Sunday, November 27, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes and Whatsits

Today marked not only the beginning of the new liturgical year, but also the date the new English translation of the Roman Missal takes effect in the United States.  Now what we are hearing at Mass is a lot closer to the original Latin, and in a more elevated style of language better suited to the solemnity of the occasion.  In fact, there are many parts of the Mass, particularly the propers, that we will now hear for the first time, ever: if you have been following Fr. Z.'s weekly scrutinies of the proper prayers, and especially the collects, you are aware that much of what we have been hearing is not a translation at all, but something totally different and made up out of whole cloth.  And if you've been following Fr. Richard Simon's Rev. Know-It-All series on the new translation, you are aware of some of the theological distortions with which the now-obsolete translation was replete.  These are some of the ills which the Third Edition is meant to remedy.

Which brings us to some of the ongoing though futile complaints about the changes.  Today A.P. runs a story about the launch of the new translation.  Several of those whose opinions were solicited for the story had positive responses; but then there were those who just had to rush their ignorance and defiance into print.  One Maribeth Lynch, a publisher aged 51, described herself as "distraught" about the changes and -- according to the story -- "would refuse to 'learn the damn prayers.'"  It goes on:
"It's ridiculous. I've been a Catholic for 50 years, and why would they make such stupid changes? They're word changes. They're semantics," she said. The priest "spent 40 minutes today on the changes instead of on the important stuff, like changing water into wine."
A publisher needs to be explained the importance of words in the formation of knowledge and ideas?  Is changing water into wine really what happens at Mass?  Is the new translation even more deficient than we thought?  Hopefully she just misspoke.

Still, it is clear that 50 years as a Catholic have failed to teach Miss Lynch a thing or two.  Like the Source of the Catholic Church's authority, and the gravity of every Catholic's obligation to obey the same.  Like the fact that in the matter of giving God the worship that is His due, nothing is small and everything counts.  Like the fact that how we pray shapes what we believe, and what we believe shapes how we live.

Miss Lynch, learn the "damn prayers."  You, and people who think like you, are the reason we need this new translation.  It is precisely to restore to you the inheritance that has been stolen from you that so much time, talent and treasure have been poured into this project.  When your Mother the Church takes away the fetid gruel you have been feeding on and replaces it with steak and potatoes, the appropriate response is gratitude.

UPDATE: Interesting, the HuffPo version of the A.P. story has Maribeth Lynch saying something rather different, to wit:

"It's ridiculous. I've been a Catholic for 50 years, and why would they make such stupid changes? They're word changes. They're semantics," she said.

"It's confusion. All it's doing is causing confusion," she said. "You want to go to church and be confused?"
Still silly, yet somehow less silly than the quote from the local TV station.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

St. Antoninus of Florence, O.P.: Exactly What Is Needed, And Therefore Worth Reposting

Antoninus of Florence, born in 1389, bore the marks of great piety and virtue from an early age.  While still a boy, he presented himself to the Friars Preachers in Fiesole and begged to receive the habit.  Because of his tender age and delicate constitution, the prior was reluctant to admit him, and told him that if he came back at the end of the year having memorized the Decretal of Gratian -- the then-existing body of canon law -- he would be admitted.  This seemed tantamount to an outright refusal, but Antoninus accomplished the task, and received the habit at the age of 16.

Antoninus' excellence in all the virtues, conscientiousness and prodigious intellect carried him to the highest levels in the Order, and eventually in the hierarchy of the Church.  In 1446, despite his entreaties to the contrary and attempts to escape, Pope Eugenius IV made him Archbishop of Florence, which the holy Dominican proceeded to deep-clean from top to bottom.  On May 2, 1459, Antoninus died at the age of 70.  He was canonized in 1523 by Pope Adrian VI, and in 1559, his body was found to be incorrupt.  The memorial of St. Antoninus is celebrated on May 10th on both the current and pre-conciliar calendars.

Prayer to St. Antoninus
(translated into English by Doug Sousa)

O Antoninus, Archbishop of Florence, in God's heaven you shine with the two-fold crown of bishop and doctor.  Illumine our way through this life and make our hearts invincible in temptation.  You who were called the "saint of good advice," guide us through the confusion of our thoughts and the rebellion of our will.  

The poor called you "father," and in you found protection and help -- physical bread for their bodies and spiritual bread for their souls.  As the daily cares of this earthly life become increasingly burdensome, we turn to you who wisely pointed out the demands of social justice in the midst of difficult economic circumstances.  Obtain for us from God the freedom to serve him alone, to live in fraternal love, and to use the goods of the earth to seek the treasures of the life to come.  Amen.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why We Should Pray for Condemned Prisoners -- Especially the Worst

On February 28, 1987, Paul Ezra Rhoades kidnapped 21-year-old Blackfoot convenience store clerk Stacy Baldwin.  He robbed the convenience store she worked at and drove her off to a secluded spot, where he shot her twice and left her for dead.  It took her an hour to die of her wounds.  A little over two weeks later, on March 16th, Rhoades entered another convenience store and shot the 20-year-old clerk, Nolan Haddon, five times.  He was found alive in the walk-in cooler the next morning, but soon died of his wounds.  Two days later, Rhoades kidnapped 34-year-old schoolteacher Susan Michelbacher, raped her and shot her nine times.  Her body was found two days later.  The following year, Rhoades was condemned to death for the kidnapping and murders of Baldwin and Michelbacher, and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Haddon. 

On October 19th, Rhoades was served with a death warrant, issued by Judge Jon Shindurling, ordering that he be put to death on Friday, November 18th.  The Commission of Pardons and Parole denied Rhoades' petition for a commutation hearing, and yesterday the Ninth Circuit denied his motion for a stay.  The execution is scheduled for Friday at 8:00 a.m. at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise.

There can be no event more solemn than the death of a human being.  No sooner does the soul separate from the body than its will is fixed for eternity and it goes to its eternal reward.  If it goes to Heaven, then it is free from sin forever, and will never be separated from God for all eternity.  If it goes to Purgatory, then it is certain to attain Heaven once it has been purged of its sins.  If it goes to Hell, then it will suffer endless torments forever, without hope of reprieve or clemency.  Once the soul leaves the body, there is no going back.  There is no time to repent of sins or do any good deeds or change its mind.  The time for all that is in this life; once that time is over, it is irretrievably gone.  How different all the time we wasted in this life will look when our last moments are upon us -- if we are fortunate enough not to be taken suddenly and unprepared.  

In that bleak execution chamber at IMSI, Paul Ezra Rhoades will meet his Maker and stand in judgment before His Throne.  That is a moment that should cause rejoicing to no one, even the families of his victims, since at all times we ourselves hurtle relentlessly toward that moment.  It is a moment that none of us can hope to escape: a moment when we shall be stripped of all our delusions of ourselves in the light of Truth.  How will we bear the abysmal contrast between what we are pleased to call our own "goodness" and the Perfection of Goodness, in Whose eyes the least shadow of sin is a hideous blemish?  How will Catholics answer the charges against us in that final tribunal, when we have gone on offending God even in spite of the light of Faith and the graces and helps of the Sacraments that we have received?  If we do not beg God's pardon while there is still time, can we hope to fall higher in the test than notorious sinners who have perhaps not received the same lights and graces that we have squandered?

Divine Justice will exact a fearful toll from a mass murderer like Paul Ezra Rhoades, if he does not avail himself of Divine Mercy while there is still time.  But all it takes is one mortal sin for us to suffer the same fate that endangers him.  The most leniently punished souls in Hell are in Hell nevertheless, and in eternal torment.  Of our charity, and in the hope of winning mercy for ourselves, we should pray for the grace of repentance and conversion for Paul Ezra Rhoades in these critical last hours of his life, if he has not already repented and converted.  If he is destined to be executed as scheduled, then we should pray that he will suffer his death with resignation and offer it up as restitution for his crimes.  

None of this precludes praying also for the souls of his victims and for their families.  But, as prayer for the living and the dead is a spiritual work of mercy, for this man whose end is coming we should pray for the same graces and helps that we hope for when our own ends draw near.

UPDATE, 11/17 at 20:03 MST: The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to stay Rhoades' execution.

UPDATE, 11/18 at 09:23 MST: After a 55-minute delay following the denial of a last-minute motion for stay, Paul Ezra Rhoades was executed.  He was pronounced dead at 09:15 MST.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11: St. Martin of Tours and Veterans' Day

How appropriate that Veterans' Day, formerly known in the United States and still known in Europe as Armistice Day, should coincide with the feast of St. Martin of Tours, who began his career in heroic charity as a Roman soldier.  How appropriate, too, that the fratricidal slaughter of 1914-1918 should have drawn to a close during the month in which the Church remembers and prays for the dead.

This Veterans' Day -- the 93d anniversary of the formal end of hostilities in the First World War -- is doubly unique.  First, because of this date's once-in-a-lifetime calendrical configuration: the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year of the 21st century.  Secondly, because 11/11/11 is the first Veterans' Day in history to be celebrated without American veterans of World War I.  The last surviving American veteran of that war, Frank Buckles, passed away on February 27th of this year.  There is now only one remaining known World War I veteran in the world: Florence Green, aged 110, who served in the Women's Royal Air Force.

V. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R. And may perpetual light shine upon them.
V. May they rest in peace.
R. Amen.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

November 8: Feast of All Dominican Souls

On November 8th, the Order of Preachers celebrates the Feast of All Dominican Souls.  

Rest in peace, Sr. Elizabeth, Sr. Noreen, Sr. Donalda and Sr. Kathleen -- the Dominican sisters who ran the Catholic grade school I attended.  When the not-very-prepossessing Sr. Elizabeth was lining us up outside our classrooms in the morning and measuring the distance between each kid, and Sr. Kathleen of the bright orange hair was bopping us over the head with pencil erasers, and they were all marching us off to Mass in our uniform sweaters in 90-degree weather, I little thought that I would one day become their sister in St. Dominic.

Nor, I suppose, while they tried unsuccessfully to make me keep my desk clean or quit acting up on the playground, did they ever foresee such an eventuality.

Monday, November 07, 2011

November 7: Feast of All Dominican Saints

Today the Order of Preachers honors its saints.  I am happy to report that we have a large number of beati and canonized saints, as well as three Doctors of the Church, to wit: St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Albertus Magnus; and St. Catherine of Siena.  In fact, the Dominican Third Order is thus far the only Third Order to have produced a Doctor of the Church (Catherine of Siena).

Herewith some prayers to and in honor of Dominican saints:

Prayer to St. Martin de Porres (whose feast we just celebrated last week)
Chaplet of St. Dominic (also known as the Cry of Anguish)

And of course, in the sidebar, under Victory Topics, there are the Novenas of St. Dominic and Bl. Margaret of Castello.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Don't Forget the Church Suffering

We should always pray for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, but November is the month when the Church specially remembers them.  Per the Enchiridion of Indulgences, we can gain a plenary indulgence for the Holy Souls every day for the first eight days of November by praying at a cemetery and fulfilling all the other necessary conditions for a plenary indulgence.

We should get into the habit of praying often, and remembering the Holy Souls whenever we pray.  Say the Requiem Aeternam (reproduced below) at the end of your daily Rosary.  Pray for the Souls whenever you pass by a cemetery, and when you receive Holy Communion.  The Dominican friars have a beautiful custom of reciting the De profundis (Psalm 129) in the cloister walk, where deceased friars were traditionally buried, before meals.  The traditional grace after meals -- which we have largely gotten out of the habit of saying, and which is reproduced below -- contains a prayer for the Holy Souls.

The best thing we can do for the Holy Souls is to have Masses offered for them.  In this way we can benefit not only the Church Suffering but also the Church Militant, by contributing to the material support of the Church.  Your average diocesan priest is basically a beggar: he is obliged to support himself and depends on stipends to supplement his small salary.

The Holy Souls are powerless to help themselves: the time for praying for ourselves and offering up our sufferings and trials ends at death.  The Church Suffering is entirely dependent upon the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant for the relief of their sufferings.  Can the Souls nevertheless help us in their present state?  Opinions differ.  The Church does not publicly pray to them for their intercession, but we are permitted to pray privately to them.  They are, after all, certain of gaining heaven once they have satisfied all their debts to Divine Justice.  It cannot be doubted that, once freed from their prison, they can and do help those who helped them.  

 Personally, I believe the Holy Souls can help us by their prayers.  I once was in dire need of oral surgery at a time when I was out of work and uninsured.  In my desperation I appealed to the Holy Souls, and in short order I was connected with an oral surgeon who performed the necessary procedure free of charge.  I believe the Souls are at least as anxious to help us as they are to be helped by us -- maybe even more so.

But really, the attention we give to the Holy Souls ought to consist mostly in our prayers and sacrifices for them -- especially those who were our family and friends.  

Some prayers for the Holy Souls:

Grace after Meals

+ We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, Who livest and reignest forever; and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen.

Requiem Aeternam

V. Requiem aeternam dona ei (eis), Domine. 
R. Et lux perpetua luceat ei (eis). 
V. Requiescat (-ant) in pace. 
R. Amen. 

V. Eternal rest grant unto him/them, O Lord. 
R. And may perpetual light shine up on him/them.  
V. May he/they rest in peace.  
R. Amen.

Prayer of St. Gertrude the Great

Eternal Father, I offer You the Most Precious Blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.

And since our primary order of business on this earth is to be worthy to join the Holy Souls someday in eternal beatitude, we should also get into the habit of making provision for our final hour by praying for a holy death.  Herewith an appropriate prayer by Bl. John Henry Newman:

O my Lord and Savior, support me in my last hour by the strong arms of Thy Sacraments, and the fragrance of Thy consolations. Let Thy absolving words be said over me, and the holy oil sign and seal me; and let Your own Body be my food, and Thy Blood my sprinkling; and let Thy Mother Mary come to me, and my angel whisper peace to me, and Thy glorious saints and my own dear patrons smile on me, that in and through them all I may die as I desire to live, in Thy Church, in Thy faith, and in Thy love.