Friday, December 26, 2014

The Amazing Online Breviary at

Divinum Officium ( is absolutely the best website I have ever seen for the traditional Breviary. Hard-to-use design makes my hackles rise, but this site is so well done, easy to use, and complete that even I can't find fault with it. I think it's a treasure.

The default language option is English, which brings up Latin and English side-by-side. I began to be curious about why the three language options in a pull-down menu at the site used to be Latin, English, and Magyar.  Only recently did I discover that this beautifully organized, option rich, and brilliant work was developed and maintained originally by a Mr. Lazlo Kiss. Kiss was a computer engineer who was born in Budapest, Hungary. That explains the Magyar option. 

During Mr. Kiss' lifetime, there was no information about him or the origins of the site to be found on the site. But, after Mr. Kiss's sudden death in 2011, the site was taken over, maintained, and expanded  under the auspices of "The Divinum Officum Project," by a diocesan priest and three software engineers. Since then, they added information to the bottom of the page that describes the site's origins and makes it clear what a prodigious amount of effort Mr. Kiss single-handedly put into the site. When he retired, according to the brief biography now available, Mr. Kiss dedicated his time to provide "free access to many different versions of the Divine Office (or breviary), the traditional daily prayer book of the Roman Catholic Church."

Left: Italiano and Deutsch have been added to the language list.  
One thing that amazes me is that you don't just have to settle for one version of the Office.  Options range from "pre Trident Monastic," through "Rubrics 1960" [which the Institute of Christ the King uses and so do I], through 1960 Newcalendar. The Credits link brings up a page that details which sources were used. 

Deo gratias for this amazingly useful and useable work of programming and user sensibility that was selflessly done, as the current authors of the page have written, for the goal of  "promoting the worship of the Triune God through the Divine Office."
The start of Matins for today's feast of S. Stephani, Protomartyris (St. Stephen, the first martyr). 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Christmas Eve I Met St. Francis in Assisi

Natale in Assisi
Christmas Eve Day 1999

The Assisi tour had not originally been on our itinerary. Our pilgrimage leader had squeezed it in at the last minute. We arrived in Assisi mid-morning, and due to our guide's too-tight scheduling, we had only a few hours before we would need to leave again. Our hotel, the Michelangelo, back in Rome about two hours drive away, was preparing a traditional Christmas Eve dinner, and we needed to be there in time to eat it and then walk the few blocks to St. Peter’s for the evening’s main event and the focal point for my long-planned trip to Italy -- the opening of the Holy Door and Midnight Mass to inaugurate the Holy Year, the Jubilee 2000.

Even though our stay in Assisi was brief and botched and harried, I still remember it as a high point of my life. Especially because, even after such a short visit, I feel that made the acquaintance of Francis, the patron saint of Assisi from the 13th century. So much so that every once in a while, I still think his name as I would that of a beloved friend: “Francis,” “dear Francis.”

Our first stop was just outside of Assisi, at the town of Santa Maria degli Angeli, where we got out of our motor coach to visit the basilica of the same name. The area is called the Porziuncola, or little portion. St. Francis and his monks used to worship in a tiny chapel called Saint Mary of the Angels (which is what Santa Maria degli Angeli means in Italian). And they had lived close by in primitive little huts.

We stood together outside in the cold for a few minutes while our leader made arrangements about something or other with someone inside the basilica. A few of us drifted off to get something hot to drink.

Around the little traffic circle where we waited there was much to see. A chubby 60ish Italian woman on a bicycle wearing a kerchief and a trench coat waited for the light to change .

A manager scene was set up in the middle of the traffic island. Since it was the day before Christmas, and since it was St. Francis who first conceived the idea of celebrating the birth of Jesus by reproducing the manger, naturally we saw several mangers in Assisi, including a life sized one that took up much of the city park.

In an earthquake in Assisi in 1997, interior walls in both St. Mary of the Angels Basilica where we were waiting to get in and in the Basilica di San Francesco (Basilica of St. Francis) crumbled. By the time of our trip, restoration had been almost completed on both basilicas.

But the reconstruction was not quite done. In the area in front of St. Mary of the Angels, fences of orange netting surrounded piles of pieces that had not yet been restored to the fallen walls. And even though there was no evidence visible to the tourist, thousands of people left homeless by the earthquake were just getting by in temporary housing for many years later.

We couldn’t take photos inside the basilicas, but I can tell you that once we got inside St. Mary of the Angels, we found a surprise. Dwarfed in the middle of the floor of the huge basilica stands the tiny little chapel (now richly decorated) where St. Francis worshipped with his monks. A few yards away is the even smaller Chapel of the Transition, built later around the hut where St. Francis died. When he knew he was about to die, he stripped himself naked and laid on the bare ground covered with a borrowed cloth, wanting to keep faith with his beloved Lady Poverty until the end.

What would he think of all the splendors of marble and art erected in honor of his memory? I wondered. I know I am not at all original in noticing these contrasts, but they stayed on my mind as we got back into the tour bus and rode up the long hill to Assisi.

It is an understatement to say that in the middle ages cities prized their saints. The Catholic Encyclopedia (in the online 1907 edition) records that during Francis’ last days, the city fathers of Assisi dispatched strong guards with him wherever he went, to prevent his body being stolen by Perugia, a rival city, “which would thus enter into possession of his coveted bones.” Francis told his followers that he wanted to be buried in the Colle d’Inferno, a hill outside the city where criminals were executed. Did they listen? The answer came with the sight of the double basilica as it came into view at a turn in the road. Obviously not.

In 1236, ten years after Francis’s death, one basilica was built followed later by another basilica built on top of it, and together they make up the impressive building we saw that day. The basilicas were built to accommodate the huge throngs that came to honor Francis, whose bones are now in a crypt beneath the lower basilica.

We rushed up from the parking lot into the lower basilica. Before we went to the upper basilica, some of us did a detour when we saw a sign leading to the crypt.

St. Francis’s bones are in a simple wooden coffin above an altar on which many long white tapers are burning. I dropped a donation into a slot, and then I stood in line with others to lay candles for each of my relatives and some friends in a basket at the altar. A monk at the desk to the left rises every so often looking bored, and he blows out the current set of candles, replacing them with others from the basket.

It was a relief to pause and kneel there peacefully for a while close to the physical remains of the holy man of Assisi and to pray. That's when I was surprised to feel I was present with him; in some indescribable gentle way, he became my fast friend at that instant. From what happened in my heart there that day and the similar feeling of meeting that occurred when I got close to the bones of St. Peter on another day on the same tour, I came to glimpse why the Catholic Church has so much veneration for relics of dead saints. Twice in my experience, being close to the physical remains of the saint brought me close in spirit to the saint himself.

At the museum at the crypt next door to the chapel is another striking relic, one of the actual patched robes that St. Francis wore. Two donation boxes stand at the door of the museum, one for the restoration of the art works, one for the housing of those left homeless by the quake. I left more money in the second one.

Our group regathered in a nearby cafe for a quick snack and a brief introduction to our local guide. Everyone was surprised that I ordered gelato, but that was my first and it turned out to be my only chance to try the authentic Italian iced treat. Public opinion was right this time, the cold gelato did not sit well with the cold of Christmas Eve.

Once we left the basilica, we saw hardly any other tourists. We trooped behind the local guide through picturesque cobbled narrow streets to the main square, where we peeked into the Temple of Minerva from the time of Augustus, now covered with a church called Santa Maria sopra Minerva (St. Mary over Minerva). We walked past a prespe, a life sized manger scene in the town square.

As we walked around, local passers-by and our guide greeted each other with the Italian Christmas greeting, “Buon Natale. Buone Feste. Tanti Auguri.” which, loosely translated means, “Happy Christmas, Good Feasts, Good Wishes for the New Year.”

Above one doorway was a Madonnina, little Madonna. We saw many many of these images on the streets and corners in Italy, all different and all beautiful in their unique way.

After we parted with our local guide, our pilgrimage leader told us we could go shopping and to meet her back at the bus in an hour.

My son found a little shop that sold address books and sketchbooks made from hand-made paper and called me in because he knew I'd like it too. After a while he went out to look at something else. When he came in again to find me (he told me this later), I must have been in the back of the shop, and he didn’t see me, so he left again, and then we lost track of each other.

After I emerged with some gifts, I strolled with my camera in hand, stopped at a few more shops, where I was always the only customer, always heading back down the hill towards where the bus was parked. At the chamber of commerce I met a nun whose order runs a guesthouse, whose business was only just then picking up again after the quake. We both got a free poster there, my favorite souvenir. The poster shows the basilica and the ancient forts above the city against a blue and starry sky. Natale in Assisi, 1999, it says: Christmas in Assisi, 1999.

My progress was slow, because my feet hurt, because my path was down very steep streets, and because there was always another photo to take.

I wasn’t sure of the time because I didn’t have a watch, but I thought I was doing all right. I also thought I’d run into my son any time soon.

When I did catch up with my son again, I was standing at a fork in the road at the bottom of one steep street. I was wavering about which of two possible even steeper streets would be the right way down to the parking lot.

My son was frantic. It was 10 minutes past the hour. At 5 minutes past, the pilgrimage leader had announced to everyone in the bus that she would give me 5 more minutes and then leave without me.

It goes without saying that the ride back to Rome was tense. The leader was pouting because she had had her heart set on squeezing one more stop in, at a chocolate factory, and my tardiness had foiled her plans. Everyone was mad at me. I guess they wanted to stop at the chocolate factory too. I was sorry that my dawdling had made my son upset, but I was mad too, at the tour leader and at the mad rush she was putting us through that day.

Just for the drama of it, I sometimes try to imagine what it would have been like to have been stranded as a stranger in Assisi on a cold Christmas eve with very little Italian and no way to get back to Rome.

But of course, that didn’t happen.

The sunset over the Umbrian hills was gorgeous.

Back at Rome, we rushed some more. We rushed to dress before dinner, rushed through the dinner, greatly offending the waiters who watched us with disdain while we gulped the specially prepared food for Christmas Eve and rushed out the door. Then we rushed to St. Peter’s Square. And then we waited.
Our leader had assured us we had tickets to be inside the basilica for the Mass, but the day before the organizers had told her that the seating was first come first served. After more than an hour in line with thousands of others, we finally got directed into seats outside, after all. At least there was no more rushing. We stayed right there in the same seats in the chill night air until the mass was over at 2 a.m. on Christmas morning.

We could see the ceremonies that were going on inside on giant TV screens near the Holy Door. We actually saw much more than we could have seen if we had been inside. At one point, the Pope walked past the open door, and then stopped and waved to us all outside. The 40 degree temperatures and discomforts didn’t matter. We all cheered.

I didn't even mind very much that I caught the flu and spent several days during the next week in bed in my hotel room. I could hear the bells of St. Peter's as I drifted in and out of a fevered sleep.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Delaying Gratification for Deeper Joy

I only learned within the past ten years about how the Advent and Christmas seasons have traditionally been observed in the Church's liturgical year. And I'm guessing there are many others who are as in the dark about this topic as I was. To share what I've learned, I've written several times in different blogs about observing Advent and the Christmas season (as in this recent post Top Ten Thoughts about Advent from Fr. Rutler). This post is a collection of snippets from other posts I've published about the season.

Following is an example about how treasuring Advent has led me to a deeper joy when Christmas comes and the traditional time of celebration begins, which is an excerpt from a Christmas letter I posted at my blog in 2009.

Thoughts About Celebrating the "Holiday Season"

It seems to me that the 'holiday season' is celebrated almost in a frenzy. Besides the frantic 'holiday' shopping (which usually includes many personal purchases--retailers count on them!) we engage in the constant creation of, purchase of, and indulgence in 'holiday foods and beverages,' accompanied by the din of 'holiday songs.'

The intoxication comes to a screeching halt on the actual day of Christmas. As soon as the profit motive dries up, the frenzy stops, and a blessed peace descends.

The good news is the less I decorate and the more I avoid holiday celebrations, the more I treasure the four week cycle of Advent. I get thrilled by the Advent readings in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Masses, which remind me of the Love that was behind the First Coming and will be behind the anticipated Second Coming of Christ.

My partially self-chosen poverty of having an undecorated house, eating a minimum of pre-Christmas treats, avoiding holiday parties and cookie exchanges and the like, all lead me to a deeper joy when the penitential season of Advent is over and when finally we reach the proper time to celebrate the birth of Christ, the Baby God. The Church gives us a long time to celebrate, until Candlemas on Feb. 2, during which time we can have our decorations and our feasting, for 40 whole days. In this and many other areas of life, it seems to me, waiting and self control only makes the satisfaction deeper and more meaningful. And that alone, after all, might be a very good reason for keeping Advent."

Here's another bit along the same lines from this blog at Christmas: It's Not Over Til It's Over:

Christmas is a season not a day.

In spite of what most people seem to think, the time before Christmas is not the Christmas season. On Christmas Day, the season is actually just beginning.

In the culture at large, the weeks before Christmas are a time for celebration, with lots of excitement from the Christmas music, lights, decorations, and parties.

In the Church year, the four weeks before Christmas are a time of preparation for the celebration of Christ's birth, a time of sober waiting. These four weeks of waiting start on the first Sunday of December and are called Advent, which means "coming." Advent is so important to the Church that it is the start of the liturgical year. During Advent, we anticipate the celebration of the First Coming of Christ that starts on Christmas Day, and we also are reminded to be ready for Christ's expected Second Coming at the end of the world. The Advent vestments are purple, the color of penance. The Christmas vestments are gold or white, to show our joy.

It seems to me that to observe the real spirit of the season, Christians should only start the singing of Christmas hymns and carols on Christmas Day, and hold off on the decorations and the parties until then. The festivities can then continue throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas up to the Feast of the Epiphany. Or even longer.[caption id="attachment_6527" align="alignright" width="226"]Epiphany by Hieronymous Bosch Epiphany by Hieronymous Bosch[/caption]

The Twelve Days of Christmas end January 5. The Epiphany, which is also called the Feast of the Wise Men, is celebrated on January 6. At my house, the wise men finally arrive at my manger scene on January 6 after they have been wandering around the living room ever since the creche was put up.

But Christmas is not over even at Epiphany.

In the traditional liturgical year, the Christmas season ends forty days after it starts, on February 2, on a feast day that has been called many names because it celebrates many things. The feast has been called Candlemas because candles are blessed at the Masses that day. The Purification of Our Lady in the Temple is a second name. In the Jewish religion, a woman presented herself for purification at the temple forty days after the birth of a male child. The Presentation of the Child Jesus is the current title of the feast. When Christ was carried into the Temple forty days after His birth to be dedicated to God as required by Jewish Law for every firstborn son, He was recognized by an old man named Simeon and by an old woman named Anna, who had been waiting years for His coming. In some traditions, the feast is also called The Meeting because of Christ's meeting with the prophet Simon and the prophetess Anna.

These thoughts just skim the surface of all the rich symbolism and significance of these feasts. And there are several more feasts during this time that I don't have time to go into now.

The point to remember is that the Catholic Church dedicates a long time, the symbolically important number of forty days, to the celebration of Christmas, and, contrary to public opinion, the celebration does not end on December 25.

This St. Ann Choir Poster from 2013 publicizes the Mass of Candlemas

And here is yet another snippet from my post at Dappled Things Deep Down Things blog last year: February 2 A Feast of Manifestation, Purification, and Candles:

Differences of opinion about when Christmas actually ends are nothing new. For example, here is a poem from colonial Williamsburg:

When New Year’s Day is past and gone;
Christmas is with some people done;
But further some will it extend,
And at Twelfth Day their Christmas end.
Some people stretch it further yet,
At Candlemas they finish it.
The gentry carry it further still
And finish it just when they will;
They drink good wine and eat good cheer
And keep their Christmas all the year.

The gentry in the poem were missing the point: by drinking and eating as if it were Christmas all year, they weren’t celebrating the feast of Christmas any more, just gormandizing. Just like we moderns do . . .. But at least none of the people in the poem would be likely to take the Christmas tree down and throw it out the day after Christmas. They’d hold out at least until January 2, “When New Year’s Day is past and gone.”

And finally, there's this from another Dappled Things blog post from last year On the Thirteenth Day of Christmas 20 + K + M + B + 14:

Parting Thoughts about Christmas, from a Surprising Source

I came across the following apt observations about how Christians should celebrate Christmas, at an atheist website, of all places:

"Conservative evangelical Christians complain about people taking the “Christ” out of Christmas, but they seem to forget that they have already taken the “Mass” out of Christmas (Mass being a service including Holy Communion). When was the last time a prominent figure on the Christian Right has argued that Americans should remember to attend Mass on this Holy Day? … This is just one of many masses that have been excised from the season. . . . So, the next time a Christian insists that we put the Christ back in Christmas, tell them that they should also:

· Put the Mass back in Christmas

· Restore Candlemas

· Restore the Feast of the Epiphany

· Restore the Advent season

· Restore gift-giving to the real Christmas season, which occurs after Christmas day

· Don’t put up a Christmas tree until Christmas Eve — if at all

· Use Christmas as a day of contemplating Christ, not for engaging in commerce"

When I write about this topic, I am trying to correct misunderstandings and to help other people grasp the beautiful significance of feasts that has been obscured in a commercially oriented secular Christmas. I hope to bring to light and show off some riches from the treasury of the Church's traditional observation, to give to others some glimpses of the joys of Christmas that they may have never seen before, joys that can only be experienced fully by humbly observing the sober time of preparation that the Church calls Advent.

To close, I want to give G. K. Chesterton and Fr. George Rutler the last words, from a sermon Fr. Rutler prepared for the Second Sunday of Advent.

December 7, 2014
by Fr. George W. Rutler

It would be hard to think of any writer in the last several generations who celebrated Christmas as heartily as G. K. Chesterton. It was precisely because of this, and not in spite of it, that he said with a severity not characteristic of his benign personality: “There is no more dangerous or disgusting habit than that of celebrating Christmas before it comes.”

Dangerous, that is, because the rush neglects the deepest mysteries of life which are the stuff of Advent meditations: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell; and by that neglect we are abandoned to a life of anxiety, unable to know why we were made or what we are to become. Disgusting, that is, because rushing Christmas spoils the appetite for higher things and tries to replace holy joy with entertainments that quickly become boring.
Just finished designing this poster for the San Jose's Immaculate Heart of Mary Oratory's upcoming Christmas Party, which, I'm happy to say, will be held on the Third Day of Christmas

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Supreme Beauty of Spiritual Things

 Photo credits: Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco ( and Roseanne T. Sullivan

On June 20, 1921, noted architect Ralph Adams Cram gave an address titled "The Test of Beauty" to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University. During his address, Cram lavished praise on the Pontifical Mass (Missa Pontificalis in Latin), which is an elaborate form of the traditional Roman Catholic Mass that has seldom been celebrated during most of the past sixty years. A convert from Unitarianism to Episcopalianism, Cram is perhaps best known for his design for the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. He was also a prominent member of the Anglo-Catholic movement, and he wrote and spoke extensively as an ardent advocate for Gothic architecture. In spite of the fact that he never became a Roman Catholic, he was an equally ardent admirer of Catholic liturgy. Cram was so renowned in his field that he wrote the article on "Gothic Architecture " in the 1909 edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia.

In his peroration at the end of his address at Harvard, Cram posed this rhetorical question, "What was the greatest synthesis of beauty, made operative through art, that man has ever achieved?" He went on to summarize the main premise of his talk in his answer, "The answer is very simple: it was a Gothic cathedral of the thirteenth century during a Pontifical High Mass. . . . Every art raised to its highest point was here brought into play in one place and associated in absolute union with the greatest beauty of thought, emotion, and action that have ever been the possession of fallen man. . . . And all were for the exposition and realization of the supreme beauty of spiritual things; the durable love of God for His children through the Sacrifice of Calvary, eternally renewed upon the altar, and the veritable presence of His Spirit through the miracle of the Mass[1]."

On Sunday September 14, 2014, on the Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross according to the 1962 liturgical calendar, more than four hundred worshippers filled the pews of Star of the Sea Church in San Francisco for a historically resonant liturgical event, when San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone celebrated the first Pontifical Mass held in that city for close to sixty years. Star Of the Sea Massgoers
High Altar Star of the Sea
The Pontifical Mass was celebrated on that balmy September evening in that beautiful church at the northwest tip of the San Francisco peninsula very much the same way as Pontifical Masses were celebrated around the world before the Second Vatican Council. Star of the Sea Church is a parish church that was finished in 1917 using the best materials the working-class parish could buy[2], during Cram's lifetime, and while it is not a cathedral and its arches are Romanesque rather than Gothic, it was an appropriately lovely setting for this modern-day Pontifical Mass.

The Pontifical Mass was to celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross and the seventh anniversary of the implementation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s motu proprio  Summorum Pontificum, which affirmed that ceremonies and rituals like the Pontifical Mass are still valid and an important part of the Church’s rich heritage. The Mass, which was advertised as "one of the treasures of the faith," was coordinated by the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco with music by the Golden Gate Catholic Boys Choir.
Golden Gate Boys Choir
The elaborate gestures, the large number of ministers, the multitudinous details of the vesting of the celebrant and of the ministers, and the order of the ceremony, all were followed according to how they are spelled out in the Caeremoniale Episcoporum (Manual of Episcopal Ceremonies[3]) from 1916.

The Pontifical Mass is the Mass of a bishop, and all the highly regulated, complex details of this Mass are fraught with meaning. Taken together, the details are designed to make up a system of visible, material signs that point to the invisible, spiritual realities of a bishop’s office.  As is true about how we come to understand many important things, we don't grasp the importance of something as complex as a Pontifical Mass without having been taught what it means.  The goal of this post is to explain some of the rich meaning of what occurred that night.

Why is it called a Pontifical Mass?

It is not commonly known, but the adjective "pontifical" does not refer exclusively to the pope. A cardinal, archbishop, bishop or abbot is also referred to as high priest, or “pontiff.” The celebrant of a Pontifical Mass is said to be “pontificating.” The related term “pontificals” refers to all the vestments and ornaments the bishop wears and uses when he pontificates at the Pontifical Mass.

A Pontifical Mass at the Throne represents the summit of the Roman liturgy. It is the paradigm for the Roman Rite.  As Canon Olivier Meney of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (who assisted at the Mass) recently explained, “The Low Mass is a reduction of the Solemn High Mass, which in its turn is a reduction of the Pontifical Mass at the Throne.”

In contrast, in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, which is the form almost exclusively celebrated since Vatican II, the Pontifical Mass seems no longer to be seen as a model for all Masses. Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who was largely responsible for the new Mass that was promulgated in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum of Pope Paul VI, has been quoted as saying that the low Mass of a priest is now the normative Mass.

Elaborate vestments and liturgical items, such as those worn and used during the Pontifical Mass, are not, as some mistakenly think, a form of vain clerical dressing-up, but on the contrary, they are  rich in symbolism. The truth is that in ceremonies like this, the individual is minimized, while the power of the priesthood is emphasized. If we understand and meditate on the symbols, they can lead us to think more deeply about the role of the priesthood as it was instituted by Jesus Christ.

Before being vested during the Pontifical Mass, the bishop takes off the vestments he usually wears as a prelate of the Church. He then is clothed ceremonially with vestments that stand for the full power of the priesthood, which belongs not to himself, but to his role as a bishop.

What does “at the Throne” mean?

At Star of the Sea, Archbishop Cordileone celebrated a Pontifical Mass at the Throne. The term “at the Throne” is used when a Pontifical Mass is celebrated within the jurisdiction of a bishop or archbishop. During the Mass, the celebrant sits at a throne at the altar.

If a bishop celebrates a Pontifical Mass at a cathedral or church outside of his own jurisdiction, he either celebrates "at the faldstool" (a faldstool being a portable folding chair) or "in choro" (in choir).

The privilege of "Pontificating" on the Throne is only allowed to all Cardinals outside of Rome, to the Pope's Apostolic Nuncios and Legates in the territorial jurisdiction they are assigned, and to Bishops and Archbishops within their Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions.

Because the archbishop was visiting Star of the Sea and did not celebrate at his cathedral, it was necessary to construct a temporary throne on the gospel side of the altar. The archbishop’s shield was mounted behind the chair with a gold-embroidered baldachin (canopy) above it.

Why all that vesting at the Throne?

One unusual and elaborate aspect of the Pontifical Mass was the ceremony called “vesting at the throne.”

Before the start of the Mass, the pontificals were laid out on the altar. Servers ceremoniously removed each of the pontificals in turn from the altar, and waited in line to present them to the archbishop. Sacred ministers helped vest him.


The pontificals included buskins, an amice, an alb, a cincture, a stole, a tunic, a dalmatic, and a chasuble, along with the bishop’s pectoral cross, ring, and crosier, which bishops always use, plus two types of mitre worn by the archbishop at different points during the Pontifical Mass, along with a gremial and gloves[4], [5].

The vesting ceremony is rich in symbolism of the bishop’s humility. It reminds the bishop and everyone present of Christ’s words to St. Peter after His Resurrection to indicate how Peter would die, when He said that one day Peter would not be able dress himself and go where he wished but that someone else would dress him and lead him.

The ceremony is so powerfully evocative of humility that one bishop said that first time he was being vested for Pontifical Mass, “he felt like a lamb being dressed for slaughter.”
Vesting with the amice
Vesting with the amice
Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. – John 21:18
When the celebrant is divested of the vestments he wore when entering the church[6], he is symbolically stripped of the trappings of the world and loses his personal identity. When he is then subsequently ceremoniously vested in the pontificals, one after another, the bishop is clothed in the new man of which St. Paul speaks in his letter to the Ephesians and is covered from head to foot in the High Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
If so be that you have heard him, and have been taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus: To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error.   And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth." – Ephesians 4:21-24.
Bishops at Pontifical Mass wear the vestments of a subdeacon (the tunic), deacon (the dalmatic), and priest (chasuble) all at once because in the bishop, as medieval liturgist William Durandus wrote,  “the degrees of all the Major Orders are most eminently present.”

Vesting complete
Vesting complete

Each pontifical has its own prescribed prayer[7]. For example, as he was being vested in the buskins (liturgical stockings), the archbishop prayed the following prayer.

How long since the last Pontifical Mass in San Francisco?

Beginning when His Grace was installed as Bishop of Oakland in 2009 and continuing after his appointment as Archbishop of San Francisco in 2012, Archbishop Cordileone has celebrated Pontifical Masses in several other locations around the archdiocese: at the Oakland apostolate of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in St. Margaret Mary Church in 2009 and 2011, and at St. Monica Church in Moraga to celebrate the official opening of the Carmel of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, a new foundation of the Discalced Carmelites in the Diocese of Oakland in 2012. For several years, the archbishop has also celebrated Pontifical Masses on the last day of the Napa Institute's Conference at The Meritage Resort in Napa. His Pontifical Mass on September 14, 2014, was the first such Mass Archbishop Cordileone celebrated in the city of San Francisco.

Fr. Mark Mazza, former Star of the Sea pastor, was asked recently if he knows the date on which the last Pontifical Mass was previously celebrated in San Francisco. Fr. Mazza replied, “The reformed Mass with its new order would not appear until 1970 in the United States,” but, in the United States, changes to the Mass began at the end of November 1964, on the First Sunday of Advent.  For this reason, Fr. Mazza added, “I would presume that the last Solemn Pontifical Mass using the 1962 Missale Romanum and the Pontificale Romanum was in 1964, now over fifty years ago.” Fr. Mazza added that since even before the Second Vatican Council, Pontifical Masses “were not always that common,” the time elapsed since the last Pontifical Mass in the city could easily have been closer to sixty years.


How did this event come about?

The planning for this year’s Pontifical Mass began almost exactly a year earlier. During a dinner on September 13, 2013, which Fr. Mazza and the members of the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco hosted at Star of the Sea for Archbishop Cordileone, the Traditional Latin Mass Society asked the archbishop if he would celebrate a Pontifical Mass at the parish. Eventually the date was fixed to be the Sunday of the weekend of the archbishop's pastoral visit to the parish this year, which occurred September 13 through 15.


What does it all mean?
Beauty existed, and was infinitely desired, and within certain limits was supremely achieved under paganism, but with Christianity it was given a new content and a new function. The passion for perfection remained, but it was how a new perfection revealed in Christ; the joy in labor and creation remained, but it was now a new joy, for it was irradiated by the motive of worship and of sacrifice. -- Ralph Adams Cram, "The Test of Beauty."

If art is, indeed, as I have said, one of the really great agents of civilization, the Church is preeminently the place where its work may be made most effective. . . .  Each art is fine in itself, but a great and beautiful church, living with pictorial and sculptured decoration, where the sublime, appalling mystery of the Christian Faith is solemnized through the assembling of all the other arts — music, poetry, drama, and ceremonial —- in one vast, organic work of art built up of every one of them raised to its highest level of possibility, and all fused in one consummate opus Dei, this is in simple fact and in plain speech, the greatest artistic achievement, the most perfect proof of man's divine nature thus far recorded in the annals of humanity.[8] -- Ralph Adams Cram,"The Artist and the World."

For Cram then, the meaning of the Pontifical Mass on September 14, 2014 would be found in the synthesis of all of the beauties of the church, the ceremony, the vestments and the music, each of which contributed to the creation of an act of sublime worship expressing our love for God.

In his homily, Archbishop Cordileone reminded the mass goers to keep in mind that the beauty of the Pontifical Mass should not be an end in itself. Alongside of the love of God that is fostered during the celebration of the Eucharist in such a reverent ceremony in such a beautiful setting, our love of our neighbor must also be fostered.
Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. -- Matthew 22:36-40
Following are some excerpts from Archbishop Cordileone's homily:
Our spirituality and stewardship are the practical way we live our Christian faith in the world.  Our faith is not to be left inside the walls of this beautiful church. We are all awed and inspired by the beauty of the ceremonies here in the celebration this evening. . . .. We all love this liturgy, but if it doesn’t make a difference, it becomes nothing more than a neat hobby. A neat one. But a hobby.  It is meant to transform us into a deeper love of Jesus Christ.
Here we experience the beauty of Jesus Christ in the beauty of the Church’s liturgy so that we might recognize the beauty in those in the world around us, in those who are poor. Sharing those gifts with them, in works of charity, works of justice. We have ample opportunity here in our community. Here in this parish, right across the street, is a very good and powerful ministry to women who find themselves in crisis situations[9]. Mothers with young children or expectant mothers. Sharing our gifts. Understanding their needs. [We need] to see the beauty of Jesus Christ in them and to lift them out of their moment of crisis, out of their own fear, so they might encounter the Jesus who we encounter here and who we share with them.

The poor wait just outside the church doors.
The poor are found right outside the front door of the church

You can view the complete homily here and see many more photos of the Pontifical Mass here, thanks to the work of the Traditional Latin Mass Society of San Francisco.

1. "The Test of Beauty" an address before the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Harvard University on June 20, 1921. By Ralph Adams Cram. Harvard Graduates' Magazine, Volume XXX. 1921-1922.  Copyright 1931. The Riverside Press Cambridge, Mass.
2. You can look up unfamiliar terms in a glossary for all the ornaments and vestments that is in the Manual of Episcopal Ceremonies, along with instructions for the order of the Pontifical Mass and the titles and roles of each of the sacred ministers. By Rev. Aurelius Stehl, O.S.B. Published 1916 by St. Vincent Archabbey Press, Latrobe, PA. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in details of the Pontifical Mass.
3. Here is an example from the history of Star of the Sea parish of the "no-expense spared" mentality that Catholics of modest means used to have when it came to building parish churches. "The statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, each costing $500, were made of pure Carrara marble in Italy and shipped to the United States at great expense." -- "The History Of Star Of The Sea Schools." By Sister Mary Dorothea Quinn, 1958. The statues were purchased at that great price in 1917.
StJosephStatueOurLadyStatue - Version 2
4. Additional information about the official costumes of prelates is available online at Costume of Prelates of the Catholic Church: According to Roman Etiquette” by John Abel Nainfa. Published 1909 by John Murphy Company, Baltimore. This is another fascinating read.
5. Simple pictures of the alb, stole, maniple, cincture, and chasuble are available in coloring book format at ”Learning About Priest Vestments (Free Printable e-book and Activity)” at Catholic Inspirations. Web. Retrieved September 24,2014. Also useful is this site, which presents information about the vestments, from the book, Mass and the Sacraments by Fr. John Laux, M.A.  Benziger Brothers 1934. And last but not least, here is a reprint of a Catholic Extension book called "Father Peter Cutouts" that children (and maybe some adults) could cutout and color to learn (or relearn) the vestments and articles used during the Mass (free subscription required for access).
6. During a Pontifical Mass, a bishop may wear a cappa magna (great cape) when he enters the church. If so, the cappa magna is removed before the Mass begins and put on again after the Mass is over. Archbishop Cordileone did not wear cappa magna on September 14. Some people criticize the cappa magna’s rich fabric and extraordinary length as a wastefully expensive example of the most extreme sort of ostentatious, effeminate, clerical finery.  This blog from the Daily Telegraph of London spoofs those who react with hostility to the cappa magna, but it also has spectacular photos of cappae magnae worn in the past and in the present day by dignitaries such as Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Spellman, Pope St John XXIII (when he was Archbishop Wotyla), and Cardinal Pell.
[caption id="attachment_6073" align="alignright" width="1024"]
Cardinal Raymond Burke wore a Cappa Magna for Institute of Christ the King ordinations in St. Louis in August 2014.
Cardinal Raymond Burke wore a Cappa Magna for Institute of Christ the King Ordinations in St. Louis in August 2014
The cappa magna in the setting of the Pontifical Mass actually signifies the worldly finery that the bishop puts aside before being humbly vested in the pontificals. Following is the prayer a bishop says when removing the cappa:
7. The ministry of art, pp 135, 136. By  Ralph Adams Cram. Copyright 1914. The Riverside Press Cambridge.
8. The prayers for vesting of the pontificals are given in an easy to read format at the New Liturgical Movement in The Pontifical Vesting Prayers  of the Usus Antiquior December 29, 2011 web (retrieved September 24, 2014).
9. Star Community Home for women in crisis situations is a project of Catholic Charities CYO that is located in the former convent of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet at Star of the Sea. Archbishop Cordileone is the Director of the Star Community Home for Women's Board of Directors.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Disappearing Christmas Gifts of my Childhood

Seeing a post this morning about the dangers of the Ouija board jogged my memory of a particularly Thurber-esque aspect of some of the Christmases of my childhood. I'm thinking of the times when my two sisters and I lived off and on for years at a stretch with my father's sister, Agnes, her husband, Ray, my father's immigrant Irish widowed mother, Grandma Sullivan to us, and my cousin, Marybelle. Sometimes Uncle Ray's mother, Grandma Corder would be on a long-term visit from Arksasas while we were there and live with us all too.  Uncle Ray's Arkansas' roots account for cousin Marybelle's name, which was previously not heard of in Boston, where we all lived. 

My fireman father, Joseph, had died in a firetruck accident when I was two years old, my sister, Martha, was one, and my other sister, Joe-anne, was about to be born the next month. It was part of the gloomy secret-filled atmosphere of my childhood that my mother would be gone away for long stretches of time. I would be shushed up or the subject would be changed if I tried to ask questions about her.

My rakishly "tall, dark, and handsome" uncle was a barber in a rundown part of Boston, on Commonwealth Avenue near the downtown police station. After Uncle Ray would come home from work every evening, my beautful red-headed aunt left for work. Even though her name was Agnes, we called her Peggy, because she had taken care of a nephew when she was a teenager and he was a toddler; he called her Peggy since he couldn't pronounce her name, and the name had stuck. One  of the jobs Aunt Peggy had over the years was sterilizing instruments at Brigham and Woman's Hospital on the night shift. We were fed and clothed sufficiently but were not well off, and my  aunt and fond grandmother used to shop for bargains at Goodwill and at Woolworth's or the five and dime. 

One Christmas we got a Ouija board; I think Aunt Peggy must have found it at Goodwill. I remember Grandma Sullivan saying something disapproving about how the Ouija board was supposed to have something to do with demons, but my modern-thinking aunt and uncle pooh-poohed that. We were halfway hoping that demons might answer us when we played with the board one day, not knowing that we were really in danger. But we didn't get any answers, and we got bored and lost interest. Thank God for that, since exorcists report that many of the exorcisms they perform are from demons that were summoned by Ouija boards. Maybe it was my Grandma's frequent rosary prayings that kept them away.

In any case, I never saw the Ouija board again after that one experiment.

We didn't see it again because my aunt's odd idea of keeping our toys from cluttering up the house was to throw them away! 

Before we went to Mass on Christmas Day, we would race into the parlor around 6 a.m. and tear open the wrappings on a pile of gifts from under the tree. From the emphasis on quantity over quality, I think now that the value of all the paper and ribbon used to wrap them might have been greater than the value of all the presents combined.  For the rest of the day, after we got home from Mass, we'd play with whatever toys we'd gotten--and then we would never see them again. Only sometimes, some of the games would stay. Aunt Peggy would stick them away in a closet.

I only realized my aunt's idea of housekeeping was to toss things away years later. Most of the gifts we got were usually used from Goodwill or cheap from the dime store, so tacky and uninteresting, we didn't even miss them. We were never asked, what do you want for Christmas? -- except for the few years we were living with our mother.

When my mother came back when I was about 6 and and took us to live with her in another kind of gloomy secret-ridden environment, where we were hiding out from the aunt and uncle and grandmother, her Christmas gifts to us were bought new in the department stores and those were keepers. But that's another story.

On one Christmas when we weren't with my mother, in the parlor near the tree was a four foot tall lumpy package that turned out to be a dolly when it was unrapped. Not a doll, a dolly of the kind you move furniture around with. (I found out just now that they usually are called hand trucks.) 

That's right, Aunt Peggy and Grandma had picked up a red dolly from Goodwill. I remember my uncle saying to my aunt that us kids wouldn't like it. She told him, "Ma thought the kids might like to play with it." Uncle Ray was right, we didn't like it.  We just ignored it until it went away.

By the next day, it had disappeared like all of the other ephemeral Christmas gifts we got from them, and so we never saw the dolly again either.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Conduc in caelum omnes animas pauperculas

What Are the Authentic Words of the Fatima Prayer?

During one of the Church-approved apparitions to the three children at Fatima, Portugal, Our Lady requested that a new prayer be added after every decade of the rosary, after the "Glory be to the Father" ("Gloria Patri") is said. The prayer is commonly translated as follows, but for some reason I've been trying to discover, this commonly used version doesn't match the words that Lucia told one author that Our Lady used. 
Latin English
Domine Iesu, dimitte nobis debita nostra. Salva nos ab igne inferiori. Perduc in caelum omnes animas, praesertim eas, quae misericordiae tuae maxime indigent. Amen.O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

It started when I was preparing a Rosary handout for my Latin students (see How to Pray the Rosary and the Angelus in Latin). I remembered that a friend had once told me that the last words of the Fatima  prayer as dictated by Our Lady during her appearance on July 13 to the three children of Fatima, Portugal were, according to Lucia Santos: "in most need." The wording that almost everyone uses adds "of thy mercy." 

When I looked it up, I found that Sr. Lucia had supposedly told a quite different version of the prayer to author William Thomas Walsh in an interview published in a book titled Our Lady of Fátima (Macmillan, 1947)[1] Sr. Lucia stated to the author that "The correct form is … : 'O my Jesus, pardon us, and save us from the fire of hell; draw all souls to heaven, especially those most in need.'" So Lucia's version does not have the commonly added phrase "of thy mercy" at the end of it.

The author also gave the original Portuguese in a footnote: "Ó meu Jesus, perdoai-nos e livrai nos do fogo do inferno; levai as alminhas todas para o Céu, principalmente aquelas que mais precisarem." The diminutive "alminhas" could be translated as "poor little souls." I love that the phrase expresses a sense of endearment and affection for those who are in danger of going to hell.

In Latin, alminhas can be translated into pauperculas animas. The version I see most often follows next, with "pauperculas animas" inserted in the Latin and "poor little souls" inserted in the English by me:
O mi Iesu, dimitte nobis debita nostra, libera nos ab igne inferni, conduc in caelum omnes animas pauperculas, praesertim illas quae maxime indigent.Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fire of hell, draw all poor little souls to heaven, especially those in most need. Amen
  • "Domine Iesu," from the first version of the Fatima prayer I showed above has been replaced with "O mi Iesu," an exact translation of the Portuguese words, "Ó meu Jesus." 
  • The word "inferiori" is replaced with "inferni." 
  • The phrase "misericodiae tuae" or "of thy mercy," is removed, so that the thought of the prayer stops with "illas quae maxim indigent," or "those who most greatly are in need."
I've seen "O mi Iesu" and "inferni" in the common translations, but removing the phrase "misericodiae tuae" is the point at which I started to doubt myself.  The dictionaries I looked at say that the verb "indigo, indigere" of which "indigent" is present active participle, takes  genitive or ablative. And so I suspect that "misericodiae tuae" may have been inserted in the Latin version  because of the Latin grammar rule, and then the "of thy mercy" phrase made it over to English.

I brought this point up with Stephen Cordova, medievalist and Latin scholar, and he thought I should use the "versio typica" (official version). I can't find a verso typica, and so, I told him, I would like to use "animas pauperculas" and leave out "misericordiae tuae," because that way my version will most closely match the version told by Lucia to the author I quoted earlier in this post. He said that the participle "indigent" does not require the genitive or ablative. I'm sticking with the version above. Hope it doesn't confuse any of my students that I am teaching them a non-standard version.

I would love to get your opinion on this.

Related post:
How Did Pope John Paul II Have the Nerve to Create Those Mysteries of Light? 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

How Did Pope John Paul II Have the Nerve to Create Those Mysteries of Light?

I personally love the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary (also called the Mysteries of Light), even though some traditional Catholic friends of mine won't pray them.[1] The objection of some conservative Catholics to the addition of the Mysteries of Light seems to be that the Rosary was revealed by Our Lady to St. Dominic and for that reason it should not be changed in any way. To that objection, I have no real answer. 

But I do want to point out that the gentle suggestion that the new mysteries might be profitably added to our rosary meditations was made by a pope who has been declared a saint by the Church, Pope Saint John Paul II. And it is also significant that the pope of the Mysteries of Light was so devoted to Our Lady that his dedication to her was expressed in his motto, "Totus Tuus," "All yours."

In St. Peter's Square, this mosaic of Mary, Mater Ecclesiae, Mother of the Church, was erected under Pope John Paul II, in gratitude for his having been spared death from an assassin's bullet. Note his motto beneath the Madonna, to the right of his coat of arms: Totus Tuus

The Mysteries of Light were first proposed by Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginae Mariae, which was released on October 16, 2002. In Rosarium Virginae Mariae, Pope John Paul II wrote with great devotion about the rosary and its significance as the Church's prayer of meditation on the life of Christ. He explained why he created a new set of mysteries in this way, "to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary, it would be suitable to … broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ's ministry between his Baptism and his Passion."

Pope John Paul II went on to write about why he called the new mysteries the Luminous Mysteries  "It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light. 'While I am in the world, I am the light of the world' (John 9:53)." 

He was writing at a time when Marian devotion was being viewed even by some Catholics as Mariolatry (idolatry of Mary). There had been unfortunately a kind of Protestant reaction against Marian devotion in some parts of the Church after Vatican II, and the rosary was included by many in the general disdain.[2]

Some of the Cardinals who elected Karol Wotyla, who then took the name Pope John Paul II, had thought of him as a forward-thinking candidate. Wotyla, for example, was a proponent of Mass in the vernacular, which was one of the liberals' favorite platforms. So the more-liberal Catholics were baffled by and very critical of what turned out to be Pope John Paul II's intense Marian devotion, along with what reformers came to think of the new pope's reactionary stance on the preservation of Church doctrine in many other areas that the reformers had previously thought were up for grabs. 

Using the left's favorite techniques of amateur psychoanalysis, his critics  downplayed this pope's love for Mary merely as a psychological compensation for the early loss of his mother.  

One of the objections of the anti-Marian-devotion camp to the Rosary before the Apostolic Letter was released had been to point out that the rosary was too much centered on the sorrows of Mary, not Christ-centered enough. The events of Christ's life between the Finding in the Temple and the Agony in the Garden were not part of the original three mysteries.

I believe that the Mysteries of Light (Mysteria Lucis) almost certainly came about because John Paul II was guided by Our Lady to whom he consecrated himself. But the new set of mysteries certainly also appropriately addressed the objections of those who thought the rosary was not focused enough on Christ. Some say they bring a missing dimension.  See this comment I got when I started posting about this idea on Facebook earlier today: 

Candid Heart Some Traditionalists do resent this. But personally, I did wonder why the Rosary lack some of the aspects of our Lord's pilgrimage on earth. So, when Saint JPII promulgated the inclusion, my heart, so to say, was ready for it. . . .

I personally have another reason to love these mysteries, because I privileged to be able to visit the sites where they happened when I went on a pilgrimage to Israel in 2005. I stood in the Jordan River, visited Cana, the site of the Sermon on the Mount and of the Transfiguration, and the upper room where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, and those places all come to mind when I pray these mysteries. Actually, at the end of our pilgrimage, someone pointed out that we had visited all the sites of the Rosary, except the site of the Visitation.

Mural of the Church of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor

  How to Pray the Mysteries of Light

The Mysteries of Light (Mysteria Lucis in Latin) are typically prayed on Thursdays, which in Latin is called Feria V, because it is the fifth day of the week.
Following are the mysteries in English and Latin. Several different titles for the mysteries are used. After some consideration, I used the same titles that are used in the Rosary recordings of both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The usage of two popes is authoritative enough for me.

Luminous Mysteries (Thursday, optional)
  • Jesus is baptized in the Jordan
  • Jesus reveals Himself at the Wedding at Cana
  • Jesus proclaims the Kingdom of God
  • Jesus is transfigured on the mountain
  • Jesus institutes the Eucharist
Mysteria Lucis (Feria V, arbitraria)
  • Iesus in Jordane baptizatur
  • Iesus apud Canense Matrimonium se autorevelat
  • Iesus regnum Dei proclámat
  • Iesus in monte transfigurátur
  • Iesus Eucharistiam instituit

[1] Often because of sometimes shocking abuses they witnessed after the Second Vatican Council, many devoted Catholics came to hate any changes that were introduced to the liturgy or the devotions of the Church during and after the council, more or less on principle. Let's have a little compassion here. These folks are quite likely to be suffering a kind of PTSS - post traumatic stress syndrome. I have a touch of that PTSS too. I often quote Mother Angelica on this topic. She called the mainstream post-Vatican II Church, the electric Church, because you never know when you go to Mass whether you'll get a shock. A sign of the PTSS syndrom is a knee-jeck reactin of hatred for anything that changed after the council. I just ran across a commenter at Fr. Z's blog who called the Mysteries of Light "JPII's contamination of the rosary.”

[2] Come to think of it, I might as well add that I love all of the Rosary, even though some Catholic friends don't pray any of it at all.

Pope Saint John Paul II's Coat of Arms symbolically shows Mary at the foot of the Cross

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