Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apologia pro "Patre"

Many of you have probably observed that priests don't usually call each other “Father,” but rather simply by their first names – as seems perfectly appropriate to their brotherhood. What is less easy to observe is that this same practice has become commonplace among laity, in settings where the ratio of priests to laypeople is fairly high.

So these last two years of living at a seminary among priest classmates, and now my brief time working at a chancery, have shown me that I am in the vast minority, to piously insist on calling priests “Father.”

Thus, with no judgment implied on those whose practice is otherwise, I humbly undertake to explain to a generic priest just why it is that his title is so much more important, in practice, than Doctor or Judge or even Mister.

Why do I call you Father?

It's not out of respect, though I do respect you. You have sacrificed much to serve others, to serve me, and I do appreciate it, but that is not why I call you Father.

It's not in deference to your education. To be frank: In most cases, I am equally educated, or at least darn close. I have equal facility in general philosophical and theological fields and more knowledge in specialized liturgical ones. When you do know more, I have for you the respect of a scholar, not of a priest.

It's not because you're better than I am, or of a higher spiritual class. True, your vocation is supernatural to my natural one, but we are both children of God, merely different parts of the body. No, it is not out of self-debasement that I call you Father.

It's not because I think a friendship or working relationship between us would be impossible or inappropriate. I work with priests nearly every day. Too, I know so many priests who are yet dear friends. Just because he calls me by name and I call him Father does not bespeak an inequality that prevents communication or authenticity.

It's not because you've been a priest the entire time I've known you. Of course, sometimes this is the case, but so many of you I have been privileged to know during your seminary days or even before, and I am only the more careful to call you Father.

It's not because you're holy, although certainly you ought to be. But you're subject to at least as much temptation as the rest of us. When I learn of (or observe) your sins, it does hurt more than do the sins of others. But even if you were to be caught in public scandal, I would still call you Father.

No. The reason I call you Father is much greater than all that.

I call you Father because Our Lord Jesus Christ has configured your soul to His own, has transformed you into Himself in a particular way. You remain the man you've always been, and yet become Jesus Christ in the flesh. His presence may be hidden in you, just as His divinity was hidden on the Cross, but appearances matter differently in this world of sacraments and symbols.

I call you Father to remind myself of Jesus' great gifts to us, continually poured out in the sacraments. I call you Father to thank you for humbling yourself and putting on the person of Christ. I call you Father because it is your very identity to be Christ embodied in the 21st century.

So the next time I call you Father, recognize that it's not merely a polite greeting. It's a thank you for your vocation; it's an encouragement to be holy as He is holy; it's a recognition that your presence manifests His glory.

Thank you, Father. 

That You would deign to maintain the whole priestly order in holy religion, We beseech You, hear us.
That You would deign to provide Your people with pastors after Your own heart, We beseech You, hear us.
That You would deign to fill them with the spirit of Your priesthood, We beseech You, hear us.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hymn for Vespers of CTK, EF

This hymn is not from the Mundelein Psalter, surprisingly enough. Yesterday (for the first time alone) I prayed the Office from a 1965 breviary, which did soooooooooo much to help the personal spirituality frustration about the divergence of calendars! It's translated as prose, but that doesn't make the hymn any less lovely:

We acknowlege You, Christ, to be Lord of the ages, King of the nations and only master of man's soul and heart.

The wicked mom screams out, "We don't want Christ as king," while we, with shouts of joy, hail You as the world's supreme King.

Christ, peace-bringing Prince, subject rebellious souls to Your rule, and in Your love lead back to the one fold those that have strayed from it.

For this, with arms outstretched, You hung, bleeding, on the Cross, and the cruel spear that pierced You, showed man a heart burning with love.

For this, You are hidden on our altars under the form of bread and wine, and pour out on Your children from Your pierced side the grace of salvation.

May the rulers of the world publicly honor and extol You; may teachers and judges reverence You, may the laws express Your order and the arts reflect Your beauty.

May kings find renown in their submission and dedication to You. Bring under Your gentle rule our country and our homes.

Glory be to You, Jesus, supreme over all secular authorities; and glory be to the Father and the loving Spirit, through endless ages. Amen.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Book Review (sort of): The Ottaviani Intervention

Long before I ever conceived of entering graduate studies in liturgy, there was a small study group in college. Among the first important names that came up during this study group was The Ottaviani Intervention. This essay, it was explained to us, was written and sponsored by some cardinals shortly after the Council, and it really iterated all the major things that were “wrong” about the novus ordo, those elements that were dramatically changed to the detriment of the Catholic faith – an example being the mention of the Parousia, of Christ's Second Coming, in the embolism of the Our Father, thereby speaking of the future presence of Christ after He had just been made present in the Sacrament of the Altar.
After obtaining the book at a used theology book sale, it was with heavy heart and high expectations that I opened it to read this groundbreaking report.

Maybe my senses have been dulled by the “multicultural” liturgy that was forced upon me at the FDLC conference last week, but the Ottaviani Intervention didn't shock me. In fact, I thought its authors were overreacting in quite a number of places. I must be less traditional than I'd thought.

Some of the accusations that didn't surprise me were probably very potent ones in their day, but have lost much of their fire through repetition. I really don't get excited anymore that the notion of sacrifice was completely excised from the offertory rite. The special effects in Star Wars (the original trilogy, of course!) were groundbreaking in their day, but when I watch them now, they're old hat at best. Doesn't make them less true, but explains my lack of response.

Other issues that I dismissed have been nuanced over time and corrected with translation. We are on the third typical edition of the Missal of Paul VI (i.e., it's been revised twice since 1969).

There was some hair-splitting and stretching, of course. Apparently, by having the priest say, “Do this in memory of me” rather than “As often as ye shall do these things, in memory of me shall ye do them,” the Church has caused people to lose focus on the sacramental action being re-presented, and instead think of the Eucharist as a commemoration. I understand that it's a big deal to change any text in the canon, but this comes from the very next verse in Scripture and means so nearly the same thing...

Then there are the overstatements. Most of these had to do with the novus ordo being Protestant in theology. As much as I am usually wildly entertained by inflammatory statements about Protestants made by Catholics trying to preserve Catholic identity (favorite: Ralph Adams Cram!), the statements in the Ottaviani Intervention – in addition to being vaguer and much less witty – just strike me as untrue, at least judging by today's variety of Protestants.

But the reaction that surprised me most was when I thought, “Oh. Well, that assessment is true, but actually I think you're kind of wrong for caring.” Theological ideas I have always taken for granted – like the baptismal priesthood of the laity (different in kind from the ordained priesthood but present nonetheless) – were held up as examples of the crazy ideas promoted by this liturgical reform.

Too, I thought its authors were just as nearsightedly obsessed with sacrifice as modern whiny traditionalists. (Admittedly, both also acknowledge the doxological element, the need of glorifying the Triune God, so I suppose they're two-trick ponies.) I don't mean to suggest that sacrifice is not an absolutely essential element of the liturgy, especially the Eucharistic liturgy (although, in light of Ratzinger's statements in Spirit of the Liturgy, I can't help but ask what is meant by sacrifice, but that's a topic for another time). But where is their eschatology? What about the legitimate communal aspect of liturgy, which is of its very nature a communal act? What about the communicant's moment of intimacy with the God of all creation? Not to mention the liturgy's cosmic dimension? Yes, sacrifice is absolutely essential, but let's not be reductionist here, people.

It's been forty years since the novus ordo was promulgated. The Church is still standing. One can argue that she'd be in better shape now had the Mass never been reformed – but one could make just as strong an argument that she'd be in worse shape. At this point in time, despite the various traditionalist communities around the world, the piety of the vast majority of Catholics has been shaped and formed by the novus ordo. Certainly some of the theological trends preserved more strongly in the old liturgy are less clearly understood by many. But the world has not become Protestant. Catholicism is as virile as ever.

Is a book like this worth reading, for a scholar of the liturgy? Sure. It was a landmark book in its day: shocking, unusual, and insightful. Is it likely to be relevant to the average interested reader? Less so. If you're looking for traddy liturgical books, I'd still send you to the early 20th century long before I'd recommend Cardinal Ottaviani..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On Martyrdom

“Would you be a martyr for the faith?”

Again and again I hear this question – often enough, in the homily for the memorial or feast of a martyr (or group of martyrs, like yesterday).

But martyrdom has really never struck me as all that difficult a thing. Sure, it would be sad to leave behind all those I love, and it'd be absolutely terrifying to effectively volunteer to be killed, but the alternative is committing apostasy in the most cowardly manner. Go big or go home, essentially, and with my disposition, it’s plain that I'd regret going home for the rest of my life. It'd be easy to die for Jesus.

So the focus shifts to white martyrdom, to the everyday things: swallowing your anger at that guy who just cut you off; treating that person who thinks you're an idiot just as kindly as you treat your best friend; doing your best to remain healthy yet accepting without complaint the inevitable decays of age. (I feel like I'd have better examples of this if I were a mother; feel free to chime in the combox, ladies!) I already strive for virtue in my everyday actions; the reminder is helpful, but not earth-shattering.

However, the everyday martyrdoms grow deeper still. The most striking thing, to me, about the story of Isaac Jogues, centers around his return to France after years of mission work in what is now the U.S. He was so deformed from the tortures he'd suffered that his brother Jesuits did not even recognize him! And yet, after a few years back at the monastery, he asked to go back. To return to the people who cut (or bit) off his fingers and marred his face, among so many other tortures! After all they'd done for him, he genuinely loved them, still wanted to bring Christ to them. And he did, until they martyred him.

Now that is a style of martyrdom I ought to work toward: deep, self-giving love for those who have given me only pain. That kind of love is indeed divine.

Iesu cuius corpus percutientibus, et genae vellentibus, dedisti, miserere nobis.

Iesu fortitude Martyrum, miserere nobis.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Important Things I Learned This Weekend

Absolutely nothing compares to the deep joy of reuniting with loved ones after months or years apart.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reaction: Gone with the Wind

SPOILER ALERT - I am going to discuss the plot freely, presuming you have read the book &/or seen the movie. If this is not the case, and you don't want surprises spoiled, stop reading now.

I picked up Gone with the Wind at an estate sale a few weeks ago. I'd never seen the movie before, but had heard wildly positive recommendations, and it was $5. I didn't just start reading it; I started devouring it. I read from it every single night, even when my mom was visiting. For every day when I read 20pgs, there was another when I read 200pgs. I even found myself going about my normal day, and applying to my life advice given by one character to another. I LOVED reading that book, and I looked forward each night to returning to these beloved characters, often staying up far too late just to keep reading.

But toward the last few hundred pages, I began to fear that there wasn't space left for Mitchell to wrap things up nicely and return the book to its former glory. As I read, I felt only anxiety - some sadness, but mostly just anxiety, just a feeling that something wasn't right. The sort of feeling where you just expect things to get better... and then they just didn't. I didn't cry much (which is very unlike me). When I finished the book, I spent the next few hours in a daze. That's it? I found myself wondering again and again. That's really it? It just didn't seem like enough. I'd loved the book for the first thousand plus pages, but now... ?

She certainly stopped at a stopping point, with some issues resolved and others opened new. There was growth in some characters - certainly Ashley, and arguably Scarlett (though it's just as arguable that she didn't learn any lessons from her flashes of understanding). And Mitchell had to stop the book somewhere; for goodness' sake, it was already 1500 pages long! But I was still unsatisfied. Unsettled. I was not pleased with Ms. Mitchell, and I couldn't quite put my finger on why.

Until I found the lynchpin: Rhett. One of my favorite characters from the whole novel, and she just abandoned him, a mere shell of a man. Of course he doesn't love Scarlett; he has no feelings left! The death of his daughter, whom he loved more than life itself, compounded by his own guilt about it and years of unrequited love selflessly delivered? Of course he's not himself! Isn't it obvious that he's spiralling deeper and deeper into depression? And pushing Scarlett away is just another hopeless rejection of someone who might help him?

They say that one of the major themes of this book is survivors - some people can survive through anything, and others just kind of float through life. Certainly Rhett is a survivor type, as is Scarlett. But to our knowledge, he's never faced a tragedy like this before. Rhett can survive any external problem; he's shown that very clearly. But this is an internal problem, an emotional problem. Sure, Rhett can read other people's emotions clear as day. But does he know how to deal with his own? I fear not, and I'll never know. I fear that the Rhett I grew to love is gone forever, lost in grief - not as dramatically as Gerald had, but as completely - and just as after the death of a loved one with an illness, I will have to rewrite the recent memories over time and replace them with the old vibrant ones, which is always doable but sad.

And Scarlett, whose own chance at real love - that intense, surreal moment when she and Rhett loved only each other and knew it and wanted the other to know it - she sabotaged it by her fear, her need for control, and her consequent insistence on playing games with her beloved instead of being vulnerable and honest with him (admittedly, his fear and consequent games and lack of honesty helped much, too). And what does she do at the end but return to the very games she's played all her life? How does she cope but to do precisely the one thing Rhett most strongly refused: she plans to try and win him, just as she tried Ashley.

I know that happy endings can be imagined, particularly in light of his devotion to the children. And I did like the book, and would absolutely recommend it. I look forward to watching the movie. But I can't help but feel disappointed that Mitchell has left us in a place where all our most beloved characters are either dead, utterly desolate, or - in Scarlett's case - a damned fool.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

On What Constitutes Good Liturgy

It's simple, really:

 "Good liturgy is when they're closer to Christ on the way out than they were when they walked in the door." -Msgr. Moroney (41:20)

Friday, August 19, 2011

On Jephthah, Listening, and Right Worship

Yesterday's first reading is one that I always find profoundly disturbing. I know that the Old Testament authors don't moralize, but merely present stories and consequences, forcing us to draw conclusions. It's been explained to me time and again that Jephthah made a stupid promise rather than asking God what He wanted. Yet this reading unsettles me every single time.

But Father glanced past a fascinating point yesterday, upon which I have dwelt ever since. Human sacrifice was not just a pagan practice - it was a pagan cultic practice. It wasn't just a thing Gentiles did; it was an integral part of how they worshipped their gods.

We see over and over throughout the Old Testamenthow  the people of God strayed from His commands and worshiped other gods. This is not just a tragic story of a great man making a stupid vow, and consequently sacrificing his only daughter. This is yet another story of the importance of worshipping God the way He has asked us to worship Him.

One can be successful, even winning great victories for God's people, and still worship Him in a horrifyingly wrong way. That makes the victories no less triumphant, the man no less well-intentioned. But how much less tragic our lives might be if we just followed the liturgical customs God has given us!

Dominum Deum tuum timebis, et ipsi servies ac per nomen illius iurabis.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Things Liturgy School Didn't Prepare Me For, #1

After Mass, blowing out the altar candles at the wrong angle and getting wax splattered across the exposed skin on my collarbone.

Strangest configuration of first-degree burns ever!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Vespers hymn for Palm Sunday

Tonight's Vespers hymn is the beautiful Vexilla regis:

Behold the standard of the King,
The Cross gleams forth its mystery;
On it the Son of God as Man
Atoned on earth for sinners all.

His side was pierced by cruel lance
That drew out water with his Blood,
To cleanse our souls from ev'ry stain,
And nourish them with its pure stream.

O Tree that shines with beauty rare,
Ennobled by Christ's precious Blood,
He chose you as the royal bed
To rest his sacred limbs in death.

O blessèd were your rugged arms,
From which the whole world's ransom hung,
You bore the weight of sacrifice
That snatched from greedy hell its prey.

Hail, holy altar, Victim hail,
For all the glory of that Cross,
By which Life chose and welcomed death,
And dying gave us life once more.

Hail, holy Cross, our only hope,
Wash all our guilt and crimes away,
Increase our grace while we adore
In honor of your victory.

Let ev'ry soul sing in your praise,
Salvation's Fount, O Trinity,
For ever cherish those redeemed
Through that great mystery, the Cross. Amen.

(Translation from the wonderful Mundelein Psalter.) A blessed Holy Week to you all!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

On Liturgical Chant, and Thinking in Centuries

I've been doing a lot of work in the English translation of the new Missal lately. Mostly I've been combing through the General Instruction and the rubrics (fodder for future blog posts, I'm sure), noting changes there (mostly in terminology and capitalization), but today a few of us sang through the chants as they will appear in the new Missal.
Well! I find it fascinating.

They are clearly the simplest Latin chants, adapted so that the English can fit into the Latin meter. The result is not terribly natural for English singing (particularly not when compared to English plainchant!), but is singable enough, and the non-Latin-scholars in our group had little difficulty with it.

Coming to these from a Latin chant background was an interesting experience. Many of the chants are modeled on the Latin - which means that they are similar, but not exactly. The most noticeable difference is that any note that was lengthened - whether by a horizontal episema, quilisma, or bistropha - is no longer lengthened (try singing the Sanctus giving all the notes the same metrical value - phew!)

But the Gloria, the Creed, the various responses - these are all based on the Latin tones. Again, not the same, but based on. Even the tone for the Lord's Prayer and its doxology is not the familiar one but the Latin one!

So I can't help but wonder: Why? Is it possible we've set ourselves up so that English-speaking congregations around the world will be able to easily learn the Latin tones in 5-10 years, as Rome has been asking of us for decades?* The Latin (or Greek, as the case may be) to the same tone is printed below for the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy),** the Gloria in excelsis (Glory to God in the highest), the Lord's Prayer,*** the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), and these parts are always referred to in the GIRM as I've recreated them above (as opposed to the current translation, in which only the Latin name is used).

Of course I don't like everything about the musical notation (two syllables for Bap-tism in the Creed is vying for first place), but it's cool to see: as the English-speaking Catholic world is being given words that reflect in detail the Latin of the editio typica, we are also being given chants that similarly reflect the Latin ones in our tradition. Would that I might see the day when Catholics around the world can actually sing a few unifying pieces in Latin!

Cantate Domino canticum novum laus eius in ecclesia sanctorum!

*Pope Pius X asked for this in Tra le sollecitudini (par. 3) in 1903; the Second Vatican Council mandated it in Sacrosanctum Concilium (par. 54) in 1963; and Pope Paul VI sent a booklet called Jubilate Deo to every bishop in the world with "a minimum selection of sacred chants" (letter here) in 1974. Other examples exist, but I find these both most important and most compelling.

**The Kyrie is sometimes just called the Kyrie. I haven't managed to figure out why this one gets to drop its translation, but none of its brethren do.

***The Lord's Prayer, like all the others, is given first in English, then in Latin, to the same tone. Of note: the doxology after the Lord's Prayer ("For the kingdom") is only given in English, though it, too, is to the familiar Latin tone.

Monday, March 14, 2011

On celebration versus populum and the location of the tabernacle

Skimming through these old periodicals never ceases to give me new insight into old problems. Why didn't I start doing this months ago!?
In his address to the Assisi congress of pastoral liturgy on September 22, 1956, our Holy Father [Pius XII] declared: "To separate the tabernacle and the altar is to separate two things which should remain united by their origin and their nature. The question of how the tabernacle could be placed on the altar without interfering with celebration facing the people admits of several different solutions. On these the experts will give their opinion."

The Holy Father's remarks were generally understood to mean that he took both the liturgical and pastoral legitimacy of the altar versus populum for granted, that he accepted as certain the possibility of reconciling a worthy tabernacle with such an altar, and was encouraging the specialists (liturgists, artists and architects) to work on the problem and to come up with suitable solutions. The problem has now, however, eight months later, officially been declared insoluble.

"Liturgical Briefs," in Worship, Vol. XXXI, No. 10 (Nov. 1957), 612.

Somehow, I suspect that this solution, which works well for our Eastern brethren, might not hold up so well in the Latin Church...

From the National Liturgical Week (conference) in 1950

In the Mass as celebrated in 1950, as in the EF now, the priest says the entire Our Father, and the servers respond with the last line only. There are no rubrics for the people. The custom now in most places I've been and heard of is for the people to sing the last line only. There is much talk of people singing the whole Pater Noster (as in many places they say the second set of Domine, non sum dignus with him, or try to), and I think this would be a laudable practice, both for its own sake and for the unity it would bring to the two forms of Mass. I encourage discussion in the comments (if any of you are still reading!).
Father Shawn Sheehan (Cambridge, Mass.): I would like to have Father Ellard tell us what are the official directives on the congregational recitation of the Pater noster.

Father Gerald Ellard (St. Mary's, Kansas): To the best of my knowledge that is an open question. By the analogy that the congregation recites at a Low Mass what it sings at High Mass or answers to the priest, the singing of the Our Father or its recitation by the congregation at a Dialogue Mass would seem to be ruled out. However, all things to the contrary not withstanding, there seems to be a custom in Rome that at High Mass the people sing the Our Father. And I saw a detailed description of two Dialogue Masses in Rome under papal control in which the recitation of the Our Father by the entire congregation was provided for. To the best of my knowledge, there is no prohibition of it, nor is there, beyond this example, any encouragement for it. This is as far as my knowledge goes. I know that there is quite a strong feeling that it would be a good prayer for the people to recite along with the celebrant. I know also that priests have the feeling that this would be a lay encroachment on a clerical privilege, and so I suppose the debate will go on until we have further direction.

Discussion after Gerald Ellard, S.J., "A Brief History of the Dialogue Mass,"
in For Pastors and People: National Liturgical Week 1950, Conception, Mo.: The Liturgical Conference, Inc., 1951, p95.

Note: In a 1963 issue of the journal Worship, a negative response is given to an inquiry about the above, but with the editor's expressed desire that such might change.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How little things change in 80 years!

Somewhat more than three hundred years ago, the western world was set agog by the publication of a new astronomical theory. Men who had grown up in the belief that the earth was the center of the universe, were surprised at rumors that there could be a different axis about which all turned. People who felt confident of the stability and immobility of the earth became alarmed at the idea of their drifting through space. It was not easy to make them change their poitn of view. It was difficult to persuade them that the sun was the center, and the earth but one of many planets dependent upon it. The story of Galileo illustrates the hesitations, the controversies and the misunderstandings that had to be gone throught before the truth was accepted. It took time, it took explanation, and it took much conciliatory effort before old ways were adjusted to new ideas. But once the change was made the world was better for having a wider and truer horizon for its knowledge.

For the many millions of souls that have grown up in the faith under the influence of self-centered beleifs and practices, the implications of the liturgical movement come with a similar shock. Accustomed as they have been to have all devotions and spiritual exercises revolve about their own needs and advantages, they find it hard to accept the full significance of the liturgy’s “All for the greater glory of God!” Used to dominating and directing every detail to the end that their prayers and penances bring sensible consolation to them, they find it annoying to have to take part in exercises in which their personality does not seem to stand out sufficiently. It is not that they object to the Mass, but they prefer the benefit they seem to derive from the sermon—just as with priests and sisters there may be no question as to the expediency of saying the office, but they prefer the immediate benefit they seem to derive from the half-hour of meditation. Even the best disposed of us make the mistake of trying to crowd the liturgy into the scheme of private devotion. We become enamored of the art, the music, the ceremonies, the festivals of the liturgy, and proclaim ourselves ardent supporters of the liturgical movement because “we get so much out of it.” Between this subjective attitude and the objective nature of the liturgy there is a difference, a difference that may be noted by contrasting an ego-centric and a theo-centric piety. One of them looks to self, with its fears, its joys, its hopes. The other moves on the eternal axis of: “This is the Will of God, your sanctification.”

-J.L. Connolly, “The Liturgy and Personal Piety,”
in Orate Fratres, Vol. V, No. 10 (Sept. 1931), 453-454.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

from "The Liturgy and Women"

The good Christian woman is as it were a natural sacrament in the world, an external sign of inner grace radiating goodness. She is a power for good in the world to which only the most debased of men will fail to respond, and whose active influence the world never needed more sorely than today. Her true mission she can fulfill, as of old, only by drinking deep at the fountain of the true Christian spirit, the life of the Church. She must become imbued with the spirit of Christ, as were the women of early Christianity. Above all, she must, under the moulding powers of the one true Sacrifice eternal of the Altar, become another Christ, burning with His own zeal to spread His kingdom in the hearts of men.
Virgil Michel, O.S.B., "The Liturgy and Women," in Orate Fratres, Vol. III, No. 9 (July 1929), 274-275.

No, I have not forgotten about this blog. Perhaps an inspirational quote will help to fill the page until my thesis is finished and I have time to return to blogging...
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