Monday, 14 September 2009

Feast of the Exaltation of Holy Cross

Today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, marking the date of the dedication of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 335. The feast itself really celebrates both the original finding of the true Cross by the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great in 326, and most especially its recovery from the Persians by the Emperor Heraclius in 628.

For traditionalists of course it has an additional particular significance as the date that Summorum Pontificum came into effect two years ago.

And on this later event, I invite you to do is to join me in the following Novena of the Holy Cross, starting from today, for the unity of Catholics:<

Jesus, Who because of Your burning love for us willed to be crucified
and to shed Your Most Precious Blood
for the redemption and salvation of our souls,
look down upon us and grant the petition we ask for,
the unity and healing from all wounds of Catholics, especially those attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

We trust completely in Your Mercy.

Cleanse us from sin by Your Grace,
sanctify our work,
give us and all those who are dear to us our daily bread,
lighten the burden of our sufferings,bless our families,
and grant to the nations,
so sorely afflicted,Your Peace, which is the only true peace,
so that by obeying Your Commandments
we may come at last to the glory of Heaven.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Cluny 2010

Today marks the start of celebrations of the millenium of the founding of the Monastery of Cluny located in Burgundy. The Monastery was destroyed by the French Revolution - the remnants of its Paris townhouse were subsequently turned into a (very nice) Museum of the Middle Ages. But from the time of its founding in 909 or 910 up until the Revolution it was a crucial force in Christendom.

The monastery was founded by William I of Acquitaine, and enjoyed the benefit of series of very long lived, saint-abbots (Pope Benedict XVI spoke about one of them in his last General Audience). It served as a force for reform both of monasticism (at its height the Cluniac Congregation included 825 monasteries, all directly dependent on the mother house), and the Church and society more generally. It was a particularly important support base for the reforms of Pope Gregory VII.

Cluniac monasticism stressed the moderation of St Benedict's Rule rather than ascetic extremes (though the Cistericans twelfth century critique of Cluny is clearly vastly exaggerated) - and its most well known feature was its strong liturgical focus. Central to its raison d'etre was the new emphasis in the earlier middle ages on the importance of the intercessory prayer of monks.

The Monastery itself became enormously wealthy - it accumulated perhaps the largest library in the West, and its Church was certainly the largest until the construction of the new St Peter's in the sixteenth century.

As for the celebrations of its foundation - the official "Cluny 2010" website states:

"In 909 or 910, a Benedictine abbey was founded at Cluny, in Burgundy. 250 years later, the abbey was at the head of approximately 1,400 Cluniac establishments in western Europe. This heritage network, now a cultural route of the Council of Europe, is to celebrate this anniversary in a variety of ways throughout the year.The 2010 programme for Cluny is made up of large events marking the whole period of celebrations and numerous smaller projects. They are to be held from September 2009 until December 2010 so as to establish a gradual build-up at Cluny and throughout the whole network of Cluniac sites in Europe.The majority of the larger events have a singular character: festive, popular, interactive and mainstream for some, more educational for others. They unite different forms of activities and entertainment specially conceived for the occasion."

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Latest year of the priest message

From the National Catholic Reporter:

Cardinal Hummes to Priests: Stay Close to Christ
Posted by Edward Pentin
Thursday, September 10, 2009 12:34 PM

"Cardinal Claudio Hummes, prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, has warned against priests who have an “insufficient and superficial” encounter with Jesus Christ, saying this can turn their ministry into a “kind of clerical profession” in which they carry out their duties “like officials.”

...The priest, Cardinal Hummes added, must...Be a man of love, of brotherhood, kindness, forgiveness and mercy to all,” he continued.

....However, the cardinal stressed “we must not lose heart or be afraid of today’s society, or simply condemn it. Be pastors and lead the community: this is identity that Christ has created and to which the priest must look.”

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The Pope on the hermaneutic of continuity and priestly formation

The Pope has made some important remarks in the last few days, in the context of the ad limina visit of the bishops of Brazil.

The official English version (I've been wondering whether I should learn Croatian, Portuguese or one of the other shall we say less commonly standard languages for which texts appear on occasion quite quickly on the Vatican website) is not available as yet, so here are the key parts courtesy of Zenit.

The problems of a vast country

After his opening welcome, the Pope started off with some sentiments that will have resonance for Australia's bishops, on the problems of ministering over vast tracts of territory, and dealing with an occasionally hostile state:

"...In fact, only God's great heart can know, keep and govern the multitude of sons and daughters that he himself engendered in Brazil's immense vastness. In the course of our conversations these days, some of the challenges and problems you are facing have come to light, as the archbishop of Campo Grande mentioned at the beginning of our meeting. We are impressed by the distances that you yourselves, as well as your priests and other missionary agents, have to cover to serve and pastorally encourage your faithful, many of them affected by the problems proper to a relatively recent urbanization, in which the state does not always succeed in being an instrument for the promotion of justice and the common good.

Do not be discouraged! Remember that the proclamation of the Gospel and adherence to Christian values, as I stated recently in the encyclical "Caritas in Veritate" "is not merely useful but essential for building a good society and for true integral human development."....

The importance of good priestly formation

In our days, and concretely in Brazil, the laborers in the Lord's field continue to be few for a harvest that is large (cf. Matthew 9:36-37). Despite the shortage we perceive, the adequate formation of those who are called to serve the people of God is truly essential.

For this reason, in the context of the current Year for Priests, allow me to pause today to reflect with you, beloved bishops of Western Brazil, on the most important task of your episcopal ministry, which is fostering [the vocation] of new pastors.

Although God is the only one able to awaken in the human heart a call to the pastoral service of his people, all members of the Church should question if they see and feel the profound urgency of this mission and have a real commitment to it.

One day, when some of the disciples were hesitating, noting that there were "still four months to go" before the harvest, Jesus replied: "I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already white for the harvest" (John 4:35). God does not see as man does! The haste of the good God is dictated by his desire that "all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4).

There are many who seem to want to live the whole of life in a minute, others who wander in tedium and inertia, or abandon themselves to violence of all sorts. Deep down, these are no more than desperate lives that look for hope, as demonstrated by an extended, though at times confused, need of spirituality, a renewed search for points of reference to take up again the journey of life.

The disastrous secularization of the Church post Vatican II

Esteemed brothers, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization, perceiving there certain strong Christian values, such as equality, liberty, solidarity.

They showed themselves ready to make concessions and discover areas of cooperation. We witnessed the interventions of some ecclesiastical officials in ethical debates, which responded to the expectations of public opinion, but which failed to speak of certain essential truths of the faith, such as sin, grace, theological life and the last things. Without realizing it, many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization.

Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned. When our contemporaries come to us, they want to see something that they do not see elsewhere, namely, joy and the hope that springs from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.

But things are changing for the better

At present there is a new generation born in this secularized ecclesial environment who, instead of looking for openness and consensus, see how the gap between society and the positions of the magisterium of the Church, especially in the ethical field, is ever greater.

In this desert lacking God, the new generation feels a great thirst for transcendence. It is the young men of this new generation who knock on the door of seminaries, and who need to find formators who are true men of God, priests totally dedicated to formation, who give witness of the gift of themselves to the Church, through celibacy and an austere life, according to the model of Christ the Good Shepherd. Thus, these young men will learn to be sensitive to the encounter with the Lord, in daily participation in the Eucharist, loving silence and prayer, working first of all for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

Beloved brothers, as you know, it is the bishop's task to establish the essential criteria for the formation of seminarians and priests in fidelity to the universal norms of the Church: It is in this spirit that reflections on this topic should be developed, [which was] the objective of the plenary assembly of your episcopal conference last April. Certain of being able to count on your zeal in regard to priestly formation, I invite all bishops, their priests and seminarians, to imitate in their lives the charity of Christ, Priest and Good Shepherd, as the holy Cure d'Ars did. And, with him, may they take as model and protection of their own vocation the Virgin Mother, who responded in a unique way to God's call, conceiving in her heart and flesh the Word made man to give him to humanity....."

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The purpose of a Catholic funeral

I hope to have some photos from the Solemn Pontifical Requiem sung for Mrs Marian Scarrabelotti in Canberra yesterday shortly, but thought in the meantime I'd draw your attention to a couple of excellent posts on other blogs that gone up on the subject of the purpose of a Catholic funeral.

Yesterday's Requiem

Yesterday's Requiem was, from my perspective at least, pretty close to the ideal Catholic funeral; a most solemn and splendidly stark affair.

It was conducted in Canberra's vastly improved cathedral, with black vestments, black altar frontpiece and all due ceremony, all very well executed. The celebrant was Bishop Jarrett of Lismore, with Fr John Parsons as deacon, Fr Glenn Tattersall as sub-deacon, Fr Define FSSP as Assistant Priest, and Fr Popplewell FSSP as first MC. All of the FSSP priests currently in the country were present, and other priests were also present, all very good to see.

The choir, comprised of local and interstate singers, was conducted by Hugh and Maria Henry and featured chant propers, Victoria's Requiem, the Lobo motet highlighted in my previous post.

And the bishop gave an excellent homily before the Mass started, touching on, amongst other things, the nature and purpose of a Catholic funeral (but I'm afraid I didn't take notes or obtain a copy). A few recent blog posts touch on some of the same issues.

Modern conceptions of what a funeral should be

The most important purpose of a Catholic funeral (after of course the worship of God) is to pray for the repose of the soul of the deceased. No matter how subjectively certain we may be that the person concerned is in heaven, the Church's teaching is that we should assume that they are in purgatory - for if they are, they can no longer do anything for themselves, and urgently need our prayers; and if they are not, our prayers will surely benefit some other poor soul.

By contrast the typical modern funeral - of which a classic example one gathers was the recent funeral of Senator Edward Kennedy - instantly canonises the deceased, and "celebrates their life". Aside from potentially costing the deceased much pain in purgatory, it fundamentally undermines what should be a time of reflection for us all, for the implicit message of this approach is surely that heaven, hell and purgatory do not really exist, and all that counts is the visible works of this world.

Bring back the Dies Irae

Jeffrey Tucker has written a nice post on this on the New Liturgical Movement website, entitled Bring back the Dies Irae. He starts off by explaining why eulogies are generally prohibited:

"...There are many reasons for this ban, but one reason is to put a stop to the tendency of all eulogies to state with certainty that the person who died is in Heaven right now. Of course we cannot know this. It is outrageously presumptuous of us to pretend to know the mind of God and the eternal destination of the recently deceased. Why do we so badly want to do this? Is it because we want the best for the person who died? Certainly but the Church encourages us to pray for the dead to fulfill this pious impulse. [This is the crucial point - traditionally, a funeral is not about reassurance for us but about concrete work we can do for the souls in purgatory].

Another reason, perhaps the real reason, is actually more selfish. We are trying to comfort ourselves, give ourselves assurances that we are in God's good graces and so should have some sense of certainty about our own eternal destinations. We are declaring ourselves to be Heaven-bound and thereby shielding our own eyes from our sins that have stained our souls and might have separated us from God. We are seeking comfort not in truth but in the tapestry of myths that we are weaving about ourselves: all sins aside, we all deserve salvation and we are going to get it..."

Tucker goes on to make the point that the famous sequence, Dies Irae has some important messages for the living:

"Of course none of this makes any difference. The eternal destiny of the dead is not up to us. Neither will our own fates be of our own making after the day of wrath. That's an interesting phrase, isn't it? The Day of Wrath. There is a hymn that was once prescribed as part of every Requiem Mass, from at least the 13th century. Without debate and without explanation, it was removed from the Missal of 1970, so that several generations have Catholics have never been exposed to its terrifying truths. The Church has known that we want to avoid the truth when we face the death of others; we were given this hymn, the Dies Irae, to remind us of what death should teach the living. The chant tune itself is still with us, appearing in movies and popular culture and even in video games.

The music is ominous, even astonishing. The words are even more so. It contains such thoughts as:

Oro supplex et acclinis,
cor contritum quasi cinis:
gere curam mei finis.

In English verse:

Low I kneel, with heart submission,
see, like ashes, my contrition;
help me in my last condition.

Followed by:
Lacrimosa dies illa,
qua resurget ex favilla
judicandus homo reus.
Huic ergo parce, Deus:

In English verse:

Ah! that day of tears and mourning!
From the dust of earth returning
man for judgment must prepare him;
Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!

So you can see what is being addressed. This is a song about the dead, yes, but mostly it is song directed toward the living. We need to hear this because society will not tell us these things...."

Tucker makes the point that this is a fundamentally counter-cultural message, challenging assumption of our society that things are under our control rather than God's. Do go and read the whole thing.

A parish priest on Fr Z

And Fr Z explores some of the same issues, drawing on an email from a parish priest on the Kennedy funeral. I've extracted what I think are the key points:

"Catholic Funerals are not about the person’s past achievements. Since Holy Mass is part of it, first of all, the Funeral is about worship of God.

Secondly, it is a profession of our Catholic Faith...

Thirdly, Holy Mass is offered for the repose of the deceased immortal soul and asking God’s mercy on him.

Fourthly, we pray for the consolation of those who mourn.... "

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Reading the book of Job

In the breviary, the first week of September marks the start of reading the Book of Job, a particularly timely text on the meaning of suffering.

And in the Monastic Office (though not I think the Roman), the last responsory of the first nocturn today is a text that is often sung at funerals, Versa est in luctum. The words mean as follows:

My harp is tuned for lamentation,
and my flute to the voice of those who weep.
Spare me, O Lord,
for my days are as nothing...

Here is a you tube verse of the setting by Alonso Lobo (1555-1617), and written for the funeral of Phillip II of Spain.

And they'll know we are Christians by our love....***

***This is an amended version of a post that stirred up something of a hornets nest....I've deleted the original comments made on this post since the text has changed substantially, but have to some extent reflected some of the comments received in this redraft, and so my thanks to those original commenters.****

A week or so ago I wrote on the unforeseen effects of the changes to the liturgy on our sense of the nature of God.

Today, however, I want to focus on the other side of the coin, namely our sense of community, because although I think the more explicitly 'horizontal' rituals of the novus ordo Ordinary Form mass fail to achieve that sense, I do think there is a genuine problem that at least some of the reformers were legitimately trying to address.

The sense of community and the liturgy

My starting point is this. Blogger Joshua of Psallite Sapienter recently put up a post on the transcendentals that is well worth reading, noting that his own primary focuses and sources of attraction were truth and beauty. But I think it is important to remember that though truth and beauty attract some, so too does the good. Throughout history, many people have been attracted to the faith by the example of strong Christian communities exercising charity towards each other and towards those it comes in contact with. And conversely, quarrelling communities repel outsiders and undermine the practice of those within them.

The first point to make is that a sense of community doesn't just happen in my view: it has to be worked for.  Most of us today live in suburbs with little sense of neighbourliness or community - and many of our churches are the same.  Creating a real community requires leadership and discipline.

Secondly, I don't think personally that the solution to building a strong sense of a supportive Christian community that fosters our faith and the pursuit of holiness necessarily lies in tinkering with the liturgy of the Mass itself. Communities were built and thrived in the Church for centuries without the use of concelebration, the modern version of the sign of peace, or other such pale signs.

Let me clear that it is not that I think that these new rituals are invalid.  I personally find them rather jarring, but I'm all for diversity and perhaps they work for some and have some place.  I don't however believe we should over-invest in them, trusting that they can in themselves create a sense of community that would otherwise be lacking.  And I certainly don't think that the choice not to adopt them should be interpreted as a rejection of the wider Church.  For the reality is that most novus ordo parish communities are no more thriving models of the works of charity than most traditionalist ones are.

The solution in my view lies rather in developing a strong vision of what a parish or community should look like and do, and consciously striving to realise that vision with the help of grace. We can build a sense of community liturgically through the Mass and Divine Office, and outside of this through a rich devotional life, and through active engagement on key causes including works of corporal mercy. We can connect ourselves to our local diocesan Church through participation in its structures and activities.

In my view, we clearly do have to consciously pay attention to this aim: it is not enough to construct beautiful liturgies, or hold orthodox views. Charity, in the end, is the most important of the virtues.

And they'll know we are Christians...

There is a particularly atrociously saccharine modern 'hymn' which claims that Christians will be known for their love - to each other (and others). In many ways it is a silly sentiment, since true Christian love can often come across to modern eyes as quite counter to what our society thinks of as love. Christian love need not be cloying or sentimental.

And there is a reality about the fallen human condition that leads us to quarrel: read the New Testament books carefully and you will quickly realize that the early disciples were often a fractious lot, and that quarrels rent the infant church at frequent intervals. The subsequent history of the Church reinforces this diagnosis.

Nonetheless, there is a certain element of truth that underlies that song, for Our Lord does enjoin us to love and serve one another.

He does tell us that when we have quarrelled with our brother we must reconcile before presenting our offering at the altar.

Above all, Our Lord stressed that we must forgive others their trespasses against us; forgive them if necessary, seventy times seven.

Traditionalist quarrels

Let me put it bluntly. How can we claim that traditionalism and the traditional liturgy is a path to holiness when we seem so often at war with each other: appearing quick to pass judgment and think the worst of others; appear hard and unforgiving; and are reluctant to let go of past real and imagined hurts and slights?

I've been loosely associated with the traditionalist movement for a long time, but only in the last few years have I become more closely involved. And as I've become more involved I've been reminded why I stayed on the periphery for so long.

Amongst the laity, some are still acting on disputes amongst ourselves going back twenty years or more.

When newcomers to the mass they are immediately subjected to diatribes on assorted gripes and weird theories.

When new devotions or practices are introduced, rather than being supportive of the efforts to respond to pastoral needs, they are attacked.

And those who should be leading us by example too often seem to be doing quite the opposite.

I am repeatedly scandalised by what I consider to be intemperate attacks by one group of traditionalists on another on blogs, websites and conversation. It is one thing to have and debate legitimate differences of opinion on matters of style, tactics or strategy. But we often seem unable to 'agree to disagree' on matters that are not matters of the faith.

Similarly, while we all resent examples of what seem to be persecution or at least extreme unhelpfulness by our novus ordo colleagues, I do wonder how much of this we bring upon ourselves. I know of many cases where the traditionalist caravan has rolled into town paying no heed to local sensibilities. I know of several cases of apparent disregard of the normal protocols governing operation in a diocese or community other than one's own.

It's not all bad of course. Some communities are doing great things in terms of providing support for their members, and engaging with the wider community.  But for every positive action taken, a group of naysayers arise and start murmuring and sniping.

Ghettos, subcultures and personalities

Now its true that minority movements inevitably start from behind.

Let me share with you a quote in a slightly different context from Tracey Rowland's book Culture and the Thomist Tradition After Vatican II which I think is worth reflecting on:

"In the context of educational institutions, Russell Hittinger has observed that what is billed as the uniquely Catholic component of the institution usually turns out to be a 'weird little subculture, like the bar in Star Wars, that has little connection to any sociological reality beyond the gates of the campus'. To Hittinger's observations may be added the fact that the kinds of people who are attracted to marginalised subcultures are frequently people with psychological disorders. As a consequence, an interest in religion becomes associated with dysfunctionality and irrationality..." (p60)

I will admit to a degree of naivity on this subject.  I'd always taken the view that traditionalism was the hope of the Church, and the time has now come to take what we have preserved and re-evangelize the Church using it.  But perhaps the reluctance of many traditionalists to engage with the wider Church reflects an unconscious realisation that we are in fact in the quarantine ward of the hospital, gifted with the traditional mass because we need more intensive measures to fight the diseases that afflict us....

Either way, with Summorum Pontificum, we don't have to be or act like a marginalised sub-culture any more. And that means learning a whole new set of behaviours.

Towards healing

So let us all consider what we can do to build a stronger sense that we all share a common cause, and common aim even if we differ on the means to achieve it.

Let us all consider what it truly means to share a common faith.

Let us rediscover the norms of common courtesy.

Let us pray for healing of the sick.

Let us put aside the past and start again.

Let us pray and act for unity in Christ.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

The otherness of God

I guess I've always kind of known this, but in the last few days I've really been confronted with the effects of a liturgy that focuses on solidarity with each other rather than bridging the divide between heaven and earth.

I've had a few interesting conversations with a lapsed Catholic, who baulked at attending a Latin Mass because they would be "unable to participate".

Yet somewhat perversely, that person's concept of God is as something utterly other and alien, a being who has nothing in common with us in the way he thinks or acts.

And I'm forced to conclude this denuded concept of God may well be the direct result of the novus ordo liturgy as typically experienced (I put in this qualification because it is possible for the novus ordo, when celebrated with all due ceremony, to achieve similar effects to the TLM; but it almost never is performed this way).

God as utterly other

For the Catholic, God is surely Other and yet not. We are created in his image after all, sharing in common free will and the capacity for understanding. His Spirit resides in each of us and sustains us; without his continuing care we would cease to exist.

St Teresa of Avila talked about prayer as a conversation with a friend. Though he is infinitely above us, we can thank him for his gifts, ask him for the things we need, and seek to get to know him better. The purpose of our lives, after all, is to know, love and serve him, using this life to ensure we will be with him forever.

Like a friend, sometimes he is able to accomodate the things we ask for - and sometimes his own plans make granting that request impossible. Yet still we know that we can ask.

Piercing the veil

Many catholics (and others) however have been infected by Eastern ideas of God as utterly other. For them, prayer may assist us in "coping" with what life flings at us, and finding peace with it, but it doesn't have the capacity to fundamentally change either ourselves or the world. And for them, heaven is not a place where real physical bodies (Our Lord and Our Lady) exist, but some kind of mysterious state.

The traditional liturgy, by contrast, focuses on piercing the veil between heaven and earth: it emphasises the vertical, the worship of God, with angels climbing Jacob's ladder between heaven and earth, and the priest acting 'in persona Christi'. It builds on the Jewish idea of our liturgy being an earthly reflection of the heavenly, most clearly reflected in the descriptions of the Book of Revelations.

The use of Latin, the haunting chant, the elaborate rituals all remind us that God is infinitely more than us; to some degree an alien other. But the constant pleadings of the texts of the Mass, the careful and repeated attempts to approach him humbly remind us that he is someone we can know, albeit in a limited way, and approach if we do it properly.

By contrast the novus ordo liturgy, with its rather more prosaic approach and language, its signs and symbols such as the communal love fest at the sign of peace, seems to sub-consciously emphasize that we are on our own as far as God is concerned, and need to rely on each other rather than him. The liturgy shorn of all of its fear and trembling, its repetitions and halting restarts, says not (as its originators perhaps hoped) that we can approach God confidently, but rather that there is nothing to approach.

So how do we recover the sense of the sacred? How do we recover the notion that God is a real person, not some vague, utterly alien presence? That heaven is a real place, worthy of being strived for?

The resacralizing the liturgy, combined with some solid catechesis, is essential.

And we need to pray hard for the conversion of a lost generation.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Australian Catholic Students Association Conference

Thanks to Roman to alerting me to some youtube videos of the recent ACSA Conference, and providing some background on liturgy at the Conference.

Three Masses were said in the ordinary form and one was said in the extra ordinary form.

On July 10th there was a votive Mass of the Holy Spirit for the opening of the conference said in the ordinary form, verus populum with the benedictine arrangement, the introit was sung according the Anglican use gradual.

Later that day, a votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament was sung in the extraordinary form, which was followed by Benediction and all night adoration.

On 11th of July, there was the reception of the Icon of our Lady Seat of Wisdom and a votive Mass said in her honour by Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett of Lismore Diocese, ad orientam, with the introit likewise sung according to the Anglican use gradual.

Finally, on the 12th of July, Bishop Jarrett again celebrated Mass ad orientam, this time with all the propers chanted and the asperges sung from the Anglican use gradual. The General intercessions were also chanted.

Here is the video of the Extraordinary Form Mass as a taster:

Marian Scarrabelotti RIP

Please pray for the repose of the soul of Marian Scarrabelotti, who died late on Wednesday night of cancer.

Marian (together with her husband Gary, editor of the journal Oriens) was a well known member of Canberra's (and Australia's) Traditional Latin Mass community. She was a practicing clinical neuropsychologist, and active in many spheres, including as a member of the Board of Sydney's Campion College. I'll write more soon.

Requiescat in pace.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Episcopal nuns signing up

It's always nice to have a good news story! Here from The Catholic Review:

Episcopal nuns to be received into the Catholic Church

"By George P. Matysek Jr.

After seven years of prayer and discernment, a community of Episcopal nuns and their chaplain will be received into the Roman Catholic Church during a Sept. 3 Mass celebrated by Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien.

The archbishop will welcome 10 sisters from the Society of All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor when he administers the sacrament of confirmation and the sisters renew their vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the chapel of their Catonsville convent. Episcopal Father Warren Tanghe will also be received into the church and is discerning the possibility of becoming a Catholic priest.

Mother Christina Christie, superior of the religious community, said the sisters are “very excited” about joining the Catholic Church and have been closely studying the church’s teachings for years. Two Episcopal nuns who have decided not to become Catholic will continue to live and minister alongside their soon-to-be Catholic sisters.

Members of the community range in age from 59 to 94. “For us, this is a journey of confirmation,” Mother Christina said. “We felt God was leading us in this direction for a long time.”

Wearing full habits with black veils and white wimples that cover their heads, the sisters have been a visible beacon of hope in Catonsville for decades. The American branch of a society founded in England, the All Saints’ Sisters of the Poor came to Baltimore in 1872 and have been at their current location since 1917.

In addition to devoting their lives to a rigorous daily prayer regimen, the sisters offer religious retreats, visit people in hospice care and maintain a Scriptorium where they design religious cards to inspire others in the faith. Throughout their history, the sisters worked with the poor of Baltimore as part of their charism of hospitality. Some of that work has included reaching out to children with special needs and ministering to AIDS patients. Together with Mount Calvary Church, an Episcopal parish in Baltimore, the sisters co-founded a hospice called the Joseph Richey House in 1987.

Orthodoxy and unity were key reasons the sisters were attracted to the Catholic faith. Many of them were troubled by the Episcopal Church’s approval of women’s ordination, the ordination of a gay bishop and what they regarded as lax stances on moral issues. “We kept thinking we could help by being a witness for orthodoxy,” said Sister Mary Joan Walker, the community’s archivist. Mother Christina said that effort “was not as helpful as we had hoped it would be.”

“People who did not know us looked at us as if we were in agreement with what had been going on (in the Episcopal Church),” she said. “By staying put and not doing anything, we were sending a message which was not correct.”

Before deciding to enter the Catholic Church, the sisters had explored Episcopal splinter groups and other Christian denominations. Mother Christina noted that the sisters had independently contemplated joining the Catholic Church without the others knowing. When they found out that most of them were considering the same move, they took it as a sign from God and reached out to Archbishop O’Brien.

“This is very much the work of the Holy Spirit,” Mother Christina said. The sisters acknowledged it hasn’t been easy leaving the Episcopal Church, for which they expressed great affection. Some of their friends have been hurt by their pending departure, they said. “Some feel we are abandoning the fight to maintain orthodoxy,” said Sister Emily Ann Lindsey.

“We’re not. We’re doing it in another realm right now.” The sisters have spent much of the past year studying the documents of the Second Vatican Council. They said there were few theological stumbling blocks to entering the church, although some had initial difficulty with the concept of papal infallibility. In addition to worshipping in the Latin rite, the sisters are expected to receive permission to attend Mass celebrated in the Anglican-use rite – a liturgy that adapts many of the prayers from the Episcopal tradition.

Mother Christina said 10 archdiocesan priests, including Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden, have stepped forward to learn how to celebrate the Anglican-use Mass. The sisters expressed deep affection for Pope Benedict XVI. The pope exercises an authority that Episcopal leaders do not, they said. The unity that Christ called for can be found in the Catholic Church under the leadership of the pope, they said. “Unity is right in the midst of all this,” said Sister Catherine Grace Bowen. “That is the main thrust.”

The sisters noted with a laugh that their love for the pope is evident in the name they chose for their recently adopted cat, “Benedict XVII” – a feline friend they lovingly call “His Furyness.” "

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Bishops resign in the diocese of Scranton

There's an interesting item over at Fr Z on the resignation of both the auxiliary and bishop of Scranton, PA (Bishops Dougherty and Martino). Scranton, you might recall, is the diocese in which the FSSP originally had its American seminary and still has its headquarters.

Bishop Martino seems to have been conservative rather than particularly sympathetic to the traditionalist cause (a number of traditionalist religious communities previously based there have decamped or been closed down under his regimen). The bishop was, however, outspoken on an number of key issues such as abortion, and in the process seems to have antagonised his clergy and laity. Some commenter's on Fr Z have suggested that the problem was not what he said, but his tendency to leap first without doing the necessary preparatory work.

The bishop himself said:“there has not been a clear consensus among the clergy and people of the Diocese of Scranton regarding my pastoral initiatives or my way of governance. This development, he continued, “has caused him great sorrow, resulting in bouts of insomnia and at times a crippling physical fatigue.”

Interesting times.

Monday, 31 August 2009

On death, dying and healing

The subject of death and dying is much on my mind at the moment, so I thought it might be helpful to post a helpful instruction on healing prayers put out by theCongregation for the Doctrine of Faith :


The longing for happiness, deeply rooted in the human heart, has always been accompanied by a desire to be freed from illness and to be able to understand the meaning of sickness when it is experienced. This is a human phenomenon, which in some way concerns every person and finds particular resonance in the Church, where sickness is understood as a means of union with Christ and of spiritual purification. Moreover, for those who find themselves in the presence of a sick person, it is an occasion for the exercise of charity. But this is not all, because sickness, like other forms of human suffering, is a privileged moment for prayer, whether asking for grace, or for the ability to accept sickness in a spirit of faith and conformity to God's will, or also for asking for healing.

Prayer for the restoration of health is therefore part of the Church's experience in every age, including our own. What in some ways is new is the proliferation of prayer meetings, at times combined with liturgical celebrations, for the purpose of obtaining healing from God. In many cases, the occurrence of healings has been proclaimed, giving rise to the expectation of the same phenomenon in other such gatherings. In the same context, appeal is sometimes made to a claimed charism of healing.

These prayer meetings for obtaining healing present the question of their proper discernment from a liturgical perspective; this is the particular responsibility of the Church's authorities, who are to watch over and give appropriate norms for the proper functioning of liturgical celebrations.

It has seemed opportune, therefore, to publish an Instruction, in accordance with canon 34 of the Code of Canon Law, above all as a help to local Ordinaries so that the faithful may be better guided in this area, though promoting what is good and correcting what is to be avoided. It was necessary, however, that such disciplinary determinations be given their point of reference within a well-founded doctrinal framework, to ensure the correct approach and to make clear the reasoning behind the norms. To this end, it has been judged appropriate to preface the disciplinary part of the Instruction with a doctrinal note.


1. Sickness and healing: their meaning and value in the economy of salvation

«People are called to joy. Nevertheless each day they experience many forms of suffering and pain.» (1) Therefore, the Lord, in his promises of redemption, announces the joy of the heart that comes from liberation from sufferings (cf. Is 30:29; 35:10; Bar 4:29). Indeed, he is the one «who delivers from every evil» (Wis 16:8). Among the different forms of suffering, those which accompany illness are continually present in human history. They are also the object of man's deep desire to be delivered from every evil.

In the Old Testament, «it is the experience of Israel that illness is mysteriously linked to sin and evil.» (2) Among the punishments threatened by God for the people's unfaithfulness, sickness has a prominent place (cf. Dt 28:21-22, 27-29, 35). The sick person who beseeches God for healing confesses to have been justly punished for his sins (cf. Ps 37; 40; 106:17-21).

Sickness, however, also strikes the just, and people wonder why. In the Book of Job, this question occupies many pages. «While it is true that suffering has meaning as punishment, when it is connected with a fault, it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment. The figure of the just man Job is a special proof of this in the Old Testament... And if the Lord consents to test Job with suffering, he does it to demonstrate the latter's righteousness. The suffering has the character of a test.» (3)

Although sickness may have positive consequences as a demonstration of the faithfulness of the just person, and for repairing the justice that is violated by sin, and also because it may cause a sinner to reform and set out on the way of conversion, it remains, however, an evil. For this reason, the prophet announces the future times in which there will be no more disease and infirmity, and the course of life will no longer be broken by death (cf. Is 35:5-6; 65: 19-20).

It is in the New Testament, however, that the question of why illness also afflicts the just finds a complete answer. In the public activity of Jesus, his encounters with the sick are not isolated, but continual. He healed many through miracles, so that miraculous healings characterised his activity: «Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness» (Mt 9:35; cf. 4:23). These healings are signs of his messianic mission (cf. Lk 7:20-23). They manifest the victory of the kingdom of God over every kind of evil, and become the symbol of the restoration to health of the whole human person, body and soul. They serve to demonstrate that Jesus has the power to forgive sins (cf. Mk 2:1-12); they are signs of the salvific goods, as is the healing of the paralytic of Bethesda (cf. Jn 5:2-9, 19-21) and the man born blind (cf. Jn 9).

The first preaching of the Gospel, as recounted in the New Testament, was accompanied by numerous miraculous healings that corroborated the power of the Gospel proclamation. This had been the promise of the Risen Jesus, and the first Christian communities witnessed its realization in their midst: «These signs will accompany those who believe: ...they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover» (Mk 16:17-18). The preaching of Philip in Samaria was accompanied by miraculous healings: «Philip went down to a city of Samaria and proclaimed the Christ to them. With one accord, the crowds paid attention to what was said by Philip when they heard it and saw the signs he was doing. For unclean spirits, crying out in a loud voice, came out of many possessed people, and many paralysed and crippled people were cured» (Acts 8:5-7).

Saint Paul describes his own proclamation of the Gospel as characterized by signs and wonders worked by the power of the Holy Spirit: «For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit» (Rom 15:18-19; cf. 1 Thes 1:5; 1 Cor 2:4-5). It would not be without foundation to suppose that these signs and wonders, manifestations of the power of God that accompanied the preaching of the Gospel, were constituted in large part by miraculous healings. Such wonders were not limited to St. Paul's ministry, but were also occurring among the faithful: «Does then the one who supplies the Spirit to you and works mighty deeds among you do so from works of the law or from faith in what you have heard preached?» (Gal 3:5).

The messianic victory over sickness, as over other human sufferings, does not happen only by its elimination through miraculous healing, but also through the voluntary and innocent suffering of Christ in his passion, which gives every person the ability to unite himself to the sufferings of the Lord. In fact, «Christ himself, though without sin, suffered in his passion pains and torments of every type, and made his own the sorrows of all men: thus he brought to fulfilment what had been written of him by the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 53:4-5). (4)» But there is more: «In the cross of Christ not only is the redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed... In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Thus each man in his suffering can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.» (5)

The Church welcomes the sick not only as the recipients of her loving care, but also by recognizing that they are called «to live their human and Christian vocation and to participate in the growth of the kingdom of God in a new and more valuable manner. The words of the Apostle Paul ought to become their approach to life or, better yet, cast an illumination to permit them to see the meaning of grace in their very situation: ‘In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church' (Col 1:24). Precisely in arriving at this realization, the Apostle is raised up in joy: ‘I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake' (Col 1:24). (6)» It is a paschal joy, fruit of the Holy Spirit, and, like Saint Paul, «in the same way many of the sick can become bearers of the ‘joy inspired by the Holy Spirit in much affliction' (1 Thess 1:6) and be witnesses to Jesus' resurrection.» (7)

2. The desire for healing and prayer to obtain it

Presuming the acceptance of God's will, the sick person's desire for healing is both good and deeply human, especially when it takes the form of a trusting prayer addressed to God. Sirach exhorts his disciple: «My son, when you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, who will heal you» (Sir 38:9). A number of the Psalms also ask for healing (cf. Ps 6; 37; 40; 87).

Large numbers of the sick approached Jesus during his public ministry, either directly or through friends and relatives, seeking the restoration of health. The Lord welcomes their requests and the Gospels contain not even a hint of reproach for these prayers. The Lord's only complaint is about their possible lack of faith: «If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith» (Mk 9:23; cf. Mk 6:5-6; Jn 4:48).

Not only is it praiseworthy for individual members of the faithful to ask for healing for themselves and for others, but the Church herself asks the Lord for the health of the sick in her liturgy. Above all, there is the sacrament «especially intended to strengthen those who are being tried by illness, the Anointing of the Sick.»(8) «The Church has never ceased to celebrate this sacrament for its members by the anointing and the prayer of its priests, commending those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them.»(9) Immediately before the actual anointing takes place, in the blessing of the oil, the Church prays: «Make this oil a remedy for all who are anointed with it; heal them in body, in soul, and in spirit, and deliver them from every affliction»(10) and then, in the first two prayers after the anointing, the healing of the sick person is requested.(11) Since the sacrament is a pledge and promise of the future kingdom, it is also a proclamation of the resurrection, when « there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, because the old order has passed away» (Rev 21:4). Furthermore, the Roman Missal contains a Mass pro infirmis in which, in addition to spiritual graces, the health of the sick is requested.(12)

In the De benedictionibus of the Rituale Romanum, there is an Ordo benedictionis infirmorum, in which there are various prayers for healing: in the second formulary of the Preces (13), in the four Orationes benedictionis pro adultis (14), in the two Orationes benedictionis pro pueris (15), and in the prayer of the Ritus brevior (16).
Obviously, recourse to prayer does not exclude, but rather encourages the use of effective natural means for preserving and restoring health, as well as leading the Church's sons and daughters to care for the sick, to assist them in body and spirit, and to seek to cure disease. Indeed, «part of the plan laid out in God's providence is that we should fight strenuously against all sickness and carefully seek the blessings of good health...»(17)

3. The «charism of healing» in the New Testament

Not only did wondrous healings confirm the power of the Gospel proclamation in Apostolic times, but the New Testament refers also to Jesus' real and proper transmission of the power to heal illnesses to his Apostles and to the first preachers of the Gospel. In the call of the Twelve to their first mission, according to the accounts of Matthew and Luke, the Lord gave them «the power to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and illness» (Mt 10:1; cf. Lk 9:1), and commanded them: «Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons» (Mt 10:8). In sending out the seventy-two disciples, the Lord charges them: «cure the sick» (Lk 10:9). The power to heal, therefore, is given within a missionary context, not for their own exaltation, but to confirm their mission.

The Acts of the Apostles refers in general to the wonders worked by them: «many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles» (Acts 2:43; cf. 5:12). These were amazing deeds that manifested the truth and the power of their mission. However, apart from these brief general references, the Acts of the Apostles refers above all to the miraculous healings worked by individual preachers of the Gospel: Stephen (cf. Acts 6:8), Philip (cf. Acts 8:6-7), and, above all, Peter (cf. Acts 3:1-10; 5:15; 9:33-34, 40-41) and Paul (cf. Acts 14:3, 8-10; 15:12; 19: 11-12; 20:9-10; 28: 8-9).

In the conclusion to the Gospel of Mark, as well as in the Letter to the Galatians, as seen above, the perspective is broadened. The wondrous healings are not limited to the activity of the Apostles and certain of the central figures in the first preaching of the Gospel. In this perspective, the references to the «charisms of healing» in 1 Cor 12:9, 28,30 acquire special importance. The meaning of charism is per se quite broad – «a generous gift» – and in this context it refers to «gifts of healing obtained.» These graces, in the plural, are attributed to an individual (cf. 1 Cor 12:9), and are not, therefore, to be understood in a distributive sense, as the gifts of healing received by those who themselves have been healed, but rather as a gift granted to a person to obtain graces of healing for others. This is given in uno Spiritu, but nothing is specified about how that person obtains these healings. It would not be farfetched to think that it happens by means of prayer, perhaps accompanied by some symbolic gesture.

In the Letter of James, reference is made to the Church's action, by means of the priests, directed toward the salvation – in a physical sense as well – of the sick. But this is not to be understood as a wondrous healing; it is different from the «charisms of healing» of 1 Cor 12:9. «Is anyone sick among you? He should call for the priests of the Church and have them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer of faith will save the sick person and will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven» (Jas 5:14-15). This refers to a sacramental action: anointing of the sick with oil and prayer «over him» and not simply «for him,» as if it were only a prayer of intercession or petition; it is rather an efficacious action on the sick person.(18) The verbs «will save» and «will raise up» do not suggest an action aimed exclusively or predominantly at physical healing, but in a certain way include it. The first verb, even though the other times it appears in the Letter of James it refers to spiritual salvation (cf. 1:21; 2:14; 4:12; 5:20), is also used in the New Testament in the sense of «to heal» (cf. Mt 9:21; Mk 5:28, 34; 6:56; 10:52; Lk 8:48); the second, while having at times the sense of «to rise» (cf. Mt 10:8; 11:5; 14:2), is also used to indicate the action of «raising up» a person who is lying down because of illness, by healing the person in a wondrous fashion (cf. Mt 9:5; Mk 1:31; 9:27; Acts 3:7).

4. Prayers to obtain healing from God in the Church's tradition.

The Fathers of the Church considered it normal that believers would ask God not only for the health of their soul, but also for that of their body. With regard to the goods of life, health, and physical integrity, St. Augustine writes: «We need to pray that these are retained, when we have them, and that they are increased, when we do not have them.»(19) St. Augustine has also left us the testimony of a friend's healing, obtained through the prayers of a Bishop, a priest, and some deacons in his house.(20)

The same perspective is found in both the Eastern and Western liturgical rites. One of the post Communion prayers of the Roman Missal asks «...may the power of this heavenly gift take hold of our minds and bodies.»(21) In the liturgy of Good Friday, Christians are invited to pray to God the Father Almighty that he «may keep diseases away... and grant health to the sick.»(22) Among the texts that are most significant is that of the blessing of the oil of the sick, in which God is asked to pour forth his holy blessing so that all «those who are anointed with it may receive healing, in body, soul and spirit, and be delivered from all sadness, all weakness and suffering.»(23)

The expressions used in the prayers of the anointing of the sick in the Eastern Rites are very similar. For example, in the anointing of the sick in the Byzantine Rite, there is the prayer: «Holy Father, doctor of souls and bodies, you who sent your only begotten Son Jesus Christ to cure every sickness and to free us from death, heal also your servant from the infirmity of body and spirit that afflicts him, by the grace of your Christ.»(24) In the Coptic Rite, the Lord is invoked to bless the oil so that all who will be anointed with it will obtain health of spirit and body. Then, during the anointing of the sick person, the priests make mention of Jesus Christ who was sent into the world «to heal all sicknesses and to free from death» and ask God «to heal the sick person of the infirmities of body and to grant him the right path.»(25)

5. The «charism of healing» in the present-day contest

In the course of the Church's history there have been holy miracle-workers who have performed wondrous healings. The phenomenon was not limited to the Apostolic period; however, the so-called «charism of healing,» about which it seems appropriate to offer some doctrinal clarifications, does not fall within these phenomena of wonder-working. Instead, the present question concerns special prayer meetings organized for the purpose of obtaining wondrous healings among the sick who are present, or prayers of healing after Eucharistic communion for this same purpose.

There is abundant witness throughout the Church's history to healings connected with places of prayer (sanctuaries, in the presence of the relics of martyrs or other saints, etc.). In Antiquity and the Middle Age, such healings contributed to the popularity of pilgrimages to certain sanctuaries, such as that of St. Martin of Tours or the Cathedral of St. James in Compostela, as well as many others. The same also happens today at Lourdes, as it has for more than a century. Such healings, however, do not imply a «charism of healing,» because they are not connected with a person who has such a charism, but they need to be taken into account when we evaluate the above-mentioned prayer meetings from a doctrinal perspective.

With respect to prayer meetings for obtaining healing, an aim which even if not exclusive is at least influential in their planning, it is appropriate to distinguish between meetings connected to a «charism of healing,» whether real or apparent, and those without such a connection. A possible «charism of healing» can be attributed when the intervention of a specific person or persons, or a specific category of persons (for example, the directors of the group that promotes the meetings) is viewed as determinative for the efficacy of the prayer. If there is no connection with any «charism of healing,» then the celebrations provided in the liturgical books, if they are done with respect for liturgical norms, are obviously licit and often appropriate, as in the case of a Mass pro infirmis. If the celebrations do not respect liturgical law, they lack legitimacy.

In sanctuaries, other celebrations are held frequently which may not be aimed per se at specifically asking God for graces of healing, but in which, in the intentions of the organizers and participants, the obtaining of healing has an important part. With this purpose in mind, both liturgical and non-liturgical services are held: liturgical celebrations (such as exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction) and non-liturgical expressions of popular piety encouraged by the Church (such as the solemn recitation of the Rosary).

These celebrations are legitimate, as long as their authentic sense is not altered. For example, one could not place on the primary level the desire to obtain the healing of the sick, in a way which might cause Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to lose its specific finality, which is to «bring the faithful to recognize in the Eucharist the wonderful presence of Christ and to invite them to a spiritual union with him, a union which finds its culmination in sacramental Communion.»(26)

The «charism of healing» is not attributable to a specific class of faithful. It is quite clear that St. Paul, when referring to various charisms in 1 Corinthians 12, does not attribute the gift of «charisms of healing» to a particular group, whether apostles, prophets, teachers, those who govern, or any other. The logic which governs the distribution of such gifts is quite different: «All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who distributes to each one individually just as the Spirit choses» (1 Cor 12:11). Consequently, in prayer meetings organized for asking for healing, it would be completely arbitrary to attribute a «charism of healing» to any category of participants, for example, to the directors of the group; the only thing to do is to entrust oneself to the free decision of the Holy Spirit, who grants to some a special charism of healing in order to show the power of the grace of the Risen Christ. Yet not even the most intense prayer obtains the healing of all sicknesses. So it is that St. Paul had to learn from the Lord that «my grace is enough for you; my power is made perfect in weakness» (2 Cor 12:9), and that the meaning of the experience of suffering can be that «in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church» (Col 1:24).

Recovering spiritual practices: Indulgences

Indulgences are one of those important spiritual practices that are making something of a comeback, so it's worth a reminder of some of the indulgences you can gain, particularly the special one for year of the priest on Thursday.

What is an indulgence?

Indulgences, you will recall, wipe out the temporal punishment for sins that have already been forgiven. The indulgence can be partial (some of the punishment) or plenary (all of it).

Most importantly (you only need one plenary indulgence for yourself after all, at least until you commit your next major sin!), they can be applied to the souls in purgatory.

These days, you can only collect one plenary indulgence a day - but you can accumulate several partial ones.

To gain a plenary indulgence

To gain a plenary indulgence where one is offered, you need to:
  • have an intention to gain the indulgence (adding a line to your morning prayers saying 'and I intend to gain all the indulgences I can' seems to be sufficient, at least for partial indulgences);

  • be in a state of grace and in full communion with Rome at the time the work is undertaken;

  • have the interior disposition of complete detachment from sin, even venial sin;

  • have sacramentally confessed your sins within several days before or after the work (one confession will suffice for several days worth of indulgences!);

  • receive the Holy Eucharist (it is certainly better to receive it while participating in Holy Mass, but for the indulgence only Holy Communion is required);

  • pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff (remember that you are not praying for the Pope, but for the specific prayer intentions he announces each month). Usually an Our Father and a Hail Mary is said.

A partial indulgence requires one to be to be in a state of grace at the time of the work and have at least the general intention of gaining it.

The Year if the Priest Indulgence on the first Thursday

"All truly penitent Christian faithful who, in church or oratory, devotedly attend Holy Mass and offer prayers to Jesus Christ, supreme and eternal Priest, for the priests of the Church, or perform any good work to sanctify and mould them to His Heart, are granted Plenary Indulgence, on the condition that they have expiated their sins through Sacramental Confession and prayed in accordance with the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff."

And don't forget that in this Year of the Priest a partial indulgence is available every day by praying five Our Fathers, Ave Marias and Gloria Patris, or any other duly approved prayer "in honour of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to ask that priests maintain purity and sanctity of life".

Other plenary indulgences

There are a few other fully indulgenced works that can be gained every day (remembering that you can only gain one plenary indulgnece a day) and that are also worth considering adding to your regime on a regular basis:

  • rosary recited in a Church by a family or pious association;

  • half an hour's adoration of the Blessed Sacrament; and

  • devout reading of Scripture for at least half an hour.
So go to it, and access the spiritual treasury of the Church for the souls in purgatory!

Saturday, 29 August 2009

On becoming a real parish....

One of the great challenges for the traditionalist community is transitioning from the struggle just to have a mass one can go to that is genuinely uplifting (and removes the danger of the cringe or outrage factor), to focus on how to create a genuine community with a full liturgical and devotional life.

It's not a case of back to the 1950s

Part of the problem is that we don't really want to recreate the 1950s here - Catholic culture in Australia in that period largely reflected a the culture of a persecuted minority due to strong Irish influence, with the dire effects chronicled for the US in Thomas Day's famous book Why Catholics Can't Sing.

So we need to look to both older and newer models. In many ways, it seems to me that we should be trying to create mini-Christendoms to help catholics resist the sea of secularism that surrounds us, and provide bases from which we can work to re-evangelize our country, as medieval monasteries did. And in fact, many of the practices of medieval society have already been revived (albeit in distorted and attenuated forms) by charismatic and protestant communities - and so we shouldn't be afraid to reclaim the ones that work for ourselves!

Avoiding ghettoism

The challenge is to create genuine communities while avoiding ghettoism. Fully
TLM communities/parishes need to be seen to be part of the wider life of their dioceses without the need to compromise on their choice of liturgy or perspectives.

The best way of achieving this, it seems to me, is for us to encourage ordinary parishes to have TLMs, with fully TLM communities serving as a reference point and source of expertise. And on this subject, Cath Con has reproduced an interesting piece on the importance of reintegrating the TLM into ordinary parishes. Here are some key extracts.

It beings with a thank you to the Pope:

"First of all we would like to thank you for the teaching which you have lavished on us, in audiences, homilies, letters and encyclicals that for many years now have been accompanying our spiritual growth. This has been of great benefit to us, and we believe to the whole Church, especially in these times of big “crisis”.

Indeed your teaching represents liberation from the spiritual horrors of modern times, a true refuge and a good relief for the soul after having been indoctrinated by such an amount of false sagacity and personal interpretations, elevated to false dogmas.

Thanks to you, people are beginning to find some relief and solutions to the spiritual malaise which for many years has been hanging over the Church and which we had felt sorrowfully. A malaise which was due to a confusion and inability to separate between truth and falsehood, between what is just and what is erroneous, more and more difficult to distinguish and to perceive, even for the pastors themselves."

Parish life

"However, we wish to inform you of something which lies in our hearts, and which we have experienced after the 7th of July of 2007, in the simple ordinary life of a parish.

In particular, we would like to bring to your knowledge what has become of our lives, as has become the lives of many others, after the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

Thanks to this and to the liturgical sensibility of your Holiness [which is near to the heart of those, like us, who do not see anything “evil” in the liturgical expression of the Faith which has given spiritual nourishment to so many Saints in the passing centuries] we had obtained, even by so many sacrifices, sufferings and humiliations imposed on us by our Bishop, the celebration of the Holy Mass of all Ages, in an oratory outside of our parish. The joy of discovering the Holy Mass, loved by our parents and which we thought was lost forever, has somewhat made up for the big disappointment in noting that this sacred liturgy has not found any place within our so much-loved parochial community....

In the article 5 § 1 of your Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, your Holiness gives a great gift to the whole church, when you reaffirm the importance and central position of the parish and of the parochial community. This unity is formed and comes into existence by way of the liturgy, for which there has for many years been a demand that the justice sees to it that it is shown.

The liturgical tradition has for almost twenty centuries shown with clarity that it has not been “excommunicated”, but always has been valid, legal, legitimate and sanctifying. Summorum Pontificum has indeed been a great act of justice.

The extraordinary riches of this document reside, we believe, in the fact that the Mass has finally returned to the parochial life of every day and is no longer relegated only to the hands of private persons and associations, to whom most certainly we owe the merit of having conserved this treasure.

True tradition lies not only in words and gestures that were codified in the antiquity and then during centuries handed over by the Church.

Tradition is also the bond of one’s own blood with one’s own land. The roots that sink down in one’s own community, that is where one truly experiences the mystical meaning of the tradition: not a law or a rite, but a communion in the spirits who, united and living, not even death has had the power to pull apart.

In the parish our ancestors, our parents and our descendants are all united spiritually with us, like one people, living and gathered together in front of the sacrifice of Christ. That is the meaning which we give to the notion “local church”. It is with great sorrow that we discover the tragic choice that has been imposed upon us: to choose our roots to be maintained but (at the price of the) humiliation of our liturgical sensibility, or else to nourish this sensibility by uprooting our bond to the parish, and forcing us to become fugitives, exiled, relegated in chapels, without a parish, without true peace of mind.

Mass centres vs communities

Often these chapels become “mass centres”, gathering persons from many parts of the region, all on the run from their respective parishes. However, they do not have any possibility to sanctify themselves there, neither in the parish, the place where this should manifest itself.

This exclusion from the life of the community and the parish is a true “ghettoization” and moreover the real cause of the division, which we did not wish to happen but had to endure!

It is almost as if Tradition was an infectious disease of which one must keep clear in order to avoid getting into contact with any still unaffected Catholics. How great is our wish to participate in the Holy Mass of all Ages, celebrated in our own parish by our own parish priest, in the same way in which we attend the Holy Mass in its sacred Ordinary form!


...As a consequence of our fidelity to Your Holiness and to Christ we are being made to feel as lepers, kept at a due distance and being abused!

There are moments when the parish priests, with their continued accusation, critics and calumnies, make us feel as outsiders in the parochial community and even outsiders of the Church. If we would not participate in the Mass of all Ages, those persons would certainly not reprimand us in this wicked way.

The result is that NOW, thanks to these continuous and subtle persecutions, we feel, in spite of ourselves, that it is WE who are far from the Church. With aching pain we feel that our mother, the Church, has expelled us, turned her back against us, and humiliated us. The void this makes us feel is terrible! In other words, the distress that we feel when noting that many priests and many bishops interpret (our) Catholic faith and (our) divine liturgy, which is the final expression of that faith, as not being in “continuity” with its millenary tradition (something which Your Holiness has explained more than once), but in open and incurable “discontinuity”.

Thereby they are really making of us a banner to be shown defiantly to the world.

It is terrible to learn each day, in a tangible way, that in the same Church it is impossible to have the freedom to fully adhere to all what the Magisterium teaches us, without being subject to a snorting and a condescending attitude!

This is completely absurd. We are only Catholics, sons and daughters of the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church, obedient to the Vicar of Christ and to his laws, faithful to his teaching and desirous to participate in the same Sacrifice of Christ that materializes in the ordinary, modern, form as well as in the extraordinary and older form of the one and only Catholic Mass (of the Roman Rite -- CAP).

We feel as if we had been left alone, at the mercy of people who hate us. When the Motu Proprio was promulgated, its implementation was constantly being obstructed, in some cases even arbitrarily hindered, with intimidations, arrogance, defamation, retaliations, either against us laymen or above all against the priests who would like to offer this mass to the People of God.

No really effective measures have been taken, in order that our Catholic Church ensures the peaceful cohabitation of the two forms of the same Sacrifice, with reciprocal enrichment.

Instead of receiving this torrent of insults and humiliations from Christians and also from the same pastors, who ought to excel in their obedience towards you, we prefer to almost go back into the catacombs, where the Christians were real brothers, and the enemies, on the other hand, could be easily identified. The Church of that time, humiliated and hidden as it was, still seemed more united and faithful than the one we see in our days, torn to pieces in its interior by various currents, factions, religious or non-religious interpreters, heretics, independent and fanciful malevolent people.

Judging from the continued testimonies which we receive on our webbsite for many months now, we may be sure that what we are experiencing is not an isolated case. We have chosen to make public our letter of concern, which we in humility have chosen to address to you, in order to gather in the same spirit the invocations and sufferings from many other Catholics finding themselves in the same conditions as us, having endured the same vexations and humiliations.

Integration of the TLM into parishes

We would like you to know the reality. In the same way, we would also like the faithful, who do not know the traditional liturgy of the Church, realize that as matters stand today, there is a problem regarding peaceful cohabitation inside the universal Church, and this for sure is not the fault of those who love the Tradition. We ask you with all our heart, Your Holiness, to take the appropriate measures, which only you are in a position to take, in order to see to it that the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum becomes applied in every parish.

With your permission, Your Holiness, (we ask you) if you could help us, in a natural and simple way, without unnecessary discrimination, to obtain those fruits of sanctification in our parochial community. Please permit the faithful to really be able to chose, without having to meet with repercussions, humiliations and heavy burdens.

We are sure that we are joined in this request also by our brothers in Italy and in the world, experiencing the same affliction, but sometimes not having the possibility to express their discomfort. We ask it of you in the name of HISTORY and also in the name of future generations, as well as in the name of the true unity of our Church.

WE BEG YOU, HOLY FATHER, DO NOT LEAVE US ALONE! We pray that the Holy Spirit, with the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary the Immaculate, keep you in good health and give you strength and courage to ever more efficiently guide the Church, helping us to celebrate the Mass according to the Traditional Liturgy in our parishes.

The 1st of July 2009, on the Feast of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, with the expression of our high esteem and respect, we remain, Your Holiness,
your most devoted servants in Christ,

Paolo and Giovanni
Gandolfo Lambruschini

Many thanks for the translation to Natasja Hoven of Katolsk Observator, with some editing by Rorate. The remaining rough edges in some places will be edited shortly.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Geoffrey Tozer RIP

The Sydney Morning Herald offers the following obituary:

Geoffrey Tozer, 1954-2009

GEOFFREY TOZER was 13 years old when the legendary headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, James Darling, advised him: ''You're wasting your time at school''.

Although Tozer was not a Grammarian, the sage had taken the boy under his wing after hearing him play in concert. He told him: ''What you really need to do is read, play the piano and meet famous people. Get out of Australia as fast as you can. Go and grow.''

Tozer, a child prodigy who would become one of Australia's most internationally acclaimed and recorded concert pianists, had made his professional debut at the age of eight, dressed in velvet shorts, playing Bach's Concerto in F Minor with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

A year after Darling offered the advice, Tozer became the youngest recipient of a Churchill Fellowship, which took him to London. The next year he was a semi-finalist in an international piano competition in Leeds. At 15, he made his international debut at the Royal Albert Hall in London, performing Mozart's Concerto No 15 with Colin Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Tozer, who has died, aged 54, of liver failure at his Melbourne home, went on to extensively tour Europe, the US, Asia and Australia. In 2004 he marked his 40th anniversary in the business with 40 concerts. His recordings covered composers from Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, to Stravinsky, Ireland, Brahms, Bach, Schumann, Haydn, Beethoven, Liszt and Mozart. And he reintroduced international audiences to the works of the Russian Nikoli Medtner.

Geoffrey Peter Bede Hawkshaw Tozer was born in Mussoorie, a hill station in northern India, to Veronica Tozer and Geoffrey Conan-Davies, an Anglican minister. His mother had separated from her husband, an army colonel, by the time she arrived in Melbourne in 1958 with Geoffrey and his older brother, Peter.

He is thought to have showed an interest in music while still in his pram, aged six months, when his mother played Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony on the family's wind-up gramophone. He was soon taking records such as Benjamin Britten's Rape of Lucretia, rather than teddy bears, to bed. If one broke, he would cry like the baby he was and put all the pieces under his pillow.

At five years he astounded an audience at St Kilda Town Hall with flawless playing of Bach and Bartok. Besides, he was reciting passages from Oscar Wilde's fairy stories at three years, reading Homer at seven and, by 10, Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw.

Tozer auditioned successfully at the ABC at eight years, after which mother and son walked the six kilometres home. By the age of 12 he had played five Beethoven piano concerts with the MSO.

His early education was at a convent school and then with the Christian Brothers. His mother switched him to De La Salle College when canings began bruising his hands, affecting his violin and piano lessons. He gave up the violin after five years to concentrate on piano. His piano lessons came from his mother, a music teacher, and private teachers such as Eileen Ralf in Hobart, Maria Curcio and Theodore Tettvi.

Tozer pigeonholed his concert career to graduate from the London Opera Centre (1979-80) and work as a repetiteur at the centre and at Glyndebourne. He then taught at the University of Michigan in 1981-82 before returning to Australia.

His many triumphs included a bravura performance of Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas in 16 hours, spread across seven concerts over 11 nights in 1994 in Melbourne. He played with the Berlin and Moscow symphony orchestras, but his biggest audience was in May 2001, when an estimated 80 million Chinese watched him live on television playing the Yellow River Concerto. He made several tours of China.

Geoffrey Tozer's illustrious career was not without controversy. He became a favourite of Paul Keating, the former prime minister, who, as treasurer in 1989, introduced creative fellowships after meeting Tozer, then the music teacher at the Canberra school where Keating's son, Patrick, was a student.

Keating, who believes that Tozer was Australia's greatest pianist, said he felt ''ashamed'' that a pianist of his talents was earning only $9000 a year. He introduced what became known as the Keatings and the first five-year award in 1989 ($329,000) went to Tozer.

When the pianist was awarded a second fellowship in 1994 ($219,098), there was an outcry led by the Opposition protesting that, with so many worthy figures in the arts community, it was outrageous that Keating's close friend was selected a second time. Tozer's supporters say there is nothing unusual in dual fellowships. Tozer himself had followed up his first Churchill fellowship at the age of 14 with a second at 17. He was also twice awarded Israel's Rubenstein Medal, in 1977 and 1980.

Keating had already paved the way for a Canberra enterprise to make Tozer's first Australian recordings, and he promoted the pianist's talents to London-based classical music giant Chandos. He was vindicated when the Chandos recordings won rapturous reviews in Europe, with further success in the US.

He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 for his recording of the three Medtner piano concertos with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The recording won a Diapason d'Or prize that year.

Tozer later attracted local criticism when he said he would have to pursue his career in London because Melbourne was a ''remote, provincial city'' and Australia had an indifference to the arts generally. He later said he had been caught in a moment of exasperation on a 40 degree day and that there was no question that Melbourne was ''home''.

His other awards included Hungary's Liszt Centenary Medallion, Belgium's Prix Alex De Varies and Britain's Royal Overseas League Medallion. He was never so honoured at home.

Geoffrey Tozer enjoyed the ballet and photography and liked to relax by going for long walks. He is survived by four of his five siblings - Peter, Tim, Meredith and Bliss."

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

Opposition to the TLM waning?

A survey conducted by the US Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has found that opposition to the return of the Traditional Mass has dropped dramatically since 1985.

According to the survey, the majority of catholics (63%) have no view one way or another on the subject, and 12% oppose its return. By contrast, back in 1985 a Gallup Poll found that opinions were much more polarised, with 25% opposed its return and only 35% with no opinion.

The really intriguing part of the results are the demographics of support and opposition to the Mass.

Unsurprisingly, practicing Catholics (attend Mass weekly) were far more likely (33%) to support the return of the TLM. But among this group opposition was quite strong too - 20% were opposed, dropping to 13% among less than weekly but at least monthly attenders (with 29% of the latter group in support).

The results by age were also interesting - the Tabletistas/Acatholicas are heavily concentrated among those born before 1943 (24% oppose), with support for the return of the mass highest (32%) and opposition lowest (13%) in the 'Vatican II' generation (born before 1961). Those in the 'post-Vatican II' and Millenial generations were most likely to have no opinion one way or the other (72 and 78% respectively).

These are US results of course and may not be replicated in Australia. Still they suggest there is scope to do a bit of marketing to a younger age group unaffected by the polemics of the past on this subject...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

How do you attract vocations?

For many years now we've been told that everyone has a vocation.

The notion of vocation

Its true in a sense, but failing to differentiate between 'special' or 'higher' vocations (Pope John Paul II's words) to the priesthood and religious life, and everyone's call to holiness doesn't acknowledge the real sacrifices involved in those callings, and thus reduces the willingness of people to make those sacrifices.

We've clericalized the laity through the institution of Extraordinary Ministers etc, and secularized the priesthood and religious (for example by failure to wear clerical or religous garb, reducing the prayer regime, and abandonment of a commitment to asceticism), and in doing so undermined the specificness of the 'vocations' of all.

We've been told that all states of life are equally important - something that is clearly not true, since without a priest there are no sacraments and thus no Church, and without religious the Church loses its eschatological orientation.

The result has been a dearth of vocations and loss of sense of identity in the Church.

The missionary impulse

So how to rebuild?

Well many successful dioceses have reverted to the tried and true historical path, and called on the missionary impulse inherent in vibrant young churches (such as those flourishing dioceses in Africa and Asia) to help re-evangelize Australia. They've gone back to tradition more generally - and it has worked.

Some Australian dioceses - such as Wagga Wagga, Perth and Lismore are having considerable success in attracting both overseas and local candidates to ensure that Australians can continue to access the sacraments, and thus laying the necessary foundations for a "New Evangelization" (re-evangelization).

Not everyone however is convinced by the evidence of what works it seems, as The Record reports on Adelaide:

Adelaide's "vocation culture"

By Anthony Barich

"The Archdiocese of Adelaide aims to promote the priesthood and the permanent diaconate within a new “culture of vocations” to save itself from an impending lack of priests. A number of parishes in the archdiocese have already merged, and the concept of promoting a vocations culture, the brainchild of Archbishop Philip Wilson, has been “in gestation” for two years. Adelaide currently has two permanent deacons and two more who have nearly finished their training at the Adelaide College of Divinity, an inter-denominational institute used by Flinders University and comprising Catholic Theological College, St Barnabas’ Anglican Theological College and Parkin-Wesley College of the Uniting Church.

The development of the concept of promoting the priesthood within a ‘vocations culture’ coincides with the Archbishop’s Leap Ahead Project, which seeks consultation to address “major issues” facing the archdiocese over the next 10 years, including the looming priest shortage as many are due to retire soon due to old age or illness, or both. The diocese’s acting vocations director Fr Mark Sexton, who at age 50 is the last graduate of its St Francis Xavier Seminary that closed in 2000, said the plan to focus on local vocations would steer clear of scouting priests from overseas, as doing so would “deprive other countries of priests and the sacraments”.

If men from other countries ask the Adelaide archdiocese if they can study for the priesthood for South Australia, Fr Sexton said they would be asked to first enquire into their own diocese.“Priesthood is part of a culture of vocations, and we need to build it across the whole community. If we can get people thinking in terms of living their vocation as a mother, parent, teacher, etc, and if the younger ones hear people using those words unreservedly, they’re more likely to think ‘what’s my vocation, maybe I’m called to Religious life, or the priesthood,” he said.

He said the current perception is that ‘vocations’ only relates to priests and Religious, which must be changed if vocations to the priesthood are to rise.

Four men are currently in training for Adelaide – three at Corpus Christi College in Melbourne and one in Rome...."

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Our bishops and their cathedrals...

New Liturgical Movement had a piece a week or so back on the renovations going on in several Australian cathedrals that is well worth a read. Its central point is that at the very time that Pope Benedict XVI is promoting a "reform of the reform", our Australian bishops are redesigning their cathedrals in ways totally inconsistent with the return to tradition.

Sydney and Canberra

Last year's haul was a mixed bag - the unfortunate new altar at St Mary's, Sydney vs Archbishop Coleridge's small but positive steps to making the most of Canberra's Cathedral, pictured above (now if he could just move the throne out of the way...).

The NLM piece centres on Perth (is it really too late?) and Hobart.


"An Australian reader brought my attention some time ago to a new addition proposed for St. Mary's Cathedral in Hobart. The extension to the cathedral is being described as a narthex; it is, however, a large, three-story octagonal structure vaguely reminiscent of a baptistery and will include a basement crypt for the burial of archbishops and a top-story performance space seating 100 people; in between will be a gathering space for worshippers before and after mass. The structure will also include toilet facilities, meeting rooms and offices, and will be connected to the cathedral sacristy via a cloister element.

The project will cost $3 million Australian.Before I go on to comment on the design's less felicitous aspects, the cathedral and architects should be commended for choosing forms that attempt a rapprochement with traditional forms, as well as for seeking to reintroduce the custom of burying bishops within the bounds of their cathedral. However, the incorporation of a crypt serves to underline the oddly contradictory and even somewhat superfluous nature of this addition, while the historical references incorporated within the design feel superficial.

While it is being called a narthex, that is precisely the one thing which the structure is not. A narthex is not a gathering space or overflow social hall; it is a place of transition from world outside to the heavenly reality within. It is a space, first and foremost, tied into the liturgical experience of a church. It is unclear to me how the addition will relate to the existing narthex, if the cathedral has one, though the presence of doors in the rendering and its placement off to the side of the first bay of the cathedral nave suggests it will substantially distort the way the cathedral is entered, and thus the way the cathedral is experienced; it will become a somewhat circuitous, sidelong entry at odds with the processional path traditionally associated with entry into a church.

The structure's octagonal, centralized typology, is also troubling. It is somewhat reminiscent of a chapter-house, baptistery, or even some monastic kitchens, though at a greatly inflated scale. From the few renderings I have been able to find, it appears disproportionately large next to the nave of the cathedral, and appears dangerously close to competing with it--it is too low and broad to appear like a tower, and too wide to seem merely an ajunct to the church proper. For a crypt or tomb-chapel, such a structure has precedents (one is reminded of the Medici tombs in Florence) but given the crypt is secondary and the principal floors of the structure are taken up with a mix of primarily secular and administrative functions, it seems inappropriate.

If the builders wish to have a crypt, let them design a crypt; if they wish to have a social hall, let them have a social hall, but the mixture of these together, with a theater and toilets thrown in seems oddly indecorous, especially when cloaked in a centralized typology and profile that gives greater importance to the addition than it would appear to merit.

Lastly, as I have said before, the historical references, in addition to being somewhat misplaced, feel superficial. While an addition to a historic church need not merely ape every last detail of the parent structure, it should harmonize with and defer to its surroundings. The relatively simple renderings I have seen suggest typical modern detailing and fenestration. Especially when used in conjunction with Gothic structures, such elements can result in a design that feels like a caricature of Gothic, rather than an expansion of it. A truly traditional structure would have been preferable, but even, with a bit of imagination, a fairly "modern" design could have been attempted so long as the detailing and stonework felt in harmony with the existing fabric, resulting in something not unlike Lutyens' Castle Drogo, for instance."


"Unfortunately, this is not the only project of this nature. Another similar and even more indiscrete addition, is being proposed at a different St. Mary's Cathedral, in Perth, where a whole new chancel is being contemplated. The design will convert a beautiful Gothic interior into the sort of in-the-round design that was au courant about twenty years ago, including, most curiously, what appears to be an octagonal altar wholly without foundation in liturgical law or twenty centuries of Christian tradition.

It always saddens me to read of such projects. There are many rising traditional architects, and quite a few established ones, who could have produced a discrete, elegant addition in a traditional style, or at the very least in a contemporary style that sought enough common ground with the existing building to not appear in competition with it.

Even in the case of St. Mary's in Perth, a sanctuary re-ordering could have been attempted that brought the altar closer to the congregation without sacrificing its mystery, had the right precedents been studied. Comper, naturally, comes to mind. Such works would have been of international significance and of inestimable value for the growing restoration of the sacred. Instead, the resulting design will be just as expensive, and be indistinguishable from a host of other pseudo-traditional institutional structures and reorderings across the globe."

Rise up friends, and do what you can to save our cathedrals!