Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

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Restoration of OLV/St. Joseph in Rochester

March 3rd, 2018, Promulgated by Bernie

The “Little French Church” in Rochester is getting a make-over or restoration. Everything is being shipped to Europe to be restored. There used to be a mural in the apse of the church and a mural will appear there again. I am not sure if it will display the same subject or composition. Notably, an altar rail will be reinstalled.

This promises to be an artistic and liturgical gem for Rochester!

Photo of restored sanctuary by Mary-Kathleen Strauch Delaney

                                          Restored view on the left










Christians and Politics: Where do you stand?

October 31st, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

I have been following the Facebook posts of an old high school classmate, Bill Furioso. (We were in the band together, me clarinet and Bill –in the back– on percussion.) Bill is now Director of “At Christ’s Table Ministries”, a non-denominational ministry.

Bill has never voted in an election and he has been posting, during this election, on his reasons for not doing so and why Christians –the Church– should not be mixed up with politics or government (trusting in politics or governments). Bill is serious about living a Christian life rooted in the Bible and I think he makes a reasoned argument –from a strictly scriptural position– for not voting. I am not saying that I endorse Bill’s views. But, I find his and others’ views on this subject interesting and compelling. The Catholic Church has a tradition of promoting the faithful’s involvement in the political process or at least in voting. Below are some links to Bill’s posts. Maybe we can get some (polite) discussion on them or at least some insights to the Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject.

(I hope these links work.)

THE POLITICS OF JESUS: “Many are so conditioned by the mindset of the world that they can’t even envision an alternative way of affecting society and politics other than by playing the political game as it is done by the established governmental system. Some thus conclude that, since Jesus didn’t try to overhaul the political systems of his day by using… Read more…

CHRISTIANS AND POLITICS, WHERE DO YOU STAND? “In the 1980’s, Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson were leaders in the Moral Majority, a conservative evangelical social and political movement that attempted to rally “moral” people to change public policy. The movement died out in the 1990s. In 1999, Thomas and Dobson wrote a book entitled Blinded by Might in which they declare that they shifted their convictions and argued that Christians should not try to change culture primarily by influencing the political system. They should rather… Read more…

JESUS AND DEMOCRACY: “Question: I’ve heard that the reason Jesus didn’t speak up on political issues was because he didn’t have the benefit of living in a democracy. Since we do, don’t we have a duty both to God and our country to be involved in politics? Answer: If the reason Jesus didn’t speak up on political issues was because he didn’t live in a democracy, how do we explain the… Read more…

KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD AND GOD’S KINGDOM: a video clip posted by Bill (

Gothic and Baroque Inspired Vestment Work

October 24th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

By Shawn Tribe

From The New Liturgical Movement website

14671374_1294925297193172_4946370856752732546_nCeremonial wear, whether sacred or secular, is meant to communicate symbols and deeper meanings; to inspire and to engage, drawing people into the underpinning realities which they seek to symbolize. In this regard, vestments, not unlike…

Read more…

This is one thing that keeps me Catholic.

September 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

web LMC FinalOne of the things that keeps me Catholic is the Church’s understanding and living out of the doctrine of the Incarnation: that God condescended to become man so that man might become God. This refers to the transforming effect of divine grace, the indwelling spirit of God, and the transforming affect of the atonement of Christ. It literally means that God becoming flesh transformed flesh to become more divine, more like God, or to take on a divine nature. At the moment of the Incarnation all flesh –indeed, the entire physical universe– was objectively made holy and capable of transmitting God’s grace and life.

By the Incarnation, humankind was really changed and not left as a pile of sin, as Luther, in his extreme teaching, taught.

People and their actions –as well as things like bread and wine, water, oil and other material things– became capable of communicating God’s graces, became capable of completing in one aspect what was “lacking” in the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ.

Catholic art expresses well the doctrine of the Incarnation. It often depicts transcendence by rich colors and details and patterns, serene expressions, or, the opposite– explosive exuberance. In worship, Catholicism employs smells like incense, sounds like the ringing of bells, heavenly chanting, kissing, bowing, processing, standing, kneeling –all aspects of being physically alive. It’s the material universe celebrating its redeemed status.

This is considerably different from some core Protestant teachings and practices which are suspicious of anything human or physical that could be seen as even having the potential for competing with God. In such teaching humankind is not changed by the Incarnation in any objective way. Some Protestant Churches that hold the “extrinsic justification” teaching dearly are often devoid of visual art and ritual, smells and bells. (Music and preaching, however, are sometimes exalted in such Churches.) Most mainstream Protestant Churches can be found somewhere in between the Catholic and more puritan versions of Christianity. The Orthodox, of course, are more with the Catholics concerning the impact of the Incarnation and we can see that in their emphasis on art and sensual liturgies.

In the end it is the Catholic understanding of the impact of the doctrine of the Incarnation that keeps me Catholic. Indeed, as local Catholic parishes divorce themselves from sacred art, chanting, incense and ritual, the more they push me into Orthodoxy.

Saint Pius Tenth Rebuild Design is Catholic

June 25th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie


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Plans and drawings for a new church have been created and presented to Saint Pius Tenth parishioners (see the official “Rebuild” page HERE).

In Summary:

  1. The exterior looks like a church.
    1. It looks like a Catholic church.
      1. It employs a traditional hall-basilica plan with clerestory windows.
      2. It makes use of a figurative “rose window” in the front facade, reminiscent of Gothic churches from our Catholic tradition.
      3. A covered walkway across the exterior of the front suggests a medieval Romanesque cloister, an aspect of our Catholic monastic heritage.
  2. It is clearly orthodox in its arrangement.
    1. The altar is the focus of the entire interior space. It does not share equally with a pulpit and it is in the center of the chancel, not off center as some Rochester churches have located it.
  3. It is orthodox in its imagery. The meaning and understanding of the Mass as the sacrifice of Calvary made present is clearly communicated by appropriate imagery.
    1. A large prominent crucifix is suspended above the altar.
    2. The altar looks like an altar of sacrifice and not just another table (it is solid with appropriate imagery)
    3. The mural-like Last Supper scene reminds us of the institution of the Eucharist (the Last Supper as “making present” beforehand the sacrifice that was to follow on Good Friday).
    4. The “sky” above the Last Supper scene is filled with angels suggesting the simultaneous celebration of the heavenly hosts.
  4. It is Catholic.
    1. The tabernacle is situated in a central and prominent location.
    2. There is an abundance of prominent orthodox imagery that predisposes worshipers to receive the graces of the sacraments.
    3. the altar looks like an altar and not just a table.
    4. There is at least some sense of hierarchy: the chancel is raised higher than the nave by the traditional 3 steps. The celebrant’s chair and tabernacle are further raised another step higher.
    5. It would appear from the drawings that the figures and scenes will be rendered in a natural manner: not grossly distorted/abstracted or overly realistic. A sense of redeemed or “divinized” nature will be communicated by way of the rendering of the figures. If the “mural” will be on etched glass the impression of transcendence will be further enhanced.

I wish there was a ciborium or baldacchino over the altar.

It is interesting, I think to compare the Saint Pius Tenth plans with the ones for the proposed chapel at Saint John Fisher College that I reviewed, HERE.


Loretto Head Summoned to Rome for a Discussion (or, maybe, a “talking to”?)

June 17th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the Nation Catholic Register

The president of the Sisters of Loretto has expressed surprise that she has been summoned to the Vatican to discuss several “areas of concern” regarding her order.

This summons was contained in a letter from the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life (CICLSAL) to Sister Pearl McGivney, the president of the Loretto Sisters. She informed the order’s members about the summons in a June 1 letter that was leaked to the National Catholic Reporter

Read the whole post HERE

“Yes, but”… Versus Populum vs. Ad Orientem

June 16th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the blog Dominus mihi adjutor

by Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman OSB

…It (an excerpt from a 1966 Catholic Herald newspaper article) refers to the then 18-month-old permission given to parishes in England and Wales to celebrate Mass versus populum, facing the people. It notes that only 10% of parishes had taken up this permission; at those 10% of parishes the change was said to be very popular with the people. Mmmm.

My first thought was to wonder if anyone would be so precipitate as to use this as an argument against the mounting desire for a return to ad orientem

Read the entire post HERE

10 Myths About Modern Church Architecture

June 15th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA

by Duncan Stroik (originally published HERE)

1. The Second Vatican Council requires us to reject traditional church architecture and design new churches in a Modernist style.

This myth is based more on what Roman Catholics have built during the past thirty years than on what the Church has taught. Even by professional accounts, the church architecture of the past decade has been an unmitigated disaster. However, actions often speak louder than words, and the faithful have been led to believe that the Church requires buildings to be functional abstractions, because that is what we have been building. Nothing could be farther from the intentions of the Council fathers who clearly intended the historic excellence of Catholic architecture to continue. It is most important to keep in mind that…

Read the entire article and see photos HERE

“A tribute to the College’s Catholic heritage”?

June 10th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

Below is a corrected version of the original post in which I made an ignorant statement concerning the placement of Tabernacles in newly constructed churches.

From Saint John Fisher College News

20160302_SJFC Chapel Design

The St. John Fisher College Board of Trustees recently announced the construction of the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great… Read the whole article HERE

My comments follow:

The outside, not too bad. The inside… ?

“College News” calls the chapel “A tribute to the College’s Catholic heritage”. I certainly do not see a strong reference to Catholic heritage in the proposed architectural design for the new Chapel. The original founders/administration were Catholic, shouldn’t the chapel look Catholic?

This could be any mainline Protestant chapel; certainly not Catholic in any strong sense. Replace the crucifix with a plain cross and place a high back chair in front of the tabernacle and it might just be a Baptist church. Add the stained glass windows and you’re tilting toward the more liturgical wings of Protestantism.

What would make it “more” Catholic?

  1. Place the Tabernacle in the center behind the altar, incorporated into the wall on in front of the wall. Appropriately adorn the area of the Tabernacle with imagery appropriate to the Blessed Sacrament. Several sanctuary lamps alone would add a sense of the sacred. Right now the Tabernacle looks like an unfortunate requirement, off to the side and, most especially, lacking any elaboration suggesting sacred space.
  2. Treat the “sanctuary platform” –as College News calls it– as the chancel it is supposed to be. A Catholic church or chapel to be Catholic must convey a sense of sacred hierarchic space. That is basic to Catholic theology. What we see in the proposed design is a reflection of protestant theology: the complete absence of a sense of the transcendent and an emphasis on the merely human.
    • the altar needs to be prominent in a Catholic church: raised up and covered by a ciborium or baldachin or some form of tester. That is still a requirement for Catholic Churches although often left out in new churches.
    • the chancel in a Catholic church should be clearly marked off from the rest of the space. Usually that is accomplished by a railing or at least by a significant number of steps –at least three steps. The separation suggests a special, more sacred space.
    • the altar in a Catholic church is a sacrificial altar and not just a table. The Catholic Mass is a sacrifice, the sacrifice of Calvary made present. There is a meal component to the Mass but the element of sacrifice should not take second place and in this design it is not even evident. I would look for a solid stone, marble faced, or precious wood altar adorned with imagery.
    • Gosh! Is that music stand supposed to be where the Gospel is proclaimed from? Please, create a pulpit along the same lines as a proper altar: of noble material and appropriately adorned.
    • the wall behind the altar in the proposal appears as a demonstration piece (and an uninteresting one at that) for a gardening or landscape/masonry business. The sacred in Catholic churches is traditionally suggested by imagery around the altar. It is usually the grandest area of the interior space. At the very least the crucifix should be monumental and not the stingy sized one in the proposal. The stained glass windows should be a wonderful addition but the chancel should always be accorded the most important imagery or treatment.
    • the chancel is the throne room of the king (or the Holy Sepulcher or the sacred bridal chamber or the Holy of Holies). There are several possible interpretations from Catholic tradition of the chancel and altar area. Rich and intricate designs as well as regal colors suggest heaven and the transcendent. There is no decoration at all in this proposal. (The addition of a ciborium could minimize the need for imagery on the wall.) The furnishings as well are as plain as can be in this proposal.
  3. Is there even a statue or image of Saint John Fisher planned? Or Saint Basil the Great?
  4. Get rid of the piano. The organ has pride of place in Catholic liturgy, along with Latin and Gregorian chant.

The people responsible for this design have not considered what makes a Catholic church “Catholic”. They have consulted the anti-Catholic worship space designers of liberal liturgy that was barely recognizable as Catholic. That is especially unfortunate since the proposed chapel is meant to be a tribute to the school’s Catholic heritage.

Too bad the architects and sponsors are not aware of the resurgence of classical church architectural. “Classical” in the sense of the use of the esthetic principles of Romanesque, Baroque, Classical, and Gothic church architecture. That’s the latest. What they have come up with has been resoundingly rejected as “not Catholic”.

New Mural at Saint Jerome’s in East Rochester

June 7th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

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Click on photos to see larger images.

Saint Jerome’s in East Rochester (Father Bill Leone, pastor) recently installed a commissioned mural on the inside typanum over the main door and it is a beauty! It is everything you could want in a Catholic image for a church: orthodox, professionally executed, beautiful. 
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The theme or story is the Ascension of the Lord. I probably don’t need to tell you that because the work, unlike so much of modern Catholic church art, is orthodox and unambiguous. It is also free of the political or social commentary we often find in so much contemporary church art.

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We are struck by its beauty, not by its strangeness.

The artist, Rick Muto is a well known professional artist in Rochester and, if I’m not mistaken a parishioner at Saint Jerome’s. I also believe that this is his first religiously themed work.

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Here is his website: Rick Muto Decorative and Fine Art website

Rick Muto is also on Facebook: Rick Muto Decorative and Fine Arts Professional Services

What are we to think of the darkened figure in the lower right corner? Use the comment box to offer your interpretation.

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Scroll down on the artist’s Facebook page timeline and you will see a photo of him in his studio working on the Ascension mural.


‘How to Put God Back at the Center of the Liturgy’

June 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register


The French magazine Famille Chretienne published an online interview with Cardinal Robert Sarah of Guinea on May 23. The following is a Register-commissioned translation from the original French.

Interviewer: Several weeks ago, you discussed a desire to see “The Sacrament of Sacraments put back in the central place,” that is, the Eucharist. What is your reasoning?

Cardinal Sarah: I wish to engage a serious consideration on this question, with the goal of placing…

Read more HERE

Heaven Is In The Rafters At The Cathedral

June 3rd, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

This is a republishing of a previous post from July 18, 2011.

Also, a reminder that the rite of priestly ordination will take place tomorrow morning 10:30 A.M. May 4, 2016 at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.



Like many people of the diocese I was disheartened by the results of the renovation of our cathedral. I believe several serious mistakes were made in the renovation. Nevertheless, besides utilitarian improvements, there are several good things in which we can rejoice that came out of that renovation.  One good thing certainly has to be the beautifully restored patterns on the rafters, and the angels from which the arches spring.


(Click on photos for larger views)



I have written before of my hope that we return to emphasizing in our churches, through imagery, the presence of the heavenly personages at Mass. Every Mass is a celebration both here and in heaven. The angels and saints are as much in attendance as our fellows in the pews. Images make us conscious of their presence.


Heaven and earth meet in the liturgy that is held in the church building and so the building matters, it is not just incidental. The physical building and its decoration predisposes us to receive the graces of the sacraments.


Heaven comes down to us (or, we are lifted up to heaven) and hovers over us in the restored angels and brightened patterns of the rafters of our cathedral. Rich bright patterns as well as garden plants -vines and flowers- have always been associated with our idea of the splendor of heaven. Stars on a blue field, too. They are some of the few ways we humans can attempt to depict a sense of heaven. The heavenly angels high up on the walls of the cathedral, pleasingly appearing in peaceful pastel colors, support the rafters of heaven.



It is a glorious ceiling and most fitting for a Catholic church. Take heart in the rafters of heaven next time you participate in Mass at the Cathedral.


Group Photo from Deacon Ordination

June 3rd, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

Here is an obligatory Catholic “on-the-front-steps” group photo from last Saturday’s deacon ordination day.

Let’s have you all chime-in to identify everyone in the photo, other than Bishop Matano. I know some of the people but not all. Most especially, identify the four newly-ordained deacons.

Click on the photo to see a larger version.

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Like a Bride Adorned for Her Husband

May 30th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

This is a post originally published September 12, 2011. I am re-posting it after attending the rite for the ordination of deacon this past Saturday. I did a post yesterday that was critical of the lack of emphasis on the altar. From where I was sitting –on the right side of the nave about halfway down– I could not see the altar or more than the tops of the heads of the clergy at the altar. Not being able to see much of the liturgy I took to looking around and noticing, once again, some beautiful things, most noticeably the beautiful stained glass windows. They remind me of what I think is a very important concept a Catholic church building should convey.

The photos you see in this post are from the original post. The last one, especially, does not convey the full blue appearance of the windows as I saw them Saturday. The second to last window is a little truer to the effect I noticed.

Click on the Photos to see larger images.

Rev 21 [1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. [2] I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem,coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.


Rev  21 [11] It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal.


Rev 21 [18] The wall was constructed of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. [19] The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald,[20]the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. [21]The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass.

The church building in the Catholic tradition is more than just a gathering space for an assembly of people. It is a symbol of the New Temple –the people of God- and of the Heavenly Jerusalem “coming down out of heaven” dressed like a bride. The building should predispose us to experience the liturgy as timeless, incorporating in worship both all in heaven and all on earth. It is difficult to see how that experience can happen in a minimalist environment. I’m not going to say impossible, but, for most people, difficult.

Look around carefully and you can find in the Cathedral several suggestions of the heavenly Jerusalem in addition to the windows.


I can say something positive about our Cathedral even after the notorious renovation: the beautiful windows are still there. They form the equivalent of walls of jasper, gold, precious stones, pearls, sapphires and such, mentioned in the Book of Revelation. The bride –the Church—is adorned in beautiful garments as she goes to meet her Lord.

Take heart! Not all is lost.

Restoring A Sense of the Sacred in Sacred Heart Cathedral

May 29th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

pair psdClick on the picture to see a larger image.

While attending the deacon ordination rite on Saturday, I realized, once again, a major weakness with our cathedral: the altar is not prominent. It is in the middle but it is too low and there is no suggestion of it as sacred space. That was by design, of course.

The people in charge of the renovation of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester believed the congregation or community should be emphasized, not the altar and not the priest. Sacred space, to them, is the whole space when occupied by a congregation. They did not believe in a hierarchy of spaces. No space is more sacred than another in their theology of liturgy. In fact, no space is really sacred in itself. Only people gathered make a space sacred, according to their thinking. It is not a concept without some merit, in my opinion –“Where two or three are gathered in my name… ” But, of course, we also have in our tradition the influence of the Old Testament Temple layout and liturgy with its sacred spaces in hierarchical order , actions, prayers and theology. Jesus, we recall was a Temple goer. So were the earliest Christians until they were excluded from the Temple and synagogues. The Eucharist that they had always had to celebrate apart from the Temple/synagogues took on an increasingly Temple-like liturgical style to fill the void. Fairly early on in Christian history the priests/bishops, when celebrating the Eucharist, were compared to the High Priests of the Jerusalem Temple.

A desacralization of churches and the liturgy followed Vatican II. (We could argue endlessly as to whether that was what the Council Fathers had in mind.) But, tradition seems to be making a comeback. Slowly but surely –“brick by brick” some say– we are returning to a sense of the sacred. A more balanced understanding of liturgy in line with tradition and Vatican II thinking on the liturgy is evolving.

I have a proposal that would, I think, restore a sense of the sacred in our cathedral. You can see my proposal in the illustration at the top of this post. I think my proposal to raise the altar one step higher and to cover the altar with a ciborium would go a long way to restoring the Cathedral to Catholic tradition.

This is not the first time I have posted this proposal. It is the third time.

What sort of Mass did the Vatican II Fathers envision?

May 25th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie



Liturgical conservatives and progressives argue endlessly about this. Their argument will never be resolved, both because Sacrosanctum Concilium was and the subsequent magisterium has been self-contradictory, but also because neither side in the debate is willing to be honest about the historical facts. I am sorry to be harsh, but having read the output of both sides of the debate over a number of years, it is time it was said…

Read the full text HERE

The Lover Sings

May 13th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

By Peter Kwasniewski

Excerpt from his book “Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis”

As Augustine said, ‘only the lover can sing.’ We sing words that we are in love with, or rather, words that remind us of the one we are in love with. Whenever the Epistle or the Gospel is chanted at a Tridentine (Latin) Mass, it makes my heart race; it is a love-song, a song of the human heart caught up in romance with the eternal Word. In the new liturgy, by contrast,  the Bible is nearly always merely read out. There is no love affair; it is a sedate meeting where a certain amount of business has to be gone through.

Remember this? Father (then Deacon) Van Lieshout (Livonia) chants the Gospel.

Commission on Women Deacons: 12 Things to Know

May 13th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the National Catholic Register

By Jimmy Akin

Pope Francis has agreed to create a commission to study the possibility of women deacons.

Here are 12 things to know…

Read More Here

Liturgical Entropy

May 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From the New Liturgical Movement


…liturgical tradition: it is God’s gift to us, it comes before us and goes beyond us, but we must work hard to preserve it and to be worthy of it. What we absolutely must not do is think that it would be better to create an alternative “tradition” and attempt to…

Read more HERE

A Moral Challenge

May 4th, 2016, Promulgated by Bernie

From LifeSite

by Philip Lawler

May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) — In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.

Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a…

Read more HERE