Sunday, October 31, 2010

Commemoration of All Hallows Eve

Today used to be the Vigil of All Saints (aka Halloween), a night when traditionally the veil between Earth and purgatory thinned, the dead could come back to request prayers, and devils could appear to remind us of the reality of hell.  These days we are all a bit too PC for that!

And liturgically this year, All Saints doesn't even get a First Vespers, displaced by the Feast of Christ the King.  

It is however commemorated at Vespers of Sunday, so I thought a reminder on how to do that might be in order.

So after you have said the collect for the feast in the concluding prayers of Vespers, say the Magnificat antiphon, versicle and collect that would otherwise have been said at I Vespers of All Saints, that is:
  • Angeli, archangeli/O ye angels...from MD [330];
  • Laetamini in Domino/Be glad in the Lord... MD [330]; and
  • Omnipotens sempiterne Deus/Almighty.....MD [331]

Friday, October 29, 2010

Saying the Office of the Dead

We are rapidly coming up to the month of November, traditionally a month when we especially remember and pray for the dead. 

And in the Church's hierarchy of prayer, liturgical prayer takes precedence, so I'd like to encourage my readers to consider saying the Office of the Dead for their family, friends and others, either in substitution for or in addition to their normal Office or other prayers.  Indeed, by doing so you can also gain a partial indulgence for yourself (or apply it to the souls in purgatory).

The nature of the Office of the Dead

The traditional Office of the Dead is a votive liturgical Office consisting of I Vespers, Matins and Lauds.  The texts can be found in the Monastic Diurnal or online here (the monastic and Roman versions are essentially identical).

The Office has a stark beauty: all of the usual opening and closing prayers are stripped out; each psalm ends with 'Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis' instead of the normal Gloria Patri; and the readings at Matins are from the Book of Job.

Instead of the standard Office?

Traditionally in a monastery the Office of the Dead was said at least once a month, but it was in addition to, not in substitution for the normal Office.  I've seen it claimed elsewhere that the traditional Office for the Dead can't be said by itself, but I would strongly dispute that view (save possibly for those bound to say the Office, but see below on that):
  • on at least two occasions a year, namely All Souls and All Souls of the Benedictine Order the Office of the Dead is said instead of the normal Office under the traditional rubrics, so it clearly can be said separately to the standard Office;
  • the other common votive liturgical Office, the Little Office of Our Lady, was similarly often said by priests and religious in the past.  Like the Office of the Dead, saying it did not displace the obligation of those bound to say the normal Roman or Benedictine Office, but was said in addition to it.  But those not bound to say the Office, such as laymen and women, could and did say the Little Office of Our Lady separately from the standard Office.   So why not the Office of the Dead?
  • under modern liturgical law, the relevant hours of the Office of the Dead can be substituted for the standard Office.  Arguably, just as those bound to say the modern Office could in theory use the traditional Office but say fewer hours of it in line with modern church law, so too can we apply this provision to the traditional Office of the Dead.

Gueranger's Manual for Oblates - Part II: Chapter One

I previously posted the introduction to this Manual by Dom Gueranger, and translated into English by an anonymous secular priest.  Here now some of Chapter One, with my headings etc:

Chapter One: The nature of Oblation and the liturgical practices an oblate should adopt

"Since our Lord Jesus Christ imparts to His Faithful, by means of His Church, all the graces which He has merited by His Incarnation and Redemption, Christians ought to have nothing more at heart than to remain united to this Holy Church, which, being the Spouse of Our Saviour, is, at the same time, their Mother.

In order to increase their confidence in her, and to revive the sense of union with her which ought to be abidingly theirs, a pious Association has been formed, of persons whose aim it is to acknowledge the benefits which God confers upon us through His Church, and to cling most closely to her, in order to be more and more intimately united to her Divine Spouse.

To the members of this Association it will be evident that, the closer they keep themselves to the Mother Our Lord has given them, the safer they will be, and the more meritorious will be their works.

To this Holy Church their mind and heart will be in entire submission: always ready to accept, as matter of faith, all things that she has taught to be so, all that she teaches or will teach to be so, until the end of time.

This disposition of submission and love in regard to Holy Church will prompt them to unite with her in all works having God’s worship for their object - works which, at the same time, promote God’s glory and their own sanctification and merit.

The sacraments

The seven Sacraments whose guardianship and administration Our Lord, ere He ascended into Heaven, entrusted to His Church, will be regarded by them with the utmost reverence; and they will beware of ever confounding these operative signs of grace, instituted by Our Saviour, with any other work, resulting from the personal holiness of any created being.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the same as that of the Cross, they will esteem to be the highest means of paying honour to God, of rendering thanks to Him, of appeasing His anger, and of obtaining His aid.

As to Holy Communion, they will never isolate it in their respect and love from the oblation itself, of the Holy Sacrifice, whereby we are put in possession of this priceless treasure; they will receive it frequently, with a thankful and loving adoration, according to the intention of its Divine institutor.


Impregnated with the teaching and practice of the Catholic Church, they will not fail to manifest a deep and tender devotion to the most holy and Immaculate Mother of God, the holy Angels, and the Saints honoured by the Church’s cultus: and, as true Catholics, they will in nowise seek to hide their veneration for sacred relics, paintings, and images, nor their esteem for pious and devout pilgrimages.

Unity with Peter

The Holy Church being, for all the Faithful, the Mother apart from whom they could not have God for their Father, they will be careful to imbue themselves with her spirit, and to be in all things of one mind with her. Hence, seeing that she is built upon Peter, the Rock whereon she was founded by her Divine Head, they will honour the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, as the Infallible Vicar of Christ upon earth, Doctor and Pastor of the whole Church of God, the divinely-appointed source of spiritual authority and of the power of the keys. For their lawful Bishop they will have the respect and submission due to the higher members of the sacred Hierarchy; they will regard as a work most pleasing to God, to aid in giving to His Church ministers who are able teachers of her doctrine, zealous for the Kingdom of Christ, and for the sanctification of souls.”

Respect for religious vows

[At this place in the manuscript the venerable Abbot of Solesmes had written, as a note for further development, “Estime de l’Etat Religieux.” The following paragraph has therefore been supplied from other of his writings.]

[The same spirit of faith will inspire them with a great respect for vows, which add new merit to a Christian’s actions. For this reason, the religious state, which is constituted by the three vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and finds its most complete and most ancient form and expression in the Monastic Order, will be regarded by them with especial veneration.

Moreover, with the Church, they will esteem and love, in each one of the other Religious Orders, the end for which it has been approved by the Holy See, and the good which it has already done, or which it is called upon to do.]

Christian life

Let them greatly prize their noble name of CHRISTIANS, formed from that of Christ their King, Son of God and Son of Man in unity of Person. They will glory in their surname of CATHOLICS, which distinguishes them from those who, though they may have received Baptism, have ceased to belong to the one divinely appointed Christian society of the Faithful. They will attach great value to the signs of the Catholic faith, upon which the Church has shed the benediction of which she holds the source. The holy oils, holy water, the blessed tapers of Candlemas Day, the blessed branches of Palm Sunday - all these and such like things they will hold in esteem: as regard devotions and objects of veneration, they will always prefer those which are, as it were, stamped with the Church’s seal, and bear the impress of the heavenly power she has received and which she exercises.

They will take an interest in the Feasts of the Church, in the ceremonies she employs, and even in the rubrics she observes. Every week they will ascertain under the protection of what Saint each of its days is placed. The Liturgical Calendar, with which, in the ages of faith, our forefathers were so familiar; the lives of the Saints themselves, the attributes with which the Church has from ancient times approved that they should be represented, shall be known to them; and should they have any influence on the education of the young, they will take pleasure in inculcating in their youthful charges the pious tendencies which were popular in the ages of faith.

Pious practices habitual among the Faithful will be dear to them in proportion to their having obtained the approbation of the Apostolic See; and they will have a particular confidence in indulgences, of which the use has been declared good and salutary to Christian people by the Council of Trent."

You can find the next part in this series here.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

History of the Roman Office

The New Liturgical Movement website has just published the latest in its excellent series on the history of the Roman Office since 1568 by Gregory di Peppio.

Not all of the changes made were adopted in the Benedictine Office (fortunately) but many were.  In any case, it is excellent reading for anyone interested in the Office.

You can find a list of the parts in the series so far, and links to supporting material here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dom Gueranger on Oblates - Part I

I recently came across a Manual for Oblates written by Dom Gueranger, the founder of the Monastery of Solesmes in the nineteenth century, so I thought I'd put up some extracts from it.  It was translated into English and published by Burns and Oates.

Today, the introduction by 'a secular priest'.  The headings are mine.

The value of associations

"This is pre-eminently an age in which the principle of association and co-operation is thoroughly appreciated in all that concerns civil life and secular affairs. Throughout the world we see on all sides the rapid rise and growth of industrial, political, and literary societies... As we know, also, only too well, this is an age that has felt the power of association, not only in its beneficial and useful effects, but also in the working of evil and the spread of error...

But social perfection, or the highest form of association, is only possible in the Catholic Church through the means of the Communion of Saints, by which we participate in the life of the Mystical Body of Christ, and are made “fellow-citizens of the Saints and domestics of God, built up on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, JESUS CHRIST Himself being the chief corner-stone.”...

The object of the little work to the English translation of which these few words serve as an introduction, is to set before the Faithful a practical and, at the same time, a most ancient and well-established means of consciously and intelligently entering into and participating in the spiritual life of the Church.

The means proposed is no other than that of aggregation to the Monastic Order by the reception of the Benedictine scapular. This time honoured religious custom takes its rise and has its origin in the very cradle of the Monastic life of the West; for we find that St. Benedict himself admitted Tertullus, the father of St. Placid, to a participation in the prayers and good works of his Order; and that King Theoderet desired the same favour from St. Maurus. As early as the eighth century we find traces of this practice throughout Europe; and in the eleventh century it had become so common that whole villages might be found whose inhabitants were all aggregated to one of the great Monasteries, and even, sometimes, leading a life resembling that of the first Christians, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.

History of oblates

Persons thus aggregated to the Monastic Order were known as Oblates of St. Benedict - a name recognised by the Canon law of the Church. In the thirteenth century there sprang up the Third Order of St. Dominic and St. Francis, especially intended for persons living in the world, but constituting in themselves distinct Orders, as their name implies, with a distinct rule different from that of the First and Second Orders: whereas, amongst the Benedictines there is no Third Order, inasmuch as there is no Second; and those persons invested with the Benedictine scapular are simply aggregated to the Monastic Order of the Patriarch of the Monks of the West.

The custom, therefore, of investing persons living in the world, whether ecclesiastics or Laity, with the scapular of a monk, took its rise in the Order of St. Benedict; and the special Confraternities of the Scapulars of other Religious Orders of more recent date are but an extension of this ancient practice...

Purpose of monasticism

The chief end of the monastic institute is prayer, the prayer of the Church, which St. Benedict has called in his rule “Opus Dei,” “the work of God.” Everything else in the monk’s life must be subservient to prayer; nothing is to be preferred before it. “Opus Dei nihil praeponatur” - “Let nothing be preferred to the work of God,” writes the Saint in his rule. Prayer is the keynote, the touchstone, and the very essence of this life; and its whole spirit might be summed up in the words of the Canticle of Ezechias: “Psalmos Nostros cantabimus cunctis diebus vitae Nostrae in domo Domini” - “ We will sing our psalms all the days of our lives in the house of the Lord.”

“Wherever men believe in prayer,” wrote Father Dalgairns, in his essay on “The Spiritual Life of Mediaeval England,” “you are sure to have the monastic life in some shape or other. If they have none, they will soon cease to believe in prayer, as is fast becoming the case in all Protestant countries. Wherever the Christian idea is strong, men who are by their position necessarily involved in the strife of the world, will be glad to know that men and women who are separated from its turmoils and its sins are offering prayers to God for them.”

A real appreciation of the value of prayer is surely a need of the present age, when a veiled Pelagianism seems to have invaded the minds of so many Christians, making them trust too much to human means and natural activity, and not enough to the help that comes from God. The spirit of the age is opposed to the supernatural, and tends to exalt and make much of the natural aspects of Christianity...

Monasticism in the English tradition

For the Anglo-Saxon race, Christianity is coeval with Monasticism and the Benedictine life. The Benedictine Order has a special historical claim upon the affections and gratitude of the English people. St. Gregory the Great, the Apostle of England, was a Benedictine monk, and the first Archbishop of Canterbury was the Prior of the Benedictine Monastery of St. Andrew, founded by St. Gregory in his own paternal home, called in after times the Church of SS. Andrew and Gregory on the Coelian Hill.

The first companions of St. Augustine of Canterbury, who became the first English bishops, were all monks from that Roman Monastery; so that the great English Church was not only, in the first instance, an “Italian Mission” sent by an Italian Pope, but a Benedictine Mission also sent by a Benedictine Pope.

Moreover, in no other country, perhaps, has the monastic life entered into the Hierarchical life of the Church so completely as it did in England, from the first introduction of Christianity to the overthrow of the true religion in the land under Henry VIII. and Elizabeth. All the Cathedral Chapters (save five served by secular clergy, and one by Augustinian Canons) were composed of Benedictine monks, to whom the Bishop stood in place of Abbot, there being a Cathedral Prior to rule the Monastery attached to the Cathedral.

All the Archbishops of Canterbury were professed monks except three, of whom one was the glorious Martyr to the liberties of the Church - St. Thomas a Beckett, the patron Saint of the English secular clergy who, though not a professed monk, was aggregated to the Order on his nomination to the See of Canterbury, and who always wore the Benedictine habit, which was found on his dead body under his Archiepiscopal vestments, after the scene of his martyrdom in the Chapel of St. Benedict in Canterbury Cathedral.

Monasticism as the bulwark of the Church

The monasteries have ever been the citadels and strongholds of the Christian life, as well as the cities of refuge for the people of God in Christian times. The names of the great saviours of the Christian Commonwealth during the Early and Middle Ages are the names of monks, such as St. Gregory the Great, St. Gregory VII. (better known as Hildebrand), St. Peter Damian, and that host of illustrious Saints, the list of whose names alone would fill a page. It was the corruption of worldly society that gave rise to the monastic life, and led great Saints like St. Benedict to fly for protection and safety in the first instance to the monasteries as to “the mountains whence help cometh.”

It is for the same reason that the Institute of the Oblates of St. Benedict is proposed to the Faithful living in the world, as an antidote to the evil communications of the world, with their lowering and corrupting influences, and as a powerful means by which the tone and atmosphere of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be diffused, and make itself felt in our lives. It is, in fact, a practical way of helping ourselves anew to that “salt of the earth” which constitutes the main social characteristic and distinction of the Christian life."

You can find Part II in this series here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Collect for the 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

Fr Zulsdorf's usual interesting and helpful analysis of this week's collect is available over at his blog.  Fr Z argues that the collect probably dates from the time of St Leo the Great (pope from 440-461).

Some extracts:

"...There is a marvelous clausula at the end, a standard rhythmic ending much favored in classical oratory to delight the ear of listeners and add power to periodic sentences: efficáciter cónsequámúr. Say it aloud, with attention to force and length of the syllables. I also like the nice synchesis (ABAB) structure, fideliter petimus, efficaciter consequamur (adverb verb adverb verb). There is a good example of hyperbaton, the separation of linked elements, in piis Ecclesiae tuae precibus, where piis and precibus, datives, go together. Also interesting is how two imperatives bracket the central section: adesto … praesta.

All these little elements show how finely sculpted this prayer is, how different it is from the way people would have spoken in every day discourse in the streets and homes of ancient Rome and elsewhere. There may have been a shift in the ancient Roman Church from Greek to Latin for liturgical prayer, but that Latin was not the vernacular, the commonly spoken language of the day. It was highly stylized and many of the words were actually images from Scripture or terms from Stoic and Neoplatonic philosophy.

As we have explained many times, pietas, when applied to man, is "dutifulness" and when used of God is "mercy" though retaining overtones of His fidelity to His own promises. The crammed Lewis & Short Dictionary has a lengthy entry for auctor, to be brief let's call it "creator" or "cause" or "author". Auctor appears fairly often in our Roman prayers, paired up with terms such as saeculi as in "creator of the cosmos", and omnium ("of all things"), lucis ("of light"), pacis ("of peace"), salutis ("of salvation"), vitae ("of life"). Today it is with pietatis...

We find it first of all in the Vulgate of Psalm 45: "Our God is our refuge and strength: (Deus noster refugium et virtus) a helper in troubles, which have found us exceedingly." This type of invocation of God is common in the Psalms, and therefore our earliest prayers for Mass. Very ancient Roman Collects often follow the Hebrew manner of first invoking God by some characteristic and then petitioning Him in light of that title....


O God, our refuge and strength:
be present to the devout prayers of Your Church,
O author of godliness, and grant:
that, we may efficaciously attain what we faithfully seek..."

Do go read the whole piece.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Fourth Sunday in October/ Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost

At Matins this Sunday the Scripture readings are from chapter I of the second book of Maccabees, which starts with a copy of a letter explaining what the book is about. The key verses around that used for the Magnificat antiphon (verse 5) at I Vespers on Saturday runs as follows:

“To the brethren, the Jews that are throughout Egypt; the brethren, the Jews that are in Jerusalem, and in the land of Judea, send health and good peace. May God be gracious to you, and remember his covenant that he made with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, his faithful servants: And give you all a heart to worship him, and to do his will with a great heart, and a willing mind. May he open your heart in his law, and in his commandments, and send you peace. May he hear your prayers, and be reconciled unto you, and never forsake you in the evil time. And now here we are praying for you.”

The Gospel for this Sunday is from Matthew 22:15-21, which elicits the famous dictum to render unto Caesar the things that are of Caesar, to God the things of God, the subject of the Canticle antiphons for the Sunday.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Third Sunday in October/Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

The first nocturn readings at Matins this Sunday are from 1 Maccabees 9:1 – 20, which deals with Judas Maccabeus’ heroic last stand against Bacchides: confronted with the size of the enemy force, many of his men deserted; Judas insisted on taking the field nonetheless.  The antiphon for the Magnificat at I Vespers recalls Israel’s mourning for him.

The Gospel, referred to in the Benedictus and Magnificat antiphons, is Matthew 18:23-35, the Parable of the unforgiving servant.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Second Sunday in October/Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

I Vespers: The Scripture readings for Sunday Matins are from I Maccabeus 4:36-51, which describes the efforts of the Maccabeans to cleanse the Temple after its recapture and rededicate it. 

The Magnificat antiphon for I Vespers however, is actually from I Mac 6:39, which deals with the defense of the city from an attack by King Lysias, and the heroic death of Eleazar, who is crushed by an elephant in an effort to kill the king.

Lauds and Vespers: The canticle antiphons for this Sunday refer to the Sunday Gospel, John 4: 46-53 (Jesus heals the son of an official).  At Lauds the Benedictus antiphon is as follows:

"There was a certain royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come into Galilee, he besought Him that He would heal his son."

The antiphon for the Magnificat at Vespers:

"The father knew then that it was at the same hour in the which Jesus said thy son lives. And himself believed, and his whole house."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

SS Maurus and Placid OSB: October 5

SS Maurus and Placid were both offered to St Benedict as child oblates, to be brought up in monastic life, at the same time.  St Gregory's Life describes a number of incidents relating to them both:

 Ch3 : SS Maurus and Placid are brought to the monastery, Maurus old enough to be St Benedict’s assistant, but Placid still very young.

 Ch 4: St Maurus sees the demon plaguing a monk of one of St Benedict’s monasteries, although the superior of the community cannot;

 Ch 5: St Benedict finds a miraculous spring of water for the monastery after a night in prayer with the boy Placid

 Ch 6: St Maurus retrieves a lost tool from the bottom of the lake;

 Ch 7: how St Maurus walked on water (pictured above);

 Ch 8: St Benedict rebukes St Maurus for rejoicing at the death of a priest enemy of St Benedict who had died.

St Maurus in particular was an extremely popular saint in the middle ages, but, like so much of the Church's tradition, he has fallen a victim of the search for the 'real historical' saint, as well as the vexed debate over the early spread of the Rule of St Benedict.

Traditionally, St Maurus was thought to have founded the monastery of Glanfeuil Abbey in France, which certainly fits with the known early spread of the Rule to that country; St Placid was traditionally believed to have been martyred.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

First Saturday and Sunday in October/Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The first Sunday of October marks a change of hymn at Matins and Lauds.  The setting below is actually the Carthusian version of the Lauds hymn.

The Matins Scripture readings this Sunday are from I Maccabeus chapter 1, but the Magnificat antiphon for I Vespers is actually from 2 Maccabeus 1:4.

The Gospel this week, referred to by the canticle antiphons, is Matthew 22:1-14, the parable of the wedding feast.

Friday, October 1, 2010

October 2: Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels

The concept of guardian angels being assigned to guard people, countries and more has clear roots in the Old Testament.  Psalm 90, for example, said daily in the Benedictine Office at Compline, says: "No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone."

But there are three key New Testament texts that provide the basis for much of the Catholic teaching on the subject, namely:
  • Matthew 18:10, Jesus says of children: "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven" 
  • Hebrews 1:14 when speaking of angels, "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?"
  • Acts 12:12-15, in reference to St Peter being escorted out of prison by his angel.
The Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels entered the general calendar in the seventeenth century.