Monday, February 27, 2012

God, Not the Devil, Is in the Details

While browsing through the 1964 Rituale Romanum, I found some gems that solidified my conviction that this book needs to make a dramatic, worldwide comeback.  For example:
BLESSING OF BEER

P[riest]: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you. [And with your spirit?]

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, beer, which by Your kindness and power has been produced from kernels of grain, and let it be a healthful drink for mankind. Grant that whoever drinks it with thanksgiving to Your Holy Name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.
Personally, I'm not much enamored of beer, not being very fond of the taste; but, being Italian, the very next blessing is more up my alley:
BLESSING OF CHEESE OR BUTTER

P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord God almighty, if it please You, bless + and sanctify + this creature, cheese (or butter), which by Your power has been made from the fat of animals. Grant that those of your faithful who eat it may be sated with a blessing from on high, with Your grace and all good things; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.

And in this topsy-turvy age when so many people who wouldn't think twice about committing adultery would rather die than eat a bacon cheeseburger, I must profess myself a fan of the following:
BLESSING OF LARD
P: Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord, bless + this creature, lard, and let it be a healthful food for mankind. Grant that everyone who eats it with thanksgiving to Your Holy Name may find it a help in body and in soul; through Christ our Lord.

All: Amen.

It is sprinkled with holy water.
There are blessings on medicine; on wine for the sick; on cars; on trains; on bread and pastries; on bees; on animal feed; on all sorts of everyday things.  Now, I submit that the fact that Catholicism takes time out to seek God's blessings on everything from electric dynamos to silkworms  is a sign that it must be the true religion.  I submit further that the extent to which we think this is ridiculous is a sign of how far we have strayed from Truth.

Put down the pitchforks.  Get rid of the tar and feathers.  I'll wait for the uproar to die down.  I've got all day.

1. Isaiah 55:8-9: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways, saith the Lord.  For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts."  This seems to be the first thing we are apt to forget about God.  The second thing we forget about God -- and I do not exempt myself from this criticism -- is His boundless generosity: "...let him ask of God, Who giveth to all men abundantly, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).  This space has previously been given over to consideration of the fact that God pays attention to every detail, and nothing is beneath His notice: it is a mistake to use our puny, pathetic selves as a yardstick to measure God.  His kindness is infinitely greater than our own; He is willing to stoop far lower to us than we are to each other.  Since God saw fit to take the time to create the things we use to make cheese, for example -- including the requisite human intellectual and physical powers -- why should we think He would be too busy to bless cheese?  Must we try to put a cap on God's generosity, simply because we ourselves are ungenerous?  Clearly, it is not the devil but God Who is in the details; and if God is a God of details, then it is fitting that His Church should pay attention to them.

2. Blessings on everyday items like butter and cheese spring from a healthy, balanced view of created things and their proper place in relation to God and to us.  If we think it's dumb to ask God to bless lard or silkworms, it's because we have lost sight of the fact that these things are not ends in themselves, but are there ultimately to help us on the road to salvation.  The Church blesses mundane items, above all, in order to honor the God Who made them, and to praise and thank Him for showering so many good things upon us.  She recognizes that everything God makes (including alcohol) is good, because He Himself is good; in blessing even mundane things, she rejoices in their goodness and God's generosity.  Indeed, the very fact that the objects of these blessings are mundane is a sign of God's abundance.  She also recognizes that, because of our fallen nature, we have a tendency to misuse the good things God gives us, so she provides for the bestowal of blessings upon them in order to obtain for us the grace we need to use them properly.  How much less alcoholism, drug abuse, obesity, etc. might there be in the world if we availed ourselves frequently of the Church's blessings on the good things we tend to abuse?   

3. The Church bestows blessings on our everyday stuff in order to keep before our eyes the fact that all creation reflects God, and to make us see God at every level of our existence.  If we view the world in the light of eternity, then everything we come into contact should in some way remind us of God.  But since we frequently do not view the world in the light of eternity, we need help to get back on track.  Blessings help us to stay focused on the true business of our lives, which is to know, love and serve God in this life, and be happy with Him forever in the next.

4. These blessings of the Church's help keep us from taking the good things we receive from God for granted.  They remind us that we have nothing -- not even industry and the ability to work hard -- that does not come from God's hand.  They remind us that we are really beggars at God's door.  They remind us of our need constantly to give thanks to Him, and are thus a superb antidote to the soul-destroying sense of entitlement with which so many of us today are imbued.  

That the Catholic Church provides for blessings upon even such things as beer, butter, cheese and lard is a sign that she is indeed the True Church.  It is proof that she thinks with the mind of God in the matter of earthly goods, and in the matter of providing us with the means of overcoming our weaknesses in regard to earthly goods.  If the only response to a blessing on beer that we can muster is derision, then we are badly in need of correction.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Devil Wants Us to "Fast" from Holy Water

I am happy to be able to report that it has been a couple of years since I last saw in my area the reprehensible practice of depriving the faithful of holy water during Lent.  This is a no-no which every faithful Catholic ought to be prepared to remedy on sight.  No permission is needed, nor should it be asked.

Over the years, I have noticed a curious pattern with certain liberals on the subject of penance.  Those liberals who actually give thought to the question of penance are not fans of the old-style, stricter disciplines that once prevailed before the Second Vatican Council; but they are very fond of the curious idea of "fasting" from holy things.  One hears about this particularly in the context of "fasting" from Holy Communion, in connection with the (self-inflicted) priest shortage.  Apparently, some people think we ought also to "fast" from the use of sacramentals, and particularly holy water, during Lent.

Common sense will admit of only one response to this quack theology: the devil wants us to "fast" from sacraments and sacramentals.   

The devil wants us to make our children "fast" from Baptism and Confirmation, so that they can "decide for themselves what religion they want to be."  The devil wants persons in a state of mortal sin to "fast" from Confession.  The devil wants young couples to shack up and "fast" from Matrimony.  The devil wants young men called to the priesthood to "fast" from Holy Orders.  The devil wants souls to "fast" from the Bread of Life, the medicine of immortality and the antidote to the poison of sin that is Holy Communion.  The devil wants souls in death's shadow to "fast" from the Anointing of the Sick so they can be overtaken by the agony of their last struggle in a state of abject weakness.  The devil wants us to march weaponless and defenseless into warfare by "fasting" from the use of sacramentals, like holy water.

Lent is a time of intensified spiritual combat in a world already swarming with the armies of darkness.   Bring out the St. Benedict medals; bring out the Miraculous Medals; bring out the rosaries and the scapulars and the Sacred Heart badges and the crucifixes.  Away with the sand and the twigs and the cactus and other similar debris in stoups; let a 55-gallon drum of holy water (blessed, of course, according to the hell-whipping 1962 Rituale Romanum formula) be stationed at every entrance to every church.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Barque of Bigots

"Throw back anyone who disagrees with Chris Matthews!"
According to alleged Catholic Chris Matthews, the Catholic Church is a magnet for bigots.  "If you're really anti-gay," declared Matthews, "you become a Catholic now."  Yet another reason for the Westboro Baptists to hate Catholics: we're competition!

When this little item first came out, the memory instantly flashed back to an incident involving another nutjob Matthews statement some years back about the current occupant of the White House -- an incident brilliantly and hysterically illustrated by the irrepressible crusading Canuck, TH2:

 So, yeah, I think we need to consider the source.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Prayers Against Enemies

Years ago, I attended a parish where the people were accustomed to shout out their intentions during the prayers of the faithful at Mass -- a practice I abominate...but I digress.  There was a woman in the front row who used to always shout out the same intention: Lord, give us the strength to go on fighting the war against abortion.

Setting aside the fact that shouting out intentions during Mass really stinks, I always found that lady's intention particularly irritating.  Why would we want to keep any kind of a war going?  We should be praying for victory in the war on abortion, and that swiftly and decisively.  We should be praying to mop the floor with the abortion lobby, in the very near future.  To pray merely for the strength to keep up the war seems to me to smack of despair and pusillanimity.

In fact, we ought to be praying for the resounding, crushing defeat of all evildoers.  We are locked in deadly struggle, firstly, against the devils of hell, and secondly, against their allies on earth.  It is not a recycling, vegan, granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing God who inspired these verses (Psalm 67:22-24):  
But God shall break the heads of his enemies: the hairy crown of them that walk on in their sins. The Lord said: I will turn them from Basan, I will turn them into the depth of the sea: That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thy enemies; the tongue of thy dogs be red with the same.  
We have forgotten this in our squeamish, squishy, emasculated age (and I do not exempt myself from this opprobrium), where, instead of striving for justice, we just whine about getting along.  We have forgotten that we can have no truck with the devil and those who have consciously and deliberately dedicated themselves to his service.  We need to fight them with every fiber, and we need to beg God for their total destruction.

Fortunately, our Mother the Church has taught us how to do this.  We have, in the first place, the Sacraments, to give, restore and increase sanctifying grace (without which we cannot hope to do ourselves or anyone else any good in the spiritual order), and to give us particular necessary graces.  We have penances and indulgences.  And we are taught to pray.  Scripture is full of prayers for the defeat of our enemies (i.e., those who are also enemies of God); the Psalms are loaded with them.  And there are other prayers that are useful for this intention.  Herewith some good ones (given not only in English but also in Latin, because the devil hates Latin):


Hostium nostrorum, quaesumus, Domine, elide superbiam: et eorum contumaciam dexterae tuae virtute prosterne. Per Dominum.

Crush, O Lord, we beseech Thee, the pride of our enemies: and prostrate their arrogance by the might of Thy right hand. Through our Lord.

Prayer to St. Michael

Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio; contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperat illi Deus; supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute in infernum detrude. Amen 

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.  Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil.  May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Some Ejaculations from the Psalms
Psalm 6:11: Erubescant et conturbentur vehementer omnes inimici mei convertantur et erubescant valde velociter.  Let all my enemies be ashamed, and be very much troubled: let them be turned back, and be ashamed very speedily.

Psalm 58:2: Eripe me de inimicis meis, Deus, et ab insurgentibus in me libera me. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; and defend me from them that rise up against me.

Psalms 53:7: Avertet mala inimicis meis; in veritate tua disperde illos.  Turn back the evils upon my enemies; and cut them off in thy truth.

Psalms 67:2: Exsurgat Deus et dissipentur inimici eius, et fugiant qui oderunt eum a facie eius.  Let God arise, and let His enemies be scattered: and let them that hate Him flee from before His face.

So in these stern times, let us do penance, pray for the defeat of our enemies, and then go out and take care of business.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Why the Extraordinary Form Is Better: An Appeal to Priests

This is a re-post, with a few emendations, of something I put up a year and a half ago.   Things have changed in that time.  For one thing, I no longer have access to any regular Extraordinary Form Mass, and an official request for it that I took part in at a local parish has so far gone unanswered.  For another, the collapse of Christian civilization -- to which, in my line of work, I have a front-row seat -- has advanced a lot farther, to the point where the Catholic Church in the United States is under direct and explicit attack by our own government.  It should come as no surprise to us to find ourselves under assault at this time: with her members so infected by the spirit of the world, it seems the Church has seldom been weaker.

This makes the need for traditional Catholic worship all the more urgent.  Business as usual will not do.  We must recover and celebrate our distinctly Catholic patrimony.  We must rebuild our moral sense, and we must present those outside the Church with a clear choice between what they have now and what they could have in the Church.  

This, surely, is why we have been given a Pope who would take the traditional Mass out of mothballs.  And this is why priests must take this gift and make the most of it.  Fathers: if you do not know how to celebrate Mass in the Extraordinary Form, please learn.  Do not wait to be pestered for it: do it even if, at first, nobody wants it and you encounter resistance.  You were made to withstand resistance.  The Holy Father meant the freeing up of the traditional Mass to be a gift for all Catholics, not just current devotees.  It is also a great gift to priests.  How can you bear to continue in ignorance of half of the Roman rite?  And how can you bear not to be plugged in to the tradition that nurtured centuries and centuries of priests and laymen before you, and brought up generations of saints?  How can you hope to recover, in the eyes of your flocks, the dignity of the priesthood, which has been dragged through the mud of so many scandals, without the liturgy that makes that dignity shine forth more clearly than any other?

Am I asking a lot?  Of course. But you received Holy Orders precisely in order to be able to give a lot.  Your child is asking you for bread: what kind of a father would give her a stone?  Besides, my request is nothing compared to the urgency of these evil times, which demand action.  The Extraordinary Form of the Mass is a most powerful spiritual weapon.  Seldom have we needed it more.  Please do not fail to take it up and wield it boldly.

I know that for what follows, I am going to be solemnly apprised of the validity of the Novus Ordo Mass, and the fact that I am opinionated, and that I have no business holding that one form of the Mass is superior to another, and that I lack charity, and that I think I am more Catholic than the Pope, etc., etc.  Oh well.  Whatever.  Let not the apostles of "tolerance" rush to judgment.  I'm not a sedevacantist, and I have deliberately refrained from attending SSPX Masses, and I don't think the Novus Ordo is invalid.  But I do think it is not as good as the Mass we tried to shelve 40 years ago.

WHY I THINK MASS IN THE EXTRAORDINARY FORM IS BETTER THAN THE NOVUS ORDO

1. The Extraordinary Form Is Better Equipped to Focus the Mind on God.  The single biggest way that the Extraordinary Form of Mass focuses the mind on God is by the priest facing God and not the congregation.  I have heard it argued that versus populum is of older vintage than ad orientem; however, if that is true, once you have attended a Mass in which the priest faces ad orientem, it is easy to understand why versus populum was previously abandoned.  In the ad orientem posture, the priest faces God.  He faces in the same direction as the congregation, thereby underscoring the unity of purpose between the priest and the faithful.  

Another way in which the Extraordinary Form focuses the mind more on God is by the fact that the Rite is celebrated in Latin and not in the vernacular.  This brings home to us the fact that the words spoken are the voice of the Church, and that they are addressed, not to us, but to God.  These reminders that we are not the center of worship are healthy, and help us to direct our minds where they should be directed during Mass.  (And yes, I realize that the Novus Ordo may also be celebrated in Latin and ad orientem, but let's face it: how often is that done?  The Extraordinary Form of Mass, on the other hand, is always done this way.)  

Yet another way the Extraordinary Form properly orients us is by means of all the articles used in the Mass, from the vessels to the vestments.  Each one has a special meaning.  Have you ever noticed that the priest's vestments point to the Lord's Passion?  The cincture around his waist resembles the cords that bound Jesus in His captivity.  The maniple around his left arm symbolizes toil, grief and tears.  The old-style chasubles often bear embroidered images of crosses, so that the priest, like Jesus, carries the cross on his back.  And the chalice itself is vested in a veil that matches the priest's vestments, to underscore the identity of the priest and the sacrifice: the priest immolates himself at the altar, just as Christ, both Priest and Victim, immolated Himself on the cross.  These are only a few of the many visual meditations the traditional Mass gives us, if we pay attention to them.   

2. The Extraordinary Form Sheds More Light on Truths of the Faith. One could go on meditating on the Mass until the end of time, and still not unpack all of its significance; but I find that there are some truths that the Extraordinary Rite makes more obvious.   One is the awesome dignity of the priesthood.  Another is the fact that the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary. 

Mass in the Extraordinary Form teaches me that the priest is not just any old guy doing a job, but a man specially selected and set apart in order to perform the Holy Sacrifice.  I can tell this by the fact that he is facing God, as I am, but he is permitted to approach the altar and to stand in the breach, as it were, between God and myself, obtaining God's pardon and grace for me.  I can also tell this by the fact that the priest does most of the praying and performs most of the external actions, while I sit, stand or kneel quietly.  This teaches me both the futility and the needlessness of relying purely on my own efforts to win salvation: futile, because I am powerless, and needless, because in that moment, God has appointed a minister to do for me what I cannot do for myself. 

And all of this teaches me that the Mass is none other than the Sacrifice of Calvary.  The priest is alter Christus: Christ, in the person of the priest, entering the Holy of Holies, offering His own Self to secure redemption, as Paul says in Chapter 9 of the Epistle to the Hebrews.  The Holy Sacrifice itself is offered in silence: this teaches me that I am in the presence of Mystery.  This silence is not the muteness of ignorance, nor the emptiness of a deserted church; it is the expectant hush falling over Calvary as the Savior breathes his last.  This moment is so solemn that when the priest first approaches the altar at the beginning of Mass, he does so in stages, begging mercy and the forgiveness both of his own sins and those of the people.  The penitential right is not slopped or rushed through, but dwelt upon, to make us understand our own sinfulness and nothingness before the stupendous mystery in which we are about to enter.

3. The Extraordinary Form Is Less Susceptible to Liturgical Abuses.  How can a priest improvise Latin nowadays?  No doubt it was done in the past; but at least the faithful (those not conversant in Latin) did not need to be contaminated by it.  And since the priest is not facing the people, and there is not an army of laity in the sanctuary, there is no room for the carnival atmosphere that too often pervades the Novus Ordo Mass. 

4. The Extraordinary Form Sheds More Light on the Reality of the Communion of Saints.  There is no touchy-feely stuff in the Extraordinary Rite; no hand-holding (yuck); no forced intimacy with our neighbors in the pews (double yuck); yet there is a greater sense of unity with the whole Church, Triumphant, Suffering and Militant, in this rite.  The fact that the priest and the faithful are all facing in the same direction underscores the unity of purpose and intention in this solemn act of public worship.  Plus, the Extraordinary Form of the Mass is the Mass -- admittedly with some changes -- that has nourished centuries of saints.  It sheds light on their words.  When St. Faustina describes her mystical experiences during Mass, or when Dietrich von Hildebrand explicates the opening prayer at the very beginning of the Mass (Introibo ad altare Dei) -- now I understand what they're talking about.

5. The Extraordinary Form Is Much Simpler than the Ordinary Form.  Yes, you read that right. Nothing brought this truth home to me more clearly than the new English translation of the Ordinary Form, which necessitated my going out and buying a 2012 missal.  Most parts of the Ordinary Form have many optional variants, the use of which is governed solely by the pleasure of the priest celebrant.  For example, there are no fewer than ten Eucharistic prayers.  By the time you figure out which one the priest is using, it's halfway over.  Following along in the missal is almost hopeless.  By contrast, the Ordinary of the traditional Mass is always the same.  There is only one Eucharistic prayer -- the Roman Canon -- and the changeable parts of the Mass are governed by seasons and feasts, making the traditional Mass super easy for us missal jockeys to follow.   

6. The Extraordinary Form Is Hated and Despised by All the Right People.  A most reassuring sign.

The Mass in the Extraordinary Form is a precious treasure that we were foolish ever to try to change or throw away. I hope that one day the Extraordinary Rite will become the Ordinary Rite, and eventually displace the Novus Ordo entirely.  Until that day comes...I'll continue to attend the Extraordinary Rite whenever I can, and tough it out whenever I can't. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Make a Holy Hour of Reparation for Our Country

After finding one of these at one of the perpetual adoration chapels I frequent (there are actually three in my area), I decided I had to have one of my own.  This booklet was first published during World War II and is still in print.  The Holy Hour of Reparation is meant to be made and recited aloud by a group, but there is no reason it cannot be made silently by a single person.  The booklet costs about $3.00, so even a bunch of them is easily affordable.

The prayers that make up this Holy Hour are refreshing in their straightforwardness, their lack of political correctness and effete pop psychological vocabulary, and their unabashed Catholicity.  Some of them refer to the world war, but they are no less pertinent today, and in the United States.  This one, recited after the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, is among my favorites:

To the Queen of the Holy Rosary

O Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, in these times of brazen impiety, show again thy power, with the signs which accompanied thy victories of old, and from the throne where thou art seated, dispensing pardon and grace, in pity watch over the Church of thy Son, His Vicar, and every order of the clergy and laity, suffering in grievous warfare.  Hasten, O most powerful destroyer of heresy, hasten the hour of mercy, seeing that the hour of judgment is daily challenged by innumerable offenses.  Obtain for me, the lowest of men, kneeling suppliant in thy presence, the grace which may enable me to live a just life on earth, and reign with the just in heaven, whilst with the faithful throughout the world, O Queen of the most holy Rosary, I salute thee and cry out: Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us!

Make a point of making a regular Holy Hour of Reparation for our country, especially during this critical election year, and encourage others to do the same.