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(The Remnant’s Rome Correspondent)
Reproduced from The Remnant (07/31/10)
Hilary White: Born and raised in Victoria, British Columbia, the most beautiful place in the world. Which can be a bit of a problem, since everywhere else you go tends to be a bit of a letdown. But I’ve lived in Vancouver, for 11 (long, dreary, rain-soaked) years, Halifax, Toronto and the NWT and spent part of my childhood in Manchester, England, where the family is from. Every so often, I wake up and can’t remember which continent I’m on.
MJM: Baptized Catholic?
HW: Of course, but not until my mother was received when I was five or six. This was the beginning of a tragic story, since she had the misfortune to living in Remi de Roo’s Victoria and it was the height of Silly Season there. In 1972, if you did what you were supposed to do and went up to the local parish asking to become Catholic, they put you into the hands of their lay, or worse, sister-led religious education team. I was too young to be “instructed” but I know that she came away having been told that reincarnation was a perfectly acceptable idea for Catholics. A little half-baked Buddhism, a little Jungian psychology, a Carl Rogers-style encounter session or two, and she was ready for Victoria’s Catholic scene. My poor mum never did manage to sort it all out, but went to her death living in the same fog of bewilderment these people instilled in her in the early days of the aftermath of the Vatican II Asteroid.
Somehow, I acquired a love of the Blessed Virgin, having been given a cheap plaster statue of her which I kept in my room on a little altar I made on my dresser. I brought her flowers and odd things I found on the beach. Maybe it was this that rescued me.
MJM: No doubt it was. And your family—still in Nova Scotia?
HW: The only family I have left are my mother’s adoptive brother and his family, in Cheshire. Long story. Has to do with the War, rationing, the Blitz, the invasion of Normandy, the post-colonial social mores of upper middle class Salisbury, the Raj and a US airman from Waco, Texas named Herbert Edward Burkett. Complex. Might make a good novel some day. In fact, now that I think of it, it already sounds like an Evelyn Waugh novel.
MJM: Where were you educated?
HW: At the Victoria public library, the library of the University of Victoria, the Vancouver
and Burnaby Public libraries, the library of the University of British Columbia, the libraries of the Classics and Philosophy Departments of Dalhousie University and Kings College in Halifax, the St. Michael’s College library in Toronto and the dining room table in the house of the late, great John Muggeridge. In between reading books, I attended classes now and then.
MJM: So, you’re a long way from home. What brought you to the Eternal City?
HW: A job. I had worked for the national pro-life lobby for some time before getting somewhat burned out, or perhaps ground down by the political thing. I started writing for LifeSiteNews.com when I realized that I could not face writing another brief for parliamentarians who didn’t know, or care, what we were saying. When my mother passed away, I suddenly felt I had had enough of Canada and went in search of the relatives I hadn’t seen since I was six. After a year in England, I came to Rome because, in essence, I was the only person on staff with a European passport who knew enough about the Catholic scene to ask the right questions.
MJM: And how is the mood in Rome these days? I’m sure the sex scandals continue to cast long shadows but from your vantage point are there any indicators of better days ahead?
HW: It depends on whose mood, particularly. There seems to be a sense of fin de siecle among the dinosaurs, the ones who staged and nurtured the Revolution since the 1950s. Among the younger crowd, those who are left, there is a sense of cautious optimism. A lot of hopes are being pinned on Pope Benedict, and his every move is being watched closely, not only by the scandal-hungry mainstream media.
Yes, it seems that the only thing anyone can talk about is the sex abuse scandals, and it is clear that history is being made. Taking the longest possible view, the Church is at last passing out of a phase that started in the 1950s, and with the sex abuse cases, is simply reaping what it has sewn. The result of effectively abandoning the traditional moral strictures in seminary formation is going to be moral chaos in the Church. Two and two still equal four. And now, even despite the attempts by the media to obscure this equation, many more people can see that, so much more clearly than before. The state of moral chaos, the doctrinal and liturgical disaster that is the Church in Belgium, Germany, Austria, France, Britain etc, is now being revealed for the evil that it has been all along. That this did not come about under John Paul II is an indication of Benedict’s new direction and strengths.
Again, taking the long view, I think this period will end up being a positive one for the Church. If the mainstream media has failed to make the connection between their favourite European bishops publicly opposing the Church on homosexuality and condoms and their protection of predatory homosexuals in the priesthood, the lesson is not being lost on those who see the situation with the eyes of the Faith. It will soon occur even to some MSM pundits that it has been the darlings of the “progressive” end of the Church, the poster-boys of the Revolution, who have been the most egregious culprits in covering up for their abusive priests and fellow bishops. The Weaklands, the Mahoneys, the Danneelses.
These scandals will, and indeed have already resulted in many becoming so distressed that they will leave the Church. But it seems obvious that those who have so attached themselves to the anti-Catholic Revolution that they would leave when it is shown to have been a hoax and a scandal, have in fact long since left the practice of the Catholic religion, if they ever had the Faith at all.
In the long term, Cardinal Ratzinger’s famous prediction of a smaller and more faithful Church will certainly come true, as it is demonstrably doing now in Austria, and this is certainly a loss. But I will dare to take Cardinal Ratzinger’s prediction one step further, and say that the new, smaller more faithful Church, will be all the more equipped to rescue their fallen-away fellow citizens, particularly after a period of state persecution.
Perhaps this looks in a worldly sense like a wan hope, but it is the real hope, the theological Hope, that God can bring a far greater good out of the darkness we are now experiencing. Pope Benedict clearly knows this, and he knows what he can and cannot achieve. His actions in the last two or three years, particularly with the outreach to the Anglicans, to the Orthodox and to the SSPX, have made it clear that he anticipates and hopes for this outcome. I have a friend here who likes to say that in five years, Benedict has done more for the true ecumenical cause, that of bringing all Christians back into the fold of Rome, than his predecessor did in nearly three decades. In this alone, Benedict has made extraordinary progress. But his actions have necessarily been preparatory. He is creating a situation in which the Church can begin to heal, a process that will take a long time, and will still be going on long after he is resting in St. Peter’s.
He also seems to know that he is limited in what he can achieve. He knows the Vatican machinery too well to think that he can, as so many of us have daydreamed, simply start firing people. A few heads have rolled, it is true, but although we tend to think of the pope as allpowerful in the temporal sense, we have seen, as in the diocese of Linz, that the “nuclear option” is not as easy to achieve as it might look on paper.
At the same time, Benedict, who knows in more detail than perhaps anyone else in Rome about the doings of these priests, is undertaking a clean-up operation. But he knows the size of the Aegean Stables. Is he willing to divert a whole river to clean it out? I don’t think we have yet seen everything Benedict plans.
We all knew the Revolution could not last. The lack of decisive action against it through the long period of the last pontificate has allowed it to grow complacent and comfortable, but we still knew that its dedication to a certain political ideology and its anti-Catholic shortcomings were going to bring it down eventually. The truth always wins. And the signs are growing, particularly in Europe, that a storm of persecution is brewing, which has always been good for the Church.
But remember that Benedict is of that generation that put all their eggs into the Vatican II basket and is determined to “make the council work”. This despite that 45 years after its close, they are still arguing over what its purpose was. Like nailing Jell-O to the wall. Younger Catholics, those of us that are left in the pews, simply cannot understand this obsession of the last generation with that monumental failure. But for the Ratzinger generation, “The Council” defined Catholicism, and it seems they cannot be convinced to give it a dignified burial.
But we cannot think that a single man, even the pope, even a great pope, could bring about huge sweeping changes for the better. As we have seen in the last few decades, it is a great deal easier to destroy the Church’s traditions with the sweep of a pen, than it will be to restore them. The Vatican is an old and peculiarly Italian institution and it is used to doing things the same way it always has, whether the ruling faction is “conservative” or “liberal”. It is a cliché, perhaps, but true, that the Church takes the centuries-long view, and what is hap-hap-happenin’ to the rest of us in the world is little more to the men Inside the Walls than a momentary distraction over one’s morning cappuccino.
MJM: What about the motu proprio? Has it influenced ecclesial politics in Rome long term?
HW: I would say that it is the personality of Benedict, the Ratzinger Effect, of which the
motu proprio is merely a manifestation, that is taking hold. You can see it in many little ways: cardinals who have spent their careers under JPII exalting feel-good doctrinal ‘ecumenism’ who have suddenly discovered their inner conservative; bishops who ten years ago would rather have gnawed off their own arms, are giving permission for the Mass (though of course, we all know that no permission is needed) and encouraging, or at least no longer obstructing, lay initiatives for Catholic things like Eucharistic adoration as well as anti-poverty groups. It is simply true that the Church, like most human institutions, works from its leadership down. Democracy is a fine theory, I suppose, but external reality is monarchical and hierarchical, and a leader is called that because of what he does. Benedict’s preferences for Bach and Mozart were well known even to those who had never read Spirit of the Liturgy, and when he was elected, the savvier among the world’s episcopal class understood that the tide was changing, and started making the appropriate attitudinal adjustments. At least in public.
I think a lot of people, who thought the Church really had changed at the Council, were surprised to see the explosion of Extraordinary Form Masses suddenly springing up around the world. If you look at Rorate Caeli every day, you get a sense that there really was a remnant, underground Church waiting in the catacombs for it to be safe to come out. Of course, it is early days yet, and anything could happen, including, God forbid, another conclave, but it does seem that the Revolution is seeing the last days of its hold on power.
There are some overt hold-outs of course, for the increasingly greying and wrinkling tie-dye and Birkenstock NewChurch cause. The English bishops, for the most part, are still sulking over the conclave. And if reports are to be trusted of the colossal bungling of preparations for
September’s Papal visit, seem not to have learned much about playing the game. The Austrians and Germans are busy on the secular side self-destructing by their mishandling of sex abuse allegations, and on the religious side, are alienating their supporters in the Vatican by publicly insulting the pope and long-time Roman power brokers like Angelo Sodano. The Italian Church is at least ten or even twenty years behind the curve, and the insipid banality of their liturgy is matched only by their easy-going attitude towards Catholic moral teaching. It is going to be an uphill struggle to restore some of what has been lost in Italy, but given the Italians’ 1.3 birth rate, the whole issue will be moot in another generation or two. It is not clear that the Revolution knows it is in trouble. Or how much trouble.
MJM: Do you have a sense of where the battle lines lie with respect to supporters and opponents of the Holy Father’s agenda?
HW: Benedict is swimming in a pool of sharks. They are aging sharks, but many of them still have most of their teeth. He is strongly supported in some important dicasteries, particularly CDF and Divine Worship and Sacraments. His Secretariat of State, (which means his press office as well) is in a state of chaos, with Sodano still pulling many of the strings. He is also opposed by a large portion of the Italian episcopate, but has chosen fairly well with Bagnasco as head. The war is still pretty hot Inside, which is what makes this an interesting posting. As to questionable appointments, a lot of people suspect that he suffers from Nice Guy Syndrome and has allowed his good nature to create a blind spot in judging character. There is also the formidable power bloc in there that transcends ideology and is simply an old boys network. It is not to be forgotten that the Vatican is run by Italians, and in the Italian culture you promote your friends and allies, no matter what sort of men they are. Still, everyone thought that Cardinal Levada was going to be a disaster as CDF, but he has turned out to be one of the pope’s most useful allies.
MJM: It seems that the canonization of Pope John Paul ‘The Great’ may have stalled in recent months. Any thoughts on why that should be?
HW: No one in this town has shouted “Santo subito” since Fr. Maciel was sent away to pray for forgiveness. I think the old Catholic saying is today as true as it has ever been: there’s no one so dead as a dead pope.
MJM: Can you tell us something about availability of the traditional Mass in Rome? In general, do you have the sense of a growing phenomenon, or is it still primarily underground?
HW: In Italy, the Church and the liturgy are frozen in perpetual winter, as if it will forever be 1976 and never Christmas. The progress made by the so-called traditionalist movement everywhere else, the slow creeping back of Gregorian chant, of polyphony, of some sense at least of decorum in ordinary N.O. parishes seems to have entirely missed the Italian Church. The average Italian knows little of his faith, and having that deep Italian sense of superiority and entitlement, cannot imagine that there is anything he needs to learn.
Most of the Italian episcopate, if any of them have even heard of the Motu Proprio, are secure in the knowledge that their flock certainly has not, and would never be interested in having their world shaken. As I said, the majority of those in the pews are either cotton-tops (though usually well-dyed) or thoroughly modern Millies who have no desire to return to a more traditional kind of religion. The sort of religion that will tell them to stop contracepting, for example. And in 20 or 30 years time, the big question is going to be not what sort of liturgy should we have, but what are we going to do with all these beautiful old buildings that no one goes to anymore.
MJM: In general, what sort of influence, if any, do traditional Catholics exercise in Rome?
HW: It depends on what you mean by “Rome”. There is a war over these issues going on in the Vatican, and the good guys seem to be making progress under the current regime. Indeed, throughout John Paul’s papacy, the FSSP were relegated to a tiny, out of the way chapel at the end of a grubby cul-de-sac, that seated no more than about 30 people at a squeeze. Shortly after Benedict’s papacy, however, they were given a magnificent historic Baroque church a fiveminute walk to a major transit hub in the centre of the centro. The parroco of Trinita was recently named among the ten most influential persons in Rome by Inside the Vatican. But all this being said, Trinita is still an island, surrounded by a sea of liturgical banality. And not as well-attended as we might hope. It’s early days yet.
MJM: I know you’ve done a lot of great work on family issues, i.e., culture and life—an area where the good guys seem to constantly be up against impossible odds. Are we winning any rounds in that sphere, anywhere in the world?
HW: Yes, in fact, we are, though it may not look like it. What is ultimately going to help us will be demography. What does not often get reported is that, although the news is nearly all bad at the legislative and judicial levels, on the ground, where it actually counts, the philosophy of
abortionism (if I may coin a term) is beginning to burn out. It is not widely known that in Italy, for example, 70 per cent of doctors will refuse to commit an abortion, and the public opposition to euthanasia was enormous during the Eluana Englaro fight, though she died.
The reason the EU and other places are putting in legislation attacking the conscience rights of healthcare workers, is that more and more healthcare workers are exercising them by refusing to have anything to do with abortion. Abortion in the US is getting harder to obtain at the state level, which is why, I imagine, the Obama administration is so keen to put abortion into a national system. In the UK, more doctors are refusing to do them, which is prompting the abortionists in the House of Commons and the medical regulatory agencies to push for more abortion training in medical schools, to weed out early those who might obstruct abortion as doctors. indication is the explosion of young people at the March(es) for Life.
In the last ten years, since I started in this field, the overall numbers of people attending these annual events in Washington and Ottawa has grown enormously. In 1999 when I first attended in Ottawa, I think he number was about 2000 and about 175,000 in Washington. Last year in Ottawa we had around 12,000 (don’t knock it! Canada’s a small country with a government-controlled press) and in Washington it was well over 300,000. At the same time the numbers have gone up, the percentage of young people attending has grown even more. Long gone are the days when the pro-life movement could be characterised as little old ladies with rosaries, and angry old white guys. Feminism, which is the foundation of abortionism, is very widely discredited among young women, a large percentage of whom were raised by single mothers and who have been able to see first hand what it has wrought.
Most of the best pro-life work around the world is being organised and led by people in their 20s and 30s. People who have survived abortion themselves, who have seen the damage being done not just by abortion, but by divorce, contraception, and the hyper-sexualised culture, are using the activist skills their parents used to tear down the culture, in order to build it back up. It is certainly an exciting time to be in this field.
In Europe the trend has caught on, and pro-life activities have stepped up. In the last two years, I believe we’ve had our first, and well attended Marches and demonstrations for life and family in places you’d never expect to see them. Places like Copenhagen and Brussels. Again, as with the Church, the tide is turning against the post-hippie dinosaurs, although, secure in their corner offices in Westminster and Brussels, they may not know it yet. What the end result will be remains to be seen. It’s why I’m glad I’m here doing this work. I get to watch it all from a front row seat.
MJM: From our side of the pond it seems that the European Union is hell bent on banishing all things Christian from the shores of Europe. First of all, would you say this is accurate? And, secondly, is there any serious, organized Christian opposition to the EU’s agenda in Europe ?
HW: The EU is an invention of the Revolution, and as such, it is built on something that is not real. It is a manifestation of the post-1960s Fantasy world that has rejected the Real for a set of ideological fantasies. It is a tissue of ideologically inspired lies, a soap bubble that will burst sooner or later. And given the current crisis of the Euro, it’s looking more like sooner. Whatever the EU is doing is going to fail, necessarily, because the Real will inevitably reassert itself. Unfortunately, “serious” Christianity in Europe is so small that it can do little, and “organised” or official Christianity, the Christianity with the funding, is largely in agreement with the EU’s goals. The Catholic bishops, for example, actually have an organisation that is part of the EU machinery. I think they make polite little peeps every now and then about abortion, but they are part of the machine.
But I think that people have a native instinct that the EU experiment will soon collapse under the weight of its own inconsistencies without a great deal of help. It is not, in fact, the EU that is the great threat to Christianity, it is merely a tool. One that will fail soon. Is failing in fact.
MJM: So, what’s the future look like for you? Is Rome home for now?
HW: I seem to be doomed to be a perpetual mendicant. At the moment, however, I can’t think of anywhere else it would be more worthwhile to be and I’ve just signed a 16-month lease on quite a decent apartment. As soon as I got here, though, it was as though I had finally made it to the top of the hill to get a look of the lie of the land, and immediately saw that there aren’t any taller places than this. Nowhere else gives as good a vantage point. This makes it as good a place as any to dig in and wait for the barbarians.
MJM: Ever get homesick?
HW: I live in a strange state of perpetual homesickness, without ever really knowing where, exactly, I am homesick for. Comes of having lived in too many places. Or maybe simply being a rootless post-modern. But I am not very well suited to this climate. At this point, July 26th, it has been roughly 35 degrees every day for two weeks, with no relief in sight, so I can say generally, that I am homesick for anything with a northern European, temperate zone climate.
MJM: Many thanks, Miss White, and I do hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful alliance. Welcome aboard!
Bishop Fellay Denies Any Knowledge of New Motu ProprioDubs Bishop Williamson Rumor “Gossip” and “Unauthorized;” Doctrinal Talks ContinueAugust 24, 2010—Superior General Bishop Bernard Fellay of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), one of four bishops whose excommunications were lifted by Pope Benedict XVI in January 2009, today categorically denied any knowledge of an alleged special motu proprio being planned by the Holy See for the SSPX as stated recently by SSPX Bishop Richard Williamson.“I’m very annoyed by the whole thing,” said Bishop Fellay. “Bishop Williamson’s statement is an unauthorized statement and is his own personal statement and not that of the Society.”“It has never been the policy of the Society to base any kind of action or policy on gossip. I have absolutely no knowledge of any motu proprio.”Earlier this week, Bishop Richard Williamson—who has allegedly been asked to refrain from publicly speaking on matters outside of faith and morals by the SSPX leadership—wrote a letter that was published initially on his website and then picked up by traditionalist internet Rorate Caeli blog.In the letter, Bishop Williamson warns Catholics about the “danger” of a rumored motu proprio designed to lure the SSPX lay faithful into union with Rome and said, “…there is no way in which the neo-modernist teaching of Vatican II can be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine of the true Church.”...Confirmed: High-Ranking Vatican Prelate Predicted End of Novus Ordo MissaeAnd finally, shortly after Pope Benedict XVI issued his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, thereby affirming the right of every Latin-rite priest to offer the Traditional Latin Mass and Sacraments without his bishop’s permission, while confirming the traditional Mass had never been abrogated, a few reports included a statement by Bishop Fellay regarding his conversation with a Vatican official on the MP’s potential effect on the future of the Novus Ordo Missae.Despite news of a new translation of the Novus Ordo missal becoming available for use in Advent 2011, this new missal, as Remnant readers know, retained only 17 percent of the original orations from the 1962 missal.Bishop Fellay today confirmed that after Summorum Pontificum was issued, “the high-ranking prelate thought we would have 20 to 25 years before the New Mass would disappear.” [Full article here.]
We know well that they flatter themselves with the idea of raising human dignity and the discredited condition of the working class. We know that they wish to render just and perfect the labor laws and the relations between employers and employees, thus causing a more complete justice and a greater measure of charity to prevail upon earth, and causing also a profound and fruitful transformation in society by which mankind would make an undreamed-of progress. Certainly, We do not blame these efforts; they would be excellent in every respect if the Sillonist did not forget that a person’s progress consists in developing his natural abilities by fresh motivations; that it consists also in permitting these motivations to operate within the frame of, and in conformity with, the laws of human nature. But, on the contrary, by ignoring the laws governing human nature and by breaking the bounds within which they operate, the human person is lead, not toward progress, but towards death. This, nevertheless, is what they want to do with human society; they dream of changing its natural and traditional foundations; they dream of a Future City built on different principles, and they dare to proclaim these more fruitful and more beneficial than the principles upon which the present Christian City rests.No, Venerable Brethren, We must repeat with the utmost energy in these times of social and intellectual anarchy when everyone takes it upon himself to teach as a teacher and lawmaker - the City cannot be built otherwise than as God has built it; society cannot be setup unless the Church lays the foundations and supervises the work; no, civilization is not something yet to be found, nor is the New City to be built on hazy notions; it has been in existence and still is: it is Christian civilization, it is the Catholic City. It has only to be set up and restored continually against the unremitting attacks of insane dreamers, rebels and miscreants. ...
[T]he Sillon says that it is striving to establish an era of equality which, by that very fact, would be also an era of greater justice. Thus, to the Sillon, every inequality of condition is an injustice, or at least, a diminution of justice? Here we have a principle that conflicts sharply with the nature of things, a principle conducive to jealously, injustice, and subversive to any social order. Thus, Democracy alone will bring about the reign of perfect justice! Is this not an insult to other forms of government which are thereby debased to the level of sterile makeshifts? ...
Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being. Catholic doctrine further tells us that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God, Who is Father to all, and goal of the whole human family; and in Jesus Christ whose members we are, to the point that in doing good to others we are doing good to Jesus Christ Himself. Any other kind of love is sheer illusion, sterile and fleeting.Indeed, we have the human experience of pagan and secular societies of ages past to show that concern for common interests or affinities of nature weigh very little against the passions and wild desires of the heart. No, Venerable Brethren, there is no genuine fraternity outside Christian charity. Through the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ Our Saviour, Christian charity embraces all men, comforts all, and leads all to the same faith and same heavenly happiness.By separating fraternity from Christian charity thus understood, Democracy, far from being a progress, would mean a disastrous step backwards for civilization. If, as We desire with all Our heart, the highest possible peak of wellbeing for society and its members is to be attained through fraternity or, as it is also called, universal solidarity, all minds must be united in the knowledge of Truth, all wills united in morality, and all hearts in the love of God and His Son Jesus Christ. But this union is attainable only by Catholic charity, and that is why Catholic charity alone can lead the people in the march of progress towards the ideal civilization. ...
[A]t the root of all their fallacies on social questions, lie the false hopes of Sillonists on human dignity. According to them, Man will be a man truly worthy of the name only when he has acquired a strong, enlightened, and independent consciousness, able to do without a master, obeying only himself, and able to assume the most demanding responsibilities without faltering. Such are the big words by which human pride is exalted, like a dream carrying Man away without light, without guidance, and without help into the realm of illusion in which he will be destroyed by his errors and passions whilst awaiting the glorious day of his full consciousness. And that great day, when will it come? Unless human nature can be changed, which is not within the power of the Sillonists, will that day ever come? Did the Saints who brought human dignity to its highest point, possess that kind of dignity? And what of the lowly of this earth who are unable to raise so high but are content to plow their furrow modestly at the level where Providence placed them? They who are diligently discharging their duties with Christian humility, obedience, and patience, are they not also worthy of being called men? Will not Our Lord take them one day out of their obscurity and place them in heaven amongst the princes of His people? ...
Distrust of the Church, their Mother, is being instilled into the minds of Catholic youth; they are being taught that after nineteen centuries She has not yet been able to build up in this world a society on true foundations; She has not understood the social notions of authority, liberty, equality, fraternity and human dignity; they are told that the great Bishops and Kings, who have made France what it is and governed it so gloriously, have not been able to give their people true justice and true happiness because they did not possess the Sillonist Ideal! ...
We do not have to demonstrate here that the advent of universal Democracy is of no concern to the action of the Church in the world; we have already recalled that the Church has always left to the nations the care of giving themselves the form of government which they think most suited to their needs. What We wish to affirm once again, after Our Predecessor, is that it is an error and a danger to bind down Catholicism by principle to a particular form of government. This error and this danger are all the greater when Religion is associated with a kind of Democracy whose doctrines are false. But this is what the Sillon is doing. For the sake of a particular political form, it compromises the Church, it sows division among Catholics, snatches away young people and even priests and seminarists from purely Catholic action, and is wasting away as a dead loss part of the living forces of the nation.And, behold, Venerable Brethren, an astounding contradiction: It is precisely because religion ought to transcend all parties, and it is in appealing to this principle, that the Sillon abstains from defending the beleaguered Church. Certainly, it is not the Church that has gone into the political arena: they have dragged here there to mutilate and to despoil her. Is it not the duty of every Catholic, then, to use the political weapons which he holds, to defend her? ...
There was a time when the Sillon, as such, was truly Catholic. It recognized but one moral force - Catholicism; and the Sillonists were wont to proclaim that Democracy would have to be Catholic or would not exist at all. A time came when they changed their minds. They left to each one his religion or his philosophy. They ceased to call themselves Catholics and, for the formula "Democracy will be Catholic" they substituted "Democracy will not be anti-Catholic", any more than it will be anti-Jewish or anti-Buddhist. ... Thus, a host of new groups, Catholic, Protestant, Free-Thinking, now apparently autonomous, are invited to set to work: “Catholic comrades will work between themselves in a special organization and will learn and educate themselves. Protestant and Free-Thinking Democrats will do likewise on their own side. But all of us, Catholics, Protestants and Free-Thinkers will have at heart to arm young people, not in view of the fratricidal struggle, but in view of a disinterested emulation in the field of social and civic virtues.”Here we have, founded by Catholics, an inter-denominational association that is to work for the reform of civilization, an undertaking which is above all religious in character; for there is no true civilization without a moral civilization, and no true moral civilization without the true religion: it is a proven truth, a historical fact. The new Sillonists cannot pretend that they are merely working on “the ground of practical realities” where differences of belief do not matter. Their leader is so conscious of the influence which the convictions of the mind have upon the result of the action, that he invites them, whatever religion they may belong to, “to provide on the ground of practical realities, the proof of the excellence of their personal convictions.” And with good reason: indeed, all practical results reflect the nature of one’s religious convictions, just as the limbs of a man down to his finger-tips, owe their very shape to the principle of life that dwells in his body....This being said, what must be thought of the promiscuity in which young Catholics will be caught up with heterodox and unbelieving folk in a work of this nature? Is it not a thousand-fold more dangerous for them than a neutral association? What are we to think of this appeal to all the heterodox, and to all the unbelievers, to prove the excellence of their convictions in the social sphere in a sort of apologetic contest? Has not this contest lasted for nineteen centuries in conditions less dangerous for the faith of Catholics? And was it not all to the credit of the Catholic Church? What are we to think of this respect for all errors, and of this strange invitation made by a Catholic to all the dissidents to strengthen their convictions through study so that they may have more and more abundant sources of fresh forces? What are we to think of an association in which all religions and even Free-Thought may express themselves openly and in complete freedom? For the Sillonists who, in public lectures and elsewhere, proudly proclaim their personal faith, certainly do not intend to silence others nor do they intend to prevent a Protestant from asserting his Protestantism, and the skeptic from affirming his skepticism. Finally, what are we to think of a Catholic who, on entering his study group, leaves his Catholicism outside the door so as not to alarm his comrades who, “dreaming of disinterested social action, are not inclined to make it serve the triumph of interests, coteries and even convictions whatever they may be”? ...
When we consider the forces, knowledge, and supernatural virtues which are necessary to establish the Christian City, and the sufferings of millions of martyrs, and the light given by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the self-sacrifice of all the heroes of charity, and a powerful hierarchy ordained in heaven, and the streams of Divine Grace - the whole having been built up, bound together, and impregnated by the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God, the Word made man - when we think, I say, of all this, it is frightening to behold new apostles eagerly attempting to do better by a common interchange of vague idealism and civic virtues. What are they going to produce? What is to come of this collaboration? A mere verbal and chimerical construction in which we shall see, glowing in a jumble, and in seductive confusion, the words Liberty, Justice, Fraternity, Love, Equality, and human exultation, all resting upon an ill-understood human dignity. It will be a tumultuous agitation, sterile for the end proposed, but which will benefit the less Utopian exploiters of the people. Yes, we can truly say that the Sillon, its eyes fixed on a chimera, brings Socialism in its train.We fear that worse is to come: the end result of this developing promiscuousness, the beneficiary of this cosmopolitan social action, can only be a Democracy which will be neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Jewish. It will be a religion (for Sillonism, so the leaders have said, is a religion) more universal than the Catholic Church, uniting all men become brothers and comrades at last in the "Kingdom of God". - "We do not work for the Church, we work for mankind."
As soon as the social question is being approached, it is the fashion in some quarters to first put aside the divinity of Jesus Christ, and then to mention only His unlimited clemency, His compassion for all human miseries, and His pressing exhortations to the love of our neighbor and to the brotherhood of men. True, Jesus has loved us with an immense, infinite love, and He came on earth to suffer and die so that, gathered around Him in justice and love, motivated by the same sentiments of mutual charity, all men might live in peace and happiness. But for the realization of this temporal and eternal happiness, He has laid down with supreme authority the condition that we must belong to His Flock, that we must accept His doctrine, that we must practice virtue, and that we must accept the teaching and guidance of Peter and his successors.
Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them. Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality. Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience. Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body. Finally, He did not announce for future society the reign of an ideal happiness from which suffering would be banished; but, by His lessons and by His example, He traced the path of the happiness which is possible on earth and of the perfect happiness in heaven: the royal way of the Cross. These are teachings that it would be wrong to apply only to one's personal life in order to win eternal salvation; these are eminently social teachings, and they show in Our Lord Jesus Christ something quite different from an inconsistent and impotent humanitarianism.
Moreover, since in the clash of interests, and especially in the struggle against dishonest forces, the virtue of man, and even his holiness are not always sufficient to guarantee him his daily bread, and since social structures, through their natural interplay, ought to be devised to thwart the efforts of the unscrupulous and enable all men of good will to attain their legitimate share of temporal happiness, We earnestly desire that you should take an active part in the organization of society with this objective in mind. And, to this end, whilst your priests will zealously devote efforts to the sanctification of souls, to the defense of the Church, and also to works of charity in the strict sense, you shall select a few of them, level-headed and of active disposition, holders of Doctors’ degrees in philosophy and theology, thoroughly acquainted with the history of ancient and modern civilizations, and you shall set them to the not-so-lofty but more practical study of the social science so that you may place them at the opportune time at the helm of your works of Catholic action. However, let not these priests be misled, in the maze of current opinions, by the miracles of a false Democracy. Let them not borrow from the Rhetoric of the worst enemies of the Church and of the people, the high-flown phrases, full of promises; which are as high-sounding as unattainable. Let them be convinced that the social question and social science did not arise only yesterday; that the Church and the State, at all times and in happy concert, have raised up fruitful organizations to this end; that the Church, which has never betrayed the happiness of the people by consenting to dubious alliances, does not have to free herself from the past; that all that is needed is to take up again, with the help of the true workers for a social restoration, the organisms which the Revolution shattered, and to adapt them, in the same Christian spirit that inspired them, to the new environment arising from the material development of today’s society. Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators: they are traditionalists.
Indeed the Bishop of Agen, Msgr. Herbreteau, has strictly forbidden Canon Téqui, who serves the parish of Agen to celebrate the extraordinary form of the one Roman Rite, from continuing to teach catechism classes which he had been doing successfully with some thirty children. He also places an outrageous restriction on the ministry of the sacraments. On the website of the diocese the ICRSP doesn’t even exist.
The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has therefore made the decision to withdraw in order to do some good where it is more welcome.
This news will sully the report that the bishops are required to make for the 3rd anniversary of the implementation (or non-implementation) of the motu proprio. It shows that France needs bishops prepared to apply Summorum Pontificum without restrictive measures (such as one monthly Sunday Mass in Le Brionnais – Diocese of Autun!)
ELEISON COMMENTS CLXII (Aug.21, 2010) : DISCUSSIONS BLIND-SIDED ?While the Rome-Society of St Pius X discussions are, by accounts from both sides, running into a doctrinal brick wall, reports from France and Germany together with a rumour from Rome spell danger for Catholics. That danger is a political deal which would simply go round the side of the doctrinal blockage. Politics threaten to circumvent doctrine.From France and Germany, I was told me a few weeks ago that a large proportion of Catholics attending SSPX Mass centres are only hoping and waiting for some agreement to come out of the discussions. If - repeat, if -- this is true, it is very serious. Such Catholics may get full marks for wishing not to be cut off from what appears to be Rome, but they get low marks for not grasping that as long as the discussions remain doctrinal, there is no way in which the neo-modernist teaching of Vatican II can be reconciled with the Catholic doctrine of the true Church. Such Catholics may venerate and love Archbishop Lefebvre as they see him, but they have not understood what he was all about. They had best wake up if they are not in one way or another to fall into the arms of the neo-modernist Romans.Agreement in front of doctrine means politics before religion, unity before truth, man before God. God before man means truth before unity, religion before politics and doctrine being more important than any non-doctrinal agreement. Only dreamers could not foresee the Rome-SSPX discussions running into a doctrinal brick wall. Only politicians can wish for any non-doctrinal agreement to come out of them.Alas, to all appearances Benedict XVI sincerely believes in the Newchurch of Vatican II which is to unite in its bosom all men absolutely, regardless of whether they believe or not in the one true doctrine of the Faith. Therefore he sincerely wishes to gather in the SSPX as well - and he does not normally have too much longer to live ! So the blockage of doctrinal discussions should not unduly worry him. He must be looking to cut a political deal with the SSPX, in order to unite it with the rest of the Newchurch. It follows that he must ask of the SSPX neither too much, or it would refuse the deal, nor too little, because then the rest of the Newchurch would rise up in protest.The rumour from Rome is precisely that he is thinking of a "Motu Proprio" which would accept the SSPX "back into the Church" once and for all, yet require from the SSPX no explicit acceptance of Vatican II or the New Mass, but only, for instance, the acceptance of John-Paul II's 1992 "Catechism of the Catholic Church", which is substantially modernist but in a quiet way. Thus the SSPX would not appear to its followers to be accepting the Council or the New Mass, yet it would be softly, softly, beginning to go along with the substance of neo-modernism.Thus all seekers of unity would be content. Only not believers in Catholic doctrine.DANGER !Kyrie eleison.
Award-winning filmmaker and Watershed staff member Eric Hinojosa has been living in Lebanon, working tirelessly to bring to fruition a documentary film about the Blessed Massabki Brothers, the Emir Abd El-Kader, and the events surrounding the 1860 massacre in Damascus. The film tells of heroism and sanctity, showcases fascinating characters and sheds light on the Christian community in the Middle East.
(To see the 12-minute trailer, click here.)
The spokesman for the Archdiocese of Mexico City, Hugo Valdemar, is coming out swinging against the socialist political establishment, which is threatening him, the city's cardinal archbishop and the cardinal archbishop of Guadalajara, with punitive measures following comments condemning the city's new pro-abortion and gay "marriage" legislation:
Saint Juan Diego, ora pro nobis!
Please remember to follow @RorateCaeli on Twitter where we have now gained 200 followers.
Recess continues for some days...
...relevant news may be posted at any moment.
The procession left the church around 4:30 p.m., headed by Fr. Xavier Beauvais surrounded by several priests and sisters, and made its way towards the Place St. Michel in the pouring rain.
All along the way, religious chants and prayers were the pulse of this procession which was dominated by those over 40 years of age. Upon arrival at the Place, Fr. Beauvais and his accompanying priests knelt and prayed for about thirty minutes before a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with white roses.
"We feel that in our era of decadent democracy and a Church that has lost the pride of its teachers, we require all the power of this woman (...) to put the old house of France back in order" said Fr. Beauvais to the faithful.
Among them, Emmanuel, who declined to give his surname, said the procession was "a demonstration of faith." For the faithful who says "subscribe to ecumenism," it is important to "renew our faith every day and find that which our country has lost so long ago."
For his part, Galtier, in his sixties and "very committed to the deepest values" of the church, wanted to distance himself from the procession organized by the Diocese of Paris. "I don’t think it fits the way I feel. I’m shocked by it," he asserted, finding instead the church Saint-Nicolas to be “wonderful".
PARIS (AP)— Authorities at the French pilgrimage site at Lourdes say some 30,000 people have been evacuated after a bomb threat on the Catholic holy day of Assumption.
Sanctuary spokesman Pierre Adias says Lourdes police received a threat saying a bomb would hit the site Sunday afternoon.
Some 30,000 people were evacuated from the site just before the midday Mass, and explosives experts are scouring the area.
The Aug. 15 holiday sees a particularly large influx of pilgrims at Lourdes, reputed for its healing powers. Many pilgrims are sick or disabled.
Assumption marks the heavenly assumption of the Virgin Mary.
cunctas hæreses sola interemisti in universo mundo!
...all the graces that the Author of all good deigns to bestow upon the poor descendants of Adam are, by favorable design of Divine Providence, dispensed through the hands of the Most Holy Virgin...
With even greater reason after the Assumption and her entrance into glory, Mary is the distributor of all graces. As a beatified mother knows in heaven the spiritual needs of her children whom she left on earth, Mary knows the spiritual needs of all men. Since she is an excellent mother, she prays for them and, since she is all powerful over the heart of her Son, she obtains for them all the graces that they receive, all which those receive who do not persist in evil. She is, it has been said, like an aqueduct of graces and, in the mystical body, like the virginal neck uniting the head to its members.
Recess continues for a few days;
relevant news may be posted at any moment.
There is good news from Australia, in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, approximately 100 miles north of Sydney, Australia. The Newcastle Traditional Latin Mass society has been formed there as a lay response to Summorum Pontificum. Since the ecclesial hierarchy there has not undertaken to implement Summorum Pontificum, a group of young dedicated laity has set about making the Extraordinary Form Mass available on a more regular basis due to the generosity of one Parish Priest allowing access to a parish Church and the generosity of visiting religious and diocesan clergy from outside Maitland-Newcastle who are proficient in the celebration of the Extraordinary Form.This stable group has found a more permanent home at Saint Patrick's Catholic Church, in the parish of Wallsend many Sundays. Last Sunday, we were fortunate enough to have our first Missa Cantata celebrated by Father Terence Mary Naughtin OFM Conv. pictures are provided of this momenteous occaison - the first Sung TLM in this diocese for quite some time.Extraordinary Form Masses are offered on many Sundays at St Patrick's Catholic Church, Macquarie Street, Wallsend at either 11.30am or 3.30pm. Those living in the area are strongly encouraged to attend and support this new Extraordinary Form apostolate and others are kindly asked to support us with their prayer. Further information on exactly when Masses are held can be obtained by emailing email@example.comIt goes to show, that even where the bishops and clergy are inactive in supporting Summorum Pontificum, still with good will there is much the laity can do to immobilise and support the cause.
In Vallejo, CA, Fr. Peter Talcott is now saying a T.L.M. at St. Louis Bertrand Chapel. The chapel is in South Vallejo, and is under St. Vincent Ferrer Parish. The Mass in Vallejo is at 6:30 PM. The Mass has been going for a few weeks weeks. Please help us spread the word about this Mass. The number of St Vincent's Parish in Vallejo is 707-644-8396.
For a while now, a German Canonical Commentary on Summorum Pontificum by the German latinist and canon lawyer Fr. Gero P. Weishaupt has been available online. This commentary has now been published as a book, and the preface to this book was written by H.E. Archbishop Raimond L. Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura. The full text of the preface is available at the German website Summorum Pontificum. Here is an NLM translation of a passage of the preface which doubtlessly will raise great interest:In the second chapter of his commentary, Weishaupt answers a number of practical issues that arise regarding the implementation of Summorum Pontificum and result from recent changes to the discipline of the celebration of the sacraments, such as e.g. those regarding female altar servers or lay people who perform the ministry of lectors or extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. To answer these questions , the commentary correctly applies two general canonical principles.The first principle requires that liturgical norms, which were in force in 1962, are to be diligently observed for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, for these norms protect the integrity of the Roman rite as contained in the Missal of Blessed John XXIII. The second principle states that the subsequent liturgical discipline is only to be introduced in the Extraordinary Form, if this discipline affects a right of the faithful, which follows directly from the sacrament of baptism and serves the eternal salvation of their souls.The application of these two principles to the cases mentioned leads to the conclusion that neither the service at the altar by persons of the female sex nor the exercise of the lay ministries of lector or extraordinary minister of Holy Communion belong to the basic rights of the baptized. Therefore, these recent developments, out of respect for the integrity of the liturgical discipline as contained in the Missale Romanum of 1962, are not to be introduced into the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite. The commentary presents here in an impressive manner that the mutual enrichment of both forms of the Roman rite is only possible if discipline peculiar to each of the two forms is accordingly carefully observed.
One of my ongoing projects is that of listing all Pontifical Masses according to the 1962 Missal (or earlier Missals) that have been publicly celebrated by those abbots and bishops considered by Rome as “canonically regular” from 1988 to the present, under the provisions of Ecclesia Dei and Summorum Pontificum. I would like to ask if some of our readers could further enumerate the various Pontifical Masses offered by Cardinal Stickler. I already know about the following: 1) the 1992 Pontifical Mass in St. Agnes, Manhattan; 2) the May 12, 1996 Pontifical Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, NYC, 3) the Nov. 11, 1995 Pontifical Requiem Mass for Plinio Correa do Oliveira in Santo Spirito in Sassia, 4) the October 25, 1998 Pontifical Mass in Sant’ Ignazio in Rome, 5) the December 2000 Rorate Mass with the ICRSS and 6) the 1998 and 2000 sacerdotal ordinations for the ICRSS in Gricigliano. (I know that Cardinal Stickler ordained subdeacons, deacons and priests for ICRSS on other occasions, but I don’t know the exact dates.)
Information on Pontifical TLM’s by Cardinals other than Stickler and Ratzinger between 1988 and 2000 will also be appreciated.
The fate of Catholic Europe
The void within
Catholicism is hollowing out in its traditional European strongholds. But signs of intriguing new life are springing up at its periphery
IN THE small world of traditional French Catholicism, everybody knows about Abbé Francis Michel. For the past 23 years this small, stubborn figure in his well-worn soutane has been responsible for the cure of souls in the village of Thiberville in Normandy. The locals like his conservative style, even though his Latin services would not suit all French churchgoers. The village’s 12th-century church, and the 13 other places of worship under his care, are kept in good repair by his supporters. (These days, some priests in rural France must cope with as many as 30 churches.)
Since the start of the year Abbé Francis has been at war with the region’s bishop—in church terms, a liberal—who has been trying to close the parish and move him to other duties. Uproar ensued in January when the bishop came to mass and tried to give the priest his marching orders. Most villagers followed Abbé Francis as he strode off to another church and celebrated in the old-fashioned way. He has made two appeals to Rome, both rejected on technicalities; a third is pending.
To Father Francis’s admirers Thiberville is a pinpoint of light against a sombre background: the near-collapse of Catholicism in some of its heartlands. In the diocese of Evreux, Christianity has been part of the fabric of life for 15 centuries. Of its 600,000 inhabitants, about 400,000 might call themselves, at least loosely, Catholic. But the number of priests under the age of 70 is a mere 39, and only seven of those are under 40. That is just a bit worse than average in a country that, as recently as the 1950s, boasted 40,000 active priests; in a few years, the number under 65 will be a tenth of that. This suggests a body that is not so much shrinking as dying.
On closer inspection French Catholicism is not dead, but it is splintering to the point where the centre barely holds. The brightest flickers are on the fringes: individuals like Abbé Pierre, founder of the Emmaus movement for the homeless; “charismatics” whose style draws on Pentecostalism, and traditionalists who love Latin rites and processions. Meanwhile, the church’s relatively liberal mainstream is almost in free fall. As conservatives like Abbé Francis see it, it is largely the liberals’ own fault: “They keep selling and closing properties, while we [traditionalists] are busy building and restoring.”
Among Europe’s historically Catholic lands, France is an outlier. Its leap into modernity took the form of a secular revolution; that differs from places like Ireland or Poland, where church and modern nationhood go together. Things are different again in Bavaria or the southern Netherlands, where the church inspires local pride; or in Spain, where Catholicism is at issue in an ideological war.
But in many European places where Catholicism remained all-powerful until say, 1960, the church is losing whatever remains of its grip on society at an accelerating pace. The drop in active adherence to, and knowledge of, Christianity is a long-running and gentle trend; but the hollowing out of church structures—parishes, monasteries, schools, universities, charities—is more dramatic. That is the backdrop against which the paedophile scandal, now raging across Europe after its explosion in the United States, has to be understood. The church’s fading institutional power makes it (mercifully) easier for people who were abused by clerics to speak out; and as horrors are laid bare, the church, in many people’s eyes, grows even weaker.
A couple of decades ago Ireland defied the idea that modern societies grow secular: churches were packed. But last year, after a decade of mounting anger over clerical malpractice, the nation was stunned by two exposés of cruelty by men and women of God. First, a nine-year investigation found that thousands of children had been maltreated at church-run industrial schools and orphanages. Then a probe of the archdiocese of Dublin, over the three decades up to 2004, not only found widespread child abuse by priests but police collusion in hiding it. Five Irish bishops offered to step down; the pope has accepted three resignations and is considering the others. When a new bishop, Liam MacDaid, took office on July 25th, he presented a stark picture: “Society has forced us in the Irish church to look into the mirror, and what we saw [was] weakness and failure, victims and abuse.”
Ireland is still a churchgoing nation; about half claim to attend mass weekly, and there has been an uptick since the economy turned sour. But in a land that used to export priests and nuns to the world, vocations have dried up. In a couple of decades there could be a French-style implosion. That need not imply a collapse in Christian belief; but as one Catholic history buff puts it, rural Ireland could go back to its early medieval state, when a largely priestless folk-religion held sway. Already, popular religion—local pilgrimages, or books on Celtic prayer—does better than anything involving priests. And Ireland’s political class, once so priest-ridden, now distances itself from the clergy.
Read more at The Economist
At the end of the fourth century, when the Roman Empire knew its decline and passed the torch of civilization to the Christian world, the Church was in possession of some of the most beautiful jewels of her liturgical treasure. Among them were the prayers of the Missal, especially our admirable Collects that precede the reading of the Epistle.
Like Charles Péguy, who discovered with great delight that there is a Saint for each day, the Benedictine novices learn that there is a prayer for each day intended to lead them along the narrow way. They have to know by heart these prayers that had been polished by some fine and erudite hands in the ages of faith. Because the purest spirit of Christianity lies in the Collects, in the form of maxims stamped in bronze, they have to study them and to meditate upon them. Nothing better than the highest certitudes of the soul ought to be practiced. The prayers of our Missal are rules of life.
The name “Collect” was given to the prayers that introduce the readings of the Mass, and which we find again at the end of each of the canonical Hours, because they were said in front of the faithful when they were gathered at the beginning of Mass. The Secret and the Postcommunion prayers are named this way because of the place they have in the drama of the Eucharistic sacrifice.
In olden times, the Collect, as well as the Preface, was improvised by the celebrant. There was a time when Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine, in a common ecstasy, alternated for the first time, ut fertur, the verses of the admirable Te Deum. Then, the Holy Ghost divinely fixed the young prayer of the Church, like when middle age fixes the traits of childhood. There were some ‘orationnaires,’ where the most achieved prayers were cautiously conserved. Nowadays we can still recognize the prayers composed or inspired by Saint Leo the Great with the perfection of their rhythm and their rigor of thought. The rule saved the inspiration by fixing the excellence.
To the nostalgic persons of the Early Church, racked by the hobby of creativity, we would tell them that, apart from their incredible pretension, we can only be a child once in our life. Fortunately, and thanks to the piety of the Elders who delivered unto us those jewels of our liturgy, a young barbarian who would enter into a church today in order to hear Holy Mass is directly in connection with the fresh thought of a fourth century Father.
According to a very ancient custom, the celebrant calls upon the community for reverence and prayer with this solemn monition: Dominus vobiscum – The Lord be with you. The congregation answers: Et cum spiritu tuo - And with thy spirit. The Lord must be with the priest to make him worthy of expressing the prayer of the community. The Lord must be with the faithful to make them attentive to the prayer. Then, the priest prays clara voce, or sings the Collect on a recitative tone with only two notes that espouse the literary form peculiar to the prayers of the Missal, called cursus. We shall speak later about this literary form, the purpose of which is to emphasize the sway of the thought. These prayers, many of which were collected already in the fourth century, constitute the richness of our liturgical patrimony.
At the end of the Missal, we find several prayers that we can add, whenever it is needed, to the prayer of the day. These are prayers for particular cases: to ask for rain, to move away a storm, to be protected from the devil, to ask for patience, chastity, and so forth, such as this admirable prayer, which is a petition for the gift of tears – pro petitione lacrymarum:
“Almighty and most merciful God, Who, to quench the thirst of Thy people, didst draw a fountain of living water out of a rock, draw from our stony hearts tears of compunction, that we may be able to mourn for our sins and win forgiveness for them by Thy mercy. Through Christ Our Lord.”
Shall we see one day a thesis presented at the University of Sorbonne about the literary beauty of the prayers of the Missal? The Breviary, the Missal, and the Processional contain a multitude of remarkable prayers, in the elegance of their form, their penetrating unction, and their profundity of thought. Two characters must be highlighted: the doctrinal richness and the pedagogical value.
The field of Liturgy constitutes in itself a theological place of endless richness. It is a kind of web of doctrinal truths, scattered and non-systematically ordered. Péguy was right when he said that the Liturgy is a ‘distended theology.’ When the chant of the Exsultet, streaming with poesy, rises up in the Easter night, the dogma of Redemption illuminates the intellect with a peculiar sparkle that is nothing else than the splendor of truth. The Exsultet, the Lauda Sion, and the Dies Irae are sung dogmas that directly infuse into the soul both light and love. Dom Guéranger said that the Liturgy is the Tradition at its highest degree of power and solemnity. This statement aroused astonishment at the time.
The materials used by the artisans of speculative theology are contained in the Prayer of the Church, as the stones used for the building of a temple are contained in a quarry. The theologians of all times draw from this treasure in order to illustrate and to consolidate the dogma.
Father Emmanuel, the Abbot of Notre-Dame de la Sainte-Espérance, found the doctrine of grace in the prayers of the Missal. These prayers are marked with the doctrinal fight of the fourth century against the Pelagian heresy. Pelagius understated the consequences of original sin, and, therefore, the necessity of the gratia sanans, the healing grace. And yet, the Pelagian heresy is one of the most common forms of naturalism that returns in every era.
Father Emmanuel did not want to contrast thesis against thesis. So he built up his theology of grace on the base of the prayer of the Church. This helped him to highlight the absolute necessity of the Divine Grace in the Economy of Salvation. It is a perfect demonstration of the Lex orandi that establishes and fixes the Lex credendi.
We recently welcomed into our monastery a disciple of Pentecostalism. We could easily show him by evoking the Trinitarian character of the Collects, which rise up to the Father through the Son in the Spirit, that a prayer offered exclusively to the Third Person is a disturbing novelty. Even the Collect of Pentecost is submitted to this Trinitarian mode of prayer. The sequence of the Mass, which is a kind of very free effusion addressed only to the Holy Ghost, must be considered as a gloss of the Alleluiatic verse.
This is what our liturgical prayers tell us. They also teach us the Majesty of God, the abyss of our misery, the way to behave in front of God and to speak to Him in order to be heard. Yes, the Liturgy is also, and above all, a norm of prayer par excellence. Let us say that it offers us the most ancient and most venerable method of prayer.
Much has been spoken about prayers and methods of prayer since the sixteenth century. Saint Teresa of Avila says that she would like to stand on the top of a mountain in order to convince, if it were possible, the whole universe of the importance of prayer. But piety, since the sixteenth century, has been marked by the Humanism of the Renaissance. At that time, prayer was subjected to the investigations and the industries of men. It was inevitable that the development of psychology inclined the minds to forge some methods of prayer where the analytic and discursive prospects prevail.
But during the first sixteen centuries of the Church, prayer had never ceased to irrigate the fields where spiritual life was cultivated. How did our Elders pray then? Did they use any methods? It seems obvious that they did not. Their prayers spontaneously spurted out of the depths of the Divine Office. The river of the liturgical mysteries, as the Four Rivers of Paradise, watered the first generations of Christians who did not have to invent any other ways of access to the sanctuary of the interior life.
In the ages of Faith, the Liturgy has been the great Educator of the children of the Church. The hymns, the Psalms, Gregorian chant, and the whole sacramental order poured into souls the light of the truths of Faith, and provoked men to look toward God rather than at themselves, to sing the mirabilia Dei, and to step aside like the sculptors of the capitals of Chartres who stepped aside in front of their works.
Thanks to the Liturgy, the primacy was given to the theological and contemplative life. Our Collects have rightly acquired a remarkable pedagogical value.
We shall notice first the very first words of the prayer. Sometimes a majestic invocation puts us in front of the All Might of God: “Omnipotens Deus…” Sometimes the Church is named first: “Ecclesiam Tuam, Deus…” or “Familiam Tuam…” Then the prayer tints itself with a certain affectionate tenderness. At other times, an energetic verb outlines the Divine action: “Fac, Domine…” or “Praesta, quaesumus Domine…” Then the body of the prayer expresses the object of the petition that is often signified by a few words with a rare joy, to such an extent that the main object of a feast is perfectly summarized in its Collect.
This is for instance what the Collect of the Midnight Mass tells us:
“O God, Who hast made this most holy night shine forth with the splendor of the true Light, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, who have known the mysteries of His light on earth, may enjoy also His happiness in heaven.”
With a sovereign art, the Liturgy leads us from a created reality to its higher analog: from the light of Christmas to the celestial light, from the visible to the invisible . The Collect of the Mass at Dawn invites us to move from the field of being to the field of acting. With just a few words it gives us the foundation of morality:
“Grant us, we beseech Thee, almighty God, that we, on whom the new light of Thine Incarnate Word is poured, may show forth in our works that brightness, which now doth illuminate our minds by Faith.”
Thus, each feast makes us ask for a special grace with a sweetness and a precision that brings the soul directly into the center of the mystery that is celebrated. We are enlightened about what to ask for, how to ask, and why to ask. The Collect of the Immaculate Conception harmoniously develops the order of the four causes . The one of the Fourth Sunday after Easter pulls up our hearts toward elevated reality with such a delicacy that only the Latin language can really express: “… ut inter mundanas varietates ibi nostra fixa sint corda ubi vera sunt gaudia.”
The Latin of our prayers makes us pray with so much savor and accuracy that their translations are sometimes impossible. How can we translate certain words like hostia, pietas, or devotio? After twenty centuries the French word, traced from Latin , seems to have lost its substance or has a different meaning.
Hostia means victim of a bloody sacrifice.
Devotio means an irrevocable consecration.
Pietas: This word in the vernacular has been so much faded by common use that we would need a long periphrasis in order to taste its ancient and sacred sap.
The pietas romana was a national virtue loaded with a physical and religious meaning, and which signified all together attachment to the land, fidelity, gratitude, the cult rendered to the gods, the parents, and the homeland, but also to the family, the house, and the manes of the Ancestors. We guess that this word, piety, could signify for the first Christians, “dipped in the water of Baptism.” To the paternal tenderness of God, the soul enlightened by the Word responded sicut naturaliter, the flowing back toward the sanctifying home of the Trinitarian life.
How should we pray with the Collects of the Missal? The first condition is to know how to read, which is, contrary to what many believe, not a common science. It requires two operations: to scrutinize and to weigh. We advise those who desire to be inspired by the holy Liturgy in order to nourish their spiritual life to imitate diggers of gold. The cycle of the liturgical year is similar to a big river loaded with rites, chants, and poems. We can find therein some short formulas that shine with a bright sparkle like gold spangles.
It is an excellent method of prayer to slowly read the proper of the Missal, to sieve, so to speak, day after day, the water of this river and to carefully collect what can respond to the expectation and the desire of the soul. The Sunday Collect will become, under the dictation of the Church, a savory meditation and a practical exhortation for Christian life. Then, you can engrave in your memory the formulas of your favorite prayers, and therefore live wrapped by luminous maxims that light up your road.
In illius inveniamur forma in quo tecum est nostra substantia – we may be found like unto Him, in Whom our nature is united to Thee. (Secret of Midnight Mass)
Sacramentum vivendo teneant quod fide perceperunt – that they may hold fast in their lives the mystery which they have received by Faith. (Collect of Easter Tuesday)
Sine te nihil potest mortalis infirmitas – without Thee weak man can do nothing. (Collect of the First Sunday after Pentecost)
Ad promissiones tuas sine offensione curramus – that we may run without stumbling toward the attainment of Thy promises. (Collect of the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost)
Da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis augmentum – give to us an increase of Faith, Hope, and Charity. (Collect of the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
Auctor ipse pietatis!... – Author of all piety! (Collect of the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost)
There is a great sweetness when we pray with the very same words and the same accents as the first Christians used to do, freshly reborn with the Baptismal water. Listening to the same readings, modulating the same chants, like them we are attentive to the mysterious voice of the Spirit and of the Bride who says: Come, Lord Jesus.