Friday, 31 October 2008

All Hallow's Eve (Vigil of All Saints) - aka Halloween

Today is another of those 1962 victims of calendar changes. And this weekend we have the slightly odd phenomenon of two All Souls Days - Sunday in the Ordinary Form, Monday in the Extraordinary Form.

Traditionally, today is the Vigil of All Saints, a feast introduced to Christianize the celtic festival of Samhain. Unofficially it recalls the souls of the damned, thus serving as a reminder of hell and need to avoid it. The Vigil was abolished however in 1955.

Some traddies are nervous about Halloween practices, seeing them as pagan, but I can't see why, it was adopted in Christian countries long ago. All the same, Halloween isn't really a traditionally Australian practice, but an American custom that has spread. Still, a fun one for the kids that has a useful underlying message so why not!

Today is traditionally one of fasting. But there are traditional goodies and candies associated with the evening which you can read up on over at (note however that its advice on indulgences for All Souls is incorrect, not being consistent with the current Handbook of Indulgences).

Preparing for All Saints and All Souls

And today, consistent with the purpose of a vigil, is also a chance to get ready for All Saints and All Souls. In most of the world, All Saints (Saturday) is a holy day of obligation - not however Australia. Still, plan on going (and of course if you are in reach of Sydney, don't forget the Solemn Mass at St Anne's Bondi tomorrow)!

The most important thing is to get to confession so you can collect an indulgence for the souls in purgatory. Basically the deal is that on All Souls Day, provided you have been to confession (or get there within the next week) and received communion, you can gain a plenary indulgence for the Holy Souls by visiting a church or public oratory, making the usual prayers for the Holy Father, and reciting the Our Father and the Creed. Just remember that you need to be free from all attachment to sin at the time you say the prayers (this means attachment to any particular sins, including venial ones) or the indulgence will only be partial.
You can also gain an indulgence for the Holy Souls by visiting a cemetary and praying for departed any day between November 1 and 8 (but remember you can only collect one plenary indulgence a day, so don't visit on All Souls!).

The slightly strange calendar situation this year also offers some particular gifts. There is the possibility of celebrating two All Souls Days - on Sunday with the Novus Ordo, and again on Monday in the Extraordinary Form. And priests (and those who want to attend) who are bi-ritual can potentially celebrate the three masses of All Souls on Sunday in the Novus Ordo - then again on Monday in the Extraordinary Form!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Christus Rex Pilgrimage

I haven't heard anything from individual pilgrims yet, but Mary Lou sent me a link to this rather nice story on the pilgrimage from the Bendigo Advertiser:

"MORE than 320 pilgrims from across Australia have taken part in the annual Christus Rex pilgrimage, which concluded with a Solemn Mass in Bendigo’s Sacred Heart Cathedral yesterday.
The three-day pilgrimage in the medieval tradition saw pilgrims walk from Ballarat’s St Patrick’s Cathedral to Bendigo in time for yesterday’s 3pm Mass, conducted in the Extraordinary Form.

Pilgrims had earlier camped at Smeaton and Newstead as part of their pilgrimage, inspired by the Chartres Pilgrimage in France, an event that attracts up to 30,000 participants each year.

In true medieval tradition, the pilgrimage included prayers and meditation along the way, with Mass said each night on the journey to Bendigo.

Support staff accompanied the pilgrims and when local halls were filled the overflow camped outside.

Yesterday’s Mass featured hauntingly beautiful Gregorian chants, set against the backdrop of Bendigo’s spectacular cathedral.

The Solemn Mass has experienced an immense rise in popularity among Catholics across the world, and organisers believe the Christus Rex pilgrimage will continue to grow each year, attracting young and old, bonded together in traditional spirituality and faith."

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

'Praying something altogether different': the faithful at the Mass

Michael Sternbeck wrote a comment on my previous post responding to something both I and Joshua had said, arguing that even if the faithful don't necessarily follow every word that the priest says, it is better that they pray something of the words of the Mass rather than something altogether different. I think this is a discussion worth having!

Knowing the prayers of the Mass

Let me start by saying that I agree with Mr Sternbeck that the faithful attending Mass should know the prayers that are being said at Mass well, and understand their function and meaning. I haven't finished reading his Ordo yet (when I have, I'll post a review of it), but my impression so far is that it will help all of us immensely. In particular, the succinct explanations of each part of the Mass place the texts in their historical, functional and theological contexts.

But knowing the texts very well (and in my view, we should all have most of them semi-memorized either in English or in Latin) doesn't mean to me that praying them with the priest during Mass is necessarily always the best method of hearing Mass.

The pernicious influence of congregationalism

In my view, one of the greatest problems of our time is congregationalism.

Its extreme manifestation, of course, is the Brisbane disease - congregations who say made up Eucharistic Prayers along with the priest, and even purport to perform some of the ritual elements of the sacraments along with him.

But it does affect even traddies in subtle ways, and the practice of saying every word of the Mass mentally seems to me to encourage it.
The reality that we need to keep in mind when thinking about 'active participation' is that while the people do contribute to the sacrifice of the Mass, they do so in a different way to the priest.

What active participation really means

The Mass is fundamentally about our worship of God, and aids our sanctification firstly by the grace of the sacrament poured out by virtue of the act itself (ex opere operato), and secondly by the work of the Church (ex opere operantis Ecclesiae) operating through the sacramental (the prayers and ceremonies). Although the faithful do contribute to the sacrifice of the Mass, with the priest acting to gather up and offer our prayers and sacrifices, so that they are offered 'with and through' the priest, our role is above all to have hearts disposed to receive grace (Mediator Dei, 31).

In fact, Pius XII defines active participation as follows:

"The cooperation of the faithful is required so that sinners may be individually purified in the blood of the Lamb. For though, speaking generally, Christ reconciled by His painful death the whole human race with the Father, He wished that all should approach and be drawn to His cross, especially by means of the sacraments and the eucharistic sacrifice, to obtain the salutary fruits produced by Him upon it. Through this active and individual participation, the members of the Mystical Body not only become daily more like to their divine Head, but the life flowing from the Head is imparted to the members..."

The different roles of the priest and the people at Mass

In Mediator Dei, Pius XII spelt out the different ways in which the people and priest participate in the Mass:

"... the priest acts for the people only because he represents Jesus Christ, who is Head of all His members and offers Himself in their stead. Hence, he goes to the altar as the minister of Christ, inferior to Christ but superior to the people. The people, on the other hand, since they in no sense represent the divine Redeemer and are not mediator between themselves and God, can in no way possess the sacerdotal power...

However, it must also be said that the faithful do offer the divine Victim, though in a different sense.

This has already been stated in the clearest terms by some of Our predecessors and some Doctors of the Church. "Not only," says Innocent III of immortal memory, "do the priests offer the sacrifice, but also all the faithful: for what the priest does personally by virtue of his ministry, the faithful do collectively by virtue of their intention." We are happy to recall one of St. Robert Bellarmine's many statements on this subject. "The sacrifice," he says "is principally offered in the person of Christ. Thus the oblation that follows the consecration is a sort of attestation that the whole Church consents in the oblation made by Christ, and offers it along with Him."

Moreover, the rites and prayers of the Eucharistic sacrifice signify and show no less clearly that the oblation of the Victim is made by the priests in company with the people."

So if active participation is about intention, disposition to receive grace, and being in the company of the priest, it follows it seems to me, that what matters is not whether we follow the words of the Mass, but the best means of achieving the correct dispositions.

Some qualifications...

Now I want to acknowledge a couple of qualifiers to my basic point.

The first relates to the Mass as a sacramental - participation in the ritual where it is permitted or required, for example by acting as a server, singing in a choir, singing the Ordinary or saying the responses in a dialogue Mass - clearly does have some inherent merit. The Baltimore Catechism summarises the issue thus:

"..a boy who serves Mass or a person who sings in the choir will partake more abundantly of the fruits of the Holy Sacrifice, other things being equal, than one who merely assists as a member of the congregation."(No. 3, p212)

The point though is that silently joining in the prayers does not constitute such 'extra' participation.

The second point relates to the contribution we make to the Mass through our individual prayers and sacrifices. While the Mass is the sacrifice of Christ, we do genuinely join our own sacrifices to his through the action of the priest. That's why a Mass attended by holy people has more 'extrinsic' merit than a mass attended by people in a state of mortal sin. It is why the holiness of the priest is relevant even though the intrinsic merit of the Mass is not affected either by the Minister or the way it is said. It is why a sung Solemn Mass has more extrinsic merit than a low Mass.

But none of this, it seems to me, goes to the inherent virtue of the laity following every word in their Missals.

The point is...

I do think there is a place for following the texts and mentally saying them with the priest - but it is probably not something you want to do every day if you are a daily Mass attendee.

Similarly, I personally quite like the Angelus Missal's little sidebar commentaries on the Mass, which provide reflections on what is happening and how we can join ourselves to those prayers. Mr Sternbeck's commentaries on the relevant prayers seem to me able to be used in a similar way.

Another technique I've discovered is to bring along a Liber and mentally sing the Propers and Ordinary, although some juggling is required as the timings generally don't work that well!

But I do think there is also a place for the use of prayers less directly associated with the Mass, and I'm not yet sure that I see why using the prayers of the Mass itself is inherently superior to other approaches to hearing the Mass. But I'd be interesting in hearing the arguments!

The picture by the way, is of Fr Berg, Superior General of the FSSP saying Mass at the tomb of St Peter for the Fraternity's recent twentieth anniversary celebrations in Rome.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The ars celebrandi and what to do about the low mass!

I posted a while back on the prayers at the foot of the altar, and it elicited a few comments about the dialogue mass that I've been thinking about and want to come back to, but in the broader context of the ars celebrandi.

Fr Z made a comment recently to the effect that the way the mass is said makes all the difference, even in the extraordinary form. I think he is right, notwithstanding the fact that the EF is somewhat less easy to make a mess of than the OF! The problem is that to a large extent we are conditioned by what we are used to.

And for me I've come to the realization that, beyond the intrinsic merit of any mass, I really don't much like the low silent mass - it's just that it is still preferable to the in your face, talky vernacular Novus Ordo Mass that is the most readily available alternative!

Oh for the 1950s (not!)...

The way our expectations are conditioned is always best illustrated for me by a relative, who in principle decries what was done to the liturgy in the 1960s and 70s - but in practice finds the TLM as it is typically said today alien.

Some of the things she complains about are small things, but important to her - she wants to hear the Last Gospel, not see it muttered sotto voce for example. But most of all, growing up in the 1940s and 50s, she was used to a said mass, not a sung one, and finds the missa cantata hard to follow.

The Mass she remembers was one of those half hour Mass deals, even with sermon on Sunday. She even seems to have a bit of nostalgia for the priest's harassment of latecomers (he started start again from scratch if anyone came in late)....

To me of course all of this sounds like bad stuff! I converted (technically reverted) to the Church in part influenced by seeing a couple of very reverently Solemn Masses performed complete with orchestra (courtesy of the LeFevrites before the split), followed up by the splendour of the London Oratory. When I came to Australia it was a bit of a thump to earth to experience the novus ordo as it usually is, but my first few years were cushioned by the experience of a really outstanding choir dedicated to excellence, combined with doses of Byzantine Catholicism.

And my path to a regular experience of the silent Low Mass was a relatively slow one - at first our TLM community had dialogue and sung masses, it is only in recent years that we have been weaned off the former! All the same, that initial experience of spectacular sung masses still drives my view of the ideal mass.

The Low Mass shouldn't really be the norm....

Personally, of course, I'd like to go back to the medieval norm of a sung mass in the parish church every day (private chantry masses were the add-on extra, not the norm), with a Solemn orchestral mass on Sunday!

It doesn't necessarily take a choir (though in many cases there was one several times a week) to do a missa cantata, just a priest, a server and a person to sing the Propers and Ordinary. The daily sung mass in a traditional monastery of course, reflects this norm.

The silent mass seems to reflect a variety of forces including the reduced resources in many places after the Reformation, the destruction of the monasteries, and the shift to an emphasis on doctrinal rather than liturgical competence post-Trent. In Europe, organs, choirs and orchestras ensured masses were typically not silent. But the Irish tradition which Australia and the US inherited has tended to see all that music stuff as what the enemy Anglicans did.

So what can we do now...

Well, the first and most obvious thing is to agitate for a Solemn Mass, or at least a missa cantata whenever at all possible!

These days with so few priests (and even fewer who can actually sing well!) there is often a hard choice to be made between having a Solemn Mass, or having confessions available through the Mass. My view is, Solemn Mass (make more confession time available beforehand)! As Pius XII said, it:

"...possesses its own special dignity due to the impressive character of its ritual and the magnificence of its ceremonies. The splendor and grandeur of a high Mass, however, are very much increased if, as the Church desires, the people are present in great numbers and with devotion."

The second point is really for priests (and servers), and that is to note that from a layperson's point of view, the ars celebrandi really is important, especially for the low mass. Things like having a (well-trained) server, the priest maintaining custody of the eyes, pronouncing the Latin correctly and without mistakes, getting the different voice levels consistent, and even the way communion is distributed, really matter.

The third point is that maybe the use of options such as the dialogue mass should be reconsidered, at least occasionally (is there anywhere in Australia that still has it?), along with the mass with organ, and mass with hymns. I have to admit I have reservations about all of these, but still, maybe they have a place. I used to dislike dialogue masses in particular - a reaction to the novus ordo where one is always having to say something. But perhaps the low silent mass goes too far to the opposite extreme! Someone suggested to me that if the congregation were saying the responses in Latin, it would make it easier for newcomers to come to grips with the fact that everything happens in a foreign language, and I think there is something in that.

Finally, I've concluded trying to follow every word in one's missal compounds the problem of the low mass rather than helping. Many of the medieval mass books aimed at the laity encouraged meditation on the allegorical meaning of what was happening at each point in the Mass, and Michael Sternbeck's Ordo commentary notes provide some suggestions drawing on that approach which I think are helpful.

But I'd also suggest that, the current disdain for such things notwithstanding, saying the rosary or Office or other prayers during Mass (as Pius XII allowed for in Mediator Dei) may well be helpful occasionally for those of us who struggle with the silent mass...

Monday, 27 October 2008

And so it begins...

Thanks to correspondent Peter for alerting me to this news item from the AAP via the ABC, about the Greens - supported by House Speaker, the Islamic Council and assorted hangers-on - are trying to get the practice of reciting the Lord's Prayer to start Parliament each day - abandoned.

Very apposite to the Feast of Christ the King celebrated yesterday in the traditional rite:

"The Federal Government and Opposition have both given the thumbs down to calls to change or abandon the Lord's Prayer recited at the beginning of each day of federal Parliament.

But the Greens want the prayer replaced with a period of reflection and a conscience vote in both houses on the issue.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, has called for a public debate about whether the daily prayer should be rewritten or replaced. He said the prayer was the most controversial aspect of parliamentary procedure and had been raised with him by MPs and members of the public.

His call has been met with protests from the Australian Christian Lobby and expressions of support for the prayer from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull.

A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said the Prime minister viewed the prayer as an important tradition that should not be broken. "The Lord's Prayer is a long-standing tradition of the Australian Parliament and the Prime Minister believes it should continue," she said.

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull and Nationals leader Warren Truss issued a joint statement, saying the removal of the prayer would be unacceptable. The pair said media reports today were the first time the matter had been raised with the Coalition.

"The Lord's Prayer has a very important place in the conduct of the parliamentary program, and ahead of the day's debate and deliberations it provides a non-partisan reaffirmation of our commitment to the common good for the people of Australia," Mr Turnbull and Mr Truss said in the statement.

Greens leader Bob Brown said a period of reflection would be better than the "old fashioned" rote recitation of the prayer.

He wants a conscience vote in both houses on the issue.

"I am repeatedly dismayed that we have people going through prayers by rote about being good to each other then immediately getting into the business of attacking each other in the Senate," Senator Brown said.
"I think it would be better if we had a period of reflection in which people could think about such things as 'will what we are doing today be welcomed by our grandchildren?'

"The matter should be debated and there should be a free vote on it."

Senator Brown said he would discuss moving a joint motion with independent MP, Rob Oakeshott, whom earlier this month used his maiden speech to call for a daily acknowledgement of the Aboriginal owners of the land.

Australian Christian Lobby managing director Jim Wallace said Christianity had had a profound impact on shaping our laws, culture and democracy.

"It's appropriate that we open parliaments with the Lord's Prayer for its cultural and historic relevance," he said.

Australian Federation Of Islamic Councils president Ikebal Patel said the prayer should be non-denominational and include a recognition of the Indigenous owners of the land.

"Any prayer before a session of the Parliament is good but what I would encourage is some words to acknowledge the land we are on, the Indigenous spirituality.

"Acknowledging the many other religions that Australia encompasses certainly, I think, would be a more inclusive prayer," he said.

Immigration Minister Chris Evans said the Indigenous owners of the land were acknowledged at the opening of Parliament for the year and would be recognised at other official occasions at Parliament House."

Nice to have it set out so clearly who is working on the side of the forces of evil...

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Feast of Christ the King

Quas Primas - a very contemporary call to arms

The decree of Pius IX instituting this feast, Quas Primas, could have been written yesterday - certainly our current Pope regularly echoes its sentiments. Take this line from the opening paragraph for example:

"... these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives; that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics.."

Or this, from para 25:

"While nations insult the beloved name of our Redeemer by suppressing all mention of it in their conferences and parliaments, we must all the more loudly proclaim his kingly dignity and power, all the more universally affirm his rights."

In Australia we are losing the battle...

The point of the feast is to counter secularism, and promote the spread of the Church throughout the world. The Kingdom, Quas Primas points out, is spiritual and concerns spiritual things. Nonetheless, society must be built on the solid and secure foundations of Christ in order for peace and harmony to prevail, and that requires that all acknowledge Christ's Kingship.

And it has to be said that in Australia at the moment, the feast is particularly important given that the forces of secularism seem to be winning, as witnessed by the appalling Victorian Abortion legislation.

I have to admit that suggests to me we need to consider changing tactics.

One of the things that has struck me over the last few weeks when debating people from the other side on abortion has been just how gaping the chasm between our worldviews is. Many in our society have simply lost the ability to perceive truth, even when they are led logically through the arguments.

In those circumstances, some serious rethinking seems to me to be needed, and perhaps even more importantly, some active engagement by more people!

I don't think the answer lies in things like more people on vigils outside abortion 'clinics', for example - praying in public for life is certainly a valuable thing to do and keeps the issue visible, but in terms of saving lives, even if they could be manned all day long, waiting until people arrive at the clinic is generally going to be too late.

Somehow we need to reshape the discourse, and challenge people act not just in their own short-term selfish interests at the expense of others lives, but in the interests of others and the future of our nation and world. A challenge to ponder as you celebrate the feast.....

Saturday, 25 October 2008

More on the FSSP's new Adelaide apostolate and TLM there...

A reader drew my attention to the official announcement from the Adelaide diocese on the appointment of Fr McCaffrey as chaplain to the Adelaide TLM community. You can find a copy on the Trad Adelaide blog.

The TLM set to expand further in Adelaide?

The announcement thanks the current chaplain, Fr Thoroughgood and notes that:

"Father Thoroughgood leaves the position of Chaplain and will now be appointed to a hospital chaplaincy role with the Royal Adelaide Hospital."

My reader noted that there is a certain irony in this as Fr McCaffrey actually worked at the Hospital as a doctor in the Emergency Department prior to becoming a priest....

In any case, the good news is that:

"Father Thoroughgood will continue to say the Latin Mass in other locations in the Archdiocese according to the terms of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum."

Aside from the TLM community at Payneham Rd, there are two other monthly TLMs in Adelaide, but particularly given that this is a sprawling city, and Payneham Rd is not that readily accessible to many, some further expansion of the TLM around Adelaide is clearly desirable!

And a nice article on Fr McCaffrey and the Parramatta apostolate...

I also stumbled across a nice article on the FSSP's work and Fr McCaffrey in Catholic Outlook, the Parramatta diocesan newspaper last month.

The article leads in with the announcement of Summorum Pontificum and then says:

"For Fr Michael McCaffrey FSSP, 44, a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP), this was wonderful news. Celebrating the Latin Mass had, after all, been one of Fr Michael's reasons for becoming a priest as a late vocation.

Growing up a Catholic in Mt Gambier in South Australia he had experienced what he described as "the regular parish life of a cradle Catholic".

But as an only child, his upbringing was overshadowed by the early deaths of his parents, his mother when he was 11 and his father when he was 15.

On completing school, he studied medicine at the University of Adelaide and graduated to work for years as a doctor in the adrenaline-charged area of emergency medicine.

As a regular Mass attendee (often going two or three times a week) it was not until he was in his early 30s he said that he encountered the Mass in Latin.

"When I discovered the Extraordinary form of the Mass I simply fell in love with it," he recalls today from the FSSP community house at Girraween. "Some people that I knew were rather puzzled by this, but I found great beauty in the liturgy and I became very attached to it."

He said thoughts he had entertained of entering the priesthood in his younger days now returned. "It was as if something had been missing in my life. I really felt as if I was at one of those crossroads where you ask yourself, 'Okay, so what am I going to do about this?'"...

After attending a retreat at the FSSP seminary in the US and "praying and thinking about it", Fr Michael discerned his vocation and entered the seminary for five years of priestly formation.

Returning to Adelaide, he asked Archbishop Phillip Wilson if he would consider ordaining him in the Extraordinary form of the Roman rite. The Bishop agreed to his request, and in 2006 Fr Michael was ordained a priest.

In Sydney the FSSP has two communities, one at Petersham and the other at Girraween. Fr Michael shares the latter with Deacon Marko Rehak. Deacon Dominic Popplewell lives at Petersham. Both deacons are in their 30s....

"It was at Our Lady of the Nativity Church, Lawson, in late June that Bishop Manning used the Extraordinary form of the Latin rite to confirm a number of young people who had studied their catechesis with Fr Michael.

He has also been a chaplain at Campion College and during the week of WYD celebrated the extraordinary form of the Mass for international pilgrims at St Augustine's Church, Balmain.

Fr Michael described his journey to the priesthood as a series of spiritual discoveries that "has led me to my life's work. From that sense of being led by Christ, I feel myself utterly fulfilled in His service, full of joy and happiness in all that I do in His name."

Friday, 24 October 2008

Feast of St Raphael - The Medicine of God

Today is the feast of St Raphael, whose name, St Gregory tells us, means 'Medicine of God'. Most of what we know about the Archangel Raphael comes from the Book of Tobit, which records that St Raphael is:

" of the seven angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One." (Tobit 12:15).

In Tobit, St Raphael travels with Tobit's son Tobias, in disguise, and helps him as he undertakes a long journey to retrieve desperately needed finances for the family. In the course of the journey, St Raphael guides Tobit in overcoming a demon who has been killing the husbands of one of his relations (and who he marries under St Raphael's instructions), acquires the means to heal his father's blindness, and of course solves the family's financial problems! Accordingly, St Raphael is frequently invoked as patron of travellers (though he is also patron of lovers, physicians and people with illnesses amongst many other things).

But it is in his role as a channel for spiritual and physical healing that we might want to particularly call upon him today, as the Gospel set for his Mass associates him with the angel who stirred up the healing waters in the pond called Probatica in Jerusalem, described in John 5:1-15 (you know the one, where from time to time, God sent an angel to stir up the waters, and whoever got in first was healed). In that story, Jesus heals the paralytic who had been there, trying for 38 years, but had no one to help him get into the pool. So we can all pray that our paralysis and ills - whether spiritual or physical - might be healed, whether by the waters stirred by the angel on our Lord's instructions, or directly by him:

St. Raphael

of the glorious seven who stand before the throne of Him who lives and reigns,

Angel of health,

the Lord has filled your hand with balm from heaven to soothe or cure our pains.
Heal or cure the victim of disease.

And guide our steps when doubtful of our ways.


Thursday, 23 October 2008

Feast of All Saints - Solemn Mass at Bondi

Just to let you know that there will be a Traditional Latin Mass (Sung High Mass in the extraordinary form) according to the 1962 Missal on All Saints Day (Saturday November 1) at 11am the lovely Church of St Anne, Bondi Beach, so do go along if you are in reach of Sydney!

The last event at St Anne's (for the feast day of the saint) back in July attracted around 250 people to this beautiful Church, so do try and get there for the occasion!

The celebrant will be Father Terence Mary Naughtin, OFM. Conv.

To get there....

The Church is located at the corner of Blair and Mitchell Streets, Bondi Beach and offstreet parking is available in the school playground (entrance in Oakley Road, between Mitchell and Glenayr Ave).

After Mass there will be a cup of tea in the meeting room under the church.

Introduction to the TLM for newcomers

A particular feature of this event is that there will be a short talk on the Latin Mass by Peter Kalina, especially aimed at those who have not previously attended a Traditional Latin Mass, beforehand at 10.30am in the meeting room under the church (enter through gate between presbytery and church and follow signs).

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The dangers of centering prayer...

The latest Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese e-news contains an ad for a 'contemplative prayer' workshop run by Fr William Meninger OCSO, a member of the group of Trappist Monks that invented 'Centering Prayer'. Its disappointing to see this kind of stuff being promoted by the official Church, and as I assume Fr Meninger is doing something of a tour, I thought it might be timely to point out some of the dangers of this form of prayer.

Centering prayer and the Cloud of Unknowing

Centering prayer claims to be based on the Cloud of Unknowing, a wonderful English fourteenth century book of instruction on prayer. That's a very creative claim.

The Cloud, like all orthodox spiritual guides, envisages a long period of preparation for contemplative prayer, starting by overcoming the main tendencies to sin through ascetic practices, the sacraments, and most especially use of lectio divina.

And while it is a book many people can benefit from reading, the heights of the approach it describes are specifically limited to someone living an enclosed life as a hermit or religious (subject to God's free decision), not a person living the active life in the world (it was most probably written by a Carthusian monk).

By contrast, centering prayer claims that anyone can attain the heights of contemplative prayer by using a few very simple (not to say simplistic) techniques, mostly derived from Eastern religions such as Buddhism. It's version of lectio divina is, in my view, a travesty, based on endless repetition of short selections, rather than a serious attempt to understand the literal and spiritual meanings of the text, and use that as a starting point for meditation, prayer, action and contemplation. Fr Meninger is also apparently a proponent of Enneagram, another pagan derived methodology.

The dangers of this approach

Centering prayer was specifically created to appeal to a generation attracted by Eastern religions. It is easy to do, requiring no great knowledge or preparation. It promises instant rewards. And it runs directly to any 'elitist' notions that suggest that you might actually have to sacrifice something if you want to attain the higher levels of mystical prayer.

Its biggest problem is that if seems to by-pass the need for grace, and the free gift of the Holy Spirit, who dispenses the heights of prayer to whom he chooses, when he chooses, not to all comers.

It is for these reasons that the current Pope, in his previous job as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith wrote An instruction on certain aspects of Christian Meditation which warns against many of the approaches promoted by Centering Prayer. Anyone considering attending one of these workshops should read the instruction carefully first.

A better approach...

And in the meantime, here is some advice from the Cloud of Unknowing....

"Nevertheless, there are helps which the apprentice in contemplation should employ, namely Lesson, Meditation, and Orison or, as they are more generally called, Reading, Thinking, and Praying....thinking may not be had unless reading or hearing come first....Beginners and proficients cannot pray unless they think first.

Prove it: God's word, written or spoken, can be likened to a mirror. Spiritually, the 'eye' of your soul is your reason: your conscience is your spiritual 'face'. Just as you cannot see or know that there is a dirty mark on your actual face without the aid of a mirror, or somebody telling you, so spiritually, it is impossible for a soul blinded by his frequent sins to see the dirty mark in his conscience, without reading or hearing God's word..." (Chapter 35)

So my advice would be, spend the weekend reading, studying and praying over Scripture instead of attending one of these workshops!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Feast of St John Cantius

Today is the feast of St John Cantius, a fifteenth century Polish professor, and patron saint of the Canons Regular of the same name, a society devoted to offering both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the liturgy. Accordingly, I thought it might be appropriate to talk about bi-ritualism.

And yes, I know that technically the OF and the EF are not different rituals, but I do regard the Pope's pronouncement on this as a legal device designed to achieve a particular end, viz the right of all priests to say the TLM, rather than a reflection of objective reality.

Attitudes to bi-ritualism

Hardline traddies tend to be pretty opposed to bi-ritualism - some people won't even attend masses said by priests who say the Ordinary Form (novus ordo). I don't personally think that is a position that can be justified - after all, as Catholics we are in union with a Pope who normally says the OF.....

And of course, many people simply don't have access to a Traditional Latin Mass on a regular basis - so need to attend a NO in order to satisfy their obligations, and/or if they want to attend any mass at all.

That situation includes a few religious orders - the traditional Carmel in the US, I gather has a novus ordo mass once a week, I assume from necessity, and there are other similar cases.

Nonetheless, the question does arise - if you had the choice to say or hear only the TLM, why would you want to be bi-ritual? I for one have a strong preference for the TLM, and find it hard to understand the rationale for a bi-ritual Society or Order and I suspect I'm not alone.

Bi-ritual for pastoral and practical reasons?

One obvious reason for attending both forms from the perspective of the laity at least is purely practical. Given that TLMs are only available in a few places, unless you are lucky enough to live very close to the Church, driving times and costs (particularly in these days of extraordinary petrol prices!), mass times, and such like factors may make a NO mass the only practical option, at least some of the time during the week. In my own TLM community, it is a big day if there are half a dozen at daily mass - but discrete questioning (and the occasional sighting when I venture out into the wider world myself) suggests that a very high proportion of the congregation are nonetheless daily mass attenders...

From the point of view of a priest who has discovered the TLM after ordination, there is a purely pragmatic issue: few (if any) parishes will tolerate all of their masses suddenly going TLM. Rather, a slow process of building up a constituency, a process that will take years, has to occur. And even if every single parish priest suddenly saw the light and started this process, the reality is that a certain generation, aged around 50 + are just so brainwashed in their enmity to the TLM that they probably have to die out before there is any prospect that the NO could disappear altogether.

Nonetheless, bi-ritualism in parishes can help reintroduce and reinforce some traditional doctrines, and by influencing the way the novus ordo mass is said, help smooth the way for the return of tradition. So I guess that a vocation to help advance that process may be in part what joining the Canons Regular of St John Cantius is about.

Reform of the reform or return to tradition?

One of the interesting debates is of course whether the point of bi-ritualism is reform of the reform, or whether the long-term aim really is a return to the TLM. The first of course, can be seen as a means to the second, provided of course that those intent on 'reforming' the Extraordinary Form don't get carried away, confining any reforms to some sensible updating of the calendar and addition of a few prefaces for example!

So it is interesting that the Canons of St John Cantius have actually been doing a lot of really excellent work promoting the TLM.

They have run workshops for the laity on the TLM, an idea that seems worth considering in terms of building up TLM communities in Australia! They have also put together a really outstanding set of resources for priests, servers, choirs and TLM attendees at their Sancta Missa website.

Their stated mission is to 'help Catholics rediscover a profound sense of the sacred through solemn liturgies, devotions, sacred art and sacred music, as well as instruction in Church heritage, catechesis and Catholic culture in the context of parish ministry'. Sounds pretty good to me.

Any room for bi-ritualism in Australia?

One of the problems for groups of traditionalists around Australia is building up a big enough congregation to support a full-time TLM chaplain. I'm not sure how many Wangaratta are getting at their new monthly Mass, for example, but I'm guessing it is still not quite enough. So maybe an option we should be considering is lobbying not just the traditional priestly societies, but the couple of bi-ritual societies of which St John Cantius is the biggest I think - or even encouraging some locals to start a new one for Australia - as a means to viability in smaller centres? Just a thought...

PS Just in case anyone is considering whether they might have a vocation to one of the bi-ritual monasteries or priestly societies, the main ones I know of are:

Friday, 17 October 2008 what is their charism really?

I said a little while back that I'd do a series on monasteries of potential interest to Australian traditionalists, and I thought I'd start with the Carmelites.

There are, as far as I can discover, two monasteries claiming that name Carmelite that have the Traditional Latin Mass (leaving aside a few sedes/SSPX afiliated groups scattered around) - the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Nebraska, USA for women, and the Wyoming Carmelite monks. Both currently have an Australian in residence!

Origins of the Carmelites - a little history

The Carmelites trace their history back to Elijah and the community of hermits on Mt Carmel, but so far as historical records are concerned, their modern incarnation really starts with a group of Westerners who settled there during the Crusades. This group were strict hermits, and followed the Rule of St Albert. The collapse of the Crusader kingdoms forced them back to Europe, and once there, they quickly abandoned (or adapted depending on your perspective)their original charism and remodelled themselves on the mendicant orders, particularly the Dominicans, becoming friars rather than monks.

The nuns were founded in 1452 as part of a reform movement, and the third order in 1476, but the most famous reformer of the Order was of course St Teresa of Avila, aided by St John of the Cross, which saw the split off of the 'discalced' (no footwear, or sandals allowed for the friars) Carmelites, a much more ascetic group, in the sixteenth century.

As for virtually all religious orders, the Carmelites were almost wiped out in Europe by the French Revolution (made famous by the Dialogues of the Carmelites) and Napoleon - at the end of the nineteenth century there were only 200 Carmelite men left.

In the twentieth century, however, there has been something of a revival, helped greatly by the popularity of saints such as Therese of Lisieux.

The charism

The Carmelites are a very strict, penitential order, with a hermetical orientation - I've seen them described as 'hermits in community'. The traditional women's Carmel practices very strict enclosure, in keeping with St Teresa's view that this was necessary to achieve the heights of contemplative prayer. St Teresa, in fact, didn't want to have laypeople formally associated with the Order; that was a much later innovation.

They particularly differ from Benedictines in that private prayer rather than liturgy is their main focus - they sing the Divine Office on one note (recto tono) rather than chant for example. And they differ from both Benedictines and Dominicans in not making study a major emphasis, as the story of St Therese of Lisieux not even having a Bible illustrates (while her contemporaries, founding the Benedictine women's house at Solesmes not only each had their own Bible, but were learning Latin and patristics - of course, St Therese is the one who has been named a Doctor of the Church)!

The Carmel of Jesus, Joseph and Mary

The traditional women's Carmel was dedicated in 2000 - prior to that the sisters lived in a farmhouse nearby, but there is surprisingly little about there history on the net. They are now pretty close to full, with 21 nuns (though some are still in formation) so are looking at making a new foundation (but I don't know where this is up to...anyone know anything?).

The Wyoming monks

The monks are, as far as I can gather, a return to the older form of Carmelite life for men, in that, unlike the friars, they are strictly enclosed (while following Teresian spirituality). They started in 2003, and have 8 monks, plus another large group in various stages of formation.

So go and take a look at their website - it is really excellent.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Scripture Reading Plan: 2 Maccabees

The Scripture Reading Plan I'm following moves 2 Maccabees 2 today, which focuses on the story of Judas Maccabeus, one of the great warrior heroes of Judaism who led the revolt against the Seleucids between 167 and 160 BC.

Accordingly, it basically covers the same ground as the first part of 1 Maccabees. It is the last of the historical books of the Old Testament, but was probably actually written before 1 Maccabees.

Whereas 1 Maccabees is more historical in focus, covering the lives of all the Maccabee brothers up to the point at which the Jews attain political and religious independence, 2 Maccabees is more explicitly theological.

2 Maccabees is particularly important from a Christian perspective in emphasising the value of suffering and martyrdom, its firm belief in the resurrection of the dead, and particularly in its articulation of the links between the Church Militant, Suffering and Triumphant. The text points out that the living can help the dead by their prayers and sacrifices, and that the saints in heaven can intercede for the living.

Aim to finish it by the 21st....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Christus Rex Pilgrimage - start Novena today!

It's still not too late to register for the pilgrimage - so if you've been procrastrinating, go over to and register online now!

But if even if you aren't going, please do say the following Novena to Christ the King for its success. You need to recite One Our Father, One Hail Mary and One Glory Be per day followed by the Novena Prayer:

O Lord our God, Thou alone are the Most Holy King and Ruler of all nations.
We pray to Thee, Lord, in the great expectation of receiving from Thee, O Divine King, mercy,
peace, justice and all good things.
Protect, O Lord our King, our families and the land of our birth.
Guard us we pray Most Faithful One.
Protect us from our enemies and from Thy Just Judgment
Forgive us, O Sovereign King, our sins against Thee.
Jesus, Thou art a King of Mercy.
We have deserved Thy Just Judgment
Have mercy on us, Lord, and forgive us.
We trust in Thy Great Mercy.
O most awe-inspiring King, we bow before Thee and pray;
May Thy Reign, Thy Kingdom, be recognized on earth.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Institute of Christ the King and Sisters Adorers now of Pontifical Right **updated**

Thanks to NLM for the news that the Institute of Christ the King is now of Pontifical Right.

The priests now constitute a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right - no surprise in a way given that they now operate in 50 dioceses around the world.

**A little more surprising is that the sisters are now also a public association of Pontifical Right - pretty impressive (**not an institute of consecrate life yet as I had thought**), pretty good going given that they only started formally in 2004 (although the first sisters started their formation before that), and still have only three sisters in vows (and according to their website, still temporary vows!), albeit with several novices and postulants, some of whom must be getting pretty close to taking first vows.

By contrast, for example, the Benedictine of Mary Queen of Apostles in the US have a lot more sisters and have been going a lot longer, and are a public association of diocesan right.

In any case, you can read more on their website: here.

The move is a pretty important protection, and very timely, given that there is a new archbishop of Florence, the diocese where the Institute's Seminary and the Sister's convent is located, who seems rather less sympathetic to tradition than his predecessor.

How hard are we allowed to pray for life now and an end to suffering?

At times we all face suffering. Some are given the cross of a life-threatening illness. How hard then are we allowed to pray for the a miracle, for an end to our own or another's pain, and for God to grant continued life?

It is a question that occasionally comes up, and yesterday someone asked me what I thought again, so I thought I'd try and put my response down in writing.

A couple of times now, I've heard people argue that we really ought to just accept whatever has been doled out to us. We must, after all, look to eternal life as our true destiny. Many of the great saints reached the point of longing for the day when they could join Our Lord in heaven, and that should be our aim too. And of course we know that our sufferings now, joined to those of Christ, should be offered up for our salvation and for the world's.

But I don't think that makes it wrong to pray hard and fervently for healing, or for healing for ourselves and others!

Our earthly life after all, is a wonderful gift to us from our Father. Praying for its continuance reflects our awareness of just how great a gift it is.

Heaven after all, will hopefully be there forever, provided we strive for perfection and grace. Our life now, on the other hand, has only a limited duration: we only get one go at it.

In 1 Maccabees which I'm reading at the moment as part of the Scripture Reading Plan I'm following, an initial group of Jews are martyred because they refuse to fight against the Greek regime on the Sabbath. While this is perhaps to be admired, the rest of the Maccabees quickly conclude that fighting - even on the sabbath - can certainly be justified in the circumstances! And of course the Church adopts exactly this position.

Of course there are times when God will ask us to give up our lives for a cause. And this life inevitably ends for us all at some stage. We need to pray to face those times well, accepting God's will with joy, looking forward to a happy death.

But we are allowed to pray for material things, including this life. There is also a nice story about St Benedict, in St Gregory's Life of the saint, found weeping bitterly because, he tells the monk who finds him, God has determined that the monastery he has carefully built up will be destroyed, and the saint was only just able to persuade God to spare the monks.

Perhaps my favourite story on the struggle in prayer for continued life, though, is of Jacob wrestling with an angel in Genesis 32. The story is that Jacob is returning to his brother Esau, and learns that Esau is coming along with 400 men, intent on killing him. Jacob sends ahead some gifts to try and soften him up - but his main recourse is to prayer, and ends up spending the night wrestling with a mysterious man (identified in Hosea as an angel) until he gives him a blessing. It works, and Jacob survives the encounter!

So of course we must accept God's will, and pray to know it and do it. Sometimes we do have to resign ourselves, embrace a path that we certainly wouldn't have chosen. Of course we should strive to reach that point of perfect resignation to God's will when what he desires for us is what we desire for ourselves.

We also have to remember though that sometimes God doesn't give us what we want until we have truly wrestled the dark night away in fervour, demanding what God doesn't want to give lightly.

Miracles are rare. But God does grant them.

So pray hard, for healing for the sick and suffering. Pull out those votive masses for the sick. And pray for the courage for each of us to carry our cross, whatever it might be.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Death and refoundation of religious life: Cardinal Rode speaks

There have been a couple of great speeches in recent days on what has happened to religious life over the last few decades and what to do about it, given at a conference going on in the US. Great because they finally acknowledge publicly what we all know: that a hermaneutic of rupture was applied to religious life after Vatican II, and some still can't seem to get past that and do what is needed for the recovery of consecrated life.

Take this brilliant analysis of the main groupings today, by Cardinal Rodé:

"First, there are many new communities, some better known than others, many of which are thriving and whose individual statistics are the reverse of the general trends. [Places like the Benedictine Le Barroux and Christ in the Desert...none of which are located in Australia one might add!]

Second, we have older communities that have taken action to preserve and reform genuine religious life in their own charism; they are also in a growth mode, contrary to the general trend, and their median age is lower than the overall average for religious. [Such as Fontgambault and its four post-Vatican II foundations, including Clear Creek, all using the TLM.]

Neither of these two groups sees “the writing on the wall” in the sense that observers of the general trends use it; on the contrary, the future looks promising if they continue to be what they are and as they are.

Third, there are those who accept the present situation of decline as, in their words, the sign of the Spirit on the Church, a sign of a new direction to be followed. Among this group there those who have simply acquiesced to the disappearance of religious life or at least of their community, and seek to do so in the most peaceful manner possible, thanking God for past benefits. [Most of the other Benedictine Congregations and other religious orders....]

Then, we must admit too, that there are those who have opted for ways that take them outside communion with Christ in the Catholic Church, although they themselves may have opted to “stay” in the Church physically. These may be individuals or groups in institutes that have a different view, or they may be entire communities. [ie ratbag new age nuns]

Finally, I would distinguish those who fervently believe in their own personal vocation and the charism of their community, and are seeking ways to reverse the trend. In other words, how to achieve authentic renewal. These may be whole institutes, or individuals, pockets of individuals or even communities within institutes." [This must surely be the hardest place to be in - an isolated member of a community who wants to recover tradition, but faces an uphill battle to influence their peers.]

The Cardinal directs his comments primarily in to those in the last group, but also to the first two...

To read more, go here. There is also some nice accompanying commentary on Whispers in the Loggia, and by Fr Blake. Roman Catholic Vocations has some nice background on the conference itself.

Feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary

The Abortion debate resumes today in Victoria's Upper House, so do keep praying!

And on a related issue, I thought I should alert you to the WORLDWIDE ROSARY FOR UNBORN BABIES 9:00 a.m. * Saturday * October 18th, 2008.

The idea is that everyone prays the rosary from 9am in their particular timezone, so that there will be continuous waves of the rosary over a twenty four hour period around the world.

More details can be found here, at the St Michael the Archangel Organization.

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Eccleisa Dei Commission has a website....

The Ecclesia Dei Commission now has a website, albeit one largely in Italian (English is coming apparently):

There is some interesting looking stuff there already, including a recent think piece by Mgr Rifan (in French only) on the conditions required for 'union with traditionalists', which starts off by setting out three essentials - unity of doctrine (accepting the living Magisterium as the guide to truth), submission and obedience (acceptance of the Church's government under the Pope), and acceptance of the validity and legitimacy of the forms of the liturgy approved by the Church, who is sole judge in these matters.

The New Liturgical Movement has a translation of the welcome letter from Cardinal Castillon from the site, while Fr Z offers a commentary on the radical nature of this venture into the twenty-first century on the part of the Vatican bureaucracy ("In the Vatican equipment is updated every 75 years, whether it needs to be or not"...)!

Feast of St Bruno, founder of the Carthusians

St Bruno was initially a church bureaucrat (a good one!) on a path to be a bishop when he fulfilled a vow and became a hermit.

He initially joined up with St Robert of Molesmes and the early Cistercian group, but found it wasn't his thing (not strict enough?!), and set off with six companions to Bishop St Hugh of Grenoble, who had had a vision of the men. They set up an isolated centre for study and prayer at Chartreuse in 1084 until Bruno was recalled to Rome by Urban II (his former pupil) in 1090, where he acted as a papal advisor.

By 1091, he was begging to be allowed to return to his companions. Instead, he eventually founded a second charterhouse in Italy so he could be within reach of the Pope if needed.

Thanks to the film, Into Great Silence, something of the lifestyle of the Carthusian choir monks and laybrothers, with its extreme asceticism, is pretty well-known - despite the fact that one can't visit even their churches, let alone make a retreat there. One could positively feel the cold seeping in against that furnace in the cell, and feel the freezing cold in that church!

But personally, the thing I particularly admire is their very slow chant, interspersed with long silences, so that the night office of Matins and Lauds which they sing in common in the Church stretches out to 2-3 hours plus (more or less double the traditional Benedictine regime! ). All up, the Carthusian choir monk traditionally spends around six hours in Church (I believe it may be less these days, as instead of a conventual mass plus an individual mass, they now all concelebrate the conventual mass), the rest of his time in his cell or hermitage garden.

So do pray today for vocations to the Order, and the perseverance of their monks and nuns, because we solely need their prayers and penances offered on our behalf.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Twenty first Sunday after Pentecost

Rembrandt's picture of the unforgiving servant, the subject of today's Gospel.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Day of intercession for the defeat of the Victorian Abortion legislation

Archbishop Hart has called for this Sunday to be observed as a day of intercession in the Melbourne Archdiocese to pray for the defeat of the Bill. Cardinal Pell has also committed the Sydney archdiocese to join in prayer. The Bill was passed in the Victorian Lower House a couple of weeks ago and debate is scheduled to resume in the Victorian upper house on October 7.

A number of communities are holding special prayers for this intention, In particular:

  • Melbourne: Holy Hour after 11am Mass at 12.15pm.
  • Canberra: prayers, Exposition and Benediction after Sunday (low) Mass - will probably begin about 12.30 pm;
  • Toowoomba: 12:15pm - 1:15pm, Sacred Heart Church, Cnr North and Tor Streets

If there are any others, please let me know and I will add them to the list.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Big news: Le Barroux is (officially) Benedictine!

I have to break my little blogging break for some big news - Le Barroux has finally been admitted as a member of the Benedictine Confederation, and so is now officially recognised by its peers as Benedictine!

This may seem a rather obscure, rather bureaucratic thing, since most everyone (well in the wider world outside a few dying monasteries anyway) has always accepted Le Barroux, the original traditionalist monastery, as the very epitome of what it means to be Benedictine, but it is really big news in terms of monastic politics!

It is one of the little known oddities about Benedictines that they aren't really an order as such. Unlike the Dominicans, or most other religious institutes, there is no central governing body that can control what individual Benedictine monasteries do - instead every house is essentially autonomous (although in practice they mostly group together in congregations, some of which are more tightly organized than others).
So, when Benedictine monasteries have been reconciled to the Church, as Le Barroux was back in 1988, they didn't have to change their name to avoid problems with existing orders (unlike for example the Transalpine Redemptorists, or the Fraternity of St Vincent Ferrer).

Still, there is this thing called the Benedictine Confederation that is the nominal co-ordinating body of (most) Benedictines (though it doesn't include a number of groups who follow the Rule of St Benedict, such as the Cistercians and Trappists).

And it has long been a festering sore that the Confederation has refused to admit to its ranks the traditionalist monasteries such as Le Barroux and Flavigny. But now it seems that has changed, presumably another flow-on from Summorum Pontificum. You can read a little more of the background in the report from the Abbot of Christ in the Desert Monastery here.
Another positive sign that things are finally changing, and traddies are (finally) being recognized as part of the mainstream of the Church.