Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Author Archive

The Universal Christian Vocation: Edify

October 13th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

          St. Paul instructs us in his Epistle to the Ephesians to work constantly for the building up of the Church, for the nurturing of Her members. In St. Jerome’s translation of the Scriptures, the exact passage I should like to focus on is as such: ad consummationem sanctorum in opus ministerii, in ædificationem corporis Christi. Literally translated, it means: …to the consummation of the holy ones (i.e. “saints,” believers) in the work of the ministers, in the edification of the Body of Christ (that is, the Church). Verse 12 of Ephesians 4 uses a word that appears only a handful of times in the entirety of the Holy Bible – ædificationem, edification. Indeed, it is used only five times: twice in Corinthians, twice in Ephesians, and once in I Thessalonians. And in each of those times, it used the same way. It refers to the edification of the Church and the faithful.

I had to check my concordances to make sure I had not miscounted the use of this word. Maybe I overlooked its use in the Old Testament. It seems to be the sort of word that would be associated with the Temple in Jerusalem. After all, the Temple figures prominently throughout the historical books of the Old Testament, which chronicle its commissioning, its building, its desecration, its re-consecration, etc. It is mentioned throughout the psalms, many of which were written as “psalms of ascent” that pilgrims would chant as they ascended to the Temple Mount to worship God in His sanctuary. The prophets are seen, major and minor alike, admonishing their contemporaries, instructing them on the ways of God, directing them to realize the significance of the Temple in their midst. And yet, the word “edification” appears nowhere in relation to the worship of the Old Testament.

So why, then, does St. Paul use it to explain the mission of the faithful, instructing them either to edify each other or to edify the Church? The word has overtones of a sacred nature. You wouldn’t say in response to a neighbor’s “hey, how are you,” “I’m feeling edified, and you?” No. Edification is a higher state than being content, satisfied, or even joyful. Edification comes from a contemplation of God and the right, a contemplation of His Creation and how we interact with it. Indeed, the original Latin verb ædificare means “to build up, especially in a spiritual sense.” Were not the Old Testament prophets doing just this, though? Were they not building up the people of God in a truly spiritual sense?

            They were, to the greatest extent possible at that time. God dwelt with His people in the Holy of Holies, in the sanctuary of the Temple, wherein priests would offer sacrifice on behalf of the people. The Temple was the link between the Chosen People and their Lord, the place where Heaven and Earth met, where man and God walked together in harmony. However, when God became man, and was no longer hidden behind the veil in the Temple, no longer needing mediators such as priests and prophets, the world became the dwelling place of God, just as each person is a “temple of the Holy Spirit.” Christ came boldly into His Earthly reign, and did so for the edification of the people. The old ways yielded to the new, and we were given a new commandment, a new Sacrament, a new Church.

The fact that God left the Temple, that He chose to live and interact with His people, giving them the Incarnate Word, should speak to the need of the people, in every age, to be edified. For edification comes from many sources, but primarily, the spoken word. And what word is more sacred, more edifying, than the Word made Flesh? Christ is the source of grace which enables us to act in the way St. Paul desires. We would be unable to edify each other in the Church if we were not moved by the grace of God to do so. This grace rouses in us holy zeal and allows us in turn to diffuse that edification through His Church. And there is no surer method to edify the faithful than to share with them the Word Incarnate in a worthy manner.

Temple worship was a very particular thing, and no doubt edifying. I say without hesitation that I would undoubtedly have been edified in going to the Temple, in making that venerable pilgrimage to Jerusalem. However, the change in terminology belies a change in presence. Whereas God was spiritually present to the Israelites, He is physically present to His Church in the Blessed Sacrament. The Divine Teacher comes into our midst to instruct us, to lead us, to edify us. And it is our duty similarly to lead all Christians to a sense of edification, especially in our churches, where God now walks with us in perfect harmony.

Belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist makes this task of edification a simple one. If we see the small, white host raised in Benediction over us, do we not feel a sense of wonder and awe that God should dwell so near, yet so veiled? The contemplation of the host alone leads us to consideration of He Who is Goodness, Beauty, and Truth Himself. We gaze upon His Presence with humility in order to allow this lesson, this Divine edification, to take root in our souls. Just as the priest raises Our Eucharistic King above us in silent Benediction, so too does Christ raise our hearts and minds to consider the greater things.

It is this raising of ourselves, the heightening of our intellect, of our charity, of our devotion and reverence, which serves to edify our neighbors. If we bear witness to our Faith in a tangible, dignified way, those around us, within and without the Church, are obligated to take notice and pay attention. They realize that our efforts, our focus on Truth, are not trivial things. Anyone has the ability to edified, just as anyone who has a profound and reverent love of Christ has the ability through his or her actions to edify. And none have a more perfect opportunity to live the command of St. Paul than does the priest.

         The priest stands at the altar charged with the singular task to bring Christ to His flock. He is charged with this duty by his congregation and by Christ Himself, Who called him by name to minister to Him in the sanctuary, to “go unto the altar of God, Who gives joy to my youth.” By his ordination, the priest finds himself to be, not his own person, but God’s and His Church’s. But this is absolutely necessary for the priest, for he surrenders his own aspirations, his own desires and agendas, for the sake of the edification of the faithful, the building up of the City of God.

For this reason, the priest must offer a Mass that is edifying. It must challenge the faithful to raise their hearts and minds to God. It must reach out to them as brothers and sisters in Christ. It must present them right teaching, and do so in a dignified way. For Truth demands reverence. If we attempt to convey the Sacred Mysteries without reverence, through a Mass stripped of genuflections and a sense of the beautiful, the Mass becomes a farce, a cross between the unbloody reenactment of Calvary and a Broadway musical. And this does not edify. It entertains. And nowhere in the Old Testament or the New did the prophets, evangelists, or St. Paul tell us “entertain the faithful in the Body of Christ.” No. We are told to edify and be edified in the transforming presence of Christ.

Therefore, each Mass must be offered with an eye to respecting the integrity of the ritual, a ritual which was designed to bring God to His people and His people to Him. Our own ideas on inclusivity or approachability are shown to be incredibly hollow and ineffective when presented with the immutable beauty of a liturgy whose priest sets out with the goal of edifying his congregation, not entertaining it. The eastward-orientation of the priest at Mass, with congregation and priest facing God in prayer together, prevented priests from turning the Mass into a show. While a priest could very easily offer an irreverent Mass facing the tabernacle or the people, when his face is turned towards God, the people assume that His thoughts are with God. When his face is towards the congregation, countless distractions might arise which, then, hinder the edification of the people.
The rubrics are not there to overcomplicate the Mass, to take it away from the people. Rather, the rubrics are there to bring the Mass to the people in the most authentic way possible. They ensure that the faithful are edified by holding the Mass as something sacred, something that belongs to the people, yet belongs to God, too. For, just as the Temple belonged to the people, the sanctuary was God’s. There has always been a designation, in the Old Testament and the New, between what is sacred and what is profane, “profane” literally meaning “outside of the shrine.” While God deigned to leave His dwelling in the Temple, this did not mean that the separation from the sacred and profane ceased to be.

This need for a reminder of what is sacred and what is not led to the advent of the communion rail, the rood screen, the iconostasis. Each of these liturgical delineations serve, not to separate the sacrifice of the Eucharist from the people, but to bring the people to the altar of God in a worthy, reverent way. The communion rail, for example, is actually considered an extension of the altar. And so, when communicants kneel at the altar rail to receive Our Lord, they are kneeling at the very table of God. When we have the Blessed Sacrament brought to us by designated members of the lay faithful, a sense of dependency on man is created. Whereas the communion rail invites us to come to God to receive Him at the very doorstep of mercy, we must now come to a fellow pilgrim to receive Our Lord.

          I do not say this to demean our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. In many parishes, they serve a necessary function. However, in many other parishes, they lead the faithful away from edification. When a young child sees a crowd of lay people distributing the Blessed Sacrament like so many overworked pharmacists dispensing medication, the unique role of the priest is diminished. Indeed, it is demeaned. And what is even worse, compounding this, is that the faithful fail in our mission to edify each other. If we fail to see the priest as a representative of Christ, if we fail to grasp the Real Presence because of the feigned enthusiasm of “Eucharistic Ministers,” we fail to edify each other, to impart right teaching to the faithful.

It has been said that there is no more eloquent sermon a priest can offer than a well-said Mass. A well-said Mass edifies the faithful. How many times have you left Mass in the past month feeling edified? How many times have you left Mass in the past month feeling frustrated? The countless distractions introduced inorganically to the Mass over the past several decades, the many feminizations and simplifications embraced to “make Mass more accessible,” have led the faithful away from the instruction of St. Paul, away from being aware of God’s awesome presence in our midst. Tabernacles are crossed without due reverence. Our Lord’s Body is ground underfoot by less-than-vigilant communicants. Sanctuary lamps burn out, leaving only memory to make the faithful recall the presence of Christ in our churches. This is not edification. This is, rather, evidence of a liturgical self-absorption.

This pride is what alienates the faithful, what makes them leave Mass still hungering for the Sacred. For while Christ has come to them sacramentally, they have not been edified. They have been, as I said, entertained. More accurately, I think it should be said that they have been “entertained at.” We recycle the same trite pop songs because “people like them.” Certainly people like them, for they are steeped in a sentimentality that has no real place in the liturgy. To focus on our feelings, on our own musical entertainment is to focus on ourselves, on our tastes, on what “sounds nice.” But what “sounds nice” and what “is sacred” are two separate questions. I would contend that what is genuinely sacred will always “sound nice,” for if music is authentically sacred, is artful, dignified, and universal, it will perfectly compliment the liturgical action in such a way as to rouse the faithful to contemplation of God.

And nothing rouses this contemplation in our hearts and minds as does the beautiful. Sacred art, architecture, and music appeal to our sensual natures. And in our age, which is obsessed with the senses, it seems as if we as a Church are afraid to meet this challenge. Sight, sound, touch, smell, taste all come together in the sacred liturgy, and the proper meeting of these senses is the surest way, combined with the priest’s humility and reverence, to edify the faithful. There is no shame in admitting to ourselves that we like nice things. Beauty appeals to us because it is an innate desire placed in us by the Creator in order to discover His presence in the world. It is a simple way to let God speak to us, by surrounding ourselves with holy reminders.

This age is, perhaps, the most sensual (sense-based) age in recent centuries. Our youth are constantly bombarded with music and images of a decidedly profane nature. What would happen, do you think, if sacred art and music found their worthy home, not on museum walls and in concert halls, but in our churches? The hunger in our souls to be edified would be met. We would encounter God in so many ways, all of which pointing us undeniably to His Real Presence, a presence so often ignored or forgotten even by those who profess a belief in it. This unfortunate reality can only be rectified by the humble and loving persistence of those of us who understand the integral nature of traditional liturgy and aesthetics. It is up to us, in our limited capacities, to lead our brothers and sisters to Christ in this unique way. Not everyone is called to do so, but some of us are. And we must be obedient to God, to His prophets, to His evangelists and saints, and strive constantly and in everything to work towards “the consummation of the holy ones in the work of the ministers, in the edification of the Body of Christ.”

We Are in the Middle of a Love Story – Latin and its Place in the Roman Church

September 8th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Mass is the “source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, states similarly that, “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” (SC I.1.7). Throughout the entire history of the Church, this sentiment has ennobled our sacrifice of praise, directing us to offer to God the best that we possibly can. The goal in doing so is not to render each Mass a performance, or to “show off” our abilities. Rather, the sole purpose to offering Mass is the salvation of souls. Indeed, this is why it is the “source and summit,” for it gives us Christ to bring us to Christ. The Mass is the total offering of the Son by the Father for the remission of our sins, a commemoration of the Paschal Mystery wherein Christ ransomed us back to Himself.

tlmAnd so it is not entirely surprising that our Masses are often termed “celebrations.” The common question in sacristies around the world is, “who’s celebrating Mass today?” And celebrate we must, for the Mass is the setting in which God comes to us under the guise of bread and wine. He comes into our midst, into our very bodies, at the request of His servants, his clergy. “O admirabile commercium!” Our joy at such a reality ought to be brimming over, unbounded and uncontainable. The energy, the adrenaline, are surely there for the faithful whenever the priest holds aloft the host and the chalice saying, “Behold the Lamb of God.” The Scriptures are filled with accounts of uncontainable joy and enthusiasm. The psalms often highlight the praise of God “with timbrel and harp,” exhorting us to “clap our hands” and “be glad!”

So, glad we must be. Glad we are. Blessed are we who are called to the supper of the Lamb. Christ summons us personally to His altar to receive Him worthily, and this invitation ought not to be turned down. He gave Himself wholly for us; all that remains is for us to give ourselves wholly back to Him. And that is where the nature of sacrifice enters into our Earthly liturgies. If this encounter between God and man is the “source and summit” of our lives as Christians, does it not follow that we should actually make it seem as such? Are we not called to channel our joy and Eucharistic zeal in such a way as to lift up our souls just as the priest lifts up the Blessed Sacrament?

This is one of our universal calls as Christians. Every person has an invitation from God to serve Him in some way unique to the individual. Some are to be spouses, others monks and nuns, still others priests. There are an infinite number of vocations God gives to His people, but the one that links us all is a call to do Him homage in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The Church recognizes this universal call, and does so even so clearly as to recognize it in Her very name: the Catholic Church. This call, this catholic, universal, borderless summons of the Almighty, binds us one to another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We all approach the same God; we all approach the same altar.

This is why unity in worship is integral to the Christian life, and infinitely beneficial to the Christian soul. We are all individuals celebrating Christ’s selfless gift on Calvary, but when we come together in prayer as a community, we must direct our enthusiasm in a single, refined direction. Just as a prism takes light and sends forth the colors of the rainbow, so must our worship function in reverse. The various colors of our worship must be fused, blended, refined, so as to produce one single ray of light, one beam, one unified vision. If we focus on the individual colors in our lives, if we define ourselves by “my parish” and “your parish,” we automatically shrink the scope of the Faith to a local thing, not a catholic experience of God.

    This is why the beauty of a Latin liturgy is just that: undeniably beautiful. It takes the thousands of tongues of praise with which God has gifted us, and unifies them, binding them in one so as to create a harmony of perfect sacrifice. For in this liturgical, linguistic union, we lose ourselves in the immensity of Christ and His Church, focusing not on our own limited capabilities or cultural experiences. The value of Latin in the liturgical life of the Church is that it strips us of our pride, minimizes our ego, makes the Mass entirely sacrificial and Christ-centered. Our Masses far too often seem to canonize the community, or worse yet, to worship it. Latin makes this impossible, due mostly to the fact that it is a foreign tongue. It makes us all equals in the eyes of the Church.

Latin is not meant to stifle our joy. Nor is it meant to appeal to a small circle of erudite priests and seminarians. It is the universal, the catholic language of the Church, and serves, as I have said, to gather our many disparate voices into one. The ancient people of the Old Testament attempted to build a tower to reach the Heavens, and were punished for their arrogance by a multiplicity of tongues. The Mass reverses that, and rewards our humility with a unification of tongues.

And not just “tongues,” but hearts and minds, as well. Latin is, by its very nature, perfectly suited to liturgical worship. A primary attribute is that it compels us to raise our hearts and minds precisely because it is foreign. It challenges us to be attentive, to think, to offer praise to God with our whole being and not sit back in our pews with a spirit of complacency. When we praise God exclusively in our own language, our praise runs the risk of becoming too casual, too “familiar” with God. While God gave Christ to be our friend and brother, He gave Christ, too, to be our King and Savior. Latin stirs in us this royal sentiment, addressing our sovereign and savior in a language which sounds fitting for such an instance.

Latin, also, is a beautiful, poetic, passionate language. While many languages are similarly beautiful, Latin eclipses them with its antiquity and its nobility. It has a clear ability to transcend the present and appeal to those things which are eternal. Latin is outside of our present-day existence on the street, and this is why it continues to be set apart for use in our liturgies. Just as our Jewish brothers and sisters have their own sacred language reserved for liturgy, so, too, do we. It is a language of poetic beauty, and therefore makes the Mass seem “entirely other.” Many of our brothers and sisters dislike Latin for just this reason, explaining how it makes them feel alienated. However, their focus remains on their own personal tastes and experiences, and fails to look up and take into consideration all the members of the Church. We must be an inclusive Church, and the boundaries of our inclusivity don’t end at the parish parking lot.

Latin is lofty, fitting for kings. Latin is beautiful, fitting for God’s creation. Latin is ethereal, fitting for the Mass. Latin is inclusive, fitting for use by the entire Church of God. To claim that Latin does not meet the needs of the Church, that it keeps the laity at arm’s length, is to have a regrettably narrow focus. If we feel intimidated by the use of Latin, the looming prevalence of chant and polyphony, the absence of vernacular hymnody, we should ask ourselves “why?”

The answer will invariably be along the lines of, “it makes me feel little.” We might feel lost, confused, isolated. We might feel wholly unwelcome at, even uninvited to participate in the Sacred Mysteries. But what we must realize is that we will only feel that way if we are unwilling to surrender totally to Christ. If we feel this way, we are placing ourselves, our own insular and limited perception, above that of Christ’s Church. Latin only makes us feel overwhelmed if we fight it out of a sense of entitlement. We must always approach the altar with a spirit of absolute humility. Rejoice, yes, but temper your rejoicing with the realization of who you are.  We are, each of us, sinners. We trust in God’s mercy. And we approach the Mass with a sense of great joy, but simultaneously, with some measure of hesitation. After all, we should be in awe when we attend Mass.

The depth of the Mass is unfathomable (hence “awe”). At the words of a mere man, Christ descends to our altars, in our very presence, and makes Himself wholly present in the Blessed Sacrament. Do we really feel that the merits of community singing outweigh the reverence and solemnity demanded of such an awesome gift? Do we really place more of an emphasis on our own desire to belong, on our own insecurities, than we do on approaching God with humility? Latin ensures just such an approach, and does so through its timelessness, through its beauty, through its foreign nature.

This is its allure to this current generation. For so long, our youth have been coddled, their Masses emasculated and robbed of their depth. On a subconscious level especially, they are rebelling against this vernacular status quo (given the opportunity, of course). Present any child, teenager, or young adult with Gregorian chant, and it will bring about a change in them. They may or may not be able to explain the nature of this change. It may not even be visible to our eyes. But what is of tantamount importance is that there is in his heart no animosity, no hostility, no resentment. There is an openness to Latin, to chant, to Tradition. And that is the main difference between our youth and the generations of the 60’s and 70’s.

  And so all that is left for us to do is reintroduce Latin, to expose our young people to the unquestionable beauty of the Faith, so richly embodied in her use of that venerable language to convey Truth. There is no reason to be shy in defending the use of Latin in the Church’s liturgical life. Bl. John XXIII, the Roman Pontiff who oversaw the first portion of the Second Vatican Council, stated in no uncertain terms that, “The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular” (Veterum Sapientia). Champions of so-called “reform” attempt to point to him and his successor Paul VI as defenders of vernacular liturgy. However, this is far from the truth of the matter.

Indeed, the Second Vatican Council reconfirmed again and again that Latin is the universal language of the Church. It is the universal language of Christian prayer. After all, Gregorian chant has “principal place” in Catholic liturgy. Paul VI himself expressed this sentiment when he wrote, “The Latin language is assuredly worthy of being defended with great care, instead of being scorned; for the Latin Church it is the most abundant source of Christian civilization and the richest treasury of piety. We must not hold in low esteem these traditions of your fathers which were your glory for centuries” (Sacrificium Laudis). The two Conciliar pontiffs uphold the use of Latin, and direct us to defend its use.

Unfortunately, we have seen no such realization of the Second Vatican Council. We have, however, seen its documents subverted for political agendas which run entirely contrary to the heart of the Church. Those who profess to serve “the Spirit of Vatican II” have, in most circumstances, never even read the documents it produced. Rather, they allow erroneous teaching to take up a home in their hearts. And why? It would seem counterintuitive to reject something so timeless as the “traditions of your fathers” for something so new and innovative.

The simplest explanation is that those who were entrusted with implementing the reforms of the Second Vatican Council had, many of them, long since ceased to realize their love affair with Truth. Saving souls took an auxiliary role in the Church’s mission. Community-building took primary place. No one who authentically loves the Church, the Mystical Spouse of Christ, would so zealously rob Her of Her majesty, and so dreadfully undercut Her sacred liturgies. Ven. Pope Pius XII reminds us that Latin “affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruption of true doctrine.” By placing the most sacred words ever pronounced in our own language, in making them seem suddenly so deceptively mundane, we lost that safeguard. And does a lover strip his love of dignity, of security, of beauty? Does a lover seek to diminish the complexity of his partner in order to appreciate her? No. If he loves her truly, he will strive to learn her ways, to contemplate them, to interact with them in such a way as to keep the flame of their love ever burning.

When priests and bishops stripped our liturgies of their natural language, of their chant, of their vestments, of their altars and sacramentals, they stripped the Bride of Christ of her wedding garments, and forced Her to stand there, mirroring Christ, unprotected and derided by the centurions. We force on Her brow the crown of thorns of feigned inclusivity. We place in Her hand the sceptre of castrated authority. This is not the act of a lover. This is the act of those whose love has run cold, if it has ever run at all.

The absence of Latin betrays a premature end to the love story of the Mass. When we cease to offer the best we are able to offer, when complacency rules our liturgical sensibilities, we must pause and ask ourselves why our affections have run cold. Why do we turn so ashamedly from our noble and rich heritage? Why do we shirk Tradition?

We do so because we do not know how to love. Latin is the Church’s language of universal love. It is, by its very nature, a language of poetic beauty, and therefore perfectly suited to communicate Christ’s love for us through His Church. It demonstrates, too, the victory of that love, for what was once a pagan tongue uttered by Romans over two millennia ago is now the pure language of the Church which rose up and choked out that culture of fear and lust. The Roman Empire fell, and was swiftly replaced by the Roman Church, which maintained the imagery and symbolism of the Empire in order to convey the absolute power and love of Christ, Who is Priest, Prophet, and King.

Indeed, in the Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church states, “Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs” (SC I.1.7). Latin is the bridge between worlds, in which this “perceptible sign” directs us towards a deeper understanding of the Sacred Mysteries. Through its veil of mysticism, we enter into a direct contemplation of the immensity and wonder of God.

And this is no mistake. Over 2,000 years, new vernaculars have come and gone, but the original vernacular of Latin has remained. It was that language that Pilate used to pronounce his sentence. It was that language that graced the sign above Christ’s head. It was that language that the martyrs breathed in their last moments. It is this language that transmits to us, unbroken, the entirety of our Tradition. And it is this Tradition that demonstrates to the faithful that we truly are “in the middle of a love story, and each of us is a link in this chain of love. And if we do not understand this, we have understood nothing of what the Church is.”

Reminder: Mass for Priestly Vocations – Friday, August 16

August 10th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

This is just a reminder that on Friday, August 16th, at 6:30 PM, there will be a Mass offered at the Carmelite Monastery on Jefferson Road. The intention of the Mass is for an increase of priestly vocations. Fr. Michael Mayer will be presiding. Holy Mass will conclude with Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Vespers 6

These events are wonderful opportunities to practice what we preach. We need priests badly, and if we gather together to pray for this intention, just imagine how much more efficacious our prayers will be!


St. Thomas Parishioners Locked Out

July 31st, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Just when it seemed that the situation in Irondequoit had reached some sort of equilibrium, Fr. English reminds us that this is not the case. After having instructed parishioners of St. Thomas (sorry…St. Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Thomas the Apostle) not to pray their daily Rosaries there, the administration of the “parish” decided to change the locks on the doors to the church. This was done without any prior notification of the parishioners, adorers, or other visitors who sought to visit Our Lord in His holy place. 398574_10150600168381842_509333251_n

Simply put, Fr. English has locked his own parishioners out of their own church. Remember: St. Thomas the Apostle has not been closed. It is an open church, consecrated and fully able to minister sacramentally to the people of the city, presuming, of course, that her priest(s) choose not to shirk their duty to do so. The parish has been stripped of its Masses, its confession schedule, and all devotions, and for no other reason than a warped sense of political expediency. This is not pastoral planning; this is pastoral vengeance.

The people of St. Thomas have been fighting for years to maintain a presence in their own church. They ought never to have needed to do so, based on their stable finances, demographics, and campus upkeep. Indeed, of all the Irondequoit parishes, St. Thomas was in the best position to facilitate a gentle transition to a prosperous worship community. This was overlooked by many, though. Every individual in a position of authority lorded that authority over the people of St. Thomas, and did this only because of one reason: St. Thomas the Apostle rejoices in its Catholic identity. The same cannot be said of Christ the King, where the casual observer finds himself asking, “is this really a Catholic church?”

The willful and deliberate targeting of St. Thomas has been an unquestionable trend for the past several years, and this most recent transgression refreshes in our minds the memories of past injustices. The manner in which the parish of St. Thomas the Apostle has been “dealt with” bears a striking similarity to the Jews’ treatment of Our Lord in his final days. The Diocese, like the High Priest and his minions, hides behind flawed interpretations of Canon Law, and bends the Law to suit its own agenda. The machinations of the priests took place in darkness, hidden from the light of day, from the light of Truth. Fr. English, I think it is fair to say, is not acting entirely dissimilarly in this matter.

76079_461342011841_6916584_n We should ask of him several questions, to see what possible justification he might have in locking his parishioners out of their worship site. Primarily, why now? What happened to prompt him to seal shut the doors of one of his own churches? Was there theft? Was there mistreatment of property? Did someone say their “Hail Mary” a little too loudly for his liking? Next, we should ask what part of Canon Law allows a pastor to lock his flock out of their church? He might say that locks are changed frequently, and for all sorts of reasons. And this is true. However, in most instances when a parish has its locks changed, the pastor sees to it that the faithful actually have access to the church, and don’t find themselves left out on the steps. His defense might be that “we don’t use St. Thomas for Mass any more. We worship at St. Cecelia, Christ the King, and St. Margaret Mary.” Yes, that is true. But St. Thomas is not closed, and being in that state, cannot be locked to the faithful. The Vatican ruled that it could not “save” St. Thomas because, on paper, St. Thomas is not in any need of being saved. It is officially open. There is no doubt about this. And, maybe I just don’t understand, maybe I don’t speak English too good, but isn’t an “open” church actually supposed to be open?

As of this writing, the canon lawyer representing St. Thomas has been contacted, and is working on resolving the situation. Let us pray for a resolution that is just and equitable for the parishioners. But remember: our politically-motivated priests don’t operate with a focus on the Faith, on objective Truth. No. They can’t focus their eyes on anything, living and operating as they do in the shadow-lands of legality. Do not expect, dear friends, to be dealt with by those in charge with any semblance of respect or charity. But stand firm, be vigilant, do not yield. The Office of Compline tells us, “Be sober and watchful, for our adversary, the devil, goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. But resist, ye, strong in faith.” Take this to heart, and approach this issue prayerfully, with composure, dignity, and certitude.

Important Announcement This Tuesday

June 22nd, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

A priest in good standing with the Diocese has informed us that it is “highly probable” that an announcement will be made on Tuesday regarding the naming of our next bishop. Stay tuned.

Bishop Watch – “Transition Imminent”

June 14th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

While we have often been inundated with rumors and whispers regarding the appointment of our next bishop, I thought it prudent to share the following substantiated piece of news. Emails from various diocesan employees use phrases such as “transition imminent” and “coming very quickly.” But, most importantly, the following statement was confirmed through three separate sources:

Rehearsals for the “Installation Mass” are underway at Sacred Heart.

Prayer of St. Francis – Part I

May 15th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Often times, the simplest prayers of our Faith go unappreciated, due to trite use of them at Mass, manipulation to serve a particular agenda, or perhaps  even over-use of them in para-liturgical contexts. This is a shame, because it relegates beautiful, heartfelt prayer to some sort of desacralized statement of one’s cultural Catholicism. It goes no deeper in men’s hearts because it’s only about the emotion associated with the prayer, and our understanding stops there. It “feels right,” so we run through these prayers quickly, without consideration of their real worth or value.

While the “Prayer of St. Francis” is usually attributed to St. Francis, it was actually most likely written in Italy around the turn of the 20th Century. It was brought to the United States by Cardinal Spellman, who renamed it “The Prayer of St. Francis.”

I’ve often felt that this is the case with the prayer of St. Francis. Growing up hearing the song “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” made me shy away from actually prayerful utterance of this classic text. The oozing sentimentality made me feel uncomfortable, because the music made me feel strong emotions. The text came second in achieving that.

Just the other day, though, I was in a bit of a disagreement with some associates regarding the limits of charity and Christian love. “You’re doing too much. You’re being used.” Well, perhaps. But then I heard the words of this prayer in my mind. More accurately, I should say I felt them in my heart, but I’ve just been complaining about “oozing sentimentality,” haven’t I? This prayer asks God that we might have the grace “not so much seek to be consoled as to console: To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.” And I realized, quite simply, that this is the heart of the Christian life. We must give freely of ourselves in order to find genuine and lasting contentment and joy.

This is why I’ve decided to look at this prayer, line by line, and pray it over with you. I hope you don’t find this to be the overly-emotional, trite usage we often see and hear with this prayer. Rather, I’d like to look at it as it really is.

The prayer begins thus:

LORD, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Our immediate interaction with the Divine is a command, which is something quite bold when you think about it. There is no language of, “would that Thou might look with favor on Thy lowly servant.” There is no explicit supplication. This first sentence is uttered in the same spirit as the words of the woman with the hemorrhage, who reached out and seized Our Lord’s garments. There is a presumption here on our part, on her part, and we take it upon ourselves to take a great liberty with God. “God, do this.” No please. No other softener of the blow. But this audacity is mitigated by the Faith which prompts it in the first place. After all, if there were no faith in our hearts as we make this prayer, if there were no faith in the heart of the woman who reached out to Our Lord, our prayer and her reach would either be stripped of any real value, or cease to be a possibility at all. It just wouldn’t happen.

Our faith leads us to make this bold demand. “Make me an instrument of Thy peace.” But it is a bold demand with a higher purpose, that we might both reflect and extend the Kingdom of God. “Let not my will, but Thine be done.” For our will, so often runs contrary to the litany of “wheres and lets” which follows. We withhold our love, because hatred feels so intensely gratifying. We withhold pardon, to compound the injury of an offending party. Our intentions undermine God’s, and it is this realization that makes the recitation of this prayer happen. We see ourselves as we are, and in our fear and desperation, in our desire to please only God, we cry out, “Lord, make us instruments of Thy peace!”

We then proceed to undergo a sort of examination of conscience. Where there is hatred, Lord, give me the grace to spread Your love. How often do we shy away from being truly loving, wholly giving of ourselves, because of how others might perceive that? What is more scandalous, friends, to sow love, or keep it hidden and ungerminated? Should we shirk the pain and burden of the Cross, because resting in its shade is so much more comfortable? Love was God’s gift to us. Love was nailed to the Cross. That was God’s sowing; what shall be ours? We must run towards those who shame and humiliate, those who challenge and defy, and show them love. Charity is active, not passive, and so, in order to be charitable, we must go into the world and sow the seeds of love.

And love begets pardoning. Did not Love pardon the malefactors and crucifiers on Calvary? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” From love comes all the strength necessary to realize the attainability of the fruits of this litany. St. Paul explains this most eloquently in his first letter to the Corinthians.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Love is then, quite clearly, the source of pardon, faith, light, hope, and joy. And Christ is the source of our love for one another. If our love has not Christ as its center, if our cry to be a “channel of peace” is motivated, not by love of Christ, but by selfish motives, then it falls short. It is a hollow love, and can achieve nothing. True love gives till there is nothing more to give. Love doesn’t heed the shallow objections of nay-sayers. Love that is true, that is “pure and faultless, is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” This is why we cry out the way we do in this prayer’s opening words. This is why we proceed to list all those ways in which we might fall short, and why we pray that where there is doubt, we might bring faith.

To reach out to those in need, those who are in darkness, those who live in doubt and confusion, are those who need our love, our charity (caritas) most. This does not mean that our showing of love will be easy. It doesn’t mean it will be unopposed or wholly understood for the pure and genuinely-motivated thing it is. That is no excuse to ignore the needs of others, even if it is convenient to ignore them. It is no excuse to withhold light when we see people dwelling in darkness. If you want to be channel of His peace, you need to give wholly of yourself, and not count the cost. But that’s another post for another day.

Reminder: Mass for Vocations, Tomorrow, 7:00 PM at St. Anne

April 25th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen


Just a brief reminder that tomorrow is the Mass for Vocations held at St. Anne, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 11411.

Friday, April 26, 2013, 7:00 PM

St. Anne Church

1600 Mt. Hope Avenue

Fr. John Colacino presiding, Deacon Tom Jewell preaching

Refreshments to follow Mass.

Mass for Vocations – Friday, April 26, 7:00 PM at St. Anne

April 9th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

228770_10150197073126842_5645585_nWe have received word that Knights of Columbus St. Damien of Moloka’i Council #11411 will be sponsoring another vocations-awareness event, this time a Mass for Vocations to be offered on Friday, April 26, at 7:00 PM at St. Anne Church. Mark your calendars, and do your best to attend!

On a related note, I recently found this poem which seems particularly suited for a young person’s desire to found his or her vocation in life:


“Where Peter, There the Church”

March 13th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Today, March 13th, 2013, our brothers in faith, the Princes of the Church, have elected a simple, humble man to the throne of St. Peter. His Holiness Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina, has presented himself already as a man burning with love for every member of the Church. I think it is safe to say that very few people expected the election of this Holy Father. He is the Church’s first Jesuit pope, the first “American” pope, and the first pope to adopt the name of St. Francis. (It is currently speculated that this is in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, whose simple piety and dignified, reverent prayer life have endeared him to many.) Naturally, there are some quarters in the Church expressing confusion, maybe even disappointment. Some of us wanted a liturgical pit-bull, a near-reincarnation of Ven. Pope Pius XII. Pope Francis does not appear to be this sort of man. But to witness growth in the Church, one must have fertile soil. Bl. Pope John Paul II tilled the soil. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI planted the seeds. Now Pope Francis must water and fertilize this heritage, as I’m certain he will. We must, as always, pray for our Holy Father in Rome. He is the Successor of St. Peter, the visible head of the Church on Earth, a Church that thrust down pagan Rome and every subsequent threat to the Gospel of Christ. When His Holiness bowed his head after asking for the silent prayers of all those in St. Peter’s Square, I knew that this man had the heart of Christ beating within him. We see, in his election, the turning of a new page in the history of the Church. The Vatican II generation is done. The botched implementation, the misapplied theologies, the butchered liturgies are things of the past, and will only continue to wane in the sight of humble, loving, devoted men. The youth have seen two excellent examples of Christian zeal in the past two pontificates; they will, now mature, grow in the grace to come from this third. John Paul II made the Church proud again, lifted Her chin from its crestfallen position, and bade Her look ahead to the glories to come. Benedict XVI whispered gently in Her ear the scholarly insights of a masterful theologian, giving Her the resolve and purpose to go boldly ahead. Francis  shall now take Her tenderly by the hand and take the first steps on a path of simple joy, of genuine charity. The Church is bigger than one man. The Church is bigger than us. We are privileged to live in a time where we must constantly defend our faith. I say “privileged” because what greater honor is there than to defend and know the Truth of Christ, the Truth now embodied in this servus servorum Dei? The Holy Spirit has guided us this far. He will not lead astray now.

“How Quickly the Glories of This World Pass Away”

February 28th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

As I sat and watched Pope Benedict walk, cane in hand, to the car waiting to take him to the helicopter which would then take him to Castel Gondolfo, I think I can assume I was not the only one so moved and pained by the loss of a wonderful father figure. He guided us gently, lovingly for eight years. He asked at his election that we pray for him, lest he “flee, for fear of the wolves.” His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI met these wolves, who came in heinous form and number, and defeated each one through such spiritual erudition as has seldom been seen in this world. He accepted the yoke Our Lord deigned him to carry, and pushed on despite its weight, and has reached the end of his mission as Successor of St. Peter.

File photo of Pope Benedict XVI leaving at the end of his weekly audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican

The helicopter, flying past the Vatican, over the crumbling Roman Forum and the Coliseum, carried its venerable passenger with sublime dignity, not only to Castel Gondolfo, but into the pages of history and the hearts of all who will comprise Christendom through the coming centuries. We see a frail, old, tired man being borne through the sky, like Elijah on his flaming chariot, being taken from our sight at a time we all feel to be far too soon. But his departure from the Vatican reminds us that Christ is ever-victorious, and that His Church has “cast down the mighty from their thrones,” Christianizing the Roman Empire, safeguarding Truth in the Dark Ages, turning back evil in its course, denying Napoleon and Hitler, defying Stalin and his minions. The monuments erected in the glory-filled days of Caesar’s Rome, of Hitler’s Berlin, of Stalin’s Moscow all lie crumbling at the feet of a man who embodies all that is True, all that is Good, all that is Beautiful.

The powers and princedoms of this world rise and fall around us as the presence of one man in the Vatican assures us that all is well, that the battle is already won. The beasts of erroneous opinion bray and call out in their frantic, desperate ways, contesting reality, but only in vain. They raise their disfigured heads, and are met only with the authority of Christ, an authority made manifest in the man wearing the shoes of the fisherman. “I considered the horns, and behold, another little horn sprung out of the midst of them: and three of the first horns were plucked up at the presence thereof: and behold, eyes like the eyes of a man were in this horn, and a mouth speaking great things.”

Pope Benedict has reminded us in this last, great act of humility, that the things of Earth are fleeting. Glories come and go, but God, who is Glory itself, endures forever. We mourn, but do so as selfish children, who know that an ease of our pain is imminent, but who in our grief, cannot accept that. We weep, not recognizing the victory at hand, when Tradition raises Her hand once again, and reestablishes order, reignites the flame in our heart, the zeal in our souls. Pray for Pope Benedict XVI, and pray for his successor. We have nothing to fear, for God is with us and with him.

Wherein Fr. Peter Clifford “Does Not Know”

February 25th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

In the coming weeks, our Diocese will find itself in a very unusual situation. We will be experiencing a sede vacante on two counts, with the See of Rome and the See of Rochester both lacking an episcopal head. This will, undoubtedly, give rise to much uncertainty and, more unfortunately, much idle speculation.

I don’t like speculation for two reasons: there is seldom any substance to it, and there is generally nothing one can actually do regarding it…that is, unless you have a parish bulletin in which to offer thoughts and reflections. This is precisely what Fr. Peter Clifford at St. John of Rochester has done in the recent bulletin, which can be found here. He presents his parishioners with a brief overview of the conclave process, which is really rather informative and insightful. However, he digresses very quickly. I quote:

“In my view, many have felt left out or put out of the conversation. We have lost enough members. In order to bring Catholics back to the church and to keep them, he (the new pope) must find a way to speak to the middle. I do not suggest altering teaching or position as much as the means and way the message is delivered. In many ways, John XXIII was as traditional as John  Paul II, but his style, his smile and seeming easy way won hearts. He needs to be approachable. The grand and monarchical papacy is in the past. (Benedict XVI is a truly humble man, but he did not look it in red designer slippers, ermine capes, golden roziers [sic])…I cannot say what it would look like, but it needs to change.” (I’ll not comment at length about the gross disrespect shown by Fr. Clifford, even implicitly, to His Holiness.)

I could go on for several paragraphs, but I’ll keep it short. Is it not interesting, let alone self-contradictory, that a priest in the Church feels that he is capable to judge the nature of Pope Benedict’s reign, implying, despite the nice “humble man” intro, that His Holiness was not, in fact, humble? What is more humble – to reign gently and with beauty, serenity, and dignity, or to criticize pontifical ceremonial half a world away? One could easily make the same passive-aggressive snipes about wealth and pomp given the generous amounts St. John’s receives in its collections each week. However, to base a judgment on Fr. Clifford’s tenure there, his staff, the various committees and organizations, etc., based solely on outward signs is shallow and damaging. Fr. Clifford says we need to appeal to the middle – does criticizing and showing disrespect for the Pope achieve this? I think not.

My second point is this: note that our more “progressive” brothers and sisters are very free and liberal in their critiques, but lack the vision to see the actual solution to these alleged issues. He writes, “I cannot say what it would look like.” If he cannot say, cannot solve, cannot provide genuine insight, he ought not to attempt it. Surely, we all critique and nitpick, but to do it and not follow through, to leave important matters such as the governance of Holy Mother Church open for discussion and dialogue, is not a responsible method of appealing to the middle. (And he is assuming that the “middle” is right on all counts. That’s an assumption I’m not willing to make, personally.)

I find it rather entertaining that some of our fellow Catholics feel that current trends, fads of passing decades, carry some weight of infallibility that allows us (demands of us?) to change the Church. We are Catholic Christians, whose faith is universal, not only in location, but in time. “The grand and monarchical papacy is past,” perhaps, Fr. Clifford, but this does not mean that it is now time for a “grand and monarchical” priesthood to take to the stage through opinion-riddled bulletin articles. Idle speculation damages the Church, and has done so since the earliest days, and will do so till the end of time. This is not some sort of blank check for “forward-thinking” action. “The Council reoriented our style of church away from monarchy to collegiality.” Where, then, is the “collegiality,” when we presume to correct our venerable Holy Father because of his apparel?

Pray for the Pope. Pray for our priests. Pray that the Holy Spirit may touch the hearts of those who are worried and uncertain about the coming weeks and months. Remember: the gates of Hell shall not prevail.

Pope Benedict to Resign

February 11th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

Dear Brothers,

I have convoked you to this Consistory, not only for the three canonizations, but also to communicate to you a decision of great importance for the life of the Church. After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry. I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiritual nature, must be carried out not only with words and deeds, but no less with prayer and suffering. However, in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. For this reason, and well aware of the seriousness of this act, with full freedom I declare that I renounce the ministry of Bishop of Rome, Successor of Saint Peter, entrusted to me by the Cardinals on 19 April 2005, in such a way, that as from 28 February 2013, at 20:00 hours, the See of Rome, the See of Saint Peter, will be vacant and a Conclave to elect the new Supreme Pontiff will have to be convoked by those whose competence it is.

Dear Brothers, I thank you most sincerely for all the love and work with which you have supported me in my ministry and I ask pardon for all my defects. And now, let us entrust the Holy Church to the care of Our Supreme Pastor, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and implore his holy Mother Mary, so that she may assist the Cardinal Fathers with her maternal solicitude, in electing a new Supreme Pontiff. With regard to myself, I wish to also devotedly serve the Holy Church of God in the future through a life dedicated to prayer.

From the Vatican, 10 February 2013

“It Spoke To My Soul…I Don’t Know How”

January 24th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

As Roman Catholics, a large part of our mission to “spread the Good News” takes the form of liturgical celebration. It could be said that the liturgy of the Church is the vessel of Her teachings; it carries and communicates them with the dual function of forming the intellect and nourishing the soul. And this is not accidental. Indeed, this is why liturgy exists. We don’t devote time and effort in discussing, living, and defending it for our own gratification. Rather, we do so devote ourselves to it because to forsake it is to abandon part of the Christian ethos. Christian worship serves to elevate us (at least, it ought to). It lifts up our voices, our hearts, our souls, and brings them all to a higher plane, to a place where, for an hour on Sunday, Heaven and Earth seem to meet upon our altars.

In discussing liturgy, there is always the risk (or perhaps “certainty”?) of having an errant commenter spreading the Gospel of Misinformation, crying aloud “You worship the rubrics, not God!” Well, naturally, we could say this person is worshipping weak arguments, deifying his lack of critical thought, but that’s beside the point. What is important, though, is that we demonstrate that care for the liturgy is, in fact, care for God. We adorn our altars with fine linens just as we would dress our Lord in choicest fabrics. We sweep our aisles and vestibules just as Mary and Martha doubtless scoured their house before Our Lord visited them. Since we have Christ among us sacramentally, we must take the same care that those who had Him in the flesh took. It is the very least that we can do.

But, building upon this “very least we can do,” we must realize, each of us, that we can do so much more. Put your sentiments into action: join the choir, volunteer to wash altar linens, sign up for the night-watch at perpetual adoration! All of these things, in their own ways, build up the Church. And notice, they each have a liturgical dimension to them. When you join the choir, you actively beautify the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. When you wash altar linens, you facilitate the proper treatment of Christ’s Body and Blood. When you kneel in silent prayer at St. John’s or St. Thomas the Apostle into the late hours of the night, you are guarding Our Lord like an ever-vigilant angel.

We must take care to engage in these ministries well and often. For just think what a disservice it would be to encounter lackluster devotion in any of these areas. A first-time adorer comes into the Adoration Chapel and sees you sleeping, just as Our Lord saw His dearest Apostles sleeping in Gethsemane. The altar linens are wrinkled, sullied, and yet still must be used to purify the sacred vessels. You join the choir, and prefer to sing music to your liking, not the repertoire given us by the Church. Just because we say we are offering our time and talent as a sacrifice, it does not mean that it necessarily is a sacrifice. Would one really feel like his soul is being linked to the Holy Mass when singing in the choir is more like a social-hour or Bible Camp sing-along? No, there is no sense of sacrifice there, and sacrifice is what makes our liturgies holy. The Mass is called the “Holy Sacrifice” because Christ poured out His Blood for us; He did not take the easy way out, so to speak. He gave wholly of himself, in absolute humility.

And it is this humility that must be reflected in our interaction with the sacred, especially through the Church’s liturgies. Recently, I encountered a gentleman who was comparing two Christmastime liturgical functions. They were both “Lessons and Carols,” one offered at Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the other at St. Thomas the Apostle. Naturally, these are not on the same level of solemnity as a Mass, as reciting the Divine Office, etc. However, they both should serve, as we first said, as vessels which convey the Truth of our Faith. The man said to me:

“The one at Sacred Heart was not…holy. It was fun, yeah…but it wasn’t in keeping with the setting. You’re in the cathedral, but you don’t act like it. That’s a shame. The music seemed to reflect the tastes of the people in charge, and didn’t really make me feel ‘Christmasy.’ Okay, we’re talking about Creation and Baby Jesus, and Mary. Great. But then what? I’m sorry, but there was no sense of dignity at all. But the St. Thomas one…it was subdued, but so much more joyful! It conveyed a sense of the mystery of Christmas. ‘Why did He choose this?’ I may not have known what the Latin chant meant, but I didn’t need to know the exact words. It spoke to my soul…I don’t know how. But it did.”

This man is about as “non-partisan” as one can be. He is unbiased in every sense, and is a good Catholic. Not knowing anything about the “Liturgy Wars” that rage about us, in our sanctuaries and in our comment boxes, he summarized the difference between Progressive and Traditional liturgy. The former talks down to you, presuming you can’t understanding the deep Truths of our Faith. It spoon-feeds you mashed-up doctrine, making airplane noises so as to get you to open your mouth, er, “hanger.” Traditional liturgy treats you as an adult, as someone capable of thought. It brings you to a place that stands outside of time. Try snapping your fingers to a piece of chant – it won’t work. That’s because it’s not supposed to. Songs like “Gather Us In” are fun, sure, and appeal to people of all ages. That’s because they’re fun…not because they’re sacred. They blur the lines between what is sacred and profane, and lead people to think that because something is fun, because something feels good, makes us happy, it must, then, be okay for church use.

Traditional liturgy hinged on humility, on realizing the sacred. There is nothing humble about what we see at most Masses. Through the demeanor of those in the sanctuary, the tone of the music, the sentiments of the congregation, it’s as if the Mass becomes solely about us. It is not. It is about Him, and His sacrifice for us. But this isn’t the fault of any of those people. Liturgy has been watered-down for two or three generations, and these are the fruits. We are brought to church, to Calvary, by the joy and liberation of the empty tomb. But this does not mitigate the solemnity which must be observed when we remember Christ’s unbloody immolation. If we simply do what the Church asks of us, and leave our personal tastes out of it, a pure offering will be made, one not stained by partisan bickering, by personality, by ability or lack thereof. The rubrics are there, not to be worshipped, but to be followed for the edification of the faithful. If you are a priest, the words given to you by the Church in the Roman Missal are not there because it made someone happy to translate “pro multis” as “for many.” Happiness has nothing to do with what is right. (St. Thomas More can doubtless explain that better than I.) Things come to us, not as the work of self-motivated individuals, but rather, as the cultural and religious condensation of centuries of prayer, of refinement, of a striving towards perfection.

Personal opinions undoubtedly exist. We all have doubts, problems, pet-peeves. But the Mass, the liturgical life of the Church, is not the venue to share them with others, to inflict and enforce them on the body of Christ’s believers. I personally enjoy many things that have no place at Mass. They are not sacred, and doing, hearing them at Mass does not make them so. Rather, that would diminish the sacredness of the celebration for those who do not share my individual tastes. The fact that I do enjoy traditional worship is just as irrelevant and ancillary to the nature of sacrifice as is one’s enjoyment of bongo drums and electric guitars. One’s tastes are for oneself. The Mass is for all. Therefore, to let it be tainted by this cult of individuality is to reduce by a great degree the sacred nature of the universal Sacrifice. Let the authentic nature of Roman liturgy speak to your soul. Listen. Breathe it in. Let it wash over you, and transport you from this transient world into an eternal one.

We Are the Church

January 15th, 2013, Promulgated by Gen

We hear this phrase tossed around in Catholic circles often enough. “We are Church.” An otherwise beautiful statement, through cloudy interpretation, has come to be one of the ensigns of the “progressive” camp. What was once supposed to convey the unity of Christendom in firmness of belief now, trough this misinterpretation, betrays it, relegating the sentence to nothing more than a slogan of religious relativism. Naturally, the majority of people who march under this banner, who employ these phrases, are not purposely prolonging unnecessary debates. Indeed, they are wonderful Christians, brothers and sisters in faith, whose efforts have been bumped a little, nudged off target by the errant teachings of wayward “catechists.” Was it the German corporal’s fault for throwing Europe into war, or was it the Kaiser’s?

This is why what we strive to do is so difficult, and so often met with virulent opposition. When one professes to be Catholic, and believes in his heart to be so, it is painful to be told “No, that’s not quite right.” The vast majority of Catholics who have gone astray (in deed, not in profession of faith) have done so because they believe they are actually upholding the Faith. They consider themselves to be the pillars they truly can and ought to be, but they don’t realize that they aren’t bearing the same load as some of us. They’re rather like little boys who, desiring to help at a funeral, are made pall-bearers, but who serve more to get in the way, trip the adults up, than actually to help carry the casket. But do we slap them, throw them down in derision because of their inability? No, I should hope not.

But what, then? Am I saying we should excuse the vast majority of people many in our circle might call “heretics”? No, we should not excuse them. To excuse means to pardon, to absolve, to mitigate the culpability.What we must do, like the parents of the little-boy-pall-bearers, is to help them grow. We must be firm, yet still kind. We must be clear, yet not harsh. Soon enough, little boys grow up “and put aside childish ways.” So too, with unerring guidance, will our fellow Catholics come to appreciate the true sentiments behind “We are Church.”

What, then, does this make us? Sometimes we can feel like crypt-keepers of antiquity. Some of us rather look the part, too. Other times, we feel like Crusading knights, defending all that is right and chivalrous. But those of these images are flawed. The former is often inaccurate, for true Christian foot-soldiers must be joyful in their duties, and not guard the empty tomb; it needs no guard. The latter is often too gallant and noble for what we do. We might consider ourselves great defenders of Truth, donning mantillas, wielding our missals, and chanting our war cries of “Christus Vincit!” Our duty, though, is simpler than this. It consists of bearing, at all times and in all places, a gentle demeanor of prayerfulness. Respect for the liturgy, devotion to Our Lady, reverence throughout life, not just in the pew on the the internet or on the sidewalk before an abortion clinic. We must remember that “we are Church.” We are the guardians of the Guardian of Truth, we are servants of the Servant. And it is through our orthodoxy, our “traditionalism,” our “conservatism,” our…Catholicism…that we make a whole and complete offering of ourselves.

Just as the priests prays that his offering at Mass might be wholly “acceptable to You, an offering in spirit and in truth,” so too must we pray that our daily witness to Truth be acceptable to God. As richly and ornately as our Masses ought to be adorned, and beautifully as they ought to be offered, we must offer ourselves daily with equal consideration for the higher things. It is through the beauty of the Faith, the beauty which we so devotedly uphold, that we show ourselves truly right in saying “we are Church.” We stand in communion with the saints, with the popes through 2,000 years, with every faithful follower of Christ, with every individual who stayed true to God rather than bend the knee to passing trends and fashions. The Church transcends all this temporal nonsense of Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, progressive or traditionalist. Truth is Truth. It needs no modifier.

I think, then, to clarify what we are in our own eyes, it is safe to say, yes, “we are Church,” but we are something unique under that venerable umbrella. We who have seen the heinous abuses within our local Church, the willful and absolute contempt for authority beyond our own chancery’s, the profanation of our sanctuaries time and time again…we are now seeing the reversal of all this. In the spirit of Shakespeare, I think it’s safe to say that the winter of our discontent has been made glorious summer, that “the clouds that lowered upon our house” are buried deep now in our memories, “our stern alarums changed to merry meetings.” Friends, we are the Church Resurgent. We are the ones who are blessed with the privilege to see the new spring in our Diocese rise from the thawing ground, dotted with ruins of what was, plotted with plans of what will be. What need have we of gloom, of doubt, of despair? We are Church. The gates of Hell will not prevail.

Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas the Apostle – Friday, December 14, 7:00 PM

December 6th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen


Next Friday, December 14th, at 7:00 PM, there will be a candlelight Service of Lessons and Carols at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, part of the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. Fr. Frank Lioi will be presiding over the ceremony, which was a tremendous success last year. The organizers of the event have included with the lessons and carols several Gregorian Chants and Renaissance motets which capture and convey the beauty of the Advent and Christmas Seasons.

The Anglican Ordinariate community in Rochester, the Fellowship of St. Alban, will be assisting with the liturgy, along with members from several area parishes. Readers for the service include Classical 91.5 afternoon host Mona Seghatoleslami, Hon. William Polito, Dcn. John Cornelius of St. Alban’s, and Art Harris, State Deputy of the Knights of Columbus for New York.

The Diocesan website has publicized the event, as quoted below:

The Msgr. Burns Knights of Columbus Council are sponsoring Lessons and Carols on Friday, December 14 at 7 p.m. at St. Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 4536 St. Paul Blvd.  

This beautiful service of Scripture and song dates back to the late 19th century.  Nine Scripture lessons recount the Fall, the promise of a Messiah, the Incarnation, and the Great Commission to preach the Good News. Each lesson is followed by a carol or other song that reflects on the lesson’s message.
Light refreshments will follow.

Please do your best to attend what is bound to be a beautiful evening of sacred song and Scripture! Eastman musicians will be joining with members of several local choirs to offer such beautiful carols as “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” and “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” along with Victoria’s “Ave Maria” and Hans Leo Hassler’s “Dixit Maria.”

Bishop Cunningham: No Jazz at Sacred Heart

December 4th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

On December 1st, there was a “Candlelight Lessons and Carols” service at Sacred Heart Cathedral. From what we have been told, there was, in addition to the Cathedral’s choir, a Gospel choir, and “people doing strange things in the sanctuary.” (After some discussion, it was agreed upon that this referred not to any of the clerics, but rather, the dancers.) Rather than a traditional service of Lessons and Carols, the Cathedral offered a show of distractions, hardly in keeping with the solemnity of the Advent Season. Don’t get me wrong – miming the story of Creation can be great fun…just don’t do it in the sanctuary of our Cathedral, if you please.

That all being said, the organizers of this event had requested the presence of a jazz ensemble, presumably because the first thing one thinks of at Christmastime is free-form jazz. However, Bishop Cunningham, our Apostolic Administrator, informed the same organizers that such a display would be inappropriate for a sacred space. One can get away with only so much waving the “ecumenism flag,” and evidently jazz groups in church is a step too far in that direction.

And so, for the first time in three decades, a bishop has declared music at the Cathedral to be truly and accurately profane. 

On another note, stay tuned for an announcement Thursday regarding a much more noble, beautiful, and dignified Ceremony of Lessons and Carols to be held at St. Thomas the Apostle Church. 

Bishop Cunningham Clairifes Norms for General Absolution

November 13th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

One of the trademark sacramental anomalies in the Diocese of Rochester is the practice of “general absolution” at communal penance services. Whereas a priest is enabled by God, His Church, and Her Law to grant a general absolution if a dire situation arise (see: Posseidon Adventure, The), several clerics in our Diocese misunderstand the rubrics, and often grant this general abs0lution when no imminent danger is to be had. This practice has been seen at the various Peace of Christ worship sites (St. Ambrose, St. James, St. John the Evangelist), as well as several suburban parishes, most notably Assumption. The Vatican has been very clear that the Sacrament of Penance be celebrated in such a way as not to diminish its efficacy and importance in the eyes of the faithful. Absolution essentially “wipes the slate clean” for us, and is therefore quite a gift from the Almighty. For this reason, it must be treated with dignity and reverence.

Unwarranted general absolution lessens the importance of the sacrament in two ways: primarily, it removes the individual’s literal and actual confession. There is no “Bless me, Father,” no “my last confession was…” Indeed, the only dialogue in a communal penance service can be found here. (Note that this is a program from a service in which individual confessions were heard.) The second diminution of the sacrament comes in the creation of the sense that absolution is easily-obtained, easily-given, and not really something to be worked for. While Our Lord, in His mercy, does freely forgive us should we come to Him with contrite hearts, it is this second bit that is a stumbling block in this instance. General absolution allows the “penitent” a guilt-free “out,” a way to put one’s foot in the Heavenly door, so-to-speak. Without belaboring the point, general absolution is not appropriate as the norm, and serves only to warp the faithful’s understanding of the Sacrament of Penance.

Our Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Cunningham, realizes this, and addressed the matter in a recent letter to all diocesan clergy. He reminded our priests, in no uncertain terms, that there is no need for general absolution, and that should such a need arise, the priest(s) must notify him in order that he might decide to allow such a thing. He refers the clergy to the relevant section of Canon Law, and reminds them that the local ordinary, not the individual priest, is the one to decide such matters. As the UK Liturgy office similarly reiterates:

General Absolution, without prior individual confession, cannot be
given to a number of penitents together, unless
1. danger of death threatens and there is not time for the priest
or priests to hear the confession of the individual penitents.
2. there exists a grave necessity, that is, given the number of
penitents, there are not enough confessors available properly to
hear the individual confessions within an appropriate time, so
that without fault of their own the penitents are deprived of the
sacramental grace of holy communion for a lengthy time. A
sufficient necessity is not, however, considered to exist when
confessors cannot be available merely because of a great
gathering of penitents, such as can occur on some major feast
day or pilgrimage.
It is for the Diocesan Bishop to judge whether the conditions required
in Canon 961, §1.2 are present.

It seems as if our Apostolic Administrator is beginning to reign in the more spastic clergy and administrators, and is doing so with gentleness and charity. He has, in this letter, demonstrated to the Diocese that we need to take seriously the Sacrament of Penance. This dimension of the Faith has been somewhat out of focus in this Diocese; it has not been wholly absent, but it has been far from actively promoted. In light of this, Bishop Cunningham has requested the following:

“…every priest on the Tuesday of Holy Week, March 26th, would help make the Sacrament of Penance available from 12:30 PM to 7:30 PM, in every parish church or cluster in the diocese. I heartily endorse this plan and ask that the details be worked out and communicated to you as soon as possible.”

Evidently, some priests are grumbling about “having to sit in the box” for such a long amount of time. It would seem that seven hours is an acceptable price to pay for the salvation of souls, but that’s just my opinion. After all, St. John Vianney would often spend more than sixteen hours hearing confessions.

Clarification of the possibilities for general sacramental absolution can be found in the “Pastoral Norms for General Sacramental Absolution.” I recommend giving it a read, in order that we might see the whole picture.

Photos and Video From September 28th Rosary for Vocations

October 9th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

Here are some beautiful photos and videos of the recent Rosary for Priestly Vocations that was held at St. Thomas More Church. Fr. Coffas, rector of Becket Hall, led the congregation in a reverent holy hour, wherein was recited the Holy Rosary, and which concluded with Solemn Benediction. If you were in attendance and would like to offer your thoughts on the service, please feel free to do so. 


Reminder: Rosary for Vocations is Tonight

September 28th, 2012, Promulgated by Gen

There will be a Rosary for Priestly Vocations tonight at St. Thomas More Church at 2617 East Avenue, Rochester, NY. The event is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, St. Damien of Molokai Council 11411. It begins at 7:00 PM, and includes Solemn Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Do your best to attend!