Sunday, May 1, 2016

Beating the bounds: recovering the rogation days

Rogation procession at my parish church earlier today
For a millennium and a half, from the dusk of the western Empire to 1969, the Roman Church reserved the three days prior to Ascension Thursday as "rogation days". Deriving from rogare (Latin, "to ask") these days were marked with processions in the fields and prayers of penitence to implore seasonable weather, a good harvest, and deliverance from evils of every kind, but especially against natural disaster. 

The post-conciliar Church didn't technically abolish the rogations, but merely said that from henceforth, national bishops' conferences could decide for themselves how to adapt rogation and ember days for their own needs, dependent upon the local culture and the concerns of an industrial society. It was a nice idea, but in effect, no bishops' conferences did anything about it. As a result, the rogation days were effectively abolished, save for their mandatory observance in the 1962 and prior missals, and now, Deo gratias, the Divine Worship Missal of the Personal Ordinariates. If you don't believe me, here's the proof, quoting from "GENERAL NORMS FOR THE LITURGICAL YEAR AND THE CALENDAR – 14 FEBRUARY 1969".
VII. Rogation and Ember Days

45. On rogation and ember days the practice of the Church is to offer prayers to the Lord for the needs of all people, especially for the productivity of the earth and for human labor, and to give him public thanks.

46. In order to adapt the rogation and ember days to various regions and the different needs of the people, the conferences of bishops should arrange the time and plan for their celebration.

Consequently, the competent authority should lay down norms, in view of local conditions, on extending such celebrations over one or several days and on repeating them during the year.

47. On each day of these celebrations the Mass should be one of the votive Masses for various needs and occassions that is best suited for the intentions of the petitioners.

Today, at my Ordinariate parish, we braved the rains and had a "votive" rogation procession while, at least in spirit, "beating the bounds": a custom from medieval English times whereby the people of a parish would walk along the parish's territorial boundary to remind the neighboring pastor and parishioners exactly where their jurisdiction ends! In the case of our own parish, our jurisdiction ends at the parking lot, so the procession was mercifully short compared to medieval standards.

Along the way, we sang "The Litany", a catch-all litany of intercessory prayers that was developed for the Book of Common Prayer, combining a little of this, a little of that from the various litanies and supplications in the Sarum Missal and elsewhere. If you'd like to read it, the version on my old pastor's blog post here is nearly identical to the one we used today.

My favorite of these oft-antiquated sounding petitions is probably:

"V. From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from violence, battle, and murder; and from dying suddenly and unprepared,

R. Good Lord, deliver us."

From Wikipedia: "Blessing the Fields on Rogation Sunday at Hever, Kent"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Radio chat is now online!

The Poor Clares in San Antonio attending our nuptial Mass in 2014

You can now listen to my radio "fireside chat" with the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in San Antonio at this link, provided you have iTunes installed. Just select the broadcast for April 27, 2016.

Our discussion, which was prompted by the month's-mind Requiem Mass offered for their late abbess, Mother Angelica of EWTN fame, at my former parish in San Antonio, revolved around the prayers and Gregorian chants of the Requiem, devotions for the souls in purgatory during the Middle Ages, the Office of the Dead, and the importance of reclaiming the spirituality behind these traditions in the modern age. 

The sisters' main site is the Monastery of St. Michael the Archangel, or From there, you can learn a bit more about them, buy their soap, and find their blog, Quidnunc. My first real encounter with the Poor Clares was when they attended a Requiem Mass for my stepfather years ago. Since then, I correspond with them every once in a while, and was honored to design service booklets for one of their solemn professions. And, if you saw my post two days ago, I did the same for the Requiem Mass for Mother Angelica according to the Divine Worship Missal of the Personal Ordinariates, which is now on YouTube below.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Requiem aeternam

Pictured above are a few of the first-printed service programs I designed for the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in my hometown of San Antonio, resting atop their altar as a "first fruits" offering. This evening, a Requiem Mass will be offered for the sisters' late abbess, Mother Angelica, on the month's mind of her death at my old parish of Our Lady of the Atonement. Memory eternal!

The image chosen for the cover is one of my favorites: a Requiem Mass illustrated by the great architect and father of the Gothic revival, Augustus Welby Pugin, as an endplate for his Glossary of Ecclesiastical Ornament (which I discovered and commented on a few years ago here). For any new readers, know that this blog is largely dedicated to Pugin, a Catholic convert in 19th century Britain who is most famous for designing the "Big Ben" Clock Tower and the interior of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. But, more important than his contributions to the state were his efforts to rebuild the Catholic Church in England, which had just been emancipated after centuries of suppression. In less than two decades, Pugin raised up dozens of Gothic revival churches for the poor Catholics of Victorian England, including the first Catholic cathedral built in the realm since the Reformation. He also designed countless stained-glass windows, chalices, vestments, and other ecclesiastical furnishings, and wrote several books; including a tract advocating the restoration of Gregorian chant. Augustus Pugin, who effectively worked himself to death at age 40, was a forerunner of the Liturgical Movement and is commemorated by yours truly whenever I get the chance.

Today, I expect to speak with the Poor Clares on their weekly radio program, A Good Habit, later this afternoon on such matters as the Requiem Mass and devotions surrounding prayer for the faithful departed. The program begins at 1pm central time and is broadcast primarily in Texas. See here if your city is listed among the stations on the Guadalupe network. Otherwise, check back later when I post the recording.

Monday, April 25, 2016

"This place is terrible!"

The Introit Terribilis is also used for the feast of the dedication of Saint John Lateran in Rome, the Pope's cathedral and the first church built following Emperor Constantine's Edict of Toleration.
This place is terrible!

This is a translation a friend once gave me for the Introit sung at the beginning of the Mass for consecrating a new church building: Terribilis est locus iste. The fuller antiphon, drawing from Jacob's dream of the ladder, reads:
"Terrible is this place: it is the house of God, and the gate of heaven; and it shall be called the court of God."

The King James translation goes so far as to say, "how dreadful is this place!" Is it not strange how  these terms, once used to refer to the kingdom of God as a place of splendor and majesty, are now devolved into words we'd sooner use when expressing sorrow over someone's dog being run over on the street? 

It seems we've forgotten that the idea of the afterlife is a "terror to behold", and that the images in our churches are not always there to give us warm and fuzzy feelings of security. Sometimes, as with the icons of the East which stare into the depths of your soul, or the mad paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, we ought to feel a bit uneasy about our place in the universe. They invite us to step outside our comfort zones. And so, the liturgy addresses God as "King of awful majesty" (Rex tremendae majestatis from the Dies Irae, or sequence for Masses of the Dead). And it was these words; terrible, dreadful, and awful; which ran through my mind as I watched the following video. It's a re-enactment of a Palm Sunday procession as it have been seen in Chartres in the year 1190. The actual venue is the famous Cloisters of the Met Museum in New York City, and though it's not a true liturgical service, the vested ministers are real Capuchin friars. This may be of special interest to any of my Eastern Christian readers who observed Palm Sunday just yesterday.

My only nitpicks are the ministers' failure to sing the texts, and perhaps the use of female singers, but it's absolutely worth watching in any case.

See the video itself at this link.

(You may also wish to follow along with this program or listen to the opening remarks afterward.)

The spirituality which led to the development of these hallowed rites has long since given way to suffocation and then, ultimately, the total banality which most of us would suffer if we were to walk into any average parish down the street on a Sunday. The holy mysteries are now, for the most part, stumbled through with less grace and solemnity than my family picnics.... and worst of all, no one sees the problem with it.

I can only imagine the millions of keystrokes that have gone into explaining how to dig ourselves out of this cesspool of bad worship. While a return to rubrical authors and older liturgical texts is certainly important, it won't stick unless we allow the old rites; with all their smells, sounds, uneasy sights, and perambulations in and out of the church; to shape our interior dispositions. Good liturgy, should we be open to it, will instill in us the seventh gift of the Holy Ghost: the fear of the Lord, which, in the Catholic Encyclopedia, "fills us with a sovereign respect for God, and makes us dread, above all things, to offend Him".

Then, perhaps one day, we'll be able to genuflect before the Eucharistic Host at Mass, make an examination of conscience on our readiness to worthily receive Communion, and only after that, answer the question, "May I with right and conscience make this claim?" with (like the archbishop of Canterbury to Henry V in Shakespeare's play), "the sin upon my head, dread sovereign..." and then boldly step before the altar of God.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Out of the Anglican patrimony: what on earth is "lovingkindness"?

When speaking of the Anglican Use and Personal Ordinariates, we must inevitably come to terms with defining what, exactly, that nebulous expression "Anglican patrimony" is. While I personally like to lump in the pre-Reformation customs and devotions of the English church, the phrase more often refers to those various customs of the post-Reformation Anglican churches which, being in no way contrary to the Catholic faith, are "baptized" and integrated into the life of the Church. A few examples off the top of my head would include Evensong (a sort of conjoined Vespers and Compline), the singing of psalms to harmonized "Anglican chant", and the common praying of the Collect for Purity at the beginning of Mass (a prayer which, before Cranmer, was a private devotion for the priest out of the Sarum Missal while preparing for Mass).

The Introit given for this past Sunday in the Ordinariate's Divine Worship Missal gave me another one to add to the list: "lovingkindness". The Latin original (used for the 2nd Sunday after Easter in the Extraordinary Form, not the 3rd) begins with Psalm 32(33):5..
Misericordia Domini plena est terra, alleluia;
(in most translations: "The earth is full of the mercy of the Lord, alleluia")
This is in accord with the Douai-Reims Bible, which usually translates the Vulgate's misericordia as "mercy". The Divine Worship Missal, on the other hand, renders it as:
The lovingkindness of the LORD filleth the whole world, alleluia.
What on earth is "lovingkindness", and how did we get to that from "mercy"? From what I can tell, "lovingkindness" was coined by Myles Coverdale (1488-1569). First, some background:

One of the early English Protestants, Coverdale's greatest contribution was in his efforts to translate the Bible into English. While the King James Version later eclipsed most of his Biblical work, Coverdale's translations of the Psalms persisted within the Book of Common Prayer all the way up to the 20th century. Most choral Evensongs sung in the great English cathedrals, therefore, sing the Coverdale psalms. It's sad to say that, like Cranmer, he became a traitor to the Roman faith for which he was ordained, preaching against the Real Presence and dying effectively as a Puritan. There is a delicious irony, then, that Anglican Use and Ordinariate priests around the world regularly pray Coverdale's finest translation of all: his superb rendition of the Roman Canon, made back when he was still an Augustinian canon (or at least, so attributed; there seems to be a bit of debate on the matter). I've never seen another version in any Latin Mass hand missal that matches its perfect balance of beauty and accuracy.

Returning to Coverdale's unique word: as I'm no Biblical scholar, I don't know exactly what led him to develop the term since he was not a scholar of Hebrew (and thus still drew from the Latin Vulgate, as well as Luther's German Bible). In the Hebrew Old Testament, chesed is said to mean "to bend or incline oneself" or "to be merciful". We can easily picture this in God descending from the heavenly to the earthly plane, whether in the Incarnation two thousand years ago or the Eucharist upon our altars every day. We can also see it in the act of a superior bending the knee to wash a subordinate's feet, from the Last Supper on the night the Lord was betrayed, to the medieval king's re-enactment of the Mandatum by washing the feet of beggars on Maundy Thursday. 

Kings and vagabonds
Lovingkindness is kindness proceeding from love. Mercy is certainly an appropriate word, but one that I feel doesn't have quite the same "punch" in our English language; and, I daresay, one that's almost been debased by so many Church leaders; compared to that word which makes you stop and think for a moment at how odd it is. 
"Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy lovingkindnesses; for they have been ever of old."

"Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions."

"I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."

"But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord."

Monday, April 18, 2016

The tonus solemnior: more solemn tone

Toward the back of the 1962 Missal, there's a section of ad libitum chants including the tonus solemnior, or "more solemn" tone of the Preface. This tone is rather difficult for non-musically inclined priests to learn, but has an outstanding effect when sung by a skilled celebrant (in my opinion; some people hate it and find it too much gilding of the lilly). When you hear it, you might find it reminiscent of the Exsultet tone, which is a sort of ultra-solemn Preface tone in itself.

Since Pentecost is coming up, I thought to record a tutorial video for any adventurous priests who might want to learn this tone and increase the solemnity of their celebration. If I get any requests, I'll see about setting the tone to the words given for the Preface in the Ordinary Form or Divine Worship (Ordinariate) Missals....

This video below has another sample Preface with the matching dialogue versicles as well. I think that, for "pastoral reasons", you can mix and match the regular versicles with the more solemn Preface itself. (In other words, good luck getting a congregation to learn them.)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A World Day of Prayer for Vocations

I didn't know that there even was such a thing as a World Day of Prayer for Vocations until my workplace asked me to write a mass email to its vocations prospects on the matter. The first was assigned by Pope Paul VI in 1963 for Good Shepherd Sunday (which is the 3rd Sunday after Easter in the reformed lectionary, but the 2nd Sunday after Easter in the old): "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest". Earlier today, Pope Francis ordained eleven men to the priesthood.

I have a dim view of Pope Paul, to say the least; but it's always a good idea to pray for vocations, so I share two interesting photos from our wedding that I haven't circulated much before.

The servers, including two diocesan seminarians, pray a devotion before an image of the Sacred Heart in the narthex prior to the start of the nuptial Mass.

The schola chanters, led by a seminarian of the FSSP (Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter), rehearse in the baptistery. Or, by the looks of it, tell jokes in lieu of practicing....
"Lord Jesus, High Priest and universal Shepherd, Thou hast taught us to pray, saying: 'Pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest' (Mattew 9:38). Therefore we beseech Thee graciously to hear our supplications and raise up many generous souls who, inspired by Thy example and supported by Thy grace, may conceive the ardent desire to enter the ranks of Thy sacred ministers in order to continue the office of Thy one true priesthood."
--from a prayer by Pope Pius XII