Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Consecrated Hands of the Priest

In his book, Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis: Sacred Liturgy, the Traditional Latin Mass, and Renewal in the Church, author Peter Kwasniewski discusses the priesthood in a number of different contexts. Consider this paragraph :
…The priest’s hands are specially consecrated with holy oil – why? So that he may rightly and fittingly handle the Blessed Sacrament; that he may handle God Incarnate. His hands are sanctified in view of touching and administering the holy gifts. A layman’s hands are not consecrated in this way. We receive the Blessed Sacrament from the hands of the priest, like a baby bird being fed in the nest by its parent. From this symbolic vantage, it is utterly inappropriate that the priest put the host into our hands, so that we may then administer communion to ourselves, symbolizing that we owe our nourishment to our own action, as dutiful democratic Pelagians would have it… [T]he priest is a man set apart by Holy Orders, and his hands, too, like the rest of his powers of body and soul, are dedicated to sacred service. Communion in the hand, therefore, helps create and support that noxious atmosphere of egalitarianism, horizontalism, and activism that has stifled the Church’s spiritual life in the past half-century. (p. 101-2)
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In The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, Sister Emmerich’s veneration of a priest’s hands is mentioned in a number of places. Sometimes she sought just to touch her confessor’s hand, knowing the power of its consecration. She knew how special that consecration is. In one place, we read:
…And of the priest’s consecrated fingers [Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich] says that were his body fallen to dust and his soul in Hell, yet will the consecration still be recognized in the bones of the fingers; they will burn with an altogether peculiar fire, so ineffaceable is the mark.
While Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich’s pronouncements are not dogma, this certainly gives one pause, does it not? The priest’s hands are specially consecrated; that is something we forget with the endless processions of “extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist” from amongst the laity.  Ponder that next time you are at Mass and see lay people administering the Host at Holy Communion! Think of that when you see people receiving Holy Communion in their unconsecrated hands – the very Body of Christ, casually given and received by the hands of the laity! 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lenten Fasting

 The source of the following excerpts is Source: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent.  This is a re-post from a previous year, but St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of the Diocese of Baker, is always timely!

In this excerpt, the saint speaks of the conditions which render fasting good and meritorious.


To treat of fasting and of what is required to fast well, we must, at the start, understand that of itself fasting is not a virtue. The good and the bad, as well as Christians and pagans, observe it. The ancient philosophers observed it and recommended it. They were not virtuous for that reason, nor did they practice virtue in fasting. Oh, no, fasting is a virtue only when it is accompanied by conditions which render it pleasing to God. Thus it happens that it profits some and not others, because it is not undertaken by all in the same manner.
We find some people who think that to fast well during the holy season of Lent it is enough to abstain from eating some prohibited food. But this thought is too gross to enter into the hearts of religious, for it is to you I speak, as well as persons dedicated to Our Lord. We know very well that it is not enough to fast exteriorly if we do not also fast interiorly and if we do not accompany the fast of the body with that of the spirit.

That is why our Divine Master, who instituted the fast, greatly desired in His Sermon on the Mount to teach His Apostles how it must be practiced [Matt. 6:16-18], which is a matter of great profit and utility (for it would not have been becoming to the greatness and majesty of God to teach a useless doctrine. That could not be.). He knew that to draw strength and efficacy from fasting, something more than abstinence from prohibited food is necessary. Thus He instructed them and, consequently, disposed them to gather the fruits proper to fasting. Among many others are these four: fasting fortifies the spirit, mortifying the flesh and its sensuality; it raises the spirit to God; it fights concupiscence and gives power to conquer and deaden its passions; in short, it disposes the heart to seek to please only God with great purity of heart.

It will be very helpful to state clearly what must be done to fast well these forty days…Now, among all the conditions required for fasting well, I will select three principal ones and speak familiarly about them.

The first condition is that we must fast with our whole heart, that is to say, willingly, whole-heartedly, universally and entirely.

[St. Bernard] says that fasting was instituted by Our Lord as a remedy for our mouth, for our gourmandizing and for our gluttony. Since sin entered the world through the mouth, the mouth must do penance by being deprived of foods prohibited and forbidden by the Church, abstaining from them for the space of forty days. But this glorious saint adds that, as it is not our mouth alone which has sinned, but also all our other senses, our fast must be general and entire, that is, all the members of our body must fast. For if we have offended God through the eyes, through the ears, through the tongue, and through our other senses, why should we not make them fast as well? And not only must we make the bodily senses fast, but also the soul's powers and passions -- yes, even the understanding, the memory, and the will, since we have sinned through both body and spirit.

How many sins have entered into the soul through the eyes, as Holy Scripture indicates? [1 In. 2:16]. That is why they must fast by keeping them lowered and not permitting them to look upon frivolous and unlawful objects; the ears, by depriving them of listening to vain talk which serves only to fill the mind with worldly images; the tongue, in not speaking idle words and those which savor of the world or the things of the world. We ought also to cut off useless thoughts, as well as vain memories and superfluous appetites and desires of our will. In short, we ought to hold in check all those things which keep us from loving or tending to the Sovereign Good. In this way interior fasting accompanies exterior fasting.

This is what the Church wishes to signify during this holy time of Lent, teaching us to make our eyes, our ears and our tongue fast. For this reason she omits all harmonious chants in order to mortify the hearing; she no longer says Alleluia, and clothes herself completely in somber and dark colors. And on this first day she addresses us in these words: Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return [Gen. 3:19], as if she meant to say: "Oh man, quit at this moment all joys and merrymaking, all joyful and pleasant reflections, and fill your memory with bitter, hard and sorrowful thoughts. In this way you will make your mind fast together with your body."

This is also what the Christians of the primitive Church taught us when, in order to spend Lent in a better way, they deprived themselves at this time of ordinary conversations with their friends, and withdrew into great solitude and places removed from communication with people. For the same reason, the ancient Fathers and the Christians of the year 400 or so were so careful to spend these forty days well that they were not satisfied with abstaining from prohibited meats, but even abstained from eggs, fish, milk and butter, and lived on herbs and roots alone. And not content with making their bodies fast in this manner, they made their minds and all the powers of the soul fast also. They placed sackcloth on their heads in order to learn to keep their eyes lowered. They sprinkled ashes on their heads as a sign of penitence. They withdrew into solitude to mortify the tongue and hearing, neither speaking nor hearing anything vain and useless. At that time they practiced great and austere penances by which they subjected their body and made all its members fast. They did all this with full liberty, neither forced nor constrained. Note how their fast was accomplished whole-heartedly and universally; for they understood very well that since not only the mouth has sinned, but also all the other senses of our bodies and powers of our soul, the passions and appetites are full of iniquities. It is thus reasonable that, in order to make our fast complete and meritorious, it should be universal, which is to say, practiced in both body and spirit. This is the first condition to be observed in order to fast well.

***   ***   ***

[The second and third conditions are addressed here.]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Music for Mass, Part 2

At The New Liturgical Movement blog, Part 2 of Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s article “Music for the Eucharistic Sacrifice” has been posted (read Part 1 at the NLM blog). We mentioned Part 1 in an early post on this blog.

In Part 2, some interesting points are made; Dr. Kwasniewski quotes from Pius XII’s Mediator Dei and adds a few comments of his own. Below are some excerpts; the entire article is well worth reading.

The first quote in the article is this:

188. Three characteristics of which Our predecessor Pius X spoke should adorn all liturgical services: sacredness, which abhors any profane influence; nobility, which true and genuine arts should serve and foster; and universality, which, while safeguarding local and legitimate custom, reveals the catholic unity of the Church.

Dr. Kwasniewski comments:

We must admit it: when reading these words of Pius XII, it is as if we are looking at another world, not just another decade or era. When is the last time you have met someone who is concerned to “abhor any profane influence”? Catholics today so readily compromise their faith, morals, and worship by prostituting themselves to the latest fashion that it seems they are rather more eager to embrace the profane in all of its vanity than to reject it for the poison it is. Far from abhorring the profane, they court it, embrace it, and submit to it, making what ought to be a badge of shame into the boast of a new identity and mission. Indeed, a popular (though largely tendentious) interpretation of Vatican II has presented it as the moment when the Church finally welcomed the world into her bosom and discarded, once and for all, the ascetical divide between sacred and secular: there was to be no such thing as sacred liturgy, because all the world is our new liturgy, all of it is blessed by God, and the Church has only to listen, learn, and adapt herself to man in order to bring Christ to him.

Another quote from Mediator Dei states:

80. It is, therefore, desirable, Venerable Brethren, that all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest, according to the Apostle, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). And together with Him and through Him let them make their oblation, and in union with Him let them offer up themselves.

And here is a portion of Dr. Kwasniewski’s commentary on that paragraph:

Magnificent words! The “chief duty and supreme dignity” of the Christian is “to participate in the Eucharistic Sacrifice.” It is not social work; it is not evangelization or catechesis or education; it is not political activism; it is not breaking down barriers of prejudice; it is not the defense of human rights. Our dignity consists above all in worshiping the true God at His holy altar—and making of ourselves an oblation that is pleasing to Him by attaching ourselves devoutly to the supreme offering of Jesus Christ the High Priest. If this is not what we are thinking and intending to do during Mass, we have missed the entire point of the liturgy. We are doing violence to it, abusing it, making it serve our own ends rather than serving its inherent end.

Be sure to read the full article here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Lent Is Approaching!

This is a re-post of a homily by Fr. Eric Andersen from 2 years ago.

A homily by Fr. Eric M. Andersen, Sacred Heart-St. Louis in Gervais, OR

February 10th, 2013

Dominica V Per Annum, Anno C

Next week, we will enter into the holy season of Lent. The first Sunday of Lent is unique among all other Sundays in the liturgical year. This is due to the music which the Church assigns to this Sunday. You recall that during Lent, we will not sing the Alleluia to prepare for the hearing of the Gospel. In its place, there is the option of singing a simple verse such as: “Praise to you O Christ, King of Eternal Glory.” But for each Sunday of Lent, the Church has composed a piece of music called a ‘Tract’ which replaces the Alleluia. The Tract is a meditative piece of music which is given to us to prepare us to hear the Gospel. On the First Sunday of Lent, the Tract is approximate 18 minutes long. That is quite different from singing a short verse such as “Praise to you O Christ, King of Eternal Glory”. It takes less than one minute to sing that. The tract normally will take about 5 minutes each Sunday, but on the first Sunday of Lent, the Tract takes about eighteen to twenty minutes. Why? Why so long?

The Church wants to get our attention. This very long preparation for the Gospel on the first Sunday of Lent reminds us of the very long time of preparation which God spent between the time of the creation of the world and the salvation of the world through Jesus Christ. The Gospel has come to us after a long time of preparation and so we share in that long time of preparation as we prepare to hear that Gospel. Jesus too has spent a long time in preparation: forty days and forty nights of fasting and prayer in the wilderness. After about five minutes, you might find yourself saying, “this is long.” After ten minutes, you will stop waiting for it to be over. You will get lost in time and enter into the depth of prayer outside of time. It will be like eternity for a short while and then when the chant is finished, your soul will be quiet and at peace. You will then be ready to hear the Gospel like never before.

I am telling you now, a week ahead, so that you will not be surprised. But rather, prepare! Prepare now for Lent. Do not wait. Lent begins this coming Wednesday. Plan ahead. Wednesday is a day of fasting and abstinence. That means that we do not eat any meat on Wednesday. We may eat fish; we may eat eggs; we may eat cheese and drink milk, but we may not have meat. No beef. No pork. No lamb. No chicken. No sausage. This is true for every friday now during the whole year. No meat on any friday, but especially during Lent. Plan ahead. If you eat meat on Ash Wednesday or any friday during Lent, you will have to bring that to the Sacrament of Confession. We are also obliged to fast. That means that on Ash Wednesday we may eat one full meal and two smaller snacks that together add up to another full meal. That is not asking much. But we must be mindful and plan ahead. No parties. No mardi gras. We are entering into Lent.

... In the Mass, we give up using musical instruments during Lent. The Church asks us to use only the human voice, but the organ may be used sparingly only to support the singing. There is nothing sinful about musical instruments, but we give them up because they are good and that is an way of fasting. As I mentioned earlier, the first Sunday of Lent is unique among all other Sundays in the liturgical year. All the music comes from Psalm 90. The Entrance chant, the Gradual/Responsorial Psalm, the Tract, the Offertory and the Communion chants all come from Psalm 90. That means that Psalm 90 has something very powerful to say to us on that Sunday. You will hear Psalm 90 next Sunday. You might look over it ahead of time. Read over the readings for Mass. Read over Psalm 90. What will God wish to say to you next Sunday at Mass? 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Music at Mass

There's an interesting article by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski at the New Liturgical Movement blog, with the title, "Music for the Eucharistic Sacrifice". It begins:
The most common argument I’ve heard over the years for why we should allow Christian “pop” music in Church is the consequentialist or utilitarian argument: “Look how well it works. It gets people to Mass and keeps the youth involved.” Interestingly, I’ve never heard a Catholic try to defend the folksy or pop-style music on purely artistic or liturgical grounds, and only rarely have I seen Protestants try to do that. The baseline for the entire discussion seems to be a rough-and-ready pragmatism.

The problem with this argument is twofold. First, even on a practical level, it’s not really true...
The author goes on to make the point that "the Mass is not a social gathering with a humanitarian aim", and he asks, "Does our music convey that we are falling down in worship before the all-holy Lord, the God of heaven and earth—the serving of whom leads to eternal life, the offending of whom leads to eternal death?"

Read the full article here.

And please consider attending the 2015 Gregorian Chant Conference to be held at the Brigittine Monastery near Amity, OR on March 5-7. See the details here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Gregorian Chant Conference 2015

A Gregorian Chant conference will be given by the Schola Cantus Angelorum on March 5-7, 2015 at the Brigittine Priory of Our Lady of Consolation in Amity, Oregon. For more information, as well as registration forms, see the Schola's site here and or the Brigitinne monks' site here.  

This conference has become an annual event, and is well worth attending. The cost is $75, which includes educational materials, priest stipends, and all meals (except breakfasts).

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Septuagesima: A Note from Fr. Andersen

This is Fr. Eric Andersen's "Bulletin Letter for Feb. 1, 2015"

Septuagesima: The Seventy Days Before Easter

In the Traditional Roman Rite, as in the other liturgical rites of the Catholic Church, we today commence a mini-liturgical season called Septuagesima, meaning 70.  This seventy refers to a 70-day period before Easter.  This is a notable part of the liturgical year which is present in the Greek Church represented by numerous Eastern rites of Catholicism and the Orthodox Christians.  This Pre-Lenten season comprises three weeks before Lent called Septuagesima, meaning seventy; Sexagesima, meaning sixty; and Quinquagesima, meaning fifty.  This is followed by Quadragesima, meaning forty.  Quadragesima is the actual term the Church uses to refer to Lent.  The word Lent is an English word meaning spring, whereas Quadragesima refers to the 40 days.

Now, why do we have this three week Pre-Lenten season? “In past centuries Pre-Lent was compared to the seventy year captivity of the Jews and regarded as a time of suffering for sin” (Parsch.  The Church’s Year of Grace.  Vol. II., p. 6).  Seven also represents the first covenant.  In the Bible, seven refers to fullness, but in terms of the Old Covenant, it is a number which is not yet completed.

 The first covenant is remembered in the traditional Office of Matins during Septuagesima, when the creation of the world is revisited.  Genesis Chapter One commences this liturgical period.  It is said that Septuagesima was the original beginning of the Liturgical Year, marked by the beginning of the Bible being read in the liturgy.  In this opening account of the Creation of the World, there are six days of creation and the seventh day is the day on which God rested. One can say, then, that from that seventh day, that Sabbath, God rested until the Passion of Jesus Christ who, upon His Resurrection, initiated the Eighth Day, the Day of the Lord, the fulfillment of the Sabbath.  So, these 70 days, recalling the Old Covenant, lead up to Easter, which is the Eighth Day, and the beginning of the New Covenant.

We begin preparing now for that Eighth Day at Easter.  This Sunday is considered the “seventieth day” before Easter, although during these three weeks each week represents ten days, so that it is liturgically seventy days, but actually 63 days, before the Pasch.  Advent is treated the same way in the Western Church during which each of the four weeks represents ten days, thus equalling a “40-day” preparation for the Nativity.

Historically, “All religious (began) the fast of Lent at Septuagesima; the Greeks, at Sexagesima; the clergy, at Quinquagesima; and the rest of Christians, who form the Church militant on earth, (began) their Lent on the Wednesday following Quinquagesima” [which is Ash Wednesday] (Peter of Blois. qtd. Gueranger The Liturgical Year. Vol. 4., p. 3).  Eastern Christians observe Sexagesima Sunday as Meatfare Sunday, when they begin their fasting from meat.  Quinquagesima Sunday is called in the East Cheesefare Sunday when they begin their fast from dairy until Easter. Eastern Christians fast from meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil from this time through Great Lent until Easter.  We in the West are only required to fast from animal flesh but are allowed eggs, dairy, fish, wine and oil.  Knowing the discipline in the East can be helpful for those who are looking to enhance their own voluntary Lenten discipline.
Let us use this time of preparation before Lent.  Let us cultivate the soil of our souls.  Let us begin by meditating on the word of God.  Then let us clear out our houses of any source of distraction from living the spiritual life.  Then when Ash Wednesday comes along, we will be prepared to begin the 40 day fast.  Let us prepare now for that day.