Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Thursday, December 29, 2005

BBC Declares St. Thomas Becket "Worst Briton of 12th Century" (!!)

In the January 2006 issue of its history magazine, the BBC, after consulting with "leading" historians, came up with a list of the "10 'worst' Britons of the last 1,000 years. This list, which was posted on the BBC News website on 27 December, named St. Thomas Becket as the "12th century's worst villain." The historian who nominated the martyr for this unbecoming title was John Hudson, professor of legal history at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

Professor Hudson gave the following explanation on why St. Thomas was supposedly such an evil character. "He divided England in a way that even many churchmen who shared some of his views thought unnecessary and self-indulgent." Hudson also named the bishop "a founder of gesture politics."

If that wasn't enough, Professor Hudson justified the murder of St. Thomas by King Henry II's knights. "Those who share my prejudice against Becket may consider his assassination in Canterbury Cathedral on 29 December, 1170, a fittingly grisly end."

St. Thomas deserved to die because he stood up to the king? As one poster on Free Republic stated in response to this article, "I'd never thought I'd see a modern British academic defending the authority of the monarchy, even indirectly."

Another thing that the article never got around explaining was why St. Thomas was described as being "greedy." On the contrary, Diane Moczar (who is also a history professor), in her article about the saint in the Fall 2003 issue of The Latin Mass, stated that Becket "dedicated himself to the spiritual and temporal needs of his people with the energy he had formerly brought to affairs of state."

As a side note, the BBC also named another notable Catholic, Thomas Arundel, as the worst Briton of the 15th century. The reason: "he persecuted the Lollards, a group calling for reform of the Catholic Church by promoting a lay priesthood and translations of the Bible." They omit the more diabolical aspects of Lollardy - a denial of the doctrine of transubstantiation, a denial of the necessity of the sacrament of Confession, and iconoclasm.

Credit is due, however, in their explanation for naming Titus Oates as the worst Briton of the 17th century. They correctly report that Oates "made up a story about a Catholic plot to murder King Charles II which led to scores of people being rounded up and several innocent men being executed."

Even with this obvious bias, it is good that the BBC revealed this list, for it reveals what sort of people they are.

St. Thomas Becket, pray for us!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Benedict XVI Gives His First Urbi et Orbi Message

Early in his first Christmas "Urbi et Orbi" message, Pope Benedict XVI quoted from St. Augustine, something that he has been doing often in his papacy so far.

"Wake up, O man! For your sake God became man" (Saint Augustine, Sermo, 185.).

Later in his message, he puts our modern times, which supposedly started with a Renaissance and an "Enlightenment," in its proper perspective.

"The modern age is often seen as an awakening of reason from its slumbers, humanity’s enlightenment after an age of darkness. Yet without the light of Christ, the light of reason is not sufficient to enlighten humanity and the world. For this reason, the words of the Christmas Gospel: 'the true Light that enlightens every man was coming into this world' (Jn 1:9) resound now more than ever as a proclamation of salvation."

Our civilization has largely rejected the True Light of the world, either out of ignorance or shear malice. Let us pray with our Pope that Our Lady "teach us how to treasure in our hearts the mystery of God who for our sake became man; and may she help us to bear witness in our world to his truth, his love and his peace."

Gloria in altissimis Deo et in terra pax in hominibus bonae voluntatis! (Luke 2: 14)

Friday, December 23, 2005

Seventh "O Antiphon" - O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver,
the expected of the nations and their Savior:
Come to save us, O Lord our God

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sixth "O Antiphon" - O Rex

O King of the Gentiles and their desired One,
the Cornerstone that makes both one:
Come, and deliver man,
whom You formed out of the dust of the earth

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Fifth "O Antiphon" - O Oriens

O Orient,
splendour of eternal light, and Sun of Justice;
come and enlighten them that sit in darkness,
and in the shadow of death.

Catholic Masterpieces XI: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

[H]e saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. (John 20: 27-28)

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, also known as Didymus (Twin), according to the Catholic sanctoral calendar prior to Vatican II. On the later calendar, the memorial for St. Thomas is on 3 July, as a celebration of the transference of his body to Edessa in Mesopotamia .

I don't know of many depictions of this account from the Gospel where the doubting Apostle is literally obeying the command of his Master. One webpage comments, "[f]ew of his [Caravaggio's] paintings are physically so shocking - his Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits." Then again, why wouldn't he do such a thing?

On the other hand, it also appears that Jesus has taken Thomas' hand, and as a master sculptor would teach one of his students, has guided Thomas to come up close. In turn, St. Thomas places his finger in the pierced side of his Saviour. From this interpretation, an important conclusion can be reached - that it often takes an act of God in order to get many of us to believe in Him.

Dom Guéranger, the famous Benedictine abbot of Solemses, France, seems to recognize this point in his entry for this great feast. He writes, "O glorious apostle, Thomas! who didst lead to Christ so many unbelieving nations, hear now the prayers of the faithful, who beseech thee to lead them to that same Jesus.... [O]ur Saviour had compassion on thy weakness, and deigned to remove from thee the doubt of His having risen from the grave; pray to Him for us, that He will mercifully come to our assistance, and make Himself felt by our heart."

Sancte Thoma, ora pro nobis!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Fourth "O Antiphon" - O Clavis David

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel
that openest and no man shutteth;
and shuttest and no man openeth:
come to bring out the prisoner from the prison,
and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Third "O Antiphon" - O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse,
which standest for an ensign of the people,
at whom the kings shall shut their mouths,
whom the Gentiles shall seek:
come to deliver us, make no tarrying.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Second "O Antiphon" - O Adonai

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel,
who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush,
and gavest him the law in Sinai:
come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Commencement of the Great Antiphons (Dom Guéranger)

(An excerpt from the December 17 entry of "The Liturgical Year," Volume 1)

"The Church enters today on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the sacred Scriptures."

"In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the greater ferias. They are commonly called the O's of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection...."

Since I have been singing Gregorian chant for over two years now, and I'd like to forward its cause, here are the words and chant notation for today's antiphon, O Sapientia.

O Wisdom, that proceedest
from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from end to end mightily,
and disposing all things sweetly!
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Role of a Franciscan Bishop in the Apparitions at Tepeyac

In my previous post, I gave a brief synopsis of the Franciscan role in the propagation and defense of the pious belief of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, it should be mentioned that a Franciscan "would play a very crucial role in... [the] story" of her apparitions at Tepeyac to St. Juan Diego (quoted from Our Lady of Guadalupe; many of the following details will also be from this article).

Our Lady made her first apparition on 9 December 1531 (the 9th would become the feast day for St. Juan Diego). She requested that the saint, an Indian who had embraced Christianity, "go to the city of Mexico and to the palace of the bishop who resides there, to tell him that I have sent thee and that I wish a temple to be raised to me in this place. Thou shalt report what thou hast seen and heard..."

St. Juan Diego went immediately on the mission Our Lady sent him on. The bishop of Mexico at the time of the apparitions was Don Juan de Zumárraga, a Franciscan who had been bishop since 1527. He was a man who was "already intimate with the Mother of God, [and] he secretly asked her to acknowledge her reception of his prayer by sending him roses from Castile." The bishop was praying that a conflict between the Indian natives and their Spanish conquerors would be avoided, since tensions between the two sides had been growing ever since the fall of the Aztec empire.

When St. Juan Diego arrived in Mexico City, he told Bishop Zumárraga everything that had happened to him earlier that day. The bishop questioned the saint at length. Though he was "not the type of man to dismiss such matters lightly, [h]e would need more time to check out the Indian's character." When the bishop was finished with his questions, Juan Diego took his leave of the Franciscan, "[d]eeply saddened by the obvious skepticism of the illustrious bishop." On his way from the bishop's residence, Our Lady appeared to him a second time, and reassuring him, she asked him to go back to bishop to make her request a second time."

The next day, St. Juan Diego went back to the bishop's residence a second time. He waited for three hours, but finally got to see him. Bishop Zumárraga asked for a sign before Our Lady's request that church be built in her honor at the site of the apparitions. When Juan Diego asked what kind of sign he should ask for, the bishop said, "Let the Lady herself decide it." When Our Lady appeared to him a third time, he asked for the sign. She promised to give it, and asked that Juan Diego return to Tepeyac the next day.

The saint did not return. He spent the day taking care of his uncle, Juan Bernardino, who was close to death. Though he wanted to obey his Lady's command, he thought that "the Holy Virgin would understand why he was unable to keep his appointment that afternoon as he had promised."

The next morning, the 12th of December, Juan Bernardino sent his nephew to find a priest, so he could confess his sins and be anointed. Juan Diego went on his way, and in order to get a priest, he had to pass near Tepeyac. He knew that he might see his Lady if he continued on the path, so he tried to go around. The Blessed Mother appeared to him nonetheless. She assured him that his uncle wasn't going to die that day, and ordered him to climb the hill of Tepeyac. He would find the sign that Bishop Zumárraga had asked for there. When he reached the summit, Juan Diego found "[some] most exquisite flowers, including Castilian roses, blossoming in the frozen soil.... [H]e carefully gathered as many of them as he could fit into his outstretched tilma and brought them down to show to his Queen. She then took the flowers and with her own hands rearranged them, as only a woman can, saying as she did so, 'My little son, these varied flowers are the sign which you are to take to the Bishop. Tell him in my name that in them he will recognize my will and that he must fulfill it.'"

Juan Diego went back to Mexico City, and after being delayed the servants of the bishop, he was granted a third audience with Bishop Zumárraga. He told the bishop and his guests what had taken place that morning, and when he was finished, Juan Diego showed what was inside his tilma. The flowers "cascaded softly to the floor before the startled dignitaries, and perfumed the room with a heavenly aroma. [Bishop] Zumarraga jumped to his feet and stared at the roses, momentarily speechless; his prayer for peace had been answered! Then, as he lifted his eyes from the prodigy on the floor, there suddenly appeared on the Indian's tilma [the] image of the Blessed Virgin Mary." As the image appeared, the bishop fell to his knees, and proclaimed, "Es la Immaculada!" which means, "It is the Immaculate One!" (taken from Saint Juan Diego and the Tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe). The Franciscan formation of Bishop Zumárraga had obviously influenced him to use this title for Our Lady. She would use the same title to refer to herself when she appeared at Lourdes three hundred and twenty-seven years later.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, Queen of the Americas, pray for us!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tota pulchra es, Maria, et macula originalis non est in te

["Thou art all fair, O Mary, and the original stain (of sin) is not in thee" - Antiphon from the First Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, pre-Vatican II Breviary]

The Catholic Church, and all Her faithful, owe a particular debt to the Franciscans. It was this "seraphic order," as Dom Guéranger called them, that propagated and defended the teaching that the Blessed Mother of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was preserved from original sin from the first moment of her life. This ministry of theirs started with their founder, St. Francis of Assisi (I will write on St. Francis' defense of this doctrine later).

"[It is] unjust to pass over the immense share which... the Order of St. Francis of Assisi, has had in the earthly triumph of our blessed Mother, the Queen of heaven and earth. As often as this feast [of the Immaculate Conception] comes round, is it not just that we should think with reverence and gratitude on him, who was the first theologian that showed how closely connected with the divine mystery of the Incarnation is this dogma of the Immaculate Conception? First, then, all honour to the name of the pious and learned [Blessed] John Duns Scotus!" [from Dom Guéranger's entry in "The Liturgical Year" for December 8th, "The Immaculate Conception"]

Blessed Duns Scotus

The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate wrote a short biography of Blessed John, in which is mentioned an occasion when the Immaculate Conception herself appeared to the theologian. "During the night of Christmas, 1299 at the Oxford Convent... [t]he Blessed Mother appeared to him and placed on his arms the Child Jesus who kissed and embraced him fondly. This was perhaps the occasion which inspired Bl. John to write so profoundly and fluently on the absolute primacy of Christ and the reason for the Incarnation."

Of course, my entry on these important contributions of Franciscans to the history of the devotion to the Immaculate Conception wouldn't be complete without mentioning one of my spiritual fathers, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, who founded the Militia Immaculatae (which I joined more than 2 years ago, on the occasion of my total consecration to Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary). It was he who wrote:

"The Immaculate One appears in this world without the least stain of sin, the masterpiece of God's hands, full of grace. God, the Most Holy Trinity, beholds the lowliness (that is, the humility, the root of all Her other virtues) of His Handmaid, and does great things for Her, He the Almighty (cfr. Lk. 1,49). God the Father gives Her His own Son to be Her Son; God the Son descends into Her womb; and God the Holy Spirit forms the body of Christ in the womb of this pure Virgin. And the Word was made flesh (Jn. 1,14). The Immaculate One becomes the Mother of God. The fruit of the love of God in his Trinitarian life and of Mary the Immaculate One is Christ the God-Man."

St. Maximilian also made an excellent point about our relationship with the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is our Queen and our Mother. He wrote, "True knowledge of the Immaculate One can only be acquired in prayer. The purer a soul is, the greater efforts it makes to avoid sin; and if it does happen to sin, it tries its best to rise from sin and to make up for its fault by love. The more humble it is, and the more spirit of penance it shows, the more and better it will get to know the Immaculate" (both quotes of St. Maximilian Kolbe are taken from Excerpts from the Writings of St. Maximilian).

Let us pray, then, as she taught us to pray at Rue de Bac: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us, who have recourse to thee!"

[Special thanks to AnAmericanMother of Free Republic.com for posting the above painting of Our Lady on a FR thread. It was painted by Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione in 1649-1650. It shows St. Francis of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua venerating the Immaculate Conception, who is portrayed as the Woman from Revelation, chapter 12. What I find interesting about the painting is that she is shown with these two Franciscan saints, who tried to convert the Muslims to Christianity. Of course, the symbol for this "faith" is the crescent moon, and look who's standing atop such a moon in the painting! When I first saw this painting, I thought of the liturgical text that says that Our Lady will crush all heresies (Gaude Maria Virgo, cunctas haereses sola interemisti), and certainly, Islam is the biggest such "heresy" in the world at the moment! You can read about this painting at Restoring a Masterwork.]

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Hymn in Honor of St. Nicholas on His Feast Day

(Taken from the Office of St. Nicholas in the Pre-Vatican II Breviary)

"Let the clergy joyfully raise their voice in song, and magnify Nicholas the father and patron of clergy; and let their chants give fresh devotion to their already fervent and docile heart."

"Let the Greeks, and Latins, and every tongue and tribe and nation; let the sea, and land; let all, whatever their sex or condition, guest or citizen or stranger, sing the praises of Nicholas with one like enthusiasm."

"This pontiff, whose name is immortal in the memory of men, ever gave, gives, and will give favours to all; he will make him, who was pining away in grief, bloom in joy as a lily."

"Whilst living in the flesh, he spurned the deeds of the flesh; he did nothing but what unto salvation: and now, having been loosed from the bonds of the flesh, he has mounted to the starry realms."

"How great is the power of his charity, even in this very age, is plainly enough manifested by the oil which flows from his tomb, giving to all people, that ask it, the boon of health."

"Praise, power, and triumph to the most high Trinity. May it give us to come, after this life, with our laurel wreaths upon us, to the joys whch Nicholas the blessed posseses in our country of heaven. Amen."

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Relationship Between Advent and the Change in the Seasons

Our Lady of the Snows

Dom Guéranger, in his Liturgical Year, under the entry for the feast of St. Bibiana (which is December 2nd), makes a wonderful commentary on the relationship between the season of Advent, and the change in the seasons towards winter. Winter doesn't officially start until a few days before Christmas, but the trend toward that season is well under way when Advent usually starts in the Northern Hemisphere.

"We will today consider the state of nature at this season of the year. The earth is stripped of her wonted verdure, the flowers are gone, the fruits are fallen, the leaves are torn from the trees and scattered by the wind, and every living things stiffens with the cold. It seems as though the hand of death had touched creation. We see the sun rise after the long night of his absence; and scarcely have we felt his warmth at noon, than he sets again, and leaves us in the chilly darkness. Each day he shortens his visit. Is the world to become sunless, and are men live out the rest of life in gloom? The old pagans, who witnessed this struggle between light and darkness, and feared the sun was going to leave them, dedicated the twenty-fifth day of December, [around] the winter solstice, to the worship of the sun. After this day their hopes revived on seeing the glorious luminary again mounting up in the sky, and gradually regaining his triumphant position."

"We Christians can have no such feelings as these. Our light is the true faith, which tells us that there is a Sun to be sought for which never sets, and is never eclipsed. Having Him, we care little for the absence of any other brightness; nay, all other light, without Him, can only lead us astray. O Jesus! Thou True light, that enlightenest every man coming into this world! Thou didst choose, for Thy birth among us, a time of year which forces us to reflect upon the miserable state of the world when Thou didst come to save it. 'The evening was coming on, and the day was far spent,' says St. Bernard: 'the Sun of justice had all but set, so that exceeding scanty was His light or warmth on earth: for the light of divine knowledge was very faint, and, sin abounding, the heat of charity had grown cold. There was neither angel to visit men, nor prophet to speak to them; both seemed in despair, for the hardness and obstinacy of man had made every effort useless: then I said - they are the words of our Redeemer - then I said, lo! I come! [from St. Bernard's First Sermon of Advent]'"

"O Jesus! O Sun of Justice! give us a clear knowledge of what the world is without Thee; what our understanding is without Thy light; and what our heart [is] without the divine heat. Open Thou the eyes of our faith; that whilst seeing with the eyes of the body the gradual decrease of material light, we may think of that other darkness, which is in the soul that has not Thee. Then, indeed, will the cry which comes from the depths of our misery make its way to Thee, and Thou wilt come on the day Thou hast fixed, dispelling every shadow of darkness by Thy irresistible brightness."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

A Big Fight Over the Pope's Words (What Else is New?)

Since I can't seem to find a proper graphic for my planned post on the Miraculous Medal, I'm going to move on for the time being.

Pope Benedict XVI's commentary on Psalm 136 (137) is causing quite a stir in cyberspace, though I don't think it even approaches the buzz that was stirred up after the release of the document on homosexuals in seminaries last month (it's December now!).

Some "Reformist" Christians are jumping to respond to the Pope's supposed comments on a Free Republic.com Religion forum thread, given the Zenit headline "Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope." The poster of the tenth comment on the thread was quick to point out the misleading nature of this headline. This didn't stop the "Reformists" from leaving their "two cents" of criticism of the Pope in general. The good Catholics on FR, of course, rose to the defense of the Pope and the Catholic Church.

One of my "partners in crime" at the Cornell Society for a Good Time also made a good point. Iosephus wrote that Blessed Pius IX, in his in his allocution, Singulari Quadem, made clear that "that there is a state known as invincible ignorance; what it would take for one to be in a state of invincible ignorance, however, is not altogether clear. In any case, this is a matter for God to judge--not us--even as it remains for us to do our utmost to bring others to the Faith, to the Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ."

It's always good to read Blessed Pius IX's words in relation to a present-day issue!