Aroma Therapy – Catholic style

Wake up and smell the incense!

A priest friend sent this to share for your Just Too Cool file.  From Science Daily:

Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses

Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses. [Pair that up with a gin martini flavored with borage flowers after Solemn Vespers on Sunday afternoon and you're set!]
“In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity,” said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study’s co-authors. “We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.”
To determine incense’s psychoactive effects, the researchers administered incensole acetate to mice. They found that the compound significantly affected areas in brain areas known to be involved in emotions as well as in nerve circuits that are affected by current anxiety and depression drugs. Specifically, incensole acetate activated a protein called TRPV3, which is present in mammalian brains and also known to play a role in the perception of warmth of the skin. When mice bred without this protein were exposed to incensole acetate, the compound had no effect on their brains.


Read the rest there.

Who knew?


Check out Exodus 30:

1 ”You shall make an altar to burn incense upon; of acacia wood shall you make it.  … 7 And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it; every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, 8 and when Aaron sets up the lamps in the evening, he shall burn it, a perpetual incense before the LORD throughout your generations. 9 You shall offer no unholy incense thereon, nor burnt offering, nor cereal offering; and you shall pour no libation thereon. …

When the priest blesses the incense – a sacrifice to be completely destroyed in the offering – for incensing the altar during Mass he says:

May the Lord, by the intercession of blessed Michael the Archangel, who standeth at the right side of the altar of incense, and of all His Elect, vouchsafe to bless + this incense and receive it as an odor of sweetness: through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

And shall we forget Ps 141?  This is recited as the priest incenses the altar during Mass:

Let my prayer, O Lord, be directed as incense in Thy sight: the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth, and a door round about my lips. May my heart not incline to evil words, to make excuses for sins.

(RSV) 2 Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee, and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice! 3 Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD, keep watch over the door of my lips! 4Incline not my heart to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity.


FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark
Posted in Just Too Cool | Tagged , , , , , , | 20 Comments

ASK FATHER: So angry from liturgical abuses that I didn’t go to Communion!

From a reader…


While out of town we attended a Redemptorist ____. They had a visiting priest from “Food for the Poor. He began the Mass as if he were a Baptist preacher making us all say ”Amen” several times until we pleased him. The Homily did not apply to the gospel reading or any of the readings. During the very abbreviated Eucharistic prayer, he threw in some “ad lib” lines and just seemed to throw the consecrated hosts around. He even dropped one on the floor (which he picked up and threw in his mouth). I had so much anger in my heart and didn’t feel as if he had adequately presented the Precious Body of Christ that I did not take communion. I intend to go to confession at our local parish this week. I think my anger for him is sinful but I don’t think not receiving communion was a sin. Am I correct?

Refraining from reception of Holy Communion is not sinful, unless you do done for a sinful reason (e.g. pride: “I’m much too good to be receiving Holy Communion from Fr. X or Deacon Y, I’ll wait until we have a Monsignor or a Bishop here”).

That said, as I have said on this blog more than once, some priests do silly things.

It is easy to get angry, and sometimes that anger is justified.

When it is not justified, it is sinful.

Even if it seems justified, it is a good practice to mention it in confession, and allow Father Confessor to help with your conscience formation.  For example:

YOU: “Father, I was REALLY ANGRY, 17 times, when I heard that Christians were being crucified in Syria!”

FATHER: “My child, that anger is justified.  Now channel the energy of that anger into positive action, such as prayer, or helping refugees from that region, or getting oneself ready for the Crusade.”

Anger over liturgical abuse can be justified. It is important not to wallow in that anger. If you leave Mass every Sunday with clenched fists and a red face, it’s probably time to look for a different parish.  I will herein presume that reasonable efforts of dialogue and letter-writing have been undertaken in vain.

In this situation, the priest was a visitor, as was the writer.  It could be a good thing to confess this anger, and submit it to the priest confessor to help determine how justifiable it was (it seems pretty justified). With that level of anger, it was probably good to refrain from receiving Holy Communion, and may have even been virtuous.

In addition, you might consider making an appointment to speak to the pastor, especially if this is a parish you visit regularly visit.

“Father, we always enjoyed visiting your lovely church for Mass when we’re in town. Your homilies are inspiring, the propers are chanted so well, and the ad orientem celebration of the Mass really draws us in to prayer. However, last month when we were in town there was a visiting priest who really angered me by the way he said Mass. It made me appreciate how reverently you offer Mass. The next time we come, we’ll call ahead to make sure that visiting priest isn’t on the schedule.”

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged | 15 Comments

29 August: Beheading of St. John the Baptist – diminishing returns

Today is the feast of the Beheading of John the Baptist.

I consider this (also) my name day, and in so many ways it is more appropriate for me than the Nativity of John in June.

Here is the Roman Martyrology entry for ” the greatest man born of woman”, as the Lord called him:

Memoria passionis sancti Ioannis Baptistae, quem Herodes Antipas rex in arce Macherontis in carcere tenuit et in anniversario suo, filia Herodiadis rogante, decollari praecepit; ideo, Praecursor Domini, sicut lucerna ardens et lucens, tam in morte quam in vita testimonium perhibuit veritati.

The memorial of the suffering and death of St. John the Baptist, whom King Herod Antipas held in the prison in the citadel of Macheron and, on his birthday, since the daughter of Herodias was making the request, ordered to be beheaded; thus, the Precursor of the Lord, like a bright shining lantern, gave witness to the truth in death as much as he did in life.

There is a tradition that John was forgiven the guilt of Original Sin before He was born, at the sound of Mary’s voice when she came to visit Elizabeth and John lept in her womb.

St. Augustine spoke often of St. John the Baptist, “the voice” of Christ’s “Word”.

Here is a piece of s. 380, preached in a year we can’t quite figure out. As a matter of fact, it might not be an actual sermon, but something assembled from other pieces. Still, it is Augustinian:

8. So let us recognize these two things in the very differences of [Christ's and John's] deaths. We read that John suffered martyrdom for the truth; was it for Christ? It wasn’t for Christ if Christ isn’t Truth. It certainly wasn’t for His Name, and yet it was for Truth itself. I mean the reason John was beheaded, after all, was not that he had confessed Christ. But he was urging self-control, he was urging justice; he was saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mk 6:18). The law, you see, which had commanded this, had also commanded about those who died without children, that brothers should take the wives of their brothers, and raise up seed for their brothers. Where this reason was lacking, the only motive was lust. It was this lust that John was rebuking, a chaste man rebuking an incestuous one; because this too is what he represented: “It is necessary for him to grow, but for me to diminish” (Jn 3:30).

The commandment had already been given that if anyone died without seed, his closet relation should take his wife and raise up seed for his brother. After all, why had God commanded this if not to signify in this way that the brother’s seed was to be raised up to the brother’s name? The commandment, you see, was that the child to be born would have the name of the deceased. Christ was deceased, the apostles took His spouse, the Church. Those whom they begot of her they did not name Paulians or Petrians, but Christians.

So let both their deaths also speak of these two things: “It is necessary for him to grow, but for me to diminish.” The one grew on the Cross, the other was diminished by the sword. Their deaths have spoken of this mystery, let the days do so too. Christ is born, and the days start increasing; John is born, and the days start diminishing. So let man’s honor diminish, God’s honor increase, so that the honor of man may be found in the honor of God.

Augustine makes the connection between the change of seasons and the births of John the Precursor and Christ the Messiah. Very nice.

In nature, in the northern hemisphere, the days are now quite obviously getting shorter, a cycle reflected in our feasts.


Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Saints: Stories & Symbols | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

ACTION ITEM! Calling Catholic Patriots! Military Archdiocese needs your help

This came in via email.  Please, if you are a citizen of these USA – or even if you are not – support the Archdiocese for Military Services.

Dear Friend of Church and Country,

There is no other non-profit organization or Archdiocese like the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). 

The AMS serves active-duty military, veterans, civilian employees with the federal government outside the country – and their families – assuring the sacraments, spiritual support, and the Good News of eternal salvation through Jesus Christ.

AMS-endorsed priests and chaplains go wherever American servicemen and women are stationed – be it a military installation at home or abroad, or one of the 153 VA Medical Centers. The calling to serve as a priest-chaplain in any of the Armed Services, is a vocation within a vocation. Providing the sacraments and spiritual care to veterans who served their country honorably, and who are now cared for in one of the VA Medical Centers across the country, is an important ministry of the AMS.

As one donor recently shared, she gives to the AMS “in gratitude and in hope.” This Archdiocese relies wholly on private donors and the generosity of the Catholic community to operate her many programs and services.

The AMS fiscal year (September 1, 2013-August 31, 2014) will end Sunday, August 31. I ask you to consider prayerfully making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the fiscal year in support of a one-of-a-kind mission ministry of the AMS –in gratitude and in hope.

Sincerely in Christ,

(Most Reverend) Timothy P. Broglio
Archbishop for the Military Services

To make a donation online, please go to

We owe our vets and active service troops a great deal.  Help our Catholic brothers and sisters, as others, with their spiritual care while serving at home and abroad.

Posted in ACTION ITEM!, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Time in Rome is a sacrifice, not a career move.

John Thavis has an interesting observation in his reportage about the transfer of Card. Canizares Llovera back to his native Spain after his term as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

A couple snips…

I’ve argued that if Pope Francis really wants to emphasize service over prestige in Vatican appointments, he should make it clear that those called to Rome are there temporarily, with no guarantee of career advancement, and can expect to return home after their five-year term is over.


It will be interesting to see if Pope Francis is willing to send younger department heads back to pastoral service after a few years at the Vatican, rather than keeping them on forever. The turnover would be good for the church, and would remind the prelates that their time in Rome is a sacrifice, not a career move.

Okay, I’ll bite!

Consider if you will the case of His Eminence Raymond Leo Card. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of Apostolic Signatura.  He is young, in Cardinal Years.   Who better than he to exemplify Pope Francis’ laser-beam focus on the pastoral?

Pope Francis could make Card. Burke the next Archbishop of Chicago!

Think about it.

Card. Burke was born and raised in Wisconsin, near to the Windy City in the great upper Midwest.  He was Archbishop of St. Louis, and so knows his way around the job and around the USCCB.

One way or another, if Pope Francis sends Burke home as an Archbishop or keeps him in Rome as a Prefect, he will seek holiness and excellence in whatever role he has.  And, truth be told, there is quite simply no churchman more pastoral than Raymond Leo Card. Burke.

Posted in Lighter fare, Pope Francis | Tagged , | 62 Comments

ASK FATHER: Metropolitan Archbishops and Pontifical Masses

From a reader…


I know Cardinals can celebrate pontifical high masses “at the throne” anywhere. Can metropolitan archbishops do so anywhere within the ecclesiastical province, or only within their own archdiocese?

According to the Usus Antiquior, the Extraordinary Form – call it what you will so long as you use it – the Metropolitan may celebrate a Pontifical Mass at the Throne anywhere within the territory of his province.

He would normally not do so without informing the suffragan, the local bishop, out of respect.  You don’t just barge into to another bishop’s diocese and start doing things.

You can find answers to questions such as these in Alcuin Reid’s reworking of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

QUAERITUR: What’s the best translation of St. Augustine’s “The Confessions”?

On this Feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, since I am away from the Steam Pipe Distribution Venue, I can think of no better way to help you participate in the feast of this great saint and doctor, than by reposting something from last year.

From a reader:

What I call: The biography of Augustine Pope Benedict would have wanted to write.

Thank you for the recommendation on the biography [of St. Augustine by Hollingworth]; I have purchased it at Amazon through your site. Can you recommend a good translation of the “Confessions” and/or “The City of God”? Kindle is best, hard copy if necessary for a readable modern translation that is faithful to the original.

That is a good question.  The Confessions is usually the only work most people are exposed to when it comes to the Doctor of Grace.

The best translation –  for most people –  is probably by Dame Maria Boulding, OSB, who was at Stanbrook Abbey.  She captures the aspect of prayer in The Confessions without, for the most part, sacrificing accuracy of translation in the process. The Confessions is, of course, an extended prayer.

You can quibble about some of her choices, of course.  All translations limp.  For example, Augustine says in Book X that he was “loved and feared” (amari et timeri – 10.36.59) by his people.  (Get it Your Excellencies? Fathers?) She choose to say “loved and esteemed” (or something woolly like that), which does not get at what Augustine really said.

By the way, I wrote about that “amari et timeriHERE. I even have a mini PODCAzT with the Latin.

Boulding’s is better – for most people – than Pine-Coffin‘s.  (I am not making up his name.) His translation is good but it is in a style of English many people are no longer used to.  Pinecoffin, however, hits it out of the park sometimes.  For example, when Augustine is talking about his profligate youth in Carthage, P. renders “amans vias meas et non tuas, amans fugitivam libertatem” (3.3.5) as ”I loved my own way, not yours, but it was a truant’s freedom that I loved”.  Not precise but dead on.  ”A truant’s freedom”.  Wonderful.

Chadwick‘s… no thanks.

Boulding’s translation is also quite affordable.  The paperback is only $9 and the Kindle version is only $8.  UK Link HERE.


Posted in Linking Back, Patristiblogging, Saints: Stories & Symbols | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

Wherein Fr. Z dies a painful death

He finally killed me off.

At least I had a chance to defend Terra, your planet.

I have been a character in a Sci-Fi series by Chris Kennedy.   HERE  As I wrote before, the series is sort of Galaxy Quest meets The Magnificent Seven, or else Stargate meets Indiana Jones.

I would have liked a little more dramatic death, but, hey… as I keep saying, you just don’t know when it’s going to be your turn, especially when you are a red shirt… or in my case a black shirt.

Do you not have a Kindle yet? What's wrong with you? Click HERE! End your suffering now!

I am sure that readers of the Fishwrap, Amerika, and Commonwelt will rush to purchase these yarns at only $3.99 on Kindle: they will get to watch me, the dreaded Fr. Z, die a painful death.

Your introduction to the series and the characters occurs during the invasion of Seattle by the Chinese.   Which it ain’t all that far-fetched, as Preserved Killick would say.

And, once again, I had really good line.

You would think that I could at least get a moral patch for my unit out of this author’s name dropping.  It would good on my range bag.  [UPDATE: I am assured by the author, who also chimed in in the combox, below, that a patch is on the way!]

The third in the series is now available: TERRA STANDS ALONE!

Don’t expect Asimov, folks.  It’s just fun.

The first book, is here: Red Tide: The Chinese Invasion of Seattle (Occupied Seattle Book 1)


Posted in GO TO CONFESSION, Just Too Cool, Lighter fare, Linking Back, Preserved Killick, What Fr. Z is up to | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Pontifical Mass sighting

I am hoping for an widespread outbreak of Pontifical Masses in the traditional form of the Roman Rite.

Thus, I was pleased to receive photos of a Pontifical Mass at the Throne celebrated by His Eminence Raymond Card. Burke when he was down-under in Sydney, Australia.

What a shame that they had that table altar in the way.  I’m sure that complicated things.

The “winter cappa” was used.

Let there be more Pontifical Masses.  Let us recover our Roman Rite.

Posted in Brick by Brick, Events, Just Too Cool, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM | Tagged , , , | 19 Comments

Congratulations Rep. Sensenbrenner!

Congratulations to Congressman Sensenbrenner!

From the WSJ:

Joined by church leaders, Sensenbrenner becomes Catholic

Wisconsin Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) converted to Catholicism in a quiet ceremony at Milwaukee’s St. Francis de Sales Seminary on Monday — a private affair reportedly attended by at least two Wisconsin bishops and Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York.

Sensenbrenner’s office confirmed the conversion in an e-mail. But it turned down an interview request, saying the congressman “sees this as a private matter.”

The ceremony was first noted by Mark Silk, professor and director of the Greenberg Center for the study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Connecticutt, on his blog, Spiritual Politics. In addition to Dolan, Silk said, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki and Madison Bishop Robert Morlino were on hand.

A spokesman for Morlino confirmed Wednesday that he attended the ceremony. Listecki’s chief of staff, Jerry Topczewski, said, “We don’t comment on his private calendar.” A representative for Dolan could not be reached.

The Republican lawmaker had previously identified himself as an “Anglican Catholic,” Silk noted, “so jumping the Tiber was for him not much of a leap religiously.

“Sensenbrenner seems to have been traveling this road for awhile,” said Silk.

Silk questioned how the conversion might influence Sensenbrenner’s views on immigration, a policy point on which he and the Catholic bishops have parted ways over the years.

“Who knows whether they even thought about that,” Silk said in a telephone interview. “The question is whether all the bishops really are on board with pro-immigration reform.”

In 2005, the Republican congressman pushed the House of Representatives to pass what became known as the “Sensenbrenner bill,” which would have made it a crime to, among other things, help an undocumented immigrant remain in the United States. And last year, he denounced the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, which had been lauded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, as “the most radical amnesty proposal in our country’s history.”

Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the conference’s committee on Migration, commended the Senate on the vote. And Dolan, then president of the bishops’ conference, urged the House of Representatives to follow suit.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Fr. Z KUDOS | Tagged , , | 8 Comments