Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Pope's New Vestments

(Actually posted on 27 November 2005, but backdated to reflect date of event)

(AP Photo)

On Free Republic.com's Religion Forum, a thread about Pope Benedict XVI's leading the First Vespers of Advent (the first of his papacy) pointed out the pontiff's new vestments, which were apparently designed by Archbishop Marini. A poster with the handle "Kolokotronis" (who happens to be Greek Orthodox) remarked, "Magnificent vestments; what an epitrachelion! [stole] He really looks like a hierarch should!" The same poster pointed out that the clasp for the pope's cope is a "representation of the breast plate of the High Priest of the Temple at Jerusalem" (which is entirely appropriate, in my opinion, since the origin of the title "pontiff" is from the Latin pontifex maximus, which can mean "high priest"). However, the commentators at Cornell (University) Society for a Good Time give the vestments a big thumbs-down.

I posted the picture above for the benefit of those in cyberspace who might have missed this event (and I figure most people didn't see it). Check the Free Republic link above for more pictures.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Catholic Masterpieces X: St. Cecilia (and an Angel)

Today is the feast day of St. Cecilia, virgin and martyr, on both the traditional sanctoral calendar, and on the "new" calendar. Her feast was one of the few that wasn't shifted to another date. She is also one of the saints that is remembered in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) of the Latin-rite Mass (Nobis quoque peccatoribus famulis tuis... cum tuis sanctis Apostolis et Martyribus: cum Joanne, Stephano... Agnete, Caecilia, Anastasia, et omnibus Sanctis tuis...). She was martyred in A.D. 230 under the Roman prefect Almachius, after converting her husband Valerianus, and her brother-in-law Tiburtius to the one true faith.

This installment of Catholic Masterpieces features a painting of today's patronal saint, who is known throughout the Catholic Church as the patroness of music and musicians. It was painted circa 1617-1627 by two artists (Orazio Gentileschi and Giovanni Lanfranco) who were close friends of Caravaggio. His influence can definitely be seen, since there is a definite contrast between light and dark. This contrast is often a distinguishing characteristic of Caravaggio's paintings. The original painting is on display in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and was featured on the cover of the Fall 2004 issue of The Latin Mass magazine.

The paintng not only shows her patronal role, but it is also a depiction of sorts of a story from her liturgical history. St. Cecilia, after being being betrothed to Valerianus against her will, told her husband that she was "under the care of an angel, who is the guardian of my virginity; wherefore beware of doing what might kindle God's wrath against thee." Valerianus, wanting to see this angel, was told by his wife that he would see the angel only after he was baptized. Pope St. Urban I ended up baptizing Valerianus, and upon returning to Cecilia, "he found her at prayer, and beside her an angel shining with divine brightness."

Dom Gueranger, in his Liturgical Year, sang praises throughout his entry on the saint. The Benedictine abbot notes that St. Cecilia "united in her veins the blood of kings with that of Rome's greatest heroes." Towards the conclusion of the entry, he writes, "[t]he Church daily pronounces thy name with love and confidence in the Canon of the Mass; and she looks for thy assistance, O Caecilia, knowing it will not fail her. Prepare a victory for her, by raising up the hearts of Christians to the realities, which they too often forget while they run after the vain shadows from which thou didst win Tiburtius. When the minds of men become once more fixed upon the thought of their eternal destiny, the salvation and peace of nations will be secured."

Raise up my heart, O Holy Cecilia, from the depths of my sinfulness, through thy intercession. Please pray for me to the Lord our God!

Sancta Caecilia, ora pro nobis!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

...And Now For Something Completely Different (But Still Relevant)

With the recent bombing in Jordan; the two weeks of rioting in France, and now in other Western European cities; and the general unrest in the world caused by Islamism, here's a very telling excerpt from the great Winston Churchill.

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property; either as a child, a wife, or a concubine; must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.

Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.

(Sir Winston Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248 50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899).
(Special thanks to Free Republic member "Rightone" for posting this.)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Catholic Masterpieces IX: Redemptorist Holy Card

The above image has got to be one of the most beautiful pictures I've seen of an old holy card. I originally saw it in a book titled Holy Cards, by Barbara Calamari and Sandra DiPasqua, that I bought shortly after it was released in 2004. It is a wonderful book, that compiles holy cards of different saints, from familiar ones, like the Apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary, to lesser-known ones, like Saint Othilia and Saint Swithbert the Elder.

The holy card above depicts three Redemptorist saints: St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorist order, and Doctor of the Church; St. Clement Hofbauer, a Czech Redemtorist priest who lived during the tumult of late 18th century and early 19th century Europe, and was persecuted by different governments and the Masons; and St. Gerard Majella, a lay brother in the Redemptorist order who is the patron saint of expectant mothers (a good pro-life saint!). The saints, along with an angel (who is holding St. Alphonsus' crozier), look toward the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in a monstrance, while two other angels stand watch in adoration. Above them all is the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, which was my last Catholic Masterpiece (and as I mentioned in the entry, the Redemptorists spread the Perpetual Help devotion across the globe).

While the last eight pieces of art are either on display in museums or in churches, this Catholic Masterpiece is a simple holy card. It shows that even simple and common objects can be produced beautifully.

Since I mentioned St. Clement Hofbauer, I thought it would be appropriate to end this installment with a prayer that he composed, in honor of St. Joseph.

O St. Joseph, my loving father, I place myself forever under thy protetion Look upon me as thy child, and keep me from all sin. I take refuge in thine arms, so that thou mayest lead me on the path of virtue and assist me at the hour of my death. Amen.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest..."

One of the wonderful things about the Traditional Latin Mass, which in its basic form, countless saints heard for centuries, is its the number of times the saints are mention. The first time we hear names of saints is in the priest's Confiteor. I confess to almighty God, to Blessed Mary ever Virgin, to Blessed Michael the Archangel, to Blessed John the Baptist, to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul.... The second time the priest mentions the saints is when he venerates the relics of the saints that are enclosed in the altar. After the Lesson/Epistle, the Gradual/Alleluia/Tract, and the Gospel, we confess what our basic beliefs are in the Creed. We profess that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary. While the communion of saints isn't specifically mentioned in the Nicene Creed, it is mentioned in the Apostles' Creed.

Soon after the Mass of the Faithful begins, the priest offers the host and the chalice, and then washes his hands. He then says a prayer, asking the Holy Trinity to accept these offerings, which is not also being made in honor of Christ, but also "in honor of blessed Mary, ever Virgin, Blessed John the Baptist, the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and of (name of the Saints whose relics are in the Altar) and of all the Saints; that it may add to their honor and aid our salvation; and may they deign to intercede in heaven for us who honor their memory here on earth."

The next time the Saints are mentioned is in the Canon of the Mass, in the Communicantes prayer. Most of the saints mentioned in this prayer are martyrs.

In the unity of holy fellowship we observe the memory, first of all, of the glorious and ever Virgin Mary, Mother of our Lord and God Jesus Christ. Next we observe the memory of Blessed Joseph, Spouse of the same Virgin, and of Your blessed Apostles and Martyrs, Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Thaddeus; of Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian, and all Your Saints. By their merits and prayers grant that we may be always fortified by the help of Your protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Subsequently, the consecration takes place. Jesus Christ Himself, Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, becomes present on the altar. The priest then says a series of prayers. One of the last of these is another prayer where specific saints are invoked.

To us sinners also, Your servants, trusting in the greatness of Your mercy, deign to grant some part and fellowship with Your Holy Apostles and Martyrs with John, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia, and all Your Saints. Into their company we implore You to admit us, not weighing our merits, but freely granting us pardon. Through Christ our Lord.

After the minor elevation of the host and the chalice, the priest, along with the whole congregation, prays the Pater Noster, which all saints have prayed many times during their lives on earth. The priest then invokes the saints one last time (in many instances, the servers mention the saints one more time when the say the Confiteor before Communion).

Deliver us, we beg You, Lord, from every evil, past, present, and to come; and by the intercession of the blessed and glorious ever-Virgin, Mother of God, Mary, and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, of Andrew, and all Saints; grant of Your goodness, peace in our days, that aided by the riches of Your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all disturbance. Through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with Thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end.

It's hard to "escape" the presence of the Church Triumphant when one attends the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Let us remember them this day, which is dedicated to their memory.

Omnes Sancti et Sanctae Dei, intercedite pro nobis!