Saturday 19 September 2015


Benediction in the town of Chevagnes-en-Palliers
at one of two huge crucifixes in the town centre
with the Chaplain and students of Chevagnes International College.
Having travelled to the Vendée in the Pays de Loire region of France a couple of times in the past year, (here and here)  I was struck at how many road-side shrines there are. Most often on the Continent these are Marian shrines but in the Vendée there is a preponderance of crucifixes - usually exceptionally large and often accompanied by the Virgin and St John.  I surmise that the reason for this is the history of the area, where the people were particularly hard hit during the time of the French Revolution. Perhaps the Crucifix spoke to their spiritual and material suffering more directly. There are monuments in many of the churches as well, recording how men, women and children took sanctuary in the church building, only to be burnt out or stormed by the forces of the Revolution.
I read this morning of a new film "The Hidden Rebellion". The story starts at the beginning of the French Revolution in the year 1789 in this region of France called Vendée, near Normandy, where people were neither pro nor con regarding the Revolution. But as the revolutionaries’ restrictions began to increase, the Vendéans started to be against it. As opposition grew in the region, the revolutionaries realized they would not be able to implement their utopian plan of micromanagement unless they went through a “Reign of Terror.”
It means they had to terrorize their population in order to create their happy society. The Vendéans, who were slightly more prosperous than many people in France, and spiritually stronger, rebelled when the revolutionaries asked them to give up their sons to a new massive army of 300,000 men and have their priests swear allegiance to the government. 
The slaughter reminded me of the attacks on Christians in the Middle East at the moment. You can read plenty at This is Christian Syria and at Aid to the Church in Need.  Unfortunately, the move of the British government recently to take in 20,000 more refugees from Syria means taking them from the refugee camps but all too often Christians avoid these because they find persecution there are well, as pointed out by Lord Carey recently. Whilst many groups are persecuted and attacked, how little we seem to hear about the persecution of Christians in our Western media. I wonder why that is?
Photograph from the Melkite Archdiocese of Aleppo.


Sunday 13 September 2015

What happens when the priest starts celebrating the Traditional Form of the Mass?

 The Traditional Form of the Mass here at St Catherine's.

From the Regina site - Inspiring. Intelligent. Catholic - an article entitled, "What Happens When a Novus Ordo Priest Learns the Latin Mass." I don't like the title (for what I consider its incorrect terminology) but I do like the article. The priest concerned - although he had never celebrated the Traditional Form of the Mass - was obviously open enough to listen to the requests from those who wanted it (not always the case). He reports what effect it had on him.
Brethren. Go on, try it. You KNOW you want to.
Its not a long article but here is its conclusion:
The spiritual impact of the Extraordinary Form has had a major impact on me as well,” Fr. Sumler noted. “I have learned to let Jesus say the Mass. I don’t have to worry anymore if I’m holding people’s attention. Jesus, through the Mass and liturgical actions, can speak for Himself, and the people do not have any need for my innovations. “I cannot imagine my life without this beautiful Mass. 

Monday 7 September 2015

Right and wrong Blessed Sacrament Processions

The right sort of Blessed Sacrament Procession!
(Last year at St Anselm's School)

I have noticed in one or two places that after Holy Communion there have been introduced quite elaborate rites for cleansing the vessels and returning the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle - particularly if the tabernacle is away from the main sanctuary. Sometimes involving processions and candles and, of course, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Obviously, where the tabernacle is at the altar, the opportunity for this creativity doesn't really arise. (Note to self: keep tabernacle where it is!)  It appears that this is a growing practice, as evidenced by the questions sent in to Zenit Liturgy Professor, Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum University.
He says very clearly that the returning of the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle after Holy Communion is the wrong sort of Blessed Sacrament Procession.   You can read his straight forward critique of such innovations below.

Q: When the consecrated hosts are replaced in the tabernacle after holy communion, are the people are asked to stand up? I ask myself why is this, if I have just received Communion? -- T.Z., Messina, Italy
A: There have been several questions regarding this practice recently, above all from Italy, but also from other countries. In some cases our readers described elaborate rites for returning the Eucharist to the tabernacle, even accompanying it with candles as during a Eucharistic procession. In these situations the faithful are requested to remain standing.
The reason given for introducing these practices is that it forms part of an effort to restore respect and reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. While this is a laudable goal, I have my doubts that this is the best moment to do so and also it appears contrary to the explicit indications from the Holy See.
First of all, with regard to the posture of the faithful No. 43 of the British translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) says the following:
"43. The faithful should stand from the beginning of the Entrance chant, or while the priest approaches the altar, until the end of the Collect; for the Alleluia chant before the Gospel; while the Gospel itself is proclaimed; during the Profession of Faith and the Prayer of the Faithful; from the invitation, Orate, fratres (Pray, brethren), before the Prayer over the Offerings until the end of Mass, except at the places indicated below.
"They should, however, sit while the readings before the Gospel and the responsorial Psalm are proclaimed and for the Homily and while the Preparation of the Gifts at the Offertory is taking place; and, as circumstances allow, they may sit or kneel while the period of sacred silence after Communion is observed.
"But they should kneel at the consecration, except when prevented on occasion by reasons of health, lack of space, the large number of people present, or some other good reason. Those who do not kneel ought to make a profound bow when the priest genuflects after the consecration.
"Nevertheless, it is up to the Conference of Bishops to adapt the gestures and postures described in the Order of Mass to the culture and reasonable traditions of the people. The Conference, however, must make sure that such adaptations correspond to the meaning and character of each part of the celebration. Where it is the practice for the people to remain after the Sanctus until the end of the Eucharistic Prayer and before Communion when the priest says Ecce Agnus Dei (This is the Lamb of God), this practice is laudably retained.
"With a view to a uniformity in gestures and postures during one and the same celebration, the faithful should follow the directions which the deacon, lay minister, or priest gives according to whatever is indicated in the Missal."
Since some interpreted this number as obliging the faithful to remain standing during the whole time of the distribution of communion, the Holy See responded with an answer to a doubt published in its official organ "Notitiae" (39 [2003] page 533):
"In many places the faithful are accustomed to remain kneeling in private prayer or to sit after they return to their seats once they have individually received the holy Eucharist at Mass. Whether the provisions of the Third typical edition of the Roman Missal prohibit this practice?
"℟. In the negative and with a rationale.
"The rationale is that by the prescripts of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, n. 43 is intended to give, on the one hand, within broad limits some uniformity of posture in the congregation for the various parts of the celebration of the holy Mass, and at the same time, on the other hand, not to regulate posture so rigidly that those who wish to remain kneeling or to sit would no longer be free to do so."
Therefore, it does not appear correct to oblige the faithful to adapt a particular posture after communion.
Second, the GIRM does not give such importance to returning the Blessed Sacrament to the tabernacle as to warrant an elaborate rite. To wit:
"163. When the distribution of Communion is finished, the priest himself immediately and completely consumes at the altar any consecrated Wine that happens to remain; as for any consecrated hosts that are left, he either consumes them at the altar or carries them to the place designated for the reservation of the Eucharist.
"Upon returning to the altar, the priest collects any fragments that may remain. Then, standing at the altar or at the credence table, he purifies the paten or ciborium over the chalice, then purifies the chalice, saying quietly: Quod ore sumpsimus (Lord, may I receive), and dries the chalice with a purificator. If the vessels are purified at the altar, they are carried to the credence table by a minister. Nevertheless, it is also permitted, especially if there are several vessels to be purified, to leave them suitably covered on a corporal, either at the altar or at the credence table, and to purify them immediately after Mass following the dismissal of the people."
As can be seen, there is nothing here that suggests a specific rite. This is a practical question that is done within the context of the purification. While all due reverence should be observed, there is no need to unduly emphasize this moment.
The missal is, however, clear that it should be the priest or deacon, and not an extraordinary minister of holy communion, who should perform this duty in the context of Mass. The priest or deacon should make a genuflection on closing the tabernacle.
I believe that there are several reasons why this is not an apt moment for underlying the Eucharistic presence. First of all, as reflected in the rubrics cited above, this has never been a particularly solemn moment of the celebration. Second, and more importantly, we are still within the context of the celebration of the holy sacrifice of the Mass and the emphasis at this moment is on thanksgiving for having partaken of this sacrifice through holy communion.

Friday 4 September 2015

The current crisis of the Church: a gnostic spiritualism and a horizontal naturalism

An interview given by Bishop Athanasius Schneider to Adelante la Fe.
Full of common sense as usual!
Adelante la Fe: In your book Dominus est, put out by Libreria Editrice Vaticana in 2008, you reflect on your childhood under Communist persecution and offer some remarks on the history and liturgy of Holy Communion. In which ways has the practice of receiving Communion in the hand weakened faith in the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist?
Mons. Schneider: When in 1973 my family left Soviet Union and we said goodbye to Fr. Janis Pawlowski, he gave us this admonition: “When you come to Germany, please don’t go in the churches where Holy Communion is given in the hand”. When we heard these words, we all had a deep shock; we could not imagine that the Divine and Most Blessed Sacrament could be received in such a banal manner. It is now a proven fact that a considerable part of those who receive the Holy Communion habitually in hand, especially the younger generation which had not known the manner of receiving Communion kneeling and on the tongue, has not more the full Catholic faith in the Real Presence, because they treat the consecrated host almost in the same exterior manner as they take ordinary food. The exterior minimalistic gesture has a causal connection to the weakening or even loss of the faith in the Real Presence.
Adelante la Fe: On January 15, 2012 Your Excellence participated in the 4th Rencontre pour l’unité catholique in Paris, with a lecture on New Evangelization and Holy Liturgy. In this important dissertation you addressed the five wounds in Christ’s liturgical mystical body: the priest turned towards the congregation, Holy Communion taken in the hand, the new Offertory prayers, the disappearance of Latin in liturgical celebrations and the performing of some ministries, such as those of lector and acolyte, by women. How have these wounds been produced? What would the Church need for these wounds to heal and disappear?
Mons. Schneider: None of these liturgical wounds can even remotely be supported by “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy of the II Vatican Council. They have been introduced according to a specific agenda of a small group of liturgists who fatally occupied key positions in the Roman Curia in the immediate postconciliar period and who with cunning and tricks presented such radical changes (with the exception of the practice of Communion in hand) sometimes as the will of the Pope and sometimes as an almost unanimous decision of the members of the Commission of the Liturgical Reform. Such manipulations are documented e.g. in the book of Cardinal Fernando Antonelli “The Development of the Liturgical Reform” and in the book of Louis Bouyer “Mémoires”, both authors being members of the postconciliar Liturgical Commission and so eye and ear witnesses of the above mentioned manipulations. It is a mysterious permission of God that the good intentions of the Fathers of the II Vatican Council and their moderate dispositions on liturgical reform, fell into the hand of impious and revolutionary liturgical ideologues. They brought the sacred liturgy of the Holy Roman Church in a state of captivity, in a kind of liturgical “exile of Avignon”. In order to heal these wounds there could be made the following steps: 1) A thoroughly study of the history of the liturgy concerning the above mentioned five liturgical wounds. Such a study which will compel to admit with scientific honesty that the above mentioned liturgical practices in their concrete modern form never existed in the universal Church; they represent therefore a radical rupture with the perennial law of the prayer (lex orandi) and therefore also a rupture with the Apostolic tradition. 2) A careful study of the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium and particularly of the Acts of the conciliar discussions on this topic in order to know the real spirit of the conciliar Fathers (the “mens patrum”), being the Encyclical “Mediator Dei” the principal hermeneutic key of Sacrosanctum Concilium, 3) To avoid, if possible, some of these liturgical practices such as Communion in hand, celebration towards the congregation, total vernacularization, female lectors and acolytes. These four practices are not compulsory. The modern offertory prayers are however prescribed. 4) To ask the Holy See to issue a document, which will grant to the celebrant the freedom of choice between the modern and the traditional offertory prayers during the celebration of the Holy Mass in the ordinary form; the same document of the Holy See could encourage the celebration ad Dominum or ad orientem and dissuade and restrict the practice of Communion in hand. 5) To give catechetical and homiletical instructions about the ineffable Divine mystery of the Holy Eucharist, about the perennial and unchangeable Catholic theology of the sacred liturgy, about the spiritual meaning of the ritual details. 6) To organize specific liturgical scientific conferences and talks for seminarians, clergy and laity in order to show the perennial liturgical principles and the organic character of the sacred liturgy and also to unmask the modern liturgical myths. 7) To spread more the celebration of the liturgy in the ancient form and the teachings of the Motu Proprio”Summorum Pontificum” of Pope Benedict XVI.
Adelante la Fe: In 2014 Libreria Editrice Vaticana published another book by Your Excellence, entitled CORPUS CHRISTI. La Santa Comunione e il rinnovamento della Chiesa, where you address once more, and more in depth, the subject of Holy Communion. The book ends with a reflection worthy of taking into account: the preferential option for the Poorest One, the Most Helpless One: Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic species. With so much talk about the “option for the poor”, for the weak, why are we not aware of the presence of the Poorest among the poor in the Holy Eucharist? To what extent can we say protestant mentality has invaded the Catholic Church?
Mons. Schneider: The fact that Christ under the Eucharistic species became today really the most weak, vulnerable, defenseless and the most dishonored in midst of the Church, is a clear and sad indicator to what extent the love and the integrity of the Catholic faith in the Eucharist and in the Incarnation diminished. Indeed, the essence of Protestantism consists in the rejection of the fullness of the truth of Incarnation with all its implications and consequences: the visibility of the Church, of the sacramental life, of the concreteness and greatness of the Eucharistic Presence, of the incarnatorial characteristics of the liturgy. The current crisis of the Church manifests itself mainly in these two attitudes: a gnostic spiritualism and a horizontal naturalism, and the very root of them is the anthropocentrism, which on its part is a typical characteristic of Protestantism.
Adelante la Fe: Does Your Excellence think pre-Vatican II Church was isolated form the real world, full of privileges and closed in itself? Was the aim of Vatican II creating a different Church from that received by Tradition?
Mons. Schneider: The period before Vatican II, especially after the Council of Trent, was characterized by an amazingly great and dynamic missionary activity, comparable in its effects to some degree to the missionary period after Pentecost, so e.g. the missionary work of Saint Francis Xavier, especially the Jesuit Order as a whole, the admirable missionary work of several Religious Congregations in the African and Asian Continent in the ninetieth and the twentieth centuries. With her missionary work the Church contributed decisively also to a higher cultural, scientific and social-sanitary level of the life of many nations. In the period before Vatican II the Church made an epochal contribution to natural sciences even through her priests e.g. Gregor Mendel (genetics), George Lemaitre (astronomy and physics). For the most of the native peoples in America, Africa and Asia Catholic missionary priests wrote the first grammar books and the alphabet of their language. The Church made a decisive contribution for the abolition of slavery (beginning with Paul III and Las Casas in the 16th century until Leo XIII and the Catholic Princess Isabel of Brazil in the 19th century). With the encyclical ”Rerum novarum” Leo XIII gave universally recognized indications for the just treatment of the workers. Consequently, the Church before Vatican II was in no way closed in herself or isolated from the real world. Neither Pope John XXIII nor the vast majority of the Fathers of Vatican II aimed to create a different Church. All the documents and speeches of John XXIII, the preparatory documents of the Council (schemata) and the Acts of the Council itself demonstrate it well enough. The true relationship of the Church to the real world or to the temporal society has been always realized according to the theological principle “gratia supponit naturam”, i.e. the grace (Church) presupposes the nature (world), purifying, elevating and perfecting it. If the Church no more or not sufficiently enough influences the world and its realities with the supernatural gifts (grace, light of Divine truth) and instead deals predominantly with affaires of natural and temporal realities (e.g. social justice, ecology), than the Church closes herself in the temporal and deprives the world of the eternal, of heaven. The fact that the predominant activity of many of the official structures of the Catholic Church (associations, commissions etc.) is isolated from the supernatural, from heaven, and is immersed in the temporal and in the horizontal, represents the core problem of the current crisis of the Church.
Adelante la Fe: How does Your Excellence evaluate Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum motu proprio? Why do you think it finds so many obstacles in its implementation?
Mons. Schneider: The Motu Proprio “Summorum Pontificum” is an act of the Supreme Magisterium with real epochal dimensions. It was absolutely necessary. It belongs to the very nature of the Church to hand over to the future generations integrally and without signs of rupture the treasures of the faith (lex credendi) and of the worship (lex orandi). A noticeable or revolutionary rupture in the manner of the public faith and worship contradicts the organicity of the Church’s nature, since the Church is an organic entity (Body of Christ, grapevine, Divine garden) and not a drawing board or a technical machine. The obstacles in the implementation of “Summorum Pontificum” are based on the fact, that a considerable part of the clergy has a disturbed relationship with the principle of organic tradition and manifests a spirit of rupture towards the liturgical inheritance of the Church. On other reason of their resistance and antipathy towards Summorum Pontificum” is the lack of self-criticism regarding some obvious defects of the postconciliar liturgical reforms.
Adelante la Fe: Can Your Excellence explain what your feelings are when you officiate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form?
Mons. Schneider: When I officiate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form or to be more precise in the Traditional Form, I have the salutary and beneficial awareness and experience that I am not the owner and the boss of the sacred rite, but really only the servant, fulfilling the will and the commands of the Church, the Bride of Christ, praying in the spirit and even with the concrete formulas and gestures which belong to the catholic generations of a more than a millennial period. One has an awareness to carry out even in the smallest ritual details something which is not pure human and temporal, but eternal and heavenly, celebrating the supreme act of adoration of the ineffable majesty of the Triune God, who mercifully overwhelms us with the redeeming graces.
Adelante la Fe: What factors are responsible for the faith crisis we are currently immersed in, where some aspects of faith are being questioned that one could never imagine that could be questioned by the Church hierarchy itself? Is Catholic identity itself in crisis?
Mons. Schneider: The deepest root of the faith crisis is the anthropocentrism and naturalism, which manifest itself in an attitude of seeing and judging the truth of Divine revelation and of Divine worship predominantly with rationalist and pure humanistic criteria and with the criteria of the changeable human history. Such an attitude leads to a dogmatic, moral and liturgical relativism and ultimately a serious defect of faith and this is then no more far from apostasy and paganism. The words of our Divine Saviour refer in first place to all disciples of Christ and especially to the current crisis inside the Church: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Adelante la Fe: Can Your Excellence give some words of encouragement to those priests who, for being faithful to Church Tradition, are isolated and pushed into the background in their dioceses and not given temples where they can officiate Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form, as well as to those faithful who are deprived of Traditional Holy Mass?
Mons. Schneider: I would like to say to these priests, seminarians, young people and families: “It is an honor and a privilege to be faithful to the Divine truth and to the spiritual and liturgical traditions of our forefathers and of the saints and being therefore marginalized by those who currently occupy administrative power in the Church. This your fidelity and courage constitute the real power in the Church. You are the real ecclesiastical periphery, which with God’s power renews the Church. Living the true tradition of dogma, liturgy and holiness is a manifestation of the democracy of the Saints, because tradition is the democracy of the Saints. With Saint Athanasius I would like to tell you these words: Those in the Church who oppose, humiliate and marginalize you, have occupied the churches, while during this time you are outside; it is a fact that they have the premises – but you have the Apostolic Faith. They claim that they represent the Church, but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray (cf. Letter to his flock)”.