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.

PRAYER TO ST. ANNE

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.)

Rose_Amber_Flush_20070601

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.

CLICK TO SEE HOW YOU CAN DONATE TO THEM VIA PAYPAL OR MAIL.

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.

Conclusion

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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ADDRESS OF POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI TO CARDINAL DZIWISZ AND ACADEMIC AUTHORITIES OF TWO POLISH UNIVERSITIES

4 JULY 2015
Castelgandolfo

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.
Amen.

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

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God’s Apparent Powerlessness

Here is my homily for this Sunday.

In our gospel this Sunday we see a very clear demonstration of the attribute of God called omnipotence – the fact that he is “almighty”: he is able to do whatever he pleases; he has supreme power over all things. And even when he appears to be “checked out” of the scene – such as when Jesus was sleeping in the boat – yet he still knows what is happening and has power over it. Reflecting deeply on this scene will have important implications for our lives.

Indeed, in light of recent events, it might be good for us to raise a question about God’s omnipotence, for there are so many occasions when it seems to us that the Lord is asleep and doesn’t wake up, doesn’t respond. Think about the terrible shooting in Charleston – why did Almighty God not intervene? He certainly could have stopped the shooter. Even from our personal lives we can raise various examples and ask: If God is omnipotent, where was he when this or that thing happened? Why didn’t he change the outcome?

It turns out that in raising this very common question we are in good company, for it is even brought up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But the Catechism also gives an answer under the heading of “The mystery of God’s apparent powerlessness”. And I’d like to share the first paragraph with you. It says:

Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem… absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil. Christ crucified is thus “the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” It is in Christ’s Resurrection and exaltation that the Father has shown forth “the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe”.

This answer therefore challenges us, when we witness God’s apparent powerlessness in our world, to seek the wisdom of God, which is wiser than worldly wisdom. Worldly or conventional wisdom might tell us: God was absent in that event – he didn’t intervene. But God’s wisdom leads us to think of the Cross, and how Christ was apparently powerless there as well, yet conquered evil all the same.

In other words, we need a spiritual outlook that sees beyond the limits of this world, as we look forward to the world to come and a sharing in Christ’s life for all eternity. In that way, we can see the events of our lives through the lens of his suffering, death, and resurrection. Could God have stopped something bad from happening? Certainly. Would we have liked him to have stopped something bad from happening? Certainly! But did he do so? No. And that does not make him any less powerful – or loving. He has triumphed definitively on the Cross, and apparently, in his plan, tolerating some particular evil now means even greater glory to come. God can always bring good out of evil.

Thus the Catechism continues: “Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God’s almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ’s power. The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’, and was able to magnify the Lord…”. We have seen this type of faith at work in Charleston where – unlike the cycle of violence in other cities marked by terrible crimes and tragedies – the community has responded with forgiveness and love. They have accepted the mystery of the cross – “the mystery of God’s apparent powerlessness”. This is already a great good that has come out of a great evil. And we await other goods to come.

In our human weakness we want things to go easily and smoothly in our lives, but that is simply not realistic – even less so since we are followers of Christ. May he heal us, then, of any distrust in his omnipotence. Let us seek his wisdom in the face of evil and take that long view that sees beyond the apparent defeat of the Cross to the glory of his resurrection. He is all-powerful, and it will be our glory in the life to come if we learn to trust now in his power and his plan. May Almighty God, then, increase our faith. Amen.

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Encyclical Hysteria

St.FrancisPreachingtotheBirds_Giotto

I have only scanned part of the encyclical and read excerpts of other parts thus far. It will be challenging, for sure. But it is part of the Papal Magisterium, so we must read it with an open and humble heart and follow its teaching.

That said, it also has to be interpreted correctly. There are already those who are interpreting it in the most hysterical of ways. Therefore, a warning:

1. Don’t listen to secular media reports about the encyclical. Whether it’s Fox, CNN, MSNBC, or your local news, DON’T LISTEN. The majority of journalists reporting on this are taking a political and worldly approach to interpreting this document. Some are trying to sow division in the Church and others simply don’t “get it”. If you want to hear news analysis about it, I highly recommend EWTN News Nightly instead.
2. READ THE ENCYCLICAL YOURSELF. It is part of the Papal Magisterium and therefore is important for us, as Catholics. If there are parts that you find particularly difficult or challenging, speak to a priest and ask him to help clarify things.

Finally, I think it’s important to remember that the encyclical takes its name from a canticle written by St. Francis of Assisi. And that canticle ends with a very strong spiritual emphasis, which must inform our own approach to living – whether we are thinking about the environment or about liturgy or whatever. As Fr. Z wrote on his blog recently:

[L]et’s not that Francis’ hymn ends with the real point of everything we do: salvation!

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing Your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Read the encyclical yourself and don’t trust secular reports!

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High Altar Mass for Benefactors

Though I didn’t have a chance to announce it beforehand, I wanted everyone to know that this morning at Holy Rosary, I celebrated Holy Mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on our historic high altar, for the intention of our parish benefactors (see here for back story).

No fresh flowers this morning – they'll be put out in time for tomorrow's Mass.

No fresh flowers this morning – they’ll be put out in time for tomorrow’s Mass.

Since my last benefactor update, we have made great progress in the renovations to one of our buildings that will enable it to house our new Reading Program. I think that it will actually be called a “learning center”, since there will also be some homework and tutoring done there as well; the full name remains to be announced. We are on track to open it for the new school year.

Our summer day camp program will begin in a couple of weeks, and a full compliment of activities are scheduled for the participants. Also, we have the area youth “work camp” coming to help us do some much-needed cleaning out of some of our spaces soon.

So, not a lot of news since my last update, but in any case none of what we are doing would be possible without the generous support of our parishioners and many outside benefactors. So, once again, many thanks!

If any readers are interested in how they can help, please drop me a line!

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Seminarians Take Note: First Blessings

Me giving my blessing to Bishop Baker seven years and one day ago, after he ordained me.

Me giving my blessing to Bishop Baker seven years and one day ago, after he ordained me.

Seminarians who are preparing for ordination often wonder about how to give their first priestly blessings, both after their ordination and First Masses, and in other situations where people approach them – usually during the first year especially (for which, incidentally, there is NO plenary indulgence, contrary to popular opinion).

The great Fr. Hunwicke offers a very fine suggestion in this regard. Here is the Latin version:

Per impositionem manuum mearum sacerdotalium et per intercessionem beatae Mariae semper Virginis, Sancti N. et omnium Sanctorum, omni benedictione caelesti atque terrestri benedicat te Omnipotens Deus, Pater, et Filius, et Spiritus Sanctus. Amen.

See his blog for the full article and the English version.

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More Fundamental and More Modern: Catholic

Read this snippet from Fulton Sheen’s excellent collection of essays, Old Errors and New Labels (pages 49-50), and tell me if it isn’t extremely relevant for our time:

[The Catholic Church] prides itself on being neither Fundamentalist nor Modernist…. It is not Fundamentalist, because more fundamental than Fundamentalism; it is not Modernist, because more modern than Modernism.

Fundamentalism assumes that the Bible is fundamental. Catholicism retorts… that the Bible is not a book but a collection of books, and hence the question more fundamental than Fundamentalism is: Who gathered the books together, and declared that they would constitute the Bible, and be regarded as the revealed Word of God? To answer this question is to get to a body beyond a book, namely, a Church with a spirit; for Pentecost was not the descent of books on the heads of the Apostles but the descent of tongues. From that day on it was to be a tongue and a voice, and not a book, that would be fundamental in religion.

The Church is not only more fundamental than Fundamentalism, but she is also more modern than Modernism, because she has a memory that dates back over twenty centuries; and therefore she knows that what the world calls modern is really very ancient – that is, its modernity is only a new label for an old error. Modernism has an appeal only to minds who do not know what is ancient, or perhaps antiquated. The Church is like an old schoolmaster who has been teaching generations and generations of pupils. She has seen each new generation make the same mistakes, fall into the same errors, cultivate the same poses, each believing it has hit upon something new. But she, with her memory, which is tradition, knows that they are making the same mistakes all over again, for in the wisdom born of the centuries she knows very well that what one generation calls modern the next generation will call un-modern. She knows also that Modernism is no more logical than a sect called “Three O’Clockism,” which would adapt our gods and our morals to our moods at three o’clock. The Church knows too that to marry the present age and its spirit is to become a widow in the next. Having constantly refused to espouse the passing, she has never become a widow, but ever remains a mother to guide her children and to keep them not modern but ultra-modern, not behind the times but behind the scenes, in order that from that vantage-point they may see the curtain ring down on each passing modern fad and fancy.

There are many today who want the Church to become a widow (though they think of it more as “adapting the Church to the needs of the modern world”). What wisdom Sheen had, and well over 80 years ago! I encourage all to read this excellent book.

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