Archive for February, 2010

March Ministry Schedule now online

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

The March 2010 Liturgical Ministry Schedule is now on line, and can be found on the right side-bar under pages, or by clicking here:  March 2010 Liturgical Ministry Schedule

The Spring EMBER DAYS

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

TODAY, Wednesday, February 24 and Friday and Saturday of this week are the traditional spring EMBER DAYS (or Lenten Embertide).  Below you will find a brief explanation of the traditional Ember Days:

The “Quatuor Temporum” or “Four Times,” or Ember Days

What Are They?

  • The Ember Days are four series of Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays which correspond to the natural seasons of the year. Autumn brings the September, or Michaelmas, Embertide; winter, the Advent Embertide; Spring, the Lenten Embertide; and in summer, the Whit Embertide (named after Whitsunday, the Feast of Pentecost).
  • The English title for these days, “Ember,” is derived from their Latin name: Quatuor Temporum, meaning the “Four Times” or “Four Seasons.”
  • The Embertides are periods of prayer and fasting, with each day having its own special Mass.

What Is Their Significance?

The Ember Days Are…

Universally Christian,

  • The Old Law prescribes a “fast of the fourth month, and a fast of the fifth, and a fast of the seventh, and a fast of tenth” (Zechariah 8:19). There was also a Jewish custom at the time of Jesus to fast every Tuesday and Thursday of the week.
  • The first Christians amended both of these customs, fasting instead on every Wednesday and Friday: Wednesday because it is the day that Christ was betrayed, and Friday because it is the day that He was slain. (And we now know that this biweekly fast is actually older than some books of the New Testament). Later, Christians from both East and West added their own commemorations of the seasons.
  • The Ember Days thus perfectly express and reflect the essence of Christianity. Christianity does not abolish the Law but fulfills it (Mt. 5:17) by following the spirit of the Law rather than its letter. Thus, not one iota of the Law is to be neglected (Mt. 5:18), but every part is to be embraced and continued, albeit on a spiritual, or figurative, level. And living in this spirit is nothing less than living out the New Covenant.  

Uniquely Roman,

  • The Apostles preached one and the same faith wherever they went, but sometimes instituted different customs and practices. Thus, Christians came to love not only the universal faith but the particular apostolic traditions which had initiated them into that faith.
  • The Roman appropriation of the Ember Days involved adding one day: Saturday. This was seen as the culmination of the Ember Week. A special Mass and procession to St. Peter’s in Rome was held, and the congregation was invited to “keep vigil with Peter.”
  • Observing the Ember Days, therefore, not only celebrates our continuity with sacred history, but with our own ecclesiastical tradition. 

Usefully Natural,

  • But continuity is not important because of a blind loyalty to one’s own or a feeling of nostalgia. On the contrary, the Christian fulfillment of the Law is important because of its pedagogical value. Everything in the Law (not to mention the rest of the Bible) is meant to teach us something fundamental about God, His redemptive plan for us, or the nature of the universe, often on levels that are not initially apparent to us. In the case of both the Hebrew seasonal fasts and the Christian Ember Days, we are invited to consider the wonder of the natural seasons and their relation to God. The seasons, for example, can be said to intimate individually the bliss of Heaven, where there is “the beauty of spring, the brightness of summer, the plenty of autumn, the rest of winter” (St. Thomas Aquinas).
  • Second, because the liturgical seasons of the Church are meant to initiate us annually into the mysteries of our redemption, they should also include some commemoration of nature for the simple reason that nature is the very thing which grace perfects. 

Communally Clerical,

  • Another Roman variation of Embertides, instituted by Pope Gelasius I in 494, is to use Ember Saturdays as the day to confer Holy Orders.* Apostolic tradition prescribed that ordinations be preceded by fast and prayer (see Acts 13:3), and so it seemed quite reasonable to place ordinations at the end of this fast period. Moreover, this allows the entire community to join the men in fasting and praying for God’s blessing upon their calling and to share their joy in being called. 

And Personally Prayerful

  • In addition to commemorating the seasons of nature, each of the four Embertides takes on the character of the liturgical season in which it is located. In fact, the Ember Days add to our living out the times of the Church’s calendar. For example, Ember Wednesday of Advent (a.k.a the “Golden Mass”), commemorates the Annunciation while the Ember Friday two days later commemorates the Visitation, the only time in Advent when this is explicitly done.
  • Embertides thus afford us the opportunity to ruminate on a number of important things: the wondrous cycle of nature and the more wondrous story of our redemption, the splendid differentiation of God’s ordained servants — and lastly, the condition of our own souls. Traditionally, these were times of spiritual exercises and personal self-examination, the ancient equivalent of our modern retreats and missions. Little wonder, then, that a host of customs and folklore grew up around them affirming the special character of these days.

MORE ABOUT EMBER DAYS from: With Christ Through the Year by Rev. Bernard Strasser, O.S.B., illustrated by Sister M.A. Justina Knapp, O.S.B., Bruce Publishing Company, Copyright 1947.

While man’s prayer is often entirely a petition, liturgical prayer is primarily praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. A typical example of this is the Gloria of the Mass in which we note the gradual rise of praise of God until it reaches a wonderful climax: “Laudamus te. Benedicimus te. Adoramus te. Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.” (We praise Thee. We bless Thee. We adore Thee. We give Thee thanks for Thy great glory.) In her official liturgical prayers the Church constantly exhorts us to praise, adore, glorify, and thank God. Moreover, she has set aside special seasons to offer prayers of gratitude for the gifts of God. This happens four times a year on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday of the ember weeks which fall at the beginning of the four seasons of the year.

Ember days and ember weeks originated in early Christian days, and were first celebrated in Rome. Early in summer, in Pentecost week, the wheat was harvested. In order to thank God for this harvest, at the Offertory of the Mass a part (a so-called tithe, a tenth part) was offered for the benefit of the Church, the priests, and the poor. In like manner, it was customary to offer tithes of the other harvest in their respective seasons. When the grapes were harvested in September, there was another week of thanks, and similar offerings were made in December when the olive crop was gathered. The fruits of these harvests, wheat, wine, and oil, have been put to the highest possible use in the liturgy of the Church, for she uses them sacramentally, that is, as external signs of the inner grace imparted through her sacraments. She uses them sacramentally, that is, as external signs of the inner grace imparted through her sacraments. She uses bread and wine at the holy sacrifice of the Mass and at Holy Communion; she uses oil at Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Order, Extreme Unction, and for many of her sacramentals (baptismal water, blessing of bells, churches, chalices, etc.). Later, a fourth week of thanksgiving was added in the spring, when it is but natural for man to thank God for the awakening of nature, the budding of the first flowers, and the lengthened hours of daylight. Thus there was a portion to each season of the year a week of thanksgiving for the gifts of nature with which God has so generously enriched the world:

 

  1. In spring, during the week after Ash Wednesday, to give thanks for the rebirth of nature and for the gift of light.
  2. In summer, within the octave of Pentecost, to give thanks for the wheat crop.
  3. In autumn, beginning on the Wednesday immediately after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (September 14), to give thanks for the grape harvest.
  4. In winter, within the week following the Feast of St. Lucy (December 13), during the third week of Advent, to give thanks for the olive crop.

 On ember days we thank God four times a year for all the gifts of nature, especially for those used by the Church in her sacraments and sacramentals. We also thank Him for the sacraments, administered to us under the external signs of these gifts of nature.

Since the late 5th century, the Ember Saturdays were also the preferred dates for ordinations.  So during these times the Church had a threefold focus: (1) sanctifying each new season by turning to God through prayer, fasting and almsgiving; (2) giving thanks to God for the various harvests of each season; and (3) praying for the newly ordained and for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life. 

 

Father Norfolk and Bishop Swain

The Salem Sanctuary: Lent 2010

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Please notice the silver candlesticks and Altar Cross, and the unbleached beeswax candles.  All of our candles are mady by the Lux Candle Company of Ipswich, South Dakota: http://www.luxcandlecompany.com/

After over two years of catechesis and gradual implementation, our parish now celebrates the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem – in solidarity with the liturgical reforms promoted by our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.   The 1970’s “People’s Altar” (made from parts of the original Communion Rail) is in safe storage, and a much smaller altar for Masses “versus populum” has been made (to accomodate elderly priests who cannot make the three steps to the altar, etc.).

Complete Text of Msgr. Marini’s Conference of January 6th – INTRODUCTION to the SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY

Saturday, February 20th, 2010

Msgr. Guido Marini

INTRODUCTION TO THE SPIRIT OF THE LITURGY

(Editor’s note: Section 3 — on the direction the Celebrant faces during the Liturgy of the Eucharist–  is in bold for your convenience.   Please take note of its relevance.)

Vatican City, January 6, 2010

A Conference for the Year of the Priest

by Msgr. Guido Marini,

Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

I propose to focus on some topics connected to the spirit of the liturgy and reflect on them with you; indeed, I intend to broach a subject which would require me to say much. Not only because it is a demanding and complex task to talk about the spirit of the liturgy, but also because many important works treating this subject have already been written by authors of unquestionably high caliber in theology and the liturgy. I’m thinking of two people in particular among the many: Romano Guardini and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

One the other hand, it is now all the more necessary to speak about the spirit of the liturgy, especially for us members of the sacred priesthood. Moreover, there is an urgent need to reaffirm the “authentic” spirit of the liturgy, such as it is present in the uninterrupted tradition of the Church, and attested, in continuity with the past, in the most recent Magisterial teachings: starting from the second Vatican council up to the present pontificate. I purposefully used the word continuity, a word very dear to our present Holy Father. He has made it the only authoritative criterion whereby one can correctly interpret the life of the Church, and more specifically, the conciliar documents, including all the proposed reforms contained in them. How could it be any different? Can one truly speak of a Church of the past and a Church of the future as if some historical break in the body of the Church had occurred? Could anyone say that the Bride of Christ had lived without the assistance of the Holy Spirit in a particular period of the past, so that its memory should be erased, purposefully forgotten?

Nevertheless at times it seems that some individuals are truly partisan to a way of thinking that is justly and properly defined as an ideology, or rather a preconceived notion applied to the history of the Church which has nothing to do with the true faith.

An example of the fruit produced by that misleading ideology is the recurrent distinction between the preconciliar and the post conciliar Church. Such a manner of speaking can be legitimate, but only on condition that two Churches are not understood by it: one, the pre Conciliar Church, that has nothing more to say or to give because it has been surpassed, and a second, the post conciliar church, a new reality born from the Council and, by its presumed spirit, not in continuity with its past. This manner of speaking and more so of thinking must not be our own. Apart from being incorrect, it is already superseded and outdated, perhaps understandable from a historical point of view, but nonetheless connected to a season in the church’s life by now concluded.

Does what we have discussed so far with respect to “continuity” have anything to do with the topic we have been asked to treat in this lecture? Yes, absolutely. The authentic spirit of the liturgy does not abide when it is not approached with serenity, leaving aside all polemics with respect to the recent or remote past. The liturgy cannot and must not be an opportunity for conflict between those who find good only in that which came before us, and those who, on the contrary, almost always find wrong in what came before. The only disposition which permits us to attain the authentic spirit of the liturgy, with joy and true spiritual relish, is to regard both the present and the past liturgy of the Church as one patrimony in continuous development. A spirit, accordingly, which we must receive from the Church and is not a fruit of our own making. A spirit, I add, which leads to what is essential in the liturgy, or, more precisely, to prayer inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit, in whom Christ continues to become present for us today, to burst forth into our lives. Truly, the spirit of the liturgy is the liturgy of the Holy Spirit.

I will not pretend to plumb the depths of the proposed subject matter, nor to treat all the different aspects necessary for a panoramic and comprehensive understanding of the question. I will limit myself by discussing only a few elements essential to the liturgy, specifically with reference to the celebration of the Eucharist, such as the Church proposes them, and in the manner I have learned to deepen my knowledge of them these past two years in service to our Holy Father, Benedict XVI. He is an authentic master of the spirit of the liturgy, whether by his teaching, or by the example he gives in the celebration of the sacred rites.

If, during the course of these reflections on the essence of the liturgy, I will find myself taking note of some behaviours that I do not consider in complete harmony with the authentic spirit of the liturgy, I will do so only as a small contribution to making this spirit stand out all the more in all its beauty and truth.

1. The Sacred Liturgy, God’s great gift to the Church.

We are all well aware how the second Vatican Council dedicated the entirety of its first document to the liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium. It was labeled as the Constitution on the sacred liturgy.

I wish to underline the term sacred in its application to the liturgy, because of its importance. As a matter of fact, the council Fathers intended in this way to reinforce the sacred character of the liturgy.

What, then, do we mean by the sacred liturgy? The East would in this case speak of the divine dimension in the Liturgy, or, to be more precise, of that dimension which is not left to the arbitrary will of man, because it is a gift which comes from on high. It refers, in other words, to the mystery of salvation in Christ, entrusted to the Church in order to make it available in every moment and in every place by means of the objective nature of the liturgical and sacramental rites. This is a reality surpassing us, which is to be received as gift, and which must be allowed to transform us. Indeed, the second Vatican Council affirms: “…every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others…” (Sacrosanctum concilium, n.7)

From this perspective it is not difficult to realise how far distant some modes of conduct are from the authentic spirit of the liturgy. In fact, some individuals have managed to upset the liturgy of the church in various ways under the pretext of a wrongly devised creativity. This was done on the grounds of adapting to the local situation and the needs of the community, thus appropriating the right to remove from, add to, or modify the liturgical rite in pursuit of subjective and emotional ends. For this, we priests are largely responsible.

For this reason, already back in 2001, the former Cardinal Ratzinger asserted: “There is need of, at the very least, of a new liturgical awareness that might put a stop to the tendency to treat the liturgy as if it were an object open to manipulation. We have reached the point where liturgical groups stitch together the Sunday liturgy on their own authority. The result is certainly the imaginative product of a group of able and skilled individuals. But in this way the space where one may encounter the “totally other” is reduced, in which the holy offers Himself as gift; what I come upon is only the skill of a group of people. It is then that we realise that we are looking for something else. It is too little, and at the same time, something different. The most important thing today is to acquire anew a respect for the liturgy, and an awareness that it is not open to manipulation. To learn once again to recognise in its nature a living creation that grows and has been given as gift, through which we participate in the heavenly liturgy. To renounce seeking in it our own self-realisation in order to see a gift instead. This, I believe, is of primary importance: to overcome the temptation of a despotic behaviour, which conceives the liturgy as an object, the property of man, and to re-awaken the interior sense of the holy.” (from ‘God and the World’; translation from the Italian)

To affirm, therefore, that the liturgy is sacred presupposes the fact that the liturgy does not exist subject to the sporadic modifications and arbitrary inventions of one individual or group. The liturgy is not a closed circle in which we decide to meet, perhaps to encourage one another, to feel we are the protagonists of some feast. The liturgy is God’s summons to his people to be in His presence; it is the advent of God among us; it is God encountering us in this world.

A certain adaptation to particular local situations is foreseen and rightly so. The Missal itself indicates where adaptations may be made in some of its sections, yet only in these and not arbitrarily in others. The reason for this is important and it is good to reassert it: the liturgy is a gift which precedes us, a precious treasure which has been delivered by the age-old prayer of the Church, the place in which the faith has found its form in time and its expression in prayer. It is not made available to us in order to be subjected to our personal interpretation; rather, the liturgy is made available so as to be fully at the disposal of all, yesterday just as today and also tomorrow. “Our time, too,” wrote Pope John Paul II in his Encyclical letter Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “calls for a renewed awareness and appreciation of liturgical norms as a reflection of, and a witness to, the one universal Church made present in every celebration of the Eucharist.” (n. 52)

In the brilliant Encyclical Mediator Dei, which is so often quoted in the constitution on the sacred Liturgy, Pope Pius XII defines the liturgy as “…the public worship… the worship rendered by the Mystical Body of Christ in the entirety of its Head and members.” (n. 20) As if to say, among other things, that in the liturgy, the Church “officially” identifies herself in the mystery of her union with Christ as spouse, and where she “officially” reveals herself. What casual folly it is indeed, to claim for ourselves the right to change in a subjective way the holy signs which time has sifted, through which the Church speaks about herself, her identity and her faith!

The people of God has a right that can never be ignored, in virtue of which, all must be allowed to approach what is not merely the poor fruit of human effort, but the work of God, and precisely because it is God’s work, a saving font of new life.

I wish to prolong my reflection a moment longer on this point, which, I can testify, is very dear to the Holy Father, by sharing with you a passage from Sacramentum Caritatis, the Apostolic Exhortation of His Holiness, Benedict XVI, written after the Synod on the Holy Eucharist. “Emphasising the importance of the ars celebrandi,” the Holy Father writes, “also leads to an appreciation of the value of the liturgical norms… The eucharistic celebration is enhanced when priests and liturgical leaders are committed to making known the current liturgical texts and norms… Perhaps we take it for granted that our ecclesial communities already know and appreciate these resources, but this is not always the case. These texts contain riches which have preserved and expressed the faith and experience of the People of God over its two-thousand-year history.” (n. 40)

2. The orientation of liturgical prayer.

Over and above the changes which have characterised, during the course of time, the architecture of churches and the places where the liturgy takes place, one conviction has always remained clear within the Christian community, almost down to the present day. I am referring to praying facing east, a tradition which goes back to the origins of Christianity.

What is understood by “praying facing east”? It refers to the orientation of the praying heart towards Christ, from whom comes salvation, and to whom it is directed as in the beginning so at the end of history. The sun rises in the east, and the sun is a symbol of Christ, the light rising in the Orient. The messianic passage in the Benedictus canticle comes readily to mind: “Through the tender mercy of our God; * whereby the Orient from on high hath visited us”

Very reliable and recent studies have by now proven effectively that, in every age of its past, the Christian community has found the way to express even in the external and visible liturgical sign, this fundamental orientation for the life of faith. This is why we find churches built in such a way that the apse was turned to the east. When such an orientation of the sacred space was no longer possible, the Church had recourse to the Crucifix placed upon the altar, on which everyone could focus. In the same vein many apses were decorated with resplendent representations of the Lord. All were invited to contemplate these images during the celebration of the Eucharistic liturgy.

Without recourse to a detailed historical analysis of the development of Christian art, we would like to reaffirm that prayer facing east, more specifically, facing the Lord, is a characteristic expression of the authentic spirit of the liturgy. It is according to this sense that we are invited to turn our hearts to the Lord during the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, as the introductory dialogue to the Preface well reminds us. Sursum corda “Lift up your hearts,” exhorts the priest, and all respond: Habemus ad Dominum “We lift them up unto the Lord.” Now if such an orientation must always be adopted interiorly by the entire Christian community when it gathers in prayer, it should be possible to find this orientation expressed externally by means of signs as well. The external sign, moreover, cannot but be true, in such a way that through it the correct spiritual attitude is rendered visible.

Hence the reason for the proposal made by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, and presently reaffirmed during the course of his pontificate, to place the Crucifix on the center of the altar, in order that all, during the celebration of the liturgy, may concretely face and look upon Lord, in such a way as to orient also their prayer and hearts. Let us listen to the words of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, directly, who in the preface to the first book of his Complete Works, dedicated to the liturgy, writes the following: “The idea that the priest and people should stare at one another during prayer was born only in modern Christianity, and is completely alien to the ancient Church. The priest and people most certainly do not pray one to the other, but to the one Lord. Therefore, they stare in the same direction during prayer: either towards the east as a cosmic symbol of the Lord who comes, or, where this is not possible, towards the image of Christ in the apse, towards a crucifix, or simply towards the heavens, as our Lord Himself did in his priestly prayer the night before His Passion (John 17.1) In the meantime the proposal made by me at the end of the chapter treating this question in my work ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ is fortunately becoming more and more common: rather than proceeding with further transformations, simply to place the crucifix at the center of the altar, which both priest and the faithful can face and be lead in this way towards the Lord, whom everyone addresses in prayer together.” (trans. from the Italian.)

Let it not be said, moreover, that the image of our Lord crucified obstructs the sight of the faithful from that of the priest, for they are not to look to the celebrant at that point in the liturgy! They are to turn their gaze towards the Lord! In like manner, the presider of the celebration should also be able to turn towards the Lord. The crucifix does not obstruct our view; rather it expands our horizon to see the world of God; the crucifix brings us to meditate on the mystery; it introduces us to the heavens from where the only light capable of making sense of life on this earth comes. Our sight, in truth, would be blinded and obstructed were our eyes to remain fixed on those things that display only man and his works.

In this way one can come to understand why it is still possible today to celebrate the holy Mass upon the old altars, when the particular architectural and artistic features of our churches would advise it. Also in this, the Holy Father gives us an example when he celebrates the holy Eucharist at the ancient altar of the Sistine Chapel on the feast of the Baptism of our Lord.

In our time, the expression “celebrating facing the people” has entered our common vocabulary. If one’s intention in using this expression is to describe the location of the priest, who, due to the fact that today he often finds himself facing the congregation because of the placement of the altar, in this case such an expression is acceptable. Yet such an expression would be categorically unacceptable the moment it comes to express a theological proposition. Theologically speaking, the holy Mass, as a matter of fact, is always addressed to God through Christ our Lord, and it would be a grievous error to imagine that the principal orientation of the sacrificial action is the community. Such an orientation, therefore, of turning towards the Lord must animate the interior participation of each individual during the liturgy. It is likewise equally important that this orientation be quite visible in the liturgical sign as well.

3. Adoration and union with God.

Adoration is the recognition, filled with wonder, we could even say ecstatic, (because it makes us come out of ourselves and our small world) the recognition of the infinite might of God, of His incomprehensible majesty, and of His love without limit which he offers us absolutely gratuitously, of His omnipotent and provident Lordship. Consequently, adoration leads to the reunification of man and creation with God, to the abandonment of the state of separation, of apparent autonomy, to loss of self, which is, moreover, the only way of regaining oneself.

Before the ineffable beauty of God’s charity, which takes form in the mystery of the Incarnate Word, who for our sake has died and is risen, and which finds its sacramental manifestation in the liturgy, there is nothing left for us but to be left in adoration. “In the paschal event and the Eucharist which makes it present throughout the centuries,” affirms Pope John Paul II in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, “there is a truly enormous capacity which embraces all of history as the recipient of the grace of the redemption. This amazement should always fill the Church assembled for the celebration of the Eucharist.” (n.5)

“My Lord and my God,” we have been taught to say from childhood at the moment of the consecration. In such a way, borrowing the words of the apostle St. Thomas, we are led to adore the Lord, made present and living in the species of the holy Eucharist, uniting ourselves to Him, and recognising Him as our all. From there it becomes possible to resume our daily way, having found the correct order of life, the fundamental criterion whereby to live and to die.

Here is the reason why everything in the liturgical act, through the nobility, the beauty, and the harmony of the exterior sign, must be condusive to adoration, to union with God: this includes the music, the singing, the periods of silence, the manner of proclaiming the Word of the Lord, and the manner of praying, the gestures employed, the liturgical vestments and the sacred vessels and other furnishings, as well as the sacred edifice in its entirety. It is under this perspective that the decision of his Holiness, Benedict XVI, is to be taken into consideration, who, starting from the feast of Corpus Christi last year, has begun to distribute holy Communion to the kneeling faithful directly on the tongue. By the example of this action, the Holy Father invites us to render visible the proper attitude of adoration before the greatness of the mystery of the Eucharistic presence of our Lord. An attitude of adoration which must be fostered all the more when approaching the most holy Eucharist in the other forms permitted today.

I would like to cite once more another passage from the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis: “During the early phases of the reform, the inherent relationship between Mass and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was not always perceived with sufficient clarity. For example, an objection that was widespread at the time argued that the eucharistic bread was given to us not to be looked at, but to be eaten. In the light of the Church’s experience of prayer, however, this was seen to be a false dichotomy. As Saint Augustine put it: ‘nemo autem illam carnem manducat, nisi prius adoraverit; peccemus non adorando – no one eats that flesh without first adoring it; we should sin were we not to adore it.’ In the Eucharist, the Son of God comes to meet us and desires to become one with us; eucharistic adoration is simply the natural consequence of the eucharistic celebration, which is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration. Receiving the Eucharist means adoring him whom we receive. Only in this way do we become one with him, and are given, as it were, a foretaste of the beauty of the heavenly liturgy.” (n.66)

I think that, among others, the following passage from the text I just read should not go unnoticed: “[The Eucharistic celebration] is itself the Church’s supreme act of adoration.” Thanks to the holy Eucharist, his Holiness, Benedict XVI, asserts once more: “The imagery of marriage between God and Israel is now realised in a way previously inconceivable: it had meant standing in God’s presence, but now it becomes union with God through sharing in Jesus’ self-gift, sharing in his body and blood.” (Deus Caritas est, n.13) For this reason, everything in the liturgy, and more specifically in the Eucharistic liturgy, must lead to adoration, everything in the unfolding of the rite must help one enter into the Church’s adoration of her Lord.

To consider the liturgy as locus for adoration, for union with God, does not mean to loose sight of the communal dimension in the liturgical celebration, even less to forget the imperative of charity toward one’s neighbour. On the contrary, only through a renewal of the adoration of God in Christ, which takes form in the liturgical act, will an authentic fraternal communion and a new story of charity and love arise, depending on that ability to wonder and act heroically, which only the grace of God can give to our poor hearts. The lives of the saints remind and teach us this. “Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own. Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians.” (Deus caritas est, n. 14)

4. Active Participation.

It was really the saints who have celebrated and lived the liturgical act by participating actively. Holiness, as the result of their lives, is the most beautiful testimony of a participation truthfully active in the liturgy of the Church.

Rightly, then, and by divine providence did the second Vatican Council insist so much on the necessity of promoting an authentic participation on the part of the faithful during the celebration of the holy mysteries, at the same time when it reminded the Church of the universal call to holiness. This authoritative direction from the council has been confirmed and proposed again and again by so many successive documents of the magisterium down to the present day.

Nevertheless, there has not always been a correct understanding of the concept of “active participation”, according to how the Church teaches it and exhorts the faithful to live it. To be sure, there is active participation when, during the course of the liturgical celebration, one fulfills his proper service; there is active participation too when one has a better comprehension of God’s word when it is heard or of the prayers when they are said; there is also active participation when one unites his own voice to that of the others in song….All this, however, would not signify a participation truthfully active if it did not lead to adoration of the mystery of salvation in Christ Jesus, who for our sake died and is risen. This is because only he who adores the mystery, welcoming it into his life, demonstrates that he has comprehended what is being celebrated, and so is truly participating in the grace of the liturgical act.

As confirmation and support for what has just been asserted, let us listen once again to the words of a passage by the then Cardinal Ratzinger, from his fundamental study “The Spirit of the Liturgy”: “What does this active participation come down to? What does it mean that we have to do? Unfortunately the word was very quickly misunderstood to mean something external, entailing a need for general activity, as if as many people as possible, as often as possible, should be visibly engaged in action. However, the word ‘part-icipation’ refers to a principal action in which everyone has a ‘part’…By the actio of the liturgy the sources mean the Eucharistic prayer. The real liturgical action, the true liturgical act, is the oratio….This oratio—the Eucharistic Prayer, the “Canon”—is really more than speech; it is actio in the highest sense of the word.” (pp. 171-2) Christ is made present in all of his salvific work, and for this reason the human actio becomes secondary and makes room for the divine actio, to God’s work.

Thus the true action which is carried out in the liturgy is the action of God Himself, his saving work in Christ, in which we participate. This is, among other things, the true novelty of the Christian liturgy with respect to every other act of worship: God Himself acts and accomplishes that which is essential, whilst man is called to open himself to the activity of God, in order to be left transformed. Consequently, the essential aspect of active participation is to overcome the difference between God’s act and our own, that we might become one with Christ. This is why, that I might stress what has been said up to now, it is not possible to participate without adoration. Let us listen to another passage from Sacrosanctum Concilium: “The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ’s faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators; on the contrary, through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God’s word and be nourished at the table of the Lord’s body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the Immaculate Victim, not only through the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn also to offer themselves; through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that finally God may be all in all.” (n. 48)

Compared to this, everything else is secondary. I am referring in particular to external actions, granted they be important and necessary, and foreseen above all during the Liturgy of the Word. I mention the external actions because, should they become the essential preoccupation and the liturgy is reduced to a generic act, in that case the authentic spirit of the liturgy has been misunderstood. It follows that an authentic education in the liturgy cannot consist simply in learning and practicing exterior actions, but in an introduction to the essential action, which is God’s own, the paschal mystery of Christ, whom we must allow to meet us, to involve us, to transform us. Let not the mere execution of external gestures be confused with the correct involvement of our bodies in the liturgical act. Without taking anything away from the meaning and importance of the external action which accompanies the interior act, the Liturgy demands a lot more from the human body. It requires, in fact, its total and renewed effort in the daily actions of this life. This is what the Holy Father, Benedict XVI calls “Eucharistic coherence”. Properly speaking, it is the timely and faithful exercise of such a coherence or consistency which is the most authentic expression of participation, even bodily, in the liturgical act, the salvific action of Christ.

I wish to discuss this point further. Are we truly certain that the promotion of an active participation consists in rendering everything to the greatest extent possible immediately comprehensible? May it not be the case that entering into God’s mystery might be facilitated and, sometimes, even better accompanied by that which touches principally the reasons of the heart? Is it not often the case that a disproportionate amount of space is given over to empty and trite speech, forgetting that both dialogue and silence belong in the liturgy, congregational singing and choral music, images, symbols, gestures? Do not, perhaps, also the Latin language, Gregorian chant, and sacred polyphony belong to this manifold language which conducts us to the center of the mystery?

5. Sacred or liturgical music.

There is no doubt that a discussion, in order to introduce itself authentically into the spirit of the liturgy, cannot pass over sacred or liturgical music in silence.

I will limit myself to a brief reflection in way of orienting the discussion. One might wonder why the Church by means of its documents, more or less recent, insists in indicating a certain type of music and singing as particularly consonant with the liturgical celebration. Already at the time of the Council of Trent the Church intervened in the cultural conflict developing at that time, reestablishing the norm whereby music conforming to the sacred text was of primary importance, limiting the use of instruments and pointing to a clear distinction between profane and sacred music. Sacred music, moreover, must never be understood as a purely subjective expression. It is anchored to the biblical or traditional texts which are to be sung during the course of the celebration. More recently, Pope Saint Pius X intervened in an analogous way, seeking to remove operatic singing from the liturgy and selecting Gregorian chant and polyphony from the time of the Catholic reformation as the standard for liturgical music, to be distinguished from religious music in general. The second Vatican Council did naught but reaffirm the same standard, so too the more recent magisterial documents.

Why does the Church insist on proposing certain forms as characteristic of sacred and liturgical music which make them distinct from all other forms of music? Why, also, do Gregorian chant and the classical sacred polyphony turn out to be the forms to be imitated, in light of which liturgical and even popular music should continue to be produced today?

The answer to these questions lies precisely in what we have sought to assert with regard to the spirit of the liturgy. It is properly those forms of music, in their holiness, their goodness, and their universality, which translate in notes, melodies and singing the authentic liturgical spirit: by leading to adoration of the mystery celebrated, by favouring an authentic and integral participation, by helping the listener to capture the sacred and thereby the essential primacy of God acting in Christ, and finally by permitting a musical development that is anchored in the life of the Church and the contemplation of its mystery.

Allow me to quote the then Cardinal Ratzinger one last time: “Gandhi highlights three vital spaces in the cosmos, and demonstrates how each one of them communicates even its own mode of being. Fish live in the sea and are silent. Terrestrial animals cry out, but the birds, whose vital space is the heavens, sing. Silence is proper to the sea, crying out to the earth, and singing to the heavens. Man, however, participates in all three: he bares within him the depth of the sea, the weight of the earth, and the height of the heavens; this is why all three modes of being belong to him: silence, crying out, and song. Today…we see that, devoid of transcendence, all that is left to man is to cry out, because he wishes to be only earth and seeks to turn into earth even the heavens and the depth of the sea. The true liturgy, the liturgy of the communion of saints, restores to him the fullness of his being. It teaches him anew how to be silent and how to sing, opening to him the profundity of the sea and teaching him how to fly, the nature of an angel; elevating his heart, it makes that song resonate in him once again which had in a way fallen asleep. In fact, we can even say that the true liturgy is recognisable especially when it frees us from the common way of living, and restores to us depth and height, silence and song. The true liturgy is recognisable by the fact that it is cosmic, not custom made for a group. It sings with the angels. It remains silent with the profound depth of the universe in waiting. And in this way it redeems the world.” (trans. from the Italian.)

At this point I would like to conclude the discussion. For some years now, several voices have been heard within Church circles talking about the necessity of a new liturgical renewal. Of a movement, in some ways analogous to the one which formed the basis for the reform promoted by the second Vatican Council, capable of operating a reform of the reform, or rather, one more step ahead in understanding the authentic spirit of the liturgy and of its celebration; its goal would be to carry on that providential reform of the liturgy that the conciliar Fathers had launched but has not always, in its practical implementation, found a timely and happy fulfillment.

There is no doubt that in this new liturgical renewal it is we priests who are to recover a decisive role. With the help of our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary, mother of all priests, may this further development of the reform also be the fruit of our sincere love for the liturgy, in fidelity to the Church and the Holy Father.

Msgr. Guido Marini

Pontifical Master of Liturgical Ceremonies

St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J. (1641-1682) – Spiritual Director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Tomorrow, February 15th, is the liturgical memorial of St. Claude de la Colombière, S.J., spiritual director of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.  During a period of her life in which she was discredited and distressed, Saint Margaret Mary received this promise from Jesus: “I will send you My faithful servant and perfect friend.” What an eloquent Divine testimony in favor of Father Claude de La Colombière, the Jesuit priest who became the confidant of Saint Margaret Mary and the first person to spread the message of Paray-le-Monial. His story is inseparable from that of the holy Visitation nun. Saint Margaret Mary was the one who received the requests of the Heart of Jesus; but it is because Claude de La Colombière helped her understood the value of the Message, and submitted entirely to the will of God at the cost of immense sacrifices, that the devotion to the Heart of Jesus was able to develop for the greater good of Christendom.

   

♦    Biography from the Vatican website:  

CLAUDE LA COLOMBIÈRE, third child of the notary Bertrand La Colombière and Margaret Coindat, was born on 2nd February 1641 at St. Symphorien d’Ozon in the Dauphine, southeastern France. After the family moved to Vienne Claude began his early education there, completing his studies in rhetoric and philosophy in Lyon.

It was during this period that Claude first sensed his vocation to the religious life in the Society of Jesus. We know nothing of the motives which led to this decision. We do know, however, from one of his early notations, that he “had a terrible aversion for the life embraced”. This affirmation is not hard to understand by any who are familiar with the life of Claude, for he was very close to his family and friends and much inclined to the arts and literature and an active social life. On the other hand, he was not a person to be led primarily by his sentiments.

At 17 he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Avignon. In 1660 he moved from the Novitiate to the College, also in Avignon, where he pronounced his first vows and completed his studies in philosophy. Afterwards he was professor of grammar and literature in the same school for another five years.

In 1666 he went to the College of Clermont in Paris for his studies in theology. Already noted for his tact, poise and dedication to the humanities, Claude was assigned by superiors in Paris the additional responsibility of tutoring the children of Louis XIV’s Munster of Finance, Jean Baptiste Colbert.

His theological studies concluded and now a priest, Claude returned to Lyon. For a time he was teacher in the College, then full-time preacher and moderator of several Marian congregations.

Claude became noted for solid and serious sermons. They were ably directed at specific audiences and, faithful to their inspiration from the gospel, communicated to his listeners serenity and confidence in God. His published sermons produced and still produce significant spiritual fruits. Given the place and the short duration of his ministry, his sermons are surprisingly fresh in comparison with those of better-known orators.

The year 1674 was a decisive one for Claude, the year of his Third Probation at Maison Saint-Joseph in Lyon. During the customary month of the Exercises the Lord prepared him for the mission for which he had been chosen. His spiritual notes from this period allow one to follow step-by-step the battles and triumphs of the spirit, so extraordinarily attracted to everything human, yet so generous with God.

He took a vow to observe all the constitutions and rules of the Society of Jesus, a vow whose scope was not so much to bind him to a series of minute observances as to reproduce the sharp ideal of an apostle so richly described by St. Ignatius. So magnificent did this ideal seem to Claude that he adopted it as his program of sanctity. That it was indeed an invitation from Christ himself is evidenced by the subsequent feeling of interior liberation Claude experienced, along with the broadened horizons of the apostolate he witnesses to in his spiritual diary.

On 2nd February 1675 he pronounced his solemn profession and was named rector of the College at Paray-le-Monial. Not a few people wondered at this assignment of a talented young Jesuit to such an out-of the-way place as Paray. The explanation seems to be in the superiors’ knowledge that there was in Paray an unpretentious religious of the Monastery of the Visitation, Margaret Mary Alacoque, to whom the Lord was revealing the treasures of his Heart, but who was overcome by anguish and uncertainty. She was waiting for the Lord to fulfill his promise and send her “my faithful servant and perfect friend” to help her realize the mission for which he had destined her: that of revealing to the world the unfathomable riches of his love.

After Father Colombière’s arrival and her first conversations with him, Margaret Mary opened her spirit to him and told him of the many communications she believed she had received from the Lord. He assured her he accepted their authenticity and urged her to put in writing everything in their regard, and did all he could to orient and support her in carrying out the mission received. When, thanks to prayer and discernment, he became convinced that Christ wanted the spread of the devotion to his Heart, it is clear from Claude’s spiritual notes that he pledged himself to this cause without reserve. In these notes it is also clear that, even before he became Margaret Mary’s confessor, Claude’s fidelity to the directives of St. Ignatius in the Exercises had brought him to the contemplation of the Heart of Christ as symbol of his love.

After a year and half in Paray, in 1676 Father La Colombière left for London. He had been appointed preacher to the Duchess of York – a very difficult and delicate assignment because of the conditions prevailing in England at the time. He took up residence in St. James Palace in October.

In addition to sermons in the palace chapel and unremitting spiritual direction both oral and written, Claude dedicated his time to giving thorough instruction to the many who sought reconciliation with the Church they had abandoned. And even if there were great dangers, he had the consolation of seeing many reconciled to it, so that after a year he said: “I could write a book about the mercy of God I’ve seen Him exercise since I arrived here!”

The intense pace of his work and the poor climate combined to undermine his health, and evidence of a serious pulmonary disease began to appear. Claude, however, made no changes in his work or life style.

Of a sudden, at the end of 1678, he was calumniously accused and arrested in connection with the Titus Oates “papist plot”. After two days he was transferred to the severe King’s Bench Prison where he remained for three weeks in extremely poor conditions until his expulsion from England by royal decree. This suffering further weakened Claude’s health which, with ups and downs, deteriorated rapidly on his return to France.

During the summer of 1681 he returned to Paray, in very poor condition. On 15th February 1682, the first Sunday of Lent, towards evening Claude suffered the severe hemorrhage which ended his life.

On the 16th of June 1929 Pope Pius XI beatified Claude La Colombière, whose charism, according to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, was that of bringing souls to God along the gospel way of love and mercy which Christ revealed to us. On May 31, 1992, he was canonized by the Venerable Pope John Paul II at St. Peter’s in Rome.  His feast is celebrated on February 15th.

   

This excerpt is taken from the book SAINTS FOR SINNERS by Alban Goodier, S.J., IMAGE BOOKS EDITION 1959:

The beatification of Blessed Claude de La Colombière cannot be without interest to English Catholics, more especially to Catholics in London. Anyone passing St. James’s Palace may recall that for two years he lived there, in the last days of Charles II; therefore at that time he must often have been seen, passing down Pall Mall or up St. James’s Street, a singular figure in such a gay world, tolerated because he was a Frenchman, protected because he was the official chaplain of Mary of Modena, the wife of James, then Duke of York. But still more should his memory be dear to English Catholic hearts because it is to him that we owe it that, even in those times of trouble, the first formal petition for the establishment of the Feast of the Sacred Heart was sent to Rome from London. We may add another reason; unless we are mistaken Claude de La Colombière is the last resident in England not a martyr who has been beatified. On that account we would claim him as one of ourselves, closely allied with our martyrs. 

And yet, when we come to study his career, there is singularly little to be said about him; indeed one may assert that he has been remembered more because of his connection with the name of another than on his own account. Had he never come across St. Margaret Mary he might never have been known, any more than Bernadette would have been known, had it not been for the apparitions at Lourdes. Nor, when he is known, is it easy at first to discover the sanctity in its highest degree which was his. There is little to show us that any of his contemporaries and friends looked on him as anything more than an excellent religious, and even that on some accounts might have seemed to need qualification. There are saints whom no man would discover if God did not discover them for him; one of these was La Colombiere. There are saints who have never dreamt they were saints; it would seem that of no one could this be more truly said than of him.  

Claude de La Colombière was one of a family of seven children, two of whom died young, four of the rest embraced the religious life or the priesthood; of his childhood we know practically nothing. At the age of nine he went to a Jesuit school; almost all we know of his schooldays is that he “showed ability”; a remark that will have been made of many of his companions. When he was seventeen he entered the Jesuit novitiate; we are told that he had “a horrible aversion to the life he chose”, but he is not the only novice who has felt the same. He passed through his course of training very much as any other scholastic; if during his theology he was at the same time appointed tutor to the children of Colbert this was nothing exceptional. By an indiscretion of his own he lost that post; this threw him back into the colleges, where he held offices suited to one of rather more than average ability, but not of themselves suggestive of anything exceptional, whether in nature or in grace. He then made his third year of probation; after which, at the age of thirty-five, he was sent as superior to the residence at Paray-le-Monial. During his college days he had taught rhetoric, and had shown a gift for preaching; at the same time he was delicate in physique, and incapable of excessive work. It would seem that these two circumstances had decided his appointment to Paray, where he could exercise his talent without undue pressure or labor.  

His work in Paray was such as might have been expected of a good religious, little more. He took a lively interest in the little Jesuit school that was under him; he founded a sodality for men; he helped in the founding of a hospital; he preached with apparently average success; he was sought for as a confessor and a director of souls; to the outside world that appears to have been all. But he was also extraordinary confessor to the Visitation nuns of Paray, and in that convent at the moment Sister Margaret Mary Alacoque was causing anxiety. Naturally Father de La Colombière soon came across her. He studied her case and at once, against the opinion of others, he espoused her cause; he was rewarded, perhaps not altogether at first to his liking, by being told by the saint that he was the one appointed by Our Lord to be her chief support in the task imposed upon her. Still he did not shrink. He became her staunch friend and adviser; if we may judge from notes written in his journal more than two years later, he accepted this responsibility as a further motive compelling him to aim at the highest sanctity.  

He lived at Paray-le-Monial only eighteen months, after which he was appointed chaplain to the Duchess of York, daughter of the Duke of Modena, in London. There he lived, in St. James’s Palace, for two years, a lonely and cramped life, but, if we may judge from his letters, not without the fruit which an earnest priest in such a situation might have been expected to reap. At the end of that time he was betrayed by a Frenchman whom he thought he had converted. He was accused of reconciling heretics, and of speaking against the king; it was the year of the Titus Oates “Plot,” and La Colombiere, a Jesuit, and living in the household of the Duke of York, must have seemed a likely source of information. He was thrown into prison, cross-examined many times, but clearly knew nothing of what was said to be going on; at length, being a Frenchman, he was banished from the country. But before he could leave his health broke down; the hardships of his prison, added to the rigor of the English climate, had affected his lungs, and he suffered a serious hemorrhage. As soon as he was able he returned to France; there he was given light work as spiritual father in the college of Lyons. But he never recovered. He was removed to Paray in the hope that the climate might suit him better; and there he died, on February 15th, 1682, having just completed his forty-first year.  

A good man, so his brethren thought, but not exactly what was usually ranked as a saint. He had worked no miracles; he had written no books; he had done nothing in particular. His health had prevented him from using his talents as they might have been used; he had lived only six years from his probation, and two of those had been spent in London, hidden away, unknown to his fellow religious, bearing no fruit that could be seen. He was buried as a good man might have been expected to be buried, with the usual becoming ceremony; perhaps there were those among the mourners who regretted that here was another good life thrown away.  

But when he was gone two precious documents were found among his papers. It was true Sister Margaret Mary had always spoken of him as something exceptional, and after his death revered him as a saint, but this was put down to her natural enthusiasm, perhaps a little to her biased judgment, a matter of fidelity to the memory of one who had been her staunch support and champion. But these two documents proved that she was right. None but a man with the highest ideals could have written them; if he had lived up to the standard they laid down, then without a doubt he had lived a life of heroic sanctity. And when his brethren came to reflect upon it, gradually they saw that he had. Gradually his name was dissociated from that of St. Margaret Mary, and the devotion of which she constituted him the first apostle; it was found that it represented one who on his own account deserved a place in the ranks of the Church’s saints.  

Beneath these great ideals, is it possible to trace the natural man on which they are built? We think it is. Colombière has written his double self-analysis, one during his third year of probation, the other during a retreat he made in England, with such simplicity and accurate attention to detail that we are able to infer the things he has omitted without much fear of mistake. And the picture we would draw is something of this kind.  

By nature Colombière was a man given to despondency, to self- mistrust leading almost to despair, even as at one time was his immediate predecessor, to whom he had so great a devotion, St. Francis de Sales. He had a keen appreciation of art and literature, with which there usually goes great sensitiveness of soul, he felt things keenly, above all his own apparent failures, even in the little things of life. Though once or twice he breaks out in expressions of devotion, yet as a rule his prayer was dry and arid; with all his aspirations after sanctity, he can only resign himself to the commonest planes of the spiritual life and look for perfection in that resignation. Behind all this, the placid exterior,interpreted by his contemporaries, and even by modern biographers, as a sign of placidity within, in matter of fact concealed a soul unceasingly troubled by a whirl of temptation, and of passions which he had need of every grace to resist.  

It is in this light that we would read and interpret the three or four characteristics of his sanctity; they were the outcome of the battle he found he had to fight, and of experience of himself, more than of any illumination from without. Margaret Mary had visions and ecstasies, Colombière had none. She was told what she had to do, even in the matter of her own perfection, Colombière had to discover all this by the painful sifting of himself. In the third year of probation he took a vow always to do the thing that was most perfect; we can see that the vow was taken, less because of any great light from above, more because of the trouble he found in battling with his own nature. Later he took another vow, to choose by preference, when the choice was allowed him, the thing that he most disliked; again we see in it the determined conquest of his sensitive nature, more than straining after sanctity. Throughout his life his ideal of prayer was, as it were, to have no ideal; to be content with what was given him, and not even to aspire to more; this was nothing else but the recognition of his common experience, and the determination to turn it into what profit he could. Lastly, in regard to sanctity itself he has language almost peculiarly his own. Much as his soul longed for it, he seemed to think that a nature like his could never attain to sublime perfection; he meets the apparently hopeless prospect by accepting as his goal just that standard which is appointed for him and no more. Of all the saints in the calendar of the Church few can have been less aware of their sanctity than was Colombière.  

To illustrate these characteristics of our saint we have only to compare certain passages in which he expresses his own mind; from first to last there is a certain consistency which enables us to read what is going on beneath. Thus, on the seventh day of his Long Retreat he writes:  

“On the seventh day, during the morning, I found myself attacked with thoughts of mistrust in regard to the aim in life which I am making for the future; I see in it hopeless difficulties. Any other life would seem to me easy to spend in the manner of a saint, so it appears to me, and the more austere, solitary, obscure, separated from all communication, so much the sweeter would it seem to me to be. Much as I dread the ordinary things of nature, such as imprisonment, continued sickness, death itself, all these appear to me pleasant in comparison with an everlasting fight against the surprises of worldliness and self- love, and of that death in life in the midst of the world. When I think on it all, it seems to me that life is going to be intolerably long, and that death will not come soon enough; I understand the words of St. Augustine: “Patienter vivit, et delectabiliter moritur.”  

So he wrote in 1674, when he was preparing for his vow of perfection. Three years later, during a retreat in England, we find him recalling the vow with satisfaction, saying he looks on it as “the greatest grace I have ever received in all my life”; nevertheless the next note is this:  

“I am made miserable on a matter of which I cannot speak; my imagination is mad and extravagant. All the passions toss my heart about; there scarcely passes a day but all, one after another, stir in me the most unruly emotions. Sometimes they are real things that rouse me, sometimes they are pure imaginations. It is true that by the mercy of God I endure all this without contributing much to it of myself and without consenting to it; still, at any moment I catch these foolish passions stirring up this poor heart. My self-love flies from corner to corner, and is never without a hiding-place; I feel very sorry for myself. Still I do not lose my temper, I do not let myself feel annoyed; what would be the use? I ask God to let me know what I ought to do to serve Him and to purify myself; but I am resolved to wait in peace till it pleases Him to work this miracle, for I am quite convinced that He alone can do it: “Quis potest facere mundum de immundo conceptum semine, nisi tu qui solus es?” (Job xv, 4).  

Passages parallel to these might be multiplied. They tell with sufficient clearness the struggle that was always going on with an unruly nature; their proximity to the places where he speaks of the vow makes one suspect that the two are connected. In like manner we may judge of his prayer. It is true that in many places he speaks of his attraction for prayer; nevertheless no less often does he tell us of his dryness, always he emphasizes that his prayer is of the common sort, and that he does not wish it to be otherwise. There is no more striking summary of his mind than the following, taken from the notes of his retreat in 674:  

“Since by the mercy of God I feel myself somewhat drawn to prayer, I have asked of God, with a large heart, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, that He would give me the grace to love this holy exercise more and more, unto the hour of my death. It is the one means for our purification, the one way to union with God, the one channel by which God may unite Himself with us, that He may do anything with us for His glory. To obtain the virtues of an apostle we must pray; to make them of use to our neighbor we must pray; to prevent our losing them while we use them in His service we must pray. The counsel, or rather the commandment: Pray always, seems to me extremely sweet and by no means impossible. It secures the practice of the presence of God; I wish, with the help of Our Lord, to endeavor to follow it. We are always in need of God, then we need to pray always; the more we pray the more we please Him, and the more we receive. I do not ask for those delights in prayer which God gives to whom He will; I am not worthy of them, I have not strength enough to bear them. Extraordinary graces are not good for me; to give them to me would be to build on sand, it would only be pouring precious liquor into a leaking hogshead which can hold nothing. I ask of God only a solid, simple manner of prayer, which may give Him glory and will not puff me up; dryness and desolation, accompanied with His grace, are very good for me, so it seems. Then I make acts of the best kind, and with satisfaction; then I make efforts against my evil disposition, I try to be faithful to God, etc.”  

Shortly afterwards he concludes:  

“Above all things I am resigned to be sanctified by the way that God shall please, by the absence of all sensible delight, if He wishes it so to be, by interior trials, by continual combat with my passions.”  

There seems to be no evidence that he ever deviated from this path, or rose beyond the prayer of simplicity. In the retreat of 1677 he confesses that he finds little help in points for meditation, and decides to fall back upon his favorite method of the practice of the presence of God; that is all. But that is an experience of many souls of prayer, who nevertheless are far from being saints; it is foreseen and prepared for by every writer on prayer, within the Society of Jesus as well as without.  

With all this as a background we may well now ask ourselves what was the characteristic of his sanctity. It has al ready been suggested that the need of unceasing battle with himself led him to make first one heroic vow and then another; the faithful fulfillment of those vows meant the making of a saint. But as a first characteristic trait we would notice Colombière childlike simplicity; to the end he remained a child. This is manifest enough in the spontaneous way he writes of himself; it is manifest no less in his correspondence, in the stories he narrates, in the simplicity of his advice, in the confidence he shows towards his correspondents. But most of all does it appear in his attitude towards St. Margaret Mary. It was simplicity of soul that enabled him to understand her from the first; the same simplicity made him think of her, and speak of her with the greatest reverence; what she told him of himself he took as perhaps his chief source of encouragement. For example, what can be more simply childlike than the following? He has been speaking of his former temptation to vainglory and human respect:  

“Formerly (he says) I was so strongly obsessed with this temptation, that it sapped all my courage, and made me almost lose all hope of saving my own soul while thinking of the souls of others. So strong was it that if I had been free I do not doubt that I would have passed my days in solitude.”  

Then naively he goes on:  

“This temptation began to weaken from a word which N.N. [meaning St. Margaret Mary] spoke to me one day. For once when she told me that while praying to God for me, Our Lord had given her to understand that my soul was dear to Him, and that He would take particular care of it, I answered her: ‘Alas! N.N., how can this agree with what I feel within myself? Could Our Lord love anyone as vain as I am, one whose only object is to please men, and to win consideration from them, one who is steeped in human respect?’–‘O my Father,’ she replied, ‘all this does not really belong to you.’ It is true that this single word of assurance gave me peace; from that time I troubled myself less about these temptations, and they grew weaker and less frequent.”  

In other places Colombiere falls back for his own encouragement on the words of St. Margaret Mary. Evidently, if he was her main support, she in her turn did no less for him. So simple, and childlike, and dependent was
this guide of other souls. 
 

Nevertheless we have not yet touched upon the quality which seems to us most characteristic of Colombière. With a nature given to mistrust of itself and consequent despondency, with a physique which would never permit him to labor to the extent of his desires, placed in situations which invariably seemed to go wrong, or to give him little scope for his zeal, lastly with a spiritual experience in his soul which was more often desolate than consoling, it is no wonder that there grew within him an unbounded confidence in God, as the one mainstay on which he could rely. He speaks of trust in superiors, of openness with his spiritual fathers, of simplicity in dealing with others, of his love of friendship; but all these are treated more as external signs of self- conquest and charity, they are less considered as supports to himself. When he speaks of confidence in God it is quite different. He sees his sins, but the mercy of God is infinite, and he will not despair. He looks up to God in His majesty, to his Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, to the indwelling of God in the human soul, to the union of the heart of man with the heart of Our Lord by complete surrender; and he flings himself blindly into the arms of God to find there perfect peace. Nowhere does he write with more self-revelation than on the last day of his retreat in England. The passage is a summary of his life; we have but to read between the lines, giving each phrase its full value, and we seem to know Colombière well.  

“On this eighth day (he writes) I seem to have found a great treasure, if only I can profit by it. It is a firm confidence in God, founded on His infinite goodness, and on the experience I have had that He never fails us in our needs. More than that, I find in the memoir which was given to me when I left France, that He promises to be my strength in proportion to the trust which I place in Him. Therefore I am resolved to put no limit to my trust, and to spread it out to everything. It seems to me that I ought to make use of Our Lord as an armor which covers me all about, by means of which I shall resist every device of my enemies. You shall then be my strength, O my God! You shall be my guide, my director, my counselor, my patience, my knowledge, my peace, my justice, and my prudence. I will have recourse to you in my temptations, in my dryness, in my repugnances, in my weariness, in my fears; or rather I will no longer fear either the illusions or the tricks of the demon, nor my own weakness, my indiscretions, not even my mistrust of myself. For you must be my strength in all my crosses; you promise me that this you will be in proportion to my confidence. And wonderful indeed it is, O my God, that at the same time that you impose this condition, it seems to me that you give me the confidence wherewith to fulfill it. May you be eternally loved and praised by all creatures, O my very loving Lord! If you were not my strength, alas! what would I do? But since you are, you assure me that you are, what shall I not do for your glory? “Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat.” You are everywhere in me, and I in you; then in whatever situation I may find myself, in whatever peril whatever enemy may rise up against me, I have my support always with me. This thought alone can in a moment scatter all my trials, above all those uprisings of nature which at times I find so strong, and which in spite of myself, make me fear for my perseverance, and tremble at the sight of the perfect emptiness in which it has pleased God to place me.”  

Could St. Augustine be more transparent? When in his sermons we hear Colombière crying out that even were he in mortal sin he would still never doubt that God would save him, we understand the source of his unbounded hope. He was a very human being indeed; perhaps this was the reason why he was chosen before others to be the apostle of the human Heart of Jesus Christ. “Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you. . . . Learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart. . . . You shall find rest for your souls.” It would be hard to find a more perfect fulfillment of this prophecy than is found in the soul of Claude de La Colombière.  

    

St. Claude, 3rd from right, with St. Margaret Mary in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, SD

St. Claude, 3rd from right, with St. Margaret Mary in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, SD

TWO PRAYERS BY ST. CLAUDE:

I.  My Jesus, My True Friend

 

My Jesus, You are my true Friend.

My only Friend.

You take part in all my misfortunes.

You know how to turn them into blessings.

You listen to me with great kindness when I tell you all my troubles,

and You always have something with which to heal my wounds.
 

I find You at any time of the day or night,

for I find You wherever I happen to be.  You never leave me.

If I change my dwelling place, I find You wherever I go.

You never weary of listening to me.

I am certain of being loved by You, if I but love You.

My worldly goods are of no value to you,

but by bestowing Yours on me You never grow the poorer.

However miserable I may be, no one more noble, more clever,

or even more holy, can come between You

and me and deprive me of Your friendship.

And death, which tears us away from all other friends

will unite me forever to You.

All the humiliations attached to old age or the loss of

honor will never separate You from me;

On the contrary, I shall never enjoy You more fully and

You will never be closer to me

than when everything seems to conspire against me and cast me down.

You bear with all my faults with extreme patience.

Even my lack of fidelity and my ingratitude do not wound You

to such a degree as to make You unwilling to receive me

back when I return to You.

O Jesus, grant that I may die loving You

and that I may die for love of You.   Amen.

 

II.  A Prayer in time of Despair

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people
will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your
grace
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I
will glorify You
by making known how
good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no
matter how great his offences
should have
reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.
Amen.

 

February 14th: Birthday of St. Gaetano Catanoso

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

In addition to being Quinquaqesima Sunday, Carnival Sunday, and St. Valentine’s Day, tomorrow is the birthday of  the great Apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus, St. Gaetano Catanoso.  Father Gaetano is the perfect guide to prepare us for the Feast of the Holy Face on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras, and our day of Eucharistic Adoration at Salem – in Reparation for those have abandonned the practice of assisting at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.

From the Vatican website:

Saint Gaetano Catanoso was born on 14 February 1879 in Chorio di San Lorenzo, Reggio Calabria, Italy. His parents were wealthy landowners and exemplary Christians.

Gaetano was ordained a priest on September 20, 1902, and from 1904 to 1921 he served in the rural parish of Pentidattilo.

Fr Catanoso had a great devotion to The Holy Face of Jesus, and began “The Holy Face” Bulletin and established the “Confraternity of the Holy Face” in 1920. He once wrote:  “The Holy Face is my life. He is my strength”.

♦  Versatility, openness to God’s will

On 2 February 1921, he was transferred to the large parish of Santa Maria de la Candelaria, where he remained until 1940. He was very versatile and his ability to peacefully and diligently serve in such contradictory parish realities earned him the reputation of holiness.

Because he was not conditioned by exterior factors, positive or negative, Fr Gaetano worked well in all situations and settings, striving always to deepen his union with Christ and to do God’s will for the good of those entrusted to his pastoral care. He desired nothing more than to serve at the country parish of Pentidattilo, and his appointment to Candelaria did not make him “puffed up”.

As parish priest of Candelaria, he drew people to Christ by reviving Eucharistic and Marian devotions. He opened institutions, promoted catechetical instruction and crusaded against blasphemy and the profanation of feast days.

Fr Gaetano felt it his duty as a priest to help children and youth who lacked role models and risked being corrupted, as well as abandoned older persons and priests who were isolated and without support. He even helped restore churches and Tabernacles left to decay.

In short, he saw the Face of Christ in all who suffered and would say: “Let us all work to defend and save the orphans, those who are abandoned. There are too many dangers and there is too much misery. With Jesus let us turn our gaze to the abandoned children and youth:  today, humanity is more morally sick than ever”.

Fr Catanoso often spent hours or entire days in prayer before the Tabernacle, and in the parish and beyond he promoted Eucharistic Adoration. He also set up so-called “flying-squads”, teams of priests willing to cooperate in the parishes by giving homilies and hearing confession on these occasions.

♦  Spiritual assistance, Founder

From 1921 to 1950 he served as confessor at religious institutes and in the Reggio Calabria prison. He was also hospital chaplain and spiritual director of the Archiepiscopal Seminary.

In 1934, Fr Catanoso founded the “Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face”; its mission: constant prayer of reparation, humble service in worship, catechesis, and assistance to children, youth, priests and the elderly. The first convent was opened in Riparo, Reggio Calabria.

When the Archbishop curtailed the activities of the Congregation, Fr Catanoso showed great docility in accepting this decision. Finally, however, on 25 March 1958, the Constitutions he had written received diocesan approval.

Fr Catanoso died on 4 April 1963, after an exemplary life.  He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 4 May 1997, and on World Mission Sunday, October 23, 2005, he was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.  His feast was established on September 20th, the anniversary of St. Gaetano Catanoso’s Priestly Ordination.

 

—Excerpt from the Holy Father’s homily during the Solemn Mass of Canonization of Gaetano Catanoso on October 23, 2005:

“St Gaetano Catanoso was a lover and apostle of the Holy Face of Jesus. “The Holy Face”, he affirmed, “is my life. He is my strength”. With joyful intuition he joined this devotion to Eucharistic piety.

He would say: “If we wish to adore the real Face of Jesus…, we can find it in the divine Eucharist, where with the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Face of Our Lord is hidden under the white veil of the Host”.

Daily Mass and frequent adoration of the Sacrament of the Altar were the soul of his priesthood: with ardent and untiring pastoral charity he dedicated himself to preaching, catechesis, the ministry of confession, and to the poor, the sick and the care of priestly vocations. To the Congregation of the Daughters of St Veronica, Missionaries of the Holy Face, which he founded, he transmitted the spirit of charity, humility and sacrifice which enlivened his entire life.”

Prayer to the Holy Face by St. Therese

Friday, February 12th, 2010

O Jesus, who in Thy bitter Passion didst become “the most abject of men, a man of sorrows”, I venerate Thy Sacred Face whereon there once did shine the beauty and sweetness of the Godhead; but now it has become for me as if it were the face of a leper! Nevertheless, under those disfigured features, I recognize Thy infinite Love and I am consumed with the desire to love Thee and make Thee loved by all men. The tears which well up abundantly in Thy sacred eyes appear to me as so many precious pearls that I love to gather up, in order to purchase the souls of poor sinners by means of their infinite value. O Jesus, whose adorable Face ravishes my heart, I implore Thee to fix deep within me Thy divine image and to set me on fire with Thy Love, that I may be found worthy to come to the contemplation of Thy glorious Face in Heaven.  AMEN.

The Feast of the Holy Face is observed on Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras.  Following Mass on Tuesday, February 16th, the Most Holy Sacrament will be exposed for adoration in reparation for those who have abandonned the practice of assisting at Holy Mass on Sundays and Holydays of Obligation.  We will have Benediction at 3:00 pm.

The Servant of God Jean Martin Eyraud (Nov. 11, 1880 – Feb. 5, 1968)

Friday, February 5th, 2010

TODAY, February 5th marks the 42nd anniversary of the death of the Servant of God, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Jean Martin Eyraud.  In this Year of the Priest, please join me in praying for his Beatifcation, so that Msgr. Eyraud’s exemplary priestly life may be made known in the Church, especially for the edification and encouragement of parish priests.

The Servant of God, Rt. Reverend Monsignor Jean Martin Zozine EYRAUD was born in Le Glaizal, France on the Feast of St. Martin de Tours, November 11, 1880; son of Zozine Eyraud and Frances Gonsonil-Chevillon.  Educated at the Rondeau in Grenoble, France and at the Major Seminary in Gap, France.  Ordained to the Holy Priesthood at Gap on June 29, 1904. Military service: Twenty-second Infantry Regiment as a private, for one year.  Arrived in America in June, 1910. First pastorate: St. Thomas, Pointe-à-la-Hache, La. Arrived at St. Peter, Reserve in June, 1916.  Erected St. Joan of Arc Chapel in Laplace, 1922-1923.  Established St. Peter Parochial School in 1931 and St. Catherine Parochial School for blacks in 1932.  Named domestic prelate by Archbishop Joseph Francis Rummel on December 25, 1937.  Presented the Palmes Académique by Pierre Mathivet de La Ville de Mirmont, Counsul General of France, for his work in preserving the French culture in Louisiana. Died at Reserve, Louisiana on February 5, 1968; interred at St. Peter’s Cemetery. Msgr. Eyraud, known affectionately as “The Little Frenchman” served as Pastor at St. Peter Parish in Reserve for 47 years.  A well-respected Churchman, Msgr. Eyraud served his parishioners with self-less energy and fatherly love.  Considered a “Priest’s Priest” among his brethren in the New Orleans Archdiocese, his loving care for and fatherly patience with the many Assistant Priests assigned to him through the years was well-known.  Because of this, generations of younger priests loved him in return, and sought his counsel as a trusted mentor and faithful friend.  The cause for Msgr. Eyraud’s Beatification and Canonization was approved by the Holy See in 2002.

Candlemas at Salem

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010

TODAY we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord/Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Blessing of Candles, Procession and Holy Mass (in the Ordinary Form). The Parochial School children sang, and after Mass, the statue of the Infant Jesus, kept in the sanctuary since Christmas, was taken down and the faithful were invited to venerate it.  The large Christmas Tree, the other Christmas decoration left up until Candlemas, was also taken down in the afternoon by the 7th grade class.

Since we are in the midst of celebrating Catholic Schools Week, the younger chidren’s balloon arrangements, part of their decorations from the opening of Catholic Schools Week, were still at the entrance to the sanctuary.