October 2011 Archives

The Feast of Christ the King

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In the Two Calendars

In the traditional calendar of the Roman Rite, the Feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, is kept on the last Sunday of October. In the reformed calendar it is kept on the last Sunday per annum, the one immediately preceding the First Sunday of Advent. There are, I think, good reasons that justify both choices. As I have treated extensively elsewhere of the significance of the feast of Christ the King on the last Sunday per annum, I should like, today, to say something about the significance of celebrating it on the last Sunday of October or, if you will, the Sunday preceding the Feast of All Saints.

The Sunday Before All Saints

The Feast of Christ the King, kept on the last Sunday of October, inaugurates a kind of pre-Advent season that is, in some ways, analogous to the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima. Christ, the "King of Glory" (Psalm 23:7), makes His appearance "arrayed in beauty and clothed with strength" (Psalm 92:1). The splendour of His coming will reveal, on November 1st, "the church of the saints" (Ps 149:1), the children of the heavenly Sion, "joyful in their King" (Psalm 149:2). The royal cortège of the saints follows the appearing (or parousia) of the King of Glory.

The Church on earth peers into the Church in heaven, and catches a glimpse of what God has prepared for those who love Him: "what no eye hath seen nor ear heard, nor hath the heart of man conceived" (1 Cor 2:9). "And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of great thunders, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord our God the Almighty hath reigned. Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory to him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his bride hath prepared herself (Apocalypse 19:6-7).

The Sunday Before All Souls

The radiance of the Face of Christ the King penetrates even into the realm of Purgatory, touching with its purifying rays the souls of those who await their deliverance. The Offertory Antiphon sung in the Requiem Mass clearly makes the link between the Feast of Christ the King and the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, or All Souls Day, on November 2nd: "O Lord Jesus Christ, KING OF GLORY, deliver the souls of all the faithful departed from the pains of hell and from the bottomless pit."

Towards Advent

The rest of the month of November becomes, in the light of the successive celebrations of Christ the King, All Saints, and All Souls, a kind of eschatological season -- consider also the feasts of Dedication on November 9th and November 18th -- bringing the Sundays after Pentecost to a gracious close, and preparing the Church for the First Sunday of Advent.


On this feast of Christ the King, I am compelled to recommend to the readers of Vultus Christi the little invocation revealed by Our Lord to Mother Yvonne-Aimée of Malestroit in 1922.

The picture to the right is her own work. Some judge it sentimental and too sweet. It has been, nonetheless, an invitation to confidence and hope for the little and the childlike. Our Lord Himself told Yvonne-Aimée to depict him as a little Child, a King of Love whom no one would fear to approach. A crown of lilies rests upon His Head, for He is the King of Virgins and the Restorer of innocence to those who give Him the burden of their sins. In His right hand He holds the olive branch that signifies healing and peace, and with His other hand, He points to His Sacred Heart, all aglow with merciful love.

As for the little invocation, for countless souls it is a healing balm, a fountain of living water in the heart, a inextinguishable flame in the darkness. Pray it today: O Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in Thy merciful goodness.

Those who know me
have a boundless confidence in my mercy,
and trust me to resolve even the most difficult situations
with a love that is at once tender and mighty.

Pray to me with confidence then,
for I am the King of Love, and I want to be recognized as such.
I rule in souls, not by coercion, but by my most sweet love.
I rule as a Child King,
with gentleness and with an affection that is wholly divine.
I am not a tyrant, nor will I force my rule upon anyone.

I am the Child King who comes in the guise of a beggar,
seeking the hospitality of one heart after another.
To those who welcome my rule,
I impart warmth and light,
food and drink,
a glorious raiment,
and a share in my kingdom forever.

Make me known as the King of Love,
as the little poor One who waits to be admitted into your company,
and welcomed into the midst of you,
there to rule, not by might, but humbly and with an infinite compassion.

If souls knew my kingship for what it is,
they would submit to me in an instant,
and I, in response, would fill them with happiness in my presence.
Love me, then,
and allow me to love you with my Royal Heart.
It is a great thing to be loved by the Heart of a King,
and I am the King of all that is, that was, and that will be.
My Heart is yours.
Give me your heart in return.
Thus will our friendship be sealed in heaven and on earth.

From In Sinu Iesu, the Journal of a Priest

My Bishop

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This article by Jim Graves appeared in The National Catholic Register, 10/28/2011.

Bishop Edward Slattery, 71, was born and raised in Chicago. He attended the archdiocese's Mundelein Seminary and was ordained a priest in 1966. He served in Chicago parishes and was active with the Catholic Church Extension Society, which funds the American home missions.

In 1994, he was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II and installed as the third bishop of the Diocese of Tulsa, Okla. He is noted for his orthodoxy and piety and has publicly advocated a reform of the liturgy. As the Church prepares for the official promulgation of the new translation of the liturgy on the First Sunday in Advent, Nov. 27, he shared his thoughts on the liturgy, the priesthood and religious life, and maintaining a healthy spirituality.

You've made public statements about problems with the liturgy. What changes would you like to see?

I would like to see the liturgy become what Vatican II intended it to be. That's not something that can happen overnight. The bishops who were the fathers of the council from the United States came home and made changes too quickly. They shouldn't have viewed the old liturgy, what we call the Tridentine Mass or Missal of Pope John XXIII, as something that needed to be fixed. Nothing was broken. There was an attitude that we had to implement Vatican II in a way that radically affects the liturgy.

What we lost in a short period of time was continuity. The new liturgy should be clearly identifiable as the liturgy of the pre-Vatican II Church. Changes, like turning the altar around, were too sudden and too radical. There is nothing in the Vatican II documents that justifies such changes. We've always had Mass facing the people as well as Mass ad orientem ["to the east," with priest and people facing the same direction]. However, Mass ad orientem was the norm. These changes did not come from Vatican II.

Also, it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don't know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular, primarily so that the people could understand the Scriptures.

You yourself have begun celebrating Mass ad orientem.

Yes, in our cathedral and a few parishes where the priests ask me to. Most of the time, I say Mass facing the people when I travel around the diocese or when I have a large number of priests concelebrating, because it works better that way.

A few priests have followed my example and celebrate ad orientem as well. I have not requested they change. I prefer to lead by example and let the priests think about it, pray about it, study it, and then look at their churches and see if it's feasible to do.

And it's positive when people are thinking about and talking about the liturgy.

When people make the liturgy part of their conversation, it is a good thing. As priests and laypeople discuss the liturgy, they'll see how important it is and how it is a work of God and not our own.

But we must approach the liturgy on bended knee with tremendous humility, recognizing that it doesn't belong to us. It belongs to God. It is a gift. We worship God not by creating our own liturgies, but by receiving the liturgy as it comes to us from the Church. The liturgy should be formed and shaped by the Church itself to help people pray better. And we all pray better when we are disposed to receive what God has offered, rather than creating something of our own.

Are you excited about the promulgation of the new translation of the Roman Missal?

I'm looking forward to it. I've put a lot of work into it this past year: getting the people of the diocese ready. We've hosted a number of large gatherings to explain the new translation, and those in attendance were attentive and grateful. I think it is going to be well received by our priests and the people.

Moreover, the announcement of the new translation has sparked an opportunity to renew our commitment to an active participation in the liturgy. We should come to the liturgy with an interior disposition that it is something which we can only receive. It is a gift from God. And, as part of our reception of that gift, we must listen with a loving heart to what God has to tell us.

In 2010, to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI's election, you celebrated a traditional Latin Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Why did you celebrate this Mass, and how did it go?

I did it because I didn't want a lot of people to be disappointed. Archbishop [Donald] Wuerl [of Washington], now Cardinal Wuerl, called me to say they could not find a bishop to celebrate the Mass because the bishop who was originally scheduled withdrew. It was only a few days before the event, and they needed a replacement. Since bishops' schedules are so tight, even Archbishop Wuerl could not do it on such short notice. So, I was thrilled to have the opportunity.

I was impressed by the large crowd, but found it easy to pray, despite all the people. There was a sense of prayer, a silence and an involvement that made it easy for all of us to pray together.

You preached on suffering that day, and your homily was well received.

We were there to thank God for the Holy Father's five years of service as the Successor of Peter. I realized that during those five years he has suffered enormously, and the Church has been the target of much persecution. It makes you more conscious of suffering itself. Suffering has always been with us; it's something we all have to endure.

I wanted to remind the congregation that our sufferings need not be wasted; suffering in union with Christ is redemptive. However, if we suffer with resentment or with a sense of merely feeling the pain of suffering, it is wasted.

I thought that would be a good theme. I didn't want to talk about the divisions that exist between conservatives and liberals or those who attend the Tridentine Mass and the rest of the Catholic world.

Suffering is universal. Everyone suffers as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve and our own sins. But what Christ, in his great love for us, has done is taken that which is our great enemy, suffering and death, and put it at our service. Suffering and death can be the cause of our redemption.

You obviously have quite a love for the priesthood. What first made you want to be a priest?

I can't trace it to any one thing. My mother and father were good Catholics, and the neighborhood in which I lived had many good Catholics, so I grew up in a positive environment.

I do recall one instance, however, when I was very young. I woke up in the middle of the night and made my first adult prayer. By this, I mean I was conscious of God's presence and moved by it. I was filled by a profound and unexplainable gratitude for his presence and love.
From that time I changed. I became interested in things of the Church: Mass, sacraments, religion classes, priests and nuns. Anything that was religious was attractive to me from that time on.

I announced to my parents when I was in the fifth or sixth grade that I would like to go to Quigley [Preparatory Seminary] and become a priest. They were happy, but I was a little disappointed that they were not as excited about it as I was. They were in favor of it, but I thought they would be thrilled. Looking back on it, I think they were thinking, Oh, this is just a child's dream. But I was serious. My father went to Quigley himself, and my brother too, but they both left and got married.

Your ordination as a bishop by Pope John Paul must have left you with many special memories.

It was an unforgettable experience. To this day, I feel grateful and unworthy.

I had met Pope John Paul II several times before. Because I was president of the Extension Society, I traveled frequently and came to places where he was visiting. I remember meeting him in Arizona and Alaska and in Guam, where I met him the first time.

Like everyone else, I was in awe in his presence. I felt privileged that I could shake hands with him and see him face to face.

How has your Diocese of Tulsa changed since you first arrived nearly 18 years ago?

We've had a large influx of Hispanic Catholics, most of whom have come since I arrived. The diocese officially has 60,000 Catholics, but twice as many if you include Hispanics. Often, they won't register in our parishes, however. Because of our immigration laws, they are hesitant to sign their name on anything.

We've also gone from having one of the older clergy populations in the country to one of the youngest. In the last 18 years, most of our priests who were on active duty have died or retired. I've ordained about 30 since I've arrived, and we have about 50 active priests total. Our average age now is about 45 or 46.

We usually ordain about two priests a year. They serve a Catholic population in this state that is a minority, but a strong and faithful minority.

You've expressed your concern about the decline of religious communities in the past 40 years. What do you think caused it?

Sometimes Vatican II is blamed for it, but I think it has to do with a change in our culture and the West. We have become secular, self-reliant and independent.

In the 1960s, we had the war in Vietnam, the civil-rights movement and a society that was increasingly disillusioned with people in authority. Protests arose emphasizing that people were being denied their rights -- and, sometimes, they were -- and the themes of responsibility, obedience, loyalty and fidelity were forgotten. We lost an important balance we needed.

Also, as technology improves, people become more and more comfortable and expect to be comfortable. We take for granted the gifts God has given us and think we're entitled to them.

These prevailing attitudes then affect all of us, whether we're a religious, bishop, priest, married or single person. It's just a matter of time before some religious say, "I'm going to change the way I'm living and re-interpret the meaning of poverty, chastity and obedience."

But for us to have a conversion of heart, we need examples. We need religious. We need reformation of the religious and consecrated life because the Catholic Church is searching for men and women who can lead us by example. That is what has been lacking in the past 40 years, as many religious left the religious life or changed to a lifestyle which is, unfortunately, even more comfortable than the average person. Sometimes I think some religious have lost their identity.

The charisms of poverty, chastity and obedience are something that all of us need to embrace, but the religious are the ones who lead us in this. They help us to stay focused on Christ in another world, another kingdom, and not the kingdom of this world.

How should we respond?

We should start with prayer. That's where everything starts. We don't start by talking about ourselves or even examining our consciences. We start by prayer, on our knees. We come to the Lord and ask him to let us see ourselves as he sees us. He's the only one who can. God knows each one of us perfectly, and if we're seeking self-knowledge, we must go to him.

Once we do that, we receive his help and a certain joy because we open our hearts to being honest. We allow ourselves to see and accept what is true about ourselves and about others in light of the Gospel. But without prayer, that can't happen.

Once we become men and women of prayer, everything else will fall into place. But we have to put in the time. You have to schedule prayer. You have to make sure that you pray every day, and as often as you can. Become a man or woman of prayer. When we do this, we will begin to discover ourselves, perhaps for the first time.

You also frequently recommend Eucharistic adoration.

The Eucharist is the center of our lives. The reason for Eucharistic adoration is so that we might find ourselves as better participants when we do celebrate the Mass. Everything centers around our Lord in the Eucharist. Once we begin to see this and experience this, we'll find ourselves going to Mass more often.

Are there other spiritual practices you recommend?

We have to return to the Rosary. Pope John Paul II said that when we pray the Rosary, we see the life of Christ through the eyes of his mother, Mary. And there's no better way to look at Christ than through the eyes of Mary. The Rosary is a tried and true means of doing that. I encourage every Catholic to pray the Rosary every day. Praying the Rosary takes us through the major mysteries of our faith, especially now since John Paul has given us the five Luminous Mysteries.

I also advise a return to confession. When I say this, I don't mean to do this in some sort of laborious, burdensome way, but rather as a form of prayer. Pray before you examine your conscience, and allow the Lord to tell you what your sins are. He loves you, and he will tell you a lot about yourself. He will help you see yourself in contrast with his infinite love for you. You will begin to see the gap between his love for you and your love for Him. And when you experience that gap, it will help you become more generous and more apt to recognize and admit your sins in confession.

Who are your heroes in the spiritual life?

St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower. I have a picture of her in my chapel, and I talk to her every day. Since becoming a bishop, she has become my hero. She has such enormous humility, and her love for Christ is so genuine.

What impresses me most about her is that she found great peace in her life because she wanted the approval of Jesus alone for anything she thought or did. She never wanted anyone else's approval, only his. Now, that's really love. We often seek approval and praise from others, whether it be from our parents, co-workers or friends.

But she did not. All she wanted was that approval from Christ himself, so she was always trying to please him. That's all that mattered to her; that simplified her life and made her a saint.

Register correspondent Jim Graves writes from Newport Beach, California.

So as to cleave wholly to Him

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The Feast of Christ the King was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925. It was, then, completely unknown to Mother Mectilde de Bar in 17th century France. In preparation for the Feast of Christ the King, I translated part of a letter written by Mother Mectilde on the Vigil of the Ascension, 2 June 1666, to the community of Toul, France.

The Ascension -- like the Epiphany earlier in the liturgical year -- is the great festival of Christ, Lord and King that Mother Mectilde would have celebrated in choir, and pondered before the Blessed Sacrament.

This particular letter reveals Mectilde de Bar's affectionate nature. She was quite willing to speak of the deep things of God to her spiritual daughters, and delighted in engaging them in conversation on the mysteries of divine love. The tone of this one letter speaks volumes about the social climate that prevailed in her monasteries. The love of God was the grand passion of these women. They were not afraid to speak, even in recreation, of the things that matter in life and in death.

For Mother Mectilde, the adventure surpassing all adventures was to forsake all things so as to find oneself with no-thing. He who clings to no-thing is ready to be taken up with Christ into the bosom of the Father, and to be hidden with Christ in the Sacrament of His Love. Here is the text:

My God, my dearest one and all, and more than dear to my heart, what tenderness I feel for all of you, and what ardour for your sanctification! Since the end of recreation on Sunday, I have a quantity of thoughts to communicate to you and precious truths to express to you; but I am sending them all back to the place whence they spring, so that Jesus Himself may imprint them in your inmost hearts, given that I can say to you nothing more, and the distance of places deprives me of the sweet consolation of exchanging with you on this mystery of love, of Jesus raised up even to the throne of His glory.

Pray Him, my daughters, that He might raise Himself up in us, and that He might raise us up even to Himself, that we might, once and for all, let go of the things of earth, that is, of ourselves and of creatures, so as to cleave wholly to Him.

Remember that "He took captives with Himself" (cf. Psalm 67:19). This concerns you, my dear ones: you are His victims, and consequently, His slaves, the captives of His divine love. He must then lead you away with Himself, so that henceforth you will be found no longer on earth. Non quae super terram (Colossians 3:2), but altogether hidden in Jesus in the bosom of the Father in the august Sacrament. There I will look for you always, and I don't want to find you anywhere else. I entreat you to make your dwelling there, living separated, by your affections and your sensibility, from all the rest, so as to have nought and possess nothing outside of Him.

Come to me, who adore Thee

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Feast of Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Saint Jude at the Mystical Supper

The Gospel tells us that Simon was one of the twelve disciples whom Jesus called to Himself and named Apostles; Saint Jude too was among the Twelve. The Apostle Jude has a cameo appearance in Saint John's Gospel at the moment of the Last Supper. Picture Saint Jude listening to Jesus with rapt attention. The question Jude puts to Our Lord is far from superficial. It suggests that he was an intelligent man capable of listening with the ear of the heart and long accustomed to pondering the deep things of the Spirit.

Saint Jude's Question

We, for our part, can be grateful to Saint Jude for the question he asked his Master. Our Lord's answer is full of light. "Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, 'Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?'; Jesus answered him, 'Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them'" (Jn 14:21-23).

The Indwelling Trinity

Thus is the mystery of the indwelling God revealed to the Apostle Jude. What is the mystery of the indwelling God? It is the abiding presence of the Father loving the Son, and of the Son loving the Father in the hearts of those who love Jesus and hold fast to His words. These few verses from the Gospel of Saint John are sufficient to make the Apostle Saint Jude, more than anything else, a patron of the interior life: the life of undivided attention to the words of Jesus, the life of adoring attention to the indwelling Trinity. Imagine what might be the conversations between the Apostle Jude and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity in heaven.

Economic Crisis and the American Devotion to Saint Jude

Popular devotion to Saint Jude is an American phenomenon that began in Chicago in 1929. The steel mills had begun massive lay-offs. In Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish more than 90% of the faithful were without paychecks, unemployment compensation, and Social Security benefits. The pastor, Father James Tort, saw the ever-growing bread lines, the distress of families, and the desperation in the faces of so many. He had, some time before the crisis, come into possession of a Latin American statue of an Apostle rarely invoked. Saint Jude was depicted clasping an icon of the Face of Christ to his breast, with a flame of Pentecostal fire over his head. Father Tort moved the statue to a place of prominence in the church. He announced a novena to The Forgotten Saint. It drew enormous crowds. People were strangely attracted to this obscure saint, to this saint rarely invoked because often confused with the other Jude, the one by whom Jesus was betrayed.

On the final evening of a solemn novena that ended on October 28, 1929 -- one day before the crash of the Stock Market -- an overflow of more than one thousand people stood outside the church praying and singing. Those asking the intercession of Saint Jude were given relief in unexpected ways and, more than anything else, they found hope again. Saint Jude's reputation as the patron saint of desperate causes spread from Chicago to shrines, churches, and homes all over the country.

The Apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus


Popular images of Saint Jude passed into the collective memory of American Catholic piety. The medallion of the Face of Christ that he holds represents the miraculous icon of Edessa, the Holy Face of Jesus Not Made by Human Hands. The legend is that Abgar, the King of Edessa, stricken with leprosy, wrote the following letter to Jesus:

Abgar Ouchama to Jesus, the Good Physician Who has appeared in the country of Jerusalem, greeting: I have heard of Thee, and of Thy healing; that Thou dost not use medicines or roots, but by Thy word openest (the eyes) of the blind, makest the lame to walk, cleansest the lepers, makest the deaf to hear; how by Thy word (also) Thou healest (sick) spirits and those who are tormented with lunatic demons, and how, again, Thou raisest the dead to life. . . . Wherefore I write to Thee, and pray that thou wilt come to me, who adore Thee, and heal all the ill that I suffer, according to the faith I have in Thee.

Jesus, receiving the letter in Jerusalem, replied:

Blessed art thou who hast believed in Me, not having seen me, for it is written of me that those who shall see me shall not believe in Me, and that those who shall not see Me shall believe in Me. As to that which thou hast written, that I should come to thee, (behold) all that for which I was sent here below is finished, and I ascend again to My Father who sent Me, and when I shall have ascended to Him I will send thee one of My disciples, who shall heal all thy sufferings, and shall give (thee) health again, and shall convert all who are with thee unto life eternal.


The disciple referred to here is none other than Saint Jude. The legend goes on to recount that Abgar, having received Our Lord's answer, wanted nothing so much as an image of His Face. He sent an artist to Jesus with instructions to paint the Divine Countenance. The artist had no success because of what he called "the inexpressible glory" in his Face, which changed in grace. Jesus, moved to pity, asked for a cloth, applied it to his Face, and entrusting it to the Apostle Jude, sent it back to King Abgar. When Abgar opened the cloth, he found himself before a miraculous image of the Holy Face of Jesus. This image, carried by the Apostle Jude to King Abgar, is said to be the model of every other icon of the Face of Christ.

Saint Jude, the Bearer of the Image of the Holy Face

Saint Jude, then, is the Apostle who comes to us bearing the image of the Vultus Christi. Jude, the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes, and Jude, the Apostle of the interior life is also Jude, the Apostle of the missionary life: he carries the Face of Christ to those who, like King Abgar, ask for healing and hope.

A Promise Fulfilled in the Most Holy Eucharist

The promise made by Our Lord in response to Saint Jude's question is sufficient for us: "Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them" (Jn 14:21-23). The Church gives us this very verse from Saint John as today's Communion Antiphon. It is the sacred liturgy's way of saying that the promise announced in these words of Our Lord is fulfilled for us in the adorable mysteries of His Body and Blood. Relying on that promise, we go forth from participation in the Holy Mysteries bearing the Eucharistic Face of Christ in our hearts.

Frank Duff

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Frank Duff.jpg

Shortly before his death on 7 November 1980, layman Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, addressed a group of deacons preparing for ordination to the priesthood in Thurles, County Tipperary. He shared with them something of his own life of prayer as a lay apostle. His example is a catalyst and an inspiration for all priests. This is what he said:

Now perhaps you will forgive me for being personal. I absolutely hate it, but if I am not to talk to you to some extent out of my own background, I really have no other claim to address words to you at all. I am not a professor of religion, and I am certainly no peritus in that department. The only thing which I have to point to is considerable experience. Therefore, willy-nilly, I have to refer to it.
I have believed intensely in the spiritual order and I have never sacrificed it to the other. I have said the Divine Office since 1917 without missing a single day or a single hour, and think I could say, a single line of it. Likewise I have said daily the Rosary and the Seven Dolours. I have never missed daily Mass in that time, except in circumstances of absolute physical inability.
It is my conviction that anything useful that has come along has proceeded from that stressing of the purely supernatural. I think it meant that I was depending on the Lord and His Mother, and not on myself. I would say that one important result followed: that I was saved from vulgar pride. When there was development I was not tempted to ascribe it to my own abilities. Of course, one has to pay a price as well, the Christian price of torment and suffering. If unwilling to face up to that, avoid the priesthood.
Next we come to the question of Our Lady. She is completely indispensable.

Adoration and Reform

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A Benedictine Teresa of Avila

Mother Catherine Mectilde de Bar (Mectilde-du-Saint-Sacrement) (1614-1698) was to Benedictine life in the 17th century what Saint Teresa of Avila was for Carmel in the 16th century.

Eucharistic Hermeneutic of the Rule

The Mectildian reform of Benedictine life sprang from a profoundly Eucharistic re-reading of the Rule of Saint Benedict. Dom Joseph Rabory (1870-1916), a Catalonian Benedictine of the Solesmes Congregation, who studied the writings of Mother Mectilde de Bar, considered her "the most profound interpreter and theologian of the Regula Benedicti".

The Monk as Sacrificial Oblation

Mother Mectilde perceived that (1) Benedictine monastic life; (2) the Most Holy Eucharist; and (3) the kenosis (self-emptying) of Christ are intimately united. She affirms that the Rule of Saint Benedict is, of all monastic texts, the one best suited to a Eucharistic existence in which the monk-victim (hostia, sacrificial oblation) offers himself daily as a holocaust.

Transformation into Christ

Just as the Most Holy Eucharist is the supreme form of the kenosis of Christ utterly humbling Himself under the appearances of bread and wine, so is the monastic life the kenosis of the Christian called to conversio morum, to the self-emptying that gives all the space in oneself to Christ alone.

This is what Mother Mectilde writes in her introduction to the Ceremonial of the Benedictines of the Perpetual Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament:

Among all the Rules of the Church of God, [the Rule of Saint Benedict] is the one most suited to govern our Holy Institute, because it contains in itself a most lofty perfection and, by means of its austerity, makes you live in death as victims. It makes you sacrificial hosts of peace by means of the simple obedience and the humility that it teaches you, and by means of the divine praises that it enjoins you to sing by day and by night. In this way, and by continual prayer, it will make you become holocausts consumed in the pure flames of Divine Love.

On Purification of the Memory

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I was happy today to return to the lesson at Matins for the feast of Saint Raphael the Archangel: Saint Bonaventure's mystical exegesis of the Book of Tobit. The Seraphic Doctor presents the Archangel Raphael's three remedies for the soul made sick by sin: tears of repentance, the burning Heart of Christ, and greater earnestness in prayer.

The following section treats of the burning Heart of ΙΧΘΥΣ, that is, Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour.

The Heart of the Fish

Raphael would deliver us from the devil's bondage by putting us in remembrance of the Passion of Christ. This is set forth in Chapter six of the Book of Tobit under a figure of the heart of the fish which, when it is burning, driveth away all kinds of evil spirits.

The Heart on Fire

And again in Chapter eight, where we are told that Tobias placed the heart on live coals and the evil spirit fled into the utmost parts of Egypt, and the Angel bound him. What is this? Could Raphael bind an evil spirit only when the heart of a fish is set on fire? Did the Angel need a fish to enhearten him with great strength? Not at all. There is nothing worthwhile here except we take it mystically.

The Heart of Christ Burning With Love

Now the fish is a long-used symbol of Christ, because its letters in Greek are the initials of these words: Jesus Christ, God's Son, the Saviour. And so we may understand by the heart of the fish that there is nothing today to free us from the bondage of the devil except the passion of Christ, which same proceedeth from the depth of Himself, namely His Heart burning with love. For the heart is the fervent fountain of all life.

Place the Heart of Christ Within Thee

The Heart of Christ, whence His passion proceeded, is the source of a charity which burneth with love, and so is the cause of devotion in us. But thy memory is often to thee coals of fire. If therefore thou will place the Heart of Christ within thee, upon the dead coals of thy memories, and let them burn with the flames of that Heart, at once the devil will leave thee. Yea, he will be rendered harmless, as though he were bound.

Saint Bonaventure, De Sanctis Angelis, Sermo V

Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos

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Pilgrimage to New Orleans

My dear friend Vincent Uher is on pilgrimage to the tomb of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos ((1819-1867) in New Orleans. I propose that we accompany Vincent with our prayers, asking, through the intercession of Blessed Francis Seelos, that our Lord restore him to health, if such be His perfect Will. Here is the Collect for his feast, kept on October 5th.


Deus, qui ad nuntianda redemptionis mysteria,
et ad maerentes sublevandos,
beatum Franciscum Xaverium presbyterum,
eximia caritate decorasti,
eius intercessione concede,
ut diligenter ad tuam gloriam
hominumque salutem operemur.
Per Dominum.

O God, who made your priest, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos,
outstanding in love,
that he might proclaim the mysteries of redemption,
and comfort those in affliction,
grant, by his intercession,
that we may work zealously for your glory
and for the salvation of mankind,
Through our Lord.

The Cheerful Ascetic

A Redemptorist Missionary priest, Blessed Francis served in various places in the United States during the turbulent years of the Civil War. He was a much sought after confessor, a gifted preacher, and a fervent adorer of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

In 1860 Father Seelos' name was put forward as someone who would be a suitable bishop for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pope Pius IX excused him taking on this burden. From 1863 until 1866 he devoted himself to the demanding work of an itinerant missionary, preaching parish missions and retreats in English and German in the states of Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

All who knew Father Francis Xavier Seelos attested to his gentleness and good cheer, even in the face of contradictions and sufferings. Father Seelos died in New Orleans, of the Yellow Fever, at 48 years of age, on 4 October 1867.

From His Preaching: On Divine Mercy

Oh, if only all the sinners of the whole wide world were present here! Yes, even the greatest, the most hardened, even those close to despair, I would call out to them, "The Lord God is merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion" (Exodus 34:6). I would show them why the Apostles call God the Father of Mercy, the God of all consolation. I would tell them that the prophet in the Old Testament even said that the earth is full of the mercy of God and that mercy is above all His works.
O, Mother of Mercy! You understood the mercy of God when you cried out in the Magnificat, "His mercy is from generation to generation!" Obtain for all sinners a childlike confidence in the mercy of God.
It is not His justice but His mercy which is the motive of your trust. He is the God of all consolations and the Father of mercies. He does wish the death of a sinner but that he be converted and live. He came to heal the sick and to seek those who were lost. He spared the woman taken in adultery. He showed mercy to the thief crucified with Him. He took upon Himself our punishment. He prayed for His murderers. He now intercedes for us at the right hand of God. None of the damned was ever lost because his sin was too great, but because his trust was too small.


The Holy Father's homily to the Carthusian monks of Serra San Bruno in Calabria, on Sunday, 9 October, is a message to all who profess the monastic life in the heart of the Church. Emphases in boldface and the commentary in italics are my own.

Pastoral Service and Contemplative Vocation

I would like our meeting to highlight the deep bond that exists between Peter and Bruno, between pastoral service to the Church's unity and the contemplative vocation in the Church. Ecclesial communion, in fact, demands an inner force, that force which Father Prior has just recalled, citing the expression "captus ab Uno," ascribed to St Bruno: "grasped by the One," by God, "Unus potens per omnia," as we sang in the Vespers hymn. From the contemplative community the ministry of pastors draws a vital sap that comes from God.

This is the premise upon which our little monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle was founded: that from the contemplative community the ministry of pastors, i.e. diocesan priests, draws a vital sap that comes from God. This is why I accepted the challenge of beginning a monastery characterized not only by the worthy celebration of the Divine Praise, but also by daily Eucharistic Adoration for the sanctification of priests.

Seized by the Immense Love of God

"Fugitiva relinquere et aeterna captare": to abandon transient realities and seek to grasp the eternal. These words from the letter your Founder addressed to Rudolph, Provost of Rheims, contain the core of your spirituality (cf. Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 13): the strong desire to enter in union of life with God, abandoning everything else, everything that stands in the way of this communion, and letting oneself be grasped by the immense love of God to live this love alone.

This is the vocation of every Christian, but in a particular way, it is the vocation of the monk and of the diocesan priest: to be seized by the immense love of God. In our particular expression of Benedictine life, this seizure of the soul by Love takes place, in a privileged way, in adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus. The monk or priest who daily exposes himself to the radiance of Our Lord's Eucharistic Face will come to discover that His Sacred Heart is a burning furnace of Divine Charity. Perseverance in adoration will compel him to surrender to the love of Christ and to lose himself in Its flames. There is no apostolic work more effective and more fruitful than this.

The Monastery: A Well of Living Water

Dear brothers you have found the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value (cf. Mt 13:44-46); you have responded radically to Jesus' invitation: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me" (Mt 19:21). Every monastery -- male or female -- is an oasis in which the deep well, from which to draw "living water" to quench our deepest thirst, is constantly being dug with prayer and meditation. However, the Charterhouse is a special oasis in which silence and solitude are preserved with special care, in accordance with the form of life founded by St Bruno and which has remained unchanged down the centuries. "I live in a rather faraway hermitage... with some religious brothers", is the concise sentence that your Founder wrote (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4). The Successor of Peter's Visit to this historical Charterhouse is not only intended to strengthen those of you who live here but the entire Order in its mission which is more than ever timely and meaningful in today's world.

My vocation, and that of my brothers, is to persevere, humbly and patiently, in allowing the deep well of living water to be dug out within our own souls, so that others, especially priests, may come to the monastery and drink deeply of the supernatural stream that irrigates it. This can happen, as Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face teaches us, without any direct contact between the monks and the priests for whom we offer our lives. The irrigation is, as it were, subterranean; it is, nonetheless, extensive, and its effects are far-reaching.

Virtuality and Reality; Noise and Silence

Technical progress, markedly in the area of transport and communications, has made human life more comfortable but also more keyed up, at times even frantic. Cities are almost always noisy, silence is rarely to be found in them because there is always a lingering background noise, in some areas even at night. In the recent decades, moreover, the development of the media has spread and extended a phenomenon that had already been outlined in the 1960s: virtuality that risks getting the upper hand over reality. Unbeknownst to them, people are increasingly becoming immersed in a virtual dimension because of the audiovisual messages that accompany their life from morning to night.

The youngest, who were already born into this condition, seem to want to fill every empty moment with music and images, as for fear of feeling this very emptiness. This is a trend that has always existed, especially among the young and in the more developed urban contexts but today it has reached a level such as to give rise to talk about anthropological mutation. Some people are no longer capable of remaining for long periods in silence and solitude.

Increasingly, the monastic way of life is difficult for men to embrace, precisely because it deals not in virtuality, but in reality. Saint Benedict's Twelve Steps of Humility are a school of reality. While many of those who come to monasteries experience a true thirst for silence, this true thirst for silence can, paradoxically, coexist with an inability to live in silence. One does not become a monk overnight. One needs patience, perseverance in taking very little steps, and a sense of humour.

Exposure to the Presence of God

I chose to mention this socio-cultural condition because it highlights the specific charism of the Charterhouse as a precious gift for the Church and for the world, a gift that contains a deep message for our life and for the whole of humanity. I shall sum it up like this: by withdrawing into silence and solitude, human beings, so to speak, "expose" themselves to reality in their nakedness, to that apparent "void," which I mentioned at the outset, in order to experience instead Fullness, the presence of God, of the most royal Reality that exists and that lies beyond the tangible dimension. He is a perceptible presence in every created thing: in the air that we breathe, in the light that we see and that warms us, in the grass, in stones.... God, Creator omnium, [the Creator of all], passes through all things but is beyond them and for this very reason is the foundation of them all.

Saint John of the Cross and Mother Mectilde de Bar would recognize themselves in the Holy Father's teaching here. To the senses, exposure to the presence of God appears to be exposure to nothing. Indeed, it is exposure to No Thing because, beyond all things grasped by the senses, there is the Source and Fullness of Being, the Adorable Trinity. Similarly, to the intellect, exposure to the presence of God is perceived as nothing that can be processed and conceptualized. There is a point beyond which human understanding cannot go. That point -- encounter with the Presence of the Living God -- is the object of the monk's seeking.

The Monk Takes a Risk

The monk, in leaving all, "takes a risk," as it were: he exposes himself to solitude and silence in order to live on nothing but the essential, and precisely in living the essential he also finds a deep communion with his brethren, with every human being.

Mother Mectilde-du-Saint-Sacrement understood and dared to live this risk in Eucharistic Adoration. One who adores Our Lord, silent and concealed beneath the sacramental veils, discovers the mystery of a God who, in the Sacrament of HIs Love, makes Himself wordless, and accepts to remain alone, utterly dependent upon a creature's response to His silence and to His desire for company. Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus wrote that to find what is hidden, one must become hidden. So also, to engage with the Eucharistic silence of God, one must become silent; and to engage with the Eucharistic solitude of God, one must embrace solitude. It is a terrible risk.

Vocation: An Ongoing Process

Some might think that it would suffice to come here to take this "leap." But it is not like this. This vocation, like every vocation, finds an answer in an ongoing process, in the searching of a whole life. Indeed it is not enough to withdraw to a place such as this in order to learn to be in God's presence. Just as in marriage it is not enough to celebrate the Sacrament to become effectively one but it is necessary to let God's grace act and to walk together through the daily routine of conjugal life, so becoming monks requires time, practice and patience, "in a divine and persevering vigilance," as St Bruno said, they "await the return of their Lord so that they might be able to open the door for him as soon as he knocks" (Letter to Rudolph "the Green", n. 4); and the beauty of every vocation in the Church consists precisely in this: giving God time to act with his Spirit and to one's own humanity to form itself, to grow in that special state of life according to the measure of the maturity of Christ.

I want my own sons, the young brothers in my monastery, to read this passage and take it to heart. It is as if it was spoken to them personally, and written for their benefit. The Holy Father has an amazing understanding of the monastic vocation. It is, he says, "an ongoing process." "Becoming monks," he says, "requires time, practice, and patience." The monastic life is, in effect, akin to the daily routine of conjugal life, for it is bearing together the sweet yoke of Christ.

A Whole Life Barely Suffices

In Christ there is everything, fullness; we need time to make one of the dimensions of his mystery our own. We could say that this is a journey of transformation in which the mystery of Christ's resurrection is brought about and made manifest in us, a mystery to which the word of God in the biblical Reading from the Letter to the Romans has recalled us this evening: the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead and will give life even to our mortal bodies (cf. Rom 8:11) is the One who also brings about our configuration to Christ in accordance with each one's vocation, a journey that unwinds from the baptismal font to death, a passing on to the Father's house. In the world's eyes it sometimes seems impossible to spend one's whole life in a monastery but in fact a whole life barely suffices to enter into this union with God, into this essential and profound Reality which is Jesus Christ.

The monastic adventure is never-ending. It is the itinerary of one who, at every moment, says with Christ, "I go to the Father."

The Church Needs You

I have come here for this reason, dear Brothers who make up the Carthusian Community of Serra San Bruno! To tell you that the Church needs you and that you need the Church. Your place is not on the fringes: no vocation in the People of God is on the fringes. We are one body, in which every member is important and has the same dignity, and is inseparable from the whole. You too, who live in voluntary isolation, are in the heart of the Church and make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through her veins.

Benedictine enclosure differs in its concrete expression from the solitude of the Carthusian. Both forms of real and effective separation from the world are, nonetheless, ordered to the vocation revealed to Saint Thérèse, and reiterated here by the Holy Father: to be "love in the heart of the Church and to make the pure blood of contemplation and of the love of God course through her veins."

With the Virgin Mary

Stat Crux dum volvitur orbis [the Cross stands still while the world is spinning], your motto says. The Cross of Christ is the firm point in the midst of the world's changes and upheavals. Life in a Charterhouse shares in the stability of the Cross which is that of God, of God's faithful love. By remaining firmly united to Christ, like the branches to the Vine, may you too, dear Carthusian brothers, be associated to his mystery of salvation, like the Virgin Mary who stabat (stood) beneath the Cross, united with her Son in the same sacrifice of love.

Thus, like Mary and with her, you too are deeply inserted in the mystery of the Church, a sacrament of union of men with God and with each other. In this you are unusually close to my ministry. May the Most Holy Mother of the Church therefore watch over us and the holy Father Bruno always bless your community from Heaven. Amen.

There is no authentic expression of monastic life that is not essentially Marian. To stand with Our Blessed Lady at the foot of the Cross is to abide close to the wellspring of life, the pierced side of Jesus. It is to receive from His open Heart the Water and the Blood that others refuse, neglect, or pass by. It is to make reparation by surrendering to Love Crucified, and by consenting to feel, in some small way, the blade of the sword of sorrow that pierced the Virgin Mother's Immaculate Heart.

Praying to the Father

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Padre Eterno.jpg

FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ
and my FATHER,
FATHER from whom all fatherhood takes its name
in heaven and on earth,
I adore Thee.

FATHER of infinite majesty,
I come to Thee
through the pierced Heart of Thine Only-Begotten Son.

Look upon His adorable Face,
and for the sake of the love that Thou seest upon It,
cast me not away from Thy presence
and forgive me all my sins.

When Thou lookest upon the Face of Thy Son,
see there my face;
and when Thou lookest upon me,
deign to see His.

I dare to pray thus
because Thou, Father, hast given me to Thy Son,
and because Thy Son hath given me to Thee.

Most merciful FATHER,
remove from my heart
every lack of confidence in Thy love for me,
every doubt,
every fear of being forsaken,
or cruelly punished,
or turned away.

Fill me instead with a spirit of trust in Thee,
with confidence in Thy paternal love,
and with a humble security
that nothing will be able to shake or trouble.

FATHER, I willingly abandon every plan of my own devising,
and offer myself to Thee
for the fulfillment of Thy perfect plan,
the plan conceived in love,
that is Thine.

I lay aside my will,
twisted by sin
and so often in conflict with Thy Will,
to enter with all my heart
into the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemani:
FATHER, not my will, but Thine be done.

By the inpouring of the Holy Ghost,
banish from my soul
all fear and insecurity,
all doubt and cowardice.
Fill me, instead, with a filial piety:
one that is confident, and tender, and unwavering.

To Thy mercy
I surrender my past
with its burden of sin.
To Thy glory
I offer the present moment
in thanksgiving and in praise.
To Thy sweet providence,
I entrust the future
and all it holds.

Thou art my FATHER
and Thou hast made me Thine own adopted son.
Grant that I may live, henceforth,
in the grace of this divine adoption,
by casting myself upon Thy paternal Heart,
and by experiencing
through Jesus,
with Jesus,
and in Jesus
what it is to have a FATHER Who is God,
and a GOD Who is Father.

Christ be with me

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Saint Patrick's Breastplate

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ's incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom;*
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of the cherubim;
The sweet 'well done' in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors' faith, Apostles' word,
The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets' scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord,
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart's idolatry,
Against the wizard's evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave and the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity;
By invocation of the same.
The Three in One, and One in Three,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Simple English Propers

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Columbkille from Connecticut wrote me today, asking,

Dom Mark, do you recommend the Simple English Propers as a starting place for English-speaking parishes, or would we be better off introducing bits of the traditional music from the Graduale Romanum?

As a rule, the Catholic solution is both/and rather than either/or. As a starting place for Novus Ordo English-speaking parishes, I heartily recommend Adam Bartlett's Simple English Propers. Put this book in the hands of your parishioners! And chant away!

This extraordinary book has been met with widespread acclaim for the beauty and versatility of the music - and also for being the first generally accessible book of chanted propers in English for every parish. It provides complete entrance, offertory, and communion propers in English with Psalms in modal chant, with four-line notation, for all Sundays and feasts. They can be sung by a single cantor or a full choir. The modes from the Gregorian original are wholly preserved to capture the sound and feel of the Graduale Romanum proper chants. They follow a total of 24 chant formulas to make singing easy for any choir in any parish. The project is sponsored by the Church Music Association of America, and is also published by the CMAA.

The contents of this book may be downloaded, printed, used, and shared freely by all, as they are published in the Creative Commons.

For more information please visit here.

The "Yes" of Even One Soul

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No soul need ever be afraid of meeting my gaze,
for in my eyes there is naught but mercy and love.
Those who turn away from my gaze,
those who fear the encounter with me face-to-face,
are those who fall away from my love.

I call you to a life of adoration
so that you might contemplate my Face
and read thereon all the love of my Sacred Heart for poor sinners,
and especially for my priests.

Whenever a soul seeks my gaze,
my Heart is moved to show that soul an immense pity,
to lift her out of the sin into which she has fallen,
to bind up her wounds,
and restore her to the joys of friendship with my Heart.

When a priest begins to avoid looking at my Face,
he has begun to alienate himself from the merciful love of my Heart.
This will he begin, little by little,
to lose confidence in my mercy,
to consent to sin,
and to descend into the darkness of a life
from which I have been exiled.

Look upon me for those who turn away from me.
Seek my Face for those who avoid my Divine gaze.
Accept my friendship for those who refuse it.
Remain with me for those who flee from my presence.

This is the reparation I ask of you.
Offer yourself to me as did the little Thérèse;
thus will you allow me to love you freely,
and through you, my merciful love will triumph
even in the souls of hardened sinners.

The "Yes" of even one soul to my Merciful Love
is of immense benefit to a multitude of souls
who fear to say it,
or who are hardened in the refusal of my love.

From In Sinu Iesu, the Journal of a Priest


I returned late last evening from the Symposium Council and Continuity, which was hosted by Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix, at the Pastoral Centre in Phoenix. My contribution to the Symposium was the following paper:


Until the approval of The New Roman Missal by Pope Paul VI on 3 April 1969, there had existed for four hundred years a substantial unity between the texts of the Proper of the Mass contained in the Graduale Romanum and those given in the Roman Missal. The Missal, in effect, reproduced the complete texts of those sung parts of the Mass that in the Graduale Romanum are fully notated.

The Missal takes the text of the Chants of the Proper of the Mass from the Graduale Romanum, and not the Graduale Romanum from the Missal. The Missal, in fact, contains the very same texts found in the Graduale, but in the Missal they are printed without the musical notation that allows them to be brought to life in song and, in a certain sense, interprets them in the context of the liturgy. The melodic vesture of the texts functions as a liturgical hermeneutic, allowing them to be sung, heard, and received in the light of the mysteries of Christ and of the Church.

Originally Mass was always sung. Not until the eighth or ninth century did the so called Low Mass or missa privata come to be celebrated at the lateral altars and private chapels of abbatial and collegiate churches. The Chants of the Proper of the Mass were not omitted at these Low Masses; they were recited by the priest alone. This fact, of itself, suggests that well before the eighth century, the Proper Chants were, in effect, considered to be constitutive elements of the Mass, deemed indispensable to the very shape of the liturgy.

What are the Propers?

Let us, then, review what the Proper Chants of the Mass are:


Were one to open the Roman Missal at the first page, finding there the Mass of the First Sunday of Advent, the very first element proper to that Mass, and to all others, is the Introit.

The Introit is composed of an antiphon; a verse taken from the psalm corresponding to the antiphon or, occasionally, from another; the Gloria Patri; and the repetition of the antiphon.

The Introit as presented in the Roman Missal appears in a somewhat truncated form, though all the essential elements -- antiphon, psalmody, and doxology -- are present. Until about the eighth century the entire psalm would have been chanted, or at least the greater part of it, with the antiphon repeated after every verse, and this until the celebrant reached the altar, at which point the cantors would intone the Gloria Patri, and after the final repetition of the antiphon, end the Introit.

The purpose of the Introit in the tradition of the Roman Rite is not didactic; it is contemplative. The Introit ushers the soul into the mystery of the day not by explaining it, but by opening the Mass with a word uttered from above. The text of the Introit signifies that, in every celebration, the initiative is divine, not human; it is a word received that quickens the Church-at-Prayer, and awakens a response within her.

Concerning the Introit, Maurice Zundel writes:

[The soul] has but to listen, her sole preparation an eager desire for light, to catch the interior music of the words, and understand that Someone is speaking to her who was waiting for her.

He calls the Introit,

. . . a triumphal arch at the head of a Roman road, a porch through which we approach the Mystery, a hand outstretched to a crying child, a beloved companion in the sorrow of exile. The Liturgy is not a formula. It is One who comes to meet us.

Sung examples: Ad te levavi, Introit of the First Sunday of Advent, and Resurrexi, Introit of the Mass of Easter Day.


The Gradual received its name from the Latin word gradus, meaning a step, because a cantor would sing it, standing on a step leading up to the ambo. The structure of the Gradual is an initial phrase, nearly always from the Psalter, followed by a verse entrusted to one or several cantors. The first part may be repeated.

The musical treatment of the Gradual is melismatic, that is to say, lavish, and characterized by great flights and cascades of notes that stretch and embellish the sacred text.

Maurice Zundel writes:

What really matters about words is not their strictly defined meanings which we find in the dictionary, but the imponderable aura wherein the unutterable Presence in which all things are steeped, is faintly perceptible.
It is in the silent spaces which poetry and music open within us that the doctrinal formulae can be heard with their amplest resonance.
It was therefore natural to invoke their aid after the reading of the Epistle. For its message must be allowed to bear fruit in our personal meditation until we make contact with the Presence with which the texts are filled. We must hear this single Word which is their true meaning and which no human word can express.
The chanting of the Gradual provides this interval of silence and this time of rest in which the teaching just received can unfold in prayer, in the sweet movement of the Cantilena distilling in neums of light a divine dew.

Sung example: Laetatus sum, Gradual of the Fourth Sunday of Lent.


The Alleluia, a cry of jubilation at the approach of the Bridegroom King who will arrive in the proclamation of the Holy Gospel, is a chant full of mystery, in that it quits the zone of mere concepts and words, and takes flight to soar into the ecstatic vocalisations of one seized by an ineffable mystery.

Saint John relates that the Alleluia is a heavenly hymn. It is the song of the saints in praise of God and of the Lamb. The Alleluia is universal; it is found in all the liturgies of East and West. This universal presence of the Alleluia in Christian worship attests to its great antiquity.

A verse or phrase, generally, but not always, from the Psalter, follows the Alleluia. After the verse, the Alleluia is repeated.


The sequence prolongs the jubilation of the Alleluia, by gathering up the neums that shower out of it to organize them into a syllabic melody, and by giving free reign to a poetic expression of the mystery being celebrated.

Five sequences remain in the Roman Missal: the Victimae Paschali Laudes of Easter; the Veni Sancte Spiritus of Pentecost, the Lauda Sion Salvatorem of Corpus Domini; the Stabat Mater of September 15th; and the Dies Irae of the Requiem Mass.

The Roman Missal of 1969 retains only four of these; the Dies Irae having been removed to the Liturgy of the Hours where it serves as a hymn for the last two weeks per annum.

Sung example: Veni Sancte Spiritus, Pentecost.


Whereas the Alleluia is the expression of a joy defying all expression, the Tract is characteristic of a liturgy marked by godly sorrow and compunction. It is found in the Mass, notably, from Septuagesima until Easter.

Originally the Tract was sung by the deacon from the ambo, in the manner of a lesson. It was rendered from beginning to end without the interjection of a refrain by the choir; it is from this mode of execution that its name appears to be derived.

The Tract prepares the congregation for the hearing of the Gospel, not by inviting it to stand on tip-toe in joy, as it were, at the arrival of the Bridegroom, but by inviting to a profound recollection. The Tract, more than any other Chant of the Proper of the Mass, illustrates that the Roman Rite is a school of audientes, a school forming listeners to the Word.

The substitution in Lent of an acclamation addressed to Christ for the Alleluia -- a way of expressing the Alleluia without saying the word -- impoverishes the Roman Rite which, in the usus antiquior demonstrates that one can prepare for the hearing of the Holy Gospel in the silence of a godly sorrow and compunction, as well as in jubilation.

Sung example: Qui habitat, First Sunday of Lent.


The Offertory Antiphon, already at the time of Saint Augustine, was sung to accompany the offering of bread and wine by the faithful and clergy. Pope Saint Gregory the Great gave to the chant at the Offertory a form not unlike that of the Introit: an antiphon and several verses from the Psalter. The antiphon was repeated before each verse; the singing lasted until the priest signaled to the cantors that they should stop, after which he would turn to the faithful for the Orate Fratres.

Even after the Offertory procession, as such, fell into disuse, the Offertory Antiphon continued to be sung, shorn of its verses. The Offertory Antiphon is, as a rule, taken from the Psalter, although occasionally it is taken from other Books of Sacred Scripture. In a few cases as, for instance, in the Requiem Mass, it is an ecclesiastical composition.

As for its musical characteristics, the Offertory is one of the richest and most expressive pieces in the Gregorian repetoire. Dom Eugène Vandeur, a Benedictine monk of the first half of the last century writes:

More mystical and profound than either the Introit or the Gradual, it disposes our souls to recollection that thus they may fittingly assist at the Adorable Sacrifice about to be renewed. The Offertory [Antiphon], then, more than any other part of the Mass, is a sublime and inspired prayer rising to the throne of God.

Sung example: Sicut in holocausto, 13th Sunday per annum.


The Communion Antiphon with its psalm, structured like the Introit, accompanies the distribution of Holy Communion. The Communion of the faithful ended, the Gloria Patri is sung, after which the antiphon is repeated.

While the greater part of Communion Antiphons are drawn from the Psalter, a certain number are taken from the Gospel of the day. These particular Communion Antiphons, sung especially during Lent and Paschaltide, signify that the same Lord Jesus Christ who speaks and acts in the power of the Holy Ghost in the Gospel of the Mass, gives Himself to the communicants to fulfill in them what the Gospel proclaimed and announced.

Sung example: Lutum fecit, 4th Sunday of Lent.

The 1965 Missale Romanum

The 1965 revision of the Roman Missal maintained the Chants of the Proper in their integrity as found in the Graduale Romanum. Even as The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council, Sacrosanctum Concilium, was being implemented, the place of the Propers was not called into question. They remained constitutive elements of the Mass, having a structural and theological rather than a merely decorative or didactic function within the overall architecture of the Mass.

The Missal of 1969

Four years later however, the fate of the Chants of the Proper of the Mass appears signed and sealed. Concerning the Proper Chants, the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI, Missale Romanum (3 April 1969) is curiously misleading. It says;

The text of the Graduale Romanum has not been changed as far as the music is concerned. In the interest of their being more readily understood, however, the responsorial psalm (which St Augustine and St Leo the Great often mention) as well as the entrance and communion antiphons have been revised for use in Masses that are not sung.

With all due respect to Pope Paul VI, what the Apostolic Constitution neglects to say is:

1. that the very form of the Introit has been changed to correspond to the Opening Sentence common in Protestant orders of worship;
2. that the text itself of the revised Entrance Antiphon will no longer correspond to the text of the Graduale Romanum and, in some instances, will be an entirely new text susceptible of being integrated into the didactic opening remarks that, in the new Ordo Missae, may follow the salutation.
3. That even the vestigial psalmody of the traditional Introit will disappear entirely from the reformed Missale Romanum;
3. that the traditional texts of the Gradual, Tract, and Alleluiatic verses will be found henceforth only in the Graduale Romanum and will not appar alongside of the Responsorial Psalm as a legitimate option in the reformed Lectionary;
4. that the Offertory Antiphon will disappear entirely from the new Roman Missal entirely, and will be found henceforth only in the Graduale Romanum;
5. that the Communion Antiphon will, like the Entrance Antiphon, become something akin to a Communion Sentence, and often will no longer correspond to the text of the Graduale Romanum.

Thus began the radical deconstruction of the Mass of the Roman Rite. If one posits that the Chants of the Proper of the Mass are not merely decorative, but constitutive of its architecture, then one must admit that by tinkering with them, or removing them altogether, one is weakening or removing supporting beams of the entire edifice, and risking its collapse.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal, also promulgated in April 1969, in a single phrase --sive alius cantus-- effectively invited the termites to come in and finish the job. Jesting aside, the Latin text of the General Instruction provided three options for the Chants of the Proper of the Mass. These are:

1. The antiphon with its psalm as given in the Graduale Romanum. 2. The antiphon with its psalm as given in the Graduale Simplex. 3. Another chant (alius cantus) suited to the sacred action and to the character of the day or season, the text of which is approved by the Conference of Bishops

The 2002 American Adaptation of the GIRM

The 2002 American adaptation of the same General Instruction on the Roman Missal broadened the options and, in so doing, caused the text of the Proper Chants of the Roman Mass to appear as remote accessories that are, in any case, not indispensable to the architecture of the celebration.

In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

The choices are given in order of preference. The Roman Gradual, which hitherto was the primary reference, falls into second place. The first choice is the text of the antiphon given in the revised Roman Missal; the American "adaptors" were assuming that these texts will have been put to music.

The second choice is the antiphon and psalm in the Roman Gradual; the American adaptation adds, rather tellingly, either in the chant setting or in another musical setting.

The third choice is the Simple Gradual. The Council Fathers had, in fact, in Sacrosanctum Concilium, article 117, mandated the preparation of a Simple Gradual, better suited to use in smaller churches.

The fourth choice, a collection of psalms and antiphons approved by the Conference of Bishops or by the Diocesan Bishop, does not, to my knowledge, exist anywhere in the U.S. or elsewhere in the English-speaking world.

The fifth choice -- clearly the last resort -- is a suitable liturgical song (here, there is a departure from the psalms and antiphons found in choices 1 through 4) similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or by the Diocesan Bishop.

The General Instruction on the Roman Missal continues:

48. If there is no singing at the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited either by the faithful, or by some of them, or by a lector; otherwise, it is recited by the priest himself, who may even adapt it as an introductory explanation (cf. above, no. 31).

Article 48, by suggesting five different ways of reciting the antiphon in the Missal, including its mutation by the priest into an introductory explanation -- note here the primacy of the didactic -- puts the final touches on a insidious operation by which the Proper Chants of the Mass, even in the minimalistic form of texts recited by the celebrant, routinely came to be omitted altogether. The Proper Chants, that in 1964 were still considered to be constitutive elements of the Mass, deemed indispensable to the very shape of the liturgy, were, by 1969, well on their way to being replaced by other compositions alien to the Roman Rite, and erased from the collective liturgical memory.


Allow me to formulate a principle, perhaps even, with a nod to Anton Baumstark, a law of liturgical evolution. It is this: elements of the rite tend to be neglected and, in the end, disappear altogether, in direct proportion to the number of options by virtue of which they may be replaced or modified.

To my mind, one of the most urgent tasks of what has been called The Reform of the Reform is the suppression of the provision for an alius cantus aptus, and the restoration of the traditional texts of the Proper of the Mass, taking care, at the same time, that the texts given in the Missale Romanum correspond to those in the Graduale Romanum. (I would also argue for the restoration of the text of the Offertorium [Offertory Antiphon] to the editio typica of the reformed Missale Romanum.) The replacement, in the current Missale Romanum of the venerable sung texts of the Graduale Romanum with texts destined to be read, was an innovation without precedent, and a mistake with far reaching and deleterious consequences for the Roman Rite.

In conclusion, I would further argue that a wider use of the Missal of 1962, and a careful examination of the so-called interim Missals published prior to 1969, in whole or in part, would be among the most effective means to the rehabilitation and reappropriation of the Proper Chants as indispensable theological and structural elements of the Mass of the Roman Rite.

Sermon Podcasts

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With the expert help of the ever generous and kind Richard Chonak, Brother Benedict has posted more podcasts of a number of recent sermons. You can find them in the column on the right. Thank you to Richard and to Brother Benedict. We trust that these podcasts will be of some benefit to souls. This is our only reason for making them available. The sermons are recorded (almost) daily in the Oratory of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Cenacle.

The Eucharistic Humility of God

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The 16th Sunday After Pentecost

The Most Holy Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Divine Humility.
Those who partake of It worthily
enter into the humility of God,
for one cannot eat the Bread of the Humble
and remain proud.

Those who adore this Sacrament of the Divine Humility
are drawn into the obedience of God,
who, at the word of a man,
of a priest speaking and acting in the Name of Christ,
annihilates the substance of a little bread
to replace it entirely
with His Divinity united to the Sacred Humanity.

Who can describe the Eucharistic Humility of God?
Here the Word made flesh,
born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified,
He whose side was opened by the soldier's lance,
He who rested in the darkness of the tomb,
He who rose from the dead
and is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father,
here, He is really present:
silent in the fragility of the sacred species,
and hidden from view not only by the sacramental veil
--the appearance of bread--
but, more often than not, by the tabernacle as well.

This is the Humility of God,
hidden from the eyes of the learned and the clever,
but revealed to little children.
I think of Blessed Francisco Marto of Fatima,
who, at nine years of age,
understood the mystery of the Hidden Jesus
and wanted nothing more than to console Him
by hiding himself close to the tabernacle.

Worldly arrogance scoffs at the folly of a God
hidden under the appearance of a little bread
and put away in a box;
but this Mystery follows and completes
the disconcerting logic of God who hides Himself
in a Virgin's womb,
becoming a man like unto other men
in all things, save sin.

The Eucharistic Humility of God
is inseparable from His Eucharistic Silence.
This Saint Benedict understood,
for in his Rule, the silent are humble,
and the humble silent.

This our Mother Mectilde understood
for she wanted her Benedictine adorers to bury themselves
in the silence of the hidden God,
the ineffably humble God
in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

This the little Thérèse understood
for she knew that one who would find the Hidden Face of Jesus,
must first hide himself.

The Eucharistic Face of Jesus, His Hidden Face,
is revealed only to those who themselves risk being hidden,
as the psalm says:
"Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy Face,
from the disturbance of men,
Thou shalt protect them in Thy tabernacle
from the strife of tongues" (Psalm 30:20).

The last place at the banquet is elusive;
he who thinks he has found it
may be surprised to discover
that Another has taken a still lower place before him.

No matter how low we think we have placed ourselves,
no matter how little we think we have made ourselves,
no matter how diligently we think we have sought the last place of all,
no matter how completely we imagine ourselves to be
buried in silence,
there is Another, the Other,
who has forever laid claim to the lowest place,
who, though He be the infinite God,
Creator of all things visible and invisible,
has made Himself littler than a crumb of bread.

Has He not made Himself
the very last thing that remains
when all have left the banquet table:
a fragment of bread to be stored away?

Has He not entered into an inviolable silence
that astonishes even the angelic Choirs
and causes kings to fall silent and adore?

One does not become humble by striving to be so,
for all our striving is infected by an insidious pride.
One does not become humble by striking humble poses,
by affecting a humble speech,
or even by thinking humble thoughts.
And why?
Because humility belongs to God alone
who made it His own in the mystery of the Incarnation,
and who continues to make it His own
so often as the mystic words are uttered by a priest
over a little bread and a little wine mixed with water:
"This is My Body. This is the chalice of My Blood."
Here is the Mysterium Fidei:
the Eucharistic Humility of God.

Eat the Body of Christ, and digest the Divine Humility.
Drink the Blood of Christ;
it is the elixir of those who would hide themselves with Christ in God.

Since the event of the Incarnation
--the descent of God into the Virgin's womb,
in view of His descent into death's dark tomb--
and so often as Holy Mass is celebrated
--the descent of God into the frail appearance of Bread
and into the taste and fragrance and wetness
of a few drops of wine--
humility can be found nowhere else.

The very least and last of the guests
has become The Host,
and The Host
has made Himself the very least and last of the guests.

Tremble, then, to adore Him,
and having adored Him, receive Him,
that your soul may become the throne of the Humble Hidden God,
and His humility your most cherished treasure.

"Learn from Me," He says,
"for I am meek and humble of heart" (Matthew 11:29),
and again,
"Everyone that exalteth himself shall be humbled,
and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:11).

Adoremus in aeternum
sanctissimum et augustissimum Sacramentum.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory