Category Archives: Liturgy

Sep 15 – Improperia (The Reproaches), Our Lady of Sorrows

“Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, His mother: “This Child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul, too.”
-Luke 2:34-35

And with “Woman behold your son.”  And, “Son, behold your Mother.”  cf Jn 19:26-27, Mary became our mother, and the mother of the Church.

Good Friday is a day of mourning, remembering Christ’s death, and so is not typically a day of songs and hymns. During the Veneration of the Cross, the following Antiphon and verses known as “The Reproaches” (Improperia) are sung. Individual parts are indicated by no. 1 (first choir) and no. 2 (second choir); parts sung by both choirs together are indicated by nos. 1 and 2.

The Reproaches (Improperia)

Antiphon 1 and 2:
We worship You, Lord,
we venerate Your cross,
we praise Your resurrection.
1: Through the cross
You brought joy to the world.
1: (Psalm 66:2)
May God be gracious and bless us;
and let His face shed its light upon us.

Repeat Antiphon by 1 and 2:

The Reproaches:

I.

1 and 2: My people, what have I done to you
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you out of Egypt,
from slavery to freedom,
but you led your Savior to the cross.

2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!
1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: For forty years I led you
safely through the desert.
I fed you with manna from heaven,
and brought you to a land of plenty; but you led your Savior to the cross.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

1 and 2: What more could I have done for you.
I planted you as my fairest vine,
but you yielded only bitterness:
when I was thirsty you gave Me vinegar to drink,
and you pierced your Savior with a lance.

1: Holy is God!
2: Holy and strong!
1: Holy immortal One, have mercy on us!

II.

1: For your sake I scourged your captors
and their firstborn sons,
but you brought your scourges down on me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you from slavery to freedom
and drowned your captors in the sea,
but you handed me over to your high priests.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I opened the sea before you,
but you opened my side with a spear.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I led you on your way in a pillar of cloud,
but you led me to Pilate’s court.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I bore you up with manna in the desert,
but you struck me down and scourged me.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you saving water from the rock,
but you gave me gall and vinegar to drink.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: For you I struck down the kings of Canaan.
but you struck my head with a reed.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I gave you a royal scepter,
but you gave me a crown of thorns.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

1: I raised you to the height of majesty,
but you have raised me high on a cross.
2: My people, what have I done to you?
How have I offended you? Answer me!

Love,
Matthew

Worship, not entertainment – Ite, MISSA (MASS) est! GO!!!!! And do My will!!!!

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“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”
Justin Martyr, I Apol. 67 (A.D. 150-155)

(By the way, there’s a little joke in there. The Hebrew tattoo deliberately incorrectly spells God’s name. Instead of God’s name (יהוה ), it says, ויהי , translated, “And it came to pass” or “And it was so.” Of course the joke here is that people who get Hebrew tattoos really do not know how to read Hebrew at all.)

Worship, by definition, I believe, is not about us, whether we like it, or whether it entertains us. Now, what could it be about? Think. Think. Think. Nope! Nothing. De gustibus non est disputandum. Why do we go to Mass? To get to Heaven. Not to be entertained. Not that simply attending Mass will merit us anything, but as an aid and a command the Lord has given us to perform in worship of Him. It is NOT something anyone owes us, but something, very rather, we owe HIM, in justice, in gratitude, for our very lives, and all the joys therein. We owe Him.

It is NOT optional, in fact, missing Mass for less than a really good reason, ie. illness, is a sin, a mortal sin, which kills the life of grace within; if, you want to get to Heaven. Like it or not. Plain & simple truth, whether you like it or not.

Don’t want to go to Heaven? Don’t go to Mass. We ARE in radical agreement. But, don’t expect any help in the form of grace in life, though. And, just one day, just one day, actually there are many, you just might need that grace to make it through the day, another day, ONLY through grace.

From my reading, Jesus will not say to us in our particular judgment, yeah, that’s in the deal, too, “No Mass? No problem!” That’s just how I, imho, read the scriptures. Others may agree.

That, imho, again, is NOT to say we always shouldn’t offer our best:  our best preaching, our best music, our best reading, our best singing, our best worship of Him.  There is nothing wrong with joyful worship.  There is nothing wrong with reverential worship.  We can always improve.  It is the very definition of fallen human beings.

And, finally, if we are to “Love one another” as He has loved us, where better to begin in charity than in the Mass, attending despite less than inspiring preaching, rote ritual, or less than angelic music, or despite, yet another collection, or perpetual fund-raising activity, festival, parish-wide garage sale, or other trivial, distracting announcement, that seem to be an ever present obstacle to profound surrender in worship to the Divine. To, in all of this, mis-worship, cry out in our heart of hearts, just like the worshiping tax collector, Lk 18:13, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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-by Jim Blackburn

“In an all-too-common tragedy these days, a poorly catechized Catholic attends a worship service at a megachurch, mistakenly believing the worship service simply to be a modern, non-Catholic version of the Mass. The Catholic feels emotionally drawn to the megachurch worship service and decides Mass, in comparison, is boring. A typical view might be, “Wow, I’m being fed here like I’m not being fed at Mass.”

The American Heritage Dictionary defines megachurch as “a large, independent, usually nondenominational worship group, especially one formed as an offshoot of a Protestant church. Also called seeker church.”

“Large” is right. Among the better known megachurches are Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston (attendance 43,500), Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago (attendance 23,000), and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church (attendance 20,000) in my backyard in Orange County, California.

Many megachurches are known for their concert-style worship services, consisting of passionate preaching accompanied by emotionally driven music.

I often hear stories about local Catholics in my diocese who venture into one of Saddleback’s worship services—only to be “sold” on this new style of worship, and never again to return to the Catholic Mass.

“Something for Everyone”

From a superficial perspective it’s easy to see why ill-informed Catholics can be drawn in so easily. A quick visit to Saddleback’s Web site (saddleback.com) reveals a veritable menu of Sunday worship services to satisfy the taste of just about any self-indulgent seeker. For example, consider these six offerings, as described on the site:

  • Worship Center Times: You’ll engage in an array of contemporary worship music and enjoy live teaching that is video cast to our other venues.
  • Fuel Times: FUEL is our newest venue for young adults ages 20s to 30s (but everyone is welcome). Join us in Refinery main auditorium for live teaching, worship, food, and relationship building. All of this and more, packed into a shorter service.
  • Overdrive Times: This service is filled with guitar-driven, rock-infused worship sure to amplify your experience. You’ll feel like you’re worshiping in a musical concert setting! The message will follow, video cast live from the Worship Center.
  • Praise Times: This venue is filled with inspiring gospel music that will move your heart and encourage your spirit. The gospel choir will get you up off your feet in whole-hearted praise to God. Worship is followed by the video cast message.
  • Terrace Cafe Times: Grab a cup of coffee and relax in this outdoor worship environment. Located on the top of the Plaza Building, the Terrace Cafe is a perfect place to bring your friends for fellowship and a casual worship experience.
  • Traditions Times: Enjoy a warm, small church community and a traditional approach to worship through hymns and choruses.

Now, each of these forms of worship can be perfectly fine. The problem arises with the gross misconception that such worship is in any significant way comparable to the Catholic Mass. The truth is there really is no comparison at all.

The First Lord’s Supper

The evening before he was crucified, Jesus and the apostles shared a meal. At the Last Supper Jesus very plainly explained to the apostles how he wanted them to worship:  He took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying,

“This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after supper, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk 22:19-20)

These words must have been quite enlightening to the apostles, as they finally understood what Jesus meant when he said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:54).

The apostles also understood in Jesus’ words both the authority and the commandment to “do” perpetually in worship what Jesus had just instituted: the Eucharist.

The Day of Obligation

The apostles went on to teach others this sacred, God-instituted form of worship. This is evident is Paul’s words to the Church at Corinth:

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”” (1 Cor 11:23-26)

Paul was not at the Last Supper, so he undoubtedly received this from the Lord through the other apostles. And in this passage we read that he has already delivered it himself to the Church at Corinth.

Scripture reveals that the Eucharist was celebrated on Sundays: “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread . . .” (Acts 20:7). That the celebration took place on Sunday makes sense because Jesus was resurrected on that day (Mk 16:9).

Down through history, the Church Fathers attest that the Eucharist has been the constant and most sacred form of authentic Christian worship. In the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Catholic Church continues this form of worship and obliges Catholics to participate.

The authority to oblige Catholics in such a way was endowed to the Church by Jesus Himself. He said first to Peter and later to all of the apostles, “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19, 18:18).

The Church has always recognized in these words the authority to enact disciplinary laws which the faithful must follow. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains:

The power to “bind and loose” connotes the authority to absolve sins, to pronounce doctrinal judgments, and to make disciplinary decisions in the Church. Jesus entrusted this authority to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and in particular through the ministry of Peter . . . (CCC 553)

Today the obligation to attend the Mass is found in the Code of Canon Law: “Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation . . . On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass” (CIC 1246 §1–1247).

Symbol or Reality?

Not long ago, Rick Warren announced, “We’re adding the Lord’s Supper . . . to 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm Sunday evening services every week!”

Some people have wondered whether “the Lord’s Supper” at Saddleback Church is the authentic Eucharist. The answer is no. The power and authority to consecrate the Eucharist has never been available to just anyone; it has always been necessary to be appointed by one of the apostles or their successors. Luke provides evidence of this: “[T]hey [Paul and Barnabas, in this case] had appointed elders for them in every church . . .” (Acts 14:23). As does Paul: “This is why I left you [Titus] in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you . . .” (Ti 1:5).

The term “elders” in these passages is translated from the Greek word presbyterous, from which we derive the English word priest. It is clear in the passages just cited that priests were necessarily appointed in every Church. In part, this was for the valid consecration of the Eucharist.

Since megachurches like Saddleback Church do not have priests ordained by successors of the apostles (i.e., Catholic bishops), they do not have the power or the authority necessary to consecrate the Eucharist changing its substance into the body and blood of Jesus.

Also, I’m not aware of any megachurches that recognize the life-giving presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, for Catholics the “source and summit” of the faith. In describing its Lord’s Supper, Saddleback Church’s Web site states: “The elements of bread and wine or juice are symbols of Christ’s broken body and shed blood. Communion is not a means of salvation.”

Mass Is Not Optional

There is no comparison between a modern megachurch worship service— however entertaining it might be—and the Eucharist instituted by Jesus. A person should never mistake such megachurch worship as any sort of alternative to the Mass. And, if he’s a Catholic, he must never neglect his obligation to participate in the Mass.

If a Catholic wishes to indulge in megachurch worship, and he can do so without endangering his own faith or scandalizing others, he is not explicitly forbidden from doing so. Even so, he cannot licitly participate in a megachurch communion service. This is forbidden by the Code of Canon Law: “Catholic ministers administer the sacraments licitly to Catholic members of the Christian faithful alone, who likewise receive them licitly from Catholic ministers alone . . . ” (844 §1).  (Aka, “inter-communion”.)

The bottom line is this: Jesus didn’t instruct the apostles to perpetuate megachurch-style worship services, nor did He indicate that such worship would be life-giving. But He did institute the Eucharist, commanded the apostles to perpetuate it, and promised life to those who participate in it. Don’t we owe it to Him to worship as He commanded?”

Love,
Matthew

Adoration?

adoration

-by Kasia I.

“The chapel was still and dark as we filed in, hushed, almost on tiptoe. The first sight we registered in our dim surroundings was the glow of the golden monstrance that framed Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It was my first silent retreat, held at a convent, with several other young ladies attending. We had just finished our silent meal (unfortunately made up of such indiscreet foods as raw carrots and celery) and were about to start a lengthy period of Eucharistic Adoration.

I knelt reverently in front of the Host before sliding into my pew. After everyone finished her initial settling-in, the silence around us grew thick and almost palpable, only occasionally disturbed with the sound of a covered cough or creak of a kneeler. Closing my eyes and bowing my head, I tried to project an image of someone thoroughly engrossed in prayer, an image in keeping with the circumstances.

But during the beginning of that period of prayer, I kept feeling annoyed and uncomfortable—the kneelers were hard, the stuffy chapel lacked air conditioning, my shoulder kept aching irritatingly. Most awkward to me was the utter and unfamiliar silence. This lack of outward distraction, so unlike what I was used to every day, only seemed to amplify my inward distraction. A few times I squirmed uneasily and almost felt like screaming with exasperation. Since it was so noiseless, why couldn’t I concentrate on the fact that my Lord and my God was here before me? Desperately gathering and dismissing, and re-gathering and re-dismissing, my scattered thoughts (everything from “she’s wearing an interesting top” to “I knew I would forget to mail that birthday card”), I struggled in frustration. I loved God—why couldn’t I “feel” it?

I was thinking this way and trying to concentrate on Our Lord for at least an hour. Silence continued to reign. I could almost hear the minutes, the seconds, heavily dropping away one by one.

However, the longer I knelt in that sacred place, the less distracted I became. The thoughts and noises left in my mind from the everyday world eventually slipped away and dissolved into the silence. My soul slowly became stilled in the tranquility, and as it quieted I became more aware of Christ before me. I raised my eyes and looked on Him, in the appearance of a white Host, bordered by the shining gold and jewels of the kingly monstrance. Right here before us was the center of the chapel, the convent, the world—this Light, piercing the darkness that seemed to spread across everything else we could see. My eyes could not leave His Face, His Beauty. Suddenly I realized that, previously, I had been thinking selfishly. It didn’t matter how I “felt” within or without the silence, because He was the only one who really mattered. This silence which I’d found so oppressive at first became a vehicle of God’s love. The prayers which I had been struggling to express unknotted themselves and wound together seamlessly to make a wordless canticle of praise. I melted in love before the Lord my God.

My first prolonged and completely silent adoration became a defining period in my life. I had never realized how, in such a way, God’s love could be found in the calmness. God is easier to hear in the silence, as we can focus on His direction rather than on the events of the world. Of course struggles and distractions remain, and it takes quite a while every time to become interiorly still and attentive. However, I have glimpsed the power of silence as an aid to prayer and understanding. While I know the great importance of beautiful music and spiritual reading, I am no longer afraid or scornful of simply kneeling in inarticulate praise and love.

In fact, as I knelt that quiet night in adoration, I found no need for words or activities of any kind. Jesus Christ was before me and His Love was around me. And in the silence, my soul was singing.”

By Jove, I think she’s got it! Yes, it does “work”, for lack of a better, more immediate word, that way.

Love,
Matthew

Jul 9 – St John of Cologne, OP, (d.1572), Priest, Martyr of Gorkum, “Great Athlete of Christ”

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st john of cologne

In his Decree of Canonization, St. John of Cologne was praised as a “great athlete of Christ.” As his title suggests, this Dominican priest is best known for the victory of his martyrdom, but it was his lifelong training in fidelity, lived through the Dominican charism, which prepared him for this final conquest.

St. John attended the University of Cologne in the middle of the sixteenth century. Although we don’t know much about his early life, we can learn something about it from John’s cultural setting. At this time, western Germany, Belgium, and Holland were dominated by Calvinist teaching, which viewed human nature as completely corrupt and denied the healing action of grace. As a result, even many Catholics had lost a sense of the reality of the sacramental life. Not unlike today, many in John’s age found moral absolutes hard to identify, and faith had become relegated to the private sphere.

Amid these uncertain cultural currents, John discovered the solid foundation of truth when he began his studies at the University of Cologne, then recognized as one of the best educational institutions in Europe. Not only did John acknowledge intellectual truth, but he also came to know the Person of Truth, Jesus Christ, and followed His call to the Dominican Order. He entered the Order at Cologne and received his formation there.

After completing his education, John was assigned to a parish in the Netherlands village of Horner, where he served for twenty years. Although we do not have records of the sermons of John of Cologne, his final actions give the most eloquent testimony about what he considered the purpose of his priestly vocation. In the spring of 1571, a group of militant Calvinists along with a band of pirates began raiding Dutch villages, particularly focusing on the arrest and capture of the Catholic clergy. In June of that year, the neighboring town of Gorkum was attacked, and the clergy were captured. Fifteen priests, the majority of them Franciscans, had been imprisoned.

Upon hearing of their arrest, John immediately disguised himself and sought to bring these priests the consolation of the sacraments. For several days he was successful, but was eventually captured along with three other priests. These nineteen were imprisoned in Gorkum from June 26 until July 6, undergoing much abuse as they were asked to deny the tenets of the Catholic faith.

On July 6, the nineteen martyrs were transferred to the prison at Dortrecht. Along the way, villagers were charged admission for viewing the torture of the priests. Once in Dortecht, each of them was asked to deny belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and in the primacy of the Pope. Each one remained steadfast in his profession of faith. Despite an order from the Dutch ruler William of Orange that the priests not be harmed, they were cruelly mutilated and hanged on the night of July 9, 1572. The Dominican John of Cologne, great athlete of Christ, had won his final victory of martyrdom. Along with his companions, he was beatified on November 14, 1675 and canonized on June 29, 1865.

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-by Br Richard Steenvoorde, OP, English Province

“The story of saint John of Cologne O.P. (+1572) proves that you can become a saint by doing the right thing at the right time.

John of Cologne was a 17th century Dominican in what is now the Netherlands, near the city of Gorinchem. He was a parish priest. In 1572 John is caught up in the Dutch Wars of Independence from Spain, which, confusingly, at the same time were also civil wars over religion. A band of Calvinist rebels had captured one city near Rotterdam, and introduced the strictest form of Calvinism possible. From there they undertook their raids in aid of the rebellion led by the protestant prince William of Orange (not to be confused by the later English King).

The rebels captured the town of Gorkum (present day: Gorinchem) and imprisoned all of the Franciscans, and some secular priests. They would be released if they would swear allegiance to the new Calvinist faith. Now John heard of this, and -in disguise- went out to visit the prisoners in order to give them Holy Communion. However, he was betrayed, and was added to the prisoners.

Soon after that, the group was shipped off to the centre of a Calvinist stronghold: Den Briel (Brielle). Upon arriving, they were forced to process around the gallows near the harbor.

“Sing”; the people shouted mockingly: “Sing something about Mary”. And one young friar finds the courage to sing. And the others join in. And suddenly the people are moved by the dignity of these men. Tears well up, and a deep silence comes over the crowd when the men stop. Quickly the pirates move the men to another pair of gallows in the town’s centre and force them to sing again, and they sing the Te Deum.

A mock trial follows, a late intervention by the Prince of Orange to save the men goes horribly wrong. The men are hanged in an old stable, part of a ruined monastic complex.

How must our brother John have felt in all this? We don’t know. No words of his were preserved. But I think his life is a sermon for us. He went out to bring Christ to others in need. He joined them in their suffering. Staying dignified, impressing their executioners, praying to God, finding courage through their deepest fears.

By this testimony, I think, the Martyrs of Gorkum, including friar John, have given us a testimony of what it means to be blessed in times of great adversity. Between how people treat us, and how we respond, there is a choice. John chose to respond as he had probably preached many times before. To witness that evil has not the last word. That through Christ’s redemptive work, we are truly blessed.”

Love,
Matthew

Come, My Way

Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
such a way as gives us breath,
such a Truth as ends all strife,
such a life as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
such a light as shows a feast,
such a feast as mends in length,
such a strength as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
such a joy as none can move,
such a love as none can part,
such a heart as joys in love.

Love,
Matthew

Extemporaneous Prayer & The Joy of Ritual

Ritual, contrary to naive impressions, is not oppressive.  It is freeing.  Praying the rosary, responding at Mass, I used to know the words, and I liked them more.  The current language, more literal to the Latin, as if that were good translation technique, or, why not just put it back in Latin instead of bastardize it? Beautiful North American English, or beautiful Ecclesial Latin, pick one! The pomp and bluster we have now IS oppressive.  I can barely stand to listen.  The simplicity of the original English translations were moving and beautiful.  I knew it by heart, and as a technologist whose world was constantly changing and in motion, it was the one weekly constant I deeply counted on.  It steadied me.

Ritual, for those versed in its blessings, is not oppressive.  It frees one, one’s mind, one’s tongue, one’s body, one’s prayerful soul from having to fret, “OK!!!  Now what do we do next?  How do we top that one!  How do we continue to escalate this never ending spiritual arms race!”, as if breathtaking or moving were the ultimate or only good measures of devotion.

I find extemporaneous prayer exceedingly well intentioned and heartfelt, but perhaps not as brilliant or as articulate as could be hoped for.  Sigh.  I know.  Sigh.  But, fear not!!!  Ritual comes to the rescue when we know not what to say!!!  Are too mad to say it, or can only say it poorly, either when emotion is too painful or nonexistent, or the person leading is not the best.  Either way, on any end, ritual saves the day!!!  Let’s hear it for ritual!!!!  Ancient quality control & ego saver!!!  🙂  My parents, when visiting Paris & Rome, could still participate in Mass said in Latin.  They always appreciated that, and mentioned it to their children.

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-by Michael, blogger @WhiskeyCatholic, a Pittsburgh attorney with a lovely wife and newborn daughter.

“Perhaps more than any other religion, Catholicism is a belief system based on informed ritual. This is particularly prevalent with younger Catholics, many of whom have a desire to rediscover the rituals that have been lost in the past 100 years. While others deride these rituals as “antiquated” or “relics of a more ignorant age,” the Catholic Gentleman seeks to understand the importance of ritual and helps recapture its former beauty and grace.

Ritual is an action or actions, performed in a prescribed order, which give greater reverence to worship. Some rituals, such as kneeling at communion rails, reverencing a bishop’s ring, or wearing mantillas, have generally fallen into disuse in the United States while others, such as genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, and lighting candles to remember the dead are still strong in today’s Catholic culture.

Not all rituals are created equal. Some rituals, like Lebron James’ chalk throw before every game are designed to excite a crowd, and others, like the rally-cap in baseball, are just plain silly. The Catholic Church’s rituals, evolving over a period of two thousand years, are designed to augment and improve worship. Some simply add to the atmosphere of reverence, while others are a form of worship in and of themselves. The Catholic Gentleman should gravitate to those rituals which aid in creating a certain sense of gravity, reverence, and wonderment befitting the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

The Sacrifice of the Mass, it might be said, is the ultimate ritual. In the Mass, the words of Christ are recited as He gave them to the apostles in order to replicate the perfect prayer of the Last Supper. A loving God instructs His people how to worship and please Him, and Christ instructed His Church not on the basis of abstract principles but on the concrete example of the first Mass. We have been saved, in a manner of speaking, through a divine ritual.

Ritual often gives the laity an opportunity to participate in an authentic way in worship. Ritual gives the Catholic Gentleman an opportunity to self-express reverence for the divine while uniting him with the larger Sacrifice. For example, a simple genuflection is an authentic participation because it expresses reverence for the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle while uniting the Catholic to the sacrifice on the altar.

The laity can also seek out ritual as a common cultural thread through time and space. There is something inherently unifying in the fact that a Mass said in South Carolina is conducted through the identical rituals of a Mass said in Tokyo. Similarly, there is something unquestionably comforting in knowing that the rosary we pray today is nearly identical to the rosary prayed by our ancestors in faith nearly one thousand years ago. Ritual forms a common culture which connects Catholics from all parts of the world and gives identity to successive generations of Catholics throughout the history of the Church. In a single instant the ritual allows us to draw a cultural connection to fellow believers separated by time or space.

Ritual is also part of what makes Catholicism unique. Whereas others might decry ritual as nothing more than an attempt to muddle a clear understanding of the divine, the Catholic Gentleman knows that ritual informs Catholics of the divine; it is an acknowledgement that something spectacular and extraordinary is taking place.

Of course, ritual is dead and meaningless if it is not an expression of love for Christ. Love is the essence of what drives and perfects rituals. Love is the very thing that gives them reason for existing in the first place. The root of all Catholic ritual should be the authentic love of Christ. The Catholic Gentleman embraces the opportunity ritual provides to show Christ reverence and in doing so provides an example to others.”

Love,
Matthew

Nov 2 – All Souls, Dies Irae

THAT day of wrath, that dreadful day,
shall heaven and earth in ashes lay,
as David and the Sybil say.

What horror must invade the mind
when the approaching Judge shall find
and sift the deeds of all mankind!

The mighty trumpet’s wondrous tone
shall rend each tomb’s sepulchral stone
and summon all before the Throne.

Now death and nature with surprise
behold the trembling sinners rise
to meet the Judge’s searching eyes.

Then shall with universal dread
the Book of Consciences be read
to judge the lives of all the dead.

For now before the Judge severe
all hidden things must plain appear;
no crime can pass unpunished here.

O what shall I, so guilty plead?
and who for me will intercede?
when even Saints shall comfort need?

O King of dreadful majesty!
grace and mercy You grant free;
as Fount of Kindness, save me!

Recall, dear Jesus, for my sake
you did our suffering nature take
then do not now my soul forsake!

In weariness You sought for me,
and suffering upon the tree!
let not in vain such labor be.

O Judge of justice, hear, I pray,
for pity take my sins away
before the dreadful reckoning day.

Your gracious face, O Lord, I seek;
deep shame and grief are on my cheek;
in sighs and tears my sorrows speak.

You Who did Mary’s guilt unbind,
and mercy for the robber find,
have filled with hope my anxious mind.

How worthless are my prayers I know,
yet, Lord forbid that I should go
into the fires of endless woe.

Divorced from the accursed band,
o make me with Your sheep to stand,
as child of grace, at Your right Hand.

When the doomed can no more flee
from the fires of misery
with the chosen call me.

Before You, humbled, Lord, I lie,
my heart like ashes, crushed and dry,
assist me when I die.

Full of tears and full of dread
is that day that wakes the dead,
calling all, with solemn blast
to be judged for all their past.

Lord, have mercy, Jesus blest,
grant them all Your Light and Rest. Amen.

Love,
Matthew

The Octave of Easter – Victimae Paschali Laudes

The first eight days of the Easter season form the Easter octave and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord. Each day is another little Easter.  While Alleluias (=Hallal Yahweh/Praise the Lord!) were nowhere to be found in Lent, now they resound in multitude.

Victimae paschali laudes
immolent Christiani.

Agnus redemit oves:
Christus innocens Patri
reconciliavit peccatores.

Mors et vita duello
conflixere mirando:
dux vitae mortuus,
regnat vivus.

Dic nobis Maria,
quid vidisti in via?

Sepulcrum Christi viventis,
et gloriam vidi resurgentis:

Angelicos testes,
sudarium, et vestes.

Surrexit Christus spes mea:
praecedet suos [vos] in Galilaeam.

[Credendum est magis soli
Mariae veraci
Quam Judaeorum Turbae fallaci.]

Scimus Christum surrexisse
a mortuis vere:
tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere.
[Amen.] [Alleluia.]

Let Christians offer sacrificial
praises to the passover victim.

The Lamb has redeemed the sheep:
The Innocent Christ has reconciled
sinners to the Father.

Death and life contended
in a spectacular battle:
the Prince of Life, Who died,
reigns alive.

Tell us, Mary, what did
you see on the road?

“I saw the tomb of the living Christ
and the glory of His rising,

The angelic witnesses, the
clothes and the shroud.”

“Christ my hope is arisen;
into Galilee, He will go before His own.”

We know Christ is truly risen from the dead!
To us, victorious King, have mercy!
Amen. [Alleluia.]

Love,
Matthew

Holy Saturday – Silence, Fear, & Doubt

Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven,
exult, let Angel ministers of God exult,
let the trumpet of salvation
sound aloud our mighty King’s triumph!

Be glad, let earth be glad, as glory floods her,
ablaze with light from her eternal King,
let all corners of the earth be glad,
knowing an end to gloom and darkness.

Rejoice, let Mother Church also rejoice,
arrayed with the lightning of His glory,
let this holy building shake with joy,
filled with the mighty voices of the peoples.

(Therefore, dearest friends,
standing in the awesome glory of this holy light,
invoke with me, I ask you,
the mercy of God almighty,
that He, Who has been pleased to number me,
though unworthy, among the Levites,
may pour into me His light unshadowed,
that I may sing this candle’s perfect praises).

(Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.)
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right and just.

It is truly right and just,
with ardent love of mind and heart
and with devoted service of our voice,
to acclaim our God invisible, the Almighty Father,
and Jesus Christ, our Lord, His Son, His Only Begotten.

Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father,
and, pouring out His own dear Blood,
wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.

These, then, are the feasts of Passover,
in which is slain the Lamb, the One True Lamb,
Whose Blood anoints the doorposts of believers.

This is the night,
when once You led our forebears, Israel’s children,
from slavery in Egypt
and made them pass dry-shod through the Red Sea.

This is the night,
that with a pillar of fire,
You banished the darkness of sin.

This is the night
that even now throughout the world,
sets Christian believers apart from worldly vices
and from the gloom of sin,
leading them to grace
and joining them to His holy ones.

This is the night
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.

Our birth would have been no gain,
had we not been redeemed.
O wonder of your humble care for us!
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave You gave away Your Son!

O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Christ!

O happy fault
that earned for us so great, so glorious a Redeemer!

O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld!

This is the night
of which it is written:
The night shall be as bright as day,
dazzling is the night for me, and full of gladness.

The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.

But now we know the praises of this pillar,
a flame divided but undimmed,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.

O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human.

Therefore, O Lord,
we pray You that this candle,
hallowed to the honor of Your name,
may persevere undimmed,
to overcome the darkness of this night.
Receive it as a pleasing fragrance,
and let it mingle with the lights of heaven.
May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star:
the one Morning Star Who never sets,
Christ Your Son,
Who, coming back from death’s domain,
has shed His peaceful light on humanity,
and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
Amen.

Love,
Matthew

Holy Thursday – “If it’s a symbol, then the hell with it.” – Flannery O’Connor

Monstrance

I, exquisitely, as a life-long Catholic have the privilege, too, of struggling with the literality of the Lord’s words, “This IS my body.  This IS my blood.”  Imho, I don’t think Jesus meant these specific words to be a “no-brainer”.  I believe He wanted humanity to spend the rest of its existence intently contemplating them, more than anything else He ever said, the centrality of it is such.  Recall the Catholic definition of mystery, infinitely knowable.

One of the most important and soothing, palliative things a Catholic can receive just before death is viaticum in the last rites.  For as much critique as the Church may unjustly endure for not taking the Scriptures more literally, this she takes exquisitely literally.

-by Jennifer Fulwiler is a host on the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM, and the author of Something Other than God, a memoir about her journey from atheism to Catholicism. Her website is ConversionDiary.com.

“How could a reasonable person living in the 21st century actually believe that at the Catholic Mass, bread and wine are truly (like, not symbolically) changed into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ?

This was one of my biggest stumbling blocks when considering Catholicism. When I first heard that the Church still believes that the Mass makes Christ’s one sacrifice at Calvary present here and now, that on Holy Thursday the Lord made it possible that bread and wine could be turned into the flesh and blood of God himself, I prayerfully thought: “Are you kidding me?” I’d never heard a bolder, more audacious claim made by a modern religion.

There was a part of me that kept hoping I’d find that it was all a misunderstanding, that Catholics were only required to believe that the consecration of the Eucharist was a really, really, really important symbolic event. I was a lifelong atheist, after all. It was enough of a feat that I even came to believe in God in the first place. It was enough of a leap of faith for me to believe that some miracles might have happened a few times throughout history. But to ask a former militant atheist to believe that a miracle happens at every single Catholic Mass, that bread and wine are actually changed into the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ despite the fact that they look exactly the same… it seemed too much to ask.

It is surprising, then, that when I consider how much my life has changed since my husband and I both became Catholic at Easter Vigil in 2007, I find that there is really only one thing to talk about: the Eucharist.

I could try to pen a great ode proclaiming my joy at having come to know God on a level I never imagined possible for someone like me. I could write about the challenges we’ve faced, and the oasis that our newfound faith provided for us when we felt cast out into the desert. I could talk about the freeing power of Confession. I could say something about how my life is unrecognizable from what it was a decade ago. But when I started to write on each of those topics, I realized that each one of them — everything, really — comes back to the Eucharist.

By the time I received my first Communion I had come to accept that the teaching on the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is true. Or, perhaps more accurately, I was willing to accept on faith that it was not false. I was undoubtedly being led to the Catholic Church, and found its defense of this teaching to be compelling, so I trusted that it was true in some mysterious way, even though I didn’t really get it. That was the best I could do, and I never expected to understand it any more than that.

Even as the years have rolled by, after receiving Communion week after week, I still don’t know how it works. I don’t often have a visceral reaction when I first see the consecrated host held above the altar, and don’t think I ever felt the Holy Spirit hit me like a ton of bricks the moment the consecrated host was placed on my tongue. Yet, despite the lack of immediate emotions, despite the fact that I can’t tell you exactly how it all works, I now believe with all my heart that it is true. I know that I eat the flesh and drink the blood of God at the Mass, and that it is the source of my strength.

I know it for the same reason a baby knows that its mother’s milk is the source of its nourishment: the baby can’t tell you how the milk is created by the release of prolactin and the cells in the alveoli. He can’t tell you about the importance of immunoglobulin IgA and fat-to-water ratios. He couldn’t even begin to understand how and why the milk nourishes him if you tried to explain it. He just knows how very much he needs it. He knows that the mysterious substance that his mother gives him is the source of his strength as much as he knows anything at all in his little life. And so it is with the Eucharist and me.

This belief in and love of the Eucharist is one of the most surprising things that’s ever happened to me. Never in my dreams would I have thought that I could believe such an outlandish claim. In the first months after my conversion, I would sometimes ask myself if this was all in my head, if perhaps I am eating bread and drinking wine at the Mass, but that its great symbolic value has led me to put myself in a different state of mind. And all I could come up with is this:

If this is a symbol, then I am insane.

It’s not a particularly eloquent defense of the Eucharist, but that’s about the best I can do. The way this Sacrament has slowly transformed my soul and given me a connection to God that I never knew before, the way I could easily move myself to tears at the thought of not being able to receive it, the strength I have drawn from having this direct communion with God – if these things are not real, then nothing is.

As I reflect back on my journey from atheism to Catholicism, the whole story of my life comes together in a very simple way: I realize now that my entire conversion process — really, my entire life — was one long search for the Eucharist.”

Love & Blessed Triduum,
Matthew