Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Est Quod Est’

Melius Illi Erat . . .

August 16th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

So many times when I have an argument with a “progressive” Catholic, I’m struck how he or she always falls back on the same old crutch. “But Jesus wouldn’t be so judgmental.” Or maybe, “Jesus wouldn’t say/act like that.” Or even, “Jesus wouldn’t have a problem with that.”

Two minor objections, which are ultimately matters of personal sentiment on my part, are that (1.) the “progressive” seems to throw about the Holy Name a bit too casually. The spirit in which we say the Name of Our Lord, Jesus, ought to be one of reverence, not justification. (2.) It’s just a trite way to avoid a more mature discussion. It’s called, in technical terms, “a fallacious appeal to authority.” Basically, “We can’t eat the cookies because daddy said ‘no'” becomes the mentality of the progressive’s argument.

However, the biggest objection I have to this sort of thing is that Jesus was not some passive, all-embracing social activist. You say Jesus wouldn’t condemn “X” or punish Fr./Sr./Msgr./Bishop “Y”? Well, then you seem to be forgetting the dialogue Jesus had with His Apostles on Holy Thursday:

And whilst they were eating, he said: Amen I say to you that one of you is about to betray me. And they being very much troubled began every one to say: Is it I, Lord?  But he answering said: He that dips his hand with me in the dish, he shall betray me. The Son of man indeed goes, as it is written of him. But woe to that man by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed. It were better for him, if that man had not been born.

“Melius illi erat, si natus non fuiset.” “It were better for him, if that man had not been born.”

We are exceedingly and unworthily blessed with God’s mercy. However, that is not some Divine “get out of jail free” card. We must strive always to serve Our Lord and to be obedient to His Church, and pray most earnestly that we never take the place of Judas. Remember, Judas was at the Last Supper, the First Mass. He was called by Our Lord personally. This should remind us that if we feel “called,” we may well indeed be so. However, it isn’t an easy way out of falling into sin. If I felt called to be a father, I would pursue it in a valid, licit, and holy way, through the Sacrament of Marriage. I wouldn’t say, “I feel called to be a father . . . so I’ll just snatch a kid and call him Gen Jr.” No. I may have discerned the right calling, but most certainly not the right path to answering it.

Remember, ultimately, that we ought to act with all love, all humility when serving Our Lord. He is always first, and when we manipulate His Church to achieve our own ends, be they political, social, or personal, we assume the role of Judas. And in that moment of demonic transformation, we should do well to remember that Christ Himself denounced the traitor, and Christ Himself has the same ability to denounce us if, through our selfishness, we have denounced Him.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

New Comment Policy

July 14th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Dear readers:

After much thought and some discussion on the matter, I have decided to strip anonymous commenters of their privilege to leave comments. Now one must be a registered member of Cleansing Fire in order to leave a comment. Anyone can become a registered user, and many of you have already done so naturally over the past year. However, as we continue to grow and develop into a thriving faith community, I no longer feel that we have the ability to celebrate the diversity of everyone’s opinions. Most people are mature and have the ability to make succinct, logical statements which contribute to the discussions here. Unfortunately, others don’t share that ability. I will monitor how things go for the next couple weeks, but as for now, you must register with us in order to leave comments. I feel this will ultimately add to the richness of our content, seeing as how we will not have to devote half of our time to weeding out spammers, trolls, and others who come here only to stir up arguments.

Please note: when you register, you don’t need to put your real name! You can still be anonymous, but just choose a name which suits you.

Thank you for your understanding and dedication. And remember – tomorrow is Bishop Clark’s 74th Birthday! We’re almost there, folks!

In what I’ll call a vigil observance of Bishop Clark’s birthday, here’s a little something from Bing Crosby:

“How Gregorian Chant Can Change the World”

May 10th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

A nod of the miter goes to Roma Locuta Est for the following article, which expresses in a succinct and articulate manner the correct end of the liturgical music debate.

Last week National Public Radio ran a story called “Narcissism on Rise in Pop Music Lyrics.” It opened up with,

“On this very day in 1985, the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 was…’We Are the World’ (‘We are the world. We are the children.’) Fast-forward to 2007 when Timbaland’s ‘Give It to Me’ featuring Nelly Furtado topped the charts: ‘…love my a$$ and my abs in the video for “Promiscuous.” My style is ridiculous.’
“So more than two decades ago, we were holding hands and swaying to a song of unity, and these days, we’re bouncing to pop stars singing about how fabulous they are. Psychologist Nathan DeWall has had the pleasure of listening to it all for research, and he found that lyrics in pop music from 1980 to 2007 reflect increasing narcissism in society. And DeWall is an associate psychology professor at the University of Kentucky.”

Dr. DeWall proceeded to explain:

“I was listening to a song that, really, one of my favorite bands, Weezer, had on one of their albums recently, and it’s called ‘The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,’ and I kept wondering, who would actually say that out loud? ‘I am the greatest man that ever lived. I was born to give and give and give.’
“The ironic thing is it’s a song about how I’m the greatest person in the world, but it’s to the tune of ‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple,’ which is a song about humility. And so what I wanted to do, instead of relying on self-report measures of personality like narcissism, I wanted to actually go into our culture, our cultural products, which are tangible artifacts of our cultural environment. And so, for that, I thought maybe song lyrics would be a very good jumping-off spot.
“What we found over time is that there’s an increasing focus on me and my instead of we and our and us. So, for example, instead of talking about love being between we and us and us finding new things together, it’s mostly about how, you know, for example, Justin Timberlake in 2006 said, ‘I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah. Them other boys don’t know how to act. Yeah.’”

There is no doubt that DeWall is correct. Pop music is becoming more narcissistic. The broader, age old question is: Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? The answer is probably some of both. Our culture is increasingly narcissistic. In the spirit of the NPR article, which was about music, I wish to propose a possible antidote for narcissism: the liturgy, specifically liturgical music.

Unfortunately, we must first distinguish between music that might be heard in any given liturgy and liturgical music, properly speaking. While the Catholic Church has been plagued with bad versions of the four-hymn sandwich for decades, the fact remains that Holy Mother Church has given us a liturgical hymnbook: The Graduale Romanum, In this book, one will find the ancient Gregorian chants. But what many will be surprised to find is that the Church has given us specific chants for every Sunday of the year in the places that we currently sing “hymns.” For any given Mass, there are prescribed chants for the Introit (think here of the “Opening Hymn” you are used to hearing), the Gradual (“Responsorial Psalm”), the Offertorio (“Offertory”), and the Communio (“Communion Song”). Most of these date back more than a thousand years. Of course, in the Graduale Romanum, one will find the chant written in Latin. However, vernacular versions of these exist. What is key is that the liturgical rubrics, while they permit hymns, call for a preference given to these chants. Vatican II itself held that the Gregorian chant tradition should enjoy a “pride of place” in our liturgies.

Why do I see this as an antidote for narcissism? The surest way to deal with this problem is to give people the sense that they are not the center of reality, nor are they the source. The Cartesian turn to the subject has flipped classical metaphysics on its head so that people come to view reality as what is in their own minds rather than what their minds encounter on the outside. The liturgy is a reality that is given to us, not one that is created by us. In fact, it is in the liturgy itself that we find our own fulfillment. When we go to Mass, we participate in reality itself, something that is much bigger than us. If we see the Liturgy as something that we fit into rather than something that fits into our lives, we can come to understand that we are not the center of reality: God is.

The problem is, as has been observed on several observations over the past decade, there is an increasing narcissism even within the liturgy itself: both priests and people come to think that the liturgy is something that can be created and recreated with the fickle winds of changing culture. In fact, the lack of narcissistic language in the new translation of the Roman Missal has been pointed out in comparison with the current, defective translation. Currently, there are several places in the texts that seem to order God to do certain things and to give a primacy to the people over the divine. The new translation, being more faithful to the Latin, has sought to correct many of these errors. What remains to be fixed is the same problem in the hymns that are often chosen for Sunday worship. Many of the modern hymns focus on man rather than God (think here of “Gather Us In,” or the ever-elusive “Sing a New Church Into Being”). Quite simply, these hymns are self-centered rather than God-centered.

Contrast this with the use of the Graduale Romanum. These chants have been given to us by the Church, each carefully constructed around sacred texts in order to serve as a sort of lectio divina for the readings of the day. Indeed, when Gregorian chant is properly performed, it seems as if it is not of this world. Part of that is due to the inherent structure of the music, for chant lacks a strict meter (though it has an internal rhythm of its own). Unlike a hymn, which marches forward towards a climactic conclusion, chant allows the listener to rest in contemplation, a mirror of the eternity which we, God willing, will experience someday. But another part is due to the words, which become primary (unlike modern pop music, where the words are often a later add-on to an already existing rhythm/chord structure).

Perhaps the most important point, however, is the fact that the music of the Mass inevitably (forgive the pun) sets the tone of the entire celebration. It stands to reason, then, if we employ a music that is provided for us by the Church (not to mention encouraged by the rubrics), then the people will better understand that the liturgy itself is given and not created. If they come to understand the liturgy, which is the objective center of reality, in this manner, then they will come to see that they are not the center of reality. Thus, my rapid fire, probably incomplete, but hopefully coherent, argument that an antidote for the rise in narcissism is Gregorian Chant. Save the liturgy, save the world.

Just a Bit of Housekeeping

January 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Gen

Some of the staff here has become slightly concerned at the amount of nit-picking and nay-saying on the part of some of our readers. I feel it would be best for everyone if we simply laid out the following items:

  1. If you disagree with our methodology, that’s fine. Don’t feel obligated to email us and illustrate our supposed flaws and failures in word in deed. (This being said, if you’re a priest, and you’re on the other side of a non-electronic screen inside a wooden box-like structure, that’s another matter altogether.)
  2. We will ban you from commenting (permanently or temporarily) if you treat any staffer disrespectfully. I could care less if you call us Nazis or Fascists. I don’t even care if you call us intolerant. Why? Because we are intolerant – that is, we’re intolerant of those who take it upon themselves to make moral pronouncements against our fallible efforts at orthodoxy.
  3. If you are compelled to write to us with a concern or criticism, remember that just because some of us are anonymous, it doesn’t mean we lack feeling or emotions. Name-calling and immature argumentativeness are not endearing qualities. (Note that there’s a difference between name-calling and seeing someone for who he/she is. For example, name-calling: “You’re an idiot.” Right observation: “Fr. _____ is a heretic because he denies Christ’s divinity.”)
  4. If you leave a comment which is rude, inflammatory, or jubilantly rebellious in its dissension from Church teaching, do not expect it to remain posted.

If you struggle with these simple precepts, all I can say is this:

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Sage Advice From Fr. Z

September 26th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

“We should treat our sacred spaces with the respect they require,

for our own sake and that of children who learn about the sacred through our choices.”

– Fr. Z

Our Lord and Savior Isn’t A Feral Barn Cat

August 3rd, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

The difference between the two? One you should have neutered, and the other you shouldn’t. And let me clarify which one is which by saying that one feral barn cat is quite enough.

Why is it that “liturgists” feel the need to castrate Our Lord at Mass? These people who take it upon themselves to alter the approved translation and replace “Him” and “His” with “God” and “God’s”, and for what purpose? I’m not offended when I recite the Hail Mary and, as a man, I say, “Blessed art thou amongst women.” The mentality of these priests, nuns, deacons, lay people, and bishops is such that if one person is offended, the world will stop turning on its axis. But guess what, folks – Someone is offended at the games these people are playing. His name is Jesus, and He dwells in our churches – presuming of course we can actually locate the tabernacle and give a moment’s pause to genuflect in its direction.

Let’s look, for a moment, at the current translation of the Gloria:

Glory to God in the highest
and peace to his people on earth.
Lord God, heavenly King,
Almighty God and Father,

we worship you, we give you thanks,
we praise you for your glory.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father,
Lord God, Lamb of God,
you take away the sin of the world:

have mercy on us;
You are seated at the right hand of the Father:

receive our prayer.
For you alone are the Holy One,
you alone are the Lord,
you alone are the Most High,

Jesus Christ,
with the Holy Spirit,
in the glory of God the Father. Amen.

Note carefully the words that are found in our missals, in the Sacramentary, and in documents pertaining to the contemporary liturgy. We say “His people” – not “God’s people.” Are we denying the masculinity of God when we substitute out a masculine pronoun for something more “friendly” and neutrered? Yes we are. We are castrating Him with our hollow liturgical ruminations. What an insult it is to presume to have the authority and competency to change the words of the Mass! Read what’s in the book if you pronounce yourself “liturgically-savvy,” because if you don’t, you’re proving yourself to be otherwise.

The Mass isn’t about us. It’s not about this person taking offense or that person being hurt by a pronoun. It’s about God. He has feelings, too, you know. And yet, we’re more concerned about the gay guy in the back pew, or the transgendered lady in the row in front of us – oh, we mustn’t offend them with Truth now. That would be too much for them to bear, what with a comfortably masculine Savior. Jesus Christ, Our Lord, was fully God and fully – not “person,” not “being” – man. He was fully and undeniably a man, but our liturgical “experts” think that changing the words is absolutely acceptable. Well, it’s not.

I should certainly hope that when it comes time to recite the Gloria at your parish this weekend, you’ll have the courage to do the right thing, the approved thing, and include the masculine pronouns for Our Lord. If you don’t, you’re coming at him with the same scalpel with which your vet “fixed” little Fluffy. He’s your Savior, not some lap-dog. Treat Him with the respect he earned while He was nailed to His Cross for your salvation.

Oh, I’m sorry – perhaps I offended you. “Treat God with the respect God earned while God was nailed to God’s Cross for your salvation.” There. Now we’re all happy.

It’s Elementary

July 12th, 2010, Promulgated by Gen

Cleansing Fire: Sherlock Holmes minus the morphine and cocaine addition.

Anyone who checks Cleansing Fire’s Facebook page will have noticed that our most recent quote-post is from no saint, no pope, no priest, no martyr. It’s actually from Sherlock Holmes, the noted character of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s numerous books and short stories detailing the cases of the self-same man, our dear Sherlock. You may be asking yourself, “why are they talking about Sherlock Holmes?” For those of you who haven’t proven your love for us by clicking “like” on Facebook, here is the quote:

I am not the law, but I represent justice so far as my feeble powers
go. – Sherlock Holmes

I have been searching since the very beginning of this blog to find a suitable and succinct, non-religious, non-political way to describe why we do what we do. We find it necessary to post things like this because our detractors come in a steady stream, hurling hollow accusations and flawed logic in our direction.

Holmes mentions that he is “not the law.” Just as he isn’t the law, nor are we. We don’t speak with any real authority, save that which you give to us by reading this site. We don’t have any actual ability to sway diocesan policies, save by informing the people in the pews about what really should be going on at Mass. We’re kind of like the “Sea Shepherds” you see in Whale Wars on the animal station cable offers. Yeah, maybe we come across as being cantankerous and crazy, and we may not have any overt political clout, but we, like them and like Sherlock, “represent justice, so far as our feeble powers go.”

British author C.S. Lewis

Consider us the voice for the elderly women who see their parishes go from what they have known for decades into the circus we see all too often. They have no voice, and they have no say. Consider us the voice for the young children who go to Mass and realize that “this doesn’t feel like church.” I recently spoke with a charming Polish couple, whose three kids are between the ages of 5 and 13. When they arrived in Rochester two years ago, they first tried going to Guardian Angels in Henrietta. The father explained, “I could have put up with the stuff we saw going on – I didn’t like it, but I could rise above it – but the kids came to us and said, ‘mommy, daddy, that wasn’t really Mass, was it? It didn’t feel holy.'”

Sometimes people will complain saying that it’s not our place to do this. I recently met Gabriella from “Gabriella’s Blog,” and she was told by her bishop to “stop acting like a priest.” Excuse me, but if we don’t do this, who will? I don’t see our priests and bishops standing up for accurate teaching on theology and liturgy (with the obvious exceptions). They say “don’t act like a priest” – we could just as easily say to them, “Do act like a priest.”

It is a telling fact, indeed, that blogs have become so relevant to the local Church. The faithful have been fed the same mush for four decades, and now we’ve been roused to aspire for something more. Blogging is a natural reaction to not being permitted to have a voice where we rightfully should have one. We present a choice to people – you can either read this and try to learn our motives and perspective, or you can turn your back on dialogue and bury your heads in the rhetoric of “we are Church” and “being fresh.” You can either experience progress, or you can stand still, refusing to acknowledge the organic development of the Church. It was C.S. Lewis who said the following things which clearly apply to us in our diocesan situation:

“Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

I do apologize for having to constantly give you our “mission statement,” but I guess liberals, spammers, and trolls are illiterate save for when it suits them not to be.