Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mordecai, the Middle East, and cheese steak hoagies

ANDRÉE SEU PETERSON, "Allotted boundaries" (World, August 9, 2014):
The cheese steak hoagie I had for dinner makes me wonder why I eat well while people in Burundi, where my brother preached, have beans and cabbage every day. The torching of Christian churches in Syria and Iraq makes me wonder why I get to sit in safety here in Pennsylvania. God is no respecter of persons and He loves all His children, so why does He treat us differently?

The question sparked a mental chain reaction through the Bible. First stop, 2,500 years ago in a secret communiqué from a man at the king’s gate to the chamber of Queen Esther: “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

I like the combination of the “Who knows” and the unabashed Godward speculation. Mordecai was too humble to say so, but if Esther came to the kingdom for such a time as this, then Mordecai came to the kingdom for such a time as this too. The one who lights the fire under Esther is surely as strategically placed as Esther.

Is it only Esther—and a few key people like Moses and David and Jesus—whom God has had born in the precise century and precise location He desires? The New Testament shows it is not: “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27).

So then God sets the times and dwelling places of all men, not just some “important” men. Not only so, but He discloses the reason: to enhance the possibility of each individual to “seek God” and “perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” Consider the height and depth and length and breadth of the kindness of God! “Not wishing that any should perish” (2 Peter 3:9), He goes to much trouble to maximize each person’s likelihood to come to Him for salvation.

Back to my cheese steak hoagie question, and the harassing of believers in the Middle East vis-à-vis this writer’s comfort in America. To borrow Mordecai’s phrase, “Who knows” whether God foreknew which individuals would be able to handle persecution without renouncing the faith, and which individuals would buckle if they were pushed too hard? And who knows whether He carefully measured out our sufferings, with tailor-made trials for each believer, “if necessary” (1 Peter 1:6), according to His promise not to let us be tempted beyond our ability (1 Corinthians 10:13)?

Is this not gracious to both—to the one, affording the opportunity for martyrdom and a martyr’s reward (“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life,” Hebrews 11:35); to the other, affording a heaven he might have lost if he had not kept the faith to the end (Hebrews 2:6)?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Douthat: "Against Walter Kasper (II)"

Interesting. Guy Noir suggests it's as if Douthat writes:
Dear Roman leaders who like to act like social action is for everyone while theology is for pinheads:
"...[R]ight or wrong, good or evil, merciful or destructive, the Kasper proposal is not a minor tweak to Catholic discipline: It’s a depth charge, a change pregnant with further changes, an alteration that could have far more sweeping consequences than innovations (married priests; female cardinals) that might seem more radical on their face.

"For reasons of theology, sociology, and simple logic, admitting the remarried to communion has the potential to transform not only Catholic teaching and Catholic life, but the church’s very self-understanding. These are the real stakes in this controversy; these are the terms, here and in Rome, on which it needs to be debated." Read more >>
[Hat tip to JM]

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Memory of the Camps: What scientific-minded, rational socialists are capable of

[Viewer advisory: graphic horror]

"The dead have been buried. It remains for us to care for these, the living. It remains for us to hope that Germans may help to mend what they have broken and cleanse what they have befouled. Thousands of German people were made to see for themselves, to bury the dead, to file past the victims. This was the end of the journey they had so confidently begun in 1933. Twelve years? ... No, in terms of barbarity and brutality they had travelled backwards for twelve thousand years. Unless the world learns the lesson these pictures teach, night will fall ... but by God's grace, we who live will learn."
[Hat tip to M.F.]

CDF's Müller excoriates second-marriages theories

Sandro Magister, "Müller: 'These Theories Are Radically Mistaken'" (www.chiesa, July 29, 2014), notes that the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith refutes the ideas of those who want to permit second marriages with the first spouse still alive, observing that he is backed up by Cardinal Sebastián, who also disagrees with Cardinal Kasper, and asks, "But whose side is Pope Francis on?"

Some excerpts:
"The theories you have pointed out seek to make Catholic doctrine a sort of museum of Christian theories: a sort of reserve that would be of interest only to a few specialists. Life, for its part, would have nothing to do with Jesus Christ as he is and as the Church shows him to be. Strict Christianity would be turned into a new civil religion, politically correct and reduced to a few values tolerated by the rest of society. This would achieve the unconfessed objective of some: to get the Word of God out of the way for the sake of ideological control over all of society.

Jesus did not become flesh in order to expound a few simple theories that would tranquilize the conscience and ultimately leave things the way they are. The message of Jesus is a new life. If anyone were to think and live by separating life from doctrine, not only would he deform the doctrine of the Church by turning it into a sort of idealistic pseudo-philosophy, but he would also be fooling himself. Living as a Christian means living on the basis of faith in God. Adulterating this arrangement means realizing the dreaded compromise between God and the devil."
"The facts of Scripture reveal that, in addition to mercy, holiness and justice also belong to the mystery of God. If we were to obscure these divine attributes and trivialize the reality of sin, it would make no sense to beg for the mercy of God on behalf of persons. This makes it understandable why Jesus, after treating the adulterous woman with great mercy, added as an expression of his love: “Go, and do not sin again” (Jn 8:11). The mercy of God is not a dispensation from the commandments of God and from the teachings of the Church. It is entirely the contrary: God, in his infinite mercy, grants us the power of grace for the complete fulfillment of his commands and so as to reestablish in us, after the fall, his perfect image as Father of Heaven."
This is fascinating, as our underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye, observes: "Mueller sounds quite on target and on fire here. And like he is working for a different clearing house than the one in the news for the past year! I am impressed.... And mystified. The signals from Francis sound nothing like this. And Mueller himself has in his comments sounded like anything but a friend of Traditionalists.... The Modern Church. Quite the mystery."

[Hat tip to JM]

Monday, July 28, 2014

Liturgy and the politics of humility

"The modern habit of doing ceremonial things unceremoniously is no proof of humility; rather it proves the offender's inability to forget himself in the rite, and his readiness to spoil for every one else the proper pleasure of ritual." -- C.S. Lewis, from the preface to "Paradise Lost", ch 3

There's a treasure trove of material embedded in this thought that begs for development, though I haven't the time to do it at the moment. To begin with, it occurs to me that Americans and moderns generally are far more uncomfortable with the "pomp and circumstance" of any sort of ceremony than Europeans and Britons were at least a generation or two ago. Laymen are more comfortable in leisure attire than in neckties and coats, and a bishop is likely to be more comfortable giving a "high five" to one of the faithful than having his ring kissed by someone kneeling in front of him. How this would reflect on the Holy Father's penchant for gestures of humility and eschewal of traditional honors of the papal office, I'm certain I do not know, although it would likely make for an interesting essay.

[Hat tip to Keith Kenny]

Why Texas matters: Obama, the US bishops, & the Mexican border crisis

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Extraordinary Community News: First Extraordinary Faith celebrant training session held at Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana, TX

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (July 26, 2014):
Given the broad reach of EWTN, it seemed logical to use the platform to offer celebrant and musician training in the Extraordinary Form of Holy Mass to viewers of Extraordinary Faith. While there are several options for priest training in the Tridentine Mass (the Fraternity of St. Peter, Society of St. John Cantius, Institute of Christ the King, and Latin Mass Society of England and Wales all offer courses, for example), most are week-long seminars, rich in theology and academic background on the Mass. These are wonderful opportunities for those who can afford the time and travel expense, but in our experience here in Windsor and Detroit, it is far more practical to bring the training to the priest, and to do it more quickly. Many of our local celebrants learned the Mass in one or two days of intensive practice, soon after followed by the celebration of their first Mass. There is nothing like putting recently-learned skills into practice, to commit them to memory. It overcomes reluctance and insecurities, while building confidence. Why not extend this successful formula to a broader, virtually worldwide audience?

We are delighted to report that the first training session resulting from Extraordinary Faith took place this past week: Fr. Michael Adams, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Texarkana, Texas, took us up on our offer. In under two days, Fr. Adams and his two chief altar servers learned the Low Mass and Missa Cantata. At the conclusion of the second day, Fr. Adams adeptly celebrated his first Low Mass, with his servers assisting at the altar, pictured below.

Next up on the agenda is musician training: A Gregorian Chant workshop is now being planned at Sacred Heart, possibly to be led by one of our local music directors. The goal is to train their choir so that regular High Masses (as well as Low Masses) may be added to the parish schedule. Many churches including this one are blessed with skilled singers [the parish music director also serves as the director of the Texarkana Symphony Orchestra], but even those talented individuals can benefit from formal exposure to chant notation, the methods of singing chant, the Liber Usuális, and the structure of the Latin Propers of the Mass. Kudos are due to Fr. Adams and his team for embracing this comprehensive project with enthusiasm.

If the Extraordinary Form is going to become more widespread, we need to think like entrepreneurs and make the learning and implementation of it easy and non-threatening. The catch-phrase of famed Olympic gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi is equally relevant for priests and musicians: “You can do it!”

Bus Tour to Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation

Mike Semaan’s Prayer Pilgrimages bus tour operation will be making its annual trip to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio on Thursday, September 4. Assumption Grotto pastor Fr. Eduard Perrone will celebrate a Tridentine High Mass in the historic Upper Basilica of the church.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation dominates the small town of Carey: In addition to the main church with its Upper and Lower Basilicas, the old historic Shrine Church is open for adoration. Down the block is the huge Shrine Park with its baldacchino-surmounted outdoor High Altar. Quite a sight to behold. The complex includes a gift shop and a cafeteria where pilgrims will be served lunch.

For more information about the Shrine, visit To register for the tour or for further information, visit or call (248) 250-6005.

Guardian Angel Prayer

One of the most important prayers that Catholics should commit to memory is the Prayer to One’s Guardian Angel. Holy Mother Church has enriched the recitation of this prayer with a Partial Indulgence:

Ángele Dei, qui custos es mei, me tibi commíssum pietáte supérna illúmina, custódi, rege et gubérna. Amen.

Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love entrusts me here, enlighten and guard, rule and guide me. Amen.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 07/28 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Ss. Nazarius & Celsus, Martyrs, St. Victor I, Pope & Martyr, & St. Innocent I, Pope & Confessor)
  • Tue. 07/29 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Martha, Virgin)
  • Fri. 08/01 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Sacred Heart of Jesus) [First Friday]
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for July 26, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area this week

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Celebrity status: a national subculture names its drinking game after Scott Hahn

"New Scott Hahn Drinking Game Has Readers Taking Shot After Every Mention Of Word 'Covenant'” (Eye of the Tiber, June 29, 2014):
Steubenville, OH––A new, dangerous drinking game invented by Franciscan University of Steubenville sophomore Ben Johnson, known as Covenant, is sweeping Catholic universities. The game, which involves players reading any book ever published by Scott Hahn, and then taking a shot of whiskey or beer every time the word “covenant” is mentioned, is raising major concerns with university officials.

What originally started out as fun for some has now turned dangerous, officials are reporting, with one man listed in critical condition and at least 47 others being admitted to area hospitals for alcohol poisoning. Now health professionals are warning Catholics of the dangers of playing Covenant.

“This is one of, if not the most, lethal games I’ve ever come across,” said Dr. Candice Jarvis, medical adviser to the USCCB. “The thing about alcohol is that it affects your ability to recognize how many times Scott Hahn uses the word “covenant,” and it absolutely effects your ability to ask the question of whether or not there are any synonyms of the word he could be using. You go into the game thinking the word will be read two or three times, and next thing you know you’re on your 26th shot after just a few paragraphs. I’d even venture to say that it would be safer if students took a shot after every mention of the word ‘the.’”

Game creator Ben Johnson told EOTT this morning that the game is admittedly more dangerous and “way crazier” than the Rick Warren drinking game he played when he was an Evangelical. “In that game we’d chug Pepsi every time we came across the word ‘Purpose.’ The worst thing I ever witnessed playing that game was people getting major sugar highs.”

At press time, Scott Hahn has urged students to consider the potential “prophets and losses” of playing Covenant.
You know you've reached a level of celebrity worthy of stardom when a whole subculture begins naming drinking games after ya. Should I envy the man?

[Hat tip to Shawn McElhinney]

Extraordinary Community News: Reasons for the Threefold Kyrie and other Random Tidbits

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (July 20, 2014):
In today’s column, we will touch on a few points of interest from the world of Extraordinary Form trivia:

There are three Orations in the Mass (Collect, Secret, and Postcommunion) and three Antiphons (Introit, Offertory, and Communion). The priest always says or chants Dóminus vobíscum before praying each Collect. Why does he chant Dóminus vobíscum before the Offertory Antiphon? It’s a remnant from when there were intercessory prayers in the Mass at that point, a precursor to the Ordinary Form’s Prayers of the Faithful.

The Sign of the Cross which the celebrant makes at the beginning of the Introit harks back to the time before the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar commenced the Mass. The Tridentine Mass used to begin with merely the Sign of the Cross, as the Ordinary Form does today.

Symbolism of the Holy Trinity is rife throughout Catholic liturgy. One place where it seems to be present is in the 3x3 Kyrie: Three repetitions of three petitions. It would be logical to conclude that these are petitions to each of the three Members of the Holy Trinity, however that is actually not the case. St. Gregory the Great explained that all nine invocations are addressed to Christ.

In a sung Mass, the celebrant quietly reads the Antiphons and the sung parts of the Ordinary (Kyrie, Glória, Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei) while the choir sings them. Is this pointless repetition? No: Holy Mother Church teaches that the priest stands in persóna Christi – in place of Christ – at the altar. The Mass is addressed to God the Father, and the purpose of the repetition is to ensure that the entire Mass is prayed through the celebrant by Christ.

There are 18 Gregorian Chant Mass settings. Some of the Masses are assigned a name as well as a number, e.g. Mass IX – Cum júbilo, Mass XI – Orbis Factor. Those names come from the former tropes, or additional words, which used to be inserted between the words Kyrie and eleison. Though the troping was suppressed, the names of the Mass settings stuck. [above four tidbits from the June 2014 FSSP Newsletter]

The small bell tower that one sometimes sees on the roof of a church approximately over the center opening of the Communion Rail is a symbol of the original Sanctus Bell. Before hand bells came into popular use at the altar, churches had a bell in this roof location which was rung at the Consecration. Nowadays the small bell towers rarely contain actual bells; there are merely a reminder of a former custom. When exterior bells are rung at the Consecration, they almost always are the main tower bell(s) of the church.

A few times per year, you will hear the celebrant chant Benedicámus Dómino instead of Ite, Missa est at the end of Mass. This form of conclusion to the Mass is only used on Holy Thursday and when a procession follows the Mass, as at Corpus Christi. Older hand missals state that this was also said at Masses without a Gloria, such as during Advent and Lent, but that rubric was changed in 1962.

Liturgical Colors

Ever wonder about the colors of the priest’s vestments? Each day in the Ordo – the Church’s liturgical calendar – is assigned a color, as can be seen in the column labeled “C” in the adjacent image. Green is for Sundays After Pentecost, White is for Feasts of our Lord and our Lady and of Confessors and Virgins, Red is for Martyrs and the Holy Ghost, Violet is for Advent and Lent, Rose is for the Third Sunday of Advent and the Fourth Sunday of Lent, and Black is for All Souls Day, funerals, and Requiem Masses. Gold may be substituted for any color except violet or black.

As with so many issues, practicalities play a part: If a church is going to invest in a Solemn Set of vestments, meaning a set including a Dalmatic for a Deacon and a Tunicle and Humeral Veil for a Subdeacon, the first color that is most often obtained is gold, because A) it can be used on most of the days of the year, and B) for solemn events such as Solemn High Mass, it makes sense to use gold, a color which intrinsically suggests solemnity.

Occasionally one sees combination color vestments, for example whitish-gold, or a white vestment with red trim. Especially in the latter case, this is a conscious decision to have a vestment which can be used on either white or red days. While it’s not optimal, it is economical, and vestments historically have not been cheap. Fortunately, the world of global e-commerce has begun to make various church supplies, including some rather good vestments, available at prices significantly lower than custom-made sets tend to cost. While vestments custom-made by skilled craftsmen and women are still the best option for quality and durability, their high prices put them out of reach of many congregations.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 07/21 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. Laurence of Brindisi, Confessor & Doctor)
  • Tue. 07/22 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Mary Magdalene, Penitent)
  • Fri. 07/25 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. James the Greater, Apostle)
    - Note: Mass has been relocated to St. Joseph Church
    - Dinner for young adults age 18-35 follows Mass, sponsored by Juventútem Michigan
  • Sun. 07/27 12:00 Noon: High Mass at St. Albertus (Seventh Sunday After Pentecost)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for July 20, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming to the metro Detroit and eastern Michigan area this week

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"The Essential Rule of Interpretation of Pope Francis"

Fr. Bernd Hagenkord SJ, head of the German-language Section of Vatican Radio, is quoted in The Atlantic, according to "The Essential Rule of Interpretation of Pope Francis" (RC, July 14, 2014) thusly:
Francis knows exactly how power is spelled,” says Bernd Hagenkord, a Jesuit who is in charge of German programming for Vatican Radio. “He’s a communicator in the league with Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama. They say he’s being unclear, but we know exactly what he means.”

Pope St. John Paul II's worry that the Council opened the Church to the "Prince of this World"

Fr. Paul J. McDonald, in an op-ed piece entitled "The Council Opened the Church to the Prince of this World" (RC, July 19, 2014), quotes the encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vificantem, 23, where the recently sainted late John Paul II seems to say that the Council consciously took a risk in opening the Church to the world -- that is, the world that is dominated by the "Prince of this world." It seems that he though the risk was worth taking for the sake of evangelization, but that it was a significant risk. John Paul wrote:
One must learn how to "discern" the salvific fruits of the Spirit bestowed in the Council carefully from everything that may instead come originally from the "prince of this world." This discernment in implementing the Council's work is especially necessary in view of the fact that the Council opened itself widely to the contemporary world.
Read more >>, because there is more.

"It's over: genocide has been accomplished"

RC reports:
For two thousand years, our dearest brethren saw it all from Mosul: Romanized Greeks, Hellenized Persians, Hellenized Romans from all origins later called "Byzantines", Armenians, Arabs from the desert with a religion of the sword, Egyptians, Crusaders, Mongols, Turks, French and British, "Independence"... Then the clumsiest Empire in history, an Empire unwanted by most voters, unwarranted by the Republic's own Constitution, led by bellicose hawks motivated by God knows what, justifying their actions on untruths, arrived, upsetting a balance that was not the best, but was best of all possible outcomes. Two Vicars of Christ had cried their hearts out in vain warning of the grave danger of an intervention, of the, "extremisms that could stem from it."

Things were never the same.

For years, we have been warning that support for terrorists in neighboring Syria would surely end badly. But even we could not imagine that it would end so badly so fast and over such a vast area. And yet, the insane Empire-builders are still handing billions and billions, and hundreds of millions of dollars to "moderate" terrorists! Where's the outrage? Have you contacted your congressman, senator, president, MP, prime-minister expressing your outrage, begging this madness to stop?

This evening, our brethren the Syrian (Syriac) Catholics and Chaldean Catholics, who worship in the language of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and all other Christians are gone from Mosul. There may be some hidden in various places, but all public signs of their presence are gone. The seat of the Syrian Catholic Archeparchy of Mosul was completely burned down by the terrorist "Islamic State" this very evening, July 18, 2014, several converging reports seem to confirm.**

After two thousand years, it is finished. It's over.*** Who will pay for the lasting damage lying Western politicians created by starting a process that would lead to what not even the first Islamic rulers, thirteen centuries ago, ever did, the obliteration of Christian life and populations? "Revenge is mine, and I will repay them in due time," says the Lord. His judgment over this generation and their rulers will be overwhelming and frightful.

In Mosul, genocide* has been accomplished. Where's the outrage? There's no more outrage, just silence - cut by sounds of blades, gunshots, bombs, and the muezzin's loud calls to prayer.
For further details

Related: Sign of Genocide (RC, July 19, 2014).

For the record: changes never called for by the Church

Michael Voris has been recently compiling a list of changes in the Church that were never mandated by Vatican II, changes against which he sees (and represents) a perhaps yet small but increasingly significant "Catholic uprising." I started listing these changes in the first of several video episodes in which he offered partial listings. He states that his complete list includes 60 or more topics, which the establishment Catholic media has not touched because it considers them too controversial.

Since I find these sorts of lists interesting, I compile them for my own later reference. Here is the incomplete list I have so far. Maybe someone can point me to a more complete listing in time.
  1. Communion in the hand
  2. Altar girls
  3. Priests facing the people
  4. Gregorian chant insisted upon by V2
  5. Eucharistic ministers
  6. Protestant music in Mass
  7. Use of Latin in Mass insisted on by V2
  8. Movement of tabernacles from center of altars
  9. Smashing of Catholic art and architecture
  10. Near disavowal of confession
  11. Near total absence of the promotion of devotional life
  12. Parish youth ministries neglecting and/or rejecting Catholic doctrine
  13. Parish adult religious education neglecting Catholic doctrine
  14. Destruction of Catholic education in parishes
  15. Catholics leading the way on gay marriage approval
  16. Refusal to enforce Canon 915 - to pro-aborts
  17. Orthodox seminarians being carefully monitored, or not ordained or delayed
  18. "Gay Masses" in many dioceses with the bishops' knowledge
  19. CCHD financial support for pro-abortion and pro-contraception groups
  20. CRS giving donations to Obama campaign
  21. Homosexual or homosexual-friendly clergy
  22. Enormous resistance to the Traditional Latin Mass by bishops and priests
  23. Non-stop emphasis on "earthly" matters like immigration and gun-control
  24. Failure to preach against contraception

"Deathbed Conversions and the Case of Wallace Stevens"

This is the title of a very interesting and detailed article by John Beaumont, the author of two major books on Catholic converts, (1) Roads to Rome: A Buide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day (2010), and The Mississippi Flows Into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American Converts to the Catholic Church (2014). The article on Wallace Stevens appears in the June 2014 issue of Culture Wars, Vol. 33, No. 7.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Who can take the measure of Pope Francis?

It's interesting to look back and see what the first predictions were concerning Archbishop of Buenos Aires Jorge Mario Bergoglio, just after he was elected pope -- like this sharply-worded post that Rorate Caeli calls it's most hated piece, "The Horror! A Buenos Aires journalist describes Bergoglio" (RC, March 13, 2013). [Advisory: the post linked above is a personal assessment by the author, Marcelo González, and does not indicate any opinion of this blog or its contributors. See Rules ##7-9]

A Counter-Syllabus of Summer Reading (or Saints, Soldiers, & Celebrities by the Seashore)

Bruiser Cabe

Over at First Things George Weigel offers "Books for Summer Reading – Deepening a Thoughtful, Catholic Faith." Slightly intimidating framing, I thought. And after looking at it, I came away with the impression Weigel may be something like the Catholic version of his hero George Will, and NeoCaths (if that is what they are) as a group pretty close to Reagan-era Republicans in their ethos. For better and worse. Weigel plugs Father Robert Barron’s Catholicism series [I'd call it Catholicism, Sanitized for the Public Schools Humanities Class, if not simply Catholicism Decaffeinated. I'd also note a rose window for a book cover is probably the least imaginatively-inspired choice for packaging since Baker Book introduced its equally lackluster efforts for its Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture. But there I go being spoilport in the middle of a new spingtime]. Weigel also singles out  Divided Friends: Portraits of the Roman Catholic Modernist Crisis in the United States, by William L. Portier. How, one wonders, does this compare with Thomas Woods' revealing The Church Confronts Modernity? The comparison might produce a telling list of what does or does not differentiate Traditionalist priorities from those of NeoCaths, not to mention make clear that affection for the Latin Rite as a mere cultural artifact is quite the rhetorical bogeyman these days in thoughtful Catholic discourse. With those ramblings as a backdrop, and in honor of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, I thought I’d attempt my very own Counter Syllabus for summer readers, which follows....

In terms of theology, Fr. Walter Farrell’s Companion to the Summa is dated but remains one of the most accessible guides to Aquinas, and subsequently to basic Catholic thought. No less a literary critic than the late Wilfrid Sheed called his four volume set “magisterial,” and that was his verdict after lapsing in faith. It is available online, and can also be acquired cheaply via internet used bookstores. Another last century Thomist who after Vatican II was surreptitiously consigned to the Catholic attic like an embarrassing uncle was Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. As a theologian whose output was remarkable for both its precision and scope, his reputation deserves rehabilitation, and Aidan Nichol’s Reason with Piety is a nice start at that task. Even better is Richard Peddicord’s Sacred Monster of Thomism. Though not out until October, Peter Kreeft’s Practical Theology: Spiritual Direction from St. Thomas looks to be a fitting third installment to such a course of readings. Slightly outside of the Angelic’ Doctor’s immediate pull but still with his gravitational field is Martin Mosenbach. A novelist and not a theologian, his reflections on the interconnection of liturgy and life may therefore be more immediately accessible to many than Thomistic constructs. His Heresy of Formless displays those qualities that distinguish period classics: original thought, grand subject, and exceptional writing (even in translation). This is one supporters of the Extraordinary Rite ought to have on their shelves.

Catholic have their own celebrities, and in his day Fulton J. Sheen published so many books one might be forgiven for dismissing him as a brand. But at his best he was also a brilliant communicator. His best includes not only the justifiably popular Life of Christ but two much lesser known items, God and Intelligence (also a course in Thomism!), and The Mystical Body of Christ. Given all the contemporary confusion over the place of reason and the place of the laity, both are timely and (despite some caricatures of FJS) not at all treacly.

Converts get a lot of attention – and a lot of static – from fellow Catholics. Thus what is inexplicable about Benedict J. Groeschel’s benchmark I Am With You Always is the almost total lack of attention it’s received since it was released four years ago. It is presented as famous the spiritual director’s “Study of the History and Meaning of Personal Devotion to Jesus Christ for Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians,” and it’s irenic, eye-opening, and inspiring. If the saner version of Louis Bouyer has a contemporary successor, I’d argue Fr. Groeschel is the man. Another ecumenical expedition guide worth considering is David Wells: in God and the Whirlwind he surveys our modern (Postmodern? Millennial? Whatever…) landscape from a perspective orthodox Catholics may be surprised they so heartily share.

Several biographies provide beach reading of a little less demanding order than theology. Trad Catholics might be excused for asking, “Can anything good can come out of Cambridge?”, or wondering what could possibly have ended up between the covers of any biography on Pius XII that’s published by Harvard Press. But Robert A. Ventresca’s Soldier of Christ will surprise them with its even-handed, mostly positive account. Another, less heroic if arguably more high profile Catholic also receives a full-fledged treatment in Sylvia Morris’s Clare Booth Luce: The Price of Fame. The story careens back and forth between gossip sheet and cautionary tale, with Luce’s conversion to the Church providing a moving centerpiece. A name that also ought to ring a bell with reading Catholics is that of Pat Buchannan, and the controversial commentator tackles a different political life in Nixon: The Greatest Comeback. Say what you will about these subjects or authors, the stories and writing on display in both books are pretty mesmerizing. On a quite different note: an enjoyable easy read (not to mention a counterpoint to the current immigration strife) is Elizabeth Borton de Treviño’s My Heart Lies South: The Story of My Mexican Marriage. She studied at Boston’s Conservatory of Music, spent five seasons in Hollywood interviewing film personalities, and was then dispatched as a reporter to Mexico. There, her life as career woman was interrupted by the romance that provides the pivot point of this book. Borton wrote for younger readers (she won a Newberry Medal for another effort), but that only adds to the charm. Elsewhere, younger readers will not find themselves alone in appreciating the window onto faith in Japan opened via Cathy Brueggmann Biel’s The Samurai and the Tea. This one is fictional biography for kids, but it’s carried off in fine form. Also in his usually fine form is George Rutler, heir to the literary mantle of William F. Buckley and Richard John Neuhaus. Not quite biography, his Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943, is WWII history written with the theological virtue of hope and the stylistic virtue of verve.

Two last items for those who may enjoy Twilight Zone type tales for waveside conversation fodder. Rosaria Champagne Butterfield has a striking name and an even more striking conversion story to go along with it. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor's Journey Into Christian Faith is also very much about her journey out of homosexuality. As such, at a juncture where reparative therapy is today vilified, her account seems to come out of an alternative universe and is one over which it’s hard to remain indifferent. Randall Sullivan’s The Miracle Detective is now more than a few years old, but it too features a conversion, as well as good writing, Medjugorge madness, Rolling Stone Magazine, and an interview with then-Cardinal Ratzinger inside the Vatican. What’s not to love? (Don’t answer that one…)
[Hat tip to GN]

Addams Family Theme Song … At Mass?

Related: "Addams Family Theme Song … At Mass?"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exclamation point!

Martin Mosebach was invited to speak to assembled artists in Frankfurt (diocese of Limburg) on Ash Wednesday 2013, according to a German custom that apparently began with an idea from Paul Claudel who organized something similar in Paris. Mosebach addressed the theme of the traditional liturgy of the Roman rite. It scarcely need be said how unusual it is for a traditionalist thinker to be invited to a regular diocesan setting to speak on that subject.

Toward the end of his speech, Mosebach made the following striking point:
One difficulty that arose from the Church's abandonment of her traditional liturgy was surely quite unexpected. Many who observe the Church from a distance, and this includes many nominal Catholics, now see the Church as embodied principally in the moral teachings that she requires her faithful to follow. These teachings include many prescriptions and proscriptions that contradict the customs of the secular world. In the days when the Church was above all oriented toward the immediate encounter with God in the Liturgy however, these commandments were not seen merely in relation to the living of daily life, but were concrete means of preparation for complete participation in the liturgy.

The liturgy gave morality its goal. The question was: What must I do in order to attain to perfect Communion with the Eucharistic Christ? What actions will result in my only being able to look on Him from afar? Moral evil then appeared not merely as the that which is bad in the abstract, but as that which is to be avoided in order to attain to a concrete goal. And when someone broke a commandment, and thus excluded himself from Holy Communion, Confession was ready as the means to repair the damage and prepare him to receive Communion again. A surprising result of the reform is that while the Church of the past, which was really oriented toward the liturgy, appeared to many outside observers as being scandalously lax in moral matters, the current Church appears to contemporaries (and not only to those outside) as unbearably moralistic, unmerciful, and meanly puritanical. (From: "Das Paradies auf Erden: Liturgie als Fester zum Jenseits," Una Voce Korrespondenz 43 (2013), pp. 213-214; translation by Sacerdos Romanus).
[Hat tip to JM]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Another evolutionary biologist rejects the bogus theory of Evolution"

Dean Kenyon, Emeritus Professor of Biology at San Francisco State University recounts the steps that led to his growing doubts and rejection of Evolutionary theory.

Interesting, isn't it.

[Hat tip to Alex Naszados]

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Extraordinary Community News:

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (July 13, 2014):
Extraordinary Faith Episode 2: St. Paul’s Choir School, Boston

This column has many times made mention of the world-class music program at St. Paul Church in Harvard Square. Formerly known as the Boston Archdiocesan Choir School and now reverted to its original name, the St. Paul’s Choir School is America’s only Catholic boys’ choir school. Founded by Dr. Theodore Marier in 1963, the choir school sings a repertoire of Gregorian Chant and sacred polyphony in Latin and English for St. Paul’s Sunday 11:00 AM Mass, as well as for weekday Masses at 12:10 PM. During the dry period of the late 1960s through the mid-2000s, St. Paul’s maintained a strong tradition of chant, before it regained popularity in recent years.

St. Paul Parish also hosts a men’s choir which often sings with the boys. The choirs are supported by two magnificent pipe organs, one in the choir loft and another in the right transept. The organs are often played antiphonally. The proficient organ playing, the heavenly sound of the boys’ singing, especially while in procession at the beginning and end of Mass, and the marvelous acoustics of the church make for a musical experience unlike any other this author has experienced.

St. Paul’s is also known for creating one of the best hymnals of the modern era, Hymns, Psalms, and Spiritual Canticles, unfortunately now out of print. We regularly employ hymns from this book at our Masses here in Detroit and Windsor.

In April, 2013, the choir school sang its first Extraordinary Form Mass, a perfect opportunity to showcase their impressive skills. Our cameras were there. The Solemn High Mass happened to be celebrated by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, author of the “Fr. Z” blog. We captured an interview with Music Director John Robinson, and we featured a young student who is already an accomplished organist and composer. We also spoke with a panel of young women from Boston about the challenges of living their faith in a secular society.

Episode 2 of Extraordinary Faith – St. Paul’s Choir School – will be televised on EWTN this Sunday, July 13 at 5:00 PM and Thursday, July 17 at 10:00 PM. Beginning Wednesday, August 13, the episode will be available for viewing on our web site,

This episode has three local connections: Subdeacon for the Mass was now-Fr. Joe Tuskiewicz, who was studying at nearby Pope St. John XXIII Seminary. Assistant Cameraman and Director for the Solemn High Mass segment was ubiquitous altar server Frank De Donatis. Also in attendance for this groundbreaking Mass was Juventútem Michigan leader Paul Schultz.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store? A preview of Episode 2 has been posted to the Extraordinary Faith web site. More information about St. Paul’s Choir School is available on their web site:

Presentation on Extraordinary Faith on July 20

Next Sunday, July 20, there will be a presentation about Extraordinary Faith after the 9:45 AM Tridentine Mass at the Chapel of the Academy of the Sacred Heart in Bloomfield Hills. Refreshments will be served, and Episode 2 will be shown.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 07/14 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (St. Bonaventure, Bishop, Confessor, & Doctor)
  • Tue. 07/15 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Henry the Emperor, Confessor)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for July 13, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming to the Metro-Detroit and Eastern Michigan areas this week

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Monday, July 07, 2014

Leave of absence, again

Please pray for me as I will be taking a brief leave-of-absence from my blog over the next week or longer. I will make every effort to keep up my regular features, such as Extraordinary Community News and such, but otherwise my posting will be intermittent.

Kind regards in our Lord and Lady,
-- Pertinacious Papist

"PALE GAS" anyone?

Twenty seconds of PALE GAS as you lay in bed every night before you drift off to sleep can be good for your soul!

"Rumoured: Pope Francis seeks advice from US apologist Mark Shea on October Synod"

Things appear to be taking a turn for the unexpectedly interesting: Robert Allen, "Rumoured: Pope Francis seeks advice from US apologist Mark Shea on October Synod" (Road Apples, July 6, 2014), writes:
Rome (RAP) - Sunday, July 6, 2014. Our Rome press office was contacted by an anonymous Vatican representative today, claiming that Pope Francis has been trying to reach Mark Shea, a Seattle-based US Catholic apologist for "advice." ...

... "The Holy Father is seeking the help of Mr. Shea in walking him through various schemas that could form the basis of a magisterially appropriate response to the conflicting voices jockying for a place of influence around the table this October," said Mr. Stuart.

When asked why the services specifically of Shea were being sought, rather than those of, say, Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican representative reportedly replied that Pope Francis was an avid reader of Shea's blog, and had concluded that the future of the Church lies in the hands of Evangelical converts to the Catholic faith such as Mr. Shea.

... "It seems like he [the pope] finds in Shea someone who is more sure of what he believes to be true Catholic teaching than he may be sure of himself," said Stuart. "It's almost as if he sees Shea as a study in what it means to be authentically Catholic today, someone who 'makes a mess of things' (as the pope encouraged his followers to do) and who also 'enjoys it.' In fact, it could be that the pope shies away from the hard doctrinal stuff and sees Shea as the guy who could do this and yet put a good face on it."

... we could be standing on the biggest bombshell case of a pope reaching out from the Sea of Peter to an obscure member of the laity in order to solicit his help in clarifying Church doctrine. The result would be stunning, historical, even earth-shaking.

Clearly this would take the papacy into unmapped territory, and it could also mean some questions about the status of Mr. Shea. One staff member in our Rome office asked whether Shea could become a sort of "Super-Pope." The prospect is unlikely, of course, although some contacts in Seattle have suggested that Shea would welcome such a prospect.

"I am not an 'obscure American apologist'", Shea is reported to have responded. "I am a very 'big' man in Catholic circles. I could help the pope sort things out."
[Hat tip to T.T.]

"Pope Francis Needs New Friends"

... says Robert Royal. Especially when it comes to understanding global economics (not a revealed science, surely; but here are some interesting considerations). And predictably goofy comments, as Guy Noir notes!

"The Mass will rise again ... our hearts guilty for not having esteemed it worthily before the eclipse"

"It will rise again, I tell you, [...] the Mass will rise again, as I tell so many who come to me to complain (and they do, at times, crying) ...

"As it was before, and greater than it was before: thus it will happen with the Mass, thus the Mass will seem to our eyes, guilty of not having esteemed it worthily before the eclipse; our hearts guilty for not having loved it enough."

Tito Casini
Nel fumo di Satana: verso l'ultimo scontro
Florence, 1976
Via Rorate Caeli, 07/07/07+7

"A win-win situation for Holy Innocents proposed in the New York Times"

Kenneth J. Wolfe, writing in the New York Times, has proposed a solution to the ostensible impasse involving the parish of the Holy Innocents in New York City, as New Catholic reports in "A win-win situation for Holy Innocents proposed in the New York Times" (RC, July 7, 2014). In the June 30th issue of the New York Times, Wolfe writes:
The arguments by the Archdiocese of New York in favor of closing Catholic churches are always about two issues: parish finances operating in the red and a shortage of priests.

The Church of the Holy Innocents, however, operates with a budget surplus, according to your news article.

The parish, which is the only church in New York City that offers a daily traditional Latin Mass, clearly has a congregation that largely favors the pre-Vatican II liturgy and sacraments. The question, then, is why Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan does not invite a traditional religious order of priests into the archdiocese to administer Holy Innocents.

There are at least two such societies of clergy in perfect standing with the Vatican, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter and the Institute of Christ the King. Each runs parishes in North Jersey, among dozens of other places in the United States and beyond.

This option, called a “personal parish,” would seem to address concerns from all sides and keep the parish and its Latin Mass community intact. My hunch is that the fraternity or the institute would be able to arrange for several priests to move to Holy Innocents immediately if Cardinal Dolan were to extend such an invitation.

New Catholic aptly adds:
Let us recall that the instrument of the Personal Parish (or Chaplaincy), that already had full applicability for such situations, was expressly foreseen by Benedict XVI (the Pope who named the current Archbishop of New York and created him a Cardinal) in the Apostolic Letter given Motu Proprio "Summorum Pontificum", signed and promulgated exactly seven years ago, on July 7, 2007 (cf. Art.10/SP, and can. 518 of Code of Canon Law).

Prayer request update

First, your prayers have been answered for my friend who had to move to Metro-Detroit and find housing and arrange for schooling for the kids all within about two weeks.

Thank you heartily.

Second, I request prayers for another friend (whom we'll call 'R'), who is a convert of several years to the one true Faith. R is from an Evangelical background, and has not only found lacking the lively and enthusiastic expressions of faith that R experience in Evangelicalism but a distinct absence of real belief in the Catholic Faith. R attends a parish where the priest is an AmChurch liberal, doesn't believe in the Devil, interprets Scripture according to the canons of liberal Protestant demythologizing that has infected Catholic biblical studies for the past several decades. R is thinking of returning to an Evangelical church. I have spoken with R at length. Please pray for R. Much of the experience desolation is very real, the the desire to revert somewhat understandable. But, as I reminded R, the "Church" is an article of faith in our creeds. We don't just believe in Jesus and the Bible, but in His Church; and He has no more than one spouse.

Third, please continue your prayers for me, as you are given occasion to remember me. The situation regarding our home is still a disaster, and I must have upwards of 6 contractors with whom I have been in negotiation over the last weeks. Please pray specifically that the state will permit us to re-build the existing septic system rather than a new one that would require a high-tech electronic system costing well over $10K. The other related issue concerns a water spillage from a dishwasher malfunction in February that has led to major floor and sub-floor problems, warping, and mold infestation. Here I am appealing the case to our insurance company which initially refused coverage. Here, too, the contractor estimates run upwards of $10K, and possibly more.

On the status of the pope's "non-magisterial" utterances

A priest in the U.K., Fr. John Hunwicke, in his article "Non-Magisterial" (July 5, 2014), seeks illumination on how to interpret the pope's "non-magisterial" utterances:
The Pope's remarks to the Latin American religious who went to see him were, I presume, very definitely non-Magisterial. They claimed he hinted rather heavily that they should not lose too much sleep about CDF interventions. But ... those worthy religious who went half-way round the world to Rome did not do so because they have a private hobby of chatting to emeriti Argentinian bishops. They went to see, to question, to hear, the Pope qua Pope. And journalists who hear a Roman Pontiff speaking in an aeroplane are not ordinary airline passengers who find that chatting to some genial fellow-passenger relieves the boredom of the flight. They are specifically there to talk with, to listen to, to report the words of, the Pope qua Pope. And these journalists, for the main part, are not theological specialists in the status of papal utterances. As they received their potty training ('In cathedram, pusille! In cathedram mingendum!'), Mummy or Nurse did not tell them about the mysteries of ex cathedra. As toddlers, they did not receive precise information from masterful Nannies about Magisterial versus non-Magisterial. Even when they went to their Preparatory Schools, they were probably not catechised on religiosum obsequium and definitive tenendum. For these good, plain, honest hacks ... and probably also for their even plainer and more honest editors ... "The Pope says" means "The Pope says" without painstaking distinctions. And the hermeneutic they bring to what they hear is gained from analysing the implications and nuances in the soundbites of secular politicians with ephemeral, mutable, and transient policy objectives.

And so, given the distinction we already have between Magisterial and non-Magisterial utterances, a further distinction seems to be necessary; between formal and informal utterances. Thus, the volumes Joseph Ratzinger wrote about Jesus of Nazareth were, and were clearly said to be, non-Magisterial. But they were formal utterances. And Francis' daily homilies, while non-Magisterial, must be 'formal' because every sermon preached by an accredited minister of the Church is formal. Evangelii gaudium may not be Magisterial, as Cardinal Burke clearly demonstrated, but it is surely formal. However, remarks like those of Pope Francis to the Spanish American religious about the ministry of the CDF, or his comment that, while he can understand old people being attached to the Vetus Ordo, he thinks that its popularity among the young can only be a mere fashion (modo), must be less than formal. Furthermore, they involve other problems. They may very well have been unreliably reported. And yet they may be particularly newsworthy as bearing upon current topics, or as revealing the mind of the man who is also Bishop of Rome. They may even correspond rather uncertainly to previous statements of the Magisterium (his reported comments on the Vetus Ordo sit a little uneasily with formal and Magisterial statements of Pope Benedict about the Old Rite being a treasure for all the Church). Will you really say to me that there are no problems at all in this?

How are we to handle such a situation? I am asking a genuine question to which I do not have an answer to peddle. Let me phrase it thus. Is it OK for us ordinary Cardinals, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and Laics to say publicly, with regard to a non-Magisterial and non-formal papal statement, "Goodness me, what twaddle Bar Jona/Borgia/Lambertini/Pacelli/Ratzinger/Bergoglio did talk this morning"? If you reply to me "No; because of the deep respect and deference owed to the Vicar of Christ", then I have to say that, by bringing in his status, you seem to me to be smuggling the Magisterium back into the equation. If you suggest to me that it would be OK to talk thus frankly about the non-Magisterial and non-formal utterances of a previous Pontiff but not about those of this one, like bishops and journalists who do not refrain now from public sneers at Benedict XVI, I would have to ask you why the death or resignation of a Roman Pontiff means that the respect and deference due to a Vicar of Christ is no longer due to him. And I might raise with you an Alexander VI question: was it, either during his lifetime or since, proper to speak in frank criticism of that pope's sexually scandalous life-style? Will you reply to me "No, because of the deep respect and deference owed to the Vicar of Christ?" And, if not, why not? (Of course, within the dynamics of an absolutist Byzantine or Renaissance court, one would hesitate to hint at the least criticism of what an absolute monarch had said. It might lead him to withold a favour. But Pope Francis has intimated that this is not the model he has for his pontificate.)

There must be in the four paragraphs above at least a few occasions when you might have murmured a sentence beginning with the verb distinguo. Yes? I really do seek illumination!
[Hat tip to A.B.S.]

Sunday, July 06, 2014

1966: the year the Church in Quebec disappeared

Well, maybe not quite disappeared; but something close. The "Quiet Revolution" (Revolution tranquille) in Quebec in the 1960s -- a movement characterized by the effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state, and the provincial government taking over the fields of health care and education previously administered by the Church -- turned the most Catholic province on earth into the most secular almost overnight. What happened?

A reader kindly sent us the link to the fine, in-depth analysis below by the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who was intimately acquainted with many of the details of this transformation. The analysis is found about half-way through a series of reflections found in "Clerical Scandal and the Scandal of Clericalism" (First Things, March 2008) -- the relevant portion extracted here for your convenience below. Of particular interest are some of the more general warnings Neuhaus draws from the case of Quebec against overly ebullient expectations from such things as John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" in our own times. Interesting.
• No two times and no two places are entirely alike, and no time and place was very much like Quebec in the 1960s. As Father Raymond Leclerc says in the 2003 film Les Invasions Barbares: “You know, way back, everybody here was Catholic, just as in Spain or ­Ireland. And then, at a very specific moment—it was during the year 1966—in only a few months, the churches suddenly emptied out. A very strange ­phenomenon, one that nobody has ever been able to explain.” You cannot get very far into academic discussions about “secularization” and somebody will bring up the strange case of Quebec. The fictional Father Leclerc may be right that nobody has been able to explain what happened in Quebec, but it is not for want of trying. Here are two fresh and very helpful attempts by Michael Gauvreau, a historian at McMaster University in Ontario, and Kevin J. Christiano, a sociologist at Notre Dame. Their essays appear in a new book from Catholic University Press, The Church Confronts Modernity: Catholicism since 1950 in the United States, Ireland, and Quebec. Both writers agree that it began long before 1966. As Gauvreau and many others depict it, the “Quiet Revolution” (Revolution tranquille) began as a reaction against the almost total synthesis of Church, culture, and state under the auspices of the Union Nationale party led by Maurice Duplessis, who ruled, with one brief interruption, from 1935 to 1959. The Quiet Revolution, writes Christiano, was “the veritable coming of age of a ­people in its belated encounter with modernity.” The Quiet Revolution is usually dated from 1960, but it began decades earlier, with unexpected consequences of mostly good intentions gone wildly awry. Charles Doran, an American scholar, is quoted: “The clergy that had saved Quebec from the neglect of Louis XV and his court, and from the hardships of survival in a rough land, now became a burden. A Catholic faith that had provided the social cement for the colony, as well as solace from fear and from societal and job exclusion for its members, became an embarrassing reminder of a past that everyone wanted to forget.” The fate of the Church in Quebec is an illustration in spades that no good deed goes unpunished. Not that the Church didn’t make mistakes, beginning with its uncritical alliance with Duplessis. Until the Liberals took power in 1960, almost all the educational and social services of Quebec were run by the Church. Within, it seems, the blink of an eye, the Church retreated and the state took over. For the most part, the Church willingly, even eagerly, retreated. It is not too much to say that the Church led the retreat, and did so in the name of a more “authentic” ­Catholicism.

• The state of Catholicism in Quebec today is grim. Sociologists describe it as a free fall. To be sure, 80 percent of Quebecers say they are Catholics, and many still expect certain services from the Church, but their relationship to the Church is much like their relationship to the company that provides gas and electricity. As one observer describes it: “Citizens approach it to provide specialized services of a religious nature: baptism, first communion, confirmation, marriage, funerals, etc. It becomes, in a manner of speaking, a place for the production and distribution of symbolic goods of a certain kind. The relationship that it establishes with a majority of parishioners succeeds in resembling very much that which a utility fosters with its users.” In 1966, there were 8,800 diocesan priests; today there are 2,600, most of them older and many in nursing homes. In 1945, weekly Mass attendance stood at 90 percent; today it is well under 20 percent, and much lower in the large urban areas. Hundreds of religious communities have simply disappeared. The birth rate has fallen from an average of four children per couple to 1.5, well under what demographers call the replacement rate. And most of them are not born to couples. At present, 55.3 percent of births are to single mothers who have never been married. A magazine in western Canada ran an article under the impolite title “A Province of ­Bastards.” And, of course, the number of abortions has soared. As for the public role of the clergy, they are treated, says Christiano, with “polite indifference.” The new “bishops” providing moral guidance to the public, one observer notes, are the sociologists and other academics at the universities of Montreal and Laval. Thousands of parish churches, many of them bereft of people, are physically maintained by the provincial government under its “heritage” program. As a tour guide in the provincial parliament building explains to a tourist puzzled by the prominence of a crucifix, C’est l’histoire, madame—“Madam, that is history.” The official motto of Quebec, emblazoned on its license plates, is Je me souviens—“I remember.” Among the things they remember, along with the ­endless battles with English Canadians and the struggle to assert themselves as a “nation within a nation,” they remember when Quebec was Catholic. A few remember it fondly; most remember it in order, by remembering, to make sure it will not return.

• Michael Gauvreau’s essay is, I think, a particularly insightful analysis of what happened in Quebec. It is not so simple a matter, as old-fashioned secularization theorists would have it, of “confronting modernity.” Nor was it just a matter of escaping from an oppressive and stifling cultural-political hegemony. Nor was it a case of the putative “renewal” mandated by the Second Vatican Council running amok. The council concluded in 1965, by which time the Quiet Revolution was triumphant. The revolution got underway long before that. Its young leaders in Catholic Action were “the brightest and the best” and were inspired by Pius XI’s 1931 encyclical on social doctrine, Quadragesimo Anno. They construed that teaching in a way that created a category of “youth” that was depicted as modernity pitted against the way of their elders. The Catholic Action renewal proceeded, as Gauvreau writes, “from a negative reference point: the values of previous generations could offer no guidance or salvation for young Catholics confronted with the pressures and challenges of modern society.” Many bishops and priests ardently supported this youthful demand for an “authentic” Catholicism. The leaders of Catholic Action believed themselves to be fervently Catholic in seeking a more genuine form of lay Catholicism. The male leaders who dominated Catholic Action were disdainful of “feminized” popular piety and devotions centered on the family and extended families of parish communities. They were inspired also by the 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, which places a new emphasis on the spiritual and sexual dimensions of marriage. An enormously popular marriage-preparation program was launched that promoted a “sanctification of sex,” strongly favoring the nuclear family and mutual satisfaction over ­traditional familial patterns. Marriage was elevated over celibacy, and it was urged that the clergy had little to say about how the faith should be lived in the real world. The new approach was described as “personalist,” in contrast to the cultural and routine Catholicism of the past. Marriage was centered in a mutual “gift of self.” (Readers may, with reason, be reminded of the language of John Paul II’s “theology of the body.”) Having children was subordinated to the greater value of the mutual satisfaction of the couple, from which the extended family was excluded. The marriage-preparation movement promulgated the idea that both ­husband and wife needed to achieve, and maybe were entitled to, complete orgasm. Long before the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, the great majority of priests said there was no problem with the pill and other contraceptives. By 1968, the Church’s teaching on this question, and almost everything else, was a dead letter. Key to the Quiet Revolution was contempt for the past. As one of the most prominent leaders of Catholic Action, Fernand Dumont, declared, the old Catholicism in Quebec was “a dog’s breakfast of pseudo-beliefs that are in reality superstitions barely disguised by a thin coat of Christian veneer.” Such leaders styled themselves as a “Christian left” in close imitation of their French hero, Emmanuel Mounier. With the support of the more influential clergy, it was proposed that there are two Catholicisms: “one authentic, heroic, spiritually pure, communitarian, appealing to masculine reason, and the other routine, sentimental, unthinking, overly pious, excessively individualistic, appealing primarily to women and the less educated.” As Gauvreau notes, there was also a strong dose of anti-Americanism in the ideology of the leaders of the Quiet Revolution. Quebecers are, after all, French in more than language. And the most “progressive” among them tend toward a fierce nationalism. Many today lament the break of the link between Catholicism and the operative values of the people of Quebec. To which Gauvreau responds with a question: “After two decades of increasingly shrill hectoring and denigration by a self-appointed spiritual elite, why would the masses even be remotely interested in a project of defining a synthesis between Catholicism and nationalism in which their religious experience was no longer included?”

• Quebec is in some ways sui generis, but that does not mean there are not lessons applicable to other times and places. As longtime readers know, I spend part of the summer at the family cottage in Quebec and have over the years read a great deal of literature, and talked with numerous clergy and laypeople, about the Quiet Revolution, its sources and consequences. The essays in The Church Confronts Modernity, and especially that by Michael Gauvreau, throw valuable light on the subject. It is not unproblematic to speak of the debilitating influence of “elites.” After all, elite is closely related to the aspiration toward excellence. And it is a good thing that young people are seized by a vision of renewal, for surely the Church should be and can be different—proposing a high sense of spiritual, moral, and intellectual adventure in response to the call to holiness. All that is true, and importantly true. The fateful turn in Quebec was to pit youth against parents, elders, and ecclesial leadership, ending up with “two Catholicisms.” Mutatis mutandis, the same thing happened here with a “post-Vatican II Church” pitted against a “pre-Vatican II Church,” and it goes a long way toward explaining why liberal Catholicism is now, also in this country, an exhausted project. Those who marched under the banner of “renewal” and “reform” too often exhibited a contempt for the fervent piety and frequently heroic labors of prior generations. There was a desperate eagerness to distance themselves from the “immigrant” and “ghetto” Catholicism of the past. A now elderly priest who has never grown beyond being a very progressive priest of the 1960s once told me, “The reform of Vatican II will not be implemented until the last bead-banging bingo-playing blue-haired old biddy suffers a fatal heart attack at the last novena.” That’s gross, of course, but not unrepresentative of a certain liberal vision of renewal that ­exercised great influence for four decades.

• Contempt for the tradition that one would renew is lethal. Clergy and lay leaders do well to keep in mind an observation of Martin Luther King Jr.: “Whom you would change, you must first love, and they must know you love them.” It is an encouragement that the many youthful renewal movements in the Church today, although sometimes marked by elitism in the pejorative sense of that term, are typically devoted to the Church’s tradition in faith and morals, and respectful of popular devotions. More or less self-consciously rebelling, as youth will rebel, against two generations that equated progress with the jettisoning of the past, they want the Church to be more not less Catholic. Of even greater importance, they refuse to conform to the notion that rebellion is the normal mode of being young. One might say that they are rebelling against the imposed disposition of rebellion. (This phenomenon is insightfully addressed by Joseph Bottum in “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano,” October 2006) These young people know that there is much they do not know, and they are not embarrassed to acknowledge that their disposition is that of learning. Perhaps some of them have even read the words of Goethe:

What you have as heritage
Take now as task;
For thus you will make it your own.

I do not want to exaggerate, but such is my impression from the young Catholics I encounter on campuses around the country, in our international summer seminar in Poland, and, not least, on our staff here at First Things. You may object that they are not representative, that they are the elite. Yes, I suppose so. Which means they are the leaders who are redefining the meaning of renewal and reform. Which means they are very much unlike the elitists of Catholic Action in Quebec and their counterparts here in decades past who, in their no doubt well-intended efforts, precipitated such spiritual and institutional devastation.

• And, with your permission, one more thing. I mentioned in passing John Paul II’s “theology of the body” (now available in an improved translation as Man and Woman He Created Them). That is among the many gifts of the late pope that are today warmly embraced by many young Catholics. But, as mentioned earlier, some of the themes of the theology of the body are not new to the Catholic tradition; for example, a “personalist” understanding of the marital union and sexual relations as a “mutual gift of the self.” The use of these themes by the leaders of Catholic Action in Quebec led to a “sanctification of sex” and unrealistic expectations, resulting in dissatisfaction with the lived experience of marriage, in fewer children, and in more divorce. This is a real danger also among evangelical Protestants today who have produced a stream of books on how “everything goes better with Jesus”—including, maybe especially, sex. There is ample research suggesting that deeply committed Christians do have more and better sex in their marriages. But, while all of life, including sexual relations, should be holy, the “sanctification of sex” can distract attention from the virtues of patience and forbearance, and the inevitability of disappointments in marriage. It is wonderful when one’s duty is delight, but frequently duty is just duty. Marriage is sustained by love, and at times it is the case that love is sustained by marriage. Of course such wisdom is contained in the “theology of the body,” but this caution to some of its more enthusiastic proponents may be in order. And with that I conclude this reflection on what happened in Quebec, which, please God, will not happen here. Did I mention that some Catholics in Quebec, including some priests and bishops, have learned these lessons, and that there are, here and there, flickering signs of recovery? Maybe I’ll come back to that another time.
[Hat tip to Sir A.S.]

Juventutem Thanks Benedict XVI for Summorum Pontificum

The future of the Church lies with our youth. God bless 'em!

Extraordinary Community News: Sacristies

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (July 6, 2014):
Have you ever wondered what’s in that mysterious set of rooms next to the sanctuary where the priests and altar servers go? It’s known as the sacristy. Every church has one; it’s where most of the supplies and vestments are stored.

Every sacristy has some common elements: There is usually a locked cabinet or safe where valuable objects such as chalices, ciboria, and a monstrance are kept. One often finds a refrigerator where altar wine and water are stored. Vestments tend to be scattered about: frequently-used vestments are kept in a convenient location, while more rarely used chasubles, copes, and dalmatics are kept either upstairs or in a more remote cabinet. Valuable old Roman vestments are sometimes kept in drawers, laid out flat, rather than hung from hangars.

Metalwork and related supplies and can take up a lot of space: Candlesticks for the altar and for altar servers to carry; Benediction candelabras; torches for servers to hold during the Canon; Sanctus bells; wooden clappers for the Triduum; Communion patens; a Eucharistic canopy set and/or an ombrellino (Eucharistic umbrella) for processions.

Linens such as amices, corporals, purificators, and lavabo cloths (finger towels) are kept in designated drawers. Altar breads for the priest and people must be kept stocked at all times.

Seasonal decorations, such as Christmas and Easter trimmings, and artificial flowers are often stored in sacristies. It’s not unusual to find the area behind the High Altar conscripted for storage of certain objects, but sometimes one discovers a delightfully clean space there, for example the spotless area behind the High Altar of St. Paul on the Lake Church in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Churches that hold Tridentine Masses need extra supplies: an Altar Missal and Roman Ritual; Red, White, and Grey Missals for the congregation; hymnals; handouts; cassocks and surplices for altar servers; and specialized vestments. Latin Mass supplies tend to be assigned their own storage area.

Some sacristies, especially older ones, have the traditional Latin vesting prayers from the Extraordinary Form Missal mounted either on a sacristy cabinet door or on the wall. The National Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak even has kneelers before their vesting prayers.

Many sacristies have a sacrárium, a sink which drains directly into the ground. This is used to dispose of Holy Water, blessed water used at Mass, and to rinse out sacred vessels. If there is a risk of a bit of the Precious Blood or Holy Water being present, it’s always safer to drain liquid into a sacrárium, or if one is not present, directly into the soil outside. It would be unfitting to drain such sacred liquids into the sewer system via a standard sink.

Like humans and their houses, sacristies to some extent reflect the churches they are in. Some are messy jumbles; others are models of organization. Some are tiny (St. Stephen, New Boston and Holy Family, Detroit come to mind); others are expansive (St. Alphonsus, Windsor and St. Hyacinth, Detroit). Some have every imaginable supply (Assumption, Windsor), while others are sparsely stocked. Some are downright surprising (the historic Serra Chapel at Mission San Juan Capistrano in California has a clean, modern, neat sacristy, not what one would expect at the oldest functioning church in the state).

Some sacristies have separate areas designated for servers to dress and prepare for Mass. These can be range from humble corridors to virtual “lounges” (St. Josaphat, Detroit).

One practical tip for volunteers who maintain sacristies: Altar servers are often called upon to find objects at a moment’s notice. A choir member might need a hymnal or Liber Usuális. In the middle of a Mass, the celebrant might need a missing item at the altar. After Mass, ritual blessing books may be needed. The only way such items can be located quickly is if things are stored in predictable, designated locations. Thus it behooves everyone to take the time to file things carefully where they belong.

Some dioceses maintain super-sacristies, storage facilities where surplus goods from parishes open and closed are stored. The Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, for example, has a gymnasium-sized facility, replete with everything from tacky 1970s vestments to beautiful liturgical books for the Extraordinary Form. Of course, one man’s trash is another one’s treasure. Who gets to pick through this inventory? It’s usually restricted to parishes from the diocese.

You are welcome to tour our sacristies and storage areas. Just ask an altar server after Mass.

Sacristies of the World Blog

Curious to see what’s in others’ closets? The Sacristies of the World Blog contains an enormous treasure trove of photos of sacristies from the humble to the magnificent, urban to rural, modern to historic. One recent photo [adjacent] showed a beautiful Baroque sacristy from Weingarten Abbey in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Take a look at their web site at: and their Facebook page at:

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 07/07 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Joseph (Ss. Cyril & Methodius, Bishops & Confessors)
  • Tue. 07/08 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Benedict/Assumption-Windsor (St. Elizabeth of Portugal, Queen & Widow)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for July 6, 2014. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]