The Priest: Servant of the Liturgy

After a nice blogging hiatus, I would like to return to a subject that, in my opinion, is rarely spoken of, but, nevertheless, needs great attention: the priest as the servant of the liturgy. Basically, the priest is not meant to be a liturgical MC, he is not there to entertain the congregation, and he should not change, add, or remove actions or words based on his own authority. The priest is there to prayerfully offer the sacrifice of the mass, celebrating reverently the wedding feast of the Lamb. I could easily use some Ratzinger essays to argue for this, but, I think that using documents shows more authority.

Sacrosanctum Concilium 22.3 "No other person whatsoever, not even a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on their own authority."

Now this is the Vatican II document, so it holds A LOT of weight. Now why shouldn't priests or "liturgical planners" be able to alter things in the liturgy such as words or actions? Because the mass, is at the heart of Christian life: "the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; it is also the source from which all its power flows." (SC 10).

Moreover, we are "catholic" in our actions. How we celebrate the liturgy here, should be essentially how we celebrate the liturgy there: "liturgical services have to do with the whole body, the Church" (SC 26" and "As far as possible, notable differences between the rites used in neighboring regions should be avoided" (SC 23). How many of our parishes differ drastically from mass to mass on a given Sunday? There will be a "youth" mass with bad music, an "old person" mass that is subdued, a "family" mass with trite and cliche music, and, possibly a "Hispanic" or "Vietnamese" or any other kind of mass. This is not the spirit of Vatican II. We are ALL Catholics, we all celebrate the same mass, we worship the same God. Although we come from different racial, economic, and social backgrounds, how we worship God in mass shouldn't be different from how our brothers and sisters in Christ worship God in mass. We can see that, in a sense, there is a false egalitarianism that is evident in the diversity of masses on a given Sunday. Instead of uniting groups of people around the Table of the Word and Body, we are cutting ourselves into groups and factions.

Ok, so in the Spirit of Vatican II, we shouldn't make things up during the Liturgy, and our masses should be relatively similar from place to place and from day to day, what about how the priest acts during mass? Coming from several documents, namely Sacramentum Caritatis, we see a strong note regarding the disposition of the priest.

Sacramentum Caritatis 23: "Priests should be conscious of the fact that in their ministry they must never put themselves or their personal opinions in first place, but Jesus Christ. Any attempt to make themselves the centre of the liturgical action contradicts their very identity as priests. The priest is above all a servant of others, and he must continually work at being a sign pointing to Christ, a docile instrument in the Lord's hands. This is seen particularly in his humility in leading the liturgical assembly, in obedience to the rite, uniting himself to it in mind and heart, and avoiding anything that might give the impression of an inordinate emphasis on his own personality."

"Uh Oh!" some might think. "Uh Oh" indeed! The priest, besides not being able to change anything in the mass, unless he assault the unity and catholicity of the Body of Christ, the Church, should not, moreover, insert himself as a liturgical MC or an entertainer. He is there to lead the people to Jesus in the Word and Body, because he himself, by virtue of ordination, is marked by being able to act in persona christi. This is why, from Apostolic times until Vatican II, the priest and the people faced the same direction during the mass, in a position called ad orientem. This was not the priest "turning his back" on the people, as liturgically and historically confused people might think, but a shocking and strong sign that the priest was not important, that he and the people together were approaching the Good Shepherd. In fact, ad orientem was never abolished, and masses today in the Ordinary Form can still be offered in this beautiful and community-building manner.

When the priest turns towards the people and puts on a show, the point of the liturgy is defeated. Turning towards the Lord with open hearts has been disfigured into turning towards ourselves in vain affirmation. The priest should not be seen as the "other" in mass; he should not be, in a sense, opposed to , or seen as strongly different from the people, but, on the contrary, he should offer the mass for and with the people: "Offering the immaculate victim, not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, they [the laity] should learn to offer themselves." (SC 48)

Clericalism is basically abusing the power of one's priesthood. For a priest to change actions or words in the Liturgy, or to call attention to himself, to insert himself and his personality into the mass is exactly an abuse of his power to act in persona Christi. In fact, one may say that, in such cases, he acts not in persona Christi, but in persona ipsius, in person of himself. This is clericalism, and during the mass, it is perhaps one of the worst forms of clericalism since the Liturgy is the source and summit of Christian life. This is not what the Church asks for, and this is not what the Church needs. Let us pray for our priests, that their selfless following of Christ may continue, so that, by being lead by the Good Shepherd, they may shepherd God's people as instruments of grace, healing, and conversion.



In the West, we have the unfortunate dichotomy of mind and heart. We see them as almost opposites, one cold and calculating, the other warm and fuzzy.  However, we need both mind and heart; a mind without a heart to guide it seeks nothing, and a heart without a mind to guide it finds nothing. For Saint Thomas Aquinas, love is exactly this combination of mind and heart, since it is a desire for union and, at the same time, a willing of goodness for another. Our mind recognizes the good, and our heart moves us towards it. Love, then, combines our mind and our heart: it is a full action of a human individual. I found this very nice quote on the object of love by Aquinas during one of my random Summa perusals.

"For it is our duty to hate, in the sinner, his being a sinner, and to love in him, his being a man capable of bliss; and this is to love him truly, out of charity, for God's sake"

A man capable of bliss is a man who can know God, who has the potential for entering heaven. So recognizing goodness with our intellect, directing ourselves to and for it with our heart, we love, and we love truly. 


You think?

Nice little article in the Register on the new translation.

Liturgical Music Game Changers

Some of you may know that I am slightly obsessed with liturgical music. This situation has not been helped by my recent acquisitions of the "Simple Choral Gradual" by Richard Rice and the "Simple English Propers" by Adam Bartlett, both of which are available on an Amazon website near you.

We all know, of course, that antiphons are the preferred option for music at a mass, but we also know that it is hard to find anything besides boring ol' hymns from huge music corporations. Well fear no more brethren and sistren! These two books are exactly what we need! They contain the propers (not including the Responsorial Psalm) for all Sundays and Feasts for the Ordinary Form of the mass. They are both free to download online (read my "Mysterious Antiphon" article) and the books themselves are relatively inexpensive and built to last. I am particularly impressed by the Bartlett book, as it is a very well-bound hardcover edition. Of course, with any change, people will need a bit of time to get used to reading the chant notation of Bartlett, or the different feel of Rice's antiphon settings. Nevertheless, at what price liturgical fidelity and full participation?

This last Sunday I was the Schola director for a Corpus Christi mass and Eucharistic procession (videos and pics to come soon, hopefully), and a choir of 15 or so 20-somethings had no problem learning and beautifully executing the Bartlett propers.

This might sound all too good to be true, and I would say, "you're right". There is one issue that I have with these books: they don't have settings for weekday masses or for commons. The book "By Flowing Waters" (BFW) does a very good job of having weekday mass settings and commons, so it could suffice until more options come out. I like BFW, but the translation is very odd; it tries to be gender inclusive, and the English they use it fairly awkward sometimes.

So, in conclusion, I really like these new books, and I think that they have a lot to offer for parishes and communities preparing to enter more fully into the sacred mysteries as we pine with quivering anticipation for the coming of the new (awesome) English mass translation.


St. Irenaeus-Truth, Love, Peace

Today is the feast of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, who is one of my favorite saints. I have been slowly working through his massive work Adversus Haereses (Against Heresies), and I have read  his delightful shorter work On the Preaching of the Apostles. If you want really clear evidence that, roughly 100 years after the death of Christ, the Church had a pretty solid grasp on Tradition as handed down by the Apostles, on the importance of Orthodoxy of belief and Scriptural interpretation, and on the importance of using the intellect, especially through theology, look no further than St. Irenaeus.

Here is the Adversus
Here is the the Preaching

It is very interesting to note that the name "Irenaeus" means "peace", hence the adjective "irenic" which means directed towards peace. And, as Aquinas notes, and the Church frequently has to reiterate, peace is not an absence of conflict or war, but it is union, it is a just and balanced relationship. In St. Irenaeus' day, the Gnostic heresy (let us all shudder) was drastically tearing apart and dividing the Church. Hence, where there is heresy, apostasy, or schism, there is no longer any peace, since division is the opposite of the unitive power of peace. And we know well from the writings of St. Paul, that division is completely unbecoming of the Body of Christ, the Church. We also know, again from Aquinas, that peace is the proper effect of love (II-II.29.3), so where there is division, there can be no love, and, hence, there can be no peace.

St. Irenaeus, in the 2nd century (the Council of Nicea was much later), puts forward this staggering summation of the faith as a counter to the division caused by the Gnostics.

"The Church, though dispersed through out the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: She believes in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His future manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father to gather all things in one, and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, every knee should bend, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send spiritual wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning, and others from their repentance,  and may surround them with everlasting glory...She also belives these points of doctrine just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth." (I.X.1-2, Adv. Haer.)

What we see from the example of this great saint, is that faithful adherence to the revealed truth of faith, the humble acceptance of what has been handed on to us ([T]radition and [t]radition), is the greatest means to acheive peace within the Body of Christ, the Church, as well as eternal glory with Christ in heaven. Where so many divisions occur between liberals and conservatives, there is no love, and, hence, no peace. As Catholics we must seek with hearts and minds open to the grace of God and the movements of the Holy Spirit, to adhere to Truth, to Christ, and only then may we hope for peace to be established among ourselves and in the world. Truth gives way to Love, and Love gives way to Peace. We are all called then, by Christ, to hold fast to the Truth (which is Himself), to express that with our love, and thus become peace-makers. As Christ himself says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Mt. 5:9)

I would like to argue, based on what has been said, that to be a peacemaker is essentially to be an evangelist. As Paul VI notes in Evangelii Nuntiandi, evangelization is the primary mission and the foremost identity of the Church, and, thus, of all Her members.  Peace (union and right-relationship) is the product of love, and love and truth come together from a relationship with Christ. Evangelization (the Greek, eu-good, angelos-message/decree, think of the Latin derivative Angelus, whereby we get the word "angel") is done by messengers, Angeli, the message is that of the person of Jesus, and all Christians are called to be evangelizers, literally, good message-ers. Christians share Jesus with the world, and that is pure evangelization. Now, if Jesus is the Truth, and the Truth begets love, and, hence, peace, and if Christians are sent (apostellein) to share Jesus with the world, then Christians, as evangelizers, are peacemakers. And as Pope Benedict (God protect him!) is wont to argue, true peace, true justice, comes not from governments alone, but from following the natural law of Jesus as written in the hearts of all people. We must look at all the conflict in the world, physical and spiritual, and see that only Jesus, the infinite self-giving of the God, can offer healing. We as Christians, following the example of St. Irenaeus, must radically adhere to the Truth of our faith, Jesus, and share it with others, so that, as evangelizers, we may also be peacemakers, and thus be worthy of the title, "Sons of God".

                                                             St. Irenaeus, pray for us!


Dominican Liturgy of the Hours

For those of you looking to "spice up" your Liturgy of the Hours prayer-life this summer, and want to improve your singing/Latin skills, as well as wanting to deviate from the Roman way of doing things, look no further than praying the Dominican Liturgy of the Hours! The Dominican Liturgy blog has the Breviary free to download on pdf: download them, find the day, and pray! Compline (night prayer), however, unfortunately, is not available to download, it is only available in print.

We are currently in the 12th Week of Ordinary Time, so use Vol. 3. We are in Week 4 of the breviary, Feria V (Thursday), so you would go to page 647. Enjoy!

Here are the links
Vol. 1: Tempus Adventus et Nativitatis
Vol. 2A: Tempus Quadragesimale
Vol. 2B: Tempus Paschale
Vol. 3: Tempus Per Annum I
Vol. 4: Tempus Per Annum II
Vol. 5: Completorium



Aquinas notes that prayer is foremost an intellectual act since it is, at its heart, conversation with God. Conversation means speech, speech means words, words mean mind. When we pray, we speak to God, but, like any good conversation, we must also listen. When we listen to God, we hear His Word. The Word of God is Christ. And when we know things, Aquinas notes, there is a likeness between the knower and the thing known. So when we listen to the Word, and the Word becomes more familiar to us in our minds and hearts, then we become more like the Word, as we participate more in His likeness. How lucky are we Catholics! We have the mass where, to paraphrase St. Jerome, Christ's Body and Blood are poured into our ears during the reading of the Gospel! We have Sacred Scriptures, where we hold the Word of God in our hands, and readily encounter Him with open minds and hearts! We have Tradition, where we learn from Christ speaking to everyday Christians for two thousand years! In a sense, the Platonic music of the spheres  isn't so far fetched; we are surrounded by the Word of God, but, as Mark the Evangelist is wont to say, we must have ears to hear. He who has ears, let him hear!

I Don't Cry at Movies

I don't cry at movies.... unless their movies about dying saints. The movie Therese, while quite cheesy at parts, contains some wonderful moments, that, admittedly, made me choke up (that does not happen very often). I once had a very good discussion with other seminarians about the nature of art, and we all ended up saying that true art inspires virtue. I have not studied aesthetics formally, but I think this definition rings true in many cases. This movie was definitely inspiring, as it made me want to get on my knees and pray. How often does a movie do that? How often do we nurture ourselves with entertainment that is spiritual? Deo Gratias for good movies!


The Christian Individual

I thought that I would simply share a couple of quotes from "Introduction to Christianity" by Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) regarding the individual and the whole in respect to Christianity.

"Being a Christian means essentially changing over from being for oneself to being for one another."

"Christian faith is not based on the atomized individual but comes from the knowledge that there is no such thing as the mere individual, that, on the contrary, man is himself  only when he is fitted into the whole: into  mankind, into history, into the cosmos..."

"The depths we call hell man can only give to himself. Indeed, we must put it more pointedly: Hell consists in man's being unwilling to receive anything, in his desire to be self-sufficient. It is the expression of enclosure in one's own being alone."

"Hell is wanted only to be oneself; what happens when man barricades himself up in himself."

My thoughts: Just as Christ died for all, Christ lived, and does live, for all as well. If we are united to Christ through his Body, Church and Sacrament, then we too live and die for all. This is an essential characteristic of the saints, of those who imitate Christ: they are selfless. This ties directly into many aspects of our lives, in politics we seek the common good, not the individual good. In spirituality, we are united to the Church militant and the Church triumphant, in praying for the coming of God's kingdom in our lives. By wanting to be alone, to be that rugged individual, that independent monad, we miss the point: happiness, the fulfillment of life, comes from others.

As Timothy Radcliffe points out, the greatest sorrow, the most troubling pain that we as humans can experience is radical solitude. Prisoners in isolation are devastated. Infants and children that are neglected suffer for the rest of their lives. Being alone is a psychological, physical, and spiritual sickness that distorts the image and dignity of a human. If happiness comes from others, and sickness comes from isolation, why do we seek to become these radical individuals? Why do we try to cut ourselves off, when what we really seek is to be with, to be for another?

Christianity, because it joins men and women together to be for and with one another, is a dangerous idea in the world today, since the world wants to separate, to distinguish, to set up the individual as the one who can determine his or her own good, her own "truth".  Jesus is the Truth since he is the "infinite self-expenditure of God". (Ratzinger)  Jesus lives with and for the Other, so truth is to be found in living, like Jesus, with and for others. We cannot make ourselves our own authority for defining truth, just as we cannot be happy living only for ourselves.



I know you all have been pining in quivering anticipation for the New (Awesome) Mass Translation (NMT) to liturgically hit you in the face, so I thought I would slake some of your Liturgicam Authenticam thirst by teasing you with a new Daily Roman Missal that is available by pre-order through Our Sunday Visitor. I currently have a OSV daily missal, and I look forward to the new improvements of this missal: all readings are on the page for the day (occasionally in the old OSV missal you have to skip to different pages for recurrent readings), the 16 new saints in the calendar, and pictures from illuminated manuscripts!

There is something wrong with the OSV site, so you can pre-order it at Aquinasandmore.

One little concern I have is whether they will use the RSV or the NAB translations, we can only hope and pray that they will do the honorable thing and use RSV.


Do you feel like a man after you shave? Do you beam with a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and thankfulness for being alive after you slice off clump of stubble? If you answer 'no', then you need to put down that silly fixed-head octuple blade and jump on the wetshaving bandwagon. What is this wetshaving? It is shaving with a safety razor, those little razor blades that coke-dealers use to make "lines", and the little blades that will slice you open without you even feeling it. You put one of those razor blades on a stick and shave your face with it. Intimidating? Yes. Worth it? Yes x 2!

Why would I want to do that? I like my jugular uncut! I am comfortable with my 12-blade, vibrating, lubricated, anti-slip grip, mechanical monster! (that sounds odd...) Why should I shave with a safety razor?

First of all its a skill, a techne, to get all Greek on you. We live in a world of mediocrity, where traditional crafts and skills are dying out, so why not learn a man-skill and set yourself apart from hoi poloi.

Secondly, you know those annoying little bumps you get on your neck after you shave? You know ingrown hairs? Those are caused by your silly 8-blade razor cutting so close that the hair begins to grow under the skin. Who needs that? With a safety-razor, the hair is cut close, but not as freakishly close as your Gillette Fusion, so you don't get ingrown hairs.

Thirdly, you know that burning sensation after you shave? That's razor burn. Imagine a rug-burn, and put that on your face, that's what razor burn is. Your Shick or Gillette multi-blade razor cut so close to the skin that it actually takes some of the skin off with it, and that's why you get razor burn. With a safety-razor, you don't get razor burn.

Fourthly, you know how expensive buying replacement blades for your razor is? You can easily spend $15-20 for 4 meager blades that will last you a month or two. That's easily $100 a year! With safety-razors, you can buy a pack of 10 blades for an average of $5, and each blade can last you a week (if you shave maybe 3 or 4 times). So if you would only spend about $25 a year for all the razors you need! Why waste your money? Thrift is another traditional man-skill. Huzzah!


Canonical Status of the Dominican Rite

Here is a great article from New Liturgical Movement, written by Fr. Pius Pietrzyk O.P. of the Eastern U.S. province. Here is the link.

Liberal? Conservative?

I have been called a liberal Catholic by some, and conservative Catholic by others. I myself have called some people liberal Catholics, and others conservative.  In any case, I have come to regard the titles of "liberal" or "conservative" as both incomplete means of belief with regards to Catholicism. A liberal is a closet aristocrat, and a conservative is a person who prefers the past, to borrow from the writer Frank Herbert. There, of course, are exceptions and derivations to this aphorism. But, regardless, in either case, there is the common error of placing the authority for the determination of orthodoxy (or -praxy) on oneself. Conservatives can as easily pick and choose pithy quotes or obscure documents to fit their needs as  liberals can. Liberals can be as hard-hearted and close-minded with regards to beliefs as conservatives can. But, overall, the individual picks and chooses what to take as authoritative, out of the entire corpus of Christian disciplines and doctrines as handed down in Tradition (containing tradition with a little "t", and Scripture). While we all have opinions, it is evident that the liberal/conservative divide, and all such polemics within the Church, do not contribute to the growth and unity of the body of Christ. As Aquinas notes, love is a desire for union, so when we engage in liberal/conservative politics within the Church, we ultimately cause division, and this, in turn, squelches love.

So what is one to do? Turning to Scripture, we can find sound and holy advice from St. Paul as he addressed conflict within the communities that he was working to cultivate in the ways of Faith:

"Live in harmony with one another" (Rom 12:16)

"If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all." (Rom 12:18)

"Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor 1:12)

"For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men? (1 Cor 3:3)

"The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread." (1 Cor 10:16-17)

"For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are one, so it is with Christ." (1 Cor 12:12)

So if liberals and conservatives are causing dissension and harming the body of Christ, what is the alternative? Being a bland Catholic? Being a boring person with no viewpoints? I would respond with a resounding "No!" The healthy alternative between being liberal or conservative is being a "faithful" Catholic. Now, that doesn't mean that libs or cons are unfaithful, but that, by causing dissension, or making themselves their own magisterium, there is, in a sense, a lack of fidelity, not to particular truths, but to the whole Truth that is taught by the Church.  As evidenced by the etymology of "faith", the Latin word fides, means such things as trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, and belief. The word, and the adjective "faithful" imply that an individual is placing hope or authority in something beyond themselves. When we have faith in God, we place our trust in Him, and not in ourselves. When we have faith in a politician, we have belief that he or she will do what is right. Faith involves decreasing the self for the other. We may look at John the Baptist as an exemplar of faith as he says, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). We may also look at St. Paul as he says, "it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20).

Faith, then, involves a very unpopular word in today's self-centered Western culture: submission. Faith, especially in Christ, involves submission to Christ, and that is exactly what Paul and John reference. They themselves decrease, submit, so that Christ may increase and live in their hearts. And as the Church is the body of Christ, to submit to Christ necessarily involves submission to the Church. That is why the phrase "Jesus: yes, Church: no", makes little sense, because to deny one is to deny the other, as Ratzinger points out. This submission does not make us automatons or mindless zombies, but it frees us, as Paul writes:

"But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have becomes slaves of righteousness... yield your members to righteousness for sanctification" (cf Rom 6:17, 19)

Submitting to Christ and to the Church which is His body, we are freed to lives of righteousness and salvation.

So what does a "faithful" Catholic look like? A faithful Catholic seeks to know what the Church teaches ( recall Christ speaking to the 12 Apostles, whose successors, the Bishops, comprise the Church's teaching authority, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." (Lk 10:16) ), a faithful Catholic embraces what the Church teaches, and a faithful Catholic puts these teachings into practice in their everyday lives. A faithful Catholic does not pick and choose what to believe, but embraces the whole truth of faith, and is set free to live in imitation of Christ. A faithful Catholic, also, is not a rubricist who seeks to meticulously follow minute laws, but submits to the Church's laws because, ultimately, it is done for the love of Christ.