New Book

I recently had the opportunity to have dinner with Dr. Peter Kwasniewksi, a professor at the great Wyoming Catholic College and a distinguished writer on many topics relating to our faith — especially the sacred liturgy. His writings are regularly featured on blogs like New Liturgical Movement. He also lectures widely and is an accomplished musician besides.

While at dinner he showed us a galley proof of his latest book. Now, just a week or two later, I see that it has been published: Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of the Ages.

Of note is the fact that this book has a foreword by the great German writer, Martin Mosebach. If you are interested in matters liturgical and have not yet read Mosebach’s book, The Heresy of Formlessness, I urge you to do so (sadly, it appears only to be available in Kindle format now).

I look forward to reading this book. (Alas, I’m not a celebrity blogger who gets advance copies of books sent to him 😉 — so I can’t say I’ve read it yet.) Here is the publisher’s description:

The traditional liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church is a highly formal ritual unfolding in layers of elaborate gesture, rich symbolism, whispered Latin, and ancient plainchants. “Experts” after the Second Vatican Council were convinced that such a ritual was irrelevant to “modern man.” To the shock of some, the delight of many, and the surprise of everyone, the old Latin Mass (and much that went along with it) has tenaciously survived during the past half-century and become an increasingly familiar feature in the Catholic landscape. What are the reasons for this revival, especially among the young? And why is this development so important for the renewal of Catholicism?

Peter Kwasniewski offers a lively account of the noble beauty and transcendent holiness of the traditional Roman liturgy, which humbles us before the mystery of God, stirs us with its pageantry, carries us into sacred silence, and bears us to a world of invisible realities. He contrasts this priceless treasure with the rationalistic reforms of the sixties, which yielded a Catholic liturgy severed from its own history, inadequate to its theological essence, unequal to its ascetical-mystical purpose, and estranged from its cultural inheritance. His conclusion: if there is to be a new springtime in the Church, the widespread restoration of the traditional liturgical rites will be at the heart of it.

Kwasniewski is a very stimulating writer and a great thinker. Take a look!

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Benediction: A Detail

Not at my parish – but nearby


A wonderful devotion, which we get to experience every Friday here in my parish, is Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament. And we follow the usual format for it: we sing the Tantum Ergo, then priest or deacon sings the verse and Benediction prayer, then there is the blessing with the Holy Sacrament, Divine Praises, reposition, and singing of “Holy God We Praise Thy Name”. 

Did you know about the head bow during the Tantum Ergo?

Yes: when sung in Latin, it is a tradition in many places to bow the head while singing the second line — veneremur cernui.

Those words mean, “let us venerate [this great Sacrament] with head bowed“!

Perhaps I should say, “it was a tradition in many places”! I see few people do it anymore.

The common English version takes poetic license so as to render the text beautifully — thus it’s probably most fitting to bow the head for the first line: “Down in adoration falling”. 
Did you know about this pious detail?

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Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May

Just a little show-and-tell: our new statue of Our Lady of Fatima, in the church sanctuary for the month of May.

Bishop Baker is promoting the image of Our Lady of Fatima for the Marian year he proclaimed for our diocese (5/13/17–5/13/18), so I will need to find a suitable place to display it publicly for the whole year. 

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A Heart for Saint Joseph

Saint Joseph has worked great miracles in my parish, starting with a major (and urgent) exterior renovation that was completed in the past couple of years – and many other things besides. In recent months I’ve been reflecting upon how God seems to “emphasize” certain saints over others in different periods of Church history; others are noticing this as well and it indeed seems that now is the time of St. Joseph.

In order to express our gratitude to St. Joseph for the many prayers that he has answered and miracles that he has worked in our midst, I celebrated a special Votive Mass this past Wednesday at the conclusion of which I placed a votive heart on our statue. This heart was procured by the previous pastor, who was instrumental in encouraging devotion to this great saint and who witnessed many of the miracles that he has done.

In my homily I preached about how placing ex votos on or near images is a very traditional thing, though perhaps not so common in the United States today (maybe the closest thing we have is the notices about St. Jude that people place in the classified section of the newspaper in order to give thanks for answered prayer and spread his fame). I have written about ex votos on several occasions on this blog. (See here, here, here, etc.)

We are now blessed to have votive hearts on our statue of the Blessed Mother and also on St. Joseph. Both of them have done and continue to do so much for us! Deo gratias!

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Thank You

A kind reader sent me two books from my Amazon wish list. Amazon did not include any slip of paper saying who sent them! Thank you, whoever you are! Know of my prayers.

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We Need To Use Prayer Books

I had an interesting insight tonight while praying with a wonderful group of men and boys that meets at my parish.

As the meeting began we all knelt down to say an opening prayer from their prayer book. Facing the cross, we prayed the “En Ego” prayer. Here is a version I found online:

Look down upon me, good and gentle Jesus,
while before Your face I humbly kneel and,
with burning soul,
pray and beseech You
to fix deep in my heart lively sentiments
of faith, hope, and charity;
true contrition for my sins;
and a firm purpose of amendment.
While I contemplate,
with great love and tender pity,
Your five most precious wounds,
pondering over them within me
and calling to mind the words which David,
Your prophet, said of You, my Jesus:
“They have pierced My hands and My feet,
they have numbered all My bones.”
Amen.

And it occurred to me: we need to use prayer books. If prayer is merely spontaneous, it is easy — especially for beginners — just to pray for needs and wants (Lord, please give me X, Y, or Z) or perhaps to pray for others (Help so-and-so with such-and-such). Would a group of boys ever learn to ask for faith, hope, and charity in a habitual manner without further guidance? Would they meditate on the Lord’s wounds while considering their need for repentance?

A good prayer book (such as this one) teaches us how to pray and what to pray for, beyond our perceived needs or those of others. Indeed, the faithful use of such prayers can lead us into a deeper personal relationship with Christ. Of course it is not automatic — we can, after all, recite pre-written prayers in a perfunctory way. But when we strive to say the venerable old prayers from the heart, we ask for things we might not have thought to ask for otherwise, and the Lord shapes and guides us in ways we might not have been open to otherwise.

There is wisdom in using a good prayer book on a regular basis. It cannot replace meditation and spontaneous prayer, but it can add a great deal to them. What is your favorite prayer book?

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Communion in the Hand – A Greater Responsibility

This past Saturday I was instructing our new converts on how to receive Holy Communion. And as I was speaking about the practice of communion in the hand — which the Church permits — the words “a greater responsibility” came to me. Those who avail themselves of the option to receive Holy Communion in the hand have a greater responsibility with respect to the Lord’s body than those who receive on the tongue. I will explain why this is the case.

The Church still recommends today that the communion plate or paten be used during the distribution of Holy Communion, to catch the host or any fragment thereof that might fall. It has been the case at most Masses that I have celebrated in which the paten was used, that after communion, when I was purifying the vessels, I found some particles on the paten that had been successfully “caught”. The paten is most effective when communion is distributed on the tongue.

Those who receive in the hand have a greater responsibility, however, because their hands effectively become the communion plate or paten. They pick the host up off their hand and place it on their tongue themselves; they should then check to see that no particle remains on their hand or fingers! I rarely see anyone do this.

Recently, I was concelebrating a Mass, and at the moment when Holy Communion was distributed to the concelebrants, the main celebrant placed a host in my hand before I could take it myself (the concelebrant is really supposed to pick up the host himself, not “receive” it, but it’s not a huge deal). After I consumed the host a few minutes later, I noticed that a particle from it remained on my hand — which I then brushed into the chalice when I approached to receive from it.

How often do particles end up on the floor because of people not checking their hands? It’s horrifying to think of. We are sacramental realists: if the whole host is consecrated and becomes the Real Presence — body, blood, soul, and divinity — of our Lord Jesus Christ, then visible particles of the host are just as much his Real Presence. If you were to receive only a small particle like that at the time of Holy Communion, you would receive just as much of Christ as everyone who received a whole host!

We need not be scrupulous and start looking for problems where there are none. But I continually come back to this topic because we have pretty much gone to the opposite extreme from scrupulosity today: there is wholesale disregard for the Real Presence when it comes down to brass tacks and how we handle Holy Communion. This is especially the case with the Precious Blood, which I am convinced that in practice, many people regard as nothing more than ordinary wine — but that’s another post topic (which I have written about before, in any case).

Those who choose to receive in the hand do bear a greater responsibility with respect to the Body of our Lord. Bishops, priests, and others in authority have failed to instruct in this matter for a long time now, so we bear a portion of the responsibility as well. Let us pray for eucharistic renewal in the Church today. This could be a special intention for the Easter Season, for it is the Risen Body of our Lord that we receive in each Holy Communion. May he have mercy on us and help us to see how he continues to suffer at our hands due to carelessness and ignorance, and may we make reparation for those who “know not what they do”.

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

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Altar of Repose

This year I had a traditional altar of repose set up in my parish, the Cathedral of St. Paul. A local carpenter constructed the backdrop and shelf assembly that was erected in front of our statue of the Blessed Mother, and a very talented parishioner did all of the decorations. The outcome was, in my humble opinion, rather impressive!

Besides the beautiful fresh flower garlands, there are the Eucharistic symbols of wheat and grapes included as well. A fitting way to honor our Lord’s Real Presence! And also edifying for those who prayed before it.

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Spiritual Reading

Click image to open on Amazon

I’ve just started reading Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence – a spiritual classic. This is clearly an important book. I’ve gotten more out of just the first few pages than I have out of entire books before. How is it that it took me until 2017 to read it? Here are a couple of snippets:

“God reveals Himself to the humble in the humblest things, while the great who never penetrate beneath the surface do not discover Him even in great events.”

“All you who aim at perfection and are tempted to discouragement by what you read in the lives of the Saints and by what is prescribed in certain books of piety; you who are appalled by the terrible ideas which you form of perfection, it is for your consolation that God wills me to write this. Learn now what you seemingly do not know.”

“Look at your life. What is it made up of? Of innumerable unimportant actions. It is just with these very things, so trifling in themselves, that God is pleased to be satisfied.”

(That second quotation should really be on the cover of this important work!)

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Praying to St. Joseph for Priests

Another Solemnity of St. Joseph is upon us — normally celebrated today, but transferred to Monday the 20th this year because of today’s being a Sunday.

Devotion to St. Joseph has been growing in the Church over the last century. The Lord has a way of “highlighting” certain saints that are more needed in certain times than in others. In this time, when the family is constantly under attack and there is more confusion than ever over the role of men and what it means to be masculine, St. Joseph is there in a special way to help us stay on the correct path. This article (“Now Is the Time of St. Joseph“) is definitely worth a read in that regard.

The excellent blog, Vultus Christi, run by Dom Mark Kirby, O.S.B. of Silverstream Priory in Ireland, is definitely worth a follow — and I want to share something that Father posted today. This monastery, by the way, exists to pray in reparation before the Blessed Sacrament for the sins of priests. It is a great work of holiness in the Church and another example of the way that the Lord raises up individuals throughout history who are needed to respond to the needs of their times.

Be sure, then, to read the post from today, about Praying to St. Joseph for Priests. One or both of these prayers may be useful even to priests, in praying for each other.

I also want to encourage a book that was recently published by a monk of Silverstream Priory. It is especially useful for priests and seminarians, but not only: I would say that those who regularly pray for priests or who regularly help priests would find it helpful also. Take a look. It is entitled, In Sinu Iesu (click to see on Amazon). As ordination season is coming up, this book might be a good gift for those being ordained.

Thank you to all who regularly pray for priests! We need the prayers!

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First Blessings and Masses of New Priests

There is an urban legend out there to the effect that there is a plenary indulgence available to anyone who receives a “first blessing” from a new priest within a year of his ordination. This is false. No such indulgence is found in the Handbook of Indulgences or in any other authoritative and current source. Perhaps there were some indulgences like this granted in the past under certain conditions. They would not apply now.

In any case, regarding first blessings, SEE THIS POST that I wrote before with a helpful hint for seminarians.

HOWEVER, it IS possible for a new-priest-to-be to request a plenary indulgence for those who attend his “first Masses” (i.e., first several Masses that he celebrates — for example, in his home parish, then in the parish where he did a seminarian summer, then in the parish where he did deacon weekends in seminary, etc. — usually these are all stylized as “first Masses”, and for most guys perhaps there are anywhere from one to three or four of them over the course of a week or more).

ANY SEMINARIAN-DEACON WHO WISHES TO HAVE A PLENARY INDULGENCE FOR THOSE WHO ASSIST AT HIS FIRST MASSES MAY FOLLOW THIS PROCEDURE:

  1. Download and print this form (PDF) from the Apostolic Penitentiary’s web site (which, strangely, is now only available in Italian – they used to have an English section). N.B.: It is formatted for A4 paper (size used in Europe), so you may have to “fit to size” when you print it so that it will fit on our paper, which is slightly different.
  2. Fill it out (I provide a key below).
  3. Mail it to the Penitentiary using the address provided at the bottom, or fax it, or scan and email it to them. If you mail it, be sure to put “VATICAN CITY-STATE” so that our postal service understands; i.e., do not use the Italian “Città del Vaticano”.
  4. They will mail you back a decree granting the indulgence, usually written in Latin. Then you get to figure out what the Latin says! If you have emailed them, they will often email you back a scan of the decree and then send the original in the regular mail afterwards.
  5. The Penitentiary responds promptly to most requests.

Here is a key for understanding the form that I linked to. The Italian is in CAPS and the English is in Mixed Case.

PRIME SS. MESSE = First Holy Masses

COGNOME = Last Name (of the one requesting)

NOME = First Name (of the one requesting)

DATA DI ORDINAZIONE = Date of Priestly Ordination

LUOGO DI ORDINAZIONE = Place of Priestly Ordination

TITOLO DELLA CHIESA = Name of the Church/Cathedral of Ordination

LOCALITÀ E DIOCESI = City/State of the Church/Cathedral and Diocese

VESCOVO ORDINANTE = Bishop Who Will Ordain You

DATE E LUOGHI DELLE PRIME SANTE MESSE etc. = Date and Places of the First Holy Masses (it says to include date, name of the church, city/state, and diocese in which located)

COMMENDATIZIA (NIHIL OBSTAT) DEL RETTORE = Recommendation and Nihil Obstat of the Rector of the Seminary (it is sufficient for him to write “NIHIL OBSTAT”, sign his name, write his title, and put the seminary’s seal on it – Italian bureaucracy loves seals and stamps)

INDIRIZZO AL QUALE SPEDIRE IL DECRETO = Address to Which the Decree of Indulgence Should Be Mailed – i.e., your mailing address, formatted for international mailing

* * *

What a great grace it will be if a newly-ordained priest can announce at his first Masses that a plenary indulgence is available under the usual conditions to those who attend – and perhaps even be able to help the people complete the conditions by offering them the Sacrament of Confession also!

* Since one of the usual conditions for a plenary indulgence is to pray for the intentions of the Holy Father, it would be good to plan to say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be after the post-communion prayer “for the Holy Father’s intentions” as well!

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Some Old Mass Spirituality

The other day I was chatting with a priest who also celebrates both the older and newer forms of the Roman Rite. Most priests with experience in both will readily admit that their learning of the older form greatly enriched their spirituality and added depth to their understanding of the Holy Mass. A simple comparison of one of the Offertory prayers old and new will suffice. But before I do that I want to share a thought that I also shared with that priest.

In the older form there was book after book of “spirituality of the Mass” published — often as meditation material for priests. There was an entire spirituality that took the prayers of the Mass as the starting point and attempted to plunge the depths from there. No doubt, the atmosphere of silence that permeated the celebration of Low Mass — which had been the most common form celebrated in this country and many others for some time — afforded the “space” needed to begin to engage in this meditation and then carry it over into one’s private prayer. In the newer form of the Mass, by comparison, there is constant “noise”; not “noise” in the sense of cacophany — let us be clear — but in the sense that there is simply not much time for silent reflection on what is being said. Even when there is silent reflection, such a flood of words precedes it and follows after, that it’s hard to focus and meditate upon just one text at a time.

I cannot name a single book from this same “spirituality of the Mass” genre published for priests using the newer form of the Mass as its starting point. It is something that is greatly lacking — much like silence in our celebrations. We need pregnant pauses for sacred silence so that we can reflect and hear God, who speaks to us in the sound of silence. It would also help priests if there were spiritual reflections of greater substance published on the newer form of the Mass. (If there are some, don’t hesitate to let me know!)

Here is the offertory prayer for the host in the old Mass: first in Latin, with a YouTube that features yours truly pronouncing the words with the prayer’s wonderful rhythm; then there is an English translation so that you know what the prayer says. I then provide the prayer for the same action in the Ordinary Form of the Mass. Then there is a brief excerpt from one such “spirituality of the Mass” book of yore (my translation from Italian). Enjoy!

OFFERING OF THE HOST IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM:

Súscipe, sancte Pater, omnípotens ætérne Deus, hanc immaculátam hóstiam, quam ego indígnus fámulus tuus óffero tibi, Deo meo vivo et vero, pro innumerabílibus peccátis, et offensiónibus, et neglegéntiis meis, et pro ómnibus circumstántibus, sed et pro ómnibus fidélibus christiánis vivis atque defúnctis: ut mihi et illis profíciat ad salútem in vitam ætérnam. Amen.

Hear this prayer spoken (by me):

Translation:

Accept, O holy Father, almighty eternal God, this unblemished Host, which I, Thy unworthy servant, offer unto Thee, my living and true God, for my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences, and for all here present, as also for all the Christian faithful, both living and dead, that it may avail both me and them for salvation unto life everlasting. Amen.

Compare with the Offertory Prayer for the Host in the Newer Form of the Mass:

Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation, for through your goodness we have received the bread we offer you: fruit of the earth and work of human hands, it will become for us the bread of life.

It’s not bad, it’s just much simpler, does not offer much upon which to reflect in comparison with the older prayer, and also is not really related to it in terms of continuity.

Here, then, is my translation of a brief excerpt from the book, “Let Us Make Reparation!” (in Italian: “Ripariamo!”) by Father Giuseppe M. Petazzi, S.J., published in Milan in 1933. I saw the Italian text on the blog Cordialiter.

How, O my God, can the priest ever at this moment call that tiny piece of bread, now on the paten, an “unblemished Host” – and for such an offering he asks of you graces of eternal salvation for himself and for all the faithful, living and deceased? O my Jesus, with this holy prayer you reveal a great and consoling truth to me. Yes, on the paten at the Offertory one really sees nothing but a little bread destined to change into your adorable Body. In virtue of that destiny it can already be considered an unblemished Host, capable of obtaining every grace. So then I and every small detail of my life can constitute an unblemished host, if from the start of this day I begin it with you, O Lord, on the altar of sacrifice. O wondrous power of Holy Mass! O ineffable love and condescension of my Lord! Everything with you and for you becomes unblemished, precious, and acceptable to the infinite majesty of God. Truly, O Lord, I am your unworthy servant, indígnus fámulus tuus: what gifts could I hope to offer you, when on one hand I am nothing but a wretched creature and on the other I admit to having committed many faults? Yet you not only deign to place yourself as an offering of infinite value, so that I can obtain every grace and mercy, but in the act of placing yourself in my hands, you deign to enhance all that you find in me, so that my poor offering might become acceptable and fruitful in the sight of God.

In ancient times the faithful, at the moment of the Offertory, approached the altar in procession to offer the bread and the wine — the matter of your sacrifice — and to express thereby their union with you, the Holy Victim. Well then, now I also want to offer, O Lord, my own mystical matter for your sacrifice; that is: all of my actions, all of my sufferings, all the promises, the sighs, the pulses of this my poor heart… They are paltry things, I know, O Lord. But I offer them with you; I offer them with your offering. Thus they will be an unblemished Host that will rise, having been accepted, to the throne of God. I intend, then, O Jesus, to give to all my actions of this day and each day of my life those holy intentions that you have when you complete your holy sacrifice upon this altar. Everything that I will do and suffer — I wish that all of it primarily be with you and for you an expiation of my innumerable sins, offenses, and negligences…. You invite me to offer my small pains in union with yours, so that they can thus become a holy and unblemished Victim.

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