Feast of the Assumption

Last Tuesday on said feast day, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend a Solemn High Mass at St. Paul’s, near Harvard Sq. Cambridge Mass. This Mass was sponsored by Juventutem Boston, a group which promotes the Extraordinary Form of the Mass especially for young people.


(Photo courtesy of Juventutem Boston)

A Solemn High Mass is the Mass in the fullest and is our most glorious way to offer the Holy Sacrifice. There are three clergy, a priest who is the principal celebrant, a deacon (who is usually also a priest) and a subdeacon who I believe may be a lay person, all fully vested.Generally the priest does the eucharistic prayer and the consecration. The deacon and subdeacon assist him doing some of the functions a server would do at another Mass. The deacon chants the gospel and the subdeacon the epistle.

This particular Mass was well attended, I estimate between 100 to 200 people, mostly younger. There was a wonderful choir of a half dozen men that sang the propers of the Mass. Definitely the most beautiful thing this side of heaven. As you can see the church is gorgeous with its original High Altar still in place which makes it quite suitable for the Extraordinary Form.

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Turning Together Towards the Lord

One of the recent trends in some parishes as part of a reform of the liturgy is a return to the ancient practice as was common in the Church until 50 years ago, of worship with the priest and congregation all facing the same direction. This article from a parish in South Carolina I think does a good job of explaining the reasons behind this:



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What to do about divorced and remarried Catholics

I recently attended a Mass where at the homily the celebrant spoke about the need for compassion for divorced and remarried Catholics, about how the Church needed to re-examine her “traditions” and allow that people sometimes make mistakes.

I think the answer here is very simple (although the implications may not be). There are 2 kinds of tradition in the Church – those we call Tradition with a capital T which were passed on down from Jesus and the Apostles, including the authority of scripture, the sacraments, and so on. These Traditions are from God and cannot be changed.

Then there are small-t traditions which might include disciplines which the Church maintains for good reason, such as priestly celibacy, but which could be changed if there was good reason to do so.

So what we need to decide is which kind of tradition the doctrine that a marriage is permanent and only ends with the death of one spouse falls under. One could say that Matthew 5:32 is fairly definite in this:

But I say to you, that whoever divorces his wife – unless the marriage is unlawful – causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery“. (from the Mass Lectionary as quoted in the St. Josephs Sunday Missal)

Not sure how compassion for the divorced and remarried can be reconciled with this.

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Upcoming Events

Tomorrow is Feb. 1, so there will be a First Saturday Mass at the Basilica Chapel at 7 AM in the extraordinary Form (Traditional Latin Mass).

Also our family is looking forward to the Home Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which will be happening at our apartment soon.

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The Reform of the Reformed Mass

The Catholic Mass has always been in a process of reform as needed to meet the needs of a changed society and as our understanding of the Faith developed; however that reform has always been an organic reform, a slow deliberate process that always preserved the key understandings and fundamental meaning of the Roman Rite.

However the reform of the Mass that happened in 1970 deviated from this process to some degree and went far beyond what the Vatican Council had asked for in its document on the reform of the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium).

Under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI there were 2 important developments: The issuance of a more accurate translation of the Mass, and a recognition that the older form of the Mass (according to the 1962 Missal) had never been abrogated and a mechanism for its wider use.

It was clear that to the reformers of Vatican II that some changes to the Mass were necessary. Unfortunately what we got was not an organic reform but a whole new Mass that removed or downplayed key elements of the sacred Mysteries such as the Mass being a re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and the role of the priest as being in the place of Christ (alter Christus). We see this primarily in the new Eucharistic prayers (II, II, and IV) and the revised offertory

There were other changes that came about not directly driven by the reformed  liturgy itself but by ideas about how thew Mass should change that had been held by more progressive elements in the Church who were now emboldened by the freedom to change things that came out of Vatican II.  This included complete replacement of Latin by the vernacular language, turning the priest around to face the people and subsequent moving of the tabernacle aside,  replacement of the altar with a communion table as used in many Protestant services, communion received standing and in the hand and removal of altar rails. and elimination of the chanted Mass propers specified in the liturgy which were replaced by hymns of varying quality, music that had endured for centuries replaced often by hastily written modern compositions.

When one reads Sacrosanctum Concilium we see statements such as the need for the continuation of the Latin Language, use of Gregorian Chant, and so on, with the ability of the congregation to sing the various propers. It is evident that the reform as it was actually implemented did not follow any of these prescriptions.

As a result we see a weakening in belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, a lack of reverence at many Masses and more of a Protestant mentality where the Mass is seen as more of a worship service rather than the Holy Sacrifice or sacred Mysteries. The Mass is one of the primary ways that Catholics develop and strengthen their faith, so it is not surprising that we have a generation of Catholics whose faith has been weakened. It is also clear that the young are not attracted to the Mass in spite of these changes that supposedly were going to make it more appealing to them.

What I foresee happening is as a more traditional population of priests and laypeople take over in the Church, which I think will happen as a result of many trends – increasing persecution driving away lukewarm Catholics, the wide use of contraception resulting in a larger proportion in the Catholic population of traditional Catholics who tend to be open to life and have large families, the aging off of the progressive leaders from the 60’s and 70’s – then there will be an opportunity for true reform that builds on the Roman Rite as it was passed down to us and actually achieves what the Vatican II reformers had in mind.

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On the SSPX, Schismatics, and so forth

There is some confusion in the Catholic world about various groups that have expressed concerns about the Second Vatican Council and some of the fruits of that council and therefore exist in a greater or lesser degree of separation from the Catholic Church.

Before starting let us state what “schismatic” actually means. It means an individual or group that separates themselves from the Church, the mystical body of Christ. This is different from a Heretic which is a person or group that diverges on one or more of the principal church teachings, for example the Arians that did not believe that Jesus had a divine nature, as taught by the Church. Schismatics on the other hand, follow all of the Church’s dogmatic teachings but do not accept the authority of the Holy See.

One such group is the Society of St. Pius X or SSPX. I have often heard it referred to as a “schismatic” group on radio shows and diocesan news articles. In fact its situation is somewhat more complicated. It is a group of priests and bishops that disagree on certain teachings of Vatican II particularly those on religious freedom, and also have issues with the reform of the Mass by Pope Paul VI and instead continue to offer the traditional Mass, often referred to as the Tridentine Mass.

The SSPX are not in fact in schism, which has been reiterated both by the Vatican and by the group themselves. However, their priests though validly ordained do not currently have faculties under Canon law to offer the sacraments. There are differing opinions as to whether attendance at a Mass offered by a SSPX priest satisfies one’s Sunday obligation. Admittedly this is somewhat a moot point here in Lewiston Maine as the nearest SSPX chapel is in Boston at least 3 hours away. As someone with an attachment to the older form of the Mass I find easier opportunities to fulfill this through the Latin Masses offered by the St. Gregory the Great Chaplaincy here in Lewiston and feel no need to attend an SSPX chapel. Not sure what I would do if I were living somewhere where it was the only option for the traditional Mass though.

There are other organizations that should definitely be avoided by faithful Catholics though. The Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen (CMRI), the Society of St. Pius V (SSPV), and Holy Family Monastery are three that I am aware of. These groups are schismatic as their web sites declare that the Catholic Church is currently Sede Vacante i.e that there is currently no valid Pope, the last one they consider valid being Pope Pius XII, due to the popes starting with John XXII having promulgated or supported the teachings of Vatican II which they consider heretical.

The group CMRI currently advertises in the local paper under the name of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mission and offers Masses in Hallowell near Augusta. The parish has put notices in the bulletins and on the web site that these masses do not satisfy one’s Sunday obligation and should therefore not be attended with that goal in mind.

It is unfortunate that this situation exists, as well as the longer running division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox. I hope that the Church moves to clear up confusion over the disputed sections of the Vatican II documents, continues reforms to the Mass of Paul VI began by Pope Benedict XVI with the more accurate translations, and increases availability of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (Traditional Latin Mass) and that these efforts will bring the Church back “on course” and will encourage those that have separated themselves to rejoin so that “we all may be one”. (John 17:11)

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Haven’t Posted in a While …

… partly due to being busy (yes I know that is an excuse) and partly because I had some ideas which have to get fully baked before I get them on the blog. One is a post on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, something I have been thinking about lately. Stay tuned.

As you probably know (unless you only get your news from the mainstream media) yesterday was the 41st anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. So far 55 million unborn have been sacrificed since this ruling took effect. To put that in perspective, estimates are that Hitler caused the deaths of 12 million civilians before and during World War 2.

I have been thinking that someday say 100 years from now people will look back at this era the way we look back at the time when slavery was legal in this country, and wonder how people could have tolerated such injustices and been so blind to the truth. In the 18th and early 19th century, even devout Christians tolerated and even supported slavery, much the same way as people, even Christians and sad to say, some Catholics support Abortion or are indifferent.

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