Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Turning Toward the Lord: Ad Orientem Worship

I was interested to read an article from the National Catholic Register the other day, entitled “The Priest Was Facing the Other Way” by Matthew Warner.

Mr. Warner tells us that he has never experienced the extraordinary form of the Mass, but would like to. In other words, he’s open to the experience. It seems to me that many people who’ve never been to an EF Mass are interested in learning more. And many have profound insights once they do experience it.

In his article, though, Mr. Warner doesn’t describe an EF Mass; he describes his experience at a novus ordo Mass which was celebrated ad orientem. Ad orientem means “to the east”; there are historical and theological reasons for the development of a “sacred direction”. Churches used to be “oriented” – they were built with the sanctuary at the east end of the building; that way, the people and the priest all faced east as together they worshipped God. Even if a church is not physically oriented toward the east, there is still a “liturgical east”, represented by the sanctuary and the altar.

Mr. Warner writes:

Not too long ago, however, I attended an Ordinary Form of the Mass where the priest was facing away from the congregation during the consecration. Of course, that was the normal practice prior to Vatican II. But I had never experienced it. In the Ordinary Form of the Mass today, the priest faces the congregation the whole time.

A correction: as Mr. Warner is now no doubt aware, in the NO Mass, the priest is not required to face the congregation the whole time. In fact, the wording of the GIRM and the rubrics of the Mass suggest that the all-to-common post-Vatican II interpretation that the priest should face the people is incorrect (more on that another time). Consider this quote from Turning Towards the Lord, by U.M. Lang:

…When we speak to someone, we obviously face the person. Accordingly, the whole liturgical assembly, priest and people, should face the same way, turning towards God to whom prayers and offerings are addressed in this common act of trinitarian worship…The catchphrase often heard nowadays that the priest is “turning his back on the people” is a classic example of confounding theology and topography, for the crucial point is that the Mass is a common act of worship where priest and people together, representing the pilgrim Church, reach out for the transcendent God.

Back to Matthew Warner’s article: Mr. Warner experienced precisely the sense of all present “turning to the Lord”. Here’s his description:

…All I want to say is that when the priest held up the bread and wine and offered them up to the Father as the Body and Blood of His Son, I experienced Mass in a different way than ever before.

At every other Mass I had ever been to, I had seen the priest holding up the Body and Blood toward me. Holding them up for an audience to see - or at least, that is what I naturally perceived from the way it was done. If you are just observing the Ordinary Form of the Mass, this is the part where you’d say, “Oh, this is where the priest holds up the bread and wine to the congregation.”

But when the priest was facing away from me this time, I got a very different impression. It really hit home to me more than ever that in that moment I was participating in something, not just observing. That I wasn’t just being shown something, but that we were the ones offering the something together — through the priest. All because the priest was facing the other way. The position of his body just seemed to resonate more with what we were doing. That’s all.

It just reminded me that the motions of the liturgy are always communicating something important…

Yes. The motions, the words, the language, the music, the “smells and bells” – each is a part of the Mass that “communicates something important” about our worship of God.

I know of only one priest in the Diocese of Baker who regularly celebrates the Novus Ordo ad orientem. In many of the parishes I’ve visited, ad orientem worship would be next to impossible because of the position of the altar.

That’s a sad fact.

As Fr. Z noted in his commentary on Mr. Warner’s article:

Imagine, not ever having experienced this, even though it is really the norm according to the rubrics.

This brings me back to my incessant cry that, in order to have a revitalization of our Catholic identity, we have to have a revitalization of our liturgical worship.

For example:

What's the focus of the prayer here?!

Okay, to be fair, here's a more liturgically correct novus ordo Mass, with the priest facing the people, as most of us in the Diocese of Baker are used to seeing (although one might wish we did in fact often see altar boys with cassock and surplice instead of the usual seven-dwarf costumes that pass for albs. But I digress...)...

Still, doesn't this ad orientem celebration (below) give a completely different "feel"?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Denys the Carthusian: A Meditation for Ember Wednesday

A Meditation for Ember Wednesday

I’ve taken the following from this website. Go there for the whole thing. I find these meditations to be very powerful prompts to examine one’s conscience and amend one’s life.

A Devout Exercise of the Purgative Way
Appointed for each day of the week

by Denys the Carthusian

[From the prologue:]

If then, you desire to become wise and pleasing to God, spurn the discretion of this world, nor desire to please it. No rational creature, not excepting the angels, can or could be saved, except by laying aside his own will, and by conforming it and subjecting it to the Divine Will. And the more truly shall he so do, so much the mightier grace shall he gain.

Therefore, the more fully and completely, for God's love you shall forsake yourself, the more perfectly you shall subject your will to the direction of another's – apt for the matter – by so much shall you be dearer to God, and attain to loftier perfection. The proud are likened to hills, the humble to vales, and God's grace is like to rain. Now, just as rain does not lodge nor gather on the mountain tops, but in the hollows: and the deeper the vales the greater the store of rain there: even so, the Holy Ghost with His grace, abides not in the hearts of the proud, but of the humble; yea, in greater measure the lowlier those hearts.

And because in sinning, man prefers his self-will and fleeting good to the Divine unchangeable Will, the uncreated and supreme Good, which choice mounts up to contempt of God; contrariwise, for such contempt, the sinner must first of all contemn himself with all his heart, and count himself worthy of all confusion and punishment. Again, since man, who should take no delight save in his Creator, in sinning, delights in creatures inordinately and corruptly; so ought the sinner take to himself hearty sorrow for such delectation, and bear due punishment for his guilt.

Wednesday: On the terrors of the last Judgment

Behold, o my soul, how terrible will be the last Judgment when the whole world shall be wrapt in flames blazing up higher than the loftiest peak by many an ell. Then shall come down from Heaven attended by the whole company of angels and saints, Christ, the stern judge. The dead shall rise again and stand before the face of Christ the Lord. The bodies of the damned, weighed down like so much lead, shall lie prone on that earth they have loved too well. They shall be more horrible that when they lay rotting in the tomb as loathsome food for worms; sheets of flame too shall light upon them.

O my soul, how shall not those wretched creatures be pressed on every side: above them, their Judge, all mercy gone and full of wrath; below them Hell, yawning open; on this side and that the devils ready to accuse them. Yea, and all the angels and saints and the whole of mankind too, stirred up against them! At that moment every one of their sins shall be made plain to the whole world. The judge will sum up their record of sin and pronounce sentence: "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire". What awful fear shall seize upon them as He forms these words, and as they see the earth open to swallow them up. Yes, they know the next moment shall see them amidst eternal flames, captives forever with the devils in the prison-house of Hell. While in the same instant looking upwards, they may see the blessed climbing Heaven's heights in a very ocean of delights.

Think too, o my soul, of your own particular judgment. As soon as you shall have passed from this body, you shall be hauled before the bar of Christ and strictly judged by Him. Yea, tremble at this judgment; walk in holy fear and watchfulness before the all-seeing eye of your judge: pray without ceasing that in the day of account, your lot shall be not with the damned, with whom is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Altar Rail

At The New Liturgical Movement, Shawn Tribe notes:

We recently learnt that Fr. Jay Finelli (better known to some as the "iPadre") and his parish, Holy Ghost in Tiverton, Rhode Island, are returning to the use of the altar rail for the reception of Holy Communion:

“For the past few years, a number of people have asked why we can’t use the Altar Rail for Sunday Masses. So, after much thought and prayer, distribution of Holy Communion will take place at the Altar Rail, beginning on the 1st Sunday of Lent.”

I don’t know whether the accompanying photo in the NLM article is actually from that parish, but it’s beautiful:

As far as I know, there is only one church in the Diocese of Baker that has an altar rail: St. Mary’s in Pendleton. In a renovation of the sanctuary, Fr. Bailey Clemens procured a high altar and an altar rail from a dismantled church, and had them installed at St. Mary’s.

Altar rails seem to be making a come-back in many parishes around the country. An article in the National Catholic Register (from July 2011) notes:

Altar rails are present in several new churches architect Duncan Stroik has designed. Among them, the Thomas Aquinas College Chapel in Santa Paula, Calif., the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., and three others on the drawing boards.
Altar (Communion) rails are returning for all the right reasons.

Said Father Markey: “First, the Holy Father is requiring holy Communion from him be received on the knees. Second, it’s part of our tradition as Catholics for centuries to receive holy Communion on the knees. Third, it’s a beautiful form of devotion to our blessed Lord.”

James Hitchcock, professor and author of Recovery of the Sacred (Ignatius Press, 1995), thinks the rail resurgence is a good idea. The main reason is reverence, he said. “Kneeling’s purpose is to facilitate adoration,” he explained.

When Stroik proposed altar rails for the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, “Cardinal [Raymond] Burke liked the idea and thought that was something that would give added reverence to the Eucharist and sanctuary.”

The NCR article also addresses a question many people ask:

They may be returning, but were altar rails supposed to be taken out of sanctuaries?
“There is nothing in Vatican II or post-conciliar documents which mandate their removal,” said Denis McNamara, author of Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy (Hillenbrand Books, 2009) and assistant director and professor at the Liturgical Institute of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill.

Cardinal Francis Arinze strongly affirmed this point during a 2008 video session while he was still prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:  “The Church from Rome never said to remove the altar rails.”

Latin Lesson IV: Ave Maria

Now that you have the basics of Church Latin, we will try some simple prayers. They will be marked phonetically, so it will be easy to practice correct pronunciation.

Following the prayers is a review some rules from the first few lessons. If you need a refresher, you can do the review first, and then come back to the prayers.

Here is the Hail Mary in Latin, with phonetics following each line:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee
Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.   
AH-vay  Mah-REE-AH, GRAHT-see-ah PLAY-nah, DOH-mee-noos TAY-koom.

Blessed are thou among women,
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
bay-nay-DEEK-tah TOO een  moo-lee-AY- ree- boos

And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus.  
Ayt  bay-nay-DEEK-toos  FROOK-toos  VAYN-trees TOO-ee YAY-soos

Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,  
SAHNK –tah Mah-REE-ah, MAH-tayr DAY-ee,

pray for us, sinners,
Ora pro nobis peccatoribus  
OH-rah proh NOH-bees payk-ah-TOH-ree-boos,

now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen. 
noonk ay teen HOH-rah MOHR-tee NOHS-tray. AH mayn.

A final note: In the phonetic version of the book I borrowed from, the long character of each vowel is stressed. But in practice in some words the vowels would be shortened more. For example, in the Latin word, “in,” the “I” takes on more the sound of a short “I” in English than of the phonetic “ee.” In “Amen,” the pronunciation would be more like “AH-men,” than the author’s “AH-mayn.”

Next: The Pater Noster (Our Father) and the Gloria of the Mass.


Although vowels have long and short pronunciations, much of the time, particularly when Latin is sung, the long pronunciation is used.  So think of the “a” in Latin as “ah;” “e” as “ay;” “I” as “ee, “u” as “oo,” and “o” as “oh.”  We have seen that “y” used as a vowel is treated like a long “i.”

The consonants that differ from English are:

 “c” –before i or e, sounds like “ch,” before other vowels like  “k.” “Ch” in Latin is always pronounced like a “k” in English.

“g” – before I or e, sounds like soft “g” or “j”; before other letters it is hard, like the “g” in “go.

“gn” - in any Latin word sounds like “ny” as in “canyon.”

“h” – contrary to most Latin grammars, this letter in Italianate Latin is always silent.

“I”  - (sometimes written as “j”) when used as a consonant sounds like the English “y.”

“s”   - like the “s” in “sing,” never like the “s” in “raise.”

“sc” – before a, o, u or a consonant, sounds like “sk.” Used before I or e, it sounds like “sh.”

“th” – always like a hard “t,” as in “ten.”

“ti” – when followed by a vowel or preceded by any other letter, except s, t or x, sounds like “tsee.”

“x” – in words beginning with “ex” that are followed by a vowel,or the consonants “h” or “s,” like “gs.”

“x” – in all other cases, like “ks.”

“z” – this letter was not mentioned previously and is rare in Latin, but does occur. It is pronounced as if it were written “dz” as in the word “obryzum.” (OH-BREEDZ-OOM.”)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

St. Francis de Sales on Temptation

The source of the following excerpt is: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent. This is from the sermon for the first Sunday of Lent; I’ve excerpted only a small portion of it here.


This is an admonition of the Sage: “My son, if you intend to serve God, prepare your soul for temptation,” [Sirach 2:1] for it is an infallible truth that no one is exempt from temptation when he has truly resolved to serve God. This being the case, Our Lord Himself chose to be subjected to temptation in order to show us how we ought to resist it. Thus the Evangelists tell us: He was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted [Matt. 4:1; Mk. 1:12; Lk. 4:11]. I shall draw lessons from this mystery for our particular instruction, in as familiar a manner as I am able.

In the first place, I note that although no one can be exempt from temptation, still no one should seek it or go of his own accord to the place where it may be found, for undoubtedly he who loves it will perish in it. [Ecclus. (Sirach) 3:27] That is why the Evangelist says that Our Lord was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted; it was not then by His choice (I am speaking with regard to His human nature) that He went to the place of temptation, but He was led by the obedience He owed to His heavenly Father.

But wait a little, I pray you, and see how certain it is that no one who comes to serve God can avoid temptations. We could give many examples of this but one or two will suffice. Ananias and Saphira made a vow to dedicate themselves and their possessions to the perfection which all the first Christians professed, submitting themselves to obedience to the Apostles. They had no sooner made their resolution than temptation attacked them, as St. Peter said: Who has tempted you to lie to the Holy Spirit? [Acts. 5:1-3]. The great Apostle St. Paul, as soon as he had given himself to the divine service and ranged himself on the side of Christianity, was immediately tempted for the rest of his life. [2 Cor. 12:71. While he was an enemy of God and persecuted the Christians he did not feel the attack of any temptation, or at least he has given us no testimony of it in his writings. But he did when he was converted by Our Lord.

Thus, it is a very necessary practice to prepare our soul for temptation. That is, wherever we may be and however perfect we may be, we must rest assured that temptation will ‘attack us. Hence, we ought to be so disposed and to provide ourselves with the weapons necessary to fight valiantly in order to carry off the victory, since the crown is only for the combatants and conquerors. 12 Tim. 2:5; Jas. 1:12]. We ought never to trust in our own strength or in our courage and go out to seek temptation, thinking to confound it; but if in that place where the Spirit of God has led us we encounter it, we must remain firm in the confidence which we ought to have that He will strengthen us against the attacks of our enemy, however furious they may be.

Let us proceed and consider a little the weapons which Our Lord made use of to repulse the devil that came to tempt Him in the desert. They were none other, my dear friends, than those the Psalmist speaks of in the Psalm we recite every day at Compline: “Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi” [“Who dwells in the aid of the Most High”]. [Ps. 90 (91)]. From this Psalm we learn an admirable doctrine. He speaks in this manner as though addressing Christians or someone in particular: “Oh how happy you are, you who are armed with the truth of God, for it will serve you as a shield against the arrows of your enemies and will make you victorious. Therefore, do not fear, O blessed souls, you who are armed with this armor of truth. Fear neither the terrors of the night, for you will not stumble into them; nor the arrows that fly in the air by day, for arrows will not be able to injure you; nor the business that roams in the night; much less the devil that advances and reveals himself at noon.”

O how divinely well-armed with truth was Our Lord and Master, for He was truth itself. [Jn. 14:6]. This truth of which the Psalmist speaks is nothing other than faith. [1 Thess. 5:8]. Whoever is armed with faith need fear nothing; this is the only armor necessary to repel and confound our enemy; for what can harm him who says Credo, “I believe” in God, who is our Father, and our Father Almighty? In saying these words we show that we do not trust in our own strength and that it is only in the strength of God, “the Father Almighty” that we undertake the combat, that we hope for victory. [Ps. 17 (18):30; 43 (44):6-7; Heb. 11:33-34; 1 In. 5:4]. No, let us not go on our own to meet temptation by any presumption of spirit, but only rebuff it when God permits it to attack us and seek us out where we are, as it did Our Lord in the desert. By using the words of Holy Scripture our dear Master overcame all the temptations the enemy presented to Him.

But I want it to be understood that the Savior was not tempted as we are and that temptation could not be in Him as it is in us, for He was an impregnable stronghold to which it did not have access. Just as a man who is vested from head to foot in fine steel could not be injured in any way by the blows of a weapon, since it would glance off on either side, not even scratching the armor; so temptation could indeed encompass Our Lord but never enter into Him, nor do any injury to His integrity and perfect purity. But we are different. If, by the grace of God, we do not consent to temptations, and avoid the fault and the sin in them, ordinarily we are nevertheless wounded a little by some importunity, trouble, or emotion that they produce in our heart.

Our Divine Master could not have faith, since He possessed in the superior part of His soul, from the moment that He began to be, a perfect knowledge of the truths which faith teaches us; however, He wished to make use of this virtue in order to repel the enemy, for no other reason, my dear friends, than to teach all that we have to do. Do not, then, seek for other arms nor other weapons in order to refuse consent to a temptation, except to say, “I believe?” And what do you believe? “In God” my “Father Almighty?”

I doubt not that many prefer the end of today’s Gospel to its beginning. It is said there that after Our Lord had overcome His enemy and rejected his temptations, angels came and brought Him heavenly food. [Matt. 4:11]. What joy to find oneself with the Savior at this delicious feast! My dear friends, we shall never be capable of keeping company with Him in His consolations, nor be invited to His heavenly banquet, if we are not sharers of His labors and sufferings. [2 Cor. 1:7]. He fasted forty days, but the angels brought Him something to eat only at the end of that time.

These forty days, as we said just now, symbolize the life of the Christian, of each one of us. Let us then desire these consolations only at the end of our lives, and let us busy ourselves in steadfast resistance to the frontal attacks of our enemies. For whether we desire it or not we shall be tempted. If we do not struggle, we shall not be victorious, nor shall we merit the crown of immortal glory which God has prepared for those of us who are victorious and triumphant.

 Let us fear neither the temptation nor the tempter, for if we make use of the shield of faith and the armor of truth, they will have no power whatsoever over us. Let us no longer fear the three terrors of the night. And let us not entertain the vain hope of being or wishing to be saints in three months! Let us also shun both spiritual avarice and the ambition which occasion so much disorder in our hearts and so greatly impede our perfection. The noonday devil will be powerless in causing us to fail in our firm and steadfast resolution to serve God generously and as perfectly as possible in this life, so that after this life we shall go to enjoy Him forever. May He be blessed! Amen.

Friday, February 24, 2012

St. Francis de Sales on Fasting: Part II

Here is the rest of the sermon by St. Francis de Sales on fasting; Part I is here.

The second condition is never to fast through vanity but always through humility. If our fast is not performed with humility, it will not be pleasing to God… St. Paul in the epistle that he wrote to the Corinthians [1 Cot: 13]…declared the conditions necessary for disposing ourselves to fast well during Lent. He says this to us: Lent is approaching. Prepare yourselves to fast with charity, for if your fast is performed without it, it will be vain and useless, since fasting, like all other good works, is not pleasing to God unless it is done in charity and through charity. When you discipline yourself, when you say long prayers, if you have not charity, all that is nothing. Even though you should work miracles, if you have not charity, they will not profit you at all. Indeed, even if you should suffer martyrdom without charity, your martyrdom is worth nothing and would not be meritorious in the eyes of the Divine Majesty. For all works, small or great, however good they may be in themselves, are of no value and profit us nothing if they are not done in charity and through charity.
I say the same now: if your fast is without humility, it is worth nothing and cannot be pleasing to the Lord…

But what is it to fast through humility? It is never to fast through vanity. Now how can one fast through vanity? …To fast through vanity is to fast through self-will, since this self-will is not without vanity, or at least not without a temptation to vanity. And what does it mean to fast through self-will? It is to fast as one wishes and not as others wish; to fast in the manner which pleases us, and not as we are ordered or counseled. You will find some who wish to fast more than is necessary, and others who do not wish to fast as much as is necessary. What causes that except vanity and self-will? All that proceeds from ourselves seems better to us, and is much more pleasant and easy for us than what is enjoined on us by another, even though the latter is more useful and proper for our perfection. This is natural to us and is born from the great love we have for ourselves.

Let each one of us examine our conscience and we will find that all that comes from ourselves, from our own judgment, choice and election, is esteemed and loved far better than that which comes from another. We take a certain complacency in it that makes the most arduous and difficult things easy for us, and this complacency is almost always vanity. You will find those who wish to fast every Saturday of the year, but not during Lent. They wish to fast in honor of Our Lady and not in honor of Our Lord. As if Our Lord and Our Lady did not consider the honor given to the one as given to the other, and as if in honoring the Son by fasting done for His intention, one did not please the Mother, or that in honoring the Virgin one did not please the Savior! What folly! But see how human it is: because the fast that these persons impose on themselves on Saturday in honor of our glorious Mistress comes from their own will and choice, it seems to them that it should be more holy and that it should bring them to a much greater perfection than the fast of Lent, which is commanded. Such people do not fast as they ought but as they want.

There are others who desire to fast more than they should… On this matter the great Apostle complains [Rom. 14:1-6], saying that we find ourselves confronted by two groups of people. Some do not wish to fast as much as they ought, and cannot be satisfied with the food permitted (this is what many worldly people still do today who allege a thousand reasons on this subject... The others, says St. Paul, wish to fast more than is necessary. It is with these that we have more trouble. We can easily and clearly show the first that they contravene the law of God, and that in not fasting as much as they should, while able to do it, they transgress the commandments of the Lord. But we have more difficulty with the weak and infirm who are not strong enough for fasting. They will not listen to reason, nor can they be persuaded that they are not bound by it [the law of fasting], and despite all our reasons they insist on fasting more than is required, not wishing to use the food we order them. These people do not fast through humility, but through vanity. They do not recognize that, being weak and infirm, they would do much more for God in not fasting through the command of another and using the food ordered them, than in wishing to abstain through self-will. For although, on account of their weakness, their mouth cannot abstain, they should make the other senses of the body fast, as well as the passions and powers of the soul.

You are not, says Our Lord, to look gloomy and melancholic like the hypocrites do when they fast in order to be praised by men and esteemed as great abstainers.{3} [Matt.6:16-18]. But let your fasting be done in secret; therefore, wash your face, anoint your head, and your heavenly Father who sees what is hidden in your heart will reward you well. Our Divine Master did not mean by this that we ought to have no care about the edification of the neighbor. Oh, no, for St. Paul says [Phil. 4:5]: Let your modesty be known to all. Those who fast during the holy season of Lent ought not to conceal it, since the Church orders this fast and wishes that everyone should know that we are observing it. We must not, then, deny this to those who expect it of us for their edification, since we are obliged to remove every cause of scandal to our brothers. But when Our Lord said: Fast in secret, He wanted us to understand: do not do it to be seen or esteemed by creatures; do not do your works for the eyes of men. Be careful to edify them well, but not in order that they might esteem you as holy and virtuous. Do not be like the hypocrites. Do not try to appear better than others in practicing more fasting and penances than they.

…Accomplish your good works in secret and not for the eyes of others. Do not act like the spider, which represents the proud; but imitate the bee, which is the symbol of the humble soul. The spider spins its web where everyone can see it, and never in secret. It spins in orchards, going from tree to tree, in houses, on windows, on floors -- in short, before the eyes of all. In this it resembles the vain and hypocritical who do everything to be seen and admired by others. Their works are in fact only spiders' webs, fit to be cast into the fires of Hell. But the bees are wiser and more prudent, for they prepare their honey in the hive where no one can see them. Besides that, they build little cells where they continue their work in secret. This represents very well the humble soul, who is always withdrawn within herself, without seeking any glory or praise for her actions. Rather, she keeps her intention hidden, being content that God sees and knows what she does.

…Do not allow your fast to resemble that of hypocrites, who wear melancholy faces and who consider holy only those who are emaciated. What folly! As if holiness consisted in being thin! Certainly St. Thomas Aquinas was not thin; he was very stout. And yet he was holy. In the same way there are many others who, though not thin, nevertheless fail not to be very austere and excellent servants of God. But the world, which regards only the exterior, considers only those holy who are pale and wasted. Consider a little this human spirit: it takes account only of appearances and, being vain, does its works to be seen by others. Our Lord tells you not to do as they do but to let your fast be done in secret, only for the eyes of your heavenly Father, and He will see you and reward you.

The third condition necessary for fasting well is to look to God and to do everything to please Him, withdrawing within ourselves in imitation of a great saint, St. Gregory the Great, who withdrew into a secret and out-of-the-way place where he remained for some time without anyone knowing where he was, being content that the Lord and His angels knew it.

…Cassian says: What will it profit you to do what you are doing for the eyes of creatures? Nothing but vanity and complacency, which are good for Hell alone. But if you keep your fast and do all your works to please God alone, you will labor for eternity, without delighting in yourself or caring whether you are seen by others or not, since what you do is not done for them, nor do you await your recompense from them. We must keep our fast with humility and truth, and not with lying and hypocrisy -- that is, we must fast for God and to please Him alone.

…This is all that I had to tell you regarding fasting and what must be observed in order to fast well. The first thing is that your fast should be entire and universal; that is, that you should make all the members of your body and the powers of your soul fast…If you do that, your fast will be universal, interior and exterior, for you will mortify both your body and your spirit. The second condition is that you do not observe your fast or perform your works for the eyes of others. And the third is that you do all your actions, and consequently your fasting, to please God alone, to whom be honor and glory forever and ever.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Fasting: St. Francis de Sales

In the Ash Wednesday Mass I attended, the homily came from the pen of St. Francis de Sales, the patron saint of the Diocese of Baker. The source of the following excerpts is Source: The Sermons of St. Francis de Sales for Lent.

Ideally, I would have spread this out over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday after Ash Wednesday; however, constrained by circumstances, I missed the opportunity to post on Thursday. We’ll squeeze the three day plan into two instead.

Here’s Part I of the Saint’s sermon for Ash Wednesday (Part II is here):


These first four days of the holy season of Lent serve as a preface to indicate the preparation that we ought to make in order to spend Lent well and to dispose ourselves to fast well. That is why I thought of speaking to you, in this exhortation, 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.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Church Over the Rainbow

Looking at the photos below, I think that if I could go inside this incredible church, I'd feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: 

"Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore!"

But...this is Holy Cross Shrine in Pfeifer, Kansas. 

This beautiful church once served Holy Cross Parish, but the parish was dissolved in 1993. Still, a few parishioners maintain the church and it is open to the public from 8am to 8pm daily. 

More information and a couple more photos here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Meditation for Lent

A few words from St. Augustine – a good meditation as we enter the season of Lent.

Do you want God to be appeased? Learn what you are to do that God may be pleased with you. Consider the psalm again: If you wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; in burnt offerings you will take no delight. Are you then to be without sacrifice? Are you to offer nothing? Will you please God without an offering? Consider what you read in the same psalm: If you wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it; in burnt offerings you will take no delight. But continue to listen, and say with David:  A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God does not despise a contrite and humble heart. Cast aside your former offerings, for now you have found out what you are to offer. In the days of your fathers you would have made offerings of cattle – these were the sacrifices. If you wanted sacrifice, I would indeed have given it. These then, Lord, you do not want, and yet you do want sacrifice.

You will take no delight in burnt offerings, David says. If you will not take delight in burnt offerings, will you remain without sacrifice? Not at all. A sacrifice to God is a contrite spirit; God does not despise a contrite and humble heart.

You now have the offering you are to make. No need to examine the herd, no need to outfit ships and travel to the most remote provinces in search of incense. Search within your heart for what is pleasing to God. Your heart must be crushed. Are you afraid that it might perish so? You have the reply: Create a clean heart in me, O God. For a clean heart to be created, the unclean one must be crushed.

We should be displeased with ourselves when we commit sin, for sin is displeasing to God. Sinful though we are, let us at least be like God in this, that we are displeased at what displeases him. In some measure then you will be in harmony with God’s will, because you find displeasing in yourself what is abhorrent to your Creator.

This is an excerpt from Sermon 19, 2-3: CCL 41, 252-254, which you can view here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sacred Music Colloquium: Now Is the Time!

For anyone with the slightest interest in Gregorian chant, here is your chance to learn more and become inspired by the beauty of our Catholic music heritage.
Here’s some of the information. Find the full details at The Chant Café:

Sacred Music Colloquium XXII will be the most exciting and largest in history. It will be held at the remarkable Cathedral of the Madeleine in Salt Lake City, Utah

Dates: June 25-July 1, 2012.

This year we are expanding in new directions. You do not need to regard yourself as a singer or even a musician to attend. There are plenty of Gregorian choirs for first-time singers, and sessions are available for those who opt not to sing in a polyphonic choirs. There will be opportunities for both professional musicians and non-musicians who are just interested in the well-being of music at liturgy.

The venue of the Cathedral in Salt Lake is beautiful beyond description. Historically significant as well as aesthetically magnificent, the Cathedral of the Madeleine ranks among the finest locations ever made available for the Sacred Music Colloquium, which has grown in size in scope every year for six years.

The year 2012 promises to be the grandest ever with new opportunities for learning, singing, listening, and interacting with the best minds and musicians in the Catholic world today. The Cathedral Choir School has been wonderfully accommodating and opened up the full use of its facilities for the Colloquium.


  • Extensive training in Gregorian chant under a diverse and world-class faculty, with choices of a chant class for beginners, and intermediate and and advanced chant classes;
  • Morning and afternoon sessions all week with lectures and workshops with the best of the best thinkers and doers in the world of Catholic music;
  • Optional choral experience with one of four large choirs singing sacred music of the masters such as Palestrina, Vierne, Bruckner, Victoria, Byrd, Tallis, Josquin, and many others;
  • Daily liturgies with careful attention to officially prescribed musical settings;
  • Experience in singing or just listening to Mass settings, motets, chants, and responses;
  • Residency in a full service hotel;
  • Two gala dinners with top lecturers and events;
  • Training in English chant from newly published works;
  • Training in vocal production and technique;
  • Conducting practicum;
  • Training for Priests in the sung Mass;
  • Pedagogy demonstrations;
  • Composers’ Forum;
  • Seminars on parish music management, integrating sung parts of the liturgy, polyphonic repertoire for beginning and more established choirs;
  • All music, including prepared packets of chant and polyphony, as part of registration.
 Go to  The Chant Café  for all the details.

Chant in the "Domestic Church"

An article by J. Jacob Tawney posted at The New Liturgical Movement provides some good information and suggestions for “Introducing Chant into the Domestic Church”.  Be sure to read the whole thing. In the meantime, here are some excerpts:

The music proper to the Roman Rite is Gregorian Chant. This point has been repeated by numerous Popes, by the Second Vatican Council, and by liturgical scholars spanning the centuries. There are many reasons for this, of course, but the primary one is that Gregorian Chant grew alongside the liturgy, so much so that the two are intrinsically connected. Where there is liturgy, there is chant, and where chant is absent, the liturgy suffers greatly.
…it seems that (1) if the music proper to the Catholic Church is chant, and (2) if the domestic church is the first place that we encounter worship, then it follows that Gregorian Chant should find a place within the life of the family.

He mentions three ways to introduce chant to children. The first is, of course, to take them to Mass – a Mass where chant is sung regularly! That’s not happening anywhere in this diocese on a regular basis, so if you want to foster a love of chant and sacred music in your children, you’ll have to find other ways.

Second, the author mentions using quality recordings to bring chant into the “domestic church”. He recommends the following:

I'm sure this child is listening to
Gregorian chant!
When purchasing quality recordings, I would begin with the schola out of Oregon that calls themselves Cantores in Ecclesia and is directed by Dean Applegate. They have three albums available. The first is O Lux Beatissima, which is a collection of the Mass Ordinary and many other common Catholic chants. The second is Cantemus Domino, which contains examples of Mass Propers. The third is Inclina Domine which has more Mass parts from both the Ordinary and the Propers. (If you are looking for where to begin, my own personal opinion is with O Lux Beatissima.)

However, we live in an age where many people are posting quality recordings for free online. A quick Google search can usually lead to a plethora of high quality pieces.

The author goes on to add:

The third way in which to bring the chant of the Church into the family is by actually teaching young children these “Catholic classics.”

For instance, in the season of Advent the chant is the Alma Redemptoris Mater. The others include Ave Regina Caelorum (Lent), Regina Caeli (Easter), and the Salve Regina (Ordinary Time). Over the years, my children have been picking up each of these (and the Ave Maria as well). This past Advent we added the last of the collection (Alma Redemptoris Mater), and nothing touched my heart more than when three of my children greeted me at the door about a week later excited to tell me that they had “learned it.” There they stood in front of the fireplace mantel, and they chanted in unison the most angelic melody I have ever heard.

Please read the entire article here!