31 March 2008

The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This is the great Festival of the Incarnation, commemorating the announcement by the Archangel Gabriel to our Lady that the Divine Son of God, the Word, would take human nature upon Him in her virginal womb. Its date is determined by that of Christmas Day, and as the day which marked the beginning of the Christian dispensation it was for many centuries regarded as the first day of the civil year.

On this day the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, uniting for evermore our human nature to the Divine nature. The mystery of the Incarnation brings vividly before us the boundless condescension and humility of God the Son in stooping to our condition in order to be our Savior. Equally it proclaims the glory and greatness of Mary, who was chosen to give to the Divine Word human flesh and human birth, and so to co-operate with God in the restoration of mankind. Hence her most glorious title of "Mother of God," which explains all her glories, her sanctity, and her honor.

Today is also OPENING DAY 2008 for the DETROIT TIGERS!

Who's your Tiger? My Tigers this year are Jeremy Bonderman (SP) and Curtis Granderson (CF), with Carlos Guillen (1B) as my fill-in while Curtis is on the DL. Lisa's Tigers this year are Nate Robertson (SP) and Placido Polanco (2B).

Today my pick for a great performance is Justin Verlander (SP) and Lisa's is Brandon Inge (CF). Go get 'em!

[Update] Well, they lost 5-4 in 11 innings. As for our Tigers, Verlander was great through 5 but then gave up 2 runs each in the 6th and 7th. Guillen and Inge played well, the former hitting a game-tying HR in the 8th and the latter throwing out the would-be go-ahead run at home plate in the 11th. Polanco was 0 for 6.

30 March 2008

Concerning the Author of the Fourth Gospel

I offer the following in response to a question concerning the author of the Fourth Gospel passed on to me by Lisa.

It is important to know first that the Pontifical Biblical Commission (PBC) although no longer invested with magisterial authority, was so invested throughout the earlier part of the twentieth century:

Pope Pius X, Motu Proprio Praestantia Scripturae, 18 Nov. 1907:
We now declare and expressly enjoin that all without exception are bound by an obligation of conscience to submit to the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, whether already issued or to be issued hereafter, exactly as to the decrees of the Sacred Congregations which are on matters of doctrine and approved by the Pope; nor can anyone who by word or writing attacks the said decrees avoid the note both of disobedience and of rashness or be therefore without grave fault.

Bearing in mind then that the PBC speaks here with the voice of the authentic magisterium of the Church, here are the answers of the PBC to two questions submitted to it, dated 29 May 1907:

I: Does the constant, universal, and solemn tradition of the Church dating back to the second century and witnessed to principally: (a) by the holy Fathers, by ecclesiastical writers, and even by heretics, whose testimonies and allusions must have been derived from the disciples or first successors of the Apostles and so be linked with the very origin of the book; (b) by the name of the author of the fourth Gospel having been at all times and places in the canon and lists of the sacred books; (c) by the most ancient manuscripts of those books and the various versions; (d) by public liturgical use in the whole world from the very beginnings of the Church; prove that John the Apostle and no other is to be acknowledged as the author of the fourth Gospel, and that by an historical argument so firmly established (without reference to theological considerations) that the reasons adduced by critics to the contrary in no way weaken this tradition? Answer: In the affirmative.

II: Should, further, internal reasons derived from the text of the fourth Gospel considered by itself, from the witness of the writer and the manifest relationship of the Gospel itself to the first Epistle of John the Apostle, be judged to confirm the tradition that unhesitatingly attributes the fourth Gospel to the same Apostle? And can the difficulties which arise from a comparison of the same Gospel with the other three, in view of the differences of time, aim, and hearers, for whom or against whom the author wrote, be given reasonable solutions, as has been done by the holy Fathers and Catholic exegetes in various works? Answer: In the affirmative to both parts.

Credit is due to Catholic Apologetics International for making the above and many more of the Replies of the Biblical Commission easily available.

Low Sunday

This Sunday is called from the first words of the Introit, the Sunday of Quasimodo, or Sunday in Albis (deponendis) because the neophytes on that day put aside their white garments. In English the term Low Sunday is in contrast with Easter or High Sunday. Another Latin name Pascha clausum is preserved in the French Pâques closes and in the Dutch or Flemish Beloken Pasen: close of Easter, this Sunday ending the Octave. - Let us proclaim our faith in the risen Lord, and in His divine Presence in the Holy Eucharist.

Quasimodo Sunday is, of course, not named after the famous "Hunchback of Notre Dame" (a novel by Victor Hugo); in fact, quite the opposite.

Days of the Church year often take their respective names from the opening words of that day's Introit. For example, the Introit of the third Sunday of Advent opens Gaudete in Domino semper. Similarly, the Introit of the fourth Sunday of Lent begins with the words Laetare Jerusalem. Today the Introit opens Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia: rationabile, sine dolo lac concupiscite, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia. [As newborn babes, alleluia, desire the rational milk without guile, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.]

In Victor Hugo's story, it was on this day, Quasi modo Sunday, that a deformed child was left in the Cathedrale Notre-Dame:

Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes place, one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after Mass, in the church of Notre- Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the vestibule on the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher, which the figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier, carved in stone, had been gazing at on his knees since 1413, when they took it into their heads to overthrow the saint and the faithful follower. Upon this bed of wood it was customary to expose foundlings for public charity. Whoever cared to take them did so. In front of the wooden bed was a copper basin for alms. The sort of living being which lay upon that plank on the morning of Quasimodo, in the year of the Lord, 1467, appeared to excite to a high degree, the curiosity of the numerous group which had congregated about the wooden bed.

29 March 2008

Easter Saturday

This morning around 5:45 we said good-bye (sniffle-sniffle) to Will and Anna at the Vienna airport. They are flying home to Pensacola via Prague and Atlanta. St. Christopher, please pray for them! The nine days they spent with us went so fast!

Meanwhile back in Gaming our internet service is shaky (we're told that everybody's cell phones are out too), but we've managed to put some more pictures into our March 2008 photo album.

28 March 2008

Easter Friday

Will and Anna's last day with us in Gaming! We took a walk in the afternoon to Maria's favorite destination: the pond (complete with ducks) across the street from which are lots of cows! As you can see Tuesday's blizzard has melted almost completely away.

27 March 2008

Easter Thursday

Well today waxed warm and sunny - the snow began to melt away rather rapidly and, after my morning classes, we set out for a long walk in search of a certain waterfall. Eventually, however, the path became too snow-covered for the stroller to go on, so we stopped for a bit of lunch on a little bridge before heading back to Gaming.

26 March 2008

Easter Wednesday

The past few days here have been quite snowy - maybe four or five inches when all was said and done this afternoon. This picture of a Byzantine procession is from Monday before the snow really started to pile up.

The Feast of the Annunciation has been moved in the Roman Rite from March 25 (yesterday) to March 31, because the 25th fell within the Easter Octave. The Byzantines though don't move the Feast for anything! Yesterday, therefore, was quite a celebration here. The Byzantine chapel is dedicated to the Annunciation, and was dedicated on this Feast just last year. We found out in the homily by the way that the chapel holds relics of Ss. Nicholas, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, and Barbara. Yesterday was also the 25th anniversary of one of our professor's consecration as a virgin. She was consecrated by then-Cardinal Ratzinger! After the Divine Liturgy we were all treated to quite an array of food, drink, and song in the Kartause.

Maria is enjoying Easter thoroughly! Here she is making a buck-toothed bunny face while eating her chocolate Easter bunny. And for dinner this evening, with Will and Anna back from Salzburg, Lisa made "drunken chicken." It looks perhaps a bit distasteful, but tasted quite good. The evaporating beer makes the chicken quite moist!

25 March 2008

Easter Tuesday

Orientation in liturgy: ad orientem or versus populum?

I just read an interesting exchange between Cardinal Ratzinger and a Dominican named Pierre-Marie Gy which touched on the subject of orientation in the liturgy. Gy's critique of Ratzinger's book The Spirit of the Liturgy, and Ratzinger's response to his criticisms were recently published in English in Antiphon, the journal of the Society for Catholic Liturgy. (Also recently published in Antiphon 11.2 [2007] was a small piece entitled "Love and Self-Gift: Sacrifice in St Augustine's City of God," by John Joy.)

It is often interesting in polarizing debates to see in what terms the respective positions are cast. For example, the debate over abortion is usually cast in terms of "pro-choice" vs. "pro-life." The term "pro-choice" is [deliberately?] deceptive both in that it (1) implies that those who are pro-life are also anti-choice, and in that it (2) disguises the fact that those who are pro-choice are actually pro-death.

Pro-lifers have tried for years to fight this deceptive terminology by recasting the debate more accurately and unambiguously in terms of "pro-life" vs. "pro-death," or "pro-abortion."

Similarly, the debate over on which side of the altar the priest should stand when offering the Mass is usually framed in terms of "Mass facing the people" vs. "Mass with the priest's back to the people." The Latin terms used are only slightly less weighted: Mass is offered either versus populum [turned toward the people] or ad orientem [toward the East].

Nevertheless, the term "versus populum" is [deliberately?] deceptive both in that it (1) emphasizes the fact that the priest's back is to the people when he offers Mass ad orientem, implying that this is somehow disrespectful to the people, and in that it (2) disguises the fact that Mass celebrated versus populum is actually celebrated with the priest's back to God [whether literally in the tabernacle, liturgically on the crucifix, or symbolically in the East].

This debate should also be recast in more accurate terms: Mass is offered either versus populum [turned toward the people] or versus Deum [turned toward God]; either with the priest's back to the people, or with his back to God. When the deceptiveness of language is thus exposed one has only to remember Jeremiah 32:33-34:

"They have turned to me their back and not their face; and though I have taught them persistently they have not listened to receive instruction. They set up their abominations in the house which is called by my name, to defile it."

24 March 2008

Easter Monday

This Octave is entirely consecrated to the neophytes. The week was for them a continual feast, a spiritual feast; and they kept their white baptismal garments, which were not laid aside until the following Sunday (in albis deponendis). The Masses of this Octave allude, like that of Pentecost, sometimes to the Resurrection, sometimes to Baptism. Let us follow the example of the neophytes; let us all be one in mind and heart, in proclaiming together our faith in the risen Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here we all are last night at dinner. Some of the students (all men, as the women cooked a meal on Holy Thursday) organized and cooked a really remarkable Easter feast for us all last night. Lentil and French onion soups, pizza, pasta, salad, deliciously tender and flavorful lamb, garlic potatoes, an international array of desserts, and plenty of beer and wine all throughout.

After dinner, Anna and I took Maria home to bed (it was about 9:30 when the meal was finally finished). The students continued the festivities by singing Easter hymns. As you can see above, Will was quite willing to join the other singers!

I've also added a new photo album to the sidebar, or you can just follow this link: March 2008.

23 March 2008

Easter Sunday


22 March 2008

Holy Saturday

Freshly added to my Reading List is a book kindly carried across the Atlantic for us by Will and Anna. 1917: Red Banners White Mantle by Warren Carroll is:

"A captivating account that narrates, month by month, the events of 1917. This is popular Catholic history at its finest. The drama of the Great War and the Russian Revolution are juxtaposed with the spiritual dimension of the Age: the diabolism of Rasputin, the Apparition of the Virgin at Fatima, the malignancy of Lenin, the saintly courage of (the now blessed) Charles of Austria. Few standard histories have ever given such a high degree of consideration to the supernatural and the Christian interpretation of history as 1917 does." (From the publisher's website - Christendom Press.)

21 March 2008

Good Friday

Yesterday morning, by the way, Will and Anna (and baby) arrived safely here via Atlanta and Vienna. Maria is loving having them here (as are Lisa and I). She can say, Aunt Anna, but so far has not said, Uncle Will. Although we're suspicious that she can say it, but is not doing so deliberately just to torment him.

20 March 2008

Maundy Thursday

"Maundy" comes from the Latin mandatum, which means, "command." The name refers to Christ's words at the Last Supper: "A new commandment I give unto you" (Jn. 13:34).

After the evening Mass, while the altar is stripped of its cloths, Psalm 21 is chanted with the antiphon, "They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots." This psalm is also tremendously important for our understanding of Christ's work on the Cross. Indeed, Christ Himself speaks the opening words from the Cross. Unfortunately, "O God my God, why hast Thou forsaken me? is far too often interpreted as meaning that some real separation took place between the Father and the Son on the Cross. I've written before about this typically Protestant understanding of the atonement as a penal substitution, i.e., that Jesus suffered the punishment of sin in our place so that we would not have to. This of course lands one in more difficulties and absurdities than it is easy to list, chief amongst which is the lessening of the substantial unity of the Trinity (no small problem if you ask anybody living in the 4th century).

Interesting to note that Cardinal Ratzinger, in his short work Behold the Pierced One, sees in these very same words evidence of the profound unity and communion between Father and Son. The plain fact is that even in the throes of death, our Lord was praying (in the words of a psalm) to His Father. His death was an act of prayer. According to the traditional Catholic understanding, Christ was abandoned only in that the Father did not send (and the Son did not ask Him to send) legions of angels to rescue Him. No, the Father abandoned the Son into the hands of sinful men, just as the Son abandoned Himself into the hands of sinful men.

Psalm 21: Unto the end, for the morning protection, a psalm for David.

O God my God, look upon me: why hast thou forsaken me? Far from my salvation are the words of my sins. O my God, I shall cry by day, and thou wilt not hear: and by night, and it shall not be reputed as folly in me. But thou dwellest in the holy place, the praise of Israel. In thee have our fathers hoped: they have hoped, and thou hast delivered them.

They cried to thee, and they were saved: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. But I am a worm, and no man: the reproach of men, and the outcast of the people. All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head. He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him. For thou art he that hast drawn me out of the womb: my hope from the breasts of my mother.

I was cast upon thee from the womb. From my mother's womb thou art my God, Depart not from me. For tribulation is very near: for there is none to help me. Many calves have surrounded me: fat bulls have besieged me. They have opened their mouths against me, as a lion ravening and roaring. I am poured out like water; and all my bones are scattered. My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels.

My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue hath cleaved to my jaws: and thou hast brought me down into the dust of death. For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. They have dug my hands and feet. They have numbered all my bones. And they have looked and stared upon me. They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence.

Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword: my only one from the hand of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth; and my lowness from the horns of the unicorns. I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee. Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him. Let all the seed of Israel fear him: because he hath not slighted nor despised the supplication of the poor man. Neither hath he turned away his face from me: and when I cried to him he heard me.

With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him. The poor shall eat and shall be filled: and they shall praise the Lord that seek him: their hearts shall live for ever and ever. All the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord: And all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight. For the kingdom is the Lord's; and he shall have dominion over the nations. All the fat ones of the earth have eaten and have adored: all they that go down to the earth shall fall before him.

And to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him. There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made.

19 March 2008

Spy Wednesday

Today is sometimes called Spy Wednesday in reference to Judas' betrayal of Christ. In the Byzantine Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts this evening we heard the Gospel passage wherein Mary Magdalene anoints the head of Jesus with costly perfume, whereupon Judas enters into the service of the Sanhedrin as their spy.

In the traditional Roman liturgy, the Epistle for today's Mass is Isaias' prophetic text about the Suffering Servant - a powerful meditation on the vicarious atonement made by Christ in His Passion. This text is an especially fascinating one for me from the standpoint of trying to understand the nature of that atonement.

Christ is "the Man of Sorrows," "led as a sheep to the slaughter... covered with wounds and reputed with the wicked, cut off out of the land of the living." Our Lord justified to the full His title of Savior.

In those days Isaias said (52:13-53:12):

Behold my servant shall understand, he shall be exalted, and extolled, and shall be exceeding high. As many have been astonished at thee, so shall his visage be inglorious among men, and his form among the sons of men. He shall sprinkle many nations, kings shall shut their mouth at him: for they to whom it was not told of him, have seen: and they that heard not, have beheld.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

And he shall grow up as a tender plant before him, and as a root out of a thirsty ground: there is no beauty in him, nor comeliness: and we have seen him, and there was no sightliness, that we should be desirous of him: Despised, and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with infirmity: and his look was as it were hidden and despised, whereupon we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought him as it were a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray, every one hath turned aside into his own way: and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was offered because it was his own will, and he opened not his mouth: he shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter, and shall be dumb as a lamb before his shearer, and he shall not open his mouth.

He was taken away from distress, and from judgment: who shall declare his generation? because he is cut off out of the land of the living: for the wickedness of my people have I struck him. And he shall give the ungodly for his burial, and the rich for his death: because he hath done no iniquity, neither was there deceit in his mouth.

And the Lord was pleased to bruise him in infirmity: if he shall lay down his life for sin, he shall see a long-lived seed, and the will of the Lord shall be prosperous in his hand. Because his soul hath laboured, he shall see and be filled: by his knowledge shall this my just servant justify many, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I distribute to him very many, and he shall divide the spoils of the strong, because he hath delivered his soul unto death, and was reputed with the wicked: and he hath borne the sins of many, and hath prayed for the transgressors.

18 March 2008

Tuesday in Holy Week

This morning we awoke to find snow, and lots of it, falling hard and fast. By 10:00 it was practically a blizzard! Well, not really, but this was the first snow we've seen since Christmas, so it seemed like it. Three hours makes quite a difference though, and as I walked back to the Kartause around 1:00 the sun was out, and the snow had stopped falling and was quickly melting away. Hopefully we'll have some nice weather yet for Will and Anna.

I have this evening a class on the Pentateuch, the five books of Moses, for which I am reading the opening chapters of Leviticus, in which I encountered again the story of Nadab and Abiu, the sons of Aaron.

Leviticus 10
1 And Nadab and Abiu, the sons of Aaron, taking their censers, put fire therein, and incense on it, offering before the Lord strange fire: which was not commanded them. 2 And fire coming out from the Lord destroyed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 And Moses said to Aaron: This is what the Lord hath spoken: I will be sanctified in them that approach to me, and I will be glorified in the sight of all the people. And when Aaron heard this, he held his peace.

This brought to mind our Lord's cleansings of the Temple, once early one in His public life, recorded by John, and again near the end of His earthly life (see Mt. 21:12-13; Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:-46).

John 2
14 And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. 15 And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew. 16 And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic. 17 And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up.

This further brings immediately to my mind the words of Pope St. Pius X in his 1903 Instruction on Sacred Music Tra le Sollecitudini: And it is vain to hope that the blessing of heaven will descend abundantly upon us, when our homage to the Most High, instead of ascending in the odor of sweetness, puts into the hand of the Lord the scourges wherewith of old the Divine Redeemer drove the unworthy profaners from the Temple.

Much food for thought here I think in the context of the constant liturgical abuse perpetrated throughout the Church.

17 March 2008

Monday in Holy Week

I ought to say something more I think about the remarks I made yesterday (admittedly, in a spirit of frustration) about the inappropriate practice of having the faithful play the role of the faithless Jews who shouted for Christ's crucifixion. It is, first of all, certainly true (as kindly pointed out in the comment box) that by each sin we commit we share in the guilt that led Christ to the Cross. This adjective, "faithless," by the way, in reference to the Jews who killed Christ is necessary in order to avoid the implication that all Jews precisely as Jews were/are responsible for Christ's death. This adjective allows that there were in fact many faithful Jews (i.e. the first Christians).

On a rubrical level this practice is shown to be forbidden by the 1988 circular letter of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Paschales Solemnitatis:

"33. The passion narrative occupies a special place. It should be sung or read in the traditional way, that is, by three persons who take the parts of Christ, the narrator and the people. The passion is proclaimed by deacons or priests, or by lay readers. In the latter case, the part of Christ should be reserved to the priest."

This, of course, says nothing explicitly about the congregation participating in the proclamation of the Gospel, but it must be read in light of its relation as the exception to the universal rubric, which is that the proclamation of the Gospel is reserved to priests and deacons. An exception is extended to a lay reader, but not to the congregation.

Anyone who is interested, by the way, can refer to a post from last year over at The New Liturgical Movement on Passion Narratives in English. The post is short, but quite a discussion ensued in the comment box. A certain Ephrem gets to the heart of the matter: Why ritually enact blashphemy?

Now of course, I will repeat it, it must be said that by every sin we share in the guilt that led to the crucifixion of Christ. But we certainly do not share in the specific (and most grievous) sin of killing Christ, as this practice would seem to indicate (although I am well aware that this is probably not the intention of those encouraging or participating).

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, Q. 47, A. 6. Whether the sin of those who crucified Christ was most grievous?

I answer that, As stated above, the rulers of the Jews knew that He was the Christ: and if there was any ignorance in them, it was affected ignorance, which could not excuse them. Therefore their sin was the most grievous, both on account of the kind of sin, as well as from the malice of their will. The Jews also of the common order sinned most grievously as to the kind of their sin: yet in one respect their crime was lessened by reason of their ignorance. Hence Bede, commenting on Lk. 23:34, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do," says: "He prays for them who know not what they are doing, as having the zeal of God, but not according to knowledge." But the sin of the Gentiles, by whose hands He was crucified, was much more excusable, since they had no knowledge of the Law.

I've committed more than my share of sins, some of which were no doubt grievous enough, but never have I shouted for the murder of any innocent man, much less what is infinitely worse, that of the God-Man. In this holy season of repentance we ought to be shouting Miserere nobis! not Crucify Him!

16 March 2008

Happy Birthday Vince and Brigid!

John failed to explain the picture in his last post, and I thought some of you might be confused as to why the plant behind our crucifix is not a palm branch, especially as it is the picture put up for Palm Sunday. In Eastern and Central Europe, it is custom to have pussy-willows on Palm Sunday because they are the first plants to bloom in the Spring, thus symbolizing new life. While I missed the palms, it is nice to learn about these customs.

Second Sunday of Passiontide: Palm Sunday

Extract from General Decree restoring the liturgy of Holy Week: "Let the faithful be invited to take part in the Procession of Palms in greater numbers, thus rendering Christ the King public witness of their love and gratitude."

The Second Sunday in Passiontide would be in any case a great and holy day as it commemorates the last triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ on earth and opens Holy Week. On this day, the Church celebrates the triumphant entry of our Lord into Jerusalem; when the multitude, going before and following after Him, cut off branches from the trees and strewed them in His way, shouting: "Hosanna (glory and praise) to the Son of David. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." It is in commemoration of this triumph that palms are blessed and borne in solemn procession.

In fact, this Palm Sunday triumph of our Lord only led to His death . But we know that this death was not a failure. It was through His Passion and Death that He conquered the world and entered into His Kingdom. "I, if I be lifted up...will draw all things to Myself" (Jn. 12:32). So the Church asks the faithful to join in the triumphal Procession today as an act of homage and gratitude to Christ our King. This triumphal beginning to Holy Week is full of meaning. Although the violet Mass vestments and the Gospel of the Passion remind us that the Cross lies ahead, we already know that this is the means of victory. So the Church asks us to begin Holy Week by joyfully and publicly acknowledging Christ the King.

It's been too long since we've posted cute pictures of Maria, so here is one from a few days ago. There were men working outside rather close to the bedroom window where Maris usually naps, and they were making too much noise for her to be able to fall asleep there. So, Lisa put a pillow on the couch and sat next to her until she fell asleep. This is what I saw when I walked in from class that afternoon:

This morning, quite unfortunately for us, all of the Byzantine priests were gone, most of them on a retreat. Which means there was no Divine Liturgy offered here this morning. They had, of course, also taken all the school cars with them, so getting to Vienna for the Traditional Latin Mass would have been pretty difficult. The long and the short of it is that we went the the Novus Ordo Mass this morning and had to witness this bizarre, and to my mind wholly inappropriate practice, wherein the faithful are encouraged to shout along with the faithless Jews, "Away with this man!" And again, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" And even to join in the mockery of the pagan soldiers: "If you are King of the Jews, save yourself." Frankly, I think it's scandalous.

15 March 2008

St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Confessor

To be convinced how much the intercession of St. Joseph prevails with Jesus Christ, we have only to consider these words of the Evangelist: "And He was subject to them." The Son of God employed thirty years assiduously obeying Joseph and Mary! It was sufficient for Joseph, by the least word or sign, to show that he wished Him to do anything; Jesus immediately obeyed. This humble obedience of Jesus teaches us that the dignity of Joseph is above that of all the other Saints, except that of the Queen of Saints. Let us hear what St. Teresa says of the confidence which all should place in the protection St. Joseph: "To the other Saints," she says, "it appears that the Lord may have granted power to succor us on particular occasions; but to this Saint, as experience proves, He has granted power to help us on all occasions. Our Lord would teach us that, as He was pleased to be subject to Joseph upon the earth, so He is now pleased to grant whatever this Saint asks for in heaven. Other whom I have recommended to have recourse to Joseph, have known this from experience. I never knew anyone who was particularly devout to him, that did not continually advance more and more in virtue. For the love of God, let him who believes not this make his own trial. And I do not know how any one can think of the Queen of Angels, at the time when she labored so much in the infancy and childhood of Jesus, and not return thanks to Joseph for the assistance which he rendered both to the Mother and to the Son." We should be particularly devout to Saint Joseph, that he may obtain for us a happy death.

The Feast of St. Joseph (I Class) is normally kept on the 19th of March, but as this date falls within Holy Week, his feast this year is celebrated today. Although I hear that in Ireland It was celebrated yesterday so that St. Patrick's feast day could also be squeezed in before Holy Week begins. So, Happy St. Paddy's Day to all the Irish and Happy St. Joseph's Day to everybody else! A friend of ours here named Joseph organized and cooked dinner for everybody here in honor of his patron Saint. It was delicious, and great fun as common dinners always are.

14 March 2008

Commemoration of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Church commemorates by two feasts the martyrdom suffered by our Lady in union with the Passion of Her Son. The first feast especially commemorates the Compassion of Mary; the second, kept on September 15, the devotion to the Seven Sorrows.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary are: (1) The Prophecy of Simeon; (2) The Flight into Egypt; (3) The Loss of Jesus in the Temple; (4) The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross; (5) The Crucifixion; (6) The Taking Down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross; (7) Jesus laid in the Tomb. (See also the Fish Eaters)

And thy own soul a sword shall pierce
(picture taken by Lisa at St. Peter's Abbey Church, Salzburg)

The Sequence for today's Mass is the haunting Stabat Mater dolorosa, which is also sung during Benediction throughout Passiontide.

At the cross her station keeping,
Stood the mournful Mother weeping,
Close to Jesus to the last.

Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
All His bitter anguish bearing,
Now at length the sword has passed.

Oh, how sad and sore distressed
Was that Mother highly blessed
Of the sole-begotten One!

Christ above in torment hangs,
She beneath beholds the pangs
Of her dying, glorious Son.

Is there one who would not weep
Whelmed in miseries so deep
Christ's dear Mother to behold?

Can the human heart refrain
From partaking in her pain,
In that Mother's pain untold?

Bruised, derided, cursed, defiled,
She beheld her tender Child,
All with bloody scourges rent.

For the sins of His own nation
Saw Him hang in desolation
Till His spirit forth He sent.

O thou Mother! fount of love,
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord:

Make me feel as thou hast felt;
Make my soul to glow and melt
With the love of Christ, my Lord.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

Let me share with thee His pain,
Who for all our sins was slain,
Who for me in torments died.

Let me mingle tears with thee,
Mourning Him Who mourned for me,
All the days that I may live.

By the Cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Virgin of all virgins best!
Listen to my fond request:
Let me share thy grief divine;

Let me, to my latest breath,
In my body bear the death
Of that dying Son of thine.

Wounded with His every wound,
Steep my soul till it hath swooned
In His very Blood away;

Be to me, O Virgin, nigh,
Lest in flames I burn and die,
In His awful Judgment Day.

Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
Be Thy Mother my defense,
Be Thy Cross my victory.

While my body here decays,
May my soul Thy goodness praise,
Safe in paradise with Thee. Amen.

13 March 2008

Lecture on David Hume

This evening's lecture was, in my opinion, the best / most interesting guest lecture of the year here at the Kartause. The title: David Hume and the Is-Ought Debate. Hume (1711-1776) was an empiricist, a sceptic, and an important figure of the Scottish "enlightenment" (read: endarkenment). The Is-Ought debate involves a passage from Hume's work A Treatise of Human Nature:

"In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remark'd, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary ways of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when all of a sudden I am surpriz'd to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, 'tis necessary that it shou'd be observ'd and explain'd; and at the same time that a reason should be given; for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it."

The generally agreed upon interpretation of this key passage (which appears nowhere else in Hume's works, and which he removed from the second edition of this work) is that no moral obligation can ever be derived from a statement of fact. For example, "You are a parent" (statement of fact) has no more connection to "you should take care of your child" (moral statement) than "this is a computer" (statement of fact) has to "you should pay your debts."

Even more radically sceptical than Descartes (according to Hume: cogito non ergo sum), Hume built up a system of morality based entirely on feelings. He did not phrase it so simplistically, but it basically boils down to today's moral adage: if it feels good do it.

As an aside, this so horrified Emmanuel Kant that he sought to re-establish morality on firmer ground by effectively severing the human mind from reality, a cure worse than the original disease. Kantianism in turn so horrified Rudolf Bultmann that he tried to salvage the faith by separating it entirely from reason, which is to say that faith is false and precisely therein lies its superiority over the world of reason. The cure again was worse than the disease. May God spare us any more such cures.

But back to Hume. This evening's lecturer maintains that Hume has actually played a rather cunning trick on his readers in the passage in question. He says that moral thinkers begin by talking about God and men and then move to speak of moral obligations without explanation. In point of fact the existence and nature of God and man is the explanation. If you set these aside at the outset, as Hume does, then of course you'll find that there is no ground for morality, no way to move from "is" to "ought."

12 March 2008

St. Gregory I, Pope, Confessor, and Doctor of the Church

St. Gregory the Great transformed his house into a monastery and founded many others where the rule of St. Benedict was strictly observed. Elected in turn Abbot, Cardinal, and Supreme Pontiff, he was one of the greatest popes of the Middle Ages. To him belongs the honor of having collected those harmonious melodies called the "Gregorian Chant." St. Gregory is one of the four great Latin doctors. He died in 604.

We love you, Mom (Nana)!

11 March 2008

Sensus Traditionis

"This website is dedicated to the defense of the orthodox Catholic faith as well as a promotion of serious academic thought in the areas of Catholic theology and philosophy. One of the tragedies of modern Catholic thought is that it lacks the depth given by previous generations of the same issues. It is for this reason that this website was started, i.e. to aid the Church in recapturing the intellectual rigor it once had. The heresy of modernism has begun affecting the members of the Church by making them content with a superficial approach to and an explanation of their religion. One of the ways to combat this problem in the Church is to promote studies that draw the students into the depth and richness which Catholic thought can provide. However, none of that is possible without a deep sense of our indebtedness to tradition as well as a strong developed sense of the value of the those traditions." (Mission Statement.)

Sensus Traditionis contains, among other things, a handful of excellent articles (here) by Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP. Titles include: The Spirituality of the Ancient Rite of Mass, Modern Philosophy and the Liturgical Development, Operative Points of View, The Natural Law Basis of Home Schooling, Christian Art and Culture, Modern Man's Superiority Complex, etc.

10 March 2008

The Forty Holy Martyrs

Under Licinius, forty soldiers of the garrison of Sebaste (Armenia) were exposed on a frozen pond for refusing to sacrifice to idols. All persevered but one, whose courage failed him, and he perished in a bath of tepid water prepared for him. But their guard, inspired by grace, took his place and died with them, so there were forty martyrs still. They suffered in 320.

As always we have linked the pictures of our trip on the sidebar, or you can just follow the links here: Paris; Chartres. We have also finished all the individual posts for each day, just scroll down to March 4-7.

09 March 2008

Passion Sunday

The Mass of Passion Sunday is full of the thought of the Passion of Jesus and of the infidelity of the Jews, whose place in the kingdom of God was taken by those who were baptized, that is to say by Christians. From this day until Maundy Thursday, in Masses of the Season the Psalm Judica me is omitted on Sundays and ferias, as also the Gloria Patri at the Introit and at the Lavabo; but on feasts they are said as usual.

08 March 2008

St. John of God, Confessor

After a stormy youth, he listened to the word of God and lived thenceforward a penitential life. He founded the Order of the "Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God," who devote themselves to the care of sick bodies and souls. He died in 1550.

Well, we're back. It was a lovely week, and tomorrow we'll start uploading some pictures. St. John of God, by the way, is the patron saint of nurses, and hence one of Lisa's special patrons. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a good brief article.

07 March 2008

St. Thomas Aquinas, Confessor and Doctor of the Church

His undisputed mastery in scholastic theology gained him the title of "Angelic Doctor." He is one of the greatest glories of the Friars Preachers. Leo XIII declared him the patron of all Catholic Schools. He died in the Cistercian monastery of Fossa Nuova, on his way to the Council of Lyons, in 1274.

Friday was easily the best day we spent in Paris. We ate breakfast in a Cafe outside of Sacre-Coeur (pictured below), and then walked up Montmartre into the Basilica. It was built in fulfillment of a national vow to the Sacred Heart, taken after France was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The defeat was understood to be an act of divine judgment on the nation for its rebellion against Him and His Church known as the French Revolution.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

On Fridays in Lent the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, in whose care is still preserved the Crown of Thorns brought to Paris by King St. Louis IX in the 13th century, carry in procession into Notre-Dame this most verered relic of the Passion of Christ. In the picture above the Holy Crown of our Lord is barely visible (due to the relative darkness of the Cathedral's interior). After the procession and public prayer, we were invited to kiss the reliquary in which the Crown is preserved.

06 March 2008

Ss. Perpetua and Felicitas, Martyres

These two young mothers, the former a lady of high rank, the latter a slave, were arrested at Carthage with other Christians. They were condemned to the wild beasts and died finally by the sword in 202.

Thursday we caught the 9:00 train out of Paris to Chartres, about an hour away by train, in order to visit one of the foremost examples of Gothic architecture in all Europe: Notre-Dame de Chartres. Unfortunately there was some scaffolding erected around parts of the church outside, and it was rather dark on the inside, so the conditions were not very good for many great pictures. Nevertheless, we managed a few. One of the unique features of this church is the contrast offered by its two towers, the one pictured on the right was constructed earlier in the Romanesque style and the other later in the Gothic style.

The main reason why this particular church was constructed on such a grand scale was to accomodate the immense crowds of pilgrims coming to venerate the Veil of the Virgin, as we were also able to do.

05 March 2008

Wednesday in Paris

Wednesday morning we headed first thing for the Louvre. The main entrance is actually through the glass pyramid in the middle of the courtyard of the former Tuileries Palace (now the Louvre). This palace was the scene of the merciless slaughter of the swiss guards loyal to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (after the swiss had reluctantly laid down their arms at the command of the king). In the glass pyramid is an elevator that takes one down into the main lobby of the Louvre.

Of the three wings, we visited only the Denon Wing, location of the painting and sculpture collections, including the Mona Lisa and a few others by Leonardo Da Vinci, and the famed Venus de Milo sculpture.

After the Louvre and a picnic lunch we walked along the river until the Eiffel Tower came into clear view. We are told that it is more impressive by night, but this is the closest we came to it.

The highlight of the day was our visit to the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal, the site of our Lady's apparitions to St. Catherine Laboure. The bodies of Ss. Louise de Marillac (co-foundress with St. Vincent De Paul of the Daughters of Charity) and Catherine Laboure are there, as is the heart of St. Vincent. The chapel was quite full of people praying, so we didn't take any pictures, but you can visit their website.

04 March 2008

St. Casimir, Confessor

St. Casimir, son of King Casimir IV of Poland, led an angelic life and excelled in love for the poor and great devotion to the Blessed Virgin. He practised the most heroic virtues amid the dangers of his father's court. He is patron of Poland and Lithuania. He died in 1483.

Tuesday morning we awoke before 3:00 and took off from Vienna around 6:40. We landed in Paris around 8:40. After finding our Hotel we rushed right off to see the Sacre-Coeur Basilica (in retrospect a nap would have been a good idea). We should have learned - our first time in Rome Lisa fell asleep in St. Peter's Basilica. But I digress...

Pictures were not allowed inside the Basilica, out of respect for the exposed Blessed Sacrament. We did take some pictures of the outside, but it was a bit rainy, and the pictures from a few days later turned out better. If you can't wait, check out the official website.

Next, we rushed off to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame (again, the nap would have been the intelligent thing to do). And by "rushed off," of course, I mean "took the metro," which was almost always a harrowing experience. Let's just say, non-stroller friendly. But, Notre-Dame was actually even more impressive than either of us expected. Which brings us to our first picture: here we are.

After a long stroll through the heart of Paris we returned to the Ile de Cite to see La Sainte Chapelle - the private chapel built by King St. Louis IX in the 13th century to house relics of the Passion, chief amongst which was the Crown of Thorns. The two most beautiful chapels in the world are certainly this and the Sistine - the Sistine is a masterpiece of paint, La Sainte Chapelle of stained glass. Pictures fail to capture the beauty of either one.

We returned to the Hotel for a respite, but it was almost time to head for Mass already. It took a bit of looking to find the Parish of Saint-Eugene where the Traditional Latin Mass is offered daily, but we made it. We have no pictures of this fine church though, as we were there only in the evenings for Mass - and hence very little light inside.

03 March 2008

Not looking forward...

...to waking up before 3:00 AM tomorrow. Itinerary: leave Gaming in school van at 3:30, arrive at Vienna airport around 5:00, take off for Paris at 6:40. Please pray for our safety, and for God's grace to be with us on our little pilgrimage.

02 March 2008

Laetare Sunday

"Laetare, Rejoice," says the Introit. Laetare Sunday offers us a break in the midst of Lenten observance. We are soon to rise again with Jesus through confession and Easter Communion.

Random news items: yesterday there was a fierce storm that blew through; we're told it was actually dangerous in Vienna. Here it was just lots of strong wind, rain, and some hail... Both of our umbrellas are broken... Lisa and I finished reading together Anne Carroll's Christ and the Americas, a great high school level textbook on American history from an unapologetically Catholic viewpoint. Yes, that means that the author is biased, but with this difference: she has a bias in favor of objective truth and honesty. Not exactly a flaw... Maria is still very cute... Only 29 days left until Opening Day for the Tigers (who are undefeated so far in Spring Training)... Only 18 days until Will and Anna arrive here (we're all very excited!)...

01 March 2008

March: Dedicated to St. Joseph

This year the Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Confessor (I Class) is moved to March 15 because March 19 falls within Holy Week. This means that the novena to St. Joseph also begins earlier, but I suddenly find myself wondering whether novenas are generally prayed on the nine days preceding the feast (in this case March 6-14), or is the feast itself the ninth day (in this case March 7-15)? The case of Pentecost, which I would take as the paradigmatic novena would seem to indicate the former. Does anyone know?

St. Joseph is among other things the patron Saint of a happy death. In bk. 5 ch. 4 of The Mystical City of God (containing the private revelations granted to Venerable Mary of Agreda), the "Happy Death of St. Joseph" is spoken of at length. An excerpt:

In his ecstasy he [St. Joseph] clearly saw the Divine Essence, and manifested therein, all that he had believed by faith: the Incomprehensible Divinity, the Mystery of Incarnation and Redemption, the Militant Church with all its Sacraments and Mysteries.

The Blessed Trinity commissioned and assigned him as the messenger of our Savior to the holy Patriarchs and Prophets of Limbo and commanded him to prepare them for their issuing forth from this bosom of Abraham to eternal rest and happiness.

All this Most Holy Mary saw reflected in the soul of her Divine Son together with all the other Mysteries, just as they had been made known to her beloved spouse, and she offered her sincerest thanks for all this to her Lord.

When Saint Joseph issued from this ecstasy his face shone with wonderful splendor and his soul was entirely transformed by his vision of the Essence of God. He asked his blessed spouse to give him her benediction; but she requested her Divine Son to bless him in her stead, which He did.

Then the Great Queen of Humility, falling on her knees, besought Saint Joseph to bless her, as being her husband and head. Not without Divine impulse the man of God fulfilled this request for the consolation of his Most Prudent Spouse. She kissed the hands with which he blessed her and asked him to salute the just ones of Limbo in her name.

The most humble Joseph, sealing his life with an act of self-abasement, asked pardon of his Heavenly Spouse for all his deficiencies in her service and love and begged her to grant him her assistance and intercession in this hour of his passing away. The holy man also rendered humblest thanks to her Son for all the blessings of his life and especially for those received during this sickness. The last words Saint Joseph spoke to his Spouse were:

"Blessed art thou among all women and elect of all the creatures. Let Angels and men praise thee; let all the generations know, praise and exalt thy dignity; and may in thee be known, adored and exalted the name of the Most High through all the coming ages; may He be eternally praised for having created thee so pleasing in His eyes and in the sight of all the Blessed and in the sight of all the Blessed Spirits. I hope to enjoy thy sight in the Heavenly Fatherland."

Then this man of God, turning toward Christ, our Lord, in profoundest reverence, wished to kneel before Him. But the Sweetest Jesus, coming near, received him in His arms, where reclining his head upon them, Joseph said:

"My highest Lord and God, Son of the eternal Father, Creator and Redeemer of the world, give Thy blessing to Thy servant and the works of Thy hand; pardon, O Most merciful King, the faults which I have committed in Thy service and intercourse. I extol and magnify Thee and render eternal and heartfelt thanks to Thee for having, in Thy ineffable condescension, chosen me to be the spouse of Thy true Mother; let Thy greatness and glory be my thanksgiving for all eternity."

The Redeemer of the world gave him the benediction saying:

"My father, rest in peace and in the grace of My Eternal Father and Mine; and to the Prophets and Saints, who await thee in Limbo, bring the joyful news of the approach of their redemption."

At this word of Jesus, and reclining in His arms, the fortunate Saint Joseph expired and the Lord Himself closed his eyes.

At the same time the multitude of Angels, who attended upon their King and Queen, intoned hymns of praise in loud and harmonious voices. By command of the Lord they carried his most holy soul to the gathering place of the Patriarchs and Prophets, where it was immediately recognized by all as clothed in the splendors of incomparable grace, as the putative father and intimate friend of the Redeemer, worthy of highest veneration.

Conformably to the will and mandate of the Lord his arrival spread inutterable joy in this countless gathering of the saints by the announcement of their speedy rescue.