Was Jesus born on Christmas Day?

I have a long commute. In the summertime it is beautiful. In the winter, leaving the silent house in the darkness before the snowplow trucks are awake, I and my trusty 4wd Tacoma set out in the blowing blizzard for the money hour (each way) trek. I have, therefore, over the past 5 years, become a great fan of The Great Courses and their many college-level courses on CD, and have even recommended one of their courses on Latin, here. Recently I listened to a course on Medieval Europe, overall very good, but in the section on early Christianity in the former Roman provinces now know as Western Europe it was obligatory for our professor, as I suppose it must be for all contemporary professors who wish to keep their academic appointments, to roll out the tired old tripe about Christmas Day and Saturnalia. It goes something like this (I am paraphrasing, not quoting directly):

"Early Christianity recycled pagan holidays just as it recycled pagan temples. The reason that the date of 25 December was picked for the birth of Christ was because it was close to the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, a period of hard partying in the old Roman Empire which occurred around the time of the winter solstice (21 December). Scholars agree that the date of Jesus' birth is unknown, and the Gospels are 'conflicted' (really?) but most put it in the spring or summer."

Variants on this theme note that there were many pre-Christian celebrations on or around the winter solstice, and modern day pagans have created an entire industry around the old Druid "Yule" celebration of welcoming back the sun. This includes, of course, various rituals for contemporary pagan goddesses - no mention if there are any similar rituals for modern day pagan gods. Anyway, the summary point is that the modern notion of Xmas is just a pastiche of various resurrected (or invented) pagan rituals along with a heavy dosing of myth, sentiment, excessive shopping and Hollywood grinchisms, some of which have been neatly summarized here. Into this slurry is injected, and presented as fact, this "no one really knows when Christ was born." I have, in fact, heard this "fact" presented as fact from more than one Catholic pulpit.

There is an analogy. When I was beginning to study the Church prior to becoming Catholic, a meme I not infrequently came across was that the Gospels weren't really written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. They were written by someone else. Or several someone elses.

"Most scholars doubt [the Gospel's] authorship by Matthew... a growing consensus says the author was a converted rabbi or someone highly educated in rabbinical lore." (Christ Among Us, 6th Ed., A. Wilhelm, HarperCollins Publishers, 1996, pg. 190)

[The Gospel of John] "was probably written just before 100 C.E.... by an unknown author..." (ibid, pg 191) (Note that an ostensibly Catholic catechism used the politically correct "C.E" - "Common Era" - rather than the A.D. Anna Domini, or "after death".)

This sort of stuff bothered me from the very first. Granted, the Gospel writers do not name themselves in their books, but it is, and has been since the earliest days of the Church, the understanding that the Gospels were written by the four men named as authors. If the names of the authors were simply made up, or simply "assigned" to these men, which is after all, what these priests and theologians are claiming, well, that would mean that the Church is not very faithful in little things such as the identity of the Gospel writers. And, if the Church is unfaithful in this little thing, what other little things has she been unfaithful in? How about big things? Is she faithful in the big things like these: death and judgement, heaven and hell? Or, does she bend the truth in the big things as well from time to time? Without getting into the topic of dogma, definitive teachings and Tradition with a capital "T" versus tradition with aa lowercase "t" - that is well beyond the limits of this little post - suffice it to say that I choose to believe that the Gospels were in fact written (perhaps with research help, scribes, etc, but nevertheless authored) by four real men whose names were Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. If you want to view that view as an abdication of intellect to the simplistic "God said it, I believe it, and that settles it" assertion found on the occasional bumper sticker, that's OK with me.

So. The Church teaches that the Feast of the Nativity, the day Christ was born, is Christmas Day, 25 December, an handful of days after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Further, a significant symbolic aspect of the date of HIs birth is that the days are beginning to lengthen, just as the Christ Child brought light into the world. There it is. All of the confabulation surrounding the actual date of Jesus' birth notwithstanding, I see no reason why He couldn't have been born on December 25th. Why not? If God is truly who we think He is, He could certainly arrange for that event to take place on the day of the Church -- His Church, so we are to believe-- says it happened.

So. I will continue in my quaint belief that Jesus was, truly and in fact, born on Christmas Day, exactly as advertised. I believe, an hope, that the Church is telling the truth in this little thing. And I wish you and yours a very merry and blessed Christmas indeed.

Stocking Stuffers Adventus Anno Domini MMXVII

One can strive for a balance during Christmastime. One does not need to buy into the orgy of conspicuous consumption that is the reality of our world today, although I’ll grant you that this can be a challenge if one has children, along with relatives who want to procure for them lots of stuff. I am not, however, an iconoclast (or, more properly, a “giftoclast”) and a reasonable amount of stuff is nice, both to give and to receive.  Thus, I pass along a few links which may be of interest. Please note: there’s no “pay per click” or any other financial thing going along with Una Voce Maine and the following list. I’m just passing along some things I’ve picked up along my way. Also, I know you can get stuff (especially books and so forth) on Amazon, usually cheaper than the sources I list. Shop wherever you think best.

I’ve bought stuff from The Cloister Shoppe for many years. It is the gift shop of the Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary, Summit, New Jersey and they have lots of great items not just for Christmastime but for use throughout the year. In addition to the candles, soaps and what have you, there’s a CDs section which has some beautiful offerings. If you buy something, tell ‘em Una Voce Maine sent you! (just another way of spreading the word…)

Along the music line, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have released another CD, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. It’s their second, I think. I have Mater Eucharistiae, useful for soothing the savage beast in the midst of commuting frenzy. They, too, have an online gift shop with, well, lots of stuff.

Mystic Monk Coffee. These guys are great! They are real honest to gosh Carmelite Monks located in Cody, Wyoming. You can read about how they got into the coffee business here. The subscription service is just spiffy, the stuff shows up at your door, no muss, no fuss. Managing the subscription is easy, and if you should find you need to call them for some issue, you actually get one of the monks on the phone – I guess it would be the “duty monk of the day” or something (sorry, 20 years of the Navy doesn’t go away easily). It’s true, I learned about them on Fr. Z's Blog. (It helps him out, too, if you buy through him…) The coffee makes great gifts for office personnel. And, while we’re on stuff cribbed from Fr. Z’s blog, the Benedictine Monks of Nursia, IT (birthplace of St. Benedict) have a US online store. And while we’re on Fr. Z, he has a few more suggestions here.

Lots of great publishers out there. Baronius Press has a selection of 1962 Daily Missals along with a selection of bibles. The Knox Translation is a particularly graceful and orthodox alternative to some of the other English translations out there. Along the lines of Missals, a little history on the current (N.O.) Missal in daily use now, the Missale Romanum (editio typica tertia)is available through the USCCB here. The Missal itself is available here. I’ve had one sine the “typical 3rd edition” came out, and use it to follow along just as I use the 1962 Missal in those vanishingly rare instances where I actually have the opportunity to assist at Mass in the Extraordinary Form. You can learn a lot from either, or both, of these Missals, not just about the readings of the day, but about the liturgy in general. Plus, they are both packed with prayers and editio typica tertia is just so much nicer than those cheesy paperback throaways that populate most parish pews. There’s a whole webpage on Missals here.

The National Catholic Register’s 2017 Gift Guide is here.

For your parish priest, you might consider a gift copy of  Eleven Cardinals Speak on Marriage and the Family. This is topical, and certainly a nice augment to the ongoing Diocesan catechesis on Amoris laetitia. Or, we have Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s The Spirit of the Liturgy. It can’t hurt. Indeed, if he’s a reader, Ignatius Press has pretty much the entire Ratzinger collection, as well as works by other luminaries such as Robert Cardinal Sarah. For things liturgical related to the Ordinary Form (let’s be realistic here) we have The Adoremus Hymnal for him to peruse. It is developed for the Novus ordo, appropriate to Adoremus, the group whose mission is to foster “the sound formation of Catholic laity in matters relating to the Church’s worship consistent with the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and aids Catholics (including priests and seminarians) with reliable information and encouragement.  Adoremus provides sound resources to promote a more reverent, beautiful, and holy celebration of the Mass and other forms of worship.” Leaving aside the various comparisons between the OF and the EF, there’s no question (in my mind, anyway) that a parish priest who fully took to heart the recommendations and various tools (such as the Hymnal cited above) in his performance of the Ordinary Form, would soon find his church filled to the rafters and the subject of stories in the secular media. But then, I think that is true, even more so, were he to implement the EF.

Valete!

 

REMINDER!!!

The first of the four Advent Masses offered by Fr. Steven Cartwright at the Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, Lewiston (Prince of Peace Parish) is…

This Saturday (First Saturday) at 7AM

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And, of course (not that you could possibly have forgotten), this Sunday, 3 December, is The First Sunday of Advent, and the beginning of the new liturgical year.

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The Liturgical Year, Part I

In February, 1969, Pope Paul VI issued the Motu proprio (“of my own volition”, in other words, an edict issued personally by the Pope) “MYSTERII PASCHALIS, On the Liturgical Year and the New Universal Roman Calendar”. This Motu proprio on the Liturgical Calendar went hand in hand with the promulgation of the 1969 Edition of the Roman Missal, variously known as the Novus ordo missae (New order of the Mass), the Pauline Mass (or, Mass of Paul VI) and now officially known as the “Ordinary Form”. The seminal point of Mysterii paschalis is this:

“…by Our apostolic authority we approve the new Roman Universal Calendar prepared by "Consilium"—"The Council for the Proper Implementation of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and likewise the general norms concerning the arrangement of the liturgical year. We establish that they will go into effect on January 1, 1970, according to the decrees which will be published jointly by the Sacred Congregation of Rites and Consilium, and which will be valid until the edition of the restored Missal and Breviary…”

And with this, the Liturgical Calendar underwent some fairly substantial changes from what had been before. As is the case with my occasional posts on the Catechism, here and here, I possess neither the expertise nor the time to make commentary as to whether these changes were good, bad or indifferent. My hope is to simply point out some of these changes from time to time as we go through the Liturgical Year. Folks already “dialed in” to the Extraordinary Form are aware of much of this; folks for whom this “EF thing” is new, maybe not so much. So, my point is simply to make a by no means exhaustive survey as we travel through time together.

Let us begin with a very broad brush: what did the liturgical year look like before M. paschalis (“BMP”)?

BMP, the Liturgical Year was divided into two cycles: the Christmas Cycle and the Easter Cycle (follow along on the handy “Liturgical Year Wheel” reproduced below, the one on the left). The Christmas Cycle, in turn, was divided into three pieces: Advent, Christmastime, and the Time After Epiphany. The Liturgical Year, and the Christmas Cycle, both begin with the First Sunday in Advent. Advent runs through the next three Sundays up until Christmas Eve. The color of the vestments is purple, and the period of Advent includes the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th. Christmastime, the second part of the Cycle, goes from Christmas Day until the Feast of the Epiphany (“the twelve days of Christmas”). Vestments are white. Then comes the Third Part of the Christmas Cycle, the Time After Epiphany. This runs anywhere from one to six Sundays, and ends the evening before Septuagesima Sunday, and the vestments are green. Thus endeth The Christmas Cycle.

The Easter Cycle is also divided into three sections: Septuagesima (or, the “Pre-Lenten Sundays”), Season of Lent, Eastertime, and the Time After Pentecost. Septuagesima begins, appropriately enough, with Septuagesima Sunday, the ninth Sunday before Easter and the third Sunday before Ash Wednesday. There follows Sexagesima Sunday and Quinquagisima Sunday.  The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, and runs through Holy Saturday, which ends, more or less, with the Easter Vigil. The three days of the Triduum (Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) are there, of course, but the Triduum as such is not broken out as a separate season. Eastertime runs from Easter through Ascension Sunday (8 Sundays). We then have Pentecost and it’s octave, followed by Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi Sundays, both with their octaves. The vestments beginning with Septuagesima Sunday and running up through Holy Saturday are purple, Eastertime vestments are white (except for Pentecost, rose). We then enter the Time After Pentecost, which runs up to the Saturday before the First Sunday in Advent. Thus endeth the BMP Liturgical Year.

What about after M. paschalis (“AMP”)? It’s the same, but different (please see the Cycle Wheel on the right, below). AMP, the Year is divided into four blocks: Advent/Christmas, Ordinary Time I, Lent/Triduum/Easter/Pentecost, and Ordinary Time II. Advent/Christmas are more or less the same, with the same vestment colors, as the BMP Year. However, the old “Time After Epiphany” and the pre-Lenten Sundays (“Septuagesima Time”) have been collapsed into “Ordinary Time I”, and the three pre-Lenten Sundays, as such, have ceased to be. Then comes Ash Wednesday, initiating the Lent/Triduum/Easter/Pentecost seasons. As noted, the three days of the Triduum are most certainly present BMP, but in AMP they are given their own season. Ordinary Time II corresponds to the BMP “Time After Pentecost” plus the Sundays and octaves of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. Thus, OT II after Pentecost, and runs up to the Saturday before the First Sunday of Advent. Thus endeth the AMP Liturgical Year.

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Thus the Liturgical Calendars, BMP and AMP.  There’s a lot more than this little overview mentions: many feast days have been changed/suppressed/added or the dates they are celebrated have been changed, readings of course have been extensively changed (a discussion of the thee year AMP Liturgical Cycle – A,B and C Years – is way beyond this little post), but gives us an introduction. As we progress through the year we will look at each season a little more closely, but that’s just enough for now.

Finally, I have included (below) a couple of cycles of a secular sort which I occasionally find useful in the daily grind.

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Valete!

TLM in St. John New Brunswick from UVM Members Jon and Penny Dandridge

"Today my wife and I attended the traditional Latin Mass in St John New Brunswick at Holy Trinity Church. St. John is about 110km from the Main border at Calais and is therefore a possibility for Catholics living in Eastern Maine desiring to attend the Latin Mass. The Mass was at 12:30 PM Atlantic time which is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Time. It was well attended considering it is only in its third week with over 40 people including some families with young children. There was one couple from Nova Scotia who drove 4 hours to attend the Mass! It was a Low Mass but with hymns accompanied by an organist. Fr. Peter Melanson is a young priest recently appointed pastor of Holy Trinity and did an excellent job celebrating the Mass. I have attached some pictures of the church."

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REMINDER!! Missa Cantata this Sunday, November 19, 2017

Fr. John Bacevicius, OFM cordially invites you to a very special celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at the Franciscan Monasteryin Kennebunk on Sunday, November 19th, at 9:15am:

"The Missa Cantata" with Mr. Jay Violette, choir director at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
                                    
(Franciscan Guest House Inquiries: 207-967-4865

Requesting the Extraordinary Form in Skowhegan

Salvete!

Below is a letter from an Una voce member in Skowhegan, requesting the Extraordinary Form in that location. This is wonderful and exciting, and I place it on the Chairman’s Blog with his permission, to keep all of you aware of things extraordinary in the State of Maine. It is also a most excellent example of how to construct a letter to the Bishop on this matter. 

 

November 7, 2017

The Most Reverend Robert Deeley, J.C.D.
Bishop of Portland
510 Ocean Avenue
Portland ME, 04103-4936

Re: Tridentine Rite Mass

Your Excellency,

In the spirit of articles 5.1, 5.2, and 7 of Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI’s pronouncement in Summorum Pontificum describing the circumstances pursuant to which a priest may celebrate the Tridentine Rite or Traditional Latin Mass, I am writing to request that you allow the Extraordinary Form of the Mass to be celebrated ad experimentum on a Sunday in the near future at Notre Dame de Lourdes Church of Christ the King Parish in Skowhegan.  

I have spoken to our pastor, the Rev. James Nadeau, who has said that he is willing and able to celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass provided that you grant permission.  I believe that there are locally and in nearby parishes a group of the faithful who are attached to the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and my hope would be that the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass, ad experimentum, as I have requested, would demonstrate the existence and desire of that group for the Extraordinary Form.  In suggesting this, I note that for many in central Maine, from Waterville, to Skowhegan, Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Pittsfield, and other centrally located towns, a trip either to the Cathedral or to the Basilica is unthinkable, where a trip to Skowhegan would be perfectly within reason.

As I suggested, Father Jim has said that he would be willing and happy to celebrate this form of the Mass, and I prayerfully request that you consider it.  In closing, I would like to express my thanks and that of many in Christ the King for your assignment of Father Jim to our community.  He is, in virtually every way, an answer to our prayers and a wonderful pastor.  

Respectfully yours in Christ,

 

 

 

Catechism II: What happens after we die?

Man’s destiny is to die once for all; nothing remains after that but the judgment…
— Hebrews 9:7 (The Knox Bible)

Once upon a time, Halloween was known as All Hallow’s Eve. It was the evening before All Saint’s Day, November First, sort of like Christmas Eve comes before Christmas Day, and so forth. I’m not going to websearch the transmogrification of the Eve Before All Saint’s Day into its current iteration; you can do that as well as I. Suffice it to say that it has become what it has become and that’s that.

But, what has Halloween become? I’ll grant you, Halloween can be fun, especially if you have small children. Pumpkins: carving pumpkins, picking pumpkins, stacking pumpkins, (hopefully not) smashing pumpkins. Pumpkin bread. Pumpkin cookies. Pumpkin brownies. Pumpkin spice coffee. Costumes. Doing the rounds of the neighborhoods, going to the trunk or treat events, even, yes, even haunted houses (or forts, as the case may be). Halloween can be . However, it also is, or can be, a celebration of the corruption and decay that attends bodily death. On the trick or treat circuit along with Barney, Dory the Fish, and Tigger one finds remarkably unnerving depictions of death and decay, skeletons climbing out of graves on the lawn, and inhuman, nightmarish creatures casually referred to as “ghouls and goblins”. The quasi-holiday of Halloween is obsessed with death, and the notions of what may come after can range from benign to perverse, perverted, and downright weird. Further, much of the increasingly florid excesses of Halloween are part of a larger fascination, by no means healthy and especially among so-called “millennials”, with the occult. This fascination with the moribund has been a part of the human condition forever, but in the age of instant imaging it is certainly more noticeable.

The Church, of course, has been said (in both generous and ungenerous terms) to be obsessed with death. The Gospels talk about it a quit a lot. The Church throughout her history has talked about it quite a lot, albeit recently, maybe, not so much. But death, and what comes after, is a significant part of Church teaching, perhaps, in some ways, the most important part of Church teaching. So, what does the Church have to say? 

“Death,’ says the The Catechism of the Catholic Church  (hereafter referred to as CCC; the #number format refers to the paragraph number), “puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ.” (#1021). Death comes to each of us only once, as Hebrews 9:27 (among other citations) makes clear: there’s no reincarnation or recycling of ourselves until we finally get right. “Each man,” the CCC continues, “receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment (my emphasis) that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven – through a purification or immediately, - or immediate and everlasting damnation.” (#1022) The Roman Catechism puts it this way: “The first (judgment) takes place when each one of us departs this life; for then he is instantly placed before the judgment seat of God, where all that he has ever done or spoken or thought during life shall be subject to the most rigid scrutiny. This is called the particular judgment.” (p. 81) (A very brief primer on different catechisms is here.)

So, after the particular judgment we shuffle off to either heaven, purgatory, or hell, where we await the General Judgment.

Heaven: “Those who die in God’s grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God forever, for they ‘see him as he is,’ face to face.” (CCC #1023)

“...Christ our Redeemer will pronounce sentence … in these words: Come ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning...” (emphasis in the original) … the just are invited from labor to rest, from the vale of tears to supreme joy, from misery to eternal happiness, the reward of their words of charity.” (Roman Catechism, p. 85)

Purgatory: “… is entirely different from the punishment of the damned… All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The tradition of the Church … speaks of a cleansing fire.” (CCC #1031,1030)

Hell: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice… Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’” (CCC #1033, 1035)

Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire... (Jesus’) words, depart from me, express the heaviest punishment … eternal banishment from the sight of God, unrelieved by one consolatory hope of ever recovering so great a good. This punishment is called by theologians the pain of loss...The next words, into everlasting fire, express another sort of punishment, which is called by theologians the pain of sense...” (Roman Catechism, p. 85-85)

The General Judgment (or, the Last Judgment) is preceded by the resurrection of all the dead. “The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life … The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory … We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end...” (CCC #1039,1040) 

“The second (judgment) occurs when on the same day and in the same place all men shall stand together before the tribunal of their Judge, that in the presence and hearing of all human beings of all times each may know his final doom and sentence… This is called the General Judgment.” (Roman Catechism p.81)

“At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come into its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign forever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed...” (CCC #1042)

Thus we have the Four Last Things: death, judgment, heaven and hell. Further, Jesus Christ, as God and as man, is the Judge (Roman Catechism, p.81). And that, my friends, is what the Church teaches about what happens after we die.

Valete.

Post scriptum: In case you were wondering, here’s how they do the All Souls Requiem Mass in the EF over in the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin.

 

 

 

 

Write her“Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire... (Jesus’) words, depart from me, express the heaviest punishment … eternal banishment from the sight of God, unrelieved by one consolatory hope of ever recovering so great a good. This punishment is called by theologians the pain of loss...The next words, into everlasting fire, express another sort of punishment, which is called by theologians the pain of sense...”e...

"The Missa Cantata" - Sunday, November 19 at 9am

Fr. John Bacevicius, OFM cordially invites you to a very special celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass at the Franciscan Monastery in Kennebunk on Sunday, November 19th, at 9:15am:

"The Missa Cantata" with Mr. Jay Violette, choir director at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
                                    
(Franciscan Guest House Inquiries: 207-967-4865
 

On The Catechism – Part I

Guarding the Deposit of Faith is the Mission which the Lord entrusted to His Church.
— St. John Paul II

 "In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism..." Thus begins a short exposition by Pope St. John Paul II on the development of the The Catechism of the Catholic Church in his opening letter (Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, 1.) This commission oversaw a cast of hundreds, probably thousands if you include the innumerable committees and collaborations which went on across the globe. In the end, it took 6 years, nine drafts, and two editions to get to the current Catechism, published in 1992. Before going any further, however, let us have a few words about catechisms in general.

The Catechism defines catechism this way: "A popular summary or compendium of Catholic doctrine about faith and morals and designed for use in catechesis (educating people of the faith)."  Prior to the Catechism, probably the best known catechisms were the Catechism of the Council of Trent  (also known as the Roman Catechism) and the Baltimore Catechism. The English translation of the Roman Catechism by John A. McHugh, O.P. and Charles J. Callan, O.P. (originally published in 1923) has as an Introduction a detailed history of catechisms in the Church.

"From the days of the Apostles and during the the first centuries very careful attention was given to Christian doctrine...". So goes Frs. Mchugh and Callans' Introduction to their translation, supporting their assertion with examples from a who's who of early Church luminaries: Justin Martyr, St. Augustine, Origen, Pope Leo the great, Pope St. Gregory the Great; the list goes on and on. "...but in the Middle Ages, we are told, the zealous practices of early times were relaxed, instruction was given up, and ignorance of the things of faith prevailed generally among the common people." This was, at least, the picture the Protestants painted of the Church in the Middle Ages (seventh to sixteenth centuries). The good Fathers, however, refute this with an extensive survey of catechesis, catechisms, and schools throughout the period, as well as a brief section on some of the causes of the "Protestant rebellion" including the breakdown in general instruction in the faith.

The multiyear, multisession Council of Trent (1545-1564) was, in effect, the "counter-Reformation" and it produced, among other things, the Roman Catechism. Like the current Catechism, the Roman Catechism was the product of numerous committees, revisions, editions, and rewrites, predominantly (but not exclusively) under the purview of St. Charles Borromeo. Promulgated by Pope Pius V in 1566, it was, and is, an "extensive and thorough work to be used by parish priests in their instruction of the faithful." The Roman Catechism was unlike those which had come before insofar as, besides being used by priests as a source for preaching and teaching, (1) it was produced at the express command of an Ecumenical Council – Trent, (2) it was translated at the command of that same Council into the vernacular languages of many nations, (3) it was directed to be used as the standard source for the many "local catechisms" used in the nations (id est, it was a universal catechism), and (4) it continued to receive the unqualified praise and support of subsequent Pontiffs.

Subsequent to the close of the Second Vatican Council, use of the Roman Catechism as well the robust “local catechisms” spawned by the Roman Catechism (such as the Baltimore Catechism) fell out of favor. In their places rose other catechisms, the most widely published one being the 1966 Dutch Catechism (officially known as the “New Catechism”). The Dutch Catechism was so problematic that Pope Paul VI convened a commission of Cardinals to evaluate it. While the overall assessment of the commission was rather vague, they did point out a number of serious problems. Meanwhile, in the 70’s and 80’s, general catechesis fell into a state of confusion and ennui, although there were some bright spots.  This is The Faith by Canon Francis Ripley was originally published in 1951, but made a comeback in the 1980’s and ‘90s, because it is complete, very readable, and orthodox. In 1971, the General Catechetical Directory was published by Paul VI, but it offered guidelines only; it was not a universal catechism. That task was given by Paul VI to Fr. John Hardon, S.J., of the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago, and he produced in 1975 The Catholic Catechism, which was (and is) an excellent, extensive, very readable and still very useful compendium. It was a sort of precursor to the current Catechism. Today, 25 years after the publication of the 2nd edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church there are probably more catechetical materials, more easily obtainable, than ever before. Peruse here and here just two of the many sites and sources out there.

Why am I going into all this? Because I believe that the recovery of the Church will involve two necessary initial steps: return to reverent worship, and return to basic, orthodox catechesis. I have been accused of proposing that if we only had the Latin Mass everything would magically be swell (or words to that effect). I do not think that, not by a long shot. But I do believe that both of these two “first steps” are necessary.

There is much confusion out there about definitions, it comes from every direction, and is growing daily. Occasionally I will post a review of small sections from the Catechism, just to sort of jog my brain cells into thinking about things defined.  Good enough reason to return to basics from time to time.

Valete!

 

 

Attention: NEW Latin Mass in Saint John, NB

 

There will be a Traditional Latin Mass celebrated every Sunday at 12:30 PM, starting October 29th, 2017, at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, in Saint John, NB. Canada. Holy Trinity Catholic Church is a part of the Diocese of Saint John.

The address is 348 Rockland Road
Saint John, NB.

Note New Brunswick is on Atlantic Time so that is 11:30 AM Eastern Time.

This may be of interest to people living in Eastern ME as this would be within driving distance from the Calais/Eastport area, and about a 2 hour drive from Lubec.

Hat tip: thanks to UvM member Jon Dandridge

On Service at the Altar

Prescinding for a moment from the vexatious topic of altar girls (on which I will comment only briefly down below), I wish to discuss altar boys or, more precisely, what it takes to make an altar boy. 

I was never an altar boy. Indeed, I wasn’t even a Catholic until well into adulthood; prior to this I had only the vaguest notion of the existence of something called the Catholic Church, and no awareness whatsoever of altar boys. Even after entering the Church I was only dimly aware of such creatures; it wasn’t until I and my family began attending the EF in a serious – meaning weekly – way that I came to realize that (1) altar boys exist, (2) they are important, (3) serving at the altar takes training, practice, and effort on the parts of all involved (including the priest(s)), and (4) service at the altar has been, and still is, the place where many young men first consider the priesthood.

So, what does it take to make an altar boy? Let’s start with some examples; there’s lots, here’s a few: St. Benedict's Parish in Chesapeake, VA (which I discussed here) has a very well organized and intensive training program, Knights of the Altar. My oldest son served there back in the day. St. Mary's Church in Norwalk, CT, has an active training program run by the Deacon. St. John Cantius Parish of Chicago has the Archconfraternity of St. Stephen, where not just boys but men are encouraged to participate. Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church in Dunn, NC has a longstanding altar boy training program; this church offers the OF, the EF with an English homily, and the EF with a Spanish homily (there’s lots of “seasonal” workers in the Dunn area). St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Front Royal, VA has an active training program discussed in some of the Bulletins, this one, for example. Front Royal is also the home of, among other things, Christendom College, Human Life International, and Seton Home Study School. (PS: Front Royal isn’t all that large; I’ve been there. Must be something in the water.) St. Mary of Pine Bluff, WI reveals the fruits of their attention to service at the altar in many photos. Note well: with the exception of St. Benedict’s which is FSSP, in all of these thriving parishes the OF and the EF co-exist side by side. But that is grist for another post.

What do these parishes have common? 

First and foremost, the parish priest makes the training of altar servers a priority. The parochial vicar, a deacon, or someone else may actually oversee training. But it is important to the parish priest, and he sees that it is done, and done properly.

Secondly, there are expectations. The youngsters are expected to come to the training sessions. They are expected to “do their homework” - there’s lots of learning aids such as CDs and videos out there. A child (or a parent, for that matter) is not expected to learn do this on his own. But he is expected to try. The youngsters are expected to show up on time, and on the days they are scheduled to serve, and to dress appropriately. The parents are expected to help in these things. None of these expectations is hard; indeed, they are all pretty basic. But they all convey to the youngster that the adults take this seriously, and he should, too.

Thirdly, there are “role models.” It may be the parish priest, parochial vicar, or deacon, but it is a man with defined authority. There often are other men involved: high school and college age experienced servers, also adult men who serve. This also teaches the youngsters that service at the altar is not just “kid stuff”, it’s something that adults take seriously and in which the youngsters are invited to participate.

Finally, the training is organized. Serving at the altar takes effort to do well, this is true in the EF and in the OF, especially if there are “smells and bells” in the OF. St. Benedict’s had quarterly training sessions, Saturday morning, with pizza for lunch. Not every boy had to go to every session, sessions were sometimes tailored by role: for thurifers, for MCs, neophytes and younger boys; or by upcoming special events: Easter, Good Friday, Christmas, whatever.  Other churches have other schedules, but the point is that the training is regular and predictable.

It’s also important to notice what these parishes do not have in common: size. St. John Cantius is big. Sacred heart in NC is little. The others are in between. I know that many (Most? All?) of the parishes in Maine are “cluster parishes”: several formerly separate parishes now combined into one uber-parish with many church buildings. The priests are busy. I get that, for I am busy too. But the priests have help – deacons, paid staff, and many volunteers. There would be men willing to step forward and take an active role in developing altar boy training programs, as well as participate themselves in service at the altar. But it needs to be piloted by the parish priest.

Finally, two last things: 

(1) These considerations apply to both the EF and the OF. Every church benefits from well trained, on the ball, engaged altar servers, regardless of the form of the Rite. It says huge amounts about the church, the pastor, and the congregations. 

(2) I promised to return briefly to altar girls. The youngest of my three daughters, age 8, wants to be an altar server. She is quite serious about wanting to learn, and do it well, as has been the case with many of the young ladies I have seen who have been, and are, altar girls. What to do? Well, altar girls are a fact of life in this Diocese. It is also the case that currently there are very, very few altar boys (or girls, for that matter) in my parish; they need servers. So, she is learning to serve. I am supporting her, and helping her, and encouraging her and am, in fact, proud of how seriously she is taking it. She wants to do something nice for God, and He knows she’s heard me lecture that to the boys time and time again. I am not endorsing altar girls in principle: I think it was a remarkably unfortunate and confusing Papal decision, well beyond the scope of this little post. But I live in the real world, and as a father of a young girl who truly wants to serve God in the Diocese of Portland, Maine, and for whom there is no other venue of service more appropriate to her sex, there is nothing else I can do.  

Valete.

 

 

 

Why teach Latin? Part 2

Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.
— Verterum Sapientia

In addition to the many good, and still valid, secular reasons for learning Latin that we discussed last week, Latin is, still, the language of the Church. Pope St. John XXIII was a strong advocate of Latin, and probably gave the best case for it in, on the eve of the opening of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), with the Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia: On the Promotion of the Study of Latin (1962). (My emphases.)

“…But amid this variety of languages a primary place must be given to that language which has its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West.

“And since in God’s special Providence this language united so many nations together … it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See. Preserved for posterity, it proved to be the bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe…

And, deliberately repeating myself:

“Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.”

This is especially true today: offering a Mass in English, or Spanish, or Chinese is, intentional or not, as much a political statement as it is anything else. Not so with Latin: no one “owns” Latin, not even the Church. Further, in 1962 an English speaker could walk into a Catholic church in Bangor, Maine, Napoli, Italia, or Tokyo, Japan, and follow and participate in the Mass. That is certainly not the case today.

“For these reasons,” Bl. John XXIII continued, “the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin … For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time … of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.”

St. John XXIII then goes on to elaborate on all three of these characteristics, in particular developing the importance of the characteristics of immutability (“modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority…”) and non-vernacular (“…a most effective bond, binding the Church or today with that of the past and future in wonderful continuity…”)

He also develops the educational benefits of Latin, laying out specific provisions for the promotion of Latin studies, and to restore the Latin curriculum in both the seminaries (where it had not, as yet, been so widely lost as is the case today) and in secular schools.

A few quotes from the Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum concilium are worth tossing out here:

“… the sacred Council declares that holy Mother Church holds all lawfully acknowledged rites to be of equal dignity; that she wishes to preserve them in the future and to foster them in every way…” (No.4)

“… the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.” (No. 36)

“… the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in reciting the Divine Office…” (No. 101)

“The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy, other things being equal it should be given the pride of place in liturgical services.” (No. 116)

In 1964, Bl. Paul VI wrote an apostolic letter Studia Latinitatis: The Need for Latin remains unchanged.”  This letter was covered very nicely in 2012 by a ZENIT interview from which I quote here:

“… In recent years (2012), tentative beginnings have taken place within the Catholic Church in terms of renewed interest in the study of Latin. Among these are the birth of new religious communities and lay movements that have understood well how a most precious patrimony belongs to the Tradition, to the life itself of the Church, of liturgical, canonical, magisterial, theological expressions whose content is comprehensible only in its linguistic form, namely, Latin…”

One of those “new religious communities” would be The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter established by St. John Paul II in 1988 via the Apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei.

Also in 2012, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI issued a Motu proprioLatina Lingua, Establishing the Pontifical Academy for Latin” called for by Bl. John XXIII and established in an earlier form by Paul VI.

Finally, as a matter of Canon Law, following on St. John Paul II, Sapientia Christiana (1972) is Can. 249 from the 1983 Code:

“The program of priestly formation is to provide that students not only are carefully taught their native language but also understand Latin well (“lingua latina bene calleant”, lit: “let them be very well versed”) and have a suitable understanding of those foreign languages which seem necessary or useful for their formation or for the exercise of pastoral ministry.”

To finish up with an observation from Fr. John Hunwicke,

“We have, in other words, a coherent expectation in the teaching of popes S John XXIII, B Paul VI, S John Paul II, and Benedict XVI that all seminarians should become proficient in Latin, the language of the Church. And the attitude of the popes to the promotion of Latin studies in even broader contexts than that of the formation of the clergy is demonstrated in the establishment by B Paul VI of a Latin Academy; a foundation re-established and strengthened by Benedict XVI.”

Latin is not dead, nor is it irrelevant to either the Church or to education in general. I offer a final thought:

There is a painting in the Sacristy at St. John’s Church here in Bangor. It shows Jesus, and has the caption “Hoc est enim corpus meum.” Does that mean anything to anyone who passes through there today, especially the youngsters? I guarantee you, Fr. John Bapst (who established St. John’s in the late 1800s) knew what it meant, as did every altar boy who ever served under him. I want my children to know what it means. I want them to be able to access their Catholic patrimony, the rich heritage of the Church, which has been locked away in the memory hole these past 50 years. My children need the full strength of this Catholic patrimony, this heritage, as they go forward into a confused and stormy future. Even rudimentary Latin will allow them this.

Why Latin? Part 1

Latin’s dead, it’s dead, it’s dead, as dead as dead can be. First it killed the Romans, now it’s killing me.
— Prof. Hans-Friedrich Mueller

In the not too distant past, Latin was an integral part of every middle school, and even elementary school, education. Why? Simple: it made you smarter. It made you think, it made you learn how to learn a difficult subject (no, Latin is not easy, but neither is it harder than any other language) and these skills – thinking, learning how to learn – that the child picked up along the way were transferrable to pretty much any other human endeavor worth doing. Today, in muchof the country, the teaching of Latin is making a comeback. Two of the highschools in my area offer multi-year programs. But what about middle and elementary schools?

A short search using your favorite engine will bring up a bunch of contemporary comments on why resuscitating (L. resuscitatus, stirring up again) the hoary practice of teaching Latin to children today, Anno Domini MMXVII, is a great idea. I've taken the liberty of cutting and pasting bits from one of them in purple. Please note, these are secular (saecularis, adv: worldly, not of the Church) educators, with no association (or apparent interest in) the Catholic Church. So, here goes:

 

Latin Grammar is the Best Grounding for Education

“But why should they learn Latin? Dorothy Sayers says it best:

I will say at once, quite firmly, that the best grounding for education is the Latin grammar. I say this not because Latin is traditional and medieval, but simply because even a rudimentary knowledge of Latin cuts down the labor and pains of learning almost any other subject by at least 50 percent.”
-- From the National Review .

 

Latin Helps With English Grammar

“While neither the language nor grammar of English derives from Latin, many of our grammatical rules do…” (Noto bene: tons of English words are derived from Latin as well, which has a lot to do with both improved SAT scores and general improvement in written, and oral (orare, v,: to pray, speak) communication – TC)

 

Latin Makes You More Careful in English

In Latin you have more to worry about than whether a plural pronoun refers to a singular noun (as in the politically correct - grammatically incorrect: each student has their own workbook).

In Latin there are 7 cases with which not only pronouns, but adjectives -- not to mention verbs -- must agree. Learning such rules makes the student careful in English.

 

Latin Helps You Maximize SAT scores

Through Latin, test takers can guess at the meanings of new words because they already know the roots and prefixes. But it's not just enhanced vocabulary. Math scores also increase.

 

Latin Increases Accuracy

This may be due to the increased accuracy Professor Emeritus William Harris notes:

"From another point of view, the study of Latin does foster precision in the use of words. Since one reads Latin closely and carefully, often word by word, this focuses the student's mind on individual words and their usage. It has been noticed that people who have studied Latin in school usually write quite good English prose. There may be a certain amount of stylistic imitation involved, but more important is the habit of reading closely and following important texts with accuracy."

 

There are even living Latin movements which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Church, but are all about the benefits of Latin with respect to education. So, I've taken this opportunity to link a couple of places where you can introduce your kids, and introduce (or re-introduce) yourself to pulchra et aeterna lingua Latina.

Memoria Press
Little Latin Readers
Latin 101 offered through The Great Courses
Seton Homeschool has a bookstore which has a ton of Latin resources (some, but not all, from Memoria Press listed above) which anyone can purchase, regardless of whether you are enrolled in the Seton homeschooling program.
Henle Latin is a very intense program, available through Seton and Memoria Press (and, I'm sure, other places.)
Rosetta Stone has a Latin program, interesting because it has a lot of Latin neologisms like computatoria.

Well, you get the idea. Latin is very much alive, and there's tons of resources out there.

Valete!

Salvete to all who love the Church!  

My name is Tim Collins, and I have recently become the Chairman of Una voce Maine. Before going any further, I want to thank the outgoing Chair, Stacy Veevers-Carter, for all her fine work and effort. Chairing this organization is no easy task, and I hope I can do even half the job that she has done.

Regarding me, I am a physician – a pathologist – and an adult convert to the Faith, as is my lovely wife. We have six children, five of whom are still at home, and we live in Winterport, near Bangor. Prior to coming to Maine in 2011, I served in the Navy for 20 years and we moved around a lot, getting to see much that was excellent in the Church, as well as some that was not so excellent.

During our time in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia (home of the Atlantic Fleet, among other things), we attended for several years St. Benedict's Parish. St. Benedict’s is a Parish in the Diocese of Richmond, whose priests are members of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, more commonly and easily known as the FSSP. When we began attending St. Benedict’s, neither the FSSP nor the beautiful new church you see on the website were there. Rather, the chapel was in a converted car repair garage, a building which is still on the grounds, updated, prettified and expanded as the Parish hall. Anyway, in those days it was a “Latin Mass” chapel, whose chaplain was the blessed (in my opinion, anyway) Fr. Damian Abbaticchio, OSB, a wonderful elderly man and priest. Upon his retirement – he was in his 80’s - he was followed by Fr. Kevin Willis. It was Fr. Willis who got the ball rolling initially on the new church building project. After Fr. Willis left, the chapel became a full-fledged FSSP chapel, the new church was completed, and today it is a Parish. Though I have not been to St. Benedict’s in a few years, when I looked at the website in preparing this post, I was actually not too surprised to see that one young man who I knew as a teenage altar boy – Fr. Rob Schmid – is now an ordained priest. Deo gratias! My oldest son was an altar boy there for many years, both in the old chapel and in the new church.

 So, why am I going on about a church in Virginia, when we are up here in Maine? Here’s why: while I and my family had been in the Catholic Church since 1999, it was not until our time at St. Benedict’s that I to understand how central the rite, that is, the way the Mass is said, is to forming and maintaining Catholic faith. The Church has known this as lex orandi lex credendi lex vivendi (loosely; the law of prayer is the law of faith is the law of life) but I was pretty much oblivious to all this until I was exposed, at St. Benedict's, to how the Church had done Mass for centuries. Then I began to realize that something not just beautiful, but important and central to keeping the faith – my faith, the faith of my family – had been lost somewhere along the line.

Let me be clear: I do not believe that widespread use of the Latin Mass will magically fix the Church’s many problems. I do, however, believe that the Church’s many problems have their roots in two closely related facts: the collapse of reverence and seriousness in the Mass, and the collapse of robust, unambiguous catechesis, both over the past 50 years or so. The road back is one of ten thousand steps, but I firmly believe that the first two steps are (1) a return to the proper public worship of God with one voice (una voce), and (2) a return to the clear exposition of His will through catechesis. The Mass, and how it is said, is key: it is the most visible public sign of who we as Catholics think God is.

That's enough of that for now. Before I go, though, a comment on wording. "Traditional Latin Mass", "TLM", "Tridentine Mass", "Latin Mass" are all used more or less interchangeably to refer more or less generally to the Rite as promulgated in the 1962 Missal, the one in general use prior to the promulgation of the Novus ordo Missal in 1969. The 1962 Missal is the one used by the various "Latin Mass" societies, priestly fraternities (such as the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter) and, in general, by those Diocesan parishes nationwide (and worldwide) which offer the "Traditional Latin Mass" in addition to the N.O.

Valete! God bless until next time.