The Queenship of Mary

Mass this morning at Holy Rosary

Mass this morning at Holy Rosary

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve:
to thee do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this our exile,
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

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Formal Installation as Pastor

Today Bishop Baker came to celebrate the 10:00am Mass at St. Barnabas, at which he formally installed me as Pastor of both St. Barnabas and Holy Rosary. (The office took effect on July 1, 2015, my having been Administrator for the year prior.) This meant that I had to recite the Profession of Faith and make the Oath of Fidelity, indicated by Canon Law (c. 833) for those who assume an ecclesiastical office.

Here is a photo from just after Mass concluded (on the right is Msgr. O’Connor, the Pastor Emeritus):

From left to right: yours truly, Bishop Robert Baker, and Msgr. Eugene O'Connor

From left to right: yours truly, Bishop Robert Baker, and Msgr. Eugene O’Connor

You can read the entire Profession of Faith and Oath of Fidelity on this page of the Vatican web site. I think you’ll find it edifying!

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Ideal Books for Seminarians

If there were funding to buy a bunch of “essential” books for seminarians, which books should be included? Let me know what you think. Here are a few suggestions to get things going:

The Priest Is Not His Own by Fulton Sheen

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma by Ludwig Ott

The Priest in Union with Christ by Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange

Which books do you suggest as “essential” for the library of a seminarian – a future priest?

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Seminarians (and Priests) Must Learn Spanish

It is by now well-known, at least in some circles, that seminarians are required by the Church to learn Latin (Code of Canon Law, canon 249), and that this directive is widely ignored. Many seminaries, bishops, and vocation directors protest that Spanish is really what is needed instead, and that the seminarian cannot learn both. But it would be good for us to have another look at that canon, to put the lie to such claims:

Can. 249 — The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.

Thus we see that it is not an either/or situation — “either Spanish or Latin” — but rather, both/and. We are to know both Latin (well!), and any other languages that are needed for ministry. In my case, I have had to learn Italian for further studies and Spanish for parish work.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that many seminarians and priests not only do not learn Latin, but don’t learn Spanish either. With regard to Spanish, there are many reasons why, from claiming an incapacity for languages (which applies in only a small number of cases, in my opinion), to a perceived lack of need (which does not apply in any American diocese, in my opinion), to ideological issues with immigration law and so forth.

Having had a great deal of experience in Hispanic ministry to this point, with all of its challenges and joys, I am convinced that all seminarians and at least “more” priests need to learn Spanish. (At this point, I’ll leave Latin aside for perhaps another post.) I was so glad, then, when I discovered the following excellent essay in the introduction to a book published in 1947 — and surprised. Surprised, because it reads almost as if it were written yesterday! With just a few tweaks (such as changing “Mexicans” to “Hispanics”, “Southwest” to “the whole country”, etc.), it applies almost in toto to our present situation. The priest-author has wonderful insights into the Hispanic mindset and provides wonderful reasons why seminarians and priests need to be prepared to work with such people.

The book is Pastoral Spanish, published in 1947, and can be downloaded in a somewhat difficult-to-use PDF format via this page. I have read about half of it thus far and can say that, overall, it remains an excellent resource. Certain things (such as the use of the vosotros or vos forms) will almost never apply in modern situations. But many other things are highly accurate and useful. There are a few typos that I’ve discovered as well, but none that will cause too many difficulties. In any case, what really interests me at present is the introductory essay, which you can download in a more readable PDF format or read below.

I hope that this essay will have a wide readership, especially from seminarians and priests. I have transcribed it (including all of its original emphases and idiosyncrasies, most of which are minor). You can download it in PDF form here:


Or read it here on the blog page here following (you may need to click on “Continue Reading” to see it). Please share this post with all the seminarians and priests you know.

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Continue reading

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Thank You for Your Prayers – Update

Thank you to all who prayed for the religious sister who was dying. She passed away peacefully yesterday, July 31, Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, surrounded by family and sisters.

Sister A.M., rest in peace!

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On the Feast of St. Anne

July 26 is the feast of St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus and mother of the Blessed Mother.

A photo I took of the gorgeous statue of St. Anne with Our Lady, which sits atop a marble column inside the Sanctuaire Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré (St. Anne Shrine) in Quebec.

A photo I took of the gorgeous statue of St. Anne with Our Lady, which sits atop a marble column inside the Sanctuaire Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré (St. Anne Shrine) in Quebec.


Good St. Anne, you were especially favored by God to be the mother of the most holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Savior. By your power with your most pure daughter and with her divine Son, kindly obtain for us the grace and the favor we now seek. Please secure for us also forgiveness of our past sins, the strength to perform faithfully our daily duties, and the help we need to persevere in the love of Jesus and Mary. Amen.

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Nuns Send Thanks

The chapel of St. Jude Monastery, Marbury, Ala.

The chapel of St. Jude Monastery, Marbury, Ala.

Mother and the Sisters at St. Jude Monastery sent me a thank you note today for my post from the other day asking your help as they struggle to meet their challenges. Many of you responded via PayPal, and I know that some have sent checks as well (as am I). I copy their note here in edited form – and add my thanks also!

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Ave + Maria

Dear Father,

Prayerful greetings from Marbury. Thank you so much, Father, for thinking of us. You must have a truly wonderful group of readers, many of whom have responded with generosity to your appeal.  May the Lord reward with everlasting life all who do good to us in His name.

We keep you in our prayers and think of you often.  Please pray for us and bless us!

In Our Lady,
Mother and Sisters

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Prayer Request

Would you all join me in saying a prayer for a young religious sister who is in her last agony?

(She’s not a member of any order that I’ve posted about here before – just to be clear, lest someone try to make a connection.)


Prayer to St. Joseph for Those in Agony

O St. Joseph, protector of those in agony, take pity on those who at this very moment when I pray to thee are engaged in their last combat.

O blessed Joseph, take pity on my soul, too, when the hour of the final battle shall arrive for me. Then, O my holy patron, do not abandon me, but grant me thine assistance; show that thou art my good father, and obtain that my Divine Savior may receive me with mercy into that abode where the elect enjoy a life that shall never end. Amen.

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Please Help the Nuns

Me with the nuns for my September 2012 retreat.

Me with the nuns for my September 2012 retreat.

I’ve posted here before about a lovely, small community of cloistered Dominican nuns located in the center of Alabama, in the town of Marbury: St. Jude Monastery (here, here, here, here, and here). Many of you helped them financially in their previous time of need.

The Sisters are in need again. In a note that they included with their most recent newsletter, they indicated that they’ve had more equipment failures at the convent this year; it sounds like it’s been a rather lean year thus far. Mother described it as a “year of contrariness”. The newsletter also highlighted a new Sister who entered the community in January. I see a connection here. They are a faithful community of nuns. The devil is not pleased when good things happen there – when young ladies dedicate their lives to Christ in the cloister.

Can we pitch in again? These Sisters are very modest: there’s no capital campaign, fundraising thermometer, Amazon wish list, or other appeal on their web site. Just a simple “ways to help” page that highlights prayer in the first place. Perhaps we can not only pray for them but send them a little donation as well. The Sisters need our help.


I am reminded of the fact that I need to find a way to get down there soon and pay them a visit! In the meantime, I’ll be sending them a donation as well — and praying for them.

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Pyx Problems

pyx is the sacred vessel that is used for transporting the Most Blessed Sacrament – usually to bring Holy Communion to someone who is sick. The purpose of this post is not to write about Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion or about the specifics of how to bring Holy Communion to the sick. Rather, I would like to talk about some specific problems I have noticed with the pyxes that are commonly available nowadays. The fact is, there are some rather serious problems with most of the pyxes that are available for purchase from most suppliers.

Let’s first consider the purpose of a pyx and draw some logical conclusions from that.

The pyx, as I said, is made to transport the Most Blessed Sacrament. Therefore, it should be made of a dignified material that is befitting of so great a Sacrament. Moreover, since we believe in the Real Presence, the pyx should be made in such a way that it protects the Most Blessed Sacrament to the greatest extent possible from any risk of profanation (loss of particles or other damage). Finally, a good pyx should fulfill its purpose and function in a practical and convenient way.

Now let’s look at some of the most common styles of pyxes available on the market today, in light of the above criteria.

Dignity of Materials

The market is flooded today with cheap pyxes (in price) made of cheap materials (in value and quality). Here is a photo of such a “cheap” pyx:

Here we see a pyx with a strange textured surface (no-slip grip?) that reminds more of an industrial surface than a sacred vessel. The tiny grooves on it will cause oils from the fingers to collect and remain on the surface, eroding the infinitesimally thin gold plating even faster than might normally happen. The low price of such pyxes betrays a cheap base metal and also an extremely thin gold plating that will not hold up very long.

On to exhibit B:

This oddly-shaped vessel may have been originally intended as a pill box. In any case, it was once used as a pyx. And I provide a photo of it here, because it shows another common feature of modern pyxes that one finds in the catalogs: it has a plastic lining. But not only is plastic not a fitting material in which to transport Our Lord, there is also the issue of inability to see any loose particles of the Host against a white background.

Ability to Protect the Sacred Host

Let’s now consider whether these modern, widely-available pyxes are well-suited for transporting the Most Blessed Sacrament in an integral way.

The above photo shows several issues.

The first is the diameter of the pyx. It is just a small amount larger than the diameter of a standard host. The result is: you can’t get your finger in beside it to lift it out. The only way to get the host out, in most cases, is by “dumping” it into one’s hand. The risk here is obvious: loss of particles.

Speaking of particles, you see that there is an odd reinforcing rim on the inside of the cover. It has two small holes, one on each side. Particles could get lodged in there. Then there is the spring assembly (with a push button) to open it. Particles of the host can be lodged in there as well. Along these lines, let’s consider another photo:

Here you see the push button that protrudes through the side of the pyx. There is a sizable gap around it — a gap through which particles could be lost. In other words, even when it’s closed, it’s not fully sealed. Finally, in this regard, I’ve seen some where the lid does not fit very tightly either.

Practical and Convenient Fulfillment of Function

Let’s look at a few final issues. I mentioned above the issue of having to “dump” the host out of some pyxes that are only slightly wider in diameter than the host itself. That’s not a problem with every pyx. Some are wider. But even those sometimes are not ideal:

The above pyx has some of the usual issues: protruding push button (with gap around it allowing “leakage” of particles), internal spring assembly in which particles can get trapped also. That said, it does not have the weird rim around the inside of the cover, and the cover has a pretty decent fitted rim on it that will close fairly tightly. The pyx is also of a wider diameter.

But even here there is a practical issue: the flat bottom. When a flat host is on a flat surface it’s hard to remove it. A traditional pyx, ideally designed, has a convex bottom — a sort of “bump” in the center of the bottom — so that the host can easily be tipped and then grasped with the fingers, without having to tip or “dump” the pyx itself.

Here is an example of a better design in this regard:

The contours of the bottom part make it easier to tip a host and grasp it without possibility of losing particles in one’s hand or even, God forbid, on the floor.

You see that the above pyx also does not have any sort of spring operated button thing to open it: there is just two little knobs or tabs on the outside, one on the top and one on the bottom. The cover fits very tightly over the lower portion, and it is opened by gently pulling the knobs or tabs apart from each other. No openings through which particles could be lost, no springs for them to get caught in, no weird interior rims with holes in them either.

Finally, the above pyx, even though it is a more inexpensive model and is made of brass (instead of, say, sterling silver), yet has a heavy amount of gold plating on it that will stand up to repeated use. It also has a dignified and traditional design stamped in the cover, not some sort of mass-produced appliqué that is attached via rivets (as in the first one above). No cheap plastic linings either. It’s functional, well-designed, easy to purify, and well-suited for transporting the Blessed Sacrament without worry.

Since the pyx is a sacred vessel that comes in contact with the Most Blessed Sacrament, it is always ideal if it is made of even nobler materials. Traditionally, this means sterling silver which is gold plated. Here is an example of a sterling silver pyx:

It’s hard to see the silver hallmark in this photo, but it’s there just under the rim to the right of the little loop that can be used to open it on the bottom half. You see that this pyx has a “bump” in the bottom that makes it easier to remove the host. No weird lining. No springs or holes. Easy to purify. Easy to use.

Sterling silver pyxes are unfortunately difficult to get nowadays. Few companies make them, and those that do charge a hefty price. However, considering the pyx’s purpose, paying such a price may well be worth it.


Even some of the more expensive pyxes in catalogs nowadays include some of the defects and design flaws that I have identified above. In the United States, it can be very difficult to find an appropriate pyx among the options that are widely available. If any priest or seminarian would like to know where a proper pyx can be bought, I’d be happy to help (use contact page). A pyx is a sacred vessel which should be properly blessed, properly used, and properly purified. Priests (and bishops) have a responsibility to ensure that those who might be entrusted with a pyx know how to use it and are properly deputed to do so.

I’m not sure how to get the attention of manufacturers and encourage them to produce dignified and properly-designed pyxes. But hopefully this post, in some small way, will help at least in increasing respect for the Most Blessed Sacrament.

O Sacrament most holy! O Sacrament divine! All praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

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Benedict XVI on Music, Liturgy, John Paul II

Our pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, gave a speech yesterday at Castelgandolfo (the papal summer residence), where he received doctorates honoris causa from two Polish universities. Even though he has gone on record saying that he would not write any more theological treatises, yet we continue to get these fresh bits and pieces of his thought via his correspondence and very occasional addresses that he gives to groups. In this regard, I hope that many more universities will want to give our beloved pontiff emeritus honorary doctorates, so that we can hear more speeches written by him!

This speech was published today in the Italian and German originals and in Polish translation, and I provide here my translation from the Italian. Besides being written in a polished and elegant Italian, it also contains that “freshness” that so often marks Benedict’s writing: always a joy to read what he writes. Being a lover of music and especially of sacred music, I found his reflection to be especially edifying.

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4 JULY 2015

Your Eminence!

Your Excellencies!

Distinguished Rectors!

Eminent Professors!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

At this time I can do none other than express my great and most heartfelt gratitude for the honor that you have given me in awarding me the doctorate honoris causa. I thank the dear Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Lord Chancellor, and the academic authorities of both universities. I am especially delighted by the fact that, in this way, my bond with Poland, with Krakow, with the homeland of our great Saint John Paul II, has become even stronger. Indeed, without him, my spiritual and theological development is not even imaginable. By his living example he showed us how the joy of great sacred music can go together with the task of common participation in the sacred liturgy, just as grandiose joy can accompany the simplicity of a humble celebration of faith.

In the post-conciliar years, a very ancient conflict about this point arose with renewed passion. I myself grew up in the region of Salzburg, marked by the great tradition of that city. There it went without saying that feast day Masses accompanied by a choir and orchestra were an integral part of our experience of faith in the celebration of the liturgy. It remains indelibly impressed on my memory how, for example, no sooner than the first notes of the Mozart Coronation Mass sounded, the heavens practically opened and one experienced the Lord’s presence very profoundly. (And my thanks also to you, who arranged for me to listen to Mozart, and also to the choir: some great pieces!)

Still, together with this, the new reality of the Liturgical Movement was also already present – above all, via one of our chaplains who later became vice regent and then rector of the major seminary of Freising. Later, during my studies in Munich, I entered in a much more concrete way into the Liturgical Movement by means of the classes of Professor Pascher, one of the most important experts of the Council in liturgical matters; and above all I entered in via the liturgical life of the seminary community. Thus, bit by bit, the tension between participatio actuosa true to the liturgical spirit and the solemn music that enfolded the sacred action became perceivable, even if I did not yet notice it so strongly.

In the Constitution on the Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council it is written very clearly: “The patrimony of sacred music is to be conserved and built up with great care” (114). On the other hand, the text stresses as a fundamental liturgical category the participatio actuosa of all the faithful in the sacred action. Those things which, in the Constitution, were still peacefully together, were thereafter, in the reception of the Council, often seen in a relationship of dramatic tension. Significant circles of the Liturgical Movement held that, in the future, only concert halls could accommodate the great choral works and even orchestral Masses, not the liturgy. Here, rather, there could only be space for the common singing and prayer of the faithful. What’s more, there was dismay for the cultural impoverishment of the Church that would necessarily follow from this. In what way, then, could the two sides be reconciled? How could the Council be carried out in its entirety? These were the questions that weighed down upon me and on many other faithful – from ordinary people to those having a theological formation.

Perhaps it is appropriate at this point to pose the fundamental question: What, in reality, is music? Where does it come from and what is its aim?

I think that we can pinpoint three “places” from which music originates.

One of its first sources is the experience of love. When men were seized by love, another dimension of being opened up to them – a new greatness and breadth of reality. And this led even to a new mode of expression. Poetry, song, and music in general were born from this being struck, from this being awakened to a new dimension of life.

A second origin of music is the experience of sadness – of being touched by death, by pain, and by the depths (abysses) of life. Also in this case, new dimensions of reality opened up in opposite directions; new dimensions which cannot find expression in discourse alone.

Finally, music’s third place of origin is in the encounter with the divine which, from the beginning, is a part of that which defines the human reality. It is this encounter of man with the totally other and the totally great that elicits even more so new ways of expression. As a matter of fact, perhaps it could be said that even in the other two areas – love and death – the divine mystery touches us and, in that sense, it is the fact of being touched by God that constitutes the origin of music, all told. I find it moving to observe how in the Psalms, for example, singing alone does not suffice: appeal is made to all instruments. In this way the hidden music of all creation – its mysterious language – is aroused. With the Psalter, in which the motifs of death and love are also operative, we find ourselves right at the origin of the sacred music of the Church of God. One can say that the quality of music depends upon the purity and the greatness of the encounter with the divine, with the experience of love and of pain. The purer and truer this experience is, the purer and greater also will be the music that is born and develops from it.

At this point I would like to share an idea that lately has increasingly caught my attention, especially as the various cultures and religions become more interconnected. In different cultures and religions there is present a great literary corpus, great architecture, great paintings, and great sculptures. And everywhere, there is also music. But in no other cultural setting is there music of equal greatness to that which arose from the environment of the Christian faith: from Palestrina to Bach, to Handel – all the way to Mozart, Beethoven, and Bruckner. Western music is something unique that has no equal in other cultures. And this – it seems to me – should make us think.

Certainly, western music goes far beyond the religious and ecclesial environments. But, in any case, it finds its most fundamental origins in the liturgy and the encounter with God. In Bach, for whom the glory of God represents the ultimate end of all music, this is quite evident. The great and pure response of western music grew within the encounter with that God who, in the liturgy, makes himself present to us in Christ Jesus. To me, such music is a demonstration of the truth of Christianity. In order for such a response to have developed there was an encounter with truth, with the world’s true Creator. For this reason, great sacred music is a reality of theological rank and of permanent significance for the faith of all of Christendom, even if it is not at all necessary that it should be performed always and everywhere. However, it is also clear that it cannot disappear from the liturgy and that its presence can be an entirely special way to participate in the sacred celebration, in the mystery of faith.

If we call to mind the liturgy celebrated by St. John Paul II on every continent, we see the full breadth of possibilities for expressing the faith in the liturgical event; we see also how the great music of the western tradition is not foreign to the liturgy but is born and developed in it. In this way, it can contribute anew to shaping the liturgy. We do not know the future of our culture and of sacred music. But one thing seems clear to me: wherever the encounter with the living God – who, in Christ, comes to us – really takes place, there is born and grows anew also the response, the beauty of which comes from the truth itself.

The activity of the two universities that have bestowed upon me this doctorate honoris causa – for which I again offer wholehearted thanks – represents an essential contribution so that the great gift of music that comes from the Christian faith tradition might remain alive; also so that it might help to preserve the creative force of the faith even into the future. For this, I thank you all from my heart, not only for the honor you have given me, but also for all the work that you undertake in the service of the beauty of the faith. The Lord bless you all.

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An Apropos Prayer

In light of Friday’s tragic and disastrous Supreme Court ruling, this Sunday’s Collect (opening prayer) is quite fitting:

O God, who through the grace of adoption
chose us to be children of light,
grant, we pray,
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

My homily from this Sunday can be downloaded on this page.

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