Thursday, June 26, 2008


Roman and I have been talking about how the Rule of St Benedict is essentially the firast management textbook written in Western Europe. Here are some tips for effective managers.

After reading the antics of Kevin 24/7 and the reports of Federal Treasury officials working 36 hours straight, and my own depression caused by overwork, it is timely to reflect on what St Benedict says about work in the Rule. Chapter XLVIII of the Rule gives some guidelines on work hours.

He starts with:

"Idleness is the enemy of the soul. For this reason the bretheren should be occupied at certain times in manual labour, and at other times in sacred reading." Benedict goes on to describe the hours in which work is done and the hours in which reading is done."

He goes on:

"If however local necessity or their own poverty compels them to work personally at gathering the harvest, they should not be upset about this. For then truly are they monks if they live by the work of their hands, as did our Fathers and the Apostles. All their labours, however, should be kept under control on account of the less courageous".

Of course Benedict was writing for people who were not used to doing any physical work at all - that was for servants or (in the 6th cent AD) for slaves. However, there is a balance. He tells communities not to drive people into the ground, but let people work at their own pace.

Following this he gives instructions on the monks who are (called in Australia) - bludgers, and penalties to be given to such people. Finally he says:

"To the brethren who are in poor health or not strong, the work or craft that is allotted should be such as to keep them occupied, but not such as by its weight to break them down or drive them away. Their lack of strength is a matter for the Abbot's consideration."

In the monastery, or the corporation, we have a diverse group of people who bring all their own talents to build up the organisation. They cannot be underemployed as they will cause trouble (and in the case of a corporation, waste money). However, if a corporation give staff a huge weight that they individually cannot bear they will either collapse from overwork and get sick, and/or they will leave the corporation. In either case the corporation loses. The effective manager, like St Benedict's effective Abbot is concerned for everyone's welfare.

Bells and More

Over at Cooees from the Cloister there is a very good expose' about Elizabeth Harringtons latest sermon on liturgy, which, as we have come to expect is full of errors and strange ideas.

First, I would like to say that I am quite ambivalent about bells whether in the Ordinary or Extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite.. Of course people think that bells are always used in the Extraordinary Form. This is not so. Bells were never rung at a Papal High Mass for instance.

Here is my commentary on this latest.

I have received requests to follow up my recent column on the ‘smells’ of Mass with one about ‘bells’.

The current Missal, which has been in use since 1969, dropped the compulsory ringing of bells which had been a feature of the Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council.
(yes we know this).

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal mentions ringing bells only once:

“A little before the Consecration, when appropriate, a server rings
a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the
server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the
chalice.” (#150)

To understand the reason for the change from bells being mandated to being optional, it is helpful to examine why the ringing of bells was originally introduced into the Mass.
(So here we go into the ideological diatribe. We start from saying that GIRM says bells are optional to launch into why they should be banned).

By the early middle ages, the priest celebrated Mass silently in Latin with his back to the people. Those at Mass could not see or hear what was happening and very often were engaged in their own private prayer.
(He wa start with the same old record. Well no in the early Middle Ages he did pray silently in Latin. He did not have his back to the people - he prayed with the people. If we take Saxon churches as what happened in the EARLY Middle Ages, the churches were so small that the people would have gathered around the Altar facing east). Of course in the Harrington world the Middle Ages are evil anyway.

Because of a number of factors which had developed over time, people only rarely received communion. They believed that they still received the grace of the sacrament by looking upon the consecrated bread and wine.
We are still trotting out the same old rubbish about what happened in a particular point in time, on the eve of the Reformation. It is amazing how the writings of Thomas Cranmer find their way into modern legend. All modern liturgists use Cranmer as their primary source to denigrate the Mass.

Priests began to raise the chalice and host above their head so that they could be more easily seen by all present. So that people engrossed in their own prayers and meditation would not miss the consecration and elevation, the practice of ringing a bell was introduced to alert the people to the fact that this holy moment was about to occur.
No this was a practice that was started by Archbishop de Sully of Paris in the 12th cent to emphasise the Real presence. The bells came later and raising the Chalice came later after that.

Now that the Mass is celebrated in such a way that people can see, hear and understand what is happening at the altar, the need to attract their attention by ringing a bell no longer exists.
Well reactions that I had from people is that even when the Mass is in English their minds tend to wander, and the bells are a bit of a wake up call.

In fact, to ring bells may give the wrong impression of the Eucharistic Prayer. The institution narrative (the story of Christ’s words and actions at the Last Supper) is one part of the whole prayer of thanksgiving. It belongs with the praise of God’s wonderful saving deeds, the invocation of the Holy Spirit, the memorial of Jesus’ death and resurrection and our joining in Christ’s offering.
What wrong impression? She is very unclear.

Theologians no longer talk about a ‘moment’ of consecration; rather the whole of this great prayer is consecratory. To highlight just one section by the ringing of bells affects the unity and continuity of the Eucharistic Prayer.
Which theologians? There are no quotes!. This is just extremely poor writing. Now at most Masses that I attend have no bells but the Eucharistic Prayer is interrupted by the Priest raising the Host and genuflecting and doing the same with the chalice. Then there is a further interruption by the memorial acclamation. Obviously in the Harrington world we pick and choose which bits of the Eucharistic Prayer are interrupted.

OK lets be really like the early Christians. How about the priest recites the Eucharistic Prayer from end to end with no elevations or genuflections (or bells) as was done up to the 13th century. The priest elevates the sacred species at the doxology (still recited in a low voice) and pronounces "in saecula saeculorum" and the congregation answers "Amen". Of course the modern liturgists cant go to this because the GIRM has instructions in it which are simplifications of the Tridentine style of Roman Rite, and they seem to want to follow this. Two-faced if you ask me.

In the end I cannot see why the whole of the Eucharistic Prayer is consecratory. You could say that the whole of the Mass is consecratory. Why are these modern theologians saying this? What is the underlying agenda here?

If we want to continue the ‘bells’ aspect of the Catholic ‘bells and smells’ tradition, it is more appropriate to use them to reinforce the highpoints of our participation in liturgy, for example, to accompany the singing of the memorial acclamation or the great ‘Amen’, rather than to continue ringing them for reasons which no longer exist
oh yes everything has to be turned to the people and away from God otherwise it has no justification. Of course these is totally impractical as it then points to the incorrect points of the Mass. If you folled this people would be even more confused about the meaning of the bells than ever.

What about the other sort of church bells – those in church belfries or towers? The tradition of ringing bells to call people to worship began in the 6th century. Church bells were also used to announce the death of a parishioner and to call people to prayer at times of the ‘Angelus’.

The Sacramentary calls for the ringing of church bells twice only – during the Gloria on Holy Thursday and again at the Easter Vigil. Small handbells are usually rung at these times, but the ringing of outdoor bells serves to alert the whole neighbourhood to these sacred times and events.
Where does the Sacramentary say this? Why would you spend so much money on a peal of bells and a belfry when according to Harrington and Co you can only use them twice a year?

Basically this woman is a total fraud. Unfortunately people read this stuff and believe it. Unfortunate too are the people who sponsor and employ her to write this rubbish.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

St John the Baptist

Today, we celebrate the feast of St John the Baptist, the herald of our Lord. It seems to me, that he is not that well known among modern Catholics. It seems surprising to most Catholics that today, the 24th of June, is the midway between Christmases. The beautiful symbolism behind such a great feast , which I’m sure most know about is, that in the Northern Hemisphere, this is the high point of Summer, when the days are longer. The liturgy of the Cosmos mirrors John’s Words, “I must he decease and he must increase”, the Sun, symbolizing firstly St John, gradually decreases, as the year moves from Summer into winter. Just as St John, he diminishes in splendor. Then just as we hit the dead of winter, (December 25th, the next day) Christ is born, the light of the world and the Sun begins its triumphal march.

The Feast even has a vigil, mirroring Christmas Eve. St John the Baptist is remembered in the Roman Confiteor, Our Lord, himself that there is no greater man born of a women then St John the Baptist, his Cousin. John the Baptist, spent his life living the life of an aster hermit, living out in a desert, sustained only by locusts and honey. Truly an example for monks and hermits of today. St John is the last of the Old testament prophets, unlike them, he is granted the privilege of seeing, the Lamb of God.

Finally it is important to touch on the manner of his Death. The Gospel tells us that he was beheaded for protesting to Herod about his sexual immoralities; Herod originally did not dare to kill such a holy man. But later, moved by an impure dance of a women and then her wish, he ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded. It seems hardly surprising, that the reason for the death of the greatest man born of woman was actually a woman. Like Eve being the down fall of Adam, a woman indirectly lead to the death of John the Baptist. Women are remarkable creatures, they can be the destruction of man, but they can also be their salvation, not once have holy women lead many a man to the pearly gate.

St John the Baptist, Pray for us.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Some Comments on the Hermeneutic of Rupture

I have been reading through Cardinal Wiseman's: Four lectures on the offices and ceremonies of Holy Week, as performed in the Papal chapels : delivered in Rome in the Lent of MDCCCXXXVII (1854).

This is his comment at the end of Lecture 3 on (what was then the potential of) liturgical change and the demolishing of liturgical traditions:

I have represented these to you as an aggregate
of religious observances, gradually framed in
the Church, not by a cold and formal enactment,
but by the fervid manifestation of the devout
impressions of every age, till they had acquired
a uniform, consistent, and compact form. They
have retained upon them the marks of that
humbled, and yet deeply mystical spirit, which
the persecuted Church necessarily possessed;
they have preserved the expression of triumph
and glory of its more prosperous condition;
they have concealed in them symptoms of the
modesty and charity of the later period, and
they are depositaries of many relics of venerable
antiquity, by yet keeping in observance
rites once general, but now elsewhere

In attending them, you may consider yourselves
as led by turns to every period of religious
antiquity, and in the institutions of each may
commune with its peculiar spirit ; they are as a
museum, containing the remains of every age,
not arranged chronologically, but, as the good
taste that presided over the collections has suggested,
their disposition mingled in a happy confusion,
which shows how well they harmonize
with each other, and how completely the same
spirit has presided over the institution of them
all. To abolish them, to substitute a new,
systematic, formal, and coldly meditated form,
would be in truth a vandalism, a religious barbarism
of which the Catholic Church is quite

I thought of how how close his prophecy of a subsitution of liturgical forms was to what seemed to have happened 120 years later.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Servers in Albs, Aqinas

In the Supplement to the Summa Theologica, Question 40 Article 7, we read this:

Seventh Article
Whether the Vestments of the Ministers Are Fittingly Instituted in the Church?

"I answer that, The vestments of the ministers denote the qualifications required of them for handling Divine things. And since certain things are required of all, and some are required of the higher, that are not so exacted of the lower ministers, therefore certain vestments are common to all the ministers, while some pertain to the higher ministers only. Accordingly it is becoming to all the ministers to wear the amice which covers the shoulders, thereby signifying courage in the exercise of the Divine offices to which they are deputed; and the alb, which signifies a pure life, and the girdle, which signifies restraint of the flesh.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sharing Eucharist

Some time ago, I mentioned a strange terminology which is emerging in liberal liturgical circles. It is the trend to drop "the" off the front of "Eucharist". So after going from "celebrating Mass" to "celebrating the Eucharist", we now find it's "celebrating Eucharist" or "sharing Eucharist". This is incredibly problematic for me. First of all it pushes to completion the error that many people in the Church have today about the Eucharist as primarily a meal. We now have Eucharist in the same way as we have lunch or dinner. We share Eucharist in the same way that we share a meal together. The order of the words similarly pushes this concept as the first emphasis is on sharing, not the Eucharist.

This is serious heresy creeping into our churches, schools and seminaries. A couple of years ago I attended a school Mass for an inner city Catholic School. The order of service was a real shocker in that the Liturgy of the Word was explained as "we sit down and share stories" and the Liturgy of the Eucharist was "we now have a meal together". For one thing, this is not how you explain things to teenage boys, and because of that the Church has a huge credibility gap, and eventually those boys will discard Catholicsm when they leave school. All Catholic schools seem to have these kinds of liturgies (even reading the magazine from the school that I attended), and fool themselves that the boys (and probably girls) are enjoying it. Well from my experience NO.

The Vatican II document Sacrosanctum Concilium is very clear on the priorities in the sacred Liturgy:

To accomplish so great a work Christ is always present in his Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass not only in the person of his minister "the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the Cross" (Trent session 22) but especially in the Eucharistic species. By this power he is present in the sacraments so that that when anybody baptises it is really Christ himself who baptises. He is present in his word since it is he himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. Lastly he is present when the Church prays and sings, for he has promised "where two or three are gathered in my name there I am in the midst of them".

So the priorities according to SC are:

  1. the real presence

  2. the priesthood

  3. the sacraments

  4. the Word

  5. the community.

Now 40 years later these priorities have been inverted totally. If the local Church keeps pushing this path, I believe the Church of Brisbane is doomed to near extinction. This is why proper celebrations like the recent Corpus Christi are important for the church to survive.

The Creed of the People of God

I was impressed that it is coming up to the 40th anniversary of the Motu Proprio by Pope Paul VI on the "Credo of the People of God" or Solemni Hac Liturgia promulgated on 30 June 1968. There is a very good article on Chiesa about how it evolved. The key affirmations on the Eucharist are as follows and succinctly summarises my beliefs.

Sacrifice of Calvary
24. We believe that the Mass, celebrated by the priest representing the person of Christ by virtue of the power received through the Sacrament of Orders, and offered by him in the name of Christ and the members of His Mystical Body, is the sacrifice of Calvary rendered sacramentally present on our altars. We believe that as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His body and His blood which were to be offered for us on the cross, likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven, and we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord, under what continues to appear to our senses as before, is a true, real and substantial presence.

25. Christ cannot be thus present in this sacrament except by the change into His body of the reality itself of the bread and the change into His blood of the reality itself of the wine, leaving unchanged only the properties of the bread and wine which our senses perceive. This mysterious change is very appropriately called by the Church transubstantiation. Every theological explanation which seeks some understanding of this mystery must, in order to be in accord with Catholic faith, maintain that in the reality itself, independently of our mind, the bread and wine have ceased to exist after the Consecration, so that it is the adorable body and blood of the Lord Jesus that from then on are really before us under the sacramental species of bread and wine, as the Lord willed it, in order to give Himself to us as food and to associate us with the unity of His Mystical Body.

26. The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present by the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present, after the sacrifice, in the Blessed Sacrament which is, in the tabernacle, the living heart of each of our churches. And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word whom they cannot see, and who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.

Maybe, like the Nicene Creed that this is based on, we should recite this in our churches on Sundays?