Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Suicide of Europe

I found this video from Catholic News Services on Fr. Z's blog. It's a bit old already. Sorry.

Yesterday, at 1100 AM CET marked precisely 100 years from the Austro-Hungarian declaration of war on the Kingdom of Serbia, beginning the Great War which ended peace and (mostly) finished off Western civilization.

World War IFirst, I thought the background music was very well done. In fact, to my ears, much of it was in the same key (or mode?) as the score for Downton Abbey, not so much capturing the musical feel of the era, but of its emotions and spiritual life.

Pope Benedict XV is probably the most neglected Pope of the twentieth century, but he is a remarkable one. The Codex Iuris Canonici was promulgated, ensuring that the Church would have one clear source by which her affairs could be regulated. A new edition of the Missale Romanum was issued in 1920. But it is on the theology of Our Blessed Lady as it points towards her Son that he is most important for in the liturgical and devotional life in the Church, for he promulgated a Mass and Office for Our Lady under the title of Mediatrix of All Graces.

But all of this was overshadowed by the fact that he was elected a month after the start of the Great War, and I am pleased to see this name, the one used for two decades, to refer to the war, for it was truly great in the most tragic sense. It was the first Continental war since Napoleon to engulf all of Europe, and it was the "suicide of European civilization" as the Pontiff lamented. Perhaps if Christendom fell apart as a political and societal force after the Protestant Revolt, then its lamp was extinguished in the popular mind during the last century as the video hints. (Although it is interesting to note that ISIS considers the West to be Christendom even if that's ultimately a fiction.) Viscount Grey, the British Foreign Secretary in 1914, felt the same way: "The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time"

The Thirty Years' War had ended wars of religion, but the Great War was the first one where one could feel the conflicted loyalties. A Protestant-ruled empire allied with a Catholic one on the Continent, trying to prop up traditional monarchies, whereas sensibly monarchist Britain, rabidly secular France, and czarist Russia were the odd trio against the Germanic emperors. Imagine being an Irish Catholic! Finally, it was a chance to shake off British rule, but at the cost of supporting the Kaiser who was the Protestant emperor who dragged the world into war through the blank check and the Schlieffen Plan. Or what about someone trying to follow Catholic teaching on government and war? The Kaiser's actions were largely indefensible, but so was the British dreadnought campaign. Or simply an Italian in the German-speaking Tyrol? No one is clearly an aggressor, no one is clearly on the defensive.

Perhaps it is the nation-state, or at least what one might call the post-Christendom state (Austria, Britain, and Russia not being nation-states) that contributed to that sorry state of affairs. The video describes the collapse of the Prussian Union of Churches as it depended on the Kaiser as its head, and it reminds me of the classical Lutheran-and thus Prussian- expression that the state is Godly. I am uncomfortable with putting so much stock in the state. In the end, I think, it leads to the common good of one's own people not being looked after, never mind the common good of the whole of Europe. Allegedly it is, for the government pursues particular strategic policies to defend its borders or the culture of the people (trying to form a nation-state, for example), but look what that did. It brought devastation.

It ended a peace which had lasted, as far as a Continental war was concerned, since the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Yes, it was unstable and imperial conflicts had erupted, but it had signaled the importance of the old order. While I shall not call democracy completely into question, Aristotle's comments in his Politics must be kept in mind. He prefers monarchy, for democracy descends into madness. Look at 1848 and its consequences, including the Franco-Prussian War and the Third Republic. The people desired democracy and participation in their governance, what they got was bloodshed.

The video is twenty minutes long, and I unfortunately forgot where I left off in the video, so my thoughts must end here. But pray for all the departed, those killed in the trenches, those who led the war, and those who suffered on its edges for God alone knows what they went through.

That being said, I do think the Great War had a profound effect on the Liturgical Movement...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Juventutem Louisville Conference with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Juventutem Louisville will be hosting a one-day conference with Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, popularly known as "Fr. Z," on Saturday, August 16th. It will be from 9 AM to 4 PM at St. Martin of Tours, 639 S. Shelby St., Louisville KY. Admission will be free for Father's three talks during the day, and we will have a BBQ lunch available for $10. Tickets for lunch must be purchased by August 8th. Tickets can be purchased via Paypal (info HERE) or by check. Please mail checks (and make them out to) Juventutem Louisville at 6000 Preston Highway, Louisville KY 40219.

The special treat of the day will be the celebration of Solemn High Mass of the feast of St. Joachim, which is observed during the (OK, it was suppressed in 1955) octave of the Assumption and not with St. Anne on July 26 (which happens to be my birthday...). Father Zuhlsdorf will be the celebrant and Reverend Mr. Jason Stone (visiting us at St. Martin's for the summer from the Diocese of Springfield) and Father Paul Beach, pastor of St. Martin of Tours, will serve as the deacon and subdeacon of the Mass. The choir under the direction of Dr. Paul Weber (whom you might recall from the Sacred Music Colloquium, where he was on the faculty) will sing Hassler's Missa Secunda. That Mass setting is one of the best and should be in every director's repetoire. It's beautiful and the music elevates the text in the tradition of the plainchant. It does not unnecessarily repeat the text, and it does not distort it.

For more information, please visit the Juventutem Louisville website. Please let your friends know and come if you can! I say definitely come for the day if you are within a 3-hour's driving distance or so, or you can make a weekend out of it! We hope to make this an annual event, FYI. B

As a bonus, we will celebrate Solemn High Mass of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary the evening prior, at a time to be determined (based on past schedules, I would say 7 PM). I'm not sure about the music, but Dr. Weber loves this feast, so it'll be grand and appropriate for the occasion. And we always have a Missa Cantata at 12 noon on Sundays.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Giving Thanks and "Giving Up Our Selves to Thy Service"

I'm feeling ecumenical today. One, you may have heard Tony Palmer, a friend of Pope Francis and a member of House of Bishops for the Communion of Evangelical and Episcopal Churches, was killed in an accident earlier this week. We ought to pray for the repose of his soul.

Assumption Evensong 2013 - Warwick Street 3Two, during the Church Music Assocation of America's Sacred Music Colloquium, I had the chance to finally attend Anglican Choral Evensong, which is the sung evening service of the Office as modified by Thomas Cranmer for the church in England after Parliament voted to sever its ties to the Roman Pontiff and the bishops in communion with him. It reduces the Psalmody (and as with the lectionary, the distribution of the Psalter follows the civil calendar...) from the medieval Office, and it combines the Gospel canticles of Vespers and Compline, the Magnificat  of Our Lady and the Nunc dimittis of Saint Simeon.

I was particularly struck by the General Thanksgiving, which is a beautiful and moving prayer indeed. Perhaps this could be added to one's day, such as before Compline or before going to bed. I have doubly emphasized my favorite part of the prayer:
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, 
we thine unworthy servants 
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks 
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness 
to us and to all men. 
We bless thee for our creation, preservation, 
and all the blessings of this life; 
but above all for thine inestimable love 
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; 
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, 
give us that due sense of all thy mercies, 
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; 
and that we show forth thy praise, 
not only with our lips, but in our lives, 
by giving up our selves to thy service, 
and by walking before thee 
in holiness and righteousness all our days; 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, 
to whom, with thee and the Holy Spirit, 
be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.
Even if unintentionally, it's rather Roman. Te igitur clementissime Pater begins the Canon. To you, therefore, most merciful Father (or as the Ordinariate gets to pray-in a better form-THEREFORE, most merciful Father, we humbly pray thee, through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord...). The modern prayer of absolution continues this theme...God the Father of mercies...

One excellent place to give thanks is before and after meals. We ought to use the traditional prayers "Bless us, O Lord..."  and "We give thee thanks, almighty God. The day needs to be filled with prayer, especially short prayers like these that come at the same place in one's day as well as the Divine Office as much as one can manage it. One should give it a go in Latin. Also, who rendered tibi as simply "thee"? I would have it as "We give thanks unto Thee, almighty God..." And if you are feeling really bold, sing it to ferial tone B (from the Liber Usualis) and when praying after the meal ( whether recited or sung) drop the tone for the prayer Fidelium animae. That's the way it is always done liturgically. Fr. Pasley suggested this for the men who head the table during his session at the Colloquium, so I did it at dinner that evening! (If you have dinner with me, once everyone gets their food-unless a nice person says to do it earlier-I insist on praying together so we don't forget!). Here are the Latin prayers for mealtime.

The Baptist church next to Guardian Angels and the Little Caesars where I work asks on its sign board, "Have you given thanks to Jesus today?" or something to that effect. Of course, I only wish I could give thanks in the most perfect way, that is to say by assisting at Holy Mass every day........St. Peter Julian Eymard said, "Know, O Christian, that the Mass is the holiest act of religion. You cannot do anything more to glorify God more, nor profit your soul more, than by devoutly assisting at it, and assisting as often as possible."

Finally, Pope Benedict XVI is the Pope of Christian Unity, and the Ordinariates he established use for their Office the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham which is approved for liturgical prayer, meaning that we can pray it as a liturgical act with the whole of the Body of Christ as opposed to being a paraliturgical, pious devotion. Beautiful. And let us pray for the conversion of all to the Church which is unam, sanctam, apostolicam et catholicam. I do not believe that corporate reunion can come in anything further. But certainly the bridge across the Tiber was built so graciously by the previous pontiff.

The picture is from Choral Evensong and Solemn Benediction at Our Lady of the Assumption and St. Gregory, Warwick Street with Mgr. Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham under the Patronage of Blessed John Henry Newman. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fr. Nicholson on God's Justice and Mercy

Father Paul Nicholson, the traditional mission preacher from Canada, has another good homily on God's justice and mercy.

The Incarnation and the Paschal Mystery are two supreme expressions of God's mercy and justice. God became man so that it would be possible for us to become righteous, that is, to become acceptable to God the almighty Father. Not only that, but "to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." This was accomplished in the Crucifixion, glorious Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven of Our Lord. For grace flowed out upon the world and the Church was established with her seven sacraments. Our Lord descended into Hell, from where He brought up those holy ones who had obeyed the Law so that they might enter into His Kingdom, which has no end. And He ascended on the fortieth day so that He might send the Holy Ghost, the Advocate, Who lives mutually with the Father and Son in our souls and with them is adored and glorified in the Church's worship, Who brings us sanctifying grace.

We need to make good use of the sacrament of Confession and of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ (the first before the second, of course).

Monday, July 14, 2014

Women Bishops in the Church of England

 A crowd of hundreds of women priests stands with Justin Welby
All at least 15-20 years older than my mother...
In its General Synod vote today the Church of England has approved the consecration of women to the episcopate. I'm not going to use quotes or words like "attempt," for we as Roman Catholics know that the Church has no authority to ordain women to the clergy. Pope St. John Paul II explained this in his apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, and Catholics must give assent to this as belonging to the deposit of faith. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed this in a responsum ad dubium.

He taught:
 Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Lk 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.
It is a matter of ecclesiology, and it has nothing to do with the nature of women. In fact, when one reads the Fathers (St. Basil comes to mind) one realizes women have a special capacity for holiness men don't have, whereas men have their own. Now, I'm not sure why the CDF needed to clarify this matter. It could not be clearer that the Holy Father was teaching in a matter of faith and morals for the entirety of the Christian peoples, i.e. the Church and her members in full communion or not, by virtue of his office as Supreme Pontiff. It met the criteria set in Pastor Aeternus quite clearly. At a minimum, those are teachings that are infallible. There might be more, but we know those to be infallible when taught by the Pope. And it was not a new teaching! The entire Christian apostolic tradition rests on the passing on apostolic succession to the male presyberate. Lumen Gentium for instance reiterates that the clergy is passed down to males (oh, if only that document was a tad bit clearer and had canons and anathemas!).

Jemima Thackray writing for the Telegraph online said, "women bishops are now a reality." Well, Jemima, I think we need to define reality. Certainly, the Church of England is going to join its American cousin in consecrating female bishops, and that means there will be women in charge of dioceses. But there won't be women bishops at the same time, because it is impossible, so there will be no ontological reality of women bishops, i.e. their souls cannot receive an indelible mark of ordination because the Church can't give it by the Spirit to her, even if she was consecrated by someone whose validity of orders was impeccable.

The Church in worship
She imagines "the church at the vanguard of every progressive cause, leading the way in the campaign for nuclear disarmament for example, or gay rights, rather than always being the slowest on the uptake of every social development." Wait, isn't the Church about going to all nations, preaching the Gospel, and baptizing for the salvation of souls in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti? Isn't she about being the Mystical Body of Christ, wherein is contained the New Israel, for the entire world to join in corporate adoration, sacrifice, and praise of the Almighty and Eternal God, living and true? Now, I realize she is talking about the Church of England. With only two valid sacraments, in many respects it is just a non-governmental organization, but it is still imperfectly part of the Body of Christ (although one might question how many ministers-especially among female clergy- use the proper Trinitarian baptismal formula).

Why would one wish for the Church to keep up with the world? She is a sign of contradiction, and we are to be in the world but not of the world. There are a few things I wish the Holy See would keep up on, such as the Internet and loosening copyright restrictions on liturgical texts, but never would I ask Holy Mother the Church to keep up with every social trend, every blow of the wind in a new belief. She is our mother and guide to Heaven. If she moved at the front of every social movement we could very well wind up in Hell for having achieved a noble goal in a blazingly sinful way. In fact, sometimes the Church has to prod the world into taking the correct action. Rerum Novarum is a great example of one, how people could agree with the Church but badly implement it (protecting workers' rights through a revolution) and two, the Church pushing the world in the right direction (as is her right and obligation).

She also writes, "I read the Bible literally, thinking that respecting it meant reading it like a car manual - a book of exact instructions for life, not a collection of beautiful writings which are a launch pad into an interpretative adventure." Once again, Dr. Hildebrand's hypothesis (not that it is original to him, he just pointed it out regularly in class) is confirmed: errors in the theology of divine revelation are at the heart of what I would call Modernist errors that plague contemporary Christian thought.

Thackray refers to something Justin Cantaur. said. I suppose he is correct to say the Church is a family, but only because we were reborn of water and the Spirit in regenerative baptism which removed original sin from our souls as at the same moment we entered into the Body of Christ. And of course this is all being mediated by Our Lady, Mediatrix of All Graces, Co-Redemptrix and Advocate, Mother of the Church, Help of Christians, and Refuge of Sinners for the Church is a hospital for sinners.

Part of Chesterton's conversion involved his going to a Protestant church and finding his umbrella, whereas someone stole it when he went to Mass. I find that there is always a sense of propriety, social conformity, and undue deference to those who pay the bills for the Church of England, namely the wealthy and the aristocracy. And of course it needs the state. The Suffrages from Evensong amuse me: "O Lord, save the state [or the Queen in some texts]" is a good prayer. The Canon of the Mass and the Good Friday petitions each had a prayer for the Holy Roman Emperor until 1955. But the Evensong prayer indicates a consciousness in which Anglicans are very much aware of their establishment and their utter dependence on the powers that be.

Finally, Pope Benedict is the Pope of Christian Unity.