Becoming a Lay Dominican

In August 1988, the 14th, to be exact, I entered the Province of St Joseph, (Eastern Province USA), of the Order of Preachers, aka the Dominicans, and received my habit. I had graduated from college almost exactly two months earlier. I know that date exactly since it is written in the front of my physical Bible, which was a gift of a religious sister, Sr. Yvonne, who had taught my siblings in Catholic school, and had remained friendly and close to the family even as I grew up. That Bible was my graduation gift from her. I treasure it. It is thoroughly highlighted and underlined in red. Those instruments are immediately in the front pocket of the cover, for easy, and constant access.

After nine months as a novice, and never a day off, I suppose that was part of the “test”, since one who professes “obedience”, and that is the only vow Dominicans take, everything else follows, there are no “days off”, literally, or poetically. Rational, since The People of God need to be buried nearly every day; life, faith, and relational crises won’t/don’t wait well; Catholics marry, and need to be baptized, have their sins forgiven, etc., on weekends, and then, there’s Sunday. Whew! And, then it’s back to classes and the daily grind, Monday. Repeat. Any Dominicans I know ARE busy people!

The only vow that “freaked” me out was obedience, the biggy. It still does. I guess I’m not docile, just so. I haven’t grown any more comfortable with the idea either, quite worse, in fact, in the last thirty-two years, having seen human leadership, or rather, it’s failure, imho; granted not necessarily inspired by the Gospel, but even when supposedly so, still.

I went to bed Holy Thursday night 1989, God’s timing has a sense of the dramatic, no? I had on my mind the same question I had since my very first consideration of priesthood, “Am I supposed to be here?”

Catholics use the word vocation in a very literal sense, much more so, intentionally, than any other aspect of life I have encountered. And, that night, I didn’t dream especially, but awoke with my answer: calm, confident, serene, not reasoned out, but still present in my heart and in my mind. I call it, even now, and it could have been just my subconscious finally poking through, but “God spoke to me.” The organ for speaking and listening to God is always the heart. “in the heart are the highways to Zion (Heaven)” (Ps 84: 5).

After A LOT OF PROCESSING!!!!!, this Spring, I will request/have requested to make my temporary promises for a three year period:

“To the honour of almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of Saint Dominic, I, Matthew McCormick, promise before you ___ ___, the President of this Fraternity/Chapter, and ___ ___, the Religious Assistant, in place of the Master of the Order of Friars Preachers, that I will live according to the Rule of the Laity of Saint Dominic [for three years] or [for my entire life].”

Becoming a Lay Dominican

Pray for me, please.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 4 – St John Damascene (645-749 AD), Doctor of the Church, Doctor of Christian Art, Doctor of the Assumption

What Aquinas is for the Latin or Western Church, John of Damascus is for the Eastern Church.  Saint John of Damascus was born about the year 680 at Damascus, Syria into a Christian family. His father, Sergius Mansur, was a treasurer at the court of the Caliph. John had also a foster brother, the orphaned child Cosmas (October 14), whom Sergius had taken into his own home. When the children were growing up, Sergius saw that they received a good education. At the Damascus slave market he ransomed the learned monk Cosmas of Calabria from captivity and entrusted to him the teaching of his children. The boys displayed uncommon ability and readily mastered their courses of the secular and spiritual sciences. After the death of his father, John occupied ministerial posts at court and became the city prefect.

In Constantinople at that time, the heresy of Iconoclasm had arisen and quickly spread, supported by the emperor Leo III the Isaurian (717-741). Rising up in defense of the veneration of icons [Iconodoulia], Saint John wrote three treatises entitled, “Against Those who Revile the Holy Icons.” The wise and God-inspired writings of Saint John enraged the emperor. But since the author was not a Byzantine subject, the emperor was unable to lock him up in prison, or to execute him. The emperor then resorted to slander. A forged letter to the emperor was produced, supposedly from John, in which the Damascus official was supposed to have offered his help to Leo in conquering the Syrian capital.

This letter and another hypocritically flattering note were sent to the Saracen Caliph by Leo the Isaurian. The Caliph immediately ordered that Saint John be removed from his post, that his right hand be cut off, and that he be led through the city in chains.

That same evening, they returned the severed hand to Saint John. The saint pressed it to his wrist and prayed to the Most Holy Theotokos to heal him so that he could defend the  Faith and write once again in praise of the Most Pure Virgin and Her Son. After a time, he fell asleep before the icon of the Mother of God. He heard Her voice telling him that he had been healed, and commanding him to toil unceasingly with his restored hand. Upon awakening, he found that his hand had been attached to his arm once more. Only a small red mark around his wrist remained as a sign of the miracle.

Later, in thanksgiving for being healed, Saint John had a silver model of his hand attached to the icon, which became known as “Of the Three Hands.” Some unlearned painters have given the Mother of God three hands instead of depicting the silver model of Saint John’s hand. The Icon “Of the Three Hands” is commemorated on June 28 and July 12.

When he learned of the miracle, which demonstrated John’s innocence, the Caliph asked his forgiveness and wanted to restore him to his former office, but the saint refused. He gave away his riches to the poor, and went to Jerusalem with his stepbrother and fellow-student, Cosmas. There he entered the monastery of Saint Sava the Sanctified as a simple novice.

It was not easy for him to find a spiritual guide, because all the monks were daunted by his great learning and by his former rank. Only one very experienced Elder, who had the skill to foster the spirit of obedience and humility in a student, would consent to do this. The Elder forbade John to do anything at all according to his own will. He also instructed him to offer to God all his labors and supplications as a perfect sacrifice, and to shed tears which would wash away the sins of his former life.

Once, he sent the novice to Damascus to sell baskets made at the monastery, and commanded him to sell them at a certain inflated price, far above their actual value. He undertook the long journey under the searing sun, dressed in rags. No one in the city recognized the former official of Damascus, for his appearance had been changed by prolonged fasting and ascetic labors. However, Saint John was recognized by his former house steward, who bought all the baskets at the asking price, showing compassion on him for his apparent poverty.

One of the monks happened to die, and his brother begged Saint John to compose something consoling for the burial service. Saint John refused for a long time, but out of pity he yielded to the petition of the grief-stricken monk, and wrote his renowned funeral troparia (“What earthly delight,” “All human vanity,” and others). For this disobedience the Elder banished him from his cell. John fell at his feet and asked to be forgiven, but the Elder remained unyielding. All the monks began to plead for him to allow John to return, but he refused. Then one of the monks asked the Elder to impose a penance on John, and to forgive him if he fulfilled it. The Elder said, “If John wishes to be forgiven, let him wash out all the chamber pots in the lavra, and clean the monastery latrines with his bare hands.”

John rejoiced and eagerly ran to accomplish his shameful task. After a certain while, the Elder was commanded in a vision by the All-Pure and Most Holy Theotokos to allow Saint John to write again. When the Patriarch of Jerusalem heard of Saint John, he ordained him priest and made him a preacher at his cathedral. But St John soon returned to the Lavra of Saint Sava, where he spent the rest of his life writing spiritual books and church hymns. He left the monastery only to denounce the iconoclasts at the Constantinople Council of 754. They subjected him to imprisonment and torture, but he endured everything, and through the mercy of God he remained alive. He died in about the year 780, more than 100 years old.

Saint John of Damascus was a theologian and a zealous defender of the Faith. His most important book is the Fount of Knowledge. The third section of this work, “On the Orthodox Faith,” is a summary of Christian doctrine and a refutation of heresy. Since he was known as a hymnographer, we pray to Saint John for help in the study of church singing.

“Even though your most holy and blessed soul was separated from your most happy and immaculate body, according to the usual course of nature, and even though it was carried to a proper burial place, nevertheless it did not remain under the dominion of death, nor was it destroyed by corruption. Indeed, just as her virginity remained intact when she gave birth, so her body, even after death, was preserved from decay and transferred to a better and more divine dwelling place. There it is no longer subject to death but abides for all ages.” -St John Damascene, First Homily on the Dormition (of Mary)

Troparion — Tone 8

Champion of Orthodoxy, teacher of purity and of true worship, / the enlightener of the universe and the adornment of hierarchs: / all-wise father John, your teachings have gleamed with light upon all things. / Intercede before Christ God to save our souls.

Kontakion — Tone 4

Let us sing praises to John, worthy of great honor, / the composer of hymns, the star and teacher of the Church, the defender of her doctrines: / through the might of the Lord’s Cross he overcame heretical error / and as a fervent intercessor before God / he entreats that forgiveness of sins may be granted to all.

Prayer Of St. John Damascene

“Having confidence in you, O Mother of God, I shall be saved. Being under you protection, I shall fear nothing. With your help I shall give battle to my enemies and put them to flight for devotion to you is an arm of Salvation. Amen.”

Love,
Matthew

Jul 5 – Wexford Martyrs: Bls Matthew Lambert, Robert Myler, Edward Cheevers, Patrick Cavanagh (Irish: Pádraigh Caomhánach), John O’Lahy, & 1 unknown


-Ireland, 1450

In the Pale (in red), (An Pháil in Irish) or the English Pale (An Pháil Shasanach or An Ghalltacht) the predominant religion was Catholic, and the Catholics saw a growing threat from the Protestant-dominated government, a perception supported by their marked decline in participation within the kingdom’s government. English-born Protestants increasingly occupied positions of authority. The people of the Pale resented taxes on their property for the government’s military policy against the Gaelic lords and rebellious Anglo-Irish. Troops were also billeted upon their lands. James Eustace’s father, Viscount Roland, had been imprisoned by the Elizabethan administration for his opposition, including for his refusal to pay taxes to the Protestant Church.

During the summer of 1580, James Eustace, Viscount Baltinglass, apparently prompted almost entirely by religious motives, raised forces in County Wicklow, in support of the Earl of Desmond’s separate uprising in Munster. The Viscount’s allies included clansmen led by Fiach McHugh O’Byrne. At first the revolt was successful, but Baltinglass did not coordinate his efforts with those of Desmond and could not sustain the conflict. He and his followers were outlawed. Forty-five were hanged in Dublin. James Eustace escaped to Munster, where Desmond was still in revolt. After Desmond was killed, Eustace left for Spain.

James Eustace, whose family had links with Clongowes Wood Castle, now a Jesuit boarding school near Dublin, joined the Earl of Desmond in the hope of putting Mary, Queen of Scots on the English throne. The attempt failed and Baltinglass had to escape to Spain, where he died. One of his brothers was executed in Dublin, two others fled the country and the Kilcullen family lost its lands and titles.

Pursued by English troops after the collapse of the Second Desmond Rebellion, James Eustace, 3rd Viscount of Baltinglass, and his chaplain, Father Robert Rochford, eventually found refuge with Matthew Lambert, a Wexford baker. Lambert fed them and arranged with five sailor acquaintances for safe passage by ship for them. Lambert was betrayed, along with sailors Patrick Cavanagh, Edward Cheevers, Robert Myler, John O’Lahy, and one other.

Lambert was betrayed, and he, Myler, Cheevers, Cavanagh, O’Lahy, and one other were captured, imprisoned, and tortured.  They refused to take the Oath of Supremacy and declare Elizabeth I of England to be the head of the Church. Thrown into prison, they were questioned about politics and religion. Lambert’s reply was: “I am not a learned man. I am unable to debate with you, but I can tell you this, I am a Catholic and I believe whatever our Holy Mother the Catholic Church believes.” They were hanged, drawn and quartered in Wexford on July 5, 1581.

Prayer:

Father in Heaven, You stir up men and women in every age to witness to Your truth. Our Faith is built on You as a rock. The Wexford Martyrs sealed their faith with their life’s blood. Give us courage and strength to follow their example and to witness to Your truth in everything we think, do or say. We make our prayer through Jesus Christ our Risen Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

The Culture of Death is alive & well

I am in training to be a hospice volunteer here in Madison in a secular hospice, but there are Catholics and others in need served by this hospice. And, I can tell you, based on our in-class discussions, the Culture of Death is alive and well. Kyrie Eleison.

What a dark place emotionally and spiritually, but what a beautiful facility! Only the BEST money can buy!  What a Hell of hopelessness! My secular classmates laugh heartily at the notion of not having been near or in a church in decades.  Whistling (or, laughing) past the graveyard?  

They dismiss and poo-poo my polite, respectful encouragements towards the dignity of human life, at all stages, in all cases, even as the corpses, literally, and family members of the deceased process past us?  It is a policy in this hospice, the procession of the dead, in respectful silence.  NO “Jesus talk”, obviously, but we Mcs of a certain persuasion smell Catholic, now don’t we? 1600 years, so far. Not a bad run, huh. Deo gratias.

My classmates insist on their own selfishness, literally, to want to die, to speed death, to hasten the end, anything but suffering, even as a, maybe the most powerful, lasting witness to the still living.  They suggest as rhetorical the exercise question, “I want to die!” Really? My first impression to this statement would never be to interpret such a query as rhetorical? Answering a question with a question is, generally, considered rude, unless you’re Irish, except here it is recommended practice for patients. The mental gymnastics, the fraud, really, the lying, logical dishonesty they propose to justify their supposed positions leaves the Christian mind boggled and dismayed.

The training materials contrast spirituality with religion. They clearly state religion is man-made. I wonder how God feels about that? And spirituality is the cool, right, natural choice. In fact it sounds like good old pagan Animism to me. Judging is never ok? Not even when a DUI blows a red light in a busy intersection? No, right judgment is a requirement of living, a life-skill in all areas of life, deciding aright, every day, consistently; and, hence, the need, the absolute requirement for a well-formed, and informed conscience. It’s dismissal is superficial, logical fraud, when too, too convenient. Dishonest. Their intellectual incoherence gives me a headache. The word “chaplain” has been banned from this institution’s vocabulary. Instead, there are “Grief Counselors”. I prefer “Joy Messengers”, myself, as in Easter joy.

I understand the natural aversion to suffering, truly.  It is hard to be in this environment as a believer in the Resurrection, literally; as an Easter-man.  But, I am certain this is EXACTLY where I am supposed to be, no matter the cost.

The term “culture of death” is frequently tossed around in Catholic conversation. It has such a striking sound to it and describes so succinctly the attitudes of secular culture, that it has been picked up and used by the general population in recent years. While we may use the term and feel confident that it conveys our thoughts, we should pause a minute and define what the term actually encompasses.

Where did the Term “Culture of Death” Originate?

The actual term “Culture of Death” first entered common use after Pope John Paul II mentioned it several times in the 1993 encyclical, Evangelium Vitae. Evangelium Vitae was one of the timeliest and influential writings John Paul II produced during his pontificate. Evangelium Vitae is Latin for “the Gospel of Life”. In this encyclical, John Paul II wrote about the intrinsic value of every human life, which must be welcomed and loved from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Here is a quote from this great encyclical:

“This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the “culture of death” and the “culture of life”. We find ourselves not only “faced with” but necessarily “in the midst of” this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”

John Paul II may have developed the phrases “Culture of Life” and “Culture of Death” from the Didache, a first or second century text of the Church. The Didache explains the “Way of Life” and the “Way of Death”.

What does “Culture of Death” Mean?

The Culture of Death is a very broad term, which describes evil behavior. In the Old Testament, the pagan neighbors of the Israelites constantly, ritually sacrificed their own children. Sound familiar? It goes beyond the mere evil acts, however. In the deepest sense, it describes the attraction our culture has with sin, lust, and death; similar to the blood-lust of the ancient Romans, no? Our culture not only permits, but promotes abortion, euthanasia, murder, revenge, suicide (assisted or otherwise), war, capital punishment, contraception, human cloning, human sterilization, embryonic stem cell and fetal research, In Vitro Fertilization, homosexuality, promiscuity, infidelity, and divorce.

These proclivities lead to the destruction of life and its natural origins; the family. They devalue human life, leading to an explosion of all types of sins. When we do not value human life, we do not value people. This leads us to sin by harming ourselves and others since we do not see the face of God in others. Here is what the Didache says about the “Way of Death”:

“And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.”

Love, & unswerving commitment to LIFE, always! No matter the cost!
Matthew

Last Four Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven & Hell

“The holy fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.”- Prv 9:10


-by Peter Kreeft

“The Church’s teaching about life after death is summarized in the Four Last Things — death, judgment, heaven, and hell. However, even humanity outside the Church instinctively knows something about these four things.

Life’s one certainty is death. Everyone knows this, though not everyone knows what comes next. Nearly all religions, cultures and individuals in history have believed in some form of life after death. Man’s innate sense of justice tells him that there must be an ultimate reckoning, that in the final analysis no one can cheat the moral law and get away with it or suffer undeserved injustices throughout life and not be justly compensated. Since this ultimate justice does not seem to be accomplished in this life, there must be “the rest of the story.”

This instinctive conviction that there must be a higher, more-than-human justice is nearly universal. Thus the second of the Four Last Things, judgment, is also widely known. As Scripture says, “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (Heb 11:6). The final judgment is an encounter with Christ.

Most men also know that justice distinguishes the good from the evil and, therefore, that after death there must be separate destinies for us — rewards for good and punishments for evil. Thus mankind also usually believes in some form of heaven and hell.

There are only two eternal destinies: heaven or hell, union or disunion with God. Each one of us will be either with God or without Him forever. If hell is not real, the Church and the Bible are also liars. Our basis for believing in the reality of hell is exactly the same authority as our basis for believing in the reality of heaven: Christ, His Church, and her scriptures.

If hell is not real, then Jesus Christ is either a fool or a liar for He warned us repeatedly and with utmost seriousness about it. There is no reincarnation, no “second chance” after time is over. There is no annihilation, no end of the soul’s existence. There is no change of species from human being to angel or to anything else.

The particular judgment occurs immediately after each individual’s death. The general judgment takes place at the end of all time and history.

So the scenario of final events is: (a) first, death; (b) then, immediately, the particular judgment; (c) then, either hell, or purgatory as preparation for heaven, or heaven; (d) and, at the end of time, the general judgment; (e) and the “new heavens and new earth” for those who are saved.”

-from “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, by Jonathan Edwards, (1703-1758)

“O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, Whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment.

It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains.”

Love, and holy fear & trembling,-Phil 2:12,
Matthew

I have Protestant tendencies, liturgically…

I love, especially the interiors of, New England Congregationalist Churches; the sparseness, the severity, the simple laser-focus on the Word of God. Catholics have a very bad, imho, habit of accretion in liturgy, always trying to bloat the beautiful and the simple, and beautiful because of its simplicity; the old “more is better” canard. It’s not, unless it’s money, or some such. Some, especially non-caucasian architectural styles are especially this way, imho. Of course, I love Hispanic crucifixes with the very, very bloody and tortured Jesus as well. Really gets the point across, no?

But, I am Roman, particularly in my preferred style of liturgy: spartan, brief, severe-in-some-sense, focused, not languishing around with multiplication of too many words, like “too many notes!”, as a quote from the film “Amadeus”. 🙂

Emperor Joseph II: My dear young man (to Mozart), don’t take it too hard. Your work is ingenious. It’s quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that’s all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”

Outside of Rome in the period before 1570, many other liturgical rites were in use, not only in Eastern Christianity (Liturgy typically, even today, takes 3-4 hours with LOTSA smoke & other stuff, icons galore!!! I love icons, but too much. I could never be Orthodox.), but also in the West. Some of the Western rites, such as the Mozarabic Rite, were unrelated to the Roman Rite that Pope Pius V revised and ordered to be adopted generally. But even the areas that at one time or another had accepted the Roman rite during the Carolingian reform, had soon introduced changes and additions.

As a result, every ecclesiastical province and almost every diocese had its local use, such as the Use of Sarum, the Use of York and the Use of Hereford in England, and traditional Celtic liturgies in Ireland. In France there were strong traces of the Gallican Rite. With the exception of the relatively few places where no form of the Roman Rite had ever been adopted, the Canon of the Mass remained generally uniform, but the prayers in the “Ordo Missae”, and still more the “Proprium Sanctorum” and the “Proprium de Tempore”, varied widely.

Carolingian reform

Western liturgy in the eighth century was influenced by the rise in power of the Frankish kings north of the Alps. Their ideal, especially under the later leadership of Charlemagne, was to create a Christian society in Western Europe. Stability and unification were brought about by assimilation of old Roman culture of the cities and “barbarian” cultures in the countryside, the official use of the Latin language, and the creation of a unified church-state. In order to consolidate their realms, the Franks sought to import Roman liturgy in an effort to standardize liturgical practice. Their efforts were eventually successful resulting in a uniform worship, but had the unintended effect of mixing Gallican elements with Roman practice creating a hybrid Roman-Frankish liturgy. Allegorical interpretations of liturgy changed how the rites were perceived and performed. This new hybrid liturgical style dominated the West and severely diminished the importance of other Western rites.

In 754 AD, King Pepin prescribed the Roman liturgy for use in his realm. Political unity was not the only factor in the promotion of Roman practice; pilgrims visiting Rome, especially bishops, were impressed with the beauty of the Roman ceremonies. The diversity of Gallican practice and the corruption of its Latin texts were other factors that lead to dissatisfaction with local rites. Still, Pepin’s decree met with limited success: Although Roman liturgical manuscripts copied outside Rome had already absorbed some Gallican elements, Roman liturgy was particularly suited to its local community and could not be transplanted easily into Frankish lands with very different liturgical and cultural traditions.

During the years 785-786 AD, Charlemagne enacted laws to bring the process of Romanization to completion and to suppress the Gallican rite. He asked Pope Hadrian (772-795) to send to Aachen a Gregorian sacramentary “in pure form” so that it could be used as a model for liturgical books in the Frankish realm. In 785 this Pope sent a sacramentary compiled around 735, now known as the Hadrianum. This book was ill suited for Charlemagne’s needs; it was incomplete, lacking formularies for the Sundays of the year, and it represented the more elaborate Papal liturgy rather than parish usage. (In the city of Rome two liturgical styles had already emerged. One form was used only when the Pope presided; the other simpler form for general use would have been a better model for Charlemagne’s purposes.) Perhaps Pope Hadrian misunderstood Charlemagne’s request for an exemplar book, and merely sent the most beautiful manuscript he possessed.

In order to develop a usable book as a model, it was necessary to supplement the Hadrianum with materials it lacked and adapt it to the needs of the Frankish church. During the years 810-815 Benedict of Aniane filled in the missing sections with texts from the Eighth Century Gelesian, another unknown Roman source, and Gallican material. The contents of this supplement are extensive: they include not only the missing Masses for Sundays of the year, but also diverse texts such as vigils for Easter and Pentecost, weekday Masses, common Masses for saints, consecration of clerics and women religious, ordinations for minor orders, votive Masses for special needs, funeral Masses, episcopal blessings and suggestions for the addition of Gallican feasts to the church calender. In his supplement Benedict was careful to clearly distinguish these additional materials from the Hadrianum text as he received it. The resulting hybrid Roman-Frankish sacramentary was used as a model for liturgical changes throughout the realm and eventually its hybrid liturgy made its way to Rome itself.

In addition to the spread of proper Roman liturgical books through his empire, Charlemagne wished the chant in his churches to follow the usage of Rome. He sent his best singers to the Papal chapel to learn the chant used there so they could disseminate it to the rest of his realm. This standardized repertoire became known as Gregorian Chant. While other rites use more poetic language, the Roman Rite is noted for its sobriety of expression.”

Love, wishing you peace & simplicity in your liturgy,
Matthew

Rigid Catholics

-Young women pray at a Solemn High Pontifical Mass for Blessed Karl of Austria in Washington, D.C. The annual Blessed Karl Mass is widely attended by young Catholics in the eastern United States.

Pope Francis on the young who like Latin Mass: ‘Why so much rigidity?’

November 11, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – In a new interview, Pope Francis criticized the “rigidity” of young people who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass.

“I always try to understand what’s behind people who are too young to have experienced the pre-conciliar liturgy and yet still they want it,” the pontiff said. “Sometimes I found myself confronted with a very strict person, with an attitude of rigidity. And I ask myself: Why so much rigidity? Dig, dig, this rigidity always hides something, insecurity or even something else. Rigidity is defensive. True love is not rigid.”

Pope Francis frequently criticizes faithful Catholics using this type of rhetoric. He has blasted the “excessive rigidity” of Catholics who believe in moral absolutes.

“Traditionalists” with their “hostile inflexibility,” fail to allow themselves to be “surprised by God,” he said in 2014.

In the same interview, Pope Francis said Vatican II’s major liturgical changes “should carry on as they are.”

“To speak of the ‘reform of the reform’ is a mistake,” he said.

The “reform of the reform” is an expression inspired by Pope Benedict XVI to refer to a reform of the post-Vatican II liturgy that would make it more closely aligned with Catholic liturgical tradition.

Following the Second Vatican Council, it was widely and errantly believed that the Old Rite of the Mass had been abolished or forbidden. In his motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI clarified that both the Ordinary Form (post-Vatican II Mass) and Extraordinary Form (Mass according to the 1962 missal) of the liturgy are permitted and “there is no contradiction between the two editions of the Roman Missal.”

“In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture,” Pope Benedict wrote. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful.”

In the new interview, however, Francis describes Benedict’s actions as an “exception” that was “magnanimous.”

Pope Benedict extended a “fair and magnanimous gesture to meet a certain mentality of some groups and people who had nostalgia. … But it is an exception,” Pope Francis said.

In an essay on why she likes the Traditional Latin Mass, teenaged Anya Proctor wrote that she was driven to it by “weird” homilies about “other religions, the gospel of Judas, funny stories in the newspaper, irrelevant anecdotes, and even blatant heresies” and “a priest using props on the altar to demonstrate his homily—as if we were all five-year-olds.”

At the Traditional Latin Mass, “I came to know God,” Proctor continued. “I got to fully experience Christ Incarnate in flesh and blood, on my knees, deep in silence and prayer — to meditate on his union with me as he was placed reverently on my tongue by his holy servant. I closed my eyes when I received Jesus. I felt physically, spiritually, and emotionally transformed. Many times in the Cathedral, tears have come to me as I have prayed and focused on Jesus’s love and sacrifice for me.”

“Mass is not intended to celebrate people,” Proctor wrote. “That’s for luncheons, birthday parties, and maybe youth groups—but not Mass. The Mass is for the Lord. The Mass is where the priest is so reverent he faces the Lord, not the people, so that they don’t focus on him, but only on Christ.”

Juventutem (“youth” in Latin), an international federation of young people who attend and promote the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, has chapters around the world.

“We are a group of Catholic young adults who seek to implement Summorum Pontificum in the Archdiocese of Washington,” Juventutem’s Washington, DC chapter explains. “We love the traditional Roman liturgy and seek to share it with the Church and the world. Come pray with us!”

Juventutem’s Boston chapter “promotes the sanctification of youth by means of the traditions of the Catholic Church, faithful to the Church’s teaching and her authorities, and in spiritual union with those young people throughout the world who share our aspirations…Juventutem Boston also dedicates itself to an intercessory apostolate, praying with and for our Bishops and Priests in union with His Holiness Pope Francis.”

Six hundred young adults attended traditional liturgies at World Youth Day this year.


-by Rev Dwight LongneckerFr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“The Holy Father’s favorite scold is against Catholics who are “rigid”.

In this he is echoing Jesus and the gospels. Jesus’ big problems were the Scribes and Pharisees. Legalists without mercy, they famously sweated the small stuff–always taking the splinter out of someone else’s eye while ignoring the plank in their own. They burdened people with little laws, great guilt and notorious negativity.

In the end they are the ones who plotted to kill Jesus. Definitely bad news.

The Pope’s criticism of similarly rigid religious folks in the Catholic Church is necessary. Certainly we have our share of unsmiling, legalistic, backward looking, negative, hyper critical Catholics. We have our share of Pharisaical, judgmental, hide bound, angry conservatives. Francis is right. They’re a brood of vipers.

Just try it. Poke at them and they’ll strike, and they’re not harmless. Their fangs have venom.

While I support the Pope’s criticism of Pharisaical Catholics, I don’t actually think they are that big a problem. Here’s why:

They are a minority. Perhaps it would be easy to tar all traditionalist Catholics with this brush, but we know its not so. While there are definitely a few vindictive, paranoid, legalistic nut cases among them, most traditionalist Catholics are good, solid, sensible folks who simply love the old Mass and all that goes with it.

Are there harsh, legalistic and judgmental priests? I’ve been a Catholic for over twenty years and I’ve only heard complaints about a priest being harsh in the confessional twice–and both times it was about the same priest.

Two complaints in over twenty years and only about one priest?

Maybe Pope Francis’ experience in Argentina is different than mine in England and the USA, but my experience is that our primary problem is not rigid, legalistic Catholics, but exactly the opposite.

The complaints I hear about priests in the confessional are along these lines, “I went to Fr Whoever for confession and all he did was tell me that the things I confessed weren’t really sins.” or “The priest just said, ‘Remember Jesus Loves You. Go in Peace.’ I had to ask him to say the words of absolution three times, and even then I had to remind him what to say!” or “Our priest doesn’t have set times for confession. He says we should just confess our sins to God and if we need counseling to make an appointment.” or “I confessed that I had slept with a woman before marriage and the priest told me that ‘I probably had an emotional need’ and it as long as she consented it wasn’t really a sin.” or “The priest spent fifteen minutes explaining my psychological problems to me, and then never said the words of absolution.”

In America and the UK the problems of the Catholic Church are not down to overly rigid Catholics. The problems are due to overly flaccid Catholics. We’re not too stiff. We’re too limp.

In my experience a great number of Catholics never go to confession at all. This must mean that they do not think they have committed any sins that need forgiveness. This is not rigidity. This is complacency.

In my experience, most priests are not rigid at all. They are a gentle, loving, kind and forgiving bunch. We priests are quick to explain away guilt, soften the sin and overlook the faults. We want to be nice. We want to be loved. We want to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

In my experience the vast majority of American Catholics are anything BUT rigid. A huge percentage are okay with contraception. A good number think abortion is okay under certain circumstances. Many think same sex marriage is just fine. A lot of Catholic parents approve of their kids living together before marriage but still want them to have a great big Catholic wedding. A lot of American Catholics seem to be perfectly okay with remarriage after divorce.

In my experience, while some Catholics are extremely generous, a good number are not. They don’t tithe. They give to their own pet causes when they want and they don’t seem to have the faintest idea that their faith is about taking up the cross, following Jesus Christ and walking in the way of sanctity. They don’t seem to be any different from their non-Catholic neighbors.

American Catholicism is not in danger of being too harsh, bitter and judgmental. We’re in danger of being too sweet, pliable and self indulgent.

As usual, every argument is theological. We are this way because of the heresy of universalism and semi universalism. These are the sentimental heresies that everyone will be saved in the end, or if there is a hell that probably there are not very many people there and maybe they will make it to heaven too in the end or maybe God will just let them be snuffed out and cease to exist.

As nice as it is, this is completely unfaithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the historic Catholic faith.

I know this rather stands things on their head, but I reckon we could do with a bit more backbone–not less.”

Ah, Universal. Gotta, gotta love it. If anyone recently through RCIA says, “But, I need X!” I say, “Wait! I will be your concierge. I KNOW we’ve got it! I just know.” I think both the Holy Father & Fr. Longnecker are right, and, no, I’m not just being political. I actually think they’re both right. The scourge of being a moderate. 🙂

Love,
Matthew

Sin, moral failure, apostasy, & spiritual death


-partial restoration of “Hasekura in Prayer” following his conversion in Madrid, 1615, author unknown


-by Rev John Bartunek, LC

“…whether a person is struggling with idealism or cynicism, those feelings need to be identified and put in their proper place; we must make our decisions not based just on feelings, but based first and foremost on moral truth. Just as an idealistic husband has to learn to identify and accept the flaws of his young wife and continue to love her, so a cynical husband has to learn to see the inner beauty and goodness of his wife in order to continue honoring, loving, and revering her as God wants him to. Neither idealism nor cynicism, as understandable as they may be, can excuse sin. And publicly denouncing the divinity of Christ or one’s adherence to him as Lord…is a fault against the first commandment (CCC 2089).

Someone’s degree of culpability may certainly be diminished by circumstances like those faced by the characters in Silence. Likewise, individuals may repent of their sins and return to the faith. Only God knows the whole story of each person’s struggles, and only God can accurately judge the level of culpability, even though we all may be able to see the objective evil of a sinful action. This is why Jesus tells us: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1).

But we must be careful to avoid calling right something that is wrong. Many martyrs in the history of the Church refused to renounce their faith in the face of horrible pressures. It would have been more convenient for them and for others if they had simply renounced their faith in Jesus. And yet, they didn’t. The Church holds these martyrs up to us as models of courage and trust in God, as witnesses of a reality that goes well beyond the joys and sufferings of this earth: the reality of divine truth, eternal life, and friendship with God. A public denial of one’s faith in God may lead to the preservation of someone else’s physical life, but it may scandalize them to the point where they abandon their faith, perhaps putting their eternal salvation in danger. Scandal, too, is a dangerous sin:

“Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.” (CCC 2284).”

“(from the Catholic Dictionary, CatholicCulture.org) Spiritual death is the state of the soul in mortal sin, based on the analogy with bodily death. Just as a physical body may be not only ill or suffer injury, but cease to retain its principle of life, so the soul can lose sanctifying grace through mortal sin and supernaturally cease to live. It is, therefore, spiritually dead because it is no longer united with God, who gives it supernatural life, even as a body is dead on separation from its animating principle, which is the soul. While still on earth, this union with God is both a possession and a movement. We possess Him by grace and in faith, and we are moving toward Him in the beatific vision of glory. When persons sin mortally, they are twice dead: once because they lose the gift of divine life they formerly had, and once again because they are no longer moving toward the consummation of that life in heaven.

Mortal sins are no longer remissible by any power within the soul itself, much as the human body, once dead, cannot be brought back to life except by a special intervention of God. In Patristic literature the restoration is compared with the resuscitation of Lazarus. The exercise of Almighty power in either case is the same. “Everyone who sins, dies,” says St. Augustine. Only the Lord, “by His great grace and great mercy raises souls to life again, that we may not die eternally” (In Joannis Evangelium,49). Only infinite mercy can reconcile the grave sinner.”

Love,
Matthew

Jan 30 – Bls Margaret Bermingham Ball (1515-1584), Wife & Mother, & Francis Taylor of Swords (1550-1621), Husband & Father, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Martyrs

-statuary of the “Murdered Mayors”, or more formally, the “Martyrs of Dublin”, Bls Margaret Ball & her grandson-in-law, Francis Taylor, which stands in front of St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.” -Mt 10:21

Margaret came from a prominent family. When she was 16 years old, Margaret Bermingham married Bartholomew Ball, an alderman of the City of Dublin, and a prosperous Dublin merchant, whose wealthy family operated the bridge over the River Dodder, which is still known as Ballsbridge. She then moved to the city, where the couple lived at Ballygall House in north county Dublin and had a town house on Merchant’s Quay. They had ten children, though only five survived to adulthood. Bartholomew Ball was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1553, making Margaret the Lady Mayoress of the city. She had a comfortable life with a large household and many servants, and she was recognised for organising classes for the children of local families in her home.

In 1558 Queen Elizabeth I reversed the policy of her sister Queen Mary and imposed her Religious Settlement upon her realms. In 1570 the papacy responded with the papal bull Regnans in Excelsis, which declared Elizabeth to be an illegitimate usurper. During a coronation, the most illustrious, high ranking cleric available, at least the local bishop, but ultimately the Pope, himself, would place the crown on the head of the monarch, Emperor Napoleon, notwithstanding. Coronations were religious services, originally. The separation of Church and State was unthinkable. So when the Pope declares a monarch illegitimate, this means legitimate Catholic monarchs have a duty to attack this usurper and restore rightful authority. During this time of religious persecution, it was well known that Ball provided “safe houses” for any bishops or priests who might be passing through Dublin.

Her eldest son, Walter, yielding to the pressure of the times, became a Protestant and an opponent of the Catholic faith. Margaret continued to provide ‘safe houses’ for bishops and priests passing through Dublin and would invite Walter to dine with them, hoping for his reconversion to Catholicism.

Margaret Ball’s eldest son, Walter, who wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and advance his political, embraced the “new religion” and was appointed Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes in 1577. Margaret was disappointed with her son’s change of faith (“If my children lose their faith, I have failed as a mother!!!” -Mary D. McCormick), and tried to change his mind. On one occasion, she told him that she had a “special friend” for him to meet. Walter arrived early with a company of soldiers, and found that the “special friend” was Dermot O’Hurley, Archbishop of Cashel. He was celebrating Mass with the family.

But Walter was not for turning. Immediately after his installation as Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1580, Walter had his mother and her personal chaplain arrested and taken to the dungeons of Dublin Castle. Due to her advanced age and severe arthritis, she had to be transported there by a wooden pallet through the streets of Dublin.

When the family protested, Walter declared that his mother should have been executed, but he had spared her. She would be allowed to go free if she “took the Oath”, which probably referred to the Oath of Supremacy. Her second son, Nicholas, who supported her, was elected Mayor of Dublin in 1582. However, Walter was still Commissioner for Ecclesiastical Causes, which was a royal appointment. He outranked Nicholas and kept him from securing their mother’s release from prison. Nicholas visited her daily, bringing her food, clothing and candles.

Ball died in 1584 at the age of sixty-nine, which was an advanced age at the time. She was crippled with arthritis and had lived for three years in the cold, wet dungeon of Dublin Castle with no natural light. She could have returned to her comfortable home at any time had she apostasized. Although she could have altered her will, she still bequeathed her property to Walter upon her death.

Two generations later this pattern was repeated when Francis Taylor, who was Mayor of Dublin (1595–1596) and was married to Gennet Shelton, a granddaughter of Ball, was condemned to the dungeons after exposing fraud in the parliamentary elections to the Irish House of Commons. He likewise refused to “take the oath” and died in Dublin Castle in 1621. A convinced Catholic, he refused to accept the Acts of Supremacy (Monarch is the head of the Church) and Uniformity (The Book of Common Prayer is the only legal form of worship and all citizens must attend Church services according to that form).

Ball and Taylor could not have known each other, but they were beatified together, along with Dermot O’Hurley and 14 other Catholic martyrs, on 27 September 1992 by Pope John Paul II.

All you holy men & women, pray for us, for the grace of final perseverance.  Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Dec 26 – St Stephen, (d. 34 AD), Deacon & Martyr, Radiant (Acts 6:15) “so that we might become like God!!!”(CCC 460)


-site of the stoning of St Stephen, Greek Orthodox Church of St Stephen, Kidron Valley, Jerusalem


Br Philip Nolan, OP

“Yesterday we celebrated the birth of the Son of God. Today we remember the death of a man. Through Advent we watched for the coming of God, before being surprised to see angelic hosts and to hear the cry of a baby. Now, the day after Christmas, we see a man whose “face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15), and the first sound we hear is his death cry.

Why did Stephen’s face look like an angel’s? Did he regress decades of aging and take on the visage of a putto: “And all were amazed at how adorable he was”? No. When the Scriptures speak of angels, they describe beings of great might, frightening to behold. In the book of Judges, when the mother of Samson is informed by a messenger from God that she will conceive and bear a son, she “went and told her husband, ‘A man of God came to me; he had the appearance of an angel of God, terrible indeed” (Jg 13:6). Zechariah was “troubled” by the angel announcing the birth of his son, John; the shepherds “were struck with great fear”; and even the Virgin Mary needed to be assured by Gabriel, “do not be afraid” (Lk 1–2).

In all these examples, the presence of angels communicates something momentous. Their appearance and words cause fear and unease. Angels correct, instruct, reveal; they make us change our plans and offer us a life more closely united with God. Stephen preached forcefully in the Sanhedrin, calling the people to repent of their hard-heartedness. His words, like the words of angels, caused unrest. His face, like the face of an angel, overwhelmed those gathered. But those listening to Stephen did not (at that moment) repent and acquiesce to the divine words. Instead, when they saw Stephen’s face and heard his words, “they were infuriated” and proceeded to make him the first martyr.

The Church gives us the feast of St. Stephen immediately after Christmas to make something clear. Yesterday, we learned “the son of God became man,” and today we see the purpose—“so that we might become God” (CCC 460). The account of Stephen’s preaching and martyrdom shows us what it looks like to become like God. At the beginning of Christ’s life, his mother laid him on the wood of the manger; at the end of his life, she watched as he suffered on the wood of the cross. On the cross, Jesus prays for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them.” Stephen, too, prays for his killers, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Jesus cried to his Father, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.” Stephen cried to Christ: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

The Psalmist exhorts, “Look towards Him and be radiant / let your faces not be abashed” (Ps 34). As Stephen preached, he did not hide his face in shame, and the Lord made his face radiant. Stephen did not produce this radiance; rather it was given to him. But men preferred darkness to light, so they killed him. And in that death he was born to eternal life.”

Merry Christmas,
Matthew

Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP