Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pietà - from Violence back to Nurturing Compassion


Of all things on the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this heart-wrenching image of Adam and Eve mourning the death of their son Abel, the just, came crowding into my mind. I think I know why. 

This pain is closer to most of us than is the tenderness of the Guadalupana toward Juan Diego and the peoples of the Americas held bound by the circle of violence set in motion in the course of the Conquista. Had she not come and shown herself a sister and a mother of boundless compassion, the death's of countless Abels would have left so many Adams and Eves in their tears and a whole hemisphere wrapped in a mourning cloak. Not chance but Divine Providence in the intervention in time of the Mother of God changed mourning into dancing and for over half a millennium without flagging.

Guadalupe continues today to radiate hope and promise for a fallen world. The immediacy of whatever our pain may be deprives us of experiencing the tenderness of the beautiful young woman on the hill of Tepeyac. For not being touched by her in our anguish or simple torment, we fail to obey her simple but insistent plea, we miss the tilma, the roses and love's lightning conquest of a world for Her Son.

This arid pietà depicting our first parents with their dead son, depicting the devastating effects of a fratricide from the dawn of creation and confirming God's judgment on the worthlessness of Cain's feigned sacrifice, looms big and leaves me powerless. In the extreme, it illustrates my loss of words before people's pain at gross injustice suffered here and now.

I guess all I can do, or rather the best which I can do, is humbly beg the lovely Morena to come again and touch hearts with a gentle word and a bouquet of roses.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Older and Better



I guess it would be fair enough to say that blogs are within the scope of propriety even if in a very public sphere they offer personal, bordering on intimate, reflections. With the wonderful celebrations at the Basilica in Fribourg on 8 December, I guess you could say that my heart is overflowing and I must speak.

2017 here in Switzerland has gifted me with three occasions, all of them Marian, to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass: in Fischingen, a Pontifical High Mass on the occasion of a pilgrimage for the Fatima Centenary, a Missa Praelatitia in Sankt Pelagiberg for the Holy Name of Mary, and now for the Immaculate Conception a Pontifical High Mass in the Basilica Notre Dame de Fribourg. These three moments have had their positive, yes warming and reassuring impact on my heart. No doubt a person has to do something to prepare his heart to receive them in this way, but in any case, the Tradition, or should I say the Blessed Mother has won my heart in most delicate fashion.

Without having such a chair, I'd like to say ex cathedra, that the Vetus Ordo is how a bishop is meant to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Traditional Latin Mass in all its solemnity really carries the bishop. The above picture captures it quite well, as I sit front and center, with my old knees covered!, while the subdeacon reads the Gospel in French, I listen waiting to preach my homily. With the Novus Ordo, we were taught in the seminary at Mass practice or in homiletics to be sharp, to be proactive... in the Vetus Ordo, the liturgy, with Christ the High Priest, Mary with all the angels and saints, carries me in most attentive fashion and challenges me to allow myself to be changed, transformed, really made over to Christ Jesus. The liturgy carries the old man in me and makes me an icon of something of which I am not worthy and for which from beginning to end I repeat my Domine, non sum dignus... and my miserere nobis! It is so right and so age appropriate!

It took me really too long to let go and allow others to carry me through this experience. Obviously, a priest who celebrates his daily low Mass or a Sunday High Mass, Missa Cantata, without assisting ministers, well, he has to be at the top of his game, so to speak. I just want to go on record that bishops get the better part of a free ride, even if they should really interiorize it all by memorizing a goodly part of the liturgy.

Bishops, do yourself and the Church a favor by accepting the invitation should it come your way and doing your little, old part to let this great icon shine forth from the heart of Christ's Church!


PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI



Friday, December 8, 2017

On the Occasion of Marian Congregation's Prayer of Engagement


PROCESSION & VEILLEE MARIALE
avec la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg
Mot d’accueil - Immaculée Conception - 8 décembre 2017


C’est un honneur pour moi d’être avec vous aujourd’hui pour la « Prière d’engagement » des nouveaux membres de la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg. À travers l’abbé Arnaud Evrat je vous remercie tous pour l'invitation qui m'a été faite de venir ici cet après-midi, en témoin d'une grande et belle démarche.

Votre témoignage de foi et de communion avec la Vierge Immaculée, Mère de Dieu, est une confirmation ou disons une vérification d'une chose dont j'ai moi-même depuis quelque temps la forte conviction qu'elle est essentielle pour nous catholiques. Je crois fermement que notre foi catholique a, certes, sa dimension intellectuelle, et certes, elle a des possibilités de s'exprimer par des projets et des programmes de grande importance, mais par-dessus tout la foi est révélée par notre attachement personnel et filial au Dieu vivant et vrai, en union avec Marie, à travers une simple union de prière avec l'Immaculée.

Choisir simplement Marie «comme patronne et avocate auprès de son Divin Fils», et promettre notre attachement et notre profond respect pour la Vierge Mère, suffit à nourrir et à épanouir notre vie chrétienne. Comparée à la façon de vivre des autres baptisés, votre option est à la fois simple et extraordinaire, modeste et profonde. Notre union de prière avec Jésus par Marie, je tiens à le souligner avec insistance, union de prière avec Jésus par Marie : pour moi, tout est là.


Je promets mon soutien dans la prière pour les nouveaux membres de la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg qui prononcent aujourd’hui leur Prière d’engagement. En vous félicitant tous pour votre offrande personnelle à la Sainte Vierge comme ses "fidèles serviteurs", je vous bénis de tout cœur au nom du Saint Père, le Pape François.


Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort. Amen!




Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Our Tainted Nature's Solitary Boast"

La Fête de l’Immaculée
8 décembre 2017 - Fribourg
Prov. 8: 22-35
Luc. 1, 26-28

Tota pulchra es, María: et mácula originális non est in te.
Vous êtes toute belle, ô Marie, et la tache originelle n’est pas en vous.

Je suis né le 14 août 1950, donc l’année de la définition du dogme de l’Assomption. C’est peut-être la raison pour laquelle j’ai toujours eu un rapport spécial à ce mystère de Marie, accueillie corps et âme au ciel. Quand j'étais au catéchisme à l’école primaire, j'avais l'idée (bien sûr erronée) que le dogme de l’Immaculée Conception de Marie, que nous célébrons aujourd’hui, avait été défini un siècle avant celui de l’Assomption parce que celui-ci soulevait de plus grandes difficultés doctrinales. C'était une logique enfantine selon laquelle les choses les plus faciles sont faites en premier…

A propos de la fête d’aujourd’hui : on constate que le dogme de l'Immaculée Conception est souvent confondu avec l'Annonciation, c'est-à-dire le moment de la conception de Jésus dans le sein de Marie, fêtée le 25 mars, neuf mois avant Noël, la Nativité du Seigneur. En fait, aujourd'hui, 8 décembre, nous célébrons Marie conçue sans péché originel, et qui naîtra à ses saints parents, Anne et Joachim, neuf mois plus tard, le 8 septembre. Aujourd'hui, nous célébrons la Divine Providence qui, de toute éternité, a voulu préserver la Mère de Dieu de toute souillure du péché originel et aussi actuel. Comme le dit, en parlant d’elle, le poète William Wordsworth : “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast”[1] (l'unique fierté de notre nature contaminée).

Dans la fête d’aujourd’hui, nous sommes surtout appelés à nous réjouir de cette particularité de l'histoire de notre salut. La sainteté du premier instant de l'existence de Marie est un indice, et certainement le plus significatif, de la sublimité des dispositions prises par Dieu pour sauver le monde dans l'Incarnation du Verbe, la naissance de son Fils unique. L'étoile de Bethléem a sa signification cosmique pour indiquer le début d'une époque sans précédent dans l'histoire du monde, mais nous pouvons voir plus profondément le grand mystère accompli dans le Christ en contemplant le « fiat », le « oui », de l’Immaculée qui consent à coopérer avec ce plan divin pour la rédemption du monde.

Dans un sens, pour notre vie de foi, il n'est besoin de rien d’autre : en connaissant Marie dans son élection dès l'éternité, nous pouvons accéder à la volonté de Dieu, le Très-Haut, pour nous pauvres fils et filles d'Adam et Eve. Cela se voit dans le choix de l'épître de la Messe pour aujourd'hui, où l'Église dans la prière établit un lien entre la Mère de Dieu et la Sagesse éternelle.

Qui me invénerit, invéniet vitam et háuriet salútem a Dómino.
Celui qui me trouvera, trouvera la vie, et puisera le salut dans le Seigneur.

Marie Immaculée est la clé d’interprétation du mystère de notre salut en Christ ; Connaître la Vierge Mère sans tache, sans péché depuis le commencement, nous ouvre l'immensité de ce que Dieu a voulu dans Son Fils unique fait homme.

C’est pourquoi je pourrais m'arrêter ici dans la contemplation de la Vierge Immaculée, point de référence et ancrage de notre foi en Jésus qui nous sauve. Ce serait un cadeau, une contribution décisive à la conversion de beaucoup. Mais, en tant que prédicateur, j'ai le devoir non seulement d'augmenter la dévotion, mais aussi de susciter en vous et en moi le progrès dans notre vie, notre comportement, et cela pour notre propre bien et pour le salut de ceux qui ne connaissent pas encore Jésus ou qui n'ont qu'une foi tiède ou indifférente. C'est-à-dire que je dois faire mon possible pour éloigner de nous le péché et l'indifférence envers nos devoirs de baptisés.

Saint Augustin, dans le chapitre 18 du livre 7 de ses Confessions, intitulé dans l'édition française que j’ai consultée : "Jésus-Christ seul est la voie du salut", prie notre Père céleste et parle de son processus de conversion du péché à la vie :
Et je cherchais la voie où l’on trouve la force pour jouir de vous, et je ne la trouvais pas que je n’eusse embrassé « le Médiateur de Dieu et des hommes, Jésus-Christ homme (I Tim. II, 5) ; Dieu souverain, béni dans tous les siècles (Rom. IX, 5) ; » qui nous appelle par ces paroles « Je suis la voie, la vérité, la vie (Jean, XIV, 6) ; » et qui unit à notre chair une nourriture dont ma faiblesse était incapable. Car le Verbe s’est fait chair (Ibid. I, 14), afin que votre sagesse, par qui vous avez tout créé, devînt le lait de notre enfance.

Dans l’évangile, dans le récit de la Passion et la mort de Jésus sur la croix, on parle de l’obscurité en plein jour et du tremblement de terre qui a divisé en deux le voile devant le Saint des Saints du Temple, à Jérusalem. Il n'y a pas de substitut à l’œuvre de Jésus pour notre salut. Dans la prédilection du Père Éternel pour Marie, Mère de Son Fils, nous voyons la sublimité que Dieu a voulu restituer à notre nature humaine. Déchirer le voile de l’époque passée, nous voyons en Marie l'Immaculée l'Arche de l'Alliance qui concentre la dévotion de son peuple au seul Dieu vivant et vrai dans son Fils Jésus.
-------
Heute feiern wir die göttliche Vorsehung, die von Ewigkeit her die Mutter Gottes vor jedem Makel der Sünde bewahren wollte. Und zwar besonders vor dem Makel der Erbsünde, aber auch vor jedem Makel der persönlichen Sünde. Wie der Dichter William Wordsworth schrieb: „Our tainted nature's solitary boast…“ (Der einzige Ruhm unserer verdorbenen Natur).
Die Heiligkeit Marias vom ersten Augenblick ihrer Existenz an ist ohne weiteres der bedeutungsvollste Hinweis auf die Erhabenheit mit der Gott bei der Menschwerdung seines einzigen Sohnes zur Rettung der Welt arbeitet. Der Stern von Bethlehem hat seine kosmische Bedeutung, um den Anfang einer neuen und nie dagewesenen Epoche in der Weltgeschichte anzuzeigen. Aber wir können uns wohl noch tiefer bewusst werden, wie gross das Geheimnis Christi ist, wenn wir das „fiat“/das Ja-Wort Marias betrachten, Ihre Zustimmung zur Mitwirkung am göttlichen Plan zu Erlösung der Welt. In gewisser Weise brauchen wir für unser Glaubensleben nicht mehr als das Geheimnis Marias zu kennen: Wenn wir Maria erkennen in ihrer ewigen Erwählung, so können wir den Heilsplan des höchsten Gottes mit uns armen Kindern Adams und Evas erfassen.
Oh Maria, ohne Erbsünde empfangen, bitte für uns, die wir bei dir Zuflucht suchen!
O Marie, conçue sans péché originel, prie pour nous qui avons recours à toi !
Sancta Maria, Stella Orientis, filios tuos adiuva! Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, Amen!






[1] The Virgin
BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finally Got My Christmas Present Read!

The Biography
Marcel Lefebvre
Bernard Tissier de Mallerais
Angelus Press, Kansas City, MO, 2014

A year ago after the summer holidays, I got a package in the mail from Angelus Press, including a year's subscription to their great magazine and an autographed copy of The Biography. It was my first Christmas gift of 2016 and over the year I have enjoyed the magazine immensely. The big book took more courage to face. Normally by my reading with Kindle, big books are not all that intimidating, partly because you don't see nor do you have 600+ pages in a hard cover in your hands. Anyway, I finally started and almost couldn't put the book down until I had finished. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has written a terribly interesting account of the life of Marcel Lefebvre and I have no objections to its English translation.

Part I, The Heir, taking us through family history, schooling, vocation and seminary, along with his Spiritan novitiate, is beautiful and truly inspiring. It makes a very ordinary boy of the people, like me, marvel at grace in action through family and the choice encounters in the life of a young man obviously destined for great things. The Archbishop's parents did an extraordinary job with all of their children.

Part II, The Missionary, almost by way of understatement illustrates the role that Archbishop Lefebvre played in the evangelization of a goodly part of Africa. Taken together with Part I, we see his homogeneous world, where he together with family and friends or proteges did a credible job of facing the social and intellectual challenges which were rushing in on the Church already in those years, paving the way for the rapid dissolution of our well-ordered Catholic universe.

Part III, The Combatant, recounts Archbishop Lefebvre's Council experience, moving from Dakar, to the small diocese of Tulle in France, to being Spiritan General and Council Father. Perforce we move from the serenity of his early life to an apology for his resistance to the forces of change which ran roughshod over the Council. Up until just recently, no doubt, this part of the book would have been the toughest for many of us to read.

Part IV, The Restorer, continues the apology of a ministry and life given totally to the defense and promotion of Catholic Priesthood in the sense of the Tradition. It clarifies well the nature of his adamant refusal to compromise for the sake of a false peace. The iter from Fribourg to Ecône, in particular, as well as the opening of other houses of priestly formation and the association of religious men and women in support of the primary work, The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, is documented here as well. This section of 200 pages amounts to a good third of the entire book and explains the drama of his decision to proceed to the ordination of four auxiliary bishops. It concludes with the last illness and death of the Archbishop.

In the clerical world of which I am a part, for many, especially for hierarchs, just the name of Marcel Lefebvre is a provocation, a red flag. Among traditionalist lay Catholics, especially for those under fifty years of age, there do not seem to be battle lines or trenches which separate the good priests on one side from those on the other. A priest friend advised me not to review this book for fears of repercussions. I don't think my many lay friends would necessarily understand that counsel.

In the name of progress, then, and in hopes for the future, let me recommend this book to everyone who loves the genre biography and wants to learn more about the ins and outs of the 20th Century in the Catholic Church, especially in France, but very much so in Italy and Switzerland, as well as in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The original French edition was published in 2002. Supplementary material was added to the English translation which has had both a first edition in 2004 and this second one in 2014.

No doubt it would take some courage for a Catholic bishop or priest to read this volume, but I think we urgently need to move forward by looking closely at what is certainly a crucial if not the most crucial chapter for understanding the life of the Church in our times. As we edge closer, hopefully, to finding the courage and the means for facing our "ghosts" in matters of the vocations crisis, the dramatic falloff in participation at Sunday Mass and the overall hemorrhage affecting Catholic practice and faith, we need to come to know Marcel Lefebvre better. 

TOLLE LEGE

*

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Saturday, November 25, 2017

The "Illogic" of an Absolutely Intolerant Pluralism - Viva, Cristo Re!

For all you Italian speakers, I wish to recommend this little video from La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. It's classic, secular Italian "wisdom", but always superior to what the market of today pretends to offer.

So many of my neo-Catholic or Conservative friends seem incapable of translating the old principles of social or national identity which held in the terribly anti-clerical or anti-Catholic Risorgimento or in another form of common sense argumentation, as registered in an essay from the 1930's, proposing T.S. Elliot's counsel about the need for an established church in England for the sake of social cohesion. They can't quite grasp that the old logic, which inspired the religious liberty hypothesis was just that and no more. It has not stood the test of time, leaving us as Catholics, or as Christians generally in the world, exposed at best to bitter discrimination and too often, beyond scorn, to genuine and unrelenting persecution. 

Popular wisdom passes on to us that the "superior" experience of religious tolerance and pluralism as a founding or constitutional value of the American experience would be what still holds today as the social paradigm for western society. Sorry, folks, open your eyes and look around.

I am not going to dot the i's and cross the t's of the video's author. Making appeal to the "good sense" of the "tolerance" dictated by the Risorgimento is to a certain extent ingenuous. The false peace of an established principle of religious or social pluralism is as wanting as its sad European forerunner: Cuius regio, eius religio. Both run roughshod over the notion of truth as something objective.

As I have argued somewhere before (don't ask me when or where). Tolerance vis à vis other people or persons is a negative. I can tolerate pain or inconvenience, I can tolerate another's defects, but as a Christian, I don't tolerate others, I respect them. I hope they will respect my values, my faith, my vision of truth. I respect them, without necessarily conceding that their position must perforce also in some way be true. Again, truth is one and there are not many truths.

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest and Universal King, is the Way, the Truth and the Life. With the great saints of all times, I can accept that many in error indeed seek the fullness of truth. I dare not deceive either them or myself into believing that the quest for truth can take another path or stop short of Jesus, my Savior and my God.

Nostalgia has nothing to do with my argument or my quest. The bottom line is and has always been spousal fidelity to the Bridegroom. He comes at an hour you do not expect; trim your lamp and rise to meet Him, for fear of being left in the darkness outside.


PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Secretum Meum Mihi: From Parrhesia to Piety

The Binding Force of Tradition.
Ripperger, Chad.  
Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition. 


My first cold of the season had me sort of dumbed down the other day and made concentrating on a couple work projects wearisome. So, when I received an email invitation to participate in an online questionnaire in exchange for a 5$ Amazon gift certificate, I jumped at the distraction and in a matter of minutes had gained some easy money. I spent my reward right away on this little book which I thoroughly enjoyed for the clarity and orderliness of its thought.

Because the language of the book is nigh unto classic scholastic, many might find it tough going, but I found it particularly thought provoking when it comes to analyzing the fruits of Vatican II and its aftermath. The chapter on sins against faith, hope, charity, justice and religion is particularly thought provoking.

After watching a video lecture by a fine young church historian recently, who is also a friend, I asked him if ecclesiology and the notion of spousal faithfulness couldn't enlighten his approach to the contemporary controversy over tradition and doctrinal development. His answer indicated to me that in most circles we are fighting an uphill battle against (shorthand) modernist cliches, which tend to pull the legs out from under the tradition as of the essence of the rule of faith, thus furthering the idolatrous relationship too many have with the goddess Progress.

Just one quote from Ripperger's treatise:

"St. Vincent essentially establishes that the principle of judgment about what we are to believe is that which we have received from “our holy ancestors and fathers.” In effect, it is tradition, i.e. that which has been handed on to us, which constitutes what we are to believe. For there is no aspect of what we believe as Catholics that was not passed on to us from those who went before us." (p. 20)

This author and many other Catholic authors in this Luther Year, when people, mostly journalists, glibly make apologies for his 500 year old cry of sola scriptura as the rule of faith, are hard pressed to bring home the ancient teaching of St. Vincent of Lerins on how the development of dogma can be properly understood. The more I read, the more convinced I become that St. Francis de Sales and countless other doctors and approved authors defended the only viable option in their strict adherence to things as handed down without modifying or omitting either a jot or a tittle:

"The Arians, as S. Augustine tells us (De doc. Chris. iii.2), corrupted this sentence of S. John i.1: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: by simply changing a point. For they read it thus: Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat. Verbum hoc, &c.: instead of: Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum:. They placed the full stop after the erat, instead of after the verbum. They so acted for fear of having to grant that the Word was God; so little is required to change the sense of God's Word. When one is handling glass beads, if two or three are lost, it is a small matter, but if they were oriental pearls the loss would be great. The better the wine the more it suffers from the mixture of a foreign flavour, and the exquisite symmetry of a great picture will not bear the admixture of new colours. Such is the conscientiousness with which we ought to regard and handle the sacred deposit of the Scriptures." [de Sales, St. Francis. The Catholic Controversy (pp. 91-92). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.] 

The ancient serpent's temptation of our first parents to snub God as if His commands were petty and to take liberties with His law in the name of their own personal dignity is ultimately the modernist lie, which continues to wreak havoc, as a whole class of people seek to shout the equivalent of their own "non serviam" and tear themselves loose from the embrace of our glorious Bridegroom. We have sinned and, like the Old Testament account goes about the discovery of the lost book of the law in the Temple, we need to recover the tradition and through repentance find therein the cause of our joy.

Among the good Catholic lay people whom I know there are few who are deceived by the supposed straight-talk rhetoric, parrhesia, where the speaker on the first account appeals to himself as authority (protesting his genuineness and sincerity), while disparaging what has been handed down and those who seek to remain faithful to what always and everywhere was. But on the other hand even among these good people, given the tenor of our times and a certain obsession with material progress or gain, it is rare to find the sort of fearful piety which once was and which accords to God in His Church the rule of faith which is our salvation.

This line of argumentation makes sense with strict adherence to the tradition properly cast in the framework of spousal faithfulness. Ripperger argues the point also from the point of view of human psychology:

"As one views the generations upon generations which held the same faith, died holy deaths and sacrificed to provide for subsequent generations, great hope is engendered in the believer. But when the sands of teaching are constantly shifting and when the monuments are destroyed or attacked, the stability of the faith is lost and hope will decline." (p. 46). 

His point is well taken and a goodly number of popular apologists from the world of Catholic neo-conservatism would do well to review their premises in the light of the role properly belonging to the tradition as our rule of faith.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Totally Gratuitous! Sure Blame the Motor Car!

At First Things on October 31, Carl Trueman blamed the Reformation on Henry Ford, saying that the whole thing never took off until after the motor car became part of our lives, rendering religion (?), no, he must mean church going just one more consumer choice.

I'm sorry, Carl, but get serious. If you live in small town or rural USA then parking lots have been part of church going for all my life and all they sort of conditioned was the length of Father's Sunday sermon which had to be such as to get people in and out of Mass within an hour so that the lot could be cleared in time for the next full parking lot and Mass.

I remember in Trinidad that because of the low price of gasoline, people had the luxury to follow their favorite priest around the island of a Sunday, but that was usually done out of personal affection or loyalty, if you will. 

No, Carl, the reformation-like revolution of the last fifty years cannot be linked to vehicles. It came about as a result of the loss of necessity. Cars haven't the slightest to do with the loss of shame at being a fallen away Catholic or as the articulate permit such folk to describe themselves as "nones".

From the time of St. Justin Martyr, Sunday Mass was that without which we could not exist. Cars didn't change that sentiment or undermine that truth.

Look again, Carl!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Irresistible Force



An article in the blog ABYSSUS ABYSSUM INVOCAT / DEEP CALLS TO DEEP which took on the notion of "mutual enrichment" caught my eye. This partly because of a recent personal reflection I made concerning Pope Benedict's use of that term in setting the Vetus Ordo free for unrestricted use by priests, encouraging them and bishops to generosity in responding to requests for celebrations according to the 1962 Roman Missal.

The blog entry would have the challenge of the two forms mutually enriching each other likened to squaring the circle. I do not think that is the case. Whether Benedict would agree or not, I think he has set the stage for the needed "reset", for that restoration of the Roman Rite which would enable the organic development of the Divine Liturgy which we were deprived of by the committee which hijacked the process after the council.

We can see how irresistible this movement is among the young and not so young, when caught by surprise by the rightness and beauty of the Old Mass rediscovered and celebrated as it ought to be.

Mutual enrichment must not per force lead either to a common compromise rite or to the continuance of the Novus Ordo. If nothing else, these forty plus years of options and worse are an eloquent statement on what organic development is not and cannot be.

I don't think that my own longing for the Vetus Ordo is either idiosyncratic or a minority report with an ideological background. I am not necessarily convinced that a benevolent acceptance of the old celebration as a part of seminary formation would yield a hundred fold, but it could bring on some essential discussion about rediscovering for our day and time the breadth of Catholic life which has been so sorely missing over the last decades.

Were the Mass of the Ages, the Holy Sacrifice, once again there as the source and summit, a much more natural and complete life of devotion and prayer among us would find the same anchor of reference and sense as we find it having in the writings of the saints over the course of the centuries.

For now, I'll just double dog dare bishops and seminary rectors to loosen up and examine intellectually and practically what a restoration could mean for integral and vibrant Catholic living in the 21st Century.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Time and Eternity - Dies Irae



Preces meæ non sunt dignæ;
Sed tu bonus fac benigne,
Ne perenni cremer igne.
Worthless are my prayers and sighing,
Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Rescue me from fires undying.

On this All Soul's Day, I was struck by a childhood memory or maybe not, which is just that and perhaps nothing. 

The sequence from pre-Council days with which I was most familiar was the Dies Irae  from singing in the grade school choir at parish funerals and although I found it the most difficult piece of the Requiem to sing as a child I never found it long or tedious. The novus ordo relegates this sequence to a hymn option for the divine office and it is no longer an obligatory (or for that matter optional) part of the first Mass of All Soul's.

Don't mind me! It must be just a nostalgia attack. How could things have been so right, righter than now, that they had to be abolished? It doesn't make a bit of sense, now, does it?

REQUIEM AETERNAM DONA EIS, DOMINE, 
ET LUX PERPETUA LUCEAT EIS.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Meek Shall Inherit the Earth


The video  recently posted about the closing of the Abbey of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, a Trappist Monastery in Utah, spoke to me profoundly. It conjured up all sorts of images about similar closures, suppressions and secularizations over the centuries. And beyond monastic life to the matter of the state of the Church today, it posed questions for me about what my attitude should be toward defections from church life in general and what should be the role of apologetics in the life of every Catholic. 

In the video, almost right off, the one old monk pointed to the inevitability of their having to close the abbey by observing that they could see it coming as no one who had come to them in the last thirty years had stayed... There is something terribly meek about this way of staring reality in the face. He says his part without bitterness or rage, just simply. If you want to recognize your own malaise, you have to be not only honest and perceptive, but also humble.

The video reminded me of the account of the violent suppression in reformation times in England of the monasteries in Robert Hugh Benson's historical novel The King's Achievement, where we find the older brother Ralph, attached to Cromwell, destroying the monastic world of his Catholic younger brother, Christopher. Ultimately, the persecuted monks and nuns in the story show themselves at their best and of Christ-like stature when they shoulder the injustice heaped upon them like lambs mute before the slaughter. Catholic meekness probably even saves from hell on his death bed the executor of the king's will, Ralph, and deprives Henry VIII of the surety of his gloating over a good family's son lost to greed and falsehood.

Coming two centuries closer to our time, any number of incidents from Enlightened Monks. The German Benedictines 1740-1803 by Ulrich L. Lehner came to mind as well. Here too the marauder was on the inside, in those unhappy though supposedly enlightened monks, self-proclaimed intellectuals and sophisticates among the brethren, who surely undermined German monasticism by their willful pride, when they were not openly contesting in the name of freedom the Medieval monastic order of their communities and universities.

Friends of mine today in both the neo-conservative and the traditional camps speak consistently of standing up to the menace facing the Church, whether from within or without the fold. Both contest the disbelief, the crass errors or indifference, which would deprive us of the fullness of faith in the Living God. This troubled hour, whether we are talking about the vocations crisis or the empty pews and moral decadence among our ranks, certainly calls for a new zeal. My thought, however, would be that neither alone nor in combination will the popular conservative binary of cleansing the temple or preaching in and out of season win the battle against decay. The binary does not fully display the obedience to the will of the Father, witnessed to by Christ in His Passion and so needed to save the day. Spittle on our faces, we need to stand silent in identification with our loving Lord before the tribunal of Pilate's expediency.

The media, social communications make it harder for us to be ignorant of the plots laid or the attempts made against the good order of the great Tradition and maintain our serenity. Yet, that is where meekness like that of Jesus before Pilate comes in as that one essential. Be it said that quietism or passivity is not a Gospel strategy, but the point here is of entering into the mystery of death swallowed up in the Death of Christ.

Our days' "illuminati", for all their boastful ranting, for all their pride cannot seem to see their hand before their faces or recognize, like my meek little old monk in the video, that which is all too sadly evident. We need to spend more time mulling over just what Jesus meant in teaching that the earth and the victory belong to the meek.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nose Off to Spite Your Face

Enlightened Monks
The German Benedictines 1740-1803
Ulrich L. Lehner
2011 Oxford University Press, New York

Not long ago I reported reading another book by Ulrich Lehner, which was actually a by-product of this his book from 2011, his prior or principal work on the general topic of monastic discipline in the face of disobedience, controversy, madness or crime. As reported then the later book from 2013 is entitled: Monastic Prisons and Torture Chambers.  The present volume was intended for my summer reading (not available on Kindle), but because of one thing or another, I ended up carrying the slim volume back with me. I just finished reading it. While this book is not for everyone (ecclesiastical history relating to 18th century German monks), I found it terribly interesting and informative on many accounts. It opened up new vistas for me, not only in terms of the history of thought, but also concerning the why and wherefore of the disappearance of so many monastic communities back then in lands where I have spent most of my professional life.


Proceeding by topic, new lifestyles, new liberties, new philosophies and theologies, et al. Ulrich chronicles the tragic lives of many enlightened monks in German speaking central Europe over the time period. He does so with profound respect for all these men who were more often than not their abbots' nightmares, for their pride, their hysterics, and in some cases even for their crimes.


I cannot blame Lehner for my reading of his work. I have concluded that the Enlightenment was little better than anthrax poisoning for monasticism. The Catholic Enlightenment is little more than a repetition in a new century (the 18th) of the iconoclastic proposals of the two prior reformation centuries with a pitiable admixture of slogans from the French revolution. It involved petty demands to suppress the tonsure which marked their consecration and trade the venerable old habit for the dandy dress of their contemporaries. The obligations of choir, especially the night office, were opposed as an impediment to study, travel and scientific work, to be furthered by social exchanges at dinners in mixed company and by frequenting the theater. I can see now that the secularization movement, à la Joseph II Hapsburg and his like in Bavaria and elsewhere, which paved roads with monastic library materials and sought to abolish the monastic vocation as unproductive, found allies in these monastic illuminati and their like for their anti-Catholicism.


In his conclusions, Ulrich Lehner notes the Catholic Enlightenment as a casualty of secularization (cf. page 227). Closer to the point might be that these prideful monsters, impressed with their own genius and bent on dictating from the heights of their university cathedras, were accomplices to ending German monasticism. They were useful idiots in the promotion of something very much at odds with the tradition, anthrax for the Church as I say, by comparison with the Romantic revival or Ultramontanism.

"The period during which no monastic life was detectable lasted for almost a generation. However, because of numerous heroic monks and nuns who desired to remain faithful to their vocation, an underground monasticism arose." (page 228).

May the Church in our time be spared the caprice of similar illuminati, people eager to promote themselves at the expense of religion in humble obedience to the grand Tradition which holds us close to the Bridegroom in an ordered life punctuated by the Psalmody, which gives voice to the sentiments of the Bride's devoted heart.


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Staring "Andalusia II" in the Face



Again these days, I was confronted by just how wide-ranging and profound was the impact of the decision, a good year and a half ago, of a priest from the diocese of Münster in Germany, a close relative of the famous Cardinal Frings of Cologne, ("Aus, Amen, Ende? So kann ich nicht mehr Pfarrer sein". Thomas Frings) to abandon a premier parish and enter a monastery in Holland. In the meantime Father Frings has discerned himself out of the monastery and is back into the service of his diocese. 

Middle aged priests, also in Switzerland, continue to discuss their own vocations in the light of questions similar to those Father Frings raised in his book about parish ministry. There is much more to this story than facing the issue of burn-out in the life of hard-working and apparently successful parish priests. Not enough of the conversation, unfortunately, is directed toward bringing to light the nature of the Catholic Church and its profoundly sacramental character. Sadly enough the dignity and sublime nature of Catholic priesthood is often downplayed or ignored in the discussion.

In my position, I hear both sides, both of those whose vision of parish ministry is darker and more skeptical than that of Father Frings, as well as of those who protest/insist upon proclaiming their vocational satisfaction and argue for the value of things as they are in the Church in the Western world. As harsh a judgment (or silly, depending upon your perspective) as it may be, I find both extremes (depression and euphoria) to be tied to the phenomenological, to results, and neither going much beyond categories like productivity and job satisfaction. I have no time for Frings, as he is too sad and awash in a world adrift, but "put on a happy face" or "singing in the rain" is no better and indefensible for the sake of the life of the world.

One of the overarching challenges or temptations suffered by the diocesan priest is located on the playing field of activism. It is only now, fifty years after the Second Vatican Council, that we generally are discovering we have come no closer  through church renewal initiatives to providing the priest in the parish or the diocesan bishop with an ironclad plan of life (a "mirror") to help him confront the ancient malaise which Pope St. Gregory the Great was struggling with nearly a millennium and a half ago: How does one keep the Saving Presence when constantly called to traverse or live life in the public eye, on the public square? What is my specific role in cooperating with the Almighty for the good of Christ's Church in prospering the work of our hands for the sake of the life of the world, of furthering the Kingdom of Christ?

If you believe the testimony out there these days, a significant part of the priestly vocations today come from the experience of Perpetual Adoration. That is good; it is promising. It is often said that a constant in the lives of young and zealous priests is their Holy Hour. That is edifying. However, the Church's Liturgy is rarely mentioned as a font of priestly spirituality, unless of course it is in the context of vocations, not to diocesan priesthood, but to the monastic or contemplative life in a monastery of the tradition, of the ancient usage, of the full monastic office in Latin with Gregorian Chant and the Roman Missal of 1962. Thinking specifically about diocesan priesthood and parish ministry, I ask myself whether all the paring back which took place, supposedly for pastoral reasons, to make the priest more available for his people isn't what is starving our priests spiritually and acting as a counter sign to our lay people, who don't seem to pray at all, at least not by comparison with their grandparents.

Pope St. Gregory the Great had no illusions about his role as pontiff, as bishop, as priest for the world. He knew he could not withdraw as before his election as Bishop of Rome into the great silence of the cloister. 

In cities, generally in Europe and up until the time of the Council, people were often a short walk from church and hence made it there both Sunday morning for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and for Sunday Vespers which ended up being a discursive exercise or educational and a time of intellectual feeding for adults. Not much happens any more outside of the Sunday or the pre-festive Mass these days, too little care or so it would seem for leading people to and from the source and summit of Christian existence. It would seem that we owe our Catholic faithful more by way of an edifice of prayer for their Catholic life. It would seem that Sundays with Holy Mass need to become again what they were for St. Justin Martyr back in 165 AD, namely that without which we cannot live.

Yesterday, I saw a news item stating that on the average 50 religious houses (monasteries or convents) a month are closing in the once Catholic Spain. Demographics and mobility have brought the close of lots of parishes generally in the West (on both sides of the Atlantic). The number of unbelievers in our own midst, whether from defection from the Church or from migration, has destroyed the social fabric which still tends to provide the excuse for a lot of church activity, which has some priests, as I say, woefully depressed and others playing Pollyanna. The success of the Rosary demonstration last Saturday on the borders of Poland would indicate that at least some people understand the stakes in this challenge. 

I am reading a very interesting book these days which documents among other things how the Muslim conquest of Spain devastated Visigoth high culture there, which was ultimately the successor culture of a Christian stamp to the ancient Roman one. Reconquest? No, my object would be another and namely to insist that the vehicle for culture or the life of faith cannot be the parish priest's sense of job satisfaction. We need to realize that we are starving ourselves and our people and need to rebuild the edifice of prayer and official worship which is the Church's glory and works most effectively for the salvation of souls.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Saturday, October 7, 2017

Contemplating the Godhead


The Second Reading for the Office of Our Lady of the Rosary today was taken from a sermon by St Bernard and given the title: "We should meditate on the mysteries of salvation":

"The child to be born of you will be called holy, the Son of God, the fountain of wisdom, the Word of the Father on high. Through you, blessed Virgin, this Word will become flesh, so that even though, as he says: I am in the Father and the Father is in me, it is still true for him to say: “I came forth from God and am here.”
  In the beginning was the Word. The spring was gushing forth, yet still within himself. Indeed, the Word was with God, truly dwelling in inaccessible light. And the Lord said from the beginning: I think thoughts of peace and not of affliction. Yet your thought was locked within you, and whatever you thought, we did not know; for who knew the mind of the Lord, or who was his counsellor?
  And so the idea of peace came down to do the work of peace: The Word was made flesh and even now dwells among us. It is by faith that he dwells in our hearts, in our memory, our intellect and penetrates even into our imagination. What concept could man have of God if he did not first fashion an image of him in his heart? By nature incomprehensible and inaccessible, he was invisible and unthinkable, but now he wished to be understood, to be seen and thought of.
  But how, you ask, was this done? He lay in a manger and rested on a virgin’s breast, preached on a mountain, and spent the night in prayer. He hung on a cross, grew pale in death, and roamed free among the dead and ruled over those in hell. He rose again on the third day, and showed the apostles the wounds of the nails, the signs of victory; and finally in their presence he ascended to the sanctuary of heaven.
  How can we not contemplate this story in truth, piety and holiness? Whatever of all this I consider, it is God I am considering; in all this he is my God. I have said it is wise to meditate on these truths, and I have thought it right to recall the abundant sweetness, given by the fruits of this priestly root; and Mary, drawing abundantly from heaven, has caused this sweetness to overflow for us."

We meditate on the mysteries as individuals, as families and in community, as in church, both reciting the Holy Rosary and through our participation in the worthy celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

St. Bernard touches a point which has lost none of its relevance for believers today and which occasions more than its share of fretting in our day and time as, in various questionnaires and sometimes even out in the open, people who identify as "Catholic" (how's that for full immersion in the jargon of our time!) shamelessly express doubts or disbelief in all the major tenets of our faith. What is the remedy for the why so of this tragic state of affairs?

Bailing or pumping out the leaking hull will not be enough to right the listing ship. By that I mean that as essential as a full fledged restoration or rejuvenation of Catholic marriage and family life is, which is to say an insistent striving for a genuine empowerment of the family as the little Church, there is more to the Catholic edifice than the family, the keystone of its central arch, and namely, there is also the cornerstone, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Sunday. 

Here too we must strive with all our might for a restoration. Sunday Mass is, as we can note already in the testimony from St. Justin Martyr from his trial in 165 AD, that without which we cannot exist as Christians. Too often forgotten in our daily living is that Sunday Mass is indeed the cornerstone, the key piece which makes sense of the whole mosaic, the big picture. In and of itself it cannot be a didactic exercise, but must rather be that moment of meditation or contemplation, that still point around which all else must turn. If we could clear away all the fluff and abuse which clutters the average Catholic's experience of Sunday Mass, we could better concentrate on that which is supposed to lead to and flow from our Sunday in church. It is what makes Sunday and Mass an integral part of living which is lacking: daily prayer, penance, reading and study - each in the measure appropriate to our station in life. Important is that nobody is excused out of a mindless compulsion to "keep up with the Jones's".  

I think everyday should have space for 5 Mysteries, driving the banal, contentious and quirky out of at least a generous quarter hour out of 24 whole ones. I would invite you to start today with one decade and enjoy time contemplating one tiny aspect of the Godhead. No time to lose!

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Monday, October 2, 2017

Worldviews Apart - From Mummification to Cremation

Here in the Confessions is St. Augustine describing and qualifying the nature (rhetorical) of his first interest in St. Ambrose:

XIV "Thus I did not take great heed to learn what he was saying but only to hear how he said it: that empty interest was all I now had since I despaired of man’s finding the way to You. Yet along with the words, which I admired, there also came into my mind the subject-matter, to which I attached no importance. I could not separate them. And while I was opening my heart to learn how eloquently he spoke, I came to feel, though only gradually, how truly he spoke. First I began to realise that there was a case for the things themselves, and I began to see that the Catholic faith, for which I had thought nothing could be said in the face of the Manichean objections, could be maintained on reasonable grounds: this especially after I had heard explained figuratively several passages of the Old Testament which had been a cause of death for me when taken literally. Many passages of these books were expounded in a spiritual sense and I came to blame my own hopeless folly in believing that the law and the prophets could not stand against those who hated and mocked at them. I did not yet feel that the Catholic way was to be followed, merely because it might have some learned men to maintain it and answer objections adequately and not absurdly; nor did I think that what I had so far held was to be condemned because both views were equally defensible. In fact the Catholic side was clearly not vanquished, yet it was not clearly victorious. I then bent my mind to see if I could by any clear proofs convict the Manicheans of error. If only I had been able to conceive of a substance that was spiritual, all their strong points would have been broken down and cast forth from my mind. But I could not. Concerning the body of this world, and the whole of that nature which our bodily senses can attain to, I thought again and again and made many comparisons; and I still judged that the views of so many of the philosophers were more probable. So in what I thought to be the manner of the Academics—that is to say, doubting of all things and wavering between one and another—I decided that I must leave the Manichees; for in that time of doubt, I did not think I could remain in a sect to which I now preferred certain of the philosophers. Yet I absolutely refused to entrust the care of my sick soul to the philosophers, because they were without the saving name of Christ. I determined, then, to go on as a catechumen in the Catholic Church—the church of my parents—and to remain in that state until some certain light should appear by which I might steer my course."  [Augustine. Confessions (pp. 91-92). Hackett Publishing. Kindle Edition.] 

What struck me in this passage was Augustine's critique of himself before baptism, as a young adult: he confesses his obtuseness and materialism, his sad state, incapable of discerning the truth for him and generally rendered more attractive by Ambrose's oratory. The drama of Augustine's sad state is further underlined as he classes himself a catechumen, a seeker of the Catholic faith and baptism. I found myself asking, how many young people must there be like St. Augustine before his conversion, what are their chances and just where are people's heads today?

If for a moment I might apply the question to the issue of how we look at our destiny, I find myself asking where in the world folks find themselves. In a photo news story the other day, documenting the discovery of a very, very ancient, but perfectly preserved Egyptian mummy, I got to wondering how far the mummification mentality of upper class ancient Egypt is from the nearly all-pervasive cremation mentality one encounters here in Switzerland, and which is also making advances in a better part of the United States.

This puzzle came up for me as I considered the perfect symmetry of that mummy's head and face wrapping, which though beautiful said to me nothing comparable to our Catholic belief in the life of the world to come. The world of the ancient pharaohs was a world caught up in death and taxidermy; resurrection, eternal light, happiness and peace were not what they were wrapping up so neatly in linen after having salted away the cadaver for a goodly time. 

Is mummification back when really all that different from those who rush to cremate today, scattering ashes on lakes, off of mountain peaks or out in the woods somewhere? Both processes incline toward a denial of the great truth of Christ's Second Coming to judge the living and the dead (from the earth, from the depths of the sea or from wherever) and to take to Himself in Glory all who are His own. Two worlds, one ancient and one present, both too obtuse to be touched by the Word of Life!

St. Augustine deplores the hardness of his own young heart, held bound by the Manichean heresy, which he judged totally material and leaving no space for the Almighty. Our own culture of death (evidenced in the eagerness for the destruction of all human point of reference through cremation and scattering) is no less hardened than the Manichean to the words of life proclaimed by Christ's Church today in His Holy Name.

Who will save the young Augustines of our day? Are there enough insistent prayers accompanied by the tears of their mothers, Monicas for our day and time? I love the way this intellectual, this sophisticate, this big man Augustine, blubbers away finding no other key but she, who in God's great mercy, unlocked the treasure of saving grace for him despite his pride and unworthiness. 

Augustine, from all appearances, was drawn first by the rhetorical skills of Ambrose, paying no heed to his wisdom and truth. My guess is that the young Augustines of our day don't even cherish rhetoric in their obtuseness. Maybe it is indeed a new age of barbarianism in which we find ourselves. In any case, from parents, family or friends, I pray that the young sophisticates of our day could be brought to confounded blubbering by the tears and prayers of the loved ones who would claim them for Christ!



PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI