Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hail, Andrew, Apostle and Martyr

"St. Andrew," by El Greco

 Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Andrew (d. 60 AD).  St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, was from Galilee, and like his brother was a fisherman.  In the Orthodox tradition, he is known as the "Protokletos" meaning "the first-called."  According to the Gospel of St. John, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist, and was led by John's preaching to follow Jesus.   Recognizing Jesus as the Messiah, St. Andrew hastened to introduce Him to his brother.   In the New Testament, St. Andrew is always numbered among the first four Apostles.

According to tradition, St. Andrew was the first bishop of Byzantium, and preached along the Black Sea and Volga River as far as Novgorod.   St. Andrew was martyred upon a saltire, or X-shaped cross, at Patrae in what is now Greece, where his relics were kept until transferred to Constantinople in 357 AD.   When French crusaders captured Constantinople in the thirteenth century, many of St. Andrew's relics were carried to Rome.  In 1461 AD, after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the head of St. Andrew was given by Michael Paleologus to Pope Pius II, who enshrined it in one of the four central pillars of St. Peter's Basilica.   As a gesture of goodwill, in 1964 Pope Paul VI returned all of St. Andrew's relics to the Greek Orthodox church, and they are now kept again at Patrae.

There is a legend that in the 10th century, relics of St. Andrew were supernaturally transported to what is now the town of St. Andrew's in Scotland.  Wikipedia relates the following additional legend regarding St. Andrew and Scotland:

"[I]n 832 AD, Óengus II led an army of Picts and Scots into battle against the Angles, led by Æthelstan, near modern-day Athelstaneford, East Lothian.  The legend states that whilst engaged in prayer on the eve of battle, Óengus vowed that if granted victory he would appoint Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. On the morning of battle white clouds forming an X shape in the sky were said to have appeared.  Óengus and his combined force, emboldened by this apparent divine intervention, took to the field and despite being inferior in terms of numbers were victorious.  Having interpreted the cloud phenomenon as representing the crux decussata upon which Saint Andrew was crucified, Óengus honoured his pre-battle pledge and duly appointed Saint Andrew as the Patron Saint of Scotland. The white saltire set against a celestial blue background is said to have been adopted as the design of the flag of Scotland on the basis of this legend."

St. Andrew, pray for us. 

Archbishop Nichols now thinks gay civil unions are fine

                                                                How do you like me now?

As long as adoption is not involved.   The Archbishop's new point of view not only contradicts his own previous statements on the subject, but is in clear opposition to Church teaching.  The estimable Dr. Oddie's reflections here.

UPDATE:  Archbishop Nichols explains himself.

The Society of St. Pius X cannot endorse the "Preamble"

But negotiations continue.  Courtesy of New Liturgical Movement, an update on the latest phase of these proceedings.

Pope St. Pius X, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

St. John Vianney on the Holy Souls in Purgatory

                                    "Angel helping souls in Purgatory," Notre Dame de Benva, France

The Church traditionally devotes the month of November to prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the holy souls in Purgatory.  Here is St. John Vianney on Purgatory and the practice of praying for souls in purgatory:

"I come to tell you that they suffer in Purgatory, that they weep, and that they demand with urgent cries the help of your prayers and your good works. I seem to hear them crying from the depths of those fires which devour them: "Tell our loved ones, tell our children, tell all our relatives how great the evils are which they are making us suffer. We throw ourselves at their feet to implore the help of their prayers. Ah! Tell them that since we have been separated from them, we have been here burning in the flames!"

"We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven." 

St. John Vianney, pray for us.

A symptom of deeper problems?

David Foster Wallace
Considered becoming Catholic, 
which is enough to merit mention in the Catholic writers debate nowadays 

Courtesy of Robert Fay, the current state of debate on that evergreen question: "Where Have all the Catholic Writers Gone?

It seems to me that worthwhile writing of all denominations is on the verge of extinction.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Agnus Dei" as filler

                                                                      Agnus Dei

At the local parish, having found that it takes a long time to fill up all the chalices of consecrated wine and the silver bowls of hosts for the use of the eucharistic ministers, it has been decided to camouflage this halt in the proceedings by extending the "Agnus Dei" with more or less improvised verses.  So, in addition to the well known "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world," we listen to the gesticulating woman at the microphone sing "Lamb of God, who does this," and "Lamb of God, who does that" until the priest and permanent deacon (who does most of the actual work) have had sufficient time to complete their task.  Yesterday, I counted 14 persons besides the priest standing about the altar, so this interval filled several minutes.   Didn't seem especially dignified, much less reverent.  This is followed by the next halt in the proceedings, which I call "the Communion of the In Crowd," as the fourteen persons standing about the altar, plus the organist and choir, communicate under both species.  This dead stop is camouflaged by having the gesticulating woman at the microphone sing the communion hymn, to which the congregation responds as kindergartners do to the distribution of blankets and pillows at naptime.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

At least it's still a church

                                                    Augustinerkirche, Wurzburg

The Augustinian church in Wurzburg may have been renovated so that it resembles the waiting room for an expensive dentist, but it has been treated more gently than St. Catherine's, the  largest church in Brussels, which is to be remade into a fruits and vegetables market.  (h/t Rorate Caeli)

Friday, November 25, 2011

"The John Paul II Generation" re-making Religious Life for men in US

                                                          His papacy still brings forth fruit
The post-Council culture of endless experimentation was very costly to vocations, and could not be sustained indefinitely.  National Catholic Register has more on what is taking its place here.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On the other hand, this is perfect for Thanksgiving

I frequently mock Fr. James Martin, SJ and his confreres at America magazine, but in this "Prayer for Thanksgiving" he has done well.

Better suited to Halloween than Thanksgiving

                                 Motto:  Super Ardua ("Let us overcome our difficulties").   Indeed. 

Courtesy of Rorate Caeli, horrifying new instructions on feticide, from the UK.  Be sure to read the comments, where scripture, popes, Shakespeare and Virgil are quoted in condemnation.

Lord, have mercy on us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why I like Calvin Coolidge

                                          And what's so bad about being silent?

Of course, the intellectual elites dismissed Coolidge with derision.   However, the honesty, humility and appreciation for justice which are the hallmarks of Coolidge's economics would be a powerful antidote for the economic crises of our day.  American Spectator has more here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A burning hand from Purgatory

                                             "Fr. Demetrius Gallitzin," Loretto, Pennsylvania

The Church traditionally devotes November to prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the holy souls in Purgatory.  If you consider this merely a sentimental custom, or if you doubt that the holy souls suffer greatly, or that they derive great benefits from our prayers, then this thoroughly documented account from the early days of the United States will surprise you. (h/t Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit)

Servant of God Fr. Demetrius Gallitzin, pray for us.

"Whether the whole Christ is contained under this sacrament?"

According to a recent poll of American Catholics, belief in fundamental Church teaching concerning the Eucharist has eroded to a shocking extent.  I suspect this erosion has two principal causes.  The first is the irreverence towards the Eucharist which the Novus Ordus makes possible, and perhaps even fosters.  The second, which is more easily remedied, is inadequate catechesis.  We have been addressing this second issue by periodically transmitting the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Eucharist as embodied in his teaching text "for beginners," the Summa Theologica.

To the quaestio above, St. Thomas responds:

"It is absolutely necessary to confess according to Catholic faith that the entire Christ is in this sacrament. Yet we must know that there is something of Christ in this sacrament in a twofold manner: first, as it were, by the power of the sacrament; secondly, from natural concomitance. By the power of the sacrament, there is under the species of this sacrament that into which the pre-existing substance of the bread and wine is changed, as expressed by the words of the form, which are effective in this as in the other sacraments; for instance, by the words: "This is My body," or, "This is My blood." But from natural concomitance there is also in this sacrament that which is really united with that thing wherein the aforesaid conversion is terminated. For if any two things be really united, then wherever the one is really, there must the other also be: since things really united together are only distinguished by an operation of the mind."

St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.

No sense of irony, I guess

                                  Don't worry, Fr. Martin, this sort of nonsense isn't going away (alas)

Fr. James Martin, SJ gets all weepy about the "old" sacramentary which is about to be replaced by a practically identical sacramentary, which is just a revised translation of the same exact text for the same exact rite.  Imagine how sad Fr. Martin would be if the new sacramentary were for a revolutionary new rite in a different language!  Imagine, on top of all that, that the old rite were to be absolutely banned!  Oh, wait.  That was a good thing.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Happy are you, Mary, because you believed."

                                                      "The Presentation of Mary," by Titian

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of Mary, as it is known in the West, or The Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple, as it is known in the East.  This feast is not to be confused with the Presentation of Jesus, also known as Candlemas, which is celebrated on February 2.   The Presentation of Mary commemorates the ancient belief, recorded in several apocryphal texts, that Mary, at the age of three and in fulfillment of her parents' vow, was brought to the Temple, where she would remain to be educated for her role as Mother of God.   Though this is not a defined matter of faith, it is a pious belief dating from the earliest days of the Church.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners.

"The Ballad of Summorum Pontificum"

With words, so you can sing along.  Appears to be creating a sensation in certain circles.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Make time for saying the "Hail Mary"

                                            "The Annunciation," Church of St. Clothilde, Paris

Perhaps one day you will have a miracle story like this one to tell.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

To me, it looks like a "tear-down"

To Bishop Tod Brown of the diocese of Orange, CA, it looks like a pretty cathedral, so he paid $57.5 million for it.  Rorate Caeli has more here.

Perhaps Bishop Tod Brown intends to form a congregation of monks who devote themselves to a life of  grueling penance which consists of attending Mass in this ghastly place every day?

UPDATE: Bishop Tod Brown's negotiators have reportedly won a convert on the Crystal Cathedral's board, which is nice, but doesn't make the building any less ugly.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The NFL, Saints, and Vince Lombardi

It's not exactly news that the NFL is very popular.  The league gets paid more than $3 billion a year for the broadcasting rights to its games, and beginning in 2014, when new, still-to-be-negotiated contracts begin, that number is likely to double.  The NFL can command such high prices because the NFL dominates TV ratings, and it’s getting more dominant all the time.  This fall,  13 of the 15 most watched broadcasts have been NFL games.  Why do so many of us watch?  Undoubtedly, there are many reasons.  For instance, NPR credits HD, slow motion, and the NFL's efforts to interest women in the game.  However, the NFL itself understands what the fundamental draw is, and the NFL put a spotlight on it before the start of last night’s Jets – Broncos game, which happened to be broadcast on the NFL’s own network.  You may watch the video by clicking on the link above.  In tight close up, we see the face of a key player or head coach reciting a portion of a series of quotations from Vince Lombardi, the great coach in whose honor the NFL’s championship trophy is named. 

Here is the text:

“Winning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t win once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.

“Every time a football player goes to play he's got to play from the ground up -- from the soles of his feet right up to his head.  Every inch of him has to play.  Some guys play with their heads.  But more importantly, you've got to play with your heart, with every fiber of your body.  The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.”

Advancement in the spiritual life requires great effort and dedication.  To those wishing to advance in the spiritual life, the Church, from the days of St. Paul, has proposed soldiers and athletes as models, since they must likewise endure hardship to achieve their objects..  In the hyper-violent game of football, the soldier and athlete are combined as in no other sport.  The profoundly Catholic Vince Lombardi, who was not only educated by Jesuits (back when that meant something), but who also inscribed one of his Super Bowl rings in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the other to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, understood instinctively the similarity between the effort demanded of winning football players and the dedication required of saints.  By substituting “saint” for football player, and “attaining sanctity” for “winning” in the above quotations, this becomes clear:

“Attaining sanctity is not a sometime thing; it’s an all the time thing.  You don’t attain sanctity once in a while, you don’t do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time.

“Every time a saint strives after heaven he's got to strive after heaven from the ground up -- from the soles of his feet right up to his head.  Every inch of him has to strive after heaven.  Some saints strive after heaven with their heads.  But more importantly, you've got to strive with your heart, with every fiber of your body.  The object is to get to heaven fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to get to heaven.”

So, when watching the NFL, we are absorbed by a drama which parallels, albeit on a lower plane, the drama of our own individual struggles after sanctity, the struggle for which we were made.  In enduring hardship for the sake of achieving his goal the football player does as we know in our hearts we must do to achieve our spiritual object.  However, the pleasure in watching football is merely vicarious, since even if our team wins, it doesn't make us champions.  Getting to heaven, is of course, open to all, but I fear that very few are inspired by the example of football players to strive with greater dedication towards sanctity.  Maybe that's because nowadays, unlike when Vince Lombardi was being formed in the Faith, so few are taught the importance of doing so.

A strange way to sell shirts

Hard to see the connection between polo shirts and a photoshopped image of Benedict kissing Mohamed Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar mosque in Cairo (who has broken off relations with the Vatican).   The Vatican has brought suit to prevent further publication of the ad.  The estimable Dr. Oddie's reflections here.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

St. Alphonsus Liguori has a new book coming out

                          "St. Alphonsus kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament," Carlow Cathedral, Ireland

Well, more of a compilation, actually.  It's called "Lent and Easter Wisdom from St. Alphonsus Liguori," and I'm sure it's excellent.  Amazon link here.

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Marian Apparition in Vienna's Cathedral of St. Stephen Today?

                                                                Our Lady of Medjugorge

Medjugorge visionary Ivan Dragicevic and Cardinal Schoenborn will be there.  Apparition is expected at 1000 EST.   Live stream link here    (Link broken before; fixed now).

RELATED:  Not everyone is pleased.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Christina the Astonishing and the Holy Souls in Purgatory

                                                               St. Christina the Astonishing

At the age of 22, St. Christina the Astonishing (1150 AD - 1220 AD) suffered a seizure and was thought to be dead.  According to Butler's Lives of the Saints, at her funeral Mass, during the Agnus Dei, St. Christina sat up in her coffin, flew to the church roof, and perched there.  She did so, St. Christina explained, because she could not bear the smell of sinful human beings.   St. Christina also said that she had, in fact, been dead, and while in that condition had visited Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.  She had recognized friends and acquaintances in the latter two places.  According to St. Christina, the torments that the souls in Purgatory endured "appeared so excessive" that it was "impossible to give an idea of their rigor."  St. Christina dedicated the rest of her life to prayer and sacrifice on behalf of the friends she had seen in Purgatory ( h/t Accepting Abundance).

St. Christina the Astonishing, pray for us.

More Wisdom from St. Alphonsus Liguori

                                       "St. Alphonsus Liguori,", St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

The following is taken from St. Alphonsus Liguori's "The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ:"

"But even with regard to the present life, it is certain that he who suffers with most patience enjoys the greatest peace.  It was a saying of St. Philip Neri, that in this world there is no Purgatory; it is either all Paradise or all Hell: he that patiently supports tribulations enjoys a Paradise; he that does not do so, suffers a Hell.  Yes, for (as St. Teresa writes) he that embraces the crosses sent him by God feels them not."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Hail, Saintly Abbess and Mystic

                                     "St. Gertrude the Great," monastery church at Arouca, Portugal

Today is the feast of St. Gertrude, sometimes styled "the Great" (1256 AD -  1301 AD).  At the age of 5, St. Gertrude entered the Benedictine convent Saint Mary of Helfta, Eisleben, Saxony, where she was placed under the guidance of St. Mechtilde.  St. Gertrude was a holy, humble and popular nun and abbess.  At the age of 26, she received the first of a series of visions concerning the Sacred Heart.  The visions continued until St. Gertrude's death at the age of 45 or 46.

Of St. Gertrude's spirituality, the Catholic Encyclopedia  says:

"The characteristic of St. Gertrude's piety is her devotion to the Sacred Heart, the symbol of that immense charity which urged the Word to take flesh, to institute the Holy Eucharist, to take on Himself our sins, and, dying on the Cross, to offer Himself as a victim and a sacrifice to the Eternal Father (Congregation of Rites, April 3, 1825). Faithful to the mission entrusted to them, the superiors of Helfta appointed renowned theologians, chosen from the Dominican and Franciscan friars, to examine the works of the saint. These approved and commended them throughout."

St. Gertrude's spirituality had a great influence upon St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, and Dom Gueranger, who re-established Benedictine monasticism in France after the Revolution.

St. Gertrude, pray for us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Whether bread can be converted into the body of Christ?"

                                                                    St. Thomas Aquinas

According to a recent poll, half of American Catholics do not accept Church teaching concerning the Eucharist.   We believe this alarming state of affairs has arisen through inadequate or non-existent catechesis.  To remedy the doctrinal deficit, we have been transmitting the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the Eucharist, as contained in the great instructional text St. Thomas composed for beginners, the Summa Theologica.  To the quaestio above, St. Thomas responds:

"[S]ince Christ's true body is in this sacrament, and since it does not begin to be there by local motion, nor is it contained therein as in a place, as is evident from what was stated above, it must be said then that it begins to be there by conversion of the substance of bread into itself.

Yet this change is not like natural changes, but is entirely supernatural, and effected by God's power alone....

But God is infinite act … hence His action extends to the whole nature of being.  Therefore He can work not only formal conversion, so that diverse forms succeed each other in the same subject; but also the change of all being, so that, to wit, the whole substance of one thing be changed into the whole substance of another.  And this is done by Divine power in this sacrament; for the whole substance of the bread is changed into the whole substance of Christ's body, and the whole substance of the wine into the whole substance of Christ's blood. Hence this is not a formal, but a substantial conversion; nor is it a kind of natural movement: but, with a name of its own, it can be called "transubstantiation."

Courtesy of New Advent, you may read St. Thomas's full response here.

Hail, Doctor Universalis and Teacher of St. Thomas

                               "Apparition of the Virgin to St. Albert the Great" by V. S. Gomez

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Albert the Great (d. 1280 AD).   The eldest son of a Bavarian count, Albert entered the Dominican order in about 1221, and was appointed provincial of the order in 1254.  Albert also served as bishop of  Regensburg for three years.   Though he discharged these duties with great care, most of St. Albert's efforts and energy were devoted to the study of philosophy and natural science.  St. Albert was an experimental scientist far in advance of his age, a philosopher through whom the works of Aristotle were transmitted to Europe, a naturalist, and a theologian.  St. Albert's compiled written works, on topics ranging from astronomy to zoology, fill thirty eight volumes.  In recognition of the staggering breadth of his knowledge, St. Albert is called "Doctor Universalis."  Notwithstanding the vast scope of his own intellectual achievement, St. Albert is best known as the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas, whose brilliance he was quick to recognize.  He assisted St. Thomas in answering the errors of the Arabian philosopher Averroes, and was greatly grieved, for himself and for the Church, when St. Thomas died in 1274.  In his Divine Comedy, Dante places St. Albert and St. Thomas Aquinas together among the great lovers of wisdom in the Heaven of the Sun.

Here is a short sample of the thought of St. Albert:

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for ‘God is Charity.’”

St. Albert the Great, pray for us.