thy Majesty and for the salvation of the human race didst constitute Thine Only-Begotten the high Priest: grant; that those whom He hath chosen as co-workers and stewards of His mysteries, faithfully fulfil the ministry which they have received. Through the same...)

Form 2A (1784 Brev. Aniciense, but presumably earlier, as 2B derives from it)
Deus, qui ad majestatis tuæ gloriam, et generis humani salutem, Unigenitum tuum summum constituisti Sacerdotem: eique ad sacrificandum tibi hostiam mundam Sacerdotes ministros sociasti: præsta, ut omnes qui vocatione tam sancta dignati sunt, altari tuo devote ministrent, et seipsos hostiam vivam et sanctam offerre mereantur; Per eumdem.

(O God, Who to the glory of Thy Majesty and for the salvation of the human race didst constitute Thine Only-Begotten the high Priest: and didst associate with Him ministers, Priests to sacrifice unto Thee a pure victim; grant; that all who are worthy of such a holy calling, devoutly minister at Thine altar, and deserve to offer themselves as a living and holy victim. Through the same...)

Form 2 (1740 Diurnale Sagiense) [last phrase only derived from Form 1]
Deus, qui Unigenitum tuum dedisti summum Sacerdotem, eique ad sacrificandum tibi hostiam mundam sacerdotes ministros sociasti: quæsumus, ut omnes qui vocatione tam sancta dignati sunt, altari tuo devote ministrent, et seipsos hostiam vivam et sanctam offerre mereantur. Per eumdem.

(O God, Who didst constitute Thine Only-Begotten the high Priest: and didst associate with Him ministers, Priests to sacrifice unto Thee a pure victim; we beseech, that all who are worthy of such a holy calling, devoutly minister at Thine altar, and deserve to offer themselves as a living and holy victim. Through the same...)

Form 1 (1686 Cluniac Breviary)
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui “autorem [sic; lege auctorem] salutis” (Heb 2:10) Pontificem nostrum, “per passionem consummari” (Heb 2:10) voluisti; “conscientiam nostram” (Heb 9:14), quæsumus, “per” ejus “sanguinem” (Heb 9:13), “ab operibus mortuis” “emunda”, ut tibi “Deo viventi” digne “servire” (Heb 9:14), ac “nosmetipsos hostiam vivam ac sanctam” (cf. Rom 12:1) offerre mereamur; Per eumdem.

(Almighty everlasting God, Who didst will to perfect the author of salvation, our High Priest, by suffering: cleanse our conscience, we beseech, by his blood, from dead works, that we may deserve worthily to serve Thee, the living God, and to offer ourselves as a living and holy victim. Through the same...)


For comparison, here is the Collect for the 5th Sunday of Lent from the abortive 1689 Proposed BCP, shewing how liturgical developments on both sides of the Channel were so strangely moving in parallel:

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast sent thy Son Christ to be a high priest of good things to come (cf. Heb. 9:11), and by his own blood to enter once into the holy place, having obtained an eternal redemption for us (cf. Heb. 9:12); Mercifully look upon thy people; that by the same blood of our Saviour, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot unto thee, our consciences may be purged from dead works, to serve thee the living God (cf. Heb. 9:14), that we may receive the promise of eternal inheritance (cf. Heb. 9:15); through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.