“Dogmas come first, not liturgies”

In his poem “Reflections on a Flea,” Fr. Leonard Feeney wrote:

“And by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.”

This claim encapsulates one side in a contemporary debate concerning the best method of evangelization. Some prefer the so-called “path of beauty.” Some prefer the “path of truth.” Without denigrating the role of beautiful liturgy, I prefer the “path of truth.”

Consider that in the Early Church catechumens attended only the so-called Missa Catechumenorum, which is the overtly catechetical first part of the Mass. Only the baptized — the fully catechized and initiated — attended the Missa Fidelium, which is the overtly sacrificial part of the Mass beginning with the Offertory. In other words, it is catechesis that makes sense of the liturgy. Many who argue for the “path of beauty” seem to want the liturgical experience to substitute for or drive catechesis. This is the opposite extreme from the post-Vatican II over-emphasis on the “Liturgy of the Word.” I would say, it is doctrinal Faith that makes sense of the liturgy, not the other way around, even though the liturgy itself has an eschatological and sacrificial reality that transcends catechesis. Participation in the Mass is more the end than the means of evangelization; as Fr. Feeney said, dogmas still come first.

Church as Assembly: Modernism, or a Traddy Idea Whose Time Has Come?

I’ve seen some Modernist-sounding* texts that use the word “assembly” to avoid the word Church. Instead of addressing the congregation, the priest (er, “presider”) addresses the “assembly of the People of God.” Etc. In Hebrew and Greek, the word we translate as Church does in fact mean “assembly.” I surmise that the people who prefer “assembly” do so because they think the word has a more democratic connotation than the hierarchical “Church.” One thinks of the expression “popular assembly.” Implicit in such a usage is a critique of “liturgy as court ritual,” a critique that has been debunked elsewhere.**

Now, one of a Traditionalist or even just plain orthodox-with-a-small-o persuasion might object to this usage of “assembly.” He might advance any number of arguments, the premises of which we don’t share with the people who push for the “assembly” understanding of the Church, and he might cite a bunch of Church documents, originally written in Latin, that no one who has a job has time to read. In these scenarios, I look to my mentor in evangelism and apologetics, Vin Lewis of All Roads Ministry (https://www.allroadsministry.com/). Vin would say to use the simplest, most direct, most memorable argument that requires the least specialist knowledge (such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). So, with that in mind, here is how I would respond: Continue reading

The Traditional Proclamation of Christmas from the Roman Martyrology

The traditional version is cooler than the “modern” Novus Ordo version they now read at Christmas Mass, which doesn’t specify the number of years since the creation of the world and Noah’s Flood. I guess that would sound too “fundamentalist,” so down the memory hole. Boo!

Latin:
ANNO a creatióne mundi,
quando in princípio Deus creávit cœlum et terram, quínquies millésimo centésimo nonagésimo nono:
A dilúvio autem, anno bis millésimo nongentésimo quinquagésimo séptimo:
A nativitáte Abrahæ, anno bis millésimo quintodécimo:
A Moyse et egréssu pópuli Israel de Ægypto, anno millésimo quingentésimo décimo:
Ab unctióne David in Regem, anno millésimo trigésimo secúndo;
Hebdómada sexagésima quinta, juxta Daniélis prophetíam:
Olympíade centésima nonagésima quarta:
Ab urbe Roma cóndita, anno septingentésimo quinquagésimo secúndo:
Anno Impérii Octaviáni Augústi quadragésimo secúndo,
toto Orbe in pace compósito, sexta mundi ætáte, –

Jesus Christus ætérnus Deus, æterníque Patris Fílius, mundum volens advéntu suo piíssimo consecráre,
de Spíritu Sancto concéptus, novémque post conceptiónem decúrsis ménsibus,
[HERE ALL KNEEL]
in Béthlehem Judæ náscitur ex María Vírgine factus Homo.
Natívitas Dómini nostri Jesu Christi secúndum carnem.
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Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve: An American Catholic Tradition

Here in the Driftless Area, it’s still Dec. 24, so a Christmas Eve post is in order. Prior to the calendar reforms of Pope Pius XII (I think; maybe St. John XXIII?), the Christmas Vigil was a day of abstinence from meat, just like Fridays and Lenten weekdays. In America at least, it became traditional to eat oyster stew on Christmas Eve. Just like Friday fish fries, Christmas Eve oyster stew seems to have spread beyond Catholic circles to the culture at large. I remember eating oyster stew on Christmas Eve when I was a child. My mother and I had oyster stew tonight.

oyster-stew Continue reading

Pickler of the Stars of Night

The Communion hymn at Mass last Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Advent) was “Creator of the Stars of Night,” which is the English translation of “Conditor Alme Siderum.” Priests, monks, and nuns recite this hymn at Vespers during Advent. Reggie (Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D.) told us about “Conditor Alme Siderum” during our summer class in Rome back in 2007. As originally composed back in the early Middle Ages, the first word of the hymn was “conditor,” which should mean “creator, establisher,” from the verb “condo, condere” (“found, establish”). But because of the meter of the hymn, the stress falls on the second syllable (-di-), which would mean the word comes from the verb “condio, condire” (“pickle, preserve”). With that long-i, “conditor” would mean something like “condiment-maker.” Suffice it to say, don’t go to the early Middle Ages looking for stellar Latin (pun intended).
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St. Sebastian: Bastion of Catholic Identity

This post is inspired by a homily that the parish priest at my home parish in Illinois* preached about a month ago. The Rio Olympics were in full swing, and the priest commented on American gymnast Simone Biles. He related that Biles, a Catholic, had a devotion to St. Sebastian and lit candles to him. I subsequently found out that St. Sebastian is the patron saint of athletes and of Rio de Janeiro, where the Olympics were held. The full name of Rio de Janeiro is São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, which in Portuguese means St. Sebastian of the River January (the Portuguese first landed there in January). This got me thinking about St. Sebastian’s role as an icon and bastion of Catholic identity.

Here are the basics of St. Sebastian’s story. He was a Roman soldier who was martyred during one of the persecutions inflicted on the Church by the Roman Emperors. He was sentenced to be tied to a tree and shot through with arrows. He miraculously survived the arrows, so he was clubbed to death. The Christians buried him in catacombs outside the city of Rome that have been called St. Sebastian’s Catacombs ever since. Now a basilica in St. Sebastian’s honor stands over the catacombs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Sebastiano_fuori_le_mura). Here’s a photo I took of St. Sebastian’s martyrdom as depicted on the ceiling (!) of the nave of the Basilica of St. Sebastian’s Outside the Walls:

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St. Sebastian became very popular in the Middle Ages for a number of reasons**. Here, I’ll focus on just one: the all-out awesomeness of his martyrdom. I think in many Catholics’ mind, the martyrdom of St. Sebastian is the template for their own perseverance in the face of persecution and temptation. If you think of it, his martyrdom is very reminiscent of Our Lord’s Crucifixion. He was bound to a tree, with his face to his persecutors, as they pierced his flesh. He is the patron saint of grit-your-teeth-and-take-it.

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