This is goodbye

It’s been a good few years bringing you Catholic truth but I have to go now. I just don’t have the time, energy or passion for this anymore. I can’t rail against the crisis in the Church when my own life is in crisis. I have to focus on my own life, my responsibilities & trying to be a young person again. My entire world was flipped upside down & we’re only one month into this year.

If you want to still follow me, I post on my tumblr at damselofthefaith.tumblr.com & on my twitter – @tradcatdamsel.

I will keep this blog up for reference.

Thank you all for your support. If any of you want to friend me on facebook, feel free – the name is Hannah Newchurch.

Hannah ~Damsel of the Faith~

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An account of the Epiphany from Ven. Mary of Agreda

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Taken from Mary of Agreda’s “Mystical City of God,” we receive profound insights into the wise men’s meeting with the Holy Family.  A most beautiful must-read account, during this Epiphany-tide.

On leaving Jerusalem the Magi again found the star, which at their entrance they had lost from view. By its light they were conducted to Bethlehem and to the cave of the Nativity. Diminishing in size it hovered over the head of the Infant Jesus and bathed Him in its light; whereupon the matter of which it had been composed dissolved and disappeared. Our great Queen had already been prepared by the Lord for the coming of the Kings, and when She understood that they were approaching the cave, She requested Saint Joseph not to leave it, but to stay at Her side. This he did, although the sacred text does not mention it. Like many other things passed over in the Gospels, this was not necessary for establishing the truth of the mystery. Nevertheless, it is certain that Saint Joseph was present when the Kings adored the infant Jesus. The precaution of sending him away was not necessary; for the Magi had already been instructed that the Mother of the Newborn was a Virgin, and that He was the true God and not a son of Saint Joseph. Nor would God have permitted them to be led to the cave ignorant of such an important circumstance as His origin, allowing them to adore the Child as the son of Joseph and of a Mother not a Virgin. They were fully instructed as to all these things, and they were deeply impressed by the sacramental character of all these exalted and complicated mysteries. 

The heavenly Mother awaited the pious and devout kings, standing with the Child in Her arms. Amid the humble and poor surroundings of the cave, in incomparable modesty and beauty, She exhibited at the same time a majesty more than human, the light of Heaven shining in Her countenance. Still more visible was this light in the Child, shedding through the cavern effulgent splendor, which made it like a heaven. The three kings of the East entered and at the first sight of the Son and Mother they were for a considerable space of time overwhelmed with wonder. They prostrated themselves upon the earth, and in this position they worshiped and adored the Infant, acknowledging Him as the true God and man, and as the Savior of the human race. By the divine power, which the sight of Him and His Presence exerted in their souls, they were filled with new enlightenment. They perceived the multitude of angelic spirits, who as servants and ministers of the King of kings and Lord of lords attended upon Him in reverential fear (cf. Heb. 1:6). Arising, they congratulated their and our Queen as Mother of the Son of the eternal Father; and they approached to reverence Her on their knees. They sought Her hand in order to kiss it, as they were accustomed to do to their queens in their countries. But the most prudent Lady withdrew Her hand, and offered instead that of the Redeemer of the world, saying: “My spirit rejoices in the Lord and My soul blesses and extols Him; because among all the nations He has called and selected you to look upon and behold that which many kings and prophets have in vain desired to see (cf. Luke 10:24), namely, Him Who is the eternal Word Incarnate (cf. John 1:1-3, 14). Let us extol and praise His Name on account of the sacraments and mysteries wrought among His people; let us kiss the earth which He sanctifies by His Real Presence.” 

At these words of most holy Mary, the three kings humiliated themselves anew, adoring the Infant Jesus; they acknowledged the great blessings of living in the time when the Sun of justice was arising in order to illumine the darkness (cf. Mal. 4:2). Thereupon they spoke to Saint Joseph, congratulating him and extolling his good fortune in being chosen as the spouse of the Mother of God; and they expressed wonder and compassion at the great poverty, beneath which were hidden the greatest mysteries of Heaven and earth. In this intercourse they consumed three hours, and then the kings asked permission of most holy Mary to go to the city in order to seek a lodging, as they could find no room for themselves in the cave. Some people had accompanied them; but the Magi alone participated in the light and the grace of this visit. The others took notice merely of what passed exteriorly, and witnessed only the destitute and neglected condition of the Mother and Her husband. Though wondering at the strange event, they perceived nothing of its mystery. The Magi took leave and departed, while most holy Mary and Joseph, being again alone with their Child, glorified His Majesty with new songs of praise, because His Name was beginning to be known and adored among the Gentiles (cf. Ps. 85:9)…

Holy Conversation Amongst Themselves 

From the grotto of the Nativity, into which the three Kings had entered directly on their way to Jerusalem, they betook themselves to a lodging inside of the town of Bethlehem. They retired to a room where, in an abundance of affectionate tears and aspirations, they spent the greater part of the night, speaking of what they had seen, of the feelings and affections aroused in each, and of what each had noticed for himself in the Divine Child and His Mother. During this conference they were more and more inflamed with divine love, amazed at the majesty and divine effulgence of the Infant Jesus; at the prudence, modesty and reserve of His Mother; at the holiness of Her spouse Joseph, and the poverty of all three; at the humbleness of the place, where the Lord of Heaven and earth had wished to be born. The devout kings felt a divine fire, which flamed up in their hearts, and, not being able to restrain themselves, they broke out into exclamations of sweet affection and acts of great reverence and love. “What is this that we feel?” they said. “What influence of this great King is it that moves us to such desires and affections? After this, how shall we converse with men? What can we do, who have been instructed in such new, hidden and supernatural mysteries? O greatness of His Omnipotence unknown to men and concealed beneath so much poverty! O humility unimaginable for mortals! Would that all be drawn to it, in order that they may not be deprived of such happiness!”

During these divine colloquies the Magi remembered the dire destitution of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in their cave, and they resolved immediately to send them some gifts in order to show their affection and to satisfy their desire of serving them, since they could not do anything else for them. They sent through their servants many of the presents, which they had already set aside for them, and others which they could procure. Most holy Mary and Joseph received these gifts with humble acknowledgment and they made a return not of empty-worded thanks, as other men are apt to make, but many efficacious blessings for the spiritual consolation of the three Kings. These gifts enabled our great Queen to prepare for Her ordinary guests, the poor, an abundant repast; for the needy ones were accustomed to receive alms from Her, and, attracted still more by Her sweet words, were wont to come and visit Her. The Kings went to rest full of incomparable joy in the Lord; and in their sleep the angels advised them as to their journey homeward.

Second Encounter, Bestowal of the Gifts 

On the following day at dawn they returned to the cave of the Nativity in order to offer to the heavenly King the special gifts which they had provided. Arriving they prostrated themselves anew in profound humility; and opening their treasures, as Scripture relates, they offered Him gold, incense and myrrh (cf. Matt 2:11). They consulted the heavenly Mother in regard to many mysteries and practices of faith, and concerning matters pertaining to their consciences and to the government of their countries; for they wished to return well instructed and capable of directing themselves to holiness and perfection in their daily life. The great Lady heard them with exceeding pleasure and She conferred interiorly with the Divine Infant concerning all that they had asked, in order to answer and properly to instruct these sons of the new Law. As a Teacher and an instrument of divine wisdom, She answered all their questions, giving them such high precepts of sanctity that they could scarcely part from Her on account of the sweetness and attraction of Her words. However, an angel of the Lord appeared to them, reminding them of the necessity and of the will of the Lord that they should return to their country. No wonder that Her words should so deeply affect these Kings; for all Her words were inspired by the Holy Spirit and full of infused science regarding all that they had inquired and many other matters.

The heavenly Mother received the gifts of the Kings and in their name offered them to the Infant Jesus. His Majesty showed by signs of highest pleasure, that He accepted their gifts: they themselves became aware of the exalted and heavenly blessings with which He repaid them more than a hundredfold (cf. Matt. 19:29). According to the custom of their country, they also offered to the heavenly Princess some gems of great value; but because these gifts had no mysterious signification and referred not to Jesus, She returned them to the Kings, reserving only the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. In order to send them away more rejoiced, She gave them some of the clothes in which She had wrapped the Infant God; for She neither had nor could have had any greater visible pledges of esteem with which to enrich them at their departure. The three Kings received these relics with such reverence and esteem that they encased them in gold and precious stones in order to keep them ever after. As a proof of their value these relics spread about such a copious fragrance that they revealed their presence a league in circumference. However, only those who believed in the coming of God into the world were able to perceive it; while the incredulous perceived none of the fragrance emitted by the relics. In their own countries the Magi performed great miracles with these relics.

Departure and Legacy

The holy Kings also offered their property and possession to the Mother of the sweetest Jesus, or, if She did not wish to accept of them and preferred to live in this place, where her most holy Son had been born, they would build Her a house, wherein She could live more comfortably. The most prudent Mother thanked them for their offers without accepting them. On taking leave of Her, the three Kings besought Her from their inmost hearts not to forget them, which She promised and fulfilled; in the same way they spoke to Saint Joseph. With the blessing of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, they departed, so moved by tenderest affection that it seemed to them they had left their hearts all melted into sighs and tears in that place. They chose another way for their return journey, in order not to meet Herod in Jerusalem; for thus they had been instructed by the angel on the preceding night (cf. Matt. 2:12). On their departure from Bethlehem, the same or a similar star appeared in order to guide them home, conducting them on their new route to the place where they had first met, whence each one separated to reach his own country.

For the rest of their lives these most fortunate Kings lived up to their divine vocation as true disciples of the Mistress of holiness, governing both their souls and the people of their states according to Her teaching. By the example of their lives and the knowledge of the Messias, which they spread about, they converted a great number of souls to the belief in the true God and to the way of salvation. Finally, full of days and merits, they closed their careers in sanctity and justice, having been favored both in life and in death by the Mother of mercy. After dismissing the Kings, the heavenly Queen and Saint Joseph spent their time in new canticles of praise of the wonders of the Most High, conferring them with the sayings of the Scriptures and the prophecies of the Patriarchs, which they saw fulfilled one after another in the Infant Jesus. But the most prudent Mother, who profoundly penetrated into the deepest meaning of these high sacraments, remembered them all and treasured them up in Her bosom (cf. Luke 2:19). The holy angels, who were witnesses of these holy mysteries, congratulated their Queen, that Her most holy Son had been manifested and that His Majesty had been adored by men; and they sang to Him new canticles, magnifying His mercies wrought upon mankind…

Postscript: Concerning the gifts offered by the Magi, Mary and Joseph decided to divide them into three parts: one destined for the temple of Jerusalem, namely the incense and myrrh, as well as part of the gold; another part as offering to the priest, who had circumcised the Child, in order that he might use it for himself and for the synagogue or oratory in Bethlehem, and the third part for distribution among the poor. This resolve they executed with generous and fervent affection.

Knowing Christ

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What did mankind know about Christ before God sent the Angel Gabriel to a Virgin bethrothed to a man named Joseph, of the tribe of David?

Men knew that the Christ would come from the nation that came from Abraham, that He would be desired by all men, and that by Him all men would receive a blessing. They knew He would be a King of an eternal kingdom. They knew about a reign of peace and the forgiveness of sins. However, this was to see Christ from the outside. It was like a child at the store-front window looking in but unable to enter and purchase to his heart’s content.But Mary entered the fullness of the Mystery of Christ at the very moment He entered the world. For just as the dawn is a perfect light, yet seen imperfectly by people in a forest, so Mary’s Knowledge of Christ was perfect, though barely seen by the rest of men. This is clearly revealed to us in the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel salutes Mary “full of grace”, using words to say that She is singled out from all others. His address is full of solemnity, so that realizing the import of the moment, Mary wonders at the greeting, pondering something beyond the reach of mortal men.

Proceeding thus in the 3 stages described in Luke 1:28 ff, the Angel calls Mary by name to calm Her mind and direct it to the bearing of a child, who would be the son of David and King of an eternal Kingdom. He thus shows that God has chosen Mary to be the Mother of the Messias, the Hope of Abraham and the fulfillment of the promises made to David. Understanding now the meaning of “full of grace”, Mary asks “How shall this be done since I know not man?”

To answer, Gabriel makes the first formal announcement of the Mystery of the Holy Trinity: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee, and the Holy that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Hearing this, Mary’s soul recognizes the graces of Her entire life, for the God who always guided Her has declared Himself to Her and there can be no doubt about what all this means. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word.” The Angel left Her, and God became Her son.

At this moment, Mary knows who Christ is: “You are Christ, my Son, the offspring of Abraham, the Son of David, the Son of Man. And yet You are the living and true Son of God come among men.” Though Mary cannot see Him, nor even feel Him in Her womb, She knows Him in the fullness of His Divinity and in the truth of His Humanity.

In a similar way, we move to the perfect knowledge of Christ in the Hail Mary. “Full of Grace” we see God’s plan. “Blessed art thou among women” we see the Immaculate Conception. “The fruit of thy womb Jesus” we see the offspring of Abraham, son of David, Messias, Redeemer. “Mother of God”, we see the Divinity. In saying “pray for us sinners” we mean “let it be done unto me according to thy will” and freely enter this holy mystery bringing the grace of the Redeemer into the world around us. Let us say this prayer, not merely as children echoing unknown words, but as those who have fully entered the Mystery of Christ. Ave Maria!

Merry Christmas!

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Tonight is born in the city of David, Christ the Lord, the King of Heaven and the Prince of Peace. He who the world cannot contain because he is God, the Creator of the Universe, was placed in a lowly manager, dependent on the love of two parents.  This is the great humility of our God. He who has the power to vanquish death allowed himself to be born into this world as one of us, making him subject to death, which He endured for our sake. He was born to die. This little Baby had always before his mind, from the first moment of his conception, His mission – to save mankind from the fires of hell. For this was He born and this should be the prime subject of our meditation this Christmas season. From myself, I wish all my readers & their loved ones a blessed, holy & merry Christmas!

A beautiful sermon from St. Bonaventure:

Our Savior, dearly beloved, is born today; let us rejoice. It is not right to be sad today, the natal day of Life–He Who has dispelled the fear of mortality and brought us to the joy of promised eternity. Let no man be cut off from a share in this rejoicing. The cause of our joy is common to every man, because our Lord, the destoryer of sin and death, Who finds none guiltless, comes to free all. Let the holy exult, he draws near his palm; let the sinner rejoice, he is invited to pardon; let the Gentile be quickened, he is called to life. For the Son of God, in the fulness of that time which the unsearchable height of Divine Wisdom decreed, assumed human nature to reconcile it with its Author, and conquer the devil, the inventor of death, through that flesh which he had conquered.

In this conflict, which He joined for our sake, Our Lord entered the field of battle with a great and wonderful fairness. Although He was the almighty Lord, He met our bitter enemy not with the strength of His majesty, but with the weakness of our flesh. He brought against him the self-same form as ours; the self-same nature as our nature–but in him, without sin. Not of this Nativity were written the words applied to all other men: Not one is free from defilement, no, not the child whose life on earth is but one day. Into this singular birth passed none of the concupiscences of the flesh, nor followed any consequences of the law of sin. A Virgin of the royal stem of David is chosen, and when she was to become pregnant with the Sacred Child, Who was both God and Man, she conceived Him in her soul before she conceived Him in her body. Lest the stupendous mystery might make her afraid, since she had no knowledge of the Divine plan, she learned by the message of an Angel what was to be done in her by the Holy Ghost. She believed she would be the Mother of God, yet remain a virgin inviolate.

Therefore, dearly beloved, let us give thanks to God the Father, through His Son in the Holy Ghost, Who for His exceeding charity, wherewith he loved us, hath had mercy on us, and even when we were dead in sins hath quickened us together in Christ, that in Him we might be a new creature and a new handiwork. Therefore, let us put off the old man with his works, and having become sharers in the Sonship of Christ, renounce the deeds of the flesh. Learn, O Christian, how great is your dignity! You have been made a partaker in the divine nature. Scorn to return to your former vileness through an evil way of life. Remember of Whose body you are a member, and Who is its head. Remember that you have been snatched from the power of darkness, and transported into light and the kingdom of God.

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Christmas Eve Prayer
from the Liturgical Year, 1910

O Divine Infant! we, too, must needs join our voices with those of the Angels, and sing with them: Glory be to God! and Peace to men! We cannot restrain our tears at hearing this history of Thy Birth. We have followed Thee in Thy journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem; we have kept close to Mary and Joseph on the whole journey; we have kept sleepless watch during this holy Night, waiting Thy coming. Praise be to Thee, sweetest Jesus, for Thy mercy! and love from all hearts, for Thy tender love of us! Our eyes are riveted on that dear Crib, for our Salvation is there; and there we recognise Thee as the Messias foretold in those sublime Prophecies, which Thy Spouse the Church has been repeating to us, in her solemn prayers of this Night. Thou art the Mighty God — the Prince of Peace — the Spouse of our souls — our Peace — our Saviour — our Bread of Life. And now, what shall we offer thee? A good Will?

Ah! dear Lord! Thou must form it within us; Thou must increase it, if Thou hast already given it; that thus, we may become Thy Brethren by grace, as we already are by the human nature Thou hast assumed. But, O Incarnate Word! this Mystery of Thy becoming Man, works within us a still higher grace: — it makes us, as Thy Apostle tells us, partakers of that divine nature, which is inseparable with Thee in the midst of all Thy humiliations. Thou hast made us less than the Angels, in the scale of creation; but, in Thy Incarnation, Thou hast made us Heirs of God, and Joint-Heirs with Thine own divine Self! Never permit us, through our own weaknesses and sins, to degenerate from this wonderful gift, whereby Thy Incarnation exalted us, and oh! dear Jesus, to what a height! Amen.

50 Years of the New Mass: The Development of the Roman Missal (2)

 

Half a century ago, Pope Paul VI imposed a reform of the Mass that can be called “the Mass of Vatican II.” It was immediately criticized by two cardinals, and the opposition against it has not weakened. This sad anniversary is an opportunity to trace its history.

 

Before considering the liturgical reform of Paul VI and the new Mass, it is appropriate to go through the history of the Roman missal, because this reform claims to be the homogeneous development of the past. Which is absolutely debatable. The historical distance makes it easy to see.

The first part of this historical overview of the development of the Roman missal goes back to the eleventh century. A new decisive stage was the work of the Council of Trent and Pope St. Pius V, which we present in this second part.

From the 12th to 16th Centuries

The missal of the Roman Curia was well established in the eleventh century. Starting with the twelfth century, a spirit of “reform” was instituted to try to reduce the multiplication of compositions and to restrict certain customs, especially in the Divine Office. This movement could be seen in the religious orders – Carthusian, Citeaux, Premonstratensians – as well as with the secular. The liturgical reform of Cîteaux was the most notable. The aim of each Order was unification. This resulted in advancing the harmonization of the liturgy throughout the Roman world.

In the thirteenth century there were still several forms of the Roman missal in Rome itself: that of the Lateran, the Liberian Basilica, St. Mary Major, and others. It must be emphasized that the differences were very small. But finally the missal of the Curia would be the one that prevailed. And around 1230 the state of the Roman missal would be at the point of no longer being modified.

The discussions around transubstantiation, including the condemnation of the errors of Peter Abelard (1079-1142), and the expansion of the Eucharistic cult led to the elevation of the host—first in Paris at the beginning of the thirteenth century—then that of the chalice. The practice became widespread by the end of the same century. It was at this time that St. Thomas Aquinas composed the Office and the Mass of the Blessed Sacrament.

Innocent III (1198-1216) published an Ordo missae, the ordinary papal Mass, incorporating a ceremonial, i.e., a description of the gestures and movements of all the ministers. From that point on the Papal Chapel became the model and reference. And the widely distributed Curia books became the norm.

The first printed Roman missal is dated December 6, 1474. It was made in Milan. It is an almost identical reproduction of the missal published under Nicholas III in 1277. The printing press would be a new, stabilizing element of the Curia missal, and would allow an even wider diffusion.

However, certain liturgical abuses were due to ignorance, but were also affected by the influence of the Protestant Reformation, which introduced a spirit of free examination even into the remaining faithful clergy, would require a disciplinary clarification. This would be the role of the Council of Trent (1545-1563).

This council, which had set itself the goal of fighting against the Protestant heresy and which promulgated numerous dogmatic decrees, also issued important disciplinary decrees.

The dogmatic decrees of September 17, 1562 during the 22nd session, on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to which is associated the decree On the Index of Books; on the Catechism, Breviary, and Missal, of the 25th session (December 4, 1563), are at the origin of the Tridentine codification of the liturgy.

The Council of Trent had prepared the revision of the liturgical books, but could not finish the work, not having the necessary documents on the spot. This is why it entrusted the pope with the accomplishment of this task. The solemnity of this assembly, the reaffirmation of the great dogmas on the sacrament of the Eucharist and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, would give a particular brilliance to this revision.

The work did not consist in composing a “new missal,” as did the authors of Paul VI’s missal, under the pretext of recovering ancient forms that had disappeared, by an “antiquarianism in liturgical matters” denounced by Pius XII in Mediator Dei ( 1947). The work of St. Pius V consisted in returning to tradition by establishing the best possible edition of the Roman missal by comparing the sources. He contented himself with suppressing some votive Masses, and restoring the Sunday celebration which was tending to be pushed aside in favor of the feast days. By the way, this restoration of the Sunday celebration would be resumed by the reform of St. Pius X.

The Dominican pope made the missal he published mandatory in all churches that could not prove a 200 year existence for their particular liturgies. Most bishops and chapters accepted the Tridentine Missal, even though they could establish the sufficient antiquity of their own texts and local liturgical usages. The “Saint Pius V” Missal thus became one of general usage. Many particular rites remained however, a source of future confusion. The missal was published in 1570.

This revision also specified the rubrics describing all the ceremonies to be performed during the Mass. This clarification was entrusted to the Congregation of Rites, who became the guardian of the missal, and gave valuable answers and many clarifications for four centuries. This codification of the rubrics, which remains the greatest contribution of the Tridentine missal, would contribute to the romanization of the entire Latin liturgy.

Finally, the diffusion of textbooks explaining the liturgical gestures to be used, based on the practice of the Curia, spread the Roman spirit throughout the Latin world.

The work of the Council of Trent was completed with the promulgation of the revisions of all the liturgical books between 1568 and 1614 – the breviary, the missal, the Martyrology, the pontifical, the bishops’ ceremonial and ritual, all Roman – which offered an easy access to the liturgical law under all its forms.

Ember Days

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Though ignored by many in the Roman Church today, this week is traditionally set aside in the year for honoring the Ember Days.

Starting Wednesday, December 18, and continuing on Friday (December 20) and Saturday (December 21), the Roman Church celebrates the Ember Days following the Feast of the Holy Cross. Though the contemporary Church no longer honors these days, traditionally they were designated as days of fasting and abstinence. Thankfully, many traditional Catholics, including those who attend chapels ministered by the priests of the Society of Saint Pius X, continue to honor these days.

History of the Ember Days

The Ember Days, which were historically kept four times during the liturgical year, have a venerable history. Here is the explanation from the 1917 Catholic Encyclopedia.

The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class. At the beginning of the time for seeding and harvesting religious ceremonies were performed to implore the help of their deities: in June for a bountiful harvest, in September for a rich vintage, and in December for the seeding; hence their feriae sementivae, feriae messis, and feri vindimiales. The Church, when converting heathen nations, has always tried to sanctify any practices which could be utilized for a good purpose. At first the Church in Rome had fasts in June, September, and December; the exact days were not fixed but were announced by the priests. The “Liber Pontificalis” ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week–these were formerly given only at Easter. Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine; into Gaul and Germany by the Carlovingians. Spain adopted them with the Roman Liturgy in the eleventh century. They were introduced by St. Charles Borromeo into Milan. The Eastern Church does not know them. The present Roman Missal, in the formulary for the Ember days, retains in part the old practice of lessons from Scripture in addition to the ordinary two: for the Wednesdays three, for the Saturdays six, and seven for the Saturday in December. Some of these lessons contain promises of a bountiful harvest for those that serve God.

Keeping with Tradition

Catholics who have access to the traditional liturgy outside of Sundays should make a special point to assist at Mass on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. In addition to keeping the fasting and abstinence prescriptions on these days, the faithful should be attentive to the special collects and readings that are assigned on these days. Here, for instance, are the Collects from Wednesday, which properly capture the spirit of these days.

May our frailty, we beseech Thee, O Lord, find support in the help of Thy mercy; so that what is marred by its own nature may be restored by Thy grace.

O Lord, we beseech Thee, grant to Thy praying household that, as they fast from bodily food, they may also abstain mentally from sin.

The Promise of Our Lady of Guadalupe

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As a good and solicitous mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary protects her children.

The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is observed in the United States of America on December 12th, commemorating as a third class feast the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to Juan Diego in December 1531 and the subsequent miracle of her image being impressed upon his tilma (a rough cloak woven from vegetable fibers).

This miraculous image spoke to the Aztecs in their symbolic—or glyphic—language on many levels. But primarily the imagery showed who the Lady of Tepeyac was and her power exemplified by being “clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars.” This important symbolism was further confirmed by the name she gave to Juan Diego’s in his Nahuatl tongue, “Coatlaxopeuh“—rendered in Spanish as “Guadalupe“—meaning “the one who crushes the serpent“—here not just in reference the Devil, but a specific Aztecan deity.

The results of this singular miracle was nothing less than miraculous itself as the native Indians of Mexico began to convert to the One, True Catholic Faith by the millions. Previously these varied peoples had suffered under the scourge of the Aztec religion, one of the bloodiest forms of paganism known to mankind (for example, the human sacrifice of over 10,000 in a single day to dedicate a new temple).

Remarking on the tilma‘s imagery, Our Lady radiates peace and serenity with her consoling demeanor and posture, yet with a calm strength she overwhelms the violent and bloodthirsty gods of the Aztecs, vividly demonstrated by her blocking out the sun god and standing upon the moon god, the pagan religion’s two most powerful deities.

The solicitude expressed on the face of Our Lady of Guadalupe for the souls of all Americans (whether they reside in the regions of the North, Central or South)—thus the appropriateness of her title as “Empress of the Americas” is perhaps even more profoundly comprehended when we consider her consoling words to Juan Diego summarized as: “Trust in me: I am your mother“.


“I am your mother”

The following words of Our Lady of Guadalupe have been extracted from the Nican Mopohua, a 16th century historical account of the apparitions and miraculous event written in Nahuatl by Antonio Valeriano. These words of the Blessed Virgin Mary were spoken to Juan Diego over the course of several days. The historical context has been omitted so the reader may concentrate on Holy Mother’s consoling message of solicitude.

First apparition; December 9

Juanito, dearest Juan Diego.

Juanito, my dearest son, where are you going?

Know and understand well, you my most humble son, that I am the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of the True God for whom we live, of the Creator of all things, Lord of heaven and the earth. I wish that a temple be erected here quickly, so I may therein exhibit and give all my love, compassion, help, and protection, because I am your merciful mother, to you, and to all the inhabitants on this land and all the rest who love me, invoke and confide in me; listen there to their lamentations, and remedy all their miseries, afflictions and sorrows. And to accomplish what my clemency pretends, go to the palace of the bishop of Mexico, and you will say to him that I manifest my great desire, that here on this plain a temple be built to me; you will accurately relate all you have seen and admired, and what you have heard. Be assured that I will be most grateful and will reward you, because I will make you happy and worthy of recompense for the effort and fatigue in what you will obtain of what I have entrusted. Behold, you have heard my mandate, my humble son; go and put forth all your effort.”

Second apparition; December 9

Hark, my little son, you must understand that I have many servants and messengers, to whom I must entrust the delivery of my message, and carry my wish, but it is of precise detail that you yourself solicit and assist and that through your mediation my wish be complied. I earnestly implore, my son the least, and with sternness I command that you again go tomorrow and see the bishop. You go in my name, and make known my wish in its entirety that he has to start the erection of a temple which I ask of him. And again tell him that I, in person, the ever-virgin Holy Mary, Mother of God, sent you.”

Fourth apparition; December 12

Hear me and understand well, my little son, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. Be assured that he is now cured.

Climb, my dear son, to the top of the hill; there where you saw me and I gave you orders, you will find different flowers. Cut them, gather them, assemble them, then come and bring them before my presence.

My dear little son, this diversity of roses is the proof and the sign which you will take to the bishop. You will tell him in my name that he will see in them my wish and that he will have to comply to it. You are my ambassador, most worthy of all confidence. Rigorously I command you that only before the presence of the bishop will you unfold your mantle and disclose what you are carrying. You will relate all and well; you will tell that I ordered you to climb to the hilltop, to go and cut flowers; and all that you saw and admired, so you can induce the prelate to give his support, with the aim that a temple be built and erected as I have asked.”

50 Years of the New Mass: The Making of the Roman Missal (1)

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Half a century ago, Pope Paul VI imposed a liturgical reform on the whole Church in the name of the Council that had just ended. Thus was born the mass of Vatican II. It was immediately rejected by two cardinals and since then the opposition against it has not weakened. This sad anniversary is an opportunity to trace its story.

Before considering the liturgical reform of Paul VI and the new Mass, it is necessary to recount the history of the Roman missal, since this reform claims to be a continuation of the past. The historical perspective will help with understanding the inanity of this claim.

The development of the Roman missal was spread over several centuries. Even if the essential elements, required for the accomplishment of the holy sacrifice of the Mass have always been present, they have been progressively enshrined in rites which make it possible to understand them and to grasp their deep meaning.

The First Three Centuries

The texts of the New Testament recount the institution of the Holy Eucharist on the evening of Holy Thursday. It is the paschal meal, the new Passover, which establishes the new covenant in the precious Blood of Christ. The day chosen to renew it is Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. The Didache, from the end of the first century, speaks of the “Lord’s Sunday,” and St. Justin attests to it in the second century.

The evangelical texts also mention the “breaking of bread” which translates an essential element of this new worship, the fulfillment of the Lord’s command: “Do this in memory of me.” The Book of the Acts of the Apostles shows this ceremony being performed in private homes: “on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread” (Acts 20:7).

The first buildings reserved for worship appeared fairly quickly, as early as the second century. The oldest church was found at Doura-Europos on the Euphrates; it is dated at about 232. In Rome, we have to wait until the beginning of the third century to find documentary traces of Christian religious buildings. But apart from the First Apology by St. Justin Martyr (died 165), this period provides no details on the unfolding of Christian worship or the prayers employed. Here is a well-known passage of the holy apologist:

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the congregation assents, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.”

Fourth to Sixth Centuries

The fourth century sees the end of persecution. Now authorized, Christianity can finally deploy its public worship in buildings that are reserved for it: these are the first basilicas. We have quite a few documents from this period on the Eucharistic celebration. According to this literature, it appears that the oldest and only anaphor used in Rome was the Roman canon. So, from that time there was unity in the Roman Eucharistic liturgy.

The mass began with a preparation for sacrifice with readings, psalms, singing of hymns, and a homily at which the catechumens were present. It was followed by the celebration reserved for the faithful with the offertory, the singing of the Sanctus, the canon, the fraction, and communion. The Introït was added in the 6th century. The Kyrie eleison was borrowed from the Greek liturgy as early as the fourth century. At the same time, the Gloria went from the Divine Office—the recitation of the Psalms—to the Mass. From the sixth century on, it is attested that in Rome there were only two readings: the epistle and the gospel.

The preface before the canon is very old, prior to the fourth century; it is followed by the Sanctus. The ceremony of the fracture of the host took place at the end of the canon, during the singing of the Agnus Dei. The Pater which followed it was put in by St. Gregory the Great as the conclusion of the canon, according to Greek custom. The Libera nos after the Pater is known from all the liturgies. The kiss of peace followed the fracture. Communion was made with consecrated bread and chalice, without being sure of the exact mode employed. After the blessing the deacon sang the Ite missa est to dismiss the faithful.

From the Sixth to the Eleventh Century

From St. Gregory the Great, pope from 590 to 604, to St. Gregory VII (1073-1085), an evolution occurred which consisted essentially in the introduction of elements borrowed from the Frankish liturgy. Gaul had received the faith of Rome as well as its liturgy. But a certain degree of Frankification of the Roman liturgy led to the adoption by the Roman missal of particular traditions proper to the Frankish domain.

Charlemagne and his scholars were largely responsible for this hybridization. While they imposed the Roman usages in the Frankish kingdom, the local contributions were numerous. At that time, Gregorian chant flourished.

The Gregorian reform undertaken by St. Leo IX (1002-1054) and completed by Urban II (1088-1099), under the influence of popes of Germanic origin, introduced the Roman-Frankish books to Rome itself, while adding Roman elements. The centralization that resulted from the Gregorian reform definitely consolidated the Roman liturgy thus enriched.

The liturgical books of the 13th century, ancestors of the Tridentine books, are derived from this double movement of hybridization: the introduction of Frankish elements in the Roman Carolingian period, and the addition of Roman elements in the Romano-Frank, during the Gregorian reform.

What emerges from the examination of the available liturgical manuscripts is the great general resemblance of these rites to the Tridentine Rite. There are however many secondary rites, which vary according to the place. But there is always a regular concern for liturgical unity. It results from the duty to look after orthodoxy, but also from the desire to avoid a proliferation that could quickly turn into anarchy.

Divine Love

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On the Great Commandment of Divine Love
by Richard Challoner, 1807

Consider first, those words of the divine law, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This (says the Lord) is the greatest, and the first commandment,’ Matt. xxii. 39. Yes, my soul, it is the greatest of all the commandments of God, and that which he takes most of all to heart, since He has made our souls to His own image and likeness, to this very end that we should love Him, and should dedicate our whole being to His divine love, for all the time of our pilgrimage here upon earth, that so we might come to be happily united to Him in an eternal band of love in his heavenly kingdom. O the excellent dignity of this divine commandment, which tends directly and immediately to raise our souls above this earth, and above the heaven of heavens, and the whole created universe, and to bring them to the God that made heaven and earth, and to unite them to Him by a most perfect love, both for time and eternity.

Consider 2ndly, the incomprehensible goodness of God is manifested to us in this commandment, in His insisting so much upon our loving Him, and upon our tending with all our power to a union with Him. Is then our love of any consequence to Him? Or can we add any thing to His happiness, by loving Him? Or will He lose any thing, if we refuse Him our love? And what is there in us poor little ants, if compared to His infinite majesty, that He should concern himself whether we love Him or not? Would it not be an unspeakable favour to us, that He should even suffer us, considering who He is, and who we are, to aspire so high as to pretend to His love? But that this great God should make it a commandment–and the very first and principal of all His commandments–that we should love Him, and love Him with our whole heart; that He should insist upon our entering into this league of eternal friendship with Him, promising all happiness for eternity upon our compliance, and threatening us with most dreadful and eternal evils if we love Him not; ’tis this that shows forth and sets in so wonderful a light the goodness of our God and His love for us that we should be not only most wretched, insensible, and ungrateful beyond expression, but even in some sense worse than devils, if we should refuse Him our love.

Consider 3rdly, the excellence of this commandment of divine love, with regard to the fruits it brings to our souls. Divine love is the queen of virtues. She never comes alone, but brings all other virtues along with her; she gives life to them all; even faith and hope are dead when she is not in their company. She brings with her the remission of all our sins; she makes us the friends and favourites of the Most High; she makes us His children, His spouses, His temples she is the ‘band of all perfection.’ O my soul, how glorious it is, how happy, how delightful, to be thus united to thy God by a strict band of friendship and love! O embrace then, with all thy powers, this great commandment, which, by obliging thee to give thy whole self up to the love of God, brings down thy God with all his treasures to thee.

Conclude to make it henceforward the business of thy life to learn this great lesson of loving God; and as no one but God Himself can effectually teach thee so sublime and so divine a science, continually beg of Him to introduce thee into His school, which He holds in thy interior, and there to be thy master.

On Loving the Lord Our God Above All Things

Consider first, the import of these words, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God,’ and thou shalt find in them innumerable motives to dedicate thyself to divine love. For who is this thou art here commanded to love? THE LORD, that is, the eternal, self-existent, incomprehensible, and infinite Being of beings, who alone properly is, and who is being itself. For all this is implied in that ineffable name, which is here rendered THE LORD. ‘I am, who am,’ saith He, Exod. iii. 14. And ‘He who is hath sent me to you’–THE LORD, that is, the creator, and absolute master of the whole universe, of all things visible and in visible; infinitely powerful, infinitely wise, infinitely good, infinitely beautiful: the one true sovereign good, infinite in all perfections, goodness, beauty, perfection, and truth itself, compared with whom all things else are just nothing at all. See, my soul, how many motives thou hast to love this great Lord, who comprises in Himself all that is lovely and charming, who is the immense ocean of all good.

Consider 2ndly, the motives of divine love implied in those words, thy God; forasmuch as they signify that this Lord of infinite majesty is also pleased to be thine. Yes, He is thy God, He is thy first beginning and thy last end, He is thy maker, who has made thee for Himself; and who many ways daily communicates Himself to thee; He is thy father, thy spouse, thy pastor, thy keeper, thy constant benefactor, thy ever faithful friend, thy ancient and most disinterested lover, thy sovereign good, and the source of all thy good, for time and eternity. And whereas thou wast fallen from Him and from His love by sin, He has been pleased to give himself to thee, in a manner still more enduring, by sending His own Son to be thy saviour and redeemer. O reflect, my soul, on what the Son of God has done and has suffered for the love of thee. From the first moment of His conception, thou wast always in his heart. His love for thee brought Him down from His heavenly throne, to take flesh and blood in the womb of the Virgin; His love for thee made Him offer up His flesh and blood upon the altar of the cross, a sacrifice for thy sins; His love for thee made Him bequeath this same flesh and blood in an admirable sacrament, to unite thee to Himself for eternity. And shall not all this oblige thee to love Him, and to love Him with thy whole heart?

Consider 3rdly, that this love which we owe to our God, both as infinitely good in Himself and as infinitely good to us, must be a love of preference, that is, we must love Him above all things whatsoever. For he that loves his worldly honour, his interest, his pleasure, his own will, the gratifying his humours and passions, or the pleasing of any person, how near or dear soever, more than his God, is not worthy of God; but is guilty of high treason against Him, and of a kind of idolatry, in preferring the creature before the creator, who is blessed for evermore. And not only he that prefers any creature before God, but he that even offers to put himself, his own life, his dearest affections, or any other thing created, or even the whole creation in balance with his God, so as to love them as much as God, is in like manner unworthy of God, and offers him the greatest outrage imaginable; because the whole universe compared with God is a mere nothing, and therefore cannot, without an intolerable injury, be put in balance with Him. Ah what must I then think of myself, when I have so often preferred empty toys, mere vanities, and lying follies before the living God.

Conclude henceforward, at least, to love the Lord thy God above all things, and nothing else with Him, but what thou lovest for His sake, and with relation to Him. Cry out with St. Michael, Quis ut Deus? Who is like to God? And who but He deserves our heart?

On Loving God With Our Whole Heart

Consider first, that the first sacrifice which divine love calls for by this great commandment is that of our heart. My son, ‘give me thy heart,’ says the wisdom of God, Prov. xxiii. 26. This sacrifice must be of the whole heart, and in the nature of a holocaust, that is, of a sacrifice in which the whole victim is given to God without reserve, being first slain and then laid upon the altar of God, and there consumed with fire; even with that fire which originally came from heaven, Levit. ix. 24, and which was commanded to be kept always burning upon God’s altar. Wherefore, in this mystical sacrifice of love, this heart of ours, in order to be made a holocaust, should also first be slain, that is, should first die to itself; and to all its disorderly affections, by mortification and self-denial, and so be laid on God’s altar, to be wholly dedicated and consecrated to Him; and to evaporate, as it were, to Him in the flames of divine love, which is the true fire that comes down from heaven to carry us up thither, and which ought always to be kept burning in the mystical temple of God in our souls.

Consider 2ndly, how just, how reasonable, how necessary it is that we should love our God with our whole heart, so as to give no part of it away from Him, since it belongs wholly to Him by all manner of titles. He made our heart for Himself; to be the eternal seat and the living temple of His love, and He has given it a certain longing after Him, together with an immense capacity of love, which nothing less than God can fill or satisfy. He has shed His own most precious blood to purchase our heart, to cleanse it for Himself; and to fill it with His love. It has been solemnly dedicated, sanctified, and consecrated to Him at our baptism. He has sent His divine Spirit to take possession of it, to make it His kingdom, and to establish His throne in it. It must then be a most crying injustice if we offer to alienate any part of our heart from Him who claims it all upon so many titles. O Christians! let us give Him what is His without reserve; let us divert no part of this small heart of ours away from the immense Lord of heaven and earth; it would be a sacrilege to attempt it.

Consider 3rdly, that the love of God will not admit a divided heart, He will not suffer a rival in His kingdom, a partner in His throne, or an idol in His temple. Our God is a jealous God, and therefore, if we follow any other lovers, we lose His love and drive Him away from us. Alas! my soul, who is this that thou would’st associate with God in thy heart? Is it thy worldly pride, thy carnal affections, thy sensual inclinations? Assure thyself this love cannot endure such company as this. Or is it some favourite creature, which thou art unwilling to dislodge from the place it has occupied in thy heart? Ah! the bed is too narrow, it will not hold two, thou must either part with the creature or the creator. He loves God too little who loves anything else with him, which he does not love in Him for His sake, and with subordination to the love of Him.

Conclude to love thy friend in God, and thy enemy for God’s sake, and all such things as thou mayest lawfully love, according to the measure and rule prescribed by divine love; and thus no love of the creature will take off any part of thy heart from the love of the creator–thus thou shalt love Him with thy whole heart.

Act of Love

O my God, I love Thee above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because Thou are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of Thee. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

Indulgence of 3 years. Raccolta 36.