Rorate Caeli

The Epoch-making speech - The People of the Old Covenant

As mentioned before in the notes regarding the Pope's epoch-making speech of December 22 (see parts 1, 2, and 3; and also this), it was the intention of Benedict XVI to present a clearer portrayal of the Second Vatican Council to those Catholics who feel confused regarding many of the conciliar teachings (rightfully, it seems, since what Benedict calls the "hermeneutics of rupture" has been overwhelmingly predominant in the post-Conciliar years).

I am not the one who will present the Conciliar teaching on the adherents of other faiths, but at least literally no word of Vatican II says that the Mission of the Church includes all peoples, except one: the venerable people of the Old Covenant. The words of Nostra Aetate on the Jewish faith are a contemporary "re-Presentation" of the very elevated words of Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans, cryptic words which are inaccessible to most.

What Benedict had in mind in his words of the speech of December 22 was that no doctrine or teaching of the Church was (or even could have been) altered regarding this issue. But the Council DID choose to present, "define", the position of the Church in a more diplomatic and sensitive way, considering the political and humanitarian circumstances of the Post-War years. Since this was the issue about which the Pope spoke less in his speech, here are his own words:

To this [that is, the second issue of "relations with the modern State"], thirdly, was connected in a more general way the problem of religious tolerance -- a question that called for a new definition of the relationship between Christian faith and religion in the world. In particular, in the face of the recent crimes of the National-Socialist regime and, in general, in a retrospective look on a long and difficult history, it was necessary to evaluate and define in a new way the relationship between the Church and the faith of Israel.
Regarding the Old Covenant itself and the Mother of God as "holy Israel, the pure remnant", the Pope had remarkable words, filled with Patristic wisdom, to say in his homily of December 8 (which was a Marian prelude to the words of December 22), as we have already seen here.

In the next installment, the most important of the specific issues presented by Pope Benedict: relations with the modern State and Religious Freedom.

Ralph's Reading Comprehension Quiz

“There is, I would say, a recurrent situation in Church history - using the word 'church' in the widest sense - where an excess of charity threatens unity. You have a clique, an elite, of Christian men and (more importantly) women, who are trying to live a less worldly life than their neighbors; to be more attentive to the guidance (directly felt, they would tell you) of the Holy Spirit...The pattern is always repeating itself, not in outline merely but in detail. Almost always the enthusiastic movement is denounced as an innovation, yet claims to be preserving, or to be restoring, the primitive discipline of the Church... I would have called [this] tendancy 'ultrasupernaturalism'. For that is the real character of the enthusiast; he expects more evident results from the grace of God than we others. He sees what effects religion can have, does sometimes have, in transforming a man's whole life and outlook; these exceptional cases (so we are content to think them) are for him the average standard of religious achievement. He will have no 'almost-Christians', no weaker brethren who plod and stumble... the emphasis lies on a direct personal access to the Author of our salvation, with little of intellectual background or of liturgical expression... at the root of it lies a different theology of grace. Our traditional doctrine is that grace perfects nature but leaves it nature still. The assumption of the enthusiast is bolder and simpler; for him, grace has destroyed nature, and replaced it."

Ronald Knox, Enthusiasm

How many significant Church issues of the present day does Knox touch upon in these few words?

(1) the feminization of the laity (Mass attendance predominantly female; participation in oodles and oodles of brand new lay “ministries” predominantly female)

(2) the tendency of those among the laity who consider themselves “more attentive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit” to exalt the “inner voice” of conscience at the expense of the “outer voices” of doctrine and dogma

(3) the usurpation of Church tradition by the projection of an eccentric, highly romanticized vision of the early Church as the model for all to follow

(4) identification of ecumenism with an emotionally soft-centered “hugginess” that supersedes doctrinal strictures

(5) disparaging of liturgies in which the categories of worshipper and that which is worshipped are held in the sharpest distinction

(6) association of actual grace with the prestidigitation that pours a quart of milk into a top hat and produces a cuddly bunny

Feel free to add your own.

The advent of Christ and the small number of the saved.

Let us then follow the advice of the Prophet (Ose X, 12, according to the LXX), and let us light the fire of science in this Star so great and bright, before leaving the darkness of this world, fearing that we may go not from darkness to darkness, but rather to eternal darkness.

What is this science about which I speak? It is that science which consists of knowing that the Savior will come, even though we may not know when he shall come. This is all that is asked of us.

You might tell me that perhaps all already possess this knowledge currently; what man, even if not a Christian by name, ignores that the Lord shall one day truly return to judge the living and the dead, and to reward each one according to his works?

No, my brethren, not all know that; it is known in fact by very few man, since there are very few in the number of the saved.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Third Sermon for the Vigil of the Nativity (excerpt)

Who is "rowing" against the Pope?

Sandro Magister, the vaticanist at L'espresso, seems to think that there is a bit of a conspiracy brewing in the Vatican's translation services.

He finds inexcusable that the Epoch-Making speech to the Roman Curia, delivered more than a week ago, has not been translated into other major languages, besides Italian, of course.

Who could possibly want to hide that Vatican II should be understood in "light of Tradition"?

Benedict prepares the Holy Revolution

The Italian newsweekly Panorama has a very interesting prognosis of the major events of 2006 in the Roman Curia in its last edition (with the same title as the one chosen for this post).

The main points of the article:

FIRST, after eight months, Pope Benedict has filled only two positions with his men: CDF Prefect, vacated for obvious reasons; and the Secretary for Divine Worship, who was picked because he was needed to "continue the dialogue with the traditionalist Catholics" (Panorama's words).

SECOND, and this has been well known for a few months, the Holy Father has chosen Angelo Comastri (currently Vicar of the Pope for the Vatican City) as his head-planner for a major restructuring of the Curia.

THIRD, Comastri would replace Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos as Prefect of Clergy.

FOURTH, freed from his duties at Clergy, Cardinal Castrillón Hoyos (who is past his age limit) would remain solely in charge of Ecclesia Dei issues (that is, relations with all traditional Catholics).

FIFTH, Abp. Piero Marini would be called to replace Abp. Comastri in his current positions, freeing the office of pontifical liturgies.

SIXTH, Marini would be replaced by his second, Francesco Camaldo, who is allegedly a favorite of the Pope.

SEVENTH, Cardinal Sepe would be trasferred from Propaganda (Evangelization) to Cardinal Szoka's current position as President of the Governatorate of the Holy See.

EIGHTH, Cardinal Dias (Bombay, India) would replace Cardinal Sepe as prefect of Propaganda.

In other changes, the Prefect of Apostolic Signatura would be transferred to Naples (as archbishop).

The article ends by reminding the readers that NOBODY is currently in a position that may influence the Pope's decision. Every one of the decisions will be solely his (differently, I might add, from what happened throughout the Wojtyla pontificate, as is public knowledge).
Let me thank Domenico Bettinelli for his kind link to this blog of Catholic news, views, and comments. To all who came here though his link, thank you for your visit! Always come back!

Glass Walled Confessionals!

This is lifted from Ipsissima Verba, a well-run blog whose organizer has a knack for finding stuff like this. It is loopy beyond words. It also makes one wonder: if you were a particularly "vibrant" bishop, manfully engaged in constructive dialogue with the modern world, who had concluded that the sacrament of confession was demeaning, insulting, and superfluous to the magnificent creature -- modern man -- who bestrides the world like a colossus, yet possesses a psyche of marshmallow delicacy, how would you go about rescuing his precious noodle from the trauma and humiliation of seeking the forgiveness of the Savior?
Well, you might use the cover of concern with sexual abuse of minors by priests to float the following Toy of the Vibrant: the glass-walled confessional!
The Catholic Church in Derry is to bring a whole new meaning to the saying "Be seen and not heard" after it revealed new glass fronted confessional boxes could replace the traditional booths under strict new guidelines aimed at dealing with the issue of child sex abuse.

The surprising move is just one of a number of visible changes that could come out of the document "Our Children, Our Church", a new report launched by the Church earlier this week.

The guidelines in the report aim to protect children in the Church and have been described as 'robust' by Fr. Michael Canny, press officer of the Derry Diocese and Administrator of St. Eugene's Cathedral.

He said the main priority was to make sure young people were no longer exposed to any risk.
And as part of this, Fr. Canny said he envisaged a time in the future when confessional boxes across the Diocese will be see through.

"As a result of the new guidelines, the confessional boxes will have to be redesigned so that they are more open and people can see in and people can see out," said Fr. Canny.
Maybe my paranoia is getting the better of me. But I can't help wondering how one could better discredit a sacrament with which a great many Catholics already feel uncomfortable, than by turning it into an exhibitionistic stunt. After all, the idea of a priest abusing anyone in the confessional, even the stylish new "reconciliation rooms" [apparently now somewhat retro], with family members right outside, is rather outlandish to begin with.
So what's the rest of the story?

Searching in the books

This deeply disturbed "papal blogger" has made a huge fuss today over a supposed language revolution in the Holy Father's relationship with the Catholic Eastern Churches, with major ecumenical consequences -- all because of the removal of one bishop from one position to another by the Major Archbishop of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church , Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, and because the Holy See used the word "informato" (informed) and not "assenso" (consent) or some other.

Guess why: because the act merely requires that the Holy See be "informed", according to Canon 85 of the Code of Canons of the Oriental Churches :

2.With the consent of the synod of bishops of the patriarchal Church, the patriarch is competent: (1) to give to an eparchial bishop a coadjutor bishop or auxiliary bishop, observing cann. 181, 1 and 182-187 and 212; (2) for a grave reason, to transfer a metropolitan, eparchial bishop or titular bishop to another metropolitan, eparchial or titular see; if the bishop refuses, the synod of bishops of the Patriarchal Church is to resolve the matter or defer it to the Roman Pontiff. (...) 4. The patriarch is to notify [certiorem faciat] the Apostolic See of these decisions as soon as possible.

The consent of the pope is still needed when a priest is to be elevated to the episcopal position, because that is the LAW (and Patriarchal powers are, as a rule, recognized to Major Archbishops).

So, that's it: business as usual in Rome. It was not even the first time this has happened this year. In June, another removal of a bishop from one place to another by the Major Archbishop was "informed" to Rome (see here). And while the blogger mentions with horror that a Greek-Catholic Ukrainian bishop in the United States was directly appointed by Pope John Paul II, (surprise!) Pope Benedict has done the same a few times, including LAST WEEK, when he appointed one to the Ukrainian Eparchy in Brazil (see here).

The only major news was the de facto recognition of the transferral of the Major Archeparchy to Kiev (Kyiv).

This is the sign of the Church always, the Sign of Blood

Seven years were my people without my presence;
Seven years of misery and pain.
Seven years a mendicant on foreign charity
I lingered abroad:
Seven years is no brevity.
I shall not get those seven years back again.
Never again, you must make no doubt,
Shall the sea run between the shepherd and his fold.


It is not I who insult the King,
And there is higher than I or the King.
It is not I, Becket from Cheapside,
It is not against me, Becket, that you strive.
It is not Becket who pronounces doom,
But the Law of Christ's Church, the judgement of Rome.


I am here.
No traitor to the King.
I am a priest,
A Christian, saved by the blood of Christ,
Ready to suffer with my blood.
This is the sign of the Church always,
The sign of blood.
Blood for blood.
His blood given to buy my life,
My blood given to pay for His death.
My death for His death.


For my Lord I am now ready to die,
That His Church may have peace and liberty.

T. S. Eliot, Murder in the Cathedral

Knowledge and Redemption

The Sunday before Christmas, in addition to Sunday Mass at my regular parish, I attended services at a small, protestant church, of the Church of God denomination (if this is the right nomenclature). The reason why isn’t important, but the experience itself was – it made me both depressed and thoughtful.

The people were open and friendly. Down in the small basement cafeteria they talked and sipped coffee, while upstairs the kids completed last minute rehearsals for their Christmas production.

The service began with a few Christmas carols, followed by a “few words” from one of the elders. He talked about how hard the pastor worked and how much he deserved a generous Christmas donation. A collection was taken. He emphasized the importance of writing all checks for tithes to the pastor rather than to the church itself (IRS considerations). Another collection was taken. He noted that the Christmas prayer service would take place on the 21st so that the pastor and his family could travel out of state for Christmas.

Then came the children, who performed less with enthusiasm than with a grim sense of purpose. There were maybe a dozen of them, dressed in white sheets, waving tinsel and “dancing” to a very loud, rock-style praise song.

Finally, the pastor spoke for several minutes, proclaiming the birth of Jesus to a piano accompaniment. As his tone grew deeper and more emotional, schnibbles of bread and plastic thimbles of grape juice were passed out and consumed, and a few minutes later, it was over.

What is a Catholic to make of this? I don’t mean to speak uncharitably of these folk, or of others who believe as they do, but, to put it with my usual lack of delicacy, how is it possible for good people to settle for so little? In the end, gathered in the small, sparsely furnished room, beneath a bare cross, these disciples had only the warmth of their fellowship to sustain them. A fellowship based on what? On a sense of shared knowledge, or shared access, that is not available to an outsider? But surely, any group has that!

I would put it this way, and I hope that in doing so I am not exhibiting a blundering lack of charity, for I know enough about these folks to know that they are good, and goodness ought not to be disparaged. In the Mass, the first action is an acknowledgement of sin. After the readings and the homily, prayers of supplication are offered. Our sins and our helplessness – our utter unworthiness – is expressed beneath the tortured body of Christ. But after all that, we arise and receive the Body and Blood. What have we done, what could we possibly do, to deserve such a gift? Nothing – of course.

In that spare little church, however, the salvific arc was greatly attenuated. The prayers were well said, but the Body was merely bread, the Blood merely grape juice. The service was an observance only. And that is sad. It bespeaks an attitude whereby salvation is a done deal, an almost contractual guarantee, something that happened twenty centuries ago, and now remains only to be commemorated by the congregation’s optional presence, and by its participation in a purely symbolic gesture. We know what we know. Thin gruel indeed.

Referring to the protestant spirituality of the American south in the early 19th century, the non-believing “religious critic” Harold Bloom remarks in his book, The American Religion, that “depravity is only a lack of saving knowledge”. Conversely, then, lack of depravity is only possession of saving knowledge. Redemption is in the "knowing". Once you know what you know, however, is nothing more required? If not, then the gate is considerably wider than the Savior indicated, and the gatekeeper is a gnostic.

The Epoch-making speech - the Audience

Seven days after the Pope's breathtaking December 22 speech to the Roman Curia (see here and here), it is still quite embarrassing to see the almost silent reaction of the English-speaking media and weblogs, with few honorable exceptions.

Fortunately, at the center of the Catholic world, the most influential Church commentators have written important articles on this epoch-making speech, including Vittorio Messori in Corriere della Sera, Andrea Tornielli in Il Giornale, and the already-linked Sandro Magister, in L'Espresso.

There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this remarkable address, which is historic (mark this word), was directed towards those of us who identify themselves as "Traditional" Catholics, those intimately attached to the Traditional Roman Liturgy, many of whom also have some problems with the documents of the last Ecumenical Council.

Why do I believe Traditional Catholics, especially those in a somewhat "uncertain" situation, were the pope's audience? First, a simple view of the speech shows that its most important part is incoherent with its beginning, which is a mere retrospective of the events of 2005, as if it had been inserted later, for a specific purpose and a different audience. Second, because, after presenting the different hermeneutics of the Council (one, acceptable, the "hermeneutics of reform and continuity"; the other, unacceptable, the "hermeneutics of rupture and discontinuity", the self-avowed "Spirit of the Council"), the pope presents two issues that are of adamant importance to Traditional Catholics: (1) relations with the people of the Old Covenant and (2) Religious Liberty.

Now, these are only two among the dozens of issues present in the Conciliar documents. They are certainly important, but there is only one reason why the pope would isolate these two issues, among so many others, in his speech: he was speaking to a specific audience, an audience which was not simply the one present in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace.

Beyond the Vatican walls, the Pope was speaking to the Catholic world at large and his "niche audience" were those who have faced personal, conscience-bound, problems with some of the terms and concepts used by the Conciliar documents. The Pope spoke to them and wanted to reassure them that he knows their problems and wishes to ease their concerns.

The Challenge for Traditional Catholics

Peter has given the first step. We must not simply reject him, because he has not offered all that we expected. He has extended his hand; will we reach him or will we live in a world of unrealistic expectations and uncharitable condemnations? The challenge for Traditional Catholics is to reach the Petrine hand.

I intend to present the papal view of these two main issues in the next few days. The American, Latin-American, and European (non-Italian) media may want to silence the pope or drown his crucial words among the several messages he has spoken in this Advent and Christmastide period, but it is our duty to listen to the DIFFERENT words he has spoken, to those which address the critical moment through which the Church is going.

The Eternal Roman Missal-St. John the Evangelist

This is the first in a new series of posts in which I will periodically present fragments of ancient Missals, Sacramentaries, and Breviaries which remind us of the venerable history of the Traditional Roman Mass and Sacraments, which were not made up by committee vote in the 20th century.

The beautiful fragment at left includes the Introit and most of the Collect for the Mass of St. John the Evangelist (December 27).

The fragment is of a page of the Roman Missal copied and illustrated by the atelier of Niccolò de Giacomo, in Bologna, and destined to the exiled Roman Curia in Avignon. Its first owner was Pope Blessed Urban V, at around 1370 (that's right, exactly 200 years BEFORE the Roman Missal of Pope St. Pius V, once again making clear the silliness of those who call the Traditional Roman Missal the "Missal of St. Pius V", just to pretend that the New Missal was a "mere restoration" of the Traditional Missal, and not a whole new rite).

The Introit is, of course, "In Medio Ecclesiae", after which the Mass is named, and which, since Saint John is the first and foremost of all theologians, is used in the Masses for Doctors of the Church.

In medio Ecclesiae aperuit os ejus: et implevit eum Dominus epiritu sapientiae, et intellectus: stolam gloriae induit eum. -- Bonum est confiteri Domino: et psallere nomini tuo, Altissime. (In the midst of the Church the Lord opened his mouth: and filled him with the spirit of wisdom and understanding: He clothed him with a robe of glory. -- It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to Thy Name, O Most High.)

The Collect is:

Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, benignus illustra : ut beati Joannis Apostoli tui et Evangelistæ, illuminata doctrinis [the fragment stops here], ad dona perveniat sempiterna. Per Dominum Nostrum... (Of Thy goodness, O Lord, shine upon Thy Church, that, enlightened by the teachings of blessed John, Thy Apostle and Evangelist, she may attain to everlasting gifts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who liveth and reigneth . . .)

May God be thanked for the Traditional Missal, preserved for all eternity.

The Nativity and the Passion

Just a few thoughts to follow up on the post from yesterday, "Christmas is the first day of Holy Week."

In that post, it was said, "His whole life on Earth was a lengthy Holy Week, from the hay in the manger which must have caused Him great discomfort to the cold He felt in His nakedness (the same nakedness to be humiliatingly exposed amidst the painfulness of Good Friday)."

Indeed, this is so, and many other such parallels can be found.

Many saints had noticed the Eucharistic overtones in the nativity account found in St. Luke's Gospel. Our Lord was born in Bet'lechem, the "House of Bread." He was promptly laid in a manger, which is to say, a feeding trough from which the animals would eat their wheat and grain. He, the Bread of Life, descended from heaven to lay upon this, the first primitive altar, here in the House of Bread.

Already then, we may see His manger/cradle as a kind of fore-shadowing of the Cross. The wood of manger mirrors the wood of the Holy Cross, the latter holding up the broken body and shed blood of Christ, the former holding the Cross' Eucharistic counterpart - albeit in a shadowy way.

And who is it that places Him upon this manger wood, if not the humble Virgin who would also offer Him to the Father from the foot of the Cross?

In this way, the Blessed Virgin becomes a kind of anti-Eve. The former virgin brought death to the human race by taking the forbidden fruit away from the wood of the Tree; the latter virgin brings life to the human race by returning the fruit to the tree - the "blessed fruit" of her womb, the Bread of Life, placed so carefully upon the wood of the manger-cross.

In just a few days, we will celebrate the next stage in this foreshadowing of Holy Week - the Circumcision of Our Lord, in which again we will see the Blessed Virgin bringing the Lamb of God to the holy temple, to "present him" (the Greek verb carries the connotation of a sacrificial offering) to the Father. Here, He will shed His blood in the ancient rite of circumcision, the first precious drops of saving blood which will ultimately save a sinful humanity.

The Pope, "nostro dolce Cristo in terra" (Our Sweet Christ on Earth)

What could be more Traditional than a phrase coined by a (1) Doctor of the Church, who was (2) extremely critical of the personal defects of Popes, but who (3) was a devout servant of the Papacy?

The expression "Our Sweet Christ on Earth" is just such a phrase and was coined by Saint Catherine of Siena. What is shocking, though, is that any Catholic would be shocked by it.

May God be thanked for the gift of Saint Catherine of Siena, Patron Saint of Italy, Patron Saint of Europe, Doctor of the Church!

P.S. Honestly, sometimes I believe there are Protestants lurking dressed as "Traditional Catholics" in the web, because I cannot believe the things which are said about the Papacy. If one searches the web, one can find quite clearly that those usually "shocked" by this mellifluous expression of St. Catherine are madly anti-Catholic Protestants... Go figure!

In honor of the Theologian

In Charles Le Brun's masterful depiction, the stage is set for the martyrdom of another Apostle. By the Latin Gate (Porta Latina), in Rome, the Jewish fisherman John, son of Zebedee, is about to be killed in a cauldron of hot oil, for having loved too much the Word Who loved him first.

Saint John would be spared the crown of martyrdom (to show the world "what martyrs are made of", as the hymn below mentions), escaping unharmed the trial of the boiling oil. He still had a whole future Revelation to prophesy...

In honor of the most sublime Evangelist, the Theologian of the Word, the Doctor of the Real Presence, the Prophet of the Apocalypse, the loved apostle, the only of the Twelve who stood by the Cross:

A great hymn, Amore Christi Nobilis, composed for his feast by Saint Ambrose (one of the few which most experts agree as truly composed by the great Milanese Doctor), and still sung in the Ambrosian Breviary.

Amore Christi nobilis
Et filius Tonitrui,
Arcana Iohannes Dei
Fatu revelavit sacro.

Captis solebat piscibus
Patris senectam pascere;
Turbante dum natat salo,
Immobilis fide stetit.

Hamum profundo merserat,
Piscatus est Verbum Dei,
Iactavit undis retia,
Vitam levavit hominum.

Piscis bonus pia est Fides,
Mundi supernatans salum,
Subnixa Christi pectore,
Sancto locuta Spiritu:

"In principio erat Verbum,
"Et Verbum erat apud Deum,
"Et Deus erat Verbum. Hoc erat
"In principio apud Deum.

"Omnia per ipsum facta sunt."
Sed ipse lapse resonet;
Et laureatus Spiritu
Scriptis coronetur suis.

Commune multis passio,
Cruorque delictum lavans;
Hoc morte praestat Martyrum
Quod fecit esse Martyres.

Vinctus tamen ab impiis,
Calente olivo dicitur
Tersisse mundi pulverem,
Stetisse victor aemuli.

Gloria tibi, Domine,
Qui natus es de Virgine;
Cum Patre et Sancto Spiritu
In sempiterna saecula.

The Discipline of Sacred Music - 50 years later - II: The Seven Principles of Sacred Music

In this second part of the series which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the great, but much-neglected, encyclical of Pius XII on Sacred Music, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina, we shall try to portray Pope Pius' great principles for the arts in general and how they must be applied to Sacred Music.

1. The first principle of the discipline of the arts is that an art is not good in itself -- "ars gratia artis" is a wrong concept, offensive to the human spirit. Art MUST be subjected to God and His Law. In the words of the glorious Pope Pacelli, one can sense the seed of disobedience which would cause so much harm to the Church in a few years:

...we are aware of the fact that during recent years some artists, gravely offending against Christian piety, have dared to bring into churches works devoid of any religious inspiration and completely at variance with the right rules of art. They try to justify this deplorable conduct by plausible- looking arguments which they claim are based on the nature and character of art itself. They go on to say that artistic inspiration is free and that it is wrong to impose upon it laws and standards extraneous to art, whether they are religious or moral, since such rules seriously hurt the dignity of art and place bonds and shackles on the activity of an inspired artist.
The ordination and direction of man to his ultimate end - which is God - by absolute and necessary law based on the nature and the infinite perfection of God Himself is so solid that not even God could exempt anyone from it. This eternal and unchangeable law commands that man himself and all his actions should manifest and imitate, so far as possible, God's infinite perfection for the praise and glory of the Creator. Since man is born to attain this supreme end, he ought to conform himself and through his actions direct all powers of his body and his soul, rightly ordered among themselves and duly subjected to the end they are meant to attain, to the divine Model. Therefore even art and works of art must be judged in the light of their conformity and concord with man's last end.

Art certainly must be listed among the noblest manifestations of human genius. Its purpose is to express in human works the infinite divine beauty of which it is, as it were, the reflection. Hence that outworn dictum "art for art's sake" entirely neglects the end for which every creature is made. Some people wrongly assert that art should be exempted entirely from every rule which does not spring from art itself. Thus this dictum either has no worth at all or is gravely offensive to God Himself, the Creator and Ultimate End.

2. Art must, in principle, be ordered by Divine Law. Religious Art must, furthermore, be practiced only by artists who are truly inspired by Faith and Love of God:

...religious art is even more closely bound to God and the promotion of His praise and glory, because its only purpose is to give the faithful the greatest aid in turning their minds piously to God through the works it directs to their senses of sight and hearing. Consequently the artist who does not profess the truths of the faith or who strays far from God in his attitude or conduct should never turn his hand to religious art. He lacks, as it were, that inward eye with which he might see what God's majesty and His worship demand. Nor can he hope that his works, devoid of religion as they are, will ever really breathe the piety and faith that befit God's temple and His holiness, even though they may show him to be an expert artist who is endowed with visible talent. Thus he cannot hope that his works will be worthy of admission into the sacred buildings of the Church, the guardian and arbiter of religious life.

But the artist who is firm in his faith and leads a life worthy of a Christian, who is motivated by the love of God and reverently uses the powers the Creator has given him, expresses and manifests the truths he holds and the piety he possesses so skillfully, beautifully and pleasingly in colors and lines or sounds and harmonies that this sacred labor of art is an act of worship and religion for him. It also effectively arouses and inspires people to profess the faith and cultivate piety.

3. Both previously mentioned principles bind Sacred Music more than any other art, since no other art is so closely linked to Divine Worship as music.

These laws and standards for religious art apply in a stricter and holier way to acred music because sacred music enters more intimately into divine worship than many other liberal arts, such as architecture, painting and sculpture. These last serve to prepare a worthy setting for the sacred ceremonies. Sacred music, however, has an important place in the actual performance of the sacred ceremonies and rites themselves.

4. The great principle of Sacred Music is: prevent whatever might be unbecoming to sacred worship or anything that might distract the faithful in attendance from lifting their minds up to God from entering into sacred music, which is the servant, as it were, of the sacred liturgy.

5.Sacred Music is INSEPARABLE from the Most Holy Sacrifice:

It is easy to infer from what has just been said that the dignity and force of sacred music are greater the closer sacred music itself approaches to the supreme act of Christian worship, the Eucharistic sacrifice of the altar. There can be nothing more exalted or sublime than its function of accompanying with beautiful sound the voice of the priest offering up the Divine Victim, answering him joyfully with the people who are present and enhancing the whole liturgical ceremony with its noble art.

6. Popular Religious Music should be given due recognition, but it is strictly ALITURGICAL, that is, it is not proper for the Sacrifice:

We must also hold in honor that music which is not primarily a part of the sacred liturgy, but which by its power and purpose greatly aids religion. This music is therefore rightly called "religious" music. The Church has possessed such music from the beginning and it has developed happily under the Church's auspices. As experience shows, it can exercise great and salutary force and power on the souls of the faithful, both when it is used in churches during non-liturgical services and ceremonies, or when it is used outside churches at various solemnities and celebrations.

The tunes of these hymns, which are often sung in the language of the people, are memorized with almost no effort or labor. The mind grasps the words and the music. They are frequently repeated and completely understood. Hence even boys and girls, learning these sacred hymns at a tender age, are greatly helped by them to know, appreciate and memorize the truths of the faith. Therefore they also serve as a sort of catechism. These religious hymns bring pure and chaste joy to young people and adults during times of recreation. They give a kind of religious grandeur to their more solemn assemblies and gatherings. They bring pious joy, sweet consolation and spiritual progress to Christian families themselves. Hence these popular religious hymns are of great help to the Catholic apostolate and should be carefully cultivated and promoted.

7. Sacred Music must be not only beautiful, but must serve to the Apostolic Mission of the Church:

Therefore when We praised the manifold power and the apostolic effectiveness of acred music, We spoke of something that can be a source of great joy and solace to all who have in any way dedicated themselves to its study and practice. All who use the art they possess to compose such musical compositions, to teach them or to perform them by singing or using musical instruments, undoubtedly exercise in many ways a true and genuine apostolate. They will receive from Christ the Lord the generous rewards and honors of apostles for the work they have done so faithfully.

Christmas is the first day of Holy Week

"Does not our Jesus offer himself from his Crib as well as from his Cross?" (Dom Prosper Guéranger)

Humiliating, demeaning, emasculating... Words cannot describe the utter disgust of a man who feels forced by circumstances to do something which he considers beneath him -- beneath his abilities and skills, beneath his knowledge and training.

Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis.

Can we, however, begin to comprehend the enormity of the Incarnation? And, even more, of the fact that those first moments that the Lord chose for his life on Earth, "in the bleak midwinter", in a "poor lowly stable", "away in a manger" were already the beginning of His Passion?

Gloria in excelsis Deo!

His whole life on Earth was a lengthy Holy Week, from the hay in the manger which must have caused Him great discomfort to the cold He felt in His nakedness (the same nakedness to be humiliatingly exposed amidst the painfulness of Good Friday). The peacefulness of the bosom of the Immaculate Virgin, the warm and delightful Fœderis Arca, was gone.

Genuit puerpera Regem, cui nomen æternum.

The Virgin certainly tried her best to alleviate any discomfort -- but she knew that the life of this God-Man, whose health and integrity she was charged to protect, together with St. Joseph, would by definition be "too" human and, therefore, too full of the obstacles of this earthly life.

Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc conferens in corde suo.

Each and every one of these difficulties was beneath the Divinity. But there was the Christ-Child, redeeming the world from the very beginning of His ministry. He chose the hard way. He chose His Mother for this purpose from all Eternity. He chose St. Joseph. He chose the cold and the night. He chose the flesh and the pain. He chose all of this for us.

Benedicamus Domino! Deo gratias!

That is why the Church has from Antiquity chosen the feast of the greatest of all martyrs, Saint Stephen Protomartyr, to immediately follow the Nativity of the Lord. It reminds us, thus, that the self-inflicted humiliation of the Incarnation is inseparable from the self-elected humiliation of His Passion and death, of His sacrifice, and it reminds His followers of the sacrifice they must be willing to make if they wish to be worthy of the least of His discomforts.

Ut, sicut homo genitus idem refulsit et Deus, sic nobis hæc terrena substantia conferat quod divinum est. (from the Secret of the Second Mass of Christmas Day)

The Three Fruits of the Advent of Our Lord

If we devoutly celebrate the coming of the Lord we do no more than that which we ought to do, for He has not only come to us, He has come for us, Who has no need of our own goods. The enormity of the grace which He gives us demonstrates quite clearly our previous indigence.

For if one judges the gravity of a disease from what it costs to heal it, one is forced to recognize the amount of disease to heal from the amount of medicine to which one must have recourse.

Why would there be a diversity of graces if there was not a diversity of needs? It is difficult to enumerate in a single discourse all the miseries to we which are subjected, but three are now clear in my spirit as needs which are common to all and which one may in some way behold as our main miseries.

There is not a single person amongst us who does not seem to have, at some time, the need for counsel, aid, and assistance, for that triple need is general to the whole human race; and for all that we are, living in the shadow of death, in a weak body and under the spell of temptation, if we wish to seriously reflect, we shall see that we are the victims of this triple evil.

Truly we are weak to seduction, indolent in our action, powerless to resist.If we wish to discern between good and evil, we always mistake ourselves; and if we wish to do good, we are beaten and vanquished.

This was what made the advent of the Lord necessary and what made His presence a need for all men in the state in which they were. God wishes that, by the abundance of His grace, He not only comes but inhabits within us by Faith, to dissipate our shadows by the impact of His light; He wishes to remain within us to aid our feebleness, He resists with us to cover and protect our fragility.

Truly, if He is in us, what will induce us to err? If He is with us, what will we not be able to do in Him who fortifies us? He is a faithful counselor, who cannot deceive us or be deceived, he is a powerful aid who prevents fatigue, an efficient protector who may put Satan himself under our feet and annihilate his power, because He is nothing less than the Wisdom of God Himself, who may, when he wishes to do so, instruct the ignorant.

He is the virtue of God, who supports unceasingly those who fail and takes them away from any danger. My brethren, every time we have the need for counsel, let us appeal to this Master; in all our actions, let us call this powerful aide; in all assaults which we must stand, let us place the salvation of our souls in the hands of this sure Defender.

He is come to the world precisely to find Himself within men, with men, and for men, to dissipate our shadows, to alleviate our strains, and to deliver us from the dangers which imperil us.
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Seventh Sermon of the Advent of Our Lord
Christmas Posting Recess till St. Stephen's-
Merry Christmas to all!

The End of the "Post-Conciliar Church" - Day Two - THE EPOCH-MAKING SPEECH

The "mainstream Catholic press" in America ("conservative" as well as "liberal") does not seem to have realized the importance of the explosive speech that Pope Benedict gave yesterday ( see here). With the exception of Sandro Magister's blog (in Italian), no Catholic news outlet or papal blog has highlighted the real focus of the speech.

No, the focus was not the recollection of the conclave, as the secular media would have us believe. The nucleus of the speech was the first clear papal pronouncement, 40 years later, on what must be the official interpretation of Vatican II and the first which faced the dreary consequences of the last Ecumenical Council. A few days ago, I had mentioned what was the Pope's true "Spirit of the Council": "the spirit which considers the Council a permanent fixture of the past of the Church, uses some of the Council’s own imagery, but overcomes it: it was not the first Ecumenical Council, it was probably not the last one, but it must not be seen as a watershed in the History of the Church. It was an event, it failed, may bygones be bygones and let the Church walk on its historical path, in which Vatican II was just an event, as so many others".

I had, of course, no knowledge whatsoever that the Pope would in a few hours give his epoch-making speech; it was all based on cold analysis of his homily for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception and on Cardinal Ratzinger's own past thoughts on the issue.

Today, at last, Sandro Magister's own Chiesa website, of L'Espresso, has brought forth a translation of the important parts of the Pope's Christmas Speech to the Roman Curia, which you may read here. This is History in the making -- literally. The Pope has opened a new age in the History of contemporary Catholicism. He has put the Council in its proper place, he has explained to bewildered Catholics what is that the Council wished to do.

He has recognized, candidly, that difficult Conciliar issues, such as "religious freedom" were not properly explained -- which caused the disconnection between past and present which Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP, has wonderfully summed in this famous article. In the case of religious freedom, there was simply a change of POLICY towards the modern State, which was wrongly interpreted by most as a change of metaphysical Truth by the Church, something which no Council could ever do:

Thus, for example, with freedom of religion seen as expressing mankind’s inability to find truth, relativism becomes the canon. From being a social and historical necessity it is incorrectly elevated to a metaphysical level that loses its true meaning. It therefore becomes unacceptable to those who believe that mankind can reach the truth of God and, based on truth’s inner dignity, is related to such knowledge. This is completely different from viewing freedom of religion as a necessity that human coexistence requires or even seeing it as an inherent consequence of the truth that such freedom cannot be imposed from the outside but must come from a conviction from within.

Read it all. It's all here.

Vatican II at 40 - Continuity - III - An Explosive Speech

My intention today had been to conclude the analysis of the homily pronounced by the Pope on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, 40th anniversary of the end of the Council, already commented in Parts I and II of this series.

However, what else do I need to say when the Holy Father HIMSELF makes it clear that the ONLY correct reading of Vatican II is one in CONTINUITY with Tradition? That the Conciliar Fathers had NO AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER to issue anything new? That, unlike a "Constitutional Convention"['Costituente', in Italian], with a mandate to write a whole new Constitution, Vatican II has NO MANDATE WHATSOEVER to establish anything new?

No, I am not delirious, these were the exact words of Pope Benedict in his Christmas Speech to the Roman Curia, given today (available here in Italian). A few snippets, while the translation is officially given in the next few days by the Vatican (I beg you forgiveness for a lousy translation):

Why has the reception of the Council, in a great part of the Church, been up to this day so difficult? Well, it all depends on the just interpretation of the Council or -- as we would say today -- on its just hermeneutics, on the fair keys to its reading and application. ... [Emerge la domanda: Perché la recezione del Concilio, in grandi parti della Chiesa, finora si è svolta in modo così difficile? Ebbene, tutto dipende dalla giusta interpretazione del Concilio o – come diremmo oggi – dalla sua giusta ermeneutica, dalla giusta chiave di lettura e di applicazione. ]

On one hand, there is an interpretation which I would call "hermeneutics of discontinuity and rupture"; this one has not rarely been seen with sympathy by the mass-media and even by a part of modern theology. On the other hand, there is the "hermeneutics of reform", of renewal in continuity with the only subject -- the Church -- which the Lord has established; it is a subject which grows with time and which develops, remaining however always the same, the only subject, the walking People of God. ...[Da una parte esiste un'interpretazione che vorrei chiamare "ermeneutica della discontinuità e della rottura"; essa non di rado si è potuta avvalere della simpatia dei mass-media, e anche di una parte della teologia moderna. Dall'altra parte c'è l'"ermeneutica della riforma", del rinnovamento nella continuità dell'unico soggetto-Chiesa, che il Signore ci ha donato; è un soggetto che cresce nel tempo e si sviluppa, rimanendo però sempre lo stesso, unico soggetto del Popolo di Dio in cammino.]

The hermeneutics of discontinuity risks causing a rupture between a pre-Conciliar Church and a post-Conciliar Church. ... this is not the true expression of the spirit of the Council....[L'ermeneutica della discontinuità rischia di finire in una rottura tra Chiesa preconciliare e Chiesa postconciliare. Essa asserisce che i testi del Concilio come tali non sarebbero ancora la vera espressione dello spirito del Concilio.]

The hermeneutics of discontinuity is opposed by the hermeneutics of reform, as presented by Pope John XXIII in his opening speech of the Council... . I wish to quote for this reason the very well noticed words of John XXIII, in which this hermeneutics is expressed unmistakeably when he says that the Council "wishes to trasmit the doctrine pure and integral, with no attenuations or equivocations," [All'ermeneutica della discontinuità si oppone l'ermeneutica della riforma, come l'hanno presentata dapprima Papa Giovanni XXIII nel suo discorso d'apertura del Concilio .... Vorrei qui citare soltanto le parole ben note di Giovanni XXIII, in cui questa ermeneutica viene espressa inequivocabilmente quando dice che il Concilio "vuole trasmettere pura ed integra la dottrina, senza attenuazioni o travisamenti",]

I do not have the time to translate the many important points of the speech now. This is the reinterpretation speech many were expecting last December 8. This is the message the Church has been expecting for 40 years: there IS NO "POST-CONCILIAR CHURCH". There is ONE CHURCH, which, as her Head, is the same, yesterday, today, and forever, world without end.

Note: May a Council propose False Doctrine?

This is just a note in response to Father Joseph O'Leary, aka "The Spirit of Vatican II", the Irish priest who is a professor at the Jesuit Sophia University in Japan and who has become quite a name in any weblog which gets too near to Orthodoxy.

In Dr. Philip Blosser's weblog, after O'Leary's terrible criticism of the most positive aspect of Paul VI's pontificate (Humanae Vitae), I said that "It wasn't HIS decision -- he COULD NOT write anything else, even if he wanted."

The "good Father"'s answer was that :
you should say in strict logic that Vatican II also COULD NOT write anything else, even if it wanted. That's the wonder of the conciliar privilege, that's the glory of Catholicism, that's the beauty of Christendom! ... Or rather, an Ecumenical Council enjoys far greater authority than a papal encyclical (especially an encyclical rejected by the church).

Well, all I can say is that Vatican II apparently did not explicitly state anything CONTRARY to Catholic Tradition, though it did change many policies (which could be changed back today) -- the absence of transitional documents which could explain to the Catholic faithful what traditions (with lower t) may be changed and what is part of the unchangeable Tradition is one of the dramas of contemporary Catholicism and of the causes of the feeling of doctrinal centrifuge which seemed to bring the Church to the brink of collapse in the 1964-1979 period and it is well explained by Fr. Ripperger in this wonderful article. I will not mount a wholesale defense of Vatican II here: you will have to find another person. I think it was an unfortunate event, but not outright heretical.

Paul VI, of course, was very wise to forbid the Council to discuss artificial contraception (the chapter on demography in Gaudium et Spes is particularly ridiculous) and it is a sign, as Humanae Vitae itself, as well as Mysterium Fidei, of the papal privilege, which manifests itself in the most unexpected times and in the most unexpected occupants of the Petrine throne.

Vigil of Christmas - Fasting - Anticipation to December 23

There were some doubts flying around regarding the geographical reach of the curial decision which allowed all faithful to anticipate their fast for the Vigil of Christmas (December 24) to the previous day (December 23).

I could not find the whole text of the instruction of the Sacred Congregation of the Council [Council of Trent, that is] online, but I found a very credible reference here, among other details of fast discipline:

The decree of December 3 (not 1st), 1959 -- published under John XXIII -- extends to all the faithful only the privilege, previously accorded to the faithful of France (Decree of August 27, 1957), of anticipating to December 23 the fast of the Vigil of Christmas of the following day. [Il decreto del 3 (e non del 1º) dicembre 1959 – sotto Giovanni XXIII – estende solamente a tutti i fedeli il privilegio accordato alla Francia (decreto del 27 agosto 1957) di anticipare cioè al 23 dicembre il digiuno della Vigilia di Natale fissato normalmente al giorno successivo]

The privilege was, therefore, accorded to all the faithful around the world (except it cannot be enjoyed by Sedevacantists, since it was issued by a "false pope"...).

The Camauro is back - No, it's not Santa

Unseen since the cold days of that other senior pope, John XXIII, the "camauro" has again seen the face of day today, at the general audience.
Since we wish a healthy and long pontificate to the Holy Father, we could only approve of this choice. The list of aged pontiffs who left this world after a single whiff of winter is quite long -- one of the most famous was Pope Leo X Medici (on the Throne of Peter when that other German, an Augustinian monk, decided to destroy Christendom - others say he died of a powerful version of malaria, so that is another controversial issue surrounding the Reformation...).

Vatican II at 40 - Continuity - II

In the second part of this series, I would like to present a few comments on the powerful homily pronounced by the Supreme Pontiff in St.Peter's in the Mass which commemorated the 40th anniversary of the end of Second Vatican Council, in the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

It was expected that the Holy Father would put great emphasis on the Council documents, or that he would "reinterpret" the Council -- a mightily large task for a single short homily. Alas, that was not his intention: in his homily for the 40th Anniversary of the Council, his focus was on one one human being, the one exalted more than all others, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and, through her, to present the Traditional Doctrine of the Church on Man, Original Sin, God, and True Human Freedom.

And with this intention, he wrote the most beautiful, most profound, and --strangely enough -- most accessible text on the Most Holy Virgin to come out of the Vatican since BEFORE the Council. He used one conciliar notion, the one of the Virgin Mary as Mater Ecclesiae (Mother of the Church), forcefully included by Paul VI in Lumen Gentium, first as a sign that the Council was Marian, then as a stepping stone to give a magnificent lecture on the Blessed Virgin as only a masterful theologian and a competent professor could ever do.

Now, the notion that Vatican II was "Marian" will come as a surprise to most -- because, at least literally, it was not. It suffices to remember that, among the schemata which were to have been submitted to the Fathers, there was one schema for a document wholly on the Blessed Virgin. This schema was considerably reduced and included as a chapter in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium -- the same document in which Paul VI forced the acceptance of the title "Mater Ecclesiae".

There have been controversies even regarding the reception, by the Council Fathers, of the Definition of the Virgin as Mother of the Church by Paul VI in his closing speech for the III session of the Council (1964). The wonderful people at the Cornell Society for a Good Time immediately noticed that Romano Amerio had a quite different recollection of the moment. While then peritus Fr. Ratzinger remembers, as Pope, that "the Fathers spontaneously rose at once and paid homage to the Mother of God, to our Mother, to the Mother of the Church, with a standing ovation", philosopher Romano Amerio says in Iota Unum that "the Holy Father proceeded to make the solemn proclamation in his speech closing the third session of the Council on 21 November 1964, and was received in silence by an assembly usually quick to applaud". Both may be right... Perhaps they were at different places inside the Basilica...

In his homily of December 8, Pope Benedict first questions the need for understanding the Immaculate Conception. And then he presents the great problem: the great human problem of the original sin. It had been to re-present the notion of original sin that Pope Blessed Pius IX had defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception to a world in upheaval since the previous century.

What does "Mary, the Immaculate" mean? Does this title have something to tell

The Immaculate Virgin is the Holy Remnant, SHE alone is the embodiment of Holy Israel. In her are placed the hopes of those who expect the "Desired of all Nations":

Mary, the humble provincial woman who comes from a priestly race and bears within her the great priestly patrimony of Israel, is "the holy remnant" of Israel to which the prophets referred in all the periods of trial and darkness.

She is the offshoot from which grew the tree of redemption and of the redeemed. God has not failed, as it might have seemed formerly at the beginning of history with Adam and Eve or during the period of the Babylonian Exile, and as it seemed anew in Mary's time when Israel had become a people with no importance in an occupied region and with very few recognizable signs of its holiness.

God did not fail. In the humility of the house in Nazareth lived holy Israel, the pure remnant. God saved and saves his people. From the felled tree trunk Israel's history shone out anew, becoming a living force that guides and pervades the world.

Mary is holy Israel: she says "yes" to the Lord, she puts herself totally at his disposal and thus becomes the living temple of God.

As the Woman predicted in the Proto-Gospel of Genesis, it is Mary's lot to defeat the Serpent. Here, the Holy Father wonderfully sums the "Continuity Strategy". Here, we, sailors, together with the captain of the Barque of Peter, we voters of that "democracy" in which the dead ha ve a vote, we confess the need for redemption:
If we set ourselves with the believing and praying Church to listen to this text, then we can begin to understand what original sin, inherited sin, is and also what the protection against this inherited sin is, what redemption is.

What picture does this passage show us? The human being does not trust God. Tempted by the serpent, he harbours the suspicion that in the end, God takes something away from his life, that God is a rival who curtails our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we have cast him aside; in brief, that only in this way can we fully achieve our freedom.

The human being lives in the suspicion that God's love creates a dependence and that he must rid himself of this dependency if he is to be fully himself. Man does not want to receive his existence and the fullness of his life from God.

He himself wants to obtain from the tree of knowledge the power to shape the world, to make himself a god, raising himself to God's level, and to overcome death and darkness with his own efforts. He does not want to rely on love that to him seems untrustworthy; he relies solely on his own knowledge since it confers power upon him. Rather than on love, he sets his sights on power, with which he desires to take his own life autonomously in hand. And in doing so, he trusts in deceit rather than in truth and thereby sinks with his life into emptiness, into death.

Love is not dependence but a gift that makes us live. The freedom of a human being is the freedom of a limited being, and therefore is itself limited. We can possess it only as a shared freedom, in the communion of freedom: only if we live in the right way, with one another and for one another, can freedom develop.

We live in the right way if we live in accordance with the truth of our being, and that is, in accordance with God's will. For God's will is not a law for the human being imposed from the outside and that constrains him, but the intrinsic measure of his nature, a measure that is engraved within him and makes him the image of God, hence, a free creature.

If we live in opposition to love and against the truth - in opposition to God - then we destroy one another and destroy the world. Then we do not find life but act in the interests of death. All this is recounted with immortal images in the history of the original fall of man and the expulsion of man from the earthly Paradise.

Dear brothers and sisters, if we sincerely reflect about ourselves and our history, we have to say that with this narrative is described not only the history of the beginning but the history of all times, and that we all carry within us a drop of the poison of that way of thinking, illustrated by the images in the Book of Genesis.

Original Sin is truly a poison: it contaminates each and every particle of the human spirit. Notice here that the homily has left any lofty notions of the "human spirit" in the Conciliar past. In a true "continuity" with the Tradition of the Church, the whole drama of Man is presented: the fact that every high aspiration of mankind is hindered by the weight of Original Sin. That every good of the human potential, including liberty itself, ordinarily works for the advancement of evil because of this poison. And that the only available antidote is union with God.

We call this drop of poison "original sin". Precisely on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we have a lurking suspicion that a person who does not sin must really be basically boring and that something is missing from his life: the dramatic dimension of being autonomous; that the freedom to say no, to descend into the shadows of sin and to want to do things on one's own is part of being truly human; that only then can we make the most of all the vastness and depth of our being men and women, of being truly ourselves; that we should put this freedom to the test, even in opposition to God, in order to become, in reality, fully ourselves.

In a word, we think that evil is basically good, we think that we need it, at least a little, in order to experience the fullness of being. We think that Mephistopheles - the tempter - is right when he says he is the power "that always wants evil and always does good" (J.W. von Goethe, Faust I, 3). We think that a little bargaining with evil, keeping for oneself a little freedom against God, is basically a good thing, perhaps even necessary.

If we look, however, at the world that surrounds us we can see that this is not so; in other words, that evil is always poisonous, does not uplift human beings but degrades and humiliates them. It does not make them any the greater, purer or wealthier, but harms and belittles them.

Yes, the Immaculate Virgin was the freest of all human beings! Chosen by God before all time, she confirmed that choice by her own "Fiat". Liberty without God, liberty to do evil, is an anti-liberty. The only true freedom comes from intimacy with God.


This is something we should indeed learn on the day of the Immaculate Conception: the person who abandons himself totally in God's hands does not become God's puppet, a boring "yes man"; he does not lose his freedom. Only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good.

The person who turns to God does not become smaller but greater, for through God and with God he becomes great, he becomes divine, he becomes truly himself. The person who puts himself in God's hands does not distance himself from others, withdrawing into his private salvation; on the contrary, it is only then that his heart truly awakens and he becomes a sensitive, hence, benevolent and open person.

The closer a person is to God, the closer he is to people. We see this in Mary. The fact that she is totally with God is the reason why she is so close to human beings.

No, not a praise of man, but an appraisal of what man can be if he accepts God's invitation. In the third and last part of the presentation of the "Continuity Strategy", we will see how this notion of man's absolute freedom as a result of his absolute submission to God overhauls the structure of the Conciliar documents as understood in the first decades after the Council.

A Glorious Centennial

Exactly 100 years ago, the greatest restorer of the liturgy and discipline of the Catholic Church in modern times, Pope St. Pius X, approved and ordered the publication of one of his most far-reaching decrees, Sacra Tridentina Synodus, which made it clear that Catholics could and should receive frequent Holy Communion:

The Holy Council of Trent, having in view the ineffable riches of grace which are offered to the faithful who receive the Most Holy Eucharist, makes the following declaration: "The Holy Council wishes indeed that at each Mass the faithful who are present should communicate, not only in spiritual desire, but sacramentally, by the actual reception of the Eucharist." These words declare plainly enough the wish of the Church that all Christians should be daily nourished by this heavenly banquet and should derive therefrom more abundant fruit for their sanctification.

It is not well known today that Holy Communion was rarely received daily before the decree of that great Pope. Saint Pius could be considered the Pope of Holy Communion, for the deep wish he had for all of his children to receive the greatest gift which Our Lord gave to His Bride: Himself, completely, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

This wish of the Council fully conforms to that desire wherewith Christ our Lord was inflamed when He instituted this Divine Sacrament. For He Himself, more than once, and in clarity of word, pointed out the necessity of frequently eating His Flesh and drinking His Blood, especially in these words: This is the bread that has come down from heaven; not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread shall live forever. From this comparison of the Food of angels with bread and with manna, it was easily to be understood by His disciples that, as the body is daily nourished with bread, and as the Hebrews were daily fed with manna in the desert, so the Christian soul might daily partake of this heavenly bread and be refreshed thereby. Moreover, we are bidden in the Lord's Prayer to ask for "our daily bread" by which words, the holy Fathers of the Church all but unanimously teach, must be understood not so much that material bread which is the support of the body as the Eucharistic bread which ought to be our daily food.

Moreover, the desire of Jesus Christ and of the Church that all the faithful should daily approach the sacred banquet is directed chiefly to this end, that the faithful, being united to God by means of the Sacrament, may thence derive strength to resist their sensual passions, to cleanse themselves from the stains of daily faults, and to avoid these graver sins to which human frailty is liable; so that its primary purpose is not that the honor and reverence due to our Lord may be safe-guarded, or that it may serve as a reward or recompense of virtue bestowed on the recipients. Hence the Holy Council calls the Eucharist "the antidote whereby we may be freed from daily faults and be preserved from mortal sin."

The will of God in this respect was well understood by the first Christians; and they daily hastened to this Table of life and strength. They continued steadfastly in the teaching of the apostles and in the communion of the breaking of the bread. The holy Fathers and writers of the Church testify that this practice was continued into later ages and not without great increase of holiness and perfection.

That terrible plague of Jansenism, born of Protestantism, had contaminated the piety of Catholics throughout the world. The Congregation of the Council had to make clear the historical position of the Holy See in the matter:

Accordingly, the Sacred Congregation of the Council, in a Plenary Session held on December 16,1905, submitted this matter to a very careful study, and after sedulously examining the reasons adduced on either side, determined and declared as follows:

1. Frequent and daily Communion, as a practice most earnestly desired by Christ our Lord and by the Catholic Church, should be open to all the faithful, of whatever rank and condition of life; so that no one who is in the state of grace, and who approaches the Holy Table with a right and devout intention (recta piaque mente) can be prohibited therefrom.

2. A right intention consists in this: that he who approaches the Holy Table should do so, not out of routine, or vain glory, or human respect, but that he wish to please God, to be more closely united with Him by charity, and to have recourse to this divine remedy for his weakness and defects.

3. Although it is especially fitting that those who receive Communion frequently or daily should be free from venial sins, at least from such as are fully deliberate, and from any affection thereto, nevertheless, it is sufficient that they be free from mortal sin, with the purpose of never sinning in the future; and if they have this sincere purpose, it is impossible by that daily communicants should gradually free themselves even from venial sins, and from all affection thereto.

4. Since, however, the Sacraments of the New Law, though they produce their effect ex opere operato, nevertheless, produce a great effect in proportion as the dispositions of the recipient are better, therefore, one should take care that Holy Communion be preceded by careful preparation, and followed by an appropriate thanksgiving, according to each one's strength, circumstances and duties.

5. That the practice of frequent and daily Communion may be carried out with greater prudence and more fruitful merit, the confessor's advice should be asked. Confessors, however, must take care not to dissuade anyone from frequent or daily Communion, provided he is found to be in a state of grace and approaches with a right intention.

6. But since it is plain that by the frequent or daily reception of the Holy Eucharist union with Christ is strengthened, the spiritual life more abundantly sustained, the soul more richly endowed with virtues, and the pledge of everlasting happiness more securely bestowed on the recipient, therefore, parish priests, confessors and preachers, according to the approved teaching of the Roman Catechism should exhort the faithful frequently and with great zeal to this devout and salutary practice.

7. Frequent and daily Communion is to be promoted especially in religious Institutes of all kinds; with regard to which, however, the Decree Quemadmodum issued on December 17, 1890, by the Sacred Congregation of Bishops and Regulars, is to remain in force. It is to be promoted especially in ecclesiastical seminaries, where students are preparing for the service of the altar; as also in all Christian establishments which in any way provide for the care of the young (ephebeis).

8. In the case of religious Institutes, whether of solemn or simple vows, in whose rules, or constitutions, or calendars, Communion is assigned to certain fixed days, such regulations are to be considered as directive and not preceptive. The prescribed number of Communions should be regarded as a minimum but not a limit to the devotion of the religious. Therefore, access to the Eucharistic Table, whether it be rather frequently or daily, must always be freely open to them according to the norms above laid down in this Decree.

Furthermore, in order that all religious of both sexes may clearly understand the prescriptions of this Decree, the Superior of each house will provide that it be read in community, in the vernacular, every year within the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

9. Finally, after the publication of this Decree, all ecclesiastical writers are to cease from contentious controversy concerning the dispositions requisite for frequent and daily Communion.

Vatican II at 40 - The Pope who will correct Vatican II?

A new light has just been lit, in time for Christmas, across the pond in that country so dear to God and to His Mother: a news and commentary outlet called Objections (no need of a translation).

The first issue is titled: The Pope who will correct Vatican II. I sure hope their optimism is correct and in the next installments of my analysis of Vatican II at 40, I intend to express the same feeling.

One of the paper's editors, the well-known Father de Tanoüarn, explains what this new venue wants:

What we wish to do at "Objections"? Bring a Catholic view on current affairs, on the cracks of our world, of the troubles of our Church. This view might be anguished or passionate, terrified or euphoric.

It sounds nice.

The Discipline of Sacred Music - 50 years later - I

The 20th century produced more documents on Sacred Music than any other. It is as if a desperate streak permeated the pontificates of all popes of that century, from Saint Pius X to John Paul II, trying to save the solemn and vast musical Tradition of the Latin Church -- and, alas, all popes failed.

That did not seem the case exactly 50 years ago when, in the last years of his glorious pontificate, Pius XII published one of his most interesting and most neglected encyclicals, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina.

As all documents of Pius XII, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina is a wonderfully written text. It is a true guide for all that relates to the great musical tradition of the Church: its causes, its origins, its future perspectives. This enormous structure called "Church" usually moves in slow steps; by 1955, the correct implementation of the great directions given by St. Pius X in Tra le Sollecitudini were still being pursued throughout the world. But choirs of great quality were already present in the most unexpected settings, which had not been the case in the first decade of the century.

In America, for instance, there was hardly a Parish Church which did not have its own boys' choir, in the spirit of true Liturgical Restoration wished by the holy pope Sarto.


Musicae Sacrae Disciplina is divided in roughly four parts. The first relates to the History of Sacred Music and it is the one we will present today.

Music is a manifestation of the divine image God imprinted in all men:

Music is among the many and great gifts of nature with which God, in Whom is the harmony of the most perfect concord and the most perfect order, has enriched men, whom He has created in His image and likeness. Together with the other liberal arts, music contributes to spiritual joy and the delight of the soul. On this subject St. Augustine has accurately written: "Music, that is the science or the sense of proper modulation, is likewise given by God's generosity to mortals having rational souls in order to lead them to higher things."

Sacred Music was an integral part of the Old Covenant:

Miraculously preserved unharmed from the Red Sea by God's power, the people of God sang a song of victory to the Lord, and Miriam, the sister of Moses, their leader, endowed with prophetic inspiration, sang with the people while playing a tambourine.
King David himself established the order of the music and singing used for sacred worship. This order was restored after the people's return from exile and was observed faithfully until the Divine Redeemer's coming.

Sacred Music was always present in the new Israel, the Church, even from the very beginning:

St. Paul showed us clearly that sacred chant was used and held in honor from the ery beginning in the Church founded by the Divine Redeemer when he wrote to the Ephesians: "Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs."

And, in the City of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, the apostolic canons of Sacred Music were disciplined and ordered by St. Gregory the Great, whose name thereafter adorned the chant of the West:

According to tradition, Our predecessor of happy memory, St. Gregory the Great, carefully collected and wisely arranged all that had been handed down by the elders and protected the purity and integrity of sacred chant with fitting laws and regulations. From Rome, the Roman mode of singing gradually spread to other parts of the West. Not only was it enriched by new forms and modes, but a new kind of sacred singing, the religious song, frequently sung in the vernacular, was also brought into use. The choral chant began to be called "Gregorian" after St. Gregory, the man who revived it. It attained new beauty in almost all parts of Christian Europe after the 8th or 9th century because of its accompaniment by a new musical instrument called the "organ."

Born of Gregorian Chant itself, polyphony gloriously developed in the West, supported by the Church, mistress of the human spirit:

Little by little, beginning in the 9th century, polyphonic singing was added to this choral chant. The study and use of polyphonic singing were developed more and more during the centuries that followed and were raised to a marvelous perfection under the guidance of magnificent composers during the 15th and 16th centuries. Since the Church always held this polyphonic chant in the highest esteem, it willingly admitted this type of music even in the Roman basilicas and in pontifical ceremonies in order to increase the glory of the sacred rites. Its power and splendor were increased when the sounds of the organ and other musical instruments were joined with the voices of the singers.

As the Mater and Magistra of Sacred Music, the Church of Rome has always held the discipline of these chants, of which the most ancient have Apostolic lineage. It is her duty to discipline this child of hers whose spirit is Christian.

The progress of this musical art clearly shows how sincerely the Church has desired to render divine worship ever more splendid and more pleasing to the Christian people. It likewise shows why the Church must insist that this art remain within its proper limits and must prevent anything profane and foreign to divine worship from entering into sacred music along with genuine progress, and perverting it. The Sovereign Pontiffs have always diligently fulfilled their obligation to be vigilant in this matter. The Council of Trent also forbids "those musical works in which something lascivious or impure is mixed with organ music or singing." In addition, not to mention numerous other Sovereign Pontiffs, Our predecessor Benedict XIV of happy memory in an encyclical letter dated February 19, 1749, which prepared for a Holy Year and was outstanding for its great learning and abundance of proofs, particularly urged Bishops to firmly forbid the illicit and immoderate elements which had arrogantly been inserted into sacred music.