Monday, April 30, 2012

"Discerning Spirits"

 St. Ignatius Loyola

Fr. Fio Mascarenhas, SJ provides a short, general guide to judging to "whether a given act or repetition of acts flows from the Holy Spirit, the diabolic spirit or the human spirit" (h/t Good Jesuit Bad Jesuit). The discernment of spirits is an important component of St. Ignatius's rich spiritual legacy to the order he founded. 

St. Ignatius Loyola, pray for us.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Every billionairess a pope

Melinda and Bill Gates in an ecclesiastic mode

That's how self-professed Catholic Melinda Gates, wife of Bill, would have it.  Pope Melinda's teachings on contraception, while not novel, are certainly not Catholic.  Francis Philips has more here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

"My university failed me"

"And I've unwittingly put the proof right on my bumper."   That's what I think whenever I see proud displays of ignorance like the one above.  As anyone with a smattering of Latin is aware, alumni is the plural form of alumnus.   So, except for cases where the car is owned or occupied by multiple graduates of the same advertised institution of higher learning, the proper form of the noun to be used on the license frame is the singular, "Alumnus."  In my opinion, it would be better yet to have no license frame at all.

These elitist thoughts were prompted by something I just heard on the radio station of one of our more ancient and highly esteemed seats of learning.   Introducing a recording of "Regina Coeli," the student disc jockey  mispronounced coeli as "coe ee lie."  What are they learning in universities these days, if they can't even plausibly fake a familiarity with Latin?

"Do not despair"

Archbishop Heenan
Underestimated scope of liturgical changes and proved a poor guide to what the bishops wanted

From a letter to Evelyn Waugh from Archbishop Heenan, August 20, 1964:

"I think that the leaders of the new thought (if that is not too strong a word) are not so much the young pops as the Catholic "intellectuals".

"....They regard us as mitred peasants and look for guidance to the continental clergy."

"....The hierarchy is in a difficult position. . . . Most of us would be content to delay changes but the mood of the Council compels us to act."

"But do not despair.  The changes are not so great as they are made to appear. . . . I shall be surprised if all of the bishops will want all Masses every day to be in the new rite."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"On Scandal"

Pope St. Leo the Great

The following is taken from a sermon for the Second Sunday after Easter by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"The wolves that catch and scatter the sheep of Jesus Christ, are the authors of scandal, who not content with their own destruction, labour to destroy others. But the Lord says: "Woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh" (Matt. 18:7). Woe to him who gives scandal, and causes others to lose the grace of God. Origen says, that "a person who impels another to sin, sins more grievously than the other."

"....It is, in the first place, necessary to explain what is meant by scandal. Behold how St. Thomas defines it: "Scandal is a word or act which gives occasion to the spiritual ruin of one's neighbour" (2, ii. q. 45, art. 1.) Scandal, then, is a word or act by which you are to your neighbour the cause or occasion of losing his soul."

"....[W]e may infer how great is the displeasure given to God by scandalizing a brother and destroying his soul. It is enough to say, that they who give scandal rob God of a child, and murder a soul, for whose salvation He has spent His blood and His life. Hence, St. Leo calls the authors of scandal murderers. "Quisquis scandilizat, mortem infert animae proximi" (whosoever scandalizes, brings the soul of his neighbor to death). They are the most impious of murderers; because they kill not the body, but the soul, of a brother, and rob Jesus Christ of all His tears, of His sorrows, and of all that He has done and suffered to gain that soul."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hail, Mark, Bishop and Evangelist

 Mosaic showing St. Mark's relics protected by pork, Basilica of St. Mark, Venice

Today is the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist (d. 68 AD), companion of St. Paul, founder of the Church of Alexandria and author of the second Gospel.  According to tradition, the apostles took refuge at St. Mark's house after the death of Jesus, and it was at Mark's house that the resurrected Jesus appeared to them, and where the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost.  

Tradition also tells us that St. Mark was martyred in Alexandria by pagans who placed a rope around the saint's neck and dragged him through the streets of the city until he was dead.  St. Mark's relics were kept in Alexandria until the 9th century.   By that time, Alexandria had fallen under the dominion of Islam, so, partly to protect the relics, Venetian merchants carried off the saint's remains and brought them to their own city, where a great basilica was built to house them.   To prevent Muslims from molesting the relics during their journey, the merchants covered them with pork, which Muslims are forbidden to touch.  The Coptic Christians of Alexandria believe that St. Mark's head was left behind.  The first duty of every newly appointed patriarch of the city is to hold the head of St. Mark on his lap and wrap the relic in a new shroud.

St. Mark the Evangelist, pray for us.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"It is natural to the Germans to make a row"

St. Edmund Campion, martyred 1581 AD
"In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors, all our ancient bishops and kings, all that was once the glory of England — the island of saints, and the most devoted child of the See of Peter."

The following is taken from a letter of Evelyn Waugh to the Editor of the Catholic Herald, dated Aug 7, 1964:

"The distinction between Catholicism and Romanita has already been stressed in the American journal Commonweal.  Of course it is possible to have Faith without Romanita and to have Romanita without the Faith, but as a matter of recorded history the two have kept very close."

"Finally, a word about liturgy.  It is natural to the Germans to make a row.  The torchlit, vociferous assemblies of the Hitler Youth expressed a national passion.  It is well that this should be canalized into the life of the Church.  But it is essentially un-English.  We seek no "Sieg Heils".  We pray in silence.  "Participation" in the Mass does not mean hearing our own voices.  Only He knows who is "participating" at Mass."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"On avoiding the occasions of sin" (conclusion)

"Allegory of Perseverance,"  Giovanni Bellini

The following is taken from a sermon for the First Sunday after Easter by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"If we wish to save our souls from sin and Hell, we must always fear and tremble.  "With fear and trembling work out your salvation" - Phil. ii. 12.  He who is not fearful, but exposes himself to occasions of sin, shall scarcely be saved.  . . . We cannot merit the grace of perseverance; but, according to St. Augustine, God grants it to every one that asks it, because he has promised to hear all who pray to him."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Holy Office silenced on Day Three of Vatican 2

 Cardinal Ottaviani, Head of the the Holy Office, 1959 AD - 1968 AD

And thenceforward, to laughter and cheers, according to Msgr. Brunero Gherardini, who was present.  Rorate Caeli has more here.

'"Participate" - the cant word'

 It's not for everyone

Taken from Evelyn Waugh diary entry, Easter 1964:

'"Participate" - the cant word - does not mean to make a row as the Germans suppose.  One participates in a work of art when one studies it with reverence and understanding."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"On avoiding the occasions of sin" (Part 2)

"The Virgin Appearing to St. Philip Neri"  G. B. Piazzetta

The following is taken from a sermon for the First Sunday after Easter by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"Impurity, say St. Augustine, is a vice which makes war on all, and which few conquer.  "The fight is common; but the victory rare."  . . . . St. Philip Neri used to say, that in the war against the vice of impurity, the victory is gained by cowards - that is, by those who fly from the occasions of this sin.  . . . St. Bernard teaches, that to preserve chastity, and, at the same time, to expose oneself to the proximate occasion of sin, "is a greater miracle than to raise a dead man to life."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Professor Dawkins fails to scintillate

Professor Richard Dawkins

Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Australia and Professor Richard Dawkins, who has won worldwide fame as a champion of atheism even though he considers himself more of an agnostic, recently engaged in debate on Australian TV.   Though neither debater covered himself with glory, Dr. Dawkins' uninspired performance, as well as the great gaps in his knowledge, even in areas about which he claims expertise, were striking.  Perhaps the bar for world acclaim is set a bit lower for atheists, even if they are actually quondam atheists.  The estimable Dr. Oddie has more here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

". . . a great cheek of the Germans"

 Fr. Charles Davis
(He eventually left the Church and married in an Anglican ceremony)

From a letter of Evelyn Waugh to Lady Daphne Acton, commenting on Liturgy and Doctrine, by Fr. Charles Davis, and liturgical changes generally:

"Some people, like Penelope Betjeman, like making a row in church and I don't see why they shouldn't; just as the Abyssinians dance and wave rattles.  I should feel jolly shy dancing and I feel shy praying out loud.  Every parish might have one rowdy mass a Sunday for those who like it.  But there should be silent ones for those who like quiet.

. . . . I think it a great cheek of the Germans to try and teach the rest of the world anything about religion.  They should be in perpetual sackcloth and ashes for all their enormities from Luther to Hitler. 

The worst mistake of your Fr Davis is his almost blasphemous degadation of the conception of the mystical Body into a parish meeting. You and I and the dancing Abyssinians and the saints in glory are, as you well know, integral parts of the Mystical Body.  We don't have to be shouting one another down in the next pew."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"On avoiding the occasions of sin"

 "St. Paul,"  El Greco

The following is taken from a sermon for the First Sunday after Easter by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"In consequence of original sin, we all have an inclination to do what is forbidden.   Hence St. Paul complained, that he experienced in himself a law opposed to reason.  "But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin." - Rom., vii 23.   Now, when a dangerous occasion is present, it violently excites our corrupt desires, so that it is then very difficult to resist them; because God withholds efficacious helps from those who voluntarily expose themselves to the occasion of sin.  "He that loveth danger shall perish in it" - Eccl., iii, 27.  "When", says St. Thomas, in his comment on this passage, "we expose ourselves to danger, God abandons us in it".  St. Bernardine of Sienna teaches, that the counsel of avoiding the occasions of sin, is the best of all counsel, and as it were the foundation of religion."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

April is the month of the Blessed Sacrament

 Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament

Since the 16th century, the month of April has been especially dedicated by the Church to devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.  In the encyclical Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII teaches the following concerning this devotion:

"This practice of adoration, in fact, is based on strong and solid reasons.  For the Eucharist is at once a sacrifice and a sacrament; but it differs from the other sacraments in this that it not only produces grace, but contains in a permanent manner the Author of grace Himself.  When, therefore, the Church bids us adore Christ hidden behind the eucharistic veils and pray to Him for spiritual and temporal favors, of which we ever stand in need, she manifests living faith in her divine Spouse who is present beneath these veils, she professes her gratitude to Him and she enjoys the intimacy of His friendship. . . . These exercises of piety have brought a wonderful increase in faith and supernatural life to the Church militant upon earth and they are reechoed to a certain extent by the Church triumphant in heaven which sings continually a hymn of praise to God and to the Lamb "who was slain."   Wherefore, the Church not merely approves these pious practices, which in the course of centuries have spread everywhere throughout the world, but makes them her own, as it were, and by her authority commends them."

Venerable Pope Pius XII, pray for us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hail, Bernadette, Virgin and Visionary.

 Reliquary containing body of St. Bernadette, Nevers, France

Today is the feast of St. Bernadette Soubirous (1844 AD - 1879 AD), the daughter of an unemployed miller and a laundress, to whom was granted a series of celebrated visions of "The Immaculate Conception."   These led to the establishment of the popular shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, where many healing miracles have occurred.  

St. Bernadette's unassuming candor concerning her visions reminds me of another humble French visionary, St. Joan of Arc.  When asked whether, in view of her visions and the subsequent cures, she considered herself to have performed a miracle, St. Bernadette replied, "I don’t think I’ve cured anyone whatsoever, and besides I haven’t done anything for that reason.”

Fr. Dwight Longenecker has a striking and somewhat eerie anecdote concerning St. Bernadette here.

St. Bernadette Soubirous pray for us.

"What a pity the voice of the laity was not heard sooner"

Archbishop (by this time Cardinal) Heenan

That bootless lament comes from Archbishop Heenan of Liverpool, and the subject upon which His Excellency bewails the voice of the laity going unheard is the revision to the liturgy precipitated by Vatican 2.   It appears in a 1962 letter from Archbishop Heenan to Evelyn Waugh, commending Waugh's critique of the liturgical changes contained in "The Same Again, Please," which we blogged about here.

In the same letter, Archbishop Heenan goes on to observe:

"The real difficulty (I think) is that Continentals are twisting themselves inside out to make us look as like as possible to the Protestants.  How I wish we could persuade them (a large majority I fear) that to be at home  with our Mass and ceremonies is far more important than being right according to the books of liturgical antiquities."

Alas, the effort to persuade the Continentals (if it was even made) failed utterly.

Friday, April 13, 2012

"On the miserable state of relapsing sinners" (conclusion)

Mural of Jesus and Mary, Gondar Ethiopia

The following is taken from a sermon for Easter by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"Honour the mother of God every day by some particular devotion, and by fasting on every Saturday.   She is the mother of perseverance, and promises to obtain it for all who serve her. . . . Above all, it is necessary to ask of God every morning the gift of perseverance, and to beg of the Blessed Virgin to obtain it for you, and particularly in the time of temptation, by invoking the name of Jesus and Mary as long as the temptation lasts."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

"The same again, please" (conclusion)

Evelyn Waugh

The following excerpt from an article published in the November, 1962 Spectator by Evelyn Waugh is taken from "A Bitter Trial," which mainly concerns the correspondence between Waugh and Cardinal Heenan on the post- Vatican 2 changes to the liturgy:

"Awe is the natural predisposition to prayer.  When young theologians talk, as they do, of Holy Communion as a "social meal" they find little response in the hearts and minds of their less sophisticated brothers.

No doubt there are certain clerical minds to whom the behaviour of the laity at Mass seems shockingly unregimented. . . . There is no apparent "togetherness".  Only in heaven are we recognisable as the united body we are.  It is easy to see why some clergy would like us to show more consciousness of one another, more evidence of taking part in a social "group activity".  Ideally they are right but that is to presuppose a very much deeper spiritual life in private than most of us have achieved."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

"On the miserable state of relapsing sinners" (part 3)

"The Repentant St. Peter," El Greco
The following is taken from a sermon for Easter Sunday by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"Let us, then, brethren, tremble at the thought of relapsing into sin, and let us beware of availing ourselves of the mercy of God to continue to offend him.  "He", says St. Augustine, "who has promised pardon to penitents, has promised repentance to no one."  God has indeed promised to pardon all who repent of their sins; but he has not promised to any one the grace to repent of the faults which he has committed.  Sorrow for sin is a pure gift of God: if he withholds it, how will you repent?  And without repentance, how can you obtain pardon? . . . . St. Isidore tells us, that the man who repeats the sin which he before detested, is not a penitent but a scoffer of God's majesty. . . . And Tertullian teaches, that, where there is no amendment, repentance is not sincere."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Not coming soon to a theatre near you

"The War of the Vendee" tells the story of armed Catholic resistance to the French revolution in the Vendee on France's Atlantic coast.   The actors are all children and teenagers, and the production is not lavish.  However, the story is worth the telling.  If you like this, you may also be interested in Balzac's "The Chouan," which concerns a related rebellion in Brittany.

Martyrs of the French Revolution, pray for us.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What do the Big Bad Wolf and Richard III have in common?

Both Disney's big bad wolf and Olivier's characterization of Richard III are said to have been based on theatrical producer Jed Harris.   George S. Kaufman once said when he died, he wanted to be cremated so that his ashes could be thrown in Jed Harris' face.  Must have been quite a guy.

Looks like "non placet" for odd Mass of the Neo-Catechumenal Way

Neo-catechumenal Mass

Although in January it nearly received the "placet," without Benedict's approval.  Sandro Magister has more here.

"The Same Again, Please" (part 2)

Saintly priest celebrating Mass
The following excerpt from an article published in the November, 1962 Spectator by Evelyn Waugh is taken from "A Bitter Trial," which mainly concerns the correspondence between Waugh and Cardinal Heenan on the post- Vatican 2 changes to the liturgy:

"There is a party among the hierarchy who wish to make superficial but startling changes in the Mass in order to make it more widely intelligible.  The nature of the Mass is so profoundly mysterious that the most acute and holy men are continually discovering further nuances of significance.  It is not a peculiarity of the Roman Church that much which happens at the altar is in varying degrees obscure to most of the worshippers.  It is in fact the mark of all the historic, apostolic Churches.  In some the liturgy is in a dead language such as Ge'ez or Syriac; in others in Byzantine Greek or Slavonic which differs greatly from the current speech of the people."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This would explain a lot

"Satan Enthroned,"  Church of St. Foy, Conques, France

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich ( 1774 AD - 1824 AD), a mystic and stigmatic, was granted numerous supernatural visions, many of which concerned the Passion of Jesus or the life of the Virgin Mary.  Blessed Anne's descriptions of her visions concerning the Virgin were published in The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary from the Visions of Anne Catherine Emmerich.   These visions included precise information regarding the house near Ephesus where the Virgin resided before being assumed into heaven.  At the time of the book's publication the ancient city of Ephesus had not yet been excavated.  However, Blessed Anne's descriptions of the Virgin's house were so vivid that in 1881 they enabled a French priest named Julien Gouyet to identify the actual building.  The "Virgin's House" was declared a Holy Place by Pope Pius XII, and has been visited by several popes, including Benedict XVI.

Blessed Anne's descriptions of her visions concerning the Passion were published as The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to the Meditations of Anne Catherine Emmerich.   Mel Gibson based much of his movie The Passion of the Christ on this book. The Dolorous Passion includes the following description of the Harrowing of Hell, which is of particular interest for the prophecy it contains:

"In the centre of Hell I saw a dark and horrible-looking abyss, and into this Lucifer was cast, after being first strongly secured with chains; thick clouds of sulphurous black smoke arose from its fearful depths, and enveloped his frightful form in the dismal folds, thus effectually concealing him from every beholder. God himself had decreed this; and I was likewise told, if I remember rightly that he will be unchained for a time fifty or sixty years before the year of Christ 2000.  The dates of many other events were pointed out to me which I do not now remember; but a certain number of demons are to be let loose much earlier than Lucifer, in order to tempt men, and to serve as instruments of the divine vengeance." 

The Church has not endorsed the authenticity of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's visions.  The books containing the visions were published years after her death by Clemens Brentano, a poet, who worked from notes he'd made after his meetings with the visionary over the course of several years.  Consequently, the Church acknowledges that the record of Blessed Anne's visions suffers from "a serious problem of authenticity."  Nevertheless, the Church considers the message of her visions "an outstanding proclamation of the gospel in service to salvation".

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, pray for us.

"On the miserable state of relapsing sinners" (part 2)

"St. Jerome in his Study," Ghirlandaio

The following is taken from a sermon for Easter Sunday by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

". . . St. Jerome says, that the Devil seeks to catch in his nets all men, in order to sacrifice them to the divine justice by their damnation.  Sinners, who are already in the net, he endeavours to bind with new chains; but the friends of God are his dainty meats.  To make them his slaves, and to rob them of all they have acquired, he prepares stronger snares.  "The more fervently", says Denis the Carthusian, "a soul endeavours to serve God, the more fiercely does the adversary rage against her".  The closer the union of a Christian with God, and the greater his efforts to serve God, the more the enemy is armed with rage, and the more strenuously he labours to enter into the soul from which he has been expelled.  "When", says the Redeemer, "the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, seeking rest, and not finding, he saith:  I will return into my house, which I came out" - Luke, xi. 24.  Should he succeed in reentering, he will not enter alone, but will bring with him associates to fortify himself in the soul of which he has again got possession.  Thus, the second destruction of that miserable soul shall be greater than the first."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Monday, April 9, 2012

"The same again, please"

I recently read "A Bitter Trial," which contains the correspondence between Archbishop Heenan and Evelyn Waugh regarding the liturgical changes following the second Vatican Council.   The book also contains an article by Waugh on the Council published in "The Spectator" in November, 1962, from which the following is excerpted:

"... I wondered how many of us wanted to see any change.  The church is rather dark.  The priest stood rather far away.  His voice was not clear and the language he spoke was not that of everyday use.  This was the Mass for whose restoration the Elizabethan martyrs had gone to the scaffold.  St. Augustine, St. Thomas a Becket, St. Thomas More, Challoner and Newman would have been perfectly at their ease among us; were, in fact, present there with us.  Perhaps few of us consciously considered this, but their presence and that of all the saints silently supported us.  Their presence would not have been more palpable had we been making the responses aloud in the modern fashion."

Elizabethan martyrs, pray for us.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

"On the miserable state of relapsing sinners"

"Resurrection," Piero della Francesca

The following is taken from a sermon for Easter Sunday by our Eastertide guide, St. Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church:

"I hope, my dear Christians, that, as Christ is risen, you have, in this holy paschal time, gone to confession, and have risen from your sins.  But, attend to what St. Jerome teaches - that many begin well, but few persevere.  .  . .  The crown of Paradise, says St. Bernard, is promised to those who commence, but is given only to those who persevere. . . .Do not imagine that you shall have no more temptations, but prepare yourself for the combat, and guard against a relapse into the sins you have confessed; for, if you lose the grace of God again, you shall find it difficult to recover it."

St. Alphonsus Liguori, pray for us.

Monday, April 2, 2012

In Sicily, "repeated sacrilegious acts"

"[O]penly aiming at the profanation of the Most Blessed Eucharist" have led the Archbishop of Monreale to order the Blessed Sacrament removed from tabernacles.
Ending communion in the hand, which is not the ordinary usage and is available only by indult, would cure some of the profanation. (h/t Rorate Caeli)