ASK FATHER: Minimum to fulfill Mass obligation

From a reader…

So a friend of mine who’s familiar with the old Mass but doesn’t offer it mentioned that you could fulfill your Sunday obligation (in the EF) so long as you arrived by the lifting of the veil and stayed until the Priest’s Communion. I had heard the first part and still go by that for the NO when asked (if no veil used, I just say the collection or offertory). I hadn’t heard the part before about the Priest’s Communion as the upper limit though. Is that the case? Thoughts on application to the NO? If it were true, it would certainly explain that it’s actually the OLD-TIMERS who are the worst about leaving Mass early after Communion. When I’ve asked, I only get excuses about traffic and walkers and how hard it is to get out with the rush – to which I normally reply saying – well how about you pray for a few minutes after Mass has ended rather than risk committing a mortal sin…or something to that effect.

That seems to be founded on the fact that the Sacrifice is not renewed until the destruction of the Eucharistic elements in the priest’s two-fold Communion.  If the Eucharist were confected, but not consumed by the priest, there would be no Mass.  So, that is the point at which Mass has been celebrated.  If you leave before that, you haven’t participated in Mass.  So, the bookends of offertory and priest’s Communion make sense… as a MINIMUM.  I don’t think we should focus on minimums (e.g., what are the fewest words needed in a sacramental form, etc.).  Remember also the distinction of the Mass of the Catechumens (up to the Offertory).  Catechumens had to leave the church before the Offertory, indeed before the Creed.

So, if someone wanted a base-line, bare minimum for fulfilling one’s obligation, offertory to priest’s Communion is reasonable.

It’s minimalist, but logical.

Posted in On the road, SESSIUNCULA | 14 Comments

ASK FATHER: Confessions during Mass – followup

12_03_31_confessionNot long ago I answered a question about why priests might not offer opportunities for confession on feast days.  HERE  As part of that entry we moved into the issue of priests hearing confessions during Mass (not the celebrant, obviously).  In support of this I linked to the Holy See’s document Redemptionis Sacramentum 76, which clearly states that confessions can be heard during Mass.

One comment left for my consideration (it went into the queue), said:

From the policy books of the Archdiocese of Chicago:
202.12.1. Policy The Sacrament of Penance or any other service shall not be celebrated while Mass is being celebrated in the same space. Regularly scheduled confessions between Sunday Masses are not permitted.
301.1.2. Policy The Sacrament of Penance shall not be celebrated while a Mass is being celebrated in the same place. (See also Policy 202.12.1., herein.)

This is apparently directed to “regularly scheduled confessions” and I note the most priests I know will gladly hear the confession of those who approach them whenever they can.

This stuck in my craw.

In 2001 a dubium was submitted to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments.  That dicastery has pretty much ultimate authority when it comes to the matter at hand.  A response was give in the official publication of the aforementioned Congregation, Notitiae 37 (2001), 259–260.

[QUAERITUR:] Quaenam sunt dispositiones quae ad momentum celebrationis sacramenti Paenitentiae spectant: utrum, exempli gratia, christifideles perdurante Missae celebratione ad sacramentum Paenitentiae accedere possunt?

De tempore celebrationis sacramenti Paenitentiae praecipuae normae inveniuntur in Instructione Eucharisticum mysterium, 25 maii 1967, ubi commendatur, ut « Fideles ad eum adducantur extra Missae celebrationem, praesertim horis statutis, ad sacramentum Paenitentiae accedant, ita ut eius administratio cum tranquillitate et ipsorum vera utilitate fiat, neve ipsi ab actuosa Missae partecipatione impediantur » (n. 35). Quae etiam in Praenotandis Ordinis Paenitentiae denuo proponuntur (n. 13), ubi tamen declaratur, ut « reconciliatio paenitentium omni tempore ac die celebrari potest » (ibidem).

Quod tamen quamquam consilium a pastoribus intellegi debet ad pastoralem curam christifidelium, quos hortari et adiuvare ne omittant, ut in sacramento Paenientiae bonum animae quaerant et ad eum pro posse accedant extra tempus et locum celebrationis Missae. Altera ex parte haec norma nullo modo prohibet sacerdotibus, praeter illum Sanctam Missam celebrantem, confessiones fidelium audire, qui id desiderent etiam tempore celebrationis Missae.

[NB] Hac praesertim aetate, qua ab multis ecclesialis significatio peccati et sacramenti Paenitentiae obscuratur et desiderium accedendi ad sacramentum Paenitentiae valde minuitur, pastores omnibus viribus suis favere debent frequens usus huius Sacramenti inter fideles. Ideo in can. 986 § 1 Codicis Iuris Canonici leguntur: Omnis cui animarum cura vi muneris est demandata, obligatione tenetur providendi ut audiantur confessiones fidelium sibi commissorum, qui rationabiliter audiri petant, utque iisdem opportunitas praebeatur ad confessionem individualem, diebus ac horis in eorum commodum statutis, accedendi.

Celebratio re vera sacramenti Paenitentiae unum e ministeriis propriis sacerdotis est. Christifideles autem non solum obligatione tenentur peccata confitendi (cf. can. 989), verum etiam ius est eis ut ex spiritualibus Ecclesiae bonis, praesertim ex verbo Dei et sacramentis, adiumenta a sacris Pastoribus accipiant (can. 213).

Licere quidem patet etiam perdurantibus Missarum sollemnibus confessionem suscipere quotiescumque praevidetur fideles illud petere ministerium. Si concelebratio fit, enixe rogatur ut aliqui sacerdotes abstineat a concelebratione ita ut praesto esse possint fidelibus qui ad sacramentum Paenitentiae accedere velint.

In mentem autem revocandum est, non licere sacramentum Paenitentiae cum sancta Missa unire, ita ut fiat unica celebratione liturgica.

By now you are probably wishing you had strong coffee to keep you awake during this post. So…. CLICK already!

Translation from Adoremus:

Reply to a question about hearing confessions during Mass
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (October 2001)

What are the dispositions governing the time for the celebration of the sacrament of Penance? For example, can the faithful have recourse to the sacrament of Penance during Mass?

The principal norms governing the time for the celebration of the sacrament of Penance are to be found in the Instruction Eucharisticum mysterium (25 May 1967), which states: The faithful are to be constantly encouraged to accustom themselves to going to confession outside the celebration of Mass, and especially at the prescribed times. In this way, the sacrament of Penance will be administered calmly and with genuine profit, and will not interfere with active participation in the Mass (no. 35). The same is reiterated in the Praenotanda of the Ordo Paenitentiae (no. 13), which states that: the reconciliation of penitents can be celebrated at any time and day.

Nevertheless this ought to be understood as a counsel directed to the pastoral care of the faithful, who ought to be encouraged and helped to seek health of soul in the sacrament of Penance, and have recourse to it, as far as possible outside the place and time of the celebration of Mass. On the other hand, this does not in any way prohibit priests, except the one who is celebrating Mass, from hearing confessions of the faithful who so desire, including during the celebration of Mass.

[NB] Above all nowadays, when the ecclesial significance of sin and the sacrament of Penance is obscured in many people, and the desire to receive the sacrament of Penance has diminished markedly, pastors ought to do all in their power to foster frequent participation by the faithful in this sacrament. Hence canon 986 §.1 of the Code of Canon law states: All to whom by virtue of office the care of souls is committed,are bound to provide for the hearing of the confessions of the faithful entrusted to them, who reasonably request confession, and they are to provide these faithful with an opportunity to make individual confession on days and at times arranged to suit them.

The celebration of the sacrament of Penance is indeed one of the ministries proper to priests. The Christian faithful, on the one hand, are not only obliged to confess their sins (cf. can. 989), but on the other hand are fully entitled to be assisted by their Pastors from the spiritual riches of the Church, especially by the word of God and the sacraments (can. 213).

Consequently, it is clearly lawful, even during the celebration of Mass, to hear confessions when one foresees that the faithful are going to ask for this ministry. In the case of concelebrations, it is earnestly to be desired that some priests would abstain from concelebrating so as to be available to attend to the faithful who wish to receive the sacrament of Penance.

It should be borne in mind, nevertheless, that it is not permitted to unite the sacrament of Penance with the Mass, making of them both a single liturgical celebration.

So, it is not only licet to hear confessions during Mass, it is recommended.  The Congregation states that the times for confessions should suit the faithful and be convenient for them.  When else are so many of the faithful at church than for Masses?  If there are more than one priests the Congregation urges some of them not to concelebrate, but rather hear confessions during Mass.  The Congregation recommends confessions during Mass, it doesn’t just say that it’s permitted.

Given the CDW document Redemptionis Sacramentum and given this response from the CDW and their strongly favorable official response, I am inclined to say that a bishop who would try to forbid confessions during Mass would act ultra vires.

Why be so stingy?

It may be that those guidelines were published a long time ago.  It might be opportune to update them in light what what Rome says about the matter.

On a personal note, at the church where I usually am on Sundays, we often have confessions during Mass.  Lots of people go, they are happy to have the chance, and the priests are happy to hear the confessions.


Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, GO TO CONFESSION, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Linking Back, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000 | Tagged , , , , | 30 Comments

Of speaking truth to power, close hair cuts, and you

salome-with-the-head-of-saint-john-the-baptist-onorio-marinariSpeaking of St. John the Baptist, here is what the print (and digital) readers of the UK’s best Catholic weekly the Catholic Herald were able to read in the present issue:

We celebrate liturgically the births of Our Lord (25 December), His Blessed Mother (8 September) and the prophet who was more than a prophet, the greatest man ever born of a woman (Matthew 11:9-11; Luke 7:28), St John the Baptist (24 June – d 28-29).  On 29 August we celebrate the Beheading of St John, murdered by a feckless politician, the pusillanimous Tetrarch Herod. John was imprisoned because he denounced Herod’s illicit, sinful “marriage”.  Herod then had John killed because, blinded by lust for his niece, he was too craven to back down from a rash offer he blurted in his lechery.

St Augustine of Hippo (d 430) in s. 380 reflects on how John was martyred for Christ because he was murdered for the Truth.  England’s own Venerable Bede (d 735) preached, “St John gave his life for [Christ]. He was not ordered to deny Jesus Christ, but was ordered to keep silent about the Truth”.

Speaking the truth to power, and to wider society, about sexual mores, about illicit and immoral unions, can earn you a close haircut.  And yet, the “greatest man ever born of a woman” bore witness to the Truth.  It is the right thing to do.  The lives of martyrs are no less examples for imitation today than they were when they were fresh models to our ancient forebears in the Faith.

In 2012, Benedict XVI taught about the martyrdom of the Baptist in a General Audience.  He said, “Celebrating the martyrdom of St John the Baptist reminds us too, Christians of this time, that with love for Christ, for his words and for the Truth, we cannot stoop to compromises. The Truth is Truth; there are no compromises. Christian life demands, so to speak, the ‘martyrdom’ of daily fidelity to the Gospel, the courage, that is, to let Christ grow within us and let him be the One who guides our thought and our actions. However, this can happen in our life only if we have a solid relationship with God.”

Speaking of speaking truth to power, to paraphrase Edmund Burke (d 1797), in Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.  United in prayer and our Faith, we must together bear witness to the Truth in our troubling times, as martyrs and confessors did in theirs.

Posted in Benedict XVI | Tagged , | 7 Comments

ASK FATHER: How are we supposed to remain Catholic these days?

tight ropeFrom a reader…


How are we supposed to remain Catholic in these days?

A commission to study women deacons, after 2-3 previous studies said no? Beg forgiveness from gays? As if the Church was ever wrong to oppose the vice I’ve struggled with my whole Catholic life? Move away from “medieval, authoritarian, clericalist monologue” to “sisterly dialogue” (Cardinal König)?!

Was 1900 years of opposing error not good enough? Whence the change to the Church of Nice? At least you could tell Arians from Catholics in the 4th century. Now it’s the Church herself who speaks ambiguously — and she seems to be unsure that she’s even the true Church anymore, ecumenically coddling everyone (except faithful Catholics). What does tradition matter if we smash it?

I’m sorry for my non-question, but I’m a man who desires to serve the Church as a priest, and I can’t tell if I’d even be working with the Truth anymore, under any given bishop, cardinal or even (God forbid) Pope. I struggled for years to accept Catholicism (especially the Magisterium), only to convert and realize that the whole Church has become an Episcopalians-lite club with seemingly no functioning teaching office. My heart is being broken by this “spirit of Vatican II” that just won’t go away.

What the heck are we supposed to do? Who do we trust? How do we live?

Not long after my conversion I wrote in an article for Sacred Music that no sooner had I entered my new home and settled into a comfortable chair, I realized that the other tenants were tearing the place apart and even calling in the wrecking ball.

Haven’t we always had trouble in the Church?  Satan hates the Church, and all of us. The Enemy is really good at stirring up trouble.  For example…

In 359 three hundred bishops, including the majority from Italy and France, met at Rimini. They denied the teaching of the Council of Nicaea. Pope Liberius may have rejected this Council, but he made no move to replace or to discipline these heretical bishops, leaving thousands of the faithful in the care of bishops who preached an incorrect version of the Gospel. The Emperor appointed another man, Felix, as pope, leading to chaos and confusion as to who should be obeyed.

When Pope Liberius died the clergy and the faithful of Rome gathered in two places to elect a successor. The upper class supporters of the antipope Felix supported the election of Damasus.  Many of the deacons and the lower classes supported Ursinus, a deacon under Pope Liberius. Riots broke out and the Emperor had to send troops into Rome to stop the killing.  (People took these things seriously.  In N. Africa people rioted when they heard an unknown Latin version of Scripture.)  They propped up Damasus and banished Ursinus, who continued for years to contest the election.  Damasus was even accused of murder and, when he died, Ursinus made a final move to assert that he had been duly elected pope.

We could go through crisis after crisis for a very long time.  We’ve always had trouble in the Church.  From our perspective, we can look back through history and make a call about who was right and who was wrong, though in some cases there are legitimate scholarly disputes.  In the midst of it, in the hugger-mugger, things were much less clear then than they are to us now.

And you can bet that many people were troubled, just as you can bet that many were blithely unfocused.  Just. Like. Today.

It has never been easy to be a faithful Catholic. There have always been heretical bishops.  After all, on the very night of their “ordination” 1/12 of the bishops sold the Lord and, later in the evening, in their first act as a body, all but one abandoned Him.  There have always been those entrusted with the teaching authority, the Magisterium, of the Church who do and say really stupid things.  Being ordained a priest or a bishop guarantees neither holiness nor intelligence.

Getting down to it, how do we remain Catholic when things are confusing, when those who should teach with clarity and conviction are, instead, feckless, vague and craven (when they aren’t downright dumb)?

We put on our big boy pants and we stick to the Catholic Faith as it has always been taught.

We adhere to the solid teachings of the Church as found in the Fathers, the Doctors, the Councils.

We cling with hope-filled tenacity to Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior, present to us in the Blessed Sacrament, for there is no other source of salvation than Him.

We clutch lovingly the hem of the garment of Our Blessed Mother, praying our rosary, turning to her for consolation and guidance.


This is not the time for weak Catholics.  There was never a time for weak Catholics, of course.  But now, more than ever, we are in serious straights.  We’ve got trouble, my friends.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you who are actually causing the trouble will bellyache, “You are exaggerating as usual!  People always think that the troubles of their times are the worst.  Things are GREAT!  We are finally heading the right direction.  We are spirit-filled and in tune with nature again.  You are fear-mongering!  Why?  You know why.  You HATE VATICAN II!”

I respond:  Satan.  Get behind.  Out of my sight.

The times we are in now are… different.  There is a qualitative difference to the trials we collective face.  That’s the stuff of another post.

Back to the perspective of history, our times, and how we move forward.

GK Chesterton wrote,

“This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic. The Church in its early days went fierce and fast with any warhorse; yet it is utterly unhistoric to say that she merely went mad along one idea, like a vulgar fanaticism. She swerved to left and right, so exactly as to avoid enormous obstacles. She left on one hand the huge bulk of Arianism, buttressed by all the worldly powers to make Christianity too worldly. The next instant she was swerving to avoid an orientalism, which would have made it too unworldly. The orthodox Church never took the tame course or accepted the conventions; the orthodox Church was never respectable. It would have been easier to have accepted the earthly power of the Arians. It would have been easy, in the Calvinistic seventeenth century, to fall into the bottomless pit of predestination. It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one’s own. It is always easy to be a modernist; as it is easy to be a snob. To have fallen into any of those open traps of error and exaggeration which fashion after fashion and sect after sect set along the historic path of Christendom–that would indeed have been simple. It is always simple to fall; there are an infinity of angles at which one falls, only one at which one stands. To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to have avoided them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.”

Hence, in answer to the question: How do you remain Catholic, how do you keep to the straight and narrow, when storms rage and the very earth shifts?

You step out onto the highwire of orthodox Catholic Faith with the rest of us, friend, and, with your eyes fixed on Christ Jesus, you put one foot in front of the other.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity, Semper Paratus, The Coming Storm, The future and our choices | Tagged , , | 24 Comments

29 August – Beheading of John the Baptist and 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.

The date of this feast has its origin in the day of the translation (moving) of relics of the head of the Baptist to the Basilica of San Silvestro in Capite in Rome.  Feast days are often fixed on the date of the death of a saint or on the date of the moving of their relics, which we normally term “translation”.  The word “translation” makes more sense when you know Latin.  It is a compound of trans and fero.  Fero has as its other principle parts the perfect tuli and participle latum.  So, English “transfer” and “translate” are nearly identical twins.

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 leapt 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 , , , , , | 2 Comments

Your Sunday Sermon Notes

I can picture it now.  It’s time for the homily at Sunday Mass.  You resolve to pay close attention and remember details because you know that Fr. Z will ask…

Was there a good point or two made during the sermon at the Holy Mass which you heard to fulfill your Sunday obligation?

Let us know.

Posted in SESSIUNCULA | 22 Comments

INDONESIA: Wannabe ISIS terrorist stabs priest, fails with bomb

In case you haven’t seen it yet at the Daily Mail:

Terror in Indonesia: Axe-wielding ISIS jihadi, 18, stabs Catholic priest, 60, before trying to blow up hundreds of worshippers during Sunday Mass

  • JIhadi, 18, tried to set off homemade backpack bomb in the church on Indonesian island of Sumatra today

  • Priest Albert Pandiangan was slashed on arm and taken to hospital when fanatic, 18, attacked him with axe

  • Congregation then detained suspect, who was covered in blood when police later took him into custody

  • Officers found his ID card and a hand-drawn ISIS flag in his belongings and are trying to establish motive

There are lots of photos of the idiot.

It’s coming to a neighborhood near you.


Posted in The Coming Storm, The future and our choices, The Religion of Peace | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

QUAERITUR: Best translation of St. Augustine’s “Confessions”?

Since today is the also the feast of St. Augustine of Hippo, here is an oldie post which some of you found helpful.

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 [UK HERE] 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, REVIEWS, Saints: Stories & Symbols | 24 Comments

ASK FATHER: What to do if your parish is extremely liberal?

From a reader…

I am starting the academic year at ___ and attended Mass at the local parish for the first time this Sunday and was disheartened. The tabernacle is absent from the sanctuary, the church itself is round, and many practices during the liturgy felt/were irreverent: Singing a hymn in replace of the psalm, joining hands at the Pater and singing it to a tune vs chant, standing through communion, etc. I attend the Extraordinary Form back home whenever I can, but here there seems to be little to no opportunity to participate in the liturgy of our fathers. What can I do while here in ___ that can help me “get through” and feel as if I am receiving spiritual enrichment and nourishment that I do from the TLM?
Courage, Faith, and Honour,

In many places, there are options,even if those options mean driving a considerable distance or putting up with other unpleasantness. Sadly, there are also places where there are no other reasonable options or, if there are options, they all have considerable negative points. What’s a voter … errr, I mean, what’s a Mass-goer to do?

Prayer is always the obvious answer, but perhaps also the most overlooked.

Pray for hearts that have been deceived by the empty promises of liturgical experimentation, that they might be turned to a more orthodox, and effective approach to the worship of Our Lord.

Pray for others who have had to suffer, often for many, many years, putting up with banal attempts to make the Mass “more relevant.” Truly, in our midst, there are some who have attained the status of white martyrs for the pain and suffering they have undergone.

Pray for courage in the hearts of young priests as they face the daunting task of reversing unwise and unwarranted changes, often against hostile parishes, chanceries, fellow priests.

Pray for more vocations.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a simple, but not entirely unhelpful, prayer, originally composed by the American Protestant Divine, Reinhold Niebuhr.

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

As you settle into this new parish, realize that, as a college student, you might be perceived as an outsider and a part-timer. That will likely minimize your ability to enact any real change in the lamentable liturgical life of the parish. Still, the parish is probably (like so many other parishes) eager to have young faces become active. Talk with the pastor to see if there are any volunteer opportunities that don’t hinder your first job… you are a student Learn!  You don’t necessarily have to single out liturgical roles or work.  Perhaps there is a food pantry that needs stacking, a CCD class that needs teaching, some gardening that needs to be done. Suggestions of liturgical change will come more pleasantly from someone who has an actual, vested interest in the life of the parish.

In the meantime, you can use a hand missal for the Extraordinary Form in your private time. Pray and reflect on the prayers of the Holy Mass. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, before and after Mass. Unite your prayers with those of your brothers and sisters throughout the world who are even less liturgically blessed than you!  There are people in in mission lands who have to wait even months between Masses. Unite your prayers with those of your ancestors in the faith, with all the Saints who have gone before us.

As you settle in, you will likely come in contact with other Catholics who are similarly unhappy with the current situation in the parish. While it will be important to build good friendships with like-minded folks, it will be spiritually important not to settle into some unofficial Confraternity of Complainers. There may be much to complain about, but there is even more to DO. Take positive steps, with others, to make changes.  More importantly, take positive steps to become holier in your personal lives.

Holiness is the answer to all of the problems that the Church faces today. The holier we are, the better we will be able to weather the storms that are coming, and the better we will be able to rebuild the Church now and in the future.

Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Our Catholic Identity | Tagged , | 27 Comments

WDTPRS 15th Sunday after Pentecost: Holy Church, Peter’s Barque

Barque ChurchThis Sunday’s Collect for Holy Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite survived the long knives of the Consilium to live on the in the Novus Ordo editions of the Missale Romanum on Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent.  Figure that one out. We find it in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary for a Sunday, with a minor spelling variation.  It is thus ancient.  There are other reasons to think that the prayer is even more ancient.  But first here is the text:


Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, miseratio continuata mundet et muniat: et quia sine te non potest salva consistere; tuo semper munere gubernetur.

We must not pass over the sound of this prayer.  The Roman Latin prayers, particularly those which were handed down intact from earlier centuries, such as the time of St. Pope Leo the Great (+461), are elegantly sculpted both in their rhythm and their sounds.  Notice the wonderful alliteration throughout.  Tying the whole thing together from top to bottom are the glottal sounds (made in the back of the throat with the tongue), on the voiced or unvoiced “k” sound of Ecclesiamcontinuata…quia…consistere…gubernetur.    Then we have an interlocking series of alliterations.  There are many humming “m” and “n” sounds: Ecclesiam tuam, Domine, miseratio continuata múndet et múniat…. Keep in mind that in ancient times, the final “m” was pronounced in a very nasal way, which survives in many instances in French and Portuguese.  So, this pray begins with a deep hum.  Then you shift to sibilants, the hissing “s”, with snappy “t”s along the way: et quia sine te non potest sálva consístere; tuo semper….  Then we go back to our humming “m” and “n”, but with a lovely rhythmical closure or clausulasemper múnere gúbernétúr.   Speak or sing this to get at the real beauty of this gem, with its glittering facets of phonemes.

We still have some space to linger over vocabulary.   Gubnero was a favorite word of the great ancient Roman orator Cicero.  Our thick and juicy Lewis & Short Dictionary, that feast of Latin lemmata, says guberno is “to steer or pilot a ship”.  Logically, it also means “to direct, manage, conduct, govern, guide”. The Liddell, Scott, Jones Greek Lexicon, or LSJ, says that kubernao is “steer”, “drive” and metaphorically “guide, govern” and then “act as a pilot, i.e., perform certain rites in the Ship of Isis”.  I can’t quite imagine what those “rites of Isis” are.  I suspect they might still be used in odder versions of the newer Mass in some places, but this lies outside of our sphere of interest and it is too irritating to speculate about.  We can leave that the liturgical abuse office of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The super-charged word munus is a little hard to get at in English is this Collect.  A munus can be “a service, office, post, employment, function, duty”.  Should we avoid reducing God to a functionary?   It is true that God is often said in our prayers to have pietas, which carries a strong sense of “duty”, but in Latin prayers pietas, when applied to God, is really more like “mercy”.  For man the term pietas  is “duty”.  In this instance of munere, we ought to lean toward another, less common meaning in the L&S, namely, “a service, favor”.  In fact the liturgical Latin dictionary we call Blaise/Dumas has, “don, faveur (de Dieu)”.   There is a connection between munus as “duty, service” and as “gift”, in that munus stood also for a public work given to the city by an individual. For example, a great Roman might put on public games and feasts for the people, or erect a temple or public building as a munus given from civic duty as well as to increase his and his family’s gloria, that is, his share in the honor of the state.

The verb consisto is “to stand still, stand, halt, stop, make a stop” but also many other sorts of “taking a stand”, such as what soldiers do when about to fight, or what you do in court to defend your position.  There is a “moral” stand one takes, as well as “stand with” someone.  However, both in the L&S and Blaise/Dumas we see that consisto can simply mean “to be, exist”.  In fact, this notion of “standing” (sisto) is also the root for existo.  It is as if, in the case of the later, that as things come into being, they “stand forth” (ex-sisto) from nothingness.

It seems to me that our author was also having a good time with the similar sounds of mundet, muniat, and munere, all very different but with phonic hooks that pull them conceptually together.

This week allow me also to play around with some alliteration in rendering our prayer, still sticking to a slavish version of the Latin lines.  I will also try to capture something of the nautical imagery.


Let Your continuous compassion, cleanse and defend Your Church, O Lord, and because without You she cannot stand to, safe, may she forever by Your favor be steered.

In nautical parlance, to “stand to” means to “stay on a certain course”.  This is how I try to unpack the meaning of consisto, which aims at the concept of “consistency” and “staying” firm.  Because in this world the Church is on a journey, as a pilgrim, I didn’t want simply to say “stand firm”.  But gubernator, as the master of the ship’s course, who “governs” where the ship goes, helped me think of “stand to”.  Also, I could have said “safely”, but salva is an adjective, not an adverb, and I am feeling a bit more archaic than usual as I write today.

CURRENT ICEL VERSION (2011 – during Lent):

May your unfailing compassion, O Lord, cleanse and protect your Church, and, since without you she cannot stand secure, may she be always governed by your grace.

They didn’t got for the nautical image.  Too bad.  It is impoverished as a result.

One of the meanings of munio, which gives us the muniat in the prayer (“to build a wall around, to defend with a wall, to fortify, defend; to guard, secure, strengthen, support”, for munio stems from moenia “walls”) is also “to open a road”,  viam munire.

Maybe we can get our heads into this prayer by thinking of the Church, often portrayed as a ship, as in Peter’s Barque or the sailing ship in the vision of St. John Bosco, as that fortified way through the heaving waters of the world, with its distractions both sensual and diabolical, that threaten to blow us off our course.  As they sail in dangerous waters, ships need a well-prepared steersman to govern her through the shoals and currents, to avoid the reefs and rocks hidden beneath the waves.

There are times when we have a following wind, that favors smooth and direct sailing.  At other times, we must tack back and forth to make slow headway, or even run before the wind, when the sea and the storms rise in frightful force against us.

In all these conditions, the captain and navigator and steersman seek the best course for the good of the whole ship and all who sail in her, according to the charts available, personal experience, the smell of the wind, the look of the sea, and the map of the sun, moon and stars.

In many ways these images of the ship at sea exemplify the experience of the Church.  Our Popes, bishops and pastors seek the best course as they know how, seeking to guide the barque in perilous waters and times.

In human terms we do our best to steer our course and we can make mistakes.  But in divine terms we know that no matter how terrifying are the winds and seas which buffet us and threaten to bear away our spars and sails, Christ’s sure hand rests on the wheel.

Nothing contrary will prevent Holy Church from finding safe harbor in Him.  We will come home to a safe landfall.

Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Photos from a Mass of Reparation for sacrileges and blasphemies

In the midst of ongoing bad news, seemingly on all fronts, I had some good news.

My friend Fr. Dave Ireland in S. Euclid OH had at his beautiful Church of St. Gregory, a Solemn Mass in the Traditional Roman Rite in reparation for the sacrileges and blasphemies perpetrated a little while ago by amateur Satanists in Oklahoma City.

Some photos.


16_08_27_Cleveland_05 16_08_27_Cleveland_04 16_08_27_Cleveland_03


Posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Be The Maquis, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests | Tagged , | 8 Comments

UK Ordinariate… Quo?

Over at the Catholic Herald there is an piece by Damian Thompson about the status quaestionis of the Anglican Ordinariate in England established in the happier times of Benedict XVI.

What interests me in a special way is found toward the end of his essay.  There are parallels in the wider Roman Church in the cases of parishes which readjust, return to the basics, and revitalize their liturgical worship with tradition: the bleeding stops, pews and collection baskets get fuller, the average age of Mass goers drops, etc.

Here’s Damian about a friend of mine Fr Tomlinson of the Ordinariate.


Ordinariate priest in England is determined enough, he can find a way of taking charge of a parish and offering a Divine Worship Sunday Mass.

When Fr Ed Tomlinson, former Vicar of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells, joined the Ordinariate he was sent to St Anselm’s, Pembury, Kent – an unlovely community hall with a chapel where the congregation sat on plastic chairs and knelt on linoleum.

Fr Ed – a rugby-obsessed married father of three with un-PC views on the evil of Islamism and the wimpishness of liberal bishops – decided this wasn’t good enough for God.

Five years on, on a tiny budget, he has acquired two altars, altar candles, pews, a lectern, a pulpit, Stations of the Cross, altar rails, vestments, chalices, icons, a reredos, an organ, a confessional and stalls. (Our pictures show stages in the transformation, which is not complete.)

As for the Divine Worship Mass, his cradle Catholic parishioners mostly love it. “It’s a fabulous liturgy and I’m passionate about it,” he says. Weekly attendance has risen to 130 while the average age of parishioners has dropped sharply thanks to an influx of children.

Now imagine that, in five years’ time, Fr Tomlinson’s success has been replicated in a handful of English parishes. The Oratorians have surprised everyone by exporting their worship – once considered impossibly exotic – to failing churches that mysteriously stop failing once they arrive. Each punches above its weight.

What is to stop Ordinariate priests from doing likewise? Only two things. Spanners thrown into the works by unfriendly bishops, and their own lack of confidence.

My unexpectedly upbeat conclusion, after taking a fresh look at an initiative I thought was dying, is that an Ordinariate Mark II can spring to life once its leaders see that these problems feed off each other.

Anti-Ordinariate bishops herd members of the ecclesial structure into remote “Mass centres” where they don’t want to be and won’t survive. It’s time our new fellow Catholics turned round and reminded their Lordships that they have no jurisdiction over them – and that, if the Church in England and Wales continues its deplorably mean policy of hanging on to every last parish building, then they will buy their own churches.

But first we have to sort out the money, say the permanently anxious old guard of the Ordinariate.

No. First, you need risk-taking local leaders with a mission that attracts donors.


Do I hear an “Amen!”?

Posted in SESSIUNCULA | 22 Comments

ACTION ITEM: Prayers after Earthquake near Norcia, Italy


Dom Cassian Folsom has some reflections on the earthquakes which shook the monastery at Norcia. HERE


For the time being, the monks of Norcia have moved down to Rome and are at the Benedictine community on the Aventine Hill, Sant’Anselmo.

Today the Great Roman Fabrizio texted to say that they will be singing for Mass on Sunday at SS. Trinità dei Pellegrini!   This is the traditional Rite, FSSP parish in the City.

Apparently the monks left a couple guys behind to look after things.


Last night as I was turning in another friend in Rome texted that he could feel aftershocks… again.


A couple photos from inside the church.

I’m told that there is damage to the bell tower.


16_08_23_earthquakeFrom the Norcia Benedictines:

Dear Friends,

Many of you have by now heard of the earthquake that struck us during the night. The quake was a powerful one with a magnitude of 6.2. We’ve taken the past few hours to assess the situation.

First: We are OK. We are alive, and there are no serious injuries to report. Sadly, there are many injuries to report among the people of the region, especially those in small mountain villages. Please pray for them. We monks will do what we can to contribute here on the ground, but we’ll need your spiritual support in a special way during this period.

Second: We, as many others in Norcia and surrounding areas, suffered a lot of damage to our buildings and especially to our basilica. It will take some time to assess the extent of the damage, but it is very sad to see the many beautiful restorations we’ve made to St. Benedict’s birthplace reduced, in a moment, to disrepair.

Third: What can you do? Please, pray for us, for those who have lost their lives, who have lost someone they love, who have lost their homes and livelihoods. We will need your help, as always but now in a special way, to start the project of rebuilding. Please consider making a gift to help us get started.

The Monks of Norcia


From someone in situ:

There is property damage, and damage in the churches, but all human lie is well.  Reports are that my house is fine.  They’re all standing in the piazza eating today’s cornetti, and praying the Rosary with the monks.
You might make a post that everyone in Norcia is fine, although the aftershocks continue.

However, it sounds like Amatrice got hammered.  This is the place that gave the name to the famous spaghetti all’amatriciana.  People are, as I write, trapped.  I have Sky going.

In Norcia, there was some damage in the monastery church, to the St. Benedict altar.


I have been getting texts from friends in Italy.  There was a series of earthquake – one at least 6.5 – near Norcia, Italy, where the wonderful Benedictine Monks are.

Keep them and all those in the area in your prayers.  Pray against aftershocks, which do so much damage.

Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui réspicis terram et facis eam trémere: parce metuéntibus, propitiáre supplícibus; ut, cujus iram terræ fundaménta concutiéntem expávimus, cleméntiam contritiónes ejus sanántem júgiter sentiámus. Per Dóminum.

Almighty and everlasting God, who by a glance dost make the earth tremble, spare the fearful, be propitious to the suppliant, that we may feel Thy mercy healing our afflictions; whose anger we fear rending the foundations of the earth. Through our Lord.


Posted in ACTION ITEM!, Urgent Prayer Requests | Tagged , | 20 Comments

WDTPRS – 22nd Ordinary Sunday: graft the love of Your Name into our hearts

With small differences our Collect for the upcoming 22nd Ordinary Sunday is based on a prayer in the 8th century Gelasian Sacramentary and, subsequently, one in the 1962 Roman Missal for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost.

Deus virtutum, cuius est totum quod est optimum, insere pectoribus nostris tui nominis amorem, et praesta, ut in nobis, religionis augmento, quae sunt bona nutrias, ac, vigilanti studio, quae nutrita custodias.

Insero means “to sow, plant in, engraft, implant.”  I like “graft”.  Optimum is “best”, but seeing that we are applying “best” to God, we can get away with “perfect”.

Our Collect summons images of, on the one hand, armies and, on the other, an orchard and vine tending.  On the one hand, the God of hosts guards the good things we have.  On the other, this same mighty God is grafting love into us and then nourishing it so it can grow.


Almighty God, every good thing comes from you. Fill our hearts with love for you, increase our faith, and by your constant care protect the good you have given us.

The norms underlying the current ICEL English translation stated that “deficiency in translating the varying forms of addressing God, such as Domine, Deus, Omnipotens aeterne Deus, Pater, and so forth, as well as the various words expressing supplication, may render the translation monotonous and obscure the rich and beautiful way in which the relationship between the faithful and God is expressed in the Latin text” (Liturgiam authenticam 51).

Today the priest invokes God as Deus virtutum, an expression in St Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Psalter (Ps 58:6; 79:5 ff; 83:9; 88;9) often translated as “God of hosts.”  Don’t confuse “host”, which is “army, multitude”, with the wheat wafer used at Mass.  Virtutum is genitive plural of virtus, “manliness, strength, courage, aptness, capacity, power” etc.  St Jerome chose virtutum to render the Hebrew tsaba’, “that which goes forth, an army, war, a host.”  Tsaba’ describes variously hosts of soldiers, of celestial bodies, and of angels.   In the Sanctus of Holy Mass and, in the great Te Deum, we echo the myriads of angels bowed low in the liturgy of heaven before God’s throne: “Holy, Holy, Holy LORD GOD SABAOTH …. God of “heavenly hosts”.


O mighty God of hosts, of whom is the entirety of what is perfect, graft into our hearts the love of Your Name, and grant, that by means of an increase of the virtue of religion, You may nourish in us the things which are good, and, by means of vigilant zeal, guard the things which have been nourished.


God of might, giver of every good gift, put into our hearts the love of your name, so that, by deepening our sense of reverence, you may nurture in us what is good and, by your watchful care, keep safe what you have nurtured.

Today we pray to God for an increase in “religion.”  I’ll take this to be the virtue of religion. Last week I wrote about the difference between “values” and “virtues”.  Let’s make more distinctions.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines “religion” as a set of beliefs and practices followed by those committed to the service and worship of God.

The First Commandment requires us to believe in God, to worship and serve him, as the first duty of the virtue of religion (cf also CCC 2084, 2135).   St. Thomas Aquinas (d 1274) says that religion is the virtue by which men exhibit due worship and reverence to God as the creator and supreme ruler of all things (STh II-II, 81, 1).  We must acknowledge dependence on God by rendering Him a due and fitting worship both interiorly (eg, by acts of devotion, reverence, thanksgiving, etc.) and exteriorly (eg, external reverence, liturgical acts, etc.).

The virtue of religion can be sinned against by idolatry, superstitions, sacrilege, and blasphemy.  We creatures must recognize who God is and act accordingly both inwardly and outwardly.  When this at last becomes habitual for us, then we have the virtue of religion.  A virtue is a habit.  One good act does not make us virtuous.  If being prudent or temperate or just, etc., is hard for us, then we don’t yet have the virtues.

Our petition for religion follows immediately from our desire that God “graft” (insere) love of His Holy Name into our hearts.  We move from the title of God the angels and saints never tire of repeating in their everlasting liturgy in heaven: HOLY.  Then we beg for all good things to be nourished in us by God as He increases in us the virtue of religion.  This leads to the proper interior and exterior actions that necessarily flow from recognizing who God truly is and who we are.

Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ACTION ITEM! Birettas for Seminarians Project!


First off… I am informed that, through this project, YOU, dear readers, have supplied about 100 birettas to seminarians.  Kudos.

Next, I have had a few thank you notes from seminarians, who are receiving their new covers.  Here is one:

I want to thank you for your “Birettas for Seminarians Project.” Today I received my biretta, and I am very grateful!

I have a question though, what is the proper etiquette (birettaquette) for a seminarian? When sitting in choir is it the same as a priest? Also, when can one, seminarian or priest, wear a biretta? Is it only for liturgical use?

Carry it when walking in and out.  Cover after having sat down.  Uncover before standing up.  When holding it, hold it with both hands in front of your chest.  Use ONE hand to put it on.  Do NOT sit on it after the tabernacle is closed, if you put it on your chair during Communion time.

That said, I note that you are in a … place ((arch)diocese) where the local ordinary could be quite antagonistic about seminarians and birettas.  Thus, I urge you to be discreet.

And, yes, the biretta is mostly liturgical, although some priests wore it out and about.


I received a note from the Incredible John at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul, aka the Biretta Broker for our Project.  To wit:

Hello Father,

Your eyes can stop welling with tears as you write! (At least, temporarily)

Thanks so much for your recent efforts, and thank you to all who contributed over the past year.

We now have enough donors to literally “cover” all of the remaining seminarians on the list…and then some.

As you know, Italy is pretty much shut down in August. But come September…many, many, birettas will be shipped in!

I think the manufacturers are wondering what’s going on in the Americas!

Brick by Brick!


UPDATE 16 Aug:

I received the following via email from a seminarian:

I want you to know that I received a Biretta from your action item posts. Thank you and the benefactor who came forward to purchase this for me. Every time I use it I pray for the benefactor who purchased it for me.

Not bad!

UPDATE 7 July 2016:

In honor of the anniversary of Summorum Pontificum I’m moving this to the top of the stack.


In the past we have had here a project to get birettas for seminarians.  It was a success (for example HERE) but, alas, it has fallen off the radar.  Let’s get back at it.

I am still getting notes from seminarians hither and yon who need birettas.

That is where YOU come in.

John Hastrieter at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul wrote that he has about 2o seminarians on a “biretta wanted list” but… and my eyes well with tears as I write this… no donors.


Contact John in church goods at Leaflet Missal in St. Paul – 651-209-1951 Ext-331. 

If he is away, leave a voicemail with your phone number and he will call you back ASAP.

John is keeping track of the names of the seminarians and their hat sizes. My involvement would only get in the way of the process. Don’t write to me.

Let’s encourage these men.

Call John and buy a biretta for a seminarian.  It’s as easy as that.

Posted in ACTION ITEM!, Seminarians and Seminaries | Tagged , | 11 Comments