Archive for June, 2008

Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene on PRAYER

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

PRAYER: An excerpt from Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, OCD (1893-1953)

“Prayer is essentially an intimate conversation with God in which the soul seeks His presence, so that it may speak with Him in a friendly and affectionate way. It is a child talking with its Father, a friend conversing with his Friend. From its very nature, then, prayer is something intimate and interior. “For me,” said St. Therese of the Child Jesus, “prayer is an uplifting of the heart, a glance toward heaven, a cry of gratitude and of love in times of sorrow as well as of joy” (St, 11). In this perspective we must understand the traditional definition of prayer: elevatio mentis ad Deum, the raising of the mind to God, and not only the mind, but also, and especially, the heart.”

“Whatever form it takes, true prayer is not complicated or constrained; it is the breath of the soul that loves its God, the habitual attitude of the heart which tends toward God. The soul seeks Him, wants to live with Him, knows that every benefit, every help, comes from Him. Thus, spontaneously, without even thinking about it, the soul passes from the simple elevation toward God to the prayer of petition or to intimate colloquy, to arrive finally at the transport of the heart, the glance toward heaven. Prayer understood in this way is always possible, in all kinds of circumstances and in the midst of varying occupations; furthermore, for a soul who really loves God, it would be as impossible for it to interrupt prayer as it would be for it to stop breathing. We can thus understand how everyone, even those living in the world can fulfill the words of the Gospel: “Pray always” (Lk 18,1). The one condition necessary is to have a heart capable of loving; the stronger and more vigorous this love is, the deeper and more continuous will the prayer be.”

Kneeling for Communion at Papal Masses

Friday, June 27th, 2008


Vatican: Receiving Eucharist kneeling will be norm at papal liturgies

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

Most Blessed Sacrament

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Receiving the Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling before the pope will become the norm at papal liturgies, said the Vatican’s liturgist.

While current norms allow the faithful to receive the Eucharist in the hand while standing, Pope Benedict XVI has indicated a preference for the more traditional practice, said Msgr. Guido Marini, master of papal liturgical ceremonies.

Kneeling and receiving Communion on the tongue highlights “the truth of the real presence (of Christ) in the Eucharist, helps the devotion of the faithful and introduces the sense of mystery more easily,” he said in a June 26 interview with the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.

Pastorally speaking, he said “it is urgent to highlight and recover” these aspects of the sacredness and mystery of the Eucharist in modern times.

Generally at papal Masses, those receiving Communion from the pope stand and the majority choose to receive on the tongue.

But starting with a May 22 Mass outside the Basilica of St. John Lateran, two ushers placed a kneeler in front of the altar and the chosen communicants all knelt and received on the tongue.

At a June 15 Mass in the southern Italian port city of Brindisi, the pope again distributed Communion to the faithful on the tongue while they were kneeling.

In the Vatican newspaper interview, Msgr. Marini was asked if this practice was destined to become the norm in all papal celebrations, and he replied, “I really think so.”

He said “it is necessary not to forget that the distribution of Communion in the hand, from a juridical standpoint, remains up to now an indult,” which is an exemption from a general requirement that is granted by the Vatican to the bishops’ conferences which have requested it. He said the pope’s adoption of the traditional practice of distributing Communion “aims to highlight the force of the valid norm for the whole church.”

However, the pope’s preference for the traditional practice is not meant to “take anything away from the other” permissible form of standing or receiving the Eucharist in the hand, he said.

Msgr. Marini told the Vatican newspaper that Pope Benedict also would be introducing another change to future papal liturgies during his June 29 Mass marking the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the patron saints of Rome.

He said the pope would begin wearing a shorter pallium — a circular woolen band worn over the shoulders with a shorter strip hanging down the front and back — similar to the kind worn by Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict had been wearing a pallium similar to ones worn by popes in the first millennium, when the woolen band was wrapped around the pope’s shoulders and hung down his left side to just below his knees.

Msgr. Marini said the new pallium was chosen for two reasons: “to more heavily underline the continued development this liturgical vestment has had over the span of more than 12 centuries” and to be more practical.

The longer pallium the pope had been using created “different and troublesome problems,” he said.

The newer, shorter pallium is decorated with six red crosses instead of black ones. Like other palliums, the end piece is made of black silk, a symbol of the black sheep which the shepherd rescues and carries over his shoulder back to the flock.

The white woolen pallium is a sign of the pope’s and an archbishop’s authority over the Christian community and the Gospel authority of a shepherd called to carry his sheep, to lead them and to feed them.

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on Turning Together Toward the LORD, Part 3 of 5

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

Holy Father on Feast of the Baptism of our Lord.3. Praying in a “sacred direction” is a feature common in many religions (Think of Muslims who pray facing Mecca—a practice instituted by Mohammad, who initially had his followers pray facing Jerusalem.), and following similar customs in Judaism, the idea of a “sacred direction” has been a part of Christianity since the beginning. Only since the 1960’s has this concept been neglected in the Western Church, but now Pope Benedict XVI is teaching the whole Church to retrieve the babies that were thrown out with the bathwater during the confusing days of liturgical change over 40 years ago. The first Christians expected the return of Christ in glory to occur at the Mount of Olives, from where He ascended to His Father, and so it was a common practice for them during prayer to turn towards the Mount of Olives. This practice later evolved into the general custom of preferring to face Jerusalem during prayer, and as the Church spread through the Mediterranean world, this notion further changed into a connection between the light of the rising sun and the glory of the returning Son. The seeds of this idea are planted throughout Scripture (Wisdom 16:28, Zechariah 14:4, Malachi 3:2, Matthew 24:27 and 30, Luke 1:78, and Revelation 7:2), and the early Church placed great emphasis on this point. In the second century, St Justin Martyr wrote “For the word of His truth and wisdom is more ardent and more light-giving than the rays of the sun, and sinks down into the depths of heart and mind. Hence also the Scripture said, ‘His name shall rise up above the sun.’ And again, Zechariah says, ‘His name is the East.’” And St. Clement of Alexandria was even more emphatic: “In correspondence with the manner of the sun’s rising, prayers are made toward the sunrise in the East.” (For a much fuller explanation of this theme, I again recommend the splendid little book Turning Towards the Lord by Uwe Michael Lang, published in 2004 by Ignatius Press and introduced with a forward by Joseph Ratzinger.)

For these reasons, since the building of Christian churches began on a large scale in the fourth century, they have literally been “oriented” to the East wherever local geography permitted this, and even when the building could not run on an east-west axis, the apse of the church and the altar within it have been understood as “liturgical East”, the symbolic place of the glory of the LORD. Moreover, because the Eucharistic Prayer is addressed to God the Father and not to the congregation, the normal posture of the priest has always been to face the East with his congregation and offer the sacrifice of the Mass with and for them to the Father. Accordingly, it is a simple mistake to think of the priest as “having his back to the people” when they stand together on the same side of the altar; rather, the priest and people by their common “orientation” show that they are turning towards the LORD, a physical metaphor for the interior work of conversion which can thought of as the “reorientation” of our lives. This is why in nearly every place and for almost all of Christian history, the priest has stood with his people on the same side of the altar so that, together facing the East of the sacred liturgy, they could offer their lives while pleading the sacrifice of Christ, and it is this deep dimension of our common prayer which Pope Benedict wants us to retrieve from our own tradition.

SANCTUARY ANGELS: The Story of the Windows

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

On entering the church and looking toward the altar one sees the twin windows with the angels swinging censers toward the main altar, where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved. They point out the reason for your visit to the church. You come to adore the Blessed Sacrament, and they like arrows pointing the way, show that you are to turn your attention toward the tabernacle. This is the true language of symbolism, not pictures for the sake of pictures, but pictures which clearly point out some lesson.

Altar of St. Aloysius Gonzaga on his feastday

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Altar of St. Aloysius GonzagaSt. Aloysius Gonzaga, Jesuit Scholastic and Patron of Catholic Youth, was born in Castiglione, Italy. The first words St. Aloysius spoke were the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. He was destined for the military by his father (who was in service to Philip II), but by the age of 9 Aloysius had decided on a religious life, and made a vow of perpetual virginity. To safeguard himself from possible temptation, he would keep his eyes persistently downcast in the presence of women. St. Charles Borromeo gave him his first Holy Communion. A kidney disease prevented St. Aloysius from a full social life for a while, so he spent his time in prayer and reading the lives of the saints. Although he was appointed a page in Spain, St. Aloysius kept up his many devotions and austerities, and was quite resolved to become a Jesuit. His family eventually moved back to Italy, where he taught catechism to the poor. When he was 18, he joined the Jesuits, after finally breaking down his father, who had refused his entrance into the order. He served in a hospital during the plague of 1587 in Milan, and died from it at the age of 23, after receiving the last rites from St. Robert Bellarmine. The last word he spoke was the Holy Name of Jesus. St. Robert wrote the Life of St. Aloysius.

Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis.

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

Note from Fr. Lawrence: After doing research in the diocesan archives and reading old copies of the Maryan, the former school newspaper of St. Mary’s High School, I discovered that the titular, or official title of our parish church is St. Mary, Help of Christians. Also, in an old photograph of the sanctuary (see the vintage photos page), the invocation on the proscenium arch reads: Auxilium Christianorum, ora pro nobis: Help of Christians, pray for us. In the 1997 painting, the late Father Joseph Ripp had the invocation restored, and selected Mater Pacis Nostra: Our Mother Peace. Last November, this same invocation was used when Conrad Schmitt Studios designed the artwork for the proscenium arch. Salem (shalom) means peace (Jerusalem is the city of peace). While we have a connection to Our Lady of Peace through the name of our town, our patroness is St. Mary under her title “Help of Christians” and our Parish Patronal Solemnity is May 24, the Feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians.

Following you will find the article from the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia on Our Lady, Help of Christians:

The invocation Auxilium Christianorum (Help of Christians) originated in the sixteenth century. In 1576 Bernardino Cirillo, archpriest of Loreto, published at Macerreta two litanies of the Bl. Virgin, which, he contended, were used at Loreto: One a form which is entirely different from our present text, and another form (“Aliae litaniae B.M.V.”) identical with the litany of Loreto, approved by Clement VIII in 1601, and now used throughout the entire Church. This second form contains the invocation Auxilium Christianorum. Possibly the warriors, who returning from Lepanto (October 7, 1571) visited the sanctuary of Loreto, saluted the Holy Virgin there for the first time with this new title; it is more probable, however, that it is only a variation of the older invocation Advocata Christianorum, found in a litany of 1524. Torsellini (1597) and the Roman Breviary (24 May, Appendix) say that Pius V inserted the invocation in the litany of Loreto after the battle of Lepanto; but the form of the litany in which it is first found was unknown at Rome at the time of Pius V (see LITANY OF LORETO; Schuetz, “Gesch. des Rosenkranzgebets”, Paderborn, 1909, 243 sq.).

The feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, May 24, was instituted by Pius VII. By order of Napoleon, Pope Pius VII was arrested, 5 July, 1808, and detained a prisoner for three years at Savona, and then at Fontainebleau. In January, 1814, after the battle of Leipzig, he was brought back to Savona and set free on the vigil of the feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the Patroness of Savona. The journey to Rome was a veritable triumph. The Supreme Pontiff, attributing the victory of the Church after so much agony and distress to the Blessed Virgin Mary, visited many of her sanctuaries on the way and crowned her images (e.g. the “Madonna del Monte” at Cesena, “della Misericordia” at Treja, “della Colonne” and “della Tempestà” at Tolentino). The people crowded around the venerable Pontiff who had so bravely withstood the threats of Napoleon. He entered Rome on May 24, 1814, and was enthusiastically welcomed (McCaffrey, “History of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Cent.”, 1909, I, 52). To commemorate his own sufferings and those of the Church during his exile, he extended the feast of the Seven Dolours of Mary (September 15) to the universal Church. When Napoleon left Elba and returned to Paris, Murat was about to march through the Papal States from Naples; Pius VII fled to Savona (22 March, 1815), where he crowned the image of Our Lady of Mercy.

After the Congress of Vienna and the battle of Waterloo, Pope Pius VII returned to Rome, July 7, 1815. To give thanks to God and Our Lady he instituted for the Papal States the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians, to be celebrated on May 24, the anniversary of his first return. Soon, the Dioceses of Tuscany adopted it (in 1816) and others followed.

They hymns of the Office were composed by Brandimarte (Chevalier, “Repert. Hymnolog.”, II, 495). This feast is the patronal feast of Australia, a double of the first class with an octave (Ordo Australasiae, 1888), and in accordance with a vow (1891) is celebrated with great splendour in the churches of the Fathers of the Foreign Missions of Paris. It has attained special celebrity since St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Congregation, dedicated to Our Lady, Help of Christians (and the title of the mother church of his congregation at Turin). The Salesian Fathers have carried the devotion all over the world.

PREFACE: The Story of the Windows

Monday, June 16th, 2008

A note from Fr. Lawrence: In 1945, the T. C. Esser Studio of Milwaukee was commissioned by Msgr. Weber to design and make a completely new set of stained glass windows (minus the rose window in the choir loft) for St. Mary’s Church, in time for the 50th Anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone in 1947. The T. C. Esser Company was well-known for their work at St. John’s Cathedral in Milwaukee and St. Joseph Cathedral in Sioux Falls. When the windows were installed, a little booklet was published, The Story of the Windows, in order to assist parishioners in understanding the symbolism found in the windows. Below, please find the preface of the booklet, while the remaining descriptions of each window will be added in the next few weeks. Sacrament of Baptism

The Story of the Windows

Preface:  In this brief treatise on the new stained glass windows the first point to remember is that the parish church is our spiritual home besides being the House of God. We do whatever we can to make our homes beautiful and attractive, because the most sacred ties we have on earth are centered there. Similarly, the church is sacred, because it is the center of the spiritual life of the family and because God dwells there. That is why the bishops, priests and members of the Church have, through all the ages, made their edifices beautiful and fitting monuments to the God Who dwells in them and to the faith which is in their hearts.

The success of a stained glass window is largely a matter of a proper combination of light and color. The artist in stained glass aims to tame light by the use of color and by the proper combination of both produce something beautiful. The windows in St. Mary’s Church are the of the highest artistry in stained glass, finished on a tapestry background conceived by the French artists in the late 13th or early 14th century.

Our Lord explained the truths of religion in symbols and the early Christians used this sign language. The Church, the great respecter of traditions, continues the use of the early Christian symbols as her universal language, and the story of the windows in St. Mary’s Church is that of the symbols wrought in them.

As members of this parish, this church is your spiritual home. From the cradle to the grave every great spiritual event of your lives is centered in and about it, making it sacred to you. It must, therefore, be a source of pride to you to understand the furnishings of your church. You are proud of the furnishings in your homes, so you should be proud of those in your church home, the home of God and all His children. They are significant of the mysteries which at all times fill God’s house. When you come here let the circle of the symbols of the Church remind you of what God has done for you and of what He wants you to do for yourself.

The windows on the east side of the church portray how, step by step, God brought about the great events which led to the establishment of the Church, His Kingdom on earth. They show how He made available the unending graces of the Redemption. Those on the west side show what we must do in order to avail ourselves of those unending graces. We must use the sacraments for they are the means which God has given us to save ourselves.

Love your parish church. It is the dwelling place of God. It is your spiritual home.

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on Turning Together Towards the LORD, part 2 of 5

Monday, June 16th, 2008

2. The ritual forms of Catholic worship have changed and evolved many times throughout the centuries, and the architectural arrangements for the celebration of these ritual forms have likewise changed. Ordinarily, this process of change is slow, deliberate, and incremental, but in the 1960’s the Church experienced an intense burst of change which dramatically altered both the ritual forms of our worship and the architectural arrangements of our churches. Because there were so many changes in such a short span of time, all of the alterations were considered by most people to be essentially connected to each other, but that is not the case. A good example is the use of Latin in the liturgical texts promulgated after the II Vatican Council. Many people falsely believe that because Vatican II permitted the use of the vernacular languages in worship, the Council banished Latin from the modern Roman Rite. In fact, however, the same Council which permitted the use of the vernacular also insisted that all Catholics should be able to say and sing their parts of the new Mass in Latin. Celebrating the modern Roman Missal in Latin, therefore, is not in any way a rejection of the II Vatican Council; rather, the regular use of Latin in modern worship is precisely what the Council Fathers called for.

A similar confusion exists with respect to the location of the altar and the place of the priest at the altar. From Christian antiquity, most churches had only one altar, and it was freestanding, meaning that the priest could walk completely around it during the celebration of the liturgy. This custom was retained in the Christian East by Orthodox and Catholics alike, but in the West the altar was gradually pushed back from the center to the rear wall of the sanctuary, in large measure to allow it to merge architecturally with the tabernacle. This change was later accompanied by adding additional altars to most churches, eventually yielding the custom of having three altars in each church. Even before the Second Vatican Council, pastors and theologians began to argue for a return to our own tradition of having but one altar in each church. This was, in part, the fruit of the Liturgical Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries which reminded the Church, among other things, that the altar is the preeminent symbol of Christ in the liturgy. Accordingly, throughout the Western Church the old “high altars” found at the rear of the sanctuary were abandoned, changed, or replaced to allow the ancient and new custom of a freestanding altar. But just as this was happening, a novelty was introduced and attached to the newly detached altar: the custom of the priest and people facing each other across the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. How and why this novelty spread so far and so fast is a tale for another time and place; for now I want only to make this point: there is no essential connection between the liturgy of Vatican II, the freestanding altar, and the priest facing the people at the altar. In fact, even now the rubrics in the modern Roman Missal are written with the assumption that the priest and people are together facing liturgical East during the Mass, and as I explained last week, Pope Benedict XVI wants Catholics everywhere to understand that to be faithful to our own tradition, we must live in continuity with the Church’s worship in every age.

Next week: Why the East?

Fr. Jay Scott Newman on Turning Together Towards the LORD, Part 1 of 5

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Editor’s note: On the five Sundays of Lent, Father Jay Scott Newman, Pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina (, devoted his weekly bulletin column to explaining the origin, meaning, and purpose of the priest and people standing together on the same side of the altar during the offering of the Eucharistic Prayer, a custom often called praying ad orientem (towards the East) or ad Deum (towards God). With Fr. Newman’s permission, I am happy to reprint them on Salem Catholic. Below, you will find the first of five parts. (By the way, Fr. Newman is a friend of mine, and preached my First Sung Mass on June 14, 2003 at the Carmelite Monastery of Our Mother of Mercy and St. Joseph in Alexandria, SD. He would be an excellent guest preacher for our Forty Hours or a parish mission!)

From Christian antiquity, priests and people have celebrated the Holy Eucharist by facing together towards the LORD. This simple and obvious theological precept has been somewhat obscured in the last generation by the novel practice of the priest standing across the altar from the people during the Eucharistic Prayer, a custom almost never before found in the sacred liturgy except for rare instances of architectural necessity, and in the last few years, theologians and pastors have begun to review this novelty in light of the best scholarship and the experience of the past 40 years.

Before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Ratzinger was one of the most thoughtful and respected critics of the unintended consequences which flow from the priest and people facing each other across the altar during the Eucharistic Prayer. Ratzinger argued that this arrangement, in addition to being a radical novelty in Christian practice, has the effect of creating a circle of congregation and celebrant closed in upon itself rather than allowing the congregation and celebrant to be a pilgrim people together turned towards the LORD. And this closed circle, in turn, too easily renders the Eucharist more of a horizontal celebration of the congregation gathered than a vertical offering of the sacrifice of Christ to the Father. This flattening of divine worship into a self-referential celebration is, in part, what leads many Catholics to experience Mass as much less than the source and summit of the Church’s life, and the remedy for this malady is to open the closed circle and experience the power of turning together towards the LORD.

This can be done primarily in two ways: 1) return to the ancient and universal practice of the priest standing with the people on one side of the altar as they together face liturgical East, the place from which the glory of the LORD shines upon us, or 2) even when the priest and people remain separated on opposite sides of the altar, place a cross at the center of the altar to allow both celebrant and congregation to face the LORD. Pope Benedict, through his writing and by his example, is encouraging priests everywhere to work towards these goals to enrich the experience of divine worship and free us from the danger of solipsism (ed. “the position that knowledge of anything outside the mind is unjustified”), which is contained in self-referential ways of praying.

This is why you see today in the sanctuary a new crucifix standing at the center of the altar. In the weeks ahead, as we grow accustomed to this gentle modification of the way we pray together, I will review with you the meaning and practical consequences of the priest and people turning together towards the LORD. For those of you who would like to read about these matters in some depth, I recommend two books: The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger and Turning Towards the Lord by Uwe Michael Lang are both excellent places to learn about the nature and purpose of divine worship and the ways in which the Church’s ritual must reflect the reality of the sacred in liturgical prayer.

The Eucharist: Being conscious of the greatness of the gift…

Monday, June 9th, 2008

Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

from the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II:

“By giving the Eucharist the prominence it deserves, and by being careful not to diminish any of its dimensions or demands, we show that we are truly conscious of the greatness of this gift. We are urged to do so by an uninterrupted tradition, which from the first centuries on has found the Christian community ever vigilant in guarding this “treasure.” Inspired by love, the Church is anxious to hand on to future generations of Christians, without loss, her faith and teaching with regard to the mystery of the Eucharist. There can be no danger of excess in our care for this mystery, for “in this sacrament is recapitulated the whole mystery of our salvation.” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia n. 61)