Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Pietà - from Violence back to Nurturing Compassion


Of all things on the great feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this heart-wrenching image of Adam and Eve mourning the death of their son Abel, the just, came crowding into my mind. I think I know why. 

This pain is closer to most of us than is the tenderness of the Guadalupana toward Juan Diego and the peoples of the Americas held bound by the circle of violence set in motion in the course of the Conquista. Had she not come and shown herself a sister and a mother of boundless compassion, the death's of countless Abels would have left so many Adams and Eves in their tears and a whole hemisphere wrapped in a mourning cloak. Not chance but Divine Providence in the intervention in time of the Mother of God changed mourning into dancing and for over half a millennium without flagging.

Guadalupe continues today to radiate hope and promise for a fallen world. The immediacy of whatever our pain may be deprives us of experiencing the tenderness of the beautiful young woman on the hill of Tepeyac. For not being touched by her in our anguish or simple torment, we fail to obey her simple but insistent plea, we miss the tilma, the roses and love's lightning conquest of a world for Her Son.

This arid pietà depicting our first parents with their dead son, depicting the devastating effects of a fratricide from the dawn of creation and confirming God's judgment on the worthlessness of Cain's feigned sacrifice, looms big and leaves me powerless. In the extreme, it illustrates my loss of words before people's pain at gross injustice suffered here and now.

I guess all I can do, or rather the best which I can do, is humbly beg the lovely Morena to come again and touch hearts with a gentle word and a bouquet of roses.


Sunday, December 10, 2017

Older and Better



I guess it would be fair enough to say that blogs are within the scope of propriety even if in a very public sphere they offer personal, bordering on intimate, reflections. With the wonderful celebrations at the Basilica in Fribourg on 8 December, I guess you could say that my heart is overflowing and I must speak.

2017 here in Switzerland has gifted me with three occasions, all of them Marian, to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass: in Fischingen, a Pontifical High Mass on the occasion of a pilgrimage for the Fatima Centenary, a Missa Praelatitia in Sankt Pelagiberg for the Holy Name of Mary, and now for the Immaculate Conception a Pontifical High Mass in the Basilica Notre Dame de Fribourg. These three moments have had their positive, yes warming and reassuring impact on my heart. No doubt a person has to do something to prepare his heart to receive them in this way, but in any case, the Tradition, or should I say the Blessed Mother has won my heart in most delicate fashion.

Without having such a chair, I'd like to say ex cathedra, that the Vetus Ordo is how a bishop is meant to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Traditional Latin Mass in all its solemnity really carries the bishop. The above picture captures it quite well, as I sit front and center, with my old knees covered!, while the subdeacon reads the Gospel in French, I listen waiting to preach my homily. With the Novus Ordo, we were taught in the seminary at Mass practice or in homiletics to be sharp, to be proactive... in the Vetus Ordo, the liturgy, with Christ the High Priest, Mary with all the angels and saints, carries me in most attentive fashion and challenges me to allow myself to be changed, transformed, really made over to Christ Jesus. The liturgy carries the old man in me and makes me an icon of something of which I am not worthy and for which from beginning to end I repeat my Domine, non sum dignus... and my miserere nobis! It is so right and so age appropriate!

It took me really too long to let go and allow others to carry me through this experience. Obviously, a priest who celebrates his daily low Mass or a Sunday High Mass, Missa Cantata, without assisting ministers, well, he has to be at the top of his game, so to speak. I just want to go on record that bishops get the better part of a free ride, even if they should really interiorize it all by memorizing a goodly part of the liturgy.

Bishops, do yourself and the Church a favor by accepting the invitation should it come your way and doing your little, old part to let this great icon shine forth from the heart of Christ's Church!


PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI



Friday, December 8, 2017

On the Occasion of Marian Congregation's Prayer of Engagement


PROCESSION & VEILLEE MARIALE
avec la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg
Mot d’accueil - Immaculée Conception - 8 décembre 2017


C’est un honneur pour moi d’être avec vous aujourd’hui pour la « Prière d’engagement » des nouveaux membres de la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg. À travers l’abbé Arnaud Evrat je vous remercie tous pour l'invitation qui m'a été faite de venir ici cet après-midi, en témoin d'une grande et belle démarche.

Votre témoignage de foi et de communion avec la Vierge Immaculée, Mère de Dieu, est une confirmation ou disons une vérification d'une chose dont j'ai moi-même depuis quelque temps la forte conviction qu'elle est essentielle pour nous catholiques. Je crois fermement que notre foi catholique a, certes, sa dimension intellectuelle, et certes, elle a des possibilités de s'exprimer par des projets et des programmes de grande importance, mais par-dessus tout la foi est révélée par notre attachement personnel et filial au Dieu vivant et vrai, en union avec Marie, à travers une simple union de prière avec l'Immaculée.

Choisir simplement Marie «comme patronne et avocate auprès de son Divin Fils», et promettre notre attachement et notre profond respect pour la Vierge Mère, suffit à nourrir et à épanouir notre vie chrétienne. Comparée à la façon de vivre des autres baptisés, votre option est à la fois simple et extraordinaire, modeste et profonde. Notre union de prière avec Jésus par Marie, je tiens à le souligner avec insistance, union de prière avec Jésus par Marie : pour moi, tout est là.


Je promets mon soutien dans la prière pour les nouveaux membres de la Congrégation Mariale de la Basilique Notre-Dame de Fribourg qui prononcent aujourd’hui leur Prière d’engagement. En vous félicitant tous pour votre offrande personnelle à la Sainte Vierge comme ses "fidèles serviteurs", je vous bénis de tout cœur au nom du Saint Père, le Pape François.


Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu, priez pour nous pauvres pécheurs, maintenant et à l'heure de notre mort. Amen!




Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Our Tainted Nature's Solitary Boast"

La Fête de l’Immaculée
8 décembre 2017 - Fribourg
Prov. 8: 22-35
Luc. 1, 26-28

Tota pulchra es, María: et mácula originális non est in te.
Vous êtes toute belle, ô Marie, et la tache originelle n’est pas en vous.

Je suis né le 14 août 1950, donc l’année de la définition du dogme de l’Assomption. C’est peut-être la raison pour laquelle j’ai toujours eu un rapport spécial à ce mystère de Marie, accueillie corps et âme au ciel. Quand j'étais au catéchisme à l’école primaire, j'avais l'idée (bien sûr erronée) que le dogme de l’Immaculée Conception de Marie, que nous célébrons aujourd’hui, avait été défini un siècle avant celui de l’Assomption parce que celui-ci soulevait de plus grandes difficultés doctrinales. C'était une logique enfantine selon laquelle les choses les plus faciles sont faites en premier…

A propos de la fête d’aujourd’hui : on constate que le dogme de l'Immaculée Conception est souvent confondu avec l'Annonciation, c'est-à-dire le moment de la conception de Jésus dans le sein de Marie, fêtée le 25 mars, neuf mois avant Noël, la Nativité du Seigneur. En fait, aujourd'hui, 8 décembre, nous célébrons Marie conçue sans péché originel, et qui naîtra à ses saints parents, Anne et Joachim, neuf mois plus tard, le 8 septembre. Aujourd'hui, nous célébrons la Divine Providence qui, de toute éternité, a voulu préserver la Mère de Dieu de toute souillure du péché originel et aussi actuel. Comme le dit, en parlant d’elle, le poète William Wordsworth : “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast”[1] (l'unique fierté de notre nature contaminée).

Dans la fête d’aujourd’hui, nous sommes surtout appelés à nous réjouir de cette particularité de l'histoire de notre salut. La sainteté du premier instant de l'existence de Marie est un indice, et certainement le plus significatif, de la sublimité des dispositions prises par Dieu pour sauver le monde dans l'Incarnation du Verbe, la naissance de son Fils unique. L'étoile de Bethléem a sa signification cosmique pour indiquer le début d'une époque sans précédent dans l'histoire du monde, mais nous pouvons voir plus profondément le grand mystère accompli dans le Christ en contemplant le « fiat », le « oui », de l’Immaculée qui consent à coopérer avec ce plan divin pour la rédemption du monde.

Dans un sens, pour notre vie de foi, il n'est besoin de rien d’autre : en connaissant Marie dans son élection dès l'éternité, nous pouvons accéder à la volonté de Dieu, le Très-Haut, pour nous pauvres fils et filles d'Adam et Eve. Cela se voit dans le choix de l'épître de la Messe pour aujourd'hui, où l'Église dans la prière établit un lien entre la Mère de Dieu et la Sagesse éternelle.

Qui me invénerit, invéniet vitam et háuriet salútem a Dómino.
Celui qui me trouvera, trouvera la vie, et puisera le salut dans le Seigneur.

Marie Immaculée est la clé d’interprétation du mystère de notre salut en Christ ; Connaître la Vierge Mère sans tache, sans péché depuis le commencement, nous ouvre l'immensité de ce que Dieu a voulu dans Son Fils unique fait homme.

C’est pourquoi je pourrais m'arrêter ici dans la contemplation de la Vierge Immaculée, point de référence et ancrage de notre foi en Jésus qui nous sauve. Ce serait un cadeau, une contribution décisive à la conversion de beaucoup. Mais, en tant que prédicateur, j'ai le devoir non seulement d'augmenter la dévotion, mais aussi de susciter en vous et en moi le progrès dans notre vie, notre comportement, et cela pour notre propre bien et pour le salut de ceux qui ne connaissent pas encore Jésus ou qui n'ont qu'une foi tiède ou indifférente. C'est-à-dire que je dois faire mon possible pour éloigner de nous le péché et l'indifférence envers nos devoirs de baptisés.

Saint Augustin, dans le chapitre 18 du livre 7 de ses Confessions, intitulé dans l'édition française que j’ai consultée : "Jésus-Christ seul est la voie du salut", prie notre Père céleste et parle de son processus de conversion du péché à la vie :
Et je cherchais la voie où l’on trouve la force pour jouir de vous, et je ne la trouvais pas que je n’eusse embrassé « le Médiateur de Dieu et des hommes, Jésus-Christ homme (I Tim. II, 5) ; Dieu souverain, béni dans tous les siècles (Rom. IX, 5) ; » qui nous appelle par ces paroles « Je suis la voie, la vérité, la vie (Jean, XIV, 6) ; » et qui unit à notre chair une nourriture dont ma faiblesse était incapable. Car le Verbe s’est fait chair (Ibid. I, 14), afin que votre sagesse, par qui vous avez tout créé, devînt le lait de notre enfance.

Dans l’évangile, dans le récit de la Passion et la mort de Jésus sur la croix, on parle de l’obscurité en plein jour et du tremblement de terre qui a divisé en deux le voile devant le Saint des Saints du Temple, à Jérusalem. Il n'y a pas de substitut à l’œuvre de Jésus pour notre salut. Dans la prédilection du Père Éternel pour Marie, Mère de Son Fils, nous voyons la sublimité que Dieu a voulu restituer à notre nature humaine. Déchirer le voile de l’époque passée, nous voyons en Marie l'Immaculée l'Arche de l'Alliance qui concentre la dévotion de son peuple au seul Dieu vivant et vrai dans son Fils Jésus.
-------
Heute feiern wir die göttliche Vorsehung, die von Ewigkeit her die Mutter Gottes vor jedem Makel der Sünde bewahren wollte. Und zwar besonders vor dem Makel der Erbsünde, aber auch vor jedem Makel der persönlichen Sünde. Wie der Dichter William Wordsworth schrieb: „Our tainted nature's solitary boast…“ (Der einzige Ruhm unserer verdorbenen Natur).
Die Heiligkeit Marias vom ersten Augenblick ihrer Existenz an ist ohne weiteres der bedeutungsvollste Hinweis auf die Erhabenheit mit der Gott bei der Menschwerdung seines einzigen Sohnes zur Rettung der Welt arbeitet. Der Stern von Bethlehem hat seine kosmische Bedeutung, um den Anfang einer neuen und nie dagewesenen Epoche in der Weltgeschichte anzuzeigen. Aber wir können uns wohl noch tiefer bewusst werden, wie gross das Geheimnis Christi ist, wenn wir das „fiat“/das Ja-Wort Marias betrachten, Ihre Zustimmung zur Mitwirkung am göttlichen Plan zu Erlösung der Welt. In gewisser Weise brauchen wir für unser Glaubensleben nicht mehr als das Geheimnis Marias zu kennen: Wenn wir Maria erkennen in ihrer ewigen Erwählung, so können wir den Heilsplan des höchsten Gottes mit uns armen Kindern Adams und Evas erfassen.
Oh Maria, ohne Erbsünde empfangen, bitte für uns, die wir bei dir Zuflucht suchen!
O Marie, conçue sans péché originel, prie pour nous qui avons recours à toi !
Sancta Maria, Stella Orientis, filios tuos adiuva! Ora pro nobis, Sancta Dei Genitrix, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae, Amen!






[1] The Virgin
BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

Mother! whose virgin bosom was uncrost
With the least shade of thought to sin allied.
Woman! above all women glorified,
Our tainted nature's solitary boast;
Purer than foam on central ocean tost;
Brighter than eastern skies at daybreak strewn
With fancied roses, than the unblemished moon
Before her wane begins on heaven's blue coast;
Thy image falls to earth. Yet some, I ween,
Not unforgiven the suppliant knee might bend,
As to a visible Power, in which did blend
All that was mixed and reconciled in thee
Of mother's love with maiden purity,
Of high with low, celestial with terrene!


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Finally Got My Christmas Present Read!

The Biography
Marcel Lefebvre
Bernard Tissier de Mallerais
Angelus Press, Kansas City, MO, 2014

A year ago after the summer holidays, I got a package in the mail from Angelus Press, including a year's subscription to their great magazine and an autographed copy of The Biography. It was my first Christmas gift of 2016 and over the year I have enjoyed the magazine immensely. The big book took more courage to face. Normally by my reading with Kindle, big books are not all that intimidating, partly because you don't see nor do you have 600+ pages in a hard cover in your hands. Anyway, I finally started and almost couldn't put the book down until I had finished. Bishop Tissier de Mallerais has written a terribly interesting account of the life of Marcel Lefebvre and I have no objections to its English translation.

Part I, The Heir, taking us through family history, schooling, vocation and seminary, along with his Spiritan novitiate, is beautiful and truly inspiring. It makes a very ordinary boy of the people, like me, marvel at grace in action through family and the choice encounters in the life of a young man obviously destined for great things. The Archbishop's parents did an extraordinary job with all of their children.

Part II, The Missionary, almost by way of understatement illustrates the role that Archbishop Lefebvre played in the evangelization of a goodly part of Africa. Taken together with Part I, we see his homogeneous world, where he together with family and friends or proteges did a credible job of facing the social and intellectual challenges which were rushing in on the Church already in those years, paving the way for the rapid dissolution of our well-ordered Catholic universe.

Part III, The Combatant, recounts Archbishop Lefebvre's Council experience, moving from Dakar, to the small diocese of Tulle in France, to being Spiritan General and Council Father. Perforce we move from the serenity of his early life to an apology for his resistance to the forces of change which ran roughshod over the Council. Up until just recently, no doubt, this part of the book would have been the toughest for many of us to read.

Part IV, The Restorer, continues the apology of a ministry and life given totally to the defense and promotion of Catholic Priesthood in the sense of the Tradition. It clarifies well the nature of his adamant refusal to compromise for the sake of a false peace. The iter from Fribourg to Ecône, in particular, as well as the opening of other houses of priestly formation and the association of religious men and women in support of the primary work, The Priestly Society of Saint Pius X, is documented here as well. This section of 200 pages amounts to a good third of the entire book and explains the drama of his decision to proceed to the ordination of four auxiliary bishops. It concludes with the last illness and death of the Archbishop.

In the clerical world of which I am a part, for many, especially for hierarchs, just the name of Marcel Lefebvre is a provocation, a red flag. Among traditionalist lay Catholics, especially for those under fifty years of age, there do not seem to be battle lines or trenches which separate the good priests on one side from those on the other. A priest friend advised me not to review this book for fears of repercussions. I don't think my many lay friends would necessarily understand that counsel.

In the name of progress, then, and in hopes for the future, let me recommend this book to everyone who loves the genre biography and wants to learn more about the ins and outs of the 20th Century in the Catholic Church, especially in France, but very much so in Italy and Switzerland, as well as in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The original French edition was published in 2002. Supplementary material was added to the English translation which has had both a first edition in 2004 and this second one in 2014.

No doubt it would take some courage for a Catholic bishop or priest to read this volume, but I think we urgently need to move forward by looking closely at what is certainly a crucial if not the most crucial chapter for understanding the life of the Church in our times. As we edge closer, hopefully, to finding the courage and the means for facing our "ghosts" in matters of the vocations crisis, the dramatic falloff in participation at Sunday Mass and the overall hemorrhage affecting Catholic practice and faith, we need to come to know Marcel Lefebvre better. 

TOLLE LEGE

*

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI


Saturday, November 25, 2017

The "Illogic" of an Absolutely Intolerant Pluralism - Viva, Cristo Re!

For all you Italian speakers, I wish to recommend this little video from La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana. It's classic, secular Italian "wisdom", but always superior to what the market of today pretends to offer.

So many of my neo-Catholic or Conservative friends seem incapable of translating the old principles of social or national identity which held in the terribly anti-clerical or anti-Catholic Risorgimento or in another form of common sense argumentation, as registered in an essay from the 1930's, proposing T.S. Elliot's counsel about the need for an established church in England for the sake of social cohesion. They can't quite grasp that the old logic, which inspired the religious liberty hypothesis was just that and no more. It has not stood the test of time, leaving us as Catholics, or as Christians generally in the world, exposed at best to bitter discrimination and too often, beyond scorn, to genuine and unrelenting persecution. 

Popular wisdom passes on to us that the "superior" experience of religious tolerance and pluralism as a founding or constitutional value of the American experience would be what still holds today as the social paradigm for western society. Sorry, folks, open your eyes and look around.

I am not going to dot the i's and cross the t's of the video's author. Making appeal to the "good sense" of the "tolerance" dictated by the Risorgimento is to a certain extent ingenuous. The false peace of an established principle of religious or social pluralism is as wanting as its sad European forerunner: Cuius regio, eius religio. Both run roughshod over the notion of truth as something objective.

As I have argued somewhere before (don't ask me when or where). Tolerance vis à vis other people or persons is a negative. I can tolerate pain or inconvenience, I can tolerate another's defects, but as a Christian, I don't tolerate others, I respect them. I hope they will respect my values, my faith, my vision of truth. I respect them, without necessarily conceding that their position must perforce also in some way be true. Again, truth is one and there are not many truths.

Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest and Universal King, is the Way, the Truth and the Life. With the great saints of all times, I can accept that many in error indeed seek the fullness of truth. I dare not deceive either them or myself into believing that the quest for truth can take another path or stop short of Jesus, my Savior and my God.

Nostalgia has nothing to do with my argument or my quest. The bottom line is and has always been spousal fidelity to the Bridegroom. He comes at an hour you do not expect; trim your lamp and rise to meet Him, for fear of being left in the darkness outside.


PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI



Saturday, November 11, 2017

Secretum Meum Mihi: From Parrhesia to Piety

The Binding Force of Tradition.
Ripperger, Chad.  
Sensus Traditionis Press. Kindle Edition. 


My first cold of the season had me sort of dumbed down the other day and made concentrating on a couple work projects wearisome. So, when I received an email invitation to participate in an online questionnaire in exchange for a 5$ Amazon gift certificate, I jumped at the distraction and in a matter of minutes had gained some easy money. I spent my reward right away on this little book which I thoroughly enjoyed for the clarity and orderliness of its thought.

Because the language of the book is nigh unto classic scholastic, many might find it tough going, but I found it particularly thought provoking when it comes to analyzing the fruits of Vatican II and its aftermath. The chapter on sins against faith, hope, charity, justice and religion is particularly thought provoking.

After watching a video lecture by a fine young church historian recently, who is also a friend, I asked him if ecclesiology and the notion of spousal faithfulness couldn't enlighten his approach to the contemporary controversy over tradition and doctrinal development. His answer indicated to me that in most circles we are fighting an uphill battle against (shorthand) modernist cliches, which tend to pull the legs out from under the tradition as of the essence of the rule of faith, thus furthering the idolatrous relationship too many have with the goddess Progress.

Just one quote from Ripperger's treatise:

"St. Vincent essentially establishes that the principle of judgment about what we are to believe is that which we have received from “our holy ancestors and fathers.” In effect, it is tradition, i.e. that which has been handed on to us, which constitutes what we are to believe. For there is no aspect of what we believe as Catholics that was not passed on to us from those who went before us." (p. 20)

This author and many other Catholic authors in this Luther Year, when people, mostly journalists, glibly make apologies for his 500 year old cry of sola scriptura as the rule of faith, are hard pressed to bring home the ancient teaching of St. Vincent of Lerins on how the development of dogma can be properly understood. The more I read, the more convinced I become that St. Francis de Sales and countless other doctors and approved authors defended the only viable option in their strict adherence to things as handed down without modifying or omitting either a jot or a tittle:

"The Arians, as S. Augustine tells us (De doc. Chris. iii.2), corrupted this sentence of S. John i.1: In principio erat verbum, et verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum: by simply changing a point. For they read it thus: Et verbum erat apud Deum et Deus erat. Verbum hoc, &c.: instead of: Deus erat verbum. Hoc erat in principio apud Deum:. They placed the full stop after the erat, instead of after the verbum. They so acted for fear of having to grant that the Word was God; so little is required to change the sense of God's Word. When one is handling glass beads, if two or three are lost, it is a small matter, but if they were oriental pearls the loss would be great. The better the wine the more it suffers from the mixture of a foreign flavour, and the exquisite symmetry of a great picture will not bear the admixture of new colours. Such is the conscientiousness with which we ought to regard and handle the sacred deposit of the Scriptures." [de Sales, St. Francis. The Catholic Controversy (pp. 91-92). Veritatis Splendor Publications. Kindle Edition.] 

The ancient serpent's temptation of our first parents to snub God as if His commands were petty and to take liberties with His law in the name of their own personal dignity is ultimately the modernist lie, which continues to wreak havoc, as a whole class of people seek to shout the equivalent of their own "non serviam" and tear themselves loose from the embrace of our glorious Bridegroom. We have sinned and, like the Old Testament account goes about the discovery of the lost book of the law in the Temple, we need to recover the tradition and through repentance find therein the cause of our joy.

Among the good Catholic lay people whom I know there are few who are deceived by the supposed straight-talk rhetoric, parrhesia, where the speaker on the first account appeals to himself as authority (protesting his genuineness and sincerity), while disparaging what has been handed down and those who seek to remain faithful to what always and everywhere was. But on the other hand even among these good people, given the tenor of our times and a certain obsession with material progress or gain, it is rare to find the sort of fearful piety which once was and which accords to God in His Church the rule of faith which is our salvation.

This line of argumentation makes sense with strict adherence to the tradition properly cast in the framework of spousal faithfulness. Ripperger argues the point also from the point of view of human psychology:

"As one views the generations upon generations which held the same faith, died holy deaths and sacrificed to provide for subsequent generations, great hope is engendered in the believer. But when the sands of teaching are constantly shifting and when the monuments are destroyed or attacked, the stability of the faith is lost and hope will decline." (p. 46). 

His point is well taken and a goodly number of popular apologists from the world of Catholic neo-conservatism would do well to review their premises in the light of the role properly belonging to the tradition as our rule of faith.

PROPERANTES ADVENTUM DIEI DEI