Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hail, Thomas, Archbishop and Martyr

"The Martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket" from St. Thomas altarpiece, Hamburg 
(gift of the Guild of English Merchants)

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Thomas Becket (d. 1170 AD).  Born to a prosperous London family of Norman extraction, St. Thomas studied the trivium and quadrivium at Merton Priory and other schools in London.   However, when his father suffered financial misfortunes Thomas was forced to leave his studies and earn a living as a clerk in the household of Theobald of Bec, Archbishop of Canterbury.  Theobald was highly pleased with Thomas's able service, and recommended him to King Henry II for the vacant post of Chancellor, to which Thomas was duly appointed in 1155.  Thomas's abilities likewise pleased King Henry, who named Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury upon Theobald's death in 1162 AD.  King Henry expected that Thomas, who continued to hold the post of Chancellor, would place the crown's interests ahead of those of the Church.  The King's hopes were disappointed, as Thomas resigned the post of Chancellor, adopted ascetical practices, and sought to protect the Church's rights against crown encroachments, and even to recover prerogatives which the crown had wrongfully wrested from the Church.  This brought Thomas and Henry into conflict.  In frustration, King Henry uttered the fateful words "Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?" or perhaps, "What miserable drones and traitors have I nourished and brought up in my household, who let their lord be treated with such shameful contempt by a low-born cleric?" Whatever the exact words may have been, they were interpreted by Henry's men as the king's fervent wish that Thomas be killed at once.  Accordingly, four of Henry's knights rushed to Canterbury Cathedral, and murdered Thomas as he was proceeding to vespers.  Here is the account of a witness, himself wounded in the attack:

"The wicked knight leapt suddenly upon him, cutting off the top of the crown which the unction of sacred chrism had dedicated to God. Next he received a second blow on the head, but still he stood firm and immovable. At the third blow he fell on his knees and elbows, offering himself a living sacrifice, and saying in a low voice, 'For the name of Jesus and the protection of the Church, I am ready to embrace death.' But the third knight inflicted a terrible wound as he lay prostrate. By this stroke, the crown of his head was separated from the head in such a way that the blood white with the brain, and the brain no less red from the blood, dyed the floor of the cathedral. The same clerk who had entered with the knights placed his foot on the neck of the holy priest and precious martyr, and, horrible to relate, scattered the brains and blood about the pavements, crying to the others, 'Let us away, knights; this fellow will arise no more." 

Thomas was quickly canonized by Pope Alexander III.  His relics were kept at the Cathedral in Canterbury, and were a very popular object of pilgrimage and veneration.  St. Thomas' relics were destroyed in 1538 AD by order of King Henry VIII, who was himself involved in serious conflict with the Church. 

St. Thomas Becket, pray for us.

The Ordinary of the Ordinariate offers his forecast for 2012

Our Lady of Walsingham

Depending on what the General Synod of the Church of England does regarding women bishops, large numbers of priests and laypeople may join Ordinariate in the coming year.

Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.
Blessed John Henry Newman, patron of the Ordinariate, pray for us.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pope John XXIII, Traditionalist

Pope John XXIII

The fiftieth anniversary of the second Vatican Council is fast approaching, and as one scans the waste and wreckage that previously was the Catholic Church in the US and in Europe, the conclusion that the Council was the cause, and the wreckage is the effect is difficult to resist.  Certainly, in calling the Council, Pope John XXIII had much more modest and traditional purposes in mind, as his drafts of Council documents show, than the Council itself expressed in its own extremely lengthy, complex and controversial documents.  Though he will always be associated with the highly innovative Council, John XXIII was a highly traditional man.  This is obvious from a consideration of Pope John's meditations on the Rosary, which Rorate Caeli makes available here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve Fast

"Adoration of the Shepherds", by El Greco

For those of you inclined to keep pre-1965 customs of the Church; until the mid 1960s, Dec 23 and Dec 24 were days of fast and abstinence.   In my opinion, a fitting end to a penitential Advent.

Lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

"O King of the nations, for whom the nations yearn,"

Christ the King

"O cornerstone, joining separate parts into one, come to save mankind, whom you formed from the clay."

That's the "O" antiphon from Vespers for today.  It is one of seven "O"antiphons recited in the octave before Christmas.

Courtesy of the Catholic Education Resource Center, here is an explanation of their importance:

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :
O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).
O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).
O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).
O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).
O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .
O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

A few more days of fasting and increased prayer, then weeks of rejoicing.

Thank you, Ben Stein

"Holiday Tree" indeed!

For standing up for Christmas.  Francis Phillips has more here.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Jesuits may not be renowned for economic percipience

Jean-Baptiste Colbert
Finance Minister of France 1665 AD - 1683 AD
Educated by Jesuits

Especially since they made an idol of social justice back in the 1970s.  Notwithstanding the achievements of Monsieur Colbert, in their long and sometimes glorious history, Jesuit successes in the discipline of Economics have not been numerous.  However,  their views on the Euro crisis, courtesy of Sandro Magister, seem sound.

Why parents must think twice before sending their kids to "Catholic" school

Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga

Manhattan's Convent of the Sacred Heart, Lady Ga-Ga's alma mater, allowed itself to be used as backdrop for  Lady Ga-Ga's Thanksgiving Day special.  Worse, the school permitted students from its grammar school to serve as props.

Once a cloistered community of nuns, the Convent of the Sacred Heart now has but a single religious sister on its faculty.  No wonder such a place does not inspire vocations to the religious life.

SSPX responds to the "Doctrinal Preamble"

 Pope St. Pius X

Happily, they didn't say "no."   

Now we must await Benedict's response.   It's obvious the 24 hour news cycle is not the uppermost concern of those conducting this negotiation.

Pope St. Pius X, pray for us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

St. Alphonsus Liguori on External and Internal Mortification

 "St. Alphonsus Liguori," St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Brandon, Manitoba

In this penitential season of Advent, when we submit ourselves to external and internal mortification in preparation for Christmas, it is well to consider the following advice on mortifications from St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church: 

". . . [T]he director should be very sparing in allowing [external] mortifications to those who are only just entering upon the spiritual life, and who desire to practice bodily mortifications; let him exhort them to practice rather interior mortification, by bearing patiently with insults and contradictions, by obedience to Superiors, by bridling the curiosity to see, to hear, and the like; and let him tell them, that when they have acquired the good habit of practicing these interior mortifications, they will then be sufficiently perfect to proceed to the external ones.  For the rest, it is a serious error to say, as some say, that external mortifications are of little or no use.  Without doubt, interior mortification is most requisite for perfection; but it does not follow from this that external mortifications are unnecessary.  St. Vincent de Paul declared that the person who does not practice external mortifications will be neither mortified interiorly nor exteriorly.  And St. John of the Cross declared that the director who despised external mortifications was unworthy of confidence, even though he should work miracles."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Christopher Hitchens, RIP

 Christopher Hitchens, 1949 AD - 2011 AD

Christopher Hitchens, the English author and journalist, died last week at the age of 62.    Hitchens was an atheist, and had no love for the Church (to put it mildly), but he did possess, abundantly, a highly admirable quality: moral courage.   That is, he spoke the truth, as he saw it, without concern for consequences.   If he'd lived long enough, Hitchens would surely have come to see Truth in its fullness.  Hitchen's honesty and courage would have required it.  A tribute from Hitchen's younger brother Peter here.

Eternal rest, grant unto Christopher, O Lord
    and let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace.
    May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
    through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

A Christmas War Story

Waco CG-4A

From 1944, courtesy of The Catholic Thing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chant is nice, too

 Flemish High Mass, 15th century

Francis Phillips tells us that Evelyn Waugh preferred the humble Low Mass to the splendor of the High Mass.  This may startle some, though I would be very surprised if Waugh's preference represented to any degree a disparagement of High Mass.   After all, as Waugh surely understood, High Mass is not simply the fancy Mass, while Low Mass is the plain variety.  The distinction between the two is that at High Mass the priest chants his parts, whereas at Low Mass the priest does not.  The tradition of chant in public worship is older than the Mass itself; in chanting the psalms and other prayers the Church carried on and developed the traditional Jewish mode of praying the psalms.  For an interesting perspective on chant, see this interview with Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, OSB, formerly Rosalind Moss, a convert to the Faith from Judaism.

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

English bishops smothering Ordinariate in its cradle

 Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us

They hope to outlast Benedict's pontificate, whereupon they will be free to deal with the Ordinariate as they please.  Damian Thompson has more here.

UPDATE:  Welcome, Bovina Bloviator readers!  Thank you, Mr. Bloviator, for the Bovinalanche.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception

Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception

Since the Church traditionally devotes December to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, this is an ideal time to mention the Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception.  This devotion was composed by St. John Berchmanns, SJ (1599 AD - 1621 AD), and was recited by him daily to obtain the grace to overcome all temptations against purity.   The chaplet is said upon a set of beads (like the one pictured above), containing three groups of four beads each.  The groups are separated by a large bead, and a medal of the Immaculate Conception is attached to the end.  To say this chaplet, make the sign of the Cross, then on the first large bead say "Blessed by the Holy and Immaculate Conception of Mary," and then say one Our Father.  Say one Hail Mary on each of the four smaller beads.  After the last of these say one Glory Be.  Repeat for the remaining two sets of beads.

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us.

"Whether Christ is sacrificed in this sacrament?"

Solemn Papal Mass

A recent poll suggests that half of American Catholics do not accept Church teaching concerning the Eucharist.   We believe this alarming state of affairs has arisen partly because the Mass in the US is typically conducted with less solemnity and reverence than the average Rotary Club luncheon.   Inadequate or non-existent catechesis is also partly to blame.  To remedy the doctrinal deficit, we have been transmitting the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the Eucharist, as contained in the great instructional text St. Thomas composed for beginners, the Summa Theologica.  To the quaestio above, St. Thomas responds:

"The celebration of this sacrament is called a sacrifice for two reasons. First, because, as Augustine says (Ad Simplician. ii), "the images of things are called by the names of the things whereof they are the images; as when we look upon a picture or a fresco, we say, 'This is Cicero and that is Sallust.'" But, as was said above (Question 79, Article 1), the celebration of this sacrament is an image representing Christ's Passion, which is His true sacrifice. Accordingly the celebration of this sacrament is called Christ's sacrifice. Hence it is that Ambrose, in commenting on Hebrews 10:1, says: "In Christ was offered up a sacrifice capable of giving eternal salvation; what then do we do? Do we not offer it up every day in memory of His death?" Secondly it is called a sacrifice, in respect of the effect of His Passion: because, to wit, by this sacrament, we are made partakers of the fruit of our Lord's Passion. Hence in one of the Sunday Secrets (Ninth Sunday after Pentecost) we say: "Whenever the commemoration of this sacrifice is celebrated, the work of our redemption is enacted." Consequently, according to the first reason, it is true to say that Christ was sacrificed, even in the figures of the Old Testament: hence it is stated in the Apocalypse (13:8): "Whose names are not written in the Book of Life of the Lamb, which was slain from the beginning of the world." But according to the second reason, it is proper to this sacrament for Christ to be sacrificed in its celebration."

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hail, John, Reformer, Mystic and Doctor of the Church

 St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. John of the Cross (1542 AD – 1591 AD).  St. John assisted St. Teresa of Avila in founding the Discalced Carmelites, a reform of the Carmelite Order which returned to the Carmelites' original, severe observance.   "Discalced" means shoeless, and though the Discalced Carmelites do go without shoes, they are not unshod, as they are permitted to wear sandals.  For this service to the Church, St. John suffered imprisonment and other harsh treatment from his fellow Carmelites.  However, the experience of imprisonment was fruitful for St. John of the Cross, as it inspired the composition of his mystical masterpieces "The Ascent of Mount Carmel" and "The Dark Night of the Soul."

Here is a short extract from "The Dark Night of the Soul":

"THIS night, which, as we say, is contemplation, produces in spiritual persons two kinds of darkness or purgation, corresponding to the two parts of man’s nature—namely, the sensual and the spiritual. And thus the one night or purgation will be sensual, wherein the soul is purged according to sense, which is subdued to the spirit; and the other is a night or purgation which is spiritual, wherein the soul is purged and stripped according to the spirit, and subdued and made ready for the union of love with God. The night of sense is common and comes to many: these are the beginners; and of this night we shall speak first. The night of the spirit is the portion of very few, and these are they that are already practised and proficient, of whom we shall treat hereafter."

St. John of the Cross, pray for us

From the mouths of babes dept.

 Nativity Scene - the Hicks family's set is somewhat less fancy

When I arrived home from work last night I noted with pleasure that the Hicks family creche had been installed in a place of honor.  I also noted a peculiarity in the placement of the baby Jesus - someone had balanced Him upon the wings of the angel who stands (flutters) atop the stable.  Suspecting a comedic motive, I inquired of young Filius why the baby Jesus had been so placed.

Well, Filius began, it is too early for baby Jesus to be in the stable.  Also, Filius continued, I wanted to show that Jesus is above the angels.

If I'd spent a thousand years considering the matter, I could not have come up with a sweeter and wiser answer.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jesuits display remarkable aptitude for self-delusion

 Jesuit cemetery at former St. Andrew-on-Hudson Seminary and Novitiate (now a cooking school)

At their recent 35th General Congregation, they blamed catastrophic drop in US numbers on everything from "consumerism" to "mobility" of US society.  Cardinal Newman Society has more here.

St. Ignatius Loyola, pray for us.

"The Missal of Trent"

 Rubrics not a problem here.

We continue to be astonished by the fresh perspectives on the Mass offered throughout Martin Mosebach's "The Heresy of Formlessness."  Here Mr. Mosebach offers a defense of rubrics:

"Many people regard the rubrics as the most distinctive - and most problematical - feature of the old Missal.  . . . . Rubricism stands for a liturgy where all subjectivism, all charismatic enthusiasm, all creative inventiveness has been condemned to silence. . . . Public prayer, not the prayer of the individual but of the Church's whole Mystical Body, possessed a binding quality that, in an atmosphere of emancipation from all pressure whatsoever, could be felt as a kind of dictatorship.  Now, however, after more than a century of the destruction of forms in art, literature, architecture, politics, and religion, too, people are generally beginning to realize that loss of form - almost always- implies loss of content. . . . Formerly, seminarians learned rubrics so well they could perform them in their sleep.  Just as pianists have to practice hard to acquire some technique that is initially a pure torture, but ultimately sounds like free improvisation, experienced celebrants used to move to and fro at the altar with consummate poise; the whole action poured forth as if from a single mold.  These celebrants were not hemmed in by armor-plated rubrics, as it were: they floated on them as if on clouds."

St. Thomas of Aquinas pray for us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hail, Patroness of the Americas

Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City

Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; on this date in 1531 AD, Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego, a humble Aztec peasant, near a hill in Mexico City.  Our Lady requested Juan Diego to ask the local bishop to build a shrine upon the spot, and she further directed Juan Diego to collect some nearby roses and bring them to the bishop as a sign.  Juan Diego gathered the roses in his tilma, a poor, rough cape, and when he opened it in the presence of the bishop, not only were the roses revealed, but so was Our Lady herself.  An image of this apparition imprinted itself upon Juan Diego's tilma, which is displayed in the great church erected on the site requested by Our Lady.  The shrine is the world's most visited Catholic pilgrimage site.

Here are some of Our Lady's words to Juan Diego:

"I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows."

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Another Catholic School dies

Founded in 1907, to close in 2012

St. Ignatius Loyola School, from which Inigo Hicks graduated in 1973, will close next year.   The decision to close the school was made by Bishop Murphy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who cited declining enrollment to explain his decision.   Enrollment has indeed plummeted; this year St. Ignatius has a mere 164 students, spread from kindergarten through 8th grade, which reflects a decline of 40% since 2000.  When Inigo Hicks entered St. Ignatius back in 1965 there were 200 students in the first grade alone.  I also note that there are but three sisters on the school's faculty; there were likely more than 20 back in the mid 1960's.

I mourn the death of the school, since the years I spent at St. Ignatius Loyola were the happiest of my educational life.  I also mourn what the passing out of existence of St. Ignatius Loyola School portends - the end of Catholicism on a large scale in the US.  We are enduring a crisis of faith which has reduced our numbers, along with our other resources.  One wonders what will remain by the time the crisis passes.   

St. Ignatius Loyola, pray for us.

RELATED: Archbishop Chaput levels with the people of the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent (Part 2)

                          Sanctuary Grille, Carmelite Monastery of the Sacred Hearts, Colorado Springs, CO

Here is more advice on a good Advent, from the Sisters of Carmel December newsletter (to subscribe click here):

"What is a good way to spend Advent?" ... [S]ince it is meant to be a time of prayerful preparation for Christmas, we can ... recommend a daily prayer devotion that will really mean something and bring the soul close to the mystery of Christmas. There is a very old custom—around 700 years old—of praying the Angelus three times each day: morning, noon and night. The Angelus (Latin for "angel") is a Christian devotion in memory of the Incarnation. The name Angelus is derived from the opening words: Angelus Domini nuntiavit MariƦ ("... the Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary ...") and is practiced by reciting as verse and response three Biblical verses describing the mystery; alternating with the Hail Mary (the angel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary). What better way to meditate on the coming of the Redeemer than this prayer, recalling the words of Holy Scripture and crying out for the assistance of the Virgin Mary, the one person who knew and understood best of all His presence in this world?"

The Angelus

V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. R. And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.
Hail Mary...
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord. R. Be it done to me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary...
V. And the Word was made flesh. R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary...
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God. R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ, Thy Son, was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.