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.