31 December 2007

Sacramental Confession

From The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Fr. Reginald Garrigou Lagrange, OP

"Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them." John 20:22 f.

We have seen that the purification of the soul is an effect
of the mortification of the senses, of self-will, and of personal judgment; we shall see also that it is an effect of prayer. Moreover, God, in His love for us, has placed within our reach other easy and powerful means to purify us, the sacraments, which operate by themselves, ex opere operato, and produce in the soul which has prepared itself by acts of faith and love a much more abundant grace than it would obtain by making the same acts without the sacraments.

However, if the sacraments by themselves, by the divine virtue they contain, have an essential efficacy, the measure of grace produced by them varies according to the dispositions of those who receive them; the more perfect they are, the more abundant is the grace, and the differences between a number of persons receiving the same sacrament are much greater than one ordinarily imagines.
The sacrament of penance is one of the most precious means of sanctification; it must be well received, and routine, which would considerably diminish its effect, should be avoided. It is, therefore, important for us to see how we should prepare for sacramental confession, how we should make a good confession, and what are its fruits.


To prepare worthily for confession, we should examine our consciences and arouse ourselves to contrition.

The examination of conscience requires more care in proportion as the penitent falls into more sins and has little knowledge of his interior state. However, those who each evening examine their principal failings, have no trouble at all in knowing themselves well, and they are thereby stirred to make serious efforts at amendment.

In the case of spiritual persons who confess frequently and who are careful to avoid deliberate venial sins, the examination of conscience, as St. Alphonsus remarks, does not require much time. It is advisable for such a person to ask himself: What remains of this week to be written in God, in the book of life? In what have I acted for God, in what for myself, by yielding to my temperament, my egoism, my pride? When he thus considers the state of his soul from above and asks for light, he often obtains the grace of a penetrating gaze on his own life.

We must distinguish here grave sins, more or less deliberate venial sins, and the faults of frailty.

If a man who tends towards perfection has the misfortune to commit mortal sins in a moment of weakness, he must accuse himself of them sincerely and clearly at the beginning of his confession, without, seeking to cause them to pass unperceived in the multitude of venial sins. He must indicate their number, kind, and cause, and especially have a profound contrition for them accompanied by a firm purpose of avoiding in the future not only the sins themselves, but their occasions and causes. Even after receiving pardon, he must also keep alive in his heart the sincere desire to atone, by an austere life and a generous love, for the evil committed. He should also remember how the Apostle, St. Peter, wept over his denial, humbled himself profoundly, thanked infinite Mercy, and continued on his way even to martyrdom.

An isolated mortal sin, when immediately confessed and atoned for, leaves scarcely any traces in the soul, which may at once resume its ascent from the very spot where it fell, without having to retrace all the road that had already been traveled. Thus he who stumbles midway in an ascent, may, when he picks himself up, promptly continue his climb from the spot which he had reached.

Venial sins committed with full deliberation are a serious obstacle to perfection, especially when they are frequent and the soul is attached to them. They are real maladies, which weaken the Christian soul. "Do not allow sin to grow old in thee," Christ said to St. Gertrude. Fully deliberate venial sin, when not rejected, is like a poison that is not vomited forth and that, although it does not cause death immediately, acts slowly on the organism. For instance, close attention must be paid to avoid keeping voluntarily any petty rancor, or attachment to one's own judgment, to self-will, to habits of rash judgment, of slander, of dangerous natural affections that would be a fetter, depriving us of liberty of spirit and all spontaneous movement toward God. When we deliberately refuse the Lord these manifestly demanded sacrifices, we cannot expect from Him the graces that lead to perfection. Consequently we must plainly accuse ourselves of fully deliberate venial sins against charity, humility, the virtue of religion, and so forth, especially those which are most humiliating. Their cause must be sought with a firm resolution to avoid them. Otherwise, of course, there is no longer any real and effective tendency to perfection. This is a point of primary importance.

There are other semi-deliberate venial sins, which are committed with less reflection and into which there enters a certain amount of surprise and impulse, but to which the will adheres with a certain complacency. We must guard against them, especially if they recur frequently; they show that the soul fights too feebly and is not determined to free itself from all obstacles.

Sins of frailty are those committed inadvertently because of human weakness; the will has only a small share in them; it yields momentarily, but promptly disavows its weakness. Sins of this kind cannot be completely and continually avoided, but their number should be diminished. They are not a serious obstacle to perfection because they are quickly atoned for; yet it is well to submit them to the influence of the sacrament of penance because thereby purity of soul will become more complete.


Confession should be made with a great spirit of faith, remembering that the confessor holds the place of our Lord. He is a judge, since this sacrament is administered in the form of a judgment: Ego te absolvo . . . ; but he is also a spiritual father and a physician, who benevolently points out remedies if the penitent clearly reveals his suffering. Consequently it is not enough to make a vague accusation that would tell the confessor nothing, as for example: I have had distractions in my prayers. It is advisable to say: I have been especially distracted during such and such an exercise of piety through negligence, because I began it badly, without recollection, or because I did not sufficiently combat distractions springing from a petty rancor or from too sensible an affection or from study. It is also fitting to recall resolutions taken and to tell whether we have failed more or less in keeping them. Thus routine and negligence will be avoided.

We need especially to excite contrition and a firm purpose of amendment, its indispensable consequence. To do this, we should think of the genuine motives of contrition, both as regards God and as regards ourselves. We must ask for the grace to see more clearly that sin, no matter how slight it may be, is an offense against God, resistance to His will, resistance which certainly displeases Him; that it is also ingratitude toward the most loving of Fathers, ingratitude so much the greater as we have received more, and by it we refuse to give God an "accidental joy" which we ought to give Him. Our sins have increased the bitterness of the chalice that was offered to Christ in Gethsemane; He could address to us these words of the Psalmist: "For if My enemy had reviled Me, I would verily have borne with it. . . . But thou a man of one mind, My guide and My familiar, who didst take sweetmeats together with Me." There we have indeed the motive for contrition with respect to God.

As regards ourselves, there is another motive: venial sin, though it does not of itself diminish charity, takes away its fervor, its liberty of action, and its radiation. Venial sin renders the divine friendship less intimate and less active. To lose the intimacy of a saint would be a great loss; but to lose the intimacy of our Savior is a far greater loss. Moreover, venial sin, especially if deliberate, causes evil inclinations to spring up again in us and thereby disposes us to mortal sin; and in certain matters the attraction to pleasure may easily cause us rapidly to cross the line which separates venial sin from mortal. We have here another motive for sincere contrition.

Confession thus practiced will, especially by virtue of absolution and the counsels of the priest, be a powerful means of purification and progress. Blessed Angela of Foligno, along with many others, exemplifies this purification and progress by means of confession. At the beginning of the book of her visions and instructions, the saint herself relates that when she first took cognizance of her sins she was greatly afraid, trembled at the thought of damnation, wept much, blushed for the first time, put off confessing them; nevertheless she went in this state to the holy table. She says:
With my sins I received the body of Jesus Christ. That is why my conscience did not cease to chide me day or night. I prayed to St. Francis to make me find the confessor I needed, someone who would be able to understand and to whom I could talk.. . . In the morning I found a friar who was preaching in the church of St. Felician. After the sermon I resolved to make my confession to him. I confessed my sins in full, I received absolution. I did not feel love, only bitterness, shame, and sorrow.

I persevered in the penance imposed on me; devoid of consolation, overwhelmed with sorrow, I tried to satisfy justice.

Then I looked for the first time at divine mercy; I made the acquaintance of that mercy which had withdrawn me from hell, which had given me the grace that I have related. I received its first illumination: my grief and tears redoubled. I gave myself up to severe penance. . . .

Thus enlightened, I perceived only defects in myself; I saw with entire certitude that I had deserved hell. . . . I received no consolation other than that of being able to weep. An illumination made me see the measure of my sins. Thereupon I understood that, in offending the Creator, I had offended all creatures. . . . Through the Blessed Virgin and all the saints I invoked the mercy of God and, knowing that I was dead, on my knees I begged for life. . . . Suddenly I believed that I felt the pity of all creatures and of all the saints. And then I received a gift: a great fire of love and the power to pray as I had never prayed. . . . I received a profound knowledge of the manner in which Christ died for my sins. I felt my own sins very cruelly, and I perceived that I was the author of the crucifixion. But as yet I had no idea of the immensity of the benefit of the cross. . . .

Then the Lord in His pity appeared to me several times, in sleep or in vigil, crucified: "Look," He said to me, "Look at My wounds." He counted the blows of the scourging and said to me: "It is for thee, for thee, for thee." . . . I begged the Blessed Virgin and St. John to obtain the sufferings of Jesus Christ for me, at least those which were given to them. They obtained this favor for me, and one day St. John so loaded me with them that I count that day among the most terrible of my life. . . . God wrote the Pater Noster in my heart with such an accentuation of His goodness and of my unworthiness that I lack words to speak of it.
By this very profound contrition, Blessed Angela entered on the way of sanctity. These great graces should draw our attention to the value of the aids which God offers us daily, to matters of import in the ordinary Christian life.


The fruits of confession are those of the virtues of humility and penance and especially those of sacramental absolution.

What truer and more indispensable act of humility is there than the sincere confession of sins committed? It is the remedy of the vice of pride, the root of all sin. Therefore heresy, which is the fruit of pride, suppressed confession, as we see in Protestantism. In a humble confession there is a beginning of atonement for sins of pride.

The act of penance, which is contrition, regrets sin, disavows it because it displeases God and separates us from Him. By contrition the soul is converted, turns back to the Lord from whom it had turned away by mortal sin, or from whom it had strayed by venial sin. It draws near to Him and with confidence and love throws itself, so to speak, into the arms of mercy.

Above all, the blood of the Savior is sacramentally poured out on our souls by sacramental absolution. The Protestant never experiences, after committing sins that may torment him, the consolation of hearing the minister of God say to him in the name of the Lord, speaking in merciful judgment: Ego te absolvo. He has not the consolation of thus being able to apply to himself Christ's words to the apostles: "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them." On the contrary, by these words the blood of Christ is sacramentally poured out on our souls by absolution; it is like a salutary balm which, adding its power to that of the virtues of humility and penance, remits sins, greatly assists complete healing, and helps the soul to recover its lost strength.

"By confession," says St. Francis de Sales, "you not only receive absolution from venial sins you confess, but likewise strength to avoid them, light to discern them well, and grace to repair all the damage you may have sustained by them."

We must not forget, however, that the effects of absolution are always in proportion to the excellence of the dispositions with which the sacrament is received. As St. Thomas says, If a man who has five talents and loses them by mortal sin, has only sufficient contrition, he does not recover the merits lost in the degree that he had before his fall; he may recover three talents. If he has a more profound sorrow for his sins, he may again receive the five talents that he lost; or even, with a superior fervor of contrition, he will receive more, six, for instance. Such seems to have been the contrition of St. Peter after his denial of Christ; from that time on he was very generously faithful to grace, which led him even to martyrdom.

Among twenty people who go to confession, each receives a different measure of grace, for God discerns in each one's acts difference; which no one on earth suspects. There are many different degrees of humility, contrition, and love of God, which are more or less pure and more or less strong. They are as so many degrees of intensity of a flame.

The same principles apply to sacramental satisfaction, the effect of which depends on the sacrament, at the same time being proportioned to the fervor with which it is accomplished. Sacramental satisfaction has thus more value than a satisfaction that is not sacramental, though the first may be more or less fruitful according to our generosity. It thus obtains for us in varying degrees the remission of the punishment due to forgiven sins. This satisfaction or penance should, therefore, not be put off to a later date, but performed at once, while we thank God for the grace of absolution. The blood of Jesus flowed over our soul to purify it; we should pray that He may grant us to remain in the state of grace and to die in this state. Only the saints have a profound understanding of the value of the blood of the Savior; this penetrating illumination on the depths of the mystery of the redemption is an immense grace.

Finally, it is fitting to accuse ourselves, at least in general, of the sins of our past life, especially of the most serious sins, in order to have a greater contrition for them so that the application of the merits of Jesus Christ to these sins, that have already been forgiven, may diminish the temporal punishment, which almost always remains after absolution. Let us also say with the Psalmist: "From my secret ones cleanse me, O Lord." Cleanse me, O Lord, from my secret sins that are indirectly voluntary by reason of my negligence to know and to will what I ought to know and will.

Confession made thus with a spirit of faith is manifestly a great means of sanctification. Our Lord said to St. Veronica Juliani: "Thou shalt make progress in perfection in proportion to the fruits which thou shalt draw from this sacrament."

In a little work on confession, St. Francis de Sales remarks: "Listen attentively. . . in order to hear in spirit the words of absolution that the Savior Himself pronounces in heaven over your soul. . . at the same time that His priest absolves you in His name here on earth."

In the same work, he adds: "There is no character so untractable which, first of all by the grace of God, then by industry and diligence, cannot be subdued and conquered. For that reason, follow the orders and guidance of the prudent and zealous director."

To conclude with St. Francis de Sales, let us note that the sadness of true contrition, that is, displeasure with evil and detestation of it, is never a vexing, fretful sadness which depresses, but, on the contrary, it is a holy sadness that makes the soul prompt and diligent, that uplifts the heart by prayer and hope, that leads it to outbursts of fervor: "It is a sadness which in the height of its bitterness always produces the sweetness of an incomparable consolation, according to the precept of the great St. Augustine: 'The penitent should ever grieve and rejoice at his grief.' "

If this sadness of contrition at the memory of past sins has this sweetness, it is because it springs from charity. The more a man grieves for his sins, the more certain it is that he loves God. This sadness, which is not vexation and melancholy, is good; it is compunction or lively sorrow for having sinned, sorrow in which are found the fruits of the Holy Ghost: namely, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, and chastity.

Discalced Carmelites of Miami

This young woman has found her calling.
At a time when vocations to the religious life are rare, Ana Carolina Bernal felt called to the rarest — to become a cloistered nun.

From now on, Bernal will be known as Sister Anita del Corazón Misericordioso (Sister Anita of the Merciful Heart).

She will live with 8 other Discalced Carmelite Sisters in the Monastery of the Most Holy Trinity on the grounds of Immaculate Conception Parish in Hialeah.

She will spend all of her days in prayer, leaving the convent only on rare occasions, and greeting visitors, including her family, through a grille.

“It is a life with God. It is a total surrender,” said the 28-year-old Colombia native, who is the first local vocation for the order.

29 December 2007

Joyeuses Fêtes?

Dans la rue des commerçants me souhaitent “de joyeuses fêtes”, et je leur réponds que ma fête est le 19 mai, que je compte bien qu’ils me la fêtent ce jour-là, mais qu’en attendant, moi, je leur souhaite un joyeux Noël. La déchristianisation est suivie d’une perte de notre culture, en sorte qu’aujourd’hui on ne sait plus trop ce qu’on fête le 25 décembre. La fête des enfants? La fête des cadeaux? La fête du Père Noël?

Je ne mélange pas politique et religion, mais enfin, pour un chrétien, Noël est l’anniversaire de la naissance du Sauveur.

Et vu sous l’angle politique, “Noël” est le cri que les Français poussaient aux sacres et aux entrées des rois dans leurs villes: “Noël! Noël!”. Car l’Etat français est né un jour de noël 496, avec le baptême de Clovis qui lui ouvrit la confiance des Gaules en espérance d’unité.

Je souhaite à nous tous de pouvoir pousser ce cri de nouveau au moins une fois dans sa vie.

--Yves-Marie Adeline, President of the Royal Alliance in France

Translation: In the street, businessmen wish me "Happy Holidays" [in French, "Happy Feast Day/Festival"], and I respond to them that my feast day is May 19, that I am most grateful that they wish me joy on that occasion, but till then, I wish them a merry Christmas. Dechristianization is followed by a loss of our culture, such that today we don't know much about December 25th. Is it the holiday of children? The holiday of gifts? The holiday of Santa Claus?

I am not mixing politics and religion, but in the end, for a Christian, Christmas is the anniversary of the birth of the Savior.

And seen under the political angle, "Noël" is the cry of the French in the holy places and at the entrance of kings into their cities: "Noël! Noël!" For the French state was born one day on Christmas 496, with the baptism of Clovis who won the trust of the Gauls in the hope of unity.

I wish we might be able to give this cry anew at least once in our lifetime.

28 December 2007

Fête des Saint Innocents, Martyrs

Le Massacre des Innocents, Anonymous, Notre-Dame de Paris, 15th c.

Un cri s'élève dans Rama, des pleurs et une longue plainte : c'est Rachel qui pleure ses enfants et ne veut pas qu'on la console, car ils ne sont plus.
--Matt. 2:18

27 December 2007

The Loneliness and Beauty of the Mass

At Fr. Zuhlsdorf's blog, a number of priests have left comments on their experience saying both the ordinary and extraordinary form of the Mass. They were responding to the following comments by a priest new to the Traditional Latin Mass:
The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.
Priests' comments follow.

This is an excellent post, and I can identify with the lonliness that this priest experienced during the Roman Canon. I have yet to celebrate the Extraordinary form (though I do hope to celebrate it in the near future), but since I started using an Altar Crucifix and Candles on the Altar of Sacrifice for the Mass of Paul VI I have noticed the same thing happening. The more I focus on Christ and the mystery of the Cross made present during the Canon, and the less I focus on myself or on the people gathered before me the more I experience this lonliness – this sharing in what our Lord must have felt upon the cross. I have also found that the more I shift my attention away from the people and toward the mystery we celebrate the more the people do as well, thus making Christ the center of what is happening and not me. I decrease and Christ increases.

Surely, the Extraordinary Form makes this easier to accomplish, but it can be done with the Ordinary Form as well if we as priests model for the people that neither they nor the priest is the focus of attention, but Christ Himself.

--Fr. Christensen

My own experience of the TLM is that it my priesthood is becoming dependent upon it in a way that I could not have imagined even five years ago. Michael, you sensed the power of the Mass to humble a priest, to recognize our smallness and our our sinfulness. The newer Mass allows you to be Martha at her busiest. With the older Mass, you have only the Better Part. You don’t even get to choose—you are simply there, irrevocably there. I think, Michael, you touched a deep vein by sensing the people WITH you. In the newer Mass you always have them BEFORE you, no matter how hard you try to refocus (even when you celebrate ad orientem, although that helps). But with the older Mass you do sense you all set out IN ALTUM, into the deep. A priest is Alter Christus also in the newer form, but it less transparent to the congregation and to the priest himself. Especially with the more common forms of celebration, there is so much noise, so many other signals, that is exceedingly difficult to PRAY the Mass. But with the older Mass, you are both WITH the congregation and truly alone, abandoned. What a gift, what an incredible, undeserved gift! That majesty is almost intolerably beautiful. And by the way, Michael, it gets better and better. The rubrics become part of you, a second priestly skin, the words stick to the soul, the canon becomes part of your breath. What a gift. And it’s a gift I want for you. Pax tecum.
--Fr. M (not of Patum Peperium)

I have come to cherish the rubrics of the TLM for helping my personality disappear at Mass. At Mass, it doesn’t matter who stands at the altar, as long as he is a priest, because the priest is a mere instrument of Christ.

Once learned, they seem to make perfect sense and flow so naturally with the rhythm of the liturgy. There is an aspect of rote-ness to them, but I think that Mother Church gives the priest the duty of informing the outward gesture with his own love and devotion.
Finally, just a comment of the consecration in the TLM. The fact that we priests not only relate what Christ did but actually look up to heaven, give thanks, blesses, and says Christ’s words is a very poignant reminder that we are acting in the person of Christ. We are not merely reading a narrative, but we are allowing Christ to use us to make Himself in His saving act present. And although we try to dissolve our personality, we remain ourselves and so, immediately after Christ become present in the Eucharist, we fall on our knees, even before showing Him to the congregation. Perhaps there is some aspect of loneliness, but might it not be argued that this is an aspect of the crucifixion?

--Fr. D.D.

I notice the difference when celebrating facing the people and I now find it jarring. When I began to celebrate the more ancient use I was even more moved. First you have the offertory prayers which actually convey that you are doing something, that you are prparing for something great. When I enter the Canon I am very mindful (more I find than in the NO) of two things--the Other to whom I am offering the sacrifice and those on whose behalf I do this. The role of priest as mediator between the people and God is so manifest. I do not feel in one sense lonely but I do feel alone. The highlight is when at the consecration everybody who is assisting me withdraws and I am surrounded by silence broken only by the bell. To bend over and whisper the words of consecration!! I was ordained in 1971 and I love the priesthood and the Mass. But this mass (the TLM) returns me to my childhood when I fixed my eyes in wonder upon the priest at holy mass and wanted to do what he was doing. The celebrating of the TLM makes me feel more like a priest.
--Fr. Franklyn Mcafee

I think Father Blake has hit the nail on the head in regard to ad orientem celebration. I first started celebrating the Novus Ordo Mass at the high altar before I obtained an Indult (glad we don’t have to use that word anymore) and started offering the Tridentine Mass on a regular basis. It has been a long time since I’ve said Mass facing the people and I believe I am a better priest because of it.
--Fr. A

While I must say I personally prefer to offer according to the extraordinary rite, I accept the Novus Ordo from Mother Church and will offer it as long as there is “pastoral need.” This I do out of obedience because the truth is that it has been recommended by the Church as our “ordinary form” (for now, at least).

Finally, I don’t think we can now fully judge the role the Novus Ordo plays in God’s Providence. And although there are many graced insights and hindsights about the role it plays, the complete picture will certainly not be clear until the dawning of eternity. Sometimes I think we must accept that we don’t know why, but instead trust. The structure, rubrics, words, and form Traditional Mass so eloquently teach us that!

--Fr. D.D.

As a priest I struggle to remember that I stand in persona Christi meaning that Christ is the center of the liturgy, not me. I stand in for Him. I am only important to the Mass insofar as I stand in His place doing what He commanded at the Last Supper. The words of the Baptist must always be on my lips: “I must decrease so that He can increase.” The struggle is rooted not only in my own weakness, but also, I believe, within the rite of the ordinary form. It is so difficult to recollect one’s self when, as a fellow priest put it, “it is as if you are an actor on stage performing a role in front of an audience that is part of the show.” Knowing and following the rubrics helps. Being reverent helps. (They are two different things.) Celebrating ‘ad orientum’ with the chair perpendicular to the altar helps. Living a recollected life helps. But the rite itself is not designed for recollection or loss of self. The priest’s role is to preside over the assembly.

I look forward to my own “first Mass” in the Traditional Latin Rite. I don’t yet know how it will affect me or what it will effect in me. It is an awesome and terrible thing. But I long for it with all my heart and soul. I believe it is one of the extraordinary graces God is giving me through Our Lady’s hands to save my vocation.

Orate pro me ad Dominum Deum nostrum.

--Fr. Scott Bailey, C.Ss.R.

I have now been a priest for almost 30 years and I celebrated the TLM for the first time on All Souls Day this year. I felt and thought everything Fr. Kerber is talking about in his article and more; the other priests posting on this site have expressed a great deal of the “more” that I had not yet thought out on my own. I started celebrating my weekday Masses (Novus Ordo) ad orientem on Easter Friday this year, and I do indeed have a sense of liberation from having to be the “face” of the liturgy all the time. Yes, let me, the priest, decrease and let Christ increase at Mass and everywhere! Just this one change of physical direction has accomplished a great deal for me and for the people too, I think.
--Fr. Stephen

I agree with many of the comments from priests and understand the reluctance to use the word “loneliness”. A great priest mentor of mine years ago told me that loneliness is a state of soul – a priest can be on his own yet never lonely, or in the midst of people yet lonely as hell.

At the altar, facing Eastwards, saying the Canon silently, I certainly know that I am, in one sense, alone. The server and the people are there behind me praying but at this point the burden falls on me – not to show my personality or to entertain but to get it right: to pray that awesome prayer with reverence, with accuracy, and with the right intention. The distractions are removed – there is just me, the missal and the bread and wine. Provided I do things properly, God will come down to be present, I will adore him, the server will ring the bell, and the people will have the opportunity to be present at Calvary.

--Fr. Tim Finigan

I fully understand the ‘loneliness’ the priest refers to. When Christ was alone on the Cross, He was conscious of all who were being redeemed through His Sacrifice. So I am aware of all those who are behind me and who are the recipients of the graces that are being brought down from heaven through my ministry at the altar.

Like others, when celebrating the Novus Ordo facing the people, I do so with a crucifix upstanding on the altar. I am now less conscious of any need to ‘interact’ with the faithful, I choose options less frequently and now adopt the Confiteor and Roman Canon as the default options for the celebration of Mass on all days. All subjectivism is removed. Who is to say that my choice would be the right one? Surely an informed member of the lay faithful could be entitled to a different opinion? In the options-rich Novus Ordo there is more room for priestly dictatorship or domination of the liturgy. In the fixed older usage, such clerical domination is impossible.

--Fr. John Boyle

The liturgical actions, postures and gestures that accompany every word spoken in the TLM make one pray. It is as if one is forced to surrender oneself to the momentum of the liturgy, it naturally flows (once you’ve grasped it), no thought needs to be given as to when to move or what to think, it’s all there in the prayers and in the gestures. It hones one to remember the intention for every action and prayer before one says it, it seems to prompt one how and what to think.

My heart quickens when I turn the page for “Te igitur”, the beginning of the Canon (and just referring to the “Canon” and not the Eucharistic Prayer seems more meaningful), to catch sight of the glorious depiction of the Passion on the left page, and to see that illuminated “T”! It makes me feel that I am truly entering into the “holy mystery”. The raising of the eyes, the deep bow and the circular motion of the hands, make me realise the awesome act I am about to commit. It is then, in that particular action, that I feel the most humbled. As I bow and kiss the Altar I feel myself willingly surrender to Christ because I know that what I do is beyond my personal ability.

At the Memento, my only distraction if I open my eyes are the vessels and the crucifix, which serve only to remind me of where I am and what is about to happen. I almost feel as if I am physically handing those intentions over to Him. My concentration on the words and actions throughout the Canon seem to make me feel quite distant from myself, “I decrease that He may increase” aptly describes what I seem to feel and He seems to feel very close to me.

“Supplices te rogamus…” seems to resonate so much more with me in the TLM than in the NO. I actually feel as though I am participating in a heavenly liturgy, the veil between heaven and earth is torn.

When I first offered the TLM I too felt loneliness, I felt distanced from the people, I felt exposed “at the front”, all eyes on me. But I have grown with the TLM, my personal spirituality and understanding of the Mass has developed immensely, prayer seems much easier than it ever did before. Though my sense of unworthiness seems heightened because the mysteries of the Mass seem much clearer and powerful to me, I no longer feel alone, my personal relationship with Christ has increased tenfold.

I can’t thank the Holy Father enough for enabling more priests to feel and experience what I feel now at the Altar. My celebration of the Novus Ordo is now tempered and has been considerably enhanced by what I feel when celebrating the TLM and the “continuity” of the Rite’s seem to make more sense, though I feel I am supplementing from the old when celebrating the new. I know it is wrong to say it, but the Mass feels like The Mass in the extraordinary form and “extraordinary” seems a very fitting way to describe this awe inspiring rite.

--Fr. J

Like many of the priests here, I have come to experience the celebration of Mass in the EF as a sublime and spiritually enriching moment. Unlike most of them, I am not able to articulate that experience with the same eloquence. I can attest, however, to the tremendous power this has had on those who have attneded the Masses I have offered, thus far, in the EF - among them, high school students and converts to the Catholic faith who never knew the EF when it was just the OF. One morning, after Mass, my parish’s staunchest proponent of the TLM came into the sacristy. I thought he had caught some of my mistakes – these were glaring – and they could easily have been avoided. Just as a began to call attention to them, this man, a man’s man, not easily given to soft emotion, began to tear up, simply said, “thank you, Father, for the Mass” and left the sanctuary before I could publicly (and perhaps in false humility) scourge myself.

Something great is happening here, something tremendous, something beyond words.

--Sacerdos in Aeternum

25 December 2007

The Twelve Days of Christmas

They start today and last until the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi came to adore the Christ-child; so you can leave the Creche, the lights, and the tree until January 6.

Christmas Mass

The Pontifical Mass at the Cathedral in Dijon opened with the procession of the Maitrise (professional choir) to the High Altar, the children in their red velvet capes and hats, to the French version of Adeste Fideles. The Archbishop presided, and the responses during Mass were from the Latin Kyriale. (The following photos were actually taken during the recessional; apologies for the blurriness.)

Michael plays with his dominoes

Marie gets her first chess set

24 December 2007

A Merry Christmas to All

CAVALLINI, Pietro, Nativity of the Virgin, 1291, Mosaic
Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you."

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.

He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."

--Luke 1:26-33

22 December 2007

Tony Blair Is Received into the Church

From the Times Online:
The former Prime Minister Tony Blair has been received into the Roman Catholic Church.

Mr Blair was received into full communion with the Catholic Church by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, during Mass in the chapel at Archbishop’s House, Westminster, on Friday.

Mr Blair, formerly a member of the Church of England, has been receiving doctrinal and spiritual preparation from Mgr Mark O’Toole, the Cardinal’s private secretary.

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said: 'I am very glad to welcome Tony Blair into the Catholic Church. For a long time he has been a regular worshipper at Mass with his family and in recent months he has been following a programme of formation to prepare for his reception into full communion. My prayers are with him, his wife and family at this joyful moment in their journey of faith together.'
You can read the rest here.

21 December 2007


"Love consists not in feeling great things but in having great detachment and in suffering for the Beloved."
--St. John of the Cross

"God loves each of us as if there were only one of us."
--Saint Augustine

"Jacob did not cease to be a Saint because he had to attend to his flocks."
--St. Teresa of Avila

"Suffering is a great favor. Remember that everything soon comes to an end . . . and take courage. Think of how our gain is eternal."
--St. Teresa of Avila

"How happy I am to see myself imperfect and be in need of God's mercy."
--St Therese of Lisieux

"Trials are nothing else but the forge that purifies the soul of all its imperfections."
--St. Mary Magdalen de'Pazzi

"It is great wisdom to know how to be silent and to look at neither the remarks, nor the deeds, nor the lives of others."
--St John of the Cross

"You know that our Lord does not look at the greatness or difficulty of our action, but at the love with which you do it. What, then, have you to fear?"
--St Therese of Lisieux

"To reach satisfaction in all desire satisfaction in nothing."
--St. John of the Cross

"Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls. A joyful heart is the inevitable result of a heart burning with love."
--Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

"Believe that others are better than you in the depths of their soul, although outwardly you may appear better than they."
--St. Augustine

20 December 2007

Personality Types

Lord knows we have enough confessional blogs in cyberspace, where navelgazing is an art form and personal feelings are discussed ad nauseam (you know, the blogs that analyze how we were feeling at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon, why we felt that way, and how our feelings changed to different feelings at 9 p.m., and how it relates to how we felt 20 years ago because, etc.). I would rather shut down this blog than descend into such self-obsessive silliness, and now I know why: I'm choleric-melancholic. And this is perhaps the only bit of navelgazing you will find on this site.

Inspired by a volume from Fr. M's Christmas Book List, I decided to take a quick personality test; the results were surprisingly accurate. Most of the strengths and weaknesses of the choleric-melancholic were dead on. Of course, these only reveal natural tendencies; the work of sanctity is to master the weaknesses.

Melancholic Strengths
Deep and thoughtful
Serious and purposeful
Genius prone
Talented and creative
Artistic or musical
Philosophical and poetic
appreciative of beauty
Sensitive to others
Sets high standards
Sacrifices own will for others
Encourages scholarship and talent
Persistent and thorough
Orderly and organized
Finds creative solutions
Makes friends cautiously
Content to stay in background
Avoids causing attention
Faithful and devoted
Will listen to complaints
Can solve other's problems
Deep concern for other people
Moved to tears with compassion

Melancholic Weaknesses
Remembers the negatives
Moody and depressed
Off in another world
Too introspective
Puts goals beyond reach
May discourage children
Becomes martyr
Sulks over disagreements
Not people oriented
Chooses difficult work
Standards often too high
Deep need for approval
Lives through others
Insecure socially
Withdrawn and remote
Critical of others
Holds back affections

Choleric Strengths
Born leader
Dynamic and active
Must correct wrongs
Strong-willed and decisive
Independent and self sufficient
Exudes confidence
Can run anything
Exerts sound leadership
Motivates family to action
Knows the right answer
Organizes household
Goal oriented
Sees the whole picture
Organizes well
Seeks practical solutions
Moves quickly to action
Delegates work
Insists on production
Makes the goal
Stimulates activity
Will work for group activity
Will lead and organize
Is usually right
Excels in emergencies

Choleric Weaknesses
Enjoys controversy and arguments
Won't give up when losing
Comes on too strong
Is not complimentary
Dislikes tears and emotions
Gives answers too quickly
Impatient with poor performance
May make rash decisions
May be rude or tactless
Demanding of others
Demands loyalty in the ranks
Dominates others
Knows everything
Decides for others
Can do everything better
Is too independent
Possessive of friends and mate
May be right, but unpopular

Take the test yourself.

The NAC Alive and Well

Fr. Finigan discusses the thriving life of seminarians at the the Pontifical North American College in Rome. It's a good thing these men are in clericals (as is their custom), else the women might not leave this handsome bunch alone. Here just a few countries away, it's wonderful to know the priests in the diocese of Dijon also wear clericals every day.

Habit of Charles IV

Fr. Schofield is shown this Jacobite relic.

It is a confraternity habit that once belonged to Charles Emmanuel IV of Sardinia (1751-1819), who after the death of his cousin, the Cardinal Duke of York, in 1807 was recognised by Jacobites as 'Charles IV'. By this time he had abdicated his Sardinian throne after the death in 1802 of his wife, the Venerable Marie-Clotilde of France (a sister of Louis XVI and now on the road to canonisation). Charles Emmanuel retired to Rome and actually died as a Jesuit novice at Sant'Andrea al Quirinale.

And from Jacobite Heritage:

For Charles Emanuel's baptism, Pope Benedict XIV sent the blessed swaddling clothes given only very rarely by the pope to the most important royal children.

Charles Emanuel was raised in a very religious - almost ascetic - household.
Charles Emanuel and his new wife met for the first time on September 6, 1775, when they renewed their marriage vows in the Chapel Royal at Les Echelles, Savoy. In spite of the political reasons for the union, the couple were well-matched; they shared a profound attachment to the Catholic faith. The fact that they were not blessed with children was treated by them as the will of God to which they should resign themselves. After seven years of married life, they chose to live together as brother and sister. [His wife would later be declared venerable by Pope Pius VII.]

Charles Emanuel was deeply troubled by the French Revolution whose effects were being felt throughout western Europe. In 1793 his brother-in-law King Louis XVI was executed. The following year his sister-in-law Queen Marie Antoinette met the same fate and the armies of the French Republic stormed into his father's dominions. Charles Emanuel took solace in his faith. In 1794 he became a member of the Third Order of Saint Dominic, taking the name Charles Emanuel of St. Hyacinth.

At the death of his father, King Victor Amadeus III of Sardinia, October 16, 1796, Charles Emanuel succeeded as King Charles Emanuel IV of Sardinia. It was a most difficult time to be a new monarch; Charles Emanuel referred to his throne as a "crown of thorns". After several years of fighting against the armies of the French Republic, his father had had to hand over to France the family's ancestral duchy of Savoy. The Sardinian state treasury was empty, the army was weakened and disorganised, and among the common people revolution was fomenting.

For the next two years the new king suffered a series of humiliations from the French Republic. On January 22, 1797, French agents conspired with local Jacobins in Turin to attempt an assasination of Charles Emanuel in the cathedral of Turin. A second assasination attempt in July 1797 at Stupinigi also failed. Finally, on December 6, 1798, the occupying French forces forced Charles Emanuel to abdicate all his remaining territories on the Italian mainland; he retained his sovereignty only over the island of Sardinia.
At the death of the Cardinal called Duke of York, July 13, 1807, Charles Emanuel succeeded to all of his British rights as lineal heir of King Charles I; he himself was the great-great-grandson of Henrietta Anne, youngest daughter of King Charles I. Charles Emanuel's hereditary rights were confirmed by the will of the Cardinal called Duke of York. Charles Emanuel was henceforward recognised by the Jacobites as "King Charles IV".

Throughout his life Charles Emanuel had taken a great deal of interest in the restoration of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) which had been suppressed in 1773. From 1806 until 1811 Charles Emanuel maintained a friendship with Saint Joseph Pignatelli, the Jesuit superior in Naples. The Society of Jesus was restored in 1814; six months later on February 11, 1815, at the age of sixty-four, Charles Emanuel entered the Jesuit novitiate at Rome. He took simple vows, but was never ordained priest. He lived with his confessor, doctor, chamberlain, and several others in his own apartments in the Jesuit novitiate next to the Chiesa di Sant' Andrea al Quirinale in Rome. He died there, October 6, 1819, when he was succeeded in his British rights by his brother Victor Emanuel. His remains lie in the Chiesa di Sant' Andrea al Quirinale. There is a monument to his memory in the Basilica di Superga.

Old Dominion Christmas Cake

Over at Patum Peperium, Old Dominion Tory shares a family recipe, with very specific instructions.

2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
Lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 cup of Black Walnuts
2 cups of dried fruit
1 bottle Virginia Gentleman VG 90 Bourbon Whiskey

Sample whiskey to check quality. Take a large bowl, check whiskey again. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one half cup and drink. Repeat, if necessary. Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar. Beat again. At this point it's best to make sure the whiskey remains good. Try another half cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the dried fruit.

Pick the fruit up off floor. Mix on the turner. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the whiskey to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check the whiskey. Now shift the lemon juice and strain the nuts. Add one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over. Don't forget to heat off the turner. Finally, throw the bowl through the window. Finish the whiskey and wipe counter with the cats.

19 December 2007

Cavalcade of Bad Nativities

This is funny. A few samples:

Don we now our lame apparel
I’m not checking out your rack, I’m following the star.

Are you sure this is sparkly enough? I’m worried that it can’t be seen from space.


Questions, questions
I’ve been looking at this for days, and I still don’t know what Joseph is wearing. Or why they are pupil-less freaks wearing too much eyeliner. Or why the baby is wearing a bonnet stolen from the Holly Hobbie I had in 1976. I don’t know why Jesus’ feet are gigantic. I don’t know what happened to the rest of their noses. Advent, a time of mystery!


I can has incarnation?
Here is a fine example of the Really Depressed Animal nativity genre.

The look on cat-Mary’s face is all too familiar; it usually means that there is only sad, dry cat food in the bowl.

Also...why are the angels dogs?


Maybe we should just hibernate instead
The sad, sad people who brought you the depressed cat nativity have also aimed their bummer-beam at America’s Greatest Threat: the bear.

Same rigor mortis baby, same dog-angels. Perhaps the dogs were mauled by the bears? I don’t know. But I do know that somewhere out there is a nativity designer who really, really needs a hug.


Yes, yes
I know, it’s a lovely piece of folk art. One shouldn’t make fun of folk art. The people who made this probably never even saw Star Wars, so they have no idea that they’ve just made a Jawa nativity.

Sure, they’re adoring the child right now, but tomorrow, they’ll be out stealing droids again.

(Thanks to Lorraine)

13 December 2007

The Martyrdom of St. Lucy

The Martyrdom of St. Lucy. c. 15th century. Painter unknown. Rijksmuseum, Netherlands

St. Lucy, born in 283, visited the tomb of St. Agatha to request healing for her mother; in a vision, St. Agatha asked, "Why have you come to request a grace from me that you could have obtained by your faith alone? Just as I have been the wonder of Catania, so you will be the wonder of Syracuse." Her mother was healed, and Lucy obtained from St. Agatha the grace to keep her virginity, which she consecrated to God. She afterwards gave all her goods to the poor. Her betrothed, angered by this generosity, denounced her to the authorities as a Christian, and she was consigned to prostitution as punishment. But when the guards went to drag her to the place of shame, she remained immovable, despite their use of ropes and horses. The emperor asked what evil she conjured to overcome a force of hundreds, and she replied, "It is not evil, but the power of God. You may bring a hundred thousand men, and they can never prevail against God." They then poured oil over her and attempted to light her on fire, but she remained unhurt. Her death only came about by a stroke of the sword.

It is said that in 1513, Louis XII of France was presented with the head of the saint, which was deposited in the cathedral church of Bourges.

Today also happens to be my first child's birthday.

Bonne Anniversaire à ma chère fille, Marie!

12 December 2007

The Fashionworn Mom

A fellow blogger once referred to them as "jumper queens": homeschooling moms who think modesty means donning a potato sack over a turtleneck, paired with tennis shoes, and cropped hair. My dear ladies, it is possible to be a Catholic, a mother, and a wife, and still appear feminine and dignified.

I have great sympathy for mothers who labor under the strain of childrearing; I have two children under the age of three, and, apart from my husband's occasional help, am their sole caretaker (no babysitters, daycare, in-laws, etc.). Never has anything required so much energy, so much patience, so much discipline and self-control as raising two very young children. It is true there is a period of time when one is simply not interested in fashion (for instance, the ninth month of pregnancy, and a number of months after that); but it seems some women remain perpetually fashionless, making no effort to appear even the slightest bit attractive to their husbands.

I humbly offer a few samples of tasteful dress. (I note that Americans and Europeans have different ideas of modesty, gauged more or less by the Puritan influence on their culture; the more Puritan the influence, the more severe the dress code.)

Vera Wang, Spring 2008 Collection

Chanel, Fall 2007 Collection

Calvin Klein, Spring 2008 Collection

Ralph Lauren, Spring 2007/2008 Collection

Chants à la Vierge

Hymne à la Vierge by Pierre Villete remains one of my favorite 20th-century choral pieces; it is truly a beautiful work honoring Our Lady. Despite the secular forces always at work in France, the French have a profound love of la Sainte Vierge, and honor her openly in their parishes; the roster of French hymns in her honor is very long indeed, and I have been delighted to learn some since I've been here. J.B. Jonchay has set the Hail Mary to a lovely score; if you can sightread music, or if you have an instrument handy, you can discover the melody here; otherwise you can hear a midi file here. One of my favorites is the Angelus set to a simple but beautiful tune in Par Dieu, l'archange fut envoyé (only the first stanza is sung in this extract); full lyrics are as follows:
1. Par Dieu l’archange fut envoyé, à Nazareth auprès de Marie
Et la saluant il lui dit : " Vierge sainte,
Le Seigneur vous choisit pour mère. " Je vous salue Marie...

2. Après que l’ange l’eut rassurée, à son message elle répondit :
" Du Seigneur je suis la servante, " Vierge Sainte,
" Qu’il soit fait selon sa parole. " Je vous salue Marie...

3. Alors le Verbe s’est incarné et parmi nous il fit sa demeure.
Le Seigneur a montré sa gloire, Vierge Sainte,
Plein de grâce et de vérité. Je vous salue Marie…

09 December 2007

Historic Visit of l'Ordre de la Toison d'Or to Dijon

In 1430, Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, created the Order of the Golden Fleece dedicated to its patron, St. Andrew, on whose feast day the Order celebrates its yearly chapter meeting and its principal feast. The Order exists to manifest
the very great and perfect love that we have for the noble estate and order of knighthood. [W]e desire the honor and increase, by which the true Catholic Faith, the faith of our mother, the Holy Church, and the tranquillity and prosperity of the public may be, as far as possible, defended, guarded and maintained; we, to the glory and praise of the Almighty, our Creator and Redeemer, in reverence of his glorious mother the Virgin Mary, and to the honor of my lord Saint Andrew, Apostle and Martyr....
After the Reformation, it remained an exclusively Catholic institution. The chevaliers held their yearly feasts for several years in the ducal palace in Burgundy until the loss of the duchy to France, after which chapter meetings were held in Bruges and Brussels. The Austrian Order, nearly destroyed by the new Austrian Republic after the First World War, was given seven new members by Blessed Charles of Austria before his death. After the Second World War, the republic, less hostile to the Order, decreed that it was "an independent legal entity in international law", and declared the Order's treasures and archives the sole property of the Order.

Though their principal feast is held yearly at the Hofburg Palace, this year the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece chose, for the first time in over 500 years, to return to Dijon to celebrate its chapter meeting in the city in which it was founded. The chapter meeting was held in secrecy in the Crypt of St. Bénigne Cathedral, after which prayers were said before the buried remains of Duke Phillip the Good, followed by a solemn Mass celebrated by Archbishop Roland Minnerath, with a number of priests from the diocese, including members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and the Knights of Malta.

Archbishop Minnerath recites prayers for the dead before a wall in which are encased the remains of the Dukes of Burgundy, with Archduke Karl of Austria holding a crucifix containing relics of St. Andrew

Priests of the diocese, including the Curé of St.-Bénigne Cathédrale, Père Dominique Garnier, of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, process to the Altar, with Archbishop Minnerath in the rear.

Archduke Karl and Pére Louis de Raynal, Master of Ceremonies, walk up to place the relics of St. Andrew on the High Altar. If I am not mistaken, I believe the good father is wearing a chasuble with the insignia of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. Someone more in the know might be better able to inform us on the point.

Seated at the right is Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia, eldest son of Blessed Charles of Austria, and Pretender to the Austrian throne since the age of 10. He is now 95, and it was at his insistence that the Order return to Dijon.

Archduke Karl, Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, wearing the traditional collar of the Golden Fleece

The Archduke and other members of the Order process past the Palais des Ducs, home of the Order's founder and original seat of its yearly feast

(Photo credits: Le Bien Public)

You can watch a video of the opening of the Mass on a French news channel here.

The Archbishop's homiliy (en français)

The Archduke's speech (en français)