ASK FATHER: Future spouse doesn’t want kids to attend Novus Ordo, but I do.

From a reader…


I am engaged to a girl who was raised attending a SSPX chapel her entire life. We will be married by a diocesan priest in the traditional form. She is unsure whether she can receive communion at a Novus Ordo mass, since she was raised being taught (by Society priests and family) that the Novus Ordo is shot through with humanism and that it is a mortal sin to participate if you know of its corruption. We plan on attending mainly traditional diocesan masses as a married couple, only really attending Novus Ordo or Society masses for family functions. This is all fine and well with me.

Our only real dispute is what we will teach our children regarding the Novus Ordo mass. I think that any future children should be taught that although we prefer the TLM, it is permissible from time to time to attend a Novus Ordo. [Like the two of you say you are going to do for family functions.] She is not sure what she thinks about this. … If we ask a Society priest about our dispute we get one answer, if we consult a Novus Ordo priest, we get another. Any comment on this matter would be VERY welcome.

The sacrament of matrimony binds a man and a woman together for life. They share in the “communio totius vitae … the communion of the whole of life”. It’s not merely a partnership, or a living arrangement, but a covenant. The parties remain separate and distinct.  It is a good thing when a married couple have some different interests, opinions, attitudes.  However, they come together as one to signify, not only to themselves but to the Church and the whole world, the intimate love that God has for his people.

From that unity which is a hallmark of marriage, it follows that serious differences of opinions can make a marriage difficult. The more serious the matter, and stronger the disagreement, the more grave the problems that could arise. Different tastes in food, music, clothing can sometimes be a challenge, but mature people usually work those out. Different views of politics or economics can be the subject of heated arguments, but most couples work them through. Some couples have found workable arrangements concerning divergent philosophies or religious differences.  For many couples, they spell disaster to their relationship.

If she truly believes that hearing Mass in the Ordinary Form is a mortal sin, and that it would be best not to attend Mass at all rather than be somehow tainted by attending an Ordinary Form Mass, then you have serious issues to iron out before your big day, especially if you are of the mind that your future offspring must not be wholly isolated away from the Novus Ordo.

It may be tempting to think, “Well, she’s wrong.  I’ll have to work at changing her mind sometime along the way.”   I, however, warmly recommend that you both have a loving heart to heart and mind to mind talk or four and figure out what to do about this together.

Pius XI wrote in his encyclical Casti connubii, “By matrimony the souls of the contracting parties are joined and knit together more directly and more intimately than are their bodies.”  You might just read some of that encyclical together.

When it comes to holy Mass, which should be central to the life of the marriage, serious disagreements about validity and efficacy are not going to be just a little bump to run over.  Start working this through now.  Each time you talk about it, you might start by saying a prayer for the swift and complete canonical reconciliation of the SSPX.  After that, keep calm and don’t let any rancorous words pass your lips.  Remember, in your role as husband and father, you will be the head of your little “domestic church”.  I’ll bet that, given her upbringing, she will resonate with that.  Therefore, ask St. Joseph to help you both in figuring this out.

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The connection of morals and “ad orientem” worship

Satan has been dealt a serious setback by Card. Sarah, and the Enemies minions are on the move.  Spiritual attacks will now multiply on the priests and bishops who undertake what Card. Sarah has suggested.

I saw this, from Msgr. C. Eugene Morris is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, at the National Catholic Register.  He argues that worship ad orientem could have a knock-on effect on  – I think – moralseven societal mores – not just on general conduct of individuals.

Think about that.

Our liturgical choices make a difference in our Catholic identity.  Therefore, our liturgical choices have an impact on our state of grace now, our future hope and salvation, and on how we interact with our neighbor and the world around us in this vale of tears.

We are our Rites!

The Eucharist (Itself and Its celebration which is Mass) is famously called the “source and summit” of our lives as Catholics.

Change our worship, and you change our identity.  It takes a while, but it is inevitable.  Let’s jump into the middle.  Read the whole thing there.  He is writing, of course, about Card. Sarah’s appeal to priests to say Mass ad orientem.  Why? Because of a personal preference or taste?  No.  He made that appeal for what he sees is the good of the Church.  Take it away, Msgr. Morris….

‘Ad Orientem’: Right Worship Leads to Right Conduct


Every celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass should reflect its paramount importance in the life of the Church. The prefect’s exhortation is meant to assist priests and bishops in keeping God at the center of every liturgical celebration and, as a consequence, keeping God at the center of our lives.
Cardinal Sarah’s comments continue the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict XVI, who understood rightly that right worship leads to right conduct. It is only when we celebrate all the sacraments, especially holy Mass, according to the mind of God that we are then able to do the things of God.
It might be rightly concluded that the current cultural climate and its many excesses can only be corrected when everyone returns to a faithful, proper adoration of God. It follows how significant it is that the priest and the faithful face the Lord when addressing the Lord, as the most concrete expression of our desire to configure ourselves to the God that we worship.
It is this complete configuration to Christ that makes it possible for us to live the life of Christ, who draws us into deep, abiding union with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Without a vibrant and properly oriented liturgical life, the Church will continuously struggle to convince the faithful to lead a correct moral life.  [As I write again and again, for years, no undertaking of renewal in the Church or anything else can succeed without a revitalization of our sacred liturgical worship.  Ad orientem worship will be a power element of such a revitalization.]
There is an inexplicable connection between proper adoration given to God and the ability of men to lead sanctified lives. Cardinal Sarah is offering the Church an opportunity to recapture an ancient and still legitimate practice that will greatly assist the whole Church in combating the moral decline of this current age.
Some will argue that this exhortation lacking the approval of the Pope does not have the force of law and therefore will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement. Furthermore, this lack of papal approbation will create problems for those priests who attempt to do this in their parishes, possibly bringing them into conflict with their bishops.
While this is true and possible, it obscures the true significance of Cardinal Sarah’s exhortation. He has made public what has long been discussed in private and provided a legitimate and powerful voice to a necessary conversation in the Church. Cardinal Sarah has correctly pointed out that there is no conflict in the current missal with celebrating Mass ad orientem, this despite the debates that exist regarding the missal. Immediately after Cardinal Sarah’s address, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, England, openly discouraged his priests from celebrating ad orientem, citing the possibility of creating disunity and a misinterpretation of the current missal (299). The confusion created by Cardinal Nichols’ unfortunate response should not deter my brother priests from courageously responding to Cardinal Sarah’s exhortation.
Those of us who would choose to celebrate Mass ad orientem and joyfully welcome this opportunity in the life of the Church have waited a long time — not for legislation, but for clear, vocal support; and with Cardinal Sarah’s clarion call, we have received such support.
It is hoped by this author that priests and bishops alike will pay attention to the thought and words of the prefect and offer to the faithful the most fitting means to praise and worship the God who saves us.

Fr. Z kudos to Msgr. Morris.  Let us now pray for him, that the world doesn’t come down on his head.


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Card. Nichols’ Letter to priests, reacting to Card. Sarah’s ‘ad orientem’ appeal

Francis_Ad_OrientemI was sent the text of the official letter that His Eminence Vincent Card. Nichols sent to the priests of the Archdiocese of Westminster as a reaction to the unofficial, personal appeal made by Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the CDW, to priests to say Holy Mass ad orientem.

Here is Card. Nichols, with my emphases and comments:

In response to a number of enquiries, in the light of Cardinal Sarah’s recent personal comments, I take this opportunity of reminding all priests of the importance of ensuring that every celebration of the Liturgy is carried out with all possible dignity. Whether the celebration of the Mass is simple or elaborate, it should always be characterised by that dignity which helps to raise our minds and hearts to God and which avoids distracting confusion or inappropriate informality. [Who would disagree with this?  However, I double-checked Card. Sarah’s talk.  Unless I missed it, Sarah did not speak about dignity or informality.]

I also remind our priests that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. [His Eminence cites a widely circulated but inaccurate translation of GIRM 299. We’ve been over and over this ground.] The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’

A clarification from the CDW in September 2000 addressed the question as to whether GIRM 299 excludes the possibility of celebrating Mass ‘versus absidem’ (ie ‘eastward’ facing), and confirmed that it does not. [That same CDW clarification also explained the Latin of 299.] But it also ‘reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier’. [“Communication” of what?] Thus the expectations expressed in GIRM 299 remain in force whenever the Ordinary Form of Mass is celebrated.  [This is a false conclusion.  More, below.]

Finally, may I emphasise that the celebration of the Church’s Liturgy is not a place in which priests are to exercise personal preference or taste. [His Eminence is right, of course.  However, Card. Sarah’s appeal was based on a great deal more than taste or preference.  To reduce this to a question of “taste” is a disservice to the serious issue of our worship and our identity.] As the last paragraph of the GIRM states so clearly, ‘The Roman Missal, though in a diversity of languages and with some variety of customs, must in the future be safeguarded as an instrument and an outstanding sign of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite’ (399).

+Cardinal Vincent Nichols

Archbishop of Westminster

On the conclusion the Cardinal makes about versus populum being the “expected” orientation in the Ordinary Form….

With due respect to His Eminence, no.  That’s not right.

A consultation of the Latin edition of the Missale Romanum (which is the normative text) shows that, many times in the GIRM, the priest is described as “versus ad populum… having turned to the people”.  Elsewhere, he is described as “ad medium altare deinde reversus … then having turned back again to the middle of the altar”.

This description of the priest as turning back and forth between altar and people occurs again and again in the GIRM.  Have a look (e.g., 24, 146, 154, 157, 158, and 165; and also look at 181, 185, 243, 244, 257, 268).

This same description (prescription, actually) of the priest turning to the people and then back to the altar is found, for merely one example, at the time of the “Ecce Agnus Dei” at 132 in the Ordo Missae in the Missale Romanum.  The priest is described as “versus ad populum“, which presumes that he wasn’t “turned to the people” before.  After the people respond with their “Domine, non sum dignus“, the priest is described as “versus ad altare… “.   “133. Et sacerdos, versus ad altare, secreto dicit… And the priest, having turned to the altar, says quietly:…”.

The priest (sometimes the deacon) is repeatedly described at turning to the people and then turning back to the altar.

So, no, the GIRM does NOT favor versus populum celebration of the Ordinary Form.

But you have to have recourse to the Latin to see that.

Moderation queue is ON.


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ASK FATHER: I have no one to ask to be godparent for my baby.

From a reader…


I have a baby due in a few weeks and it is, of course, my responsibility to baptize him promptly in the Catholic Church . I have attended the required class and paid the fee at my parish; however, I honestly have no one I can ask to serve as a Godparent. My friends and family live across the country and I hardly know anyone in my new area. I don’t want to delay baptism until I can travel home (several months after birth). My parish is holding firm to this “preference”. Must there be a Godparent? Thanks for your wisdom and guidance!

First, congratulations.

Canon 872 says that there should be a sponsor “insofar as possible” (quantum fieri potest).  This means that a sponsor isn’t required for the validity of the sacrament.  Nevertheless, it is important to have at least one. Can. 873 makes provision for two, but no more than that.  It also says that if there are two, there must be one male and one female.

Anecdotally, it seems that, as families get smaller, as folks move more frequently, and as fewer people actually practice their faith, it is getting more difficult to find good godparents.

It could be useful for parishes to provide a roster of good, faithful, committed Catholic parishioners willing to serve as godparents for those, like our interlocutor, who are in a bind.  Perhaps could be a good apostolate for some lay people to start up, a Confraternity St. John the Baptist for Baptismal and Confirmation Sponsors.

St. John the Baptist, by the way, is the patron saint of godparents, not St. Vito of Corleone.  Although, there is potential in being able to run your finger down the roster of willing parishioners and saying “I’ll give you a Sponsor you can’t refuse.”

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More deception in the war on Card. Sarah

Speaking at a liturgy conference in London, Card. Sarah, clearly not acting in his role as Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, made a personal appeal to priests to say Mass ad orientem and the world is coming down on his head.

Sarah’s unofficial appeal prompted a quick official response from the local Archbishop of Westminster, Card. Nichols as well as a clarification from Jesuit spokesman at the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Lombardi (which may have been the last official thing he did there [UPDATE: Greg Burke takes over on 1 August.]) via a communique replete with problems.

For example, Fr. Lombardi wrote (I include the typos in the original English version released):

Pope Francis, for his part, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery for Divine Worship, expressly mentioned that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of the Mass is that expressed in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the “extraordinary” form, which was permitted by by Pope Benedict XVI for the purposes and in the ways explained in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificium, must not take the place of the “ordinary” one.

That was Lombardi.

Now look at what Fr. Thomas Rosica, hyper-visible when events at the Holy See require additional English language spin, added to the Press Office communique in a daily news summary blurb which he sends out to newsies, et al.

Fr Lombardi notes that Pope Francis made this view clear to Cardinal Sarah during a recent audience, stressing that the ‘Ordinary’ form of the celebration of Mass is the one laid down in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, while the ‘Extraordinary’ form, permitted in certain specific cases by Pope Benedict XVI, should not be seen as replacing the ‘Ordinary’ form.

There is a problem in the communique itself and a worse problem in Rosica’s spin of the communique.

Regarding the communique itself, in the Letter which Benedict XVI sent out with Summorum Pontificum, we read: “As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal.”

Note that “in principle”, or perhaps better “de iure”. “De facto”, however, because of the fury of hell that bishops would rain down on priests who dared to say Mass in the way it was said for centuries, priests needed permission.  They didn’t need it legally.  They needed it practically.

On the other hand, while it is true that the communique points out that in Summorum Pontificum Pope Benedict laid out criteria for the celebration of Holy Mass in the traditional form, what Rosica did with that little interpolation “in certain specific cases” was to make Summorum Pontificum itself seem more restrictive than it is.  In fact, the “certain specific cases” mentioned by Rosica are, as it turns out from a reading of Summorum Pontificumpretty much whenever and wherever any priest whosoever wants to say the older form of Mass.

I wonder if anyone in the Holy See Press Office has ever read Summorum Pontificum and Benedict’s Letter.  I wonder if anyone there read the whole of Card. Sarah’s address in London.

Think about this.  Rosica’s interpolation “in certain specific cases” applies also to the Novus Ordo.

Can. 932. 1 says that Mass is to be in a sacred place unless necessity requires that it be said somewhere else, and in that case it must be a suitable place.   That means just about anywhere where Catholic sensibilities aren’t horrified.  GIRM 288 says Mass can be in a “respectable place”.  Can. 933 says that a bishop can permit that Mass be said in a non-Catholic church.  The law also says when Mass can be said and who can say Mass.   It also says that the language of Mass in the Roman Rite is LATIN. All of this is to say that there are certain conditions laid down for the celebration of Mass in either Form.

Also, if memory serves, this isn’t the first time that Fr. Rosica seems to have added extra material when reporting.  During the Synod on the Family, he was called out for doing just that.  HERE

Finally, Fr. Lombardi’s press communique concluded

“All this was expressly agreed during a recent audience give by the pope to the said Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship.”

How did Rosica frame that in his daily blurb?

Fr Lombardi notes that Pope Francis made this view clear to Cardinal Sarah during a recent audience,…

See what he did there?

Friends, as this develops, keep your eyes open.  What is going on here is important for more than just a liturgical motive… as if that weren’t important enough by itself!  We are our Rites!  This has to do with the status quaestionis of our Holy Church’s leadership and what course is being plotted.  This underscores the tremendous division which yawns ever wider.

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ASK FATHER: How to have ‘ad orientem’ Mass in a gymnasium church?

From a reader…


We currently have a gymnasium-like church, with a wooden table for an altar.
We have no high altar behind it. How would we face east and Cdl. Sarah suggests for Advent if we don’t?

First, I hope that for Father’s sake and for the sake of the congregation, you will indeed have the chance to benefit from ad orientem worship.

Remember that celebrating “towards the East” is symbolic.  It doesn’t have to be the literal geographic East.  So long as you are all facing the same direction, you are symbolically facing the East whence our forebears – from the very earliest days – thought Christ would return in glory.  Thus, we turn to the Lord who is coming.   Given that the liturgical season of Advent is about getting ready for the “coming of the Lord”, really for the Second Coming more than the First, the beginning of Advent is an appropriate time begin offering Mass ad orientem.

There’s no need for reredos. Just put six tall candles on either side of the crucifix (and tabernacle if possible) on the back of the altar.  The priest can then simply step around to the front.  Instead of facing the congregation like an adversary or an entertainer (Mass adversus populum?), he and the congregation will be united in their orientation in a highly effective, manifest way.


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Jesuit v. Jesuit

There are a few notable exceptions, but there is a general rule that Jesuits don’t have much of a grasp or sense of liturgy.  Perhaps you know the old chestnut: “As lost as a Jesuit in Holy Week”, to describe someone who doesn’t have a clue.

On twitter, that Fr. James Martin, SJ, tweeted:

That’s just dumb.

Now I turn to one of those exceptional Jesuits who does know something about liturgy, Fr. James V. Schall, SJ. Today he posted about Card. Sarah’s invitation at Crisis:

The history of “Mass with the priest’s back facing the people” has been a long and amusing one. Let it be said from the beginning that no priest ever thought that he was celebrating Mass with his back to the people. No priest of any age or place ever said to himself: “Now that I am about to consecrate the Host, I will turn my back to the people.” He and everyone were turning to the Lord. That whole imagery of “back to the people” was dreamed up to promote a theological cause. It wanted the Mass to be understood not what it is, a sacrifice, but a friendly meal. The priest became a host or a “president,” as he is often called. He is a “presider,” awful term. Even worse is it when the priest is seen to be a “master of ceremonies” or an actor, greeting and joshing everyone.

And there’s this nugget: “orientum“?

Anyway, there is more over at Crisis.


And there’s also this one:

From Fr. Schall’s piece:

The Mass is not a one-act play in which the priest takes the part of Christ in a short skit. It is a sacred rite, the way that Christ taught us to be the one proper way to worship his Father. The Mass is not an entertainment designed to keep us alert and amused. The worst effect of Mass with a priest facing the people is that the priest becomes the center of the show. His personality increases when it should decrease. He is the actor who calls attention to himself performing. He is responsible for the action that circles around him. This phenomenon is especially vivid in “theater-in-the-round” churches. The altar should be an altar, not just another table.

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ASK FATHER: How to “reclaim” my property for the Lord after a Hindu procession goes by?

From a reader…


Thank you for all of the amazing information you share with us each day on your website. I have learned so much in the past 6 months. I have a question that I would like your advice on:I just had a local Hindu temple process past my house carrying a chariot with the deity Skanda Sashti while singing hymns. What would you recommend I do to “reclaim” my property for the Lord? Sprinkle holy water around property line while praying? Thanks for your insights.

I think Skanda Sashti is a song about a deity, but no matter.

By all means use Holy Water around your place and even blessed salt.

You could also ask the priest to come to your house and, using the older, traditional Roman Ritual, bless a mess of salt and Holy Water and then also use it to bless your home, going into each and every room and space.

This is a good thing to do even if such an event hasn’t taken place.

If Father comes, it is good (though not obligatory or expected) to give him something for his time.  In Italy I was once given a live chicken.   In order to avoid hauling it around on my rounds, I ask them if they could, please, lightly kill it and drop it off when I didn’t have a whole bunch of other house blessings (as priests often do in Italy during Easter season).  They were happy to oblige, which helped me to avoid what I knew would be a pretty hasty and agitated meal.

Speaking of hasty and agitated, I am reminded of the scene in the Aubrey/Maturin novel by Patrick O’Brian‘s HMS Surprise.  (UK HERE) Dr. Stephen Maturin is conducting an experiment on some rats.  He has been feeding them madder (red stuff).  He was eventually going to dissect them to see if the red stuff had colored their bones, but hungry midshipmen ate them while he had been marooned on St. Paul’s Rock.  Note the spiffing partitive genitive in the first sentence of the following:

In time it appeared that Babbington had eaten of the Doctor’s rats; and that he was sorry now. ‘Why, no, Babbington,’ said Jack. ‘No. That was an infernal shabby thing to do; mean and very like a scrub. The Doctor has been a good friend to you – none better. Who patched up your arm, when they all swore it must come off? Who put you into his cot and sat by you all night, holding the wound? Who – ‘ Babbington could not bear it; he burst into tears. Though an acting-lieutenant he wiped his eyes on his sleeve, and through his sobs he gave Jack to understand that unknown hands had wafted these prime millers into the larboard midshipmen’s berth; that although he had had no hand in their cutting-out – indeed, would have prevented it, having the greatest love for the Doctor, so much so that he had fought Braithwaite over a chest for calling the Doctor ‘a Dutch-built quizz’ – yet, the rats being already dead, and dressed with onion-sauce, and he so hungry after rattling down the shrouds, he had thought it a pity to let the others scoff the lot. Had lived with a troubled conscience ever since: had in fact expected a summons to the cabin.
‘You would have been living with a troubled stomach if you had known what was in ‘em; the Doctor had -’
‘I tell you what it is, Jack,’ said Stephen, walking quickly in. ‘Oh, I beg your pardon.’
‘No, stay, Doctor. Stay, if you please,’ cried Jack.
Babbington looked wretchedly from one to the other, licked his lips and said, ‘I ate your rat, sir. I am very sorry, and I ask your pardon.’
‘Did you so?’ said Stephen mildly. ‘Well, I hope you enjoyed it. Listen, Jack, will you look at my list, now?’
‘He only ate it when it was dead,’ said Jack.
‘It would have been a strangely hasty, agitated meal, had he ate it before,’ said Stephen, looking attentively at his list. ‘Tell me, sir, did you happen to keep any of the bones?’
‘No, sir. I am very sorry, but we usually crunch ‘em up, like larks. Some of the chaps said they looked uncommon dark, however.’
‘Poor fellows, poor fellows,’ said Stephen in a low, inward voice.
‘Do you wish me to take notice of this theft, Dr Maturin?’ asked Jack.
‘No, my dear, none at all. Nature will take care of that, I am afraid.’

Stephen is eventually revenged in a creative way which also kept him true to his Hippocratic Oath.  Later in that same book, by the way, Jack debauches Stephen’s pet sloth with grog and turns it into an alcoholic.  Which it’s tough going for the Doctor on the high seas.

But I digress.

Do ask Father to come to bless your property.

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Card. Nichols (Archd. Westminster) v. Card. Sarah about Mass ‘ad orientem’

Recently Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, encouraged priests to begin saying Holy Mass ad orientem.

Of course we all knew that that would not be allowed to stand.

I now see this in the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald.

Cardinal Nichols discourages priests from celebrating Mass ad orientem

The Archbishop of Westminster has told clergy Mass is ‘not the time for priests to exercise personal preference or taste’  [So, it’s reduced to “taste” is it?  I refer the readership, and His Eminence, to Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy.  UK HERE]

Cardinal Vincent Nichols has written to priests in Westminster diocese discouraging them from celebrating Mass facing east.

He issued the message to clergy days after the Vatican’s liturgy chief Cardinal Robert Sarah invited priests to celebrate Mass ad orientem from Advent onwards.

Cardinal Sarah was speaking at a liturgical conference in London.

Following Cardinal Robert Sarah’s appeal at the Sacra Liturgia conference in London, Cardinal Nichols wrote to priests reminding them that, “the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, approved by the highest authority in the Church, states in paragraph 299 that ‘The altar should be built apart from the wall, in such a way that it is possible to walk around it easily and that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people, which is desirable wherever possible. The altar should, moreover, be so placed as to be truly the centre toward which the attention of the whole congregation of the faithful naturally turns. The altar is usually fixed and is dedicated.’”  [The Cardinal Archbishop cited GIRM 299.  However, he cited a MISTRANSLATION of 299.  That is NOT what 299 really says.  As a matter of fact, even though the Congregation for Divine Worship clarified what the Latin of 299 meant in an official response to a dubium, people still cite the mistranslation.  What does 299 really say?  “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit. … The main altar should be built separated from the wall, which is useful wherever it is possible, so that it can be easily walked around and a celebration toward the people can be carried out.” The correct translation hangs on that quod.  More on this below.]

While he noted that the Congregation for Divine Worship had confirmed in 2009 that this instruction still allows for Mass to be celebrated facing east, the cardinal wrote: “But it also ‘reaffirms that the position towards the assembly seems more convenient inasmuch as it makes communication easier’. Thus the expectations expressed in GIRM 299 remain in force whenever the Ordinary Form of Mass is celebrated.”  [First, it really doesn’t “make communication easier”.  Also, “communication” of what?]

Cardinal Nichols said that Mass was not the time for priests to “exercise personal preference or taste”, and “as the last paragraph of the GIRM states so clearly, ‘The Roman Missal, though in a diversity of languages and with some variety of customs, must in the future be safeguarded as an instrument and an outstanding sign of the integrity and unity of the Roman Rite’ (399).”  [Let me simply ask. Has His Eminence also made a dramatic public appeal to priests to obey the rubrics in other respects?  I’m sincerely asking this because I don’t know if he has or not.]

After the Sacra Liturgia Conference last week, Cardinal Sarah paid a personal visit to Cardinal Vincent Nichols.

Meanwhile, [no less an oracle than] Fr Antonio Spadaro, [SJ] a papal adviser and editor of the influential journal La Civiltà Cattolica, has shown his support for Mass facing the people on Twitter.  [So what?  BTW… Spadaro is deeply fascinated with Pier Vittorio Tondelli and he has  studied him and written about him extensively.]

Following Cardinal Sarah’s widely reported comments, Fr Spadaro tweeted quotes from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, such as: “The altar should be built apart from the wall in such a way that Mass can be celebrated at it facing the people” and “the priest, facing the people and extending and then joining his hands, invites the people to pray.”  [This is a DECEPTIVE.]

Card. Sarah, during his address in which he made his appeal for ad orientem worship, also said:

At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers.

Here’s the problem with the Spadaro blurb at the end.

First, just because an altar is built in such a way that Mass can be celebrated “facing the people” (otherwise known priest and people in a closed circle focusing on themselves), that doesn’t mean that Mass must be celebrated that way.

Second, the current rubrics in the Ordinary Form’s Missale Romanum has the words “ad populum conversus”, which, were Spadaro paying attention to what the Missal really says, means, “having turned around toward the people.”  It means that in Italian, too, by the way.  Note also that the concept of “facing” isn’t included.  In a nutshell, what is behind that “facing” is a directive to the priest to turn around.  That means that the priest wasn’t “facing the people” before.

More about GIRM 299, which was mistranslated.

Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued a clarification (Prot. No. 2036/00/L) regarding 299 in the Latin GIRM. That clarification says:

The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has been asked whether the expression in n. 299 of the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani [aka GIRM] constitutes a norm according to which the position of the priest versus absidem [facing the apse] is to be excluded. The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after mature reflection and in light of liturgical precedents, responds:

Negatively, and in accordance with the following explanation.

The explanation includes different elements which must be taken into account. First, the word expedit does not constitute a strict obligation but a suggestion that refers to the construction of the altar a pariete sejunctum (detached from the wall). It does not require, for example, that existing altars be pulled away from the wall. The phrase ubi possibile sit (where it is possible) refers to, for example, the topography of the place, the availability of space, the artistic value of the existing altar, the sensibility of the people participating in the celebrations in a particular church, etc.

I gave you a correct translation, above.

Finally, about reducing this all to a matter of taste.


There are serious theological and spiritual reasons for chosing the orientation of Holy Mass, one way or the other.  There is nothing shallow about this matter.

Again, I refer the readership to the aforementioned book by Ratzinger, not to mention also Turning Towards The Lord by my friend Fr. Lang. UK HERE   And then there’s the amazing work of Klaus Gamber. UK HERE

Ratzinger, and Lang after him, speak about the eschatological meaning of ad orientem worship.  Not exactly shallow.  Gamber argues that the single most damaging misapplication of the liturgical reforms mandated by the Second Vatican Council was the turning around of altars.  Not exactly shallow.

Cardinal Sarah said: “I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible […] with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people.”  In his talk, His Eminence laid out his reasons for this appeal to priests.

Card. Nichols has a different perspective. Fine. I would only respond, please, let’s have a real reason for such a perspective.

To reduce the question of orientation of Holy Mass to a matter of “taste” is to avoid the serious questions inherent in the orientation of Holy Mass.

Moderation queue is ON.


The Machine has begun to grind away at Card. Sarah’s credibility.

Spadaro, SJ, sent out a tweet with a photo/image of a communique from the Holy See Press Office. “Chiarimenti… Clarifications on the celebration of Mass.”  It is dated 11 July.


Here is the image itself.   As of this writing I have not found the text on the Holy See’s website or anywhere else.

This says, in effect, that Card. Sarah did not say anything official.  Fine.  He didn’t.  Then it goes a bit off the rails.


Beginning with “Perciò…”

Therefore, it is good to recall that in the Institutio Generalis Missalis Romani (GIRM), which contains the norms relative to the Eucharistic celebration and still fully in force, at n. 299 it reads: “Altare maius exstruatur a pariete seiunctum, ut facile circumiri et in eo celebratio versus populum peragi possit, quod expedit ubicumque possibile sit.  Altare eum autem occupet locum, ut revera centrum sit ad quod totius congregationis fidelium attentio sponte convertatur” (namely: [It continues in Italian … which in English is:] The altar is to be constructed detached from the wall, in order to go round it easily and celebrate turned toward the people, which thing is suitable where it is possible.  The altar is then situated in a way so as really to constitute the center towards which the attention of the faithful spontaneously converges”). [End Italian “translation” of the Latin – I will add that separating an altar from the wall doesn’t automatically draw everyone’s attention to it.  For instance, many churches were designed to draw the eye to the main altar, which in the case of many older churches was at the wall.  Also, the Italian “translation” also gets the Latin wrong.  What’s wrong with these people?]  For his part, Pope Francis, on the occasion of his visit to the Dicastery of Divine Worship, mentioned specifically that the “ordinary” form of the celebration of Mass is that which is foreseen in the Missal promulgated by Paul VI, [Yep… and…so?] while that which is “extraordinary”, which was permitted by Benedict XVI [OOPS.  wrong.] for the purpose and the manner explained by him in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, should not take the place of that which is “ordinary”.  [Look at the Letter which Benedict sent out with Summorum Pontificum. Benedict wrote: “As for the use of the 1962 Missal as a Forma extraordinaria of the liturgy of the Mass, I would like to draw attention to the fact that this Missal was never juridically abrogated and, consequently, in principle, was always permitted. At the time of the introduction of the new Missal, it did not seem necessary to issue specific norms for the possible use of the earlier Missal.”   Note that “in principle”.  De facto, however, because of the fury of hell that bishops would rain down on priests who dared to say Mass in the way it was said for centuries, priests needed permission.] There are not, therefore, foreseen new liturgical directives beginning with next Advent, as some has improperly deduced from some of the words of Cardinal Sarah, and it is better to avoid the use of the expression “reform of the reform”, in making reference to the liturgy, given that sometimes is was the source of misinterpretatations. [Card. Sarah said in his now famous speech “I do not think that we can dismiss the possibility or the desirability of an official reform of the liturgical reform”.  But what could these misinterpretations be?]  All this was mutually expressed in the course of a recent audience granted by the Pope to the same Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. [The Bolletino of 9 July says that Card. Sarah had an audience. ]

There are a couple of misleading notes in this communique along with an ominous note about the audience.

So, there it is.  The discrediting is in full swing now.

Some of that language seemed vaguely familiar.  I rummaged around and found that in February of 2015 Pope Francis made some off-the-cuff remarks to clergy in Rome.  HERE  You decide.

ASIDE: Am I wrong, or did Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger use the phrase “reform of the reform”?   Either way, I think that Fr. Joseph Fessio (an old student of Ratzinger) popularized it.

Also ASIDE: If we are to abandon the phrase “reform of the reform”, doesn’t that imply that we are to abandon the concept of “reform of the reform” as well?  What, then, would the “mutual enrichment” of the two Forms in the Roman Rite foreseen by Benedict XVI look like?  Wouldn’t that – ironically – make the Novus Ordo into the proverbial fly in amber which many liberals accuse the Traditional Roman Rite of being?

In his talk in London last week, Card. Sarah said in April 2015, Pope Francis asked him “to study the question of the ‘reform of the reform,’ looking at how the two forms can enrich one another.”

In any event, we must keep an eye on Card. Sarah even as we keep him in our prayers.

Moderation queue is ON.


The English of the Communique is out.



Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, The Drill | Tagged , , | 48 Comments

Your Sunday Sermon Notes

Was there a good point or two during the sermon at the Holy Mass you heard for your Sunday obligation? Let us know what it was!

For my part, I explained the Lord’s parable about the devious, cheating steward (TLM Gospel for 8th Sunday after Pentecost). Why does the Lord seem to praise a man who is a slick, cheating thief?

Posted in SESSIUNCULA | 15 Comments

WDTPRS 8th Sunday after Pentecost (1962MR): Being even more ourselves.

Today’s Collect is from the ancient Veronese Sacramentary and the Gelasian and the so-called Gregorian. It survived the liturgical tailors with their scissors and thread to live on in the post-Conciliar Missale Romanum on Thursday of the 1st week of Lent. However, there is a minor adjustment in the Novus Ordo version.

Let’s drill into what our prayer really says.


Largire nobis, quaesumus, Domine, semper spiritum cogitandi quae recta sunt, propitius et agendi: ut, qui sine te esse non possumus, secundum te vivere valeamus.

In the Novus Ordo version that oddly placed propitius (“propitiously”) is replaced by promptius (“more readily/openly”). In the critical edition of the ancient Veronese Sacramentary, you find promptius. The reformers preferred the version that pre-dated the “Tridentine” editio princeps of 1570. What happened? Probably some ancient copyist made a mistake in reading an old manuscript’s ink squiggles in – mpt – and – pit -. Easy to do.

One meaning of secundum in the prestigious Lewis & Short Dictionary is “agreeably to, in accordance with, according to”. Remember that largire is an imperative of a deponent verb, not an infinitive. The famous verb cogito is more than simply “to think”. It reflects deeper reflection, true pursuit in the mind: “to consider thoroughly, to ponder, to weigh, reflect upon, think”.


We beg you, O Lord, bestow upon us propitiously the spirit of thinking always things which are correct, and of carrying them out, so that we who are not able to exist without You may be able to live according to Your will.

In my peregrinations though the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) I found a text which harks to at least part of the content of this prayer (In io. eu. tr. 51,3):

“For Christ, who humbled Himself, made obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross, is the teacher of humility. When He teaches us humility He doesn’t thus let go of His divinity: for in it (His divinity) He is the equal of the Father, while in this (His humility) He is like unto us; and in that He is the Father’s equal He created us in order that we might exist; and in that He is like to us, He redeemed us so that we would not perish.”

In Acts 17:28, we read about our God, “in whom we live and move and have our being”, a concept perhaps influenced by the legendary Epimenides of Knossos (6th c?).

We are made to act as God acts: to know, will and love.

When we cleave to God, seeking what is good and true and beautiful through the tangle of our wounded intellect, we are really seeking God.

Once we know what is good, true and beautiful, either because we reasoned to it or perhaps an authority helped us, then we must act in accordance with the good, truth and beauty we found.

Today we pray to God in our Collect to give us the actual graces we need in order to live properly according to His image within us.

We are even more ourselves, even freer when, eschewing our own errant wills, we embrace the One who is Goodness, Truth and Beauty.

Yet there are times when we purposely (and thereafter habitually) choose against what reason and authority point to as the Good, True and Beautiful. We make the choice to stray and sin. In doing so we diminish ourselves. After all, we have our very existence from the One whom we choose to defy. We must return to the correct path, as Dante did in his Divine Comedy. His fictional self strayed into the dark woods after leaving the path of the right reason.

We could so often avoid sin if we would just act readily on those impulses of our minds and consciences toward what is good and true and beautiful. In a way, the phrase of the Nike commercial (níke means “victory” in ancient Greek) sums it up: Just Do It. And we have many helps in discerning the good, especially in the authoritative teachings of the Church. Over time we build up good habits of acting at the right time and measure, so that we have the habits that are virtues.

A problem rises when circumstances and our passions confuse us and we must ponder to discern the correct path. Most of the time we get ourselves into trouble by hesitating about doing what we know is right. We mull, dawdle, pick and get ourselves into a hornet nest of problems.

Strive, in accord with a conscience formed by the Church’s teachings and according to common sense, after the good, true and beautiful, which are ultimately reflects of God.

Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Our Catholic Identity, WDTPRS | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments


Please use the sharing buttons! Thanks!

Registered or not, will you in your charity please take a moment look at the requests and to pray for the people about whom you read?

Continued from THESE.

I get many requests by email asking for prayers. Many requests are heart-achingly grave and urgent.

As long as my blog reaches so many readers in so many places, let’s give each other a hand. We should support each other in works of mercy.

If you have some prayer requests, feel free to post them below.

You have to be registered here to be able to post.

I still have a pressing personal petition.  Really.

Posted in SESSIUNCULA | 33 Comments

PODCAzT 148: Interview with Fr. Richard Heilman – Part 1

In this PODCAzT we hear the the first of two parts of an interview I did with Fr. Richard Heilman, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Pine Bluff, WI a few minutes to the west of Madison.  I’ve written about Fr. Heilman may times.  I help out at that parish on weekends.  I’ve seen some great things going on there.  It occurred to me that what Fr. Heilman is doing there could provide some encouragement, especially in the wake of Card. Sarah’s appeal to priests to start saying Mass ad orientem.

In this first part, Father talks about a rather unusual situation he faced at the beginning of his pastorate.  We speak about moving his parish to ad orientem worship for all Masses.   He speaks about the influence learning the Traditional Latin Mass has had on him.  He also talks about working with groups of men.

Fr. Heilman is the maker of the Combat Rosary which was recently in the world’s view with the Commandant of the Swiss Guard help one up and referred to it in his speech during this year’s Oath Taking Ceremony in May.  I wrote on that HERE.

Fr. Heilman’s blog HERE.

Along the way you hear some music by Zipoli.  UK HERE

149 16-07-18 Interview with Fr. Richard Heilman – Part 2

Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Mail from priests, Our Catholic Identity, PODCAzT | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

CQ CQ CQ #HamRadio Saturday: Zuhlsdorf’s Law strikes again… and again.

ham radio badassLast week I wrote that I passed my Extra exam, to upgrade my license.   Really.  I did actually pass.

So, I patiently checked the FCC site every couple days to see if the upgrade was posted.  No joy.

Then I was sent this by one of the VEs.  It’s a blurb in the ARRL VE Newsletter July 2016.

ARRL VEC Exam and Application Files not being processed by FCC

FCC Investigating Amateur Radio, Commercial Application Processing Glitch [This is a bizarre new manifestation of Zuhlsdorf’s Law.]


The FCC information technology staff is continuing to look into why the Universal Licensing System (ULS) Electronic Batch Filing (EBF) system has stopped processing at least some — and perhaps all — Amateur Radio exam session files and applications. The stoppage, which began on June 28, initially affected the handling of all Amateur Radio Volunteer Examiner Coordinator (VEC)  and commercial license applications, said ARRL VEC Manager Maria Somma, AB1FM, who alerted the FCC IT Department. Somma said that by June 30, it appeared that the FCC had corrected the broader problem, and processing of most Amateur Radio VEC and commercial applications and exam session files had resumed.

The fix for the ARRL VEC remains elusive, however,” said Somma. “I assumed the issue would be cleared up quickly as the FCC has done in the past.” She added, that the FCC has been unwilling to reveal the extent of the problem, which she believes still could be affecting applications from outside the ARRL VEC.  [I’m in the queue, that’s why.]

According to Somma, resolving the problem has been escalated to Priority 1 at the FCC, and resources have been reprioritized to address the issue.

“I have been in contact with the FCC every day inquiring about their progress and will continue to do so until the problem is resolved,” Somma said. “I have also asked them to provide us with an alternate filing option as soon as possible.”

Somma said that as of July 6, the ARRL VEC had more than 900 applications and nearly 275 exam sessions in the queue and awaiting FCC processing.

“As soon as the FCC staff discovers and corrects the EBF system problem, we will immediately file the backlog, which would take only a day or so to release,” Somma estimated.  [It’s a government office.  What could go wrong?]

She said a lot of candidates and volunteer examiners have begun asking why new call signs or license upgrades have not yet been issued, and she is sympathetic with their concerns. “We usually transmit the exam sessions to FCC as soon as possible, which is 24 to 48 hours from the day they are received in our office,” she said. “Therefore, questions from the field about the delay are understandable.”

This new story can be found on the ARRL Website.

We thank you and your candidates for being patient while we work through this issue with FCC.

So, there it is.  I am in Extra Limbo.

But I DO have my ticket!  I do!


But wait.  There’s more.

I was chuffed about passing the exam, so the next day I loaded up my stuff and went out to my usual operating spot in the parish cemetery.  It’s beautiful, I can pray for the dead, and they don’t mind that I’m around.

And, in that appropriate place, my radio died.

I’ll spare you the details, but as I was tuning up there was a whirrrrrr and now I can’t change frequency and the display doesn’t work.

“Caramba!”, quoth I.  Or words to that effect.

Zuhlsdorf’s Law again.

Some of you may not remember it.

Murphy was an optimist. Therefore…

  • Corollary 1: When you need your technology to work, that is when it will fail.
  • Corollary 2: The extent of the failure is proportioned to the urgency of the need.
  • Corollary 3: When you want to show someone the great gizmo or program you have, that is when it won’t work.
  • Corollary 4: When the person to whom you wanted to show off your great gizmo or program departs, unimpressed, that is when it will once again begin to function properly.

Someone should update the Wikipedia list of eponymous laws.  Of course that probably bust the website.

I got on the horn to my local Elmer who is always helpful.  He had recently done some research on a new radio for his own use and, knowing my (lack of) experience made a recommendation.  Frankly, I was ready to get a new rig.  I really like the old Kenwood that one of you readers sent, but this is a good time for an upgrade.  I’ll get the older transceiver repaired.  I have a plan for it.

So, it was off to Milwaukee and the only Ham Radio store in any direction for hundreds of miles.

I now have a new rig.


Zuhlsdorf’s Law wasn’t finished with me.  I’m like the kiss of death these days.

I return from Milwaukee and find this in my email the next day.

From the ARRL letter…


“Caramba!”, quoth I anew.


Folks, don’t let me come near anything that you hold dear… at least for a few more days.

Anyway, I have ordered up some monel wire and insulators and, soon, will brew up an antenna with the help of my local Elmer.

But, Caramba!, it has been a tough ham radio week.

You know the one about the pessimist and the optimist, right?

The pessimist says, “Things can’t possibly get any worse!”  To which the optimist replies, “Oh, yes they can!”

I created a page for the List of YOUR callsigns.  HERE  Chime in or drop me a note if your call doesn’t appear in the list.



Posted in Ham Radio | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

WDTPRS 15th Ordinary Sunday: Be living lenses of God’s light!

For those who still whine about the 2011 English translation, this week we have a good example of a dramatic difference between the Obsolete ICEL version and the Latin and the Current ICEL versions.

The Collect or Opening Prayer for this 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time in the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite is also used in the Extraordinary Form on the 3rd Sunday after Easter.   In the Ordinary Form it is also the Collect for Monday of the 3rd week of Easter season.

Today’s prayer goes back at least to the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.  My trusty edition of the St. Pius V’s 1570 Missale Romanum, and the subsequent 1962MR, show the insertion of a word – “in viam possint redire iustitiae” – not present in the more ancient Collect in the Gelasian (though it was present in some other ancient sacramentaries).

The Ordinary Form editions of the Missal drop iustitiae.

Stylistically, this is a snappy prayer, with nice alliteration and a powerful rhythm in the last line.

COLLECT – (2002MR):

Deus, qui errantibus, ut in viam possint redire,
veritatis tuae lumen ostendis,
da cunctis qui christiana professione censentur,
et illa respuere, quae huic inimica sunt nomini,
et ea quae sunt apta sectari.

It is hard to know what the sources influencing this prayer might be.  Certainly we can find John 14, which we shall see below. Can we find in the Collect a trace of the Roman statesman Cassiodorus (+c. 585 – consul in 514 and then Boethius’ successor as magister officiorum under the Ostrogothic King Theodoric)?  Cassiodorus wrote, “Sed potest aliquis et in via peccatorum esse et ad viam iterum redire iustitiae? But can someone be both in the way of sins and also return again to the way of justice?” (cf. Exp. Ps. 13).  Otherwise we might infer a touch of Milan’s mighty Bishop Ambrose (+397) or even more probably Augustine of Hippo (+430) who use similar patterns of words.   Note especially the presence of “iustitiae” in Cassiodorus’ phrase.

The thorough Lewis & Short Dictionary informs you that the verb censeo, though quite complicated, is primarily “to estimate, weigh, value, appreciate”.  It is used for, “to be of an opinion” and “to think, consider” something.  There is a special construction with censeo, censeri aliqua re meaning “to be appreciated, distinguished, celebrated for some quality”, “to be known by something.”   This explains the passive form in our Collect with the ablative christiana professione.   Getting this into English requires some fancy footwork.   Censeo here retains a meaning of “be counted among” (think of English “census”).  We can get the right concept in “distinguished” since it can mean both “be counted as” as well as “be celebrated for some quality.”

Christianus, a, um is an adjective with the noun professio. When moving from Latin to English sometimes we need to pull adjectives apart and rephrase them.  We could say “Christian profession”, but what this adjectival construction means here is “profession of Christ.”  We find the same problem in phrases such as oratio dominica, which is literally “the Lordly Prayer” in English comes out more smoothly as “the Lord’s Prayer”.

Respuo literally means “to spit out” and thus “reject, repel, refuse”.  The fundamental meaning gives a strong enough image for me to say “strongly reject”.  The deponent verb sector indicates “to follow continually or eagerly” in either a good or bad sense.  Sector is used, for example, to describe a group of followers who accompanied ancient philosophers, which is where we get the word “sect”.   The word via needs our attention.  It means, “a way, method, mode, manner, fashion, etc., of doing any thing, course”.   There is a moral content to via as well, “the right way, the true method, mode, or manner”.


O God, who do show the light of Your truth to the erring
so that they might be able to return unto the right way,
grant to all who are distinguished by their profession of Christ
that they may both strongly reject those things which are inimical to this name of Christian
and follow eagerly the things which are suited to it.


God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him
reject what is contrary to the gospel.


O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor

Some initial associations to my mind.

Ancient philosophers (the word comes from Greek for “lover of wisdom”) would walk about in public in their sandals and draped toga-like robes.  Thinker theologian/philosophers such as Aristotle were called “Peripatetics” from their practice of walking about (Greek peripatein) under covered walkways of the Lyceum in Athens (Greek peripatos) while teaching.  Their disciples would swarm around them, hanging on their words, debating with them, learning how to think and to reason.  They would discuss the deeper questions the human mind and heart inevitably faces and in this they were theologians.   We must be careful not to impose the modern divorce of philosophy and theology on the ancients.  In ancient Christian mosaics Christ is sometimes depicted wearing philosopher’s robes, his hand raised in the ancient teaching gesture.  He is Wisdom incarnate and the perfect Teacher.   He is the one from whom we should learn about God and about ourselves.  After Christ Himself, we also have His Church, who is Mater et Magistra – Mother and Teacher.  Sometimes a small Christ is seated upon His Mother as if she were His teaching chair, or cathedral.  When so depicted, Mary is called Seat of Wisdom.

I am also reminded of the very first lines of the Divine Comedy by the exiled Florentine poet Dante Alighieri (+1321) who was heavily shaped and influenced by Aristotle’s Ethics and the Christianized Platonic philosophy mediated through Boethius (+525) and St. Thomas Aquinas (+1274).  The Inferno begins:

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense, and harsh –
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.

Have you not read Dante yet?  You could start with Esolen (Part 1, Inferno HERE) or perhaps with Dorothy Sayers’ fine version (Part 1, Inferno, HERE).  There are many renderings to choose from.  I would very much like to teach on Dante someday.  Maybe it’ll happen.

Dante, the protagonist of his own poem, is describing a fictional self.  His poetic persona, in the middle of his life (35 years old), is mired in sin and irrational behavior.  He has strayed from the straight path of the life of reason and is in the “dark wood”.  The life of persistent sin is a life without true reason, for human reason when left to itself without the light of grace is crippled.  Dante likens his confused state to death.  He must journey through hell and back.  He then experiences the purification of purgatory in order to come back to the life of virtue and reason.  In the course of the three-part Comedy he finds the proper road back to light and Truth and reason through the intercession of Christ-like figures such as Beatrice and Lucy and then through Christ Himself.

In the Comedy, Dante recovers the use of reason.  His whole person is reintegrated through the light of Truth.

Don’t we often describe people who are ignorant, confused or obtuse as “wandering around in the dark”?  This applies also to persistent sinners.

By their choices and resistance to God’s grace they have lost the light of Truth.  God’s grace makes it possible for us to find our way back into the right path, no matter how far off of it we have strayed in the past.

When we sin, we break our relationship with Christ.  If in laziness we should refuse to know Him better (every day), we lose sight of ourselves and our neighbor. The Second Vatican Council teaches that Christ came into the world to reveal man more fully to himself (GS 22).

Christ, the incarnate Word, tells us in the person of the Apostle St. Thomas:

“‘Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way (via) where I am going.’  Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way (via)?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way (via), and the truth (veritas), and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.  If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him…. He who has seen me has seen the Father’” (cf. John 14:1-6 RSV).

We have not only the words and deeds of Christ in Scripture, but God has given us in the Catholic Church herself a secure marked path to follow towards happiness.  We can stray off this sure path either to the right or to the left.  Either way, too far right or too far left, we wind up in the ditch in the dark.

When we have gone off the proper path and have left Christ, the Way, we can return to our senses again and be reconciled with God and neighbor through the sacraments entrusted to the Catholic Church, especially in the Sacrament of Penance and then good reception of Christ in Holy Communion.

We Catholics, who dare publicly to take Christ’s name to ourselves, need to stand up and be counted (censentur) in public and on public issues and even sharply refuse (respuere) whatever is contrary to Christ’s Name.

In what we say and do other people ought to be able to see Christ’s light reflected and focused in the details of our individual vocations.

To be good lenses and reflectors of Christ’s light, we must be clean.  When we know ourselves not to be so, we are obliged as soon as possible to seek cleansing so that we can be saved and be of benefit for the salvation of others.  We must also practice spiritual works of mercy, bringing the light of truth to the ignorant or those who persist in darkness either through their own fault or no fault of their own.

When people look at us and listen to us, do they see a black, light-extinguishing hole where a beautiful image of God should be?

Posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS | Tagged , , | 16 Comments