Monday, April 9, 2018

The Most Counter-Cultural Thing in the World - A First-timer Reflects on the Latin Mass


I am a cradle Catholic, and I have attended the Novus Ordo liturgy all my life. Being a lay ecclesial minister by profession, and having worked full-time in the Catholic Church for over 18 years, I have taught many classes on Catholic history and theology. The question of the traditional Latin Mass has often come up, and while I have been able to talk about the Latin Mass on an intellectual level, I had not actually had the experience of being at one - that is to say, until this past Saturday.

For the first time in my life, at long last, I actually attended a Latin Mass, held under the auspices of a traditionalist parish in full Communion with Rome, using the 1962 Missal promulgated by Pope St. John XXIII for their liturgies. The community has no church building of their own, so they rent use of the worship space from a suitable Novus Ordo parish in the greater Seattle area.

I have spent the last few days reflecting on the many thoughts stirred up within me by the experience of the liturgy. The first thing I want to note is my approach to the Latin Mass. In discussions of the traditional liturgy, Catholics often speak of the Latin Mass with a dismissive and derisive attitude, sometimes going so far as to assert quite categorically that the Latin Mass was harmful to the life of the Church. But I cannot agree with such a perspective. The Latin Mass, in its various developmental phases, was the central liturgy of Western Catholicism for most of Catholic history.

The Latin Mass was inextricably at the center of the spiritual, intellectual, and cultural life of Catholics for the better part of two millennia. It was the Mass of the saints and martyrs, who lived the Catholic faith to its fullest; of the mystics and thinkers, whose writings and reflections helped to shape our articulation of the faith; of the popes and bishops, who directed the life of the Church and gave formal definition to the articles of our faith; of the multitudes of nuns and monks, who gave their lives throughout the centuries to serve the poor, the sick, all those in need; of the myriad artists who shaped the Catholic experience through paintings, sculptures, mosaics, buildings, stories, and compositions; of the Catholic kings, queens, statesmen, and political movers and shakers who helped create and maintain a Catholic society in their lands.

We could not repudiate the Latin Mass as something harmful without also repudiating the spiritual, theological, ecclesial, and cultural legacy given to us by the millions of Catholics whose lives the Latin Mass nourished, sustained, enriched, and vivified. I will therefore proceed with the assumption that the Latin Mass is a good and profitable thing, and I will seek to find the good in it, however alien the experience may seem at first to someone reared entirely in the Novus Ordo system of liturgy.

I tend to think that the key to understanding the difference between the Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo is to consider the focus of each liturgy. The focus of the Novus Ordo is the celebration of the Eucharistic meal; whereas the focus of the Latin Mass is our mystical participation in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Both liturgies have both elements, but the overarching focus is different.

In the Novus Ordo, the faithful are gathered at, and sometimes around, the altar table in order to take part in the breaking of the Eucharistic bread and the sharing of the Eucharistic cup, doing so in remembrance of Christ. The priest presides at the Eucharistic meal, serving, among other functions, as the host of the community. As the host, he naturally faces towards the people, and he naturally speaks words to which the people respond.

As the people come forward to receive Communion, the sense of the shared scared meal is maintained through communal singing. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ offers each person spiritual nourishment, healing, and strength, and at the same time each person’s participation in Communion helps to build up the whole of the community. The act of Communion is also a sign of shared faith and shared ecclesial identity.

The scriptures are proclaimed and expounded upon in order to give context to the communal celebration of the sacred meal and to help the faithful to live out their baptismal vocation in the world after the worshiping assembly disperses. The music is, for the most part, sung together, to reinforce the sense of community.

The the text of the Novus Ordo describes the sacred meal shared by the faithful as a sacrifice. In fact, we might say that it is precisely the sacrifice of Christ that enables the faithful to be the people of God gathered around the Eucharistic table for our Eucharistic meal. The Fraction Rite, when the consecrated host is broken and the broken host is held up for the people to see, reminds us that, just as Christ was broken for us, we must also be broken for one another in sacrifice.

However, having said the above, the Novus Ordo liturgy is not primarily focused on the idea of sacrifice either in its language or in its liturgical actions. By contract, the Latin Mass revolves around the concept of the Mass as a mystical participation in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. The priest, anointed in a special way for this special role, parts a mystical veil and transports us, we might say, trans-historically (my word), to the foot of the Cross. In the Latin Mass, the faithful are not gathered around a table for a sacred meal; they are in a posture of worship beneath the cross. They are looking up at Christ being crucified.

The focus of the priest is not to preside at a meal, but to offer the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ, united in a mystical way, across time, with the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Thus, the priest’s attention is not primarily directed to the faithful present. He does not stand facing toward the people, because his focus is on the sacrifice being offered on the altar. He does not, for the most part, speak to the people, but addresses most of his words to God, sometimes in a voice inaudible to the congregation.

Since the focus of the Latin Mass is participation in the sacrifice of the Cross, the demeanor of the liturgy is, of necessity, going to be very different from that of a celebratory sacred meal. The motto of the Latin Mass might be, “If it doesn’t belong at the foot of the cross, it doesn’t belong at Mass.” Would we play lively guitar music at the foot of the Cross? Would we tell jokes at the foot of the Cross? Would we chit-chat and socialize at the foot of the Cross?

But, one might ask, what is it that the people are allowed to do? The chief objection leveled at the Latin Mass is that the faithful are merely spectators, who see and hear very little of the actions and words of the priest, and therefore cannot participate in the ritual fully. Instead, many people in the congregation might be quietly reciting the Rosary during the Mass. The Second Vatican Council famously called for the full, active, and conscious participation of the faithful at each liturgy. How could the faithful possibly be so engaged in the context of the traditional Latin Mass?

My answer is that the understanding of full, active, and conscious participation in vogue today is, in my opinion, far too limited. The popular assumption prevalent today is that the complete participation in the Mass called for by Vatican II requires speaking certain words, dialoging with the priest, and singing along with the cantor or choir, as well as seeing and hearing everything that is happening during the liturgy.

But from my perspective, there is another way to participate just as deeply and just as meaningfully. The faithful can participate in the Mass fully, actively, and consciously by uniting themselves internally, spiritually with the sacrifice being offered. The faithful are not mere spectators. They are at the foot of the Cross, worshiping Christ Crucified.

For the faithful, the Latin Mass is an invitation into a contemplation of all that the crucifixion entails – our salvation, our forgiveness, our spiritual healing, our cleansing in the Blood of the Lamb - a sacrifice of propitiation offered to God, through which the world is reconciled to its Creator. We are also invited into reflecting on what the Cross entails for each of us in our lives - the purifying nature of our own suffering, the profound value of accepting suffering for one another, the transformative efficacy of choosing forms of suffering to offer for one another.

Nor would praying the Rosary distract us from such reflections, since the Rosary is an extended meditation on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and, therefore, the Rosary helps us enter more deeply into the contemplation of the mystery of the Cross. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that, for the properly disposed participant, far from being a distraction, the Rosary can form a symbiotic relationship with the Latin Mass.

After our contemplation of and spiritual union with the sacrifice of Christ, we then receive the fruit of that sacrifice, the Body and Blood of Christ under the appearance of bread and wine. We become physically united with the Lamb of God offered in sacrifice on our behalf. The spiritual and ecclesial benefits of receiving Communion are vast and numerous – but one of the key blessings we are given is the strength to embrace our own cross in our own lives and to carry our cross from day to day, in union with Christ.

By focusing on the sacrifice of Christ and by transporting us to the foot of the Cross, the Latin Mass upholds and proclaims the spiritual value of suffering. As such, the Latin Mass is the single most counter-cultural thing in the world today. Our secular world, which seeks to eradicate all memory of Christianity from our culture, hates nothing more than the Cross. On the one hand, modern technology has helped us do away with much preventable suffering, which is commendable. But our culture pushes us to go much further than that. The chief message of the secular world is that we should never suffer. We must always medicate or self-medicate, we must drown out all pain, anguish, or even inconvenience and boredom, with entertainment, possessions, ephemeral pleasures. In the face of such cultural messages, the most radical thing we can do is to do as Christ commanded and willingly – fully, actively, and consciously – take up our cross. The Latin Mass guides us into exactly that.

Of course, one might object, that the image I present here of the faithful's sublime participation in the Latin Mass is overly idealistic, and that historically many people did not reach such levels of engagement with the mystery of the traditional liturgy. Maybe so. But by the same token, my description of the Novus Ordo celebration above is truly idealized and is a far cry from how most Novus Ordo liturgies are celebrated in the day-to-day life of the Church.

I myself have, as mentioned above, attended Novus Ordo liturgies all my life. I have experienced Novus Ordo Masses on four continents, in over a dozen countries, in many different languages, using a wide range of liturgical styles. The quality of those liturgical celebrations also spanned a wide spectrum. Ironically, the chief complaint I hear from participants in the Novus Ordo, which seeks so hard to engage the participants, is boredom. I must confess that I too have often been bored at Novus Ordo Masses, until I would receive Communion, when a profound peace would wash over me, and the boredom of the prior hour would be worth it. But I have also had many experiences of profound, transcendent, uplifting beauty. As I write this reflection, the Triduum liturgies celebrated at my Novus Ordo parish during Holy Week are still fresh in my mind. They were not just the best Triduum I have experienced, but quite possibly the best Novus Ordo liturgies I have ever participated in.

Whatever happens to the future of Catholic liturgy, there is much beauty in the Novus Ordo that I would be loath to part with completely. At the same time, I believe that the Latin Mass has much to offer to us as a Church and to our society. Whatever liturgical developments are to unfold in the Catholic Church in the future, I believe that one change should without question be made to the Novus Ordo - the recapturing of the centrality of the sacrifice of the Cross for our worship. The Catholic Mass, I believe, as did most Catholics for most of Church history, should focus first and foremost on Christ Crucified. From our embrace of the Cross, individually and collectively, flows healing - the healing of our souls, the healing of our Church, and the healing of our deeply diseased society.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Seven Sorrows Rosary


The Origin of the Devotion

Devotion to Our Lady of Sorrows has a long history in the Catholic Church. The specific Seven Sorrows Rosary prayer was entrusted to the Church by Our Lady when, in the 13th century, she appeared to a group of men who later formed into the Order of Servites. The devotion has received ecclesial approval and support.

Over the years, Our Lady has encouraged devotion to her Seven Sorrows in various apparitions. In more recent times, in 1982, she appeared in Kibeho, Rawanda, urging us to pray the Seven Sorrows Rosary.

In the Gospel of Luke, the Prophet Simeon states: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted, and you yourself a sword will pierce, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). As the Mother of God, the Virgin Mary was more connected to Christ than any other human being, and therefore she shared in the suffering of Christ in a unique way. No human being, other than the human nature of Christ, suffered as much as Mary did. Therefore, she understands the depth of our sorrow, and since is she the Mother of us all, she is always eager to help us if we call upon her.


Praying the Seven Sorrows Rosary

Make the Sign of the Cross.

Opening Prayers on the large medallion or cross:

Introductory Prayer: My God, I offer you this rosary for your glory, so I may honor your Holy Mother, the Blessed Virgin, so I can share and meditate upon her suffering. I humbly beg you to give me true repentance for all my sins. Give me wisdom and humility, so that I may receive all the indulgences contained in this prayer.

Act of Contrition: My God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell, but most of all because they offend you my God, who are all good and deserving of my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen.

One Hail Mary on each of the first three beads, in honor of the tears of the Virgin Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The First Sorrow: The Prophecy of Simeon (Luke 2:22-35)

Reflection: Mary, being sinless, lived her life in perfect conformity to the will of God. The knowledge that her Divine Son would be rejected and contradicted pierced her heart with anguish. Today Christ continues to be rejected and contradicted in the world, more so than ever before. In our own lives too, unlike our all-holy Mother, we often fail to live in complete conformity with the will of God, succumbing instead to the lure of the world. Let us beseech our Immaculate Mother for the healing of the world and of our hearts.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Second Sorrow: The Flight into Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15)

Reflection: God led the Israelites out of Egypt into the Promised Land. But now the Messiah has to flee from the Holy Land to Egypt. Mary is grieved by the rejection of her son and the suffering he will endure during their escape. She feels anguish for the Holy Innocents whom Herod slaughters in the attempt to take the life of Jesus. Today, many Christians have to flee their homeland because of anti-Christian persecution. More Christians have been martyred in our era than ever before. The faith is forced out of the public square more and more forcefully in our society. After his exile, Jesus returned from Egypt to the Holy Land. May faith in Christ return to our society as well.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Third Sorrow: The Losing of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52)

Reflection: As Mother of God, Mary had the singular honor of being with our Lord throughout his childhood. The separation of losing Jesus in the Temple pierces her heart with great sorrow. Jesus teaching in the Temple foreshadows the longer separation they must have in later years when he begins his earthly ministry as an adult. Losing Jesus for three days also foreshadows the three days in the tomb, after the anguish of Calvary. Mary never stopped worshipping Christ during their physical separation. But today, so many in the world do not know Christ and have no knowledge of his healing love. Mary found Jesus after her search. May our society, which, unlike our Holy Mother, keeps searching for answers in futile ways, also come to find Jesus.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Fourth Sorrow: Mary Meets Jesus on the Way of the Cross (Luke 23:27-31)

Reflection: Mary is filled with great anguish at seeing her Divine Son led away to execution, rejected by the jeering crowds. Today, the Church, the Body of Christ, is mocked, jeered at, and persecuted, almost entirely crushed in many lands formerly Catholic. As churches close and faith in Christ is displaced, we share in the grief of Mary, the Mother of the Church. But as Christ rose from the dead, may the Church of Christ experience new life in the face of ever-increasing persecution.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Fifth Sorrow: Jesus Dies on the Cross (John 19:25-27)

Reflection: As the Mother of God, Mary is more closely connected to Christ than any other human being, and thus, she experienced the suffering of Christ on the cross in a unique way. Her suffering was greater than that of any other human, other than the human nature of Christ. Therefore, she knows the anguish of our suffering, and, being our Mother, she is always ready to help us when we call upon her help. Let us always turn to her in our hour of sorrow.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Sixth Sorrow: Mary Receives the Body of Jesus from The Cross (John 19:38-40)

Reflection: Mary’s heart is filled with profound pain as she holds the body of her dead son in her arms. Her prompting of Jesus at the wedding of Cana to start his public ministry has led to this necessary moment. Although she believes in the ultimate triumph of her son over death, for this time, she is filled with sorrow. As we experience loss and death in our own lives, let us bring our sorrows to Mary, who knows our pain.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.


The Seventh Sorrow: Jesus is Placed in the Tomb (John 19:41-42)

Reflection: Who can console a mother who has to see her own son placed in the tomb? The separation foreshadowed by the losing of Jesus in the Temple has come true. Mary, who was granted more time with our Lord in her earthly life than any other human in this world, now has to suffer the anguish of being without him. In our own lives, may we always yearn for the presence of Christ with the same desire that our Holy Mother had. Let us seek him in the good works he enjoined upon us, in the reading of the Sacred Scriptures, and in the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist.

One Our Father for the small medallion or standalone bead: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

One Hail Mary for each of the seven beads: Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

At the end of the set: Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your son, Jesus.

Conclusion:

After the Seventh Sorrow, pray the following:

For the holy souls in Purgatory:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Concluding Prayers: Queen of Martyrs, your heart suffered so much. I beg you by the merits of the tears you shed in these terrible and sorrowful times, to obtain for me and for all the sinners of the world the grace of complete sincerity and repentance. Amen.

Mary who was conceived without sin and who suffered for us, pray for us. (3 times)

Make the Sign of the Cross.


Please note: The pictures in this post are from Google images and are not my own.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Four Videos to Guide You in Praying the Rosary

Our Lady has asked us to pray the Rosary daily. The following beautiful videos from YouTube can guide you in your prayer. If you are busy with a task that keeps you from using a physical Rosary, then you can play these videos on your phone or tablet to help you pray.








Saturday, October 7, 2017

Rosary Challenge: Pray One Rosary for Each Member of Your Family Every Day



Recently, I was reading a book called The Rosary: Your Weapon for Spiritual Warfare by Johnnette Benkovic and Thomas Sullivan. Towards the beginning, we see a description of a grandmother who would pray a Rosary for each of her grandchildren every day. She had thirteen grandchildren.

The prayerful grandmother gave me an idea. What if we all challenged ourselves to pray a Rosary for each member of our families? What if you prayed a Rosary every day for your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings each - whoever is in your immediate family?

If the prospect of so much prayer seems daunting, perhaps you could start with just one decade each. Or if even that is too daunting, how about one Our Father, One Hail Mary, and One Glory Be for each of them? If you can’t start big, start small. If you pray with a sincere commitment, sooner or later, you will feel the desire to pray more, and you will find the time to do so.

However we get started, today, on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, let us challenge ourselves to pray the Rosary every day for our families.

Photo: Inside the Basilica of the Rosary in Lourdes by Zoltan Abraham.

For more information on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, read the entries at Wikipedia and the Catholic News Agency.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Praying at the Cave of the Annunciation in Nazareth

March 25 is the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord in the Catholic Church, commemorating the appearance of the Archangel Gabriel in Nazareth to the Virgin Mary, as narrated in Luke 1:26-38, to reveal to her that she would become the Mother of God. Today, a magnificent two story basilica stands at the site. The bottom layer encloses the cave that, according to tradition, was the house of Mary, where the apparition and the Annunciation took place. The basilica is adorned with images of Our Lady from different parts of the world.








































Visiting the House of St. Joseph in Nazareth

March 19 is the Solemnity of St. Joseph's (though this year the celebration was transferred to Monday, March 20, because March 19 fell on a Sunday). Next to the magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth in the Holy Land stands the Church of St. Joseph, under which pilgrims can visit the excavated ruins of ancient homes dating back to the small community of Nazareth at the time of Jesus. One of these homes is believed to be the house of St. Joseph, where the Holy Family lived. The last picture shows a sign at the foot of the altar saying: "Hic erat subditus illis," meaning "He became obedient to them," a reference to the story of the young Jesus at the temple, told in Luke 2-41-51.